Monday, December 31, 2012

The Past Two Weeks

Here is, in a nutshell, what my life has been like over the past few weeks:

AD: Ah, some free time. I'm going to write my Indie Exchange Blog and do some editing.
Kid: Mommy! I have to have jeggings ready for tomorrow! We have our Christmas show!

(mom goes to do extra load of laundry.)

AD: OK, forget the blog. I'll do some editing for fifteen minutes.
Kid: I'm hungry.

(edit is abandoned.)

Later -

AD: Excellent! A fresh new day. I'm going to try and edit ten pages of the job that's been on hold for a month.
Husband: We have to go and pick up Poppy from the hospital NOW.

(Work is abandoned.)

Later -

AD: OK, I've got an entire day to myself. I'm going to get all my wrapping done in two hours and bang out a buttload of work.

Seven Hours Later -

AD: ERMERGERD I've been wrapping for seven hours and I'm still not done *insert loud raspberry* And did I send Christmas cards? Well, did I?

Two Days Before Christmas -

AD: Baking! Wrapping! Cooking! Cleaning! Certainly not writing or blogging!

Two Days After Christmas -

AD: Still baking and cleaning, and now entertaining! Still not writing!


If anyone has a map to lead me out of this crazed wilderness for next year's holiday season, I will pay and also give you a pedicure.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Twitter 101

One of the main tools I use to gain readers is Twitter. It’s a great resource for writers.

When my book went live on Amazon, I had 17 followers. I now have 7000, a little over a year later.

If you are starting off from scratch, I suggest you use your writer’s name as your twitter username, or your name + author if it’s not available. Go to and build a profile. Be certain to upload a nice headshot or your book cover.

Include a short bio that mentions what your connection is to writing, as well as a link to your blogspot and to your books. Keep this short. It makes it easier for people to recommend you on Twitter. Add a little spice or humor to make it pop. You’re a writer – you can do it.

As an example, here is mine:

Wrestling words and laundry. Author of The Crown Phoenix  series.

The next step is to get a boatload of followers.

I built a following by participating in #WW or #WriterWednesday, and #FF or  #FollowFriday. If you put some of your followers’ names in a tweet and add those hashtags, they will do the same for you. They’ll know you have done that because they will click on the @Mentions, which will bring up all the tweets with their names in them.

At a certain point the following will just start building on its own, especially if you take the time to say thank you to every new follower. Tell them that you’ll check out their links or blogs, if they have one in their profiles, and do so. They’ll check yours out as well.

You can do the same thing in Twitter. Click on @Connect after you have been on for a few days and you’ll see who has mentioned you in a tweet. Tweet them back and say thank you. That gets both of your names out there even more.

That brings us to the magic RT, or retweet. If someone puts up a mention of a book or a blog in a tweet, be certain to retweet it for them. Do it often enough, and you’ll pick up a lot of thank yous. When you put up a blog or book link, people will do the same for you.

While all of this is going on, be certain to tweet about funny thing that happen to you, random thoughts as a writer, snippets from your day – fun things to read. If you go overboard with the marketing and retweets and #FF’s, your tweet list will look like one sea of red links, and you won’t get as many followers. Who wants to get in touch with someone who talks like an infomercial all the time?

If you want to take it to the next level, try to think of something special you can tweet every day, like pirate jokes or silly haikus.

The more time you spend on Twitter, the more followers you will get. Don’t let it take over your life, though. You have books and blogs to write after all. About 20 minutes a day, twice a day, is plenty of time.

Which brings us back to that blog link you put into your profile. Remember how you told new followers that you would check out their links? And how you did? And how you liked some of them enough to follow their blogs so you could read them each week?

Some of your new followers will be doing that to you as well. Through the use of Twitter, you will increase your blog readership. This is how social media will begin bleed over across formats, in a good way.

Not only that, but as you look at your new followers’ blogs and read their tweets, you’ll find new opportunities. There are writers out there looking for guest bloggers and people to interview and books to feature. They might as well feature your book.

You want to keep quality as well as quantity in mind when you start to gather followers. If you randomly follow everyone you see in tweets, then at some point you will be following 2000 people. Twitter caps you at that level, until you have over 2000 followers yourself.

There are ways to get to that level. First, try to keep a balance between people followed and followers. Those numbers should be very close to each other.

(You can purge nonfollowers by going to or to Log in through twitter and those sites will show you who isn’t following you back. You can unfollow them with a click of your mouse.)

With Twitter capping you at 2000, you can’t afford to follow everyone. Make certain that the people you follow are human and not ‘bots (you can tell by looking at their tweets, which come up in their profiles) and that they aren’t just tweeting about their home carpet cleaning business. You need them to participate in your marketing, not just to concentrate on their start up company.

You can follow up to 500 people a day. If you rotate following people who are interested in books, your genre, and publishing, and unfollow an equal number of those who aren’t following back through manageflitter, you’ll notice a sharp increase in your followers.

Now, to the tweet itself. You only have 140 characters to tweet in. You’ll need to shorten some of those long links you want to tweet, such as Amazon and blog links. You can do that at, or at a host of other shortening sites. I like because it stores your shortened links and copies them to your clipboard when you need them again. Plus you can customize your links and track them to see how many people have clicked on them.

If you tweet short links and snippets of information, and if you retweet other followers’ tweets, then your tweets will get retweeted. That’s important, because your info will:

A) go out to a much larger, everwidening audience
B) continue to appear on twitter even after you stop tweeting
C) win you more followers

As a final tip, on #WW (Writer Wednesday) I feature a few select friends, instead of long lists of @writername and @whoosis.  Here’s an example:

#WW @danielleraver - She’s funny, talented, and a tech whiz. Her #fantasy book Brother, Betrayed is at

You can do a recommendation like that right from

A recommendation like the one I wrote about Danielle like that gets a lot of attention -  more than strings of @writernames, and the people I mention in those tweets get a real kick out of it.

The problem with Twitter is that it is very fast-moving. A tweet comes and goes in an instant. Marking a tweet with a hashtag like #MyWANA #Fantasy or #romance puts your tweet in a specialized list that other people will access.

Another way to get around that immediacy is to schedule tweets to appear at regular intervals. You can do that on Hootsuite, right on line, or on Tweetdeck, which you download and install. Both have several amazing features, such as the ability to sort several groups of hashtags at once.

In my opinion, being classy, having a thick skin, and respecting the other authors out there will get you a lot further in the Tweetiverse than any automatic Followback app. But I think that’s true of most of the aspects of being a writer.

One writer, who is publishing the male version of Pride and Prejudice, holds regular "balls" on Friday nights. He tweets to followers under the hashtag #DarcyBall ; they check in and speak Austenese. Once you have enough followers you can do the same kind of thing, tailored for your book.

The sources that taught me the most about Twitter can be found here:

and here:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Favorite Book Turned into a Movie

The 30 Days of Books Meme continues ...

This was a tough one, since I wanted to choose a book that I loved, as well as its movie version.

See, the book - movie combo can fall in several categories:

1. The book and the movie are both bad. I realize I may outrage some readers, but I feel The Da Vinci Code falls in this category. Look, I liked the premise, and Tom Hanks rocks. But - really? A codex expert can't tell that it's backwards handwriting at first glance? And the Professor Teabing character- could he have been more stereotypical? Why not just call him TeaBag and be done with it? And then there was the movie.... and that haircut... *shudders*

2. The book is bad and the movie is good. The Bridges of Madison County fits in this category, IMO. The Da Vinci Code made my brain weep with pain, but at least I managed to get through half of it. Bridges didn't even make one page before I hurled it across the room in anger. However, the movie version was pretty decent, thanks to the directing and the actors, Streep and Eastwood.

3. The book is good and the movie is bad. The Golden Compass fits this one for me, as well as any version of my old standby, Jane Eyre. (Everybody drink!) The only Eyre that stood up for me was the recent PBS version with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, thanks to the script writers slashing most of Mr. Rochester's most ridiculous dialogue. Ahem, duuuuuude -  "It will atone, it will atone..." (Jane makes an excuse and slips off to the local pub until he finishes his monologue.)

4. Both the book and the movie rock. When this happens, it is like a batter getting that sweet spot. The Prisoner of Azkaban did this, in my opinion, and WHY didn't Alfonso Cuaron direct EVERY SINGLE HARRY POTTER MOVIE? Hm? He could have prevented the headache that was The Order of the Phoenix (which was my favorite book - ruined I tell you. Ruined.)

Ditto Holes, which I loved as a book and loved even more as a movie. Holes has become, along with Working Girl and The Shawshank Redemption, a flick that I'll watch any time, any place. The younger actors (Shia Lebeouf!) are incredible, as well as Sigourney of course, who could make an insurance ad magical. And let us not forget Patricia Arquette, who is luminous in her role as the Kissing Bandit.

As for Indie books, well - there aren't many of those that are movies. YET! I do think that will quickly change, since there are many wonderful Indies out there.

If I could be a producer, here are some of the books I would turn into movies:

Losing Beauty
Sax and the Suburb
The Prospect of My Arrival
Emeline and the Mutants
Land of Nod: The Artifact

That is a very shortened list, and I would love to hear other suggestions for Indie books that should be movies .... have at it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jonathan Dunne and Balloon Animals

Welcome, Jonathan, to Fresh Pot of Tea. Have a scone.

Thank you, Alison! There's nothing like a hot scone with butter and strawberry jam with a mug of tea. It reminds me of back home in Ireland.

Let's start with your book - tell us what Balloon Animals is about and how you came to write it.

 In short, Balloon Animals is a belated coming-of-age tale for an Irish man, Jonny Rowe, whose American grandfather nicknamed 45, dies at Jonny's 30th birthday party while blowing a red birthday balloon for Jonny. Jonny's birthday quickly becomes his deathday but he realizes that 45 lives on in his red birthday balloon - his soul-bubble. Jonny, who is suffering from identity-crisis due to a life-time of family lies and secrets, takes it upon himself to return 45 to his roots in Iowa in a quest of self-discovery. He travels from Limerick in South West Ireland to Mid-America, Iowa. Naturally, the book is anchored in humour but it does have its tragic moments also. It's a tragi-comedy I suppose: 7-part comedy 3-part tragedy. I always find this question difficult to answer, Alison. I've done a few podcasts in NYC and Toronto and I explain what the novel is about. I'm always left cold by what I've just explained - it's the atmosphere that's missing, which can only be captured when the book is being read.

The seed for the book happened when my daughter let go a helium red balloon she'd picked up somewhere along the way. The balloon sailed high over Toledo, Spain (where I now live). My 6 year-old was in tears but I explained to her - after some soul-searching - that her granny was up there somewhere and would catch her balloon and keep it as a present. My mother passed away in 2009.

Were there any scenes that made you laugh as you wrote? 

I might've had a smile on my face during the exhuming scene and Brillo's imitation of the Buckingham guard with a wild tom-cat stuck to her scalp ... and when Jonny gets his balloon caught up in the revolving doors of the local bank. Every chapter has a, what I consider, funny scene. It's a be-there moment - it won't make any sense now to readers on your blog but will when they read it. Everybody who has read Balloon Animals has found something to like. I'm not just saying that... check the reviews.

Now, how about you? What led you to writing, and what is your background?

I first discovered that I had a penchant for scribbling when, as a child, I would connect the items on mom's shopping list with a narrative plot. The carrots were soon blaming the cabbage for everything. 

I'm from Limerick in Ireland. I've been publishing short stories since my early twenties (37 now). I currently live in Toledo Spain as a bearded hermit with my two little girls. I'm married to Ruth, a great Spanish woman who gives me time to hide in my cabin (to write only, nothing devious). When cabin-fever sets in, I work as a TEFL teacher. 

Who is your favorite character in the book, and why?

I really couldn't say. Each character is as valid as the next and has their role to play. I love them dearly. Balloon Animals is a character-driven novel so they are everything to me.

Are you working on anything else - what can we look forward to? 

I'm working on a new novel 'Living Dead Lovers (My Sick Romance) ' It's about a hard-drinking, speed-loving clairvoyant gypsy nicknamed Cabbage who speaks with the dead and falls in love with one of her clients' dead husband - a killed racing-car driver. Without giving too much away: Cabbage has got a big predicament. The book follows Cabbage's life, from her bohemian childhood on the roads of Europe to the heady heights of stardom and exhaustion at Betty Ford's. 

What are some of your favorite books and movies, to give us a sense of what you enjoy?

I've yet to find a book that holds an atmosphere like a Dickens novel. I like to read Confederacy of Dunces once a year. Harold and Maude is one of my favourite films ... I tend to like tragi-comedies in any form. Life is a tragi-comedy.
Any last words?Yes, I'd like to thank you, Alison! It's been a sincere pleasure and I hope you and all your readers have a great 2013!

You can find Jonathan on Goodreads and his lovely blog. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Back to the Meme

I've been skipping my homework lately. I was too sad to post on Friday, and I suppose that sadness lingered over the weekend. Still, it is time to take back life and hug it a little closer, to embrace family and friends. These are the most important of all.

Today's assignment is "Your favorite quote from your favorite book." Are you sick of Jane Eyre yet? Because that is my favorite. And I love this quote:

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal — as we are!” 

In this passage, the passion and spirit inside Jane's pale, obedient body bubbles up as she confronts Mr. Rochester. I love that a woman speaks so to a male, and to a "superior" - no humility here. This fairly sings with freedom and pride, and to my mind, it is remarkable that a schoolteacher on a Yorkshire moor should write it.

As for my Indie book, I have to go back to The Prospect of My Arrival again. It's difficult to choose one quote, but I really fell in love with the jellyfish:
Dwight Okita, the author

"He and his mother now stand before the Aquarium windows. As they leave this place, jellyfish descend in slow motion like parachutes onto the bright coral reefs below them. Prospect thinks of the parachutes that people cling to as they drop from the sky. How a good parachute can save your life… and how a bad one is like having no parachute at all. "

The writing is very simple, and in fact Prospect received several poor reviews because of that simplicity. To me, however, the sentences were lovely and nearly glowed with artistry, as in this short section. 

I wonder what Prospect would have thought of the events of Friday.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I didn't get to write my blogpost this morning, so I was going to catch up with it over lunch. But now, watching the news, I'm too sad to write.

My heart is broken. I can't even imagine.

My prayers go out to the people and parents of Newtown.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alternative Reality in TV and Film

Today's blog is a guest post from Ross Kitson, the author of the Darkness Rising series and a new steampunk book, The Infinity Bridge. (I've read all of his books, and they are fantastic.)

This is a continuation from his guest post from yesterday about books, posted on Life in the Realm of Fantasy. It will continue on Ross's own blog tomorrow and address alternative realities in comics here -

A central premise of my latest book, The Infinity Bridge, is the existence of parallel worlds and alternate reality. In the book these are classified as historical, physical and biological variants. The first is obvious, the second is an idea that a parallel world could, for example, have different physical laws—say magic exists (in a Narnia alternate world type way). The third is the idea that we could have evolved down a different path, or that perhaps dinosaurs became the dominant evolutionary species.
The possibilities are endless, and for a writer that holds a major appeal for me. I’ve been fascinated by the topic for as long as I can remember, and although I first found it in super-hero comics, it was in television that it really ingrained itself in me.
Although the idea of alternate realities and parallel worlds was well established in the pulp sci-fi of the forties and fifties I think the stage where it became soldered as a concept in our brains was when it slipped from the yellowed pages of literature and into the Technicolor glory of TV and Film.
I could go on about the Twilight Zone first of, but as I’m only just past 40 it’d be wrong of me to claim any real interest or memory of the show. Yeah, I know it was uber-cool, perhaps more so in retrospect, and it paved the way for so much... but I want to start with the two greatest sci-fi series on the box: Star Trek and Dr Who.
I am evil Kirk!!!!!
With due apology to my national loyalties, its really Star Trek that I remember as a kid for first showing me the alternate reality story line. It was a basic idea in Trek that anything was possible with an ion-storm and a dodgy transporter. In the seminal ‘Mirror, mirror’ our hero James T Kirk is flipped into a parallel world, along with Scotty, Uhura and McCoy. This alternate world had an evil version of the Enterprise crew, with agoniser booths and assassination attempts. And the evil Kirk is noticeable in our own reality by his dark eye make-up (there was another great one, The Enemy Within, where Kirk is split into bad Kirk and good Kirk by the transporter... that was a cracker too!!).
I loved that episode and, in the era of Star Trek syndication, watched it again and again on BBC2 when it repeated. Less repeated, but none the less a significant impact on my TV watching childhood, was Dr Who.
Dr Who had many alternate reality and parallel world stories. One that bore a significant resemblance to Mirror, mirror was the 3rd Doctor story ‘Inferno.’ Here a TARDIS malfunction sends Jon Pertwee’s doctor into a reality where the country is run as a fascist state (some would joke it’s not that alternate) and there are evil counterparts to his friends and companions. The idea re-surged again in the 7th Doctor’s story Battlefield, and more recently the 9th Doctor’s Rise of the Cybermen. One which derives from other TV and film concepts, was the Tenth Doctor story, Turn Left. The entire premise is based on the idea that if the Doctor’s companion, Donna, had made a different choice before she first met the Doctor, then what would be the ramifications on her world, the other companions etc. The writer Russel T Davies drew on themes from films such as It’s A Wonderful Life and Sliding Doors, that alternate realities that are created by individual decisions going two different ways, can have significant impacts on others.
It’s A Wonderful Life is a seminal Christmas movie, starring Jimmy Stewart, in which Stewart is visited by his guardian angel at a point where he considers suicide, and is shown the alternate reality in which he never existed and the impact that would have on his small town.
I’d seen the film on the TV a few times as a child, but for me the greatest alternate history style film was Back to the Future. It’s not strictly one, I know, but I adored that film as a kid. The first film gives us a clue what would happen to the present if Marty failed to get his parents together, and also what then happened when his dad stood up to Biff when he assaulted Lorraine. The alternate reality idea really got pushed in the second film of the series, which was a bit of a let-down for me, although still good fun. In this we see a dystopian present existing as a consequence of Biff’s meddling with time.
Dystopia is a popular theme in alternate history and parallel realities in the TV/Film genre. This is best exampled by Fringe, which started off as a sort of X-files style show and then went really whacky! I love Fringe, mainly because its lead characters are so awesome (especially Walter Bishop), but it went a little off-track in the fourth series.
Fringe tackles both parallel universes and alternate timelines. The premise of season 2’s finale onwards was that there was a parallel world with a few key historical and scientific differences that exists adjacent to ours, and that Walter learned how to cross and kidnap the counterpart of his deceased son (who had survived an illness in the other world). The ramifications for both worlds are huge, and in the parallel world result in widespread devastation and instability.
Your own Fringe Decoder, courtesy of Science Discovery
In the fourth season it got bonkers when Peter, Walter’s son, is thrown into an alternate history wherein he didn’t survive childhood and as a consequence history is different. The relationships between the two parallel worlds are altered, as are the characters.
The alternate reality in films and TV has progressed now from the staples of sci-fi into more mainstream and innovative series. I’m yet to watch it, but someone at work was raving about the series Awake. In this Jason Issac plays a cop who is involved in a car crash. In one reality his wife survives, in another his son. He flips between the two realities, which he distinguishes by wearing a coloured wristband, when he goes to sleep and wakes again. He uses information from one reality to help in the other when solving crime.
It’s a brave concept, although I think perhaps too radical as the series only made one season. It does illustrate that the idea of alternate reality and alternate history isn’t just in the SF realm, and that the alternates don’t have to played on a world-wide scale to make good drama. Rather the more interesting ones are when we look at the impacts of decisions on a character based level, and in their relationships and development.
So, finally, I go back to the media that first got me excited about alternate reality... the world of comics.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Inspiration behind The Adventures of Jewel Cardwell: Hydra’s Nest by Fumi Hancock

Today's post is courtesy of Fumi Hancock, the author of The Adventures of Jewel Cardwell. It looks like a great read, and I can't wait to have it on my TBR list. To quote a friend of mine, "Get in mah Kindle!"

(And don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, on the right side of my blog!)

 "I welcomed death with open arms, closed my eyes and listened as the aircraft made rattling and shaking sounds through the dreary weather. If this was my time to go, I would embrace darkness, as I had nothing else to lose..." 

I was born in Africa but have lived in the United States of America for over 30 years. A little over six years ago, my father called me up and told me it was time to return home. I’d literally grown up in the US and this was home to me. Though father lived in the US too, he felt it was time to give back to Africa. 

This was an important trip for me as I’d not been back for over 23 years!  The trip was equally important because one of my cousins was being crowned a king in one of the provinces and my father felt it was a great opportunity to reconnect with my roots. 

The journey was exhilarating yet filled with anxiety as I did not know what I was going to encounter.  I trusted my father, packed my bags and went back to West Africa with my family. It was the most incredible journey of my life… to witness a King’s coronation… no words could describe the feelings. What was more important was the surprise which awaited me! The community people rallied around me and reminded me of who I was… their princess who had been gone for long and was now back! I took the time to revisit my childhood boarding school and low and behold, all of my experiences at the school came rushing back.

The characters that readers will encounter in the Adventures of Jewel Cardwell are a culmination of my childhood friends as well as “the conjured friends in my head.” These characters have consistently plagued my dream and haunted my mind into bringing them alive. Every year I would return to Africa (with my American Friends) serving the children in the communities through my non-profit organization the Adassa Foundation, I am reminded of the colorful ambiance and the need to share this part of the world with book lovers.

As I began to paint this African adventure on paper, my sons, 17 and 15 (now 22 and 19) nudged me with their support and their instant enjoyment of the plot.  Every time I would complete a chapter, they wanted more. They wanted to see what would happen to the characters. More importantly, they were intrigued by the description of the African setting, the culture of the people revealed through the different characters and the blended families relayed by the characters. Different characters elicited different emotions as they read alongside other young adults reviewing the story.

While there have been some popular fantasy books like Harry Potter, Amanda Hockings Trylle series and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, with settings in Europe and America, there has not been one to present the other part of the world.  The characters urge me to fill this gap!

I wanted my readers to be transported to a place where they’d never been before. I wanted them to see how other people live in other parts of the world… I wanted them to also see how people like them, who have travelled to live in Africa… how they adjust to the culture and setting.  The characters though reside in Africa come from various parts of the world especially Europe. 

A little about The Adventures of Jewel Cardwell: Hydra’s Nest 
Lying gracefully between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south, the rolling grassland and fields of crops rising to a lovely sandstone mountain, is Milner Court, Bloemfontein, a suburb nestled in the middle of Free State, South Africa.
The Adventures of Jewel Cardwell: Hydra’s Nest magically transports its readers from the rolling hills of Bloemfontein to the beautiful farmlands of Bela-bela South Africa. It is a fantasy-based coming of age story of a rebellious 17 year old teenager who (through no fault of her own) is thrust into an environment ridden with unfamiliar and unsavory demonic activities when admitted into a prep school in South Africa.

As Jewel Cardwell is relentlessly being trailed by an unapologetic family curse, she races against time to find answers before the curse wipes out all of her loved ones. 

In the midst of this demonic war, she becomes entangled in a love triangle between a young rugged-looking Darwin Morton who she grew up with on Milner Court and the very wealthy and popular high school soccer team leader with the silver spoon in his mouth, Eric Broder.

Will Jewel be able to solve the mystery before evil is unleashed against those she loves?

I really love this cover.


My weary eyes opened to an ominous sky speckled with dim stars and a huge full moon dappled with unsettling, flaming balls of fire. I was in an unfamiliar setting, an open space surrounded by terrifying, blazing fires, and the humming of a charter aircraft shattered the stillness of the night.
Mum and Darwin hopped out of the car, with me following, and we hastened toward the small aircraft.
“What’s this?” I kept asking, with no answer from Darwin or Mum.
“Are we going on that?” I asked again, ducking a cloud of sand blown from the ground, a result of the blazing fires and rumbling aircraft.
In front of us was a six-foot-tall, dark-skinned man, dressed in a dark blue pilot’s uniform. His eyes showed great anticipation as he struggled to move toward us. No sooner had we closed the distance to the aircraft when we heard the terrifying staccato of gunshots.

Fumi is also on Goodreads, Facebook,  Twitter, and her website.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Most Overrated Book

I mentioned Melville in passing yesterday, but I believe Moby Dick is the most overrated book in history. As with most books, you either get Moby or you don't, and I don't. For me, the writing is maudlin, sentimental, tawdry hogwash; give me Hemingway instead. The theme was portrayed perfectly in Miles Cowperthwaite: I Am Nailed to the Hull:

Men, men, men, men, Manly men...

As for Indie books - well, I'm not going to select one. Perhaps all books are overrated, in a way, on bookseller sites. I would love to see the end of the five star system and a more complex rating machine ;  one that asks for specific examples of good writing and plot analysis. But, perhaps that is my inner grumpy English teacher speaking.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Dream Land

Just released: The Dream Land, by Stephen Swartz

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a doorway to another world?
Stephen Swartz, author of The Dream Land

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty.

Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly--he calls it “research”--and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates.

Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. The headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. 

Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back on his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.

But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.

THE DREAM LAND is a genre-mashing epic of interdimensional intrigue, alien romance, and world domination by a pair of nerdy sweethearts, spiced up with some police procedural and psychological thriller, then marbled with twisted humor, steampunk pathos, and time/space conundrums.


How long had it been? Sebastian never contemplated that there might be any time difference between the two worlds. He imagined that weeks had passed on Earth and everyone would be looking for Gina and him. And yet, it seemed like it was still summer. Because they had never expected to be able to travel as they did, they made no preparation for their return. He had no money now—no dollars, just a few gealan stones—and he could not remember where he’d left his car keys, or if he had even brought them. And the clothes he now wore were alien fashions—a little Star Trekkie, perhaps, but serviceable, he decided. It did not matter. He still had to walk home—most of the two mile distance was through the dark countryside where he could hide whenever headlights approached. For the last few blocks into suburbia he would have to try to keep out of sight.
As he came upon the 7-Eleven store, he saw the parking lot was empty, no customers inside. But he had no money. Hungry and thirsty, he was also curious. He pushed himself inside, the door hitting his backside as he paused there, feeling the stares of the clerk and another customer buying cigarettes.
“Halloween’s a ways off, ya know,” the man chuckled.
“Costume party,” he responded quickly, trying to act as though everything was perfectly normal, the English words surprisingly uncomfortable in his mouth.
But everything wasn’t normal. He continued to feel nervous twitches of energy running errantly through his body, strings of electric snakes wriggling up and down his arms and legs and back. The sensations, ticklish and cold, were the electricity still trying to find a way out of his body. And the colors were different—but only because he had been looking through a tinted atmosphere the past few months, seeing the alien sky in shades of green instead of blue. He felt thinner, yet every step he took seemed heavier to him.
“So, what’ll it be for ya tonight?” the clerk called to him as the other customer exited.
He was walking up and down the aisles unable to make up his mind.
“A newspaper,” Sebastian decided.
“They’re up here.”
He returned to the counter, pulled the top paper from the rack. Holding the newspaper in his hands, tightening his grip to help the electric spasm pass, he fixed his eyes on the date. It was the same year, the same month, he saw. But it was now two days later than when they had gone to the quarry. Only two days had passed! And yet he had lived 127 days on that other world.
Suddenly, he felt like he held a great secret and if he let down his guard others would be able to see it written on his face. He turned away quickly, stuffing the newspaper back into the rack. He circled through the store again.
“Excuse me,” he spoke up, the store clerk watching his every move closely. “I seem to have lost my wallet—this damn costume, no pockets, you know? Could I use your phone? It’s a local call.”
“Can’t let you use it,” said the clerk. “There’s a phone outside.”
Rather than waste time pleading, he stomped out of the store, thinking there was a chance someone forgot their change. But when he picked up the receiver of the pay phone and jumped back from the spark, he found the sidewalk becoming littered with quarters, dimes and nickels. He gathered them up, chose a quarter to insert into the phone, and dialed his friend Jason’s number.
“Jason!” he shouted into the phone.
“Hey, dude!” his friend shouted back. “Where the hell you been? Your mom and dad’s been calling me.”
“I thought they might.”
“They’re going crazy!”
“I know, I know.”
“So where were you?”
“The other side of the universe,” Sebastian replied.
“Can you pick me up?”
“You know where.”
As he waited, he imagined his mother asking him where he’d been and he would say with Gina, and his parents would quiz him about his behavior. She’s a dear girl, his mother would say, but did she lead you on? Did she pull you into temptation? He was supposed to be a good boy, study hard, start a good career, meet a nice girl. To cover his absence, he was prepared to say she had tempted him. “I resisted as much as I could,” he planned to say, then he would go to his room and think about the 127 days they were together. And the last day together.
The candy red Mustang roared into the parking lot of the 7-Eleven, the engine shaking the pavement, The Moody Blues’ Question blasting out the open windows.
“Ready to go?” Jason called out over the music.
A year later Sebastian would guide his friend to the other side....

Desperate Catch Up Day

WARNING - Whine to follow from Mom-Without-A-Life

I spent the past few days volunteering, cooking lunch, running about with family, etc - so I missed a few days of my Christmas Book meme. I'm catching up today and tomorrow, so I'll post what I missed in the meantime....

Day 7 - Most Underrated Book -

Plainsong by Kent Haruf wins this category. A book about a pregnant teen, two old farmers, a teacher with two sons and a wife in a deep depression, as well as a dreadful bully whose parents sue the school district, Plainsong is lovely, spare, and as breathtaking as the rural Colorado landscape that is the setting.

There are no fancy turns of phrase, but when one of the McPherons - the two old farmers who take in Victoria, the pregnant teenager - gets angry, Haruf's language reflects his speechless, blistering rage in a way that is genius.

The book really should be taught in college lit courses (maybe it is?) instead of The Scarlet Letter. Nothing wrong with Hawthorne, except the archaic language and reactions to the situation can turn off emerging readers. (Please, while we are at it, could we also get rid of Billy Budd?)

The ending is lovely, evocative of a silent sunset over bare, frozen fields. But it is more than that - Plainsong includes an exciting plot, told from several points of view, as well as what I call "That Elusive Compelling Factor." When I began the book, I had to keep reading until I finished - it was that good.

As for the Indie book in this category - alas, there are many, many Indies that get lost in the shuffle of Fifty Shades and celebrity tell-alls. I had a very difficult time selecting just one. In the end I picked The Amber Room by Tom Harris. 

Perhaps browsers are looking for action-adventures about a mythical treasure in Russia and thus skip over Harris - a mistake, since this book delivers a gently told urban fantasy about a boy who is trying to save his sister in hospital. 

He goes on several adventures with a fairy called Rosie Boots. She is a great creation - brave and acerbic, humorous and not at all sentimental. I'm not a fairy fan in my urban fantasy, but I really loved her.

I also loved the main character, North, who is a kleptomaniac. Granted, I'm a sucker for character flaws, and his flaw leads him in (and out) of adventures in the book. I highly recommend it as a great read over your latte in the cyber cafe as a great break from holiday shopping.