Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review of 'Roadhouse Blues' by Malin James

Malin James had me from the first line of Skins, second of the eleven good, gritty, honest, bittersweet and beautifully-written short stories in Roadhouse Blues:

Cassie was born ten miles from the middle of nowhere in a town called Styx, if you can fucking believe it…

That line is keynote and key for this collection. All these stories are set emotionally, if not physically, in the same small place somewhere deep in the wilderness of the American psyche. Styx could be practically anywhere, and this, I think, is intentional on the author’s part. There is a sense of near-mythic wide-openness about the place, like the west Texas of Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, or the windswept plains of the lower Midwest, an arch nonspecificity invoking universality:  

A curtain dropped over her mind as Cassie walked downstage. She wasn’t in the theater any more. She was in the ugly brown heart of the dust bowl. She could taste it like a film in her mouth…

We’ve seen these box stores, garages, and greasy spoons, strip malls, strip clubs, factories, bars, and bedrooms a hundred times before, wandered through the dusty streets of the same stifling chicken-fried towns where everybody makes it their business to know yours, yet are utterly incurious where the secret pain of the heart is concerned. Where same-sex attraction is still the ultimate scandal, and tenderness more taboo than rage.

James shows us what’s really going on behind those closed doors and drawn drapes, inside her character’s heads. She sets her scenes with a few well-chosen details to conjure atmosphere, but it is the characters’ emotional landscape that interests her and us, that sense of being lost in the only place you’ve ever known, of fleeing the past even as you fear the future, of being trapped in a world where you are free only so long as you don’t stand out too much…  

Leigh imagined her ugly underwear, her ugly comforting armor, and reminded herself to breathe. Fumbling fingers on blue cotton hearts, pink Sundays worn on Mondays, lying so still, mismatched days of the week…

Reminiscent of working-class portraitists like Richard Russo or Stephen King at their keenly-observant best, James’ characters are refreshingly real, down-to-earth, mostly blue collar, sometimes not quite as articulate as they’d like to be. The soundtrack of their lives is more often rockabilly than pure country western, but we recognize a lot of the same themes; infidelity, loneliness, nostalgia, regret, and desire. So much desire. An auto mechanic carries on a life-long affair with his boss, who also happens to be his sister-in-law. His wife’s longing for a baby ultimately leads her to desperate measures. Later, the new mother contemplates the passions that have been awakened within her. Another woman sets out to exact revenge on a faithless lover, only to have the tables turned, when her anger is sublimed into pure lust. The owner of the local diner comes out of the closet, if only for one glorious night. The lover of a fallen soldier is consoled by the soldier’s widow. A waitress's encounter with a creepy late-night patron triggers memories of being young and crazy-in-love with a bad boy, and the unhinged abuse that inevitably followed once the thrill was gone. A sad-eyed stripper comforts a dying man who appears like the ghost of her beloved father. The bartender at the strip club meets the woman who shares the passions he cannot confess.  Life goes on, little changes, but dreaming makes it bearable.

Roadhouse Blues is recommended without reservation!



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review of 'Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction' by Benjamin Percy

There’s a new volume to add to the first shelf of books on the craft of writing. Benjamin Percy’s Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction is worthy to stand alongside such classics as Stephen King’s On Writing and Ursula K. LeGuinn’s Steering the Craft; books that not only offer invaluable advice, but ultimately expand the mind, inspiring us to question our most deeply-entrenched assumptions about literature—what it is, what it isn’t, what’s good, what’s bad—our prejudices about process—what works, what doesn’t—all the creative-writing-course clich├ęs and stultifying conventional wisdom that narrows our outlook and limits our potential even as it smothers the creative spark we hope to nurture.

What’s the difference between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction, and are the two categories mutually exclusive?  The worst of genre fiction according to Percy “features formulaic plots, pedestrian language, paper-thin characters, gender and ethnic stereotypes and a general lack of diversity…” Literary fiction at its worst “features a pile of pretty sentences that add up to nothing happening…” A fairly grim, if acutely accurate, assessment; there seems precious little hope or redemption on either path, and even less possibility of reconciliation. “But why not flip the equation?” Percy asks. “Toss out the worst of genre and literary fiction—and merge the best…”  This is the extraordinary, some might say counterintuitive, premise of Percy’s argument, what makes ‘Thrill Me’ not only unique but indispensable. “If I’m going to align with anyone,” Percy declares, “it’s with … [those authors] who make an effort to be both a writer *and* a storyteller, someone who puts their muscle into artful technique and compulsive readability.”

And Percy shows us precisely what he means, offering generous examples of exceptionally well-written and  excitingly-told stories ranging across the literary/genre spectrum from Cormac McCarthy, Shirley Jackson, and Tim O’Brien to Michael Chabon, Ursula K. LeGuinn, and George R.R. Martin, not ignoring the rich vein of contemporary film and novelistic television. In each chapter, these examples are used to illustrate solutions to the problems every storyteller must face at one time or another; creating a sense of urgency in a narrative, finding the language appropriate to stage an effective set piece, dealing with issues arising from the portrayal of violence, employing setting and detail to “make the extraordinary ordinary’, designing suspense, knowing when to incorporate backstory (or not), the use of artful repetition…and so, so much more.

As in King’s On Writing, autobiography is employed as a vehicle for insight, a framework for instruction, the writer’s personal experience illuminating broader points about process in an engaging narrative that reads like the best coming-of-age fiction.  As a boy, the author relates, “I had too much empathy; it was a superpower (as a budding writer) and a disability (as a functional human being).” But Percy is wise enough to eschew the one-size-fits-all approach to creativity, the arrogant assumption that the experience of one individual somehow translates into universal truth.

Nor is Percy afraid to gore the sacred cows of contemporary fiction, fearless—and trenchantly precise—in his criticisms of semi-canonized writers like Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk and Michael Chabon, yet also lavish in his praise of those same authors where praise is due.

Percy draws strong parallels between music and writing, citing Aaron Copland’s description of the listening experience (on the sensual, expressive, and purely musical or cerebral levels) and showing how the same principles can apply to a reader’s enjoyment of fiction. Like LeGuinn in Steering the Craft, Percy explains how types of punctuation may be equated to musical rests of varying lengths. He invites us to appreciate the rhythmic richness of language, the visceral effects of well-chosen words, and the natural sense of momentum in a well-crafted phrase: “Tone refers not only to voice, but to music, the foot-tapping rhythm of the words. Dialogue is typically staccato [fast-paced, marked] while narrative is typically legate [smoothly flowing at a more leisurely pace]...”


Chock-a-block with eye-opening insight and practical advice conveyed in a fresh, down-to-earth style, Thrill Me is a must-read for all aspiring writers of dramatic fiction and the next best thing to a refresher course for more experienced authors. Enthusiastically recommended!  





Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pacing an Erotic Scene

I was thrilled this past spring to have a story of mine accepted for inclusion in The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty Thirty Vol. 2. Recognition is always nice, but to be included in a prestigious anthology among some of the best-known names in the business goes far beyond simple affirmation. I was, to say the least, elated.  Editor Rose Caraway clearly ‘got’ what I was trying to do in A Polite Fiction; it’s not a conventional erotic narrative—I don’t do conventional—and I understood from the start that it would not be everyone’s cup of love-tea. I submitted the story, confident that the quality of the writing would be enough to get me in the door, though I was somewhat doubtful about whether it would be sufficiently sexy to make the final cut.
           
As an editor, Rose Caraway is gifted with an extraordinary kind of literary X-ray vision. She has the ability to see directly to the heart of a story and understand with acute precision what makes it tick, why it works, or why it doesn’t. This goes along with an aptitude for perceiving potential in a piece of writing, a talent for recognizing and identifying that certain inchoate element, that mysterious unarticulated something that’s lacking in an otherwise interesting, well-written story. She clearly saw the potential in A Polite Fiction, liked the characters and the situation, appreciated my use of dialogue, and loved the ending. But Rose also recognized the story’s most serious weakness: the tale wasn’t steamy enough. Out of 3000 words, I’d only spared 120 near the end to describe the consummation of my characters’ relationship.

Ouch!

Being asked to do re-writes is seldom something to which an author looks forward with enthusiasm; the  request always comes at first as a bit of a gut-punch. But, deep down, I am a problem-solver. I see a request to do re-writes not as an affront to my ego or a repudiation of my “brilliant vision”, but as an opportunity.  I thrive on this kind of challenge; I actually love working an editorial problem insofar as it helps make a good story even better.

A Polite Fiction is set in the bedroom of a once-famous author, Dorian Hume. Summer, the writer’s young assistant, is helping her aging employer organize his papers. They face each other from opposite ends of a large waterbed where documents have been unboxed, spread out, and sorted into piles. In the bottom of a battered file box, Summer discovers an old pen-and-ink portrait of the author as a young man, and cannot help imagining what it might have been like to be with him in his heyday. Then Dorian makes a suggestion:

“I wonder,” he began, “would you…”

“Would I…?”

“Sit here?” The discard pile tottered precariously as he patted the mattress. “Be with me for a while?”

“Oh, Dorian—Mr. Hume—I…I don’t know.”

“I’d like to tell you a story,” he said. “Please?”     

She hesitated.

“We’ve been alone together before.”  His voice was a fine oak-barrel-aged baritone, rich and penetrating—like those eyes, she thought. Summer could not deny her attraction to this man, never mind their professional relationship or the fact that he was old enough to be her grandfather…

Summer wonders aloud how Dorian’s wife, Maude, might react to the knowledge of their being together. Dorian tells about the sexual adventures he and Maude used to enjoy in their youth, relating the story with a kind of wistful nostalgia. Then he reveals his true desire:

“It would be nice to know,” Dorian muttered.

“What?”

“That I still had it in me… That my words still had power.”

“I don’t understand.” She put the drawing down. “What are you saying? What are you—”

“Let me tell you a story,” he begged. “Let me make love to you with my words.”

Summer hesitates, but eventually joins Dorian on the bed. He whispers the story in her ear—a kind of Lovecraftian gothic tale of a damsel escaping a tower in which she has been imprisoned "for the sake of her virtue"--arousing Summer with the sound of his voice. I won’t reveal the denouement, but let’s just say these two characters definitely experience a happy ending…

In going back to do re-writes, I realized that the story’s lack of erotic impact had less to do with scenario, setting, description or atmosphere than with the pacing of the narrative. The clue is clearly there in the synopsis: Summer hesitates… Both characters in the original version were too unsure, too shy, to make a first move, and so consummation was constantly being postponed. Not good when you only have 3000 words to work with, and only so much time to keep the reader engaged.

Pacing in erotica is something we don’t often think about unless there’s an obvious problem with it. So what makes for effective pacing? In conventional pornography there’s never any question about whether people are going to end up having sex. It’s only a matter of how soon. There are no obstacles to the act, seldom much time required to get into the mood, very little build-up or 'gradually working into it' beforehand, and precious little foreplay when it finally does happen. There's hardly ever anything remotely like internal conflict to distract the characters or delay the inevitable. In short, there’s  no such thing as dramatic irony in porn. Sure, one of the characters may play coy for a second or so; there may be a bit of flirtatious forestalling, but everybody watching the scene knows damned well what’s coming—and if it doesn’t come quickly, they're very likely to demand their money back. When the starlet bats her eyes demurely and sighs “Gee…I don’t know…” the average viewer is probably shouting “Get on with it!” at the screen.

It may seem like a contradiction, but in erotica, sex isn’t always a foregone conclusion, nor is consummation inevitable. Of course it wouldn't be erotica without a sexual situation, or, at least, an atmosphere conducive to sex. But erotica also takes the very unpredictability of the human psyche into account. Where pornography portrays a kind of mechanical function, automatic once set in motion, erotica elucidates the psychological and emotional variants that make each encounter unique—and uniquely human.  

This uncertainty is part of the excitement in an erotic narrative, the build-up, gradual or swift, of sexual tension, rising states of desire, the not-always-smooth progression of arousal, crescendo and plateau. At some point the characters arrive at what I call an erotic cusp, a point beyond which doubt is banished, the floodgates are opened, and turning back is unthinkable. In submitting my re-writes to Rose, I put it this way:

I wanted to preserve what I see as the essence of this story; that is, a professional/intellectual relationship between two very different people who like and admire each other seguing into something sexual. The pacing has to be such in the beginning that Dorian and Summer’s eventual getting over this sexual cusp seems natural, and that what happens afterwards is all the more powerful for feeling inevitable—something readers believe these characters truly would do. 

In a good deal of erotic writing, the ultimate sex scene takes on the characteristics of a genre set piece. The language describing the sex act sometimes assumes a loftier, more poetic tone, bordering, too often, on the purplishly effusive. What’s happening in the scene may not always be obvious, but it’s torturously clear that the author got carried away. To be sure, so many otherwise gifted writers fall into a syntactical rut when it comes to writing sex itself. This is especially evident where the use of subordinate clauses is concerned: “Doing x, John did y.” or “Jane did x, y-ing as she moaned in pleasure…” over and over and over again. Syntax has a significant influence on pacing. To employ a similar syntax, sentence after sentence, may create an illusion of speed, but usually only in the writer’s mind. This kind of regular repetition has the ultimate effect of desensitizing the reader and putting them to sleep, where, instead, they ought to be propelled deeper into the world of the story, excited to find out what happens next.   

Dialogue and internal monologue may be employed to break up these monotonous patterns. Ultimately, dialogue may be one of the most effective ways to regulate the pacing of a story. I like the way this little bit of back-and-forth flows along near the beginning of A Polite Fiction:

“I think Maude’s afraid of losing you.”

“Losing me? How?”  

“I don’t know. It’s in the way she talks about you.”

“What has she said?” The question was more polite than pointed.

“She said that you were a great man—”

“Were?”

“Are.”

 “Mm. And?”

And that it’s a privilege to be a part of your world. She told me I should feel honored to…” Summer paused again, uncertain.

“Honored to…?”

“…be the object of your interest, of your…desire.

Dialogue can be extraordinarily effective when used to reveal aspects of character. It deepens our understanding of the characters, making them and their story come alive in profound and wonderful ways. Yet, it is seldom nearly so effective when employed to deliver exposition. And nothing does more to impede the natural forward momentum of a story than the clunky, heavy-handed use of expository dialogue—putting information in the mouths of characters that could better have been related through narrative. It’s like tripping on a tree root along a trail, having to pick oneself up and double back in order to move forward. No fun at all!

Perhaps the best way to ensure smooth pacing is to master the flow of language, the art of the elegantly imperceptible transition from phrase to phrase, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph. The last sentence of a paragraph ideally throws a switch, as on a railroad, effortlessly conveying readers into the next paragraph, and so on, to the end. If this series of switches is working smoothly and in precise concert, the story’s pacing will seem natural, vibrant, and, most importantly, inevitable. If the switches are too slow to open, or somehow out of alignment, the pace will appear to drag as the reader must negotiate gaps, drop-offs, fits and starts, between sections.  

In the end, Rose’s request for re-writes got me to think deeply about my craft, and that was well worth the time it took to do the work. By making careful cuts to parts of Dorian's "story within a story", while adding steamy stage business at strategic points along the way, I managed to bring the new erotically supercharged version of  A Polite Fiction in at just under 3,000 words. In my e-mail with the revised story, I wrote:

OK, after five full and extremely intense days, I think I’ve done all I can to this story—any more would very probably end up causing damage. A Polite Fiction may never succeed in turning readers into quivering puddles of inarticulate lust, but the eroticism has definitely been kicked up a notch or two, and, I believe, for those who can get past any hang-ups about May-December nookie, it will work very well indeed.

I hope it works for you, too! 



Saturday, August 12, 2017

A new erotica anthology from Rose Caraway




Now available! The Sexy Librarian's Dirty 30 Vol. 2 includes my story A Polite Fiction along with the work of 29 other exceptional authors. You can read more about the project here at the Stupid Fish Productions website. Check it out! (TAS)




Sunday, July 23, 2017

Review of 'Hotel: A Literary Erotica Anthology' (ed. Megan Lewis)

The second of three themed anthologies released this year by Minnesota-based Mugwump Press, Hotel features some splendid writing, if not always the most imaginative storytelling. But then, it had a pretty tough act to follow: coming right on the heels of editor Megan Lewis’ brilliant Wanderlust—one of the finest erotica anthologies of recent memory—this new endeavor often lacks the lyric effervescence and  imaginative variety of the earlier title, never mind that many of the same authors are featured in both collections. The thirteen stories in Hotel run an uneven gamut from the scintillating to the mediocre, though all are more-than-competently written. The problem seems to be one of creeping sameness in narrative attitude, scenario and style—a pitfall, one suspects, of the essential requirement that every story be set in a hotel of one sort or another.

Granted, there’s a lot of latitude within this stricture, and, for the most part, this group of authors rises to the challenge with more than sullen resignation. Along the way readers are treated to just about everything from the seedy to the posh: satin-sheeted rendezvous in high-end penthouse love nests to hardboiled rough play on moth-eaten mattresses in fetid hourly-rate hookup holes. Rustic inns, far, far from the madding crowd, flaunting their quaint historically-themed charms, to lonesome roadside dumps in deserts where nothing human ought to be, boutique auberges trading in discretion, and gaudy urban palaces, oozing bright flashing-neon excess. Yet, there’s something about hotel rooms themselves that seems to breed cynicism and ennui in otherwise perfectly well-adjusted human beings; the most ordinary and indifferent of spaces—describe one and you’ve likely described thousands just like it—stubbornly defies poetry. In the end, it has to be the characters that make these stories memorable, their desires, hopes, dreams, conflicts, that which gives the narrative true depth and color.  No setting--no matter how exotic or colorful--can save an uninteresting character. 

This being said, there are some truly outstanding stories here: Valerie Alexander’s scintillating genderqueer fantasy Zero Gravity, and Arden Ellis’ gritty and gorgeously written f/f Grey Bar Motel in which a pair of bank robbers hide out in a desert dump as they consider their next move—a superb study in character dynamic and psychology:  T.C. Mill’s effectively atmospheric f/f My Body is a Haunted House, describing the encounter between two women with nothing in common but a man they once knew, after the man’s funeral, and Reiver Scott’s heart-wrenching The Witching Place in which a selfish Dom is forced to see himself through the eyes of the woman he thought was his perfect sub.

Also of note:  J.S. Emuakpor’s At the Crossroads conjures orgiastic and terrifying images in an ostensibly abandoned hotel somewhere in the California desert—a liminal space where vengeful gods may lurk: Parker Marlo’s lyrically noirish Easter 1992:  Zac Blue’s Rolling the Die in which anticipated retribution comes in the most pleasantly unexpected of ways: Rhidian Brenig Jones’ m/m/m Tricks of the Trade where a pair of male escorts service a wealthy client, the only opportunity one of the rent boys has to fulfill his hopeless love-born fantasy of being with his professional colleague: Sara Dobie Bauer’s Breathing Underwater, movie stars encounter in a hotel pool, and  In the Long Nights of Our Never Enough—great title!—by Christian Fennell, a lyrical description of a beautiful woman’s first outing as a high-class escort.


Recommended. 




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review of 'archetypal' erotica by Samantha McCleod, Emmanuelle de Maupassant and Janine Ashbless

Death and Beauty by Samantha McCleod
Viking Thunder by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
Named and Shamed by Janine Ashbless

I am a sucker for the archetypal, erotic stories grounded in myth, legend, fairytale and folksong. High Fantasy, sword and sorcery, well-researched historical saga; give me something skillfully written, cleverly conceived, subtly executed, and I will be your purring lap cat for an hour or so. Tell me a story in a way no one else has. Turn me on with the force of your imagination. Make love to me with your words. Dazzle me, dammit!

Here are three titles, recently read, that hit my ever-moving sweet spot with uncanny precision. Samantha McCleod’s Death and Beauty and Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s Viking Thunder both appeared earlier this year, while Janine Ashbless’ magnificent Named and Shamed from 2012 has by now attained the status of an erotic classic. All three are superbly written.

Death and Beauty tells the story of what happened to the Norse god Baldir after his death. First of the Aesir to die, the god is bewildered to find himself in Nieflhel, the realm reserved for the ordinary dead, those mortals who do not fall gloriously in battle or spend eternity feasting and fighting in Valhalla. Surely, there’s been some kind of mistake? Baldir sets out to confront Hel, the infamous goddess of the dead who appears to her subjects half living flesh, half rotting corpse. An unlikely scenario for a sweet erotic romance, but McCleod makes it work with surprising skill. There’s plenty of humor to go with the sex, and a great deal of humanity to set this apart from the average mindless romp. This is a fun, fast read, and thoroughly enjoyable. Recommended.





Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s Viking Thunder is an exquisite piece of writing by any standard, imaginative historical fiction at its finest, and one of the sexiest tales I’ve had the pleasure to read in—ever. Told from the point of view of Elswyth, a young Anglo-Saxon woman, promptly made a widow when a band of Northmen raid her village, this is a clash-of-cultures story enlivened by lots of deliciously lurid action, pillage, fire, and, yes, rape--treated with appropriate gravity. Elswyth, not ungrateful to be rid of her feckless husband, quickly catches the eye of the Viking leader, Eirik, and is befriended by the shield maiden Helka, Eirik’s sister who functions as interpreter, cultural go-between and a counterbalance of quiet reason to her brother’s fiercely impulsive nature. Yet, more than mere escapist adventure, Viking Thunder has its thoughtful moments, too, a bit of comparative theology and myth, reflection on love, fate and destiny, cheek by jowl with unapologetically explicit descriptions of sex, heady as the sweetest mead. First in a yet another series from the remarkably prolific Emmanuelle de Maupassant, I, for one, can hardly wait for more. Highly recommended!





Janine Ashbless’ Named and Shamed is a relentless, orgiastic tour de force, a groaning board of pansexual delight unencumbered by the sort of repetition or slacking off in intensity that dooms so many full-length erotic novels. Drawing broad inspiration from Gaelic folklore and pagan myth, the story begins with the theft of a priceless imaginary manuscript, the unexpurgated first draft of Christina Rossetti’s The Goblin Market, obtained through a cynical act of seduction. In order to return the manuscript without drawing the bloody ire of its owner, Tansy, the reluctant heroine, must seek out the help of a “thing that looks like a man, but wasn’t,” one of the shadowy preternatural entities collectively known as Them There. Of course, the demon’s assistance comes with a sexy price, seemingly pleasant to pay, before its sinister after-effects become apparent. Tansy becomes insatiable, and none too picky about her partners along the way to finding an antidote to her raging nymphomania.  Sex of practically every variety and permutation is described in exuberant detail, whether with a group of horny auto mechanics in a greasy garage, or with just about every mythical creature populating the dark corners of the human imagination—a scene with a randy troll under a bridge is particularly memorable.


Illustrated with a series of captivating line drawings by John LaChatte, Named and Shamed is an essential addition to any library of classic modern erotica. Print copies are increasingly difficult to find with the recent demise of the original publisher, but, as of this writing, the novel was still readily available with the illustrations in a Kindle edition. Highly recommended! 



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review of ‘Come Let Us Sing Anyway’ by Leone Ross


Leone Ross is a writer who thinks deeply about her craft. Beyond mere nuts and bolts—the practical minutiae of syntax and punctuation—she grasps the workings of prose as few other writers do, at an elemental, sub-atomic level, her words like charged particles, whirling and spinning in concert to build up language of extraordinary power and beauty.

Ross never wastes a word. Her narrative style is objective, concise, economical yet seldom spare; rich and colorful yet never gaudy or effusive, animated by the lilting cadences of Jamaican patois, the word-music of the mother island, that home where her characters’ hearts invariably turn to remember in spite of time or distance.  

Ross gives us melancholy, homesick stories of the Jamaican diaspora in Britain (Love Silk Food, The Mullerian Expanse), unexpected flashes of humor in the midst of conflict and despair (President Daisy, Velvet Man), the sweet-sour poignancy of imperfect love (The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant, Art, For Fuck’s Sake), tragedy and heartbreak (Minty Minty, Mudman), and existential horror with a knowing nod to island folklore and ghost stories (Roll It).

This is marvelous storytelling by any standard. The author artfully seduces the reader, and the reader is more than happy to let themself be seduced. The twenty-three short stories in Come, Let Us Sing Anyway offer a sumptuous magical realism, the product of a frenetic and fertile imagination squarely rooted in the rich soil of cultural identity, the keen observation of gesture and motive refracted through a profoundly empathetic lens.

It would be difficult—if not impossible—to understate the excellence of this collection. As a reader, hungry for enlightenment, I was dazzled.  As a writer with an abiding interest in the craft, I came away impressed, inspired, and deeply humbled.


Passionately recommended without reservation!