Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 12, 2017 Blog: Cartoons and A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

I'm including some of the book-club cartoons I've been drawing. I have a Waco-13 Drawing Tablet that lets me draw digital cartoons, and I'm really enjoying it. (You'll likely need to zoom in to read them.) This is my first cartoon, with color:

I wanted to also try some plain black and white drawings:

And finally, a first-draft:

So, I highly recommend A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles. The book is rife with topics for fascinating discussions--reactions to characters, physical vs self-imposed imprisonment, politics in Russia, how to treat others, particularly brilliant snipits of Towles sparkling writing, and many others. 

A MAN CALLED OVE pretty much fell flat in my other book club. More so than other emotional reactions, humor is highly esoteric. Most anyone reading a scene about walking down a dark alley and hearing heavy footsteps begins to feel tense, fearful. A scene where a nice character is being bullied raises the reader's ire. A death of child can make readers cry. But one reader's laugh is another reader's eye roll. Because I write humorous books, I believe strongly that the key is to write scenes that work whether or not the reader finds them funny. For whatever reason, in this second book-club discussion of OVE, the main character's awful childhood seemed to have a greater impact on this club's readers. The first group called OVE "delightful" and "upbeat." This time there was general disappointment about it not living up to its recommendations. Next up for this club's July book is: THE AMERICAN HEIRESS by Daisy Goodwin. We chose this as a "beach read" book and were impressed with the author advertising it for Downton Abbey fans, and naming the heiress Cora Cash.  
Have a wonderful month, and comment about your own book-club selections. And please give my book: HOW MY BOOK CLUB GOT ARRESTED a try!

Leslie O'Kane

Sunday, June 18, 2017

June 18th Blog: Baxter, Man Called Ove, Underground Railroad

Welcome to my first Dog/Book Club Blog!

It is a gorgeous Father's Day here in Boulder, Colorado. It's sunny and very warm. This is how my dog, Baxter, likes to spend hot days:

He likes being on cool porcelain or tile. Here is a picture of him (and me) when we first got him as a rescue dog in January, when he had bald patches, though you probably can't see them in this photo:
He has an illness called lymphangiectasia, which is pronounced as easily as the last name of your random Russian female tennis star. 

That does the dog portion of this blog. I'd love photos of YOUR dogs, so please attach them. I might ask permission for using them on the cover of a future Allie Babcock book.

Book Club-wise, this month my St. John's group will discuss A MAN CALLED OVE at my house next week. My Second Tuesday group discussed THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. I'm the only author in either group, and I sometimes react differently to books than non-writer readers do. I recommend book club books based on the quality of the discussion that ensued. A Man Called Ove was discussed last year in my Tues group, and on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it an 8. All sorts of fun topics arose: the theme of building one's own family after a tough childhood, men's vs women's friendships, thinking about suicide, and grumpy old men. In another two weeks or so, I'll see if I reassess that following the St. J's discussion.

The Underground Railroad I'm giving a 7 to its quality of discussion. What was great about it is we had some really different appraisals of the book. Quite honestly, I had to really struggle to move beyond the author's intentional enormous distortions of the facts; he takes the titular metaphor and makes it real--an actual underground train operating in 1812, which I was okay with, but I lost it when he chose to have a 10-story building in South Carolina in that same year, an entire century off, and had similar distortions in the timing of other historical episodes. So our discussion of that issue of historical fiction vs historical science fiction was interesting. Discussion of the characters was also interesting, as was the level of violence in the book. But here, I run into my personal bias. This was not the type of book I want to read this year. My enjoyment of the discussion was dampened by that fact. Yet it was a book that definitely is chock full of material for fascinating discussion.

Let me know what you think!
Leslie O'Kane

Monday, May 29, 2017

NEW Interactive Book Club/Dog BLOG!

Hi, Readers!

I have done a terrible job at keeping up my "itty-bitty blog" for three years now! I just don't like taking time away from my fiction writing in order to post on my blog. What I DO want to post, however, are: 1) Titles and authors of the books that my two book clubs have discussed, and a concise review of how good our discussion went; 2) Doodles, drawings, photos, and cartoons of dogs.

My hope is that those of you who are in book clubs and/or who own dogs will enjoy replying with your book-club selections and images of your dogs.

This blog upgrade has been inspired by my two upcoming NEW RELEASES:

HOW MY BOOK CLUB GOT ARRESTED, the first in the Book Club Trilogy, to be released on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

DOG DRAMA, the sixth book in the Allie Babcock Series, to be released on Saturday, July 15, 2017.

The "itty bitty blog" will be renamed: "the book-club/dog blog" or "bc/d" blog for short. On or around June 15, I anticipate posting a list of my past book-club selections from the last couple of years.

I really, REALLY hope you'll consider replying with your book-club selections. We can all use more suggestions of books to read! And we dog lovers can all use more dog pictures to bring an "aw" into our day!

Leslie O'Kane

Friday, August 22, 2014

An American in Asia (with Ambien) in April (Part 1)

Okay, so I haven't been good at keeping my itty bitty blog going.  That isn't surprising from my perspective.  When I'm spending time writing, I like it to be in the form of novels rather than blogs.  BUT, here's an update, starting with the month of April.

My husband Mike and I spent the month of April in Asia, visiting my son, Captain Andrew O'Kane, in South Korea.  We had an inauspicious start.  At approximately 3 a.m. on April 1st, the shuttle that was the one and only thing I had my husband arrange for our trip, arrived and picked us up.  At 3:45 a.m., as we're mindlessly riding along into the bowels of Westminster, Colorado, he suddenly turns to me and asks: "Did you pack OUR passports?!" 

"Is this a joke?!" I shrieked.  When he shook his head, I said, "What on earth would make you think that I would pack YOUR passport and not mention it to you?!"  He said, "Well, you had them out," and I said that, yes, two months ago, when I was arranging our Visas in China, I had them out.  So then I asked the driver if he had any pickups in hotels and could let us out.  Unfortunately, he did not.  I asked him to drive us to a gas station, so in the middle of a hideous, icy windstorm, we were left with our luggage at a deserted gas station in the middle of a town where we had no idea where we were.  We called a cab, which we saw drive past us at 50 mph, and which took a full hour and four desperate phone calls from us to finally retrieve.  At which point, he asked us where Boulder was.  He then proceeded to drive us south when we needed to go north.  He missed three turns after we corrected him, barely averted two head-on collisions, and drove us 95 mph to our house where Mike retrieved his passport.  We rode the 50 miles to DIA in 30 minutes, somehow arrived at the gate before final boarding call, and walked straight into our plane and to our seats.  We then wasted an our in San Francisco, and arrived in Seoul, Korea, an hour late, and met our son at the bus station in Songtan. 

As I said to my husband, "Maybe we're getting the bad part of our trip over at the start."  That proved to be the case.  There's a 17 hour time difference between Boulder and Seoul, so we arrived in the evening a day after we departed.  I took an Ambien shortly before we were to be served our meals.  I remember getting my chicken kiev.  I awoke in the morning, thinking that I'd had this weird dream in which I was struggling to get the chunks of chicken on my fork and into my mouth.  I got up to use the restroom, and discovered that my lap and my seat were covered in food stains.  I made the note to myself: never take Ambien prior to eating a meal.  Otherwise, though, I have to admit that I felt refreshed and energetic when we got to Songtan.  We saw Andrew's luxury apartment, had a fabulous meal at the Korean BBQ, where we learned about their curious affection for Kimchi and sweet pickles, then got ourselves nicely situated in his guest room.  I took another Ambien and awoke in the morning, feeling well-rested.

We spent two weeks in S. Korea.  To my surprise, I could happily live in Seoul.  I adored the people.  The temples and sites were amazing.  The food is fantastic and reasonably priced.  It is an outstanding place to visit.  I will write more about it, as well as our week in Vietnam and our week in Beijing, shortly.

Leslie O'Kane

Friday, November 29, 2013

leslie okane: Overnight Success After Twenty Years!

On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I had my wildest-dream success from a promotion I ran on Bookbub for my mystery PLAY DEAD.  I watched my author ranking on Amazon rise from 20,000 to number 67.  On all of Amazon, there were only 66 authors who outsold me on 11/26/2014.  It is now Friday, August 29th, and there are now 225, but I'm not complaining.  I've sold several thousand books, and it has been an exhilarating and magical ride that I never truly believed would happen to me.  The promotion expires on Sunday, and my ratings will drop, but I'll remember how much fun this was for a long time.

I'll also remember, though, that my daughter came home for Thanksgiving still suffering with the after-effects of a terrible case of food poisoning.  She can still barely force herself to eat more than a couple of bites at any one sitting. 

I'll remember that I didn't manage to write the chapter in my next book that--no pun intended--I'm dying to finish.  I awoke this morning with my thoughts in their usual whirl as I tried to think of how I can get my book in front of my intended audience for THE BODY SHIFTERS.  I miss my son who's stationed in S. Korea.  I'm feeling guilty about some friends that I still haven't managed to have over for dinner.  My husband and I still have financial concerns as he retires from IBM in two weeks.  There's no way to know if all of these new-to-my-work readers will buy another book from me, or if by Tuesday, I'll be back in the 20,000th position.

This was probably my fifteen minutes of fame.  If so, I'm so happy and grateful that I got to experience it!  I've loved every one of those minutes; I've smiled for every second of them.  I'm also happy and grateful to have learned from this experience that life isn't very different for the 67th and the 20,000th sales-ranked author.  Either way, I still need to finish my next book to the best of my ability and then try to market that book to the best of my ability.  It's the nature of the beast to come up short, but also to keep trying.  How frustratingly wonderful is that?!

Warmest wishes for the holiday season!
Leslie "Caine" O'Kane

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Of Floods and Face Lifts

That's hardly as eloquent a title as: "Of Mice and Men, but there's an adage for writers: "Write what you know."  Then again, I'll ignore good writing advice re: the importance of dramatic leads and will instead state upfront that my house sustained very little damage from the flooding in Boulder, and I didn't have a face lift, merely a brow lift and upper eyelid surgery. 

Three weeks ago I wrote about August going out with a whimper.  Well, September sure swept in with a lot of force, here in Boulder!  Despite the Front Range's arid climate, it rained and rained for days on end.  We got more than half of our typical annual precipitation in one ten-day span. I've lived in Boulder for 37 years and have never experienced anything remotely like this.  The rivers swelled and rose.  There were flash floods in streets and neighborhoods that weren't in the flood plain.  It felt as if all of the ground soil in Boulder was dumped hundreds of yards downhill.

Unlike me, my husband does not wear earplugs at night, so he alone heard the call from our next-door neighbors asking if he could help with a sump pump for the water that was gushing in through their window wells.  That was the first of two nights of severely interrupted sleep for him, as the second night he had to keep emptying a three-foot tall trash bucket every ninety minutes to catch most of the water that was running from a small, newly discovered hole in our foundation wall.  We wound up with a soggy carpet even so in our guest room.  Between the contents on our storage room floor, and everything in our guest room, our rec room is crammed to the gills. We dried our carpet, mostly by soaking up the moisture with towels, now we need to shampoo the carpet and put the guest room and storage room back together.

I've often had impeccable timing for avoiding manual labor.  I'm your basic slug of a dinner-party guest who is rapt in conversation until the last plate is cleared, and who only then thinks to ask: "Can I help?"  Or who sleeps soundly until her spouse returns home at 4:30 a.m. from working on the neighbor's basement.

My avoidance-of-labor timing held true last week. I called my friends to ask about their houses, yet wasn't in the position to help carry items out of their flooded basements. Bending over and scrubbing on my hands and knees is very difficult with a bruised and healing face.  My eyes, cheeks, and forehead were sore, and I had a minor but enduring sinus headache.  I Skyped with my son in S. Korea, and he said that I looked like I'd been in a really bad fist fight.  I truly felt guilty for not only coming through the flood without damage to our home, but for (essentially) incapacitating myself over something driven by pure vanity. 

That said, a couple of years ago, I read somewhere that there is also wisdom in reversing the Golden Rule.  Sometimes we should each take a moment to ask ourselves: Would I tell my child the same things that I'm telling myself right now? 

The truth is that my friends know who--and how--I am.  They like me even so! People with better backs and better faces are pitching in to help physically.  Meanwhile, my friends still appreciate--I hope--how I continue to be held rapt by our conservations.  My husband knows that I'm a chronic insomniac, and that it's much better for both of our sakes to let me get whatever sleep I can.  Plus, I love my new eyes!  That makes me happy, and I'm a better person when I'm happy than when I'm sad.

Sadly, for some Coloradoans, it might take many months until their homes are rebuilt.  Much, much worse, some families have lost loved ones. The only help I can offer them is through my prayers. I ask those of you who are so inclined to join me in that venture.

With gratitude and blessings,

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Going Out With a Whimper

Hi, y'all!

That's as close as I get to Southern, after my week on the beaches of North Carolina.  We had a great time, then I returned and went to two mini-vacations in the Colorado mountains.  Which is when I started whimpering.  My AOL account was hacked minutes before I was about to depart on my second mountain escape. 

What followed was a lot of time spent changing passwords and vigilance re: my financial accounts.  All seems fine now.  But I still haven't gotten back into my routine.  I haven't been doing my awful daily stretching routine.  I dislike stretching, which is why my body needs it so badly.  And I'm truly struggling to get back into my writing, mostly because I've spent so many hours in front of the computer doing other things, often while whimpering and cursing.

I'm getting an eye lift next week, so that means several days off the computer.  I might actually try writing while turning my computer screen off.  As long as I check my hand position on the keys it might work out.  It would just be stream of consciousness work as I continue to plot my 8th Domestic Bliss mystery.  It will be either my 20th or 21st novel--depending on whether I complete my 2nd book in my thriller trilogy before or after this one.  I'm also supposedly getting major landscaping work done after Labor Day.  I wrote "supposedly" because this was supposed to start two weeks ago.  We'll see if I update my photograph in another month or two.

Warmest wishes!
Leslie O'Kane