Will my story resonate with anyone?

a man and woman dancing tango

When you write a story, you never know if it will resonate with anyone. Then a person like Dr Beatriz Copello writes a review and you find yourself dancing with joy, thinking how blessed you are.

Beatriz Copello’s review was published by The Compulsive Reader and you can read it below:

A review of The Usual Story by Libby Sommer

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

The Usual Story 
by Libby Sommer
Ginninderra Press
Paperback, ISBN: 9781760415792, July 2018, $27.50, 80pp

The Usual Story by Libby Sommer takes the reader into the life and mind of Sofia.  Sofia is a middle-aged woman, a writer and very much involved in dancing, particularly Tango.

Tango, a dance that was born in the 1800s around the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was the dance of port workers and women of the night. Nowadays, this complicated and elegant dance is very much in vogue and danced around the world. Tango gives some sort of skeleton to a large part of The Usual Story. Other sections deal with relationships from the past and the present.

The reader gets to know Sofia as she dances and relates to the other dancers who participate in the Tango classes. In an interesting way Sommer mixes in her text Sofia’s tango adventures and lessons with her thoughts and love experiences, as well as evocative descriptions of her surroundings.

There is something in human beings that makes them ponder relationships. Sommer, with a very fine narrative, engages us in Sofia’s analysis of the past, particularly in her relationships with her parents and with two of her younger lovers J and Tom. The writer has the ability to create very believable characters. She handles feelings in a measured and unsentimental way. The author says about J:

Little by little, I’d learned new things about J. Once, when staying with him in that first summer, I found him lying on my bed with so pitiful a look on his face that I couldn’t see into it. It was very painful to realise how utterly defeated he looked; everything about him was different to what I’d seen before, out of sync, closed down, remote, his very guts hanging out in front of me.

Every now and again we encounter in the narrative some profound thoughts from Sofia. She reflects: “I think that when you are really stuck, when you have stood still in the same place for far too long, it’s almost as if a bomb needs to go off, to get you to move, to jump, and then to hope for the best.”

The Usual Story contains many things about the every day, the mundane, the routine of living but it is presented in such an engaging way that the story becomes real. It is impressive the ability of Sommer to fragment the narrative when we encounter Sofia’s visits to the psychiatrist. We read about her participation in Milongas, asking relatives about her past, and about love and its many facets. All of these interspersed with poetic descriptions of place. Sydneysiders will recognise many areas of the Eastern suburbs in Sommer’s vivid imagery. The following is one of those descriptions that has cinematic qualities:

The sea looks different every day. Today it’s a mid-grey tone, its surface moving in a gentle tugging motion as a container ship moves south along the horizon. A moist breeze brushes my cheek as the waves make a hushing noise as they curl into the sand of the beach. I watch the colour creep slowly into the clouds. A flock of lorikeets balances on the bare branches in front of me.

There is a certain melancholy in The Usual Story which I believe stems from the relationship of Sofia with her mother and her daughter. Relationship between parents and children can be very complicated. As sons and daughters we tend to arrive at a different view of them according to our age. As children, our parents are like gods; as adolescents they can be our enemies; as adults we tend to be more objective but we are too busy with our own children to spend time analysing these relationships. We may also depend on our parents to help with our progeny and this clouds our assessment. A different thing is when we get to that same period of life:  our third age. It is then, when we have lived and experienced life, that we can be more objective in the evaluation and appreciation of our parents. Sofia is at that stage and she can see clearly her mother’s distant and cold behaviour, but there must be in her a grain of insecurity so she wants to check what she thinks she knows. She wants to be sure. So she searches through memories, analysing them, confirming facts with other relatives.

Sofia’s relationship with her daughter is not perfect either. After seeing a mother and a daughter embrace each other with love she says: “They embrace and then walk to the door, still entwined. I feel a pang of wistfulness for my own daughter as I watch them walk away. My daughter who hadn’t wanted to spend a weekend away, just the two of us. She’d said we make each other tense if we’re together too much. But she’d said it in a kind voice.

‘You don’t mind, do you?’ she’d asked.

I did mind. ‘At least you’re honest with me,’ I said.”

As a psychologist, I found The Usual Story fascinating because the characters are so interesting and authentic. As a reviewer, I enjoyed the book’s clear narrative, perhaps a little leisurely at times, but the pace picks up engaging the reader with a beautiful text.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. 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.

Print and ebook editions of The Usual Story available from Ginninderra Press, Amazon, Book Depository and other online booksellers.

3 Parts to a Great Blurb

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Your book’s blurb is crucially important. But writing a blurb is harder than we think. A great blurb is short and sweet, gives away enough of what’s inside the book without giving any plot spoilers. It draws the reader in.

‘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.

Keeping all this excellent advice in mind (although I’m not a Romance writer), I’m continuing to sweat over the draft blurb for my new book THE USUAL STORY, due for  July release by Ginninderra Press. Please use the comments section to give any constructive feedback. I’d love to know what you think.

It’s especially difficult for me to write a satisfactory blurb for THE USUAL STORY because it is really a collection of connected short stories. I’ve linked the stories by using the tango dances and dancers, the painful ending of a brief romance, and the main character’s search in her past for answers.

Tango is the dance of passion, forcing partners into an intimate relationship. Sofia loves the tango, but at the dances she must face the truth of her ageing in our society that has very little use for anyone who is not young.

In the painful aftermath of a brief affair, Sofia goes in search of what she actually knows about herself and the past. As she looks for answers in dark corners, we begin to see, as does Sofia, the elusiveness of understanding and memory – the psychological space where recollection and loss collide.

If you liked The Crystal Ballroom you’ll love this book: a story of memory, intrigue and passion.

 

I hope this Blurb info is helpful. Do you have any tips you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

 

 

 

From acceptance to publication

 

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Over the weekend I finished correcting first proofs of THE USUAL STORY, a prequel to THE CRYSTAL BALLROOM and posted them back to Ginninderra Press in Adelaide. Final proofs next. We’re on track for a July release. An exciting time.

red and black book cover The Crystal Ballroom

This is my third book, so I’m getting used to the publication process. After acceptance of the manuscript by Ginninderra Press in July 2017, eight months later I received first proofs. These I’ve read and corrected.

In the meantime we have been discussing the cover image. Ginninderra Press is a small but prestigious publisher and I’m able to have a say in cover design. This doesn’t happen with a larger publisher. I am also in communication with GP about a quote to put on the front cover to attract sales and a blurb for the back cover.

Blurbs are very difficult to write. I had a chat with my good friend the talented author Susanne Gervay today about my blurb. She did a brainstorming session with me and I think we’ve got a few lines together that will make people want to read the book.

first proofs, The Usual Story by Libby Sommer

Actually, first draft of the blurb is:

‘Tango is the dance of passion, forcing partners into an intimate relationship. Sofia loves the tango, but at the dances she comes face to face with the truth of her aging in today’s culture that has very little use for anything that is not young.’

What do you think? I would LOVE some feedback on this blurb. Please give me your response in the comments section. I’m not a good big-picture-person like my friend Susanne. I’m more into observing small details, which is good for prose and poetry but not for writing pitches and blurbs.

I asked Les Murray, Nobel Prize nominee for Literature, who is also Literary Editor of Quadrant magazine, if he would read THE USUAL STORY and write a couple of lines for the back cover. He said yes. Wow! I’m so delighted. He knows my work well having published many of my short stories and poems. So first proofs have also been posted to him.

So that’s front and back cover. And then there’s a dedication page to be added, acknowledgements, etc.  Versions of three of the chapters in THE USUAL STORY were first published in Quadrant so this needs to be acknowledged.

Then comes final proofs. Professional proof readers are very expensive so I’m hoping my eldest son with the PhD will proof read for me this time. TBA.

Then comes Cover Release with a big beat up on social media. I post regularly on Instagram and Facebook and less regularly on Twitter and Pinterest. I think the cover looks terrific. It’s not all finalised yet. I asked two tango dancers I know for copyright clearance on one of their images that shows the two of them dancing the tango. It’s one of the photos they use to promote their classes at A Little Buenos Aires. They said yes, as long as I acknowledge copyright ownership. So that’s great. It’s an eye-catching pic and would look good beside THE CRYSTAL BALLROOM in book stores.

Next step is pre-release copies announcement. Social media again.

Then details of the release date of THE USUAL STORY. Champagne and balloons and a lot of brouhaha when the book is finally available to the public.

I am not planning to have a book launch. Unfortunately, I am a very shy person and hate being the centre of attention. I had a launch for my first book and it was very successful. However, I was so anxious I thought I was having a heart attack. So not doing that again. A shame because book launches are a good way to sell books. Because this book also features a lot of tango dancing, I am thinking I could have a soft launch at a milonga or tango dance. Just a slice of chocolate cake and a glass of champagne at half time. Or not.

One-Page Review of The Crystal Ballroom

author holding copy of The Crystal Ballroom

 

I was delighted to see a one-page review of my novel ‘The Crystal Ballroom‘ in October Quadrant magazine (available now in newsagents or on-line).

Penelope Nelson writes:

‘Have you ever heard Latin American music coming from an upper room over a shop, and lingered briefly at the sign about dancing classes? Perhaps you have seen people–a man in built-up shoes or a woman with a surfeit of silver bangles–heading for an old town hall after dark. The world of ballroom dancing and tango lessons has its own etiquette and hierarchies. Libby Sommer’s new fiction ‘The Crystal Ballroom’ lifts the lid on the delights and pitfalls of this fascinating sub-culture …

‘Sommer has great skill in creating atmosphere. The music, the swirling scents of aftershave and sweat, the decor of ballrooms, flats, motels and shared tents are powerfully evoked …

‘Some of the best passages in the book express the joy of dancing:

We’re practising walking the length of the hall. Alberto says that in Buenos Aires students of tango spend two years just learning to walk properly.  “Extend forward,” he says, “step forward, only placing the weight on the extended leg at the last moment, toes pointed, sides of the feet staying connected on the floor.” Then backwards with a straight leg, torso pulled up, chest up and out, and with a partner again, always there’s that special connection with a partner.

Hopefully, this wonderful review by Penelope Nelson will give sales of the book a boost. ‘The Crystal Ballroom’ is available directly from Gininnderra Press, in bookstores, and online.

red and black The Crystal Ballroom book cover

 

 

 

Fortnightly Story: Tango

a man and a woman giving a tango performance
Credit: Creative Commons Images

 Tango is a passionate dance.  A conversation between two people in which they can express every musical mood through steps and improvised movement.  (Source Unknown)

1.

Just before nine o’clock in the evening, Sofya gets out of her car and looks up at the sky.  She has sensed a shift in the weather.  There is another breath of wind, a whispering in the air, but the clouds are stagnant against the dark night.  She turns and moves downhill towards the club, ejecting the chewing gum out of her mouth with a loud splat into the bushes, feels the first drops of rain on her bare arms.  She passes the public phone box where frangipanis lie on the grass, picks one up, sniffs at it, throws it back, then quickly enters the club.  Continue reading