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Showing posts from 2015

If Eyes are the Windows to the Soul...

If eyes are the windows to the soul, what are bionic eyes, or cataract-free eyes with replacement lenses - hey, they even gave me the guarantee card that goes with it when they fixed my eye earlier this week.

My soul feels lighter, I must admit; it's easier to see. I can type. I can drink coffee while I type (is that good for the keyboard?). I can read and I can write. So maybe my eyes are smiling brighter now. Who knows? Meanwhile the windows to my home are cleaner, brighter and warmer too - we've just got double-glazing, at last!

Are glasses double-glazing for the eyes?

And why don't kids like to wear glasses? I loved mine because they made it easier to avoid catching the wrong bus and being late to school. I thought they made me special, because my Mum wore glasses. Then I learned to hate them over time, wishing I wasn't always wearing breakable stuff on my face, with weighted arms over my ears, and general inconvenience. So now I'm typing these reviews without …

Does dark weather demand dark reads?

I have some slightly darker book reviews for today - appropriately I guess, since the weather is dark and gray.I'm hoping for brighter days, so I can travel around with Mum. But for now, just being home or damply driving out for everyday shopping is really quite a treat, since we get so little time to spend together.

Anyway, as I take a few minutes off from sharing news with family from England, here are some book reviews (and coffee recommendations) to share with readers everywhere.

Repercussions by Anthony Schneider tells the parallel stories of a white Jewish South-African caught up in the violence of apartheid, and his white Jewish American grandson caught up in the violence of that world's repercussions. Echoing through both stories are questions of what we do, what we can do, and why we do what we do. Enjoy with some seriously rich, elegant and complex four-star coffee.

Target of Opportunity by Max Byrd is filled with a similar sense of history's repercussions dripping…

Would you rather unpack book boxes or unpack cases?

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Last Friday and Saturday, members or our local writers' group manned a table at a local bazaar, where we sold Writers' Mill Journals and other books written by or contributed to by members of the group.


Then on the Sunday, December 6th, I was honored to be one of the authors at the Oregon Historical Society Holiday Cheer event. (Look who I'm sitting next to - Eric Kimmel, author of Simon and the Bear and other great Hanukkah picture books, and more!).  
There were even Dickensian singers to entertain us all, and offer the promise of Christmasses white instead of blue.  


But now it's all done, and the unsold books need to be repackaged and buried under the bed, ready for next time. Meanwhile two new black suitcases have appeared on top of the bed, waiting to be unpacked. They belong to my mum, who has just arrived for her annual Christmas visit. Which is my way of apologizing in advance if I get even more behind with book reviews because... well, there are so many book…

Meet two dogs, one parrot, a rare bird, and a vendor of apricots

Meet two dogs, one parrot, a rare bird, and a vendor of apricots, plus many assorted writers in this batch of book reviews. I apologize to the authors for being so late posting several of these. My best excuse is I've been writing. But the animal hero of my novels is neither dog nor bird, but rather a very white, sometimes mythical cat with a red stone in its collar and just a hint of wings. Meet it in Divide by Zero, and soon in Infinite Sum as well, coming soon from Indigo Sea Press.

The dogs and parrot belong in a book of essays, Two Dogs and a Parrot by Joan Chittister, where the authors tells what she's learned, and we can learn, from animals. There's a Judeo-Christian dichotomy, she points out, with two creation stories where one gives mankind dominion, but the other invites us to name. Naming meas relationship, and relationship with animals has helped many a person cope with distress. Of course, the animals too have much to cope with, and their coping mechanisms hav…

What do Fairies. Dogs and Dragons have in common?

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What fairies, dogs and dragons have in common, of course, is that they all appear in children's books. Specifically they appear in the books I'm reviewing today. But do I have to have kids at home to enjoy children's books? To review them? To write them? Or can I just relate to the kid (fairy, dog and dragon) within myself?

I suspect the answer is as long as my internal child is alive and kicking, she or he (dog, dragon or fairy) is all I need. Certainly she smiles when I pick up a kids' book in the store. She begs me to purchase things I can't possibly afford (have you seen the price of picture books?). And she laughs and cries, appropriately, when I read to her in my head. She's a pretty good child. (I'll not go into how good or otherwise the real-child-me was in her day, but my Mum would happily tell you - little horror are among the words she might use.)

Of course, I did have kids at home for many years - the years when I just told stories instead of wr…

mystery, crime, and the end of the world is at hand!

After recent events, one might be tempted to ponder the natures of faith, freedom, and free will. But beneath any deeds, whether good or evil, lie people trapped by others' dreams and aspirations, real lives informed by cultures and belief, real crimes, real criminals too, and real victims. As troubles loom, it might be well to pray that we be neither doers nor followers of evil. And as Shakespeare wrote, may each of us "to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man" woman or child.

It seemed oddly ironic -- as French detectives seek crime's perpetrators and the faithful, of more than one religious leaning, see the ending of days -- that I should be reading and reviewing a story set in the 17th century, about a monk learning the arts of alchemy and truth. His antagonist, perhaps insane, is sure the world will end soon, and that he's called to act, in ways likewise insane,to bring that end about. But P…

The Judicious Use of Acronyms with John F. Allen

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Today author John F. Allen is visiting my blog, enjoying virtual coffee and cookies, celebrating his book, Codename: Knight Ranger, and offering his opinion on acronyms - The Knight Ranger works for an organization called G.E.N.E.S.I.S. and you'll have to read on if you want to find out what all those letters mean. But first, let's learn how the author really feels about acronyms. Please welcome John F. Allen.




John F. Allen's Codename: Knight Ranger Virtual Tour

The Judicious Use of Acronyms in Fiction by John F. AllenPlenty of authors are guilty of using acronyms in their writing. I know I am guilty as charged, as I write Spy-Fi and Action Adventure stories/novels, I deal with a lot of “Alphabet Organizations”, quite a few of my own creation.
Of course the acronyms do come in handy as spelling out the individual words can be a real pain, for both the author and the reader. In creating my “Alphabet Organizations”, I find it fun to—most times—get the initials to spell out a wo…

The Creation of a Heroine, with Stephen Zimmer

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Today, Stephen Zimmer returns to my blog escorting the wonderful Rayden Valkyrie, heroine of his novel, Heart of a Lion (click on the title for my review). I'm delighted to welcome him as he writes about Rayden's genesis, and I'm delighted to welcome you to read his post, learn about his book, and maybe even enter the cool contest to win a kindle fire HD at the end of this blogpost. So, over to you Stephen. Where did Rayden come from?


Stephen Zimmer's Heart of a Lion Virtual Tour


The Creation of a New Heroine
Rayden Valkyrie truly flowed into my mind at once.  When I was going through some very difficult times in my own life, I had an image of a golden-haired female warrior with piercing blue eyes standing resolute, proud, defiant, and tall.  I knew that this figure had been through hell but still abided by a high honor code that reflected the fact that the storms of her life had not hardened her to indifference.
Her storyline and world rushed in around that image, but lo…

It's all about connection, isn't it?

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I keep reading posts about connections. Then I think about books I've read and realize they're about connections too. Then I edit a chapter of Subtraction, and yes, it's all about the connections between a dad and his dead child, and how those connections might help him grow and connect to someone else... or something... I guess I'll have to write a blurb one day, but for now I'm going with:

Special ed teacher takes road trip in search of missing child and finds himself.
Does that work for you?

Anyway, here are some books I've been reading, when I'm not writing, and they're all about connections.
Starting with Mr. Memory by Paul Michael Peters, a short, smooth, cool collection of short stories neatly bounded by the man whose memory can connect everything. My favorite introduces a woman whose cellphone connects her to everything, leaving her narcistically unconnected from everyone. Enjoy with some rich elegant complex four-star coffee.

Next is The Hardest…

Do Authors Identify With Their Characters?

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I'm delighted to welcome author Kate Vale to my blog today. You can find her books on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Kate-Vale/e/B009SE6634/, where you'll see she has written quite a collection, with fathers, daughters, family bonds, friendship and more. Kate's blogpost here gives her answer to one of those "frequently asked questions" which authors so often hear; I'm sure you'll be quickly drawn in to what she has to say. So... over to you Kate. And readers, please leave any questions for the author in the comments.

Do Authors Identify with Their Characters? By Kate Vale
A question I frequently receive relates to the character I most identify with. That varies with each book, though some characters continue to be among my favorites. Gillian, for example, in Gillian’s Do-Over,  and Suzanna in Dream Chaser, are two characters I’d definitely love to have over for coffee or tea, if only to find out how their lives are turning out now.

When writing Destiny’s Se…

Where dystopias warn

Utopia never seemed quite real to me. After all, things always fall apart. And so dystopias were the worlds I loved to read about - 1984, Farenheit 451, Lord of the Flies (of course - the first one I read), Tunnel in the Sky, and Philip Dick's many terrifyingly plausible dreams... They were the books I wanted to write as well, as endless stories of the end of the world in my old notebooks attest. One day one of my teachers took me aside and said it was easy to make people cry, so I learned (at least, I tried) to make them laugh. But perhaps it's only easier to make people cry because I wanted company.

Of course, I don't only read dystopian fiction. One of my favorite authors as a child was Rosemary Sutcliffe, writing of ancient worlds every bit as ruined as 1984. I loved the lone, rejected character, the one who saw too clearly, or who didn't dare to see. Meanwhile I imagined one of the "big three" - America, Russia or Chin -, would surely push the button and…

Swords, Sorcery or Heroes, with Steven Shrewsbury

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Today I'm delighted to welcome Steven L Shrewsbury, author of those wonderful Gorias La Gaul stories, to my blog. I love his books and his characters, and I love that mystical tagline - Deliverance Will Come! When I heard he was going to visit me here, there was one question I simply had to ask, so here it is, with his answer. Thank you Steven, and welcome to my blog:

Steven L. Shrewsbury's Born of Swords Virtual Tour

WHICH CAME FIRST? The sword, the sorcery or the hero?
Until a reviewer trashed me for doing so, I never realize I wrote “character driven” fiction before. Um, ya mean where the folks in the story are more important than “world building” and a game scenario that can be created from a BOOK? Yeah, guess I do.
So, yes, Gorias La Gaul, my 700 year old merc, the fighter and lover of great capacity DID appear in my mind as a character to be used in works. THEN the tales flowed as he sort of told them to me, out of sequence. Several fantasy (or S&S) ideas are always bil…

Would You Rather Write Short Or Long?

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Today I'm delighted to welcome award-winning author and filmmaker Stephen Zimmer to my blog, as his wonderfully seasonal Hellscapes II tours the internet. Steven is the author of the Fires of Eden series, Rising Dawn Saga, and Heart of the Lion which I read and thoroughly enjoyed earlier this year (click for my review), but he's also master of Hellscapes short fiction too. So, if you've ever wanted to try your hand at writing to a different length, this post from him must surely be a  must-read. And if not, read and enjoy it anyway - learn how a writer directs and is directed by his career.

Plus, there's a great giveaway attached to this tour, so don't miss out on the details, down below!

Stephen Zimmer's Hellscapes, Volume II Virtual Tour



Writing Long, Short, and In-Between By Stephen Zimmer Hellscapes, Volume II represents my eleventh book release.  It is a collection of short stories in the horror genre, my third collection released overall.  As with any release,…

After the Fall

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Falling The gaze of a mother to child at her breast Falling the infant that’s learning to walk Calling and crying and learning to talk Shifting and sighing, a mother’s gaze falls To the child, to the child who has left.
Falling The leaf that was green growing red on the tree Falling the season of warm into cold Calling and sighing the birds are grown old All migrating, the leaf oh so gently now falls Not so late, not too late to be free.
Falling In bad ways, in troubles, in pain and in loss. Falling from grace was the infant grown old Calling for mercy the infant grown bold Mercy denied him, a mother’s gaze falls To the child, to the child, to the cost.
Falling after the Fall.

Who Illustrated That?

My review-list led me to a cool collection of kids' books this week. Though I hadn't expected it, they were all illustrated. So I wrote my reviews, each with that nice easy title "This book by this author" and suddenly realized "This book by this author illustrated by this artist" would be more accurate. I guess as a kid, I rather liked words more than pictures - perhaps that's because so many picture books were just black and white. I remember part of my delight in moving up to the "grown-up books" section in our local library was that the lack of pictures gave more space for a story to be told. But I love to draw, and now I delight in those images I  used to skip over. I smile at pictures that remind me of books from my childhood (though now they're in color and filled with fascinating detail rather than ice-queen gray and frowns). I delight in pictures that transport me to a different culture and teach me of a world I never knew. And I …

Sometimes I just don't want to "Help myself"

"Mom, will you help me with my homework?"
"In a minute. Try helping yourself a bit first."
Mom continues to cook dinner. Child turns pages back to read the instructions.

"Mom, may I have more potatoes?"
"Of course. Here. Help yourself."
Mom offers the ladle and child piles more food onto plate. Some falls on the floor.

"Mom, I didn't mean it. I couldn't help it." Guilty looks.
"You'll have to learn to help it," Mom replies.

And, "Mom, why won't God change me into a good little girl?"
"God helps those who help themselves."

Last week's reading included lots of self-help books. Some tried to offer a ladle so I could help myself to happiness. Others promised to hold the plate, so I wouldn't spill my problems on the floor. Still others offered a place where I could find help. And all together... well, I'd offer you coffee, but you'll have to find your own brew while I just offer …