Talking Craft

Posted in Writing at 10:18 am by Amber

One of the things I miss about a local writing group is the discussion about craft.  Each writer has his or her own method of writing.  The manner in which we get a beginning, a middle and an ending is as unique as the writer. 

It’s difficult to agree on what makes a book “good” or not but most readers would say it’s an engaging read.  Writers would say it’s the ability to tell a story well; it’s the correct ratio of plot, characterization and setting. 

Even without a local writing group gems about writing can be found in unlikely places.  Author readings can include questions that bring these types of responses.  And late last week I saw a movie about Jeff Smith that brought me a light bulb moment about my last novel.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Posted in Review at 12:34 am by Amber

When I first began hearing about this book I thought the cover was pretty.  The title made me think it might deal with a chocolate shop in a hotel.  I was mistaken.  The Panama Hotel in Seattle becomes a landmark in Henry Lee’s life of a bittersweet time for him during World War II.  In Henry’s story it serves as a bridge between past and present.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Here’s part of the summary from the inside jacket cover:

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown.  It has been boarded up for decades, but now the owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during Word War II.  As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple gesture takes Henry back to the 1940s, when his world was a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who was obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American.  While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Ranier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student.  Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship – and innocent love – that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors.  After Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Ford does a wonderful job of offering Henry’s story piecemeal.  The chapter titles always let the reader know which year it takes place and doesn’t give away too much of the chapter contents.  This had to be a bear to edit.  Alternating chapters between the 1940’s and 1980’s would have resulted in chapters that seemed to be never-ending.  These chapters were just right.  Ford (or his editor) was able to find natural stopping and starting points that let the story flow.

Most literature set during World War II is about the Jewish experience or an offshoot of it.  Like Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, this book reveals another facet to the stories of the people who lived through the war.  The internment camps received only a paragraph or two in my school history books.  Ford delicately weaves fiction with fact during the internment camp scenes.

This isn’t just another World War II novel.  It’s also a novel about a young man learning how to take his first steps towards manhood and the depths of parental love.  Life isn’t always fair.  The love of a parent can be simultaneously freeing and stifling.  And sometimes role models can be found in unlikely places.

I have to give a big thank you to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book Promotions for the review copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and letting me be a stop on Jamie’s tour for the book.  Without her help I would probably have let this good book get away.  Learn more about Jamie Ford at http://www.jamieford.com/.


Introducing Jamie Ford

Posted in Writing at 12:57 am by Amber

Tomorrow I’ll have a review of Jamie Ford’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  He’s on tour this month through Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

Jamie Ford

About Jamie Ford:

Career-wise, Jamie went to art school in Seattle to become an illustrator, and ended up an art director/copywriter. He’s won an embarrassingly large amount of meaningless awards including 400+ Addys, 7 Best-of-Shows, and his work has appeared in Adweek, Advertising Age, Graphis and Communication Arts. He also had a commercial appear on an episode of The U.K.’s Funniest Commercials inspired by an embarrassing incident with a bidet that he’d rather not go into right now.

On the writerly side, he won the 2006 Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest, was First Runner-Up in the 2006 Midnight Road Reader’s Choice Awards and was a Top-25 finalist in Glimmer Train’s Fall 2006 Short Story Award For New Writers. He’s been published in The Picolata Review, and his fiction is online at Flashing in the Gutters and Fictional Musings. He’s also an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp.

Jamie’s debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweetwas released by Ballantine–January 27, 2009.

On the personal side, he’s the proud father of two boys and two girls. Yep, it’s
chaos, but the good kind of chaos.

For more information about the author or his work, please visit


What Makes a Memorable Villain?

Posted in Writing at 11:03 pm by Amber

A while back I wrote about unlikeable characters and villains.  One of my writing lists had a recent discussion about villains.  What makes a villain memorable?  How can the writer make a villain that is more than a two-sided paper cutout?

For some, the villain had to be “bad” but have humane qualities.  For others, memorable villains reflect a dark side of the reader.

Writers can create those memorable villains by giving them an unexpected characteristic.  The villain could have a soft spot for black cats or mimes. 

Creating memorable characters – heroes or villains – is like putting a puzzle together.  The pieces have to fit together perfectly.  If the character doesn’t ring true there’s usually something about the motivation or viewpoint that is slightly off.


The Stepsister Scheme Review

Posted in Published, Review at 12:12 am by Amber

Niteblade has announced the table of contents for the June issue.  You’ll find my review of The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines in the issue.  If you want to read it early, it’s available on the Niteblade News page.  🙂



Posted in Writing at 11:28 pm by Amber

One common question asked of writers is “Where do you get your ideas?”  They rarely come from the same place each time.  The problem with ideas is the lack of accompanying instructions.

I keep a writing journal where I jot ideas, overheard conversations and so on.  My PDA holds a memo of blog post ideas so I can have something in case I get desperate or want to work around a theme.  I have a lot of great things to post about and hope to get some of them here for you soon.  A few have even been started but what comes out on the computer screen isn’t what I initially had in mind.

Do you keep a writing notebook or a list of blog topics?


Discomfort is Okay

Posted in Writing at 8:05 am by Amber

It feels safe to have routines but a little discomfort now and then can be good.  It provides little ways for us to evaluate why we do certain things and expands our horizons. 

Why do I write first person in short stories but novels in third person?  Maybe it’s time to change things up a bit and see if there’s a little more growth.  Try a new place to write for a few days.  Read a genre I usually don’t give the time of day.  Or maybe it’s time to try that odd looking fruit.  I might find a new favorite.

What will you do to make yourself a little uncomfortable today?


“Sister Margaret” Giveaway Winner!

Posted in Event, Giveaway at 3:45 pm by Amber

Congratulations to Joyce Sterling Scarbrough for winning her own copy of “Sister Margaret” by Rhonda Parrish! 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to have more giveaways and author visits soon.


April 2009

Posted in Status Report at 2:02 am by Amber

These statistics are all for short stories, poems, or contest entries. Book reviews are not included.

  1. Sales in April: 0
  2. Rejections in April: 0
  3. Submissions sent out in April: 1
  4. Total stories/poems/contests pending responses: 1

You know what makes a successful author, right?  Perseverance.  That means writing, revising and sending out material.  This was not a month where I kept my writing appointments with myself.  I fell into the unfortunate habit of starting something and then waiting weeks to pick it up again.  Then I worked on it for 10 minutes before moving on to something else.

I did enter a poetry contest this month which is better than nothing.  Watch out, May!  You won’t recognize me.  🙂