Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No Blizzards and Other Goals


                This blog quietly passed its one year anniversary. If you go back through the archive, you’ll see that I fulfilled a New Year’s resolution early due to the Christmas Blizzard of 2010 in the Northeast United States. We had over three feet of snow as evidenced by pictures posted with that first blog and the follow-up post. So, being stuck in the house, I jumpstarted StoryTeller’s Grove.

                The reason the blog anniversary was not acknowledged until today was the lack of snow. A good thing! This meant that the Christmas festivities at my house were not postponed and over 30 adults and children filled the house Christmas Day. It was fun to see everyone, but exhausting as well. 

        December 26, I was at work, not stuck indoors, and recuperating from the crowd the day before.

         Today, I paused and looked back on 2011 and all the changes that I have seen.  This has been a year where I changed day jobs, focused on publishing Dark Dealings through traditional methods and learned tons about the exploding Indie e-book market.  For writers with the time, expertise and support network of editors, cover designers, and others, it is an increasingly viable alternative. I will agree with Bob Mayer in his recent post on his predictions for 2012, we are indies not self-published. Those of us who recognize our own strengths and, more importantly, our weaknesses, delegate to other talented people and recognize that this delegation is an investment in our business. We can not do it by ourselves.

                So I find myself in the same place as many others: Goals for 2012. A blog is a wonderful and scary place because it gives you an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with others and in the process paint a big red target on yourself.

                But I’m a glutton for punishment, as most writers are. So here goes:

Writing and Publishing
1)      Form LLC to be focus of all “writerly” activities this year and in the future.
2)      Publish Dark Dealings and at least two other novels by year end.
3)      Attend a minimum of three writing conferences.
4)      Read 20 books, of which 8 will be purely for fun or enrichment and not review. Guess that means 1 book review on average per month, Hope to exceed this goal, but it also does not included books I help edit and the time spent there.
5)      Finish three new works and partial on fourth by year-end. This goes to goal #2 and pipeline for 2013.
6)      Get better at outlining in a manner that works for me. This impacts goals #2 and #5
Personal
7)      Lose the last 15 pounds of stress weight from old job
8)      Find a new job that better accommodates the writer’s life
9)      In connection with #7, gym or outside exercise (run, walk, bike) three times a week
10)   Healthier eating, which of course does not mean totally doing away with caffeine, chocolate and adult beverages---maybe moderation---maybe.
 
How about you? I’ve listed 10 things. What 2 things will you commit to in the comments below?


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Think Santa Has a List!

 I was kind of stuck for a blog topic, so I said to myself: “Self, put that at the top of your list!”  (With apologies to Emeril Lagasse).

Santa thinks he has a list! Has he ever talked to a writer who is also a mother (not that kind) and has a part time job that during the holidays is full-time plus. Oh, and also getting ready to organize as a company (Limited Liability Corporation, for the technical, LLC) and FINALLY publish Dark Dealings .

Hi! I’m K. Victoria and I’m a list maker. Will all list makers wave and say hello.

I, of course, have a grocery list. Each week I start a list and leave it in the same area on the kitchen counter. The idea is that as family members use the last of something or see that we are perilously low (1 roll of toilet paper) they would add it to the list. Yeah I know, I’m a secret optimist. My theory is why should I have to spend time figuring out things we need from the supermarket when someone else already knows that. Classic reinventing the wheel.

Then, there is the holiday to do lists. We are having about 30 or so people at the house Christmas Day. So there is the guest list. The menu and the separate, but corresponding, who is bringing what list and the separate grocery list just for the gathering of the clan, as I call it.

On to the gift list! There are the children, the spouse, the father, the family grab bag recipient, the son’s music school people, the folks who let him park in their office lot without charge (local lot wanted $750 for the 180 school days. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone.

Then, there is the publishing list, not to be confused with the writing and editing services list. I am on track with the LLC formation. Most of the real paperwork will wait until after January 1. Why create unnecessary IRS paperwork for 2011? I have Dark Dealings out to a copyeditor for a final scrub and am working with a cover artist. I will announce a final decision about self-publishing versus small press next month.

The writing list looks like most writers. There are the daily goals to finish first draft of Ogham Court by the first week of January, since I got distracted by my other favorite WIP, Vines. Then the word count goals for Vines (to be published under a different pen name) to targeting a complete first draft by end of January.  Of course there is all the research that goes with each WIP. Vines is one my favorite projects after my Druids, as it involves wine and whiskey making.

Other writing and editing services list are recent projects that include a initial review for developmental editing for a new client and a new client for a sideline of resume writing for former corporate colleagues.

Of course there is the general to-do list: laundry, housework, finding  a better paying day job until the writing pays, business networking events and speaking and the rare get-together with friends. Yes, Jen and Karen, I know I need to find a day!

I’m exhausted just writing this blog.

WAIT! I left sleep off of this list. Let me see, where can I fit that in?


Okay, your turn….fess up as a list maker or feel free to chastise me for being just a little too Type A.



Friday, December 16, 2011

A Film Genius is Born

My 17 year old son is very creative. He has a passion for music. everything from Metallica to Opera to Don McLean ...well you get the picture. He is a budding cinematographer and editor. He is also working in his first book trailer and its not for me. LOL!

Today, he posted a Christmas video on YouTube. Of course, I had to share! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

Enjoy and pass on.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dark Days, Bright Ideas

I have been hibernating for the last month, but unlike the groundhog, I will not wait for February 1st, Imbolc to me, to come out of my sleep and blink at the world.

In the ancient tradition of the Druids, winter began at Samhain (Halloween on the modern calendar) and lasted to Imbolc (approximately February 1). By that calendar, the winter solstice does, in fact, mark mid-winter. It is the shortest day of the year. The nights in the Northeast US can be long, dark and cold. And like days gone by, when people would retreat to the warmth of the hearth and plan for the next year, we do the same.

Winter was and is a time of re-evaluating and re-grouping… think New Year’s resolutions. In modern times, we are no different and, as I talk with many of my friends, we feel as if we are on the brink of change and new growth. Change is never easy and often downright painful. We can feel lost in the dark night of winter.

Those of you who have stopped my blog over the last year or even few months have been privy to some of the changes in my life. After years of a torturous bank merger, I resigned my position with a major national bank. I had spent long nights (and days) looking at the current environment, which did not empower me. It was and is an organization that subtly and not-so-subtly encourages their people to cross ethical lines (if not legal ones) and disrespected their customers and employees. My values and integrity are important to me and so my prospects for success and advancement were bleak.

I also briefly had an agent and after a difference in philosophy parted company with that agent. I am a supporter of agents and publishers everywhere and appreciate the work that can be done on behalf of authors when the right fit is found. It is an evolving world and lots of relationships have to be redefined or re-aligned. I will never rule out establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with an agent and/or publisher.

So, as the days grow shorter and I approach the Winter Solstice and the first anniversary of this blog (Wow, one year already!), what am I up to now.

Dark Dealings proceeds toward publication with a target of early 2012. I have been approached by several small press houses about publishing my novel, but self-publishing remains for me a very viable option.  In an effort to manage all the plans and projects to the future, I will be forming a Limited Liability Corporation in the next few weeks. In addition to the name of the company, I will also announce my decision on how I will be going about publishing Dark Dealings.  Oh and I continue to look for a day job to pay bills until my writing does that for me.

So I have not been wasting the short days and the long night. I have been planning the next harvest.

When I was in grammar school (yes, that’s what it was called back in the day) we had to memorize poems. One has stayed with me all these years. I have posted it before, but for myself and those who plan for the next cycle of growth, it is worth posting again.
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,"
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
                                                                                                                                ~ Oliver Herford
Now I don’t care if what the mix of dark and light are, just someone find me a forty-eight hour day. How are you doing as one year ends and another is about to begin?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Don't be a Fool! Read RBWood's Prodigal's Foole

I was privileged a few months ago to beta read Prodigal’s Foole for RB Wood and offer humble and meager comments.  I am thrilled to now say, it was a joy to read the final version and remember how much I loved this book. This may very well be the shortest book review I have written or ever will write.

Prodigal’s Foole is a wonderful weave of plot and character, past and present, personal and real demons. Ten years ago, Symon Bryson was part of an experimental group of “gifted” students in a secret Catholic program based in Boston. They were to be part of the army of magic practitioners trained to defend this world from the denizens of the Shadow-world, commonly thought of as Hell. But something went horribly wrong on their first real mission. Symon rejects his calling and flees to Dublin and he hopes a normal life of anonymity. When their mentor is kidnapped by a demon, Symon and his fellow mages must reunite to save Monsignor Charles.  In doing so, old scores must be settled and wounds healed. Symon must face his own personal demons of doubt and fear to become the leader and powerful mage he is destined to be.

This summary does poor justice to the amazing world-building and complex character development that RB Wood has accomplished in Prodigal’s Foole. Symon Bryson is a snarky wounded soul and his friends, Father Peter, Bill, Aaron, Eden, Eve and Janice are no less complex.  Each supposedly secondary character is sufficiently developed that I want RB to write at least one novel with them as central characters.  The tertiary and extra characters are equally well drawn and I look forward to their return, as well.  And Symon just has to keep going until he and the rest of the crew saves the world from damnation.

Mechanically this is a premier book. It rivals and exceeds book I have seen published by big houses and big authors. As a writer, who knows that you don’t catch everything yourself, I want the name and email address of his editor. I look forward to the next book in what I believe will be a long running series.

Bravo, RB on a job well done. Prodigal’s Foole gets




In my humble opinion, you would be a foole to not buy and read this book and then anxiously await future volumes in this saga. To obtain your copy of this magnificent book visit RB Wood's website for links and details.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grandma and Doing What You Have to Do


                I’ve mentioned my grandmother here once or twice.  She came to this country from Ireland in 1928, just in time for the Great Depression. In Athlone and Galway, she was a certified teacher. When she came here, she was told she couldn’t teach in America. This was the age when companies still had signs up that said Irish need not apply. She was told that she talked funny (and this in New Jersey), or that she was only going to get married and pregnant so why bother taking her on. So, as she told me, she did what she had to do.  That involved scrubbing floors and other “menial” tasks. She did marry and had four sons (a small family by standards then). Unfortunately, she married the stereotypical Irishman for that day, he was an alcoholic who liked to drink away his check.

                But she always did what she had to do to survive and hopefully thrive. 

                I wonder if we haven’t lost the ability to do what we have to do. We have become a people of doing what we want when we want. Is this some of the appeal of social media? I am just as guilty of getting sucked into the instant gratification and neglected my writing. 

                But sometimes circumstances remind us to do what we have to do no matter how uncomfortable.

                I recently resigned from the bank where I had worked for the last six years. I had started when it was called something else. It was a good place to work by and large. We put the customer first and believed that doing the right thing would drive results and profitability.  We treated employees like assets not expenses.  The place I use to work is in the terminal stages of a merger with another large bank creating a national behemoth. It was a process three years in the making.

                Those who know me know that I am not adverse to change. When the changes started coming, there was concern over the direction we were headed. But I counseled patience. Things would get better when the dust settled.  As time passed and changes continued, I counseled patience saying things had to get better.  After years of dealing with people who made a mockery of management and a farce of the term leadership, it had taken a toll on my physical and mental health and my family. So after trying patience and weighing the pros, cons and consequences, and without any immediate prospects I severed my relationship with that bank.

                This was not an easy decision to make as it puts a strain on personal finances in the near term. But in the long run, it has given me control back of my future, allowed me to begin healing my psyche from the almost daily trials. It has given me hope.

                And my muse is back. I had been too exhausted to hear her.  While I search for my next source of immediate cash, doors open for me. I am speaking at a Women in Business breakfast next month. I am putting a long term business plan together for my writing ventures and meeting some wonderful writers and entrepreneurs along the way. I am finding self-discipline and I am rediscovering my passions.  Which is a good thing, as I intend to try my hand at erotica for NaNoWriMo. But more on that in a later post.

                And in many ways I have my grandmother to thank for this.

                Have you made big changes in your life? Share your story with us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anastasia V.Pergakis talks about Cleanse Fire and the Wounded Warrior Project

Karen: Today, I have with me Anastasia V. Pergakis. Anastasia and I are both members of Savvy Authors. We share a common interest in world-building.  Harley is visiting us to talk about Cleanse Fire, the first book in her Kinir Elite Chronicles.

So, Anastasia tell us a little about the Kinir and the world they live in.

Anastasia: Karen, thank you so much for having me today. It is an honor to be a guest here. Even though Karen writes Urban Fantasy and I write Fantasy of a different sort, both genres have an element of world building. So today, I would like to share a little background and inside info about the world of the Kinir Elite, my special forces team of elves in my book Cleanse Fire.

The Kinir Elite are a "black ops" team with mostly top secret missions. They are still a very "public" group, unlike most black ops teams which are kept away from general knowledge. They are seen as the "super heroes" to young elves and are often the source of many bedtime stories. The majority of their missions are secret but when it's a hostage rescue situation, the news is spread around. Their country is rather small and limited in technology (compared to ours), so they don't have things like helicopters, cars, guns, etc. They use bladed weapons and bows, making for a more personal style battle/fight scenes. They use covered wagons, carriages, horses, and even dragons as their "vehicles".

They do work closely with their southern neighbours, the Tinally Elite, who are faeries. The faeries use magic and spells, unlike the physical weapons of the elves.  But the Tinally are limited in what they can do depending on location (can't use magic or survive long without sunlight or moonlight) and strength (if they use too much of their magic, it can drain them and they will need to rest to rebuild their power again). This is why the two groups work closely together. When there is a situation underground, the Kinir Elite will step in to help as the Tinally faeries cannot operate, even minimally, in such conditions. It is the same when the Kinir elves have a situation that requires flight and/or magic of some sort.

Female elves (elfas) only recently were allowed to join the Kinir Elite, while the Tinally Elite allow only male faeries. The members of both teams (6 on each) are chosen by the Captains and Commanders of the teams; members can not apply or request to join. In order to be "in the running", an elf or faerie must serve at least ten years in the Army and five years in the Kinir Rangers/Tinally Airborne. If they are chosen - and accept the invite - they pledge to serve another twenty five years. (They live for a very long time, being elves and faeries...)

Karen:  I’m intrigued to learn more about the Kinir and Tinally. Now let's talk about Cleanse Fire, shall we? What are the key elements of the story that every reader should know?

Anastasia: Without giving away too, there are three things we can talk about. The rest is for the reader to discover and enjoy.

Complete the mission, no matter what…
Captain Derac Vidor has served Kinir for nearly twenty years. It’s his life, his blood, his soul.  When his Commander betrays everything Derac holds dear, he must focus on his own life and his team instead of saving the citizens of Kinir.

Treason is only the beginning…
Fueled by rage, the team chases the source to their Commander’s betrayal – a powerful wizard bent on revenge. The wizard seeks to destroy the Kinir Elite, in both mind and body. No place is safe, even among their allies.

The past holds the key…
Derac’s tragic past may be the key to saving the team. But can he face the gruesome nightmare in time?

Cleanse Fire is a fantasy adventure novel, with edge-of-your-seat action. Epic battles, suspense, and a bit of romance too!


Karen: Well you’ve piqued my interest. But one more question: I understand that, beyond the incredible world you are building in this series and the heart-stopping stories, this project has a personal and special meaning to you. Will you share that with us?

Anastasia: Given the strong military theme in my book, I want to honor real life soldiers with my writing. Portions of my royalties from this book, and the upcoming books in the series, will go to the Wounded Warrior Project. This organization helps wounded soldiers and their families heal when they return home. You can learn more about them and read true accounts of soldiers they've helped at their website, www.WoundedWarriorProject.org.  

Karen: As the daughter of a veteran and friend to those whose lives have been touched, I want to thank you for your generosity.

Anastasia has been gracious enough to share an excerpt from Cleanse Fire with us.  At the end you can find links to her websites and how you can get your copy of Cleanse Fire.


Excerpt from Chapter 8.

A groan escaped him as he unbuttoned his shredded tunic. His hand brushed over the crest of Kinir embroidered on the front. Two lions reared up on their hind legs, one of each side of a crown atop a letter ‘K’. Silver and green threads woven together to create a metallic green look. His fingertips felt each thread, each rise in the design. How could Palto betray us?

A ragged sigh left his lips and he tossed the uniform to the floor. He wiped the dirt and grime off his skin with a soft cloth. The water turned brown. Dried blood flaked off him and landed to float on the surface of the murky water. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the bowl. The liquid swirled, making his stomach churn.

Derac’s knees collapsed from under him and he landed hard on the floor. He dragged the cloth down his face in an attempt to wash the mines and everything from his memory. Nothing helped. When he closed his eyes he saw the tortured and starved faeries and Kie panicking in the dark.

He scrambled to his feet and dumped the murky water out the window. Full of clean water again, Derac plunged his face into it. Using the pitcher, he poured more water over his head. The dirt, he had to be rid of it. All of it.

Derac straightened and squeezed the excess water from his hair. Dried blood, chunks of dirt, and who knew what else turned the water to a thick mud. He threw the contents out the window again and wiped the bowl clean.

He yanked his brush from his pack and raked it through his black tresses. Tears stung his eyes. He told himself it was the tangles in his hair but it was a lie. How many faeries had died before the team could rescue them? How many lost their innocence at the hands of a dwarf?

Derac fell to his knees and bowed his head toward the open window. Moonlight poured in, but it did little to dispel the chill he felt in his bones.

Kie willingly entered the place of her childhood nightmares. How did she muster the courage? Why wasn’t she a wreck like him? He pulled on her strength and forced himself back to his feet. Breaking down was not going to help anyone.

Thank you again, Karen, for having me here today. I really appreciate the visit to your blog.

Purchase Cleanse Fire

Join the Kinir Brigade by signing up for our newsletter! Get exclusive deals, access to special giveaways, and inside information about the series! Join the Kinir Brigade now! And don't forget to visit our Facebook Page and Website too!

~ * ~ * ~

In honor of Veterans Day coming up, I’m giving away an e-copy of Cleanse Fire! Leave a comment on this post to enter into the random drawing by 11:59 pm November 13 (Eastern Standard Time). You MUST leave your email address IN the comment so I can contact you when you win!

All commenters will also be added to the drawing for a chance to win a signed hard cover version of the book when it releases December 21.

I'm having more giveaways throughout the months of November and December! "Like" the series' facebook page to keep up to date on all the events!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NaNoWriMo and the Uncomfortable Zone

Earlier this week I talked about risk taking. Today I am talking about NaNoWriMo as a form of risk.  If you have not heard, every November hundreds of thousands of writers (200,500 in 2010) step up to the challenge of writing a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in thirty days. There are regional groups around the world that organize write-ins, launch parties and after-parties. So what’s the risk here and why take it?

NaNoWriMo is really about stepping out of your comfort zone. You may have “thought” about writing that novel. But as my father always says “And we know what thought did, right?” Trick question. Thought does not do anything.  But moving from thought to action can mean taking risk.

So the part of your brain that likes the word “no” says “What if you don’t finish 50,000 words? What if my first draft is shitty (with a nod to Anne Lamott)? 50,000 words! You’ve never written anything longer than a grocery list.  You don’t have the time. Why bother writing no one will like it.”

So why bother?  If you a writer, if the bug has bitten you, then you know you have no choice. The story must be heard, the characters demand attention.

So you’ve never written anything longer than a grocery list. There is only one way to know if you’ve got 50,000 words in you. Start.

What if the first draft is shitty? That’s why we edit and edit and then edit again. Sometimes referred to as rinse and repeat.

But no one will read it. Most likely no one except you will read the first draft. But after an edit or two you will call on some of the other writers you’ve met along the way to form a critique group (sounds formal but it’s often not.). They will become your beta readers and help you make the additional cuts and changes to begin polishing your novel.

Remember what I said in the earlier post. No sane person takes a risk with preparation. So how do you prepare when NaNoWriMo is a little more than 11 days away. First, don’t panic. Second go to the NaNoWriMo site, if you haven’t already, and sign up.

Then you need to do some preliminary activities:
1)      Decide if you are a paper or electronic writer. I write on my laptop because I have no patience for re-typing it later. For those who know me, I am a terrible typist when going direct to electronic. Factor in my handwriting and the scratch outs and arrow I’d have to follow.  A nightmare worthy of Stephen King.
2)      Write down your ideas and characters.  Even if NaNoWriMo on the surface appears to be an activity for pantsers, you will do better even if all you have are main character names, setting, time and four or five sentences about the plot. I recommend if you can to have some idea of beginning, middle and end.
3)      Stock up on snacks and beverages and any writing supplies you may need.
4)      Tell your friends what you are doing or, if you are not ready to come-out as a writer, tell them you have a 30-day flu and will be in quarantine. That can help handle the “enough time” problem.

What’s the benefit of taking the risk: You get the start of a novel. Make it to 50,000 words and you get a really cool certificate and bragging rights.  You meet other cool writers.

You also learn how to turn off your inner editor.  Many of us can kill a project by beating the same page to death instead of moving on. To get to the finish, you need to keep plowing ahead.  I will share a little technique that I began using. It feeds my inner editor just enough so she doesn’t whine.  I type my first draft in track changes mode.  Not to edit text, but for the nifty comment bubbles.  If I’m writing a new unplanned scene some prior information may be missing. If it stays in the next draft, it may need more set-up.  I put a note to go back and do that in the comment bubble. It helps me keep moving forward.

Maybe you are like me and want to use NaNo to experiment in a new genre. To step out of your comfort zone.  I will have a first draft done of one WIP before November1, so I’m going to try something new in November. Then, in December, after my current WIP has rested I can return to it with fresh eyes for the first round of slash and burn edits.

So are you taking the risk of creating something in November and joining me in NaNo?  Ah, you want to know what I’m experimenting with in November.  Let’s just say if it works, it will be HOT.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Risk, Reward and Dreams

What kind of risk taker are you? How far outside your comfort zone are you willing to step or, for that matter, leap? Have no idea? Okay. Let me ask a different question: If you had your way, what would you do in your spare time?  Be specific.Would you bake cookies? Learn to play the piano? Write a novel?

Often people will ask the question, what would you do, if you knew you could not fail?  Hell, if I knew I could not fail, I would jump out of an airplane. But risk involves the chance of failure (or in my case airsickness). One of my guilty pleasures this season is “The Sing-Off”. I will sing my lungs out in the car, but it would take more than a few glasses of wine to get me up in front of a crowd to sing, especially in a room where people might know me. Maybe in a tavern in Romania where no English is spoken, so they won’t even know if I screw up the lyrics. My choice of song could be a whole other blog. But I have promised myself that one day I will do it and sober.  Vague goal, I know but I have higher priorities right now.

Some of you that follow me want to write that novel. Then what? Do you show it to anyone? Let’s start with trusted readers and editors. What about publishing it to the world?  Now we’re talking risk.

Risk is not just jumping out of planes, bungee jumping, climbing Mount Everest. Let’s get real, anyone who takes on these activities or any other you can name does not do it lightly.  No sane person pulls out of their suburban driveway and thinks “I’ve never even climbed a ladder to clean my gutters, but I’m going to the airport today. I’m going to fly halfway around the world, head straight to Nepal and climb that damn mountain.” Duh? You know and I know that massive amounts of training and preparation are required.

Now writing a novel, singing karaoke, quitting your day job, or starting your own business, do not present the same physical danger as Mt Everest. I may not break a leg but I can seriously bruise my ego.
That said, I am a risk-taker.  No-pain, no-gain, especially when it comes to ego. My mantra is perhaps the other side of that coin. I always say, if you want something ask. What’s the worst that can happen: they say no? Will you be any worse off than you are right now? No regrets, no what-ifs.  Like climbing Mt. Everest, it takes a lot of preparation. You study, you weigh all the pros and cons, you know the outcome is not guaranteed and that it impacts others, but you go for it.

I’m going for a working published writer. I have studied and keep studying the craft and the business of writing and publishing. I have an agent for my first novel, but I also track and am actively involved in the self-publishing world. I am ready to do what I need to do and to do it with eyes wide open. I am also turning my years of developing my craft to helping others achieves their dream by offering editing and proofreading services.  I plan on expanding those services over the next year. More on that in a later blog, too.

I love writing and working with writers and I find myself with some extra time on my hands. I will be planning my work and working my plan. An added bonus is that, along the way, I have met some incredibly talented and supportive friends.

For a great discussion of risk taking, visit Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation's page on risk taking. I think you’ll agree that Lance knows something about risk taking.

What kind of risk-taker are you? What will you do to make your dream a reality?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Preying Angels by Jeff Davis, a Psychological Cyber-thriller

An Internet attack on the Federal Reserve brings together two colleagues, Michael Thomas and Gabrielle Sinclaire.  Once members of the Archangel project, a Special dark-ops government computer intelligence team, they suspect the attack was committed by another Archangel, Uriel/Lucifer, gone rogue. While investigating this cyber-crime from Thomas’ Mississippi home, they are called to assist in the analysis of a teenager’s home computer that may hold clues to her disappearance and the murder of other young girls.

Preying Angels is a dark cyber-thriller made all too chilling by the knowledge that internet stalking exists and we, especially the young and trusting, are all at risk.

Jeff Davis’ debut novel is a very good beginning for a career that promises to engage the reader in plots that are intriguing and push the envelope. He deals in a straight forward manner with, I believe, just the appropriate amount of violence, with young people as victims of adults with sick and twisted minds and the grief and pain of their family and the law enforcement officials who hunt the killer,  He takes it to the next level by introducing us to a master villain whose very willingness to manipulate a psychopath to achieve his own ends creates a new level of psychological horror.

If I had any suggestions, it would be to make the hero and heroine more three dimensional.  Mr. Davis writes the bad guy well.  I would like to know more about his protagonists, what makes them tick, what are their own flaws. How did they stay on the right side of the law when Uriel/Lucifer did not.  He hints at it, but I want to feel more of what Gabby and Michael feel. Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to go all romance on us in the next book but maybe a little more Jason Bourne.  We know that Bourne is a killing machine but he get a sense of his personal demons and torture. I’d just like him to dig deeper into their psyche and let us see it on the page.


I give Preying Angels 3-1/2 triskeles and look forward to even better coming from this inventive and fearless new writer.   







Preying Angels is available through these links at Amazon for Kindle and Smashwords. A print version will be available soon. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gabriel' Return Reviewed

Okay, so I know I promised this for Monday, but as everyone has experienced life, the day job and other "stuff" happens. But I always deliver even if a little delayed.
So without further adieu here are my humble thought on Steve Umstead's Gabriel's Return.

                
NAF Navy Commander Evan Gabriel receives an interrupted message from a former mission team member. The only problem is that for years, Commander Gabriel believed he was the only survivor of the ill-fated mission to Eden. The message from Katoa speaks of a terrorist group and dangerous weapons, so Gabriel must take a new team back to Eden and to confront the terrorists and its strange, dangerous jungle. Can he lead this team to success or is it another trap?

                Gabriel’s Return is the second book of Steve Umstead’s Evan Gabriel Trilogy.

                Full disclosure: I know Steve Umstead well as a fellow member of PubWriteGroup. Our association with each other and our fellows in Pubwrite has been and will continue to be based on honest feedback that helps each other grow as writers.  There is no compensation, direct or indirect, for this review.

                Umstead brings back Evan Gabriel, the remaining members of the team assembled in Gabriel’s Redemption and new characters that intrigue and entertain. Umstead continues to deepen his characters, even secondary ones to create a cast that is as diverse and fascinating as the flora and fauna of the jungles of Eden. Speaking of the setting, the rich description of animals and plants that are just different enough from anything found on Earth to be unique but similar enough to create a visual image in this reader’s mind made this a treat. I am not generally a reader of science fiction, particularly the overly technical type.  Umstead’s worlds and technology are clearly alien and futuristic but at the same time accessible. Gabriel’s personal growth and is struggles with his warrior (destruction) nature and his peacemaker (community builder) nature reveals itself as his personal battleground.

                I initially read, Gabriel’s Redemption, the first book of the trilogy and enjoyed it.  This second novel by Steve Umstead is even better. Steve is a master of mechanics and Gabriel’s Return is no exception.  From a plot, pacing and structure perspective, Return is even better. The writing is tighter adding to the tension and fast paced action. Personalities are were drawn with even seeming secondary characters have a distinct presence and role in moving the plot and/or my understanding of Gabriel or his key antagonist, the mysterious man called only The Prophet. If I had one suggestion, it would be to continue to refine the Evan Gabriel character. He has the potential to be richly layered and worthy of more than just a trilogy.

                I look forward to watching both Steve Umstead, the author, and Evan Gabriel, the warrior politician, grow and change.
                 NAF Navy Commander Evan Gabriel receives an interrupted message from a former mission team member. The only problem is that for years, Commander Gabriel believed he was the only survivor of the ill-fated mission to Eden. The message from Katoa speaks of a terrorist group and dangerous weapons, so Gabriel must take a new team back to Eden and to confront the terrorists and its strange, dangerous jungle. Can he lead this team to success or is it another trap?

                Gabriel’s Return is the second book of Steve Umstead’s Evan Gabriel Trilogy.

                Full disclosure: I know Steve Umstead well as a fellow member of PubWriteGroup. Our association with each other and our fellows in Pubwrite has been and will continue to be based on honest feedback that helps each other grow as writers.  There is no compensation, direct or indirect, for this review.

                Umstead brings back Evan Gabriel, the remaining members of the team assembled in Gabriel’s Redemption and new characters that intrigue and entertain. Umstead continues to deepen his characters, even secondary ones to create a cast that is as diverse and fascinating as the flora and fauna of the jungles of Eden. Speaking of the setting, the rich description of animals and plants that are just different enough from anything found on Earth to be unique but similar enough to create a visual image in this reader’s mind made this a treat. I am not generally a reader of science fiction, particularly the overly technical type.  Umstead’s worlds and technology are clearly alien and futuristic but at the same time accessible. Gabriel’s personal growth and is struggles with his warrior (destruction) nature and his peacemaker (community builder) nature reveals itself as his personal battleground.

                I initially read, Gabriel’s Redemption, the first book of the trilogy and enjoyed it.  This second novel by Steve Umstead is even better. Steve is a master of mechanics and Gabriel’s Return is no exception.  From a plot, pacing and structure perspective, Return is even better. The writing is tighter adding to the tension and fast paced action. Personalities are were drawn with even seeming secondary characters have a distinct presence and role in moving the plot and/or my understanding of Gabriel or his key antagonist, the mysterious man called only The Prophet. If I had one suggestion, it would be to continue to refine the Evan Gabriel character. He has the potential to be richly layered and worthy of more than just a trilogy.

                I look forward to watching both Steve Umstead, the author, and Evan Gabriel, the warrior politician, grow and change.

                I award Steve Umstead’s Gabriel’s Return                   4-1/2 
               
For those who are wondering, that is a triskele, an ancient symbol thought to represent the three worlds of Druidry and the unity between the worlds.
               
     Both books are available for Kindle, Nook, in paperback. Visit Steve's website  or the PubWriteGroup site for more information          
               
    
                

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Firsts: Hanging out with Rebecca Clark

Today I have the pleasure of being a guest of Rebecca Clark on her Friday Firsts blog. There I share the first five sentences of my current work in progress, Ogham Court, my first date with my hubby and how the Salmon Run Inn fits in to that (key setting in Ogham Court) and my thoughts on farmhouses and chocolate body wraps.  Stop on over, say hi to me and meet Rebecca and her previous Friday First guests.

On Monday I'll be back with my review of Steve Umstead's Gabriel's Return.  That give you the weekend to get it and read it so you can comment.   What are you waiting for.....

Friday, September 2, 2011

Meet Evan Gabriel of Steve Umstead's Gabriel Trilogy

K.Victoria Smith:   Through the magic of time travel, we are here today with Evan Gabriel. Some of you already know him from the events on Poliahu as re-told in Steve Umstead’s thrilling novel, Gabriel’s Redemption. I’ve read Steve’s new novel, Gabriel’s Return. I am a big fan of you and Steve Umstead.  I think it’s time for your fans to get to know you better, Evan.  I can call you, Evan? 

Evan Gabriel:         I'm normally referred to by rank, but as you're a civvie, Evan is fine, thank you.

KVS:        Good.  So shall we begin

Evan:      Yeah, I've got a mission debrief to get to.

KVS:        Let’s start with the basics.  Tell us about yourself. Where were you born? Family? Childhood pets? What did you do for fun?

Evan:      I was born in Phoenix Arizona in June, 2148. Parents Scott & Ekaterina, both deceased. My mother…died of cancer when I was very young. My father was…he passed away during the aftermath of the Shanghai Event when I was twelve. Sorry…anyway. I've got a brother who after not seeing him for several years, turned up quite unexpectedly on my last mission. He's older, but more…academic than me, I suppose. I was always bigger and stronger than he was, so I was always sticking up for him in school. Go figure. Before my father died, we did a lot of traveling to the Caribbean, along with my uncle and my cousin. After the Shanghai asteroid, things…changed. That was the end of a lot of childhoods.  


KVS:        What attracted you to military service?

Evan:      My uncle was Special Forces, and I was always fascinated by his tales when he came to our house. He couldn't tell us everything, of course, but what he could was…thrilling. After my father died, I was sort of on my own - well, my brother and I. And when Zack went off to college, I fell in with what most would call the wrong crowd. Instead of college I enlisted, and found I was very good at what the Navy needed. I rose very quickly through the officer ranks, and into the Special Forces. Sort of saved my life.


KVS:        What is the hardest part of your job? Why? What keeps you going?

Evan:      Being SpecFor in the Navy means a lot of traveling, relocating, not a lot of settling down time. I guess that can be hard, not having friends outside the military. But the hardest part, by far, is watching people die. And sometimes feeling responsible for it. As a commander, I am ultimately responsible, and when a mission like…Eden. Damn. Sorry…when a mission goes wrong, and people die, it stabs at a man's soul. What keeps me going? This is my calling. I'm good at what I do, like I was meant for this. And I'm responsible for a new team now. They depend on me, and I cannot let them down.


KVS:        If we were to ask your team to describe Evan Gabriel, what words would they use?

Evan:      They'd better use good ones, or there'll be hell to pay. I'm no taskmaster, but I do expect results. Determined…driven…knowledgeable…trustworthy. Maybe a bit too easy on them, actually, now that I think about it...


KVS:        Is there something you won’t tell anyone?  I promise I won’t tell a soul.

Evan:      This is off the record, correct? I cannot have this showing up in some tabloid on Mars. There was an…incident. During the Ganymede Uprising a few years back, miners had taken control of an ore-producing facility on that moon. They had taken hostages, several of which were children. My team and I had gone in to ensure their safety during negotiations. I had come across a single miner who had taken a child and was holed up in an ore transfer dock. We were…under orders. No casualties, even the miners. But this guy…he was different. I saw it in his eyes. 

                I was alone, I tracked him down, and shut down my comms, powered off all weapons. I was off the official grid. He…refused to let the boy go, claimed he needed leverage. The boy wasn't more than twelve. Same age as I was when my father died. It's a very impressionable age. We struggled, I got him away from the miner and secure in a storage locker, then it was just he and I.  I used my neuretic brain implant to hack into the dock's controls, and opened the outer airlock door. I forced him back against the inner door, took a deep breath and squeezed my eyes shut, and ordered the inner door open, bypassing the safeties. I watched his body in my heads-up retina display fly through the door, then immediately closed the inner door. The boy was safe, and the miner's body was never found. It was off the record, and none of the other miners complained - apparently they all knew him as a piece of trash.


                Bottom line: don't mess with kids. 
-
KVS:        So Evan, for the ladies out there:  Are you single? If not, tell us about the lucky lady.

Evan:      Technically? Single. However, don't let Renay hear that. For five months or so, from shortly after the Poliahu mission, Lieutenant Renay Gesselli and I have been together. We, along with my team, were deployed to Mars for security, and, well, things just sort of happened. I've been away from Mars for over a week now, with this Eden mission, and I'm looking forward to sharing a cup of coffee with her back in Nuovo Portofino on Mars.


KVS:        So what’s next for Evan Gabriel?

Evan:      Apparently some political maneuvering has been happening on Mars while I've been away. Those South American Republic snakes always seem to be behind all the problems my team and I run into. I received a message from my good friend Governor Mubina Tarif in Arsia Mons dome that two domes now belong to the SAR, and that something of a personal nature happened. Something…I can't talk about. Not now. I've got to get this briefing over with, and get back to Mars as soon as I can. I just…I need to get there. It's important. It's…Revenge.


KVS:        
It has been a real pleasure for me. I want to thank you for taking time away from your responsibilities. I hope you will continue to work with Steve Umstead. We all want to know what happened next.  


Gabriel's Return is available as an ebook by clicking the link for the :
 Kindle                          or            Nook           and at          Goodreads


 More information about Steve and his books can be found at his website: http://steveumstead.com/

Some previous stops on Steve's blog tour include the websites of:

Leah Petersen  and Shay Fabbro


Keep an eye out for future visits to other websites, including:

Al Boudreau    and  AJ Powers



Steve is giving away one set of the Books One and Two of Gabriel Trilogy.  Leave a comment or question here for Evan Gabriel to qualify.   A winner will be drawn at random.




Who knows, Evan or his avatar, Steve, may answer.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Taking Charge: Bob Mayer's "Write It Forward"

Just a quick post for today.

I am reading  Bob Mayer's book Write It Forward. In a changing writing and publishing environment it is a must read for those who want to take charge of their success as a writer.  Bob,(I hope I can call kim that) is a multi-pubbed author and the founder of Who Dares Wins Publishing. Perhaps more important is his military background in the Green Beret.  He learned his focus and ability to motivate himself and others there.

I have always been a person who took charge of my own future, but lately I have felt a loss of control. The economy has battered us all, publishing is shifting sands--nothing is as easy as it use to be.Bob Mayer's  Write It Forward is the shot in the arm I needed right now.  It reminded me to start with a strategic goal and build from there.  Having a goal that is specific and measurable was the piece I had lost.

I have written my strategic goal for my writing.  Have you?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricanes and Writing in the Dark



                So Irene blew through the Northeast this past weekend leaving destruction in varying degrees in her wake.  We were fortunate and suffered very little property damage.  My thoughts and prayers go out to those less fortunate.  We did lose power for approximately thirty-six hours but we were prepared with a generator to hook up the refrigerator, one television to entertain others and an oxygen concentrator for my father.  My father normally lives on his own in a 55-and-up community about two miles from our house.  He has emphysema (50 years of smoking will do that to you) and requires oxygen supplementation. Prior to Irene’s arrival, we picked him up and brought him to our house in anticipation of the power outage. His development is still without power.

                On top of that, my daughter is preparing to move to the New York apartment that was the result of the hunt covered in a previous blog. There are boxes, furniture and goddess only knows what piled everywhere.

                Did I mention my father is hard of hearing and likes to turn up the volume so that the neighbors can listen along?

                Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and am grateful for the minimal impact Irene has had on us. But hurricanes, fathers and moving daughters can throw a routine into chaos.

                On the full night of the black-out, I sought out the solitude of my writing cave in the spare room we have on the second floor.  It was dark and there was no electricity so I lit three candles and surrounded my paper with them. For someone who writes about vampires and ancient Druids, it was the perfect ambience for working on the sequel to Dark Dealings.  The soft flicker of the candle flame was soothing and chased the stress into the shadows.

                The pieces are starting to fall into place for Book 2 (as yet untitled) and I have Christopher Vogler’s: The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers to thank. It is one of my touchstone works when I feel like my story arc is floundering. In his work, Vogler takes the Hero’s Journey, as well-described and analyzed by Joseph Campbell, and applies it to modern storytelling first in movies and then in the written word. It is not a formula approach to novel writing but a study of the common elements found in great and memorable stories since we first sat around the cave fire. It helps me focus on why my plot may feel dull and listless.
               
                Like my ancestors the bards of Ireland, I spent the night in a darkness broken only by the flickering tongues of flame. I thought about how to make my story better. I want a novel that will transport someone from their normal world, to take them on an adventure and give them a gift to bring back with them. And so I struggle and study and learn from other storytellers, from readers and from the flame.

                Come back this weekend to meet one of those storytellers, Steve Umstead, a fellow PubWriteGroup member. We learn from each other every day on our journey to be the best writers we can be.
                So the storm moves on and so do I until the next hurricane, earthquake or, dare I hope, flash of inspiration.  It is only the beginning of the season you know.