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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Review: Mandalay Hawk's Dilema

 

"Tom Hawk had come to accept that his daughter - his very smart and very motivated, but extremely unprepared daughter - was going to try to march to Washington without any plan or parental support"


I was given a copy of this book for review. You can find my review and original book image at 

https://www.amazon.com/Mandalay-Hawks-Dilemma-United-Anthropocene/dp/1732077533/


"Tom Hawk had come to accept that his daughter - his very smart and very motivated, but extremely unprepared daughter - was going to try to march to Washington without any plan or parental support"


Mandalay suffers through a hurricane, leading her to the impetuous action of burning a bunch of school property (donated by an electric company). What follows is her journey to activate her generation for climate change. It read much like The Day After Tomorrow watched - singular agenda driven. All characters are defined by the main thrust of the book: environmental issues. From Mandalay's red lipstick message WE READ: "THEY CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING-LIKE ALL POWER COMPANIES USING FOSSIL FUEL!! HOW STUPID CAN WE BE? IF WE DON'T STOP GLOBAL WARMING NOW, IT WILL BE TOO LATE! IT WILL MAKE THE PANDEMIC OF 2020 LOOK LIKE A PICNIC IN THE PARK!!!... ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! THIS CR** HAS TO STOP NOW!!!" It is ALL CAPS, bold face here matching the text in the book.


There is a great scene early on between Mandalay and Gertrude where Gertrude asks, "please tell me how you and your friends plan on saving the world." The response made me chuckle, "Nothing embarrasses a kid more than having their own words or actions shoved right back in their face."


I suppose time will tell if books such as these can help us change collectively in such a way as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle once did for the meat industry. Here, marches, rap songs (I was ill prepared for Mandalay as an eloquent rapper), and rooftop gardens are the proposed solutions, leaving this reader to close the book feeling preached at without any discernable path forward.


I was given a copy for review.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Review: MD Cooper's Outsystem


I met Cooper at a convention this past year. She was pleasant enough and enjoyable to talk about the craft of writing. She writes a very niche genre: Military Sci-Fi with lesbian protagonists. The book is one of her first and stars one of her major characters: Tannis. The author is super prolific with hundreds of books published in the sci-fi world she has created. 


There is actually a pretty cool KDP (Amazon Authors) video interview worth watching if you are interested in how authors can make it through independent publishing. One well respected system is definitely the "Put lots of stuff out there." More notably, I see theories like "20 books to $20,000" or similar titles. Cooper seems to have made it work for her and kudos. 

See her interview HERE

My Review on Amazon:

 A cocky protagonist saves the space colony from a nuclear explosion. What follows is a mystery / conspiracy laden sleuth in space with cyborg body parts, tech and AI. There is some character development but the real reason to get on this rollercoaster is for the non-stop thrills. The author writes excellent action scenes that put you in the moment.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Review: The Bootlace Magician

 




As a kid, one of my favorite Wonderful World of Disney specials on Sunday night was Toby Tyler. He was a young boy who ran away from the circus. He was welcomed into the circus family, but didn't have a "place." Micah Tuttle is such a boy in this book. It is not the first book in the series, and perhaps I would give it 5 stars if I had read the first. It took me a long while to catch up to the backstory. To my credit (or my excuse) I was given a copy for review at DragonCon and was never told it was book two.


The opening seemed slow though even after I realized I wasn't in the first book and read a quick synopsis of book one. However, I loved the themes of family and overcoming darkness in the world.

I enjoyed the magic system and the coming-of-age element as Micah learns more and more how to use his magic. 

Definitely check out book one before this one if you have not done so. That said, I would not hesitate to recommend both and will be picking up book one soon.


I was given an ARC copy at Dragoncon for review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Short on Time but want to edit your WIP?

Visit Original 


I have learned a lot since I started writing a few years back. One is that those of us who work full time, have families, second jobs, and other committments often struggle to write. For me, I enjoy the flow of a good story and it is easier to find time to put words on paper than it is to go back and edit. 

Let me make clear, what follows is not a comprehensive edit. You should have beta readers, content editing all the way down to line editing and proofing if you want your book to find traction with readers. Some of this you can get friends to help do, some you can do yourself, and some simply must be hired out (especially I would argue the final proof needs to be fresh eyes).

What I have here are not comprehensive edits. Rather, they are the "I have an hour but can't really sit down and go deep for another two weeks" edits. It keeps you in the work (though pauses and breaks are great for editing too) but does not involve you keeping every detail of your story fresh and top of mind. What's best? they are all free.

Visit Original



-1.Check your adverbs
    Adverbs. In a draft they often come quickly (uh... I mean with rapidity). Why say someone walked softly when you can say they tiptoed. Or he ate greedily when you can say he devoured. Or that someone suddenly jumped out of the window when you can just say they jumped. Adverbs have a place and I don't necessarily believe (oops - I don't universally subscribe) that they all should be eliminated like enemy ships in a video game. But English is a beautiful language in part because it has so many excellent words. 

So... her eis the edit task. Go to your word processor and pull up your document. Then go to the FIND ALL function. Type in "ly" "ly" with a space bar after may narrow the results and eliminate words like fly, ply, and lye. Then look at each occurance using whatever time you have. Consider why you used the adverb and if there is a better way to write the sentence. Maybe you knock out a paragraph, a chapter, or half a book. Either way, you will benefit from the edit in your final version.




-2. Scan for passive voice
    This FIND ALL may have more false alerts, but it is still a good use of a short window. FIND ALL words like "be." "has been." or even words like "was." What will come up within the results are your uses of the passive tense. Sometimes the passive tense is okay. It is a great way to keep mystery ("The body was found in the living room" doesn't tell us ho the killer was). However, in general it is a weaker tense. So take a moment to find where you used it. Is there a way to write the sentence in the active voice? Knock out a few sentences to better your novel... rather than the novel was knocked out by you editing.

-3. Polish character ticks, mannerisms, or dialogue
    Do you have a character (this is especially helpful with side characters) who has a particular catchphrase, mannerism, or physical tick? Again, use FIND ALL and search for a key word you used. "Y'all," "tapped knee." "fingers hair." or " you betta." If you have chapters where that character plays a prominent role but no hits it means you may have let your character slip out of character. Or, like me, you may find you allow other characters to adopt things you assigned to only one character. It can be a good character check within a very short amount of time.

-4. Get rid of excessive exclamation marks... and rewrite so you don't need it!!!!
    You don't need them. Maybe if your characters are reading a poster outloud that a second grader made. "Lemonade sale tomorrow!!!!!" Otherwise, use minimally. So, what do you do? Yes, you guessed it. Do a FIND ALL for "!." But don't just delete them and put a period in its place. You chose that punctuation for a reason. In your draft you felt excitement, fear, or energy in the passage and wanted to convey it. Now is your time to craft a better sentence or passage. Take out the exclamation mark and insert words that do the heavy lifting for you. "The dog entered the room snarling!!!" can change to "Everyone spun as the dog snarled. It's normal overbite and cute front teeth sticking out of its lip grew grotesque as other teeth joined in a gesture of hate." Maybe not my best work, but you get the drift.


-5. Scan first two words.
    Take a chapter. Look at the first two to three words in each paragraph. What do you see? "Joe shouted..." "Janie sat..." "Joe got up..." "Janie stuttered" Here you are looking for two things primarily. Obvious signs of head hoping and if you need to change your starts to create a more readable rhythm. Of course, the latter will relate to the book you are writing and the section you are in. It might be a good time to have short, choppy action sentences. However, if every paragraph starts out with a participle phrase you may tire a reader.

-6. Participle search or other copious occurrence.
    Try FIND ALL for "ing." Unlike the exclamation mark where you are seeking out weak writing to create better writing, here you may need to judge case by case. Either way, it may uncover tendencies you have. If I could, this technique can be used for any number of instances. I grew up with an elderly school marm whacking my fingers with a ruler as I pecked away at a typewriter. Therefore, I inevitably double space after sentences. Here I can FIND ALL "  " ("space-space") and use REPLACE ALL to correct the problem.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: Billy Summer

Buy Here (link to image also)

 

A sprinkle of political jabs throughout read as distracting to me, but if Bruce Springsteen can shout political opinions then I suppose King can too. Maybe too many, especially since it was published after Trump's presidency. For me it was not the issue he was thrusting his political opinion out there - Lord knows lots of authors promote their agendas - it was that he did it in a way that pulled me, the reader / listener, out of the novel.


Otherwise, it is two excellent interwoven novellas. The first about a Birman performing a job. The second about a man who rescues a girl from a bad situation. The second story is built on the first and uses the hit man’s unfinished business as its catalyst.
I loved the nods to Cormac McCarthy and O’Brien. The ending recalled a lot of The Things They Carried. Like almost every King book I read a little, got hooked, and devoured the story.

Not horror fiction in the way It or Carrie are. But 100% King and a great intro to King for any newbie. Or do yourself a favor and jump into The Dark Tower.


Monday, May 9, 2022

 



TAKING A HIATUS!!



I began reviewing Indie books in May 2020. I have loved reading Indie authors, building new friendships, and most of all supporting you all. However, I am committing this summer to my own writing endeavors. 
I have some short reviews of more mainline published books I read over the past year to populate my blog. I hope to be back taking submissions in August 2022.

Are you an author?


Would you like your book promoted on my blog? and website?

Would you like to have your book reviewed?


If so, please contact me directly at 

jerryharwoodbooks (you know the symbol) gmail(dot) com.


Please put in the subject line: 

REVIEW REQUEST and the title of your book in the email. 

Look forward to hearing from you.

Independent authors welcome!

One of the things I love most about the writing community is the support and help I have received. Whether it be a seasoned writer who lets me bend his/her ear, a conference speaker, members of the writer's group or critique group I am in, book related podcast hosts, or just other writers in general, I have always felt a willingness to share and help.

If you are an independent author, I would love to extend my little corner of the writing world to you. 

Drop me an email at jerryharwoodbooks@gmail.com and let me know what book(s) you are seeking to promote. If it is a good fit, I will be happy to do an interview posting to my blog, website, and social media. If the genre is in my wheelhouse, I will be happy to read an author copy. I would then post my review on my blog and give you the option for me to post it as well on other sites such as Amazon or Goodreads.


Hope to hear from you soon!


jerryharwoodbooks at that thing called gmail.


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Interview and Review: Golem by PD Alleva

 

See the Blog Post


Today, we have an opportunity to talk to PD Alleva.  PD has written the book, Golem, a psychological horror novel. 

 

First, let me say I love the cover. Second, thank you for joining me.  I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.

 

Thank you for the interview Jerry, it’s greatly appreciated.

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pdalleva_author/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pdallevaauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/PdallevaAuthor

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/pdalleva

Website:  www.pdalleva.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7634126.P_D_Alleva

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/p-d-alleva

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gxKH7P

Golem Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09CV5823C/


"Yeah, that’s what I do, I write books, that’s my day job. I’m also a hypnotist and therapist with a specialty in treating trauma, addiction, and mental health. My interests include, quantum physics, ancient philosophy, science of mind, spirituality, and of course, ancient aliens. Any questions?"


That is great.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?

 

I’ve been writing since I can remember, it’s kind of an itch I need to scratch on frequent occasions plus writing affords other opportunities for all the voices in my head to be heard. I find a certain profound peace in the creative process I’ve never been able to replicate. Writing keeps me focused, poised, alert, and on point, it’s the balance between the surreal and the real, kind of like teetering across the line between total insanity and complete numbness. Plus it’s a safer and healthier practice than acting out the insanity as if personal life was meant to be chaotic and filled with mayhem and drama.

 

But to answer your question about myself, well, I write books, that’s what I do. Good ones, crazy ones, fun books, entertaining books, scary creepy books that are absolutely insane, books with depth and books with excitement, and books that tear out the heart of humanity and throws it on a slab to be feasted on. Yeah, that’s what I do, I write books, that’s my day job. I’m also a hypnotist and therapist with a specialty in treating trauma, addiction, and mental health. My interests include, quantum physics, ancient philosophy, science of mind, spirituality, and of course, ancient aliens. Any questions?

 

Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?

 

Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, but mostly nostalgia, old movies, old books, certain scenes or nuances that take up space in my brain and need to jump onto a page. But also, concepts, theories, folklore, and myths. Sometimes I look at society and want to puke or grab an axe and start whacking, but I can’t do that now can I, so I wrap it all up into a story.

My best piece of advice is to not just read, but study the craft."

What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?

 

Reading is my ultimate hobby, and it is through reading that I can explore unique concepts such as science of mind, spiritualism, quantum physics, mythology, folklore, and alien theories. I’m big into aliens and alien concepts and theories. Ancient Aliens is one of my favorite shows, allowing this indulgence to take on a new life. I’m also a psychotherapist and hypnotist (practicing now for close to twenty years) and with my practice training comes into play, mostly through concepts and practices like hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming, and an understanding of belief systems and how the mind functions including the subconscious mind. The human mind contains depths far exceeding the reach of the known universe. I find it amazing how disempowered the human race has become, with little to no understanding of how powerful we all truly are, how eternal, with the ability to self heal.

 

And yes, my hobbies have an uncanny knack of finding their way into my writing. It’s one of those things that you just can’t turn off.

 

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

 

My best piece of advice is to not just read, but study the craft. While you’re reading stop and look around (at the book that is). How did the author introduce a new character? What is the flow of the book from one chapter to the next? How did the author use dialogue to move the story? Begin to see the craft and artistry behind the story and that will lead to better writing on your part.

 


Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?

 

I write full time and also have a private practice, although the private practice is more of a part time position. A few years ago when I decided to write full time I began to take on a smaller role in the private practice and cut down on the amount of patients I see in any given week. Since it’s a private practice I can schedule my days around writing.

 

How many hours a day do you write?

When I’m writing it’s about four to six hours a day. But I do take breaks in between writing and editing. I write horror novels and I write scifi novels about alien vampires attempting to subjugate the human race after WW3 so I need to bounce between genres and sometimes I need to disconnect from one genre to give my full attention to the next. Kind of like having different personalities but the best of both worlds.  

 

What is your favorite part about writing?

I love it all, the craft, the fine-tuning, the relentless click of the keyboard, the editing, cover design, all of it, but I will have to say my favorite part is holding the finished product in my hands. There’s just something about the finished product that carries a certain pride to it, kind of like watching your child walk across the stage to receive their diploma. It’s a battle writing a book just the same as raising a child (I’ve got four), you go through so many trials and tribulations, but when you see that final product, you know it was all worth it.

 

What does literary success look like to you?

 

Millions of preorders.

 

Please tell us about your current release.

 

Golem is a psychological horror novel written in the vein of books like The Shining, Interview with the Vampire, The Silence of the Lambs, and Frankenstein. The story follows a young and na├»ve detective, John Ashton, whose first case as a detective is to find the District Attorney’s missing daughter in 1951 New York City. Problem is, his only lead is high society sculptor and socialite Alena Francon who’s been a resident at Bellevue’s psychiatric facility for the past six months. When John interviews Alena, she tells him the story of Golem, a demon she incarnated into a statue she created in 1947 whose been wreaking havoc on the New York social elite, gaining power and control over the city as he uses orphans to serve as bodily hosts for his demonic army. The story is profoundly psychological (I am a therapist after all) and is told through multiple points of view, as are most of my books. I love being in the heads of my characters, discovering their intricacies and fears, motivations and desires. 

 

Can you read / provide us with a small exert?

 

“Sixty-two bedrooms,” said the cabbie. He was explaining to Ashton the Francon Mansion’s history. “Every brick was imported from all over Europe. Right down to the marble tile.” He added, “From Italy.” Ashton surmised the cabbie was Italian by the prideful way he expressed “Italy”.

           They were driving down a barren road lined with red cedar trees. Every so often they passed a gate and driveway leading to a house or mansion tucked back off the main road.

            “It’s the biggest house on the block,” said the cabbie as he eyed Ashton in the rearview mirror. “We’re almost there.”

            “You seem to know a lot about the house.”

            “Lived here most of my life. One tends to pick up history as the years go by.”

            “Have you ever been inside?”

            He shook his head. “Not at all. A guy like me has trouble getting invites.” He laughed. Then a moment later, “Here we go.”

            Ashton perked up. The gate was old steel and wide open attached to two stone pillars on either side. The cab stopped outside the gate and Ashton looked up the long winding drive to the house that stood in darkness. Colossal, was Ashton’s first thought, his eyes wide taking in the sheer volume and size. A single light flickered in the mansion as if a candle had been lit in the foyer.

            “No party tonight,” said the cabbie. “Your luck must have run out.”

            Ashton caught the cabbie’s smile.

            “You’re not gonna drive up?”

            He clucked his tongue and shook his head. “No,” he said. “This is as close as I get.”

            “Superstitious?”

            “You might say that. I don’t invite devils into my life, detective. That’s your job.”

            “Indeed,” Ashton breathed staring at the long walk to the house.

            The cabbie added, “I feel like I’m dropping off Rhenfield to meet his doom. Be careful in there, detective. Evil spirits are everywhere around this place.”

            “Rhenfield?”

            The cabbie eyed him in the rearview. “You don’t read, do you?”

            Ashton shook his head. “No time.”

            “You should. Great books are like a blueprint…a survival manual disguised as fiction. As folklore. Because the truth hides in plain sight and those that see have to hide and those that can’t see…well, they’re just a part of the plan.”

 

What exciting story are you working on next?

 

I’ve got a few in the pipeline. I just began writing Vol 3 of my scifi fantasy series about alien vampires attempting to subjugate the human population. Series is titled, The Rose, which is based on an alchemy practice that allows for the manipulation of chemistry in inanimate objects, and telekinesis. I’m also editing my next horror novel, Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect, a novel I refer to as my covid quarantine satirical cosmic grindhouse horror fantasy thriller novel. It’s one hell of a wild ride. Carnivals, Cannibals, and Clowns! Oh my!

 

Who are your favorite authors?

 

This is a very long list, but I’ll keep it short: Ray Bradburry, Edgar Allan Poe, The Bronte Sisters, HG Wells, Jules Verne, Stephen King, Blake Crouch, James Herbert, Ernest Hemingway, Clive Barker, Mary Shelley (favorite book is Frankenstein), and Anne Rice.

 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Time and Again by Jack Finney. It’s a time travel novel that uses hypnosis as a means for time travel. Fantastically excellent book.

 

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

 

Yes, first thank you for the interview and supporting indie authors. For all the readers out there thank you for stopping by and taking some time to check out my interview. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter. I send that puppy out once a month, and it’s the perfect way to score an early release, take part of giveaways, and enjoy some book fairs.

 

One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pdalleva_author/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pdallevaauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/PdallevaAuthor

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/pdalleva

Website:  www.pdalleva.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7634126.P_D_Alleva

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/p-d-alleva

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gxKH7P

Golem Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09CV5823C/


MY REVIEW:


For one, I love old lore and myths reinvented. I enjoy horror and love the psychological thriller told well. If you are still tracking with me and like the same, this one is for you. Allena is a laugh for Captain Knowles. She claims a Golem kidnapped a horde of children in a hotel. A hotel she apparently set on fire. She is in a sanitarium. John Ashton is a detective tasked on a different case, another kid kidnapping. Their worlds intertwine. There is cruelty and blood. In fact, at one point the story echoes the whole when Allena is bleeding and the narration declares “Life is a cruel trick that God gets off on playing. And hope is nothing more than a delusion.” Grim, right. It is. And captivating. Page turning. Especially when we meet Golem. Alleva weaves an engrossing tale that leaves you curious to see what is on the next page. But, as the Golem warns, “be careful… you know what happens to curious kittens.” Alleva certainly does well writing compelling narrative. I was given a free copy for review. I usually read a little here, a little there. I found myself staying up past my bedtime on this one.