Books I & II of The Lova Chronicles is available now!

The Lova Chronicles kicked off with The Earthen Shroud in August 2013!

Want Your Book to Read Like a Movie?

Check out my book trailer and see how I did it!

Author Book Signing

I've only done this once, but I had the time of my life! You can too; see how.

Food-Inspired Art

Check out my guest post on Notebook Blogairy about how food inspires my writing.

Pages From My Diary

I started a new blog series: awesome, intimate, legendary.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

RJS Book Review: Leaping Out on Faith

RJS Book Review

It's been a while since I did a book review, and I'm changing up the style a bit.  The suns were fun and really great, but I found with a rating system of one through five suns that I wasn't always able to accurately reflect how I felt about a particular work.  In moving to a grading system (A+ through F), I can be much more precise about what does and does not work for me about a book and/or movie.  So buckle up and enjoy because here we go again!

I've reviewed short story collections before, but I tend to avoid them.  Primarily because short stories are hard to write successfully.  (I should know; I still write them.)  The criteria is broad, but essentially there's only one rule: tell the story quickly enough that the reader can finish it in one sitting.  Do you know how difficult it is to grip a reader in ten pages or less?  You can say too much and end up with a novella or say too little and the work falls flat.  They say novel writing is an acquired skill; well, short story writing is a gift, the pinnacle of the art.  A short story must not only capture your attention, but it must move you.  It should leave you contemplating something by its end.  This is not easily accomplished.

So it was with grave apprehension that I set out to read Leaping Out on Faith by Rochelle Campbell.  The work is a compilation of four short stories, each about women in various stages of life facing major crossroad decisions.  "The Green Years" introduces us to Sarah, a high school freshman grappling with a broken heart.  The language is simple, and Sarah thinks the way a high schooler would, a credit to the author who captured the adolescent mind brilliantly in this story.  But perhaps it was why I found it so difficult to identify with the young girl.  Now in my thirties, high school feels so far away and its problems so trivial.

Sally, however, turned out to be a woman I remember from days long past.  There is nothing in the world like waking up in your fairy tale only to find that your nightmarish past has caught up with you.  In "Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind", the action plays out quickly and believably as Sally fights for her life and self-control.  "Knocking at the Door" reveals a nameless heroine, but probably the most thought-provoking piece in the collection.  As the stranger raps incessantly at the door, flashbacks of a love estranged plagues our heroine's mind--and heart as she decides whether or not she should answer.  Salera from "All God's Men" must determine if love can truly outweigh religious and cultural differences, a question many women at some time or another must have answered.

Ms. Campbell reveals not only her versatility in this work, as each setting is diverse and vivid, but also demonstrates her ability to draw the reader in with life situations that unwittingly cause us to question our own intentions and motives.  Each tale the author weaves could easily be a situation in which any of us could find ourselves.  We may not have made their decisions, but we have certainly thought those same thoughts.  We have struggled with the same pain, and we have answered the same questions.

I would have liked a subtitle.  It would have assisted with knowing this book was a short story compilation rather than a novel.  I could have done without "The Green Years", and ultimately, it may have been better not to lead with this story.  And I wanted more stories, a longer work.  It is clear Ms. Campbell possesses the know-how; I simply wanted maybe two or three more stories to fill the compilation out more.

I was pleasantly surprised by Leaping Out on Faith, and I'm glad I stepped out on mine to read it.  I'm sure you will be, too.

Grade: B-

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What's In a Name?

Today, I'm thinking about my name.  I'm not sure I like it.  For the longest time, I kept wanting to change it, to be something or someone else.  Interestingly enough, I got that opportunity when I wrote Barely Breathing.  I changed my name to Micah Michele, and then all felt right in the world--until family members kept telling me they couldn't find the book.  I had to remind them I wrote under a different name, and then the repeated question was why?  When I got ready to publish The Grim, I thought I'd do it again.  Maybe not write under Micah Michele but fashion myself an even newer name that everyone was bound to love and remember.  It would be much better than Raynetta Stocks, and I'd live in infamy.

As good writers do, I asked for feedback.  I sent my family and friends several pseudonym options via email and said, "Which do you like best?"  This focus group turned out to be an exercise in disaster because no more than two people liked the same name, and of course, that exhausting question continued to repeat, "Why aren't you writing under your own name?"

Honestly, I was so infuriated by the question primarily because...well, I didn't have a legitimate answer.  I didn't know why I wanted to change my name or what I thought I would accomplish by doing so.  I wanted my name in lights--so long as it wasn't my real name.  And very quickly, that became a relatively ridiculous notion.

Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  I'm sorry, William, but I must beg to differ.  Our names have meanings, and if we bother to connect to those meanings, we'll find something very beautiful indeed.  Take "Raynetta", for example.  I looked it up and found that my name means "Law Unto Itself".  Well, hotdog!  Here I was thinking my grandmother just made it up because my parents couldn't agree on the two names they had picked out, and all the while God was whispering in my grandma's ear: "Name her Raynetta."  The explanation went on to describe very strong, accurate, and surprisingly positive characteristics about myself: a finisher, tolerant toward humanity, warmhearted, compassionate and empathetic, bold and independent, a freedom seeker.  I am all these things; they are the attributes I've struggled for the last three decades to see in myself every time I look into the mirror.

I can't say that everyone lives up to their name, especially if they are never told what it means, but innately, I believe our names become the foundation of what we grow to be.  A prophecy, if you will, of the person our parents pray we become.  It's the place we start from, the place we blossom from.  Yes, you could call a rose by a different name, and yes, it would still smell sweet--but that rose gained notoriety by its name not its smell.  Were it not called a rose, wouldn't it be more difficult to recognize in conversation?  To search for on the internet?  To request in the floral shop?  Your name is your first definition.  It's your first glimpse at your purpose.

How can I see any other name in lights besides my own?  If Micah Michele were plastered on a Times Square billboard, would something resonate in me?  By any other name, would my work be less good?  Perhaps not. But in some ways, attempting to rename myself simply disowns me from the dream I pursue.  Because if I ever achieved greatness with a pseudonym, that person would not be me.  I would not recognize her--and neither would the world.

Pages From My Diary

Pages From My Diary

I've been gone for awhile.  The writing process can be a bit solitary for most writers, and sometimes, you just gotta shut down and disappear for awhile in order for the muses to descend.  It happens.  I don't deny, however, that I've missed you.  And in the time I've been away, I've found there was a lot I've been wanting to say.

This new blog series is not at all about my work.  It's not about books I've read.  It's not even about movies made from books.  This series is about me.  I'm going to be vulnerable, I'm going to be open, I'm going to be honest--even to my detriment, as those instances arise.  I want you to know me.  Because my work is a reflection of who I am.  And you can't possibly understand that without my revealing a bit of myself to you.

My blog began as a place where I could share the many things I love about aesthetic entertainment, but in the time I've spent with you, it has become a medium to really connect and give you a piece of the writer, the person I am truly, and not so much the persona that comes with being an author and storyteller.  Being an independent author has it's perks, but I don't want to pretend.  As Sparkle so famously said, I want to give you something you can feel.

So, as always, I invite you to embark on another journey with me.  It'll be fun; didn't you know I'm a riot?

You can always find my diary entries on the sidebar under "Labels".  Click "Pages From My Diary", and happy reading.