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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Short Story Reviews

The calendar reads "busy busy busy" and so I'll post reviews of short stories here. I have several Christmas stories lined up for my reading in the weeks ahead, and I'll ask your indulgence now in anticipating many holiday reviews  here. For today, I have one short story by Andrew Kaufman, and then a book of two Christmas stories by L.K. Campbell.

Desolation Road   Andrew Kaufman

This short story by Andrew Kaufman moves as swiftly as the errant vehicle approaching the other on the deteriorating, twisting road. In just a moment the driver's life is changed; spared injury himself, he is horrified to see the other car spin out of control and over an embankment, landing far below.  Can he help the occupants? Is it too late? Or will he leave the scene, untouched, but scarred in memory?  

Kaufman does not disappoint: his on-the-edge story telling has an echo of Hitchcock's style in Desolation Road.

Christmas Wishes (Lead Me Home and In the Nick of Time)   L.K. Campbell

Lead Me Home:
A young wife whose husband was killed in Iraq returned to her home to help her parents run their publishing house. But when she encounters her high school sweetheart, she is surprised by the flood of emotion she experiences after their decade apart. The first love begun as teenagers quickly rekindles, but is at risk of being snuffed out by a guilt carried in secrecy and wrongly attributed.  This short story introduces four major characters who come alive through the dialogue written by L.K. Campbell, and has the potential of becoming a full-fledged novel.

In the Nick of Time:
L.K. Campbell’s second short story involves a pair of consenting adults who have a comfortable relationship until doubts begin to surface. She loves him, but is not sure that he loves her. The broken engagement in his past hovers like a cloud over their relationship, and when his former fiancé reappears, it seems that the relationship might end. But no, not before Christmas! This is a sweet romance that invites an audience's reading just before bedtime. I found it had just the right touch of sentiment and holiday. 

And just a note here: LK Campbell authors her own books, but also helps other self-publishing authors find their way through the Smashwords grinder and turns  digital books into the multiple formats available on Smashwords. You will find her name on the page called "Mark's List" of writers amenable to this task, available by email through Smashwords' help page. Campbell has helped me with both of my books now listed there for Kindle, Nook, Sony and more. I highly recommend her skills, and appreciate her assistance.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Helping New Authors Publish

I just had an e-mail from someone who has written a book and is looking for a publisher. It's an exciting moment in an author's life when they realize they are ready to share their work with the world. I wrote back to her, and I'll share here with you what I shared with her:

I use the self-publishing that is offered by, which is a subsidiary company of Amazon. There is no cost to create your book with them, and you'll have a choice of paperback, Kindle or both. They have a cover creator which is also free and offers many designs to choose from. They offer word templates that are all ready for you to add your text, and will number the pages and put headers at the top for you (left and right pages are different from each other ... maybe the title of your book on the left, and the author/editor name on the right. They also offer free telephone consultants who are here in the US and speak English. I've found them very easy to work with.

What they don't offer is proofreading and editing for free. They offer it as a paid service, but I haven't checked into that.

I would suggest that you start by proofreading your content for grammatical and spelling/punctuation accuracy.
Have a friend or co-author do the same. Next, hire an editor to go over the book and look for consistency, tone, sequence (if that applies) etc.

Then take a look at CreateSpace to see  how comfortable you are with their site. Don't hesitate to use their free telephone help line if you don't see how and where to get started. I have a lot of fun beginning with the cover creator. Once I have that done, my books begin to feel real, and I add the content into their word templates. Their step-by-step guide is easy to follow. When they receive all of your content, they will offer you an online "Proof" and also offer a hard copy (paperback) at a very reasonable price (mine are usually between 2 and 4 dollars, plus shipping. Having that proof copy in your hands is an exciting moment. Finding more errors as you read through the hard copy is inevitable - but that's why a paper proof is so important. To fix the errors, you simply open your online proof copy and edit, and ask them to run it again for another proof copy. I've done that with some of my books three or four times until I finally get it right. And then when I am satisfied with my work, I tell them to publish. I order any number of copies to sell (or give) locally to friends and family, each at the same low price of the proof copy.

 You'll set the price for you book using the guide that is on the site. CreateSpace will also invite you to send the copy through another format to produce the e-book copy for Kindle. Amazon will have both your paperback and kindle edition posted on their site within a day or two's time.

Lots to do - get started, and know that I'm here to answer any questions that come up - or just be a cheerleader for you. I also do proofreading and editing, but I have to charge for that, as I'm retired and that is my new job. You can check out my prices at my website. Here's the link to my services page:Terry's Thoughts and Threads Services

Wishing you confidence and good outcomes! Happy Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Melodie Starkey's View from the Closet Doorway

Melodie Starkey is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I've read and reviewed a few of her books now, and each one is different. Yet they all carry a true sensitivity to people who have differences ... people who face the same questions and worries and goals that most do.

View from the Closet Doorway tells of the lives of three teenagers finding their way through high school. Two are twins: a sister and brother who could not be more different. The third is the best friend of the brother, a girl whose family lifestyle is remarkably different than that of the twins.

Starkey handles the differences among the adults as sensitively as she does those of the teens. At the age of sixteen, the teens are just beginning to peer ahead at what follows high school; presumably in their late thirties, the adults are finding that 'happily ever after' may not be what it once seemed.

There are grandparents with differences as well, but they play a minor role in this story. The real focus is on Sullivan, the brother who wishes he was a part of the family next door, his friend Kate's family. For in her house, Sully is comfortable in his own skin ... he enjoys the laid-back role that her father takes, playing his music, cultivating his life-long friends, who seem like holdovers from the sixties. Casual, creative, and musically-inclined, Steve (Kate's father) and his buddies play in a band late at night, and sleep in late in the day. Kate's mother works outside of the home and is quite comfortable ordering pizza for the gang's supper most evenings.

Sully's parents are not happily together, having divorced when the twins were young. Sully's mother is a good cook who provides a nutritious meal at every opportunity. The twins are both good students academically, but socially travel in different circles. Sully is into the theatre group with Kate, but his sister is more into keeping up with the in-crowd, with make up, clothing, and hair the focus of their conversations and attention.

When Sully faces a potential 'swirly' hairdo in the boys' room, courtesy of the tough guys, and is saved from that humiliation by the handsome senior whom both he and his sister find attractive, he begins to question his gender orientation. Sully's is disappointed in learning that his dad has brought a woman in to his apartment, replacing all of the familiar furniture and many of Sully's own belongings; tensions increase.

What happens following Sully's decision to leave home and find his way in the city is enough of a surprise to  keep the reader focused on how all of the characters in this drama respond.

I give another strong five stars to this story. And if you haven't read Starkey's other novels, you will find her style of writing relevant, compelling and heartwarming, and no doubt will want to find her stories online or in the book stores.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Darcie Nuttall's Premier Children's Book

Yipper and his Journey of Mindfulness is a new book for children, written by a new author, Darcie Nuttall.  Ms. Nuttall is a licensed mental health counselor and her first book is written with calming phrases that repeat throughout the story. 

Darcie has included photographs of cuddly stuffed animals to add a visual component of reassurance and caring. The pace of the story and the frequency of illustration will help any adult reading to a child engage the child in discussion around the story.

With gentle rhymes opening the story, and a reassuring adult dog accompanying Yipper on his journey, Nuttall takes the young pup on a physical journey and through the mother-dog's voice adds a nurturing component of emotional awareness.

By traveling safely with his mother, Yipper learns that fear will pass as he moves through whatever situation is causing it. And he learns to keep the memory of overcoming fear, as that will help him address fears as they arise.

This is a very thoughtful and thought-provoking book, attractive both to children and to the adults who love and care for them. I'm looking forward to more stories of Yipper, and am sure they, too, will evoke helpful conversations between children and adults.  

Yipper and his Journey of Mindfulness is available at Amazon in print and in Kindle editions.   

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Evan Katy has added her third book to the Sam Rialto Mysteries. A Violet March picks up where Sam was left following the destruction of her home in February.  She is sharing temporary rental space with her life-long best friend Maxie and with Olivia, the sister of Sam's current paramour, Ben.

Sam's role as the middle school's music teacher is more the basis of the plot than in the previous two books of this series. Sam's student, Violet, comes to her for help; Violet's father is missing and the police seem to have given up their search. Violet is convinced that he can be found, and believes that Sam is the one to find him.

But Sam instead turns to Skipper, a private detective with whom she has worked in the past. Skipper's strategies and tactics are at times on the edge of the norm, but he does have a good track record in finding people, and in getting to the root of a story.

When Sam, Katie and Olivia find a dead body in their potential rental house, the story gets more complicated. Ben, formerly a local police officer and now a federal agent,becomes involved in the investigation of the death. Sam's abusive ex-husband (and Ben's former partner and now nemesis) is also in this story, as he is living with Skipper's fishing shack manager, Birdie. This mix of characters encounters many hazardous situations involving the missing parent, as well as his two ex-wives and two unknown (to Violet) sons.

Evan Katy continues to write mysteries that are wrapped in webs of comedy and drama. This one includes an abandoned home called "The Convent" (for ironic reason.) Thugs, gangsters, stun guns, pepper spray and real weapons are all a part of this story. A character familiar to readers is unexpectedly killed toward the end of the book, leaving Sam bereft and unsure of what is to come in her future.

This series and the main character Sam continue to hold my attention; I give this one five stars as well. To read the reviews of Evan Katy's earlier Sam Rialto Mysteries, click the links below:

      Terry's review of January Kills Me

      Terry's review A Bomb in February
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Beneath the Tor by Kat Yares

Kat Yares' novel, Beneath the Tor, is a compelling retelling of the beginnings of Christianity. Her inclusive version recalls many well-known names from the New Testament, adding depth to each one's personality and destiny. She begins the tale at the Isle of Avalon, with the Lady of the Lake, her younger sister, and other priestesses who worship the Goddess as the one true deity. Miriam is an old woman talking to a young woman from the island, having asked her to transcribe her narrative for future generations.

Miriam's life changes dramatically when her father arrives from Jerusalem to reclaim her as his daughter and brings her to live as a hidden servant in his home. Miriam's life-long friend has convinced her father to bring her and keep her until they can be married three years hence. This young priestess of Avalon is scorned as being one from 'the fairies' and is soon in need of a sanctuary, which she finds in a temple of the Goddess Isis.

Her story includes Joseph of Arimathea as her father and his hostile wife and sons, as well as Peter, Paul (Saul), Judas, Barabbas, John, Mary, Joseph, and more. The settings of the story logically include early Rome, Jerusalem, Egypt, Britain, Nazareth and India, and the transports of two thousand years ago: large and small ships, carts, and litters. Household implements such as stones used for grinding wheat to flour, wooden goblets and plates, and pallets for sleep are easily worked into Yares' story.

The roles of men and women are in sharp contrast between the Isle of Avalon and 'the world,' and Miriam learns to adjust as needed to each, for the sake of her children and husband, Jesus (named Yahshua in the story.)

This version from the other side of the lake does change outcomes, character development and history as we've been told; it raises within the reader a sense of possibility. What if it happened this way, and the truth was hidden by those who assumed power through the ages?

The ultimate question left unanswered is when the story hidden beneath the Tor of Avalon will be found; the prophecy is that it will be discovered when the time is right. How might it impact the distribution of power and influence in the world?

This story leaves a great deal to the imagination, and to the aspirations of many women. Well done, Kat Yares!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Fortune Quilt by Lani Diane Rich

I am a quilter, and so the title, The Fortune Quilt, drew me in first. I was delighted to find that this book was also a romance, with a touch of the "we're not in Kansas anymore" setting. Lani Diane Rich has written a fast paced story in a laid back setting where personal growth and family relationships are key themes.

Three sisters and a dad are abandoned by a postpartum-depressed mother who has named each daughter after a singer: Carly (Simon) is the eldest, Ella (Fitzgerald) the middle child who pleases all, and 'Fiver' who chose her own name from a Sesame Street episode 'brought to you by the number Five' because she was not happy with her given name (read the story to see what it was.) Carly, at twelve, takes on a number of maternal duties in the absence of her mother, missing much of her age-appropriate social involvements as a result. She becomes a strong, independent woman who is then unable to establish trust in romantic relationships.

The setting away from home that Carly chooses is so radically different from all that she knew, and in that Oz-like, technicolor place, she begins to discover her own and others' alternate life styles. Having lost her career job, she becomes a store clerk in an art supply shop, where she is befriended by a transgender owner who has left her psychic, quilt-making wife; she also meets a seventeen year old who has been adopted by two gay partners and who has far too much life-advice to share with Carly, right down to the cappuccino flavor of the day. She is surprised by her ex-fiance at her sister's wedding, and again surprised by her best friend's admission of love - all in the course of a few fast months in the Arizona foothills.

The quilt, and the fortune that accompanies it, plays a minor role in the story, but is key in helping Carly to both put aside her former rigid skepticism and open her heart to new possibilities. I did reach for a tissue at a few spots in the story, and did laugh out loud at others. Five stars for this unexpected treasure!

Oh -  by the way, this book has a different cover for the paperback version - though I don't think it does justice to the description of the quilt in the story.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Melodie Starkey, Sons of Eaton House

I was very happy to know that Sons of Eaton House (Book Two of the Eaton House) series was ready for Kindle. I have read two other Melodie Starkey books (see links to my reviews below) and know that her stories both inform and entertain. Book Two followed in suit, touching on many sensitive issues with delicate skill.

This is the continuation of a family narrative that was begun in Book One, but a reader need not have read the first to understand and enjoy the second (though the first is well worth pursuing and will make some of the events involving the parents easier to understand.) In Book Two, the children are coming of age, and each of their distinct personalities are evident and well developed. There are two sets of twins who are distinctly different and yet similar in values ... a younger child who is the only girl in the family ... an oldest son who carries the oldest son's family name and sense of responsibility, a grandfather who adores all seven of his grandchildren, an infant son (who will no doubt grow into the story in Book Three) and another child is now entering the family, at the age of sixteen. This foster child, as all those who preceded him, has a very troubled past, through which Starkey is able to delve into issues such as the poor state of orphanages in the late fifties/early sixties, the abusive treatment some experienced, and the callous shuffling out of the older children from overcrowded asylums. Yet this author shows him being cared for by long-distance truck drivers and migrant (sixties-hippies) farm workers who show him both physical and emotional compassion.

The contrast between the hazardous backgrounds of children who are fortuitously brought into the Eaton Family's House and the loving, compassionate, healthy environment they find themselves in at times brought tears to my eyes. The sensitive way Starkey introduces minor characters in the story who as adults are also living difficult lives but have room in their hearts and homes for this orphan before he is found and placed with the Eatons is also a credit to her writing abilities.

This story brings the children to the point of adulthood before ending suddenly, leaving the reader to want to read even more of this extraordinary family story. The parents of the children are also still growing, both within their marriage, and as adults themselves struggling with boundaries and wishes. This is a story that moves through decades of time, and the reader must stay grounded in the ever changing era, just as the characters had to learn to do.

So once again, I look forward to the next book in the saga. I'm definitely a fan!

See my earlier reviews of Melodie Starkey's novels:
Eaton House Book One

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Changelings, and House Report

The Changelings, a short story by Kat Yares, deals with the internal dialog of a mother of teenagers. As her children become more and more demanding, she struggles to both meet their needs and deal with her own fears of them. The emotional changes within her son and daughter soon affect both their lives and her own. She begins questioning her own sanity. She dreams of demons each night.

Yares tells this simple, short story in few words, but manages to convey an empathy rather than a criticism of this failed passive parenting style. Her story offers a quiet rationale of why teenagers cannot be controlled by love alone. It is a sad tale, and one that leaves both the reader and the main character lost in thought. It is a different sort of horror story, and just right for Halloween week.

Yares has several more books in print, and I'll be reading and reviewing Beneath the Tor next.

 House Report, a Kate Carpenter Mystery by Deborah Nicholson is a mystery quite different from any other I've read. The murder takes place in a rest room within a large multi-plex building housing several theatres and restaurants. Kate Carpenter is a manager of one of the theatres, and supervises both the employed house ushers and the volunteers, balancing the accounts for each night's receipts, and keeping things running smoothly.

Kate has a relationship with one of the building engineers who works in "The 'Plex" as an all around building maintenance man, fixing furnaces and clearing clogged toilets. Not a glamorous job, but a necessary one, and one that pays the bills. Cam is qualified for much more. Kate is concerned with solving the murder as her significant other, Cam, is one of the leading suspects.

Nicholson tells the story from Kate's point of view, while following her travels throughout The Plex's complicated non-public corridors, staircases and rooms. Kate is in danger as she begins sleuthing to determine who the murderer is. But her confidence in her relationship is tested repeatedly as she learns things about Cam that seem to tarnish his innocence. She enlists the aide of one of the ushers, Graham, in checking alibis of the other employees of The Plex. And in time, both she and Graham suffer physical attacks as a result.

I learned a great deal about the backstage life of theatre employees and their workplace, and I enjoyed the twists and turns that led the reader to many dead-end assumptions. The murderer is not identified until the very end of the story. Is it Cam? Is it not Cam? Is it Cam?

There are more Kate Carpenter Mysteries, and I look forward to discovering and reviewing them.
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More Book Reviews: Some Mysteries and Some Romances

I've been reading and reading, and have not been posting book by book, as I once did. But I'll catch you up with several mysteries here today. Mea Culpa.

Any Friend of Snowdrop is a short story or novella written by Kathie Freeman and offered free at Amazon for kindle users. Her main characters are a grouchy old man named Edgar and his neighbor's intrusive cat, named Snowdrop. Edgar has a favorite porch chair that he sits in each afternoon, next to his deceased wife's favorite chair, now often invaded by the drat cat. This is a tender love story of friendship, loss and love. I give it 5 stars easily.

Her Handyman, by Morgan Mandel, does not fail to delight readers who have read previous books of Mandel's. A handsome man engaged to his lifelong friend works at helping others solve their problems physically, and sometimes he is able to help improve a person's outlook on life as well. After all, having things fixed by an expert 'Jack of All Trades' would improve anyone's outlook. But when Zoe calls for help, Jake responds and encounters someone like no one he has ever encountered before, and suddenly his lifelong expectation of living life contentedly in a stable marriage to Angelina comes into question. And Zoe, someone who has been hurt by loss and perceived deception, has a lonely existence that Jake wants to help her escape. Angelina, surrounded by a loving, ever-present family, begins to suspect that Jake's work as Zoe's handyman may involve more than just hammers and wrenches. Morgan Mandel once again keeps the reader guessing who will bring Jake forward toward his ultimate goal of helping people as a psychologist until the closing chapter. This is a 5 star romance. To see my other reviews of Morgan Mandel's work, click here  and here and here and here!

Dead and Buried by Karen MacInerny is the second in a series of Gray Whale Inn mysteries, and takes  place in one of my favorite states of mystery: Maine. It also features one of my favorite things: recipes from a bed and breakfast menu. And in addition to the setting and the recipes, MacInerny weaves a complex tale among simple, ordinary people living simple, ordinary lives. Although I hadn't yet read the first book in the series, the characters were easy to get to know. The inclusion of a librarian who values the town's history and a minister whose 'sonorous tones' engages his following easily blends these unusual characters easily into the world of a single woman running her inn capably despite nature's unpredictable weather and a challenging, devious guest's careless water damage. The appearance of her handsome, Texan former fiance contrasts with her budding relationship developing with the  local catch, a fisherman.The descriptions of the cranberry bogs, the pine woods, and the bicycle as mode of transportation are all charming and inviting. When people begin dying, and bodies are found and mourned, the reader is invested in knowing who is responsible and what history has to do with the murders. Another 5 star review, and I look forward to reading more in this series!

This Time Forever by Patricia Paris is a mystery that involves a beautiful young woman, a handsome man, a little boy who has lost his mother to an early death, and has found a new home with the mother's friend. That the handsome man is actually the boy's father adds the first twist to the story. That this father has only recently discovered the boy's existence after searching for years, and that the mother's friend who has taken the boy in is actually the beautiful young woman now involved with the boy's father adds a level of deception and vulnerability to all involved. You'll wonder all the way through the story who will find out what first, and how the truth will change all of their lives. Another five stars for this story.

A Hardboiled Murder, an Annie Underhill Mystery. Michelle Ann Hollstein  writes a story of grandmothers, movie stars, grandsons, a marine, a police officer, an adulterer, a murder victim, an inscribed piece of jewelry, a spurned wife, and a tramride up the side of a mountain during fall foliage season. This is a breathtaking ride that involves a dead body falling from the roof of one of the tram cars. It involves a search on foot through the woods on the side of the mountain, with treacherous cliffs unseen in the dark. It's a story of family devotion, family competitiveness between grandmothers, and a story of a marriage between ages. It's a story of a book group, a callous lover, and an anticipated inheritance. It is quite a cast of characters, each carefully described in the foreword of the book and each well developed through the actions of the story. It is a delight to read, and another five star story.

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