Saturday, April 30, 2011

Collecting relationships, and meeting Collectibles author James J. Kaufman

I'm delighted to welcome author James J. Kaufman to my blog today. I reviewed his book, The Collectibles, earlier this week--a fascinating read that switches from Adirondack mountain beauty to big-city law and mingles characters as real and different as the worlds they inhabit. 

And... I'm delighted to add that The Collectibles is Nautilus Silver Book Award winner !!! Congratulations !!!

An attorney, businessman and former judge, James J. Kaufman has published several works of non-fiction. Kaufman lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife, Patty. The Collectibles is his debut novel and he is currently working on writing his second novel.

I suspect that second novel will be well worth looking out for. Over to you Mr. Kaufman, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Readers often ask how I came up with the idea of “Collectibles” as people. For years I have watched people collect and proudly display all kinds of things (watches, clocks, figurines, furniture, cars, dolls, stamps, coins, whatever) and I am a collector myself (old bullet molds, wooden boxes). My idea, conceptually, for the use of “Collectibles” in terms of people, is not driven by collecting or possession. On the contrary, The Collectibles is a concept of relationships, an opportunity for one person to reach out to another person who is in difficulty, challenged in some way, and help that person. In the process, the helper comes to realize the intrinsic worth and value of the individual in need and receiving the help. Inherent in the concept proposed in The Collectibles is that the same level of intensity often employed towards the physical objects of our collection effort, should be devoted to building better relationships with and helping other people in need. There is tremendous value in making this outreach, both for the receiver and the giver. The receiver’s self worth and self esteem is enhanced and as their difficulties are unbundled and improved, they become happier and more appreciative of their lives and the people that have helped them. The friend who is lending the helping hand, in a sense the caregiver, is also a beneficiary in the process. More often than not the person extending the effort to help ultimately receives more in return. The Collectibles is not about collecting people, it’s about building relationships that help those who participate with the intent to help one another. It’s not about control or money, it’s about extension of the heart.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wish me Luck !

Please wish me luck. I'm going to our Spring Bazaar tomorrow, bearing books and bookmarks, home-made cards with pictures drawn with Microsoft's new Draw, and hoping, so much hoping, I might sell some. So... please wish me luck.

Meanwhile I'll tell the computer to post a really neat blog post tomorrow morning from author James J. Kaufman (before I go). If you're not visiting the Spring Bazaar buying all your delightfully collectible Mothers Day gifts, you might want to drop by here and learn about collectible relationships. James Kaufman's novel, The Collectibles, is a nicely plotted story with intriguing characters and enduring wisdom, and his views on how we connect with the people around us make for a really interesting post.

Click on the link for my review of James Kaufman's novel, The Collectibles.

And come back tomorrow to learn the reasoning behind it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

More reading, more coffee, more books

Two books that featured sailing, four mysteries, three adventures, one legal, one mostly illegal, two short stories... but only six books. It's kind of fun reading books that have something in common and this has been a fun week:

First is a complex elegant mystery, Black Swan by Chris Knopf. Fifth in his Sam Acquillo Hamptons series, it takes place on a New York island where Sam, Amanda, and Sam's wonderful dog are stranded waiting for repairs on the sailboat they're delivering for a friend. Investigation of mysterious death and possible computer crimes parallel Sam's internal investigation of his own past and future. Beautifully evocative and intriguing, with a host of complex characters and fascinating puzzles, it's well worth the 4star coffee I'd recommend drinking with it.

Next is another sailing mystery, this time set in the Caribbean. Caribbean Punch by W.F. Carli is a easy-reading, relaxed tale of high adventure on the high seas, with gorgeous twins, martial arts champion, mafia and FBI in an exciting mix, to be enjoyed with a 2-star coffee on the side.

The next mystery takes place in Boston, in dark streets filled with dark characters hauntingly portrayed. Dennis LeHane's Darkness take my Hand is an evocative, beautifully written journey into a heart of darkness in the inner city; not for the squeamish but perfect to read with that 5-star bold, dark, intense coffee.

And finally, in my list of mysteries read last week, is the Collectibles, by James J. Kaufman, a legal adventure with an interesting plot, curiously brewed; there's a touch of mystery added when the attorney who saves the day demands a strange repayment from his client, and the "losers" he's made friends with (and collected) just might be winners after all. A 3-star balanced smooth coffee will go well with this one.

The other two books I read this week were shorter: Eleven Bravo, by R.W. Holmen chronicles the beginning of a young man's experience in Veitnam. With pitch-perfect dialog and stunning descriptions and commentary, he brings a time not to long gone to life and clears the way for a series of literary vignettes to come--short, but bold, dark and intense, so read it with a 5-star coffee.

The Bad, the Good and Two Fly-fishing Women, by Randy Kadish, despite its long title is a delightful short book telling of a fateful day in the life of a young teen who's world just might be falling apart. "Rivers are like poems" says the narrators grandmother, and the poetic writing even inspires me to see the attraction of fly-fishing, for all that I know I'll never try it. A short, sharp, quick read, this one goes well with a 1-star mild crisp coffee.

Don't forget, click on the blue links for longer reviews on gather.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

One of my poems on a Poem for Easter page!

Kimberly Blackader has included one of my poems on her Poetry for Easter page.
I've put another Easter poem on my Drabble page.
And here's a poem I wrote earlier this week, to go with this picture of the cross from church--a cross that changes from gray and lifeless at the start of the service to a symbol of beauty and hope.

This day you will be with me, the Savior said
To the stranger at his side
Together they died.
In Paradise the angels sang for joy
And we wondered why.

I’m guilty said the thief, you’re innocent.
This day you will be with me
In Paradise.
The day I die I hope the angels sing
With joy for me.

The ones who had betrayed him fled and cried
The one to kill himself.
This day you will
Be forgiven the Savior said, the other survived
To Paradise.

So I who have betrayed him, I who live
While savior dies for me
I will survive
This day I will be with him in Paradise
The day I die.

So I who weep tonight, deserving ill
Am rescued still by him
Who died for me.
So I and all who see him can be saved
This day we will.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Interview with authors Roy C Booth and Brian R Woods

I reviewed Davi by Roy C Booth and Brian Woods on my blog yesterday (and on gather, where there’s a longer review, and today I’m posting an interview with the authors… Yes, I know; that’s branching out for me, actually interviewing someone I don’t know. But we had an author speaking at our writing group last weekend who mentioned he enjoyed working with his co-author, so I thought I just might have some questions to ask…

First, to introduce the authors…
Roy is a published author, comedian, poet, journalist, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter/doctor (w/. screenplays optioned). Internationally award winning playwright wtih 53 plays published (Samuel French, Heuer, et al) with 690+ productions worldwide in 27 countries. Latest books in print: THREE ZOMBIES AND A DEMON (Stygian Press) and NORTHERN LIGHTS: 20 MinnSpec Tales (Sam's Dot). Five more books set to be released in 2011. (see below for more info on appearances and projects)

Brian is a two-time published poet. He works as a database administrator full time and writes fantasy part time. Davi is his first piece co-written with Roy and he has ambitions of seeing one of his co-authored words make the big screen.

And now, the interview…
ME: How did you get from wannabe writer to where you are now? It’s the question I always ask.

Brian- I used to read fantasy books at work between taking care of clients. After I finished one I would discuss it with a co-worker of mine named Michael Tice. He kept listening to me say how I would have done things differently or ended differently or just any change I would make. After about a year and 70 books later, he asked me what does it take to be a writer. I answered that I didn't know. He challenged me then to set out to be a writer, and here I am now on my way.

Roy C. -- I've wanted to be a writer since I was six years old; sold my first pro short story when I was 14. That was in 1979 and I've been writing professionally ever since, albeit with the odd pseudonym or three early on.

ME: How did you end up working together?

Brian- It was a lot of luck on my part. I saw he was a very talented writer that liked working with inexperienced writers. At first it was hard because he doesn't sugar-coat his thoughts; but once I got used to his criticism, it became easier.

ME: So it was a good experience working with a co-author?

Brian- It was a lot of fun. I got to see a good story turn into a great novella. Roy weaves magic on paper when he write.

Roy C. -- Collaboration is my way of paying forward with my craft, plus I always learn something new myself on every project because everyone (hopefully) has their own unique approach.

ME: Did you always know where the book would start and end? Did you always know what sort of characters you would find in their world?

Brian- The end and beginning I always have in my mind before writing the first word. What comes between can change as the story progresses, but it rarely changes my end. The world was created before this story was created.

Roy C. -- Yes.

ME: Davi seems to be the first of the Tales of Suruale. Are you planning more books set in this world? Will you look into the lives of other creatures or stick with humans and dwarves?

Brian- We currently are planning to have fifteen or more books in this series ranging from short novellas to full length and possibly super long novels. Each book will single out a certain character and show how the world revolves around them. Humans and dwarves will be a main focus over the next book or two but then we are delving into the gargoyle and elves. There won't be a lot of focus on the "nocturnes" until later in the series. They are a vampiric type race that has been keeping to themselves for several years, but soon they will erupt into the world with full speed.

Roy C. -- Yes.

ME: I’m always curious about where the characters come from in stories. Is Davi modeled on a real person or is he purely imaginary?

Brian- Purely imaginary. He reminds me of someone I know with the way he does what is right in any situation and he loves his craft to the point that he creates perfection.

Roy C. -- Purely imaginary.

ME: I’m curious about themes too. Do you see parallels between your imaginary world and real-world situations? Do you think it helps when readers can see parallels?

Brian- There are a few similarities between some real world events and imaginary events we used in this story. I feel there has to be something to make the reader feel they know what the character is going through.

ME: Okay, some practical questions. How much writing do you do each day? Each week?

Brian- I'd say, depending on the week, I can go from three hours up to twenty hours.

Roy C. -- I write 2,000+ words a day, sometimes spread out over multiple projects, regardless.

ME: How hard or easy do you find it to tell people you're an author?

Brian- I find it easy to tell them, but it seems no one believes me until I pull a manuscript out and prove it.

Roy C. -- Easy or hard, believed or not, it's my profession.

ME: And finally, what have I forgotten to ask that you'd really like to answer?

Brian- Well I have heard a lot of people ask, when should we expect to see the next in Tales of Suruale. Answer, we are working hard to have it ready before the end of the year; maybe even in time for Christmas :)

Roy C. -- Yup.

Where to find author Roy C. Booth

Next Appearance: He'll be doing a one hour writing/book presentation followed by book signing and sales Thursday, June 16 at 2 PM at the Rail River Folk School, 303 Railroad St. SW as part of the 2011 Bemidji Book Festival.

Latest Big Project: He completed and turned in approved screenplay for ATLANTA NIGHTS: THE MOVIE!:


Roy's May 2010 appearance on KAWB/KAWE's COMMON GROUND:

Roy's January 2010 Interview on Horror World:

Roy can also be found on MySpace and Facebook.

And don’t forget, you can find Davi for Kindle on Amazon by clicking on the link.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reading, reading and more reading.

We had a challenge at our writers' group to write two-line book reviews. It was kind of fun. So maybe I'll try to restrict my blogger reviews to around two lines, but you can still click on the blue links to find the full-length reviews on gather.

We've got a new challenge to write two-line descriptions of what we're writing. Now that should be fun...

Anyway, here's what I've been reading this last week:

Before you Launch, by Ruchira Agrawal: A useful little book for learning about yourself and your passions, and discovering whether you've got what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Tales of Suruale: Davi, by Roy C. Booth and Brian R. Woods is a neat short fantasy with nicely drawn human and dwarvish characters in a world where prejudice and betrayal are as common as today, and love just as strong.

Terrorist Queen, by Gary Sutton: I reviewed Oskaloosa Moon for the author a little while ago (a wonderful book), and he kindly sent me a copy of Terrorist Queen when he realized I share his love of ancient Britain and Queen Boudica. This short novel presents a really evocative picture of Roman rule and tribal rebellion.

Please Look After Mom, by Kyung-sook Shin is a beautiful literary novel set in Seoul where an elderly mother has gone missing from the railway station. There's something very intriguing in the way the author brings readers so close to her characters yet keeps them distanced enough to see their own lives as well as those that the story portrays.

Dark Water, by Laura McNeal is a young adult novel set in California in the lead-up to the Agua Prieta wildfire. A teenaged girl becomes enamored of a silent young Mexican, his silence replacing the love of her father's absent voice. But the summer is building up to disaster in more ways than one.

Tourniquet, by Richard Monson
is an exciting political thriller set in the US, Mexico and the Middle East, marred by rather self-conscious warnings at the start that it might be hard to follow. Ignore the warnings, make your own decisions about the politics, and enjoy the ride.

The Werewolf Upstairs, by Ashlyn Chase creates a very nice paranormal scene in a Boston apartment block, peopling it with innocent young attorny, wild werewolf, gothic witch, annoying ghost and many other zany characters, some of whom fall in love, of course.

Unsavory Delicacies, by Russell Brooks, newly released, is a delightfully foody set of three stories involving spying, murder and crime against a backdrop of expensive restaurants, by the author of Pandora's Succession.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You're invited to a "live chat" with me

My voice may still sound more like a frog's, but at least I can type. The question is, can I type fast enough and consistently enough, with few enough typos and errors, to cope with an on-line chat? I guess we'll find out tonight. I'm one of two guests (the other is Dianna Doles-Petry, author and poet) on the Live Chat on Gather tonight. Follow the link to see how it goes and if you're a member of Gather you can even leave questions for me, or leave them here.

Live chat starts at 9pm ET, 8pm CT, 7pm MT and 6pm PT. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reading while curled up in a blanket

I wish this Texas cold would go away, but at least it gives me time to read (when I'm not trying to sleep it off). Here's this weeks books, with links to reviews on gather as usual:

Historical novel: Freedom's Sword by J.R. Tomlin: It's odd how word-choice can influence reading, and the choice to use ancient or modern words in a historical novel must be a difficult one. I sometimes found the mix distracting in this novel, but that probably says more about me than anything else. The story of Andrew de Moray escaping an English jail and raising rebellion among the Scots was particularly interesting to me since my family visited Avoch when I was a kid. The love interest didn't inspire me as much as the battles, but I did enjoy the book. One to read with a 3-star balanced, full, smooth-flavored coffee

Paranormal police procedural: A Game of Blood, by Julie Ann Dawson: This one successfully combines the genres in a really intriguing tale. Cop chases very suave, very dark and evil stranger. Suave stranger chases... well, you'd have to read it, preferably with a 5-star bold, dark, intense coffee.

Humor: The Albuquerque Turkey, by John Vorhaus: With a name like that it's got to be humor. Con-men conned. Multiple layers. Great voice. Fun characters. Vegas. A plot that keeps you guessing till the final page. What more could you want? Drink a 2-star bright, light, easy-drinking coffee and try not to spill it when you laugh.

Fantasy: The Forgotten Echo, by Jen Wylie: In this delightful short story that I rather think is part of a set, the author creates a really nice mythology, starting with a young woman leaving a supermarket--wrong place, wrong time. It's a quick read, just time for lunch with a 1-star mild, light, crisp coffee. You could shop for more in the series before going back to work.

Children's fiction: Journals of the Big Mouth Bass: Keeping Secrets, by Debbie Sue Bass Williamson: This one's a really enjoyable story of growing up 1960's California. Real-world events and realistic childhood disasters are all retold through the journal of a nine-year-old girl trying not to be such a blabbermouth. She writes her secrets to God, occasionally forgets and tells them to her parents, makes a first friend, and learns that sometimes everyone will be better off if you don't let big brother keep his latest hair-brained scheme untold. Not sure if you can drink coffee while reading to kids, but if you do, choose a 1-star light, mild and crisp again.

Drama: The Butcher of Leningrad, by Tom Hunter: Dark things are happening in the sewers of Leningrad and this author spares no punches in describing the horrors facing orphans there. The writing's dark and foreign, but the story comes to life when young Galina enters the stage, recapturing the reader's interest and inspiring the protagonist to maybe even become someone you might like. This one probably needs a 5-star bold, dark, intense coffee.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Falling in love with my Kindle

We flew to Texas for 10 days. I took one small suitcase--small enough to count as carryon--plus my computer... plus my kindle. Knowing Kindles are electronic and therefor can't be used around takeoff and landing, I took three real, paper-backed books (and read them). But all the rest of my reading supplies were on Kindle, and they really didn't take up very much space--hence one small case.

So, Pros and Cons of kindle vs paper, as deduced on a 10-day trip to Texas:

Yup. I still love the feel of real print books, but I'm falling in love with my Kindle.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Heaven Sent: Where do our heaven sent words go?

I'm delighted to welcome British author Xavier Leret to my blog today. He has a fascinating tale to tell of how his novel Heaven Sent came about. I read the novel last week and found myself transported to the dark side of Bristol, England, seeing the world through the eyes of an amazing teenager. Read on to see what Xavier has to say about writing it. Then go out and read the book!

You can find my review of Heaven Sent here on

Over to you Xavier...

When I began Heaven Sent, it was a eureka moment, not in the sense that I had cracked something profound like light speed or the secrets to eternal life, I just knew that I had started my first novel. I hadn't set out to start it. It wasn't like when I wrote plays. I would announce that my theatre company was going to tour a play and it would be about this or that, and then I would write it. Heaven Sent didn't begin like that. I just wrote a thousand words. That thousand words were about sixteen year old Carlo, except that then he was fourteen. In that thousand words were three sentences where Carlo, a lad from an extremely religious background met a girl called Daizee, whose step father sold her to sailors from out the back of his van when she was just three years old.

None of that first thousand words made it into the novel, even though at the time I thought they were a brilliant thousand words. But what I thought was really special was Daizee and Carlo. Carlo was like everything that I wanted to be but didn't have the courage to be. And Daizee – well I just saw her through his eyes and she was dazzling. She was everything that would scare the hell out a parent. Crude, guttural, hard and yet vulnerable – though she would only show that side to Carlo. But more than this, she understands life. She knows that nothing is what it seems because she has been abused by the upright as well as the lowly.

Two weeks later I had sketched out what I thought the story would be. Then of course the characters decided to take over the narrative. Daizee and Carlo taught me how to write the book. They were very patient. They let me veer off on tangents and experiment in style. They let me have two or three years off when I wrote other plays or made a couple of movies – though they were talking to me constantly – Daizee especially. She was in my ear all the time. When I wanted to give up she would curse me, calling me all sorts.

Just after Christmas a year ago I sat down to finish the story, nothing was going to get in the way. I hadn't touched it for a year and I was angry at myself for not completing it.

Back then I thought Daizee and Carlo would have an equal presence. I wanted it to be equal. It took me half of last year to realise that actually it was really Carlo's story. Not to denigrate Daisy - I had written huge passages of her back story, that were shocking and disturbing – some of it I still think is extraordinary, but it was too much for most readers. And it wasn't very present, it was in the past and a story needs to move forward. I had written her stuff as first person narrative, she spoke directly to the reader and because it was so disturbing it was alienating. Heaven Sent is dark as it is, but to have added in that detail would have put off too many readers. So I/we compromised. Also during this last year I cut all the work of the five previous years. That was difficult.

Daizee's accent is thick Bristolian. Bristolian is almost like another language. I began to experiment with the accent over the summer and found that it made me experiment with her vocabulary. Using the accent gave her a very clear poetry and rhythm. I loved the way that visually it stood out from the page. It makes Daizee appear from out of this world. I think also it immediately makes people prejudiced against her – which is how most of the characters in the book are when confronted by her. She is difficult to understand and her accent will suggest to many that she is trash. But not to Carlo. And because he listens and loves... then perhaps...

About the author.

Xavier has written ten plays and directed numerous others, won a Stage Award, a Millennium Award and was commissioned by the International Festival of Perth to write their Millennium show. He has written/directed two feature films, Mine ('Breakthrough Movie' LUFF 2007) and Unarmed But Dangerous (Anchor Bay 2009). HEAVEN SENT is his first novel. Xavier lives in a quiet spot of the UK with his wife and three children.

Heaven Sent is available where ever ebooks are sold.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reading in the Texas Sun

I didn't get on the computer much last week, but I did read quite a few books--paper books while I waited for the plane to reach 10,000 feet, and kindle books while they trundled coffee and sodas down the aisles. They trundled a choice of snacks as well--Southwest is good that way. Unfortunately even the nuts had wheat in them, so I feasted myself on words instead of solid food. It was a very nice feast, and better for the waistline, which was most deliciously fed at other times on barbeques, seafood and Texmex.

Anyway, here's a list of books and links (as always) to reviews on gather or summit or wherever...

Literary delights: These ones get 4-star coffee ratings to go with the very best, rich, elegant, smooth drinks.

Expiration Date by Sherril Jaffe: Published this month by the Permanent Press, Expiration Date follows Flora as she waits for the Angel of Death to visit her. Meanwhile her 80-year-old mother Muriel escapes the angel's visits and seems more alive than ever, while Flora's husband, a rabbi, soothes the bereaved and dying, and games of bridge follow their rigid rules. A lovely, loving book touched with humor, beauty and hope.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, by Jenny Wingfield: Coming in July, this is a beautiful story of an Arkansas family moving back to the family farm when preacher Samuel loses his job. Filled with very real characters, guilty and innocent alike, the story's as wide as the countryside, as wise as the farmer's hand, and as deep as a young girl's hurt. A story to remember and come back to.

Heaven Sent, by Xavier Leret is set in Bristol England and tells of a Catholic boy from an overly religious family meeting up with a child prostitute. Both of them outcasts on the streetcorner, they form a dangerous friendship. Carlo's attempts to empathize with Daisy lead him to the seamiest side of the city. A wonderful coming-of-age story meshing dark experience with the dictates of religious rules and heavenly mercy, this is a book to savor and remember long after reading.

Variations on a Theme with Harmonica, by Cheryl Snell is a set of interlocking short stories, musically beautiful and thought-provoking. No simple tales in this, but ideas that linger long after the stories are read--real people playing the wounded music of their lives.

Fantasy (or something like it). These books get three coffee stars for balanced, smooth, full-flavored drinking and characters and plot.

Breath of Angel, by Karyn Henley: This is the first in a "circle" of books (how many books make a circle?). There's a fascinating underlying mythology beautifully revealed as the story progresses, with intriguing hints of Christianity underlying the tale of angels seeking to regain the stairway to heaven after the sacred tree's been destroyed.

Clarity, by Kim Harrington
tells the tale of a teenaged girl, her brother and her mother in Eastport on Cape Cod. They're blessed, or cursed, with paranormal sight, but Clare (or Clarity's) natural sight isn't always as clear as it might be, and sometimes knowing too much about your friends can leave you friendless.

And a Spy Story. Two star coffee--bright, lively, easy drinking.

Pandora's Succession, by Russell Brooks: This one's more sci-fi than fantasy; high-tech viruses, secret Russian bases, evil scientists and religious cults collide in an exciting, James_Bond-type tale, introducing secret agent Ridley Fox. This one's fun, and I'm hoping to read another by the same author soon.

One final note, Author Xavier Leret will be my guest on this blog tomorrow, so don't forget to come back and read what he has to say. I really enjoyed Heaven Sent--not an easy read, but not an easy book to put down either.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Texas Sun

From heights

to depths

to river in-between,

Bright colors

bright sunshine

dry and green,

Did you miss me?

This Texas

is where I've been.