From the Author
Dining and Driving With Cats is a heartwarming and hilarious true adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book will keep you up late into the night reading and laughing. Here is the remarkable story of how a girl who loved cats captured the heart of a young man who came in from the rain. This is their story of a shared love for travel and history, for food and for their sweet and wily cats Munchie and Tuffy. No cats were harmed during the writing of this book, although the humans have been left with minor physical scars from this very real trip with two very real cats. With the help of his Editor Bryna Kranzler, the award winning author of “The Accidental Anarchist”, a non-stop two hundred and sixty page adventure wrapped in a tender love story emerges from the author’s diary.
Alice is a real life brainy, successful business woman. Today she lives in San Miguel de Allende a small cathedral town high in the Central Mexican foothills. For over thirty years she lived in Washington D.C.. When she was fresh out of grad school and managing her firm’s D.C. office she captured the heart of a young man who came in from the rain. He fell hard. He pursued her. She said no –she told him she had cats. What she didn’t tell him was that she also had a secret. Over thirty years have passed since Alice revealed her secret. The young man is no longer young but he still pursues her. She calls him hubby.
Now sharing a dream home in San Miguel with their two cats Alice suggests they embark on a road trip from Mexico to Blowing Rock, N.C. in the Blue Ridge mountains. Alice insists the two cats Munchie and Tuffy must ride along. Hubby resists. Alice seduces him with a promise. She promises to buy him the perfect vehicle for the trip. He dreams of a Suburban SUV like the ones on CSI Miami and Criminal Minds or maybe a Ford Platinum F-150 4 Door Supercab like the one Mark Wahlberg and Hugh Jackman drive. Alice surprises with a Japanese sub-compact. She buys him a Honda Fit.
The reader joins the foursome as an intimate passenger on the first leg of the journey from the Mexican border to Atlanta, Georgia. If you come along you will dine on scrumptious creations from America’s most acclaimed chefs from Austin and New Orleans to the Procope and Odeon Relais at Buci Market in Paris. You will laugh at cats stuck in boxes, cry over destruction beyond imagination, fight with a Pirate, terrify a US Vice-President, learn cat smuggling, thrill with a love that wouldn’t die, and learn how the Other Woman persuaded Alice to accept my ring. So what’s keeping you? Hop in ‘cause these cats don’t bite. Besides, “The Get In Here and Eat” pop-up food truck is waiting just up the Austin highway.
My Review Dining and Driving with Cats—Alice Unplugged was every bit as interesting and amusing as I’d imagined. If what you’re looking for in a book is a story that paints a picture, then look no further—Dining and Driving with Cats will take you along a ride of a lifetime.
It’s a true voyage of a couple who decides to take a vacation from Mexico and travel across the United States with nothing but a Honda Fit, suitcases, pet carriers, litter boxes, cat food, and of course, their two beloved cats. We get to take a peek into the lives of how the couple met and how they truly are devoted to one another.
It was a well-written story where you feel as though you were along for the ride. I love stories like that. It’s not always easy for me to imagine the scenes in books. So, when I do begin reading something that I can see in my mind’s eye, it’s hard for me to put the book down. I found myself laughing and at times in shock. In one instance, one of the cats does something completely hilarious, I had to fight back a fit of laughter while waiting for my oil change. And I thought my cat was a troublemaker!
From the history lessons to the eateries to the comic mischief of the two felines, Tuffy and Munchie, Dining and Driving with Cats—Alice Unplugged is a story to be treasured and enjoyed. Cats are certainly an interesting species and Pat and his wife Alice are certainly two likable humans.
*You can preorder this via Amazon now! The title will be available June 30*
Love, happiness, sadness, and more fill Don’t Worry, Life Is Easy. This book is a sequel and at first you get the impression you might needed to have read the first book to understand some of the relationships but you really don’t. You quickly figure things out.
Diane, the widow who lost both her husband and child, has returned to Paris and has bought her literary café, Happy People Read And Drink Coffee, from her parents. Her energetic and comic relief friend and employee Felix is still present and bolsters up Diane during her moments of sadness and despondency.
Diane doesn’t really know what to do with her emotional life. She thinks the bookstore is enough for her but something is missing. A new relationship presents itself while old friends resurface in her life to face unsettled questions.
The characters are well developed and not one dimensional at all. The relationships are well done, make sense, and honestly are done so well you might cry by the end of the book. (I admit to nothing.) If you’ve ever faced a loss in your life and then been given the chance to fill that gap with something new, you will get this book. It’s a fairly good paced book and you could read it in a day if you dedicated yourself to it, or in two very easily. I like the fact that situations aren’t overdone or go on too long and are not repetitive. Some books replay the same scenes over and over but this one gives you something different throughout the book. The only repetitive thing in the book is some of the characters going outside to smoke a cigarette and even then something happens.
I’ve recently submitted my second novel to my publisher at ThomasMax Publishing. With it being my second book, I’m both excited and extremely nervous! My debut, The Murder of Manny Grimes, was released last year, mid-September. I’ve spent seven years sweating over my manuscript, wondering if I’d ever get it published. Finally, it happened, and my “baby” is now available on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble for paperback/e-book. It has had some amazing reviews so far. I hope they keep on comin’!
Sometimes, you live with a group of characters for so long, they become a part of you.
A few readers asked me about a sequel, and I thought, “Why not?” Initially, I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel. However, I was curious as to how my protagonist, Lieutenant Jim DeLong would handle his job and home life. If you’ve read Manny Grimes, you already know that circumstances threatened DeLong’s very existence. Did he overcome his temptations? Well, if you haven’t read the book, I’m not telling! Shhhhh!
And now, Blood Runs Cold is born.
This next case DeLong will be involved with will be the most difficult of his career. It’s full of mystery, intrigue, new characters, as well as old. We’ll learn even more about DeLong–more than he wants us to know. But sometimes, secrets have a way of coming out! No one knows this like our beloved protagonist.
My publisher is working on preparing the book for publication. I don’t know the exact date it’ll be released. My hope is by the end of May or early June. You’ll be kept updated for sure! If you would like to pre-order a signed copy of Blood Runs Cold (or even The Murder of Manny Grimes), I will be selling them for $14–shipping included. If you’d like to order both, I’m offering them for $20! Again, shipping is included.
A New Case. An Old Memory.
A young woman has been murdered at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion and Lieutenant Jim DeLong realizes at first sight this case will be the most difficult one of his career. DeLong is immediately swept into the memories of his childhood and dark secrets he’s longed to forget. With no clear motive, DeLong questions his ability on whether he’s able to remain objective.
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Equipped with a professional writing degree from Augusta State University, Angela Kay is a southern lady who spends her days and nights dreaming up new ways to solve dark murders of normal people.
Angela Kay was one of 23 across the United States to win a 2009 playwright contest for her one-act entitled “Digging Deeper.” Because of this, she was able to spend a week in Atlanta at the Horizon Theater Company.
She lives in Augusta, Georgia with her crazy calico, Maggie.
The Wager is written as a cross between a romance novel and a play. We meet two very distinct characters and we quickly fall in love with them. Sarah Dumont is a famous actress, rich, grew up in a prominent family as the oldest child. Because of her status, she is driven, focused, and pretty much snotty. Matt Shepard is not rich, who was the youngest child growing up on a farm. Matt is working hard at putting pieces of his life back together, friendly and sly.
The two meet based on a wager: Sarah is challenged that she wouldn’t be able to earn Matt’s attention. Sarah’s first intention was to have him make furniture for her in LA. Then when the wager is made, I felt like something was missing within the story line. Sarah wants furniture, then the woman tells her Matt wouldn’t meet with her no matter. From there, it seems Sarah’s immediately offended being told she wouldn’t be able to get Matt out on a date. I felt I needed something more to explain.
When they finally do meet, from there on, the two personalities clash and are full of hilarious banter. You can’t help but love them. I also love the use of Doodle, Matt’s dog, in the story. It only made me love Matt all the more. I found him to be very charismatic and charming.
The writing style flowed nicely. The only thing I wasn’t too fond of was that the narrative repeated pieces of the dialogue and vice versa. Having to read too much repetition made me skim more than I’d like. However, it was easy to get the feel of the southern accent. Whether you’re Midwestern, southern, northern or from Mars, readers will find themselves slipping into a southern accent.
Sometimes it was difficult for me to gather the feelings of the characters but I think it’s really up to the reader. After reading parts of the scene, I would go back and reread in order for me to get the sense of how they felt during the incident. I feel this is primarily due to the fact that it’s more of a play (or movie/TV script).
Regardless of the few “negatives,” I thoroughly enjoyed the read. It had humor, it had tears, it had love, and of course, a hidden moral to the story.
Mike Brister was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1952. His father worked for the Illinois Central Railroad and in 1955 was transferred to New Orleans, Louisiana. This began a lifelong relationship with one of the most unique cities in the world. Eventually, the family would return to Jackson.
Mike received degrees in mathematics and spent his working career as a consulting actuary. Now retired, he has written his first novel. He has made numerous trips to Haiti and plans more. The hope is that the novel is a fun read and allows for the purchase of goats for families in Haiti.
Title: As Wings Unfurl Author: Arthur M. Doweyko ISBN13: 978-1940215778 ASIN: B01HY589FG Published: 19th July 2016 Pages: 234 Genre: Science-Fiction & Fantasy (I’ve found it classed under Alien Invasion and Military, Space Marine)
“… captures the reader’s attention with kick-butt action in a video game storytelling format.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“Apple Bogdanski, a disabled Vietnam veteran, worked in a secondhand books store. When a private detective takes incriminating photos of shape-shifting aliens in the act of transformation and sends the negatives to the owner of the bookstore hidden in a book among a shipment of books, Apple is caught between two groups of aliens-one of which studies mankind’s development and the other who wants to terminate mankind and claim the Earth for their own purposes. Apple has a helper, Angela, who appears just in time to save his life and make him appear to be a hero. Angela has a beef with the bad guys and she and Apple unite with a few good guys to take on the bad guys.
As Wings Unfurl is an entertaining science fiction novel based on the premise that an alien race planted the seed of the human race of Earth millennia ago and now watches quietly as we evolve. Apple is a fairly well developed protagonist who just wants to be left alone to deal with the hand life has dealt him on his terms. Angela is a member of the alien oversight group dedicated to observation. Strangely attracted to Apple, she must deal with a conflict between her duties, her sense of right and wrong, and her feelings. Dane, as the bad alien, has a single side; the discrediting and destruction of the human race for her own purposes. Yowl and Shilog are Tibetans who are caught up in the war between factions and who provide a notable twist to the ending. Both are far out of the world that they know, but both adapt amazingly fast to the developed world.
This book is entertaining reading for readers who love science fiction “what if” scenarios and readers who love action adventures in any form.” ~ Midwest Book Review
Applegate Bogdanski returns from Vietnam with a missing leg, a Purple Heart, and an addiction to morphine. He stumbles through each day, looking forward to nothing and hoping it will arrive soon. When he attempts to thwart a crime, he is knocked unconscious and wakes up to discover that people are once again calling him a hero, though he feels undeserving of the praise.
Apple returns to work and meets Angela, a mysterious woman who claims to be his guardian. Immediately, he feels a connection to her, which morphs into an attraction. But he soon discovers that Angela is much more than she seems.
Apple and Angela are swept up in a conspiracy that stretches through time and space. Together, they must fight to save everything they hold dear from an alien race bent on destroying humanity.
Body of review:
I thank the author who contacted me thanks to Lit World Interviews for offering me an ARC copy of his novel that I freely chose to review.
I am not a big reader of science-fiction (perhaps because I don’t seem to have much patience these days for lengthy descriptions and world building and I’m more interested in books that focus on complex characters) so I was doubtful when the author suggested I review it, but the angel plot and the peculiarities of the story won me over. There are many things I enjoyed in this book but I’m not sure that it was the book for me.
As I’ve included the description and it is quite detailed (I was worried about how I could write about the book without revealing any spoilers but, many of the things I was worried about are already included in the description) I won’t go into the ins and outs of the story. The novel starts as a thriller, set in 1975. A private detective has taken a compromising photo and that puts him in harm’s way. Apple, the main character, seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, although later events make us question this and wonder if perhaps what happens was preordained. One of the interesting points in the novel, for me, was that the main character was a Vietnam War veteran, amputee (he lost a leg) and now addicted to Morphine. He also experiences symptoms of PTSD. Although his vivid dreams and flashbacks slowly offer us some background information, and the whole adventure gives him a new perspective on life and a love interest, I found it difficult to fully connect with the character. It was perhaps due to the fast action and the changes in setting and point of view that make it difficult to fully settle one’s attention on the main protagonists. One of the premises of the story is that Angela, the mysterious character who is his ersatz guardian angel, has known him all his life. She is oddly familiar to him, and she decides to give up her privileges and her life mission because of him, but as Angela’s interest in him precedes the story, there is no true development of a relationship and readers don’t necessarily understand why they are attracted to each other from the start.
The story, written in the third person, is told mostly from Apple’s point of view but there are also two other characters, from Tibet, Shilog, a farmer, and Yowl, what most of us would think of as a Yeti, but that we later learn is a member of a native Earth species. In my opinion, these two characters are more fully realised, as we don’t have any previous knowledge or any expectations of who they are, and they work well as a new pair of eyes (two pairs of eyes) for the readers, as they start their adventure truly clueless as to what is going on, and the situation is as baffling to them as it is to us. They are also warm and genuinely amusing and they offer much welcome comic relief. They are less bogged down by conventions and less worried about their own selves.
I enjoyed also the background story and the underlying reasoning behind the presence of the “angels” (aliens) in the world. It does allow for interesting debates as to what makes us human and what our role on Earth is. How this all fits in with traditional religions and beliefs is well thought out and it works as a plot element. It definitely had me thinking.
I said before that one of the problems I had with some fantasy and science-fiction is my lack of patience with world building and detailed descriptions. In this case, though, other than some descriptions about the Tibetan forest and mountains, I missed having a greater sense of location. The characters moved a lot from one place to the next and, even if you were paying attention, sometimes it was difficult to follow where exactly the action was taking place (especially because some of the episodes depended heavily on secret passages, doors, locked rooms…) and I had to go back a few times to check, in case I had missed some change of location inadvertently. (This might not be a problem for people who are used to reading more frantically paced action stories.) I guess there are two possible reading modes I’d recommend for this story; either pay very close attention or go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
I really enjoyed the baddie. Dane is awesome. I don’t mind the bad characters that are victims of their circumstances or really conflicted about what they do, but every so often I like a convinced baddie, who takes no prisoners and goes all the way. She is not without justification either, and later we learn something that puts a different spin on her behaviour (I didn’t find it necessary but it does fit in with the overall story arc). The irony of her character and how she uses human institutions and religions to subvert the given order is one of my favourite plot points and she is another source of humour, although darker in this case.
All in all, this is a book for readers who enjoy science-fiction that asks big questions, with religious undertones, lots of action and not too worried about the psychological makeup of the main characters. Ah, and if you love stories about Bigfoot or the Yeti, you’ll love this one.
What the book is about: On the surface, aliens, angels, and a battle of good and evil. At heart it deals with metaphysical issues (like the best science-fiction does) and questions of identity, and where humanity comes from.
Book Highlights: The whole premise of the story, and the two Tibetan characters, Shilog and Yowl, that are a true joy. And Dane, the baddie.
Challenges of the book: There are many quick changes of location and different points of view that might disorient readers. The story is set in the 1970s but there are a couple of anachronisms. There are some beautiful passages about Tibet and Shilog observes everything he sees with new eyes, but there is a paucity of description otherwise, even when discussing major plot points (the devices used to travel or the locations of their scape).
What do you get from it: A challenge to preconceived notions and an interesting story with plenty of action. I also really liked the baddie, Dane. There’s more to her than meets the eye.
What I would have changed if anything: Perhaps I would have tried to build up more the main characters, as for me, Apple comes across as quite disjointed and as if readers should know the type (perhaps so, but who is he?). We slowly learn a few things about him but the frantic pace of the action does not give readers much chance to delve on that. It is easier to empathise with Yowl and Shilog, perhaps because we feel as lost as they are. A stronger sense of place and time might also help.
Who Would I recommend this book to?: People who enjoy plot over character, and who like science-fiction that makes you think. Also lovers of action and Yetis.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 3/5 Made Me Think: 4/5 Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 4/5 Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Buy it at: Format & Pricing: Paperback: $12.99 Kindle: $6.09
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Title: Pale Highway Author: Nicholas Conley ISBN13: 978-1940215532 ASIN: B016ALW8PW Published: 20th October 2015 Pages: 319 Genre: Science-Fiction and Fantasy, Alzheimer’s Disease, Metaphysical & Visionary
Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel – Predators & Editors Readers Poll 2015
“Steeped in suspense, Conley’s novel delves into the darker recesses of the medical establishment. Gabriel is a sympathetic character, and the reader is pulled into his private struggles.” – Publishers Weekly
“Pale Highway brings his struggles for survival along with his fierce desire to hold off his symptoms long enough to save everyone around him to brilliant, beautiful life.” – Examiner.com
Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.
When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.
As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?
Body of review:
Thanks to the author who offered me an ARC copy of his novel that I freely chose to review.
When the author approached me about this novel, I didn’t know what to say. I don’t read a lot of science-fiction (although I’ve really enjoyed some of the sci-fi I’ve read. I think my main problem, and the same goes for fantasy, is that I don’t have much patience for world-building and descriptions) but he explained that although it was classed as science-fiction, and indeed it purports a world that is very similar to ours but with some differences (mostly, the protagonist of the novel, Gabriel Schist, years back discovered the HIV-vaccine but , rather than simply creating a vaccine against that illness, his vaccine reprograms the immune system of the person that receives it and protects them against many other illnesses), it was a bit different to most science-fiction. He told me, as mentioned in his biography, that he had worked in nursing homes and the novel was also about Alzheimer’s disease. I read the description of the novel and was intrigued. And yes, I agree with him, his novel is not a standard science-fiction novel, although it’s true that some of the best sci-fi looks at what makes us human and explores metaphysical issues.
The protagonist of the novel, Gabriel, a famous scientist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery, is in his early seventies and suffers from Alzheimer’s, fairly early stages, but noticeable enough. He is trying to hold on to his identity, testing his memory and using tricks to orientate himself and hold onto reality, but it is not without difficulties. The book wonderfully describes the residents of the nursing home, some of their peculiar behaviours, but also the persons behind the behaviours. The novel goes back and forth in time, as does the memory of the character, from 2018 to the 1950s, when Gabriel was a weird young boy (he seems to have presented some traits suggestive of autistic spectrum disorder, likely Asperger’s) already determined to solve the problem of future infectious diseases, and also covering the years when he met his wife, the dissolution of his marriage, his great discovery and how he eventually connected and got to know his daughter. All this is interspersed with what is happening now (well, in the very near future) at the nursing home, as Gabriel never goes out. Suddenly, some of the residents start getting ill, and the virus (if that’s what it is) puzzles everybody as it acts as no known illness. Gabriel starts to have strange experiences that he’s not sure if they are hallucinations or real (the readers are free to make up their own minds about this, although if one chooses to go with a rational explanation, there are enough clues within the story to suggest how his mind might have come up with such weird events) and becomes convinced that he’s the only one who can fight this terrible illness. His is a desperate race, not only against the illness itself but also against Alzheimer’s and the progressive degeneration of his mind.
The novel is written in the third person, although always from Gabriel’s point of view, giving the readers a great insight into the processes and difficulties of a mind coming undone, of the strength of memories of the past, sometimes more vivid than the present, and the style is fluid, with some beautifully descriptive passages, and some very vivid moments, particularly Gabriel’s memories, filled with emotion. Gabriel is a scientist and a keen observer, even in his current state, and that serves the novel well.
The characters are realistically drawn and it’s impossible not to care for them. Gabriel is confused and unclear at times, he hesitates and his self-confidence is marred by his illness and by previous experiences. He feels guilty for letting people down in the past, for his use of alcohol (initially to try and fit in with social expectations, as he was too different and too intelligent for most people, but later he got to like it and used it as a coping strategy but also as something he enjoyed), for allowing his wife to leave, for not being there for his daughter … He also feels guilty because he’s always said that human beings are predictable and not interesting enough and he hasn’t loved or cared for many of them. But his experiences through the novel put him to the test more than once and he discovers that it’s never too late to learn more about yourself. The author, who evidently has first-hand knowledge, depicts well the changes in humour, the confusion, the fear, the loneliness, the disorientation, and also the tenacity and the spirit of the elderly residents, including those moments when their personalities shine through the illness. The character of Melanie, Gabriel’s daughter, and her difficulty coming to terms with the illness of her father (all the harder because of his once brilliant mind), reflects well the difficulties of the families, with their guilty feelings for not visiting more often or for not being able to do more and their difficulty accepting the new circumstances (although not everybody is the same, of course).
The running of the facility, Bright New Day, also rings true. Understaffed, with routines to suit staff rather than residents, and with a mix of staff, some very caring and professional and others not so much. The novel is not an indictment of nursing homes, and other than one of the staff members, everybody works hard and is caring, but it does reflect the difficulties of running such facilities within a limited budget and trying to care for residents as individuals.
The plot is intriguing and the issue of if and how Gabriel might manage to defeat the virus is a page turner, although there are some very quirky aspects of the story that some readers might find challenging (not the scientific part as such. Although I’m a doctor I don’t think readers without medical knowledge will have difficulty with the general concepts behind Gabriel’s discovery. It is a fascinating idea). The story requires some suspension of disbelief although it is also possible to read some of the clues offered through the fragments of Gabriel’s memories as proof that a less fanciful interpretation of events is also possible. That is up to each reader.
I have to confess to feeling very moved by the story and being teary-eyed a couple of times but don’t worry, there are fun moments too and it is not a sad story but a life-affirming one. The ending, whatever interpretation we choose to go with is joyful and positive and might be meaningful to many readers.
This is not an easy novel to categorise in any genre. I think most people who are interested in Alzheimer’s will enjoy it, and people who like books on medical subjects, as long as they have a well-developed imagination. I recommend it also to people interested in memory, identity and in the big questions, and to those looking for a positive and inspiring read.
What the book is about: Many things. Being different and not fitting in, Alzheimer’s disease and care of the elderly, identity, the immune system, what makes us human, memory, family…
Book Highlights: I’m a doctor, although not a researcher, but the part about Gabriel’s research does not require hard science or lots of knowledge to be understood. It’s the concept what makes it work and the beauty of it. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of residents at the nursing home, with their quirks and their individual personalities that feel very real. And the positive message. It is a life-affirming book.
Challenges of the book: As mentioned above I don’t think the science part is too complicated as it is the general concept what is important to the story. Some of the weirder aspects of the book (the slugs, it’s not much of a spoiler as it is commented upon in quite a few of the reviews) might be a barrier for some readers, although each individual can interpret it at will. It might be difficult to read for people with relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s, although it is written with care and affection.
What do you get from it: A good insight into what Alzheimer’s might be like for sufferers: the confusion, the loneliness, the fear, and also the moments of joy and how important memories and little things can be. It’s an inspiring book with a very positive message.
What I would have changed if anything: As I mentioned, some of the quirkier aspects might be hard on some readers, but I wouldn’t change anything.
Who Would I recommend this book to?: People interested in Alzheimer’s and elderly health care with a capacity for wonder and inspiration. Also, those interested in a book with medical subjects, although they must have some imagination.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: This one is a bit difficult in this book. Let’s say the characters who are residents and staff in the nursing home (and Melanie, Gabriel’s daughter) 4.5/5. The others… 3/5 Made Me Think: 4.5/5 Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Buy it at: Format & Pricing: Paperback: $10.99 Kindle: $4.81
Thanks for reading and remember to like, share, comment and click!
Events: Prime Ministers During the Alien Era is a mock history text during the period of Roswell crash landing until the “current” space war. The text focuses on politics and personality conflicts, both fiction and non-fiction.
First, let me start off by saying, with the exception of Star Trek, I’m not big on anything alien—that’s not to say I never read or watch alien-type things because after all, I have written reviews on such topics. That said, I found this mock history text quite amusing. It held a slow but steady pace as a real textbook would go. It’s not long at all (just over a hundred pages), so I finished in less than two hours.
The prose held my interest, however, it read more as a cross between a long narrative and a student history paper. As a textbook would have, it held footnotes, which made me want to go back and read what it referred to in the prose.
At the end of the book, Murphy explains which parts of his prose were fiction and which were nonfiction. This was a good way for us to know how he weaved the truths and fiction into an intriguing read.
There were misspells (not a lot, so I’m not dwelling on the issue. Even the greatest of authors have misprints). The quotation marks weren’t very consistent. Sometimes it had a single quotation mark (which would make sense seeing as it is a British text) and others were doubled.
If you’re wanting to read a fast-paced story about aliens, then this won’t be for you. However, if you like aliens, science fiction, and historical texts, then I recommend this. It’s a fun, light read as to what might happen should we ever have to deal with aliens!
Since Amazon and Goodreads only offer whole stars, I’m bumping this story to 4 stars, though my actual rating is 3.5.
I received a copy of this book for an honest review.
Jubilee Year-A Novel is the story of what would happen if our sun had a long-lost twin that had been traveling the universe and was now on its way back home. And governments knew it but didn’t tell the populace. Elite saw it coming and were prepared for its happening but the general population was left on its own. In Jubilee Year Gerrard O’Neill gives us a taste of what happens when a few people discover the truth and try to survive the coming catastrophe.
18 years old Storm just wants to figure out what to do with his life while dating 22 years old Penny. Penny’s father is director of one of the most famous observatories in the world and thus in a position to see what’s happening in the solar system we live in. That knowledge throws Storm into an adventure he never expects as he gets caught up in protests, paramilitary groups, and a super-secret agent of the Australian government.
The relationships in the book are not bad. Although the Storm and Penny dynamic leaves something to be desired at times. The other connections in the book are pretty good with the exception of how a character named Darren turns out. I was a bit surprised about him and that seemed a little forced to me. I could see sort of why it was thrown in but maybe it could have been handled better, maybe not so rushed.
I don’t know science of the nature discussed in the book, but I don’t think you need to. It is all explained well and made you believe what is being stated. That’s what counts.
The main issues I had with the book were the head hopping within scenes where I couldn’t tell who was talking or thinking. And there are some proofreading issues that are evident. These two factors made reading not as enjoyable as it could have been.
Overall it was a good story idea, a quick read that kept you turning the pages to see what would happen next.
Rating and Recommendation:
I gave Jubilee Year-A Novel 3 out of 5 stars instead of a 4 because of the head hopping. It really took away from the flow of reading. The story itself is good and even being over 400 pages I read it in one day. So I do recommend the book for those who like the apocalyptic type of genre.
September Sky begins the American Journey series with Chuck Townsend, an unemployed San Francisco reporter, and his college-dropout son, Justin. During a cruise, they attend a lecture where Professor Geoffery Bell discusses the possibility of time travel. Soon after, he offers the Townsends the chance of a lifetime. Though skeptical, they embark on an incredible journey to 1900.
September Sky has pretty much everything you could want in a book: history, love, adventure and mystery. Although Chuck Townsend and his son were instructed to go to Chicago, they ride the train to Galveston, Texas, in hopes to right a wrong. In doing so, they each fall in love with a duo of librarians, make new friends and ultimately enemies.
Character development was energetic and well-developed. My favorites were Justin and Emily. They seemed most real and I enjoyed getting to know them. Chuck and Justin, who were just beginning to find common ground for their own struggling relationship gradually grew throughout the book.
The era and its customs were also well researched. I felt I was there–however, I do feel the dialogue for the 1900 characters seemed a little too modern. Of course, that wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
The story itself was slow moving but steady. It was predictable from having read books three through five before picking up September Sky, although I did come across a few fun twists. While this isn’t my favorite book of this series, September Sky is well worth the time to read. I had to force myself to put it down.
John A. Heldt is the author of the critically acclaimed Northwest Passage and American Journey series. The former reference librarian and award-winning sportswriter has loved getting subjects and verbs to agree since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of Iowa, Heldt is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction. When not sending contemporary characters to the not-so-distant past, he weighs in on literature and life at johnheldt.blogspot.com.
My birthday isn’t here yet, but I have just finished “From a Paris Balcony”, a gift from a dear friend. Here’s what I think of it.
Title: From a Paris Balcony Author: Ella Carey Publishers: Lake Union Publishing (October 11, 2016) Format: Kindle, Paperback Website: www.ellacarey.com Pages: 290 Genre: Fiction – Contemporary
What’s it about?
“From a Paris Balcony” tells the stories of two women from two different centuries, both lost. Louisa Duval (nee West) longed for freedom and independence in conservative 19th century Europe, while Sarah West longed for the husband and family she would now not have.
They are bound by a devastating death, Louisa’s through suicide. To escape the pain in her life, she fled to Paris on a personal mission to discover the story of Louisa, her great great-aunt’s death after discovering a letter written to Louisa’s husband, Henry from one of Belle Epoque Paris’ notorious courtesan, Marthe de Florian. Guided by her instinct, Sarah searched for answers as her path crosses that of Laurent Chartier, an acclaimed artist who seems to be on his own private journey.
Will Sarah find the answers she is searching for? Did Louisa?
The women’s lives ran parallel in their attachment to their ideals and the future they wanted. Will they dare to embrace the lives they have, instead of the lives they wish?
Other than the romance, “From a Paris Balcony” highlights the conflict and hypocrisy of morality, class and norms in late 19th century Europe, particularly Paris and London. It also brings the issue of gender inequality to the fore.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, and enjoy it. There are whimsical and reflective elements to this book, and few could escape the romanticism of the City of Light.
Now I wish I was back there 😉 !
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 3/5 Made Me Think: 3/5 Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5 Readability: 3/5 Recommended: 3.5/5 Overall Rating: 3/5
One of the biggest challenges to Indies is getting a professionally published looking book when up against the costs of editing, proofreading, formatting and cover designs. If you can afford these services then foregoing them is not a good idea, but when you really can’t afford them they can mean the death of some really great literature. There are a couple of things that can help though.
Editing or Proofreading Swopsies
Rather than simply asking for Beta readers, offer to swop proofreading services. Writers have a different kind of eyeball when reading. I’ve just finished a Joanna Trollope book, professionally published by one of the big houses, professionally edited and put together, but so far I’ve found a couple of typos and instances of poorly strung together sentences. As far as the cover design is concerned, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was specifically looking for and wanting to buy a Trollope book I wouldn’t have been at all “grabbed” by the image on the cover. We automatically see things that “normal” readers don’t. We’re also all very busy, and generally prefer to choose what we read for pleasure, so we’re more likely to put the effort in to read a draft novel to look for problems if we know that the same service is on offer for one of our own babies in exchange. Offer something valuable in exchange for this valuable job.
I you’re going to have to do your own cover design
then do a bit of in-depth googling and watch how to videos about the way to go before you even try. Do not use Paint or the basic software on your computer. Download free programmes designed for the purpose and find out how they work. It’s a schlep for the not artistically inclined, but at the end of the day it’s better to have a slightly forgettable cover than one which is eye-wateringly terrible. One of the biggest ways to ruin a fabulous image is to use horrible fonts. When in doubt go as plain as possible with fonts. There are thousands of beautiful free images to be had online. Before you choose an image make sure to have a look at how many times it’s been downloaded, and that way you can be a little reassured that it won’t be something that you see on loads of other book covers. This isn’t a huge deal though. Even with traditionally published books, very popular images often seen on more than one bestseller. Again though, while not a dealbreaker for a bestselling author, this could be a problem for Indies.
Once again, this is something that’s going to require work and hours of research on your part, but it’s work that is going to be worth it at the end of the day. Have a look at our previous in-depth articles and view a couple of videos on Youtube by reputable Indies who have gone before. Unprofessional formatting will be noticed by readers and can lead to bad reading experiences and will possibly be followed by bad reviews. Take note that formatting is totally different for different types of book. The Smashwords meatgrinder has a slightly terrifying reputation, but to be honest there are only a couple things to note with it once you have your eBook
formatted for Kindle. First is to get rid of all extraneous line spaces. Never, ever, have more than two consecutive line spaces for Smashwords. Make sure to have “Smashwords Edition” in your front matter, and load your book up as a clean Word document. Unfortunately there are lots of disappointing books about how to format, but there are a couple of good ones too. A pet hate of mine are those who say “Hire a good formatter” when you get to the formatting sections. Seriously, why on earth publish a how to book without getting to the how to nitty gritty? Make sure that you have a look at the reviews before buying any how to book. They are the best indicator.
Basic formatting isn’t impossible to do, but it’s not a magical thing that will just happen without a bit of research and putting in of the time. Good rules to remember are to not format while you write. Forget about fancy fonts, bullets, page numbers and text boxes. These are anathema to Kindle books. Type your book straight out and then once you’ve formatted your paragraph indents and spacing, save different copies for each format—eBook and paperback.
Make sure that you have a NCX table of contents
for your eBook. Regardless of the chats on forums, this is a requirement by Amazon, and even if you’ve gotten away without them in your books so far, at some point their absence will be noticed and acted on.
Formatting for paper is often the most stressful thing for Indie authors. Using paid for software definitely makes the process a lot easier, but not everyone can afford it. When publishing your first book it can all seem overwhelming, but if you take the process one step at a time you’ll generally find it doable. Here are a couple of tips for newbie paperback publishers:
Don’t automatically go for the default 6” x 9”. Consider how many pages your book has and then think about how thin or thick the end result will be. If you’re publishing a novella or something with few pages it might be a good idea to go with 5” x 8” to avoid having a really skinny result, or go bigger if it’s a massive tome.
Generally cream looks better for fiction. White is best for non-fiction in most cases.
Full Colour or Black and White Text
Full colour is going to mean expensive to buy, so unless you’re publishing a book where images are the most important thing then black and white should be good enough. Remember that even one single full colour picture means that the entire book will be printed on a colour press. You could publish two versions—one colour and one black and white. You would use different ISBN numbers for each, and if you do choose to do this make sure to let potential buyers know that there are two options in the blurb section of each.
Using your own ISBN numbers is obviously the best way to go if you can afford them, but there is no shame in using the free ones offered by CreateSpace. The only real drawback with the freebies is that you have to list CreateSpace as the publisher.
I’m not fond of templates in general, but they really can save a lot of hair pulling if you can’t face the thought of formatting yourself. They are free from CreateSpace and the most difficult task involved is a bit of copy and paste.
Once you’ve set your book size you will see your page count. Your margins can’t be set to less than 0.25 and 0.5 is recommended by CreateSpace for all four sides. Gutter margin settings depend on page count:
24 to 100 pages needs a gutter setting of 0.375
152 to 300 is 0.5
301 to 500 is 0.625
501 to 700 is 0.75
701 to 825 is 0.875
To set page size and margins go to Page Layout in Word and click on the arrow next to Page Setup. Change book size in the Paper settings and margins in the Margins settings.
With a paper book it’s important to separate sections using section breaks rather than page breaks to ensure proper page numbering. Click on Page Layout > Breaks > Next Page to insert these and make sure to remove the regular page breaks where you do put these in.
Click into your headers and footers BEFORE inserting numbers and remove any active Link to Previous instructions in any of them where there are to be no page numbers.
Then go to the page that will have the first page number in your book and click Insert > Page Number and select your preference for positioning.
One very big tip here is that Word can play with you here and reinsert the Link to Previous instructions sometimes, so if numbers keep appearing where you don’t want them, keep calm and simply go back into relevant headers and footers and remove them again. Also double check that you have section breaks in place. Where you don’t want anything in headers and footers in certain places throughout your book, remember to click on Different First Page also in the header toolbar on the relevant pages.
With a bit of work and research you can publish fabulous and professional looking books. Happy formatting!
I must write about how much I enjoyed D. G Kaye’s memoir ‘Conflicted Hearts’.The troublesome relationship that the author has with her mother mirrors episodes in my own life, and I can empathise regarding feelings that ensue from the author wanting to stay away from the negativity of her mother’s narcissistic ways and try to carry on with her own life, but at the same time suffering an overwhelming guilt at staying away for long periods of time.
D.G Kaye is a strong-minded woman and a fearless lone traveller, who is always trying to please her mother.However, I have found, as the author has, that some people just cannot be pleased no matter what is done to help them.Sometimes it’s a case of standing back, taking a deep breath, and either walking away or growing a thick skin.
I admire the author’s courage in writing this memoir.Being an only child I was never brave enough to walk away and so I had to grow the thick skin, but it was only in my mother’s last years that we actually became closer.Through major illness and stress D.G Kaye tried to do what was best for her mother and herself, and I applaud her for it. But at the end of the day it is only by actually living true to ourselves that we can really be happy.
I honestly don’t think it gets much better than this. Hannah’s Moon is the fifth book of John Heldt’s American Journey series. I’ve read two other books in the series (Indiana Belle and Class of ’69) and thoroughly enjoyed each. However, if I were to give the prize ribbon to a story-line, Hannah’s Moon would win by a mile.
It tells the story of a young couple in 2017 who wants nothing more than to have a baby. They’ve spent years trying and failing and finally began considering adoption. They soon learn of a way where they can legally adopt a healthy child in a shorter amount of time, but the catch is they have to do it in 1945. After meeting the child of their dreams, their bliss is deferred when they must overcome life-changing obstacles.
I caught a few typos along the way and also found myself overanalyzing the plot (though I did love the idea of it) by wondering about adopting a child born more than seventy years ago and the consequences of such an action. But I found myself drawn into the story within a few pages, having to force myself to set it down and get some sleep.
This has everything: love, friendship, pain, happiness…toward the ending, several moments pulled at my heartstrings and tears began to form from the corners of my eyes. After wanting to hurry and find out what happens next, I finished Hannah’s Moon and was sad to see that I had no more left to read.
I could tell Mr. Heldt did his research. I felt as though I was a fly on the characters’ walls, watching as they fought to come out on top.
If you’re in the mood for light romance and/or time travel where anything can happen–or you’re simply after a good book, then I highly recommend Hannah’s Moon.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
John A. Heldt is the author of the critically acclaimed Northwest Passage and American Journey series. The former reference librarian and award-winning sportswriter has loved getting subjects and verbs to agree since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of Iowa, Heldt is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction. When not sending contemporary characters to the not-so-distant past, he weighs in on literature and life at johnheldt.blogspot.com.
When you load your book up to Amazon you will get to choose whether or not to enable Digital Rights Management.
It is important to note here that this particular choice cannot be undone. Short of unpublishing and republishing this cannot be changed. Once you have some nice reviews and lots of sales on any particular book unpublishing it is not a great idea, so give some thought to this before setting it in stone. So, what is DRM?
Amazon says that Digital Rights Management “is intended to inhibit unauthorized access to or copying of digital content files”. While this sounds great in terms of combating piracy, in reality it’s about as effective in this regard as a straw hut would be at keeping you dry in a hurricane. My African Me & Satellite TV was published with DRM enabled and it is my most pirated book. Stripping DRM is the work of minutes with appropriate easy to obtain software and a penchant for theft. In all honesty DRM is more of a headache and deterrent to potential readers. While a DRM enabled book can be read on any Kindle device or on the Kindle App when loaded on to any reading device, it can’t be opened without it (crooked software notwithstanding). If you also publish with a distributor such as Smashwords DRM becomes irrelevant anyway as far as protection against piracy is concerned because they supply every form of digital copy of your book to anyone who purchases a copy of it.
With certain eBooks authors encourage the printing of them, such as for workbooks or colouring books, and supply links away from the book to download PDF copies for this purpose. On your copyright page you will state what is not allowed to happen with copies of your eBook purchased, but regardless of that it is very easy to convert any non-DRM book to PDF form and print it out for whatever your reader chooses to do with it. Most readers are unaware of this, so if you want to encourage this for any particular reason (for workbooks and so on) it’s a good idea to have instructions in your book. The main reason for not enabling DRM though is to ensure that any potential readers who have reading habits that do not include any form of Kindle are not put off from buying it. Odd as it sounds, there are quite a few people who do not have Kindle devices or apps, and don’t like reading on their computers, who still enjoy Amazon’s competitive pricing and book promotions.
When purchasing eBooks it’s fairly easy to see whether or not DRM is enabled. Have a look at the Product Details on the book’s landing page. If you see Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited there the book is DRM free, and if you don’t it isn’t.
If you want to check whether or not your already purchased books are DRM free, either for reading on a non-Kindle device or for printing purposes, you can use your Calibre eBook Viewer. If you don’t already have Calibre download it for free. It’s a must have tool for Indie publishers anyway as we’ve mentioned before.
Open Calibre and click on View.
Click on Open Book and then go to My Kindle Content in your Documents folder.
The books there are listed in alphabetical order by Amazon ASIN number. Search for and select the book’s ASIN (also to be found under Product Details on the landing page). The book will open if DRM free and you can either read it or convert it to PDF for printing.
If DRM is enabled it will be locked and you will only be able to open it on a Kindle device or with the app.
It’s a good idea to remember that most readers simply want to read the books that they buy. Some of them have fixed likes or dislikes that don’t always make sense to everyone. Some people refuse to read anything other than paper books, and we all have our favourite reading devices. I like to read most non-fiction on the Kindle app on my computer, especially any book with pictures, diagrams or recipes. Fiction I prefer to read on my actual Kindle, and generally in bed with a nice cup of chocolate or glass of wine. I have used this method to print worksheets out from workbooks where there was no link to exterior PDF copies. There is no point to workbooks published as eBooks without this option as far as I’m concerned, even though I have bought some without thinking where this is not an option as DRM is enabled. Needless to say those workbooks have gone mostly unread and unused, and their authors most definitely on my list of never to buy from again.
DRM is very, very weak protection against piracy, and I think not really a good option for any Indie publisher.
I’m sorry this review doesn’t follow the usual format, but I ‘ve shared it on my own blog and thought many of the authors reading this blog might find it interesting.
Although I read more fiction than non-fiction, there are more and more non-fiction books finding their way to my to be read pile, and I’ve read a few that I want to share too. So to bring more variety to the reviews, here comes one I read recently that might be particularly interesting to writers, but I believe many people will find interesting and inspiring, no matter what their call on life.
The Way of the Writer. Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson
From Charles Johnson—a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America’s preeminent scholars on literature and race—comes an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.
An award-winning novelist, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, professor, and cartoonist, Charles Johnson has devoted his life to creative pursuit. His 1990 National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage is a modern classic, revered as much for its daring plot as its philosophical underpinnings. For thirty-three years, Johnson taught and mentored students in the art and craft of creative writing. The Way of the Writer is his record of those years, and the coda to a kaleidoscopic, boundary-shattering career.
Organized into six accessible, easy-to-navigate sections, The Way of the Writer is both a literary reflection on the creative impulse and a utilitarian guide to the writing process. Johnson shares his lessons and exercises from the classroom, starting with word choice, sentence structure, and narrative voice, and delving into the mechanics of scene, dialogue, plot and storytelling before exploring the larger questions at stake for the serious writer. What separates literature from industrial fiction? What lies at the heart of the creative impulse? How does one navigate the literary world? And how are philosophy and fiction concomitant?
Luminous, inspiring, and imminently accessible, The Way of the Writer is a revelatory glimpse into the mind of the writer, and an essential guide for anyone with a story to tell.
“Charles Johnson has given us a book that will hopefully place a gentle but firm hand on the shoulder of every writer. Here are short essays offering advice, writing life insight and encouragement to anyone wishing to master the art of storytelling. Johnson’s book is a reminder that good writing consists of more than sleeping with the dictionary. It requires a major commitment to the love of language.”– E. Ethelbert Miller, award-winning poet and 2016 recipient of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature
“Charles Johnson here provides—as his subtitle promises—’reflections on the art and craft of storytelling.’ It’s a welcome addition to the small shelf of useful books on the way of the writer and one that belongs with those of his mentor, John Gardner. Here the writer links the personal with the professional in ways that both inspire and instruct. Use this book (a) to deepen your familiarity with the work of a distinguished author, (b) to understand how serious practitioners address their art and (c) to improve your own.”–Nicholas Delbanco, author ofThe Years
“Those of us who put pen to paper for a living have known of Charles Johnson for a very long time. He is one of America’s greatest literary treasures. He is a skilled wordsmith, superb craftsman, master of understatement, philosopher, cartoonist, and deeply talented novelist whose 1991 novel Middle Passage, (which won the National Book Award for fiction) predates the current surfeit of Underground Railroad novels by a good two decades. Like the great Ralph Ellison to whom he is often compared, he will forever cast a long shadow over us who follow in his wake. Here he graciously opens up the treasure chest of writing secrets and philosophy for those of us who seek to kneel at the tree of learning, told by a man who has kissed the black stone of literary excellence.”—James McBride, National Book Award-winning author ofThe Good Lord BirdandThe Color of Water
“If you’re looking to learn to tell stories in written form, look no further. This book is as accessible as it is profound, lively, practical, and full of earned wisdom. I was a student of Charles Johnson’s, and can vouch for the power and value of his teaching. There are plenty of craft books available out there, but this is the only one I know of that is–and I don’t think I’m exaggerating–indispensable.”–David Guterson, author ofSnow Falling on Cedars
“This is a book for many readers. If you are an aspiring writer, the path that Dr. Johnson sets out is a clear guide to your destination—whether you become a best-selling novelist or a top non-fiction writer or not. You will find a compass in this book that will direct you towards a real way that will fulfill your efforts. There is much practical advice and worldview wisdom here that will sustain you in your journey. Those who are on a different path (as readers) will also find fulfillment here. Dr. Johnson sets out original and illuminating guides on how to confront literary fiction—especially philosophical fiction. These reflections advance critical theory toward literature that is, itself, philosophy. This is a must-buy for both of these travelers. The destination will more than reward the price of the ticket.”–Michael Boylan, Professor of Philosophy, Marymount University and author ofNaked Reverse: A Novel
“An honest, engaging, and wonderfully inspiring book for both writers and teachers. Charles Johnson’s deep intelligence, joyful rigor and refreshing iconoclasm are evident in every subject he covers here. Philosophical and practical, The Way of the Writer is sure to become a classic in the mold of John Gardner’s excellent books on writing.”–Dana Spiotta, author ofInnocents and Others
“A meditation on the meaning of literature and practical guide to the art and craft of writing fiction.”–Library Journal
“Charles Johnson has a long-standing reputation as one of the world’s greatest fiction writers. Now in this brilliant new book, The Way of the Writer, he offers us an eclectic meditation on the storyteller’s craft that is by turns memoir, instructional guide, literary critique, and philosophical treatise. Every reader will be deeply enriched by the book.”—Jeffery Renard Allen, author ofSong of the ShankandRails Under My Back
“All writers will welcome the useful tips and exercises, but the book will also appeal to readers interested in literature and the creative process. Johnson’s wonderful prose will engage readers to think more deeply about how to tell a story and consider the truth-telling power of the arts.”-–Library JournalSTARRED review
“Throughout, Johnson’s voice is generous and warm, even while he is cautioning writers to be their own ruthless editors. A useful writing guide from an experienced practitioner.”—Kirkus Reviews
“National Book Award winner Johnson (Middle Passage, 1990) has taught creative writing for over 30 years and now shares his well-refined thoughts on how best to develop literary taste and technique…. Every aspect of this writing manual, which is laced with memoir, illustrates Johnson’s seriousness of purpose about literature and his laser focus on the thousands of small choices that shape a written work. The result is a book that will be appreciated by aspiring writers and everyone who shares Johnson’s delight in the power of words.”–Booklist
“A meditation on the daily routines and mental habits of a writer…the book radiates warmth…a writer’s true education might start in institutions, it seems, but for Johnson it is more a lineage of good, memorable talk.”–New York Times
“Eloquent, inspiring and wise, The Way of the Writer is a testament to the methods and advice the author espouses, and even if you aren’t an aspiring novelist, Johnson’s book is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of our finest writers.”–Seattle Times
“Writers who haven’t had the opportunity to study with Dr. Charles Johnson during the past 40 years are now in luck. The novelist, essayist, cartoonist, and philosopher has collected the creative lessons he’s learned along the way in a new practical and semi-autobiographical guide.”–Tricycle
“An instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.”–Chicago Review of Books
About the Author
Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. His fiction includes Dr. King’s Refrigerator, Dreamer, Faith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.
My review: Unique reflections based on a lifetime of thinking and writing well.
Thanks to Net Galley and Scribner for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.
This non-fiction book is not a ‘how to’ book and won’t give the reader a formula for producing, and even less, selling, books by the bucket load. The subtitle, Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling describes much more precisely what the book is. And if there’s one thing we can’t accuse Charles Johnson of, is of lacking precision.
The book is structured in six parts (1. Who Is the Writer?, 2. The Process of Writing, 3. What Helps the Writer, 4. The Writer as Teacher, 5. The Writing Life and Duties of the Writer, 6. Philosophy and the Writer), each one collecting some of his essays on topics related to the craft of writing, that are very numerous. The parts, and each essay, can be read separately, although if read as a book there are reflections and quotes that will become familiar, and anecdotes and thoughts that appear more than once (not a big problem if readers dip in and out, or read it over an extended period and go back to revisit the parts they find more relevant or inspiring). Due to the nature of the materials, some of the content overlaps, particularly as this is a deeply personal book, based on Charles Johnson’s experiences, and he talks about his personal writing schedule, his interest in martial arts, how he started his career as a journalist, his love of drawing and design, his Buddhist beliefs, his interest in Philosophy…
The author taught an undergraduate and a postgraduate writing course for many years, although he has been retired for a while, and he describes his ‘boot camp for writers’ that he strongly based on John Gardner’s (that he describes as his writing mentor) programme. Johnson talks about the readings he recommends, the hard schedule of writing he requires, how he focuses on technique, how he advises writers to read a dictionary from cover to cover… So, there are exercises one could do independently and advice one can follow, but mostly the book is a reflection on his career, as a writer, philosopher, teacher and reviewer. From a personal point of view, I especially enjoyed his essay on reviews because it spoke to me and to my thoughts on what a review should be like, and the importance of telling people what they might find and like in the book, above and beyond your personal taste and opinion in the matter.
In some of his essays, he uses his own books as examples of some of the points he makes (character building, voice, point of view, among others), understandably, as he can discuss his intentions and how they relate to the technique he used, rather than assume what other authors were trying to do. This creates two issues. I’ve read some comments that would indicate he might come across as self-aggrandizing, arrogant and full of himself, although reading the rest of the articles makes quite clear that that is far from the truth. The other issue is that the comparisons and examples might not be as clear for readers who are not familiar with his work (although he does mention other writers often). I must admit that living in the UK, although I studied American Literature years back, I am not familiar with his work, and checking Amazon.co.uk, this is the only one of his books I could easily find. Even in Amazon.com most of his books are only available in paperback or hardback. But many of his comments about drafts, editing, working as a journalist, and his compelling defence of storytelling and the importance of finding a story that captures the reader’s (and of course, first the writer’s) imagination can be enjoyed and savoured without direct knowledge of Johnson’s fiction.
The author is an exacting and hardworking writer and thinker and he expresses strong opinions about what literature should be like. His is the world of literary fiction, and literature and stories used to explore and explain philosophical insights, of traditional publishing and paper books. He does mention pork literature or industrial literature and acknowledges that some writers make a living by writing genre fiction (although he does not mention it by name or discusses it in any details) but that is not what he’s interested in. I could not help but think about the self-publishing movement and the writers who embrace it, who will also find much to enjoy in the book but, like many other writers will feel very differently about some of the topics. Charles Johnson mentions a couple of times that he did not himself study a degree in creative writing (his method is more like an apprenticeship, and it reminded me of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and his account of his self-education and dedication to learning, although with a very different goal in mind) and says that those degrees do not exist in Europe (they do, so I’m not sure all the essays are up-to-date). He acknowledges changes in standards and interests in the student body, and how he’s had to adapt his reading list to such changes so they remain relevant.
The author uses wonderful quotes from great writers and philosophers to illustrate his thoughts and make some points. I had to stop highlighting the text as there was hardly anything left without colour on the page, and this is one of those books eminently quotable and that will keep readers going back for second helpings.
This collection of writings by Charles Johnson is likely to make anybody interested in books and writing think and reflect. Some of the advice might be easier to apply than other, depending on the style of writing and the intentions of those reading it, but many of his reflections and thoughts will resonate and inspire most of us, and who would dispute the importance of storytelling?
Thanks to Net Galley and to Scribner for offering me a copy of the book and thanks to Charles Johnson for sharing his career with us, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you feel so inclined, like, share, comment and CLICK.
A few hundred people wake up in an auditorium with no memory of their past, scared and confused, struggling to remember who they are and how they got here. A voice draws their attention to the person standing on the podium, impeccably dressed, an air of calm confidence about him that suggests he has the answers to all their questions. As he starts explaining the situation, they slowly begin to realize they are in a futuristic realm called Enigma, where dead humans are reborn and brought to trials for the crimes they committed in their human-lives…
I have to say good going on this one. I honestly don’t know where to begin. This will be a short review because I can’t really say much about the story…I’d hate to give it away. The characters are basically living in purgatory—a city called Enigma. When the humans die, they’re reborn, so to speak, to be tried for the crimes they committed in their human life.
Halfway was absolutely nothing like I expected. But, then again, I wasn’t exactly sure what I expected. It did take a little bit for me to get into at first, but I soon found myself drawn deep into the story. The characters were three-dimensional, the plot first-rate. I found the idea of the storyline quite intriguing and original.
I recommend this book.
Overall rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lokesh Sharma grew up reading books and watching movies—a little too much for his parents’ taste. He spent his childhood in a small town about 150 Kms from New Delhi. Having finished his studies, he moved to The Heart of India in 2010, where he worked for a reputed American-based Bank for about three years, until he came up with the idea for his debut novel and decided to put it into words. Aside from lots of reading and a little bit of writing, he likes travelling, shopping, and listening to music.
Should we be thinking about money when we write? This is one of those questions that scribblers like to ponder, and occasionally have heated debates about. Are we writing for the love of writing, or to earn a living? Certainly not everyone who writes fiction is going to be able to live off the proceeds. If that was the case the whole world would be reclining under an oak, holding forth to their readers and sipping absinthe. No. There is a small percentage of the planet’s population who can be considered career writers of stories, who have their scribbles pay for their homes and vittles without them having to go without. The rest depend on various things. Luck and being visible in the right place at the right time are pretty massive factors in whether or not some really genius and gifted writers ever get their amazing books read by more than their aunty and the barman. So, apart from money, what do we want to do with our writing? I mean, REALLY apart from money. I am quite serious about wanting to leave a little legacy behind. I hope to leave a scribble or two that will help, inspire, or just bring a smile to the dial of some future reader when this old bod has turned to dust and I’m swanning around with angels and Pratchetts on clouds. What scribbles would you like to leave behind that would make your future discorporeal self proud? Do you even want anyone to have access to your books when you’re gone?
We all leave footprints behind after departing this mortal coil, regardless of what we do for a living, for fun, or for no reason at all. Most people leave behind a Will with instructions as to how whatever bits we leave behind is to be divided up, and with a bit of luck during our life we have the foresight to ensure that if we were to suddenly expire, there would not be anything overly disturbing for our nearest and dearest to discover. So, apart from occasionally cleaning out our drawers and upgrading our undies, as published Indie authors we should consider the legacy we want to leave behind as well as how the spoils will be divided. I’m not going to go into the legal nitty gritty here. I suggest that you read up on it from the experts. What I do suggest though, is a little bit of thought about your actual written legacy. Your published books, blog articles, every little old thing you’ve ever posted online will hang around somewhere after you’ve moved on to that forever-after fabulous literary drinks festival waiting for you in the sky.
Writing is generally a solitary pursuit, and often some of those who are drawn to writing are solitary in every possible way. No known next of kin, or perhaps none that they particularly want to be known to. Few friends, or none in “real life”. What happens to those scribbler’s books when they die without a will? When nobody knows that they are indeed dead? When they peer over their bottomless Bellini from fluffy clouds up above, will they be happy with the way they’ve left their tales for posterity? If you don’t have any family or friends to leave your work to, even if your royalty payments never break two figure monthly payouts, should you just leave your books to fade gradually into the deepest bowels of Amazon, to be lost and finally forgotten, only ever to be seen again by accident?
That is of course entirely up to you. What I suggest is at least leaving a trail behind. Who knows, even though you won’t be physically able to participate, you might enjoy the belated readership in the spirit, so to speak. Get yourself a book. Write down user names and passwords to all of your online publishing platforms. While you’re at it, write down the same for all your social networking sites. Write down your wishes for your published books. Do you want them to be unpublished when you die? Do you want their copyrights to be given to a person or an institution? Find out where to leave these things and make it easy for whoever is left behind, rather than have them scratching their heads, or worse, giving up at the first weird form letter they get in response to their query about accessing your publishing platform.
So while I’m not going into the legal bits here, they are pretty easy to find out about online, I am encouraging all of you to consider what you’d like to leave behind. Forget about making a dollar for a moment, and consider what bits of “you” you’d like to stay here. Inspiration, instruction, laughter, excitement, all of these things are worthwhile contributions to humankind. Your books will lurk in Kindles long after you’ve zoomed on to your mansion in the sky, so while money is rather nice to have while you’re here, love floating up through the ether is probably a nicer thing to invest in for all eternity. Tweak bits. Insert bits. Forget about the rent and write for the love of writing. And while you’re at it, leave something wonderful behind, and finally remember to make sure it’s not too difficult to stumble upon.
Sorry I haven’t been around much recently, but today I bring you a review and the author, Tony Rauch, has also agreed to answer a few questions, so we have a double feature, a review and a mini-interview.
Title: what if I got down on my knees Author: Tony Rauch ISBN: 098293355X
what if i got down on my knees? presents romantic misadventures and entanglements of absurd, whimsical, existential longing, featuring discovery, secrets, identity, escape, strange happenings, endurance, regret, and hope. The stories are little postcards from the lonely regions of the human heart.
These tales of wonder are about people trying to find meaning and a place in an indifferent world, and their discoveries, revelations, secrets, failures, struggles, connections, and odd encounters along the way—
—two unemployed men steal dogs and run them through buildings around town.
—a man goes on what turns into the worst date in recorded history.
—you are asked to baby-sit for a neighbor, only to find a giant baby waiting for you.
—a man comes home to find his entire yard and home paved over by a long lost rival.
—a clerk at a used record store finds a man has passed away on one of the couches.
—some young adults go into the basement to get sad, in order to impress girls.
—a stranger extracts a baby from a man waiting for the bus.
With themes of longing, fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, regret, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, discovery, ennui, loneliness, irresponsible behavior, confusion, change, identity, and absurd situations, Tony Rauch is a worthy successor to the artistry and absurdism of Donald Barthelme and Steve Martin.
Body of review:
I received a copy of this novel from the author and I voluntarily review it for Lit World Interviews.
Short stories are an acquired taste. We might think a short read is perfect because we are always rushing and don’t have a lot of time, but sometimes we might feel disappointed when the story ends and we’ve invested time and, in the best of cases, emotions only to have to get to know some new characters after a few pages. Of course, not all short stories are born equal. And this collection of short stories by Tony Rauch proves the point.
Some of the short stories in this collection are whimsical (surreal) and might leave you scratching your head (or looking up to the sky searching for… No spoilers) , some are vignettes illustrating the lives of people who might appear content with their lives at a superficial level, but whose thoughts and worries run deeper than it seems, many are about lonely people wondering about others and trying to connect (in some occasions with hilarious consequences), some are about pretending to be something or somebody else, about growing up, about growing old, about moving on or remembering the past…
The quality of the writing is superb, and the first person narratives cleverly capture the speech and rhythms of the characters, who sometimes are talking to others, sometimes conducting an internal monologue with themselves, or even writing a story. From young kids trying to impress their friends to old men dying, from people contemplating a new relationship to others letting go, these few pages run the whole gamut of experiences and emotions.
To give you some examples:
His skin appeared two sizes too tight for his body, stiff and washed out, like he’d gotten it secondhand, or found it in an alley late at night.
His suit is mythical—straight, lean, long, pure, giving, musical, thoughtful, caring, dynamic, cosmopolitan, unselfish, strong, industrious, and nostalgic for his mother, her peanut butter cookies, and snowy Christmas mornings.
“And what would someone do with a dream of mine? Where would you keep it?”
“I’d stretch it out to create a sail, and then use it to float off to who knows where,” I advise.
Some of the stories are nostalgic and melancholy, but there are great comedic moments, ranging from slapstick to joyful turns of phrase (and oh, a so very satisfying revenge story). Another example I highlighted:
Eventually, he turned up in over 3000 cans of a popular brand of tuna. A horrible fate to be sure, and amplified by the fact that the guy was notoriously reputed to detest tuna.
I won’t tell you which stories I liked the most as I’d find it difficult. I checked the reviews, and on reading the comments when the reviewers mentioned a story or another I’d agree with them. So… Just go and read them and enjoy their variety.
What the book is about: Many things: growing up, life, dreams, realities, loneliness, relationships, friendship, revenge, writing…
Book Highlights: The quality of the writing and the very distinct characters and voices. The whimsical sense of humour.
Challenges of the book: Sometimes with the electronic version I wasn’t clear when I had moved from one story to another. The titles of the individual stories and the different parts weren’t always easy to tell apart.
Although the book is not long, I think it is best taken slowly and savouring the quality of the writing, rather than rushing to get to the end of the story. It is not a book to be read in a hurry.
What do you get from it: Beautiful writing, stories that make you think and a few laughs.
What I would have changed if anything: As I mentioned perhaps change the size of the titles or the formatting (in the digital version) to make the divisions clearer.
Who Would I recommend this book to?: To readers who enjoy language and a mood more than heavily plotted stories (although there are some great ones too). And to writers who are considering writing short stories, or just keen on exploring the many ways characterization works.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5 Made Me Think: 4/5 Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 5/5 Overall Rating: 4.5/5
People have less and less time these days and short forms of writing are becoming more and more popular. From flash-fiction to microfiction and even stories told in Tweets, it’s all about brevity. Of course, the short story has a long tradition, but what is for you a short story? And what makes it (so far) your preferred choice when writing? –
For me a short story is anything that conveys a feeling, or an event, or that sets up an event that may then spring forward. It does not have to have a beginning or an ending. I like story starters, that is a written piece that poses a situation or premise, and then you have to imagine various outcomes. But the premise is so interesting it creates that zing in your brain and gets you thinking. That to me is a good story: anything that kick-starts that zing in your imagination and gets you thinking on a different track or about various possibilities.
I prefer the short form because I don’t need a lot of useless background info that longer work sometimes gets bogged down in. I don’t have a lot of free time, so the short form is good for getting ideas down. I have a lot of different ideas, so the short form works well in sorting them into more organized paradigms.
Who are your favourite writers, in general, and writers of short stories (if they aren’t the same ones)? Why? What have you learned from them? –
Favorite authors, influences:Anyone interesting, imaginative, and concise. Anyone who makes you think.
Mostly I like short stories as they get to the point quickly. The books that really inspired me are mostly imaginative story collections because they were exciting and new and you never knew what was going to happen next in them. Also, they were brief, which made them memorable and easily digestible.
I like strange or absurd adventures that are well crafted and have a meaning to them, and sci fi as it offers ideas. Reading these types of writers is like taking mini adventures that I could not experience otherwise in the limitations of my actual life –
Donald Barthelme, J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Charles Bukowski, Leonard Michaels (murderers), Mark Twain, James Thurber, Antoine de Saint Exupery (the little prince), Dr. Seuss (cool illustrations), Roald Dahl, Steve Martin (cruel shoes), W.P. Kinsella (the alligator report), Jim Heynen (the man who kept cigars in his cap), Don Delillo.
Barry Yourgrau, Mark Leyner, Adrienne Clasky (from the floodlands), Lydia Davis (Samuel Johnson is indignant), Etgar Keret, Stacey Richter, George Singleton, James Tate (Return to the city of white donkeys), Thom Jones, Italo Calvino, Stephen-Paul Martin, Will Self, Denis Johnson (Jesus’ son), David Gilbert (I shot the hairdresser), David Sedaris, Paul Di Filippo, D. Harlan Wilson, Andersen Prunty.
Science fiction from the 40s, 50s, and 60s:
Rod Serling, L. Sprague De Camp, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, Aurthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont, Ursula K. Le Guin, Douglas Adams (an 80’s writer), etc.
Many writers read this blog. I subscribe to the advice that one should read in order to improve one’s writing. I know it will be a difficult choice, but any stories in particular that have had an impact on you or have increased your understanding of the form?
Yes, many – see the list of authors above. One thing I look for is that buzz or zing when they convey a feeling or present something I hadn’t ever seen before. For example, I like that F. Scott Fitzgerald story “Winter dreams” because in it the character changes, or his feelings for someone changes. I like that arc, that sense of change the character goes through in a story. That story presents a loss, and the character’s feelings about that change and loss.
You can find book information and story samples on that bad boy of rock and roll.
If you know of any good publishers looking for arty story collections, please let them know about me. I’m always looking for good publishers. A lot of places don’t publish single author story collections.
Thank you for your time.
Thanks very much to Tony Rauch for his book and for answering my questions, thanks to you for reading, and don’t forget to like, share, comment, and CLICK!
We all have a past, and we know our parents had a life before us. But what if we come to realize that one of our parents had affiliations with the mob? That’s something hard to imagine, even if you are the daughter of Allen Smiley, a friend of the infamous Bugsy Siegel.
Luellen Smiley grew up in both admiration and fear of her father, Allen. He was an overly protective and a stern man with many, many secrets in his closet. She loved her father but didn’t know him. She feared her father but didn’t know the reason why. Ten years after the death of Allen Smiley, Luellen begins to unravel, feeling severe unease and anxiety about herself and her father until she finally breaks. While many would choose to try and ignore it and move on with their life, Luellen embarks on a quest to understand the reason for her pain. She takes to government surveillance records, newspaper articles, court testimony, classified FBI documents, interviews and conversations with relatives in order to learn all she could possibly know about her father and about her heritage.
I found some of the scenes to be very short and sometimes confusing, so I needed to reread. I could think of a few ways to rewrite it in order to make the tale flow more smoothly, but it’s possible Luellen had her reasoning, unbeknownst to me of why she kept the scenes so brief. The dialogue was engaging, and she’d obviously done her research in bringing the past back to life. She wrote the prose in a way that made you want to turn the next page and find out what happened next. Who was this guy, Allen Smiley? How could he manage to keep all these dark secrets?
My main issue is the reason the story is a four star and not a five (actually, I’d give 3.5 stars for this, but only full stars are allowed, and the story is too intriguing for a measly three). Throughout the prose, there were so many grammatical and punctuation errors as though it hadn’t been edited after written. If I didn’t care to learn about what it was like to be brought up unknowingly in a mobster world, I’d have set it down. However, that wasn’t the case. The story had me too intrigued and I wanted to meet the ending.
If you enjoy all types of gangster-related stories, particularly the true ones, I’d highly recommend Cradle of Crime.
Luellen Smiley was the daughter of Allen Smiley—Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner. Her upbringing within the Mafia family breaks through a long-standing stigma about the organization and its members. She wants the world to know that they started as defenders of their neighborhoods—not trigger-happy murderers.
Ten years after her father’s death, she evolved into a gangster authority through researching thousands of classified FBI and Department of Justice documents and interviews and conversations with relatives, ex–mob guys, and authors.
Luellen is an award-winning newspaper columnist who has written for publications such as the NY Post and MORE Magazine.
Captain Sharif’s police compound has been breached. Fifteen Americans murdered. CIA agent Frank Hutchinson has proof the cop is lying and has him in his crosshairs, eager to exact revenge. Captain Sharif must please his corrupt superiors; and yet see justice served, and abide by the Koran. He’s in hell, with no way to escape – either be buried alive or suffer Allah’s wrath. In the balance hangs the life of Eliza MacKay, witness to the massacre. He’s drawn to her courage and discovers her ‘take no shit’ personality warrants respect. Even so, her struggle with PTSD may get both of them killed. Desperate, Sharif initiates an act more forbidden and fatal.
One thing about Forbidden by F. Stone you need to know is that it’s set in the year 2047 and the Muslim countries in the Middle East with a few exceptions have formed into one large nation. I think of it like the old Soviet Union. Iraq is the center of power and that’s where this story takes place.
You quickly forget about the future setting because everything in the story is still very much present day except for the political setting, which doesn’t play a huge part in the story.
I really liked the book. There were definite elements that needed to be handled well, especially with CAPTAIN SHARIF’S faith. The author has obviously done her homework and that shows up primarily around how Sharif handles his interactions with ELIZA MACKAY.
But enough about that. This book is action from the beginning to end. A great who is doing what to whom. I’m pretty good at figuring things out but was surprised in the end about who was not involved in the murdering of the 15 Americans.
The writing is fast paced and I read it in a day because of not wanting to put it down. Throw in the romance elements and you have a well balanced story that gives you a chance to breathe between the action moments. The romance part isn’t overplayed and doesn’t detract from the story at all.
MacKay’s traumatic history and PTSD are used to great effect in the relationship between her and Sharif. Some of it is a little unexpected but overall I think it was exactly the way it should have been.
I recommend the book for thrill seekers and action junkies.