Not Quite Up to the Hype

MeetClaraMeet Clara Andrews by Lacey London

Summary: Meet Clara Andrews… Your new best friend!

With a love of cocktails and wine, a fantastic job in the fashion industry and the world’s greatest best friends, Clara Andrews thought she had it all.

That is until a chance meeting introduces her to Oliver, a devastatingly handsome American designer. Trying to keep the focus on her work, Clara finds her heart stolen by lavish restaurants and luxury hotels.

As things get flirty, Clara reminds herself that inter-office relationships are against the rules, so when a sudden recollection of a work’s night out leads her to a gorgeous barman, she decides to see where it goes.

Clara soon finds out that dating two men isn’t as easy as it seems…

Will she be able to play the field without getting played herself?

Join Clara, as she finds herself landing in and out of trouble, re-affirming friendships, discovering truths and uncovering secrets.

Recommendation: Yes and No (maybe 2.5 stars by Amazon standards)

Review: While the first to-thirds of the book was a typical romantic farce, the last third (the ending) felt tacked on and flat. It was if the author wasn’t sure how to fix the corner she had written herself into, so she simply wrote a happy ending and forced it into the book. It didn’t fit the circumstances nor did it fit the personality of the male protagonist she had created, but that didn’t seem to matter. At least now the book had the requisite ‘happy ending’ that romance stories are supposed to have.

The other reason I can’t give it a higher ranking is the repetitive and glaring grammatical error that occurred throughout the book. The error was so jarring that it quite literally pushed me out of the story. If it had happened once, I might have thought it was just a mistake by the editor; but, the same error occurred repeatedly, which led me to think that the book hadn’t been edited at all. (Note: I have subsequently discovered that what most ‘normal’ people perceive as a glaring grammatical error, is considered all right in some less affluent neighborhoods of London. And while I might then consider that the author was trying to add some quirkiness and flavor to her main character, my perception of the main character as a university graduate made it difficult to accept that the character would use such awkward and poorly constructed speech idioms.)

As romances go, it’s a cute bit of fluff as long as you’re willing to overlook the lack of a successful ending and some huge grammar gaffs. However, I much prefer a Cathie Linz, Amanda Quick, or Janet Evanovich book when wanting a bit of romance, comedy, and charm.

 

 

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Moving from Ordinary Writing, to Extraordinary Writing

pexels-photo-921716.jpegEveryone always says, “Write what you know.” Unfortunately, that always left me thinking that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for writing. Because the only thing I’m an expert at is writing. It’s what I’ve done all my life (when I’m not reading). I’ve written how-to manuals, white papers, poems, test scripts, short stories, reports, analytical summaries, and, yes, books.

Then, the other day, I attended a presentation on creative writing and the presenter said, “Write what you’re passionate about. You can always learn what you don’t know.”

That statement not only made more sense to me, it freed me.

So, I made a list of the things I’m passionate about. I then made another list of the topics I’d love to learn more about. Mixing those two lists helps me build my stories. For instance, I’m passionate about alternate healing methods (I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve been dabbling all my life, so I do have extensive knowledge regarding herbs, crystals, and techniques like Reiki). If I combine that with my desire to learn more about sailing ships of the 1700’s and 1800’s, I can build a story around a healer at sea. It could be a fantasy, a romance with historical flashbacks, or an historical romance. No matter what genre I select, using this method would allow me to easily combine my passion and my desire to learn more, while creating something interesting and compelling for my readers.

According to the presenter, that’s exactly what happens when you write about your passions. That excitement and enthusiasm that you have for your story comes through in your writing. It ignites something in your readers helping them relate to and feel the emotion you embedded in the tale. And capturing the readers and drawing them into the story world is really what we all want as authors.

Now, this way of writing isn’t for everyone—it’s especially not for those who are more keen on producing quantity rather than quality. That’s because the learning part can sometimes take months. It all depends on just how much knowledge you need to make your story convincing. If the character’s shipboard travel only spans one or two chapters, then you don’t need much knowledge. If, however, it spans the entire book, then the more knowledge you obtain, the easier it is to sprinkle in those tiny details that make your story world believable.

And that’s why most writing teachers or mentors will say, “Write what you know.” Because it’s the little details that can make or break the story world for your readers. If, for instance, you know nothing of sailing ships, it will often come through in the details (or lack thereof). For instance, if you state that your character came on deck to help with the lines or sheets, and then you have him or her fussing with the sails, immediately shows your lack of knowledge. (The terms ‘lines’ and ‘sheets’ refer to the ropes used on a ship.)

Usually, what you’re passionate about is also something you know a lot about. If you’re passionate about horse racing, you usually know a lot about race courses, race horses, and the betting process. This allows you to include the necessary (and correct) terms and details throughout your story. It also lets you infuse your story with all the enthusiasm you have for the sport. This in turn ignites a passion in your reader for your characters and story.

Therefore, if you’re willing to take some extra time when writing your novel, combining your passion with what you want to learn about can help you create an extraordinary book for your readers.

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Are You Too Empathetic?

MM_FinalCover - CopyIf you feel at times that you’re too empathetic–torn apart and unable to cope with other people’s suffering–help is at hand. Doing a compassion meditation every day for two weeks may just help you reduce the distress you feel when witnessing someone’s suffering.

To find out more, please read the article.

To learn about other types of meditations that might help you, try Mastering Meditation.

Interesting and Informative

intolandofsnowsInto the Land of Snows by Ellis Nelson

Summary: A troubled, sixteen-year-old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father. When a deadly avalanche occurs, his dad is forced to rethink things, so sends Blake off the mountain.

Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey which will challenge everything he believes. The magic of his experience in the Himalayas, will forever change him.

Recommendation: Yes

Review:  The first thing that intrigued me about the book was the title, “Into the Land of Snows.” I found out later that the title is actually another name for Tibet, Nepal, and the surrounding Himalayan area. What a clever idea by the author to use it as the title of her book, then.

Throughout the novel, the Sherpa guide (Ang) consistently tries to engage and educate Blake (the teenage protagonist) in the ways of life. However, Blake, being a self-absorbed, typical U.S. teenager, is hardly interested. That is, until they end up in several harrowing situations that require him to pay attention so that he can learn and understand how to overcome the challenges.

During their trek through the mountains, Blake and Ang debate philosophy (primarily Buddhism), encounter differences in social mores, and work through several ethical and moral issues.

Having never been to the Himalayas or met a Sherpa, I found the descriptions and societal insights fascinating and educational. However, the conversations on philosophy seemed stilted and unnatural. Overlooking that unnaturalness, though, I did find the snippets of information gleaned from the book helpful and intriguing. Intriguing enough to get me to check out several books on Buddhism from the library.

Will this book appeal to young adults? I can’t really say. But as an adult, I found it quite interesting and very informative.

[To learn more about the author; or to purchase the book]

After-Death Experiences

ovaldoveDoes consciousness reside in the brain, or is it something else? Is the soul, ka, spirit, psyche, or essence that is you a force that interacts with the physical body and provides the consciousness for the being that is you?

One doctor and researcher, Dr. Sam Parnia, seems to think so.

It could be that, like electromagnetism, the human psyche and consciousness are a very subtle type of force that interacts with the brain, but are not necessarily produced by the brain.

He discusses his ideas, his work, and his research in his book Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death.

Read more about Dr. Parnia’s research regarding consciousness and the after-death experiences that he has gathered from some of his patients.

Do You Know What I Mean?

WhoseLineCommunicating with people today reminds me of the “Do You Know What I Mean?” game played on the “Whose Line is it Anyway?” TV show.

In the game, the comedians use everyday phrases or words but change the inflections of their voices to give the phrase or word a different connotation. For instance, they’re told they are customers in a bakery and must use bakery or cooking terms in unique ways.

To that end, you’ll get comments such as, “I’ve been waiting for over an hour to get my dough, if you know what I mean.” Or “You have delicious buns here, if you know what I mean.” And based on their vocal tones, expressions, and actions, you can take what they say as inflammatory, sexual, or just plain silly.

But euphemisms are no longer just a silly game on a TV show. Rather, they have become our communications standard. But using euphemisms to express ourselves has created its own type of miscommunication, which still leads to anger and upset. For instance, what is really meant when someone says they’re having difficulties at work? Are they unable to understand the functions of their job? Or do they not get along with their bosses or co-workers? Why can’t they simply say, “I don’t know what my boss wants because he is unclear in his instructions.” Great, now we can commiserate with our friend and maybe offer some advice.

Or how about when your company decides they no longer need your services and you’re told your job has been downsized (as opposed to being supersized?), you’re being offered a career change (what if you like your career just as it is?), or you’re being let go (was someone holding your hand?). Why can’t they just say, “You’re being fired.” At least that would be honest. And if they would give you a reason why you’re being fired, it would be even more helpful. Then you could avoid making the same mistake with your next company.

Miscommunications abound because we no longer speak or write honestly. Instead, we find colorful ways to talk around the issue (whatever the issue is). Two of the most common times that we fail to communicate honestly with each other involve love and death. The two most important times of our lives and we can’t be honest with each other. It’s sad.

Yet, instead of telling someone we love them, we skirt the issue by saying things like, “You fulfill me,” or “You complete me.” (What part of you was missing?) Granted, sometimes euphemisms can help us express how much we love someone by enabling us to create poetic and figurative phrases and statements. But those same euphemisms can also be misconstrued and misunderstood if not accompanied by some plain talk.

The other time in our lives that we rarely speak plainly is when someone dies. Yes, dies. They don’t pass away, move on (where’d they go, Nebraska?), or find a better place (and if they did, why can’t we visit them?). People die. We need to stop pretending that death doesn’t happen. It does, and it’s all right. It’s part of life.

So, stop miscommunicating with everyone and tell people what you really mean. It can save you and them a lot of bad feelings and time. Because instead of spending time trying to fix the hurt caused by the original miscommunication, you could be spending time enjoying life.

(For more information on how improving your communications can improve your relationships, read the book, More from the Masters.) MFM 3D - DLS - 8pxls - 2

Ascending Spiral Book Review

AsccendingspiralimageAscending Spiral by Bob Rich

Summary: Dr. Pip Lipkin has lived for 12,000 years, incarnated many times as man, woman, and even as species beyond our world and senses. But he’s here for a reason: to pay restitution for an ancient crime by working to save humanity from certain destruction. “Ascending Spiral” is a book that will take the reader to many different places and times, showing, ultimately, that our differences and divisions, even at their most devastating, are less important than our similarities.

Recommendation: Yes

Review: “Ascending Spiral” by Bob Rich is the book “Cloud Atlas” aspired to be but, unfortunately, never was.

“Ascending Spiral” takes you on a journey through the past and present of Dr. Pip Lipkin, a psychologist and counselor. In so doing, it gives you a view of the experiences and ways in which each of us develop and grow through our different lifetimes on Earth.

In each life we interact with many of the same souls repeatedly as we learn what the expression “an eye for an eye” really means. Throughout the book, Pip experiences love, hate, war, depression, incarceration, and slavery, all while searching for that one moment when enlightenment sparks an awareness in his soul. Each moment of awareness brings his soul more light and a greater ability in making love-filled choices instead of fear-based ones.

Once I stepped beyond the prologue and into the actual story, I was hooked. The characters were vibrant and as alive as you and me. With every choice made, and every battle fought, I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know what would happen next.

Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation or past lives, you can enjoy this book by simply looking at it as an historical adventure novel. I found that the historical accuracy combined with the great pacing made for an entertaining read. The only time the pacing bogged down (for me) was toward the end when the story popped back into (almost) current time. What I mean by that is, we joined with Pip as young adult in university. However, soon after we jumped back to Pip as a child. I became a little confused with the story here, because of the age hopping, but once we got back to Pip as a young man, the story smoothed out again.

Overall, this is an excellent adventure for those who just want a good story; an extremely thought-provoking book for those contemplating the bigger question of “why are we here;” or a wonderful book for those wishing to explore the idea of past lives and reincarnation.