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Tammy Setzer Denton - Writer
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Hope Floats in Missouri
Manuscript Evaluation Contest
Long Time, No Post
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2013 Reading List

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Hope Floats in Missouri

While much of Missouri is under water, I'm sitting high and dry. After growing up close to the Mississippi River and spending many weeks of my childhood filling sandbags and playing in flood waters, I chose to spend my adult life on higher ground.

However, once a River Rat ( a person who grew up on or extremely near the river), always a River Rat. The child part of me wants to play in the water, swim, fish, and float around. The adult part of me now understands the feelings of loss that my parents experienced as our house floated off its foundations.

Getting anywhere when it floods becomes a chore as roads are closed or washed out. A visitor to the area is hopelessly stranded, but a native knows which roads will stay open and for how long. This time, even the natives are at a loss.





Hwy 40-61 near Troy, MO
















                          Winfield, MO is under water.
















Main Street of Silex, MO on Hwy E








 



Timber Ridge Drive in Lincoln County collapsed due to heavy rain and flooding.








Old Monroe, MO.  I've driven across this bridge many times.











      Sonic Drive-In, Troy, MO











Not a tornado, just a thunderstorm. This is what is causing all the flooding. It's coming from rain, not snow melt. It's not even the big rivers such as the Mississippi or the Missouri as much as it is the smaller ones that are really effected by flash flooding.






     Just before the highway closed.









Hwy 61 and Hwy KK near Troy, MO





As you can see, it's pretty wet around here. Once the water recedes (and it will, it always does), the hard work of cleaning up begins.

It's been an unusually wet spring and summer in these parts. Normally, Missouri is really a great place to visit. Lush and green and filled with kind, hard-working people. Don't let these photos discourage you from visiting.

While we wait for things to dry up a bit, I'm going to get a little more writing done. Maybe, a story about an ark . . . ?

Manuscript Evaluation Contest

A couple of months ago, I entered a Manuscript Evaluation Contest run by Barbara Kyle.

Before entering the contest, I watched the video on the Manuscript Evaluations page on her website. After all, who wants to win a contest from someone who doesn’t have credentials or doesn’t gain your respect? Not me. My time is valuable.
                                                                                                                        Barbara Kyle
Fortunately, I truly appreciated her presentation. I learned from her. I enjoyed her straight forward approach. She didn’t sugar-coat the writing process, but at the same time, she wasn’t derogatory. She understood that each manuscript was someone’s baby. A baby that had consumed large portions of the writer’s life. I got the impression that even if the plot had holes large enough to drive a Hummer through,









                       Hummer                                                                                           Plot Hole

she possessed the ability to let the author know what needed to be done without wrecking their self-esteem or desire to write another word. That’s a pretty fine line. Somehow, she managed to convey that in seven minutes. Can you imagine what she could do in an hour? If I'm wrong, then someone needs to let me know.
 
Writers entered 626 manuscripts of 1500 words each in her contest. If you do the math, that's 939,000 words, and she read each and every one before selecting the final three:

                                   Grand Prize: A Full Manuscript Evaluation
                                   NANCY RAVEN SMITH for Land Sharks 

                                   2nd Prize: A 50-page Evaluation
                                   MATTHEW PHILLIPS for Warrior Son

                                   3rd Prize: A 25-page Evaluation
                                   MAUREEN L. BONATCH for See No Evil

Unfortunately none of these three was me. While I didn’t win, I still feel that it was worth the effort of entering (she made it very easy). I also feel as if I’ve made another valuable and accessible contact in the writing world.

I can't wait to see the final product of these manuscript evaluations. Can you say Best Seller?



The Best Part of This Week?



Roasting marshmallows at the park with my family.


Long Time, No Post

One of my short stories. "Kingdom of One" will be published in the October issue (#28) of The Caribbean Writer.

The Caribbean Writer (TCW)--The Literary Gem of the Caribbean-- is an international, refereed, literary journal with a Caribbean focus, founded in 1986 and published annually by the University of the Virgin Islands.


The 2014 edition of The Caribbean Writer, Volume 28, highlights Time, Place, and Memories, so "Kingdom of One" was a good fit.




I hope everyone who reads it will enjoy or at least, appreciate the story. Like most of my work, it's dark and leaves the reader questioning the distinction between right and wrong.

I can't wait to see what it look like in print! You can order a copy of Issue #28 here. I hope that any and every one who reads it will send me some feedback. I would really like to hear your thoughts on it.

As an unexpected bonus, its publication in the journal puts me in the running for a literary award. It will be a year before the 2014 award winners are announced, but wouldn't it be great to get an award from a university located on one of my favorite islands?

Who wouldn't want to be here? I have fond memories of vacationing in St. Croix with my son when he was a child. We had such adventures there!

My next topic has to do with critiques. I take part in several critique groups and at times, I've walked away from them feeling as if I'm not getting serious feedback. Other times, I've come away feeling guilty that I've perhaps been too harsh with my comments.

Without construction, honest criticism, I don't see how my writing can get any better. How will I improve? Maybe, others aren't at the critiques to improve, but rather to have their works lauded. If that's the case, it's a game I don't play well.  I'm honest. Brutally honest. If that means saying, this piece needs a lot of work and here are some examples of what is wrong and some suggestions on how to make it better, then that's what I say.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one who believes this kind of honesty is the best policy. A writer whose work I admire and whose critiques I take to heart,Harvey Stanbrough, has generously allowed me to lift a paragraph from one of his blog posts. Here goes:

Social Graces — Yeah, well, okay, I just don’t have ‘em, I guess. I keep getting emails telling me I should be more gentle with my criticism when other writers ask me to critique their work. Sorry, but I’m just not that guy. When someone tells you only what you want to hear, maybe on the surface it makes you feel good but you learn NOTHING. What’s worse, you never know whether that person is telling you the truth about anything. What you get from mebut only if you ask is the plain, unvarnished truth, good or bad. When I tell you something could be better, I’ll try to explain how to fix it. Maybe best of all, when I pay your work a compliment, you’ll know I mean it. The professional (or the aspirant who will become a professional) gladly suffers criticism in order to grow in the craft. The aspirant who would rather hear unearned praise than be afforded an opportunity to grow will never be a professional. It really is as simple as that.

On a personal note, I got to spend some time in Mexico this summer. I always have a great time when I'm there and this time was no exception. I got to experience my first deep sea fishing trip and came home a winner as you can see below.


My catch-of-the-day was a 25 pound black fin tuna! Not bad for my first time.

Mundo cut it into steaks.                         The Chef cooked it for me!











I also got the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. It's something that's been on my bucket list for several years, but just couldn't seem to make it work until now.

                                                Me and Nautica. 

I strongly encourage you to swim with a dolphin if you ever get the chance. It was AMAZING!

On a final note, I'm off to see Gone Girl with my daughter. We've both read the book and are curious as to how well the movie is done.

Test Post

This is a test.

2013 Reading List

This is my reading list from 2013. I didn't count short stories unless I read the entire anthology. I also did not include WIPs from my writer's groups nor the manuscripts that I read for a small publishing company. Last of all, I didn't include a great many e-books because I lost track of them.

You'll notice that if I like an author I tended to read several works by that author. I also discovered three new authors (new to me) in 2013. One is Lesann Berry. Another is Danny King. The last author which I discovered just before Christmas is Robin Sloan. I recommend all three for very different reasons.

I also revisited some classics such as The Great Gatsby and Fahrenheit 451.

What did you read in 2013?


2013 Reading List 

1. A Cure for Dreams by Kaye Gibbons
2. Divining Women by Kaye Gibbons
3. The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey
4. Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons
5.  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future… by Michael J. Fox
6.  Flight to Avoid by Larry Long
7.  Minority Report by Philip K. Dick
8.  The Stranger and Other Stories by Glen Robinson
9.  Little Bee by Chris Cleave
10. Wild Child by T.C. Boyle
11.  Eden by Olympia Vernon
12.  The Creator’s Map by Emilio Calderón
13.  The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
14.  Green Lake by S.K. Epperson
15.  Toy Cemetery by William W. Johnstone
16.  German for Travelers: A Novel in 95 Lessons by Norah Labiner 17.  Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors by Milton J. Nieuwsma
18.  The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
19. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
20. Alternate Realities by Lesann Berry
21. Passing Judgment by Lesann Berry
22. The Vitae by Lesann Berry
23. The Henchman’s Book Club by Danny King
24. On The Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou
25. Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
26. The Everafter by Amy Huntley
27. The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
28. Haunted Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates
29. The Box by Gunter Grass
30. The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
31. The Heroines by Eileen Favorite
32. The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert
33. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
34. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
35. The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill
36.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
37.  Ernest Hemingway on Writing Edited by Larry W. Phillips
38.  Dangerous Alterations by Elizabeth Lynn Casey          

Goodreads and Amazon Reviews of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Below you'll find the review I posted on both Goodreads and Amazonfor Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.


Love, love, LOVE this book! I've tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, blogged, and reviewed this book. If I do anything more, author Robin Sloan is going to have to put me on the payroll!

I rarely get this excited about a book, but Mr. Penumbra's really resonated with the bibliophile in me. This debut novel abounds with quirky, intelligent characters on a quest. I truly adored Ms. Lapin! How could I not? She is me and I am her.

Rarely do technology and literature met and mesh. Just think about the ongoing debate over e-books. However, if technology and literature had a love child, this would be it. Even the cover glows in the dark!

From first to final page, the reader becomes part of a journey that he/she may not always understand (I'm not that technologically advanced.), but is always willing to follow. There are parts that are more bookish and in those sections, I felt like I was leading, guiding the others along the way. From Google headquarters to age-old libraries, Sloan blends the old with the new, and makes it work.

The truth he reveals/exposes is one you may have heard and forgotten. If it's your first time to see it, then enjoy and drink deeply of it.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who loves books, reading, technology, architecture, mystery, secret societies, libraries, independent book stores, gaming, and magic realism. Did I leave anyone out? In other words, this book is for everyone.

Buy it, read it, enjoy it, sleep with it under your pillow to inspire good dreams.

Sort of Ivy League?

Some of you may have noticed an ivy-like vine decorating my home page. It’s also on my business cards, letterhead, and most anything related to my writing. Ivy—it’s not just pretty, it’s a tough plant. Have you ever tried to kill ivy? I have. I failed repeatedly.

Years ago, I planted ivy on the side of my brick house. I was in love with the idea of an ivy-covered castle. In my case, the castle was a small brick ranch, but still I loved the idea of it, the romance of it.



My next door neighbor, a woman wise beyond her years (and she had many) said, “You’re going to regret that.”

Of course, I blew off her advice. I was young—er and thought she was speaking out of dementia. (Oh, to be that young and convinced that I knew everything.)


I ignored her words, planted, watered and nurtured the ivy sprigs until they were growing well and then, left them to do what they do best—grow.

Did they ever! 

Within two years, it had grown up the side of the house, reached the gable and was heading for the roof line and shingles. Suckers attached the vine to the brick and mortar, firmly anchoring it while tendrils crept beneath the siding on the gable and entered the attic. Other tendrils search for the smallest of openings around the basement windows trying to find a way inside.


From that point on, I trimmed the ivy, pruned it, cut it, chopped it, all in an effort to get it under control and keep it that way. No matter how much I cut, it always grew back with a vengeance. Annual cutting turned into twice a year, then more and more often.  



My neighbor never once said I told you so, but every time I started trimming, she would appear on her porch swing with an amused smile on her face. While I sweated and worked and cursed, she swung and smiled and sipped iced tea. I guess I deserved it.



<-- Imagine this is ivy.    

Or perhaps, this -->





When I realized the ivy was damaging the brick and mortar, I committed an act of vegetational homicide. I ripped every vine from the wall, and cut them back to two inch stumps in the ground.



Next came a hatchet job to rival Lizzie Borden’s. I literally shredded each small stump with the hatchet until only a fibrous mass remained. Finally, I poured weed killer over what was left in hopes that it would reach those determined roots.



That was fifteen years ago. I don’t have an ivy-covered wall any more, but every spring a small, but determined vine will appear and reach for that wall. I maintain a vigilant eye for it and get out the hatchet as soon as it appears. My neighbor has long since passed away, but I swear I can hear her laughing at me each spring.

My writing is a lot like that ivy. Determined, with a will to live. Fortunately, it’s not destructive and instead of a hatchet, my weapon of choice is my computer. I don’t kill my writing “ivy”, but over the years I’ve trained it to climb a trellis and follow a pattern of my choosing instead of running wild all over the page. Instead of a hatchet, I clean my writing “ivy” with careful editing and a critical eye toward spell check.

The result? My writing blog complete with ivy logo. Now that you know the story behind the ivy leaves you find on my website, you’ll never look at an ivy leaf the same again, will you?

Discovering New Talent

I love when I get the opportunity to discover new talent. Okay, maybe I didn't discover them, but I did just recently find them.

One such talent is Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (his debut novel!). I may have found a new favorite book.                              
                                         
Mr. Penumbra's is a book lover's dream, a bibliophile's paradise. It references other books, drops hints and clues to an even greater book loving group while incorporating quirky characters (I am Ms. Lapin.), the Google campus, art, bookstores, and a quest. How can anything get any better than that? Don't just take my word for it, check out the reviews and comments on Good Reads. The book also glows in the dark! There's nothing I don't like about this book!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves books or loves reading books (and yes, there is a difference).

I personally love books on so many levels. From reading to the way they are made, the quality of paper, the illustrations, type setting, the endpapers, and so much more.




To me, marbled endpapers are to swoon for,









      a deckle edge is almost
      orgasmic--almost!








I love to hold a used, but well-loved book in my hands and imagine all the other hands who've held it before me, all the other eyes that have read the words, the fingers that have traced a particularly intriguing line. A book with a well-broken in spine shows the love given it when it was first purchased. A book losing its pages shows me that it wasn't taken care of properly by someone who either didn't know or (dare I think it?) didn't care.

What was your favorite book of 2013?

P.S. I have another previously undiscovered talent that I hope to bring to you in 2014. This one is totally my discovery, and doesn't have to do with books, but will captivate and fascinate you in addition to leaving you in awe of his talent.

Torture, isn't it?











Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends

It's easy to get discouraged when writing. Sometimes, that discouragement comes from a lack of recognition for what you've done. Other times, discouragement comes from a lack of support for what you're attempting to do. Some people see the desire to become a writer as a pipe dream. Some see it as a waste of time better spent doing something more concrete. Yet, the dream, the desire, the need to be a writer is overwhelming and concrete in the aspiring writer. For me, writing is as essential as breathing.

Yesterday was one of those days when I was discouraged. Not by people, but by events out of my control and memories of those events. Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the death of someone I loved. The sadness always sneaks up on me despite my attempts to head it off. So yesterday I was broadsided with a sense of loss, a waterfall of tears, and a mental slideshow of memories from happier times that only seemed to emphasize what I don't have now.

Yesterday could have been a real bummer...

But, it wasn't.

In fact, yesterday turned out to be a great day. Why? Because of the people who love and care about me. My family, friends, and writer friends know that December 6th is difficult, so they came to my rescue. Individually and with no prompting other than a feeling they should call or stop by for a visit.

As a result, I went from down in the dumps to having a great, productive day.

Sadness in one area of your life can seep into other areas causing doubts and negative thoughts that generate more negativity until a person is sucked into the abyss of a depressive funk.

Thanks to the people who love me and showed me that love yesterday, I can face today with a much more positive attitude about everything. I look forward to get some writing done, both the necessary and the creative.

Writers tend to be a solitary sort, but that doesn't mean they don't need friends. I highly recommend finding similar writer types and forming a critique group that will improve your writing skills and in all likelihood become a group of friends that will be there for you when you need a boost.

The Great Gatsy & an Apology to Nathan Bransford

I follow Nathan Bransford's blog and have for several years. He's an ex literary agent turned author, and all around informative guy with a huge and active following.

Over the years, he has ranted and raved over his favorite book, The Great Gatsby. He, on occasion, includes quotes from the book which have never impressed me, and I didn't quite understand the appeal. I figured it was just a case of personal taste.

Last week, I picked up a copy of Gatsby at Goodwill (one of my all-time favorite bookstores). At fifty cents, I didn't think I could go wrong even if I hated it and ended up donating it back.

I started reading it the same evening and much to my surprise I loved it! I didn't put it down until the wee hours of the morning when I finished!

I want to apologize to Nathan for doubting his taste. It's a great story, beautifully written, with layer upon layer of social commentary and observations of human nature. It's a love story, a story of obsession, gain, and loss, and ultimately, what is truly important in life.

Below is my apology to Nathan which I sent to his blog.

Dear Nathan,

I want to formally apologize to you for ever doubting your taste in books.

I've followed your blog for years and have always questioned your belief that The Great Gatsby is a fantastic novel. Even when I read the various Gatsby quotes you've posted, I was unmoved.

I recently picked up a copy, and I must admit that I've been wrong. While I won't say that it's my favorite book, it is in the top 10. I read it through in one night, unable to put it down.

I'm also posting a link to this apology on my website so my followers can see me eat humble pie.

Sincerely and apologetically,
Tammy Setzer Denton

I think it's important to admit when you're wrong, and in this case, I certainly was. The takeaway from this is not to limit yourself with preconceived notions. I missed out for years because I was wrong. Don't let the same happen to you, and guess what? It doesn't just apply to books. Now, I have to re-evaluate all the things I've avoided over the years for a variety of reasons. It may be just the day/week/month/year to give them a try!

Let me know what you've been avoiding.




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