Wednesday, May 31, 2017

True and Tragic Tale

The Merrell Saga: Based on a True Story from the Red Stick War of 1813-1814The Merrell Saga: Based on a True Story from the Red Stick War of 1813-1814 by Charles E. Sowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the time of the time of the War of 1812, wild Indians may have “raised commercial crops, owned slaves, and bred racing horses” but that did not make them less wild. Jack Merrell lived with his young wife and infant son on the fringe of the Creek Nation. Zealot, Josiah Francis, AKA The Profit, and William Weatherford, AKA Red Eagle, threatened war against the white settlers encroaching on their land. The threat posed by the warlike Creeks, known as Red Sticks, moved Jack to sign on for a six-month stint with the militia. While he languished idly in one of many hastily erected forts, the Red Sticks attacked his and the surrounding farms while most men were preoccupied with tending their fields. Women and children were clubbed and scalped by the murderous savages and left for dead. News of the massacre reached Jack by the slow and unreliable mail system of the time. He, naturally, lapsed into a deep depression, however, neither his wife, Sarah, nor his son, William, died. Both were slowly and painfully nursed back to health. Jack, on the other hand, threw himself into the quest for revenge with careless abandon. He sustained nearly mortal wounds in a desperate attempt to drive the Red Sticks out of Alabama, but he also did not succumb to his injuries. Just as in the case of her own near brush with death, Sarah only received word that he had died. Neither received what should have been the happy correction. What transpired over in the next few years was as tragic as the near mortal wounds themselves.

The Merrell Saga is the novelized account of family history. Mr. Sowell did years of genealogical research before composing his excellent account of the disastrous chain of events that befell his ancestors. As a lover of historical fiction and family history, this book struck a sympathetic chord in me. If this story had not been true, one would be tempted to think that the unthinkably cruel coincidences that befell the characters were the result of the twisted imaginings of a deeply troubled author. The prose may lack a little sophistication, but it does not detract from an excellent, and moving, tale.

Only $1.99 at Smashwords

$2.99 at Amazon

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ripples Through TimeRipples Through Time by Lincoln Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calvin’s devotion to Emily bordered on codependent. When Emily died, he found no reason to continue living. At eighty-five, or was it eighty-one, he felt no stigma attached to visiting her grave and then joining her in a better place, but first he called his daughter to say goodbye. He said it in less than uncertain terms, which triggered Bethany, not to rush to his side, but to call her brother-in-law to ask him to do a welfare check. Edward liked the much older Calvin and gladly complied. This led him into a desultory visitation through the past and a firm refusal to drive Calvin to the cemetery. The old man’s response was the revelation of Edward’s darkest held secret.

Ripples Through Time is the reliving of a lifetime through family vignettes told in the course of one profound morning. The flashbacks are related in random order, in various voices, and from various viewpoints. This, although artfully done, is a challenge to reader to keep in mind who is narrating. The several characters, who tell their stories, sometimes in first person, sometimes in third, are fully developed and not lacking in individuality. If not conventionally written, Lincoln Cole has found a fascinating method to weave his tale. The conflict of threatened suicide contrasted to hopelessness at the end of life is artfully laid onto the pages. Ripples Through Time is a poignant story that probes depths that are resident in every family. It is a book I recommend without reservation for everyone, especially the loyal members of the Rave Review Book Club.

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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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