Monday 30 June 2014

Mighty Me Training Camp - Brian Donovan

Mighty Me Training Camp
Brian Donovan

Recently Tony Horton gave a shout out to this video on facebook and his blog. I already had Tony Horton's - Tony and the Kid's, and Shaunt T's Fit Kids but wanted to give this as a try for my kids and to add some variety. It is an awesome little 36 minute video. My kids love it. I currently have three children - ages 8, 6, and 3 and they all love this workout. Last week my oldest daughter had a friend over after school and asked if they could do go "Mighty Me" and she friend loved it also. All three of my children have asked since we first did this at different times for us to do it again. The video was originally created and aired through Discovery Education and was one of their top videos for 5 year. It is now available direct and for a very reasonable rate.

Brian and Mighty Me take us through a romping workout that will engage, the mind, the body and instill confidence and values. The children will do a wide range of stretches, and activities. They will shout at the TV, laugh and overall have a great time. I even wore my heart rate monitor and burned 100 calories doing it with the kids. Watching Brian was like a cross between the Great American Hero and Tony Horton. It is engaging for the children and fun for adults. This video has been kids tested and kid approved. And I hope that Brian will release more down the road!

Brian in his own words:

Dear Family and Friends,

Finally, my children's show MIGHTY ME is available on DVD!!! I am really excited about my grassroots endeavor to get Mighty Me out in the world and I am asking for your support. Currently, MM is available through Discovery Education at a whopping institutional price of $89, BUT I would like to make
it available to my family and friends via my website for $14.95 plus tax and shipping (a limited supply of T-shirts are available too)! Please allow up to 2 weeks for delivery.

To buy the DVD or to learn more, please visit my safe & secure site and be sure to check out the trailer, play the games and get your free Mighty Me certificate! Long story short, I am distributing MIGHTY ME myself, initially with family and friends to try and create a "movement" if you will. Please consider getting some (the holidays are coming) for YOUR family and friends (and schools: I would be more than happy to ship in mass and discuss subsidized donations especially to economically
struggling areas).

I believe our children need MIGHTY ME now more than ever.
My best to you all and THANK YOU,

Brian Donovan (and Mighty Me!)

So what have you got to lose give it a try and become the best you, you can be, become a Mighty Me!

Thursday 26 June 2014

Turmeric Infused Soup

Turmeric Infused Soup
or Yum Yum Soup

This soup is a new favorite, I have made three variations of a recipe I found and this is the best!

  • 2 Cup Split yellow mung dal
  • 6 Cups water
  • 2 tsp. Turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/3 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste (preferably rock/Himalayan pink salt)
  • 1 large Onion
  • 3 slices bacon


In a large pan, fry the bacon until crispy, remove the bacon and sauté the onions in the bacon grease.  Add the following to the onions the mung dal, water, and spices and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the dal is soft. In batches puree the mixture and return to pot. Add the chopped the spinach coarsely (you want large pieces) then mix with dal, just until it’s incorporated. Season with salt and pepper before serving and quuueze a 1/4 fresh lime over each bowl! And if you want garnish with the crumbled bacon.


For the coriander I ground it as I use it, just do it in your blender.
If your blender is plastic the turmeric will stain it yellow while blending.
For variations try orange lentils, or yellow split peas or a mix of the three.

Here is the original version of the soup I started from The Soup that Changes Everything.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Andrew M Seddon - Author Profile and Interview

Andrew M Seddon - Doctor by day author and hierographier by night. Born in England and raised in the United States. He writes the lives of the saints as if he was a desert father himself. He is a wordsmith! He has been writing part time since 1990, recently he took some time out from his busy schedule to both writing and healing to answer a few questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and how did you pursue that goal?

I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember - even in grade school, although my handwriting was dreadful. In college I did well on essay questions.
I began writing more seriously in 1990 when I moved to Montana and found that I had free time in which to pursue it. I began with non-fiction articles, but quickly moved into short fiction and novels. I was fortunate to achieve some early publications, which was a good confidence builder. I read many books on writing from Writer's Digest. I think that being a voracious reader from childhood gave me the desire to someday be able to write as well.

2. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My parents were my early supporters. Otherwise, I suppose the supporters were the editors who accepted my early efforts - that gave me incentive to continue, and helped me to take the many inevitable rejections in stride. Now, my wife Olivia is my supporter in chief. I also have some writer friends who provide valuable support and critiques.

3. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

Don't expect too much. Especially not too soon. It's fine to have great dreams, but don't be disappointed if they don't materialize the way you think they should. And be patient. Sometimes it's best if things don't get published, because you may look back later and see how flawed they were… and then you have the chance to make them better!

4. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

If I wrote for a living I'd have starved long ago. My day job is as a part-time urgent care physician. I write because it's a way in which I can share the Faith while also having a creative outlet.

5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

I haven't consciously patterned myself after anyone. Developing a "voice" is something that happens gradually over time. I want to sound like "me" and not anyone else.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from  idea to publishing?

Once I have an idea for a non-fiction article I can usually write it fairly quickly once the basic research is done. Fiction typically takes considerably longer. I have to know the beginning and the end of a story before I begin - the middle is worked out as I go along. Typically when I sit down to write I will go over the parts already written and revise and add to them before commencing a new section. I like to write stories straight through, but occasionally if I have specific scenes clearly in mind will write piecemeal, and then go back and write the continuity.

Once a story is done, I let it sit for a while, and then go back and reread it with fresh eyes. After any revisions there, I let my wife read it. After any further changes I send it to a pair of other authors for their input and critique. Only after that do I submit it somewhere. If it is rejected, then it sits again awaiting further revision before being sent out again, unless I think the story is perfectly good as is.

My novel Imperial Legions was written rapidly over a period of three months, and picked up fairly quickly by Broadman & Holman. In contrast, a science-fiction novel, Wreaths of Empire, was written in 1994 over a year's time, rewritten about seven times over the years, most recently this year, and was accepted for publication in 2015 by Pro Se Press. Another one, Time's Ring, began life as a series of short stories which were later combined into novel format. It was accepted by Splashdown Press this year.

If I become stuck on a story, then I lay it aside and either work on something else or go for a run with my German Shepherd, Rex, or allow the subconscious to work overnight.

7. Does your writing process differ greatly when writing fiction compared to writing about the lives of saints?

When writing fiction I'm free to create characters and situations as I wish. For the lives of the saints I tried to incorporate such historical detail as we know, and endeavored to envision their personalities from what is recorded about them. I didn't wish to contradict the historical record on one hand, but given that much of what is recorded is legendary, I did have some freedom to exercise the imagination.

8. Both Saints Alive Volume I - Saints of Empire and Saints Alive Volume II - Celtic Paths are incredible reads, transporting the reader and challenging readers to greater faith and action. Do you have further books planned in this series?

Next up, I suppose, would be Anglo-Saxon and Norse saints. I'm not as familiar with that period, so would need more research, which might take a while. It depends on what interesting information about them I can find to serve as basis for stories. Living in the West, I'm also interested in the missionaries who labored here in the 18th and 19th centuries. I would like to write a series about them, as well.

9. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I have several projects in progress. Time's Ring and Wreaths of Empire should be published soon. I have a series of ghost stories in progress, inspired by those of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson. Another series is about the adventures of a space-traveling veterinarian and his telepathic German Shepherd. Another is about a British World War One veteran whose travels between the wars land him in supernatural situations. I'm revising another one of my old SF novels and hoping to co-edit an anthology of Catholic SF. I have notes for a SF-lost race novel that I'd like to begin sometime.

10. What of your books is your favorite and why?

My favorite composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, despite living to age 86 and writing 9 symphonies, was almost most fond of his youthful Second, the London. Similarly, I have always had a soft spot for Wreaths of Empire. I had fun writing it, I enjoyed the interaction between the male and female protagonists, and to me it has a light, fresh, youthful feel.

11. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

My favorite author was H. Rider Haggard, the originator of the 'lost race' novel, with King Solomon's Mines, She, and other tales of adventure. I have always loved Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as others who followed in his footsteps such as R. A Freeman (Dr. Thorndyke) and Sax Rohmer (Fu Manchu). C.S. Forester's Hornblower books were favorites. In the science fiction realm I liked Andre Norton, Hal Clement, and of course other giants like Asimov, Clarke, etc. Edgar Rice Burrough's tales of adventure were also devoured.

12. What fiction books or authors do you enjoy or recommend?

I don't read as much fiction as non-fiction, however I enjoy Tony Hillerman's Navajo novels, Guy Boothby's Dr. Nikola series, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson's books, Ellis Peters' Cadfael series, Donald Thomas' Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and the short stories of Colleen Drippe.

13. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?

Contemporary religious authors would include Pope Benedict XVI, Raniera Cantalamessa, Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, George Weigel, Diane Moczar.

14. Some of your earlier books are currently out of print, have you thought of rereleasing them as ebooks?

Yes, I have thought about having my books available as e-books, I just have to find the time and the know-how to do it.
15. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

I have never heard of torrents - not a clue as to what they are. Although I prefer print books, e-books are here to stay - particularly since the cost is less. I think they should have the same protection as  regular books and other media like CDs, DVDs.

16. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?


17. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

A tough question - I can only answer out of books that I have read. Besides the Bible, these come to mind:
King Solomon's Mines (for a lost race adventure).
Beethoven's Hair (for the courage of the Danes protecting their Jewish citizens and resisting the Nazis).
Faith of Our Fathers (Cardinal Gibbons)
Forty Years for Labrador (Dr. Wilfred Grenfell was my hero).
Triumph (Crocker's history of the Catholic Church)
Quo Vadis (Sienkiewicz)
Unbroken (Hillenbrand)
Life of Fr. DeSmet
Catechism of the Catholic Church.
My Imitation of Christ (a Kempis)

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Of course a person should be able to think, but one has to have knowledge and facts upon which to base thoughts, and also be able to use reason and logic. Thought does not arise in a vacuum. One quotation I like is from Cicero: "To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be forever a child."
I think our culture is becoming both ignorant and unable to engage in rational discourse. Emotions, instincts, and desires rule. 

The problem begins earlier than university. I can generally tell when a high school student comes to the office if they are being home schooled or attend the Catholic high school versus attending one of the public high schools. They are much more articulate, open, and conversant. Our public schools are not teaching students how to think or giving them the basic tools.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Another tough one.
Complete Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
Complete Dr. Nikola (Boothby)
Forty Years for Labrador (Grenfell)
My Imitation of Christ (a Kempis)
The Kif Trilogy (Cherryh) (I remember thinking these were beautifully written).
King Solomon's Mines (Haggard)
She (Haggard)
Endurance (Lansing; about the Shackleton expedition)
First Lady of the Seeing Eye (Morris)(I love books about heroic German Shepherds).

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

Be patient and keep at it. Success doesn't come quickly at may not come at all. Don't strive for success - rather, write for the Lord and leave the results to Him. Strive to be the best - don't settle for slipshod work, and always try to improve. Listen to advice from others and learn the craft. Don't try to shoehorn art into faith and vice versa, but let each inform the other. Tell a story but don't preach. Let the message come naturally. Show, don't tell.

Thank you Andrew and I am looking forward to your old books showing up in eBook format and new one's coming along.

Books by Andrew M. Seddon:
Walking with the Celtic Saints (with Neil & Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones)
Dr. Andrew's Curious and Quirky Compendium

Historical Fiction:
Imperial Legions

Saints Alive Series:

Saints Alive Second Editions:

Stories Of The Supernatural:
What Darkness Remains
In Death Survive
Science Fiction:
Red Planet Rising
Iron Scepter
The DeathCats of Asa’ican and Other Tales of a Space-Vet
Wreaths of Empire

German Shepherd Wanderings Series:
Bonds of Affection
Ranger's First Call

Contributed to:
Sky Songs
Sky Songs II
Fungi #20
Unintended Consequences
Silent Screams: An Anthology of Socially Conscious Dark Fiction
Eldritch Embraces: Putting the Love Back in Lovecraft
Tails from the Front Lines
Legends of Sleepy Hallow
Wolf Wanderings

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Decision Point - An Overview

Every now and again you come across something so awesome you just can't stop talking about it. The Decision Point bible study is just such a thing. A friend is working through this study and brought it to my attention, I am very thankful for coming across his posting about it. Now this is not a formal review this is an extended shout out, an overview of the program. It is from The Dynamic Catholic Website and it is amazing. It is also offered completely for free, both the workbook and the leaders guide. You can do the entire program online or can pay for shipping and get it delivered directly to you. It also has an awesome iOS and Android app that has the entire program.

Decision Point Program:
12 Lessons
Leaders Guide
Student Workbook
72 Short video's 6 per lesson

12 Lessons:
Life is Choices
What's Holding You Back?
The Jesus Question
The Bible
The Eucharist
Holy Spirit
The Church
Made for Mission
Holiness is Possible

Each lesson is broken into 6 videos, an intro, 4 segments and a final decision point. The videos are incredible quality and Matthew Kelly is a powerful speaker. I have only done the first two but they have blown me away completely. This study was created as a confirmation class but to be honest it will be great for any Catholic and from what I have seen so far any Christian! I will post a complete review after finishing but this was so great I had to start sharing now.Go watch the into video and I know you will be hooked.

Books by Matthew Kelly:
I Know Jesus
The Long View
Decision Point: The Workbook
Decision Point: The Leader Guide
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
The One Thing
Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
Why Am I Here?
Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness
Perfectly Yourself Discovering God's Dream For You
Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children
The Dream Manager
The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved
The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose
Building Better Families - 5 Practical Ways to Build Family Spirituality
The Book of Courage
The Shepherd: A Modern Parable about Our Search for Happiness
Mustard Is Persecution, Matthew Kelly Foundation
A Call to Joy - Living in the Presence of God
The Rhythm of Life: An Antidote For Our Busy Age
Words from God
Resisting Happiness
The Narrow Path
Our Father
The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity
Why I Love Being Catholic
Good Night, Jesus
In a world where you can be anything ...

Beautiful ... Series:

Rediscover Books by Matthew Kelly:
Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose
Rediscover Advent
Rediscover Lent
Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation
Rediscover the Rosary: The Modern Power of an Ancient Prayer
Rediscover the Saints

Audio by Matthew Kelly from Lighthouse Media:
Becoming The Best Version Of Yourself
The Best Way To Live
Don't Just Try, Train
Faith At Work & The Holy Moment
The Four Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic - Excerpt
The Jesus Question
My Spiritual Journey
Our Lives Change When Our Habits Change
Raising Amazing Children
The Seven Levels Of Intimacy
The Seven Pillars Of Catholic Spirituality

Thursday 12 June 2014

Hacker - Ted Dekker

Outlaw Chronicles Book 3
Ted Dekker
Worthy Publishing
ISBN 9781617952753

From the cover to the description of the book I was hooked! The Back cover is: "My name is Nyah and I'm a hacker. I know things most people would never believe. Things that shouldn't exist, but do.

Seventeen year old Nyah Parks is a genius hacker whose world is unraveling. Deeply scarred from a horrific accident that killed her father and brother, and left her mother with irreparable brain damage, Nyah is barely holding the last shreds of her life together.Now, her mother's health is deteriorating quickly and Nyah faces the grim prospect of losing her, too. One last ditch hope exists-an experimental brain surgery that could buy her mother more time. But Nyah must scrape together enough money to pay for it before it's too late.

Desperate and with no other choice, Nyah turns her programming skills to cracking the firewalls of the world's largest corporations. She exposes their weaknesses, and then offers her services to secure their systems from hackers.

But when the most dangerous job of her life backfires and forces her to go on the run, she encounters an impossible reality that shouldn't exist, but does.

A hack unlike any other. A hack that will take her beyond the firewall of the human brain itself. A hack, which may be the only way to save her mother now.

What if there was a way to tap into the unseen reality that surrounds us all? Would you hack in? How far would you go to find the answers to your deepest questions? The answer lies deep beyond the firewall.

Tap in, strap in, and experience the mind-twisting ride with Nyah. What you find waiting on the other side of the firewall might forever change the way you see yourself and the world you live in.

But sometimes things do not go as we expect. I loved the book until the very last chapter. The pace was amazing, great action, excellent story, well written characters. But then at the last chapter, everything get's tied up too nicely and cleanly. Too perfectly it felt like a cheap ending where the author did not know where to go and just tied off all the loose ends as quickly as possible. It really felt like it did not fit with the rest of the book. And that left me very disappointed with it.

In the Afterward it walks about the loose series: "The Outlaw Chronicles consist of Eyes Wide Open, Water Walker, and Hacker. Although related through one common character, Stephen, they can be read in any order. Written in the vein of Ted's thrillers like Thr3e and Blink, these are transformational stories that take the reader on an intense ride full of twists that unravel the deep mystery or reality in ways rarely seen.

To discover the profound origin story of how Stephen came to live out of the law of darkness, read Ted's novel by the same name: Outlaw.

Read The Outlaw Chronicles if you dare-you will surely never see the world in quite the same way again.

And maybe they can be read in any order but reading this one first I am not sure I would risk the others. Overall I was disappointed, no matter how good the story was until that last chapter. This likely would not bother most readers but it bothered me a lot. And I just can't get around it.

Books by Ted Dekker:
The Outlaw Series

Eyes Wide Open (2013 -Released originally in 4 installments - Identity, Mirrors, Unseen and Seer)
Water Walker (2014)
Hacker (2014)

Outlaw (2013)

Books of History Chronicles
The Circle Series

Black: The Birth of Evil (2004)
Red: The Heroic Rescue (2004)
White: The Great Pursuit (2004)
Green: The Beginning and the End (2009)
The Circle (2010)

The Paradise Series
Showdown (2006)
Saint (2006)
Sinner (2008)

The Lost Books Series
Chosen (2007)
Infidel (2007)
Renegade (2008)
Chaos (2008)
Lunatic (with Kaci Hill, 2009)
Elyon (with Kaci Hill, 2009)

Other books
House (with Frank Peretti, 2006)
Skin (2007)
Immanuel's Veins (2010)
The Blood Book (2011)
Genesis: The Birth of an Idea (2011)
Outlaw (2013)

The Books of Mortals
Forbidden (with Tosca Lee, 2011)
Mortal (with Tosca Lee, 2012)
Sovereign (with Tosca Lee, 2013)

Blink (2003, as Blink of an Eye 2007)
Thr3e (2003)
Obsessed (2005)
Adam (2008)
Kiss (with Erin Healy, 2009)
BoneMan's Daughters (2009)
Burn (with Erin Healy, 2010)
The Bride Collector (2010)
The Priest's Graveyard (2011)
The Sanctuary (2012)

The Caleb Series
Blessed Child (with Bill Bright, 2001)
A Man Called Blessed (with Bill Bright, 2002)

The Martyr's Song Series
Heaven's Wager (2000)
When Heaven Weeps (2001)
Thunder of Heaven (2002)
The Martyr's Song (2005)

Other titles
The Promise (2005)
The Drummer Boy (2006)
To Kill with Reason (2010)
A.D. 30 (2014)

The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth (2005)
Tea with Hezbollah (with Carl Medearis, 2010)

Graphic novels
Black (2007)
Red (2007)
White (2007)
Chosen (2008)
Infidel (2008)
Green (2009)
Renegade (2009)
Chaos (2009)
Lunatic (2009)
Elyon (2009)

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Joelle Charbonneau - Author Profile and Interview

Joelle Charbonneau is the author of three very different series. One focusing around roller skating mysteries, one glee club mysteries and the third The incredible Testing trilogy. She has been in opera and musical theatre. She teaches voice privately. She is a talented author and busy touring promoting The Testing series. She recently took some time from her busy schedule and answered 20 questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More. But she sort of fell into writing. Read the interview below to find out more. So here in her own words Joelle Charbonneau:

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer and how did you pursue that goal?

Funny, but I didn't ever know I wanted to be a writer.  Had I thought about it as a career path I probably would never have sat down to write that first manuscript.  I was 29 and doing dinner theater at Drury Lane OakBrook here in the suburbs of Chicago when I first had an idea for a book and wondered if I could actually write a story from beginning to end.  As a reader, the idea was exciting.  As a girl who had never had to take an English class in college (yay honors program), it was an intimidating prospect.  But I wanted to see if I could, so I sat down and started writing and I got to The End.  After writing that book, I wanted to see if could write a book someone might want to read.  The challenge more than the career was what motivated me to try.  Turns out, I really liked it and have been doing it ever since.

2. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

Well, my family has always been my biggest supporter.  My husband seemed to think it was only natural that someone who read so much (and I'm talking about 200 books a year) would turn to writing.  He's a musician, so I guess he embraces creative hobbies a little more easily than others.  He also read all of the early books that were bad.  BAD I tell you.

My mother was another huge supporter.  She has supported me in every unstable career choice I've made be it theater, music or writing and she, too, has read everything I've ever written.

As for writers, I'm certain I wouldn't be the writer I am today if it wasn't for the support of the amazingly talented and incredibly kind Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I met her at a local literary festival and she took me under her wing.  It is because of her that I joined a local writers group.  She also was good at nudging me at just the right times to ask if I was submitting or seeing where I was at in my career.  She is still the author I go to for advice whenever I have a question.  Susan is awesome.  If you haven't read her books- go do it.  Now.  I'll wait for you to return!

3. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

This sounds really jaded, but in regards to publishing I really wish that someone had told me what realistic sales expectations are.  You always here about the books that make it big.  People love quoting those numbers, but no one ever talks about the smaller books (of which there are way more) and what a publisher hopes a book will sell.  I also wish I understood that without huge marketing help from your publisher there is only so much you personally can do without investing large amounts of money.  Since you can't do everything, you have to pick the right things that make sense for your book.  Learning how to identify the right marketing goals is something I've learned along the way, but wow I wished I'd understood that when I started.  I don't regret anything, but I would have gotten more sleep had I had a better idea of what I was doing.
4. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I'd probably still be going to auditions and singing and dancing on stage.  I'd also be teaching voice lessons, which I still do.  However, now that I'm writing more, I have less time for teaching, which is sad.  Teaching is still one of the best parts of my life.

5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

Oh - goodness.  I don't know about who influenced me in format.  I guess when I first started writing I tried writing like Jodi Picoult because I had just read several of her books and I was amazed at the emotional pull of her work.  I think I then tried to write a thriller like David Baldacci because I was reading a lot of his work then.  And I know that much of how I think of Dystopian books or Horrific thrillers has been shaped by the incomparable Stephen King.  I started reading Stephen King when I was 10.  His work is disturbing in the best possible way.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from  idea to publishing?

Well, my process isn't great, but it's mine.  Typically, I come up with a what if idea that really intrigues me.  Kind of like "what if the college admittance process and the standardized tests to get into college were way more stressful than they are now."  Once I have that, I start to look for a time or place for the story question to make sense and have the highest stakes.  Then I need a main character.  I figure out who the main character is, where they live and what their main motivation is.  I also typically know kind of how I want the first chapter to end.  Then I write.

Nope…no outline.  No other idea of where the story is going to go.  I write like I read…to find out what happens next.  Sometimes I have an idea of where the story is going.  Most of the time I'm totally wrong and the story surprises me.

Because I don't outline, I find that I have to write every day.  My goal is at least 1000 words a day.  Most days I hit or exceed that, but there are days where I really struggle with what happens next and I only get about 500 words or so written.  While I hate those days, I know that they are important because I have moved the story forward and soon I will end up writing 2500 words because I finally know what happens next.

Once the entire draft is written, I go back and edit.  Often near the end of the draft I'll make notes to myself of things I know I need to go back and change or fill out or tie up.  During the revisions, I am pretty ruthless about cutting words and hacking things that don't work.  When that process is done, my agent gets the book.  She reads everything I write whether it is under contract or not.  She also is my first editor.  She does a content and line edit with me.  Sometimes I get lots of notes.  Other times I'm astonished when I only get a few.  But she helps me tighten the book before sending it off to my editor who then does at least another 2 rounds of revisions on the manuscript with me.

When we have decided the book is as strong as it is going to get (for now), my editor sends it off for copyediting.  That's always fun.  I learn I don't know how to punctuate anything during that process.  Then the book heads off to typesetting and once again we read the book and make any cuts or changes we think need to be made.  After that, a proofreader goes through it to make sure I didn't add typos along the way.  Hooray.  During the editorial and production part of the process there are also covers chosen (of which I have almost no say, which is wonderful because I can't draw a stick figure very well), back jacket copy written and cover quotes added which have been graciously given by some incredible early readers or selected from reviews of previous titles.

That process ends about 9 months before the book comes out.  Sometimes the cover still gets tweaked, but mostly the book is done.  Then you have nothing to do but wait until readers get their hands on the book and let you know what they think.

7. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

As an actress, I always looked at the characters as three dimensional, but only alive when they walk the stage.  I feel the same way about my characters when I write.  They walk around in my brain when I'm writing the book and often I'm busy thinking about them when I'm cleaning or making dinner because I am trying to figure out what happens next, but once the story is over the characters take their bow and a new story starts.

8. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, like Cia Vale, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

I think all writers end up pulling in pieces of people they know and using them in stories.  It's inevitable that you use characteristics that you have seen to round out characters and make them feel real.  However, I will say that I have never tried to write a character based on someone I've met or know well.  I have, however, borrowed names from friends or family and I do ask first!

9. Your books are also marketed mainly to teen and youth and yet I have read them and recommended them too many adult friends who loved them. You also appear to have a very large adult audience. Do you see yourself writing a book aimed at the general fiction audience?

Marketing books is a tricky thing. They have to pick a category to put your book in and marketing to that segment.  But I do think that I write for a more general fiction audience.  I feel like the stories are adult stories that happen to have teens at the heart of them.  I admit that being marketing as a YA author has been amazing.  Getting emails from teens that tell me they never liked reading until they picked up The Testing makes me feel like I've touch at least a small piece of the world in a wonderful way.  But while I love writing in the YA segment, I have a feeling I'll find myself crossing back over to the General Fiction or adult side again.  Hopefully, readers will follow me wherever I go.

10. With your Testing series, there will always be comparisons to The Hunger Games. Had you started your series before the Hunger Games grew in popularity?

I was aware of The Hunger Games when I first started writing The Testing, but only because of seeing booksellers discussing it online.  I wasn't aware of how hugely popular it was until I was in the middle of writing it and was seeing all sorts of posts about THE NEXT HUNGER GAMESLIKE SERIES that was about to hit shelves, which was Divergent.  I didn't read Divergent or Insurgent until after I finished writing Independent Study, mostly because I wasn't understanding how big that series was yet, either.  Apparently, I'm slow on the uptake.

11. Now that rights have been acquired by Paramount for the Testing do you think the comparisons to Hunger Games will only grow?

If the movie moves from Development to Production, I'm certain comparisons will grow.  It is the nature of the business to say "this is like that so if you like this you'll like that".  Cover quotes do that all the time and movies take the comparison idea to a whole new level. I can't complain. The Hunger Games is beloved by readers.  Being compared to something that inspires that kind of passion is an honor.

12. Since you love music and teaching singing, what are some of your favorite songs to belt out?

Anything.  Honest.  But my favorites often come from Les Miserable, The Secret Garden or anything Stephen Sondheim has written.

13. If you were to pick 10 books an aspiring author should read what would your list be?

Oh no!  This is so hard.  It depends on the genre they are writing in.  I know that lots of writers love how-to writing books.  I hate admitting that I've never read a single one of them.  Although, I know that Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (hi Don!) and On Writing by Stephen King are hugely influential and I do plan on some day reading because so many writers I know love them.  Mostly, I would say that if you are an aspiring author, read in your genre.  Find the books that resonate with you and then go back and reread them to find out why the books worked for you.  Look at the chapter hooks.  Pay attention to the dialogue and the amount of white space that is on the page.  The books that speak to you as a reader will be the type of books you'll gravitate to writing as an author.  Learn what makes those books work and then apply that to you own writing.  I love reading mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and fantasy.  That wasn't what I started writing, but it turns out that it is what I was meant to write.

14. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

This is easy!  My favorite books as a very young reader were The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, all of the Boxcar Children books as well as the Alfred Hitchcock Three Detective Series.  Around 10, I found Stephen King.  I loved reading Firestarter and Christine, but it was when I read The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub, I knew I was hooked for life.

15. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

I really love the J.D. Robb In Death series.  The character development that occurs over the series for both the main characters and the supporting players is really fun to follow.  I also adore Lois Lowry and her Giver Quartet, all things Harlan Coben (especially his Myron Bolitar) and I go back and reread David Eddings Begariad and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series at least once a year.

16. All of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

You know - ebooks have created a unique marketplace for electronic pirates.  For some reason, when something isn't tangible (like a physical book) people feel like the sharing and essentially stealing of it isn't real.  Whenever a book is found on one of those sites, I have a mixed reaction - yay they think I'm important enough to steal and HEY! Why do they think it is okay to steal.

However, I will say that this kind of thing isn't occurred before ebooks.  The sale of used physical books, for authors, really is the same thing.  I love the sale of used books because often it is libraries using those sales to make money for their programming or development and used book sales always draw new readers to an author.  But technically, while money changes hands, the author never sees any of it.  So…I guess this is something that happens no matter what format a book is sold or distributed in.

17. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

I hate admitting that I don't monitor.  I guess if I had Google alerts on, I'd probably get notification about these sites, but I have turned those off for my own sanity.  So I am grateful when friends notice these things for me and that I have a publisher who is ready, willing and able to get the illegal versions taken down.

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why

Ha!  This feels like a question that is going to get me into trouble.  I think that higher education needs to be about encouraging students to learn how to question.  So much of our education system is about getting the right answer - but real life situations are rarely black and white and require understanding that there is more than one answer to a lot of problems.  You have to question each answer and determine which one is the best for you.  It would be nice if higher education and really education in general went back to the idea that questioning and learning how to problem solve should be at the forefront of our educational goals.  Just getting the right answer doesn't always mean you understand why it is right.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

AH!  Can it be 14?  Then I'd pick The Wheel of Time series.  Okay, no cheating.  10 books
The Stand by Stephen King (to prove to me that anything can be worse)
A survival guide - because - duh
Some sort of food, wilderness cooking thing because I like food and I want to live.
Absolute Power by David Baldacci - an all time favorite thriller
The Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel - which I think is 6 books now and they are all big books.  At least then I'll have an entire series to read from beginning to end and all the books have plant, survival tips, which will help me figure out what I can eat and how to survive.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

There are all sorts of methods to measuring success.  The most important is the passion you have for your work and the satisfaction you get in doing it.  Never look at others who are in your field and think you should be doing better than you are.  Your journey is your own.  Enjoy it.

Joelle thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. I look forward to what you bring us next.

Books by Joelle Charbonneau:
Time Bomb

Dividing Eden:
0.5 Into the Garden
1.0 Dividing Eden
2.0 Eden Conquered 
2.5 Forbidden Fruit 

The Testing:
The Testing Guide - Short Story Prequel
The Testing - The Testing Book #1
Independent Study - The Testing Book #2
Graduation Day - The Testing Book #3

The Skating Series:
Skating on the Edge
Skating Over the Line
Skating Around the Law
Skating Under the Wire

The Glee Club Series:
Murder for Choir
End Me A Tenor
A Chorus Lineup

Contributed to:
Among The Shadows: 13 Stories of Darkness & Light
Terminal Damage: A Do Some Damage Collection
Collateral Damage: A Do Some Damage Collection
Crime Factory Issue 7

Thursday 5 June 2014

Reconciliation - Steve Stanton - Bloodlight Chronicles Book 1

Bloodlight Chronicles Book 1
Steve Stanton
ECW Press
ISBN 9781550229547

This cyber punk story set in a very different future offers much for a first novel by an author and first book in the Bloodlight Chronicles trilogy. It took a while to get into the story but once I did I was hooked and am really looking forward to the other volumes in the series. Eternal's are people who appears almost vampire like, their blood rejuvenates them, they will live longer, be healthier. But in order to become eternal you must receive the alien virus, The internet can be plugged right into with wet ware. So we have Eternals, humans, virtual space, space travel and more all in a tightly written story packed with action.

Cast of Characters:
Zakariah Davis - Eternal, v-Space guru
Mia Davis - Eternal, wife of Zak, warrior
Rix David - human, son of Zak and Mia,
Jimmy - Zak's longtime friend and associate
Niko Davis - clone of namesake, sister to Zac
Phillip Davis - Zak's estranged father, power broker
Helena Sharp - rich, Director of the Eternal Research Institute
Dr. Silus Mundazo - Head researcher at the Eternal Research Institute
Colin7 - Clone of first human to have his intellect loaded into the machine
Colin McPherson - scientist, creator of wormhole technology, see above

This story revolves around Zakariah, and his story revolves around getting an activated sample of the virus for his son Rix. There is almost no length he will not go to; to protect his son in this way. Sometimes life get's far more complicated than we ever expect or plan and that is what has happened to Zak yet again. And as we will find out a number of people have been pulling strings to get Zak to help them with their plans and use the bait of the sample for his son. Zak is now partnered with Helena Sharp and the ERI on a trip across the galaxy.

The book is well written, especially for a first novel. It is packed with action both in the physical and the virtual world. There is a little romance, and some spiritual overtures. The book is almost a mash up between Alfred Bester and Robert B. Parker. Is it a William Gibson, no, but it is close and fans of that style will definitely enjoy the read. And with two follow up book there story has numerous places it can go. While writing this review I found numerous negative reviews of the book. I was very surprised, what also surprised me was that rates for each book in the series goes up. So overall a great beginning give it a try.

Books by Steve Stanton:
Reconciliation (2010)
Retribution (2011)
Redemption (2012)

Books edited by Steve Stanton:
Sky Songs: Stories of Spirituality and Speculative Science (2002)
Sky Songs II: Spiritual SF (2005)

Monday 2 June 2014

Saints Alive - Celtic Paths - Andrew M Seddon - News Stories of Old Saints Volume II

Saints Alive - Celtic Paths
News Stories of Old Saints Volume II
Andrew M. Seddon
Bezalel Books
ISBN 9781936453283

I was asked to write a few words about this book. I received it months before it was published and just a straight typeset. I was hooked from the first story and immediately purchased Volume I Saints of Empire and have devoured both book three times in as many months. It is an excellent read and I really hope there will be more books in the series.

As iconography is to images so hierography is to stories of the saints. Seddon has a mystical way with words; he brings you into the stories of the saints and paints such a powerful picture with his words that you find yourself there. This book was an incredible read that I know I will read again often and share with friends and family. So journey back to the 5th and 6th Century for stories of saints both famous and lesser known and maybe the stories will impact your life and your path. The chapters, the twelve stories in this volume are:

1 Sleeping Dragons (Sts Adamnan and Columba) c.690
2 The Sun on the Liffey (St. Brigid) c.500
3 Guardians (St. Senan) c.540
4 Autumn Wolves (St. Ailbe) c.500
5 Colman and the Disappearing Dinner (St. Colman) c.616
6 The Hermit King (St. Tewdrig) c.610
7 Ordeal of the Dog (St. Ruan) c.540
8 Gold of Mercury (St. Leonore) c.540
9 The Mice of Y Gaer (St. Cadoc) c.526
10 A Matter of Thrones (St. Monynna) 6th Century
11 Digits (St. Cainnech) mid 500's
12 Far Voyager (St. Brendan) early 500's

Stories built on legends but told to teach lessons. These stories will evoke powerful images and they will surprise, encourage, enlighten and challenge a reader open to the examples of the saints of old. Seddon masterfully tells these 12 stories. C.S. Lewis stated in Letters to Malcolm  "Though we cannot experience our life as an endless present, we are eternal in God's eyes; that is, in our deepest reality." These stories reflect that eternal to us in new and exciting ways.

I have 4 measures for what I consider outstanding books. First do I want to share it with my children as they grow? Second will I read it again? Third do I wish for e more books in the series? And finally I cannot stop talking about it. This book meets all three and I wish there was a way to give it more than 5 stars. I would love to see what Seddon would do with saints of other ages, Damien the Leper, Edith Stein, Pope John XXIII and more, if we are lucky maybe he will!

Books by Andrew M. Seddon:
Walking with the Celtic Saints (with Neil & Gerlinde Kennedy-Jones)
Dr. Andrew's Curious and Quirky Compendium

Historical Fiction:
Imperial Legions

Saints Alive Series:

Saints Alive Second Editions:

Stories Of The Supernatural:
What Darkness Remains
In Death Survive
Science Fiction:
Red Planet Rising
Iron Scepter
The DeathCats of Asa’ican and Other Tales of a Space-Vet
Wreaths of Empire

German Shepherd Wanderings Series:
Bonds of Affection
Ranger's First Call

Contributed to:
Sky Songs
Sky Songs II
Fungi #20
Unintended Consequences
Silent Screams: An Anthology of Socially Conscious Dark Fiction
Eldritch Embraces: Putting the Love Back in Lovecraft
Tails from the Front Lines
Legends of Sleepy Hallow
Wolf Wanderings