Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Who is the other thief?




Today I'm delighted to welcome author Frank McKinney to my blog. His book, The Other Thief, has just come out and took 6 months to design and finalize. Each of his last three book covers were painstakingly designed to look like a coming-attractions movie poster. The novel took  over a year to write because the author went back and rewrote much of the middle and ending after receiving valuable input from his editor, her 24 year-old intern, and from an acclaimed filmmaker. So it should be seriously good! In his other life he says he’s a real estate “artist” where he creates multi-million dollar oceanfront homes on speculation on the sun-drenched canvas of the Atlantic. It’s a life he’s lived 10 years longer than that as an author. And he's here to tell us something about the hows and whys of the wise things he does. Over to you Frank...


On the first night when I arrived in Florida from Indiana as an 18 year-old without the hope of education beyond graduating high school with a 1.8 GPA, I slept under a pier because I didn’t have a place to stay. I chose the soft sand under the pier over the hard concrete of sleeping under a bridge.
The next day I began work as a golf course maintenance worker, waking at 4am to take a taxi from the pier to meet my coworkers. I was scared to death, and when I arrived I realized I was the only white person who would be working on that Deerfield Beach golf course. I worked amongst Haitians, and quickly earned the nickname “the white Haitian” because of my strong work ethic. I may believe in the welfare system, but I don’t believe in an entitlement mentality. I’ve never been afraid to work hard.

Fast forward to today, where, through our Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF.org), we’ve built 28 self-sufficient villages in 25 Haitian cities over the last 16 years. We’ve provided a self-sustaining existence to 12,000+ children and their families who were living in mud or tin shacks covered in palm fronds for a roof with rodents the size of cats running across their dirt floors.

Our Haiti villages contain 40-50 brightly pastel colored concrete homes for families of eight, a community center that houses a school, church and clinic, clean drinking water, renewable food and some form of free enterprise so the village can be self-reliant. In addition, we provide meals in our schools and orphanages (2 part protein, 1 part carbohydrate).
Knowing that for each copy of The Other Thief we sell we’ll be able to provide nearly 200 meals to the hungry children in our Haiti villages and orphanages made me anticipate the 70,000 words I would write with joy and purpose. As I was writing I often thought back to my Haitian coworkers on that golf course, and the deep love I still have for them and the place they came from.

So... not just a well-edited and fascinating story, but a well-grounded and life-giving one as well. Here's a few details, and then an excerpt, perhaps...
Synopsis:
Francis Rose, lead singer for a meteorically popular Christian rock band, has it all—fame, fortune, family, and deep faith. With the support of his loving wife, young daughter, and Down-syndrome blessed son, he’s gone from performing for an audience of 20 at his tiny Lutheran church in Keeler, Indiana, to selling out 20,000-seat arenas. His impact is global, soulful, and seemingly unstoppable.

The seven deadly sins don’t stand a chance against a man of Francis’ character, morality, and faith. Or do they? Their alluring assault is relentless as Francis encounters each of them along his ascending path to superstardom.

Author bio:
Frank McKinney is a true Renaissance man: a five-time bestselling author (in 4 genres), real estate “artist” (creates multi-million dollar oceanfront homes on speculation on the sun-drenched canvas of the Atlantic), actor, ultramarathoner, aspirational speaker.

The mediagenic author has been featured in countless TV & print articles, including Oprah (twice), 20/20, and the cover of USA Today.  Frank’s other books include: The Tap, Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle, Burst This! Frank McKinney’s Bubble-Proof Real Estate Strategies, Frank McKinney’s Maverick Approach to Real Estate and Make it Big! 49 Secrets for Building a Life of Extreme Success.

A “philanthro-capitalist,” Frank has made an enormous humanitarian impact in Haiti through his Caring House Project, where he has created 27 self-sufficient villages in 24 cities in the last 16 years, impacting the lives of 11,000+ children and their families. Frank, his wife, Nilsa, and their daughter, Laura make their home in Delray Beach, Florida, where Frank wrote The Other Thief in his oceanfront treehouse office.



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Chapter 13 – The Other Thief
Sleep eluded me, in spite of having gotten plenty of exercise in the blazing Arizona sun with the kids, riding ride after ride and slide after slide at the water park. They’d been so happy all day, yet seeing their joy at spending time together as a family only served to drive a dagger of shame through my heart. Mary had looked so happy, too. It was hard enough to watch her play with the kids with such love in her eyes and in her soul. But each time she turned those love-eyes on me, I had to force my return gaze or look away. It was becoming more and more painful to receive her loving attention. Thank God for dark sunglasses.

Tired of staring through the black of our bedroom toward the ceiling, I got up around 4:30 a.m. again and retreated to my home studio. It felt good to put some physical distance between me and the angelic presence sleeping so soundly beside me. I didn’t deserve to share her bed. I needed to get alone with my thoughts, alone with God, and plan my course of action—my confession. I wanted to rehearse the words so thoroughly that I couldn’t second-guess myself. Even though I continued to pray for strength and courage, each time I tried to gather my thoughts, I was consumed with the memory of how horrifically my first confession had gone.

I could still back out—at least partially. I could still just tell her about Paulina. That would probably be easier. After all, according to Dr. Shapiro, she seemed about to regain her memory anyway. Or I could just tell her about Cindy, which seemed the worse of the two options. Either of those options would be easier than making a double confession! But as I thought about what Pastor John had taught me, I realized that in order to cut both ungodly soul ties, I would need to confess to both sins. Yes, it would have to be done that way, I resolved. I would do it as soon as Mary woke up.

I went into the kitchen and brewed her a strong cup of coffee, hoping the aroma would wake her. Killing time by opening messages in my office, I read another reminder from Stephanie to meet her in the studio to sign off on Forgiven. I started rationalizing my plan to talk with Mary first thing when she woke up. Surely, I couldn’t drop a bomb like that and then leave her alone while I was at the studio all day. I decided I’d better meet with Stephanie first, so that the rest of my day would be clear for consoling Mary. I took care of mundane office tasks until after sunrise, left Mary’s coffee in the microwave with a note on the kitchen counter, let Stephanie know I could meet her, and headed out for the studio.

I got to the studio before Stephanie. It was just after sunrise and the early rays of sunshine splashed across the lobby walls, highlighting Justus’ framed photos, awards, and our platinum record for Sanctified. The rays reflected off that album back into my eyes, making me wonder how I had strayed so far from the path that had gotten me here. It was as if God was sending me a message. His light was what had gotten me this far, and I longed for it again. In my mind, I begged God to allow Philippians 3:13 to bear fruit: “I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” I so desperately wanted to leave this unfamiliar Francis in my past.

When Stephanie arrived, I was grateful to find her in all-business mode, anxious to get the final listen-through taken care of. As she fired up the equipment, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I glanced just long enough to see that it was a call coming in from Cindy. Really! This early? Anger surged through me as I sent the call to voicemail and turned off my phone. The last thing I needed was for Stephanie to see Cindy calling me, giving her an opportunity to reopen that line of interrogation with me.

“I’m so excited!” Stephanie said. It felt great to see her smiling in my direction again. That hadn’t happened much lately. “The press conference for Forgiven is all set up for next week, followed by a spectacular release party at the Beverly Hills Hotel! And the week after that, you’re off to Haiti to collect your medal of honor. God is so good!”

“Wow, that’s fantastic!” I said. “We sure have come a long way, haven’t we Steph?”

“I was just thinking about that,” said Stephanie, wistfully. “Do you remember when we recorded our first song, ‘Justus,’ about the 14th disciple? We didn’t even have a record contract yet. We begged our way into that tiny, makeshift studio in the back of the Sam Goody Music store at 2:00 a.m. when no one was around.”

“I remember,” I said. “Our only plan then was to sell the song after each mass at church and at church festivals, to anyone who would buy it! And even though we barely made any money, we had all agreed from the start to split the proceeds with the church’s soup kitchen that fed Keeler’s homeless. We went all over town stapling flyers onto telephone poles!” My heart melted a bit, thinking about our humble origins and how simple things were back then.

“Do you remember how we celebrated the wrap-up of that first recording?” she asked, the twinkle in her eyes telling me she remembered it well.

“I do!” I said. “We scraped together just enough money to take the band, families, and Pastor John out to a celebratory dinner at Applebee’s!” I beamed at Stephanie, noticing her moist eyes and realizing how much our work together had meant to her all these years.

“I’ll always remember that dinner,” she said. “No matter how over-the-top amazing this Beverly Hills Hotel party turns out to be—and believe me, it will be amazing!—nothing will ever beat the excitement and innocence of that first celebration. I hope you don’t mind that I told the catering staff at the hotel to have the same Buffalo wings and nachos that we had that night.”

“Not at all! Great idea! Can you imagine if we’d had a crystal ball at that first celebration, and could see what we were destined for?” Right after the words left my mouth, their full implications hit me. All the fame, all the money, all the good I’d been able to do in the world—that’s what I was initially thinking about when I imagined my younger self looking into that crystal ball. But what if the crystal ball had also revealed the shitpile I’d made of my personal life? It would have shattered young Francis’ heart.

We put on our headsets to begin the final listen. The rest of the band had already signed off, and it was always me and Steph who had the final say. The tracks sounded fantastic—even better than I’d remembered them. I turned up the volume to really feel their impact. At the end of each song, Stephanie and I gave one another nods and high-fives to indicate our approval.

But when the very last song came on—the title song—my insides began to churn. It was the most powerful song Justus had ever recorded, and the most impactful lyrics the Holy Spirit had ever moved me to write. But something just didn’t feel right. Somehow the song just didn’t feel like it had felt when I’d written it. It felt sharp. Painful, even. I listened to myself sing, “All I need is you to love. For you to set me free. All I need is your breath inside of me. To give me life. Bring me back to my knees.” Unable to bear it any longer, I pulled the headset off.

Seeing that Stephanie had noticed my discomfort and wanting to avoid a conversation with her, I quickly said, “Yep! That’s a wrap. Everything sounds great. Thanks for meeting me here today and getting this over to the label.” I grabbed my keys and tried to make a beeline for the door.

“I understand why that song upset you, Francis.”

Stopped by her words, I quickly turned around to face her. “I’m fine. All’s good. This album is going to sell millions. Let’s get it to the record label right away.” I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
I got the sense Stephanie wanted to question me. She wanted a status update on Cindy. I could feel it in her. But she must have also been able to feel me. My emotional exhaustion. My soul’s ache. My remorse and my shame. She walked over to me and put her hands on my shoulders.

Softly, she said, “You are stronger than you feel. You’re a better man than it seems right now. And you will come through this season of your life.”

She hugged me for a long time, allowing her friendship and her belief in me to sink deep into my soul. Unable to articulate my immense gratitude, I gave her a quick, “thank you” squeeze and left the studio. Blinking into the bright midday sun, I pulled out my phone to text Mary. I steeled myself, gathered my nerve, and typed, “Hi, sweetheart. Meet me at the Sanctuary for lunch?”

Mary’s reply came back immediately. “So Forgiven is a wrap? That does call for a celebration! I’ll be there as soon as I pick Heather up from swimming and drop her off with Eddie and Delia.”

Driving to the Sanctuary, I tried to rehearse my confession. But imagining Mary’s face upon hearing what I’d done was too painful. I decided the confession would have to just come out naturally in the moment. If I kept trying to plan it, I was afraid I’d back out. It was like making a plan to saw off your own leg. The more you thought about it in advance, the less likely you’d be to actually go through with it.

I asked the hostess for a quiet table in the corner and ordered a root beer.

“You’re in Justus, aren’t you?” asked the shy waitress as she set a basket of chips on my table.

“I am,” I said, extending my hand. “Francis Rose. Good to meet you.”

“I’m sure people ask you all the time—so you don’t have to say yes—but do you think we could take a picture together? My boyfriend will never believe this.”

“Of course,” I said, leaning into her photo. “Would you like an autograph?”

“Thank you! Could I have two?”

I fulfilled the waitress’s requests, sending her happily off her shift. I nervously scanned the room. It was taking Mary much longer to arrive than I expected. My mind ambled down dark pathways of possibility. Mary had said she’d be going by the house first. What if Cindy had been there, waiting to talk to her? Or what if Cindy had called her? Maybe Cindy was angry with me for ignoring her call and took revenge by spilling our secret to Mary. God, I would be glad when all of this shit was over. Just a few more minutes and I wouldn’t have to be tortured by this anymore—at least not the secrets part.

Sensing commotion at the restaurant entrance, I looked up to see Mary barreling toward me with a terrified expression I’d never seen on her before. Eyes wide, hair frazzled, she accidentally knocked over a chair as she rushed across the crowded restaurant. Adrenaline shot through my bloodstream. Oh shit. Oh shit, shit, shit. It had happened! She’d found out!

Two valets came running after her, calling “Ma’am! Ma’am!” One put his hand on her arm and she twirled to face him, looking disoriented, as though she couldn’t imagine why he’d stopped her.

“I need your car key, Ma’am,” he said—apologetically, because her distress was palpable. Mary gave him the keys in her hand, and angrily took the stub offered by the other valet.

My heart stiff with fear, unable to breathe, I stood up, utterly unready for whatever was about to take place.

Mary lurched to the table like a zombie and leaned against it, staring at me.

“Honey . . . honey, say something,” I said, bracing for the worst. When she didn’t respond, I started rambling. “Mary, it’s terrible, I know. God help me, I can explain. I talked to Pastor–”

Mary grabbed me around the neck and sobbed, “It’s the worst thing, Francis! Why? Why?”

Shaking, I rested my forehead on her shoulder. How could I answer that question? It was the same question I’d been asking myself, but I’d never gotten any kind of answer that made sense. Why? Why? Why had I done this to her? My mouth dry, I pulled her away from me to look into her eyes. “Mary, please know how much I love you. I made a terrible, terrible mistake.”

“Why did it happen? Why did it happen, again?” she sobbed.

Her question stunned me. She was finally remembering my first confession after all this time, and now she was asking how it could happen again with Cindy!

I struggled to get my response right. I opened my mouth to speak, but there was no air to even push out of my lungs. Before I could formulate an answer, she sobbed, “I guess I should have known better than to drive that route, but I wasn’t even thinking about it. And then, just as I passed that spot on East Camelback where we crashed . . . Oh God, I saw her again!” Mary fell into my arms, dissolving into tears, unable to continue.

Slowly, it dawned on me. Mary didn’t know. She. Didn’t. Know. Mary still didn’t know my shameful secrets. She’d had one of her visions, and that was what all this was about. The rollercoaster ride of my emotions was making me too dizzy to support her so I led her to a chair at the table and scooted my chair right up next to hers.

“It was just a vision, sweetheart,” I said, my hands shaking.

“But Francis, it wasn’t the same! It was awful! It was the clearest one I’ve ever had, and you were in it this time! You were lying on the side of the road. It was so terrible; it looked like you were dead! It was you and that same woman I’ve seen before. Oh, how I’ve come to hate her, Francis! That woman with the skin-tight black clothing and the red lipstick and that long, shiny, black hair. Only . . . only this time, the hair started to change, Francis! It seemed to be turning from black to blonde! It was like the woman herself was changing into a different woman, starting with the hair, but then it all disappeared before I could see any more. Why? Why does this keep happening to me? Make it stop!”
My thoughts formed a tornado in my mind as I took my sobbing, trembling wife into my arms. “It’s going to be okay, sweetheart. It’s over now,” I said.

Wiping her eyes and dabbing at her nose with a napkin, Mary asked, “Francis, why did you say you made a terrible mistake?”

I froze.

Mary continued, “It wasn’t your mistake, honey. I know you don’t like to drive. It was my mistake that we crashed that night.”

Awash with more emotions than I knew how to process, I needed to step away to get my bearings. I said, “Let me get you a drink, sweetheart,” and headed for the bar. What if this newest vision brought flashes of memory with it? What if she were about to remember the conversation in the car that preceded the crash? I had to tell her before she remembered it on her own! But how could I tell her when she was in such a disoriented frenzy?

“Hey, look who it is!” said the bartender. It was Dave, the one I’d met the night I’d been here with Cindy.

“Just a glass of Chardonnay,” I said, hoping to let him know, with my tone, that I wasn’t in the mood for small talk.

“That blonde you came in with the other night, Mr. Rose—wow, what a hottie! I bet women throw themselves at you like crazy! That Christian rock thing must really melt the chicks’ hearts—and panties!” He winked at me, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Can you just get me the wine?”

“Sure, sure, I’m getting it. I bet it’s for that other beauty you have lined up over there in the corner. I gotta hand it to you, man, it’s a great gig! What an act!”

I threw money on the bar and took Mary’s wine. “Cindy is a longtime family friend,” I said, “and that beauty over there is my wife.”

Dave smiled broadly. “Okay, Mr. Christian rock star! Your secret is safe with me! Rock on!”

Mary was still visibly shaken when I returned with her wine. Frustrated and at the end of my rope, I said, “Damn it, sweetheart, I’m so goddamn sorry this keeps happening. What can I do to help you?”

“Just please help me make it stop, Francis. With all of Eddie’s issues lately, and with you being gone so much working on Forgiven, I’ve really been struggling. I need you now more than ever.”

Mary brought my hand up and gently laid it to the side of her cheek, searching my face for reassurance that I would be her hero and protector, just as I’d always been. Over her shoulder, I saw Bartender Dave watching us. Catching my eye, he made the zipper-across-the-lips gesture, insinuating that his lips were sealed.

I slouched back in my chair, leaning my head on the headrest, dead and empty inside. All my hopefulness at being near the end of my self-inflicted torture, all my resolutions and pure intentions—I watched it all melt away like the ice in my root beer. The confession wasn’t going to happen—not now, and probably not ever. I would never be unburdened of my sin. I had done the deliverance with Pastor John and that would just have to be the extent of my repentance. Whatever weak, pathetic, sinful creature I’d become, it was time for me to accept the truth of it and move on.










Wednesday, October 17, 2018

When is it darkest?


Today I'm pondering unwanted changes in my day-to-day, life and the question of whether they're truly dark or light comes to mind. Putting the spotlight on a book called Darkest Before the Dawn seems singularly appropriate to my feelings. I shall look forward to dawn. Meanwhile, enjoy.

DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN
Author: Mike Martin
Publisher: Ottawa Press and Publishing
Pages: 266
Genre: Mystery
Price $14.99 paperback

Darkest Before the Dawn is the latest adventure of Sgt. Winston Windflower, a Mountie who finds himself surrounded by a new family and a new life in tiny Grand Bank, Newfoundland. There are signs of trouble that may disturb his pleasant life, including a series of unsolved break-ins and the lack of supports for young people in the most trying time of their lives. But there are always good friends, good food and the sense that if we all pull together, we can find a way to get through even the darkest days.

Ghosts, mysterious deaths, and a new character enliven the pages as Windflower and Tizzard and the other police officers awaken the secrets that have been lying dormant in this sleepy little town. The deeper they dig the more they find as the criminals they seek dive deeper behind the curtains of anonymity and technology. But more than anything, this is a story of love and loss, of growing up and learning how to grow old gracefully. It is also about family and community and looking after each other. Of not giving up hope just before the dawn.

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Winston Windflower was surrounded by women. Literally and figuratively. At home, his beautiful wife, Sheila Hillier, was busy minding the new joy of their lives. Amelia Louise was just over a month old, and she was the most beautiful thing that the RCMP sergeant had ever seen. Right in front of him was a gaggle of ladies from the Grand Bank United Church Women. He was finishing up the latest in a series of seminars the local Mounties were conducting on how to make your home safer.
The sessions were in response to a series of break-ins around the Burin Peninsula in recent months. There had been ten reported in Grand Bank alone. This was concerning to the locals who were used to living in a community where you never had to lock your doors at night. It was disturbing to the RCMP as well because they had no idea who was behind this latest crime spree. Usually, that was the easiest part of their job.
Break and enters were often carried out by drug users looking for quick money for hits or professionals who would stake out a home or business that had particularly valuable assets. There were random robberies for other reasons, too, but ten in one small town was more than unusual. What was even stranger was that houses had been broken into, and nothing appeared to be missing.
That had startled the RCMP and scared the local women
who had come out tonight to hear about double bolts and security systems.
“We never had to lock our doors around here,” said Mabel Bennett.
“Who is doing this, Sergeant?” asked Rachel Mahoney. “Is it drugs?” asked Barb Pritchard.
Windflower was trying to respond but the questions kept coming.
“They don’t know yet,” came a voice from behind him. Windflower turned to see who had come to his rescue. It was Betsy Molloy, his administrative assistant. “The whole detachment is working on it, and they’ll find them,” continued Betsy. “The Mounties always get their man,” she stated confidently.
That seemed to assuage the gathered women, who parted to let the RCMP officer slip through. He nodded and smiled as he politely refused all offers for coffee and cake and squeezed his way out of the church hall.
Outside, he exhaled a sigh of relief and breathed in the first warm night air of spring. It was early June, but the weather had been unseasonably cold for this time of year. There’d even been morning frost up until a few nights ago. Tonight was calm and beautiful and mild. Windflower hoped that would be a harbinger of warmer days ahead. But he had learned from living in this part of the world that unpredictable was the norm when it came to weather. The good news was that if you didn’t like the weather at the moment, you only had to wait about an hour and it would be different.
He didn’t really care about wind or weather tonight. He couldn’t wait to get home to see Sheila and their baby. He drove home quickly and was welcomed by yet another female in his life, Lady, his five-year-old collie. She was still a puppy at heart despite her age and wanted to jump and play with her master. Windflower pacified her with a pat on the head and a Milk-Bone biscuit and ran upstairs.
Sheila was putting a new pink onesie on the baby who was< looking at her mother.
“She knows who you are,” said Windflower, creeping in behind her. The baby moved her eyes towards him.
“I think she knows you, too,” said Sheila. “Come and say hello.”
Windflower sat on the bed next to Sheila and grazed his baby’s cheek with his finger. Then, he touched her tiny fingers, and it felt like she was trying to grab on to him. It may have been reflex, but Windflower was overjoyed at her reaction. Maybe she does know me, he thought.
As he was pondering this question, Amelia Louise closed her eyes and was soon fast asleep.
“Put the kettle on, and I’ll be down in a minute,” said Sheila, who picked up the baby and carried her to the bassinet next to the bed.
“Okay,” said Windflower. “I’ll take Lady out for a quick spin too.”
Windflower went downstairs where Lady was waiting none too patiently for him. Her spirits lifted when he grabbed her leash after plugging in the kettle.
“Let’s go girl,” he said. She didn’t need to be told twice. Lady was quite happy to sniff and snort her way all along the roadways in Grand Bank. She did her business and barked at dogs on the route to let them know that she had the best master in town. She was disappointed when Windflower took the short way back home.
But once there, she was quite content to lie at his feet as he sat in the living room with Sheila.
“So, tell me all about your day,” said Windflower.
“It’s not very exciting,” said Sheila. “Eat, poop, sleep. Repeat. But I’m not complaining. We have a beautiful, healthy baby girl.”
Windflower smiled. “Well, I couldn’t be happier, with her and with you.”
“Thank you, Sergeant. What’s happening out in the big world of Grand Bank? How did your meeting go at the church?”
“They’re worried. Can’t say as I blame them.”
“It’s a big shift. Especially for those who have lived here all of their lives. What is going on?”
“Don’t know yet, but as Betsy says, we always get our man.”
Sheila laughed. “Good thing Betsy was there. She’s always helping out with the church ladies.”
“She certainly helped me out tonight. We’ll figure it out. We always do. In the meantime, lock the doors when I’m not around. I don’t want anything happening to my two favourite ladies in the world.”
“Make that three,” said Sheila, laughing again, as Lady pushed herself up against Windflower for one more rub.
He started to stroke her when his cell phone rang. “Boss, it’s Jones. We’ve got a situation. We got a call about a shooting up near the seniors’ club.”
“Injuries?” asked Windflower.
“A teenager,” said Jones. “I’m on my way.”
“I’ll be over in a sec,” said Windflower.
“Bad news?” asked Sheila.
“I’ll call you,” was all he said back.
Sheila didn’t ask any more questions. They liked a layer of insulation between his police work and their personal lives. He gave her a peck on the cheek and patted Lady as he left to drive to the seniors’ club, hoping for the best and fearing the worst.
The reality was somewhere in between.











Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home, which was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web was released in 2017 and the newest book in the series is Darkest Before the Dawn.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Are strange new worlds scary or good?

My world's not feeling as good as it might--job uncertainties, aging, insurance all rearing their heads. So perhaps it's a good time to escape into a strange new world, seek out new lives, new civilizations... or something. Which I suppose answers my question, "Are strange new worlds scary or good," because Star Trek sought out some pleasing ones as well as scary ones.

Anyway, many worlds reside in good books, so here are three, all science fiction based, and all truly intriguing.

First is Water to Water by Karen Wyle. You can find my reviews of Karen Wyle's earlier novels on Goodreads, and you'll tell from their number and ratings that I love her writing. Water to Water is no exception--a well-imagined alien world with truly alien life-forms, alien culture, and even alien faith. Readers are quickly drawn into lives and questions as a young adult comes to terms with his father's passing. But why do the dead go to the sea? Where do the dead of other species go? And what is soul? A truly intriguing tale to enjoy with some elegantly complex four-star coffee.

Continuing a theme of water and youthful protagonists, Portal Through The Pond by David K. Anderson stands alone as an intriguing alien worlds tale for middle grade and up, but is also a fascinating start to a new series. It's team of young protagonists are set on their curious path after the death of Christy's grandmother, and the revelation of grandma's secrets. An interesting team are gathered at different times--Christy's old friends, old enemies, new friend... and the self-blaming girl, partially deaf boy, and angry rebel all end on their own journey across a nicely imagined, very strange landscape, from pond to pond perhaps. Enjoy this adventure-style novel with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Dream of the Navigator by Stephen Zimmer is first in a dystopian series for teens, blending the dystopian tropes of an over-controlled society with fantasy elements of worlds beyond our own and powers at play, preying on humanity or striving to save us. It's a cool blend and a fascinating novel, very dialog-driven and drawing strongly on present-day politics and science. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee.

But now it's time for real coffee and real life again. I think I need another book! Strange new worlds are FUN.

Sweet, sharp or dark?

Do you prefer sweet, sharp or dark... or all three rolled into one. With two romances recently read, my book reviews should surely be sweet, except those romances had the sort of sharp insights and even dark (or stark) reality, they can't be simply classified with only one kind of flavor. Then there were all the other books. And then time ran out, so here are just a few book reviews while I snatch moments from trying to get my own volumes released.

Sweet William by Sherrie Hansen and Goldenrod, by the same author, are both Scottish-themed romances that delve into differences of language, culture and meaning as Americans and Scots try not to fall in love. An intriguing extra is the "meaning" of flowers. But best for readers is the sense that love is stronger than death, that romantic love doesn't eliminate other kinds of love, that faith is part of real life and not everyone shares it, and that misunderstandings really can be overcome. Enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

If Sherrie Hansen's novels blend sweet and sharp, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty perhaps blends sharp and dark, though it's also just as sweet as it needs to be. 39-year-old Alice, with a failing marraige, suffers a blow to the head and can't remember the last 10 years. But 10 years ago she was wildly in love... the world has indeed changed a lot. The reader is quickly drawn into the character's unsettled feelings, then left veering between wanting to rescue love and wondering how it was so betrayed. It's a cool book that keeps its own secrets very consistently, and ends perfectly. Enjoy its complexities with some complex four-star coffee.

Finally, a non-romantic, darkly curious mystery: You’re Dead by Chris Knopf. The protagonist doesn't do well with relationships, though he relates very well to people and understands them better than they understand themselves. A "recovered" autistic, he knows his limits and everyone else's. But now his "friend" has been gruesomely murdered, and the evidence points to him. A well-crafted mystery with great characters, hiding another well-crafted mystery in its heart, You're Dead is a dark tale to enjoy with some dark five-star coffee; a fascinating depiction of modern life and old-fashioned emotion.

So, sweet, sharp or dark? I suspect all four of this books included elements of each, like well-planned meals. I enjoyed them all anyway. And now to plan what's for dinner and to cook it...