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“In Sickness and in Health”: New Novel!

Drumroll, please… I’m announcing the release of a new novel, a sweet romance/women’s fiction with some inspirational overtones, In Sickness and in Health. It’s available at the Kindle store and will be on sale for 99 cents for a while, so grab a copy by clicking on this link! 

0-6Here’s the story: Ava Fulton moves to Bethany Beach, Delaware to lick her wounds after a DC scandal sent her into hiding. There, she decides the best way out of her problems is to marry a millionaire, and she just so happens to remember one from high school, John Baylor, now a very successful man who’d shyly tried to court her as a teen. When she reconnects with him, though, she finds he faces grim health news and she tries to be a good helpmate through his medical crises. Only after they marry and his prognosis changes does she realize she’d wed him planning to be a widow, not a wife. They struggle to make a go of their union and a new life in general, eventually heeding an inner call to something greater than either of them together.

And here’s a Q and A about the book and its characters:

Where did the character of Ava Fulton come from?

She originally came from the character of Sheila in my romantic comedy Fire Me! In that book, the heroine spends a day trying to get laid off to snag a generous severance package. She discovers she has some competition in coworker Sheila. I’d envisioned In Sickness and in Health being a sequel to Fire Me, following Sheila’s life. Something happened as I was writing, though–I kept thinking of the heroine as Ava! That name just dogged me as I wrote, and I realized I wasn’t writing Sheila at all but some other woman and her story. So I abandoned the idea of a sequel and wrote this standalone novel instead. As soon as I did this, the novel flowed more easily, the writing became a joy instead of a chore.

The first part of the novel, which you subtitle “Dying,” is about John’s struggles with a serious diagnosis. Was that hard to write?

Sadly, I think many people have experiences similar to John’s, either dealing with a serious diagnosis or being helpmates/friends to people who face such a fate. I’ve dealt with the Big C myself and know the anxiety one experiences during testing, etc. Although I’m a ten year survivor now, I do find myself writing more stories that incorporate some of those health experiences in one way or another. Maybe I’m far enough away from it now that it’s easier for me to explore as a writer.

The second part of the novel is subtitled “Living,” however. What happens when things change for John and Ava?

I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers to mention that John’s prognosis takes an upward turn…and that’s when he and Ava have to figure out how to live together! Previously they’d been focused on the possibility of him dying, of being in declining health. Once they realize that fate might not be in store, they have to do some heavy lifting in their relationship. This creates a comic moment or two as they struggle with the “in health” part of their marriage vows.

Do they make it as a couple?

Well, readers will have to read the book to find out! 🙂 They have a bumpy road, to be sure, but they do eventually find peace and fulfillment…in a surprising way. I hope readers enjoy discovering how their stories end.

Is In Sickness and in Health an inspirational?

Yes, no, maybe. 🙂 The term “inspirational” covers Christian books–fiction or nonfiction–with faith themes. In Sickness and in Health is…something in between. Like all inspirational fiction, it’s clean and sweet. No sex scenes (the curtain closes even with a married couple like Ava and John in the bedroom), no bad language (or if there is, it’s scant), but, yes, some mentions of faith. I’ve written before on this blog about how general fiction, for the most part, has mentions of faith blanched out of books, but this isn’t the way a lot of people live. Even non-churchgoers can have rich faith lives, can believe in God, and they can even pray often. So I think a book like In Sickness and in Health probably reflects more of an average person’s connection with things spiritual than a lot of general fiction, even literary fiction, does. In my novel, Ava and John start out as good people who don’t even realize they are searching for something more in their lives until they discover ways to put their spirituality into action. It’s not a preachy book at all, and I must admit I hesitated to put a discussion of this aspect of the book on the blog for fear it would turn some away. Ava and John’s faith journey actually has some comic moments in it, and, though it shapes their eventual path, it is a gentle and tender path, not a judgmental one.

This book is set primarily at Bethany Beach, Delaware. Why Bethany?

Bethany Beach is one of my very favorite places, and we go there often. It is a small, quiet resort on the many miles of coastline that make up Delaware’s eastern border, and we vacation there every summer, and visit several times throughout the year. I have several other books in the works that are set there, so watch this space for news of those novels!

In Sickness and in Health by Libby Malin is available at the Kindle store. If you read and enjoy a book, consider leaving a review. Indie authors in particular are helped by reviews. They aid in bringing books to the attention of other readers!

 

 

 

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Funny Ain’t Easy

My Own Personal Soap Opera, a romantic comedy about a head writer for a failing soap opera based in New York, will hit the e-shelves soon. I’m re-releasing this romp of mine (written under the name Libby Malin) after having had the rights reverted to me from its original publisher, Sourcebooks. I enjoyed going through this novel again, after some initial reluctance. Believe it or not, many writers have a hard time revisiting their works. You’re afraid you’ll discover that what you penned…is crap. It’s always a relief when you find otherwise. A low bar, I know. But that’s part of the glamorous author life.

As I went through the book again, though, I found myself reflecting on how writing comedy is hard. Visual gags, for example, are a bear to describe because if you use too much language, too many words, you kill the joke before you get there. And clever dialogue can sound like just that and nothing more, something that might win you an A on a Clever Dialogue Writing Test but won’t earn you a laugh, chuckle or even smile from your readers.

To me, comedy tests a storyteller’s skills more than writing drama. Moving people to smile or laugh takes the perfect combination of talent and knowledge, intuition, command of language and more. When I hear a reader say they laughed out loud at my romantic comedies, I’m thrilled. I’d be happy if they smiled a lot.

“…a world of wit and chaos that is so smart and insightfully written…you get happily lost in the fun.”

Booklist on My Own Personal Soap Opera by Libby Malin

My Own Personal Soap Opera is a smile kind of book, but like most comedies, it has an underlying story that’s more serious than fun. The protagonist Frankie McNally, a head writer on the failing soap opera Lust for Life, comes from a working class family. Raised by a single mom because her father ran off to join the “revolution” (become a hippie), she managed to get into an elite college through scholarships and landed in New York City where writing jobs led her to the soap opera she and her mother used to follow when she was growing up.

My_Own_Personal_Soap_Opera_1600x2400Even though she’s an accomplished woman, Frankie can’t seem to shake the chip on her shoulder about not fitting in to the more literary and sophisticated circles she now moves in. Her story is one of haves vs. have-nots, how the history of a have-not can impact her approach to life even when she moves into the “haves” category.

It’s a story arc that actually colored a famous soap opera back in the day: Another World. That soap followed a have-not, Rachel, as she tried to cunningly make her way up into the world of the haves, eventually landing a wealthy husband, Mac. I remember reading an article about that soap’s head writer/creator who talked about that story arc and how it never failed to generate more plots. How true.

Some of the most talented storytellers, of course, manage to weave wry comedy into even heartbreaking dramas. That’s one of my writing goals that I believe I’ve yet to achieve. Maybe some day I will. In the meantime, my writing life is divided between the lighthearted fun of books by Libby Malin (My Own Personal Soap Opera, Fire Me, and my earlier Harlequin release, Loves Me, Loves Me Not) and the serious offerings, written by Libby Sternberg (things like Sloane Hall, Death Is the Cool Night, and Lost to the World).

If I could figure out how to marry those two writing personas, I’d be a happy camper.

Watch for the release of My Own Personal Soap Opera within the coming month, but meanwhile, for a funny summer read, try Fire Me!

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The Deconstruction of Humorous Fiction in a Reactionary Postmodern World, or, From Chaos to Conformity: How to Write the Comedic Novel

(Note: This post first appeared on Fresh Fiction’s blog on April 7 of last year, or maybe the year before — well, some year — during a blog tour promoting My Own Personal Soap Opera. It has been updated to shamelessly try to sell promote my new comedy Aefle & Gisela.)

By Libby Malin

When I was a graduate student at the University of Gussberry-on-Hornsplat reading for my doctorate in “Humor and Humorlessness in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Proto-European Monographs,” my professors often referred to a theory they loosely called “The Banana Peel Slide.”

A great humorist, Mark Twain. Unfortunately, he's dead.

This meme postulated that a humorous trope—such as the man-falling-on-banana-peel— loses its ability to trigger amusement after it becomes part of the greater eco-social-spiritual consciousness, leading to a revolt by sophisticated elites against populist humor grounded in laughing at another’s misfortune, and eventually coming round to popularity again throughout the entire societal continuum when the joke takes on a wry postmodern irony encapsulating the laughing-at-the-laughter-of-those-who-laugh at such simplistic slapstick (See I.M. Gully-Bull, “They’re Laughing With Me, Not At Me, an essay on the struggles of a stand-up comic in the world of spelunking,” Psychiatric Journal of the Criminal Mind, Jan. 09, 43-57).

In other words, slipping on a banana peel was HIGH-LAIR-EE-YUS when first viewed by Cro-Magnon Man, until his momma rapped him on the knuckles for laughing at another Cro-Mag hurting himself, and then became funny again when Momma started giggling about it herself.

But humorous tropes grow stale, so the banana peel gag loses its luster (or “lustre” as we were instructed to write at UGH) when viewed too often.

Another great humorist, Ambrose Bierce. Unfortunately, he's also dead.

Humor, of course, varies from place to place and generation to generation (see Habe R. Dashery, “A Most Dreadful Hat: Materialism and Comedy in the Works of Jane Austen,” Oxford Community College Press, 1998, 90), but one thing remains constant—laughter usually accompanies surprise. One expects the man walking down the street in his fine new suit and boater hat to find his path smooth and journey uneventful. Then—surprise!—banana peel, meet foot. What’s not to love?

Nonetheless, humor writing is more than the mere description of slapstick moments which are, in reality, difficult to capture succinctly while retaining the laughter-inspiring elements. Written humor, in fact, depends a great deal on the effect of the words themselves, their groupings, their compilation, if you will, into a contextual image that ignites some inner Jungian childhood-pleasure-memory within the reader (see Diep Krappe, “Syntastic—Grammar, Puns, and Humor from Iambic Pentameter to ‘Yo Momma’,” Journal of Polska Witticisms, Aug. 01, pp. 3-87).

This is not to say one can’t describe slapstick effectively on the written page. As the great humorist J.P. Sartre (not to be confused with her more well-known and morose second cousin Jean-Paul), once wrote: Je vais chercher du bon vin a la cave, which, loosely translated, means: “It is possible for anything to be funny as long as the writer knows how to effectively communicate the core elements of the humorous situation, whether they be a physical action, a tres amusent observation a la ‘but other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln,’ or even, perhaps, the acting out of despair in a completely unexpected way. It is not the full bottle of wine in the wine cellar that makes one smile. It is the empty bottle of wine in the . . .” (the rest was lost to posterity, but the major components of Sartre’s take on humor appear in the brilliant essay by Dom. Pear I. Gnon, “The Banana Peel and the Descriptive Verb: Physical Comedy in a Linguistic Setting,” Wine, Laughter, and More Wine, Lots More Wine, More Wine . . . Please, June 02).

What luck! This humorist, Libby Malin, is alive! Buy her books - help her put food on the table!

So, what, aspiring authors ask, is the secret to writing a successful humorous novel? Good spelling and grammar help (see Strunk N. White, “Spats, Spoofs and Spelling: The Dialectics of Inter-Class Dialogue in the Works of George Bernard Shaw,” Auckland Council Kanberry, ACK Journal of Pedants and Proofreaders, Sept 1910). But beyond that, a funny story is really any one that makes people laugh or smile. If it does so for you, the author, you might be on the right path toward igniting the same reaction in others.

Humorous fiction comes in all varieties, from the zany (L. Malin, My Own Personal Soap Opera, Looking for Reality in All the Wrong Places, Sourcebooks 2010) to the zanier (L. Malin, Fire Me, a Tale of Dreaming, Scheming and Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, Sourcebooks 2009) to the apex of zaniness (L. Malin, Aefle & Gisela, Istoria Books 2011) and more.

There’s no telling what will tickle any one particular person’s funny bone at any one particular moment. There is no formula for success, in other words, just a keen power of observation—keep your eye on that banana peel, sweetie—and the ability to write characters readers care about even as they face unrealistic situations that could make them laugh or cry (see Gloria Steinmart, “That’s Not At All Funny,” Feminism Yesterday, April 1971).

If you’d like a peek at my latest oeuvre, Aefle & Gisela, go to Amazon, BN.com or Smashwords to download free samples (after which, of course, you will buy the book. Right? Right? Right? Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please….) It tells the story of  a timid college professor, an expert on an obscure poetry-writing medieval monk named Aefle, who stops a wedding on a dare…and ends up, well, slipping on a banana peel….

Hope you like it—or that degree from UGH was a total waste of time!

_______

Did I mention that Aefle & Gisela is only 99 cents for a limited time only? Yes, I know, it’s a steal — go on over and steal it for 99 cents! Don’t wait! Who knows when the price will go up to its true value– a case load of gold doubloons! Think how hard it will be to send that to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Smashwords. Better get it now while the price is manageable in every way!

___________

Libby Malin did not attend (nor go anywhere near) the University of Gussberry-on-Hornsplat. In fact, she holds a bachelor’s and master’s from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. When she finally turned to her first love, writing, she began penning women’s fiction and young adult mysteries (which she writes as Libby Sternberg). Her first YA mystery, in fact, was an Edgar nominee. Her three previous  humorous women’s fiction books (Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Fire Me!, and My Own Personal Soap Opera) garnered critical praise. Here’s a sample of some of it:

MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA by Libby Malin:

  • Malin creates a world of wit and chaos that is …smart and insightfully written. – Booklist
  • Malin’s latest is heavy on humor… (she) coaxes plenty of laughs…- Publishers Weekly
  • I wholly recommend this romance… You’ll not be disappointed. Trust me! Rating: 5 Stars. – Love Romance Passion

FIRE ME by Libby Malin:

  • This fast-paced, humorous book kept me giggling throughout the night. – A Novel Menagerie
  • Fire Me …had this reader chuckling out loud. – Jo-Anne Greene Lancaster Sunday News
  • Libby Malin pens a tale that is hilarious while still being poignant and introspective. – The Romance Studio

LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT by Libby Malin:

  • The love story is charming and will be appreciated by any woman with bad taste in men who somehow inexplicably ends up with Mr. Right. – Washington Post
  • A whimsical look at the vagaries of dating… an intriguing side plot adds punch and pathos to the story… – Publishers Weekly
  • Malin’s clever debut toys with chick-lit stereotypes and offers quite a few surprises along the way. – Booklist

 

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