Book Review: Still Life with Strings

Review policy: I only post reviews on my blog for books I feel strongly about, good or bad.

Title: STILL LIFE WITH STRINGS
Author: L.H. Cosway


The last Cosway book I read (which was the last book I read at all) was (I think) the author’s first and it showed. But though Painted Faces was rough, I enjoyed the author’s voice, so I dove into the next one.

This book was beautiful. There were so many things I loved about it, including these quotes:

“ … when everything else in life fails, there is still music.” Goodness, how I love music, how it makes me dream and hope. Also, how its angst is cathartic.

In re dogs (which I hate): “They never have any shame about letting you know just how much they’ve missed you.” Also, toddlers (which I also hate except for my own) and clingy 11-year-old boys, which are the most wonderfullest things in the world. All that was to say it made me look at my children in a different light.

Anyway, the thing that took away from the book: too much time spent on the sex. At some point, it doesn’t add to the plot or characterization, which it stopped doing about 5/8ths through the book (yesisaidthatshutup).

So, the wonderful things:

  • The descriptions of the music playing as flights of fancy (this isn’t an accurate-enough term and it’s far too whimsical for what’s in the text, but it’s the best I can come up with). It’s absolutely brilliant, how it’s done. I can’t hear the music, but I can see it.
  • The first sexual encounter was also approached brilliantly. It had depth with no trace of sleaze.
  • The portrayal of Jade’s life as a lower-working-class girl was spot-on. I admired her for her easy stoicism, which was more than I could muster with dependents.
  • Both characters’ motivations were reasonable and logical given their backgrounds and circumstances.
  • In both books, the characters’ codependence is obvious, but I don’t have a problem with it as long as it’s healthy and I do think their relationship is healthy. I think it will remain so because they are both strong people.
  • In spite of Jade’s poverty, I could feel her innate optimism and, dare I say, happiness. This spoke to me like the quotes above.

Aside: I wish there were a playlist for this book. I’ll have to look.

Aside 2: I LOVE that these are set in Dublin and have local vernacular instead of Anytown, USA, with dumbed-down vernacular for stupid Americans.

Well done, Ms Cosway, well done.

Rook Takes Queen

le sigh
le sigh

So I dug an old manuscript out wondering how/if I should rehab it. I wrote it so long ago, head-hopping was still acceptable, although on its way out. It’s 84,000 words. And there are no f-bombs. (IKR?!) The thing about headhopping, at least for me, is that I could tell a story in so many fewer words with it.

This story has a story.

Before this story’s book began, I’d written a massive under-the-bed novel (whose only remaining copy is in the hands of Tina McClelland Fontana, where it needs to remain). You know, the training novel we all write and then stick it under the bed to hide forever. Then I wrote what is now (massively rehabbed) Paso Doble (it has a story too), for Harlequin. After that, I wrote the first iteration (of four) of what is now Bryce and Giselle’s story.

Then, in 1993, I saw The Fugitive with Tommy Lee Jones about 22 times in the theater (I have no idea how many times I saw it, but it was MANY!). I caught a serious crush (on the actor? the character? who knows?) and I was shipping his character with the nurse (Julianne Moore) with whom he traded all of three(?) lines. (Romance novelist to the core, people, with a slavish devotion to May-December ones.)

That book got me 1) an almost-contract and 2) a literary agent.

This is how a contract becomes an almost, and it was the second time something freaky had happened on the way to getting published (Paso Doble was the first).

I got a call one evening from an editor with Harlequin. This is heart-attack-inducing, folks. She said she loved the book. She loved my voice. And then she said, and I quote, “I bought a book similar to this last month. Yours is much better. But I can’t sell it to my editorial board.”

The ego strokes were nice. I guess.

The literary agent was an interesting experience I will not relate, but she didn’t sell it either.

With 23 years between it and now, I read it, wondering if I could rehab it. After all, Bryce & Giselle, Paso Doble, and Black Jack didn’t turn out too shabbily and I had had no intention of rehabbing those. I had no idea how I’d feel about it, but Jack was the one who started me on this self-pub journey because I’d re-read it after so many years and realized it was good. He broke my heart.

You know what? The TLJ/JM book was pretty good. For back in the day, for the line I wrote it, it was really good. It’s a throwback cliché today, but not too shabby, especially for an early-career book. I wouldn’t be embarrassed now if it had gotten published way back then. And now I’d be tempted to release it as a novelty, an extra on the website, as retro/vintage/early Moriah (hello, Morning in Bed), but the problem isn’t the headhopping or lack of f-bomb. The problem is I’ve cannibalized this book so much it’s got more Swiss than cheese. Anybody who’s read my books will know exactly where and how I used which theme, marker, motif, and zinger.1

It was a nice, comfortable, not-embarrassing trip down memory lane and now it’s time for it to go into the permanent archive.

Good night, Rook. Good night, Frankie.


  1. I dunno. Maybe I should throw it up on my website in all its Courier-New, double-spaced glory.

The perfect bookstore v.3

Eight years ago. EIGHT. 8!!!

I wrote this: The Perfect Bookstore.

Six years ago, I wrote the followup: The Perfect Bookstore

Today, my good friend Nate Hoffelder, digital maven and my occasional partner in crime, pointed me to this:

Paris’s first on-demand-only bookshop.

Point-by-point similarities:

  1. The concept itself
  2. The coffee shop
  3. Its location near a college

Best part?

Meriot said he needs to sell about 15 books daily to break even.

That’s a margin even I didn’t foresee.

Les Presses Universitaires de France storefront

Rules, broken

“Any halfway decent artist can outline,” she sneered.

You can’t sneer a statement.

She raised her eyes to his.

What’d she do, pick them up off the floor?

Long ago and far away, when I first had this thing called a critique group, a thing that was foreign to me, I was taught these “rules.” I had never heard of these “rules.” I didn’t know what was wrong with raising one’s eyes or sneering one’s reply. I found such phrasings helpful and I read lots of books that had such things in it, lots of books by famed (and good) authors.

They were “rules,” I was told, lectured upon at workshops and conferences at RWA by editors and agents and teachers of writing classes. Ah, well, if it came from editors, it must be true.
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The Proviso rebooted

You know how when you’re in a discussion and it’s really animated and you have things to say but you don’t get to because the discussion’s going by too fast and then you forget until you go home and you’re cracking wise to yourself because you really are that witty, but your timing’s shit and you go to bed annoyed because you didn’t think of it when it really mattered?

And you know how you laugh at a joke you don’t understand because everyone is laughing and you don’t want to look stupid, but you forget about it until, like, seven years later you come across the joke and you’ve lived a little between then and now, and now you get it and it’s hilarious?

And you know how you said something really stupid back in second grade and you can still see and hear that moment like it was yesterday, and your face turns red and your sphincter clenches even though it’s forty years later and you wish you could have a do-over on that moment (or any of the thousands in between, all of which you remember)?

Yeah, me too.

Hence, The Proviso, 2nd Edition.

Hopefully some time in October 2015, to pay homage to the one I published seven years ago.

Seven.