A Few Updates

Hi everyone,

Three updates from me today! Before I start, I just want to say that I hope everyone is staying safe these days.

First, I wanted to let you know that The Stork is available as this week’s special deal in the Concellation 202 Dealers Room (https://bit.ly/2B72XLk). Get it for only 99 cents! Thank you to Steven Radecki of Paper Angel Press for setting this up.

And second, I’m in the final chapters of The Found Child. The end is in sight. I’ve received great feedback from my beta readers and am working on including their suggestions, which included a re-write of the ending. So I’m working on that. Once that’s done (today/tomorrow?!), I’ll go back through the manuscript at least a dozen times I’m sure, to catch thorny plot problems and issues. And then read and re-read for continuity and typos.

And finally, I was so thrilled to open the OverDrive app, where I now get most of my library books, and see Due Date and The Stork show up as new additions. After the Santa Cruz Women of Mystery Zoom Forward event a few weeks ago, the Santa Cruz Public Library Acquisitions Librarian contacted those of us who read to make sure she had all our books, in all available formats. So exciting! If you’re local, you can check out my books from the library. Or, you can also get them on OverDrive. Wow, made my day!

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Until next time,

Nancy

Meet Marlene Anne Bumgarner

Hey everyone,

I’m excited about today’s interview! I first met Marlene last year at a Shut Up & Write meetup. She was working on a memoir and was already the author of two books. One was a cookbook titled Organic Cooking for (not-so-organic) Mothers. Great title! And every more cool was that I picked that cookbook up when it first came out, in the early 80s — I was not a mom, but it was a great cookbook all the same and I definitely needed help.

I introduced Marlene to my publisher and friend, Steven Radecki of Paper Angel Press, and the rest is history. Marlene’s book came out just a few days ago, on July 1. The cover is gorgeous. I was honored to provide a pre-release recommendation. My book review is at the end — I loved it! If you want to meet Marlene “in person,” she’s hosting a launch party on Zoom on Tuesday July 7 at 4 pm. Go to her website to sign up.

Marlene’s Bio

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Marlene Anne Bumgarner was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. Following World War II she and her parents sailed to New York, then lived on a family-owned poultry farm in Zephyrhills, Florida and in a rural community in Victoria, Australia, before settling permanently in California.

Marlene put herself through college working as a technical writer, then felt the draw of the land. In 1973, she moved to a piece of rural property with her husband and daughter. Following a decade teaching elementary and preschool children, Marlene taught Child and Adolescent Development for 30 years at a community college. Her first book, The Book of Whole Grains, grew out of a cultural history curriculum she developed for fourth grade. Organic Cooking for (not-so-organic) Mothers was inspired by letters written to her by readers of the “Naturally Speaking” newspaper column she wrote for the San Jose Mercury News. Working with School Age Children was written for the thousands of young people working in before- and after-school programs around the country, and is used as a textbook in many colleges and universities.

In 2001, Marlene was awarded the Educator of the Year award by the Chamber of Commerce of Morgan Hill, California. Since retiring from full time teaching, she volunteers in the Young Writers Program at local schools, and writes a monthly blog addressing topics of interest to parents and grandparents.

Find out more about Marlene’s family life, cooking, and gardening at marlenebumgarner.com.

About the Book

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330 pages, published July 1, 2020 by Paper Angel Press

“We all worked together. Ate together. Sang together. Learned together. We had a good life. After living close to the natural cycles of the earth year after year, good and not good, we grew stronger and more resilient, learned to manage our occasional conflicts with tolerance and love.”

When Marlene Bumgarner and her husband moved to a rural plot of land in 1973, she thought of herself as simply a young mother seeking an affordable and safe place in which to raise her child.

By the time she left the land nearly a decade later, she had written two books and a weekly newspaper column, served as contributing editor to a national magazine, a college instructor, and a sought-after public speaker. Her natural food store, The Morgan Hill Trading Post, was the first one in her community.

Follow Marlene and her friends as they live on the land, coping with the challenges of rural life as Silicon Valley evolves into the high-tech center it is today, and the world in which they live transforms itself culturally, economically, and politically.

The Interview

Why did you decide to write this book?
It was a story that needed to be told, at least to my children. John and Doña had only vague memories of our time on the land, and my two youngest children, Jamie and Deborah, knew very little about it. Once Jamie became old enough to ask me to “tell me a story about when you were young and lived on the land,” she kept at it until she knew most of the stories. After she took a memoir class with her older sister, she began encouraging me to write the stories down. Then as I shared the stories with my writing friends, I began to realize it might have a larger audience.

What genre is your book?
Memoir? Creative non-fiction?

How long has the idea for the memoir been percolating?
More than 20 years. I began writing scenes at writing workshops and retreats, when my youngest child was still a baby. It wasn’t until I took a memoir class myself that I began to put the scenes together.

Tell us about writing a memoir.
When I first became serious about writing the book I went to the garage and brought in several banker’s boxes of correspondence, financial records and publicity about my first two books and the natural foods store I opened in 1976. I organized them into a file drawer, one folder per year from 1973 to 1982. I sent hundreds of photographs out to be scanned, then tried to organize them chronologically, and then, finally, when I unearthed all my journals from that decade, I realized I had enough to fill a book. I corresponded with everyone I could think of who visited me or corresponded with me during the time we were on the land and made arrangements to visit them and interview them about that time period.

How did you go about getting input and feedback from people you were writing about? How did you decide what to include/not to include in terms of events and/or relationships?
My land partners had begun to pass away; I realized I only had a short window to collect other people’s memories and ask them for feedback on my version of our story. I called, emailed, and visited everyone who had lived on the land to tell them what I planned to do. While they were supportive, I soon realized that I was the only one with the desire or the information to do this. Memoir is about perceptions, colored by time and fallible memories. I tried to limit myself to writing about what I remembered or could document, and did not delve into the private lives of my friends.

Your memoir captures not only a moment in our cultural history, but also weaves in delightful anthropological tidbits (The Whole Earth Catalog, among others) as well as political insights. For me though, what really stood out was how you followed your heart, your leading. That leading took you places you probably never dreamed of. Have you experienced other such seismic shifts in your life?
I have. The opportunity to teach child development at a community college led me to some wonderful challenges, including writing grant proposals, creating a pipeline to teaching for students who didn’t meet basic college entrance requirements, and participating in a state-wide advisory committee for afterschool program staff. Then, when I thought life had settled down and I was almost ready to retire, I met my soulmate. Together we traveled to India to work in an orphanage, to Australia and England and Canada and Florida to trace my roots, and to South Dakota to revisit his childhood. But that’s another story.

As I read the book, I kept circling back to persistence, resilience, and passion. I was amazed at how difficult life on the land could be, especially with a toddler. But, all in all, it seemed like your belief was so strong that you just kept chipping away at the problem in front of you, then the next one, and the next. With all the daily time-consuming difficulties, how did you find time and energy to keep a journal?
I truly don’t know. I haven’t managed to keep a journal for more than a week in the last thirty years. During those years, however, with no television, telephone, or internet, my journal was where I turned to record the weather, day to day events, and how I was feeling. I wrote last thing at night, unloading the day’s trials and successes, and clearing the slate for the next day.

Do you have a writing mentor?
I have two, actually. My first writing mentor was Ellen Bass, who I met at a local author’s night at the Morgan Hill Library. I traveled over the Santa Cruz Mountains for two years to attend classes and workshops that deepened my writing practice and my self-awareness as a writer. After I moved to the California coast, I met Laura Davis, attended her memoir writing intensive, and participated in her weekly writing group for many years. She helped me hone my skills and my confidence, and the other participants in her classes provided me with an audience that provided valuable feedback.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
While I was writing Back to the Land I arose every morning at 6:00 and walked nine tenths of a mile to a coffee shop, where the sounds of clanking cups and saucers came to become my prompts and background to my reminisces. I wrote each scene on my iPad Pro using Scrivener, and used the corkboard feature to rearrange the stories until they made sense. Writing this memoir became an obsession; on the three days a week I drove into town for my exercise class, I would spend two additional hours at a coffee shop nearby. Somewhere along the way I discovered Shut Up and Write, and joined other writers a couple of times a week to write in yet another coffee shop. For two years I wrote every day.

Anything else you’d like to add?
The months leading up to the release of this book have been filled with learning about the publication process and marketing in the time of Covid 19. Once the book is launched and on its way, I plan to revise my second book, Organic Cooking for (not-so-organic) Mothers, and then get back to writing two other books I have started and put aside. My iPad awaits me.
I can be reached online here:
Website: http://marlenebumgarner.com
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/538749.Marlene_Anne_Bumgarner
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/marlene.bumgarner.1
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/yorkshiremom/
Twitter https://twitter.com/earlyearsprof?lang=en
Amazon https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Marlene+Bumgarner&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Nancy’s review (5 stars!)
This memoir by Marlene Bumgarner captures the essence of the 70s back to the land movement. With humor, honesty, and love, the author shares the story of her family’s odyssey on a 10-acre parcel of land in the coastal California hills, just south of San Jose, California. The adventure starts with two families, two trailers, errant fencing, dogs, and a flock of chickens. Hard work, optimism, some serious problem-solving skills, and a steep learning curve lead to a full-on farm with animals, landmates, and children. But constant money pressures, zoning bureaucracies, parenting, and conflicts with landmates take their toll. This luminous tale, set against the explosion of tech, is a story of determination, hope, resilience, and ultimately, of wisdom and transformation. An enthralling memoir.

Bookshop Santa Cruz Zoom Forward

Hey everyone,

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On July 3rd, I’ll be participating in a Zoom Forward event sponsored by Bookshop Santa Cruz. The reading will feature selected writers from Santa Cruz Women of Mystery. The series is designed to bring public readings back to life through the use of Zoom. I’ll be reading a chapter from Due Date, the first book in the Shelby McDougall series. I’m delighted and honored to be part of the reading. The other authors you’ll hear from –Mary Feliz, Mary Flodin, Vinnie Hansen, Katherine Bolger Hyde, Nancy Lynn Jarvis, Leslie Karst, and Christina Waters — are amazing writers with amazing stories.

Here’s some more about the event: It’s at 5 pm PST on Friday, July 3. The Zoom room will open at 4:30, so come early in case you have technical difficulties. If you need assistance, send an email to jory@cruzio.com or hannah@santacruzwrites.org. To subscribe directly to the Santa Cruz Writes email list, which will provide you with weekly announcements for upcoming readings, use https://mailchi.mp/cruzio/zoomforward where you will be sent a link to JOIN MEETING on Friday. I hear that the series has been well attended, and has hosted many amazing writers writing in a variety of genres.

Hope to see you then!

Best,

Nancy

Meet Ryan Southwick

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Ryan Southwick decided to dabble at writing late in life, and quickly became obsessed with the craft. His technical skills as a software developer, healthcare experience, and life‑long fascination for science fiction became the ingredients for his book series, The Z-Tech Chronicles.

Ryan also has a story in the recent anthology from Paper Angel Press, Corporate Catharsis. His story is titled “Once Upon a Nightwalker.”

Angels in the Mist (Z-Tech Chronicles Book 1), is 462 pages long and will be available June 16, 2020.

Angels in the Mist (front cover)

“…an epic urban fantasy blended with science fiction that will capture readers’ imaginations!”
-InD’Tale Magazine

In the heart of modern-day San Francisco, Anne Perrin becomes the target of an ancient evil. Her only chance—and perhaps the City’s—rests in the hands of a secretive, high-tech organization known as Z-Tech.

​Anne Perrin is resigned to a life driven by an adolescent trauma: a strict routine, no socializing (outside of the safety of her waitressing job), and no romantic relationships. When her cautious lifestyle lets the perfect partner slip through her fingers, Anne vows she won’t let it happen again and ventures into San Francisco to find happiness.

Her first night out in a decade becomes a nightmare when her date turns on her with sadistic intent. But his nefarious plans for Anne are unexpectedly interrupted by a mysterious savior. Valiant, smart, compassionate … Charlie is exactly the partner Anne has been looking for. And best of all, he likes her too.

Things go well between her and Charlie until an assailant with unexpected strength plunges Anne into a world she didn’t know existed — nor could have imagined — where super-science and an eclectic group of extraordinary individuals may be the solution to Anne’s lifelong loneliness … and humanity’s only hope against an ancient threat.

How did you come to write this book?

Even when I was younger, I was surprised how many stories (books, movies, or otherwise) featuring bigger-than-life characters relied solely on action or the characters’ unique abilities to carry the audience’s interest. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to have extraordinary/gifted characters that were interesting even without their abilities, and a plot that would draw the audience forward even if “normal” people were involved? The Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t exist back then, which has provided some of that much-needed relief, but my first inspiration came from George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m an epic fantasy fan, and I remember being disappointed—disappointed!—when he introduced dragons because the characters were so well written and the plot so intriguing that dragons felt unnecessary, a cheap trick that would water down an already fantastic series.

That was how I wanted to write. I’d had a cast of heroic characters bouncing around in my head for years along with a cheesy vampire plot. But what if… what if I could do what Martin did? Could I make those characters so interesting that you hardly cared they were superhuman? Could vampires be introduced gently enough—plausibly enough—that even non-vampire fans would nod along because it just made sense?

Five years ago, I decided to find out, and Angels in the Mist was born, followed closely by Angels Fall and Wrath of Angels. I’d love to know from anyone who’s read the first book if I succeeded.

What genre is your series?

Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction. It’s a modern-day adventure in San Francisco. Vampires are the only fantasy element, really. The rest is more science fiction.

Do you consider your series character-driven or plot-driven?

Plot-driven, though all of the major characters (and especially the protagonist on her journey to heroism and healing) have significant problems holding them back and evolve through the series.

What makes your series unique?

A few things. The protagonist, Anne, is a 36-year-old waitress with chronic, debilitating PTSD who has a hard-enough time making it through the day as it is. Then someone tries to kill her. Then vampires attack. Then she discovers her new boyfriend is one of the most influential people in the world, has some super-tech secrets, and isn’t even human. Then she’s hit on by a girl she thought hated her and could at any moment accidentally kill her, introducing an LGBTQ quandary. Anne must figure out how to cope with things that would drive a normal person insane and keep her PTSD from going completely out of control. And that’s just the first book. My guess is you won’t find many stories with that combination.

Another is realism. Yes, it’s fantasy, but I’ve tried to lay it out believably, offering plausible explanations wherever possible, and tying it into extraordinary characters who have real problems and are dealing with them as anyone would.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

Both. I start with scene cards so I have a general idea where I’m going (Scrivener is my writing weapon of choice), but if something cool happens in the story that doesn’t fit with the rest of the cards, I won’t hesitate to throw them away and see where the new direction takes me. Plot is driven by characters, and my characters tend to take on a life of their own. I can try to predict what they’re going to do and plot around it, but when I write the scene, the characters often surprise me and do something I didn’t expect, and I’m loathe to change that just because their behaviors didn’t fit what I’d scribbled on an index card. For me, the adventure of writing isn’t sculpting the words to fit the story but putting interesting characters in strange situation and seeing how they react. In many ways, I’m just as excited to find out what’s going to happen as the reader is.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

Going with the idea of realism, I like to pick ordinary names that resonate with me. Common names are easier to remember. Anne and Charlie are two main characters in the book. William is the bad guy. Why not? For more exotic names, like Zima and Cappa, I reach out to friends or use random name generators on the internet. For the latter, I’ll sift through a hundred or so choices, pull out a dozen that I like, then stare at the list until one floats to the top.

How do you decide on the setting?

For Angels in the Mist, San Francisco was an easy choice. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for… well, for many years. The book has a technology theme, and much of it takes place in a tech factory, which also made Silicon Valley’s heart a natural. Having a vampire outbreak in a densely populated city that’s only nine-by-nine miles also felt like it would be challenging to write. San Francisco also has a rich culture, especially in the LGBTQ community, which worked well with the protagonist’s character arc.

In general, though, I like to pick settings that are interesting to me. A portion of Angels Fall takes place in China. I’ve always been fascinated with that part of the world, so it was an excellent opportunity to do some research and put the characters somewhere picturesque. Some of Wrath of Angels is on an Arleigh-Burke-class missile destroyer, which took weeks of fascinating research to properly portray. Another portion is in an abandoned missile complex, which I’ve always wanted to see, and prompted me to visit an old Nike missile site that was practically in my backyard.

Do you have a writing mentor?

Unfortunately, no. I learn best by studying, doing, failing, and trying again until I get it right. That said, I would love to have started this journey with an experienced author as a guide, but I didn’t know any. I’m starting to meet more, thanks to my editors at Paper Angel Press and Water Dragon Publishing, and am looking forward to learning from them, if they’re willing to share.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I wake up early just so I can do some writing before work, and I’ll write all weekend if my schedule allows. The only time I won’t write is after about 9 pm, when my brain shuts off. It’s the same rule I apply to programming. A friend of mine once said that late at night was when he wrote all his bugs. I find the same is true with writing, so no matter how much I want to continue, I close Scrivener when my concentration starts to wane and save it for the next day.

My favorite place to write is in my comfy chair in front of my computer desk. It’s in the dining room where everyone else hangs out, which is great. I love writing, but I love my family, too. Plus it’s near the snack cupboard.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Only what an incredible journey writing a series has been. It’s brought me closer to my mother, who’s also my alpha reader, as well as my friends who’ve graciously offered their encouragement and feedback. I’ve lost track of the number of hours I’ve spent at the keyboard, writing and re-writing, and I wouldn’t trade a single minute.

You can find out more about my current and upcoming books on my website, https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com

Thank you, Nancy, for giving me this opportunity!

You can find Ryan online here:

Website: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ryansouthwick

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ryansouthwickauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RyanSouthwick

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/ryansouthwick

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ryansouthwick/

Book Links for The Z-Tech Chronicles

Angels in the Mist: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/angels-in-the-mist

Zima: Origins: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/zima-origins

Angels Fall: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/angels-fall

Graven Angels: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/graven-angels

Wrath of Angels: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/wrath-of-angels

 

Book Review: The Last Speck of the World

Hey everyone,

Hope everyone reading this is doing well! Another book review today, The Last Speck of the World by Flavia Ida. It’s the story of a plague that wipes out humanity. Huh. It came out last year; very timely indeed.

The Last Speck of the World

The-Last-Speck-of-the-World-website

Book description:

No name. No race. No nationality. The survivor of the perfect catastrophe struggles to preserve herself and her hope that she may be found – by humans.

“I am female, thirty-two, alone in the last speck of the world. My name, my race and my nationality are no longer important. I do not know why the plague has spared me. It has taken everything else. All the clocks and all the machines are dead. What keeps me breathing is the hope that I may not be the sole custodian of the planet.”

My review:

The Last Speck of the World tells the story of a plague that has wiped out all of humanity save for one lonely survivor. The woman is not named. Her speck of the world is not identified. Her race is a mystery. Her background, never revealed. She could be anyone from anywhere. As she struggles to survive, she holds out hope that she is not the last of the human species. 

This book is particularly powerful in this day and age. The idea of a plague wiping out both humanity and animal life was once relegated to the realms of science fiction. Now, in startlingly realistic technicolor, we are living in that possibility. 

The author, Flavia Ida, has been able to capture, in heartbreaking pose, the small things that make us human: the awe of a sunrise or sunset; a brief, violent illness; memories and thoughts of loved ones; a beloved home and neighborhood; fear; hunger; pain. Survival takes a lot of time, but threaded through those long, lonely days runs the power of hope, optimism, and love. 

My favorite sentence, which also happens to be the first sentence in the book: “Another night when the world seemed so beautiful she could almost be persuaded it was the work of the creators.”

I highly recommend this book.

Until next time,

Nancy

Book Release: Goddess Rising

Hey everyone,

I wanted to let you know that Goddess Rising, the third book in Goddess Rising Trilogy  by Jay Hartlove is now available from Paper Angel Press. I read the first book in this series, Goddess Chosen, earlier this year and really enjoyed it. (Check out my review here.) I’m looking forward to reading this one, as the story carries over my favorite character, the psychiatrist Sanantha Mauwad.

Goddess Rising  is available for the first time in hardcover, trade paperback, and digital editions. Signed editions are also available.

And, for a limited time, get the digital editions of the first two books in the trilogy, Goddess Chosen and Goddess Daughter for only 99¢!

Jay will be hosting a virtual launch party for Goddess Rising on Saturday, April 11 at 2:00 pm PST via Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/206431417306587/.

Goddess-Rising-website

Saved by a goddess … but only as a tool for revenge?

The nascent goddess Desiree meets the Egyptian archangel Joseph while ghost-busting the myth of Saint Patrick.

Aided by her psychiatrist, Sanantha Mauwad, Desiree discovers she is a pawn in a revenge quest that Isis has been planning for thousands of years.

Once again, gods and demons war on Earth with our heroes fighting not just for survival — but justice.

I hope you check it out! I plan to.

Until next time,

Nancy

Book Review: All That Was Asked

Hey everyone,

Well, it’s crazy times out there and I hope anyone reading this is staying sane and healthy. It’s hard not to be completely obsessed with the news–one thing I’m doing to keep my mind off of it is reading. Through my publisher, Paper Angel Press, I’ve been introduced to all kinds of fun books, so my plan is to read and review, read and review! Hope you enjoy.

Today, I’m reviewing a new book from Paper Angel Press, All That Was Asked by Vanessa MacLaren-Wray. The book blurb caught my eye:

It was supposed to be an easy jaunt to observe the stick-like aliens of Deep Valley Universe.

But Ansegwe — perpetual student, aspiring poet, and scion of the (allegedly criminal) Varayla Syndicate — well, he just has to ruin everything. As everyone knows, Ansegwe may have sensibility, but he’s not long on sense.

When a weird, twitchy little creature attaches itself to him, Ansegwe violates every protocol in the handbook to save its life. Finding himself in all kinds of trouble, Ansegwe needs to make some serious life changes, starting with that complicated family of his.

Ansegwe may just have to grow up … now that he’s adopted an alien.

As did the cover:

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And I loved the book; it captivated me from the first page! Here’s my review:

This small gem of a book read like a classic ethnographic text, from the cool, detached language to the detailed observations and the skillful rendering of alien speech. The story starts with a mapping expedition to a place called the Deep Valley, located in a parallel universe. Ansegwe, a poet and nephew to the financiers of this grand exploratory trip, has finagled his way onto the team, intent on capturing everything he sees in verse. 

Near the end of the expedition, as Ansegwe is straggling at the end of the group, aliens chasing another alien burst out of the forest. First contact! But it’s haphazard and chaotic, and something the expedition brass wants to pretend never happened. Unbeknownst to those at the top, against all protocol and common sense, Ansegwe has saved the life of the alien creature who was being hunted and smuggled it onto the ship.

The author, Vanessa MacLaren-Wray, is truly a master of showing, not telling. She effortlessly crafts sentences that describe creatures, feature by feature, without giving it all away in one fell swoop. For example, Ansegwe, the narrator, laments the agonies of the expedition: “…the incessant rubbing of my inexpertly-adjusted pack grated the flesh on my back until a broad, thick callus decorated the crest of my hind end–that part of my anatomy that had formerly been deemed so attractive to he opposite sex. Their spring-muscles exhausted by endless startle responses, my spines ached ferociously.” Spines, plural, really?! I really appreciated how Ms. MacLaren-Wray was able to emphasize physical characteristics without spelling it out. As a reader, we can all draw our own pictures.

Another deft touch in this book was the practice of including quotes from other characters in the story  at the beginning of each chapter. The quotes rounded out the actions and character of Ansegwe, shedding light on the storyline and the characters, without being heavy-handed or obvious. Some of the quotes were humorous, others more serious, but all contributed to the depth of the story. 

This is a billed as sci-fi, but it’s more. It’s a story of wonder and friendship, loyalty and bravery, and  ultimately, love. Time and time again, Ansegwe risks everything to save the life of his alien creature. A highly recommended read.

Give this one a try!

Until next time,

Nancy

Book Review: Goddess Chosen

Hey everyone,

Today, I’m reviewing Goddess Chosen, the first book in the Goddess Rising series by Jay Hartlove. I really liked this book, especially because it couldn’t really be pigeon-holed into one specific genre. It’s fantasy. No, it’s magical realism! No, it’s historical fiction! You get the idea…:) I plan to read the second, Goddess Rising, and am looking forward to the third in the series, coming later in 2020. The series is published by Paper Angel Press, and you can learn more about the series here and learn more about Jay at his website: Jay Writes

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Here’s the book blurb:

The man who would beat the devil isn’t a hero, but a ruthless madman.

Running from his dark past, former Duvalier hit man Charles Redmond is forced to take sides in a battle that has been raging since Exodus: between a power-mad magician named Silas Alverado and Sammael, the Demon Prince of Liars.

When Charles’ beloved Voodou is threatened with extinction, he must wager his life between pure evil and the man who could destroy the world.

Charles’ psychiatrist, Sanantha Mauwad, steps into this maelstrom of nightmares, violence and insanity to help Charles find his strength. She tries to save Charles’ mind, but can she save his soul?

And here’s my review. 5 stars!

What a great ride! This multi-genre read will take you across the globe, from Egypt to Washington D.C. to Haiti, as well as across time, traveling from ancient Egypt to modern day. Along the way, you’ll be immersed in the religious beliefs of the pharaohs and Santeria. 

The book starts off with a captivating scene at dusk, in the sandy plains of Egypt, with the Sphinx looming in the foreground. Next chapter — cut to a psychiatrist’s office in 2001 and a discussion about Zoloft and religion. Ritual, gods, magicians, and demons play a major role in the story, along with the themes of friendships and loyalty. As the chapters shift in time, genre,  and perspective, you’re kept off-balance, in a good way.

The character of psychiatrist Dr. Sanantha Mauwad resonated with me. She’s a well-drawn character who’s carried through the series. She’s emphatic, principled, and a great therapist. Her questions are thoughtful and pointed and non-judgmental, just like you wish for in a therapist. As she tries to sort through the quandaries and secrets her client, Charles Redmond brings her, and tease out his paranoia from his truths, she becomes his friend. And once she figures out what’s really happening, she uses her skills as a therapist to sort through it all and make sense of something that defies logical explanation.

I highly recommend this book to folks who like history, magic, drama, horror, or suspense — there’s something for readers of all stripes in this book!

My favorite sentences: “The sun was just below the horizon and the Sphinx’s enormous painted face cast a looming black silhouette on the darkening blue sky. The image of man’s place in the universe, both master over, and yet only a part of the forces of nature: the human head of knowledge, the lion claws of courage, the bull body of will, and the falcon wings of patience.”

Hope you try it!

Until next time,

Nancy

Book Review: Corporate Catharsis

Hey everyone,

Today I’m reviewing Corporate Catharsis, the recent anthology from Paper Angel Press. Full disclosure, I was a judge for this anthology. You can read about my judging experience here. It’s such a fun book, with so many engaging stories that I wanted to pass on my review.

Corporate-Catharsis-website

We’ve all been there: standing behind a desk or a counter for ridiculously long hours, letting the movie of our imagination roll behind our eyes. We’re certain that you can, far too easily, find inspiration from your workplace. Magic, mayhem, revenge — and, yes, perhaps even redemption — can all be found here. Corporate Catharsis is the anthology we all need — one that can help us survive our corporate servitude with our hearts and souls intact.

I loved the anthology.  All the stories were engaging. I’d never given thought to how an anthology is constructed, in what order the stories are arranged. But this arrangement was perfect, starting with the Foreword and the explanation of how the idea for the anthology was born. Once I received my book, I sat down and read all the stories again, in order, enjoying every single one.

Here’s my review:

As a survivor of Silicon Valley, I was particularly enchanted with this anthology.  All of the stories are rooted in the hard cold reality of the corporate world, but all take some kind of mind-bending twist. For example, “Rat Race,” by J Dark, gives new, frightening, meaning to the phrase ‘job hunt.’ “Once Upon a Nightwalker” by Ryan Southwick introduces Ellen, who could be anyone’s colleague, save for the fact she’s a zombie. Tension runs high from the first sentence: “They wondered if Ellen was going to eat them.” “Hextron, Inc.” by L.A. Jacob applies the absurdities of corporate structure to a magical enterprise. And, one of my favorites, “Best Served Cold” by Bob Schoonover is a terrifying story of revenge against out-of-control corporate greed. I urge you to give page-turning stories a try — no matter what genre you prefer, you’ll find it here. And these stories might inspire you to come up with your own creative response while sitting through your next pointless meeting!

Hope you give it a try!

Until next time,

Nancy