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Monday, March 26, 2012

Of Birthdays, Lucky 7's and Base Spirits

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. Before I get too deep into this week's post, I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your birthday wishes last Thursday the 22nd. My wife was away at a school track meet and my oldest was on the central coast for a high school band trip. That left my 14 year old and I alone to celebrate the day. My parents picked us up and we went to dinner, which was followed up by some great cake. Anybody like German Chocolate? I still have some left!

In any event, there is nothing like having your iPhone buzz all day long as about 150 people dropped by Facebook to wish me well. I'm 43 now for those of you who are counting. I teased some of my female classmates on FB. I told them how unfair it was that we went through school together, but somehow they're still 39!?! Thanks again, you guys. *hugs and kisses* For those of you sporting facial hair, here's a strong handshake. ;)

I have come before you many times over the past year or so, sharing some amazing reads with you. You may have noticed that I have never come before you to share a miserable read, and I promise you that trend will continue. If I don’t like the book, as we discussed a month or two ago, I will refrain from telling you about it. Truthfully, I may simply “pretend” to forget that I ever read the book, and leave others to decide its review fate. Until someone hands me money and commands me to give my opinions, I’m not doing negative reviews here, or anywhere.

Having said that, I just had a very interesting reading experience this past week that I would like to tell you about. It was interesting because for much of the experience, I found myself completely uncomfortable and disarmed. The novel was written through the points of view of two very interesting women, both suffering through spousal abuse or at least domineering husbands. It was uncomfortable subject matter, and there were seemingly only a few really likable characters in the whole thing. Half way through, I found myself wanting to quit. Why didn't I? I kept going for two reasons: the potential of finding out what would happen and because Ruth Barrett is a brilliant author.

Here's the synopsis of her novel:

‘Murder has took this chamber with full hands
And will ne’er out as long as the house stands.’
~A Yorkshire Tragedy, Act I, Sc. v

In 1605, Sir Walter Calverley’s murderous rampage leaves a family shattered. The killer suffers a torturous execution… but is it truly the end? A noble Yorkshire house stands forever tarnished by blood and possessed by anguished spirits.

Some crimes are so horrific, they reverberate through the centuries.

As an unhappy modern couple vacation in the guesthouse at Calverley Old Hall, playwright Clara, and her scholar husband, Scott, unwittingly awaken a dark history. Clara is trapped and forced back in time to bear witness to a family’s bloody saga. Overtaken by the malevolent echoes, Scott is pushed over the edge from possessive husband to wholly possessed…

Inspired by a true-life drama in Shakespeare’s day, this is itself a play within a play: a supernatural thriller with a historical core.

Only one player can survive.

I was not very happy with Barrett there for a while, and I want to strongly caution you. The book begins with the execution of Calverley in 1605 for his terrible crimes against his family. We are told of how he had killed his children. Later, as Clara supernaturally relives those terrible events, we actually get to "see" him do it. In Horror Fiction, there are times when children have been murdered, but few authors actually show it to you. Barrett was very brave to take this step. As a parent, I didn't appreciate those horrible moments, but I got through them.

I am positively reviewing this novel for two main reasons. Barrett writes with beautiful prose and she nailed everything that was required of an author doing a period piece. That's what got me through the unsavory subject matter of abuse, as well as the murder of those beautiful children. When Clara and her husband were in present day, we were there with them. It was present day; anyone could pull that off! More importantly, however, when Clara began seeing through Lady Calverley's eyes, Barrett was able to fully transport us there, too. She nailed the culture, the dress, the language, the pacing, the lifestyles - everything! I found myself thoroughly impressed with Barrett here, and am convinced that no one but a master could have pulled that off.

Ultimately, that is why I will be back for Barrett's future works. You can find the author on her blog here.

Lastly, many of you have been tagged with the Lucky 7 meme. I have as well. In fact, I was tagged by a couple of you at least. My thanks to Melissa SmithEmily Bullock and best buddy, Jane Isaac. If there was another, I have sadly forgotten and beg forgiveness.   

Here are the rules:
1) Go to page 77 of your current WIP.
2) Go to line 7.
3) Copy down the next seven sentences, lines, paragraphs (I've seen it done many ways).
4) Tag 7 other authors.
5) Let them know.

With that in mind, here is my entry. It is from the forthcoming sequel to Dance on Fire, entitled: Flashpoint. One of the surviving vampires from the first book has returned and she is not alone. The motel staff in a tiny motel in Morro Bay, California, a tourist town on the Central Coast, have been unwittingly hosting them... 

   “Hey!” she said, suddenly snapping her fingers before his face. “Wake up. I’ve got work to do. What is it?”

   “Well, I’ve got less work for you,” he began once he had dropped the recollection.

   She appeared stunned. “You’re firing me! You can’t fire me!” Her voice was loud once again.

   Lucas spun around, worrying that she was making a scene that was being enjoyed by others. “Who said anything about being fired? You’re not fired!” He raised his voice to counters hers’, but now returned it to a whisper. “You know I can’t fire you. That’s not what I wanted to tell you.”


   “No.” Lucas paused. Even he was beginning to feel sorry that they had ever spent more than work together. He straightened his red vest and rolled up sleeves in an attempt to regain some composure. “You were off yesterday, so I just want to warn you that we are staying clear of room 108. I checked somebody in the other night very late, and they asked that no one disturb them. I was paid long term and they promise to let us know when they need anything.”

   “Who was it?” she asked, wondering what the big deal was.

   "Don't worry about that. There were two women and one guy. They acted like they were family. In any event, I don't want you going in there. I told everyone yesterday, and now I'm telling you. Just leave them alone. Okay?"

So there you have it. Who recalls the Meatloaf classic Bat Out of Hell album? Let's have a show of hands. Thank you. Do you remember the song "Two Out of Three 'Ain't Bad"? Good. I'm only doing 3 of 5 rules with this. This thing has been nearly everywhere and it might take me all day to find seven lucky victims. *grins* So, if you haven't been asked and would like to try it: go for it! Consider yourself asked.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Asylum Lake

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. I have something for you. It’s just a simple plastic bracelet. There’s nothing to fear about that, right? Here, allow me to put it on you. Thank you. That’s nice. It used to belong to me, but I’m giving it to you. Notice how you can hear my voice in your head now? Good. Now I have some things that I need you to do for me…

Oh, and you’ll do them. *laughs maniacally*

My friends, I just read a marvelous book. That’s why we read, isn’t it? It’s the potential to be amazed, surprised and very often blown away. Such a thing happened to me this past week as I (finally) opened my Kindle and began reading something that had been whispering to me for quite awhile. It is called Asylum Lake and it was written by the wonderfully demented and extremely talented R.A. Evans.

I’ll let him tell you about it first:

“The State’s second largest Psychopathic Hospital opened in 1917 on 600 wooded acres overlooking a small lake near Bedlam Falls, Michigan. Through its doors came the weak and the weary, the disabled and the discarded, the frail and the forgotten. But an open door is an invitation, and some visitors, once invited, are loath to leave. The hospital abruptly closed in 1958 under a cloud of mystery. It has remained empty and silent, save for the memories trapped both within its walls and far below the surface of the nearby lake that bears its name. At the bottom of Asylum Lake, the unremembered are growing restless.

Brady Tanner is trying to outrun memories of his own. After the sudden death of his wife, Brady retreats to the small town where he spent the summers of his youth. But he soon learns small towns can be stained by memories…and secrets, too. As Brady is drawn into unearthing these secrets, as he discovers a new love in an old friend, he is also drawn into the mystery of Asylum Lake and the evil that lies submerged beneath its sparkling surface. What is the source of this evil – and what does it want with Brady Tanner

The novel opens with a young man being found guilty of murder. We leave that scene and are introduced to our main character Brady Tanner. The book was nice and well-written during this time, and my first thought was that is was going to be an "okay" story. If you find that to be true as well, just hold on. It isn’t too long before we get to the chapter, entitled: "Crimes Against Humanity". From there, Evans blows the roof off, and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put it back down again until you’ve consumed the entire book whole.

It was such a brilliant moment, as if the story was written by two different authors. We went from quaint story with a bit of creepiness to full-out horror. It’s tough in that house, if you happen to have a nervous stomach. I highly advice you to cover your face and read through splayed fingers. A subsequent chapter is entitled: "House of the Dead", if that's any indication.

I found the characters well written and conceived. If you read Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series, you may notice a similarity between her Pete Marino and Evans’ retired sheriff Frank Griggs, but I liked him a lot, and eventually he made me forget all about Marino. The villains in this are also well-conceived, imaginative and memorable.

The pacing is done very well and is often told through flashbacks. I know this turns some folks off, but I found it easy enough to follow, thanks to time and date stamps before those chapters. Music plays a large part of what goes on and I loved that, being a huge music fan myself. The pieces selected were well chosen and not at all forced fed into the story (as some authors have done - as if the they simply wanted to use their favorite songs). I commend Evans here. He is also extremely witty and intelligent, and uses those attributes to pepper his story like a great chef would an otherwise fine dish, making it stand well above the rest.

Really, my only complaint had to do with formatting, and, if memory serves, those issues were being corrected.

This is a well written novel. It is as good and as gripping as anything that you might find on your local book shelves, and certainly deserves a spot there. What’s more: there is a sequel coming and I really am so impressed with this novel that I can’t wait for its arrival. This novel has everything: a great central plot, along with several meaty sub-plots; it is horror, paranormal and a great detective story as well. With a series, we can sometimes feel as if the story has been stretched in order to produce more books. In Asylum Lake, Evans doesn’t give us half a story, he gives us an entire story that he is telling in two parts.

Be warned. There are a few squeamish moments regarding children, but I highly recommend this fantastic novel. At first, I thought it might be good, but when that moment came - the moment when the afterburners were lit and everything just took off, I cursed happily under my breath, knowing at that moment that this ride was going to be something special. I think you will as well.

If you have yet to meet Mr. Evans, you can find him at his site here.

Get in the truck and he'll take you there. Remember: you’re still wearing that bracelet.

We’ll talk soon.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Keeping From Drowning

Greetings and salutations, Fire Enthusiasts. Thanks so much for dropping by and hanging out with me for a few minutes. I realize that there is plenty of competition for your time and hardly any of that as it is! And this is precisely what I have come to talk about this week.

You see, I feel bad when I don’t spend enough time with you guys. When I started writing again a few years ago, finished the novel and found my publisher, it was all about me. It was about the first of many novels which would propel me into the consciousness of the world, or at least my little part of it. *laughs* Back then, I had no idea that any of you were here already or about to join me in this crazy pursuit that more often than not consumes us and drives us beyond normal means to get our words out into the world.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was a wonderful community of writers and/or readers out there. During that first year, many of you held me up and tirelessly encouraged me to hold the course in spite of newbie roadblocks, obstacles and potholes in the road before me…and us. Now, I feel like one of those tireless encouragers (is that even a word?), and I love that!

My part of the Packaging Department Office. Forgive the tape on the window.

The Problem: You’ll recognize it because it’s probably your problem, too. I have between 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm, and that’s it. During this time it's shuttling kids around, appointments, eating dinner and cleaning the kitchen, and occasional performances at the schools for those kids that I mentioned. It makes it tough to keep up with everything that you guys are up to, though I try.

Working and writing: I have an 11 hour day job (which I have whined about many times) which I have to wake up for at an ungodly hour. I sneak my writing in during coffee breaks and finally on Saturday morning where I have a chunk of time before the house wakes up.

Reading: I pretty much only read before bed. This also helps to tire my eyes and to induce sleep. When I’ve got something really good to read, I take trusty Kindle to work with me and read there. That’s good news for many of you guys because I’ve only been reading indie books for a year and a half. That’s how well written your books are to me. *raises glass in toast* Speaking of reading, my TBR pile is literally a mound of books. I’m getting through them as fast as I can, but…

When I need to get away from the house noise, I retreat to the bedroom.

Networking: Throughout the day I am attached to my trusty iPhone, constantly sorting through e-mail and blog posts that I have delivered to my inbox (As a side note, if you have yet to add this feature to your sites, I highly recommend it. It saves so much time, rather than readers having to go hunting for your posts). I save the ones that I really want to address and delete the rest. It hurts, but there is no time for them all. When I get home I go through what I have saved and visit everyplace that I can.

Promotion: Throughout the day, I might tweet or Facebook post about my book or my one blog post a week, but I really try and keep that to a minimum. I get so much more enjoyment re-tweeting, sharing and "liking" what you guys have going on. Any more promotion than that is really only spam, isn’t it? Eventually, it becomes invisible, skipped or deleted without a second thought. It’s sad, but the reality.

The reason my left knee hurts now. Lol!

The Why: Why did I explain all of that? Really, the answer is because I care, and want you to understand that more often than not, I’m barely treading water. You'll notice that I didn’t mention anything about articles that I write or housework or the treadmill that we just bought to help defeat this rapidly increasing middle of mine. My hope is that by the end of the week, I will have “liked” a post or two of yours, re-tweeted, or shown you some #Writer Wednesday and #Follow Friday love, and said hello to you on your blog or website. Often I read your posts but have little to add, and the last thing that I want to do is simply add some lame comment that takes up more of our time. There’s already very little time in the day as it is. #justsayin’

By the way, if I haven't thrown you some Twitter love, blame the Follow Friday app that I use. I could never forget any of you. *grins*

How do you guys keep from drowning? I'd love to hear your advice and recommendations. We've been holding each other up for a couple of years now, haven't we?

I think my cat has the best idea yet. 

We’ll talk soon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Perspective, Treadmills and iTunes

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. So glad to have you stop by. In fact, I'd like to thank everyone who dropped by this past week as we discussed errors in novels and the meaning of it all in the grand scheme of things. If you haven't read that post yet, I encourage you to do so. You can do it now, if you'd like. Go ahead. We'll wait...


In all seriousness, you were right. The novel is being enjoyed and many readers have been asking for the sequel (It's coming. I promise). No one seemed to have even noticed the errors that I had discovered, so why should I worry about it. I have heard back from my publisher and am told that the errors will be corrected in the near future, which is fabulous news.

In any event, I was getting so many visits to the post, and so many comments, that I didn't have time to stop and think about what I would post this week. Can you tell? Speaking of comments, what did the powers that be do this time? Did we just lose the ability to follow replies now? *sigh* Can't they just leave well enough alone? I'm sure it's only at Blogger, but it is very frustrating. I suppose I should keep my complaining down just in case Big Brother is watching.

I'm just kidding. I love Blogger! I think it's the greatest site evah!!

Courtesy of CBS

Yes, Sheldon. That was sarcasm! Do you guys watch The Big Bang Theory? It's hysterical, isn't it?

Alright, let's move this thing along, shall we? Last weekend we had a treadmill delivered. For those of you who remember, I used to run after work. I ran between 2 and 5 miles nearly everyday. I stopped that for a while and began doing floor exercise instead. I ended up stopping that as well. Due to too damn much writer stuff (mini rant), I lost interest as I tried my best to juggle everything. Now I have ten pounds that I need to get rid of! Hence the treadmill!

The only issue that I ever had with running was with my feet, but Inserts cured that. So, I stretched and ran to my heart's content; 3 miles the first day and 4 the next. Since then, not so much! I messed up my left knee, pushing myself too hard. Now I'm working my way back. That has been very frustrating, too. I suppose I should worry that I damaged the knee more than just overworked it. We'll see. I'm sure it has less to do with the 3 and 4 miles I ran, then it does with the 43 that I will be turning later this month. *grins*

Next, on Friday night, while I had 100 windows open on trusty laptop, it froze on me and the screen went black. Eventually, the music that I was listening to came back, but nothing else. I forced it to close, but when it came back up, my iTunes library had been wiped out. Now, everything was on my hard drive and was reloaded, but my OCD is screaming because I have duplicates of too many songs and my album covers have been...ahem,  messed up.

It is a darn good thing that the mini rant is long over or that could have been ugly. ;)

Perhaps it is a due to last week's gained perspective or just because I am too darn busy to worry about it, but I have yet to begin repairing that music library. In the past I would have locked myself in a room in order to finish it before going to sleep. Right now, however, I really am not going to worry about it.

There's no way in hell I'm going to be plugging my iPod or iPhone into my computer, however.

If my library gets wiped off of my iPod, there will be no mini rants forthcoming! I may be maturing in my old age, but not that much! One last fact for you: I was listening to John Mayer when this dreadful thing took place. I blame him.

We'll talk soon.