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Zeus Is Dead, A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure

Zeus Is Dead, A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure

In perfect time for the Halloween season, but entertaining any time of the year, I want to introduce you to author, Michael G. Munz.

About Michael G. Munz

61fUBlhunuL._UX250_An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Washington State at the age of three. Unable to escape the state’s gravity, he has spent most of his life there and studied writing at the University of Washington.

Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.

Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none–except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.

Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine.

With 100+ Reviews, Zeus Is Dead Has Readers Talking

22457276THE GODS ARE BACK. DID YOU MYTH THEM?

You probably saw the press conference. Nine months ago, Zeus’s murder catapulted the Greek gods back into our world. Now they revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires–well, all except Apollo. A compulsive overachiever with a bursting portfolio of godly duties, the amount of email alone that he receives from rapacious mortals turns each of his days into a living hell.

Yet there may be hope, if only he can return Zeus to life! With the aid of Thalia, the muse of comedy and science fiction, Apollo will risk his very godhood to help sarcastic TV producer Tracy Wallace and a gamer-geek named Leif–two mortals who hold the key to Zeus’s resurrection. (Well, probably. Prophecies are tricky buggers.)

Soon an overflowing inbox will be the least of Apollo’s troubles. Whoever murdered Zeus will certainly kill again to prevent his return, and avoiding them would be far easier if Apollo could possibly figure out who they are.

Even worse, the muse is starting to get cranky.

Discover a world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the gods have their own Twitter feeds: Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!

A Reader Review of Zeus Is Dead

jlh logoFive-star review from Cain S. Latrani  on Amazon.com:

“These days, it often seems as if comedy is a grossly misunderstood genre. The clever wordplay of Abbot & Costello, the slick yet frantic visual jokes of Monty Python, and the absurd humor of Benny Hill have been replaced with over the top send ups of popular ideas, and basement budget attempts at quick one off fart jokes.

Michael Munz fixes all of that with one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

When the Greek God Zeus is murdered, his edict of non-interaction with mortals goes up in smoke, allowing the Gods to return, hold a press conference, and start making the world a more interesting, or at least, less sane, place to live. Everything familiar about the world is turned on its ear as the Gods scramble to be worshiped again, with varying degrees of success.

Cuddly balls of adorable horrifying death, monster hunting reality shows, secret ninja orders, rambling Muses, random abstract concepts, and more both aid and harry the last group of people you would ever want for heroes as they try to find out who killed Zeus, and save the world from imminent destruction at the hands of idiots.

Ridiculous, hysterical, and strange, Zeus Is Dead is a wonderful read, both well written and imaginative. Hands down, one of the best books I’ve picked up in a long time.”

BONUS TIME///Amazon Giveaway for YA and Mystery-Lovers!

If you’ve got slightly older readers in your house, enter to win this giveaway on Amazon.com for my YA mystery. It’s live now and winners will be picked this week! Good luck and see you back here tomorrow for more book gossip. <3 Jennifer

Get Your Book Series Fix with Andrea Murray

Get Your Book Series Fix with Andrea Murray

If you visited my blog yesterday, then you know I adore book series. Maybe I love them so because as I devour one book, I take comfort knowing that another is waiting for me after, “The End.” Well, Murray’s Vivid Trilogy is no different.

Meet Andrea Murray

61wne6xdUxL._UX250_Andrea Murray has been a teacher for seventeen years and has taught just about every possible English class, including elementary reading groups and introductory college courses. She is a proud member of Mensa and lives in a teensy town in Arkansas with her high school sweetheart and husband of seventeen years. They have two children, who keep their lives very interesting and very busy.

Find additional information as well as Andrea’s website http://byandreamurray.com/.

 

Two Fantastic Series

51GN4KfTi-L._UY250_The Vivid Trilogy – Vivid, Book 1 – Her entire life she has feared her power and its connection to her mother’s murder. When Vivian Cartwright was five years old, she witnessed her mother’s death. Now, sixteen-year-old Vivian only wants a normal life, hard to accomplish when you possess the power to control energy. She has kept her ability a secret from everyone except her guardian, Charlotte, who has hidden Vivian from the man responsible for her mother’s murder. Her secret is safe until Vivian defends herself at school using her power. After this first use of her gift in many years, Vivian’s power seems to take on a mind of its own, increasing in strength and demanding to be used. This increase in power also brings dreams of her mother’s death and the mysterious man associated with it. In her desire to unlock her past, Vivian is forced to use her supernatural gift over and over. With each use, Vivian fears she is losing control and discovers her powers are growing—maybe too much—bringing her unknowingly closer to the man who murdered her mother.

51S0u9QBKuL._UY250_The Omni Duology (Book 1) – They will risk everything, even challenging the all-seeing eye of the Omni government. But will the prize be worth the cost?

Seventeen-year-old Pierce is a Drudge, the lowest social stratum in society. For over two years, he’s hoped—prayed—that his upcoming aptitude test will finally free him from his virtual slavery and give him a chance at a better existence. When he rescues Harmony, an Artist and member of the most successful stratum, his life takes an unbelievable twist.

With his gallant act and good looks, he becomes a media sensation. Every stratum in society seeks his membership for their publicity, but as he becomes closer to Harmony, Pierce realizes what fame in Omni is truly like. His choices will not only affect him but Harmony as well. The life Pierce thought he wanted may not be worth the cost to either of them.

What Readers Are Saying

They are fangirling over Murray on Amazon.com. Here’s what one reviewer had to say:

By Kim on December 16, 2011

Format: Kindle Edition

“Wow! Vivid is an AWESOME read! It captivated me from the very beginning. It is one of those books that you don’t want to put down once you start reading it. The main character, Vivian, has a powerful gift that anyone would welcome at some point in their life – as long as it could be controlled. Her sense of humor reminds me of my best friend. This book contains action/adventure, mystery, romance, humor, the supernatural – it has it all. It’s really hard to believe that Vivid is this author’s first book! A sequel is a MUST!

Murray hit my sweet spot – she has a female protagonist that feels unworthy of her natural gifts who comes to own her strength and power. I found the first book of The Vivid Trilogy to be fantastically readable, the characters authentic and instantly likeable and the storyline devourable. Five-stars from me for Book 1. Book 2, here I come. Okay, maybe I’ll have to wait until October, but I’m already looking forward to it.”

See you tomorrow when the spotlight shines on another indie author!

Swept Away by the Spirit Warriors Series

Swept Away by the Spirit Warriors Series

Book series are the literary equivalent to binge watching television shows on Netflix. If you agree with that, I’m about to make you very very happy. This indie author has J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyers to thank for forging the way for the publication of her Spirit Warriors series. Here’s the 4-1-1.

We Want to Know about D.E.L. Connor!

061b1-delconnorDella Connor (D.E.L. Connor) was born in South Dakota and raised in Southeastern Montana where she acquired a keen appreciation for Western and Native American culture. She moved to Texas as a young adult and acquired her honorary Texan status. She became a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner and eventually earned her PhD in nursing. She still works as a nurse educator and as a nurse practitioner. Her nights and weekends, however, are filled with her stories and books. . The Spirit Warriors series will consist of five books and a prequel.
The Spirit Warriors story evolved from a short story she wrote for a college English class in the early 1990’s. The professor read it, loved it and asked her to stay after class and discuss it. During this discussion, he told her that a “dark” story like hers, that was written for older children, would be unmarketable and unsaleable. The story kept floating around in her mind. Finally, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyers and others stepped forward with amazing “dark” stories to create a new genre called Young Adult. The time was finally right for her book. She wrote book 1 in two weeks. It took another year and a half and about a 150 queries all with an “not interested” for her to find a publisher. She found Booktrope and as they say, it’s all history.

Spirit Warriors Series

The Concealing (Spirit Warriors, Book 1)

spirit-warriors-high-res-200x300Sixteen-year-old Emme Belrose has it all: four best friends, a horse of her own, a hidden tepee hangout, and a blossoming romance with tall and handsome Charlie. These friends also have a secret. They can move their spirits into animal bodies: an osprey, a mustang, a grizzly, a mountain lion and a coyote. But when Charlie, who has a gift for seeing the future, has a vision of Emme drowning in the icy Yellowstone River, the Spirit Warriors must train their animal bodies to kill an enemy they know is coming…but know nothing about. Suspenseful, romantic, and awash in Native American magic, Spirit Warriors captures the tragic enchantment of the American West—and confirms the power of friendship.

the-scarring-new-v-hrThe Scarring (Spirit Warriors, Book 2)

“One of us would finally end what had been started by the machayiwiw so many years ago. I would have to kill him. It was just that simple. I never thought I would want to kill anybody or anything, but maybe I never had anything worth killing for before.”
-Emmeline Rima Belrose, The Scarring (Spirit Warriors, Book 2)

In the majestic beauty of a Montana summer, Emme and her friends celebrate her near-drowning survival and their defeat of the powerful evil spirit, the machayiwiw. But even as they rejoice, things are amiss. Emme watches helplessly as her family divides, and her friends struggle to hold their relationship together. Worse yet, the love-of-her life, Charlie, announces that he will move back to the reservation, without Emme. New nightmares take over and Emme realizes she must fight and kill- or watch those she loves be killed. New friends from the reservation reach out to Emme and show her what evil can steal from her. Emme believes that evil can never break her bond with the Spirit Warriors or the love she shares with Charlie. Or can it?

What Readers Think

Five-star review from Lauren Jones on Amazon.com

“The Concealing (Spirit Warriors Book 1) is emotional, spiritual and unpredictable. The story begins with five children playing in a clearing as they pretend to imitate the American Indian Wars. Emme Belrose and her four best friends have everything that they could possibly ever want. When they are in the clearing, they are free to be different and judgement-free. Things start to change when Charlie tells Emme about a vision of her that he saw in an attempt to help her understand the ongoing nightmare that constantly plagues her mind. All five friends don’t realize at first that they have formed an alliance that has already been predestined; however, will their friendship be powerful enough to face the one thing that binds them together? Emme and her friends are Spirit Warriors who have the ability to move their spirits into animals in order to stop an impenetrable evil that is coming for them.

My favorite characters in this story are Archie and Lilly. When reading about Archie, I always imagine him as a tall, strong Native American man with an abundance of knowledge and wisdom. He assists the five friends with their training as Spirit Warriors. He protects them in many ways and provides them with the strength they need to bond with their animal counterparts. Lilly is a kind and gentle soul who sees the best in everyone, including all of her friends. Her words and personality are so heartwarming and her spirit is the purest of them all…even when her home has been broken with the death of her mother.

I really enjoyed reading this book; however, it was very emotional for me. I love that this author was able to make me smile, cry, laugh and captivate my attention. In my opinion, this story targets a young adult audience or anyone over the age of eighteen since there is violence and a slight hint of sexual content. This author is creative, inspirational, motivational and her words are very powerful and touching. I rate The Concealing (Spirit Warriors Book 1) with five stars because I finished this story and really felt a desire to read the second book in the series.”

 

D.E.L. Conner website

I Suspended Real Life to Read Incurable by E.C. Moore

I Suspended Real Life to Read Incurable by E.C. Moore

As the leaves outside tinge with reds and yellows, life slows down a tad and I find time again to read.  In that spirit, I hope the books and authors I share with you this month will coax you to do the same.

Today, I’m happy to introduce you to author, E.C. Moore.

A Little Bit about E.C. Moore

8776496When E.C. Moore’s not writing feverishly, you will find her out walking or sightseeing. She’s wild about coffee, books, cooking, good wine, cairn terriers, miniature ponies, historical houses, and witty people.

She resides in a fifties bungalow in Southern California, with her creative-director husband, a yappy blonde dog, and one feisty Chihuahua.

On a personal level, I can tell you that she is a selfless supporter of indie authors. She may not realize it, but her encouragement and supportive countenance are the vitamins I needed to finish my second novel. And you’re about to find out, she’s an engrossing writer.

Find the author on Twitter @ecmooreauthor or follow her blog at ecmooreauthor.com.

 

Incurable – ( The novel so engrossing I suspended real life to finish.)

Incurable Front Cover250pxH“Marilyn’s menacing past was loose and in close pursuit. The fear of the thing lived in her eyes, and trepidation sounded with each step her heels made as she fled The Western Detective Agency…”

Los Angeles 1956—Marilyn Palmer is a beauty with a deep dark secret. After a threatening blackmail note arrives with the milk bottles on the porch of the bucolic home she shares with her doctor husband and young daughter, she hires a private eye to keep her unsavory past hidden.

Incurable is a story wrought with impetuous and regrettable decisions made by a desperate young woman. Barely eighteen years old, and a gifted seamstress, she makes the ill-fated decision to run away from her Detroit home with a wily friend. Bound for Hollywood, and seeking stardom, the girls set out on an incredible journey.

This splendidly imagined debut explores the tumultuous life and times of a woman who suffered the ultimate betrayal as a child during the Great Depression. A tale of survival set against the backdrop of early Hollywood, misery on Hotel Street in Honolulu before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and heartbreak in Los Angeles during WWII. Incurable delivers emotional intensity with each turn of the page.

What Readers Are Saying about Incurable

E.C. Moore wrapped me around her literary finger from the first chapter. The rich characters and expert storytelling kept me turning pages until my work, family and daily grind were nearly forgotten. When life forced me to stop reading, I found the characters whispering in my head and when I opened the book again, I ate up every suspenseful, emotional chapter. Five-stars for Incurable from me!

Incurable QBanner 06One Amazon five-star reviewer said this:Incurable will have you flipping through its word-painted images, and thinking about its characters long after you’ve read the last line.

The book tells the story about a very young woman in the USA, in the time before, during and after WW II, trying to escape the fake world of wealth-polished abuse, and falling into the hellish tapestry of Hollywood glitter and the naked truth hidden below. It is filled with excellent, inobtrusive descriptions, which blend naturally within the story. The author has obviously done lots of research, and manages to put you on the scene skillfully, without evident effort, engaging all your senses. The crime story streaming through the plot is truly engaging, and has you guessing and rooting for the heroine till the very end.

From the gripping first, but especially second chapter, reminiscent in atmosphere of P. Marlowe, the story is told with love and respect, both for the characters and readers. There is a mind-blowing myriad of characters, especially women, strong women, battling their weakness and centuries-long submission to men’s leading role as providers. Not all beauty is skin-deep, and public success may well be just an optical illusion. Not every hero is always good, not every villain is completely irredeemable. The author displays people’s vanity, weakness, balancing the thin line between what is and isn’t considered moral or immoral, all in order to survive, to escape their history and family legacy if possible. Intriguing human stories fill the pages – from the wise, uneducated nanny to the miserable rich ladies, the seemingly successful stars of burlesque, seedy human trafickers, family histories tainted with greed and revenge, dream-filled immigrants and prejudiced narrow-minded abusers. The intensity of brutal hate and malice is sometimes so overwhelming, just like in real life, and yet the characters all keep chasing love, friendship and success. There is a very open account of sexuality and promiscuity of the time, which is rarely spoken of in such a matter-of-fact way, even gruesome topics, so despite your romantic notions of love during the war, do not expect a soothing, romantic, dreamy account. But do expect friendships and love forged through hellfire!

Each decade of the main character’s life brings us an array of different people, each with their own set of values and prejudice, all naked under the facade. It is hard to pick my favourites, although detective Reg and his accidental assistant Doris do take the lead. But Wesley is so tenderly portrayed, with all his faults and virtues, and has such a good heart; he is one of those people who never dominate, but are always cherished.

The span through several decades provides us with proof that we can never truly know what motivates someone to do something, till we talk it all out openly. Secrets hurt, and sometimes they even kill. Historical events in Europe influencing the lives of people in the USA seem to follow the main storyline, but actually emphasize how intricate all our relationships are, and how intertwined our destinies are. Each ripple counts.

E.C. Moore’s Incurable kept me on my toes wanting to read as fast as I could. There were plenty of topics I never relish thinking about, but they are topics we must think about if we are to face them and change them. Families which are never the safe haven they should be, dream jobs which are more like purgatory, friendships of convenience… But there is always passion and love at the root of things. Incurable is a proper saga, and lends itself to a fabulous TV-series. If you want a book which will engage your mind, soul and senses, Incurable will deliver.

I love the ending – despite all the dire straits, it celebrates accomplishment, not fame. It celebrates the real values in life, earned through hardship, but cherished forever.”

A Final Word

If you pick up the book, then read and enjoy it, please say thank you to E.C. Moore by leaving a review on your favorite site. It will mean the world to her.

Until tomorrow’s recommendation, happy reading!

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

Before 2015 rolls in, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the wit, candor and beauty shared by bloggers across the globe. Here are my top ten favorite reads. If you like what you read, please support their writing by subscribing to their blogs and/or checking out their published works. If you’ve got a favorite to share, add a link in the comments and spread the word.

Black Friday: THE Toy of 2014!

twigs-sticks
THE toy of 2014 is hidden in this photo

I wish I hadn’t been eating lunch when I read this post. Not because it was disgusting, no, but because I literally choked on my sandwich it was so damn funny. Well done, dumb white husbands, specifically, author, Clayton Smith, one of a handful of contributors to this top shelf website.

http://www.dumbwhitehusband.com/especially-dumb-cyber-monday/

 

Aww, thank you, Jan!

84_0.478284001377119273_9781620151631-thumbnail-bpfbtJT Twissel shone a light on my book, Four Rubbings and I’m grateful. She swears, though I don’t have the necessary access to her dashboard to confirm it myself, that this was her most popular blog post of 2014. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, Jan.

http://jttwissel.com/2014/05/22/meet-jenn-hotes-a-creepy-obsession-becomes-a-novel/

 

Puppy Kindergarten, I mean two words that come together to create mayhem, right?

IMG_2752
Darling Ms. Lucy

This winning post comes from the website, It Happened at Purity,  where writer,  Kate, comments on life in a small northern California town. The unlikely star of her popular blog is Ms. Lucy, Kate’s pound rescue. In fact, Lucy’s adoring fans often stop she and Kate as they walk the streets of Ft. Bragg to say hello. Here’s my favorite post from the past year:

http://ithappenedatpurity.com/2013/09/20/puppy-kindergarten/

 

 

 

A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen

9780316102537_p0_v1_s600Avid reader, book author and educator, Vicki Conrad, is growing a loyal group of followers with her well-written book reviews. She knows her stuff and it shows in her popular blog. From the blog of Vicki Conrad, here’s a great review of a YA book I’m adding to my must-read pile immediately:

http://beginningsandbookends.com/2014/11/10/a-blind-spot-for-boys-by-justina-chen/

 

 

My Own Personal Penguin

happy-feet-penguin-birdIt started out with a silly YouTube video of beautiful Benedict Cumberbatch. But, because I’m a hyper-emoting writer, soon I got contemplative. What did I try to do but fail miserably at time and time again?

Then, after I posted the blog I was still scratching my head, but not about my weight, but this; why is it when something is painful to write, it makes the best reading? Anyhow, I was encouraged to hear back from readers that the blog helped them. I’m glad of that. And, in spite of my nervous, squirming family, I’ll keep writing my truth and I’ll continue to share it because I love you.

http://www.jenniferlhotes.com/blog-post/personal-penguin/

What Mortuary Students Do in Mortuary School (you know you’re curious!)

Okay, on a much lighter note (sort of) From Confessions of a Mortician comes a blog post about what students do in mortuary school. It’s a question not many have been bold enough to ask, but here’s the compelling results:

http://www.calebwilde.com/2014/12/21-spectacular-examples-of-what-mortuary-students-do-in-mortuary-school/

 

Hope in a Full-Length Mirror

IMG_3420Best-selling author, Tess Thompson, lives and breathes her authentic self and her blog is no different. She shares her stories; the victories, defeats and everything in between with a rawness I adore. This one about having the courage to hope for love again was powerful:

http://tesswrites.com/2014/11/06/hope-full-length-mirror/

 

 

Garage Regret 20 Years Later

This special post from Deb shows how regret and tragedy can stretch from one generation to the next if we’re not mindful:

http://www.corduroynotes.com/2014/04/garage-regret-20-years-later.html

 

Dear Rick Steves

IMG_1722Well, Rick Steves never wrote her a response, but I’m grateful author, JT Twissel took the time to post this. Her account of driving in Europe made me bust a gut laughing:

http://jttwissel.com/2014/10/23/dear-rick-steves/

 

 

 

 

Day in the Life

CeriFrom MIT student, Ceri R. (yes, nepotism is alive and well people) a candid day in the life of a college coed. I wish I’d been this cool and frank and well, awesomesauce in college. Ceri’s putting a human face on the college experience in her own fresh and candid voice. Well done.

http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/day-in-the-life

 

 

 

 

 

How a Ghost Helped Me Finish My Second Novel! (Ghostwriter?)

How a Ghost Helped Me Finish My Second Novel! (Ghostwriter?)

On the recent retreat I took to complete my second novel, I had company; in my bed, in the living room, as I stood on the roof deck, in the shower. No, I’m not talking about the kind of company that makes my wedding ring feel itchy, it was the kind that sends a chill down my spine.

view-from-the-park-across
This image comes courtesy of TripAdvisor.com. If you look to the left of the lighthouse, you’ll see Room 303, where I had spectral company.

It was an early birthday present to myself, I drove north to Bellingham, Washington and checked into the beautiful Hotel Bellwether, a property which fronts a lively harbor. My only room request was that it contained a desk, because I knew if I had three days to devote to the effort, I could finish Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch, the follow up to Josie Jameson and the Fourth Tombstone.

My room was #303. It was a delightful suite which overlooked the harbor and mountains. I’d brought a bundle of sage to burn so I could cleanse the energy in the space and make it suitable for writing. But I couldn’t get a match to light. No matter, I turned on the Seahawks game and dove into my writing. When I looked up from the computer the sunset was painting the sky in streaks of pink and I realized I was starving. Notebook in hand, I supped and returned to the room. I finished two chapters and went to bed. Alone.

steve-donna-o-meara-ghost-in-the-hall-at-the-hawthorne-hotel-one-of-america-s-most-haunted
This image comes from Steve & Donna O’Meara’s account of a ghost at the Hawthorne Hotel.

Knowing I never sleep well in strange places, I took a Benadryl and left on a lamp. An hour after retiring, I heard footsteps cross the room and stop at the edge of the bed, then there was the clear sound of someone breathing over me, just inches from my face. When I opened my eyes, I fully expected to find a man looming above, but there was nothing. Nothing.

Gathering my wits, I double-checked that the door was locked, then piled pillows around my ears; I was determined to get a few hours of sleep. And after a short time, it happened again. Footsteps, breathing, and then nothing. I tried once more to light the sage, but the matches were still damp. Instead, I turned on the television for the white noise and wrestled with my pillows until sunrise.

On my morning run, I looked at events with a sober mind. Yes, it was a spirit – I didn’t imagine it. But, it was not dark or threatening, only curious. I knew this from experience – the experience that comes from being awakened by a demon standing over your kids’ beds. Yes, I know what dark spirits look like and smell like. I also know they’re hard to get rid of. They leave scars. What existed in #303 wasn’t that. He was a curious spirit, intrigued by the creative process maybe. So, when I returned to the room, I had a word with him, “Yes, I know you’re here. I just don’t wish to acknowledge you. Please stop bothering me.”

The following nights in my suite went roughly the same way. And when I checked out on the fourth day, my book was complete. Yes, I had a ghostwriter, of sorts. I’ll never know his name, but he was there, reading over my shoulder and maybe he knew what he was doing when he kept me from sleeping. Because, together, we got the words down, the story completed. So, for that, I am thankful to him, my ghostwriter.

 

Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch Cover*******Author’s Note*********

Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch is being called a can’t-put-down-read. I’m so glad readers are enjoying this quick, spooky novel!

Wow! That was easy.

Wow! That was easy.

This afternoon in my art loft, I spent a few hours catching up on all the emails I’ve ignored this week in order to help put on the Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation fundraiser. Over a glass of  iced tea, I read and responded to emails, wrote to-do lists and tackled a few smaller projects. This is what happened out my window as I worked:

Before
As I began my emails, over a bowl of soup…
After responding to emails, checking social media and refilling my water cup...
After responding to emails, checking social media and refilling my water cup…

In less than an hour, a house that stood on the corner of my neighborhood for over three decades was demolished. How long did it take to build that house? A year, maybe? And now it’s gone.

After taking pictures from my roof deck, I went back to writing book two, the follow up to Four Rubbings. The novel’s sketched out in two notebooks, but I’m working in earnest to finish the manuscript before the first of the year. The hours I’ve put into it are already countless. I’ve done research, collected images, fact checked, not to mention the time I’ve invested in creating my cast of characters in the first place. In fact, I usually talk about the teens in my book as though they’re my own children, my four kids that live on paper. The actual writing of the story will go quickly, but I’ve no doubt it will consume me in the months to come. Why? Because I get inside their heads, set them in a situation and watch where they go and how they react. I quietly take notes, or write what you would call a first-draft.

I’m not unique, nor is my process. The fermentation of the story and characters, the editing, the proofing and finally the publication, it’s how a book is born. Even for the most prolific authors, like bestselling author, Tess Thompson, who writes 2-3 books a year, the process takes time.

And like that house across the street from me, the final product can be torn down in a blink: one reviewer, one bad blog post, one incensed reader and what took months to build can crumble down. Amazon’s been criticized for taking a day or more to post five-star reviews, but posting one-star reviews immediately. That needs to change.

I’m not asking you to stop reviewing books honestly, but be fair. If you hate romances, downloaded the book by accident, and didn’t read past the first chapter, then don’t post a review. Please. Don’t tear down a book that wasn’t written for you. Be mindful of the time, process and people behind the book, and act accordingly. Then, when you sit behind that desk and write your own novel, we’ll grant you the same kindness and consideration. We will.

She Writes Mysteries from a Misty Perch above the San Francisco Bay, Meet JT Twissel

She Writes Mysteries from a Misty Perch above the San Francisco Bay, Meet JT Twissel

220px-Katherine_PhilipsHi I’m Jan.  I live in a village of about 15,000 souls named after Katherine Phillips, a fifteen century poet called “The Matchless Orinda.” In her day, she was considered the ideal woman writer: virtuous, proper, and chaste. She was also thought be a “sappho.” (gay)

For as a watch by art is wound
To motion, such was mine;
But never had Orinda found
A soul till she found thine;

– Matchless Orinda

fog
How many mysteries have the rolling fog inspired?

From the window where I write I can watch the fog roll in from the San Francisco Bay – a beautiful sight.  Pretty Kitty watches me as I write.  Pretty is a stray we adopted.  We were sure it was a girl but alas, the vet disagreed.  Pretty is a boy.  Still we can’t break ourselves of the habit of calling him “pretty,” could you?

Under the pseudonym JT Twissel I’ve published two books which are only alike in that the narrator is a young woman and she takes lots of road trips.  The first book (Flipka) was set in Nevada in the late 1970s.  I was raised in Reno which I always thought I could put behind me, but…you know how these things go. Nevada just keeps popping up in my writing, as a setting, a dreaded past, or even as a character. The lecherous Uncle Nevada, creeping in to dreams, like a house you can’t quite leave behind. (Do you ever wake up in the dark certain you are in a house you moved out of long ago? I do – all the time!)  I won’t bore you with the synopsis, suffice it to say – it’s wacky, zany and frightening.  The frightening part is that the despicable girls reformatory where the mystery takes place actually exists.

The second book (The Graduation Present) is based loosely on my travels through Europe.  It’s a coming of age adventure with a slight twist of romance – actually it has a lot of twists, period. I am currently working on a third, more contemporary piece based on a long and bizarre struggle I had with the IRS.  But working on a piece so full of black humor wears me down, sends me to places I don’t want to go and so I find myself instead blogging my fool head off about European adventures gone astray.

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***(Editor’s note: Follow Jan on Twitter @JTTwissel and subscribe to her blog. Jan’s sense of humor shines through, but she also features behind-the-curtain interviews of other authors. ***

Writing My Reality: The Diversity in Four Rubbings

Writing My Reality: The Diversity in Four Rubbings

big heart
A cultural collage by Jennifer L. Hotes

Okay, readers. I’m going to let you in on a little secret about literature. Despite what the fine print on the first page of every novel states, we authors write our reality. The lawyers insist that we say, “All characters and details are fictional. Any resemblance to real life is coincidental.” Baloney.

The truth is, writers stand in the shadows of every social function and absorb the details of you, your manner of speaking, the details of your conversation (yawn!) and what you wear. We are the great secret stealers and eternal detail absorbers. Basically, we’re the Bounty paper towels of society.

Four Rubbings is no different. I have the legalese in the front of the book, but the characters I created are a quilt sewn from the fat quarters of my life and memories. So, when one angry reader criticized Four Rubbings for showing diversity in an unrealistic and overly idealized way, I balked. Okay, the truth is I had a fit. I barked at the computer, stormed around the house, and scared the cats and kids. But, a day or two later, I contemplated the criticism. Had I presented the world in an overly idealized way through my cast of characters?

Two of the four teens in the book come from parents with different ethnicities – actually three, if you include the Aleutian background of one mother. Did I present familial diversity to promote ethnic tolerance in the world?

Well, let’s turn the microscope on my life, shall we? I live in the Seattle area. If my children were to attend their home school (literally, the one closest to our residence) then their classmates would be predominantly white, but would also include families that moved to the area from Japan, Russia, China, India, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Mexico, to name a few.  They live our reality.

Not bad, but they don’t attend their home schools. My daughters attend feeder schools for Microsoft, Expedia and Google families. The palette of skin colors and cultures their school populations include is vast. I once asked our principal how many languages the families at our school spoke, and she smiled in response. Maybe she was trying to count them in her head, but then she giggled, “Wow! There’s an amazing number.” They learn our reality.

Our local grocery stores include vast amounts of what was once known as ‘specialty food,’ but seen in this bulk, the phrase becomes an oxymoron.  Kosher. Indian. Italian. Hispanic. French. Japanese. Chinese. Korean. British. In our house, I’ve been blessed with kids that will try all types of food, but constants in my kitchen include edamame, tofu, Cajun gumbo, Chinese dim sum, Indian naan with chutney, British pies, French brie, and Italian anything.  They eat the same variety of foods at school and when we travel. They eat our reality.

My youngest daughter, Bryn, proudly announced to me yesterday that her friends all have beautiful and unusual names. They reflect the depth of culture and rich ethnicity of our reality. They speak our reality.

So, for those that criticize my portrayal of diversity in Four Rubbings, my heart breaks a little for you. I’m reminded of the time three decades ago when I graduated from high school. My grandmother had come to witness the graduation from Chicago, Illinois. She was gracious and kind when she met my handful of best friends. She really was sweet to them. On the drive to the airport for the return flight home she said to my mother, “That’s the closest I’ve ever stood to a black man.” My mother did a double-take.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Jennifer’s friends. When I met her friends, I realized that is the closest I’d ever been physically to people that weren’t white.” It wasn’t said with malice. She went on to say what lovely people my friends were. But, it was an innocent observation. So if your reality is as sheltered and homogenous as hers, today let me encourage you to change your reality.

If the people you spend the bulk of the day with look very similar to you, have similar backstories and childhood memories and share the same beliefs as you, change your reality. Don’t shun your old friends, I’m not asking for that sacrifice. Instead, venture out of your neighborhood to worship at a new house of God, eat at a new type of restaurant, go to a book signing in a different district of your city, rally for a political cause in the next town over, try an exercise program that reflects a different culture than your own.

Stretch. Stretch your boundaries. Stretch out your arms to embrace this beautiful melting pot. And for heaven’s sake, if you have the means, travel to new places.

I’d love the diversity reflected in my book and my life to be yours as well. It is my love-filled Valentine wish for your life.

 

 

House Ghost – a guest post by Kate Erickson

House Ghost – a guest post by Kate Erickson

413 Fir Color
The House on Fir Street, Fort Bragg, California, watercolor by Jennifer L. Hotes

From the mid- to late eighties, my husband Gary and I—along with one baby and then another—made an annual trek to visit friends who had moved from Fresno to Fort Bragg, California. During our stay, we fantasized about how lovely it would be to live a slower paced life in a small town amid pristine coastal beauty.

Every year as we drove back to Fresno, each mile returned us to the reality that we had jobs and lives that could not transfer. Back home we realized we didn’t have the skills to survive in a remote town. We were ill-equipped to face the frightening challenges of living without such amenities as Costco, Target or money.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to make the decision to move to Fort Bragg—a house made it for us.

In the summer of 1989, we were walking around the little town when, across the alley from the mortuary, we saw a For Sale sign in front of a Victorian.

“That’s our house,” I said. For some reason I felt more convinced of this than anything ever in my life. The house was white with black shutters. A black wrought iron fence enclosed a large yard. I envisioned my children playing in that yard.

Gary was silent for a minute and then said, “I think you’re right.” He wrote down the number of the realtor.

When the realtor learned our status—small children, no jobs in the area, just finished building a home in Fresno—he said, “You don’t want that house. It’s too fancy. It’s not a family house.” He took us on tours of smaller, less expensive houses. I think he hoped we’d come to our senses and settle for a vacation home.

We thanked him for his time. The next day, we drove by the Victorian and noticed an open house sign. A tall gray-haired man answered the door. We told him we wanted to buy his house. He chuckled, introduced himself as the owner and let us in.

As we walked through rooms with high ceilings and crown moldings, my feeling that this was our family home grew stronger. Afterward, Gary said he felt the same way.

We made an offer and within a couple of months were owners of the house.

In our lucid moments, we were terrified about what we’d done. We had a second home that we could barely afford and a sketchy plan to uproot our lives. There were so many ways it could have imploded.

It took us three years to manipulate our lives to allow us to move to Fort Bragg. By that time, our son was six, our daughter three and we’d added a golden retriever puppy. (When life is at its peak of crazy, make sure to get a puppy.)

About four months before we moved, I called the Bank of American Investment Services district office in Santa Rosa. I explained that I’d be moving to Fort Bragg and was interested in working as an investment advisor in that branch.

Jim Schuster, the district manager, said that he’d recently hired someone to cover the Mendocino coastal branches. I sent him my resume.

Two months later, Jim called and said the employee had not worked out. After a brief interview, he hired me to cover the three coastal branches: Fort Bragg, Mendocino and Point Arena.

In the meantime, Gary was able to transform his job as a contract and grant writer with Cal State Fresno into one he could perform remotely with brief monthly commutes to Fresno.

We moved to Fort Bragg on June 13, 1992.

As newcomers, the two most common questions we received were, “How long have you lived here?” and “What part of town do you live in?”

About a year into my job, an elderly gentleman entered the branch, leaned on his cane and shouted, “Where’s the gal who lives next door to the mortuary?”

I raised my hand.

He walked to my desk, sat down and told me the history of our home.

The original builders were Robert Bruce Markle and his wife Minnie, whose mother Sarah Foster was a survivor of the Donner Party. The entire family was buried in a plot at Rose Memorial Park, a cemetery about three blocks from our home.

Foster GraveAfter work that evening, Gary, the kids and I searched for the headstone that the Native Sons of the Golden West had erected in honor of Sarah Foster. When we found it, we got out of the car and introduced ourselves to the family who had built our house. We noticed that a daughter Margarite had died at the age of five.

As a mother, I could imagine Minnie’s heartache over losing her only daughter, her youngest child and precious baby. We picked wildflowers and laid them next to Margarite’s headstone. (I later learned she fell off a swing in the yard and suffered a fatal concussion.)

A year or so later, I was home alone, relaxing in bed. Harrison and Laine had spent the night at the house of some friends and Gary had gotten up early to go fishing. My eyes were closed, the dog asleep next to the bed, when I heard a high-pitched voice from the hallway say, “Mommy?”

“What?” I said.

The dog looked toward the hallway and thumped his tail.

I remembered I was alone in the house.

“It’s okay, Margarite,” I said. “We promise to stay and take care of you.”

And stay we have—for 21 years. When our kids became teenagers, Gary and I spoke of moving to a smaller house after they left. They eventually went onto college and adult lives in San Francisco and Oakland. As we enter into year seven of our empty nest, we can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Over a hundred years ago, Robert Bruce and Minnie Markle built this house for their family—and ultimately for us. Their spirits knew something we did not—that no matter what tribulations came our way, everything would be okay. And believe me, we have had our share of troubles—Gary’s eye condition deteriorated to the point where he was forced into early retirement, which forced me to become the breadwinner; repairs to the property always cost far more than we imagine; and other issues have caused sleepless nights.

I have not heard from Margarite since that morning years ago, but often feel the warmth of the spirits that enticed us to make this our family home. I am grateful they called to us on that sidewalk so many years ago.

Kate loves the quirky aspects of living on the Mendocino Coast so much that she writes a humor blog about it. Check it out at:  www.ithappenedatpurity.com. Her posts are funny and poignant, so go ahead and subscribe. While you’re at it, like her page on Facebook. Thanks for being a guest, Kate!