George Bauman

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"Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." Gene Fowler penned this observation, and most writers published and hopeful would agree with him.

Each time a new book hits the market that can help the aspiring writer, this is cause for rejoicing. One of them just might be the tool that puts that hard-working scribbler into print.

This month there are two worth noting: The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner and A Writer's Book of Days: A Spiritual Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves. Both are worth picking up, for very different reasons.

While each offers practical advice, the Reeves book has holistic insights into the creative process. Let's look at the inspirational first, for many writers need encouragement more than practical advice.

A Writer's Book of Days is a guide of prompts to get you going. Reeves is a cheerleader who writes, I found that it's easier to begin the writing when a prompt is supplied. The book, truly a book of days for writers, contains a writing-practice topic for every day of the year, such as for January 13, After midnight ; December 26, Write about something sacred ; and April 12, Dubious intentions. Many writers have the best intentions upon sitting down, but feel they lack something to write about. Reeves directs that desire to write by offering daily topics daily, and then encouraging the writer to take them wherever their own personal response leads. Just write! Make mistakes who cares when you're practicing your writing? She offers lots of writing tips in an easy-to-use format, and includes many quotes from other writers, including this one from Natalie Goldberg: Don't just put in your time. That is not enough. You have to make a great effort. Be willing to put your whole life on the line when you sit down for writing practice. Developing a writing habit and a writing style is what's important. Not talking about it.

Betsy Lerner's book, The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers, takes a different approach. She's a veteran editor and publishing insider, and when she writes about the relationship between publishers and writers, the reader feels privileged, as though forbidden secrets were being divulged on how to get published.

She believes that the best editors must work with the writer, not just the writing, much as Maxwell Perkins did with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe. In fact the title of this book, The Forest for the Trees, comes from a Perkins quote as he was writing to Marcia Davenport.

Lerner's book is not a how-to-write book. Instead she offers advice from the all-important editor's perspective on how to finish a project when all looks hopeless, on what to do when your neuroses get in the way, on how to break through a between-projects stall. The first half of the book addresses The Writer, The Writing. It's broken into chapters such as The Ambivalent Writer, The Natural, The Wicked Child, The Self-Promoter, and The Neurotic. The second half of the book deals with the publishing process, including up-to-date answers to the questions that all writers have about the interaction between themselves and publishers and agents. She discusses the recent mergers of publishing conglomerates; online bookselling, downloading books from the Net, and more. Lerner is good because she can see what the writer sees, and moves from there to what the author needs to see. She understands delusion. Her book encourages clear-sightedness when writers deal with publishers.

So, all you writers out there, finish reading about other writers' success, and go to work. One day at a time. Every day. Write. Write. Write.

And read good books about writing.

George Cowmeadow Bauman is the co-owner of Acorn Bookshop in Columbus, Ohio.

"Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." Gene Fowler penned this observation, and most writers published and hopeful would agree with him. Each time a new book hits the market that can help the aspiring writer, this is […]
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Normal cats may have nine lives, but this is the 23rd life for Lilian Jackson Braun's cats, who are back with another episode in the life of the good folks in Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. These books can be found in the mystery section, but readers know that the stories are more about Jim Qwilleran and his two precocious Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum. Qwilleran is a former journalist from down below, but became the benefactor of an entire region when he inherited a fortune and established a foundation to give away the money. Now he writes a popular column and generally involves himself in the lives of his neighbors, including his librarian friend Polly.

This latest finds Qwill and the Siamese on the trail of a murder. The old Pickax Hotel has been renovated after being bombed, and grand opening ceremonies have been timed to coordinate with other activities guaranteed to excite the northlanders. A Chicago jewelry dealer, accompanied by his attractive young niece, is visiting to buy the antique jewelry of wealthy, elderly women in town and to offer quality pieces for sale. And the eagerly anticipated Scottish gathering and highland games have the town abuzz. Qwill is honoring his Scottish ancestry by getting out his best kilt.

The jewelry dealer, however, is found murdered, and the champion of the claber toss at the highland games is considered the chief suspect.

The cats start generating clues by stepping on the phone as it's about to ring, yowling in the middle of the night at the exact time the murder takes place, chewing on pencils, hiding gum wrappers, and stealing the pennies intended to be dropped into an antique mechanical bank (thus the title of the book).

Readers of this best-selling series will welcome the return of the entire litter of unusual people. But be cautious about wearing a kilt and having cats on your lap!

George Cowmeadow Bauman is the co-owner of the Acorn Bookshop in Columbus, Ohio, and wrote this with two Siamese cats sharing his desktop.

Normal cats may have nine lives, but this is the 23rd life for Lilian Jackson Braun's cats, who are back with another episode in the life of the good folks in Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere. These books can be found in the mystery section, but readers know that the stories are more […]
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A cat with an attitude, that's Midnight Louie. Carole Nelson Douglas has been permitted by this former motel-cat (abandoned in a litter, living off lizards and room service trays) to adopt and hang about with him, writing a series of mysteries (now totaling nine for each life?) featuring Louie as the smart-sass narrator. Louie refers to Douglas as my biographer. The series action is set in Las Vegas, which this mystery-solving cat calls my kind of town all night action; crime and punishment; dolls, dudes, and shady dames; moolah and murder; neon and nefarious doings. Ah, but this hard-boiled cat noir has the heart of a cozy. Both sides of his split personality are covered in the latest from Douglas and Louie a collection of 17 stories (both hard-boiled and warm fuzzies) featuring a variety of animals who step in where humans fear to tread, solving mysteries and providing clues to their detecting human colleagues.

The introduction is by Lawrence Block, whose Burglar series features a bookstore cat, Raffles. This mouser doesn't detect, but clearly Block knows how valuable an animal is to a story so much so that he once attempted to have the Edgar Awards divided into two categories: Books with Cat and Books without Cat.

These stories then are the perfect fix for those of us who love mysteries and animals. Midnight Louie himself has deigned to introduce each morsel in his unique style, providing additional crunch to this bowlful of stories.

Among the anthropomorphisizing writers are Lilian Jackson Braun (The Cat Who series), who Louie refers to as The First Lady of Feline Fiction, and Anne Perry, whose conversion from Victorian noir to crime most furry is ap- paw-lauded by Louie. Other included WHOAs (Writers Hot on Animals) are Nancy Pickard, Bill Crider, Barbara Paul, and J. A. Jance. Douglas herself contributes a story, for which Louie begins his introduction, My collaborator cheats on me. She also adds an afterward on the topic of the Adopt-a-Cat program, which combines bookstore-signing events with cat adoptions.

There are no dogs (in the sense of failures) in the collection, but dogs do make an appearance. As do elephants, a Tasmanian devil, an owl and a pair of lovebirds (of the feathered variety), hamsters and raccoons, and, of course, cats lots of cats and kittens. As Midnight Louie might growl, this compilation is the cat's meow.

George Cowmeadow Bauman wrote this with Biblio and Ginger Rogers, his blue-point Siameasers, who added inspiration to the review and hair to the keyboard.

A cat with an attitude, that's Midnight Louie. Carole Nelson Douglas has been permitted by this former motel-cat (abandoned in a litter, living off lizards and room service trays) to adopt and hang about with him, writing a series of mysteries (now totaling nine for each life?) featuring Louie as the smart-sass narrator. Louie refers […]

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