Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review of Dakota Blues and guest blog post by author Lynne Spreen

 A few weeks ago I hosted a guest blog post by debut author Lynne Spreen and after reading and really enjoying her novel I wanted to share not only my review but revisit the blog post too.

Deb, thanks so much for asking me to write for the General Fiction Forum. I’m honored. I’d like to talk about the writing life, and also about my just-published novel.

Dakota Blues is about a middle-aged woman who thinks she's got the world figured out, and then it explodes and she has to discover not only what to do now, but who she IS now, at age fifty. Since all her carefully-constructed lifetime strategies didn't work, what now? Where might she go, what might she do, now that she's free to recreate her life? 
I love this theme of coming alive in midlife, but it wasn’t until I reached my own middle age that I discovered it.
Ever since I was an adolescent, I wanted to be a writer, but life interfered with that dream. Like most of you I had to work. In my twenties and thirties, I raised my son, climbed the career ladder and endured several divorces. All of this really interfered with writing!
When I reached my late forties, I was able to cut back to part time and start my novel, but I didn’t realize how much a person had to know to write a whole flippin’ book! It took me about ten years to write Dakota Blues because I learned while writing. Now that the book is published and people are saying nice things about it, I feel like I've graduated. 
About the time I started to write, the publishing industry began to change. New writers were told not to query an agent until we had a platform. By platform they meant thousands of ready customers for when your book was finally finished. We were told that we had to do all of our own selling and marketing because unless you were John Grisham no publisher would spend any money to publicize your book.
Most of us writers panicked. I was very discouraged. But I vowed to do what was necessary to launch my writing career, so I started platforming. I built my own website using Dreamweaver. I get a headache just remembering that! It wasn’t very good. Then somebody invented WordPress and things got easier. I started a couple of practice blogs but eventually figured out my niche.
I could be mad at the traditional publishing industry for kicking us new writers to the curb, but it’s not their fault. Everything is changing. Because I worked so hard to develop a platform, I discovered my passion: the idea that we are more powerful in the second half of our lives than we ever knew. I began to write about the strengths of old age, like not getting swept away by drama (because you've seen it all before), and having more resilience in the face of adversity.
            I began to write about this and other benefits of maturity in my blog,, and the response has been tremendous. It seems I'm not the only one celebrating the glory of being older. Of course that means you have to shout back at the commercials featuring 17-year-olds demonstrating the latest anti-aging products! Or magazines that run articles about how not to look old, because old is bad and young is good, right?
            Well, old is good in some ways. If I were a lamp, I'd be a priceless antique!
            But back to platforming. In her book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Christina Katz proposed we figure out what we love and then write, speak, blog, and tweet about it. She said a book is only one form of media, but the idea is the big deal. What is your passion, the thing about which you must speak? It was a moment of awakening for me, because like most writers, I thought it was all about the book. It isn't about the book. It's about what you believe in.
            I wrote Dakota Blues because I'm obsessed by the idea that we create our own prisons. Some men, but particularly women do this. We sleepwalk through our lives, not realizing that were basically throwing away a great gift. We have more freedom than we can imagine. Roll the world off your shoulders. Create a new life for yourself. Walk away feeling light. This is the message of my writing – the good news about the second half of life.
            My next book is a collection of short stories about that very thing. It’ll be called, “The New Country – Stories of Midlife and Beyond.” I hope to have it out just before Christmas. After that, a novel about a smug CEO who retires to an affluent, age-restricted community, thinking she’s going to enjoy her leisure time, only to receive a surprise package – an infant to raise, courtesy of her estranged and newly imprisoned daughter. The working title is, Golden Years, My Ass. But I’ll probably have to change that.
            Deb, thanks again for inviting me to blog for the General Fiction forum. I hope we’ll get lots of questions and comments.

My Review of Dakota Blues

Dakota Blues
Lynne Spreen
306 pages
While attending her mother’s funeral in her North Dakota childhood hometown 50 year old Karen Grace is facing some interminable changes in her otherwise carefully mapped out life, her marriage is falling apart and her highly stressful job of many years is in question, when she misses her flight home she decides to take a small break and get to know the family that remains and the friends she left behind. This impromptu visit causes a domino effect of actions and reactions in Karen’s life so when the opportunity for an adventure arises Karen decides to go for it. Thus begins a journey that will have ups and downs, joys and danger and one that under normal circumstances Karen would never have taken. But at the end of this endeavor will she have learned anything or will she continue on the same safe path as before.
I would have not thought it possible for a 50 year old woman to star in a coming of age novel, but thanks to debut author Lynne Spreen that’s exactly what Dakota Blues is. And among re-learning attitudes and readjusting approaches she gave me a delightful look into what one woman does to re-invent herself at the age where most of us “of a certain age” are just settling into the more comfortable second half of our existences. She tells her story with uncomplicated, straightforward dialogue that flows effortlessly with characters who are enigmatic, eclectic and interesting and from one 50 something to another I saw much of myself in her protagonist Karen and I wonder if given the same situation I would be as courageous as she was, but then they say that fact is stranger than fiction so maybe I would.
Thank you Lynne for the gift of the novel, the gift of your time on my B&N forum and this very precious gift of your story.
Buy the book here visit the author's website here


  1. Debbie, I am thrilled to see Dakota Blues on The Reading Frenzy. I had fun spending the week talking with you and your readers on the discussion forum you host on the B& website. Since you reviewed DB on, I was highly motivated to join their author program; they accepted Dakota Blues and now I am populating my page with photos and trivia. Thanks so much for the gentle encouragement. I feel as if I have new friend. Best wishes in all you do.

    1. It was our pleasure Lynne,
      thank you for your attention to us for that week while you were very busy at home.
      You do have a new friend.

  2. Im 29 weeks pregnant with my little girl Dakota Blue
    She is the only baby i want, i want to love her and give her absolutely everything she needs. I want her to be my one and only.. I dont want to share my love with any other child because she already means so much to me and she isn't even born yet!

    1. Thanks for your comment hvac and congratulations on the upcoming birth of your little girl :)