Author’s note: In the interest of starting Smokin’ & Cryin’as close to the inciting incident as possible, I cut a couple of scenes that came beforehand. I still like them and thought it’d be fun to share them anyway. Arthur Comes Home is 1 of 2.
July 4th. Hairspray. Yellow onions. Burgers and bratwurst smoking on the grill. Arthur sauntered into our sun-scorched backyard, barefoot, wearing cutoffs and a ringer T-shirt. Shrieks and whoops and applause rose from our relatives and neighbors who were thrilled to have him home from the war. I’d wanted to be the first to see him, the first to welcome him home, but the sight of him through the sliding screen door froze me at the kitchen table, knife in midair, the onion I’d been chopping abruptly forgotten. Continue reading
Reece’s folks lived in an aluminum-sided one-story in Hazel Park, which we called Hazeltucky.
Today their house smelled like green apple ReNuzIt, corned beef and cabbage.
“I made it especially for you,” Marjorie LeFanch said. “There’s plenty of veggies.” After four years, she’d finally quit putting meat on my plate and lecturing me about iron. Tonight she’d serve me limp cabbage with overcooked potatoes in meat juice, with a side dish of boiled celery. Like being a vegetarian made me the rabbit in Fatal Attraction. I should have eaten a pretzel. Continue reading
I rang up three soft pretzels with five sides of melted cheese and a mega large Diet Pepsi for a lady who was paying in rolls of nickels. My shift didn’t end for another fifteen minutes, but Reece had already parked his Buick Roadmaster in front of Mr. Salty’s House of Pretzels. Shelby Williams, my manager, frowned on early departures. She also didn’t like employees having visitors.
We’d called that car the Roadbastard since before Reece’s dad sold it to him. It was a freaking yacht, a shameless gas hog, a rolling representation of why Detroit was all but out of business. Old Mr. LeFanch still got misty-eyed about that car. Water droplets glimmered on the front bumper—Reece had the car ready for his dad to inspect. I, on the other hand, was hardly ready to choke down my least favorite meal of the month, Sunday dinner at the LeFanch’s. Continue reading
I’m serializing the first 10% of Smokin’ & Cryin’ here on my blog. It’s the story of a young American rock band set in the early 1970s. Please feel free to share this with your friends.
Overture is the first installment. This post is #9 in the series.
Chapter 4 -Econoline continued (part 2)
Deuce booked us at a bar in a paper mill town that stunk like ten thousand bean farts. The minuscule stage was crammed into a back corner. With the P.A. system wedged in, we were stepping all over each other. Perry’s bass headstock was under my nose, and I knocked over Waverly’s high hat at least three times. Fed up, he hauled it out to the equipment trailer during a set break—and caught me puking in the alley. Continue reading
There is one simile that mutters lazy. It’s more thoughtless than the most common of cliches. It’s so bland and pointless it has no business even calling itself a simile. It evokes less than nothing. It’s boring. Dull. Dried up like a dog turd on concrete during a drought.
It sucks the life out of whatever you’re trying to convey.
A simile should be evocative or convey a new dimension to whatever you’re describing. Trite or cliched similes are bad enough, and those should be avoided as well. But I’d argue this one simile is not only hackneyed but worse than your average cliche.
Ditch this empty simile every single time it turns up in your writing. The only time you should ever use it is as a placeholder when you’re breezing through a first draft and don’t want to pause to think of something better on the fly. But you must replace it with something stronger, richer, more colorful and more creative. Or just leave it out altogether, because it’s better to use no simile at all than this lifeless, lame, zombie-brained excuse for a simile.
Grace takes sensitive and painful topics and intertwines them with humor. She skillfully develops her characters, and the reader comes to accept (and maybe even like) all of them (even the ones that have terrible flaws.)
Ms. Ombry does a terrific job of developing the characters and unfolding the twists and turns of their funny/tragic lives. I found the book intriguing and hard to put down! Probably because at its heart the book is about resilience, love, and our common humanity more than rock music.
Smokin’ and Cryin’ kept me on my toes like a 70s rock band. Every memory, news article, album review and snippet had me wondering what was next. I devoured this novel almost immediately upon opening it up. The twists and turns in this were excellent, and I found myself desperately missing an era I hadn’t even been a part of.
This book was so horribly written, I had to stop after the first 20 pages. She may think she’s Vonnegut, but a child could write better than her. It’s unfortunate that any publishing company would take her seriously and waste our time.
Grace has a knack for portraying the music genre and the 70s in a truly engaging manner. I loved everything about this book. She makes the music come alive through the characters and the story. The music is almost another character in the story, and it shines. The characters and their conflicts and quirks make… Read more “Truly Engaging”
On Facebook, Ms. Ombry revealed she had gotten her first bad review & she shared it. It was sooooo bad, I wanted to understand why. OMG what a gift for Ms. Ombry! She is an amazing author! I was hooked from page one. Obviously the last laugh is with this very talented author!
This is a brilliantly crafted book set in the early ’70s about a band and its 16-year-old front-man, Robin Chelsea, and (not a spoiler) his disappearance right before the release of their third album. The story unfolds with detail that is wonderfully imagined (such that I often forgot it is totally fiction) but never bogging down the pace.
This book is about Robin Chelsea, a fairly normal teenager who ends up becoming the lead singer of American rock band Smoky Topaz in the 1970s. The language and writing style are also very simple and smooth, which make this book feel young, laidback and fresh.
Ombry conjures (and occasionally skewers) characters with stunning efficiency. Better than just about any writer I’ve read, she knows how to shine a light on most important truth about them, how to bring whole, complex humans to life using short strings of words. She also writes young children better than anyone I’ve ever read. The relationship between the young rock god and his baby half-sister makes me tear up again just thinking about it.
There’s something a bit familiar about The Odette Brothers. I had fun recognizing some of the real-life elements she modified and incorporated into this novel. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did!