Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51 by Marcha A. Fox

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get ready for Thyron. He is a peda flora telepathis; in other words a sentient, bipedal, telepathic plant. He not only communicates telepathically, he acquires knowledge remotely. While imprisoned at the infamous Area 51, he stumbled onto a treasure trove of information and overdosed himself by assimilating it, which caused him to lapse into a dormant state. This triggered a panic in Gabe Greenly, astrobotanist for NASA. Greenly nursed Thyron back to a healthy state and was rewarded with a handful of seedpods.

Thyron’s vegetable chauvinism makes him highly opinionated. He bristles at the nature of paper, he thinks lumber is a crime against botany, vegetarians are serial murderers, and a harvester is a weapon of mass destruction. He cuts Gabe some slack since he is a fruitarian and can gain sustenance without killing the fruiting plant. This makes for a strange relationship, because Gabe is bound by his security agreement, which forbids abetting an escape, and Thyron’s goal is to get off the earth at all costs, along with an artificially intelligent robot—since disassembled—and a humanoid girl.

Marcha Fox has not only created a phyla, she has invented multiple vocabularies. The psychic terminology is plain enough to understand, but you might want to read The Terra Debacle on an ereader with a built-in dictionary to help decipher the botanical terms. This is a brilliant story, extremely well written and with great character development. It is off-the-wall in a way that is similar to how Tom Robbins grabs the reader and shakes him. The research is profound and convincing. It is loosely aimed at the young adult audience, of which I am not a member; however, I recommend it for anyone who wants to venture into a leafy new world.

Buy a pre-order at Amazon for $.99

Same price at Smashwords and you can download both Kindle and Nook copies

Release date: May 30, 2017

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interview with David Calder, New Zealand Writer & Rave Review Book Club Member

David Calder lives in New Zealand, lucky guy, but he has previously lived in California. Today he shares some insight into his excellent literary work.

Hello Scott. Thanks for having me on your blog.

>> You have written The Children of the Nakba, Redemption Cove, and a collection of short stories, Shorter Journeys. Am I missing anything?

Those are my books available through Amazon, Ingram Spark, SmashWords, and Kobo. Additionally, I have a paperback book of illustrated poems called Scenes from a Life, which I make available through book groups because of the cost of color printing, but will soon have up as an E-Book. I also have some work published in anthologies.

>> Do you feel that being a writer of various genres makes it more difficult to attract an audience?

Yes and no. Attracting an audience these days is hard for everyone. The flood of self-published books over the past few years has really diluted the market. You have to be prepared to work hard at it, via all means available. For me that means Twitter, Facebook, book-clubs, writers groups, and mutual of mouth with other writers I respect, as well as my general contacts. Having more than one genre gives me different target markets to work with, but there’s always the problem of spreading one’s self too thin as well.

>> When you read for pleasure, what do you prefer?

I follow other authors mostly, and go where they go. I was lucky in discovering your terrific Alien series and then enjoyed a number of your other books, whereas I wouldn’t normally have gone looking for science fiction. Mario Puzo reignited my love of reading as a teenager, and then the South African Writer Wilbur Smith cemented it with one of his early books, Eagle in the Sky, which also importantly piqued my interest in Israel. I enjoy all the current great ones, such as Lew Child, Stephen Coonts, John Grisham, Robert Crais particularly, and most recently Mark Greany, who’s taken over Tom Clancy’s mantle. Another favorite is Dave Edlund with his very good Savage Series. Speaking of going where they go, Dan Winslow’s very fine, The Cartel, has me interested in Mexican crime and politics currently.

>> I am aware that you once traveled to Mexico to do some writing. Does that say that environment plays a part in your writing?

As far as an environment to work in goes, yes, I was lucky to spend some devoted time in lovely Baja last year and found it fascinating and conducive, but I’m far more influenced by events than places. I have the privilege of beautiful horse ranch in NZ to live and write from, so I don’t lack beauty around me.

As for an environment as a setting, I heard Lee Child once say in a talk, that people think he studied the American south, but he actually got the idea for the red clay in most of his early books from watching My Cousin Vinnie on DVD. He feels environmental inspiration should be as far in the past as possible, and I tend to agree. Dwelling on a book’s setting can flatten out the emotion if overdone. I’m fond of the Pacific Northwest, but it was more of a metaphor for escaping to somewhere beautiful to heal, when I wrote Redemption Cove. Likewise, I have a deep interest in Israel as shown in The Children of the Nakba, but it’s the social/military/political dynamics that drive my work in that direction.

>> Where do you look for inspiration?

I write a lot of outlines, just sketches that flesh out a scene, or develop a ‘what if?’ thought. Some become short stories, such as Saving John Denver or Defying God, from Shorter Journeys. Others shrink down to what I feel is their purest form and become poems. Once in a while a character will take hold and begin to grow real, and I just follow it. Likewise a good storyline is hard to let go.

That said, The Children of the Nakba is a special case. It arose from experiencing the event it describes through the pain of an Israeli friend, in college, and needing to profoundly understand what it must have been like.

>> What motivates you to write?

As the most basic, if I didn’t write, I honestly wouldn’t know who I was. But on a day to day basis, I love to vicariously live out my characters’ adventures. Go on journeys with them, if you like.

>>What are your pet peeves with other writers? In other words, what turns you off about a piece of writing?

A piece of reading for me, has to have a strong opening. I try to give my readers the same thing. A book that starts out well, but becomes preachy because the writer lapses into driving home their point of view rather than entertaining me, loses my interest too. Other than that I like all kinds of writing and subjects, and try to give a writer every opportunity to grab me, even putting a book down and starting over sometimes, because I know how hard it is to do and how much a writer gives to a work.

>> How would you describe your writing technique?

I live by the creed that the first draft is your art, and the next ten or so, are your craft. I write the first draft in Word, fighting hard not to rewrite as I go. Then I rewrite and rewrite until the book feels right. Then I run the result through some tools such as Grammarly and Ginger, and do the final re-structure in Scrivener. I’m a big fan of Beta reading, and enjoy doing that for other writers too.

>> What are you working on at the moment?

They are dragging on a little bit, but I have a follow-up to The Children of the Nakba about ready to go (actually a prequel.) Also a sequel to Redemption Cove set in France, involving some lost art and a cooking school. After that I believe my RC character Ben Adams has some more adventures yet to discover.

>>Please share your social media links and handles and links to where readers can find you.

Thanks again Scott, I’m honored and grateful that you have given me this time.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

When Pomona Was A Nice Place

Family Forever: In The Beginning (Family Forever-In The Beginning Book 1)Family Forever: In The Beginning by Tamara Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Twin girls coming of age in the fifties in Pomona, California, were all about boys with cars, drive-in restaurants, drive-in theaters, and school dances. Emma and Jani came to be born in Pomona because their grandmother fled a small town in Iowa with her alcoholic husband to make a fresh start in the land of opportunity. That didn’t really work out as planned and Jake met an unfortunate end. Fast forward several years and two teenage girls are doing their best to give their parents ulcers.

In the Beginning is the first volume of Tami Miller’s Family Forever series, a candid family history told in the form of a novel. It is a beautifully written tale with an excellent pace and is nothing like reading someone’s genealogy. This is a real story with real characters that are fully developed. The settings are genuine. The reader enters them and looks around at the way things used to be. Family Forever, In the Beginning is a wonderfully nostalgic trip.

Buy at Amazon. The eBook is only $.99

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

More Required Reading

Left Behind (Left Behind, #1)Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Buck Williams is a reporter in Israel to interview the developer of a fertilizer that makes the desert bloom. While he’s there the Russians launch a nuclear attack that is thwarted by hailstones, lightning bolts, and earthquakes. There are no casualties and the Israelis score a net gain by recycling rocket fuel. Buck senses divine intervention but falls short of accepting Christianity. Later he is on a flight to London piloted by Rayford Steele who is thinking lascivious thoughts about his first flight attendant, Hattie Durham. He credits this peccadillo to the fact that his wife has become obsessed with religion and has become somewhat withdrawn. In the dead of night, over the Atlantic, Hattie informs her captain that a large percentage of passengers have vanished right out of their clothes. Because of his wife’s harping, Rayford guesses the cause of this bizarre event. Naturally, Buck was not one of the chosen. Simultaneously, a charismatic politician from Romania mesmerizes the United Nations, the media, and pretty much the whole world. Who can this be, boys and girls?

Personally, I always thought it was a poor decision when God stopped giving signs. Burning bushes, floods, ladders, and wheels in the sky are highly compelling. When salvation began depending strictly on faith, things became complicated. On the other hand, the vanishing of a large number of Christians, including all the infants and young children, would be a very persuasive sign, but it didn’t convince all that many of those who were left behind. Fictionalizing the Second Coming is a premise with potential. At the same time, it is a story that has already been told, therefore, it is difficult to generate suspense. Left Behind is a book that had a hard time engaging this reader. There were long, preachy passages that did nothing to advance the story and violated the first rule of good writing—show, don’t tell. I suspect that the fact of there being two authors contributed to the duality of style. The sections concerning the Rayford Steele character left me flat and unable to identify with him. Buck Williams is a more fully developed character, and the parts devoted to him were easier to read. I have to say, it was a relief to reach the end.

I don't even want to give you a link.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Improbable Journeys of Billy BattlesThe Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles by Ronald E. Yates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the Rave Review Book Club

William Fitzroy Raglan Battles lost his wife at the end of Volume I. In despair, he voyages to the Orient to meet an old friend who lives in Saigon. En route, a shady German, who claims to be a Pinkerton’s detective, threatens a recently widowed German baroness. Katherina, who hails from Chicago, killed her husband in defense of her brother, Manfred, as the baron was in the process of beating him to death with a poker. Her well-connected father managed to divert the responsibility from his daughter; however, she felt it prudent to travel to Manila where Manfred operated a hardwood business. The baroness enlists the aid of Battles to protect her from the alleged detective who proves to be an agent for the German government. Through a series of convoluted machinations, Battles and Katherina manage to have their nemesis Shanghaied to Africa. End of phase one.

In phase two, Battles settles in Saigon with his old friend, Signore Difranco, a wealthy pepper planter. While in Viet Nam, known then as Nam Ký, he is determined to find another old friend from his days in the American West, Giang Ba. Unfortunately, Ba has joined the resistance fighting to oust the French occupiers. This leads Battles into a heated battle on the side of the rebels. When Manfred and Katherina visit Saigon, Battles finds that he is increasingly smitten with the lovely baroness. There is another change of scene. The three return to Manila, from where, eventually, Battles accompanies Katherina back to the States, and they part company. During this interlude, the German agent, Oskar Eichel, reemerges and puts Battle’s family in peril. Then there comes the outbreak of the Spanish American War when Katherina urges Battles to travel to Manila to check on her brother’s wellbeing. End of phase two.

Back in Manila, Battles watches as the Americans make short work of the Spanish, but he is dismayed when he realizes that the United States intends to occupy the archipelago. The Filipino resistance wants freedom from occupation and intends to fight. Reluctantly, Battles and Manfred accept brevet commissions as captains attached to the Kansas Volunteer Regiment. During his less than willing military career, Katherina arrives in the Philippines and voices strong objections to the two men in her life being involved with the army, and much more ensues.

Billy Battles is an old Kansas sand cutter who hobnobs with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. This is the second installment of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy that I have read, and I am still not quite sure what a sand cutter is. Mr. Yates is a master of western jargon. He infuses The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles with a plethora of colorful sayings and expressions that give the characters verisimilitude. This is a 160,000-word story that takes place in numerous exotic settings with ceaseless action. The characters are extremely well developed. The prose is fluid and the dialogue convincing. This reader and reviewer strongly recommends the Finding Billy Battles series to everyone who enjoys historical fiction or just likes to read about sand cutters.

Buy at Amazon $5.99

It's cheaper at Smashwords $1.99

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Guns of NavaroneThe Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A team of world class rock climbers must destroy the lethal guns commanding a strait that is the only access to a thousand British troops trapped on the doomed island of Kheros. New Zealander, Captain Keith Mallory, leads a team that includes a giant Greek and an aging American explosives genius to the German occupied, and seemingly impenetrable, island of Navarone. The danger starts before they approach the island, sailing in an ancient, leaking skiff, they are halted and boarded by a German patrol in a similar vessel, which they sink handily. Next, they shelter from a storm beneath a German watch tower, whose defenders are dispatched by the oversized Greek. When they approach the vertical cliffs of Navarone, they are still in the grip of the storm and are dashed against the rocks. The wall is considered an impossible climb, but it presents no obstacle to Mallory. Unfortunately, there is a German sentry at the top. From this point forward, things really get difficult.

The Guns of Navarone is an iconic war story made famous by a movie of the same name. It is at once a page-turner and an introspective tale. It is unconventional in its nearly complete disregard for viewpoint, with the narration moving freely among the characters. There is, perhaps, a minor weakness in that the characters tend to give speeches and are prone to do so as the Germans are breaking down the door. It is a white-knuckle trip with more close calls and narrow escapes than some readers will easily stomach. Mr. Maclean tells us in the forward that he invented Navarone based on his own military experience in the Mediterranean. He did a fine job.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017


In the #RRBC Spotlight today Rhani D'Chae 
Author of Shadow of the Drill

Rhani has a slightly different story to tell.

My mother doesn't really know me

I was raised in a middle class home, the youngest child of devout Christian parents who met as kids, and married in their late teens. We didn't have much money, but I never wanted for the necessities of life. I was surrounded by love, and a strong sense of family. It was a good childhood, and I had no reason to wish for anything more, but…I did.

Like many young girls, I had dreams of finding fame and fortune in my life. I dreamed of being an actress, and just knew that all I had to do was get down to California, and my future would be assured. I left home the first time when I was fourteen, but things didn't go the way that I'd planned. I did find fame, of sorts, in adult films, but they sure weren't the kind of films I could brag to my family about. I also began dancing in topless/nude clubs, and I enjoyed that line of work enough to use it as a fill-in job when I wasn't doing something else, or if I just needed some quick and easy cash. I remember that my mother once found a visor that had the name of a local topless club emblazoned over the stage name that I was currently using. She was horrified, so I told her that it belonged to a friend, and she was more than willing to accept that as the truth. From that point on, whenever she asked about if or where I was working, I gave her an answer that she would be okay with. Something "respectable," that she could tell her friends and sisters when they asked for family updates. Basically, I lied.

Since then, I've done a lot of things for fun and enjoyment that my mother would most definitely not approve of. I've always had a thing for the bad boys, and dated several men that would have made her skin crawl. So I decided that there was no reason to add that kind of stress to her life, until such a time as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle. End result – she never heard about any of them. For years, I've been involved with a fundraising group that held its events in bars, or other places where alcohol is served. Again, not something that I told mom about. I went through my drug phase, my alcohol years, and a revolving door of lovers; none of which I ever mentioned to her. She and dad didn't even know that I was pregnant until my son was almost four months old. I knew how she felt about pregnancy out of wedlock, and I didn't want to cause her that kind of disappointed sadness until I absolutely had to. I wish that things between mom and I had been different, that I could have shared more of my life with her. But her vision of the world was so tightly wrapped up in what her Bible, and what her personal sense of morality said was right and wrong, that such conversations would have only caused her to be more disappointed in me than she already was. She would have felt like a failure for not raising a daughter who shared her desire for a morally upstanding and religiously grounded life, even though her definition of those things had not changed since the early 1930's. To this day, I'm amazed by how different the actual world is from the one that she lives in. But, she has no desire to open her eyes, or change an opinion at her age, so that's another conversation that we don't have.

Cancer took dad ten years ago, so I've spent a lot more time talking with mom. During my visits and phone calls, we've covered an assortment of topics such as our respective health issues, how my son is doing, what's going on with my sister's family, and should mom sell her house or stay. We've talked about a few things of interest on the voting ballots, such as Tacoma's ban on casinos, and the legalization of marijuana. We've also discussed a few of the Presidential elections, and the Trump/Clinton showdown fueled several interesting discussions. We've talked about Christ's return; she thinks it will happen in her lifetime, but I don't agree. I showed her my newest book cover, and she told me that she didn't like the blood, though it did add much-needed color. But she didn't ask about the book's plot, or how my writing is going. She doesn't ask if I’m seeing anyone, or what I do with my free time. I think she's afraid I'll tell her, and she'd rather not know. She never wanted to know. And because causing her pain is something that I have always tried to avoid, I did – and do – allow her to live in ignorance where I'm concerned.

So now, after decades as her daughter, my mom doesn't really know me, and probably never will. But she does know that I love her, and at the end of the day, that's what counts.


A brutal experience transforms an unproven young tough into a ruthless killing machine. For 15 years he waited, building his body into an unstoppable weapon so that vengeance would be had through the strength of his will and the power of his hands.


Rhani D'Chae is a visually impaired writer, reader, and lover of cats. She is currently working on the second book in the Drill series, about an unrepentant enforcer and the violent life that he leads.

Twitter - @rhanidchae
Website -