Friday, April 26, 2013

A charming excerpt

The tepid light filtered through the trees as the sun fell quickly from its summit. She felt the soft cotton against her skin; supple and damp from the hunt. She had been at it for hours, the day now becoming twilight. She realized she couldn't stay out after dark. It wouldn't be safe; she wouldn't be safe. A single drop of sweat slid from her hairline, crested and fell to the ground from her eye. She was exhausted.

She stayed out of sight, slumped beside the crossroads in the deep brush as she examined her options. She needed a plan. Her hand fell to her well-worn pocket as her fingers fumbled for its cuffed edge. The paper within felt as damp as her skin. She knew any quick movement would rip it beyond repair and likely end her journey within sight of her goal. She slid forward, her knees coming to rest against the sharp gravel. Although saturated with her own dampness, the map slid easily from her pocket; whole.

She was elated, her brown eyes wide in the dimming light. She unfolded the map upon her lap and carefully spread it across the ground. She struggled to find her place upon its lines as dusk deepened. She froze; the low sound she knew so well was close. Too close for comfort. The guttural purr made her smile. Mother's den, a tiger's lair was within her grasp, and she would reclaim her prize.

Okay, so this wasn't really an excerpt. This is what a writer can do with an episode of Dora the Explorer. And by the way, who lets their little kid do stuff like this without parental supervision anyway?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to write a book review

We've all read books where we think, 'gosh, I could have written that.'

Well, you didn't did you? I'm not saying you or anyone else out there doesn't have a book in them. You'd be surprised at the stories all writers hear from others or have bouncing around in our own heads. Writing for those who do it seriously is a passion. At some point we would all love to ditch our 'day jobs' and make a living writing. If you think you've got it in you, give it a shot.

Until that time I hope you enjoy what you read from other authors who are trying to make it out there in a business that is usually fraught with all effort and little reward. There's a lot of luck involved. With that said, I would offer a few suggestions for those who purchase and read books.

If you like a book, give it a review on the site you purchased it from. All authors need feedback to we can grow in our endeavors. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when doing this.

If the book is good, give it a good review.

Don't downgrade a book just because it has a typo or two. Nearly every book has them, even those published by the traditional houses. Now, if the book is littered with typos and poor grammar, say so. Keep in mind also that some works are written in a style you may not be used to. Just because it's different from your normal reading material doesn't mean it's bad.

Know what you are reading. One author I know was given a poor review because the reader said the book was too short. IT WAS A SHORT STORY! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SHORT! Grade the work on what it is supposed to be, not what you thought it would be.

Review and evaluate the story and the overall work, not the delivery method. Huh, you ask? Another author I know received a one star review because the person who purchased the ebook couldn't load it in his ereader. Okay, how is that the author's fault? You didn't read the book so don't review it.

Most or many ebooks have a free preview called a 'look inside' feature. Most authors who are worth their salt realize this and put as much up front for the reader to 'see' before they purchase the book. Use it so you don't buy a book that would offend you due to coarse language or material you think is offensive. If you are a religious type who is offended by cursing and such, don't buy a book that offends your beliefs.

Anyone can review a book and say this sucks. There is nothing wrong with giving a poor review to a poorly written story. What you should do is say why the story 'sucks' but be constructive about  your criticism. Just remember, authors who can't write well won't be around for long. Don't worry about them; they'll go away.

Lastly, books are about discovery for you and other readers. Whether you liked the book or not, don't give away plots or endings in your review. 'Spoilers' are no fun for others who want to read the story. That's like telling all your friends about the end of a movie none of them have seen yet.

Here's hoping every book you buy is worthy of a thoughtful review!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

One Nation

We are very likely a people such as the world has never seen. We are the mutts, the leftovers from nearly every country on the globe. That is how we started out. Then, at some point in our history, this diverse group became a single people.

Although we look nothing alike, we are black, white, red and all the colors a person's skin can be, and we hail from extremely diverse regions from mountains to desert plains to sun-swept coastal beaches, there is one thing we all are; we are Americans. We are a family with all the warts and bumps that comes with every family. What outsiders simply have failed to understand is this: when you do harm to one of us, you do harm to all of us.

Yet again, the tragedy in Boston has done one thing; it has solidified us as a people who stand up for each other in the face of adversity; in the face of unimaginable tragedy. We have fought back from 9/11; the catastrophic events of Katrina and other disasters and so much more. But, that is what sets us apart from every nation the world has ever known. The rest of the globe can take an us versus them approach, but the difference is, we can stand up for ourselves while we shelter and protect those who can not care for themselves. Outsiders, yes, and even insiders may not agree with our politics; we fight among ourselves and bicker about nearly everything. But when push comes to shove, when you shove one, you shove 300 million strong.

The bombings in Boston will again simply tell the world we will not cower in the shadows from those who prowl the night. We shall rise up and protect what is ours; now and forever.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tie my shoes?

I am by accident, someone who rarely does something so stupid as to virtually incapacitate himself. Not that I'm a great athlete or anything, but I know my limits, and, generally within those limits I'm a solid little fireplug.

Then, every once-in-a-while, my age feels like it catches up to me. I'm closing in on the Nixon speed limit in the next few months, but most of the time I still feel like I'm thirty-two. Albeit, a very old thirty-two. Spring has begun to show itself and that means work outside. Work outside involves tools. I love tools. Tools make the man for me, not clothes, although My Beloved has made me a better dresser over the years. But, I digress.

The first day in the yard, under a bright sun and fair winds, I picked up the thatching rake and had at it. Unfortunately for me, three hours later and I could barely stand up. For the rest of the day I was bent over like an eighty year old man who had cramps! It didn't stop there. For the next five days, my back screamed and yelled at me in everything I did. I couldn't get into my car without lifting my leg with my hands. One morning, I literally rolled out of bed letting my knees hit the floor so I could stand up. Two days later, I had to have My Beloved put my socks on because I couldn't bend over far enough.

Several years ago, I told my son he wasn't allowed to ever let me wear velcro shoes. I figured if I couldn't bend over to tie my shoes, game over. Hmmm, perhaps I might need to revisit those words.

It's a humbling experience for someone who has never had health issues to discover he can't tie his own shoes. That hasn't happened since kindergarten. I'm thinking a nice pair of loafers are looking mighty fine right now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Who steps down?

Most everyone who follows sports, specifically college sports, knows about the recent hullabaloo surrounding the now former Rutgers men's basketball coach, Mike Rice. While I am not here to condone or condemn him or his actions, while listening to the fallout, something else came to mind.

Consider this: what if Mike Rice wasn't a basketball coach? What if Mike Rice was a chemistry professor or even a business professor? Granted, there wouldn't likely be tapes of lectures for three years following his conduct in the classroom. But, what if there were? What would be the outcome if students had liquids thrown on them because an experiment went wrong? What if a book came flying off the stage at the students in the auditorium listening to the lecture?

Keep those scenarios in mind. There are now calls for the president of the university to resign / step down due to this scandal. There are even calls for university trustees who signed off on the coaches punishment to step down as well as the athletic director, who, had the trustees sign off on the punishment. In this situation, I feel bad for the athletic director because it seems he did the correct thing and had someone in the university above him sign off on the decision, unlike what happened at Penn State. You can't have it both ways.

Has sports now become so much the driving force behind a college or university that public opinion is the overriding voice? I'd be willing to wager that this would never come to this level if a chemistry professor threw liquid in a the face of a student, even if it happened several times. Likely the professor would face legal charges but those above, dean of the school or university president, would not. Where does it stop? Is the CEO of the company I work for liable for every action I take? If I as a manager were abusive to my staff should my CEO be asked to step down because of it? No.

If only one aspect of a far-flung organization is deemed to have these types of issues and those issues were dealt with and signed off on by superiors then the job is done, assuming the issue is no longer repeated. The top level is responsible if that type of behavior was pervasive throughout the organization. Let's see the public outcry to lop off heads the next time a professor is abusive. I'm betting it won't happen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The other side of the world

For most writers/authors, the job as we see it is not simply a choice. It is what we are; it is what we do. Most who wear the moniker have a calling and passion to fill a blank sheet of paper with a bunch of words and turn them into a story that propels the reader to the end. I belong to a select group of authors who have that passion. Most, if truth be told have been filling up those blank pages far longer than I, and I have been writing for nearly a quarter century. (Wow, that really makes me sound old). 

Let me introduce you to one of my colleagues, author Chris Ward. Chris has come a long way to be part of this interview format; he's flown all the way in from his home in Japan. (Okay, he really didn't in this age of the internet, it just sounds cooler). Chris has been filling his pages since the days of his youth and has begun to carve out his own niche in the indie world of publishing.

Without further adieu, a quick interview with Chris Ward, author of Tube Riders

Q:  Your best known work is the novel Tube Riders, a title that has gained some following. What was the inspiration for this work?

A: With Tube Riders I actually set out to write something commercial. I'd spent ten years writing art and I wanted a straight ahead plot with cool characters, some interesting twists, and some great action sequences. It has all of these and more and as I wrote it I imagined it in my head as a Hollywood action movie, something I hope that one day comes to pass!

Q:  Your new book, Head of Words is set for release in April. Do these books share any commonality is feel or genre?

A: To put it bluntly, none. Head of Words was written during my wilderness years before self-publishing blew up like it now has and while I was still trying to find a traditional publisher. The only person I needed to please was myself, and with both books I did exactly that. My target audience is not the mainstream airport-reading masses, but the kind of reader who likes a challenge rather than just straight entertainment. I want my books to be remembered in twenty years’ time. There are books I read last year that I can barely remember the title of. I want my books to last.

Q:  You are a bit of a world traveler. You are British, Cornish actually I believe, having spent time in several places. You now call Japan your home. Have your travels influenced your new book?

A: Head of Words was actually written long before I came to Japan. I was living in Italy at the time, but it was written based on a six month period of my life where I lived in a rather unsavoury part of Bristol, UK, and saw a lot of unpleasant stuff on a pretty regular basis. As a country boy from a safe, relaxed background, it was quite character building to observe such things. It definitely influenced this book.

Q:  What’s the basic premise of ‘Head of Words’?

A: The central character, Dan Barker, is a waster living in a tiny flat in Bristol with a growing number of oddball friends and acquaintances who fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. He thinks he's happy but things are about to reach critical mass and blow up in his face.

Q:  Are the MC’s struggles more of an internal conflict or do they have roots in the real world?

A: Both! It's difficult to go into detail without giving away the plot. He has to deal with the arguments and issues of his friends and make some difficult decisions about who should stay and who should leave. And that's just for starters …

Q:  What type of supporting cast influence decisions from the MC?

A: Each one of them has a different personality. For example, you have Polly, who is a leather-clad dominatrix, Shane, who is a psychopath, Stevie, who is a born loser, Angelo, a womanizer … so on. Juggling the different personalities of his friends as more and more come to live with him becomes increasingly difficult for Dan.

Q:  Who are the readers that will generally love to grab this book?

A: Anyone who likes something different. This isn't a book that will have mass appeal, because it’s unconventional to say the least.

Q:  Do you have a firm release date for ‘Head of Words’?

A: I'm shooting for April 15th. At one point it was March 15th though …!

Q:  What’s next on the writing front for you?

A: A lot. I'm currently revising the second part of Tube Riders, hopefully for a summer release. I'm working on two or three difficult projects while I have two or three older novels I want to publish at some point. I only started out in independent publishing in January 2012 so I'm only just over a year in. I have seven or eight novel ideas I want to explore but for the moment I'm trying to get the best of my backlist available. There's fifteen years of it so it's taking some time …

I would like to thank Chris for 'flying in from Japan' for this author interview segment and I hope everyone who is a fan of dystopian science fiction gets a chance to pick up Tube Riders. It's available through and keep an eye peeled for his upcoming release of his new book, 'Head of Words'.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Author Discovery

I would like to thank all those who have followed along as I (and hopefully you) discover new authors. There are tremendous authors out there that are just waiting to be discovered. It's the old line, I worked twenty years to be an overnight success. Well, here's another gem in the making. Meet JRC Salter.

Allison is an ordinary modern day girl who hasn't thought much about the nature of the universe, but when asked, she says she doesn't believe in a supreme being. That is until one day when a new school friend tells her she is to be a powerful warrior for God. She refuses to believe it despite her recurring psychic ability and apparent immortality. She intends to get on with her life, and to some extent succeeds, until a mysterious figure from her past forces her to face her destiny.

This is the first book in The Calnis Chronicles series which continues with the Chronicles of the Tarimain, a monthly series of novelettes.

I hope everyone gets a chance to check out JRC Salter's work. Wow, another fantasy author for me to compete with. Oh well, it keeps me on my game.

Follow JRC Salter at and

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tab A

Years ago, in the before times, most things were fairly simple and easy to figure out. I'm speaking of things in the tangent world; not philosophy or politics or religion. I mean things you can actually touch and feel and build and fix. What usually happened was one went to a store, came home and opened the box they bought and put the thing together.

There was a lot of insert 'tab A' into 'slot B' sort of things. One could usually look at the contents of the box and within a reasonable time, figure the thing out. Likely that is where the joke about men came from; open box, put together, then read the directions. It would be nice if the world still worked that way. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

As most of you who follow this blog know, I am a retail manager and have been for thirty years. I have seen that evolve within my working time frame. Add to the fact that I used to run a local hardware store (best job I ever had) and you see where I'm going with this. Back then, most things were fairly simple and if you had a problem the kind folks at the store could help you out. It doesn't work that way any more.

Today's purchases are complicated, and, people either have no interest in doing things the right way or they are too lazy to find out how. I routinely receive calls from customers who can't get their device to work. My first question to them is always...did you follow the directions? The reply is generally one of three things; a long silence, a reply that has nothing to do with my question, or, no.

It is critical that modern electronic devices are set up or installed following the MANUFACTURERS DIRECTIONS! Gone are the days of taking home a radio, plugging it in and tuning to you favorite station. I beg, nay I plead, don't call the store asking for help if you haven't read the instructions and followed the directions. If you do it wrong the first time, you may not get a second chance to do it right.

I can't fix things I can't see. Modern electronics just don't work that way.