IBC Review Section. Vol.1, S1

How many agents does it take to screw a lightbulb?

Depends upon how far and how bright the light; the reach of the light, what little distractions that may hinder the light; the kind of bulb that can give light for how long….

Does that sound complicated? That’s because it is. There are so many articles, authors, writers, interviewers, speakers, lecturers, all of whom claim to know how to find an agent, but the truth is: if you don’t know anyone in the business, you are pretty much out of the game.

The only way you can actually make yourself be put INTO the game is if you are a writing genius, or have such an ingenious story, or you have a lot of money with which to rub publishers’ elbows at conventions. Or, you use your money to enter every single contest, or you can make yourself known with an acute sense of marketing. Does this sound hard? It is.

One has to acquire an agent to acquire an agent! Sounds crazy but it is pretty much true in many cases, in order for someone to market your exceptional skills. So why am I trying to discourage you, if that is what you think. I will tell you my advice: work on your skills, until you KNOW your writing is perfect. Does that sound hard? It is! It means going over it to find story misgivings, problematic issues in the storytelling, character flaws or unrealistic behavior; spelling, punctuation, structure of sentences, and so on and so forth…

For heaven’s sake! Whoever told you writing was easy, anyway? If they told you it was easy, they were lying because they wanted you to buy their book, or have them coach you, or somehow, they wanted you to give money to them… be careful!

Hopefully, you have the benefit of some of the things I just listed above.

And with that grand opening, I want to talk about getting published. A funny happened on the way to the slush pile…

People started publishing their own books, to spare their egos the blunt tongue lashings or rejections, but they never considered maybe the publisher was right; maybe their manuscript was junky, or messy, or just not a good story. So they decided their work was so good they would just publish it themselves with their own publishing name. So how easy (or difficult) is this to carry out? Well, let’s look at this for a moment.

To start any business one has to have a plan, some cash, and an open market to sell your wares. For example, if I decided I wanted to start a widget business: “Lydia’s edgy Widgets,” I would have to create first a business plan, one that explains (on paper) how I’m going to get this widget business started, how I will make it fly, and how I will keep it in the air. …Why do I need to do this? Unless you are Jesus Christ Himself–the only perfect being ever to set foot on this earth–you and I both know we all have a tendency to procrastinate if things get a little hard to do. With a plan, we tend to read it step by step, follow step by step, and usually if we do that, we will get to the best part: the end of the plan… making and selling widgets like there’s no tomorrow.

Once I’ve got that plan down so well I am even impressed I wrote it, I take it to a friend who knows about these things, like…an intellectual property attorney.

“What!” You say, “Where the heck am I going to get money to visit one of those?” My point exactly. If you haven’t any access to one of those expensive retainers, you’d better ask people you know, like Facebook or LinkedIn fans you know are in the biz (or close to it–no telling how honest these folks are, either). Whatever you do, don’t ask your own relatives, they always say your stuff is the greatest, because they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Am I getting even close to discouraging you? Then keep reading.

So now that you’ve gotten someone to look at your plan, (with feedback, I hope), you can start making a business of your widgets either by investing in your business with your own money, to get the manufacturing going, or by obtaining funding, which means you need to market your wares. Let’s hope your wares are already up to par, (as I mentioned before) because if they are not, you will have a difficult time getting anyone to want to invest in your cute little project.

But we are talking about writing aren’t we, not widgets. Do I still have to make a plan? Of course. you ought to have a plan about how you are going to write, how MUCH you are going to write, where you will plan on submitting your work, if you are going to hit the contests head on, or pack your bags and ride the convention circuit, or both, or none, just start mailing manuscripts like crazy. You should have all of this in your plan. Add to that, how many hours it will take you to finish one book, of poetry, short stories, or whatever your genre or specialty is, and start creating your manuscript/portfolio, and you don’t stop while marketing one, you keep writing. But once again, right here, let me say–again–you had better have your wares up to par!

In fact, your writing had better be pretty perfect! I am not merely talking about your grammar and punctuation, although that is important, but your story or stories, they had better be sensible, rational, interesting, and exciting, maybe even life-changing. Have I discouraged you yet? No? Good, you must really want to write. Maybe you must really even be a writer.

So, go on then: write on, comrades!


The Series: The Longmire Mystery Series

Do you like mysteries? Do you like westerns? Do you like contemporary western/cultural mysteries? You will like this series then.

While these short novels are not academic by any means, and are very simple reading, they are exciting if you like the midwest landscape imagery, the theme of mystery and all its tenets, and the cultural conflicts/comradery between wyoming white folk and the Cheyenne. This is the kind of reading to enjoy after a long day’s work, after dinner, without television blaring, with a fire on, (or not) and seated in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee, some tea, or whatever you enjoy drinking before bedtime. You will enjoy these books, I know I do.

There are 10 so far, that I know of, and I am sure he’s working on more, since it has become a hit series on television; first on A&E for four seasons, then on Netflix, the company working on the next series.

The novels thread through with the same protagonist, who is a Wyoming lawman, the best friend of a Cheyenne bartender/restauranteur, and the father of a daughter attorney. He has a Phillie deputy who is female, and (as far as I’m concerned) mouthy and a bit obnoxtious, with two other deputies: (on the show the name is different): Ferguson, and “Branch” and there is plenty of mysterious murders going on in the Absaroka County, which the protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire, reminds the readers (and Netflix goers) is HIS county, and he aims to keep it clean.

It’s exciting to watch how author Craig Johnson has characters interact with each other; father to daughter, lawman sheriff to deputies, white man to native man as childhood best friends, and a host of characters in each book that graces the county with such different perspectives on life, death, murder, mayhem, fair play and crime.

Each book is naturally carried through with the backdrop of a particular crime (usually murder), but while it is being solved (the mysery part), the characters are lively and interactive, always showing such human and realistic sides of people we can all identify with.

The first of the series is “The Cold Dish,” take it from there, you will have a lot to enjoy, and besides, you get to watch it on television/Netflix too–what a deal!

Review: Four Souls, by Louise Erdrich

Four Souls


by Louise Erdrich

(2004). Harper Collins. New York, NY.

ISBN 0-06-620975-7


This book is not your usual crime thriller, hero adventure, erotics, romance; frightful, playful or simple novel. It is about the life of people whose thoughts, ideas, values and beliefs are different than the usual American norm: coming from the perspective of Native Americans, it is about the travailing of the soul (or souls) within us, and within a number of characters, and how they grow through adversity and evolve into a full and well fleshed out character. It isn’t a novel for the reader who wants to just waste time, but a reader who loves to read about the plights and journeys of others who live through their own harrowing experiences, their own cultural conventions, and how they transcend their own human limitation.s.

I love to read Louise Erdrich’s novels, because they always stay with me long after I finish them, and they always make me think more deeply about how people get through various challenges in life.

The title of the book is really a woman’s name: that of Anaquot, “Four Souls” the mother of the protagonist, Fleur Pillager.  The opening chapter reveals immediately something about Fleur, her resoursefulness, her determination, her desperation, and her hope. These innate qualities in her that take her through a rugged and difficult travel east to find the man who took the lands of her family, show her determination. The rest reveals throughout the story.

“She wore her Makizinan to shreds, then stole a pair of boots off the porch of a farmhouse, strangling a fat dog to do it. She skinned the dog, boiled and ate it, leaving only the bones behind, sucked hollow. She dug cattails from the potholes and roasted the sweet root. She ate mud hens and snared muskrats, and still she traveled east.”

The story is about her plight to regain her family’s land, and her desire to carry on her dead mother’s name (and legacy), “Four Souls.” It is sometimes disturbing, but then, this realism psychological or self-identity genre (or bildungroman) can be so, because in life we actually do go through harrowing times, as well as beautiful times, that make us change. We find a number of characters in subplots that have much to do with her plight, as well as their own growth or changes.

I love the genre of realism, and I love Louise Erdrich’s style of writing as well. If you want to read a book that keeps you wondering about the hardships and loves of others, I think you will greatly enjoy this book, and it will stay with you long after you have finished it, as it did with me.

Lydia Nolan, Reviewer


International Books Cafe


Librarything’s Thing

Local events (from Librarything.com) in MY AREA

Today is Friday, June 27. Check out this calendar of events in MY neck of the woods. But you can go to Librarything.com, and find other venues in YOUR part of town.

The Last Heir
Book CarnivalSunday, June 29 at 2pm
Meet Chuck Greaves as he reads from his new novel The Last Heir, from the Jack MacTaggart Mysteries. (added from Macmillan)
Infant and Toddler Storytime
Glendora Public LibraryMonday, June 30 at 10:30am
It’s never too soon to introduce infants and toddlers to the joys of reading.
Storytimes are held in the Friends Room.(Strollers – Look for the Stroller Parking sign near the Children’s Librarian’s desk. Please do not park strollers in or near the Friends Room.) (lwbooklover)


Cerritos Public LibraryMonday, June 30 at 7pm
Get Pop-Cultured Preview Weekend
Barnes & Noble Booksellers – OrangeFriday, July 18 at 09am
Special Event, Other Join us July 18 to 20 to preview the fun events we have planned for Get Pop-Cultered with Barnes & Noble. Obtain exclusive content, never-before-seen chapter samplers and special reveals only available through B&N and select comic conventions. (added from Barnes & Noble)
Isla Morley
Covina Public LibrarySaturday, September 6 at 2pm
Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband (a minister) and daughter and an assortment of animals. Her debut novel, Come Sunday, was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction in 2009 and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. It has been translated into seven languages. (added … (more)

Erin Lindsay McCabe
Vroman’s Hastings RanchMonday, September 15 at 00am
Erin Lindsay McCabe (I shall be near to you)Erin Lindsay McCabe studied Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz, and taught high school English before completing her MFA at St. Mary’s College of California in 2010. She has taught Composition at St. Mary’s and Butte College and resides in Northern California with her husband and son and a small … (more)

Octavia Spencer
Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book ShopSaturday, October 25 at 8pm
A veteran character actress and one of Hollywood’s most-sought-after talents, Octavia Spencer has become a familiar fixture on both television and silver screen. Her critically acclaimed performance as Minny in the DreamWorks feature film The Help won her a 2012 Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, a SAG Award, and a Broadcast Film Critics’ Choice Award, among countless other honors. Octavia is a native of Montgomery, … (more)
Wendy Lawless
Alta Vista Country ClubSunday, October 26 at 12pm
Wendy Lawless is an actress who has appeared on television, in regional theater, Off-Broadway in David Ives’s Obie-winning play All in the Timing and on Broadway in The Heidi Chronicles. Her work has appeared in Redbook magazine, on Powells.com, and in the local Los Angeles press. She lives in California with her screenwriter husband and their two children. (added from Simon & Schuster)

Review: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

BN-13: 9780140086836
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 3/28/1986
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
While “Ceremony” is not a new book, it is a classic Native American book, with lots to teach us about the concept of coming home, and ceremonious ideology. Leslie Marmon Silko is Native American. She has written a book that still to this day, has me baffled as to the brutality with which some people live, and how that brutality perpetuates throughout the years to others.
Okay, what is it about? You HAVE to read it thoroughly, without blinders, and without racial prejudice, and without your quaint little life, if that is what you have, and open yourself up to a host of experiences you never want, things that hurt and maim, and wound the soul. Then, and only then, you will understand what is meant by “Ceremony.”
Many may feel this book is disturbing, I know my son did. But I cannot help but love the way Silko creates such intense psychological consciousness in her characters. The book was a great one for me. I felt I understood like never before the real plight and sense of loss of the Native American who tries desperately to “fit” into the contemporary and dominant culture, especially when they have gone to war and found that they must fight an enemy that looks much like them, but they must go against with an “ally” who has historically been abusive to their own lives and the lives of their families before them, in the taking, ravaging, pillaging, and destroying of their own identity. So identity is a biggie in this book. These Native American soldiers of WWII fought the Japanese, but can never really feel they belong to the White Americans to whose nation they DO–even more so–belong. For all intents and purposes, they are a “mixed breed.” While America is filled with mixed races now, at the time, and still for many, it is a sore subject, because a mixed breed never feels quite like they belong to any one group fully. I know, I experience that myself, having been a mixed breed person.
I can identify with those feelings, and understand the sense of loss in spirit and identity: it happened to the First Indians, the Aztecs, MY ancestors. This was where I first heard the idea of the “hollow” man, then later read T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men,” and the image of a “hollow man” from within, from these two encounters with it.
In Silko’s book, “Ceremony” and in T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men” both authors are speaking of emptiness inside from being robbed of spirit.  But reading “Ceremony” gives such a deeper rendition of what it means to be hollow, as Tayo, the main character learns in Silko’s book, first hand. I will never forget the plight of this young man, and I can never truly forget the plight of any race who suffers at the hand of another race, for money and power, at the cost of the original people’s’ peace and fullness of life.

Review: 1, dated 5/27/14. The Returned

 Review of: The Returned

“The Returned”
by Jason Mott
ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-1533-9
Copyright 2013 by Jason Mott
Publisher: Harlequin  MIRA
$24.95 US, $27.95 CAN.

Nothing is more satisfying than reading a spellbinding book from a new author who knows how to apply all the necessary ingredients to keep you reading. I have had that satisfying experience this weekend.

Author, Jason Mott, is a unique story craftsman, and reveals his exceptional talent in his new book, “The Returned.” I started reading it on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., and never put it down until I finished it the same day, at 8:30 p.m. When I came out of the shock of realizing I was finished with the book, and also discovering that I was not there in the book, I cried. Yes. That is how mesmerized I was in the story.

Here are some technical points about the creative mind of the author I wish to point out. There is definitely a well thought out plot, with multiple subplots that could turn into other books in the future. Secondly, the author skillfully injects cathartic character (read Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments in the back–I always read those first) endearing the reader to that particular character, which serves to compel the reader to forge through the morass of events and see what happens to, and why   that character is so important to the story: is he a string in the unraveling yarn that will carry us to the conclusion? Or–just a good distraction? Finally, one of its major characters is ejected from the story, but since the story itself is not based on natural phenomena, it is possible to see that character again in future books (I hope!). Based on surreal events in the story, and if I had to characterize the book within a genre, I would have to say it is a toss-up between Magical Realism and Gothic or philosophical Horror.

Most old veteran story-makers know how to pull a yarn, and so it is with this new author who works exceptionally well to weave a tale that appeals to the widest audience possible. Here are a couple examples: in the plot, a focused reader can almost count the complications and will feel drawn to make conclusions that seem natural to make. Remember though, this is not a natural story. At the very beginning, Motthijacks the reader’s expectations by throwing an immediate curveball. This is the main string in the plot that pulls the reader headlong into the story with but does not lead you to, the truth of what the reader expects to find out–which is the Phenomenon that runs through the whole story. If one is curious enough to keep pulling the yarn, one thinks oneself astute enough to know what’s next–again–but it is never what the reader expects. Remember: it is not a natural story, but a terrifying phenomenon–yes: terrifying. I use that word deliberately.

And such a terrifying phenomenon is the thematic yarn that pulls you through the story. The Denoument never really happens regarding the Phenomenon, but instead, the author takes us deeper into the minds and hearts of the characters, which is ingeniously structured to make the reader ponder long after the book is over: what would I have done if this happened to me, to us, today? And: Who do I think would go wrong, right, haywire, or die…Or “return” and would I do what Harold or Lucille did? Or instead, would I be like Fred, or would I have been complacent as Bellamy?

In short, the story gets under your skin, into your mind, and pains your heart, exactly as an extraordinary story should do. I refuse to waste time telling you the plot. You need to read the book yourself, then find others that would debate the ending with you. And the ending IS a debate, I can assure you. I am hoping for a sequel, and fast!

Review: 2, Dated 5/26/21. The Glass Castle


Wall, Jeanette. (2005). The Glass Caste. New York, NY: Scribner, A Division of Simon & Shuster, Inc.

I will discuss this book academically, as I had to use it for a class I taught, and was not the primary teacher. I would have rather a different book, however, this is the one we completed and analyzed critically for class.  I invite others to tell me what they thought in more depth. I can also ask a couple questions once I’ve told you what my rating is. The book was definitely not my favorite, being that it was a memoir, yet read more like a fiction, and as a memoir had too much fictional components to be taken seriously. Rating the story: I began with an 8, and ended with a 6. The chapters became repetitive in the major issues with the dysfunctions in the family, different actual events, but same responses and reactions… it grew boring after a while. All in all, I was disturbed by the characters initially, but later I began to think they were conjured up and not true people. If this story is a memoir in reality, I would shudder to think people really are like this, but if it’s a story made up to be a memoir, I would say the author has a pretty good imagination, although to some extent near the end it began to sound hyperbolic. Now, I had to pose to the class, what did you think?

1) As to Characters, name then explain…

2) As to Narrative, indicate general literary devices and expound upon one you liked best…

3) What might you think the theme or theme(s) would be for this “memoir?”

Write below, with your name, class, and rating on the book.

I truly woud be interested in hearing what anyone felt about the book.

IBC Review Section.Vol.1, R1.


Please note, this is the first and foremost opening of our journal, Volume 1, Page 1, in our Review Section, R1.

Please note, we are in the process of constructing this site, we welcome you, and we hope you continue to check on us, to see what marvels we may come across, hopefully, of interest to you and a wider readership in the future.

Thank you for your patronage.


Lydia Nolan

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