Sunday, July 23, 2017

What's the different between comics and novels?

Blog Tour Author: Dan Jolley
Featured Book Release:
Gray Widow's Web
July 19-26, 2017

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Dan Jolley to my blog. Author and creator of Gray Widow, writer of video games, comic books and novels, he's touring the internet with Gray Widow's web and he's stopped here on my blog to tell us about how all those different types of writing fit together. Thank you Dan, and welcome!

Over the years, I’ve met a few novelists who’ve said things like, “Wow, I could never imagine writing a comic book,” or “Man, I can’t believe how hard writing comics is compared with writing novels.” Since I started out writing comics, and only later moved to prose, that struck me a little funny to begin with.

But they were totally right about comics being a difficult medium to master. It’s incredibly rigid: you’ve got a set number of pages, a maximum number of panels on a page (depending on the artist you’re working with), you’ve got to manage your word count so that you don’t obscure the art and make it impossible to tell what’s going on, and because of the page-turn, you need to be really careful that your big, impactful, surprising moments happen at the tops of even-numbered pages. You’ve got to understand, as Scott McCloud put it in his brilliant book Understanding Comics, that most of the story takes place between the panels, in that space where your imagination fills in what isn’t actually seen.

I first learned to write professionally by writing comics. I got my start at age 19, when I was still in college, and soon I met my comics-writing mentor/guru, Dark Horse Comics editor Dan Thorsland. Dan gave me a crash-course in what worked and what didn’t, and I still use the wisdom he imparted to me every time I sit down to write a script. And because the medium of comics is so rigid and unforgiving, I incorporated that into my whole approach: being creative within a concretely-defined set of parameters.

That mindset came in handy when I got the chance to write some books in Lerner Publishing’s Twisted Journeys series, a hybrid prose/graphic novel format that presented a new take on Choose Your Own Adventure. One story with 27 different endings? A narrative structure that revolved around a massive, complicated flow-chart? Sure, okay. I ended up doing nine of those. Later, when I got into video games, I discovered it was every bit as regimented as comics, but in different ways—writing for a game requires things like coming up with 25 different ways to say, “I’m out of bullets,” usually limited to no more than about eight syllables. Or generating a cinematic scene that has to convey a pre-determined amount of information, and be dramatic and compelling, and last no more than 90 seconds. I adapted to all of that, too, and it was almost entirely because of how I got started.

Learning to write by scripting comics is kind of like learning to drive in a two-ton flatbed truck with a three-speed manual transmission. It’s not easy. It takes just the right approach to get that big, unwieldy beast to do what you want. Once you learn, of course, it becomes second nature…

…but then you finally get the chance to drive something else. Say, a Ford F-150 automatic. Suddenly you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh my God. It’s so much less complicated! I can just get in and go!”

That was kind of what it felt like to me when I first started writing prose. I can make the chapters as long as I want to? The page count is only a suggestion, and if I come in seven or eight thousand words above or below it, it’s okay? It was liberating. Revelatory.

But there were still parameters in place. I was mainly doing Young Adult prose (my Alex Unlimited trilogy), or prose that couldn’t be objectionable in any way to a mainstream audience (novelizations of movies like Iron Man and Transformers 2). I never really got the chance to cut loose.

Until Gray Widow.

For the first time in my career, the Gray Widow Trilogy is allowing me to cast off every limitation and go for broke. No ideas off-limits. No restrictions based on age range or vocabulary level. No censorship on violence or sexuality or horror.

The Gray Widow story centers on Janey Sinclair, a young woman in modern-day Atlanta who discovers that she and a few other people have for years been unwittingly involved in an extraterrestrial plot that classifies humans as something like raw material. Janey’s life has been scarred by tragedy, and when she mysteriously gains the ability to teleport from one patch of darkness to another, she decides to use that ability to try to overcome the pain and anguish that has threatened to overwhelm her. Digging into Janey’s mind and personality, bringing her to life, watching her take control of her destiny—at the same time exploring every implication of the extraterrestrials’ actions for Janey, the people around her, and the world at large—well.

Now it feels as if I’m driving a Lamborghini.

I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Wow, you make that Lamborghini sound fun! Thank you Dan, and I'm really looking forward to reading the Gray Widow books.


About the author: Dan Jolley started writing professionally at age nineteen. Beginning in comic books, he soon branched out into original novels, licensed-property novels, children’s books, and video games. His twenty-six-year career includes the YA sci-fi/espionage trilogy Alex Unlimited; the award-winning comic book mini-series Obergeist; the Eisner Award-nominated comic book mini-series JSA: The Liberty Files; and the Transformers video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Dan was co-writer of the world-wide-bestselling zombie/parkour game Dying Light, and is the author of the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy novel series Five Elements. Dan lives somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert cats.
Where to find him:
Twitter: @_DanJolley
Grey Widow's Web_Final_1200X800About Gray Widow's Web: JANEY SINCLAIR never knew how or why she gained her ability to teleport. She never wanted it, and for years tried her best to ignore it. But when horrible violence shattered her world, she vowed to use her mysterious talent to protect the citizens of Atlanta, in an effort to prevent anyone else from suffering the kind of agony she had. Wearing a suit of stolen military body armor, Janey became known to the public as the GRAY WIDOW.

But now the extraterrestrial source of her “Augmentation” is about to reveal itself, in an event that will profoundly impact Janey’s life and the lives of those closest to her—

TIM KAPOOR, who barely survived the assault of twisted, bloodthirsty shapeshifter Simon Grove and still struggles to pull himself together, both physically and mentally.

NATHAN PITTMAN, the teenager who got shot trying to imitate Janey’s vigilante tactics, and has since become obsessed with the Gray Widow.

SHA’DAE WILKERSON, Janey’s neighbor and newfound best friend, whose instant chemistry with Janey may have roots that neither of them fully understand.

And Janey’s going to need all the help she can get, because one of the other Augments has her sights set on the Gray Widow. The terrifying abomination known as APHRODITE LUPO is more powerful and lethal than anyone or anything Janey has ever faced. And Aphrodite is determined to recruit Janey to her twisted cause…or take her off the field for good.

Unrelenting ghosts of the past clash with the vicious threats of the future. Janey’s destiny bursts from the shadows into the light in GRAY WIDOW’S WEB, leaving the course of humanity itself forever changed.

Where to find it:

Kindle Version

Print Version

Barnes and Noble Link for Gray Widow's Web:


Find out more; follow the tour!

7/19/17 Jordan Hirsch Review
7/19/17 I Smell Sheep Top Ten's List
7/20/17 SpecMusicMuse Author's Interview
7/21/17 Sapphyria's Book Reviews Top Ten's List
7/22/17 Review
7/22/17 The Seventh Star Blog Author's Interview
7/22/17 StoreyBook Reviews Guest Post
7/23/17 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Guest Post
7/24/17 Infamous Scribbler Author's Interview
7/25/17 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
7/26/17 Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Mystery and More! Author Interview
7/26/17 Jeni's Bookshelf, Reviews, Swag, and More! Review

Monday, July 17, 2017

Would You Have Been Colorblind?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Leah Harper Bowron, author of the novel Colorblind, to my blog - a novel of the recent past with a powerful message for present-day middle-grade students.

Colorblind is set in 1968. In Montgomery, Alabama.,Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Bobby Kennedy have been assassinated. War is raging in Vietnam, and on the playground of the all-white Wyatt Elementary School. Schoolyard bullies tease sixth grader Lisa Parker because of the way her nose looks. Lisa frequently develops a stomachache and checsk out of school to escape the bullies, until sixth grade teacher Miss Annie Loomis came to Wyatt. Miss Loomis just happens to be the first African American at Wyatt, and Lisa loves her English class. Now, when the bullies tease Lisa, she stays in school so that she can be in Miss Loomis’ class. Then something terrible happens that will change Lisa and Miss Loomis forever. Racism rears its ugly head at Wyatt, and now Lisa is not the only victim of the bullies’ teasing. Will Miss Loomis endure the bullies’ racist taunts?

Find Colorblind on Amazon at

Now meet the author:

 Colorblind is based off your sixth grade experience when your school became integrated. How much of this novel depicts your actual experience? 

This novel depicts half of my actual experience and half of fictionalization for dramatic effect.  For example, there was an actual spelling bee at my school, but Miss Loomis’ reaction thereto was exaggerated for dramatic effect.

 You were inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. How did this novel influence your writing?  

This novel inspired me to write about racism from the point of view of a Caucasian Southern girl.

 How much research, if any, did you dedicate to the novel?

I researched the dates of Dr. King and Sen. Kennedy’s assassinations as well as the date of the Apollo moon launch.

How would you describe the characters Ms. Loomis and Lisa Parker apart from their physical appearances? 

Miss Loomis and Lisa Parker were both scared individuals who were bullied by two boys at school.  Lisa was also browbeat by her mother while Miss Loomis was browbeat by Rev. Reed.  Both characters had yet to realize their inner strengths.  Lisa would grow to recognize her inner strength while Miss Loomis would fall prey to the bullying and quit teaching at Lisa’s school.

What role do you think skin color and birth defects play in society today? 

Skin color and birth defects both define our individuality and discriminate based upon these genetic differences.  Are they as relevant as they were back in 1968?  Yes.  Unfortunately, people still discriminate against others based upon skin color and birth defects.  I prefer the phrase “physically challenged” to that of “birth defects.”  The latter phrase implies that the person is somehow less than a complete human being. 

How did you develop the characterization for the bullies? 

I used the physical descriptions of my actual schoolyard bullies for the two bullies in Colorblind.

How did you develop the resolution for the novel? 

I took what actually happened after my spelling bee—my African American teacher quit teaching school—and changed it by having her teach HeadStart children to demonstrate her resilience in the face of discrimination.  Yet her resilience is short-lived because she dies at the end of the book, an aspect of the book which I fictionalized for dramatic effect.

 What was the most rewarding moment you experienced in writing Colorblind

My most rewarding moment was re-living my bicycle ride with my brother to Katie’s candy store—this happy event actually happened many times during my childhood.

 What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Colorblind

My biggest challenge was being a Caucasian Southern woman writing about an African American Southern woman.  I developed a “second skin” which enabled me to write as Miss Loomis, Lisa’s African American sixth grade teacher.

 What do you hope readers will gain from Colorblind

I hope that my readers will gain insight into the evils of discrimination based upon skin color or physical challenge.  I hope my readers will also realize that discrimination is an ongoing problem which requires vigilance not only in 1968 but also today.

 What did you gain from writing Colorblind

I gained cathartic healing from writing Colorblind as I relived my childhood bullying.

Do you have anything else in the works? 

Yes, I am writing a nonfiction book on a code which permeates the writings of James Joyce.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog Leah. Colorblind sounds like a seriously good read with a seriously good message. Highly recommended

Saturday, July 15, 2017

One day I'll sort out all my websites

One day I'll sort out all my websites, blogs, links, connections and other wondrously ethereal e-things. Meanwhile, in an effort to answer a friend and at least sort out what I've got, here's my quick and easy guide to getting started with a blog.

Note to self - "a blog," not a gazillion blogs!

Note to anyone reading this - HELP! Any advice you can offer would be most welcome! - (Was it blogspot before it was blogger, or was it the other way around...? Anyway, this is where I started long years ago...)

Blogger let me create blogs free - so I foolishly made five of them:
I used one of blogspot's gadgets to create text with links and added lines across the top of each blog with links between them - so the webpage linked to the blog, etc. Then I had my first ever book released and just "had" to have a special blog/free website for that. Hence

Blogger's become more sophisticated now of course. It lets you create pages (much better than multiple blogs), and even set up a "landing page" that functions like a website. A neat pages "gadget" creates a bar of links across the top or down the side, and life is wonderful... unless, like me, you're already attached to the separate blogs you made earlier.

  • blogger has various templates (themes); you just choose one you like
  • then add and remove things on the layout page
  • including clever gadgets
  • some of which might be pictures of your books with links to your books on Amazon (for example) down one side of the page, as long as you choose an appropriate template.
  • you can move them around (drag and drop) on the "layout" then look at the "preview" page until you like it, then "save"
  • once you include a navigation bar and you can soon make it look like a pretty sophisticated website

  • Blogger's fairly clunky, moderately intuitive, and pretty easy to use with lots of good instructions to help you out. - offers pretty much the same sort of thing (a free blog) but it's not connected to google

    • It gives a more sophisticated appearance (perhaps - depends how well you choose)
    • with more sophisticated gadgets
    • but it's slightly less friendly if you don't know what you're doing.
    Wordpress also has a version that gives you real websites, but then you need to pay for website hosting. Our writers' group uses Wordpress software and hosts the site on ipage: Once I started running part of our website, Wordpress automatically gave me a blog, so I run that at is great for a free fun visual site - another author introduced me to it, so I set up a book page there quite a while ago - another place I need to keep up to date!

    Weebly's really easy and fun to experiment with, but the instructions tend to be cryptic unless you're accustomed to playing with icons. They'll keep trying to sell you stuff as well, in particular stuff to help you sell your stuff, but I haven't paid them anything yet. - is used by one of my publishers Again, it creates a very nice visual site. lets you create a free blog.

    And is a good resource to find out about other free (and cheap) options.

    But all of these leave you with strange-looking web addresses. If you want a "sensible" link to your website you'll have to pay someone for the privilege of "registering" your domain name. I pay for my  names - it's where I started and I'm comfortable staying there. though I'll have to learn how to set up a domain name that looks right when you go to the page, and lets you link to subpages and posts. I'm working on it. (That publisher, above, seems to have got it all worked out--can you spot the difference between their web addresses and mine when you go to their pages?) compares different options for domain registration.

    At the start, I registered too many names - all offered cheap to new customers. Cheap gets more expensive when you come to renewals, so I let most of them drop. I just kept three, below:

    And that's my infinitely tortuous blogging world--all sorted out and singularly messy, but it works.

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    How Much Do You Have To Learn, and how do we learn?

    Imagine a world full of colors and things and words and the strangeness of how it fits together. Imagine the page with its two-dimensional picture pulling you in. Imagine shapes on the page. They're called words. They have sounds attached, just like the shapes in the pictures... the shapes in the world. And slowly it all comes together.

    Author Efrat Shoham imagines that world of the 0-3 year old perfectly, and offers those simple sets of words that inspire imagination and learning in the My First ... books. My First Blue Book is drawn around a very cool cat--a soothing blueness offering the perfect bed-time read. 15 printed words are presented with illustrations designed to invite story-building and fun. Then there's My First Yellow Book, bright as the morning sun and drawn around sunshine and rain. Again, just 15 words. My First Red book presents the curious adventures of the color red as a family enjoy a day at the beach. All three are delightfully illustrated by different artists. All three have the attraction of simple printed words and inspiration. They're highly recommended, as is the light crisp one-star coffee to drink as you read.

    Piaras O Cionnaoith offers another series of cool picture books for beginning readers. Learning My Letters shows how to construct and draw each shape, inviting manual dexterity and mental imagination through fun combinations of letter-themed illustrations. Learning My Drawing builds simple shapes into images as complex and delightful as puppies, turtles, frogs and pterodactyls. Then Learning My ABCs offers a cool and different animal alphabet. And Learning My Words offers great images to go with each letter. Sometimes I wish the fonts had been more consistently chosen in these books, but the ideas are truly fun and inviting. A cool collection to enjoy with another light crisp one-star coffee.

    And so they learn, through solid objects, then pictures, then symbols, words, sounds, lists of facts... But do we ever stop learning? How much do you still have to learn? And how will you learn?

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    What world would you choose?

    If you could choose your perfect world, what would it look like? The characters in Endurance of the Free by James Litherland, third in his Miraibanashi trilogy, are out to change their technologically superior world into something more human, but they'll have to ponder the implications of every change they make. Meanwhile they're striving to hide, fight or flee in an intriguingly futuristic Japanese world of overlords and underlings. There's lots of food for thought--what world would you choose? Drink some bold dark intense five-star coffee while you think.

    The Japanese world of Miraibanashi stands in contrast to the starkly real and vividly different world of Then She Was Born by Cristiano Gentili. Both worlds might seem strange to modern American readers, but Then She Was Born is set in a very real present-day Tanzania, highlighting the plight of albino Africans and misfits everywhere. It's a terrifying, haunting tale--a difficult read at times, but powerful and evocative of the way we all should choose to change our world. Enjoy with some more bold dark intense five-star coffee.

    The Maze by Tony Bertauski presents a similarly intriguing view into a future world, this one dominated by computer gaming pseudo-reality. Real-world genius and loss combine with cyber-world adventure, creating something deeply compelling and surprising. Drink some more bold dark intense five-star coffee as the protagonists seeks a way out.

    Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann takes readers to the 1960s to solve a mystery in the present day, as a young woman sees all the patterns of her life fall apart. It's smoothly evocative, scarily real, and surprisingly relevant to the present. Enjoy with, yes, more dark five-star coffee, and find the world of the recent past not so different from today.

    But perhaps you'd rather choose a different part of the present world. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith invites readers to share a few weeks in Italy--evocative, filled with wondrous wines, delicious food and glorious scenery, and viewed from the front seat of a ... bulldozer ... this novel invites, welcomes and rewards the willing suspension of disbelief and is thoroughly enjoyable. Drink some fine wine as you read, or a fine cup of smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee.

    Blending present and distant past, The Last Oracle by James Rollins is an exciting action adventure novel, filled with political and historical intrigue, clever mystery, and genuine heart. It's part of a series, but it stands alone as a deeper Da Vinci Code with more terror and heart. Drink some dark five-star coffee again!

    Finally Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood offers a tale set firmly in the real world, oddly influenced by a possible fantasy world, wholly devoted to the presentation of a Shakespearean world as revealed in the Tempest. It works, on every imaginable level, keeping the reader guessing, leading, misleading, and building to a wonderful climax. Enjoy with some elegantly complex four-star coffee. I loved it!

    So, what world would you choose?

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017

    Got to love, murder & mayhem, surely?

    Today I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful authors and editor of Love Murder & Mayhem to spread some... love on my blog. (Please, no murder or mayhem - they should only exist in books!) So enjoy!

    About the Book

    Love science fiction stories that all include elements of  Love, Murder & Mayhem

    Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy 8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one DuckBob!
    With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ Colchamiro.
    You’ll never look at Love, Murder & Mayhem the same way again—and that’s just the way we like it--just the way it should be. Find Love, Murder & Mayhem here on:  Goodreads or Amazon

    About the Editor

    Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

    Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.

    As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.

    Find Russ here on his: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram pages

    What to Expect from Love, Murder & Mayhem

    All stories -- in various settings -- include at least one element of love or romance, at least one murder, and with lots of mayhem.

    Stories in the Anthology include:
    •    Superheroes
    •    Super villains
    •    Artificial intelligence
    •    Off world
    •    Space cruisers
    •    Private eyes
    •    Sleep surrogates
    •    Time Travel
    •    Monster mash
    All stories are stand-alone, so there is no shared universe.

    What more could you want?

    Go spread some love!

    Linky Code for Blogger:

    Wednesday, June 28, 2017

    Are you successful? Are you balanced?

    Today I'm delighted to welcome Apryl Zarate Schleuter, author of Finding Success In Balance to my blog.

    Finding Success in Balance: My Journey to The Cheerful Mind follows the quest of the career-driven individual trying to find a healthy balance between work and everything else outside of it (family, health, relationships, fun, etc.). Interweaving personal stories of the lessons she learned on her own journey, Schleuter shares strategies to help readers identify what work-life balance truly means including:

    ·      Find time for the things you love without sacrifice
    ·      Accomplish goals that are aligned with your priorities
    ·      Love your career and grow strong, healthy relationships
    ·      Manage stress and avoid burnout

    It¹s time to stop letting society dictate what ³success² means and start living the awesome life you have always wanted. Your journey starts here.

    Click here to find my review of Finding Success In Balance
    and read on to learn what inspired Apryl to share these stories with her readers. Over to you Apryl, and thank you for visiting my blog.

    The Motivation Behind writing “Finding Success in Balance”

    by April Zarate Schleuter 

    On a sunny August day in 2015 (the 6th to be exact!), I publicly proclaimed (via social media) my intention to write a book. “And this, my friends, was the moment (or the moment shortly after) I made the decision to COMMIT to writing a book. Wanna guess what my title *might* be?” I was on my way to a flying trapeze class, and on the drive, I listened to a podcast where someone was explaining how one could write an entire book in a weekend, and while I was skeptical, I thought to myself, “Well, if people are writing books over a span of days, there’s no way I can’t become an author!” Of course, I had fear around taking this leap, especially since my academic background had nothing to do with writing, but the idea of jumping into a big goal like this fed my inner adrenaline junkie, so I went for it!

    It was a period of my life where I was transitioning into entrepreneurship after many years of being employed. I was one month into my coach training, and I had already experienced massive personal growth, and wanted to share the many lessons I had learned. However, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to share those lessons. Looking ahead at creating my business plan, I knew that I would need to eventually choose a strategy to market who I am and what I do in my business, but I had no clue what that perfect strategy was.

    One of the big takeaways I had from my coach certification training was the fact that I was an “outward processor.” This trait of mine was one which I historically had a great amount of shame around; people used to make fun of me because it would take me a significant amount of time to answer questions. I always wanted to provide a thorough explanation on how I arrived at my answers. Once I was able to embrace this tendency, I realized that writing a book would be the perfect method to explain who I am, why the search for work-life balance was so important to me, and how I could help others find balance for themselves.

    In writing Finding Success in Balance, I was able to gain clarity on the many lessons I’ve learned to improve my overall quality of life, and I now have a tangible item that I can reference whenever I need a reminder on how to move forward. The book writing journey was a fun ride, I feel a sense of great accomplishment, and have more confidence than ever!

    Thank you Apryl. I'm not sure I could even imagine writing a book in a weekend--a story perhaps; a book review... but your story does inspire me to try writing one over many weekends about a topic dear to my heart. It's so different from writing fiction though. Like you, I'm committing to something others do all the time, which I have never tried to do.

    And just maybe it will be good for me too--I rather suspect I'm an "outward processor" too.

    Apryl Schlueter is the Chief Energy! Officer of The Cheerful Mind, Inc., a happiness and productivity expert who helps people have more fun while getting stuff done! She is a Certified Professional Coach, speaker, and author of "Finding Success in Balance: My Journey to The Cheerful Mind." Like this article? Find more at

    Find the book on Amazon at

    Thursday, June 8, 2017

    Do you prefer books with one protagonist or many?

    Some novels are told from a single point of view. Others invite you into lots of different minds and ways of seeing. Some offer a single main protagonist, but open your eyes to things they've failed to see. And still others let the reader float free over a sea of strangers. So... do you prefer books with one protagonist or with many? Or does it depend on the story, or the author, the writing style, the promise fulfilled by story's end?

    For myself, I've experimented with multiple points of view (in Divide by Zero), single point of view (Infinite Sum), and a single protagonist who doesn't quite see it all (in Subtraction, coming August 1st from Indigo Sea Press). I read and enjoy books written in many different styles, and I can honestly say I enjoyed all the novels included in today's reviews.

    So, choose your novel and choose your brew. Please remember the ratings are for the coffee, not for the book (which by no means suggests the coffee's more important--perhaps it's a close thing--rather that I don't feel qualified to rate books. I'd rather just read and write them).

    Starting with a classic, Moo by Jane Smiley, is one that many of my friends have read and recommended. Since I hadn't yet read anything by Jane Smiley, a friend loaned me Moo. It's a comfortably slow read, set in chapters with cool headings and easy endings, so perfect for bedtime. It has a wealth of protagonists, including a pig. The satire is sharp and the humor is starkly real. Characters are colorful and intriguing, and the location evocative. Enjoy this story's rich elegance with a richly elegant four-star coffee.

    Brian Doyle's Mink River is another multi-character tale, set on the Oregon Coast. If rivers could speak, they would surely tell this tale, and so one of the protagonists travels to record the water's voice. Another seeks peace in the water. Another falls. A bird speaks its own intriguing thoughts. And the whole is beautifully woven into a truly absorbing song of Mink River's hopes. Enjoy another rich elegant four-star coffee with this one.

    Rare Birds by Kathleen Novak also tells its tale through lots of different pairs of eyes, and is another thoroughly absorbing book. Like Mink River, it flows through a summer rather than driving the reader from a to b. It's set in 1960, in a world about to change, around characters whose world is set, yet disturbingly fragile. And it's beautifully, vividly real. Another four-star elegant coffee would suit.

    Mrs. Thistlethwaite and the Magpie by J. B. Hawker includes a fine cast of fascinating characters too. The tale's told mostly through the eyes of 85-year-old Tillie, but friends and strangers also take the stage, and Tillie will need the help of many by the story's end. A girl has gone missing. A predator is killing women. And an anonymous stranger is leaving gifts on doorsteps. But what's the connection, and how will an 85-year-old with a motto for everything, great health, and a wonderful sense of humor solve it all? Enjoy this cozy mystery with some well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

    The Landlocked Lighthouse by Mixi J Applebottom is a mystery/horror tale, mostly told through a single first-person point of view, with short passages from another viewpoint. It's sometimes annoying to be pulled out of first-person narration, but here it works, adding tension and hinting at depth. It's a scary Hitchcockian tale that keeps readers and characters guessing. Drink some dark five-star coffee while you try to puzzle out its dark mystery.

    And finally, saving one I knew I would love till last, The Devil's Triangle by Howard Owen will soon be the latest novel in the Willie Black Mystery Series. The novels stand alone perfectly, are all narrated in first person (one protagonist...always just the one) by hard drinking, hard-driven reporter, Willy Black, But the character and his world develop convincingly as the stories continue. Black is older. He's a grandfather struggling to hold onto his job in the face of Twitter and cutbacks. And ex-wife number three might need his comfort as a terrorist's plane hits the bar where here husband was dining. Risking life and relationships, true to all he holds dear, Willie Black will surely win through, but readers will find it hard to put the book down till the end. Enjoy with some more dark five-star coffee. It's great.

    So what did I like best - I like them all. One protagonist with a clear strong voice. Many protagonists, each with their individual voices and points of view... I guess it really is the writing, the story and the people that count.

    Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    What Makes a Hero?

    Superheroes have super-powers. Magical heroes have mystical skills. Human heroes stand tall in the face of impossible odds. Canine and feline heroes tackle mysteries and monsters. Life coaching heroes coach great lives. Famous authors pen novels that change lives. And readers read.

    I'm not sure what would constitute a heroic reader, but I'm wondering, after reading books with titles like "Heroes of the Earth," "Bloodline," and "Magician's Workshop," just what makes a hero.

    Masters of magic in the Magician's Workshop create gloriously entertaining productions... like a mystical Disney perhaps--there's surely more, and many heroes in the coming-of-age celebrations that haunt young lives). I can't wait to read more...

    Then the cat in "Bloodline" proves to be a hero out to save the girl. When Heroes of the Earth introduces a great cat too, I have to ask, are cats just natural heroes? But I'm not a cat. And I want to be a hero too.

    I've no desire to leap tall buildings, though I dreamed of leaping them when I was small. I dreamed, and decided a long boring life would give me time to live lots of exciting lives through stories and books. And I do. I read a lot (to wit, these reviews). But I also want to write so readers will believe tall buildings and walls are no obstacle, cats and monsters no threat, and real life is well worth living. I want to pen novels that change real lives for the better. Sadly, I suspect, to be a hero, I'd have to have them published and read as well, a task I feel I have no control over. Ah well.

    Are you a hero?
    What makes a hero for you?

    And what kind of coffee will you brew when you read these reviews?

    Starting with Heroes of Earth by Martin Berman-Gorvine, a cool novel for middle grade and up, with alternate histories, a mystical cat, and plenty of thought-provoking real-world facts. It's good old-fashioned science fiction in the very best sense of the word--fiction that makes the reader think, fantasy that brings the real world into focus, and science that's believable if slightly beyond the scope of modern knowledge. Add history, bullying, racial profiling and more--it's food for thought and entertainment at its best. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

    The Magician’s Workshop Volume 1 by Christopher Hansen and JR. Fehr, closely followed by Volume 2, breaks the mold of teen dystopian coming-of-age novels, combining the breadth and world-building of Harry Potter with the trials of Divergent. I can't wait to read more of these teens as they learn their powers, break their rules, and maybe end the power structure born of color. Enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

    Bloodline: A Witch Cat Mystery Book One by Vicki Vass is aimed at older readers and builds an intricate world on top of our own, blending Appalachian herbs, Eastern crystals, ancient goddesses and more into a new mythology of witches, covens and familiars. The protagonist has a uniquely intriguing point of view, and the blend of Salem's past with almost cozy modern mystery is clever and cool. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

    Then there are human heroes. Jimmy Perez in Ann Cleeves' Blue Lightning, last of the Shetland Quartet, is surely a hero in his beloved's eyes, and in the eyes of those relying on him to find a murderer. His father might once have been a hero in his eyes too. But human heroes fail as this conclusion to the quartet proves so powerfully. Dark, haunting mystery and location, characters and relationships, and more, it's a book to enjoy with another dark five-star coffee.

    Deadly Legacy by Daniella Bernett takes the reader to London's coolly civilized streets rather than Scotland's wilds, and offers a mysterious hero courting his heroine through a web of intrigue. It reminds me of a much-loved TV series of my youth--The Saint. An apt reminder on the death of Roger Moore I guess. Enjoy this smooth scary mystery with some well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

    Thinking of TV series, The State of Wyoming Episode 1 by Gillian Will is the first episode of an episodic novel that  succeeds in having a storyline per half-hour read. I'm not sure the hero is terribly heroic, but the situations have cool political satire--the Office crossed with West Wing perhaps. Enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

    Finally, Good Enough by Pamela Gossiaux offers a flawed heroine who learns to believe and to teach that we really are good enough, warts, mistakes and all. It's a pleasantly uplifting book, filled with coincidences that are easily excused. Romantic comedy and life lessons all in one! Enjoy with some more easy-drinking two-star coffee.

    I think my favorite heroes from these are the magic-weavers of the Magician's Workshop. And my dream is still to be a heroic writer, making heroes of my own. What about you?

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

    Will I Ever Release "Faith And..."? Will I ever finish writing it?

    I'm working on a non-fiction book--"Faith And..." where I look at how God's relationship to mankind is so much than "faith alone" or "scripture alone." I've been working on it for years, off and on, and just maybe this will the year I let it out the door. Or not. It depends on time and timing--time to write, and the right time to release. Who knows, I may even brave the agent's path--I do so long to have an agent. So I follow authors, read their roads, and dream their victories. Meanwhile I read.

    Recently I've enjoyed some intriguing non-fiction books---some that puzzled, some confused, and some even annoyed; but yes, they all intrigued me. I apologize to anyone still awaiting reviews from me, and I promise I'll catch up, some day... (Maybe I'll even have a desk of my own in a space of my own to catch up in, when we finally restore our basement.) But for now, here are reviews of books about success, writing, faith in self and in spirituality, and even getting the kid to bed! Enjoy.

    But first, put the water on to brew some coffee.

    I'm usually annoyed by Bible Code type books--as far as I'm concerned God guided people to write His words in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, not in code. But The Chamberlain Key by Timothy P Smith claims to disagree with the Bible Code, so I thought I'd give it a try. It turned out not to disagree as strongly as I'd have liked, and it reads like a cross between memoir and a spiritual journal, liberally spiced with persuasive argument, unpersuasive math, and many dreams and visions. For myself, I ended up believing that the author believed his tale, but unconvinced by any of his conclusions. Still, if you like the Bible Code I'm pretty sure you'll love this book too. Enjoy with some seriously intense five-star coffee.

    Spirit of the Earth, edited by Michael Oren Fitzgerald and Joseph A Fitzgerald, offers a gorgeous blend of full-color photography and Indian Voices on Nature. With text and images beautifully paired, showing wilderness, nature, animals and birds, and classical Indian poses, the book reads like a cross between and song and a prayer, which, perhaps, is exactly how it is meant to be read. "We who are clay, blended by the Master Potter," should all find inspiration in the world's beauty and the peoples' wisdom, whatever our religious persuasion. Enjoy this one with some elegant, richly brewed four-star coffee and keep it on your coffee table.

    With even more pictures and fewer words, Uvi Poznansky's The Last Concubine continues her David Chronicles Inspired By Art series - an accompaniment to a wonderful collection of novels that portray the life of King David. The story has inspired art through the centuries, and the art in this collection, as in the others, is both intriguing and inspiring--a really enjoyable visual treat. Pour some elegant four-star coffee and browse some familiar and unfamiliar artists inspired by David.

    Goodnight, Jeremy by Stacy White is a more traditional picture book, designed to be read with small children. Technically it's fiction rather than non-fiction, but it feels like real life and it fits in this collection with its very realistic depiction of a small child struggling to fall asleep--and of that minor guilt evoked by failing to do as his mother has asked. It's a sweet tale redolent with everyday life and illustrated in pleasing pastel shades. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

    Filled with a very different sort of pictures is Puzzle Box Volume 1 by Peter and Serhiy Grabarchuk - a perfect coffee table collection of brightly colored, inviting puzzles of all types and levels, beautifully collected for family fun. A social treasure to be enjoyed with some lively two-star coffee and good company.

    The Six Month Novel Writing Plan by Caitlin Jans is more about words than pictures, and offers nice advice on how to start, keep going, and stick to a timetable. Novels go through multiple drafts, but completed novels don't go through infinite numbers of revisions - and they do go from start to finish. With advice on plotting, workshopping, critiquing, character and more... it's well organized, easy to navigate, and good on those so-easily-forgotten details, like who should narrate the novel or the scene. Read, drink easy-drinking two-star coffee, and write!

    Then, if success seems slow to come, (ah doesn't it so), read Finding Success In Balance, my journey to the cheerful mind by Apryl Zarate Schlueter. It's a memoir (so I'm bookending this collection of reviews on the same page). But it's also a self-help manual, inviting readers to examine their lack of success or cheerfulness and be ready to "start anew." You might want a more serious coffee with this one, but don't go too dark. Enjoy a well-balanced three-star cup with a book that balances advice and memoir quite pleasingly.

    Saturday, May 6, 2017

    Which is harder, self-publishing or cheering up a child who has a broken leg?

    Today I'm delighted to welcome author Judith Wolf Mandell to my blog. She's had a long career as a journalist/publicist, and the childrens book,  Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It  represents her first venture into picture books.

    With her husband and Cockapoo,  Judith Wolf Mandell moved from San Diego eleven years ago to be near family in Nashville--read the book and you'll see how important family is to her. They live in an absurd-for-their-age three-level house in the woods and have a critter control service on speed-dial. This is  Judith Wolf Mandell's first book and I, for one, really enjoyed. Click here for my review of Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It

    So, find some coffee and maybe a gluten free brownie (yes, I've been baking!) then sit down and learn enjoy the tale of Judith's road to publication. Thank you for joining us, Judith. And over to you:

    by Judith Wolf Mandell, author
    Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It

    Nine years to create a thousand-word, 32-page book? No way! Yet that's how long it took.

    I was inspired to write the book when my granddaughter had an "oh, no!" fall that fractured her thigh
    bone and landed her in a chest-to-ankle (spica) cast for a mostly miserable month. Searching in vain for a book to buoy her spirits, I vowed to someday write a book to cheer glum, grumpy kids in clunky casts. My granddaughter was two when her world turned topsy-turvy; she's eleven now. Ergo, nine years.

    The first draft practically wrote itself. My granddaughter's experience was memory-fresh. The whimsical element of the story -- a troupe of kisses who secretly whoosh into the child's life to cheer for her and inspire patience -- came to me as an "aha." If one kiss heals a boo-boo, then a broken leg needs a bazillion kisses.

    I've always loved a line from Cyrano de Bergerac: "A kiss is the rosy dot over the 'i' of 'loving.'" The Kisses were from all the people who loved my protagonist and knew in their hearts she was hurting.

    What took so long? Life happens, so I was otherwise occupied for some chunks of time. For other chunks the manuscript sat on the shelf because I was stymied about next steps. My best friend had self-published a novel, so I knew about that possibility. But my book needed art. How would I find an artist? Can an illustrated book even go through the same process as a text-only book? Those questions boggled.

    Then I heard a sermon about "living your dream." I knew I was meant to go forward. First step was to send the manuscript to friends and family. Most loved it. A few disputed The Kisses as being unrealistic. Oh, c'mon! I banked on Santa, The Tooth Fairy, Peter Pan as beloved improbabilities.  

    Next: send the manuscript to professionals for medical clearance. Mission accomplished, with a bonus of endorsements I used on the book's eventual back cover.

    While I was taking these steps to make my book a reality, the self-publishing (now known as "independent publishing") world was growing up, becoming a popular route for would-be authors.  At a Community College course on self-publishing, I learned about CreateSpace, Amazon's self-publishing arm, a low- or no-cost platform: download its template, input your book, upload said book, have a cover designed or DIY, push the "publish" button and voila, you have a POD (print-on-demand) paperback book. Nifty.

    Except that pesky issue of illustrations. By now I had given my book a title: Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh, No!) and the Amazing Cast That Fixed It. I had a vision for its art: bright, whimsical, insightful. The Internet brought portfolio samples from around the world. None clicked. In my heart of hearts I wanted someone local for what I envisioned as a collaborative effort. Networking rules: through a mutual friend, I found my illustrator, Lise C. Brown, close by. Her quirky style, experience with juvenile art and knowledge of graphic design made her a perfect fit.

    While the art was underway, I was on a mission to find a way to produce a hardback version. Envisioning my book in libraries, schools, children's hospitals, doctors' offices, I intuited the need for a durable hardback. A hardback would also be more likely to be stocked by bookstores; time will tell if I'm correct. My search came to an end with my discovery of IngramSpark, producer of deluxe POD hardback and paperback books.

    Then Google found me a local graphic designer who specializes in book formatting and is certified to work with IngramSpark's exacting specifications, as well as CreateSpace. Bonus: she had the savvy to make the book available for Kindle and iBook readers. An eBook version is attractive to my target demographic: youngish parents.

    My book was technically finished December 7, 2016...but once again, sat on the shelf. I was stubborn about having a Sammy website before publication. Networking rules again: I found my talented, affable web designer locally. Please visit to appreciate how worthwhile the wait was until we at last "test drove" the website.

    On this March 15, I hit the "publish" button at CreateSpace and IngramSpark, making my book -- nine years later -- a reality. Recall that I set out to help kids cope with the challenge of life in a cumbersome cast. Imagine my gratification to read this Amazon review:

                    "This book is perfect for our almost two-year-old who is one week into her spica cast     experience. We're already read it dozens of times!"

    Wow, what a perfect endorsement for your book! And thank you for sharing this journey. I run a local writers' group where the speaker will discuss publication choices at the next meeting. It will be good to attend armed with my new knowledge of yours, as I've never got up the nerve to go beyond the Amazon Createspace part. Thank you so much!

    Find Sammy's Broken Leg Oh No on Amazon here:
    and on Barnes and Noble here:

    and find the author on her website:

    Wednesday, April 26, 2017

    Is Beauty And The Beast Just For Kids?

    I haven't seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie yet. Somehow it seems odd to look for a live-action version of a Disneyesque version of a familiar fairytale. But I might see it one day.

    Meanwhile I was given a copy of "Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales about Animal Brides and Grooms from around the World" to read. I suddenly found that Disney's version wasn't so strange, and that there are far more versions of the familiar fantasy than I'd ever known. Myths and legends, from Greek, Native American and more... stories of wisdom and folly, warnings, and messages of love that sometimes conquers all... a fascinating collection... and not for kids!

    "Sammy's Broken Leg (Oh No!) and the Amazing Cast that fixed it" isn't strictly for children either. A fun picture book, it includes, very naturally, an image of the instructions for care of Sammy's cast, plus a very realistic look at how a small child will struggle when unable to play, and how adults can help. Kisses help too!

    "Talon: Flight for Life" is a relatively long children's novel filled with word pictures as small protagonist Matica walks through the rainforest with her father, and the beautiful condor meets her on the plain. It's a children's story, but one most likely to be read to the child at bedtime by adults, with wise messages for all.

    But what about a book that simply "is" a picture book? "ABC of Sensational Silly Animals" is filled with great pictures, delightfully silly animal combinations, and every imaginable reason for a small child to delight in teaching an adult. After all, what do you get when you cross an alligator with an ant?

    But is coffee for kids?

    I wasn't allowed coffee as a child, and I loathed warm milk. But find some coffee for yourself while you click on the links above and see which books you'd like to share:

    1. Some bold dark intense five-star coffee with Beauty and the Beast - these legends aren't for the faint-hearted.
    2. a mild, crisp one-star coffee for the light and sensible (and fun) Sammy's broken leg
    3. some lively easy-drinking coffee for Flight for Life, and
    4. a balanced full-flavored three-star coffee to learn those ABCs.