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Pay It Forward ~~ A Review

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 5 out of 5 quills   A Book Review

The book is better than the movie….as it should be. I watched the movie (an iconic film) years (decades?) ago and took the lesson in the story very much to heart. I have tried to pay it forward when and where I can. Time pasted and then I discovered the book’s author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, when I read her book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Only then did I learn that she was also the author of Pay It Forward.  Full circle. I love when that happens.  Not long ago I had the pleasure and honor of Interviewing Ms. Hyde. 

A synopsis (which is not my style of reviewing) is unnecessary as everyone knows the premise of the story. Even fifteen years ago, Hyde was a brilliant writer. But, now reading her more current offerings I can say she improves like a fine wine.  Which is all any writer wants for themselves; that they grow and improve. 

If you haven’t read the book, you must!  If you won’t read the book, you must watch this wonderful movie.  We all need lifting up during this terrible time in our country. The movie or the book will lift you up.

I am slowing reading through the entire collection of work by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Have You Seen Luis Velez? still remains my favorite to date. And that’s saying something!!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~ The Revelators by Ace Atkins

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5 out of 5 quills            BOOK REVIEW

From the first sentence, in the first paragraph, on the first page The Revelators had this reviewer hooked!  As sheriff Quinn Colson lay face up, in a creek bed, shot four times, Boom’s face, like a black moon, hung over him, shouting into his best friend’s face, “Quinn, man. Stay with me brother… Can you hear me?”

I’ve told newbie writers and experienced writers that the first page, if not the first sentence, should grab your reader and not let go. They must feel compelled to read on and find out what happens next in your story. Ace Atkins personifies this rule in his writing.  If you are a fan of Quinn Colson and the goin’s-on in Tibbehah County, Mississippi you don’t need a reason to buy the latest in the series.  If you are aware or not, it’s the fine writing that brings you back again and again.  We love the grit, the gore, we even love the villains. At least, I do. 

The characters are drawn with the precision of a rapier. Caddy, Fannie Hathcock, Sam Frye, Donnie, Lillie, Quinn, Boom, the list goes on and on. And the graft portrayed just below the surface of the genteel south is real. When I lived in Harrison County (Gulfport, 1974) the elected Sheriff’s job was worth $1 million per year to that elected official. Nobody really blinked at the graft that took place every day. Just as long as crime was low and we were safe in our homes. 

I highly recommend this newest release in the Quinn Colson series. 

Did you miss my Interview with Ace Atkins?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~ Miss Janie’s Girls by Carolyn Brown

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 5 out of 5 quills                           BOOK REVIEW 

Carolyn Brown has delivered again!  This new release is a heart-warming story of two young girls caught up in the CPS’s foster system. They finally land with Miss Janie until the ‘system’ spits them out at age eighteen.  Separated for years, they both circle back to Miss Janie.  Has their animosity toward each other survived the separation?

The writing is superb and the drawing of the characters flawless. I highly recommend this book for summer, fall or winter reading!

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn? 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Interview with Author, Carolyn Brown

Carolyn and her husband live in the small town of Davis, Oklahoma, where everyone knows everyone else, as well as what they’re doing and when—and they read the local newspaper on Wednesday to see who got caught. They have three grown children and enough grandchildren to keep them young. When she’s not writing, Carolyn likes to plot new stories in her backyard with her tom cat, Boots Randolph Terminator Outlaw, who protects the yard from all kinds of wicked varmints like crickets, locusts, and spiders. Carolyn Brown is the author of more than 100 novels. She’s a recipient of the Bookseller’s Best Award, and the prestigious Montlake Diamond Award, and also a three-time recipient of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Brown has been published for more than 20 years, and her books have been translated into 19 foreign languages. Many are available in audio format. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

CB. I have my own little office in my house. I only have to walk across the hallway from my bedroom to go to work each morning. My husband, Mr. B, built a wall hung desk for me to clutter up with notebooks, calendars, etc. I try to clean it off each time I finish a book. Note that I said, “I try”…most of the time I end one book, and the very next morning I open up a file for the next one.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

CB. I do like my pajama pants, but I don’t have a favorite pair. Nothing special, really…just that I get something down on paper (computer) each day.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

CB. I didn’t get a toe in the door of a publishing company until I was forty nine years old. I’d been trying to get someone to look at my work for twenty five years before I finally got a break. Someone asked me about that time what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I simply asked them, “Do I have to decide today?” The next week I got the call from an editor who said she wanted to buy both the books I had sent to her.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

CB. I use the computer to write. My thought process goes from brain to fingertips, but I use a notebook, spiral or composition either one, to make notes. I use one of those little inexpensive recipe boxes when I’m writing series. Each character, included dogs, horses and donkeys get their own index card, so I can keep up with age, eye color, height and all the information about that character for later books in the series.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

CB. I usually write from eight to fourteen hours a day, beginning in the morning and keeping at it until I finish my daily word count.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

CB. Write! Don’t Whine! Whining about my muse has left me, I have a block and I can’t write today so I’m going shopping or I’m going to lay out on the beach won’t work. If you want to be a writer, you have to be disciplined. Write something every day even if it’s crap. As Nora Roberts says, “You can fix crap. You can’t fix nothing.”

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

CB. Any and everywhere. Mr. B and I were in a little café having a burger when we were on a research trip. A lady came in with a bunch of kids. They were all from a group home for foster kids, and one little guy sat over by himself and didn’t talk with the others. That little fellow became an autistic child in one of my next books.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Tune in next Friday for the conclusion to this charming interview.
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review~~the friendship list by Susan Mallery

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing            4 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book Review

Susan Mallery has done it once again!  She has woven a mundane story of a single mom, Ellen, and a young widow, Unity into a riveting journey that both women take, each in their own way.  I don’t believe it would be a spoiler to reveal that the friendship list is not a list of friends.  It is a bucket list that each woman (who are friends) has written out for themselves. They have decided that it will be a challenge, a contest if you will, with a reward at its end.  Sharing their victories, as they check off the list, and cheering each other on when a challenge seems unsurmountable. 

Susan Mallery writes wonderful stories and I know her fans agree with me when I say, Thank God she is so prolific as we all wait for the next new one.  This is a great summer read and I highly recommend it!

Release date August 4th. Pre-order now

Did you miss my Interview with Susan Mallery?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~~ An Unfinished Story by Boo Walker

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                5 out of 5 quills 

Die-hard fans of Boo Walker’s Red Mountain Chronicles really wondered what Boo would write about once he left the real red mountain wine country of Washington state. He transplanted himself to Florida, of all places. Boo knows so much about wine and growing grapes that it was hard to imagine what stories would be born out of the swampy, hot days in Florida. 

Oh ye of little faith (reviewer)!  An Unfinished Story is superb!  A bitter ‘has been’ writer and a grieving widow meet by chance and form an unlikely bond. The arc of the story is unexpected and fresh.  I loved the conflict,  the set-backs, the temporary truces, the tension, and the surprises.

Of course Boo couldn’t ignore the wine running through his veins totally so his protagonist, in this story, is a wine aficionado.  I loved the ‘nod’ to the Red Mountain Chronicles! Which is a series not to be missed. 

I highly recommend this wonderful story! 

Release date August 4th. Pre-order Now!

Did you miss my Interview with Boo Walker?

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~~ the Banty House by Carolyn Brown

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing                 5 out of 5 quills                                   Book Review 

This is a newly discovered (for me) author .  And what a pleasant surprise.  If the Banty House is any indication, this prolific author gives readers hours of charming stories. 

the Banty House is a charming tale of three old ladies who take in strays, from bedraggled kittens, to damaged heroes, to homeless young women.  Betsy, Connie and Kate are real eccentric characters who you can’t help but fall in love within the first few pages. That’s all I’m going to say, as you all know I don’t write spoilers. The writing is superb and you’ll find that you can’t put the book down. I love Carolyn Brown’s style of writing and look forward to reading more….and more. 

Even though Banty House was just released there’s already another story in the pipeline, to be released in late July, Miss Janie’s Girls. Can’t wait!

Don’t miss my interview with Carolyn Brown coming in August.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Interview with Writer for Tom Clancy, Mike Maden (Conclusion)

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MM. The first lie every writer tells themselves is this: I don’t have the time to write. The second lie is this: I can’t write. Here’s the truth: writers always write. Are you a writer? But you’re not writing? Then ask yourself this: why aren’t you writing? What are you trying to avoid by not writing? I promise you the answer is going to be some variation of abject fear. Fear of failing as a writer, of falling short of our ideal of good writing, of disappointing others, etc. In other words, it’s all about self-preservation or to be more blunt: death. Death of my ideal self, death of my status in the world as “a great writer;” some painful, shameful, hateful permutation of emotional and/or psychological destruction. Don’t believe it! Don’t define your sense of self in the world through writing. Rather, your writing is defined by your sense of self. You are not your writing. Your writing is you.

Here is the irony (and I’m stealing this from the best): if you seek to save your writer’s “life” by not doing the work in order to protect yourself, you’re going to lose the very life you’re trying to save. More simply, not writing is the death of your career. Everything you think you’re avoiding by not writing is actually going to occur when you don’t write—so write! Here’s one more tip (also stolen, in this case, from Hemingway): the first draft is always (rhymes with) “spit” so you’re only job is to “spit” out your first draft—the complete and entire first draft—and then you can fix anything later in edit, i.e., “all writing is rewriting.” If Hemingway thought his first draft was “spit” then I’m in pretty good company and so are you. I spend most of my time spitting—from an outline.

If that’s still not enough, attack the problem from the other direction. Forget yourself and simply obey the work.

Slovenia ~~ the river below the narrow trail

If you say you’re a writer then you’ve made a commitment to a “vocation” in the oldest sense of the term. Writing (truth telling, either fiction or non-fiction) is holy work; “holy” as in set apart for service. Whether or not you are religious, you committed yourself to the priesthood of Art once you said, “I am a writer.” What follows is both necessary and clear. You must recover and practice with earnest devotion the disciplines of the disciple—a follower, a student, a servant of the Work. Faith—the evidence of things hoped for, like a completed manuscript when you’re staring at the first blank page—and Love of the word are the first two hallmarks of the writer/disciple. Commitment, sacrifice, suffering…the list of the qualities of the true disciple are well known or easily discovered (e.g., the Gospels or whatever you prefer). In other words, writing is not about “you” it’s about answering the call, to saying “yes” when summoned and exerting inexhaustible effort toward the completion of the task, denying self and even other people and all other things that distract or dissuade you from your mission. “Not my will, but Thine.” If you happen to be a person of true religious faith, then your discipleship is twofold: obedience to the One who calls and fulfilling that call through the faithful exercise of the gift that the One has given you.

If all of that is too abstract then here’s the most practical advice I can give you: do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. Study it, memorize it. Let it be your missal. Then get your derriere in the chair—and write!

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

MM. Characters are all that matter. Situations, scenes, plots, actions…it all comes out of character choices, character collisions, character flaws, character construction.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MM. I start with a solid outline so I always have those touch points that keep me on the path from A to Z. But if I’m really writing—really doing it the way it’s meant to be done—I get completely carried away in the moment, plunging headlong into the river, carried along by the surging rapids.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

MM. Yes. Can’t. Top secret. But it’s gonna be awesome and my first collaborative effort. News coming soon.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

MM. I’ve always written seriously beginning with my academic, non-fiction writing. What surprised me was to find out I was actually a writer. Yes, I could write. But I never thought of myself as a writer because of the mystery that surrounded that term. I was forty years old before I gave myself permission to call myself one. And what really surprised me was that I could write fiction. I was utterly stunned to discover I could write a screenplay but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I could never write a novel. Until I did. But one novel was it. Finito. No way could I do another even though I’d just signed a two-book deal. I knew I couldn’t write the sequel. Until I did. And another two-book contract showed up. And then I knew the game was up. My publisher would finally realize their big mistake. Until I finished those up too. And then…well, I think you get the idea. A serious writer writes. And writes. And writes. It’s hard work. Really hard. And it only gets harder—but only if you’re doing it right.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

MM. Absolutely not. They may become rare or expensive but they will never disappear. For people of a certain age, ahem, me, the tactile nature of the printed page never ceases to amaze or comfort.

Q. What makes a writer great?

MM. All writers are great but only if they write. The act of writing—of completing the work—is an act of obedience unto the Muse. It is our offering on the altar. The mere doing of it is its own reward. Whether or not the work will be judged as “great” by history or the literati or the New York Times bestseller list is completely outside the control of the writer. We can’t choose to be “great” but we can choose to do the work. Tell the truth, be yourself (i.e., original) and do the work—the rest will follow whether you like the outcome or not.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

MM. Get a bucket. Fill it with kerosene. Carry it to the top of a ten-story building. Stick your head in the bucket. Light your head on fire. Throw yourself off the roof. Hit the pavement. Douse the flames. Type, “end of chapter one.” Do it again. Sixty-five more times. Now you know what it feels like to go from “no book” to “finished book.” Easy as pie. Or as some wag said, just open up a vein and bleed onto the page.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

MM. Everything. You write out of your life.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

MM. Reading. Watching the best film and television I can. Hanging out with my best friend (my wife). Exercise. Golf. Guns. Hiking.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

MM. I wish I was smart enough to write science fiction.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

MM. General life lesson: “Discipline Equals Freedom.” (Jocko Willink)
General writing life lesson: “The bad news is, the Problem is Hell. The good news is, it’s just a problem. The Problem is not us. The PROBLEM is the problem. Work the Problem.” (Steven Pressfield)

PS. (from Mike Maden)  My Clancy novel ENEMY CONTACT was set in Poland. Amazing history, culture, people…and food. We love travel and learning new things but unfortunately it also means encountering the human condition in its worst permutation. Auschwitz is one such place and of all of the things that wounded me in that terrible place nothing grabbed me more than this moment. Those red shoes took me to a very dark moment. I could just see a young woman picking them out of the shop window one bright sunny morning, so happy and proud of them…having no idea where they would one day take her.

Did you miss Part I and Part 2 of this fascinating interview?

Book Review of Firing Point

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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Firing Point, by Mike Maden, writing for TOM CLANCY~~Book Review

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5 out of 5 quills             ~A Book Review~

 

From the first sentence, on the first page, begins a riveting new story for Jack Ryan, Jr.  Our readers would never know that Tom Clancy wasn’t writing this book. Mike Maden does his usual magic in creating another harrowing international intrigue. 

The story winds and weaves through Spain, with flash-backs to Washington D.C., and cruises the deep seas of the South Pacific.  Supreme intrigue, international terrorists, spies, and lots of techno stuff that I adore.  An extremely complex story plot made simple and clear in the deft hands (and pen) of Mike Maden. 

My new readers (Tom Clancy fans) may not know this about me: I don’t write spoilers. I don’t write cliff notes for the book. I review the WRITING! And it is a pleasure to report that the writing here is superb. 

I highly recommend this book to my readers. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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The Goodbye Man by Jeffery Deaver ~~ Book Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Most people, who have not been seduced into a cult, are fascinated by them. For example, I find it hard to imagine subjugating myself totally to a ‘family’, a group, a commune of people with one belief. Coming under the spell of one person (usually a man) who preaches whatever just to lure you in. To give up all my worldly possessions, including money (first red flag) and surrendering my mind and soul. 

But death, grief, depression, tragedy, desperation can and does drive thousands of people to hundreds of cults across this country. The Goodbye Man takes the reader into a fictional cult who promises immortality.  Jeffery Deaver weaves a wonderful story with a plot that twists and turns with regularity. He writes with a flare that is slightly scary and causes a pit of fear in the bottom of the reader’s stomach. 

The irony, for me, was I kept seeing Donald Trump in the Deaver’s character, Master Eli (the Leader). The cadence of Eli’s speech, the repetition of certain words, (‘gorgeous’, ‘the best ever’, ‘the best in his class’, etc.) and the lies that no one could fact-check.  When a cult expert was consulted (in the story) they listed the narcissist traits in cult leaders and really!… Donald Trump was all over the page. The parallels were so starkly drawn for this reviewer, I couldn’t help but comment on it. 

Cult Leader                                            Donald Trump
all consuming ego                               all consuming ego
attacks his enemies                              attacks his enemies
lashes out in anger                                lashes out in anger
an absolute belief that he’s always    an absolute belief that he’s always right
right                 
won’t listen to advice or criticism      won’t listen to advice or criticism
paranoid                                                  paranoid
craves worship and adulation            craves worship and adulation

and…sorry, America but….43% of you are in the biggest cult existing in modern history.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and highly recommend it.  

 

Did you miss my Interview with Jeffery Deaver?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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