In the Works and in the World

I’m working on two really exciting projects at the moment! One is an absolutely stellar Young Adult novel with amazing potential to join the canon of classics. VERY close to publication, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it!

The other is a New Adult novel that puts an interesting (and much-needed) twist on the genre. It’s in its early stages and will make for some fun and seductive summer reading in 2017 if all goes as planned.

I had the good fortune to visit Cuba earlier this year and was dazzled by the vivacious, friendly people; the beautiful scenery; and the social and historic restoration projects under way. Below are a few photos … I hope you enjoy:

 

Detail-Old Havana

Architectural detail: Old Havana

Havana Market

Havana market vendor

egg seller

Egg vendor

At the Bodega

At a bodega

Artist Discussing and Showing His Work

Havana artist explaining his magnificent work

cuban street

Havana side street

Master Cigar Maker at Work

Master cigar maker at work

Heart of Havana

Central Havana

Now Available: Black Orchid Night!

Black Orchid Night Cover

H.T. Manogue’s latest novel, Black Orchid Night, is now available! Don’t miss this intriguing narrative of one woman’s quest to link the people in her life to the very familiar — yet very different — people who appear in her active and vivid dream world!

For more information, click here: Black Orchid Night by H.T. Manogue

Coming soon … Black Orchid Night by H.T. Manogue

A dreamy kind of novel …

Black Orchid Night Cover

Fiona Mistry was born into a racially mixed family in England. Although her father was from India, she had her mother’s English skin with a touch of color. Fiona discovered her ability to dream lucidly at age 18 after the death of her mother. The first dreams she vividly remembered were dreams about her orchids. But as she aged, her dreams changed.

One night while dreaming, she found herself in a bar in downtown Nashville. When she looked into the mirror behind the bar, the face looking back wasn’t her own. It was the face of an African-American woman dressed in 1940s fashion, but she knew she was looking at herself. As her dreams continue, Fiona realizes that she and the man she loves are living as African-Americans before WWII, and all the people in the bar are people she knows or had known in her waking world.

Black Orchid Night is the story of Fiona, her loves, and her dream world. She begins to ask herself questions like: Where do we go at night while dreaming? Are our dreams as real as our waking life, and when we dream, who are we? Do we see others we know in our present lives, or are there visions that seem familiar, but aren’t? Is something going on while we sleep that goes beyond random thought, and if so, what is the purpose?

Fiona slowly discovers the answers with the help of her therapist and all the people in the Black Orchid Bar.

Kitchen Window People: A Kitchen Table Creation

I recently had the joy of collaborating with the fabulously talented artist Estella Camelion on “Kitchen Window People,” her first art  book (and mine!). What a lovely journey for both of us! Estella has been creating amazing art work for decades and was eager to collate some of her works into a book. I was eager to diversify my editing work into additional genres. And working with a talented artist? Sign me up!

Estella and I met at a conference a few months ago, and our booths were across from each other. We hit it off immediately. She asked me to help her with her art book so it would be ready in time for a major show she was invited to in Nashville, and I was delighted!

The book’s tkitchen window peopleitle is “Kitchen Window People,” and the process of creating the book actually took place around her kitchen table! I made several trips to her amazing 1901 farmhouse in rural Alabama, where we collaborated on putting this stunning book together among a lot of brainstorming, giggles, and perhaps a few jaunts through her lovely farm full of blueberries, figs, peaches, apples, glorious flowers and stately trees. ‘The Professor’ — her soulmate — joined the effort with his great technological experience and good ideas.

Estella had a vision for her book – an essential for any good author. She’d selected the cover of her book (above, left) — a very canny choice, given the book’s spiritual (but not religious) contents. I helped her develop a system for organizing the zillions of possible of art pieces to include in the book and worked on a significant portion of the writing.

As we sat around her kitchen table, something  magic happened: We talked. We brainstormed face to face. We played with the possibilities. We weren’t creating a book by e-mail or Skype or texts or electronically shared files. In terms of the editing and collaboration process, “Kitchen Window People” was a kitchen table book, created in an atmosphere of eye contact, genuine camaraderie, laughter and mutual joy and excitement. (And yes, no book would be complete without its fair share of frustration — but there wasn’t much of that with this one!) Estella and I formed an immediate connection from our first meeting at the conference where we met, and it soared in our collaboration. At times, we found each other saying exactly what the other was thinking; sometimes, we sputtered our identical ideas at the same time. Almost always, it felt like this book and Estella’s art  work, along with my words and coaching, created a sort of energetic thread that connected us to each other and to the work — like we were channeling through the art with synchronicity.

It’s practically impossible to collaborate on a book nowadays without technology playing an overwhelming and sometimes even intrusive role. All the work I do for my clients is truly inspiring, but this project was unique. How often do collaborators sit at a kitchen table, work tirelessly for hours (days? weeks?), laugh loudly, and now and then, slip out to pop a few freshly ripened, dew-dropped blueberries into our mouths and get back to work? Short of a few phone calls, that’s basically how Estella and I collaborated on “Kitchen Window People.”

Around the kitche20140715_165826n table — and occasionally, with a few telephone calls — Estella allowed me to help her create a book that awes me. Beautiful, spiritual, heartfelt, joyous, thought-provoking, insightful, powerful and deep, working on this book and in her presence fed my soul.

Deadline was very much on our minds, but it wasn’t the ultimate driver in an incredible outcome. We decided to use few words in the book and let the art do most of the talking to its readers, because the art will speak differently to each person. Estella’s work will resonate with its readers from their own perspectives, but her observations in the book give us a glimpse of how her drawings (and her subjects) spoke to her. (Note the working copy of Estella’s art work to the left. She summarizes the message that this particular work speaks to her in the note tag below it: “This mother holds two gifts, and she is having a moment of reflection. One gift is not awake yet.” ) Which of the reader’s gifts is not awake yet?

This experience reminds me that technology, while imperative to creating an amazing literary work, may not be as non-negotiable or efficient as we often trick ourselves into believing. None of Estella’s images are computer generated — she drew the pictures herself, and her soulmate simply scanned them with no tweaks, editing or enhancements. As technology becomes more and more important in self-publishing, let’s not forget the joy — the kitchen table joy — of creating all of our art with love and laughter.

Estella and I spoke by phone on Saturday. We laughed and laughed. Yeah, we talked about the book. But most of all, we talked about the joy. I didn’t tell Estella, but I sometimes  wonder if the joy makes the book. Not the other way around.

For more information about “Kitchen Window People,” visit http://tinyurl.com/ljesjab. Please also see the “Kitchen Window People” page on this blog for more information on the back story of of this book.

The Art of Cover Art

stock photos photoI recently encountered a book with a cover that is nearly identical to one of my clients’ novels. It’s not the first time I’ve tripped on look-alikes of my clients’ book covers, but I tend to go all mama bear when there is the slightest possibility that one of my clients is being ripped off or plagiarized. So I sent a link of the book to my client.

I could almost hear the sigh in her response.

“That’s the downside to using stock photos,” she replied. “I’ve considered hiring my own photographer and models but, thus far, I haven’t seen any covers shot and designed that way that I’ve liked.”

Well, that IS a pretty big downside to stock photos. I don’t know how one measures emotional energy — is there such a thing as emotowatts? Emotovolts? — but I know authors put it into their books by the barrel. The writing. The editing. The rewriting. The formatting. The promoting. The financing. Ad infinitum. And that intense emotional energy includes cover design. Authors want their original work to look, well, like an original work. They want covers that accurately and alluringly reflect the storytelling, and they want those covers to be powerful and potent marketing lures that are darn-near irresistible to book browsers, buyers, and fans. (Fans have plenty to say about a book’s cover, and they rarely hold back!) Authors often rack up formidable hours gleaning through the most obscure stock photos they can find to ensure their book covers are as singular and original as possible, even as that publication date vibrates like a muted buzzsaw over their heads.

The stock photo conundrum isn’t just about book covers. I’m increasingly reading lamentations about the same frustration with website art, logos and other media that require graphic design elements.

“Stock photos are killing differentiation!” boomed a recent blog post for a branding firm I follow.

“Let me be blunt: Stock photography needs to die,” writes Clive Thompson in his recent Wired article, “Only You Can Overthrow the Tyranny of Awful Stock Photos.” He makes a powerful persuasive argument, citing the predictable and stereotypical results of search engine image results and the efforts by some groups to work with stock image providers to offer a broader range of diversity and perspective for certain keywords (such as ethnic groups or authority figures). In Thompson’s opinion, stock photos are to graphic design what cliches are to language and what Hallmark is to poetry. Like cliches and banal poetry, stock photos dumb us down, he argues.

Thompson encourages a sort of anti-stock photo activism — or at least, being authentically original with graphic elements. “The true cure for stock photography is inside your camera phone,” he writes.

Or, perhaps, in your actual camera, or in a family photo album, or on a video camera in your closet, or even in your own hand-drawn squiggles. I agree with Thompson, which perhaps makes me a bit of a hypocrite, since I snagged the above photo from Google images. In hopes of redeeming myself and practicing what I (and others) preach, I offer a few shots from my cameras and cell phone below. Help yourself (if you want).

What are your thoughts about stock photos and alternatives to them?

 

cades cove mill

 

 

wild turkeys

 

brides and wives

girl and doll

bahamas

suzdalsausalitogabriellev yamweaver

Fun! Hot! Video Trailer for “Legal Briefs,” N.M. Silber’s New Amazon Best Seller!

You can’t watch it without smiling!

 

 

Love and Basketball . . . And Inspired Writing

Uncle Ed by SAM  PHOTO

Here is a brilliant example of the difference between writing as a function and writing as a joy — how writing from the heart and with passion has the power to move readers to emotionally inspired physical reactions, such as laughter and tears. Below, an exceptional young man joins the ranks of writers who remind us that the power to move others through the finely crafted written word is completely unrelated to age.

By Sam Rapp

Life is full of numbers by which we measure ourselves. For some, it is a number that follows a dollar sign. For people my age, it is the number preceding the three letters GPA. For basketball players, it’s the amount of points scored. We assign value to ourselves using these abstract numbers, and often lose sight of the numbers that are truly important.
When talking about my grandfather, Dr. Ed Wiener (or Poppy as many know him), there are plenty of numbers that come to mind. There’s the 1,212 points he scored during his four year career at the University of Tennessee while wearing number 19. There’s the 55 years that he’s been practicing dentistry, and the 80 years that he’s been alive. He’s 6’3″, lives at 123 Croley Rd., and wears a size 13 shoe. But these aren’t the numbers by which he measures himself. These are all just stats to him.
If you were to ask him, he’d bring up the 55 wonderful years he’s spent married to my grandmother. He’d bring up 12/02/1960, the day he became a father to his first child Craig, and 06/18/1962, when he first set eyes upon his daughter Tracy. He’d talk about 21, 19, and 15, the ages of his three grandchildren, and then spend countless hours talking about all of us. Poppy is unique in that the only numbers that matter to him are the ones that connect him to the people he loves and the people who love him.
Today he was honored as an SEC legend from the University of Tennessee for all of his athletic accomplishments and stats from his college days. But his legend goes way beyond those numbers, and way beyond the SEC.
(Reprinted With Permission – some minor edits added to protect personal information.)

A Teenager’s Case Against E-Readers

I have a really special teen in my life: “M.” — a smart, cute, witty, popular, avid reader and a deep thinker. She’s in 10th grade at an urban American public school. M. has some very strong opinions about e-readers — rather unconventional opinions for natives of the Digital Age. I’ve asked her to share her thoughts on e-readers as a guest blogger, and she graciously agreed (and even researched!). With great pride, I present M.’s guest post, unedited, written in her own words. Read, think and feel free to judiciously respond in the comment bubble above. Enjoy! Thanks, “M.”!

Em blog photo

Do eReaders Equal No Readers?

            Throughout the past three or so years, eReaders have become the new “thing.” They have become increasingly popular, and more and more people are jumping on their band wagon. With the increasing of electronic books, what does the future hold for the traditional paperback? Electronic readers like the Kindle, Nook, and Tablet affect the economy, are distractions, have functional set-backs, are negative on the environment and travel, and have many other problems as well.

The increase of electronic readers negatively impacts the American economy. The surge of online books has lead to the closing of many local bookshops and the long-running book power-house, Borders. When these books stores were forcedly closed, thousands of Americans lost their jobs. Unemployment rates shot up, which made the problem of our recession even worse. Also, our once-American employees have been replaced by outsourced workers from third and second world countries. Now most of the money gained from American books is replaced by money that has to be sent to lower world countries to pay for production. With that being said, the American economy does not even gain much of a profit from the best-selling eReaders.

One thing E-readers are fantastic at is being distracting. Most people I know do not even use them to read, instead the three hundred or so dollars spent on electric readers goes towards children playing apps. The touch screen and internet features of E-readers provide an outlet for owners to not read, but to spend more time on Facebook or Candy Crush. Most electronic readers are being compared to Ipads, whose primary function is entertainment, when they should be compared to other eReaders. The comparison of I-products and electronic readers increases the public’s view of eReaders being used for entertainment, not books. Finally, many people bring their Kindle Fires to school and pretend to read in class, when they are actually on in the internet or playing games. This new distraction is causing our next generation of leaders to not succeed as much in school, because more time is spent playing games than learning.

There are also functional set-backs with items like Continue reading

The Power Of Brick And Mortar

“Mom, can I get a book and keep it?”
— A little boy, about age 4 or 5, window shopping as I exited Barnes & Noble today.

I melted into the pavement with a big “awwwww!” His pregnant mom, holding the hand of a teetering toddler, gave a bittersweet laugh and looked at the boy, then at me. “I guess he’s not used to keeping them,” she said. “He’s used to taking them back to the library.” I walked about 10 steps down the strip mall sidewalk before realizing, “You idiot! Turn around buy that kid a book! It’s your chance to do a good deed for the day and perform a random act of kindness!” I turned around, but they were gone. Hopefully, they were inside the store playing in the books, trying to decide which one to take home and keep.

Please support your local bookstores this holiday season, even if they’re big boxes. They’re playgrounds of the imagination, the territory of curious explorers of all ages. They lure us to geographies we’d otherwise never think to venture, and on journeys to places we didn’t know existed — no matter our age or our reading level.  They’re a place to explore books in real time, where we don’t have to keep our eyes on a screen or click any buttons or worry about being disconnected. We can touch and smell what we want to buy, or might want to buy, or what we definitely don’t want to buy but do want to steal a peek at. We can take it home the same day – no postage involved. If we need help, we can get advice and ideas from a real person with a face. Bookstore workers tend to be actually helpful. I really don’t want to live in a world without bookstores. It would be a little like living in a world without spring. Let’s try to keep the toothpaste in the tube as long as we can!