Friday, November 28, 2014

When the future changes the past

A little while ago I reviewing a futuristic novel, the Amazing Crystal, with implications that reach far into the past. You can read my review of the Amazing Crystal here. And today I'm delighted to welcome the author and translator to my blog with some more information about why they wrote the book. But first, I'll include their take on what the book's about, just to give you some context.





ABOUT THE AMAZING CRYSTAL


In the summer of 2025, Lydia’s grandfather sent her a strange diamond pendant admonishing her to handle it with utmost care. From the moment that she receives the small package, her life changes. She becomes engulfed in a series of life-threatening events that lead her to realize the incredible properties of the pendant. Slowly she learns that the diamond contains an alien intelligence able to communicate directly with the human brain. Rumors of its powers spread, the Mafia designs a Machiavellian plot to seize the extraterrestrial gem, whose value is estimated at $100 billion. An unprecedented confrontation occurs between mercenaries hired by the Mafia and American security services. As rumors continue to grow, the American authorities are forced to release stunning revelations about the life and mission of the alien genius to the peoples and nations of the world. The news throws the scientific world into turmoil. Economic and political ideologies are brought into question and religious beliefs are shaken. But the Mafia wants to have the last say: confrontation is inevitable.

This science fiction novel addresses questions relevant to a growing number of readers. Recent discoveries in astrophysics suggest that there is a large number of exoplanets likely to contain liquid water and a breathable atmosphere able to contribute to the emergence of life. If aliens exist, are they scientifically and technologically ahead of Earth by thousands, millions or even billions of years? If so, have they already colonized or visited Earth? How could they overcome intergalactic distances given the limitations inherent in the barrier provided by the speed of light? Is it possible that aliens have been present on earth for billions of years? If so, what form would they take? Can they communicate with us? If the answers to these questions are positive, how would humans react when informed of these facts via a large television news chain? What would your own answers be after reading "The Amazing Crystal"?

The book is listed on the Amazon site:
 
Both the author, Gerald Lizee, and the translator, Robert Dykes, are scientists who give credibility to the science fiction novel. Here are a few words from each of them.


GERALD
 I started thinking about this book ten years ago. I was and still am very preoccupied by the fact that humanity could destroy itself before the end of this century: mass destruction arms, both nuclear and biological, proliferate, intercultural and religious hatred increases, terrorism expands itself over the world; Earth is getting warmer and warmer because the modern man is sending more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it could foster and already generates catastrophic events such as highly destructive tsunamis and hurricanes. This is why The Amazing Crystal  tells the story of a superior intelligence who has been accompanying secretly Earth evolution for billions of years and suddenly decides to communicate directly with humanity. His mission: help us save our planet.

 
Robert

When I first read the novel, I realized that there was action and adventure, but more deeply, I realized that Gérald was exploring an idea that has fascinated man for centuries. Extraterrestrials may have made a positive contribution to humanity over a time frame measured in centuries. Now, mankind is at a crossroads that may determine its destiny. This story addresses what might happen if mankind were to discover that there is another intelligent entity on Earth. The discovery could change the course of human history, perhaps for the better.

And finally, here's some more about the author and translator.


Born in Montreal, Gérald Lizée built a career in physics and in information technologies. Having obtained a degree in theoretical physics from the Université Laval, he taught in several universities and Community colleges in Quebec before moving to information technologies. Today, he is president of his own firm, Cyberconcept, which provides consulting services in information technologies and notably commercializes his writings in science fiction. This book, the first volume of a trilogy of intergalactic adventures, describes the psychosocial impacts of an extraterrestrial presence on Earth. Gerald’s Amazon author page is:  http://amazon.com/author/geraldlizee
Robert Dykes, an American by birth, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychophysiology from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, acquired French as a second language while following a career as a neuroscientist, entrepreneur and educator in Montreal. Presently he operates a consultancy that plans and executes innovative projects that improve an individual’s capacity to contribute to the post-industrial society. Contact: Robert.dykes@mcgill.ca

Thursday, November 27, 2014

So many formats, so many stores

So there I was, feeling frustrated that I only had an epub version of a book - and why's that a problem since I can read it quite well on my kobo? - and complaining about big businesses plotting to tie us to their own devices (says she, so thoroughly untied that she uses a kindle, a kobo and a tablet, depending on book and the lighting, or the location). Then I got an email from a small local bookstore and thought how those small retailers tie us to buying the books they choose for us - um - not. They choose, and I choose to go the store because I like their choices, and because the world is full of so many books these days that veritable treasures get lost in stacks of hay. So why should I worry about kindle and kobo books sold on separate sites (in separate e-stores)? Perhaps it's the author or the publisher who chooses which readers will like the book best, but how is that so different from the bookstore owner? Of course, if I buy a book in a store I can take it home and read it, lend it to my friend, and stack it on my shelf where, like a friend itself, it will remind me of times shared within its pages. If I buy an ebook, it's lost in that ever-growing haystack of volumes hidden away on my device (devices - help, which one?), or in the cloud...

Anyway, here are some ebooks I've enjoyed reading recently, with appropriate coffee recommendations:

Southern Haunts – Spirits That Walk Among Us, by Alexander S Brown, is the first of a two-part set of hauntingly Southern short stories. Thee are some real gems amongst the collection, but other tales carry the linguistic southern slowness a little further than this northerner (Northern English) would be comfortable with. Have some bold, dark, intense 5-star coffee on-hand for the darker tales, and be prepared to brew extra to keep you awake through the slower entries.

Olivia, Mourning, by Yael Politis, has a more genuine and all-too-real darkness to it, as a fairly naive white teen hurries off to farm her uncle's claim with very little knowledge or skill, but plenty of conviction. Mourning turns out to be more than a description of her feelings, and Mourning Free becomes a true friend and valued companion. But will Olivia learn to see what she feels, or will Mourning leave to be free? Life on edge is beautifully described, Detroit so convincingly and evocatively portrayed, and terror and disaster so cruelly knocking at the door in this tale, which carries a certain completely in itself, even as it leads naturally into its sequel. Enjoy with a warm rich elegant and complex 4-star coffee, and look out for book 2.

This House is a Home, by Philip Nork, tells of a more recent past, and invites readers, together with the narrator, into the lives of miners who built their own homes, developed their own cuisine from the meats the rich folk rejected, and learned the true values of family and home. Enjoy this one with a well-balanced, smooth-flavored 3-star coffee.

And now for something completely different: two illustrated children's books by Ruth Whenham. Captain Sillyvoice tells of some quite friendly pirates who'd rather build sandcastles than blow up real ones, and who give a whole new meaning to "pirate band." It's bright, it's fun, and it's delightfully ridiculous. My Crazy Purple Pen offers fun for an everyday school child whose pen has a mind of its own. Even the royal corgies might be in on the joke as this tale progresses, and it's all great rhyming fun. Enjoy both of these with some bright, lively, easy-drinking 2-star coffee, and get some juice for the kids.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paper paper (backs) everywhere

I'm just waiting for one more box of paperback books, then I'll have them all ready and stacked by the wall to be taken to the Christmas sales. Of course, I'm beginning to panic now - will I make back anything close to what I've spent from all this effort? The answer's probably no, and it's just as well I read something this week that reminds us garret artists:
  • as hobbies go, writing's relatively cheap
  • as businesses go, writing's pretty unlikely to be successful
  • but as vocations go, you're doing what you love, what you were made to do, so what are you complaining about.
Okay, I'll not complain (and I'll hope my generous spouse who earned all the money I spent doesn't say too much either).

Of course, it's hard to sell ebooks at a Christmas bazaar, so those boxes all contain real paper paperbacks, hence my heading. And I've been reading real paper books too, so here are some reviews:

Darkness Brewing, by The Coffee House Writers Group, is a compilation much like our own beloved Writers' Mill Journal, produced by a different local writers' group, and geared specifically toward horror and darkness. Most definitely not for the squeamish, it's an interesting (dark coffee) blend with some touches of humor in among the horrors. Enjoy with some seriously dark intense 5-star coffee.

Wayzata, by Ted Korsmo, is a short, noirish mystery with literary overtones. Set in midwestern 1930s suburbia, it combines truly evocative description, a laconically noir voice, and a mystery behind the mystery, together with lots of drinking and its side-effects. Dark and intense, enjoy it with some more dark intense 5-star coffee, but keep some elegant 4-star coffee on the side.

Palm Beach Nasty, by Tom Turner, continues the downbeat, noirish feel of these books. It may well be the start of a series, in which case it will be a series to follow. New York City cop flees the dark life for Palm Beach's glorious shores, but people die in sunny places too, and he's actually quite pleased to be on the case again. There's a pleasing mix of dark and light, humor and grim reality, in this evocative mystery, with great characters, convincing relationships, and plenty of plot. Enjoy with a richly elegant, complex 4-star coffee.

My final print book from the batch is the second of Ali B.'s Soul Jumpers series, The Sixteen. The 12-year-old protagonist's voice and impatience with restrictions are suitably convincing, but she'll have a lot to learn. Not least of her problems is the fact that in book 1 she learned her dead father was alive and well in the body of a teenager. It's a fascinating premise - that some people get to live again to complete their tasks on earth - and I'm not sure yet where the author will take it. For now, The Sixteen moves fast and furiously as it tells the next episode in a much longer tale. Enjoy, or let your middle-grader enjoy, with some lively, easy-drinking 2-star coffee. (Do middle-graders drink coffee?)

I'll post reviews of a collection of ebooks tomorrow, thus saving paper, or something...





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Burnt Edges and the message of the 60s

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Today I'm welcoming Dana Leipold to my blog. She's the author of Burnt Edges, a novel set in Southern California in the late 60s, where an 18-year-old girl tries to break the cycle of abuse. I asked the author, what message does she think the 60s still have for today, and here is her answer. Thank you for visiting my blog Dana.



What message do the 1960s still have for today?

The 1960s was a tumultuous era in the United States. Young people questioned the older generation’s way of doing things, the civil rights movement was front and center, women were also stepping out of traditional roles so it was a time of exploration. Sometimes that caused conflict because the status quo felt threatened. Tensions were high, attitudes were strong and definite, people were divided about what they believed was right and wrong. On subjects as diverse as the war in Vietnam, women's rights, civil rights, the environment, music, and the way people wore their hair, everyone had an opinion.



I think this era still has relevance today when we see things like Net Neutrality at risk. Expression can’t really be fit into neat categories…and neither can the Internet. Those who don’t really understand what the Internet has evolved into are threatened by it and want to put rules and boundaries on something that has blossomed way beyond legislation. Just like older generations did when music and art began exploring real expression in the 1960s.



The message for us today is stay as open as you can. Change will come whether we like it or not. We can seek to understand it rather than be afraid of it. People were terrified of rock and roll when Elvis Presley swayed his hips on stage. Many couldn’t see why JFK wanted to go to the moon. Humans weren’t meant to be put into neat little categories or remain stagnant. When we stay open and receptive to all the changes and possibilities that are available to us we can make better decisions about how to deal with them.

I love your answer Dana. To be alive, we have to accept change, so let's stay receptive, willing, and ready to grow wiser day by day. There's an excerpt from Dana's novel below, and some details about both book and author, plus a great giveaway, so don't forget to read the rest of this post. And thank you again for letting me be a stop on your blog tour Dana. Burnt Edges sounds like a powerful read.



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Title: Burnt Edges  
Author:  Dana Leipold
Published:  October 21st, 2014
Word Count:  56,000
Genre:  Women’s Fiction
Content Warning:  contains sexual abuse and domestic violence
Recommended Age:  18+
Synopsis:
Abuse or an uncertain future. This is Laurel Lee Page’s choice when she is faced with an unplanned pregnancy at 18. Born into a broken family, all she has ever known is guilt and shame. No matter what she does or who she meets, Laurel appears to be living a condemned life but she is determined to find independence and freedom in spite of her family’s legacy of hatred and self-contempt. Can Laurel see that she is in a powerful position, poised to break the cycle of abuse? Set in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960s era, Burnt Edges is based on true events and proves that strength can be found even in the most horrific situations.
Excerpt:
Laurel decided that Rusty was Mother’s favorite child. The afternoon in the garage had been proof. But because he often took the brunt of Father’s anger, she felt a bizarre kinship with him. She also loved the stories he would tell when they had nothing to do. He would make up tall tales like the one about spacemen who came to Earth to taste hamburgers because they had none on Mars. He described them as little green men with antennae.
“Whenever they come to visit, people find their hats missing, because the Martians steal them to conceal their antennae,” Rusty said.
“That’s just silly,” Laurel said.
Gerry sat in the dirt, playing with rocks and half-listening. Laurel thought he’d rather be playing football or punching some kid, so he sometimes got bored of the stories.
“No, it’s true, really.”
“What did they do to hide their green skin?” Laurel asked.
“They also steal women’s pancake makeup and put it all over their faces. Helps them blend in.”
“Ew, they wear girl’s makeup?” Gerry said, sticking out his tongue.
Laurel giggled, imagining Martians wearing makeup and hats just to get a taste of a hamburger.
“Why don’t they just steal the recipe and learn how to make hamburgers on Mars?” Laurel thought she’d caught Rusty off guard with this question.
“They tried that once, and it was a disaster,” he said, picking up rocks and throwing them against the fence in their backyard. “Yeah, it almost wiped out the whole Martian race.”
What’d they do, get all sick and throw up?” Gerry laughed at his answer.
Rusty threw a rock at Gerry but missed him. “No, moron.”
He kept throwing rocks without saying anything. Laurel thought he was trying to come up with a good story. She waited another moment.
“Well, what happened?” she asked.
“I’ll tell ya! Don’t rush me!”
He stopped throwing rocks and sat Indian style, his elbows resting on his legs, hands clasped together so he was leaning forward a bit.
“The explorer Martians who had just come back from Earth brought the hamburger recipe to the King of Mars. They told him about the most delicious food they’d ever tasted and that they had brought the secret to it. The king was excited and told his royal cook to make up a batch, but they don’t have meat on Mars.”
Rusty paused, and Gerry rolled his eyes, waved his hand, and climbed the rope up to the tree house. Rusty watched him, but Laurel was listening, waiting for Rusty to tell the rest of the story.
“Go on,” she said.
“Nah, no one cares about the dumb old story,” he said.
“I do! Tell me!”
“All right, but it’s horrible!”
“I don’t care. Tell me!”
“Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Rusty paused and then he began again. “So the cooks tried to figure out what to do. They didn’t want to tell the king that there was no meat. Once a cook had told the king he was all out of Martian mush-rooms and the king executed him. They thought and thought about what to do, and then they called in the royal jester.”
“The jester? What does he know about cooking?” Laurel asked.
“Exactly.”
Laurel looked confused.
“So the jester came in, and the cooks smashed him on the head and put him in a boiling pot. Once the Jester was done cooking, they ground him up into bits and fed him to the king.”
“Yuck!”
Gerry must have heard about the cannibalism. He peeked his head through the hole in the tree house. “That’s disgusting,” he said, loud enough for Rusty and Laurel to hear.
“The king loved it and ordered the cooks to make more. So they did. This time they called in the royal guard, bopped him on the head, boiled him up, and fed him to the king. The king couldn’t get enough of those hamburgers, so he made a royal decree stating that the official food of Mars was hamburgers.”
Gerry had the tree house door open and was sitting on the floor with his legs hanging out. Laurel shook her head.
“The cooks went through the whole Martian Royal Army, the royal court, and most of the Martian population before the king caught on. He ended up executing the cooks, but now the King of Mars comes to visit Earth himself, because he loves hamburgers.”
“That’s the dumbest story I ever heard,” Gerry said.
“If it’s so dumb why did you listen to it?” Rusty answered back.
“Hamburgers aren’t that good,” Laurel said. “Not as good as pizza.”
 
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About the Author:
Dana Leipold is a freelance writer, author, and member of the Association of Independent Authors and Creativity Coaching Association. She has self-published two books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World, to help writers get their message heard, create stories that connect, and leverage the power of writing well. In addition, she coaches other writers on story structure, messaging, and writing skills so they can achieve their dreams to become published authors. Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Find out more: Follow the Tour:


Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • 5 Lucky Winners will each receive a $10 Amazon gift card.
Giveaway is International.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Traveling to find the Other Shakespeare


I'm delighted to welcome Lea Rachel to my blog today. She's the author of a new novel about Shakespeare's little-known older sister, The Other Shakespeare. Just the title has me intrigued, so I jumped at the chance when the Cadence group said she might be willing to visit my blog. Welcome Lea, and please tell me how someone from US manages to write so convincingly about the UK.





Guest Post by Lea Rachel:
Traveling for your Writing

When I first read about the character of Judith Shakespeare – older sister to William, born with as much talent and ambition as the Shakespeare we now revere, invented by Virginia Woolf in her novella A Room of One’s Own – I was enthralled.  I simply had to write a fiction novel around the character of Judith Shakespeare, and the path her life might have taken.

But I live in St. Louis, Missouri, heartland of the United States.  Some would say it is in the Midwest, some would locate it firmly in the South (please let’s not get into Civil War allegiances here), but either way it is over 4,000 miles from where my novel had to take place - that’s over 6,000 kilometers for you Brits out there.  What do I know about London, let alone 16th century London?  I could guess that they didn’t have indoor plumbing, or electric lighting for that matter, but…

So I went to my writing desk and opened my latest bank statement.  Did I have enough money to travel to London?  To visit the (remade) Globe Theatre, the British Museum, and Stratford-upon-Avon?  I knew I could do basic research with texts and tomes published in the United States and available in my local library, but I wanted to do a bit of archival research – I needed to smell London, to touch the waters of the Avon, to see, in their natural environment, the flowers that had populated the Forest of Arden.

So I thought about how I could phrase it to my husband.  What do you say I empty our bank account on a trip to London while you stay behind and take care of our one year old baby?  What if I leave you alone and you don’t have to make the bed or do any dishes for an entire week?  How about I owe you big time?

Luckily, I needn’t have worried.  My husband has always supported my writing, and in this, he did not hesitate.  I travelled to London over the Thanksgiving Day break (when I had time off work, but nothing in England would be closed as it wasn’t their holiday), and spent twelve hours every day walking my feet off.  I took so many pictures of Shakespeare’s birthplace the docent looked at me with concern and asked if I had any particular questions.  I pilgrimaged to Shakespeare’s grave - twice.

The 16th century is so long ago that there are many things about it we will never really know.  Like how often servants washed their hands, what bedtime stories were favorites of the kids, if people bothered to clip their toenails regularly.  Heck, we don’t even know the date on which the great bard was born, let alone the minutiae of much of his daily life!  But there is nothing like hands-on research, with its sights, smells, and tastes, to stimulate creativity, excitement, and authorial motivation to actually finish your book.

That, and a truly supportive husband.

It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. My husband and I are both from England, so we try to get back on a regular basis. But somehow we never seem to pack half as much into our visits as you did.

About the Author:

Lea Rachel possesses a strong literary background firmly planted in her roots, education, and experiences. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, she hails from a bloodline of writers, including her grandmother Beki Bahar, an internationally published Turkish author and poet, and her uncle Anthony Kosnik, coauthor of a well-respected liturgical book that circulated circa the 1970s.

Rachel attended the University of Michigan, where she had two short stories published in the competitive literary publications Prism and The Write Stuff. She has attended writing workshops at the University of Michigan, University of California, and University of Iowa—and placed fifth, out of 18,000 entries, in the personal essay category of the 72nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

Rachel makes her home in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and son. The Other Shakespeare is her first novel, released subsequent to her debut work, a personal memoir entitled I Promise.


About the Book:



Judith Shakespeare is the fictional older sister of William Shakespeare and in the novel she is born with as much talent, as much creativity, and as much drive as her younger brother William.  But in 16th century England, as a woman, Judith never has much of a chance to develop her talent.  As Virginia Woolf imagines in her sketch, Judith could have been as productive and famous as William, except for the fact that she is never sent to school, is pressured into marriage, and is consistently denied her independence and a room of her own.  Her stifled literary talent, in such circumstances, becomes more of a burden than a gift as it drives Judith to run away from Stratford and engage in extreme measures to try and have her talent recognized.

A must-read for Woolf and Shakespeare fans alike, The Other Shakespeare combines history, social issues, and drama in a compelling story that will thoroughly entertain and enlighten.  Pay attention as you read and you will find that every chapter in the book has at least one Shakespeare quote embedded in the text. Some of them are easy to recognize ­ and some aren't!

So, can you resist it? Here are some links, so you can buy it and read it straight away.


Find Lea Rachel at: http://www.learachel.com/main/