Book Review: Atonement in Bloom

I’ve been aboard Teagan’s tour bus for a few days and just hopped off for some biscuits and gravy in Atonement, Tennessee. While I’m at it, I’ll attempt a little magic for Teagan and share my review of Atonement in Bloom.

But, oh, not so fast. First I had to delve into Teagan’s amazing technicolor pantser brain and find out how she does it! Here is my question:

I know that you’re a pantser, Teagan, and I assure you that this is foreign territory for us dedicated outliners. Your stories are full of magic – people, objects, places, lore – and they all converge on the small town of Atonement in a zany adventure with eight plot threads whirling around at once. How do you keep this literary cyclone straight and make sure that it arrives at “the end” in one piece? I’d love to learn about the method to your madness. How you keep your stories straight?

Here’s her answer:

Teagan’s Tips for Pantsers

Diana, thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me visit Myths of the Mirror. I love your blog name. I can’t help being reminded of the wickedly mischievous mirror in my Atonement stories.

Horsefeathers! Did I really have eight plot threads? I suppose that statement alone is a good way to illustrate the differences between pantsers and plotters. (A pantser is someone who “flies by the seat of their pants,” writing in a completely unplanned way.)

If I had my druthers, I would have a rather loose plan and a vague outline — I’d be a combination pantser and plotter. However, my job keeps me in a stress overload. When I’m stressed, I can’t cope with the planning of writing. The serials on my blog are full-on pantser, 100% spontaneous and unplanned.

atonement notebook

While Atonement, Tennessee actually was planned (those were better days!), the sequel, Atonement in Bloom… not so much. Plus, because of work, I had to start and stop repeatedly over several years. That would make it even harder for me to plan.

How to keep it straight? I create a character matrix before I start writing. Even though I’m not planning, the storytelling can’t start until I have a character. So I note some details about that character. Then as other characters, artifacts, and places come into the story, I add them to the matrix. Sometimes I give the reader a clue — yet I don’t know where it’s going. Things like that get a note in the matrix too.

I do have a couple of tricks

The matrix is in Excel. I have a lot of columns and I try to fill in the same details for every character – whether or not I actually use the detail in the story.

Electronic notes

MS Word – Styles. As I write the story, I make notes in the manuscript regarding where in the story certain things happen. I use the Styles feature in word combined with enabling the “navigation pane.” When I apply a heading style to the note, it lets me see it, at a glance, on the left side of the screen. So it’s very easy for me to keep track of where or when something happened.

Atonement 2 nav pane

Diana, I’m absolutely thrilled that you enjoyed Atonement in Bloom. Thank you again for letting me visit. Hugs!

Diana’s note here: As an outliner, I also keep a number of Excel grids, but I’ve never considered using Word’s Styles to make notes! Great tip for all writers. Thanks, Teagan!

And now my review:

Atonement in Bloom begins at the point where Atonement, Tennessee (book one) ended. Although the events that took place in book 1 were erased from the memories of most of Atonement’s citizens, Ralda and her Goth friend, Bethany, remember very clearly.

Not only has little returned to normal, but the presence of magic in the small town is much deeper and broader than first imagined. As it turns out, more people know about the local magic than just Ralda and Bethany, and magical characters are constantly popping in to sway events. There is a wide variety of objects with a range of supernatural powers, most which came from Sunhold, Ralda’s old house by the cemetery.

Geneviene is at it again with a whimsical, magic-filled story that is full of surprises. The gal pals take a back seat this time, except for Bethany, as the plot thickens and runs off the rails – in a good way! The action starts immediately, and the pace speeds along with multiple events and mysteries piling one atop another. One of my favorite scenes was when a love spell goes haywire and the characters are all attracted to the wrong people.

Besides the author’s wild imagination, I was once again enamored with a host of delightful characters including glowing pigs that talk, a woman who’s a living Meadow and leaves flowers growing in her wake, and a slithering dragon that is mistaken for a bear. Robin, the Shakespeare-quoting sheriff has a bigger role. And, of course, Ralda’s cat, Lilith, makes a reappearance as the only other POV character besides her owner.

In keeping with the tone of the first book, this is a light and fanciful read with plenty to keep a reader entertained. Appropriate for all ages and perfect for anyone who loves playful magic.

Ready for a magical read?

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5-Star Reads: No More Mulberries and Atonement, Tennessee

My writing break has freed up some precious time for reading, and I have two more reviews to share. These books are quite different. I hope you give one or both a try. 😀

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No More Mulberries

by Mary Smith

My Review: Where do I even start with all the things I loved about this book? The story is about Miriam, a Scottish midwife who first fell deeply in love with an Afghan and then with his country. It’s a story about love and loss, fear and courage, and the strength of family and the human spirit.

In many ways, this story could be told anywhere in the world as individuals, couples, and families aren’t that different from each other no matter where we find them. Miriam’s story and her emotional struggles are deeply relatable. Her search for self, her struggle to balance her various roles, to fill expectations and have her expectations filled, and her commitment to her family and community could be anyone’s story.

But Miriam’s tale doesn’t take place anywhere in the world. It unfolds in 1995 Afghanistan. The book portrays a multi-dimensional country with remote villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years to more modern communities with a forward-leaning vision of the future. And though it’s clear in the story that love is love, family is family, and people are people, the narrative reveals the stark differences in the lives of those people marked by isolation and all it entails, and those who have high hopes for education, healthcare, and their country. Miriam’s story is deftly intertwined with the story of a country and its people, and I loved it all.

Smith’s years in Afghanistan give the read it’s undeniable authenticity, and her skill as a storyteller shines. She doles out the backstory details in small doses. They’re little gems that slowly illuminate the present story and build understanding while increasing tension and a desire for resolution. Settings are well described, the pace is steady, and characterization is flawless. I stayed up late and lost some sleep over this one.

One beautiful book that I highly recommend.

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Atonement, Tennessee

by Teagan Geneviene

My Review: Esmeralda is a new arrival in the town of Atonement. She’s purchased an old estate that comes with its own cemetery and some interesting trespassers – a marvelous gang of gal-pals, an irresistible florist/handyman, and a mysterious, handsome neighbor. The magic starts off almost immediately while “Ralda” waits for the moving van and starts settling into her new life.

The tale is full of whimsy as ancient magic threads through the home and cemetery. Ralda is curious but not particularly fearful, and I enjoyed her level-headed, low key approach to the strange noises and events happening around her. The story is told mainly from her point of view. The exception is Lilith, her cat, who witnesses some of the magic but isn’t able to fill her owner in on the details.

For me, the best part of the book was the characters. If you enjoy strong female characters and genuine friendships, you won’t be disappointed. Ralda has a wry sense of humor and authentic voice. Geneviene does a great job with her internal dialog and with character interactions as a whole. The gal-pals are a delight, well-rounded individuals with a nice balance of wit and sensitivity.

Alongside the unfolding mysteries that inhabit the property, a second plotline centers on a darker “real”-life theme, which wraps up cleanly in the end. The main plot around the home’s magic and Ralda’s role in the mystery leaves a few loose ends and questions that might lend themselves toward a sequel. The minor danglers did not impact my delight in the overall story.

A light and magical read for all ages.

I’ll be taking a short break (offline) to head north and visit family.
Have a great week. ❤