#Summertime with #Family & #SummerReads with @ZoolonHub, @chloekbenjamin, @naominovik, & @ChuckWendig ‏

When there’s deadlines for two novels and six short stories, it can be pretty easy to forget about little things like family time or relaxation.

Bash and his favorite comfy, a rabbit named Hoppy

It’s bloody hard to write when the kids are home, but sometimes they manage to occupy themselves creatively while I work. Blondie works on her comic book starring Ruff Ruff and Stormfly…


…while Bash draws picture after picture of Star Wars droids. “Is that R2-D2?” I’ll ask. “No, that’s Q3-5A,” I’m corrected. Okie dokie!


Biff loves to read, but he’s not much for writing or drawing like his siblings. He gets his creativity on with Legos, which suits me find for this little engineer.


We’ve taken the kids to the North Woods a few times, and hope to do so once more before the school year starts. Princeton’s not far from the family cabin, and it hosts a weekly flea market throughout the summer. Bo has many treasured childhood memories of this market, so we always take care to visit it at least once a summer. He gets to dig through old comic tubs, and I get to take a gander at all the people.


The booths are filled with everything from liquidation buyouts, bottomless tubs of toys from the last fifty years, handmade doll clothes, or antler home decor. Who wouldn’t want a fireplace poker made of deer antler?


Plus there’s always a few tables laden with books–hooray! I didn’t know I needed a cookbook by the Dixie Diamond Baton Corps, but come on–you know there’s got to be good stuff in there.


I don’t know what qualifies as “antique” outside the US, but I just cannot consider ’90s nonsense as “antique.” (I went to elementary school with people who wore those buttons, for cryin’ out loud.)


Now I do not know how this guy does it. Poetry on demand? Brilliant! And he always had someone waiting for a poem. Either he’s that good a writer, or Wisconsinites are just that tired of all the booths selling crocheted Green Bay Packer hand towels and beer cozies.


Speaking of writing on demand, let’s see what could make for some awesome reading for August. I’ve added these to my TBR list–I hope you will, too!

Indie Writer


The Words & Thoughts of a Dyslexic Musician by George Blamey-Steeden

George has been an amazing support over the years in the blogosphere, so when he announced he put a book together, I had to give it a shout-out! He shares pieces of life and inspiration that help him create his lyrics for his three published albums. Do check this out!

Zoolon, the alter ego of George Blamey-Steeden, is a musician & sound artist living in Dover. He has a number of albums to his name, ‘Liquid Truth’ (2012), a concept album themed around Plato’s ‘Allegory of The Cave’; ‘Cosa Nostra’ (2014) a sound art creation based upon ‘Romeo & Juliet’, plus his two latest albums displaying his songwriting skills, presently on sale via Bandcamp, namely ‘Dream Rescuer’ (2017) & ‘Rainbows End’ (2017). http://www./zoolon.bandcamp.com An accomplished musician, he has a BA (Hons) Creative Music Technology (1st Class Degree) and his passion for composing is only matched by his love of wildlife and his support of The Arsenal football club. http://www.zoolonhub.com

Wisconsin Writer


The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

I saw this at the bookstore under “Local Authors” and became intrigued. There’s a supernatural element here, but a family drama at the heart. The allure of such a mix can’t be denied!

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

Fantasy Writer


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

I am so stoked about Novik’s latest! Uprooted was a joy, reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones’ quests and battles with quirky yet complete characters, so when I heard Novik’s got another fairy tale in bookstores, I had add it to my list.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

 Writing Craft


Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig

While it’s great getting perspective on strictly characters or strictly world-building, I want to study the art that is storytelling. Writing beautiful prose always a sweet endeavor, but to keep readers gripped, to keep them from putting down the book because they need to know what’s happening to characters they care about–now that makes me writer-proud. I’m looking forward to this one!

What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho‘okipa Beach have in common?

Simply put, we care about them.

Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It’s making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.

Using a mix of personal stories, pop fiction examples, and traditional storytelling terms, New York Times best-selling author Chuck Wendig will help you internalize the feel of powerful storytelling.

And of course, because I’m a writer…

If you’d like a little breather from your typical summer reading fare, try my serialized novel Middler’s Pride on Channillo or Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, FREE on KindleUnlimited! 2019 Update: Due to recent changes in the publishing relationship between Aionios Books and myself, Tales of the River Vine has been pulled from the market to be repackaged and distributed in fresh editions.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

40 thoughts on “#Summertime with #Family & #SummerReads with @ZoolonHub, @chloekbenjamin, @naominovik, & @ChuckWendig ‏

      • I’m the one they call the prude – they never behave themselves. I think he said he’s going to the place he always writes best in. Montreuil Sur Mer. It’s full of history. I wish it was me going there, I rate the place highly. Victor Hugo’s home where he wrote Les Miserables.

        Liked by 1 person

      • WOW. (about the Hugo thing, not the prude.) I’m just happy to get out of southern Wisconsin to go to northern Wisconsin for a few days. We’re going to a Paul Bunyan festival and watch chainsaws carve things!

        Not exactly the same kind of culture, but still–culture! 🙂 xxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

    • Oh we have a pile of drawings several inches tall of various droids: V6-4C, T7-8Y…and he remembers ALL of them, because he’ll correct me any time I’m wrong. 🙂 Someone picked up the book shortly after I took the shot, so I had to politely wander away, but I’m imagining there was a ton of Southern Comfort food packed in there! Alas… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, what a flea market. I’m trying to imagine a stall selling poems working here, and failing – I may be doing my neighbours a disservice – I hope so.
    This is a bumper post. Your recommendations look interesting. You’re not the first person who’s written about Naomi Novik, lately. I think I need to follow her up.

    Then, tucked away at the end is some interesting news. I’m very much looking forward to finding out some of Ember’s history when ‘Dandelion of Defiance’ is released this month. 🙂 What an exciting time you’re having just now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Life right now really is super duper exciting. INSANE, but exciting. 🙂
      I’d love to hear your thoughts about Uprooted. I LOVED that book–true characters, a terrible conflict, romance NOT shoved in your face. But I loved it best when there’s this reference to an old lady witch who had a walking hut. I just knew that was Novik’s way of touching on Diana Wynne Jones and her classic Howl’s Moving Castle. 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, flea markets! The baton twirlin cookbook sounds AMAZING. Maybe I’d get some tips on my baton moves…
    Thanks for the other recommendations as well! They sound like great reads to check out. Alas, for now, I’m back to the disaster area that is my child’s room… it’s clothes sortin’ day, wohoo!
    Happy writing, friend! xxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes of course – Q3-5A… R2-D2’s second cousin’s brother-in-law’s nephew! Yes… writing with family all home is a big challenge, especially when they are so young. Best of luck! I love the look of your market – and your reading list. Spinning Silver is on my list this summer, too. I also like the look of The Immortalists. I hope you have a productive, enjoyable summer, Jean!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are going to be a Droid expert! Love your kiddies, they are intelligent and creative like their mum.
    Booth sales are full of surprises. Love the covers of the books. They must be good.
    Just downloaded your books – I was away too long and missed a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, when you need a sabbatical, you take it! I couldn’t take a photo of the lovely Amish family with baked goods, nor could I get the competing shamwow booths–yes, two booths both selling the same product set up RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER. Either it was a brilliant marketing strategy or the worst booth plot organization ever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha looks like the person in charge wanted to put apples to apples and oranges to oranges 😉 There is a German word for that – Ordnung 🙂


  5. Don’t know how you do it. My youngest is off to college in a few weeks and I’m hoping to get back to my novel then. Right now, I just can’t focus. I think it’s the impending empty nest that has me frazzled.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A fun read, Jean. I could never write during the summer when my six children were all home, and I can appreciate how difficult it must be for you, with three. i spent a lot of my summers taking them all out. I love rummaging around at flea markets, too, and most over here are similar to the one you like to visit – a mix of really old antiques and more recent clobber. It’s amazing what you can find – like certain cookbooks! Lol Happy writing. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, I do love rummaging about garage sales and flea markets. It’s just really hard with my lot, who take one look at a toy and cry out, “I NEED THAT!” 😛 Lovely to meet you!


      • Lovely to meet you, too. I’ve neglected my blog for so long and am just trying to get back into the swing of things. At least I haven’t got the kids under my feet nowadays! I well remember the “I need that!” time of life. Thanks for the follow on Twitter, too.


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