Review: The Opening Bell

The Opening BellAs a kid growing up on the outskirts of Los Angeles, I can’t say I ever watched wrestling, but I also didn’t *not* watch wrestling. It was often part of the background of my life, along with golf and roller derby.

I’d chosen to listen to the audio version of The Opening Bell, the first book in J.B. Garner’s “Three Seconds To Legend” series. I thought it would be a good companion for my 20 minutes of commuting twice a day to and from work. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how well I’d resonate with a story set in the world of wrestling, but it didn’t take me very long to immerse. When I realized I was actually looking forward to my drives, I knew just why.

There’s plenty of action, of course, but it doesn’t take the place of a solid storyline with compelling, engaging characters. Leilani, our protagonist, must cope with being a rookie in the sport she loves, while dealing with co-worker rivalries, workplace politics, and multi-generational family situations. Is it all too much for the ‘Girl Hercules’ to handle?

James Garner weaves the elements of the story together, taking these disparate elements of Leilani’s world in hand, first as loose strands, but deftly, over the course of the story, weaving them together into a tightly told tale.

Mindy Grall was ideal as the story’s narrator, as she smoothly moved between character’s accents, as well as doing a fine job with male characters. She brought us venerable old men and teenage boys with apparent ease. A slight tough edge to her voice during fight scene exposition felt right.

And, by the end of the book, I realized Garner wasn’t going to let *me* off the hook without a fight. Those last few pages sealed the deal. I can’t help thinking that reading just one book in a J. B. Garner series is like eating *just one* potato chip!

Visit J.B. Garner’s website to browse his potato chips… er… books

Speaking of Disappointing Politics and Snowstorms

William Henry Harrison gave the longest damn inaugural speech any president’s ever given, on March 4th, 1841. For an hour and forty five minutes a 68 year old guy shouted at a crowd IN THE MIDDLE OF A SNOWSTORM without wearing a hat, gloves or coat. After that, rather than getting some rest in the white house, he headed out to whoop it up at *multiple* parties.

His speech ended with “I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my exalted station according to the best of my ability, and I shall enter upon their performance with entire confidence in the support of a just and generous people.”

What he actually managed to accomplish was to catch a cold, which turned into pneumonia and he died on April 4, 1841 exactly one month after taking the oath of office.

(This is historical entertainment. Rare for me to talk about government. Posting this does not mean I’m open to debate about current events. History sometimes lends perspective when faced with challenges.)

Æther Salon: Publishing Transcript

Last month I gave a talk at the Aether Salon in New Babbage, a virtual steampunk city in Second Life. There was a record crowd of avatars representing published writers, hopeful writers, and other interested folk. The transcript, along with the graphics from my slide show presentation (yes you can run a slide show in a virtual setting) has been posted. If you’d like to learn more about publishing, perhaps this will be of help. I had a lot of fun.

(Information of interest to Second Life residents). This transcript is permanently housed at the Aether Salon website. I am reprinting it here as a mirror, just in case those New Babbage urchins blow up the Salon building. Again. I encourage you to support the Aether Salon however you can. Attend a salon, put a coin in the tip jar to help the house and the speaker, tell friends about salon events… consider speaking on a topic dear to you at the Salon yourself!  Information about the Salon, and a group membership joiner is all at the Salon building in New Babbage.

Aether Salon: Publishing!

Continue reading Æther Salon: Publishing Transcript

Smile? Okay!

When I was in 6th grade, I thought it would be fun to ride my Flexy Racer down one of the steepest streets in my hilly suburb. It was great fun! I sat on the Flexy and steered with my feet and felt pretty damn bad-ass. But the street ended in a sharp curve to the right, and I couldn’t negotiate it with my feet. I couldn’t brake either, since my feet were controlling the combination steering AND braking pedals. I hit the curb really hard, flew off the Flyer, and landed in the gutter pretty much face-first. I scraped my face pretty badly and chipped my front tooth. It was the week of school photos, too.

Continue reading Smile? Okay!

Push It Forward

The Push Chronicles Vol 1

Indie writer J.B. Garner writes about superheroes, but he is a bit of a superhero himself. In his blog, Musings of a Starving Author, he not only talks about his own books, but frequently turns the spotlight on other indie writers, through interviews and book reviews.

J.B. Garner pays it forward. I believe it’s time the readers pay it forward to J.B. Garner. “How can I do that?” you may ask. Good question! It’s easy and fun.

STEP ONE: Pick up Book One of The Push Chronicles, Indomitable, for your Kindle or in Paperback at Amazon – or bop over to Smashwords for a Nook version or all other e-formats.

STEP TWO: Add The Push Chronicles to your “Want To Read” list at Goodreads.

STEP THREE: Enjoy the book!

STEP FOUR: Post a review at Amazon and Goodreads. No, you don’t have to write a huge, brilliant manifesto. Write a sentence or two from the heart, and give it some stars. Done and done – you’ve been entertained AND you’ve made a difference. You’ve paid it forward.

Need a teaser for Indomitable? Sure, we can do that!

Irene Roman never wanted to be a hero. She was a scientist living an otherwise normal life and that was enough. One fateful evening, though, Irene discovers a betrayal that undermines everything. One event that, in a literal blink of an eye, changes not only her life, but the future of the entire planet.

Now the world is inhabited by people with powers and abilities far above those of mortal men and women. The repercussions of superhuman battles on the Earth are great and terrible as lives are shattered, communities destroyed, and mankind’s destiny is plucked from its grasp. At the center of it all is Irene, who not only is one of two people on the planet who knows the cause of this unbelievable change, but is one of the few people who may be able to stop it. The only problem is the only other person who does know will do anything in his vast power to keep the world in its terrible altered state.

Who dares to claim the right to choose humanity’s fate? What price will Irene pay to be the hero she never wanted to be? In the end, will Earth return to the safety of the mundane or will it remain in the chaos of the superhuman and supernatural?

Review: The Book Of Speculation

The Book of SpeculationI have to admit that I first became interested in The Book Of Speculation after learning from Goodreads about her over-the-top method of submitting her debut manuscript to publishers.

As if writing a book isn’t daunting enough, learning that she handcrafted aged pages and hand-bound enough ‘old’ books to submit to various publishers… well, I was impressed with her tenacity and absurdity.

Author Erika Swyler explains her method at her Tumblr site in “Adventures in making a fake old book”.

The plot hinges on the idea that a particular old book is such a fascinating object that it could consume someone’s life. It felt very important to create that experience for a person reading my manuscript. It was a simple thought: if they connected with the manuscript as an object, it would pave the way for connecting with the story. I had next to zero experience in bookmaking when I decided to bind and age the manuscripts. I might have balked if I’d known from the start how much of my life the project would devour. — Erika Swyler in an interview with Shelf Awareness

When an author is invested in her work to that level, I have to believe she’s given her all to writing the story, too. At least, I hoped so. And the synopsis promised me mermaids and carnivals. She’d landed a publisher with her unconventional methods, and so I decided to give her story a chance.  I’m glad I did.

The story is really two tales, one set in the distant past (and written in past tense), and one set in present day (written in first person).  The stories are connected, and as I read, the connections between the two became clear. I could attempt to describe the plot in some clever words, but I feel the story really should speak for itself. You can read an excerpt at Tor.com, and if the words intrigue you, perhaps you should allow a new-old book into your life—just as a librarian named Simon Watson did.

Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep?

A dear friend’s dream just became a reality. As we all know, the best dreams come true not so much from sleeping as from hard work. This author has put in the work. I’ve not only read the book, I have been lucky enough to know little Nika Thought-werk in another world (it’s complicated. Just smile and trust me), and have spent quite a bit of time with this clockwork girl. Just as I would with any friend, I slowly got to know her over time, and came to appreciate her talents and her quirks. I learned not to use long words, and tried to be helpful if she ran down and needed her key turned.

When it became clear that a book about her life was in the works (or is that werks?), I was thrilled. To have the rare privilege of getting to know a character to the point of calling them a close friend, before reading their book, is a once in a lifetime experience.

Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep? is an epic adventure with lovable, likable, but certainly not perfect characters.  Whether you are comforted by the underlying message of the book, or are simply enjoying it for the adventure, I can assure you this is a singular tale, the likes of which you haven’t read in a long, long time. Please take a moment to  read the full synopsis, quoted below. And might I request you linger a bit over the final sentence. This truly may be a groundbreaking novel in the realm of classic fairy tales.

This tale of the Robot Nika (Volume One) is available for $9.99 in a good old fashioned, comforting, hold-in-your-hands  paper book.

Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep“An epic fantasy that echoes some of the most beloved classic children’s tales of all time, E. P. Isaacs’s Do Clockworks Dream of Gear-Toothed Sheep? inspires children to see themselves for who they truly are—and never let go.

Nika Thought-werk may not be made from ordinary flesh and bone, but this doesn’t make her any less loved by her friends—or any less needed by those who find themselves in trouble. Although she is made of porcelain, glass, and wax—a doll brought to existence through the astonishing work of a doctor in 1894 Ireland—Nika refuses to live a life that is anything short of extraordinary.

As she makes her way through tornadoes, a lake filled with stew, giant bubblegum bubbles, and a sheep-napping, Nika must find the strength to go on—even when faced with the gravest of dangers.

Along the way, she meets friends of every size and shape—all of whom help Nika learn to see herself for who she truly is.

This enchanting kid’s tale bravely tackles some of the issues that transgender children face, providing readers with hope and encouragement that they are not alone in their quest to find their true identity.”

Learning To Adult

I have three websites. One is a commercial site for chocolate and coffee, one is for promoting my books, and there’s this one – for whatever I damn well wish to write at any given moment.  Still here?  Buckle up, bumpy ride ahead.

This is going to be rather personal and probably a lot maudlin. Feel free to close the browser tab and I send no hard feelings if you do.  By way of explanation, a younger relative of mine is on the cusp of one of life’s greatest adventures – waving farewell to the parents and getting her own apartment. This got me remembering my own rite of passage. Those days are burned into my brain with the red-hot poker of nostalgia.

That’s the weirdest sentence I’ve yet written, but I stand by it. I can still remember the smallest of details. How the cheap wood floorboards creaked. The slam of the trunk of a Yellow Cab. The annoying crackle of a single paint-splattered speaker I laughingly called my ‘stereo system’. The squeaks of an air mattress every time I moved in the night.

Continue reading Learning To Adult

The Life Cycle of a Loaf of Bread

 

Bread Basket
Yummy Fresh Bread

Life Stage One: Fresh bread!
It doesn’t matter what type of bread it is, as long as it’s a loaf you love. Around this house, we always have a loaf of classic soft white bread, perfect for peanut butter and jelly sammiches. But I’m also madly in love with dark, hearty, cracked-grain breads, especially when toasted, buttered and heaped with smooshed avocado. That’s my notion of perfection, but I digress. I also enjoy baking sourdough bread. My method is very similar to this: Sourdough Bread from Potato Flake Starter.

Continue reading The Life Cycle of a Loaf of Bread

Mary, Maria, Murray, no, MARK! Wait. Jim.

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That’s cute, Shakespeare… now, can anyone tell what those other names actually are?

Did you just blink and draw a blank? You’re in good company. Let’s say you’re a writer. You’ve just conjured up a skinny teenaged boy with an incredible backstory, anger issues, perfect hair and an allergy to squirrels. That’s all well and good, but what’s his name? There’s nothing like being at a loss for the right name when writing an otherwise meaningful character, and I know for me, the quest for a name has often stopped my writing dead in its tracks.

I’ve browsed nearly every name site on the web at one time or another, and eventually I manage to scrape a name or two out and run back to my manuscripts, but it’s rarely been a fun experience.  And never a social one. Now, that’s all changed . Meet Nameberry! This cheery, interesting, sociable site focuses on choosing baby names, but isn’t your story your baby, too? Next time you get stuck trying to name a talkative grandmother who can’t bake but still lifts weights, give Nameberry a go.Nameberry Logo

(From Nameberry’s ‘About’ page) the What’s a Nameberry? Think of it as a baby name….only juicier, smarter, cooler, better. Nameberry is the site created by experts Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, coauthors of ten groundbreaking books on baby names widely quoted on the subject around the world. Nameberry includes an authoritative 50,000 name database developed over two decades, a daily blog on baby names, unique lists and features , and a vibrant community of expectant parents and name lovers. With two million monthly visitors and ten million page views from every country around the world, the Nameberry family includes a daily email newsletter, a popular shop selling personalized products, an active Facebook group, and a wide Twitter following.