“Dance of the Lights” by Stephen Geez

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If you have any doubt regarding what life is all about, then you need to read this beautiful story, which will explain it to you. The ultimate love story, I definitely fell in love with most of the characters in this book. They were so real, you felt as if you knew them, that they were your own friends and neighbors, making their way through life and its struggles, including sometimes the painful loss of a loved one. It was an utterly convincing slice of life, where people work hard for what they have, interact with neighbors and loved ones, and most importantly, help one another when the need arises. It was about priorities, caring, and doing the right thing, but not in a flamboyant way. It was about the passage of time, how things change, including people, and the importance of friends.

A light paranormal touch permeated the story, a reminder that what we see is but a small part of what we know as reality. There are some things that simply can’t be explained. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one, yet felt their presence or heard them speaking inside their mind, will relate. Who and what are we? What about those with whom we share our lives, loves, and ambitions? Is it all random? Do certain people come into our lives by chance or design? What is the essence of life? Love? Our very existence?

Don’t expect specific answers to any of these questions because you won’t find them. Rather, there is plenty to ponder. On the one hand, it’s easy to note that those characters who made mistakes were beyond fortunate to find someone to stand behind them and help them get past their troubles. Finances were not a problem for the main characters, who generously shared their substance to help others. Most who fall upon hard times are not so lucky. Those who have had to dig their way out of a bad situation on their own could even feel a touch of bitterness. Yes, this story reflects the ideal, which life seldom is. However, I don’t believe it’s those in sorry circumstances to whom this story applies the most. Rather it would have the most powerful impact on those with the means to help others by expounding the deep satisfaction, friendship, and rewards that come from helping your fellow man.

The characters in this book were familiar in many respects; archetypes, if you will. No doubt you will relate to some more than others, recognize several, and with luck, even see yourself. There are parts that are heart-rending, yet that is a fact of life. Learning to deal with death and grief is part of living.  Learning not to take anything for granted, to appreciate each and every day, realizing that in a flash everything could change, is what enriches our existence.  Years pass a day at a time, yet in what can feel like an instant, they evaporate, leaving you in awe of their passing. Of course the older you are, the more obvious this is.

This cast who populated this story touched my heart in so many ways. In some respects, it was like a  soap opera, as diverse individuals entangled with one another through heredity or circumstance went about their lives, some days normal and predictable, others milestones, or marred by sudden tragedy. In many ways, stories like this are a measure of the reader’s capacity to love. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, feel as if you know them, and even wish you had some of them as friends or neighbors, perhaps you’ve lost touch with your own humanity and need for others in your life.

Author Stephen Geez renders characters you’ll never forget, who’ll live on within your heart forever.  If you could use a few new book-friends or book-neighbors, to say nothing of a nice dose of inspiration, then introduce yourself to these adorable souls over in Tarpon Springs. You’ll be glad you did.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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Review of “The Carrot” by Virginia Gray

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Quite frankly, I never dreamed that I would eventually give this book a five-star rating. I started reading it almost two years ago, 21 months, to be exact. It took me that long for a couple reasons, mainly because at first I couldn’t stand the protagonist, Susan Wade, whom I found horrifically irritating. I thought she was a dysfunctional, self-centered, obsessive, hot mess. Her warped views of the world made me want to slap her upside the head. She hated her roots, the small town where she’d grown up, and was willing to do anything to get ahead in the world. Her priorities were horrible. The plot moved very slowly at first, also, which tried my patience as well. I would set it aside, read something else (or two or three), yet inevitably pick it up again between other reads.

Why?

Because it was so exceptionally well written. The fact the author had developed a character so completely that she got on my last nerve made me feel I owed it to her to keep reading, to see where it was going. Her prose was fantastic, at times poetic, the imagery beautifully drawn. It was a pleasure to read, pure ambrosia, even if Susan was messed up and the plot crawling at glacial speed.

At this point I need to mention that, unlike other reviewers, I try to maintain a sense of objectivity. Not liking a story or its characters is not enough for me to give a book a bad rating if the story is well-crafted. I also care about grammar, typos, and formatting, which I find distracting. Editing, in all its varieties, is important to me. If a story is clever and otherwise interesting, I might forgive some of those things, but in general, I expect a professional product when I buy a book. If a book is loaded with such annoyances I’m likely to never finish it because it’s such a chore to read. There were very few such flaws in this story, certainly not enough to put me off. Rather, I was a bit surprised that they slipped past, based on the quality otherwise. One that really had me scratching my head was how one beautiful sunset painted the eastern sky. Huh? Possible, but not likely. Actually, I wrote a blog about that kind of stuff you can find here.

As I plodded through, page by page, gradually things started to make sense. I began to appreciate the fact that the slow pace was allowing me to get drawn deeply into the story and its characters. The sense of place was amazing. I love it when a book takes you someplace new; by the time I finished, I felt as if I’d spent several months in coastal North Carolina.

When it started to come out why the protagonist was the way she was, I began to be more sympathetic. Maybe Susan put me off at first because there were things about her that reminded me of myself. As her motives and life experiences became more clear, it was easier to care about her, then eventually start cheering her on. Some people are slow to come around such that it takes numerous hard knocks before they learn.

As a professional astrologer I’m a student of human nature and tend to try and place a particular sun sign on characters as I watch them unfold. Fixed signs (Taurus, Scorpio, Leo, Aquarius) rarely change, or it takes great pain and suffering from life’s lessons to do so. The implications of when her birthday was in the book made me think she was a Scorpio. When it said near the end that Pete’s birthday was March 15, making him a Pisces, that made sense, too. It made me laugh, since on my website I have a compatibility section where I say this love match concerns me a lot since I have often seen Piscean men injured horribly by Scorpio women, though there is often a strong attraction between them, both being emotionally driven water signs. Ditto, for this couple.  BTW, astrology works amazingly well for fiction. Just ask Elle Klass.

But I digress.

From about halfway in, the story started to move, and by the time I was 75% through, it was hard to put down. It was touching and I really connected with the characters. The corporate gymnastics and dog-eat-dog environment were well-characterized as well. Having spent over 20 years in the world of NASA contracting, I could definitely relate to some of the games people play.

Probably the underlying theme of this story is “Be careful what you wish for.” Another candidate would be “What you’re trying to escape is exactly where you belong.”

This was an outstanding story that was beautifully written. It has numerous life lessons within that astute readers can learn vicariously. It takes a while to get moving, but all that background is essential and what draws you in until you’re hopelessly hooked. I have two rather minor criticisms. One is the title. Those who aren’t familiar with the tale of the donkey and the carrot may not get it, which could turn away potential readers who would love the story. The new cover helped tremendously; I’ve had the book long enough it has the old cover, which featured–a carrot.

The other criticism is that it wrapped up rather quickly and was a bit confusing at the end. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so won’t say more, but I’ll just say I had to go back and reread a few parts to figure out who was doing what. Considering how slowly and patiently the story unfolded, it could have wound down at a less frantic pace so as not to lose track of what was going on.

That said, it was still a great read. If you love well-developed characters, outstanding imagery, and a rather common situation regarding the balance of career with relationships, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

P.S. As I got ready to post this review I discovered that there is now a prequel to “The Carrot” called “The Interview.” So you might want to start with that. You can find it here.

Review of “His Revenge” by John W. Howell

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This fast-moving, well-written and nicely edited thriller keeps you turning the pages as you wonder how hero, John Cannon, is going to get out of his current dilemma. In the first book in this trilogy (My GRL), Cannon foiled a sophisticated group of terrorist’s insidious plan. Needless to say, they’re out for revenge and manage to capture him after which they force him to be part of another devious plot aimed at destroying the economic viability of the west. The suspense is well-sustained, dialog gripping, and characters convincing. The action level was breathtaking. Having not read “My GRL” it was nonetheless relatively easy to follow what had transpired previously. Descriptions of Cannon’s recovery from injuries sustained in the previous book were extremely well done.

However, there were various gaps typical of a serial where the author doesn’t remind a previous reader (or enlighten a new one) with regard to details such as what the characters look like. For example, while it was implied in this volume that the terrorists were of the Middle Eastern variety, their names were not indicative of that heritage. Rather, they had names that suggested European or even American origin. There was also no physical description with regard to their appearance, so they were a faceless enigma. This left me scratching my head throughout the story, wondering “Who exactly are these people?”

I can definitely understand this tendency myself since I’ve written a serial. In the author’s mind it’s one, continuous story and easy to forget to include details that seem redundant, yet they’re essential. I’ve covered some of the things I’ve learned in previous blogs for serial writers such as this one and its follow-up. I’m sure my readers can find similar oversights in my books, so I mention this in all humility.

The motivation for their heinous acts was touched on, but not demonstrated in their personal behavior. While I would expect lethal passion resulting from intense anger, hatred, and a visceral need for revenge, the antagonists behaved more like corporate executives out to annihilate a competitor to keep their stockholders satisfied. They were definitely cold-hearted, but the expected fury at Cannon’s previous actions didn’t come through.

Maybe this was covered in the first book, but evoking the emotional drive behind their acts could have added considerable intensity and additional suspense. If the bad guys were true terrorists, you’d expect that pissing them off further would result in chopping Cannon’s (or a loved one’s) head off on YouTube, but that type of potential didn’t come through. Emotional connection is what really grabs a reader. They need to love the hero and hate the antagonist, or at least fear him/her. This is what makes a story real and comprises a gripping tale.

I hate to get on the soapbox again, but I find it helpful to to assess a book during the content editing process using the acronym IDEAS where I stands for Imagery; D stands for Dialog; E stands for Emotion; A stands for Action and S stands for Suspense. Depending on the genre, a certain balance is required of these elements. Action and dialog often come easily for thriller writers, so going back to include the others is often required. Of course you don’t want to slow the story down, so it needs to be done with finesse, not long, drawn-out descriptions that cause the reader’s eyes to glaze over.

While in this story the terrorists used the fate of loved ones to drive their captives’ cooperation, it seemed that the good guys may have gotten around it a bit too easily, if these terrorists were as smart or well-connected as implied. Especially if the antagonists had as much clout and the ability to infiltrate so many organizations to effect Cannon’s capture, which was not explained, either. Including such things increases a story’s credibility.

Perhaps this was covered in the first book, which would make it required reading to fully appreciate this one. The author has an excellent writing style with a talent for developing a fast moving story with convincing dialog and viable characters. By filling in some of these gaps, kicking up the emotional drive a notch, and a bit more imagery, Howell could easily approach the level of Tom Clancy or John Grisham. I see tremendous potential in his writing that could go from great to outstanding with a bit more attention to detail, though many readers may not care and simply enjoy the fast action. I, personally, like to know the how and wherefore, which is what can drive a great story up a notch to the best seller list.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

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I’ve always loved that quote, which illustrates one of the many absurdities in the English language. And speaking of time flying, I can’t believe that on July 3 it’ll be a year since the Star Trails Tetralogy Box Set was released! Seeing the series as a box set was my goal as soon as I realized the Brightstar’s story wasn’t finished with the first volume, but had only begun. Considering it ultimately took four books that comprised 1500 pages, there was definitely a lot more to tell! So, I’m celebrating the first anniversary of this life milestone by selling the entire tetralogy this weekend for only $0.99 USD.

I started working on “Beyond the Hidden Sky” so long ago I hate to admit it. There were definitely a few life obstacles in the way between the late 70s and now. During that time I finished having my children, got a physics degree, moved from Utah to Texas, became a grandmother (and now a great-grandmother) and fulfilled my dream of working for NASA. Believe it or not, the degree and NASA gig were specifically to prepare me to be a better science fiction writer. I kid you not. I took “write what you know” to heart and I hope it shows!

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The first book was revised more times than I can begin to count. It was initially written on an archaic device known as a typewriter and then went through at least three different word processors, (Word Star, Word Perfect and Microsoft Word). In fact, artifacts from those earlier electronic versions brought some pretty mysterious characters into the first few electronic and even print versions, until I figured out how to get them out.

Much of what was science fiction at the time, such as my rendition of the internet, Craig’s List and a Bitcoin lookalike, became science fact during this lull between writing and publishing. Needless to say, this required upgrading the technology numerous times. Now, at the rate things are advancing, it won’t be long before the entire series is in the realm of science fact, except, perhaps, for cristobalite or devenite crystals. But you never know, given they’re busily creating new elements these days as well as making new discoveries in quantum physics.

Thus, to celebrate the box set’s birthday on July 3, I’m marking it down to $0.99 USD for the USA’s Independence Day weekend ONLY (July 2 – 4 for those outside the USA). So, if you’ve been waiting for a super-giant sale to get your copy, this is it! If you’re unfamiliar with the series, you can learn more about it and see the reviews at the series website, www.StarTrailsSaga.com.

Pick yours up at any of the sales outlets below.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1kAJxRn

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/550675

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set/id1007498996

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set-marcha-fox/1122157702

Stock Photo Copyright: kjpargeter / 123RF Stock Photo

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BLOG HOP: “MIRROR OF OUR LIVES: Voices of Four Igbo Women”

Book Cover

In Mirror of Our Lives, four Nigerian women share the compelling tales of their troubled lives and failed marriages, revealing how each managed to not only survive, but triumph under difficult and repressive circumstances.

Njide, Nneka, Miss Nelly, and Oby relive their stories of passion, deceit, heartaches, and strength as they push through life—each on a unique journey to attain happiness, self-respect, and inner peace. But none of the women’s journeys is without misjudgments and missteps.

Njide falls in love at first sight, marries Tunji too quickly, and is dismayed when Tunji shows his true colors. Nneka once thought that she and Oji were the perfect couple—until Oji traveled to the United States. Miss Nelly is a kind and good natured woman who allows everyone to take advantage of her—even her husband, whom she married only for his name. But everyone wonders why Oby and Mat even married at all, for their marriage was a battle from the very beginning.

The tales in Mirror of Our Lives: Voices of Four Igbo Women will inspire women around the world to never give up, to discover a sense of worth, and most of all, to learn to love themselves above everything else.

Background To The Story:

It is important to give a brief background information on the history of this book. In my culture, it is a great luxury for a woman to be educated. This situation is still prevalent in certain parts of Nigeria, especially in the North, where the people are Muslims. In the South, women education has made a very deep inroad. It was a battle that the women themselves fought and won. Today, in our Universities, the population of the women is more than those of men. But there was a time, when, even in the South, the choice to educate the kids in a family, fell on the male children. The male child was always chosen over the female child, and the female child was bundled off into an early marriage. Mirror of Our Lives: Voices of Four Igbo Women, is the story of the victory that education has given to four Igbo women. It is also the story of what education can do for women, especially , women in the Muslim areas of Nigeria where education is still tabu for the women to attain happiness, self-respect and inner peace. But none of the women’s journeys is without misjudgments and missteps. You can also read the reviews on the book on Amazon.om and on Barnes & Noble.

An Interview with Adebowale On Mirror of Our Lives

(1) Your debut novel, Mirror of Our Lives, focuses on four Nigerian women who went through hardship but triumphed under such difficult and repressive circumstances. Is it right, therefore, to say that you are a female rights campaigner, or a feminist?

JLB: Thank you Adewale for your interest in my book, Mirror of Our Lives. Right now, I am writing you from California, where I am performing the “Omugwo” for my daughter who recently had a baby. When I sent you a complimentary copy of my book last April, 2012, I sent copies also to as many Nigerian newspapers and magazines, as I could find. Since then you are the second newspaper to show interest. Thank you very much for this. To answer your question, I do not like to be hedged into any type of category. I am for justice for all, for each person to be treated humanely, and for the disadvantaged to be given the opportunity to excel.

(2) One of the characters in the book is Njide. How much of your real self is reflected in Njide’s life?

JLB: One thing I learnt in my writing class is that no writer writes from a vacuum. You write from what you know, from personal experience, and then go from there to create a world, or in this case a situation that does not only reflect your personal experience, but all other experiences similar to yours. I am not totally Njide, but Njide lived a lot of my personal experiences, as well as the experiences of other women I have come to know.

(3) If Njide’s life is part of your story, then the other three characters — Nneka, Miss Nelly and Oby — must also have a link with you; can you share this with us?

JLB: Just as I said in my answer to your second question, after writing about Njide, I found it easy to fictionalize the experiences of other women I know. The names I used are not the names of the women whose stories I told, and the stories I told did not reflect the experiences of any particular woman. I wanted any woman who read the story to relate to it, and many women whom I know who read the story have called to tell me that the story of one of the women or the other is the story of their lives. This is what I wanted, to tell a universal story.

(4) In your opinion, do you think the average woman is getting her credit in her contribution to societal good?

JLB: In my opinion, women are doing better today than they did in the past, but that is not to say that they are getting the credit they deserve. I would like to see very hard working women given recognition based on their work. We see a lot of women today, especially in our society getting on based on who they know, and not on their contribution in their areas of specialization. God fatherism in whatever shade or colour, to whom ever uses it, male or female, should not be condoned in public service. We see a lot of this happening in our country.

(5) Mirror of Our Lives is an interesting read. When next is the public reading another story from you?

JLB: I am working on it.

(6) The book is actually published by a foreign publisher; was there a reason why you didn’t approach our local publishers?

JLB: There were two main reasons why the book was not published by a local publisher; first, I wrote the book while I was still living and working in the United States, so I was more familiar with the publishing scene of the US. Secondly, if you notice, the book is a self-published book. I did not want to suffer any rejection on this book as I did in my other attempts to publish. I believed so much in this book that I wanted it out by all means, and iUniverse provided me the opportunity  to self-publish.

Author Pic

Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

Joy’s Bio

Joy Nwosu was born in Enugu, Anambra State of south-eastern Nigeria. Her parents were Charles Belonwu and Deborah Nwosu. She is the fifth in rank of the seven children of her parents. Joy was born into a music family.

Joy, now retired, was a music teacher, trained in Santa Cecilia, Rome, and obtained her Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Michigan, USA.

She has written and published extensively on national and international scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Her short story I Come from Utopia was published in African Voices, Spring/Summer, 2007, pg. 18, and her first English novel; Mirror of Our Lives: Voices of Four Igbo Women was published in 2011, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Contest in 2012. She has also two books published in the Italian language.

Joy is a trained musician, and taught music for 35 years.  She writes, performs, and record folk songs.

Her new book: The Legend of the Walking Dead: Igbo Mythologies, which has just been released, is a journey into the mysteries of life and death of the Igbos of Nigeria.  She loves reading romances and mystery stories.

Websites:      http://sbpra.com/joylobamijoko/  Mirror of Our Lives …..

                         http://sbprabooks.com/JoyNwosuLoBamijoko/ Legend of the Walking…

Buy Mirror of Our Lives…Amazon Link:

http://www.amazon.com/Mirror-Our-Lives-Women/dp/1450278965

Barnes & Noble Link

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mirror-of-our-lives-joy-nwosu-lo-bamijoko/1102630079?ean=9781450278966

Link to my Blog:       jinlobify.Com

Face BookLink: https://www.facebook.com/joy.lobamijoko

Link to my LinkedIn Book Add

http://goo.gl/fT1P2O

Trailer: Mirror of Our Lives: Voices of Four Igbo Women

https://youtu.be/UhSyMaUz0Uk

Twitter Handle:         @Jinlobify

“Wandering Feelings” by Boyko Ovcharov: A Glimpse into the World of Those Driven by Emotion

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Much of the prose in this story was poetic and beautifully rendered, such that it did an excellent job of capturing feelings, which can be elusive and difficult to describe with words. The descriptions of various places provide excellent imagery and added to the dreamy, flowing nature of the story. The style is definitely unique and doesn’t conform to formula writing. There is no plot in the usual sense most readers expect and the characters are nameless. In other words, it breaks plenty of rules, yet in its own way, as a chronolog of feelings, it “works.”

As an astrologer, this story struck me as a great example of getting inside the head of someone driven by emotion, such as those born under a Water Sign (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces). If you’re not a deeply emotional person, you’re likely to see the characters in this book as illogical and possibly even dysfunctional in their inability to dismiss their unloving, materialistic upbringing and get on with their lives. However, for someone ruled by emotion, this is not easily done.

And for those driven by logic, not easily understood.  In fact, this latter group will probably be unable to understand the emotions expressed in this story. They may feel uncomfortable and perhaps even disgusted with the characters, who simply can’t seem to “get over it.” This is something that can cause great divides in relationships when people can’t understand how others are programmed. We’re all egocentric to some degree, especially when we’re younger, and think everyone sees the world as we do, or at least should.

Thus, if you fully relate to this book and become blissfully immersed in its beautiful prose and deeply felt emotions, you’re probably an emotional person yourself. Those who roll their eyes, keep waiting for something to happen worth noting or for the characters to get a grip and quit whining are probably logical by nature.

The richest part of life is often that which is felt. Those who have never fallen deeply in love, felt overwhelming joy or even its antithesis of debilitating emotional pain, are missing something. I believe this book is most important for those who don’t understand how deeply emotions can operate because it introduces them to a world with which they are entirely unfamiliar. Emotions are not always positive, e.g. love, but can be viciously destructive as well. Understanding that brings new insights into human nature, of which no one can ever have too much.

Rather than dismissing or criticizing the book or the characters, learn from it. Yes, there are people out there who are that tied to their emotions. If you’re not one of them, this is an example of what you’re missing, for good or ill.

You can find it on Amazon here.

The Devil’s in the Details

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Berncastel, Germany

Embellishing your story with the right details can make the difference between being vivid and memorable versus slipping away like a boring stretch of highway in the rearview mirror. Finding the correct balance is not always easy, however, since there’s no perfect level; it’s not only genre-dependent, but subjective. Some readers expect more while other’s complain about their eyes glazing over. I tried to read a novel a while back that was so loaded with specifics that I felt as if I were there and could map out the entire area.  However, the plot moved so slowly, if at all, I was never able to finish it. Other readers felt differently, however, as it enjoyed several favorable reviews. Nothing is ever simple about writing. Like they say, you can’t please all the people, all the time.

A skilled writer, however, knows when to get down to the nitty gritty details, such as what color blouse the heroine is wearing or what’s on the menu for that romantic dinner at The 21 Club. There’s no greater way to build mood and imagery, but bogging down an action scene, whether physical or emotional, is a definite no-no. Get your reader familiar with the territory beforehand, then fire away.

A sense of place is another important element that can greatly enhance your story. Street names, specific restaurants (whether real or not), historical landmarks and even the weather can take your reader on an excursion to somewhere they’ve never been, adding depth and character to your story. Cities have personalities, too, which can add to the mood if exploited properly.

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New York City

If your story takes place somewhere you’ve never been, there are various online resources that can provide the information you need. If you can’t afford to hop in your car or on an airplane to see for yourself, you can still obtain vital details. Wikipedia provides historical and demographic information for most cities and localities around the globe. Whether your hero or heroine has lived there his or her entire life or is visiting for the first time, a sprinkling of details will bring it alive for your readers, giving them the bonus of vicariously visiting someplace they may never get to in person. If, perchance, they have been there, you want them to recognize it, which will give you increased credibility.

Writing a chase scene? Google Earth is a fantastic way to roam the streets yourself! If you’re a visual type like I am, you’ll thrive on this blast of input. Research doesn’t have to be dry, boring or expensive. It can be fun as well as informative while providing inspiration and plot twists along the way. Give it a try and see if it takes your scenes to an entirely new level.

(Pictures by the author)

Review of “Both Sides Now” by John Reinhard Dizon

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This unique story entirely sucked me in. It has so much substance I scarcely know where to begin. The characters are incredibly real, not only the protagonist, but the supporting ones as well. It feels like real life because there are so many others involved with their own agendas. In this sense, it reads more like a biography as opposed to a novel. The plot is likewise incredibly complex and convincing while it skillfully portrays a slice of history representative of the 60s era.

Lucien Triskellion obtains his PhD in Germany and accepts a teaching job at New York University teaching German. Lucien is a big guy who was a champion amateur wrestler during his college years. It doesn’t take long for someone to notice the fact he can press 500 pounds and lure him into the professional wrestling circuit. If you’re not a wrestling fan, don’t let this stop you from reading this book. I, personally, couldn’t care less about this pseudo-sport, yet I enjoyed this story tremendously because it went so far beyond that. Wrestling comprises numerous settings, but the story was so character-driven that it was comparable to meeting someone really interesting and listening to their life’s story. For example, the dichotomy of Lucien’s life as a university professor versus that of a pro-wrestler, in which he was cast as a bad guy, is gripping in and of itself. If you’re a wrestling fan, then you’ll undoubtedly love it even more as it brings the human element alive with the conflict behind the scenes.

Of course with a young, hot protagonist like Lucien, there’s going to be a romantic angle. This involves Anneliese Krieger, another German immigrant, who lives with her father. As if Lucien doesn’t already have enough going on in his life, Anneliese’s father is falsely accused of Nazi war crimes incident to WWII which results in a gripping trial which is loaded with additional suspense.

The details of all elements of this novel are so vivid and convincing it was easy to get lost in it and forget that it wasn’t real. The author has the masterful ability to include just the right amount of detail to build strong imagery, clear sense of place, as well as character appearance and development. Whether it’s an address in New York City, a famous restaurant, Madison Square Garden, or legal terminology or courtroom protocol, you feel as if you’re there. Needless to say, this book would make an incredible movie.

They say an author should write what he knows, and clearly Dizon knows wrestling, which shows in how he immerses the reader in this crazy world. He’s footnoted some of the unusual terminology and slang, which helps if you’re unfamiliar with it. The business and politics of this sport are explored and exposed as well as the various complications this adds to Lucien’s life and even reflect on the trial of Anneliese’s father. While some of the detail regarding the players in the wrestling business was somewhat overwhelming, possibly a bit overdone, it nonetheless added to the story’s amazing credibility.

I don’t often find myself in a position where I’ll actually miss the characters of a book, but I felt as if Lucien and Anneliese were personal friends by the time it ended. If you enjoy a meaty novel with a different setting, strong, well-developed characters, and a breathless ride through the 60s, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this book. I absolutely give it 5-stars.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

The Importance of Formatting

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Typos, grammar and such are an amazingly common complaint in reviews, something which many indy authors encounter at some point. However, there’s another issue that can get you a bad rapp (or rep, as the case may be) that you may not even be aware of–formatting.

The guidelines for a printed book with an interior that looks professionally done are substantially different than those for an ebook. Considering how there’s a good chance most of your readers are going to opt for the electronic version, it’s in your best interest to make sure that it looks professional as well, not like an afterthought.

I suspect that numerous indy authors, after getting their book set up on Create Space, simply hit that button on the last screen to publish their book in Kindle format. This is all well and good, but don’t trust that automated process to produce an electronic version that looks anything like the printed one. At the very least, check it yourself, especially if your printed version has dropped caps at the beginning of each chapter.

The first thing you need to do is save a second copy of your book to use for the electronic version prior to formatting it for print. Then you can add headers, footers, chapter headings, dropped caps and so forth to the printed version without introducing potential corruption into the electronic version. If you’ve already done the formatting, then obviously when you save that second copy it will be to remove such things. typewriterEither way, it’s a lot easier than the old days, when authors wrote on a device like the one shown to the right. Those of you who haven’t had that experience don’t even want to know what it was like handling simple revisions that changed the pagination. Gives me a panic attack just thinking about it.

If you want to produce a professionally formatted ebook, the best guide for doing so is the Smashwords Style Guide, which you can download for free from their website here.

Even if you don’t use Smashwords’ service (perhaps because you’ve opted into Kindle Unlimited, which requires giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your work), the instructions will enable you to format a clean version that won’t aggravate readers enough to blast you with a bad review. It takes a little extra work, but it’s worth it.

Writing a book entails a lot of hard work, but that’s just the beginning. If you want it to be well-received by readers, it also needs to provide a comfortable reading experience. It’s not difficult to do and will be worth it. If it’s not something you care to tackle, then check into some of the services that will do so for a reasonable price, such as Fiverr.com.

Showing respect and appreciation to your audience starts with clean copy. Getting yanked out of a story by errors of any type, whether they’re typos, incorrect spelling, punctuation problems or formatting in nature, is not only distracting, but annoying. Some readers are more forgiving than others in overlooking such things, but sure as death and taxes, sooner or later, a reviewer will say so.

After all the time, sweat and blood you’ve put into your story, don’t let its message be diluted or even lost due to careless formatting. Take care of your readers and they’ll take care of you.

Interview with Multi-genre Author John Reinhard Dizon

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John Reinhard Dizon is one of my favorite authors and definitely one of the most versatile. His literary repertoire includes thrillers, family sagas, historical settings, steampunk, sports, suspense and techno-horror to name a few.  His latest release, Both Sides Now, is a romantic comedy, and I must say that I have a bit of a personal interest in this book since I designed both the interior and the cover plus my daughter is the model on the back. While formatting the interior, I gleaned enough of the story’s basics that I’m looking forward to reading it properly in the near future.

I interviewed John a few years back, but in view of this new release, I thought it was time for a rerun with some specific questions directed at him about this latest work. While he dubs it a romantic comedy, it struck me as much more substantial, especially with its unique setting and situations. So let’s see what he has to say.

MF:  The protagonist in your latest novel, “Both Sides Now”, is an intellectual wrestler. You are a highly intelligent person and were a wrestler in a “previous life”, which explains the authentic feel and terminology of the sport. How much of this story is autobiographical?

JRD: Actually it’s far more biographical. Hans “The Great” Mortier was one of my mortierWorld Wide Wrestling Federation childhood favorites. There was a major roster change when Vince Mc Mahon bought the Company from his father at the end of the Sixties, and the stars from the old regime were swept under the rug. Mortier was not a German professor, so that is all ‘what-if’. However, a large portion of the story is going to be instantly recognizable to fans of the era. The novel is as much a testament to the era as it is to Hans Mortier.

MF: Ray Karpis, quite a shady character from the early 20th Century, has made an appearance in two of your books, this latest one as well as “The Triad.” What do you find most appealing about him?  Did you ever meet him?

TheTriadCover1 copyJRD: As a criminologist, I have to say that Alvin Karpis is my favorite gangster. He was the last of the Public Enemies but was so elusive and shadowy that hardly anyone knows of him. I wrote Both Sides Now before The Triad and paid homage to Karpis by naming the Lou Thesz-based character after him. Outside of his autobiography and the Public Enemies biography and movie, there is almost nothing out there about Karpis. Hence The Triad. I think I did a good job of bringing his personage to life. He was considered a genius, loyal and generous to a fault, and very much in touch with the modern world and technical developments. Like most of the great gangsters, he would have been a tremendous success in society and the real world had he not gone the wrong way.

MF:  You do a great job of capturing the flavor of other eras as well as places.  You’ve lived through quite a few yourself, but when you get beyond your experience, what’s your favorite research method for your stories?

bothsidesnowcover6.jpgJRD:  The Internet usually helps you find the resources you need to make your story work. Only in this case, as you mentioned, I lived through most of this. Ergo, it was mostly a matter of documenting my recollections. I spent a lot of time in the NYU neighborhood, Soho and Greenwich Village, so most of what I did was pull up addresses. I read hundreds of wrestling magazines so was familiar with the old-time arenas. I was also a paralegal, so that helped me make the courtroom drama all the more realistic.

MF:  You’ve certainly held a wide variety of jobs, which undoubtedly contributes to your writing. Authenticity is important if you want to be taken seriously as an author and when you can say, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt” the details bring the story alive. As far as the plot itself, do your stories reveal themselves as you write or do you know what’s going to happen, start to finish, when you first sit down to write them?

JRD:  Many times the characters end up helping write the stories, as Sabrina Brooks does in the Nightcrawler series. She just makes things happen around her. In this story, Ray Karpis greatly influenced the conflict in the storyline (pun somewhat intended). He becomes the voice of reason, letting Lucien clearly see all the possibilities if he chose that direction in life along the road to wrestling superstardom. I think it also lets the reader see ‘both sides now’ and will stimulate discussion as to whether or not Lucien makes the right choice.

MF: Ethical dilemmas make great material because the reader is forced to think.  You have a huge list of published work. How long does it take you, on average, to finish one of your novels?

courthouse1JRD:  It varies, considering how complex the story is. The action/adventure stories move along pretty quickly as there’s the adrenaline rush that keeps you writing. Historical fiction such as this takes a bit longer because you have to authenticate your work. Getting names, places and events wrong will leave your story dead in the water. The courtroom storyline in this novel took almost as much research as all the wrestling background. It probably took the better part of a year to put it all together.

MF: Wow! That’s so true, though, if you want to be taken seriously as an author. When a reader stops to roll his or her eyes because something is inaccurate it pulls them out of the story, which is the last thing an author wants to do. Of the numerous books you’ve written, do you have one particular character who’s your favorite? Why?

JRD:  I’m having to go with Sabrina Brooks, aka the Nightcrawler. Every one of her novels is an adventure in itself. She’s a beautiful woman who moonlights as a crimefighter, who seems to target the Russian Mob. She’s the CEO of a chemical company, which means she doesn’t have to do this but does anyway. She’s very compassionate and is a churchgoer, which makes her all the more unique. Her personal relationships suffer greatly as she gets beat up, and the Nightcrawler’s successes come at the expense of her personal life. I enjoy writing her story as much as people love reading it.

MF:  Multi-dimensional characters are essential to a good story.  So what’s your favorite part of the writing process? Which part is the most difficult?

JRD: It’s the dialogue. It may be my strong point as a writer, and it helps me develop the characters and give the reader the best insight as to the speaker’s personality and motivation. The reason why reality TV shows get over is because people want to see their heroes behind the scenes. In literature, the author allows readers to listen to the characters giving up their innermost hopes and fears. The most difficult part is bringing it all together, making the story plausible. You do your homework, you authenticate your background, you flesh out your characters, but your audience has to buy your story. That’s the make or break part, and I think I make that happen every time.

MF:  Yes, you certainly do! When did you decide you wanted to be an author?

JRD: I was writing dialogue for my stick-figure cartoons when I was six. I was fascinated by TV and the movies and wanted to tell my own stories. Many people will say my entire life was about turning my fantasies into reality.

MF: So obviously you were born to write, which isn’t surprising considering how prolific you are.  You’ve worn a variety of hats over the years in a wide variety of jobs and places. What can we expect from you in the future? At what stage is your next novel and when do you expect it to be out?

JRD:  The Blight is about a decorated fire team of Navy SEAL commandos working as an elite unit for the St. Louis PD. They are taking on a mass murderer intent on destroying the ‘social blight’ plaguing the city. Kirsten Streicher is a typical JRD bad-ass female protagonist. Only her team is heavily impacted by the madman known as X, and the writing is on the wall as their group is slowly disbanding. Kirsten is forced to move forward with a whirlwind romance beckoning, though she feels compelled to bring the killer to justice before her career comes to an end. As usual, there’s lots of social issues and moral conundrums discussed, and the standard JRD reflections of current-day controversies. I’m hoping to release it by Summer 2016.

MF:  Sounds like another winner! Is there any particular author or authors who have inspired you the most?

JRD:  Shakespeare, Ian Fleming and Robert E. Howard. The Bard for his conciseness and verbal dynamism, Fleming for his ability to take the reader to a myriad of locations, societies and situations, and Howard for his gift of lurid description and breathtaking action. I hope my readers see my work in a favorable light in comparison.

MF: From what I’ve read, I believe you can rest assured that they will.

You can pick up a copy of Both Sides Now on Amazon here.

Connect with John Reinhard Dizon:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/johnreinharddizonUSA

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/John-Reinhard-Dizon/e/B00DU9JNUQ/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JohnRDizon