Tran’zr series…coming soon

I’m currently working on the first book in a paranormal romance series. I’m finding it fun, and definitely different from any of the other books I’ve written.

Here’s a draft of the blurb that will go on the back of the book:

Changing dance partners can be dangerous. When a young lawyer waltzes into Terra’s life, she decides to give him a whirl. But when she tangoes with Death, someone she never expected dips into her life and steals her heart.

I’ve already gotten some book cover ideas from my pal at DL Design and Digital Art, which I’ve posted here. (If you like any of the designs, let me know. I always enjoy learning what appeals to folks.)

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The short synopsis is:

I’m Terra McGinley…Tran’zr and technical writer, and I’m dating-impaired. I’m okay at getting first dates (though my mom would say otherwise—she’s always trying to fix me up; if it’s male, single, and over the age of consent, she’ll drag it home for me to meet.) However, when it comes to follow-up dates…well, let’s just say that my mother shouldn’t expect to hear wedding bells any time soon.

Being a tran’zr is a part-time gig—which is a good thing, because the pay is non-existent and the hours are horrible; otherwise, it’s a great job. Tran’zrs help transition people from the physical world to the spiritual and vice versa. Some people call us Grim Reapers, while others refer to us as Death Escorts, but we prefer Transitioner, or Tran’zr for short.

A review of “The City of God: Transgressions”

cityofgod_bookcover“The City of God: Transgressions” by R.S. Ingermanson

Summary: Can history be changed? Three people are about to find out.

It’s A.D. 57 when Rivka Meyers walks out of the wormhole into a world she’s only studied in books. Ancient Jerusalem is awesome! Rivka can’t believe her friend Ari Kazan’s theory actually worked. But when she runs into Ari’s whacko colleague, Damien West, in the Temple, Rivka starts to smell a rat.

When Ari discovers that Damien and Rivka have gone through a wormhole that’s on the edge of collapse, he has to make a horrible choice: Follow them and risk never coming back — or lose the woman of his dreams forever

Recommendation: Yes

Review:

I love stories about history and time travel and this book covered both points quite well. While the science portion of the book wasn’t integrated as smoothly as I would have liked, it was expressed well enough to convince me that the premise of the story was possible.

I also wasn’t enamored with Ari, who was rather narrow in his outlook and beliefs. However, I realized that if I was wondering why Ari couldn’t be a bit more liberal, then the author had done a good job of creating this character. After all, we don’t get aggravated with characters that don’t seem real to us, do we?

Overall, I was quite pleased with this story. It had a strong female lead, which I found rather refreshing. She was, in many ways, very self-sufficient, yet her surroundings were so different from what she was used to that it led her to have to rely on others. However, her reliance wasn’t as a damsel in distress, but more of someone seeking directions in a strange, new land. And it was strange and new, even though it was also part of her past.

The small moment in history that the author chose to explore was one I had never given much thought to, and I was intrigued by his examination of it. I found his projection of the possibilities that could be spawned based on how this moment played out, compelling and interesting. It was a juxtaposition of Judaism and Christianity; the point at which Christianity could become unrealized or it could become what it has…one of the leading religions in the world. Given the backgrounds and biases of his main characters, it was the perfect backdrop. Would they help or hurt the outcome of history? Would their interference (unintentional or deliberate) skew our world into one totally different from what we know, or would they only be fulfilling what history had already said had happened?

Find out for yourself. Read the book…it’s really a great way to spend a weekend.

 

 

Lighting the World…1 Book at a Time

old-books-candleAs an author do you ever wonder why you even bother? Do you sometimes think that no one in the world is ever going to notice your endeavors? Sometimes it’s easy to lose the light of our dreams and end up in the darkness of our own thoughts.

Sometime it’s easy to convince ourselves that because our sales are low (or non-existent) that it must be because no one reads anymore or because no one cares about the written word. But that is simply not true. In fact, some of the most successful, richest, and smartest people in the world today claim that reading is what helped them get to where there are.

In several interviews over the years, Warren Buffett has stated that he spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and at least 500 pages of corporate reports.

Bill Gates says he reads 50 books per year. He also blogs about them. He says he enjoys making recommendations about those books he feels can help change view points or bring about insights. And while he says he doesn’t read much fiction, he will if the book is recommended to him by someone he respects. In fact, the last piece of fiction he read (and blogged about) was one that his wife really enjoyed, so he wanted to see what it was all about.

Another avid reader is Mark Zuckerberg. He says he reads at least one book every two weeks. Some are books that others recommend to him, and others are titles that he comes across himself.

Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day, according to his brother, and still tries to find time to read whenever he can. Mr. Musk claims that reading gives him peace of mind and helps him find the answers to stubborn problems by taking his mind off of the issue for a while.

Oprah Winfrey credits books with a great deal of her success. She says, “Books were my pass to personal freedom.” In fact, both Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey have a section on their websites where they recommend books or authors that they like.

Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, reads two hours day. He’s not particular as to whether he reads fiction or non-fiction as long as what he reads helps him open his mind to new ideas.

Dan Gilbert, self-made billionaire and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, also reads one to two hours a day.

Therefore, while it may seem easier to claim that reading is dead or to believe that no one takes the time to read books anymore, the fact is, books and the printed word are still important and impactful. And who’s to say that the young adult or teenager who reads our books today won’t turn out to be the next Elon Musk, Ellen DeGeneres, or Mark Zuckerberg?

Every book is a little bit of light in the darkness of illiteracy, ignorance, and bias. Books bring different perspectives and insights to others. Whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, it can help others view the world from a different angle. So, take heart and remember: that every reader who finds your books extends that light a little further, and a little further…until soon the whole world will be lit up.

Anyone for Pie?

turtlepie

The pie that is chocolate is missing a piece.
The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.

Besides making you hungry, the two sentences have a lot in common; however, they also have some important but subtle differences. It’s learning the subtle differences that can help you use the words that and which correctly. For example, the first sentence about the chocolate pie implies there is more than one flavor of pie, but only the chocolate pie is missing a piece. The second sentence states that there is only one pie and it has a piece missing. It also offers a side note to let you know that the pie is chocolate, but that fact is not considered as important as the fact that a piece is missing. (Obviously the second sentence wasn’t written by a chocoholic.)

The word that introduces restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply essential information to the intended meaning of the sentence. This is information that the reader needs to know to understand all that the sentence states and implies. However, the word which introduces non-restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply non-essential, supplemental information to the sentence, and if left out won’t change the sentence’s meaning (stated or implied). When trying to decide whether to use that or which, ask yourself these questions:

If I take out the clause, does my sentence’s meaning remain the same? If it does, you should use which; if it doesn’t, then use the word that.

Does the sentence feel as if it needs a comma? If so, this might indicate that you need to use the word which, because the clause it introduces is preceded by a comma. (The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.)

So, when you’re putting together your sentence and wondering if you need to put in a that or a which, you need to think about what the point of the sentence is. What is it that you want the readers to know—do they need to know that a piece of pie is missing, or that a piece of chocolate pie is missing. Now, before you run out and get yourself a piece of chocolate pie, try the short quiz I’ve included below.

Quiz
The four sentences below need either the word that or which. Determine the word needed based on whether the adjoining information is necessary for the reader to understand the message or whether the information is just nice to know.
Note: Remember to place a comma before any clause introduced by which.

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified.
  • The application requires a logon and password [that/which] prevents unauthorized access.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting [that/which] was already rescheduled twice.

The answers and explanations are below:

Answers:

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified. The information “…that were verified” tells us exactly what type of instructions. You need the additional information to clarify the sentence; therefore, you need to use that.
  • The application requires a logon and password, [that/which] prevents unauthorized access. The information that the logon and password prevent unauthorized access is interesting, but it isn’t essential; therefore, you need to use a comma and the word which.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days. Because the report is only showing accounts that were closed in the past 30 days, you need to use that; otherwise it would read as if the report were showing every account.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting, [that/which] was already rescheduled twice. The information about the meeting being rescheduled twice is not essential to understanding that the ABC project meeting was canceled; therefore, you need to put in a comma and use which.

So, now go ahead and get that piece of pie.

A Review of “Accidental Ashes”

xoe2“Accidental Ashes: or that time I found out I was a demon, and all my friends were vampires and werewolves” by Sara Roethle

Summary: Last year Xoe’s life was turned upside-down. Things haven’t improved much. With the lives of her friends at risk, Xoe forgets to worry about another life…her own. With the reappearance of a face from her very distant past, and a random string of abductions to deal with, Xoe has to fight to keep things together. Even if ‘together’ is a far cry, ahem…howl, from the norm.

Recommendation: Yes

Review:

This second book was even better than the first Xoe book. In fact, it was so good as to appear effortless (the markings of a truly wonderful story teller). The characters interacted seamlessly and I felt quite at home with them. It was like visiting with family that I hadn’t seen in a while.

Nuances of the author’s world popped up here and there, sprinkled throughout the story like confetti at a party. With each occurrence, I found myself nodding and thinking, “Of course, that’s the way [this] world works…” Her world is nearly as rich and complete as Harry Potter’s or Rachel Morgan’s (The Hollows series by Kim Harrison), and her characters were, also.

In fact, if there is anything I have to nitpick about in her book it was the way in which she handled the interplay between Xoe and her mom. In this book, Xoe needs to cope with a lot of new and (to her) surprising information about herself and her friends. She is then confronted with her long-missing father and the truth as to who he is and why he left. Xoe handles it all surprisingly well, but her mother does not. While this is understandable—after all, in real life, people handle things in various ways and with varying degrees of competency—the part I object to is Xoe offering her mother some pain medication that Xoe was given when, at the end of the first book, she broke her arm. Instead of admonishing her daughter for sharing prescription meds with others, mom says, “…sure, why not…” and takes the meds.

I find this wrong on so many levels, but two of them stand out the most. First off, what authors write does influence others. So many people read a book wherein someone admits to doing a particular action or believing in some concept, and the reader thinks, “…well, if this person does it, then it must be okay that I do, too…” The reader doesn’t always make the distinction between life and fictional characters. The fact that the author has the protagonist doing this, thinking this, or saying this, makes the reader think that it’s okay.

The second reason I found it “wrong” is that it is a weak mechanism for getting a character out of a situation that the author isn’t sure how to cope with (I know, I’ve done it, too, and I’ve taken the criticism for it). I get it, that some people don’t handle stress, confrontations, or large amounts of negative information well. But Xoe’s mom didn’t seem to be the type to avoid life by hiding behind pills, booze, or sleep. In fact, in book 1, Xoe’s mom seemed almost as much of a real go-getter as Xoe. So, for mom to suddenly seek escape from life in pills and sleep seemed a bit like the author seeking escape from having to deal with this secondary character.

However, since mom isn’t a major character, I was willing to let it go…mostly. I still worry about young adults seeing the sharing of meds as something that’s all right, though, since mom not only condoned it, but participated in it.

So, except for that one minor point, this was definitely a 4-star book. And I truly believe that C. Roethle will be the next Kim Harrison…just for a slightly younger set of readers.

FREE: Into the Land of Snows

A great deal from a wonderful author. Check it out…it would make a great holiday gift.

ELLIS NELSON BOOKS

This is the only time I will be doing this promotion. Get your FREE Kindle copy from Amazon (now through Dec. 10th). Snuggle up by the fire and join Blake as he treks in the Himalayas. Happy holidays to everyone! (We have a house in Brussels and we’re moving in Jan. I’ll join you from Belgium in the new year.)

GRAB YOUR FREE COPY HERE:   https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq

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Telling the Story

escortingcoverDo you know the difference between a novel and a non-fiction book? A non-fiction book is based in truth. However, the biggest mistake that non-fiction authors make is equating truth with a dry recitation of facts rather than the telling of a story. Despite your history teacher’s attempts to bore you with lists of dates and tables of facts, history can (and is) actually interesting. People want to know why something happened or why someone acted or reacted as they did. They want to understand the reason for events, and that’s where your story telling ability comes in. You need to show them why; you need to give them the story surrounding the event.

All stories, both fiction and non-fiction, are just that—stories. When writing a memoir, biography, or other bit of non-fiction, you still need to follow the same guidelines as an author writing a novel; however, you have a major advantage. Your story is already loosely defined for you. You have the timeline, timeframe, characters, major conflicts, and key dramatic elements, all you need to do is add the story components.

You need to develop your characters so that your readers can see them the way you do—are they shy, dynamic, geeky, or ne’er do well? The characters need depth, life, purpose, and motivation to go along with that dramatic moment. Does the moment you’re recording have to do with star-crossed lovers, a robbery gone wrong, a heroic deed, or just a crazy moment that changed the character’s life? You also need to build up the environment. What was the time period like, the culture, and the society? Help your readers understand your character’s perspectives, actions, and reactions. (For instance, the American culture and societal mores are much different today than they were in the 1970’s and understanding that can help the reader connect with the character and their plight.)

Also, just as a fictional character has wants, needs, fears, and motivations, so do your non-fictional characters. By using a first- or third-person point of view, action verbs, and a show-not-tell writing style you can catapult your readers into the story and help them appreciate the little slice of true life that you are sharing with them.

Here’s an example of a memoir that, while historically accurate, is rather dry:

In 1973, Terry got a job for the local newspaper. She did many jobs while there, such as typesetting, layout and design, and bundling (which is the bundling of flyers, ads, and other inserts with the paper). However, her favorite job was junior reporter.

Her first really major story involved the murder of a local schoolteacher. When the body was discovered, Terry was at the school to cover the latest protests.

Here is that same example, but written in a more story-like way:

1973 was a tumultuous year. It was the time of flower power, (Viet Nam) war protests, hippies dropping out, dropping in, and dropping acid, flag and bra burnings, and it was the year that Terry saw her first murder victim.

As a junior reporter for the local paper, she was at the school covering the latest protest when the screams ripped through the air.

 

Now, which memoir would you rather read?