Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dreams, nightmares, and book reviews

Dreams, longings, and yes, nightmares too, all play a part in the books I'm reviewing today. But perhaps they're part of every story--the longing for something different or more that drives both character and plot. As I work on more five-minute Bible stories, I'm looking at which part of dreams and longings read into tales of Jesus' miracles. It's easy when somebody wants to be healed, but what about when someone hears a truth they'd rather keep hidden, or when what's asked for isn't what's received?

They tell us to be careful what we ask for. But I'm asking for coffee now and in a few minutes, warm cup in hand, I will type in some book reviews of tales you might want to drink with your own caffeine infusion. Don't forget, coffee ratings are for flavor--you can judge the quality for yourself.

First is a delightful little children's book, Amazing Matilda, by Bette A. Stevens. For any child who has ever dreamed of being able to do something new, this tale of a caterpillar dreaming of flight is the perfect lesson in patience and hard work. Enjoy it with a 1-star light crisp cup of coffee.

Next is a short new adult romance (says she, still unsure what New Adult means, but it's older than young adult, and geared to the lifestyles and expectations of readers much younger than myself). Snowbound, by Kim Golden, takes readers from big-city romantic deceptions to small-town honesty, and from Thanksgiving to Christmas, as its protagonists follows the cruel end to a romantic dream with the enticing start of another. Enjoy with seriously hot 2-star easy-drinking coffee.

Uvi Poznasky's Rise to Power (The David Chronicles) is fairly short too, telling the story of a court musician dreaming ambitious thoughts of more. Blending the formality of court (and Bible) with the modern attitudes of believable characters, it covers the slaying of Goliath, David's exile, a few marriages, and more. Nicely historical, with a modern touch, this is one to enjoy with an elegant 4-star coffee.

In Gulf Boulevard, by Dennis Hart, a young man dreams of winning the lottery. Actually, he dreams of many things--a house in the sun, clean beaches, naked girls sitting on turtles... and maybe gangsters, or maybe the gangster's real. Sometimes his dreams come true too. But always he narrates his life and adventures with pithy male humor and breakneck urgency. Oh, his ex is dreaming of marrying his fortune too... A fun story, best enjoyed with a well-balanced 3-star coffee.

Death in Venice, California, by Vinton Rafe McCabe, (a title deliberately evocative of Thomas Mann's famous novel) is a much darker tale of a much darker dreamer. Jameson Frame yearns for more and heads for a perfect vacation at a perfect hotel in Venice Beach. But the lure of the imperfect leaves him doubting his own self. And the steps he takes to change himself might leave him irrevocably scarred. Read this dark tale of consumerism, elitism and folly with a dark 5-star cup of coffee.

And finally, Smokestack, by J. R. Hobeck, tells of many dreamers in a small mid-western town who are suddenly faced with the nightmare of an alien artifact in the local quarry. Broken dreams, forgotten dreams, longed-for dreams, forbidden dreams and more all play their part in this tale that's filled with subtales, backstories, and careful reasonings. But the end justifies the plot and is certainly intriguing. Enjoy with a dark intense 5-star coffee.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

“If You Liked A Wrinkle In Time…” Choosing a Genre for Your Book

People ask me what sort of book I like and I say "all sorts." They ask my favorite genre and I say I have too many to mentioned. And they ask what genre I write in... which leaves me wondering how on earth to answer them. I write children's Bible stories, spiritual speculative fantasies, contemporary dramas... but presumably not all at once. And today's guest, author Tricia Stewart Shiu, writes... well, perhaps I'll let her tell you. I saw her latest book, Iron Shinto, advertized with the phrase, "If you liked a wrinkle in time..." and I was hooked.


“If You Liked A Wrinkle In Time…”
 Choosing a Genre for Your Book

Guest Blog Post by

Tricia Stewart Shiu

You’ve heard the saying: “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity.” Well, in publishing, the saying goes:  “it isn’t the genre, it’s the options.”

After self-publishing your book one of the first decision with which you are faced, is choosing your audience.

For most people, choosing a book genre is pretty clear. From Mystery to Self-Help, Cooking to Travel, how hard can it be to tell the world where your book fits in the vast world of publishing?

But, for a chosen few, genres are not so simple. As the literary world evolves, genres do, too, which means facing tough questions and taking bigger risks, than just publishing a book. Not only that, each platform has its own genre listings, which can make for some creative maneuvering when choosing a genre.

Four years ago, while promoting the first book in the Moa Series, “Moa,” I discovered, first hand, that choosing a genre not only plays a key role in getting reviews and gaining momentum in a book marketing campaign, it’s an integral part of selling books. It can literally, make or break your readership.

What I discovered, very quickly, was if I chose something too far from the scope of my genre, I risked getting some disappointing reviews from those who might not “get” my book.

Here’s what happened. I categorized “Moa” as “Paranormal, Literary Fiction.” Set in Hawaii, the story follows Hillary Hause, a recent high school grad, who receives a trip to visit her sister and niece as a graduation gift. During a leisurely nap, Hillary comes face-to-face with an ancient Hawaiian spirit and the adventure begins.

Paranormal lovers did not connect well with Hillary or the mystical story.

The beauty of self-publishing is the ability to change genre listings at will, so, it was back to the drawing board. “Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy” is what I set as the genre for “Statue of Ku” and things changed drastically. This second book in the Moa Series is set in Egypt and includes true dazzling imagery, ancient mysticism and powerful plot twists. Suddenly, people understood the unconventional story and the unique characters. The story and characters hadn’t changed, but the new audience made the difference.

Another important tool I discovered, in my search to connect with those who might enjoy my books, was what I call, the “If you liked…” principle.

By finding a well-known book with a similar tone, I have been able to connect my books with readers who will truly appreciate the story and immediately understand the characters and voice. My choice was “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, a lovely novel published in 1962.

Given the changing creative climate in publishing, your choice of genres can make your options cool, calm and collected.

Iron Shinto (ISBN: 978-0-9840020-8-5, 2013 Human Being Publishing, 208 Pages, Available on Amazon in Paperback, $12.95 and for $6.99 on Kindle 978-0-9840020-6-1 or on the author’s website

About Tricia Stewart Shiu
Tricia Stewart Shiu is an award-winning screenwriter, author and playwright, but her passion lies in creating mystical stories. Her latest series, The Moa Books, which includes "Moa," "The Statue of Ku" and "The Iron Shinto," were, by far, her favorite to write.

I've never heard anyone use the words "cool, calm and collected" in a sentence about choice of genre before. Suddenly I feel inspired. Thank you Tricia, and thank you for sharing something of what difference a well-chosen genre can make. I loved a Wrinkle in Time, and I'm sure I shall love your series too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Giving away secrets

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Pamela Foreman to my blog, celebrating the release of her third Nebraska Holds novel - Secrets Abound, My Love. Welcome to my blog Pamela, and thank you for the wonderful giveaway of Secrets below!

Author Bio: Pamela Foreman is a wife of seventeen years to her high school sweetheart and the mother of four children. Having grown up in Texas, Pamela currently lives in central Virginia. Pamela received her master’s degree in accounting from Liberty University and is an avid reader. She enjoys sewing, crocheting, knitting and scrapbooking when she is not involved with her children’s activities and spending time with her husband.

Pamela is the author of the Nebraska Holds series, a series surrounding the lives of David Anderson and Annette Miller, middle-aged adults who have both gone through the sudden deaths of their spouses and each have children to continue to raise. The series currently has three books, You're Right, My Love (December 2011), Not Again, My Love (January 2013) and Secrets Abound, My Love (January 2014).

So, what is Secrets Abound, My Love about?

SYNOPSIS: When David and Annette join their families and begin one of their own, the couple can’t imagine how their marriage will affect their children, new and old. As parents, they each have high hopes for their children and their marriage, but in only a few short years, the path has gone the way of destruction.

Drugs, alcohol, abuse, loneliness … Secrets hide among the folds of their new lives and David and Annette are faced with the challenge of reconnecting with their children, while learning to be parents all over again.

How will they cope, discovering the hidden secrets? Will their marriage survive or will the threat of losing their children drive them apart? Can they fight adversity and win, or will their marriage be over as quickly as it began? Find out in Secrets Abound, My Love, the third segment in the Nebraska Holds series.

Sounds intriguing? Here's a link: 

And there's an excerpt below. Please don't forget to read to the end of the post for author links and a great giveaway!


“Oh, Georgia! Lighten up!” Jersey shook her finger at Georgia. Georgia could tell her sister had been drinking not only by her behavior, but Jersey smelled of the beer or liquor. The two girls plus their fellow triplet, Virginia, were barely seventeen, and their step-sister Mallory was still sixteen. The four were about to be seniors in high school and their sibling was already an alcoholic.

Jersey and this male friend of hers both laughed then shushed each other like preschoolers about to get caught in an mischievous act. Georgia didn’t even know his name and didn’t remember ever seeing him before. Georgia rolled her eyes, knowing this was not going to get any better.

“How did he get in here?” Georgia asked. She put her hands on her hips, an action she had observed her mother doing over the past several years as all her older siblings had become teenagers. Georgia knew for a fact this boy did not enter through the front door of their house.

“How else?” Jersey slurred. “The window.”

“The window? We’re on the second floor!” Georgia put her head in her hands, exasperated. She’s been covering for her sister for more than two years now, but she wasn’t sure she could any longer. Jersey seemed to be getting herself deeper and deeper in trouble.


  And a final note from the author:

Thanks again for visiting! Be sure to leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of my book in either print or electronic form.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Open the Box!

It's real. It's here. I opened the box...

...And inside were my first real copies of Bethlehem's Baby, straight from the publisher (Cape Arago Press)! I don't know what the weather at Cape Arago is like just now--windy and wild if the weather here's anything to go by. But I hope the sun is shining for my publisher as it shines for me, and I send him my heartfelt thanks. I'm thrilled to see these books.

Now all I need are some people to buy them from me. But you can order real printed copies of Bethlehem's Baby from all these great places too:


Barnes and Noble:


So my next goal (or dream) will be to get it into a real-world bricks and mortar store. Please wish me luck!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Diamonds and Forever

"It's all in your mind," says the title to one of the books I read this week. Meanwhile the speaker at our local writers' group assured us that we have to imagine our writing success before we can achieve it. Which leaves me wondering, will my achievements remain "all in my mind."

It's been a good week for achievements though, as well as for reading. Bethlehem's Baby came out in print. Nazareth Neighbors looks set to follow soon. Galilee's Gift has started strong and is now growing fast (but oh, how long it took to get those first chapters safely into my mind--I really struggled to decide how and when the book should start). Meanwhile, in a more modern, more fictitious world, the edit/rewrite of Imaginary Numbers is also going well. (My mum said she loved the first chapters, and usually she just likes my writing, so that's got to be a good sign!)

Of course, posting book reviews, cleaning bedrooms for our next visitors, shopping for food, buying stamps, and more, are still on my to-do list. But I'm working on them, and here are at least a few of those book reviews. Grab a coffee, check its rating for strength and flavor, then enjoy the read.

First, well-suited to an elegant, complex 4-star coffee, is Honeysuckle and Jasmine, by Liz Grace Davis, a beautifully crafted story of two young African women living in Germany. One has been abused by people she knew, the other by the system, and both struggle to make sense of their trials as immigrants and their dreams of building new lives. The story's lightened by the women's evident joy in life, and laughter is truly the best medicine in this wonderful, enthralling read.

The Wood Of Suicides, by Laura Elizabeth Woollett, deserves a darker 5-star coffee. It's written from a similar young-adult point of view, but tells a very different tale as an American teen on the cusp of adulthood loses her beloved father and finds her tangled emotions drawing her into foolish and dangerous ways. Seduction proves both more and less than she intended, and myths retold in real life lose their charm. It's not an easy read, but the self-centered, seemingly unreliable narrator turns into a powerful and haunting character in her own tale as the story progresses.

Next is Forever Friday, by Timothy Lewis. Enjoy this well-drawn historical romance with a 3-star well-balanced, full-flavored brew, and enjoy a convincing depiction of love in early 20th century Texas--plus a message of hope for struggling marriages everywhere. Add faith, and you've got all three.

Childhood’s Day, by John B. Rosenman, is a short story, set in the future, but it shares the same healing qualities of Forever Friday. Drink a well-balanced 3-star coffee and share the experience of a man haunted by childhood events, healed by the presence of a curiously illegal child.

Next is It’s All In Your Mind, by Ann Herrick. Enjoy this young-adult romance with an easy-drinking 2-star coffee, and be transported to a world of teens on the cusp of adulthood, hard-working fathers, and young men heading for Vietnam. Wise lessons are hidden behind a pleasing tale of young love, and the narration is spot-on.

Last but not least is The Da Vinci Diamond, by Jerry Guarino, a TV-script style, globe-trotting mystery with dialog-style narration, plus assassins, thieves, and seductive beauties galore. Enjoy this fast read with a light, crisp, 1star cup of coffee (Italian, of course).

And then...? Well, now it must be time for me to make dinner, with kindle in hand, continuing to read (and remembering to stir the food with spatula, not book).