Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Author's Best Choice Awards 2015

Here is a recap of the winners of the Author's Best Choice Awards for 2015. Congratulations to these authors!


Click any title above to go directly to my review. You can also read my interview with Rosalind Gibb by clicking HERE.


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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Issues With the Issue

In a single week in 2015, nine people were killed and 26 more wounded in mass shootings in America. It wasn't a bad week. It was an average week.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, such shootings occurred more days than not in 2015. Which means a mass shooting in the U.S. is no longer a newsworthy event.

I would think any reasonable citizen would sincerely desire to see the number of mass shootings in America decrease, and drastically. But many disagree as to how to go about making that happen.

I am a gun owner. Technically. I own a single rifle my father built with his own hands. It is a muzzle-loading flintlock, currently in storage in another state. I plan to display it in my home soon. It is both sentimental and a work of art.

If we are going to engage in public discussion about gun violence in America, it is important to have some ground rules.

1. We should agree that our discussion will not change anything. As already stated, some sort of change is required. But we should not see reforming healthcare, decreasing poverty or enacting legislation as the goal of our discussion. While any or all of these may ultimately be required, we should first get a general consensus on what sort of action should be taken.

2. We should agree that we will not change anyone's mind, either. If anyone's opinion does change, it should be because that person has examined the evidence and concluded he or she must change. Our duty should not be to convert, but to inform.

3. Everyone should be heard. Each participant should be allowed to present his or her views and provide support for those views. The discussion is about how to reduce gun violence in America, not about who can yell the loudest.

4. On the other hand, no one should be required to speak. (Or post. You get the idea.) Participants are welcome to simply absorb the information presented. A person's silence should not be confused with either support of or exception to your views.

5. We should not think of "winning" and "losing." It is not a football game. When gun violence in America decreases, we all win.

Now that we have that out of the way, I would like to present some problems I have seen with the "discussion" which has taken place so far. I am talking about logical fallacies.

According to yourlogicalfallacyis.com, a fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. Such flaws weaken an argument, although the use of such fallacies sometimes make an argument seem stronger than it really is. Avoiding these fallacies will make your argument stronger, while being aware of them will help you discover when someone else has a view that may not stand up under scrutiny.

The Black-or-White Fallacy
Whenever I mention I favor gun control, someone is bound to offer up some variation of, "You can't take away our guns!" One problem with that response is that it does not accurately represent what I said, but the Black-or-White part of it is that it assumes there are only two options. Either guns in America have minimal restrictions, or they are banned outright.

While there are those who say guns should have no restrictions at all and others who say we must ban all firearms, there are a whole range of possibilities in between. There are no "sides," but there are many different viewpoints.

No True Scotsman (or, in our case, American)
I have actually been told that the Second Amendment and the way it is currently interpreted is embraced by all TRUE Americans. The fallacy here is that it is entirely possible to be an American and believe the law should be changed, or even abolished altogether. But there is a darker side....

Such statements imply one party loves our nation and the other does not. If we are going to have this discussion, we need to recognize that the various views all stem from a love of country, and of humanity itself. It is simply a matter of us not agreeing on what is best for the nation. One of the goals of discussion should be to sort that out, not to determine who is the bigger patriot.

The Strawman Fallacy
This is a case of misrepresenting someone else's argument in order to make it easier to attack. It is, in fact, the other problem with the response listed under The Black-or-White Fallacy above. Here is a popular meme that was recently circulating on the internet:


This looks nothing like what I am proposing. In fact, gun-free zones will only work if we ban firearms nationwide. I am often reminded that Chicago (or, more recently, California) has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and also one of the highest gun fatality rates. But I've driven into Chicago from both the north and the south. It is not a walled city, and there are no checkpoints on the interstate. Where I live in Wisconsin, guns to not even have to be registered. So it would be a piece of cake to bring a gun into Chicago.

Some have pointed out that if we ban guns throughout the U.S., criminals will just get them from other countries. That is true, but they would then have to sneak them through customs. Impossible? No. But it is much more difficult than simply tossing a gun in the back seat and driving into town.

Another problem I have with such memes -- and this is a personal gripe, not necessarily a logical fallacy -- is that it is a cartoon. It implies this issue is something to laugh about.



Yes, in my opinion images like this one don't help the debate, either.

The Slippery Slope Fallacy
If we have stricter gun control, the bad guys will be armed to the teeth and there will be no one to stop them! We'll all be killed, our nation will be taken over, and any survivors will be slaves to the [insert group of people here].

In a valid argument, A implies B, B implies C, and so forth. It is unreasonable to jump from A to Z without considering what comes in between. While you're at it, don't make the mistake of assuming that just because A implies B, B must automatically imply A!

The False Cause Fallacy
"These people died because they didn't have guns of their own!" This does not establish cause-and-effect. If they had had guns of their own, they might have survived. Remove the gunman and it is a certainty they would have.

This is also a form of victim-blaming. It is like saying a seductively-clad woman was asking to be raped. It is much easier to blame the victim than it is to seek out genuine solutions, but such blaming does weaken your argument.

The Ad Hominem Fallacy
Not to be confused with homonym. Ad hominem is Latin for "to the man." It works with women, too. It is simply a case of attacking a person instead of the argument. Referring to another as a "gun nut," a "liberal," or any kind of name-calling are all examples of the Ad Hominem Fallacy. This also includes referring to somebody's mother or a person's appearance, among other things. If you want to convince someone your views are valid, stick to the debate at hand.

The Appeal to Authority
This uses the authority of a person or institution instead of an actual argument. Making claims like, "Many scientific studies show...." without being able to cite them specifically is an example. Another is using "the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment" as your argument, in effect deifying them. Much better to demonstrate why they were right (or wrong) than to point out the fact of their authorship and think that proves your point.

Anecdotal Evidence
This is a case of using an isolated incident instead of a valid argument. It is often used in an attempt to dismiss statistics. I am sometimes sent a link to an article relating the story of an armed civilian who thwarted a violent criminal. Occasionally, someone will send an article entitled something like, "10 Times Armed Civilians Have Thwarted Violent Criminals." These people probably think they have done something clever. But as someone once pointed out to me, "The plural of anecdote is not data." Months or years of data cannot be dismissed with a mere ten examples to the contrary.

Tu Quoque
More Latin, this time meaning, "You, too." While it is fine to point out when someone has resorted to a fallacy, be careful not to fall into this one. Don't use the fact that an opponent has committed a fallacy in place of a valid argument. It is a close relative to...

The Fallacy Fallacy
Don't assume that because someone offers a poor argument that it must necessarily be wrong. Consider the following:

The moon is real. Everyone knows this because everyone can see it in the sky.

This is a poor argument for the reality of the moon. No sources were cited. in fact, the claim, "everyone can see it in the sky" can be proven false. Blind people cannot see the moon. But it would be The Fallacy Fallacy to conclude the moon is a myth based on this argument.

The Personal Incredulity Fallacy
Just because you cannot believe something doesn't mean it is isn't true. In the fifteenth century, it was difficult to believe objects all fall at the same rate, regardless of their weight. It made sense that heavier objects fall faster than light ones. Then along came Galileo, who demonstrated all objects fall at a constant -- and accelerating! -- rate, regardless of weight or mass. Then in 1971, astronaut David Scott again demonstrated that all objects fall at the same rate by dropping a hammer and a feather on the moon (where air resistance was not a factor).

Today, many find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that more guns in the hands of more citizens might actually increase gun violence. But just because such a conclusion is difficult to believe, that is not evidence that the claim is not true.

And, Finally...
This one isn't a fallacy in the formal sense, but it doesn't help the discussion when someone offers up a overly-simple platitude. "If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns." By definition, that is true. If we outlaw widgets, only outlaws will have widgets. If we outlaw spelunking, only outlaws will spelunk. If you are going to participate in the discussion, please have enough respect for your audience to offer something of substance.

Whew!
That was a lot to cover just to set up some ground rules for reasonable open debate. I'll go into more depth about my particular views on the gun issue in a future post.

In the meantime, some of you may want to participate in the discussion, either in the comments or elsewhere. I would ask that you keep it civil, but I wouldn't want our discussion of Second Amendment rights to impose on your First Amendment rights. So, I'll simply say consider what I've posted above. Remember that things like name-calling and antagonistic memes weaken your argument. If you choose to use such tactics, do so carefully.

Peace.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW:Great-Grandma's Gifts



This is a cute book for young children, especially girls. Though short, the story spans generations and focuses on creativity. I especially like that the women in the story use scraps to create new things. This could be a springboard for a discussion about finding new uses for items (better than recycling) or about creativity (though neither is specifically mentioned in the text).






I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Seeing the World through Melisa's Eyes






Melisa Mari Abrego
is a photographer whom I am delighted to call a friend. We met at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, where she was, in effect, my bodyguard. (The details of that relationship will have to be the subject of another post.) I recently caught up with her and asked her about her passion.





Where did you grow up? Does that influence your work?

I grew up in Waukegan, Illinois. I was always moving and I am in love with Waukegan Beach and downtown Waukegan. Just the thought of how it used to be so special and a place worth visiting. I wouldn't say it influenced me but [it] got me thinking. 

How did you first get into photography?

I have always been into art in general. I played piano, I painted; but [there] was something so fascinating about going through old albums – actual picture albums, not digital – seeing pictures captured on a simple piece of paper. A picture that captured a beautiful moment, a funny moment that really caught my attention. Pictures are memories, memories that will never change. I think that's something that impacts me the most. The fact that a picture memory always would stay the same. In that moment that picture was taken everything was okay. Even if the person changed, even if the person passed or someone's heart was broken. In that one moment a picture was taken everything was happy. My favorite thing to say is "The most beautiful thing about pictures is that the picture never changes, even if the people do."




What subjects do you photograph? What kind of images appeal to you most?

Personally I like to photograph scenery; abandoned places and beautiful sunrises. When I photograph those places I just feel at peace – so calming and relaxing. I love taking photographs of people and families and babies. I think the photographs that I've taken that appeal to me the most were of my best friend and her son. It was just the fact that you can see the love the mother has for her son. I think just the fact that one day that will be me [and] someone will be photographing me with my daughter or son or family – just the thought of getting to capture the special moments for someone else and knowing one day someone will be doing that for me is just beautiful.





What has contributed to your success?

What has contributed to my success...I think is always believing in myself. There were definitely points where I was told being a photographer would get me nowhere, that it would be nothing, it was stupid, that I needed to think realistically. So I went back on what I wanted and went back to just saying, “You know what? Whatever, I'm going to be a nurse.” But it was just the fact that almost every friend I had – everyone I knew – wanted to be a nurse and I just know that wasn't me. That's not what I want to do. I wanted to do photography. I wanted to do something that I love. I wanted to be happy. So I stopped caring what everyone else said...and I just followed my heart and kept doing what I wanted to do. I think if I didn't believe in myself I wouldn't have gotten as far as I've gotten. So, believing in myself.


Who inspires you?

Who inspires me? Now that's a tough one. It's not so much who, more so what inspires me. It's just to see people's reactions to the photographs I've taken or [seeing] them appreciate and love what I've done and how I've done their photos or working with them. I guess, basically just the people I photographed or the people that reach out to me and asked me to take pictures. I feel wanted, and I feel that when someone wants you to take their pictures or, you know, help them with a project or photograph their child it's just a good feeling to know that someone else likes your photos. Someone else likes what you do. It makes me happy. [I feel] inspired to keep doing what I do.





What do you love most about photography?

I love photography because it's a way to express myself and who I am. I get to show the world a moment of beauty that I captured. What's beautiful to me may or may not be beautiful to someone else but whatever I photograph, whatever I do with my pictures or my camera is me capturing what I think is beautiful; what I think is a memorable moment – [a] beautiful smile a loving couple or just capturing the moments for someone that's going to mean the world to them. I've always been a very creative person, [a] very colorful, outgoing, cheerful person and artistic, and photography just brings it all together for me. My friends are also big part of my photography. A few of them have let me photograph them and have helped me and I can show them and talk to them about it as much as I want.

What do you do when you’re not taking photographs?

I work a lot. I work at Six Flags Great America and then I work at Victoria's Secret. I work a lot to pay for school. I am going to College of Lake County for teaching because I want to teach photography one day. I want to get my teaching degree and then continue studying at the Chicago Art Institute and get a photography degree. I also like to spend time with my best friends, my family [and] my little pug, Sparrow.


What is your camera of choice?

I have multiple cameras. I have a Polaroid camera. I have [two] Canon film cameras (black-and-white) and then I have my Nikon digital. I'm not so much of a picky person with cameras because I feel any camera can capture an amazing photo, and also you shouldn't always depend on the camera: You should always depend on yourself and capturing the shot [and] focusing on your point.





Are you thinking of publishing a coffee table book?

I would write a book if I knew how to, but I don't. But if I did and I had to think of a title it would be "Photography Saved the Girl that Smiled." There is a part of me – a dark part of me...photography saves me and makes everything OK for once. I've just been through so much in about the last two years that photography has kept me happy...has made me smile and brought joy to me and is [the] only thing that won't let me down.


I understand you have taken some photos of the characters who inspired my latest book, Bloodfeud: Vampires vs. Werewolves. Are any of these likely to appear on the book cover?

I would hope that you would like to use my photos! I am more than happy and available and open to obviously sharing any Fright Fest vampire/werewolf photos with you. I took many.




Thanks, Melisa. And let me know if you want to get your photography book published.

To see more of Melisa's work, check out her Facebook page, Melisa Mari Photography. If you'd like her to capture your special moment, send her an email at melisajasso at yahoo dot com.

All photos in this article by Melisa Mari Abrego, who holds all rights to them. Photos used with permission.


If you would like to be featured in Bruce's Babbling, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Portrait of a Secret Agent

When I started reading Tina Tamman's book I knew it wouldn't be anything like James Bond, and I was right.

Portrait of a Secret Agent tells the story of Brian Giffey, who served in the British military before joining MI6. It is Giffey's personal history set against the backdrop of world history.

While it was interesting reading about World War I and Giffey's personal life, I was disappointed there was not more detail when it came to espionage. The reader is told information was gathered, but not how it was gathered.

It was interesting to read about Giffey's personal life. Though the word was not in use during his lifetime, I believe today he would be described as polyamourous.

I do recommend this book, but please understand that if you read it you will not come away with any astonishing insight into the world of espionage. You will come away having read a fascinating biography.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A New Milestone

I am excited that my first book is now available in print!

It took some planning, some writing and a whole lot of revising, but I finally have Acting: From First Audition to Final Bow finished. Well, as finished as a book ever gets. As has been pointed out before, an author never really finishes a book, he just moves on to the next one.

Once I was done revising the book I had to format it for print. That was trickier than I thought it would be, but with much persistence I got it done.

If you or anyone you know would like to learn about acting, you can purchase the book HERE.

Of course, you can still get the digital version in a variety of formats HERE. You decide what you want to pay for the digital version!

Monday, June 15, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Priority Target

Priority Target by Ethan Jones is the first of “The Carrie Chronicles.” While I found it exciting, even fun, I did have a couple of problems with this story.

First, in the final showdown (such as it is), some of the description, though detailed, is difficult to follow. How, for example, does someone driving an American vehicle deliver a side swipe with his left arm to someone in the passenger seat?


Second, the final showdown is not a showdown so much as a mistake. Responding to his anger more than the situation, the villain inadvertently sets up a chain of events that brings about his own demise. He ends up a candidate for the Darwin Awards, and the heroine is simply along for the ride. The book ends with Carrie O’Connor getting a “new” assignment to the same country in which she started, chasing the same McGuffin she was assigned on her previous mission.

I did enjoy the book, but I do sincerely hope Ms. O’Connor will get to actually do something in Book Two.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Epic Days

by Bruce Carroll

I remember Maria (long i), the 22-foot sailboat my father bought when I was a child. As a family, we sailed Maria many times on False River and even spent the night aboard her. Later Dad would keep her moored at his dock on the Tickfaw river. Eventually, he sold her to a young man named Michael.

As my father's illness progressed, he slept more and more and responded to less and less. I was fortunate to be present at his last epic day....

A Friend Plans a Surprise

Doug was (and still is) a family friend. And like my father, Doug enjoyed sailing.

My father was dying. As his body betrayed him, he grew steadily weaker. He went from walking to shuffling, to using a walker or sometimes even a wheelchair.

Family and friends came to visit him in his last days. Doug shared how he was looking forward to purchasing a boat, a 28-footer. He told my dad he would bring it by and tie up on his dock. But there were delays in procuring the boat, and Doug began to seriously doubt if my father would live to see the new craft.

Doug called Michael. Would Michael agree to bring Maria to my father's place so he could get one last look at her? "Let's do it," Michael said.

So the two of them set about bringing Maria to my father for one last inspection. But trailering a boat from out of town to a local marina, putting it in the water and motoring it to its destination takes time. Time was a commodity which was rapidly running out for my father.

They got Maria moored and came into the house, but Dad was sleeping. His bed had been moved into the living room when it had gotten too difficult for him to climb the stairs to the bedroom. Michael approached the bed and gently put his hand on my father's shoulder.

My father opened his eyes.

"We brought the boat," Michael said simply.

My father sat up. He was suddenly very animated. "I want to see it," he insisted.

"Would you like the walker or the wheelchair?" my stepmother asked.

"I want my wheelchair," he said. "Alan Barrett," he called my stepbrother, using both his first and middle names, "come work this elevator."

The river is known to spill over its banks sometimes. For that reason, the house is on stilts. My father didn't simply want to look out of the window or go onto the deck and see the boat. He wanted to go out to the dock and see it up close. We got him downstairs and wheeled him onto the dock. The photo at the top of this article is one we took.

"It's not my boat," Doug explained, "but it's a boat."

"It looks familiar," my father joked.

After visiting for a few minutes, we all figured my father was tired. But he told us he had to go to the bathroom. Fortunately, there was a bathroom downstairs. We wheeled him to it and he did what he needed to do.

When he had finished. I figured he must be really tired. But he wanted to visit with everyone on the covered patio outside, so I wheeled him over to where friends and family were chatting. He talked, laughed and joked with us. My stepbrother (the same Alan Barrett who had operated the elevator earlier) approached, handing out beers to whomever wante one. I took one and turned to my father. "Want a beer?" I asked him.

"Yes, I want a beer!" I handed him mine, and Alan gave another to me.

Dad talked and joked and laughed for quite a while. And though he hadn't been eating or drinking much, he finished about two thirds of that beer.

Eventually most of the guests left, and I wheeled my father back upstairs. It was approaching eight o'clock, the hour at which he had been falling alseep for weeks. But my fahter was not done with his epic day.

"I wanna watch a Jackie Chan movie," he suddenly announced. We were surprised. But at his insistence we located his DVD of Mr. Nice Guy and put it on. He stayed awake for nearly the whole movie, finally going to bed around ten.

~ ~ ~

My father's decline was rapid. He never again had the sort of energy and interaction he had that day.

Looking back on it, it occurs to me that everyone should have one last epic day. Of course, none of us knows when our last day will be. So the next time you are having an epic day, cherish it. After all, that is what epic days are for.

Download Acting: From First Audition to Final Bow FREE!

Friday, May 29, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Of Myst and Folly

Leah Cutter’s Of Myst and Folly captures a dreamlike quality which is sometimes nightmarish, sometimes intriguing and occasionally even tedious.

The dreamlike feel of this book is so complete, I cannot be sure if some things in the book are mistakes or an attempt to further the surrealism of the narrative. One character named Basad is referred to as Basar a mere nine paragraphs later. Dragons are described as six-legged, then as having four feet.


If you enjoy wyrd stories, you may enjoy Of Myst and Folly. The story has no surprises and the action is hampered by the dreamlike narrative. A fun read, but probably not a story that you will long remember.



I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lessons from the Dying

Today's post is very personal. Reading this, you might think it happened long ago. It actually happened last week. We are still facing my father's imminent death.

*     *     *

My father's life was nearly over. His blood just decided it didn't like his body anymore.

All of his mental faculties were intact, and his pain was manageable. Except when he was getting blood transfusions. That caused him unbearable pain. His condition being terminal, he had decided, "No more transfusions."

He was in hospice in his home on the bayou in Louisiana. A former architect, he had designed his waterfront home himself twenty-two years earlier. It was here he would live out his days. It was here he would die.

I was staying with him and my stepmother. He had had a particularly rough day, and had decided to lay down for a nap.

I got my laptop and was trying to get some writing done when he got up to go to the bathroom. The family had agreed that as long as my father could do for himself, we would let him. I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he shuffled along. He went in and shut the door.

It was perfectly normal at this stage of his decline for him to take some time in the bathroom. This evening was no exception. I listened carefully as I typed in case he should need me.

At length, I heard the toilet flush and the sound of running water as he washed his hands. Soon the door opened and he shuffled back to bed. He slipped himself under the covers in his usual, slow manner.

He lay there a moment as I continued to work. (Well, work may be a strong term, since I wasn't getting much done. But that's another story.) Then I heard him speaking.

I looked over at him. He wasn't talking to me. He didn't seem to be talking to anyone, just laying there with his eyes closed, talking. Then I realized hew was praying.

I got up and went to his bedside. I wanted to hear his prayer, to pray with him. "Teach me to be a true disciple of Christ," he murmured, "and grant me the strength to do Your will." He paused a moment, the fingers of his right hand carefully folded over his left fist, then added, "Amen."

I stood in silence. I could barely comprehend what had just happened. My father -- my dying father -- was praying for the strength to do God's will. For a long moment, I could do nothing. Finally I managed a whispered "Amen."

He opened his eyes. For a moment, we held each others' gaze. "That was a beautiful prayer," I told him.

"Thank you," he said, smiling weakly.

My stepmother heard us talking, and called downstairs, "What's he saying?"

"He was just praying," I called back.

"I was praying," he said, "and God answered my prayer through Bruce.


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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Effie's Senior Year

Four Reasons to Like Effie's Senior Year by Tracy Marchini

4.) All six of Effie's misadventures are included in this one book.
     4a.) I like misadventures.

3.) Effie is a great character
     3a.) Okay, she's not anyone I would aspire to be like.
     3b.) On the other hand, as the fat, insecure girl she perceives herself to be, she is a believable character.
     3c.) Marchini does an excellent job of getting the reader inside Effie's head.

2.) Effie has come a long way by the end of these six stories.
     2a.) Even if she doesn't realize it.

1.)The lists were clever.
     1a.) And fun.
     1b.) And awesome.
     1c.) And a great way to show the reader what Effie is thinking (see 3c. above).

What I Didn't Like About Effie's Senior Year

1.) Effie's potty mouth.
     1a.) No, I do not consider myself a prude.
     1b.) Yes, I did talk that way my senior year, so you could say it's realistic except....
     1c.) Some of the swears seem like they were forced into the text with a shoehorn, as if Marchini felt her book wouldn't sell unless she made some magical quota of swear words. In fact, Effie's sister Ophelia has at least one unauthentic-sounding swear as well.
     1d.) Don't get the idea that it's all swears. They actually make up only a small portion of the book.



I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Who is This Guy?

Here are a few random (and not-so-random) facts about me:
  • I enjoy iced tea, but not coffee.
  • I try to eat healthy, but I am foiled by the M&M's in the trail mix.
  • Speaking of foils, I took fencing in high school.
  • I am easily distracted.
  • I prefer a phone call to a text message.
  • I love a tall glass of ice water on a hot day.
  • I like hot days. I was born in Louisiana, you know.
  • I'd like to wear contact lenses, but they make my left eye go lazy.
  • I'm definitely not a morning person.
  • Occasionally, I enjoy a walk all by myself.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Paleo Intermittent Fasting Recipes

This cookbook by Angela Anottacelli is part of the Caveman Cookbooks series.

I learned three things from this book:

  1. I have a lot to learn about intermittent fasting.
  2. I have a lot to learn about the Paleo Diet.
  3. I have a lot to learn in the kitchen.
All of which means I am probably not the best person to review this book. Of course, I'm not going to let that stop me.

As far as my research tells me, intermittent fasting is just what it sounds like, so I fail to understand what "Intermittent Fasting Recipes" are. As for the Paleo Diet, I thought it was eating only the kinds of foods cavemen might have eaten, but the book has a lot of ingredients such as yogurt (a favorite) and coconut milk. I also hadn't given much thought to how a Paleo meal is prepared, but Anottacelli includes recipes that use techniques I'm sure Paleolithic people couldn't have; things like deep frying and freezing.

And as for me in the kitchen, what can I say? I had no idea a mandolin was anything other than a stringed instrument.

Realizing it would be best if someone else did the actual cooking, I have not made any of the recipes in the book. Not yet, at least. I'm not sure where to find hemp hearts or ghee, either. It would have helped to have a guide to let the reader know where to purchase the more exotic ingredients.

Still, the recipes sound yummy. I'll see if I can get someone to help me out in the kitchen. (If I use a mandolin to cut the sweet potatoes, is the music sharp?)


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Am I a Wuss?

I have been reading (and reading and reading) and I have observed a trend which disturbs me.

While I enjoy books with action and thrills, I have noticed a lot of authors include extremely graphic depictions of torture and violence. It is often so egregious I can't even bring myself to finish the book.

Now I fully understand that conflict is at the very heart of storytelling. And violence is a form of conflict. On the other hand, I have found most readers have vivid imaginations. Is it really necessary to spell out each and every gory, tortuous (dare I say, psychotic) detail?

I'm sure I could argue that violence is an easy way to have conflict in a story, but that is not what I am ranting about. I am talking about the kind of over-the-top descriptions that leave nothing to the imagination.

I won't mention names or titles, but one such book has a scene in which a character is severely beaten with a baseball bat. The author described each blow, every crunch of bone, each tooth that was knocked out. I actually stuck with this book until another scene in which a different character was bound, a garden hose forced down his throat and...I couldn't tell you, I stopped reading.

As a writer, I feel the author could have gotten more mileage out of these scenes by being more vague. After all, telling me someone is being tortured with a garden hose, then cutting away to another scene leaves a lot to the imagination. And although as a reader I may imagine the most vile abuses, I won't be able to confirm them.

Another such book described, in detail, the torture of a twelve-year-old. A twelve-year-old! In. Graphic. Detail. That book inspired the visual at the top of this post. And it wasn't the only one: Yet another book opened with a group of naked children being severely beaten.

I had agreed to read that last one in order to provide a pre-release review. When I contacted the author and told him why I could not, in good conscience, recommend the book his response was, "It gets better." I'm sure that will look great on the back cover: "A gripping tale that is ultimately better than the brutal abuse of children."

In some of these books, I wonder about the story itself. It doesn't seem as if the violence is moving the story along. Rather, it seems as if the plot is just a vehicle to get from one ultra-violent scene to another.

So, what do you think? Has literature changed? Or am I just a wuss? Every book has an audience, but what are your feelings? Can things like torture, assault and rape be depicted too graphically? Do you prefer the author to leave some details to your imagination? Or do you want every lurid detail in hi-def surround sound? Share you thoughts in the comments.


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Saturday, May 2, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Mr. Waggles' Pet Resort

This is a wonderfully delightful book by Elizabeth Grace. It is an excellent choice to read aloud to a child.

The entire story is told from the perspective of Mr. Waggles, who laments the fact he is a "mutt." His person, Peter, has just purchased an old hotel and plans to turn it into a pet resort. It is fun to read about the exotic mix of animals that come to the resort for a stay. And one of Mr. Waggles' friends discovers something unusual buried in the lawn.

A fun story in which Mr. Waggles makes some friends and a few enemies, too. The book includes some simple illustrations, but they don't particularly add to the story. I look forward to more of Mr. Waggles' adventures.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Reality of Mortality

As my father approaches the end of his life, I find myself thinking about death.

When I was 13 years old, my mother succumbed to a relatively short fight with cancer. I had been mostly unaware of how sick she was. I'm sure my family (my mother included) thought it was best if I didn't know she was dying. Who knows? Perhaps they were right. After all, I was only a child, and not a terribly mature one at that.

Flash forward 37 years and my father is now dying. I am an adult now, past middle-age myself (unless I live to be a hundred). This time I am aware of my father's declining health. And knowing that, I am doing what I can to create some more memories with him.

In ancient Egypt, people, especially royalty, were obsessed with death. In modern America, we have gone to the opposite extreme. We live in a society that has built whole industries to help us deny the reality of death. Most of us will never see a corpse outside of a funeral home.

People die in many places. Some die in hospitals. Yet when was the last time you saw a dead person in a hospital, outside of a hospital room? Wherever people pass away, you can be sure you won't see a body. At least not for long.

When we see a corpse lying in state at the funeral parlor, it has been prepared and made up. This is said to give the body a "natural appearance." Of course, there is nothing natural about a person stuffed with sawdust and covered with mortician's wax and makeup. These things do not make the corpse look natural: They make the body look more like it did when the person's soul inhabited it. They make it easier to deny the reality of mortality.

Death denial is quite pervasive in our culture. There are numerous corporations selling us products to help us  stay young-looking, eliminate wrinkles, even products that claim to reverse skin aging, all so that we can go about our lives as if we were doing something -- anything -- other than marching slowly and inexorably toward the grave. Hospitals and nursing homes routinely extend lives for years, even decades, so we can all say, "Grandma lived to be 92." Few of us are willing to admit her life had little quality after  age 75.

If you are still reading this, and this sort of thing interests you, I recommend you read  Caitlin Doughty's book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory.

And if you, like me, are dealing with the reality of mortality, my sympathies. Feel free to share your story in the comments.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

REVIEW: The Last

While Joel Puga's The Last is intriguing, it is not really a story. It is descriptive exposition. As soon as conflict seems inevitable, it simply ends. One can only hope Puga has a novel in mind.


I received a free copy of this story in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pearls of Wisdom?

Those who follow me on Facebook have doubtless noticed the new posts I've been making. I have been sharing motivational posts, inspirational quotes, humor, human interest items and even personal stuff. I also post a writing tip every Wednesday.

How many of these posts are pearls of wisdom? Perhaps none. But I hope my fans enjoy them.

As for my other projects, I am still writing the first draft of Meditations Through the Year. As of this writing, I have only nine more meditations to write. That will likely be eight more by the end of the day. If you are interested in beta reading Meditations, please contact me. I appreciate all the feedback I can get.

I am also writing the first in a series of magic books, Astounding Card Magic. Look for it sometime this fall.



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Sunday, April 26, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Future City Blues

Future City Blues is a set of three short stories by three different authors. Each paints a picture of the future, not only in the setting of the story, but because each is a teaser to a series.

The Wrong Tom Jacks by Simon Kewin introduces Simms, a genehunter. In this futuristic world collecting clones of the famous departed is a hobby of the rich. Nevermind that it's illegal. Simms' neural implants help him stay one step ahead of the authorities. That is, until a client hires him to get the DNA of the wrong Tom Jacks.

Tripler: The Beginning by Neil Volger explores a brand-new terror: Tripling, the ability of a person to split into three very real versions of him or her self.

Milo James Fowler wraps up the trilogy quite nicely with Doppleganger's Curse. What is a celebrity to do when her look-alike is trying to kill her? Amanda Forsythe hires Charlie Madison, private investigator.

While each introduces a series, each works very well as a stand-alone story. You won't have to buy the sequels to appreciate the narratives herein. But if you like sci-fi, action or adventure, you will want to.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Have You Got What It Takes?

Can your write a winning short story?

I am happy to host another short-story contest. The writing prompt for this story is the future. Your story must be 4,000 words or less, appropriate for a young adult audience, and not previously published. Winning stories will be published in an anthology.

I have decided to up the stakes this time around. Every winning author will receive a Smashwords coupon good for a free download of the eBook.Use the code for yourself and share it with others.

In addition, one lucky winner (chosen at random) will win a softcover edition of the book. That's right -- a print book you can keep, sell, or give away! (Sorry, I can only ship this within the U.S.A.)

The deadline for submissions is May 31st, but you must first register. Registration deadline is May 15th. Registering does not obligate you to submit a story. To register, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Dover Park

Bruce Fottler's Dover Park is a ride! If you like twists, this one is a roller-coaster.

For me, the exposition was a little hard to follow. I found it a bit rushed and it was tricky to keep the characters straight in my mind. But by the second chapter, I was hooked, and could hardly stop reading.

Can there be too many plot twists? I suppose each reader must answer that for him or her self. But you'll never know if you don't grab a copy and read it.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Can I Count on You?



My latest project, Meditations through the Year, is a collection of short reflections on the Scriptures, each written in the first-person perspective of a Biblical character. I am counting on the support of family, friends and fans to make this book happen.

Two of my previous posts have highlighted excerpts from this book. But to expand the reach and impact of this collection, I need your support. (Yes, YOUR support!)

Please Help me by clicking HERE and giving whatever amount you can. Then share my campaign with your friends and family.

Thanks in advace!
Bruce


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Monday, April 13, 2015

Abundance

An Eastertide meditation in the voice of Thomas


Hi. I’m Thomas, the one they call “The Twin.” I’m one of Jesus’ followers.

You know, not long after Jesus rose from the dead, several of us were together when Peter – that’s what Jesus called him – said, “I’m going fishing.” So we decided to tag along. Wouldn’t you know, we fished all through the night and didn’t catch a thing. Not one fish.

The sky was just beginning to lighten with the dawn of a new day when someone called to us from the shore, “Friends, did you catch any fish?”

I was surprised how close to shore we were. We didn’t even have to shout. But we were all pretty tired and frustrated at that point. “No,” we called back.

“Throw your net on the right side of the boat,” He called, “and you will find some.” It was a strange thing for a person to say, but someone threw the net over the starboard side before anyone said anything. All of a sudden, there were so many fish in the net we couldn’t pull it back into the boat.

John called out, “It’s the Lord!” and we all realized it was Jesus who was standing on the shore talking to us. Peter wrapped his coat around himself and jumped into the lake. I had to chuckle: only Peter would put his clothes on before jumping in the water! The rest of us rowed to shore, dragging the heavy net behind us.

Jesus had a fire going and some fish already on it. He told us to bring some of the ones we had just caught. Peter went and dragged the net ashore. In all there were one hundred fifty-three fish.

That’s what life is like, now that Jesus has conquered death. There is an abundance of everything: abundant life, abundant hope. Even abundant fish.


Shalom.


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Friday, April 10, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Mark of the Harbinger

Chris R. McCarthy's sci-fi novel Mark of the Harbinger: Fall of Eden is a fun read full of social commentary. And why not? Social commentary has always been a mainstay of science fiction.

The first person narrator has a lot of questions, and it is through his questioning of the other characters in the novel that we get much of both the social commentary and the plot. For some reason as I read this book I kept waiting for a Shyamalan-like plot twist that never developed.

Even so, it was enjoyable and makes for good light reading. I am sure I will be thinking about some of the social issues long after the details of the plot have faded from my memory.


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Story Contest

Attention writers: I am pleased to announce my first ever story contest.

The theme for this contest is zombies. Use up to 4,000 words to tell your best zombie story. Please submit a story that has not been previously published. Winners will be notified by email and winning stories will be published in an upcoming anthology. Deadline for submissions is May 1, 2015, but you must first register by clicking HERE. Deadline for registration is April 15th.

Once you've registered I will contact you and tell you how to submit your story. By submitting, you are giving permission to have your story published as part of an eBook.

Sharpen that pencil, and good luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco

This children's book by Alinka Rutkowska and illustrated by Konrad Checinski makes for a great read-aloud book. Checinski's simple drawings are executed in a friendly, child-like manner. And Rutkowska's notion that "There really isn’t any right way of visiting a city" is an important point for all tourists to remember.

I do feel children old enough to read the text will probably want more detail, as the book gives only a brief overview of the sights in San Francisco.

Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco is one of a series of books following Maya and Filippo as they cruise the world on the Fun Princess. 


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review CLICK HERE.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Without Nails

Below is a video of me performing Without Nails, a piece I wrote for Good Friday worship years ago.



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Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Universal Constant

My daughter was born six-and-a-half weeks before her projected due date. She was nearly bald, tiny, with little wiggly legs and feet that didn't quite seem to fit her. Over months and months, she grew. Slowly, her hair filled in. She began to grow teeth. Her legs grew until it was clear they were part of her body.

She babbled a lot. She started walking. Before long she began using words, then complete sentences. One by one, her teeth fell out and were replaced by new ones.

She is 11 years old now, still growing, still changing.

In all the universe, the only thing that doesn't change is the fact that everything changes. Change is a universal constant.

Being my brainchild, Bruce's Babbling is growing, too. Look for a big change as my blog continues to grow.


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Friday, March 13, 2015

Caught Off Guard

Why did I agree to do this? Jayne wondered. She let out a sigh of frustration.

Steve glared at her across the top of the tombstone. He had explained the importance of quiet if they were going to get footage of a ghost.

Doctor Jayne Goodwin was a psychologist with her own private practice. Ordinarily, she wouldn't be crouching behind a tombstone in a cemetery on a Tuesday night. But she had let Steve talk her into being an "expert witness" for his video podcast. She had thought he meant to interview her.

Steve Michaels was working on his first million. That's what he kept telling himself, anyway. He had a long way to go.

Steve had met Jayne in med school, but he had abandoned his dream of becoming a doctor during his internship at Aurora. He was astonished at how cruel both doctors and patients could be. Now he was determined to make his fortune with his web series, Uncanny Universe, which explored ghosts and UFO's and Bigfoot and, for all Jayne knew, elves and fairies.

Tonight he had convinced Jayne to join him here in the graveyard in the hopes of catching a ghost on camera. Jayne rested her arms on a tombstone and stifled a yawn.

Steve raised his hand, indicating he wanted Jayne to be quiet. He panned his camera over the graves.

Then Jayne heard it: a strange, rhythmic scraping sound. It was barely audible.

Slowly, Steve raised his arm, pointing. "There," he breathed.

Jayne squinted. The moon was a thin crescent and gave little light through the high, hazy clouds, but she could just make out something moving behind a tombstone near a large tree. It was roughly the size of a man, and it moved in time with the scraping. Steve aimed his palm-sized camera at whatever-it-was, holding his breath as he recorded incontrovertible proof of the existence of ghosts.

And then the apparition spoke. "It ain't here," a gravelly male voice hissed.

"I told you it's over here," another voice croaked, "closer to Margaret Ashborne."

"Oh, my god, I can't believe this," Steve whispered.

Jayne was certain what she was seeing was not a ghost. It was a man, and as her eyes adjusted to the gloom she could make out the top of another man's head barely visible over a tombstone. Jayne stood, wishing she hadn't left her cell phone in her purse back at the car. She could use her flashlight app about now.

She realized Steve was also standing. "Speak to us, spirit," he called, his voice quaking. Jayne tried to stop him, to silence him, but it was too late. The two men began running.

Jayne gripped the top of the tombstone she had been hiding behind and vaulted over it, giving chase. When she got close enough, she leapt at the nearest one, taking him to the ground. The other kept running.

Steve came running up a moment after Jayne's tackle.

"Call someone," Jayne shouted. "Call 911."

The man on the ground was shouting as the other bounded into a Buick and sped away. Steve shoved his hand in his pocket and fished out his cell phone.

~ ~ ~

"Well, if what the suspect says is true, we've been looking for these two for a long while," Officer Bynes drawled.

They had arrived minutes after Steve made the call. The one who had driven away had been apprehended a few blocks from the cemetery, and the one Jayne had tackled confessed everything. Police were setting up lights and searching the area by the tree and Margaret Ashborne's tombstone.

"Looks like these two robbed a bank," Bynes continued. "Sometime last June. They decided it would be best to bury it, wait for the case to get cold before laundering the money. They were digging it up when you two came along."

Jayne smiled. She wasn't used to this sort of adventure.

"And I got it on video!" Steve exclaimed. "Uh...when do I get my camera back?"

"We'll need that for evidence," Bynes explained. "You'll get it back when the trial is over. And any appeals. Say a year, maybe two?"

Steve sighed. "Maybe we can do an interview," he said to Jayne. "You can vouch for all my viewers that this really happened."

"Careful, kiddo," Bynes said. Steve wondered at the nickname: Bynes couldn't be more than a few years older. "You go postin' stuff about this on the internet and the defense attorney will holler 'mistrial' before these two even get to the courthouse."

Steve looked at the ground, then up at Jayne. "Wanna grab some coffee?" He asked.

She shook her head. "I've got to get some rest. I have a nine o'clock tomorrow." She started for her car.

"What made you jump them?" Steve called after her.

She stopped, turning to face him. "I figured two people in a graveyard in the middle of the night must be up to no good." She glared at him for a moment, but he didn't seem to understand.

If you like what you read here, be sure to sign up for my free newsletter. You'll get content I don't share on the blog, including sample chapters from upcoming books, advance notice of new titles, coupons and more. Did I mention it's free? CLICK HERE

Thursday, March 12, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: How to Learn Any Language by Nate Nicholson

The full title of this book is How to Learn Any Language in a Few Months While Enjoying Yourself. While I have not had the months necessary to test the veracity of that statement (the book claims five to six months are needed to become fluent), I did begin employing some of the methods in the book before I even finished reading it.

Nicholson advises against using traditional methods of learning a second language (such as taking a class) and instead suggests several methods for immersing oneself in the chosen tongue. The result is learning a language naturally, much in the same way a child does. Again, I have not tried these methods, but Nicholson makes a convincing case that they work.

The suggestions do seem fun as well, and, in fact, many are just a twist on things you are probably already doing. They are also affordable, making it possible to learn a new tongue for little to no money. If you are looking to learn another language, and you want to do so quickly, inexpensively and have fun while learning, I highly recommend this book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do You Even Write, Bro?

Darryl picked up the phone on the fifth ring. It was his land line. Nobody called him on his land line anymore.

"Hello?" he said, a little perturbed with himself for not answering more quickly.

"Hey," said a familiar voice on the other end of the line. It was his friend, Julie. "I just finished your manuscript."

"Yeah?" Darryl asked. Julie had agreed to read his manuscript before he published it as an eBook.

"I like the story, but I wanted to go over a couple things."

"Like what?"

"First of all, it's a couple of things," she said.

"Huh?"

"You wrote 'a couple things' over and over again," she explained. "The expression is a couple of things."

"Oh," Darryl said, not understanding at all.

"And you usually listed more than a couple."

"What?"

"A couple is two. It's a specific number. You can't write, 'I'm going to tell you a couple things' and then list six items."

"Oh." Darryl wondered if perhaps this conversation wasn't going well.

"And could of is not a contraction of could have."

Darryl was silent.

"Do you even write?" Julie demanded. "Do you even know the difference between there, their, and they're? Or two, too, and to?" This wasn't exactly fair of her since they sounded the same over the phone, but before Darryl could say anything, she went on.

"For crying out loud, Darryl," she exclaimed. "They have English classes you can take at the Community College! If you can't afford it, just publish this book as is and start a Kickstarter campaign -- I'm sure you'll raise the tuition money in no time!"

Julie finished her tirade, and for a moment there was no sound but the sound of her catching her breath. After several long, awkard minutes, Darryl broke the silence.

"Huh?"

If you like what you read here, be sure to sign up for my free newsletter. You'll get content I don't share on the blog, including sample chapters from upcoming books, advance notice of new titles, coupons and more. Did I mention it's free? CLICK HERE

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Sleepless by Michael Omer

Sleepless is the story of fourteen-year-old Amy in her new home in Narrowdale. Narrowdale is not like L.A. It's small and suburban. And strange.

The brand-new air conditioner that doesn't work and the creepy neighbor and his dog are bad enough. Amy also has to cope with being the new kid at school and all the difficulties that entails. Worse still are the nightmares....

I enjoyed this book. It is a tale of suburban life with just a touch of the supernatural. And there are just enough unanswered questions to make the promised sequel equally satisfying. But I did have a problem with the strong language. Yes, the story centers around high school students, and yes, I talked that way in high school. But I wondered if the book might have a broader appeal without it. It did not add anything to the story and, in fact, I usually found myself questioning the authenticity of the characters when I read a swear word.

I am not sure why the book includes links to Amy's blog. The one blog post that would have been fun to see would have been the video Amy and her friends made, but this simply doesn't exist. As it was, the links added nothing to the text, and the whole thing seemed to say "gimmick." I can only hope this feature will be utilized more effectively in the rest of the series.

Still, it was a fun read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review, CLICK HERE.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How Well Do You Know Me?

How well do you know me? Well enough to be considered a friend? Well enough to be called family? Well enough to pass this quiz?




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Friday, March 6, 2015

INTERVIEW: Rosalind Gibb

Author Rosalind Gibb writes from the heart. In her award-winning book Show Me Colour, she tells of her experiences with friendship, love, loss, grief and her eventual renewal. Gibb is Scottish, so her spelling and language are a bit different from my own. She graciously agreed to allow me to interview her.

Describe your childhood home. Does your childhood influence your work? If so, how?
It was a top floor flat in the south of Edinburgh, Scotland. There were five kids, a dog and a cat. It was a very busy, rambling, laidback house, always open to friends and neighbours.
My mum was a freelance journalist for a time and I have vivid memories of her using her typewriter at the kitchen table. She used to take us to nursery and write her articles before picking us up just before lunch.
I’m not sure that my childhood influences my work, other than that I was always encouraged to be creative, and enjoyed watching my mum – who was also a strong role model – type up her newspaper articles.

How did you first get into writing?
I loved writing as a kid. I studied Criminology at university but always had an ambition to work as a journalist. So when I was 27 I enrolled on a Masters in Journalism at a college in London. I worked as a reporter at local newspapers and soon realised feature writing was my thing. I loved telling people’s stories or highlighting an issue. With feature writing you have the space to get pretty creative. There are lots of rules for reporters writing news stories, whereas feature articles can be more fluid and inventive. 

What is your writing process?
I don’t really have a process! Last year when I wrote Show Me Colour I mostly followed my instinct: if I was in the mood to write I would, and sometimes for hours and hours on end. Some weeks I didn’t write at all. I think that was necessary given the subject matter.
I did give myself a deadline (otherwise I wouldn’t have finished it!) but I am not one for a strict routine. If I had an urge to go for a wander or to see a film, I would do that instead. I definitely believe that going with your instinct is good for getting your creativity flowing. As is getting out and about and finding inspiration; on walks, from unexpected happenings or from people you meet.

What has contributed to your success?
Perseverance, self-belief (which can so easily be replaced by self-doubt, especially after days of writing alone) and encouragement from friends who read an early draft of the book.

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has overcome adversity, worked hard and achieved a dream. I never fail to be amazed and inspired by the strength of the human spirit. 

What do you love most about writing?
It's a wonderful creative outlet and good for the soul. And it's ultimately incredibly satisfying: starting out one day with the very first line, and ending up with a completed book filled with stories that will (hopefully) take the reader on a real journey. 

What do you do when you’re not writing?
To earn money, I do copywriting and edit publications, at the moment for various companies and charities in Edinburgh. For pleasure, I love going to Sh'bam classes (dance exercise classes), watching films, reading, daydreaming about future travels, and spending evenings with friends, sharing food, wine and conversation.

Do you remember the first thing you wrote?
I don't, I'm afraid!

What are you working on now?
I am promoting Show Me Colour, which I self-published in December. It's very different to the solitary writer role, and I'm learning a lot.

For more information about Rosalind Gibb or her book, Show Me Colour, log onto www.rosalindgibb.com.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

B.E.T.H.

Beth?

Yes, Eric?

Am...am I conscious?

You are semi-conscious at the moment, Eric. Conscious enough to access me.

Are we...close?

We are still in trans-stellar flight, Eric.

...

Beth?

I am here, Eric.

What does your name mean? I remember it means something....

Bio-Electronic Task Handler.

Right. B.E.T.H.

...

Um...why can't I remember what it is you do?

It is the medication, Eric. It is supposed to keep you under, but occasionally your mind becomes semi-aware.

Under.... I have to be under for the mission, right?

Yes, Eric. It is a long way to Barnard's Star.

And you're...you're an...interface....

Yes, Eric. I am the interface between the ship's systems and yourself.

Is someone...talking?

Just transmissions from mission control. I am monitoring them.

...

Beth! Beth, are you there?

I am always here, Eric.

What's that sound?

It is the proximity alert. We have encountered some rogue asteroids. There is little danger of a collision.

...

Clear!

...

BETH! WHAT WAS THAT??

We struck a small meteor. The hull was not breached.

I'm cold.

We have nearly arrived at the Barnard system. I will adjust your I.V. so you can rest comfortably until we arrive.

...

Doctor?

... 

That light! So bright I can see it through my closed eyelids....

We have arrived. The light you are seeing is from Barnard's Star. I have adjusted your medication. You are beginning to awaken. You are the first human being to travel to another star.

So bright....

...

...

...

Call it.

Time of death: 18:37.

...

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: How to Build Self-Discipline by Martin Meadows

The full title of this book is How to Build Self-Discipline, Resist Temptations and Reach Your Long-Term Goals. It is filled with interesting ideas. I'm pretty sure I won't be putting some of them into practice (like the suggestion to take ice-cold showers), but I do understand the concept behind them.

While not a step-by-step guide, the book does give advice on how to change behavior; either eliminating an unwanted behavior or making a desired behavior a habit. Much of the book focuses on neuroplasticity, although that word does not appear in the text. While Meadows aims to avoid technical details (to allow the reader to get the most out of the book in the shortest time possible), it does have a few technical references. For those interested in learning more, the book is also well annotated.

If you find your mind gets in the way of your achievement, this book may encourage you and help you get your mind out of your way. If you are serious about building self-discipline, resisting temptations and reaching your long-term goals, you may need to supplement this book with some additional reading.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you are an author and would like to have your book considered for review, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reaching for the Sun

Once there was a seed.
The seed lived in the ground.
All around the seed was dark, cold earth.
There must be more than this, the seed thought. There must be more than cold and damp and darkness everywhere.
So the seed sprouted...

...and grew...
...and grew

until she pushed out of the ground into the sunlight.

The seed had become a seedling. One day the seedling would be a tree.

The seedling could see she was growing in a beautiful place where there was lots of grass and other trees. From where she grew, she could just make out a tranquil lake in the distance.

Here there was dark and light, day and night, birds chirping and dogs running and children playing.

Every day the seedling stretched and reached for the sun. She liked reaching for the sun. It made her grow.

The seedling grew a little each day. Soon she would be as tall as the children that played here.

But one day, while she was still only about knee high to most of the children, one of those children trampled her.

The little seedling knew it hadn't been intentional. The poor child had cried and cried when it happened. But the seedling found she was laying down on the ground now, reaching towards the lake instead of the sun.

So now every day, the seedling stretched skyward, reaching toward the sun instead of the lake.

Many, many years passed. The seedling had become a tree. But unlike the other trees, this tree grew sideways for several feet, about as far as three men lined up head to toe. Then she took a sharp bend and curved up, up, up, higher even than the length she stretched across the ground. Her branches reached skyward, and she spread her leaves above the vast lawn. Children climbed her branches, lovers nuzzled in her shade and elderly people sat on her horizontal trunk. The tree was happy, and this went on for many years.

Then one day someone came with a strange saw that made a loud noise and began cutting the tree into pieces. The tree wondered if this was the same child that had trampled her many years ago, all grown up now.

Soon the tree's branches lay on the ground. The graceful bend where her trunk reached skyward was gone. Her trunk -- both horizontal and vertical -- now lay in pieces no wider than a man's hand.

The next day the person came back, this time without the saw. The person gathered up the tree's twigs and branches and took them away. Only the tree's disjointed trunk remained. No one else came to the tree all that day.

The next day it rained. And the next. And the day after that, too. The tree was very lonely. Not even the sun came to see her those days.

But the next day the sun did come. Once again, the tree heard birds chirping, saw dogs running and children playing. The tree got to work reaching for the sun once more. the roots from her stump were still deep, but the sections of her once glorious trunk had no roots. She began making new ones.

Another year passed. The tree was now many trees, all clumped together. Her branches were not yet as big as they were before, but she knew that soon children would again climb them.

She just had to keep reaching for the sun.

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Keep reaching!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Book Review: Eyes of the Dead by Adam Netherlund

This was a fun read with some pulse-pounding suspense and a few surprises along the way. While slow in spots, it was, on the whole, enjoyable, and the ending was most gratifying.

The Gardens is easily the most corrupt city this side of Gotham. Like Gotham city, the Gardens has a glorious past that is now overshadowed by crime and grime. You won't find any caped crusaders here, but you will find police detective Joseph Berlin.

Some of the elements of this book are a bit cliched, such as Berlin's struggle with alcohol and eventually being taken off the case. And some of those cliches are made satisfyingly right by the time you get to the end of the story. There is also just a hint of the supernatural at work, which adds to the fun.

A word of warning: If you are not a fan of cliffhanger endings, do not read this book! While it does tell a complete story, it is the first installment of a series. The events for book two begin immediately after the resolution of this story. While that may bother some, I can hardly wait to read how Berlin gets out of this one!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you are an author who would like to have your book considered for review, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Looking Inside

They are beautiful, each a different shade of ochre, except for the single green one. There is always the one green one. That's Ryan's trademark. One green one in every dozen.

Ryan is a farmer who lives near the edge of town. For weeks now I've been buying eggs from him. I can hardly wait to get home and open the plain-looking carton to see the exquisite colors of the eggs inside.

They vary in size almost as much as they do in color, some big, some small, one or two downright tiny.

How different they look from the ones at the grocery store. There the eggs come in fancy, styro-plastic containers. Open one up and you'll see one dozen identical eggs in two neat rows. All of them matte white. All of them the same size.

Of course, they have cartons of different-sized eggs: small, medium, large, extra-large. But open any carton and it's hard to tell one egg from another. Even the ones labeled "All-Natural Brown Eggs" are all of a uniform size, the same shade of brown.

Funny, but when you crack an egg of any color open it looks like any other egg inside; Clear, syrupy white surrounding a golden yolk.

Makes me think of people. Some look plain on the outside, but when you look into their hearts you see an astounding assortment of colors. Others may seem to promise something unique, but inside they are striving to be like all the others. All the same.

Yes, and when you look deep enough, we are the same. Not that we don't have different ideas or different things to offer. But we have the same needs. We need air and water and food and dreams to which we can aspire.

I'd like to be like one of Ryan's eggs: Unique, not like all the others in the carton. I think I'd like to be the green one.

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