Saturday, September 24, 2016

Who's Your Fantasy Bartender?


Today I'm delighted to welcome author E. Chris Garrison to my blog as she tours the internet with her wonderful Tispy Fairy Tales. I gather she's just returned from the Indianapolis Monument Circle of her books, where she met... well, I'll let her tell you... Welcome Chrissy.

Having a Brew With a Fantasy Bartender

By E. Chris Garrison

Sometimes characters become fairly real to an author. We argue with them, trying to forward a plot while the character, in our mind's eye, pouts and stomps their feet, refusing to do as we say because it's not how they would handle the situation we put them in. We spend much mental effort putting ourselves in their places, to keep the characterization authentic and true to the vision we're trying to portray. But they have a way of taking on a life of their own.

But some characters spend a lot of time in the background, more or less as plot devices, and it's harder to get to know them. So, I thought I'd get to know one who's a constant for Skye, the main character of the Tipsy Fairy Tales. And since he's a fixture in his own bar, I thought I'd go visit Greg Heath.

Heath's place exists on the Indianapolis Monument Circle only in my books, so as I strolled in off the street, the tangibility of the scents of fried food and the noise of the crowd took me by surprise.

"Help you, ma'am?" The black-aproned man who peered at me from behind the podium at the door had amusement in his eye. He scratched his Roman nose absently, but his eyes focused with great attention on me.

Since I am me, I wondered what he saw as he looked at me. I smoothed the skirts of my dress and adjusted my purse on my shoulder, trying not to seem self-conscious. "Uh, I just want to sit at the bar."

The man nodded and pointed with his chin. "Seat yourself, I'll be with you in a minute."

As he slipped away to talk to a neon-green-haired waitress, I found myself a seat at the bar, uncomfortable because I couldn't find a stool with no one next to me. I found myself sitting next to an enormous hunk of a man, though he didn't acknowledge my quiet greeting.

The hawk-nosed man who'd met me at the door appeared behind the bar, towel slung over one shoulder; I knew at once that I'd been talking with none other than the proprietor, Greg Heath. He flashed me a grin and touched a chalkboard behind him. The list of beers taunted me. A fan of craft beer myself, I could only imagine what my idealized brewmaster had on tap. And in this case, I'd get to taste.

I bit my lip at the decision. Should I have "Pumpernickel Porter", "Strawberry Blonde", "Monumental Red Ale", or … OH!

"You still have some Heath's Heather Honey Gruit left on draught?"

Heath grinned and nodded, already pulling a pint of the legendary beer. As he set it in front of me, I must have seemed a little too excited, because Heath chuckled. "On the house, ma'am."

I hesitated, the glass halfway to my lips. "What, why?"

Heath shrugged. "I figure I know who you are. Your money's no good here."

I set the glass down and extended a hand. "Chrissy."

He nodded. "Pleasure, Chrissy. Greg Heath. But you know that."

I smiled and nodded. "The pleasure's mine. This place, well, you may not know it, but it's a favorite of the places, well, you know, the places that I…" I worried that if I said it aloud, the spell would be broken and the dream would fade.

He nodded. "That you've written about."

I let out a nervous laugh. "Right. Does that bother you?"

Heath shrugged. "Should it?"

I shook my head. "No, I suppose not."

He glanced at the glass between us and then met my eyes once more.

Oh! I lifted the pint, and said aloud, "To imaginary places, may we always find comfort there."

And then, I was lost in the rich, brown, floral heaven that filled my mouth and warmed my stomach as the Heather Honey Gruit and I became one. My certainty of which was more real, the imaginary bar, or my life up until that sip, blurred. I drew breath, and the flowery scent of the head of the pint made my head do a slow spin of joy.

"What ya fink that's supposed ta mean?" The big guy to my right turned his head and glared at me. His face, which might as well have been chiseled from stone, scrunched into a scowl, eyes disappearing into dark shadow under his brows.

I blinked. "Huh?"

"Yer a fine lady, ain't ya. All high and mighty and fancy, sayin' what's real and what's not. I fink ya don't know crapola."

I looked to Heath for help, but the bartender just shrugged and slapped a hand on the bar, to demonstrate its solidity.

"Well," I said, "I mean, I did make this all up. Skye needed a place to get a drink, and an ally or two…"

The big guy snorted. "Yeh, that beer taste like anyfing? Or is it jest yer imagination?"

"Well, no, it's delicious, but I… I mean…"

He raised a hand, placed it on my shoulder, and shoved. I had to catch the bar to keep from falling onto the barroom floor. I stood next to my barstool and prepared an angry retort, but the imaginary character loomed over me, easily a foot and a half taller and two and a half times more massive than me. I swallowed the reply and just stared.

Why did this all seem so real? A thought experiment gone wrong? It's the beer. I should never have drank any. They say not to eat or drink anything in fairyland, you might not be able to leave. Maybe the same is true of my own made up worlds.

Heath snapped his towel between us and said, "Listen to me, Brick. I let you trolls drink here because Skye says it's okay. But not if you mess with my customers."

And in that moment, whether it was the beer or the mention of Skye, I had her second sight long enough to see the ruddy stone features of an even larger troll superimposed over the big guy's features. A hint of something like fear kindled in the recesses of those eyes, and he shrank into himself. "Er, sorry, ma'am. Jest tryin' to show yeh that I'm real as you."

Heath turned his piercing gaze to meet my eyes. "Just because you made it up, doesn't mean it's not real. Ma'am."

I picked up my pint and drank deeply, to calm my nerves, and to hide my confused feelings behind the glass for a moment. "Fair enough. And it's Chrissy to my friends."

Greg smiled. "Another?"

I realized that I held an empty glass. "Wow. Um, yeah. You know, this is even better than what I made at home."

Brick guffawed. "Nobody brews better than Heath."

"Where'd the recipe come from," said Heath.

"Well, I brewed based on a beer that Skye had here."

His grin was at least a hundred watts as he slid the new full glass in front of me. "Well, not every recipe clone is perfect."

"What? But I came up with…"

Brick growled next to me.

Greg shrugged.

"Fine. I hear you," I said. "Wherever the recipe originated, you made it better, Greg."

Heath poured another pint and handed it to Brick. "Anyone ever tell you you're a lot like Skye, Chrissy?"

I laughed. "I am as short as she is tall, I'm old enough to be her mother…"

Heath's eyes squinted as he laughed. "You think that's important? Nah, you're like her where it counts." He touched one of his temples, and then touched the left side of his chest.

My face warmed, and once more, I hid behind my glass. "Thanks. But Skye's braver than I am. And a better leader."

Heath shook his head. "I see through you both. Skye's can be shy as you underneath, and you're as fierce as her if you need to be."

Uncomfortable, I said, "Well, I do put some of myself in every character…"

Brick set down his glass. "Or mebbe yeh learn from what yeh write about, hmm? Ever fink about that?"

I shook my head. "No, I hadn't. But it's something to think about."

The troll's face split in a toothy grin. He reached out a hand once more, and I flinched at his touch, but he merely patted my head this time. "Yer awright, Chrissy. Jes like Skye."

Heath held up a glass flute with something dark and foaming in it. "Welcome to Heath's, Chrissy. You're welcome here anytime."

We all drank to that.

If I had some Heather Honey Gruit and if it were gluten-free I'd drink to that too. Indeed, the flavors, the place, the characters, they all seem so real, and will to everyone who reads your books as well. So, lacking gf Heather Honey Gruit, perhaps I should just sit down and enjoy the read. Thank you for joining me here Chrissy, and you're welcome back anytime.


  About the author: E. Chris Garrison writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories. She used to publish as Eric Garrison, but has since upgraded.

Her latest series is Trans-Continental, a steampunk adventure with a transgender woman as its protagonist. Chris’s supernatural fantasy stories include the Road Ghosts trilogy and the Tipsy Fairy Tales published by Seventh Star Press. These novels are humorous supernatural fantasies, dealing with ghosts, demonic possession, and sinister fairy folk.

Her novel, Reality Check, is a science fiction adventure released by Hydra Publications. Reality Check reached #1 in Science Fiction on during a promotion in July 2013.

Chris lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with her wife, step-daughter and cats. She also enjoys gaming, home brewing beer, and finding innovative uses for duct tape.

So perhaps I should ask you, Chrissy, can you make a gluten free version of that super-delicious brew?

Find Chrissy here:

Twitter: @ecgarrison

bluespirit_cover1200x800Book Synopsis for Blue Spirit (Book one in the Tipsy Fairy tale trilogy): Gamer girl Skye MacLeod can see fairies, but only when she’s tipsy. More Grimm than enchanting, some of these fairies are out to ruin her life, wreaking havoc with her job, her home, and her relationships.

With the help of her tiny fairy friend Minnie, Skye has to protect her vampire wannabe gamer friends from all-too-real supernatural threats only she can see. Can she keep it together and hold fast against a wicked fairy Queen’s plot?
Blue Spirit is the first book of A Tipsy Fairy Tale series!
restless_spirit_coverJPG1200X800Book Synopsis for Restless Spirit (Book 2 in the trilogy): When Skye McLeod is asked by her pal Phil Jenson if she wants to cosplay at his game company’s booth during Big Con Weekend—and get paid for it—she jumps at the chance. Besides, Skye’s hit a rocky patch with her girlfriend Annabelle, who wants her to stop drinking and act more responsibly.

Then Skye gets a call from paranormal detective Rebecca Burton for another job; something big is going on at the convention, and she needs Skye to be her eyes and ears there. So now Skye’s getting paid to have fun—twice!
Then The Night Duke, a creep from Skye’s live role playing days, shows up and uses some weird mojo, seemingly turning pretend zombies into real ones. After barely escaping an attack, Skye learns the fairies and trolls within the magical realm are getting restless, and her old friend, the Transit King, is in the middle of it.

Skye decides to once again enlist the aid of her fairy companion “Minnie.” For Skye to enter the magic realm, she needs to get tipsy. Then she’ll just have to control the powers within her and contain the outside forces that threaten to spin into chaos. How can she possibly screw this up?

Find Chrissy's books here:

Blue Spirit
Amazon Print Version
Kindle Version
Barnes and Noble Link for Blue Spirit
Restless Spirit
Amazon Print Version
Kindle Version
Barnes and Noble Link for Restless Spirit

Find out more! Follow the Tour!

9/21 Novel-ties Review
9/21 RJ Sullivan Fiction Guest Post
9/21 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top Ten's List
9/22 Green Gates Entertainment Review
9/23 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! Top Ten's List
9/24 Sheila's Reviews Guest Post
9/25 Deal Sharing Aunt Author Interview
9/26 Jorie Loves A Story Review
9/26 Magic of books Review
9/26 Cabin Goddess Top Ten's List
9/27 Jordan Hirsch Review
9/27 The Seventh Star Author Interview
9/28 Jorie Loves A Story Guest Post

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Is the Play the Thing?

The play's the thing, perhaps. Or maybe music's the thing. Or the beat, the rhythm, the lyrical style... the story, the story line?

The speaker (Brian Doyle) at our local writers' group called us storycatchers. He said the story's the thing. The story's what brings reader and writer to a place without words. And the story chooses its own form--poem, list, memoir, essay, novel... Catch the story when you can. Write it without form or reason (or thought). Then edit or throw away. You can always throw something out, but you can only catch it when it's there.

So the story's the thing, and the play, song, beat, rhythm, style are all subsidiary. Or else they're taking up too much space.


Anyway, there really is a play hid there among the books I read recently. And it's certainly a "thing." Find some coffee. Let's read!

The Gap Of Time by Jeanette Winterson isn't a play, but it's a "cover" for Shakespeare's Winter's Tale. It's a slightly odd read--very British I guess, combining the external observer feel of a play with the very personal characterization of a novel. Sit back with a coffee, enjoy the ride, and you'll be thoroughly hooked by the end, calculating who's who and wishing you remembered how Shakespeare resolved it all. (Hint, it's about forgiveness.) Enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

Next is another novel with a play-like feel, JR Wirth's In Passing. This one's pure novel, but the scene-changes have a very movie or play-like sense to them. Imagine teen tragic romance combined with the movie It's a Wonderful Life. But the teen's grown up and recalling her near-death experience for a trainee priest who's busy writing his thesis. A slightly paranormal romance hides in the telling of wounded youths, saved from suicide or worse by not-quite-angels. Oddly enthralling once you get past the play-like separation of the start, this is one to enjoy with some dark intense five-star coffee.

Stories of Music Volume 1 by Holly E Tripp is a compelling collection of poetry, artwork, essays, and links to music and speech online. The pieces are beautifully put together, not in forced into boxes in sections but carefully positioned so each one leads to the next, making for a feast of sound and sense, to be enjoyed altogether or separately. I wasn't expecting to love it, but I did. Enjoy with well-balanced, smooth three-star coffee.

Which leads to art as story, I guess, as in The Bestowing Son by Neil Grimmett--a novel that aptly illustrated the storycatcher idea from our writers' meeting. The artist in this novel catches history in paint, creating stories from the scenery of real life. But his own story eludes him, turning things dark, and his muse is ever slightly out of reach. A haunting, slow, beautiful novel, enjoy with some intense five-star coffee.

But I promised a play, so here's my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne. Imagine volume 7 with all its darkness, combined with the childlike fun of volume 1, and you'll get the picture. The production must be incredible though, if those things described in the play really reach the stage. Enjoy with some fairly lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee--it's not one to spend too long pondering over.

The Harry Potter play has lots of intriguing time-travel, as does the teen novel Not My Life by Bob Kat. Actually, it would be kind of fun to see this series turned into movies or plays. Each novel stands alone perfectly, though it's fun to watch the characters grow, especially since they're very plausible teens, just reaching that does-he-love-me, does-she-love-me stage. There's a jock, a nerd, a cheerleader and the new girl. There's a tramp under the bridge. And there's a travesty of justice waiting to be righted in the past. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

And then decide, is the play the thing, or the story?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Would You Ask To Be Psychic?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Crymsyn Hart back to my blog after a two-year gap. In August 2014 we met her Reaper (click to find the post), but today we'll meet the author herself, as the Reaper rides again. And this time Crymsyn is answering a question from this curious reader...

How does a real psychic feed into writing about a fictional one? 

Welcome Crymsyn 

How does a real psychic feed into writing about a fictional one? What an excellent question.

I never woke up and asked the gods to be a psychic. That just kinda happened on its own. I used to read professionally for a number of years while in college and a bit after. I still do it now and again if asked, but it’s not my main goal. Mostly for friends. Being psychic is like having a radio in your head on all day long. It just depends on how high you turn up the volume knob. I can never shut mine completely off. So I would say the volume in my head is down to a 2 or 3. If I get focused on something it can go down to a 1. If you had to put a label on me I’m a Clairvoyant, Empathic, Medium.  What does that mean?

It means, I can see the future, feel what others feel, and talk to the dead. Every psychic gets their information differently. I get information via pictures in my head or hearing voices in my mind that sound like my own thoughts, but they aren’t. Makes me sound crazy, doesn’t it? I’m not. I’ve been examined.

So with all of this going on in my head and around me, why not transfer it over to writing about characters who are psychic. They say write what you know. I try and write about the experiences I have or how it is I get information. At times it is difficult to find the correct words to put the feelings onto paper, but I think I’ve done a good job. Many of the experiences of my main characters are fictional but some are based on fact. I’m going to let you guess which ones.

About Death’s Revival:

Becoming a grim reaper was right up my alley. I enjoyed being dead. I helped souls crossover into either Heaven or Hell with my fellow reaper, Than. For two years, I enjoyed my life and then the killings started. Psychics were being murdered at haunted sites and souls disappearing.

Someone was tampering with the fabric of the universe, trying to draw something evil into this world.

To do that, the killer needed the souls of the psychics and the ghosts he could gather to open the doorway. I was charged with saving those souls and find out who the serial killer was. Yeah, being used as bait was definitely not my first choice, but who can kill a grim reaper?

I'm already dead. With Than's help, I'll stop the evil from penetrating this world so I can get back to my soul gathering.

I mean the dead stay dead, right?

Buy Links:

Amazon              Barnes & Noble             KOBO

About Death's Dance (book 1 in the series)

Being a psychic, you would think talking to the dead was a walk in the park. However, it’s not always that simple. The hooded specter haunting me is one I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid. One day, he appeared in my bedroom mirror. Good. Evil. I don’t know what his true intentions are. 

Enter Jackson, ghost hunting show host extraordinaire, and my ex, to save me from the big bad ghost.

From there…well…it’s been a world wind of complications. My house burnt down. I’m being stalked by an ancient evil and gotten myself back into the world of being a ghost hunting psychic. Jackson dragged me, along with a few other psychics, to a ghost town wiped off the map called Death’s Dance. 

From there things went from bad to worse. 

Death's Dance is Book One of the Deathly Encounters Series 

About the Author:

Crymsyn is a National Bestselling author of over seventy paranormal romance and horror novels. Her experiences as a psychic have given her a lot of material to use in her books. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her hubby and her three dogs. If she’s not writing, she’s curled up with the dogs watching a good horror movie or off with friends.

To find out more about Crymsyn:

Twitter: @crymsynhart

And to find out more about the books, follow the tour:

9/12 Beauty in Ruins Top Ten's List
9/12 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Guest Post
9/12 The Seventh Star Blog Author Interview
9/13 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Author Interview
9/14 The Southern Belle from Hell Top Tens List
9/14 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
9/14 Jordan Hirsch Review
9/15 Deal Sharing Aunt Author Interview
9/15 SpecMusicMuse Guest Post
9/16 Jordan Hirsch Review
9/17 I Smell Sheep Top Ten's List
9/18 The Enchanted Alley Review

Friday, September 9, 2016

Would You Want To Grow Up?

I like 14.

When I was small, I wanted to be fourteen. Not ten or eleven - those weren't quite the teens. Not thirteen for all that it was my favorite number; it was still too young. But fourteen seemed just right. I wrote stories with fourteen-year-old protagonists saving the world. My fourteen-year-old alter-ego met with heroes real and fictional and discovered her unknown super-powers, like never getting tired, or breathing underwater, or imagining the world's greatest inventions. My fourteen-year-old protagonist had a team of followers, or flyers, or worked alone, lived with her family or hid in a magical cabin in the mountains, wore black (always black) and nobody told her not to, and had a dog or cat or both. I loved 14.

Then I was 14. Then I was 15. Then 16. But fourteen was still my ideal age, and the age of all my protagonists. Maybe that's why my Hemlock stories have languished since Siobhan grew too old - or maybe I just ran out of time. Don't worry, my magical friends will have more adventures when we retire... or something.

Anyway, I also love reading about fourteen-year-olds. They're on the cusp of adult responsibility. They're still magical, still free. They're fun. And they don't really have to be fourteen - just somewhere near.

So here are some book reviews:

The Boy And The Sea By Alkahera isn't technically a middle-grade book, or a book about 14-year-olds. It's a deceptively simple picture book. But it's just as inviting for older readers, or adults, as for small children, with its image of life's ebb and flow, love's give and take, and spiritual complexity. Enjoy with some rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee.

Meeting of the Mustangs by Cathy Kennedy explores life through the eyes of a wild horse, and offers a truly intriguing view of animal emotions, the wild world and the tame. With scenes both scary and gentle, great scenery, and a lovely story arc, it's one to enjoy with some rich elegant four-star coffee.

The Three Worlds by Nara Duffie is the sequel to Nara Duffie's first middle-grade novel, The Monster Realm. It's a smooth-reading, fast-flowing tale of three girls from an everyday town suddenly thrust into a fantasy realm. But it cleverly avoids those clashing cliches about vampires and mermaids, creating something truly original, well-balanced between the Hobbit and Independence Day The Movie. Enjoy with some well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

Making Manna by Eric Lotke is aimed at adults, slightly older or more mature teenage readers. It's a surprisingly hopeful coming of age story of a mother too young to be a mom, a child in serious poverty, and a young girl whose parents are prey to all the law's misdeeds. All of which sounds kind of downbeat, but Making Manna is incredibly upbeat, a cool, fast, thought-provoking read which keeps that seed of hope alive and watered from start to end. Highly recommended, and best enjoyed with some intense, well-flavored five-star coffee.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

With or without pictures?

I didn't like picture books as a kid. Actually, as a very small child I didn't even like books, but then I learned to read. After that I loved anything with words - even bus tickets. But I couldn't fathom why people would fill that precious paper space in a story with pictures instead. Which is crazy since I loved to draw and paint.

One day I graduated from picture books to chapter books. Some of the chapter books had pages of pictures as well, which annoyed me. But mostly they just had letters that seemed too big. Why couldn't I read books with tiny letters and more words, like my granddad did.

Then Granddad stopped being able to go to the library. I took his card and borrowed his books for him. In return I got to read them. Hence my love for Lord Peter Wimsey and James Bond.

And then I grew up, had kids, and learned to love picture books. (And I still love to draw and "paint" on the computer.) So, which did you prefer, books with or without pictures? And did your preference change when you grew up?

Here are some book reviews of childrens books, with and without pictures. Enjoy (with or without coffee!).

I've read a ton of Oliver and Jumpy stories now. I'm almost jealous of the author - wouldn't it be cool if I could release so many books,but then I'd never have time to write novels and book reviews, or draw and paint. Stories 46-48, 49-51 and 52-54 take small readers from stories which are mostly picture to the occasional page of almost only words, via different fonts and different artistic styles, through cat-and-kangaroo-centered fantasies both other-worldly and everyday. Enjoy with lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

For slightly older children, the Delilah Dusticle series continues that gentle touch of fantasy in Delilah Dusticle and the Cursed Tempest, taking its intrepid protagonists to India, and keeping clear the message of doing no harm. Magic, fun, and with pleasing touches of genuine thought and consideration for others, it's a great addition to a fun series. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Another new middle-grade series is the Kare Kids adventures by Charles A. Salter. Loosely connected stories, told in a very traditional way with traditional values and set in an increasingly modern world, these start with The Secret of Bald Rock Island, and a lilting voice of mystery. Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place introduces the daughter of the first protagonist, with a nice sense of reminding kids that their parents were once children. The adventure's fun too - and the dog! Then there's How Three Brothers Saved The Navy - a thoroughly up-to-date tale of a naval officer's sons playing games that become all too real. There are some pictures - not too many; I might even say just right - plus great kids and wise lessons in these tales, best enjoyed with some more of that well-balanced three-star coffee.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Purring Furrily or Burrily?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Anne Zoet to my blog, and to offer my review of her picture picture book, Purrball meets Burrball in Brazil. If the title itself isn't enough to intrigue you, well ... read on and find out more.

Review of Purrball Meets Burrball

When Darryl’s family move to Brazil, it’s obvious that Darryl’s cat, Purrball, will come too, and so will readers, enjoying this book. Wise parents have Mom’s phone and charger on hand for the journey, so Darryl can play games. They provide welcome cat treats to keep Purrball content. But neither Purrball nor Darryl can keep smiling when the world rocks and sways. An earthquake is not what anyone expected, and the startled cat runs away.

Thus begins Anne Zoet’s Purrball Meets Burrball in Brazil. Bright, lively illustrations invite small readers and listeners to guess what happens next because…well, because poor Purrball has Mom’s phone and charger tangled around his leg. Burrball the Sloth (very pleasingly named) offers help. Then both cat and sloth prove wise and resourceful, passing strangers behave with bemused excitement, and the internet, so familiar to young readers, plays its own sweet part in bringing a family back together.

An adult might draw wise lessons from this tale, while child and adult together enjoy a fun story with a happy ending and promise of more, maybe, to come. The rhymes are a little forced at times, and the rhythm a little off, but the concept is intriguingly new and it all works well—the story reads pretty smoothly, and the pictures bring it to life, leaving readers satisfied and eager for more.

Disclosure: A publicist (PR by the Book) gave me a copy and I offer my honest review.

Buy links:

Interview with the author 

1.    What inspired you to write this book? (I always have to ask this!)
The story hit me on a day that I took out for myself away from my high tech work. I was having a massage, which is when I zone-out and don’t think about anything. Oddly, this time, I started creating the Purrball and Burrball storyline the more and more I unwound. I was so relaxed that the whole thing unfolded start to finish.
2.    How fun! No wonder the story seems so relaxed, despite its initially scary storyline. How would you describe the characters of Purrball and Burrball?
Smart, kind, resourceful and they’re team players. Animals are invariably way more clever than we humans give them credit for. I’ve seen my cats use incredible logic to alter a situation they’re in. I once had a cat run away in a place she didn’t know (the worst weeks of my life searching every day) but she found her way back, though completely unfamiliar with the surroundings. I have another cat, my outdoor cat, who you can see trotting alongside opossums and raccoons in evenings. That scared me so much at first, but eventually we’ve come to see that he has a real relationship with them. He’s so smart and the more I see the wildlife interact with him, the more I see them as clever and accepting and even friendly. The Purrball and Burrball characters came to me before I moved to this area and could witness my cat and his outdoor adventures. But this experience really solidified how Purrball and Burrball should be portrayed as a team. I think that my cat’s experiences with wildlife show that animals are capable of very unexpected bonds with one another.
3.    But a cat and a sloth? What made you think of that?
I’m crazy about both domestic and wild animals and it is a passion that just gets deeper all the time. I’ve done a lot of research on cats (on nutrition and behavior) as well as love to build cat structures and make toys for them. And, I do not know who could look at a sloth and not smile! They have the sweetest faces and they have so much more to them than the “sloth” slowness we think of. They’re rather industrious buggers and have some funny quirks, like the wildlife that grows in their fur. I firmly believe they should never be pets and should be kept wild. While the story is pure fantasy (as are stories where animals communicate with phones!), I really want to keep one a pet and the other wild and be true to my feelings about that and it would be so lovely to pass all that along to children!
4.    Meanwhile, of course, the children will play with e-pets on their phones, but real pets are better. How do Purrball and Burrball use technology in the book?
Purrball, the cat, is unable to send a critical text message, so she asks Burrball, the sloth, if he could tap with his toes to write it. Maybe that’s my wish: I wish my cats would find a way to text me what they’re thinking, lol.
5.    Maybe dogs will learn to text too. But why did you decide to set the story in Brazil?
It had to be set in the natural habitat of a sloth. I’ve always wanted to see a Brazilian rainforest, so I just created my own. It is roughly in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil and their plane arrives in Sao Paulo. Earthquakes are incredibly rare in that region, so all the more surprising that one happens when they arrive. After setting my sights on this area, I’ve seen dozens of photos of both Sao Paulo and the Atlantic Forest that make me long to go there! It is on my bucket list.
6.    What does your writing process look like?
It’s very interesting that verse isn’t the first thing that comes out. I think it all through with as much rhyme as possible, but just let the story be written in prose for a few versions until the story gels. I can picture the scenery faster than I can create a rhyme.
7.    Interesting. For me, the rhyme usually comes first when I'm working on a picture book. But then, my art is nowhere near as cool as yours. You had an interesting comment about children's art though didn't you? What was the most rewarding thing about writing this book?
It was seeing the art that kids created from my coloring pages! I always loved to draw and I didn’t find coloring pages that interesting as a kid. Now that I’ve seen what some kids have come up with (like one used a gold pen to make a gold mobile phone), I think it can be very creative. I look forward to some freehand drawings, if kids post any to my site (and there’s an option for that at
13.  When did your interest in writing begin? And in illustration?
Recently, my dad reminded me of the “novel” I wrote and illustrated when I was in fourth grade and a few years ago he found my kindergarten poetry and illustrations. I guess I had it in me a while. He always told me I should write. I didn’t pay much attention to that, but like him, art has been a part of my studies and career and learning to illustrate children’s books is such a logical path in my life.
14.  Which writers inspired you as a kid? Or today? 
As a kid, I loved any book with intense colors with much to take in visually on every page (like Where the Wild Things Are). I was always moved by art at an early age and even didn’t want to move from picture books to chapter books! As an adult, I am in love with words as much as the art, so
Chris Van Dusen’s “If I built a” series is the type of book that inspires me to develop both. He is a master at both.

15.  Will we see the duo return in a future book?
They have many adventures ahead! If a picture book were not a short thing, I’d probably be just finishing up chapter 18 at this time because I have so many ideas for Purrball and Burrball. But yes, there’s one in the works already as well as a few other animal adventures that are rattling around in my head.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, Anne, and I hope both Purrball and Burrball find lots of satisfied readers.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Real Faith Or Fiction?

When I was a kid it annoyed me that so few books mentioned characters who went to church. I went to church. Most of the people I knew went to church. Weren't we worth writing about?

I suspect when I was a kid I simply wasn't drawn to, or introduced to, those sweet Sunday school books that would have filled that gap. Perhaps that's just as well. But now I read the Sunday-school-sweet books, all grown up, plus many others where characters do go to church but don't feel the need to tell the world--or is it where authors do go to church but don't feel the need to tell the world?

I guess the question still remains, are people like me worth writing about--are we worth reading about? And the truth is, I really don't want to read about me; I want to read about someone interesting, or at least someone in a story that's interesting; I want a fiction to draw me in and make me think before it spits me out. There'll have to be facts in that fiction if it's going intrigue me--true facts I mean, not political or spiritual misinterpretation. Faith or church might indeed be among those facts. But there'll have to be space for me to contemplate, or else I'll feel like I'm trapped in that Sunday school with no escape--no chance to be entertained or to grow.

All of which led me to ponder, what made me like some of the following books more than others? What might make you like them? Find yourself a coffee and see if any of the following would work for you.

Where Love Restores by Donna Fletcher Crow is a perfect blend of historical romance with Christian history and teaching - definitely a novel rife with real faith as well as fiction. The story takes places in England (with many scenes in a very believable Cambridge - the place where I studied math rather more recently). A maligned younger son tries to find meaning in his well-ordered (or resignedly disordered) life against a backdrop of Wilberforce's fight against slavery. A beautiful love story, wise, entertaining and educational, Where Love Restores offers serious Christian romance, best enjoyed with some rich and complex four star coffee.

Vain Pursuits by J.B. Hawker is much more light-hearted (though darker); a rolicking mystery adventure (second in a series) with two sweet ladies (of a certain age) traveling Europe, getting caught up with international crime, and pondering, in one case, the balance of faith and fun that falling in love with possibly the wrong man might entail. Faith allows the coincidences of a guiding hand, and informs the romantic dialog. It's not overwhelmingly religious, but the book is probably best read by Christian believers with a sense for adventure. Enjoy this Christian cozy mystery with some lively 2star coffee.

Stuck In The Neighborhood by Tracy Krauss is the second novella in another contemporary Christian series. A short story in its own right, it introduces readers to another character's culture, and another world behind the scenes of a neighborhood. The story portrays the very real struggle of a young woman trying to please everyone and forgetting to please herself. It's honest, faithful in a very non-preachy way, and appealing, and I'd love to read more. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Second Chance Grill by Christine Nolfi is an enjoyably feel-good blend of contemporary drama and romance (first of a series), with occasional (very sweet) swearing, occasional (perfectly low-key) bedroom scenes, and an underlying honesty as a young girl's medical bills soar out of control. It's not a particularly Christian book, but its character mention church and do occasionally pray. It's Christian-friendly and a fun novel for anyone looking for something more than romance. Enjoy this thought-provoking tale with an interesting brew of three-star coffee.

Second in another series, with rather darker themes, is Paralyzed by Alana Terry, a story where a protagonist suffering from PTSD finds out that not all dangers are inside her head. There's a very overt Christian thread in this story, as the character prays, ponders why prayer isn't answered, and speculates about her relationship to God. The antagonist's motivation isn't too clear, but the promise of salvation shines through some unlikely characters, backstories and situations. Enjoy with a dark five-star coffee.

Both Second Chance Grill and Paralyzed feature characters with medical training. I'm still trying to figure out why that training seemed so much more convincing in Second Chance. Like the faith, it was much less overt, so maybe I'm more convinced by both faith and science if they lie below the radar of the story, except in the Where Love series where faith is such a large part of the character's lives that it has to claim prominence. Except in exceptions?

Finally, here's a short story with no faith subtext at all. Capital Partners by Libby Fischer Hellmann is a tale which denies all chance of redemption as two rich, married women take offense at their husband's secrets. Short and dark, enjoy it with a short dark five-star coffee.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Real Life or Fiction?

If you've followed my book reviews, you probably know I have a preference for fiction. I like the order of beginnings middles and endings. I like to know there'll be a purpose revealed between the lines, and that those unknown lives won't hurt, though they'll haunt from the turning of the page. Real life has an awkward habit of being really messy. And I meet real people every day--why should I want to meet a stranger in a book?

I was asked to review a memoir recently--not my favorite genre. But this wasn't just an ordinary memoir of ordinary everyday life; this particular memoir was written from jail.

I couldn't decide if that would make me like it more or less. After all, this was hardly going to be a character I'd really want to meet. Would I want to spend all the pages of a book in his company. And his world? Wouldn't it be full of complaints and railing against the system? But it did have a cool title.

So here are my reviews of some seriously good books that blend real life and fiction. And yes, one of them is a memoir--a seriously good memoir with purpose, beginning, middle and end, and a character who haunts from the turning of the page.

Concrete Carnival by Danner Darcleight is prison memoir, written from prison, telling about prison and prisons, so very different from how I'd imagined. There's a backstory that makes the author human, despite his crime, and a story goes forward that teaches how to be human--perhaps a lesson we all should heed. Drink some dark 5-star coffee for a dark, sad story. But know it's going somewhere and it's good.

By contrast, A Taste Of Blood And Ashes by Jaden Terrell is focussed on fictional crime (including murder) and the man who tries to solve the case. Protagonist Jared McKean has been introduced in earlier books, and one of the strengths of this series is seeing how the character grows and changes. That said, each book works perfectly as a standalone novel, and this one's no exception. Revolving around the world of horse training, pitting those in the know against those with the skill to learn, and balancing care for others against caring to win, it's a cool, well-plotted, and complex tale, deserving a smoothly complex 4-star coffee.

The Dog Who Dared To Dream by Sun-Mi Huang is very different short novel, very stylized and beautifully told. But it too hides a mystery waiting to amaze the reader. Told from a blend of omniscient narrator and dog and cat, it follows the life of a dog who maybe doesn't fit in, but somehow steals his master's heart. The writing is spare. The action is mostly off-stage. And the story arc is simply beautiful. Enjoy this blend of simple and complex with another complex 4-star coffee.

Monday, August 29, 2016

What do you dream?

As I child, I dreamed dark tales of the end of the world, of standing on a tall building watching the bombs fall down. Friends asked why. Wouldn't hiding away give a better chance of escape? But in my dreams there would be no escape. One of the Big Three--America Russia and China--would eventually push the button and the end would come.

I dreamed tragic lovers torn apart by war. I dreamed the last surviving child, maimed and crying. I dreamed... and I wrote down my tales. The English teacher asked why. It's easy to make people cry, she said. Why not stretch myself and make them smile instead?

But I did have other dreams and other tales to tell. I wrote stories of heroes (women and teens of course) fighting evil, saving from disaster, and changing the course of history. I liked those dreams.

And sometimes I heard the monsters go bump in the night. I still hear them on occasion. Every once in a while they call my name, or a small girl (my children are all sons) cries out to me. Sometimes I see the spreading stain of a vivid puddle turn my vision sour, but it goes away. So does the migraine that follows. But I don't have hallucinations, do I? And I don't dream of ill health because, if it happens, it happens and worry won't help. So I'm not really much into reading health books, though I read two this month, one picked out at an airport bookstore (I do enjoy Oliver Sacks' books), and the other given to me. Perhaps the donor was trying to tell me something. Here are my reviews.

First is Oliver Sacks' Hallucinations--hence my ponderings above--a fascinating exploration of PTSD, old-fashioned hysteria, migraine aura, alien spacecraft, fairytale monsters and more. It's complexities might best be enjoyed with a complex 4-star cup of coffee. A fascinating read.

The other is The Patient's Resource and Almanac of Primary Care Medicine by Agnes Oblas. It's more of an occasional resource than a reading book, though it's occasional delvings into medical history do make interesting reads. The book includes much and leaves much out, leaving the reader to search websites for more data. Enjoy it's mild approach with a mild 1-star coffee and prepare to be oddly intrigued.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What if you could travel through books?

Books, glorious books! There's a town on the English Welsh border that's FULL of bookshops, on every corner, every square, and under every awning; bookshops that cross the road; bookshops with themed shelves built into tiny closets set off staircases so narrow you can only pass strangers on the level; bookshops like no other anywhere. It's a wonderful place:
So, of course, we went shopping for books. I found a fascinating series by Jasper Fforde with cool literary titles (like the Eyre Affair) and I couldn't resist. My big regret is I only bought book one, but I'll look for more. We traveled in out over through and off bookstores all the afternoon, until youngest son demanded we do something else.
Okay, it was quite a beautiful something else! It would have been a shame to miss it.

Anyway, having traveled through all those bookstores, and found those Jasper Fforde books, one really must ask, what if you could travel through books as well? So here are some book reviews, starting with...

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde invites readers into a fantasy world not so very far removed from our own. Designer pets are designed using ancient DNA obtained via time travel. And books are preserved with careful attention to forgeries and those who might try to change the past. But what if you could travel through books? And what if the ending of Jane Eyre was, well, somewhat up in the air? Enjoy this cool, zany, fascinating, literary journey with an elegant 4-star coffee to hand.

Exchange by Dale Cozort follows the same multiple universe theme, looking at what might happen if a nearby universe were to impinge on our own. Would disease become rife? Would wild animals destroy our natural flora and fauna? And would those of evil intent set out to colonize the nearby place? It's a well researched novel that includes its facts so naturally and seamlessly you simply believe in it all. Cool romance, scary mystery, fascinating science - enjoy with some suitably complex 4-star coffee.

Time Assassins by R Kyle Hannah imagines a world of multiple possibilities, where time-travelers work to ensure the best of all possible outcomes, using the benefit of hindsight. But something's gone wrong with these Batman-type good-guys and now the whole structure might unravel. It's a cool premise and a fun story. Enjoy with some bold dark 5-star coffee.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan sticks to one time and universe, but blends past and future beautifully. Computer game geek meets print font geek, and you'll love the smell of glue in the morning. It's a cool fast read, thoroughly modern - like Ready Player One combined with the Da Vinci Code perhaps. Enjoy with another elegant 4-star coffee.

Finally, City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin invites readers back to the world of Passage and the 12. It's a scary world, inexplicable perhaps, but City of Mirrors brings all its disparate parts together, invites deep questions of the meaning of life, and totally enthralls the reader. Blending dark and light perfectly, it's the perfect end to the trilogy. Enjoy with some deep dark 5-star coffee.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Would You Read On A Train?

My travels in England involved several train and underground journeys, besides the flights from and to the USA. So perhaps it's not so surprising I found myself attracted to books that included the presence of trains... unless you look at how scary some of those books were. Would you really read a horror story set in the London Underground's claustrophobic tunnels, triggered by every traveler's nightmare of a stalled train when the lights go out?

Anyway, here are some of the books I read, starting with that tale of claustrophobia and scares, Signal Failure by David Wailing. It's a short story, perfect for an Underground ride, and it's the sort of scary story that will have you trying to scare through the blackness around you to see what's out there. Then you're out in the sun again, but somehow... Enjoy with a mug of seriously dark 5-star coffee.

My next review is of a short story taking place on the rails overground. OtherWhere: The Crazies by Garry Grierson offers a glimpse of a grown-up wonderland through the looking glass, where rabbits and strange old women might be more than they seem. From a perfectly evocative depiction of an English railway station to a mysterious strange new world, it's a haunting tale best read slowly and warily. Enjoy with some complex 4-star coffee.

Of course, no train-traveling vacation could be complete this year with The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. I wasn't at all sure I like the characters/narrators, but the author makes them so hauntingly real you have to sympathise as time goes on. The clues are well hidden and the mystery only slowly reveals itself. A neat, clever story, best enjoyed with a complex 4-star coffee.

But perhaps you'd rather not read about travel while traveling. A friend recommended The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor as a good book to read on the plane, so I bought and read it. Like the Girl on the Train, it's a haunting tale of a woman's disappearance with no clues to her whereabouts. And like the Girl on the Train, it involves an achingly real analysis of broken relationships, this time between a complicated, deep-thinking husband and his beautiful free-thinking wife. Enjoy with another complex 4-star coffee. Then tell me what sort of book you'd take on your trip/

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Do Picture Books have to include Animals?

I know, I've been away from the internet lately. I've enjoyed a wonderful month of visiting with family and friends in England, including a whole week with two of my favorite animals:
But I haven't actually followed through on plans to read and write book reviews while I was there. There were so many other exciting things to do (think dogs... thing walking dogs for a start). So now I'm way way behind with everything, sending heartfelt apologies to everyone whose promised review is so drastically overdue, and struggling to catch up with catching up.

Since children's picture books are nice short reads, easy to pick up and put down frantic airport travels, and hard to ignore with their bright shining covers looking out from my reading apps or lying on my floor, I guess their reviews are the ones I'm bound to post first. Well... also since they tend to have animals in them. But are their animals as cute as those two dogs?

My first animal picture book review is for Bravo and Elphie by Hagit R. Oron and Or Oron, a tale of a very civilized elephant child and a friendly pet mouse, with a nicely nuanced lesson in family and friendship. I love Hagit Oron's Elphie books - the pictures are filled with so many great (and relevant) details that pull the story along, the characters vividly recreate believable people, and the stories are simple, smooth, and pleasantly inviting. Enjoy with a fine smooth cup of well-balanced 3-star coffee.

Next is a book featuring a cat and a sloth. Purrball Meets Burrball in Brazil by Anne Zoet (slated for release in September). The story may not read quite as smoothly as Bravo and Elphie, but the modern-day touches are equally nice, with a lost cat accidentally tied the charging cable of a mother's lost phone. Much fun ensues with nice detail and exciting adventure. Enjoy with some lively, easy-reading 2-star coffee.

Then there's 15 Ways to say Good night by Efrat Shoham illustrated by Yuval Israeli, an engaging and fascinating picture-journey over the world, told in the goodnights of different languages and cultures. Small child and alien (so not an animal I guess, though there are dragons sometimes) offer good night wishes to all, and a sleepless child will perhaps sleep better tonight. Enjoy with some rich elegant 4-star coffee.

Peter Joseph Swanson's Sleeping Beauty and the Dragon includes a (dragon) animal, of course. But mostly it's about people, real life reflected in a fantastically mixed-up fairy-tale, with those little touches of wisdom that sneak through the smoothly half-rhymed text. Enjoy with some seriously and superiorly elegant 4-star coffee.

And to round out my list, I've just read 3 Hilly books - Hilly Discovers Her Feelings by Meytal Raz-Nave, Hilly Finds Her Quiet Place, and Hilly Colors Her Dreams. These three really aren't about animals at all, though Hilly's dreams include the odd dragon and frog. The first is intriguing but short - certainly a cool way to introduce how to recognize feelings in others and in oneself. Quiet Place introduces the value of meditation, and Dreams introduces colors with some pleasing one-page semi-rhyming stories, adding chakra color meanings at the end. Enjoy all three with some easy-drinking 2-star coffee.