Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book review for “Quincy Moves to the Desert” by Camille Matthews

I generally read and review novels, but when I got the chance to read and review this children’s book, I jumped at the chance.

Every night, we have “story time” with my kids. They range from ages 9 to 15. I thought for sure that the 9 year old would enjoy the book—and I was right—but what I didn’t expect is how captivated my other three daughters (and even my wife!) would be when I read them the book.

The blurb on the back states, “In this story about adventure, friendship and hope, Quincy goes West and learns that horses are everywhere.” With this basic premise, Matthews writes an engaging and educational story. Heck, I even learned things I didn’t know about horses. She uses a clever device of Quincy and his best friend, Beau, to tell the story. Beau is more knowledgeable about horses and explains things to Quincy as they travel across the country.

The illustrations by Michelle Black are a perfect accompaniment to this story. She captures the essence of the story without detracting from it. I especially liked the picture of the Kentucky derby. It portrays the power and speed of the race in a still painting.

Who would like this book? Well, my mother was an elementary school teacher for more years than I should mention. This is exactly the kind of book that she would have had in her classroom for students to read and enjoy, while learning in the process. It’s a great book for parents to read to their kids.

Quincy Moves to the Desert is actually the second in the series. The first book is called Quincy Finds a New Home.

After reading the second one, I’ll certainly have to get the first one! For more information on Quincy the horse, click here.

Author Camille Matthews

This book tour was set up by Walker Author Tours.

***Disclaimer: I received an complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.***

Friday, June 22, 2012

How do you pronounce “ghoti”?

It’s been said, “only someone without a creative mind spells words the same way each time.” It gives me some measure of comfort. I’ve never been a good speller. In fact, spelling has been something of a mystery my whole life. In elementary school, junior high and high school, I would always do poorly on spelling tests—even those I studied for. I’ll admit, when my friends would do well, I felt stupid that I couldn’t keep up with them.

I remember sitting in a class in elementary school. We were taking a spelling test. The teacher would say the word out loud, and then using it in a sentence. One of the words I got hung upon was “women.” I ended up spelling it “wimen” because that is how it sounded.

And then there was the class where a teach wrote the word “ghoti” on the blackboard and asked us how to pronounce it. Most people said “goat-tee” or a variation of that. She said it was pronounced “fish.” Fish? How what the possible? She then broke it down. She wrote the word “enough” on the board. What sound did the “gh” make? It made the “ffffff” sound. And then she wrote “women.” What sound did the “o” make? It made the “i" sound in fish. Lastly, she wrote the word, “action.” What sound did the “ti” make? It made the “sh” sound. Therefore, you have the word “fish.”

The teacher went on to explain that spelling was more of memorization than anything else. One thing that helps with memorization is repetition.

I’ve stated in other blogs that I’ve always had a desire to write, but my creative mind and spelling don’t get along. When I was younger, I’d get hung up on how to spell a word and would have to look it up. By then, the creative part of me that was writing would often go on vacation. The other side is that if I didn’t spell things right, people would get distracted and wouldn’t enjoy the story.

What I’ve found with modern word processor programs with spell check and auto-correct is that I’ve actually become a better speller with its help. For example, the word “interrupt”. For some reason, I don’t want to spell that word with two “r”s. I can’t explain why. However, since I’ve had it corrected so many times for me, I’ve learned how to spell it.

So, for those critics out there who say that spell check is hurting people’s spelling ability because they don’t have to focus on learning to spell, I say “pppppshhhhhhhhh”.

Without spell check, most of the sentence in this blog would look like this: “ownley sumwon with owt uh createiv mined spels wurds thuh saim whay ech timuh.”

Here are some more examples of spelling gone wrong:


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The “ah ha!” moment

Each author I’ve met has their own way writing a book. Some create detailed character descriptions and settings before they start writing. Others plan out the whole plot and put it in an outline. Others just start writing and see where it takes them. Me? I’m sort of in the middle. I’m in the process of finishing my 5th novel. Each one was a bit different in how I wrote it.

The Hidden Sun: I had a basic scene I started with and then I built around it. This one was tricky. I knew what I wanted to have happen in the end, but I wasn’t sure HOW I was going to accomplish it. The solution came to me while I was writing.

The Waxing Moon: This was the most complex book I’ve written to date. For the final draft, I had created an outline and spreadsheet to ensure everything that happened took place when it should. I had the solution figured out before I started writing the book.

The Mirror of the Soul: This one was fun, but also tricky. Since it is based on the song of the same name, I had the basic outline done for me. Yet, in order to flush it out to a novel sized book, I incorporated several subplots that supported the main one. These subplots were mainly based off of other songs by the same artist—Chris de Burgh. Again, the end was known before I started writing the book. (This book is coming out early 2013)

Wall of Faith: While this is a novel, it’s based on real events. Since I lived these events, the beginning, middle and end were already figured out. The difficult part here was to write it in a way that was engaging. The advance copy readers have given great feedback and I’ll have it shaped up in no time. It’s in the editing staged. My goal is to have this submitted to my publisher by September 1 of 2012.

The Zealous Star: The third, and most likely final, book in the Bariwon series has been the most challenging. I want it to be epic. I want it to be worthy of the books before it. I want it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series. To that end, I’ve written some very dynamic characters and scenes. I’ve thrown all sorts of curveballs at my characters. I’ve turned the story on its head. However, for most of the book, I wasn’t sure how I was going to tie it all together. However, just a couple of days ago, it came to while I was writing. While this will work out great (I hope) it’s not a way I’d suggest to write a book. It’s actually been kind of scary to write a book without knowing how it will end. Yet, when I did get my “ah ha” moment, I’ll admit, I did a little jig.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free hugs

Has anyone ever told you, “You look like you could use a hug.” What inspires them to make such a statement? From my observations, it’s because you look like you need to be cheered up. And what seeming simple act can do that? A hug!

Yesterday, I took my youngest daughter to a local mall for some “Daddy Daughter” time. When we were leaving, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed two young ladies holding up signs. Usually when someone is standing outside a store with a sign it will say will say such things like, “Hungry and Unemployed” or “U.S. Vet. Hungry. Please Help. God Bless” or “Will work for Food.” Imagine my surprise when instead these signs read, “Free Hugs.”

I literally did a double take. After reading the signs again, I looked up at the two lovely young ladies. They both smiled at me. I didn’t sense any malice or deception on their behalf. However, after living in Connecticut for seven years, I’m quite guarded when it comes to dealing with strangers. I smiled back at them and said something like, “Maybe next time” and then headed to my car with my daughter.

Yet, when I got in my car, my sense of curiosity got the better of me. Perhaps that’s an occupational hazard of being an author. I had to see why these ladies were doing what they were doing.

My youngest daughter held onto my hand tightly as we re-approached the givers of free hugs.

“I have a strange request,” I said. “May I take a picture of you two?”

They agreed.

Emily and Genevieve
I then asked, “Okay, you’ve got my attention. What’s up with the signs?”

One of the girls introduced herself as Genevieve and the other was Emily. As we chatted, I discovered that they were roommates at Meredith College—a private all woman’s college in the area. Genevieve explained that she had a list of things she wanted to do, like a bucket list of sorts, and one of them was to offer free hugs to strangers.

My curiosity grew.

I asked them what kind of reaction they had been getting. They said mainly strange looks, though they did have a few takers.

Trying not to sound rude, I asked, “What do you hope to gain from doing this?”

The response was priceless. Genevieve said that she hoped to help people have a better day—to make the world a bit happier. Emily admitted she wasn’t much of a hugger, but she was there to support her friend.

In the end, they gave hugs to my nine-year-old daughter. I didn’t hug them, but they achieved their mission. My day was much better for seeing their selfless act of kindness.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book review for “Dead Running” by Cami Checketts

There is a fairly new term being thrown around to describe a certain type of personality. It’s “adorkable.” Why do I bring this up at the start of a book review? Because the main character, Cassidy “Cassie” Christensen is adorkable. In other words, she’s a bit odd, but in a funny and cute way.

The theme of the book is about running—not only literarily but also figuratively. Cassie is twenty-five and at a crossroads of sorts in her life. Her parents were killed by some not so nice men. She lives with her “Nana” and is working at a job she doesn’t enjoy.

At the encouragement from her sister-in-law, she starts running. It begins innocently enough with a short 5K run. I won’t spoil the fun part of why she starts training for longer runs.

The book is really a tale of three stories. There is the mystery behind her parents’ death and potential threat to her. There is the story of Cassie’s inner struggle to train her body and mind to run. And then, at its very heart, is the romantic snarl in which she gets caught up.

Cassie finds herself drawn to two different men. One seems to be perfect and one is the kind she wouldn’t dare bring home to Nana. Cassie doesn’t realize that both of these men play a larger part in her life than she realizes.

So, what did I think about the book? Overall, it is a clean read. There are some intense parts, but there isn’t anything graphic and there isn’t any swearing.

What did I like? Checketts has an incredible sense of humor and it is reflected in Cassie. She’s one of the more dynamic characters I’ve read in quite some time. The story was overall satisfying—enough to keep me coming back to read more.

What did I struggle with? A couple of things. The middle of the book dragged a bit for me. Mainly because it dealt with the second thing I struggled with. As a male reader, I’ll admit some of Cassie’s actions drove me nuts—especially when she was ping-ponging between two men. “I like him! No wait! I like the other ‘him’ instead! Oh wait!” While this may be natural for some women, as a guy, it bothered me. Most likely because I’ve been married over twenty years and I’m hopelessly devoted to my wife.

Who would like this book? I’m going to have to go with the female demographic, ages sixteen and up. It’s got romance, action, suspense and a wholly entertaining main character.

For more on Cami Checketts, you can can her access her website here.

To order Dead Running, click here.

**Disclaimer: While I was sent a copy to review, it didn't influence my opinion.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Write what you want to write

When I get asked for advice from people who want to write books, one of the things I tell them is to write the book they want to write. In other words, don’t write a book based on what they think other people might like. Why? I honestly believe that the book will be more engaging.

There are many times I’ve been asked or told to do things in my life. Often, I’ll do them out of obligation, but if my heart isn’t into it, I don’t really enjoy the experience and I doubt I do the best I can.

Let me use school for an example. I got my BA in Communications—Broadcasting with an emphasis on Production. In other words, I learned how to direct TV shows. However, for my degree, I was forced to take a Public Relations class. This wouldn’t have been that bad except that I had to take it with students who were focusing on Public Relations as their major.

Our final assignment was to do some research for American Express and then present it to a big wig at the company. It was a class assignment that was broken down in several smaller parts. I was grouped with my fellow Broadcasting students and we were given a fairly easy assignment. I’ll admit we put minimal effort into the project—doing only what was required.

On the day of the presentation, it was obvious that the students majoring in Public Relations and gone overboard and did one heck of a presentation. Ours paled in comparison.

During the same semester, I was required to direct several projects—including a dramatic scene and a musical number. For the drama scene, I did a scene from Shakespeare’s Henry IV. It included students studying acting as well as a full blown set I created. It was a boatload of work, but one I really got into.

For the musical number, the BYU symphony was going to be touring the Middle East and they needed a promo music video made. I had to enlist the help of fellow students and others to assemble a TV shoot for the symphony. I only had the symphony for an hour. We had them play a three minute song several times while I had the camera people shoot different shots. It was a ton of work, and a lot more than was required, but I enjoyed it and it showed in the final product.

I’m currently writing the third book in the Bariwon Chronicles. It’s called The Zealous Star. One thing I wanted to avoid in writing a series was to re-writing the first book three times. In other words, have the second and third books be “echoes” of the first book.

I feel I was successful in doing that for The Waxing Moon—it’s quite a bit different than The Hidden Sun. Both are separate, distinct stories.

Mock cover for The Zealous Star

As for The Zealous Star? I can honestly say it is quite a bit different yet again. Part of me worries that people will get upset—that they want clones of the first two books. However, I’m telling a story I want to tell, and in the end, I believe it will be a better book for it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review of "The Waxing Moon" by Mandi Tucker Slack

Here is Mandi Tucker Slack's review of The Waxing Moon.

For those of you who have read J. Lloyd Morgan's The Hidden Sun, the long-awaited sequel if finally here. Filled with intrigue, adventure and a little romance, The Waxing Moon will leave you reading long into the night.

When the inhabitants of a small village in the north suddenly disappear, the people of Bariwon are left feeling uneasy. Trying to discover the fate of the townspeople, King Rayne sends a scouting party to investigate, but when the party discovers a secret passage hidden deep within the formidable mountains they discover things are worse than they feared. When the scouting party is attacked by a band of ruthless warriors, Snapdragon, a newly appointed Royal Guardian, is Bariwon's only hope.

As he unravels the mysteries of the tunnel, he learns of an ancient secret that could change the kingdom of Bariwon forever.

I have to admit, I don't usually read books in this genre, but I loved The Hidden Sun, and when asked to review The Waxing Moon, I was ecstatic.

The characters are very well-developed. Snapdragon is definitely a surprise. In the beginning, his character is full of flaws. He's reckless, easy to anger, and trying much too hard to prove himself to world. But as he begins his journey, his growth and change are evident. His character develops in a way that will leave you cheering for this young hero and anxiously hoping for his success.

The story-line is paced to perfection, and the plot is very well developed.

I give J. Lloyd Morgan five-stars and can hardly wait to read the next book in the series (The Zealous Star, coming 2013).