Red Clay and Roses – a review

I am honored that Susan Toy, author supporter extraordinaire, has posted one of my “different kind of book review” on her blog, Reading Recommendations Reviewed. This particular review is of S.K. Nicholls’ Red Clay and Roses, a wonderful book that blends a bit of fiction with a lot of facts. Go on over to Reading Recommendations Reviewed and then pick up a copy of Red Clay and Roses for yourself :)

reading recommendations reviewed

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Red Clay and Roses
by S.K. Nicholls

Purchase copies here

A Different Kind of Book Review

Melissa set the tray of coffee mugs, sugar bowl and creamer on the table, and quickly began to pour the coffee. Her hands shook a bit and she missed Maggie’s cup by a hair. Maggie cocked an eyebrow in wonder. Mary was fixing plates of mini-scones and cookies for them to nibble on, oblivious to her cousin’s anxiety. This was their first book club meeting, although Melissa wondered if a book club could have as few as three people and still be a club. She told herself it didn’t matter. Now that she and Maggie were living in town, it would be a way for the three cousins to see each other regularly.

“Well, I can’t wait to talk about the book we read for tonight.” Mary put the plates of goodies on the…

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Friendly reminder: join the Town Father #goodreadsgiveaway

What the hell … or what better post for today than a reblog of Kevin Brennan’s post on his giveaway for Town Father. Read his post and enter the giveaway!

WHAT THE HELL

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Town Father, Or, Where Graceful Girls Abound by Kevin Brennan

Town Father, Or, Where Graceful Girls Abound

by Kevin Brennan

Giveaway ends February 14, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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Gatecrash: Liberating creativity in the age of boilerplate fiction

Come join the discussion on Kevin Brennan’s blog regarding the current state and future of literature in the self-publishing world! Experimentation vs formula. Where do you stand as a writer? As a reader?

I’m reblogging Kevin’s first installment of his very fine essay, but you’ll have to sign up for his blog to get notice of the rest.  And to make sure you do, I’ve closed comments on this reblog.

WHAT THE HELL

chainlink

Last March I developed a long essay on the state of fiction these days, as I see it — particularly the fiction we associate with the indie market. It’s probably thought of mainly as genre fiction, though there’s a mixed bag of material out there, available predominantly as ebooks from Amazon.com. It struck me — still strikes me, in fact — that the tools offered by online publishing present an enormous opportunity that’s not being taken advantage of by writers, artistic freedom being the biggest elephant in the room.

I had planned on publishing the essay as a standalone ebook, but over the course of the year I realized that hawking my novels is hard enough. I’ve decided instead to post it in eleven parts here on the blog, offering it at the end as a free pdf download. Each part will run about a thousand words so it’s easily…

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You Can’t Get Rid of Me … At least not easily #MondayBlogs #knitting #GrandFunkRailroad

Hello, dear friends!  What an interesting week it’s been.  And exhausting given that I had the luxury of roughly two weeks of staycation.  Returning to work after any length of hiatus is never easy.  But, still, my year started off great and I hope yours did too.  To start off, when we went to have New Year’s Day lunch with friends, I got this surprise:

 

IMG_0038

 

Yup, this is the little man (the one being held, not the one with the beard) for whom I knitted a little hat and cardigan.  (Sorry it’s not a better picture but the lighting was low.)  There was much oohing and ahhing around as well as gratitude that the day was cold enough for him to be all bundled up.  Although I’ve knitted a fair number of garments for babies and children, I’ve rarely seen them worn in the flesh.  Usually I get photos or perhaps a thank-you note since most of my handmade gifts travel thousands of miles to their recipients.  I can’t imagine a better start to the New Year than this!

Now, I said going back to work is never easy.  You may recall my complaining mentioning that my office mates and I were being moved back to the building from which we came two years before.   I wasn’t particularly happy about this move, especially since it was done over the holidays.  Also, I had a lot of wall decals to remove since I didn’t want to get accused of “interfering with state property.”  So, with this move, I had resolved to spend less time “nesting” in my new digs.  I consider myself a short-timer now so there’s  no need to get too cozy.  Yet, I have my priorities:

Cats on my computer screens (Maxine on the left, Wendy on the right)

Cats on my computer screens (Maxine on the left, Wendy on the right)

 

Marking my territory.

Marking my territory.

Sitting off to my right, this kitty is ready to pounce on an unwary bird!

Sitting off to my right, this kitty is ready to pounce on an unwary bird!

 

I had managed to salvage these wall decals and although I’m trying to eschew nesting, I’ll take whatever lifts to my mood I can get.  It makes me smile to see the kitties on my door or the silhouette on my window (and I can even see her from the outside at the street level).

I’m happy to say that by the end of this week I feel reconciled to my new office if for no other reason than … well … I’m here ;)

And I’m a roll with the book reviews!  A few days ago I finished Such is Life by Jeri Walker.  Some of you may already know Jeri from her website, Word Bank Writing & Editing.  I actually “met” Jeri through Triberr, yet another social media site that I spent too little time on.  Jeri is a freelance writer and author, with a novel in progress and a few small pieces (short stories and essays) available through Amazon.

I loved the stories in Such is Life and, while reading, frequently compared Jeri’s writing (both form and content) to that of Joyce Carol Oates (totally innocent of the fact that other readers had made the same comparison).  These are dark slices of life told with a sympathy that keeps you reading even when you know the ending won’t be happy.  Go on over to Amazon, read my review, and then pick up a copy of Such is Life.

Finally, I want to direct you to the blog of a friend, a young man I’ve been following for some time and whose weekly updates were often sources of inspiration and validation, as well as some good eye candy.  Phillip McCollum is a wonderful writer but also a dad and husband and full-time employee at a very demanding job.  So, he’s making choices, thinking hard about what direction his life might/should go in.  His musings echo my own.  Writing is something I still care about and want to do, but these days it just feels like it has to take a back seat.  Life is short.  I may be able to carve out a month of crazy writing once a year, but I don’t (yet) have the discipline and focus to put my writing first every day of the year.  And that’s okay.

I have plenty of books and blogs to read, yarn to knit up, places to visit, friends to write letters to.  Writing is always there in some form or other.

Until next time, I’ll be dancing in my chair …

 

 

Top Ten Things Not To Do If You’re A Mercenary in Windemere #newbook

Here’s a way to start your Monday with laughter. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Charles’ latest installment in the Legends of Windemere series. This list will make you want to.

Fiction Favorites

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

As you may know, I have a great deal of respect for the talent of Charles E, Yallowitz. He is a prolific writer of prose and poetry and has a marvelous sense of humor. We were discussing a guest post in support of the launch of his latest book The Mercenary Prince and I casually suggested that he do a Top Ten Things Not to Do list. To my surprise and delight, he did one. This is a list that made me laugh out loud and decided to run it on my regular feature day. I think you will enjoy it and know you would like Charles’ fantasy stories. So here is Charles and his list.

Thank you to John W. Howell for hosting this guest post, which I hope is entertaining.  I step into the realm of the master with a ‘Ten Things’ list that…

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The Mercenary Prince by Charles Yallowitz is NOW on Amazon! #fantasy

Now on Amazon for $2.99!
LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE:
THE MERCENARY PRINCE

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Delvin Cunningham has left the champions.

Lost to his tribe in the Yagervan Plains, fear and shame have kept the former Mercenary Prince away from his homeland. With his confidence crumbling, he has decided to return and bring closure to his past. Reuniting with his old friends, Delvin’s timing could not be worse as a deadly campaign is brewing within Yagervan’s borders. Dawn Fangs are on the march and these powerful vampires are determined to turn the entire region into a graveyard.

To protect his family, friends, and two homelands, Delvin will have to push his doubt away and become the cunning Mercenary Prince once again.

Art by Jason Pedersen

Art by Jason Pedersen

Please feel free to put this on your ‘To Read’ list on Goodreads by clicking below:

The Mercenary Prince on Goodreads!

Excerpt from The Mercenary Prince

With the hint of a smirk, Selenia quickens her pace and unleashes a barrage of blows on her former student. Each strike and stab is deflected by the sweat-covered champion, his speed increasing to match her every time. At one point, the half-elf leaps forward and is struck in her stomach by his shield, which forces her to flip over his head. The headmistress lands in a crouch and whirls around to block the counterattack, the point of Delvin’s sword gently running along the leather patch over her stomach. Realizing that he is still holding back, Selenia bats his next attack away and delivers a painful kick to his exposed side. The blow knocks him against the fountain and he comes dangerously close to falling into the water.

While rubbing his bruised side, Delvin circles the headmistress who turns to continue facing him. He makes a few feints that she refuses to acknowledge because they are clumsy and pathetically amateurish. The gathered students and teachers shout for more action, all of them believing the brown-haired warrior to be afraid of the legendary woman. None of them realize that his circles have been getting tighter and his fake attacks have caused Selenia to misjudge his distance. It is something she realizes when Delvin makes a quick swing for her hip and their weapons strike closer to their hilts than she expects. The moment the half-elf steps back to gain some space, her former student pushes forward with precise strikes that mirror the onslaught she previously unleashed. Without a shield, the headmistress finds it more difficult to block every attack and has to twist her body away from several attacks. The movements prevent her from throwing a kick or punch, which would probably hit the shield that he has yet to include in his advance.

Selenia eventually catches Delvin’s blade and slides her weapon along its edge to step within his swinging range. The pair push against each other, their muscles straining to gain the upper hand. Every time one of them is about to gain ground, their opponent shifts enough to continue the frustrating stalemate. With a grunt of exertion, Delvin moves his shield in front of the headmistress’s face and blocks her view. Knowing she is expecting him to push forward, the warrior falls onto his back and lets the surprised half-elf’s momentum slam her face into the wooden disc. The back of his head bounces off the ground as he flicks his wrist to deliver an extra shot to Selenia’s chin. She rolls away from him to recover her senses, but Delvin scrambles to keep her in reach and continue his attack as they stand.

“You actually hit me,” Selenia states when she notices that her nose is bleeding. She ducks under her opponent’s swing and aims her hilt for his stomach, the blow only grazing his shirt. “I think you’ve achieved two firsts for this academy, Delvin. Nobody has ever drawn my blood or made me dizzy during a match.”

Want to Dive into the Adventure from the Beginning?

Find all of these exciting adventures by visiting the Amazon Author Page of Charles E. Yallowitz

So charge up your Kindle and end 2015 with an adventure full of action, humor, old friends, new enemies, grudge matches, tears, ale, and vampires.

author-photoAbout the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: Legends of Windemere
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Happy New Year! (Among Other Things)

Hello, dear, dear friends.  I feel like it’s been ages since I was last blogging and, yes, it’s been awhile.  But the break was restorative.  Well, IS restorative because I’m still on break, both from here and from work.  I spent a few hours on New Year’s Eve catching up with some of you, the experience a reminder of why I blog at all.  Over this past year I’ve shifted from seeing my blog as a “platform” for my as-yet unpublished novels to a place where I can spend time with people I care about, new and old friends.

Now, some of this reflection is due in part to WordPress alerting me to my “2015 year in blogging” report.  The biggest surprise from this report:  My 2013 post on the suicide of Creighton in Treme has the most views of all my posts for 2015!  In fact, only one of the top five viewed posts was actually written in 2015.  WordPress suggests that my writing has “staying power.”  Excuse while I pick myself up off the floor where I fell laughing.

Like so many others, I’m happy to kiss 2015 good-bye.  My roller-coaster ride through the year hasn’t been as terrifying as some.  At times it was so boring the best I could was roll my eyes, and the real lows happened to other people, loved ones, family.  The worst is when all you can do is sit in your little coaster and feel utterly helpless.  A few months ago one of my sisters was told by her family physician that she might have Alzheimer’s.  I wanted to cry like a baby, but I was at work when I chose to return her phone call so I had to choke down the sobs.

I immediately thought back to the day she married, me standing there in the pew next to my other siblings.  My 9-year-old self stared at her 19-year-old self as she stood before the altar in a white gown.  It was all I could do to keep from jumping over the pew and screaming, “No! Don’t go!”  She was (is) my favorite sister.  The one who taught me how to do the Twist.

The mere thought of her having Alzheimer’s brought back my 9-year-old self and all her selfish fears.  Then, after a couple of months of waiting for a more definitive diagnosis from a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer’s, I get this voice mail from my sister:

Sister:  The doctors say I don’t have Alzheimer’s.

Me:  Yay!

Sister:  I have Parkinson’s.

Me:  WTF! @#$%^&

Strange as it sounds, the Parkinson’s diagnosis (as much as they can diagnose the disease) is welcomed news.  Better that than Alzheimer’s.  Even her doctors say so.  She has a lot more tests to go through, but she’s already feeling better with the medications she is on and with the knowledge that she may not lose her mind after all.  She has six grandchildren, you see, and she wants to know them as they grow up.

So I’m more than happy to say good-bye to 2015 and bring in 2016 with the faith that I won’t lose my sister all over again.

Before I go, I want to give a shout-out to the top five of my friends who have commented the most on my blog:

Jill Weatherholt — Jill is living the dream many of us aspiring writers have:  she won a book contract and is currently working on edits with her publisher!  Go, Jill!

John Howell — John has a new novel out called His Revenge.  I recently wrote a review for Amazon.  Read it here.

Luanne Castle — Luanne is an award-winning poet.  Her most recent collection of poetry, Doll God, is available through Amazon.  Read my review here.

Charles Yallowitz — Charles is a prolific author of fantasy novels.  His latest is The Mercenary Prince, available on Amazon.  For more books by Charles, just check out his Amazon author page.

Phillip McCollum — Phillip is the proud author of a little boy named Angus.  Phillip doesn’t blog much these days because he’s busy perfecting the role of father and husband and all-around great guy, but you can follow his journey on Twitter at @beatbox32.

I love you guys, and I love each and every one of you who spends time with me here or elsewhere in this wide, strange, and wonderful world.

Happy New Year!

Apropos of Nothing #MondayBlogs #MerryChristmas #HappyHolidays

I’ve been lurking offline of late, infrequently skating by a few blogs or Facebook status updates or tweets.  I’ve several reasons for my grayish absence, and only a few of them may redeem me.  Guess which.

Reasons for being absent from social media:

  1. In a pre-holiday funk, which seems to always come around this time of year
  2. Post-NaNoWriMo funk which coincides with pre-holiday funk
  3. Reading
  4. Workplace funk, which is not unusual (pretty much my steady state) but this month particularly funky since my coworkers and I have been scheduled to move back to the building they moved us from two years ago.  There may be something positive about this when it’s all said and done, but the process puts me into a funk.
  5. Major funk because the office move is scheduled for the days between Christmas and New Year, when I had scheduled time off.  So instead I will go to work for at least for the time it takes to ensure that my furniture is moved and reassembled properly.
  6. Christmas shopping online
  7. Knitting
  8. Combing my cats for fleas (damn you, global warming!)
  9. Heat and humidity putting me into an itchy funk
  10. Facebook funk because, well, facebook.

So you could say I’m in a funk, but I’ve managed to be somewhat productive with reading, shopping and knitting.

Some good news is my husband and I have entered the 21st century and finally bought iPhones.  Granted, they are iPhone 5S but we got them at a steep discount, and we’re still using a pay-as-you-go plan (no two-year contracts for us).  Interestingly, this came about because my husband was recently prescribed hearing aids which are bluetoothed enabled.  With a iPhone app, he can listen to podcasts through his hearing aids.  Finally, we found a good reason for him to buy an effing iPhone.  (I have to bite my tongue because, although I’ve wanted one for a long time, I never would have gotten such a good deal as what my husband found us.)

Now I’m scheduled to get new hearing aids (after 10 years of running my old ones into the ground).  At the moment I’m wearing a demo pair.  Unfortunately the brand is different from my husband’s.  With mine, I would need to buy an accessory ($$) to “link” my hearing aids with my iPhone.  That’s disappointing but since the hearing aids are quite small compared to the ones I used to wear, I can actually wear earbuds at the same time.  Ah, modern technology.

And by the way, my husband says people can now stop thanking him for his military service.  His hearing aids are coming to him free, courtesy of the VA.

Okay, enough of the funky personal stuff.

In reading the Sunday NY Times, two articles stood out for me (as a writer) …

  1.  From Fashion’s Gaze Turned to Joan Didion in 2015:  “I think she very early on carefully crafted an image for herself and understood that personal style was all part of the package of being a writer.”  And the article goes on to note that these days, people fascinated with Ms. Didion’s style might know nothing of her writing.  Is that okay?  A good thing?  A bad thing?  Inconsequential?  What if you have no style?
  2. From Garth Risk Hallberg, the Literary Wunderkind of 2015: the take-home message seems to be that hype does not always equal success.  Yes, more than 30,000 copies of the book have sold, BUT, according to the Wall Street Journal, the novel “would need to sell about 75,000 hardcovers, 75,000 paperbacks and 150,000 e-books to break even.”  Would I want this to be my introduction into the literary world?  My book touted as being the “Great American Novel,” before the tome (900-plus pages) is even out, and then seeing my Amazon ratings hover around 3 stars?  Would I be laughing all the way to the bank, or worried that my lack of expected success will result in a dropped contract and an undesired lengthy tenure as a writing professor?  (Nothing against writing professors.  I just imagine most of them would prefer to make their living solely off their writing.)

I continue to muse about these and other issues relevant to the world of publishing, and, no doubt, such musing does nothing to alleviate my funky moodiness (or moody funkiness, whichever you prefer).  My friend, Kevin Brennan, got me off on a good rant with one of his posts about the economics of writing.  Read it and weep if you think  all you need to do is pour blood, sweat, tears, and some $$ into your work and the fame (even modest fame) will come.  It’s a crowded field, and failed bets for the Great American Novel only make it harder.

And speaking of Kevin Brennan, part of the reading I’ve been engaging in was Town Father, his latest novel.  And I’ve posted a traditional review, which you can read here.  Yes, you have to go to Amazon to read it because, you know, you’ll want to buy the book.

Now, see, given the funk I’m in, I was thinking I probably shouldn’t post at all until after the holidays.  Just call me “Debbie Downer.”

To make it up to you, here’s one of my favorite holiday songs sung by one of my favorite singers.  Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy New Year.  See you all in 2016 (hopefully, with bells on).

 

 

Welcome, Readers!

Honest book reviews are necessary for any writer’s success, definitely more so for independently published writers who don’t have the luxury of a marketing department for support. But honest book reviews are also necessary for readers. We (yes, I am a reader, too) need book reviews so we know what we’re getting into when we buy a book. So this is exciting news from Susan Toy. I imagine it will be a great resource for readers looking for their next great read!

reading recommendations reviewed

In an attempt to provide Readers with more information about books I promote on my blog, Reading Recommendations, I’m following through on an idea I spoke about on my main blog and have created this new blog, Reading Recommendations Reviewed. I will post honest, positive reviews of books that are written and published by Authors who have been promoted by me these past two years on Reading Recommendations. The reviews will be written by READERS, be submitted to me first for vetting and editing, be positive and honest, and don’t need to be lengthy or academic in nature (unless the book itself warrants an academic-style assessment). I will link back to the Author’s promotion that was originally posted on Reading Recommendations.

Let’s keep this simple! If you read a book written by any of the Authors listed here or here, and you really enjoyed reading…

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A Very Special Day #theloveofmylife #Mondayblogs #NaNoWriMo

Hello, dear friends.  Today is a very special day.

First:  It’s the last day of National Novel Writing Month and I’m happy to say that I met my goal of 50,000 words on Thanksgiving Day, giving me the weekend to relax and live in the moment.  Yay!

Second and most important: It is the birthday of the man who enabled me to complete NaNoWriMo in record time.

Getting ready for a time lapse of the sunset at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Getting ready for a time lapse of the sunset at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Every day I’m thankful he is in my life.  For his birthday, I dedicate the following song as sung by the late great Etta James.

“How far would I travel to be where you are

How far is the journey from here to a star … “

lyrics by Irving Berlin, ~1932

 

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