Book Review: ‘Stories from Bondi’

book cover of 'Stories from Bondi' showing people on the sand by the sea
Book reviewer Dr Beatriz Copello, D.C.A. (Creative Writing) U.O.W., Cultural Editor of Semanario El Español and Psychologist, has written a wonderful review of  my new book STORIES FROM BONDI.
She writes:

Stories from Bondi is a collection of short stories by Libby Sommer.  Libby Sommer is the award-winning Australian author of My Year with Sammy (2015), The Crystal Ballroom (2017) and The Usual Story (2018) and is a regular contributor of stories and poems to Quadrant Magazine.

The stories contained in this book are varied in tone, mood and themes and they go from the very light and funny to sombre and sad, and from the innocent to the complex.  Most of the stories are set in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and for the inhabitants of this city it is fun to recognise familiar places and people from foreign places will learn about the beauty of  Sydney.

Australian humour is sprinkled over the pages as well as truly Australian expressions, typical social comments and comments about the style of clothing the characters wear. Some authors describe characters’ clothes in a way that is pedantic.  This is not the case with Sommer, the way this author dresses her characters emphasize aspects of their personality.

Various stories are about Anny, a well-defined character who the reader gets to know through her many and varied experiences.  Through Anny’s point of view the reader encounters reflections about modern women, their issues, concerns and sexual mores.

In Stories From Bondi the sea is ever present, as well as the seagulls … seagulls flapping wings, seagulls walking on sand or seaweed, seagulls flying … seagulls who are witnesses of Anny’s life.

Strong women’s issues are covered in some of the stories, but also issues that many women readers would identify as their own, issues such as body image, for example in “After The Rain” where Anny expresses concerns about her figure, the author writes:

“Although there are fans on the ceiling, it’s very hot in the restaurant.  Anny wants to take off her cardigan but she doesn’t want to expose her upper arms that is, that are less than perfect even though she does weights and other things at the gym.

She wears a jacket or a cardigan always now to draw the eyes and attention away from that part of her body that is growing larger at a more rapid rate than the rest of her, which is causing her much alarm.”

Sommer with her imaginative mind take us to places, where many women on their own would not dare to go, like lonely overseas trips or to Sex Clubs.  Yes, Anny visits a sex club in the story titled “Around Midnight”, story which is packed with the unexpected and with humour.  Although, I enjoyed reading this story I would have loved for it to have stronger and more explicit sex scenes.  Humour is also found in other stories like in “It’s Not Easy Being On Holidays”, she writes:

“Anny said, On New Year’s Eve I ran my hand up the inside of a man’s trousers from the ankles up and discovered he wasn’t wearing any underwear either.

You discover a little something?

A big something, she said.

They both laughed.”

In the story mentioned above there are also a few really funny passages full of innocence, one of these is when Anny phones her son to tell him about her holidays, Sommer writes:

“And Pamela and Annabel all over each other in front of me.  I can’t stand it.

Would it worry you so much if they were straight?

I can’t stand anyone being passionate in front of me — straight or gay.  It makes me jealous.  It’s inconsiderate of them.

Well, what did you expect going on holidays with two gays, two lesbians, a bisexual and a dog?

You’re right.”

Sommer has the ability to create believable characters and place them in real life situations, whether these situations are arranged or occur by chance. The ‘unusual’ sometimes is found in this writer’s narrative, like when she describes different types of Glutei Maximi, for those unacquainted with Latin this mean simply ‘bums’. Sommer is a good observer and as such gives us good descriptions of ‘bums’, the character Anny comments:

“Gradually the men on the beach sauntered towards the boat with money clasped in their bare hands.  They lined up one behind the other as they waited their turn, assorted body shapes and colours.  Tight firm bums, droopy wrinkly bums. Some with tell-tale underwear marks and others browned all over.”

Slices of life are brought to the reader with cinematic qualities: sceneries, the characters, the situations, all can be seen in the mind’s eye like in a movie. The following is a small example:

“Max leant back on his elbows nibbling on a bunch of grapes.  He knocked the bottle of red wine beside him.  The bright red liquid seeped into the white sand.

A fly buzzed around the apples.

A trail of ants marched towards the bread.

The Brie softened in the sun.”

The above paragraph is the ending of one of the stories, a simple ending that says so much.

In the collection there is one very sad story of abuse and growing up too quickly and not knowing how to stop abusers who prey on innocent girls.  There are also issues experienced by the characters which are very common to women one of this is the need to feel safe, the story “The Backpack” has that need very clearly expressed by the character:

“I knew my children would be pleased I had a base.  I didn’t want them to worry. It was the thing I wanted the most secretly, studying maps, absorbing travel books. To be safe, a desire whispered to the moon that moved behind my shoulder at night.  If you guide me to a safe haven, I promise to be happy.  And the moon listened.  I did my best.”  How many women would identify with this? Many it is my guess.

All the main characters in Stories From Bondi are women, mainly writers who are portrayed as intelligent, inquisitive, reflective and observant who experience an array of emotions, men would find the stories fascinating and would learn about what goes in women’s heads.

Bondi is not the only setting mentioned in the book, other Australian cities and small towns are the background of some the stories, places like Perth, Cairns, Wee Wa, Brindabella as well as European cities.

Sometimes the author transitions from omniscient narrator to first person narrator, this works in most of the stories but in some small sections this does not happen. This minor issue does not demerit the stories at all.

There is one experimental story in the collection: “Around The World In Fifty Steps” where the author writes sentences and short paragraphs and numbers them from 1 to 50. Some of the sentences are dialogues, others propositions, information about the character and suggestions. The result is positive, the reader gets to know the character and what is going on in her life.

Some of the stories mirror women’s fantasy about escaping the routine, pain, loneliness, disappointment and sorrows as well as those close relationships that can be so complicated such as between mother and daughter. Also the reader will find sad possible romances that never get anywhere like in her previous novel The Usual Story.

Stories from Bondi is a book well written, with an interesting narrative and with characters true to life. Again Sommer brings to light another book in which the reader can submerge themselves into place and characters. Highly recommended.

About the Reviewer:

Dr Beatriz Copello, is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, she writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The author’s poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).

Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications.  She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.

 

Launch: Stories from Bondi

painting of girl lying on beach in torquoise bikini reading a book

I was very lucky to have award-winning Australian author Susanne Gervay OAM launch my 4th book STORIES FROM BONDI on 2 November at the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre.  Susanne and I first became friends about seven years ago when I stayed at her hotel in Woollahra for three weeks while recovering from major surgery. I’d mentioned our mutual friend Sharon Rundle and Susanne had said that anyone who was a friend of Sharon’s was a friend of hers. Susanne would notice me each morning in the corner of the cafe at the hotel working on my stories and she’d often come over and have a chat. Since that time she has continued to show an interest in my work and my writing career. She would encourage me to enter competitions and always remained positive about publication possibilities. Susanne is now one of my best friends. Lucky me.

It’s been a twenty year journey to book publication. I had five book length manuscripts written before I had one accepted for publication by Ginninderra Press. I am forever grateful to Stephen Matthews for giving me a chance. MY YEAR WITH SAMMY, the fifth book I’d written, went on to be Pick of the Week in Spectrum Books in the Sydney Morning Herald and was winner of the Society of Women Writers Fiction Book Award 2016.

So then I sent Stephen Matthews at Ginninderra Press manuscript numbers four, three, and two. He has published one book a year since 2015:  MY YEAR WITH SAMMY, THE CRYSTAL BALLROOM, THE USUAL STORY and now, STORIES FROM BONDI.

A massive thank you to my publisher.

And thank you to all those who supported me at the launch by buying copies of  my books.

In an animated entertaining presentation Susanne Gervay launched STORIES FROM BONDI by saying in her introduction:

‘Libby’s a red head. That’s the only thing I can think of for her extraordinary life. From my intense research, I know that redheads represent less than 2% of the population so they are a rare breed. They are sensitive, fiery, passionate, and also have more sex than blondes or brunettes. Sorry Libby, I learnt that from Cosmopolitan magazine.’

Susanne is a wonderful guest speaker. She had the whole room laughing wholeheartedly.

stories from bondi amazon cover image

 

 

Book shop supports local author

 

Exterior of Harry Hartog Bookseller

It’s so good to have the support of a local bookstore. Harry Hartog Bookseller at Bondi Junction keep my books in stock.

Bookshelves displaying New & Staff Favourites in Harry Hartog Bookseller

There’s my newly released STORIES FROM BONDI  in the ‘New & Staff Favourites’ section. Bottom shelf in the middle, next to Jeanette Winterson’s latest book.

If anyone would like to buy one of my books, they can be ordered from any book store. Otherwise order directly from publisher Ginninderra Press or online from Amazon, Book Depository and others.

 

Release of my new collection

 

painting of girl lying on beach in torquoise bikini reading a book

My new book STORIES FROM BONDI, a collection of stories set mostly in Bondi, is now available for pre-order. Target US are even advertising it! Don’t know how that happened. The book will be released as a paperback on 13 September but can be purchased as Kindle Edition from Amazon and as an eBook from Booktopia and other online sites now. As a paperback it can be ordered from bookstores, online and from the publisher, Ginninderra Press.

And here’s my author page on Amazon. Click the link. Feeling pretty proud. I think my four books look fabulous together, if I may say so myself 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/Libby-Sommer/e/B07676K8NV

 

 

 

Back Cover Blurb: ‘Stories from Bondi’

book cover of 'Stories from Bondi' showing people on the sand by the sea

Here is the back cover blurb for STORIES FROM BONDI due for September release by Ginninderra Press. What do you think?

Libby Sommer’s sensitively-drawn characters live and breathe within the echoes of the everyday. Stories from Bondi centre on women – their joys, doubts, loves and realisations. The foibles of human nature, with all their pathos and humour, are laid bare for the reader.

“From the opening story ‘Art and the Mermaid’, to a moving piece set in a health retreat that closes the collection, these stories beautifully capture the intimacies of women. Like My Year With Sammy and The Crystal Ballroom, this is classic Sommer.” – SUSANNE GERVAY OAM, author.

So what is a book blurb?

blurb is a short promotional piece accompanying a piece of creative work. It may be written by the author or publisher or quote praise from others. Blurbs were originally printed on the back or rear dust-jacket of a book, and are now found on web portals and news websites. – Wikipedia

A big thank you to fellow author Roslyn McFarland for giving me feedback on the blurb.  I’d only reworked it about a thousand times, but still Ros was able to help me make it clearer.

 

Cover Reveal: Stories from Bondi

book cover of 'Stories from Bondi' showing people on the sand by the sea

In the final stretch now towards publication next month of STORIES FROM BONDI. I received final proofs from the publisher Ginninderra Press. They are now being read by another set of eyes before posting back to Adelaide. 19 contemporary stories about men and women and life and the whole damn thing set mostly in and around Bondi. 

There will be a launch of the book in the Blue Mountains on 2 November. Details to follow.

So what are final proofs?

‘Proofs created by the printer for approval by the publisher before going to press are called final proofs. At this stage in production, all mistakes are supposed to have been corrected and the pages are set up in imposition for folding and cutting on the press. To correct a mistake at this stage entails an extra cost per page, so authors are discouraged from making many changes to final proofs, while last-minute corrections by the in-house publishing staff may be accepted.

‘In the final proof stage, page layouts are examined closely. Additionally, because final page proofs contain the final pagination, if an index was not compiled at an earlier stage in production, this pagination facilitates compiling a book’s index and correcting its table of contents.’ – Wikipedia

I’m very excited and can’t help boasting that this is my fourth book in four years. Phew. What a marathon it’s been!

 

‘Stories From Bondi’

painting of girl lying on beach in torquoise bikini reading a book

Woohoo. I finished correcting first proofs of my new collection STORIES FROM BONDI due for publication by Ginninderra Press in September. A big job. Final proofs are the next step in the publishing process.

So what are first proofs?

Initial proofs of the book from the typesetter, sometimes still delivered in galley format.

For the author, this first set of author proofs can be a challenge because often what is delivered is the raw typesetting output. Text will have been formatted and a key task for the author is to check that no text corruptions occurred at the file conversion stage of typesetting.

However, because tables, illustrations, etc. may not yet have been added, what these first proofs still lack are the real page breaks and an indication of the book’s final extent. For this reason, careful scrutiny still needs to be given to the final proofs.

This definition is extracted (and expanded on) from the book Getting Published: A Companion for the Humanities and Social Sciences by Gerald Jackson and Marie Lenstrup.

Back Cover Book Blurb

painting of girl lying on beach in torquoise bikini reading a book

The  back cover book blurb is crucially important. But it’s harder than you think to write one. My new book, STORIES FROM BONDI will be published by Ginninderra Press in July this year. It’s especially difficult for me to write a blurb for this book as it’s a collection of stories rather than a continuous narrative. We’re told the blurb should be short and sweet, give away enough of what’s inside the book without giving any plot spoilers and draw the reader in.

This is what I’ve put together using quotes about my work from well-known writers. Let me know what you think.

The characters who inhabit a Libby Sommer story live and breathe. In the sensitively-drawn details of their lives, in the echoes of the everyday, we find images of ourselves.    As in her earlier collections, these 17 stories centre on women – their joys, doubts, loves and realisations – on what Sommer calls “the pain of the human condition”. She lays bare the foibles of human nature. From the opening story searching for the Bondi mermaids, to a moving piece set in a health retreat that closes the collection, this is classic Sommer, “brilliantly drawn with wit, compassion and poignancy …” – JAN CORNALL, Writer’s Journey

Last year, when THE USUAL STORY was nearing publication, I wrote a post about creating a great book blurb. That advice related to a continuous narrative, rather than a collection of stories, but some suggestions I made were:

‘A three-act structure. You want to catch the reader’s attention, give them the content, and then give them a reason to care.’ – Author Unlimited

Have a look at this YouTube video by international best-selling self-published Romance writer Alessandra Torre. She tells a terrific story of how she went from 3 book sales a day to thousands by changing her blurb:  The Blurb Equation – How to Write a Kick-Butt Blurb.

 

The Blurb Equation (Alessandra Torre)

INTRO + HINT + CLIFFY

 

1. PART 1 INTRO:           the characters or situation is introduced.

2. PART 2 THE HINT:     what the story is about, the conflict or climax.

3. PART 3 THE CLIFFY:  what’s going to happen? Hooks the reader.

Alessandra says to keep the blurb short. More than four paragraphs is too long . Three paragraphs of two to three sentences is best. Don’t give away the plot.

Hope you find this useful. Good luck on your writing journey.

 

 

5 Tips for Choosing Images for Your Book Cover

painting of girl lying on beach in torquoise bikini reading a book

My latest book, Stories From Bondi will be published by Ginninderra Press later this year. Because designing the book cover comes early in the production process, and authors have the opportunity to provide input on the design, I have been researching suitable images.

“Covers need to be both visually enticing and appropriate for a book’s content and audience.”

I often turn to Shuttlestock when looking for a cover pic or for advertising purposes. I did advertise my last book on Facebook recently. According to  Help! My Facebook Ads Suckit’s best not to use the book cover in the ad. Facebook don’t want your ad to look like an ad. Too many ad-looking posts are not good for Facebook business. So I create an image for each book that represents the story, but is not the cover image.

I’m using the above pic every time I refer to Stories From Bondi. It’s not the book cover.

This pic below is the image I use when referring to my last book, The Usual Story I purchased copyright and use the image for my Facebook ads.

Regarding Facebook ads Marketing Secrets blog has some great advice.  Have a read of ‘Confused By Facebook Marketing? Learn the Ins and Outs With These Handy Tips‘.

a man and woman dancing tango

Some great recommendations on choosing a cover image for your book cover from Damonza cover design:

Choosing a photograph or illustration for your book’s cover can be a daunting task. No matter how imaginative writers can be, visual imagination is not always included. For many authors, the fact that an entire novel requires only one picture to illustrate it is a blessing. The problem is that you still need to come up with that one picture — and it needs to be a good one. Because it’s just one picture. One. The following are a few book cover design tips to help you formulate and execute a concept for your cover’s imagery.

1. Solidify Your Ideas

Is your book about the plight of a young waitress trying to make it in the cut-throat world of fine dining while juggling her love life? If so, an illustration of a moving truck is probably not your best option for a cover graphic. Think of elements from your story that would fit well in a background image. For the story of our struggling server, a photograph of an abandoned apron could be complimented by a matchbook with a suitor’s phone number scribbled in it. Focus on items or scenes that suggest your subject matter. If you’ve hit a roadblock for image ideas, consult with a designer. The pros handle images for a living and simply leave the words to you.

2. Be Aware of Legal Issues

You may be thrilled when you use Google Image Search to locate that perfect photo for your cover, but beware — licensing issues will probably prevent you from using it. You will need to find the copyright owner (usually the photographer) and acquire written permission to use the image. Some photographers will be happy you’re using their work, some will ask you to pay a fee, and a few will flat-out refuse to let you use their work. In some cases, you may not be able to track down the copyright holder at all. Be prepared for this scenario and have a back up plan. The last thing you want is to have your book ready to go to press, only to be held up by a legal battle over an image.

3. Browse Stock Photo Websites

If you’re really lacking in inspiration for your cover, there are hundreds of stock photo websites that have plenty of imagery available. Search for words that have something to do with your story and see what pops up. You may just find yourself flooded with ideas after seeing what the internet thinks! In the best case scenario, you may even find an image that you want to use for your cover. Stock photo websites sell conditional and exclusive licenses for every image on the site, so securing rights to use one will be a breeze. If you’ve chosen a designer to work with, talk to him or her about using stock photos. They can help you through the licensing process and anything else that gets complicated.

4. Take Your Own Photographs

If you’re looking for something with a little more of a personal touch, try to create your own image. Even cell phones these days have high resolution cameras that can take brilliant photos. There are also thousands of apps that can help you add filters and effects to the photo you’ve taken. When choosing to go this route, however, you must make sure that your photos are being taken in (and staying in) high resolution formats, otherwise they won’t be printable. If you have a photograph that you would like to use but you’re not sure if it will work, show it to your designer. Designers can apply filters and alter photos so that they look great on a book cover.

5. Work With a Professional Designer on your Book Cover Design Tips

No matter how you end up finding and selecting the images for the cover of your book, it is advisable to work with a professional designer to put everything together. They can help you choose fonts and colors that will compliment the imagery you’ve chosen and can even adjust the images you have to better suit a book cover.

 

For further reading, check out my posts Recharging Your Creative Batteries and Writing Tip: I Am Not the Stories I Tell.  And to make sure not to miss anything from Libby Sommer Author you can follow me on Facebook  or Instagram.

My latest book has been accepted

painting of girl lying on beach in torquoise bikini reading a book

A big thank you to Ginninderra Press.  STORIES FROM BONDI has been accepted for publication by this small but prestigious Australian publisher.

The Ginninderra Press philosophy:

‘We believe that all people – not just a privileged few – have a right to participate actively in cultural creation rather than just being passive consumers of mass media. Our culture is revitalised and enriched when everyone is encouraged to fulfil their creative potential and diminished when that creative potential is stifled or thwarted. We love to observe the transformative possibilities for people when they see their work published and acknowledged. Getting published can and does change lives.’

Getting published has definitely changed my life. The problem has been that larger publishers are not interested in novellas or short story collections.

My first book MY YEAR WITH SAMMY (2015) was a novella, the second two, THE CRYSTAL BALLROOM (2017) and THE USUAL STORY (2018), were novels-in-stories.

STORIES FROM BONDI is a short story collection and will be released in late 2019. An earlier version of the manuscript was part of my MA in Writing (UTS) back in 2001.

I’m thrilled and delighted and very very thankful to Stephen Matthews, Ginninderra Press.

Ginninderra Press, described in The Canberra Times as ‘versatile and visionary’, is an independent book publisher set up in 1996 to provide opportunities for new and emerging authors as well as for authors writing in unfashionable genres or on non-mainstream subjects. In the words of one of our authors, we are ‘a small but significant publisher of small but significant books’.

As an author writing in unfashionable genres:  novellas and short story collections, I am extremely grateful to this award-winning independent publisher for taking me on. If it wasn’t for Stephen Matthews my work would not be out in the world.