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Driving in Tennessee: Sleeping is the New Texting?

So I get it.  Tennessee has passed a law that as of July 1st, 2019 no one is allowed to have any cellular device in their hand while drivi...

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Checkout My Podcast Interview!




Spilling Ink 
Podcast Interview
Saturday, July 11th
8:00 EST


Check Out Other Spilling Ink Podcasts Here







My friend, Katie Salidas, has invited me to be a guest 
on the acclaimed podcast, Spilling Ink.  

Check out her awesome series here!
https://www.katiesalidas.com












What I gave to Katie





Spilling Ink is a podcast that goes behind the book with authors Katie Salidas, Jason LaVelle, and David Jones.  They give an inside look at all aspects of the publishing industry. They look for authors working their way to the top of the slush piles, and see what it takes to bring a story from idea to print. (adapted from their website: Spilled Ink)


What Katie helped me create!!
I am very blessed to have met Katie, who helped me on the cover design and formatting of Jam Sessions.





Katie also helped me connect with someone on ACX, where I produced my audible version.  She was a great help navigating the indie publishing waters.  I am excited that I have been invited to interview on the podcast.  It will air live Saturday evening and can be found in archive at their site:



https://spillinginkshow.podbean.com







Saturday, July 4, 2020

Quarantine World: Trapped in the Coronaverse










Author name:  
Michael H. Hanson

Website: 

Genre of book: 
Poetry Chapbook

















Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Michael H. Hanson.  Michael has written the poetry chapbook, “QUARANTINE WORLD: Trapped In The Coronaverse.”  

 Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?

I am a Member of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) and the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Though an experienced short story writer in the fields of fantasy, science fiction, and horror with over one hundred published tales to my credit (most notably in Janet Morris’s Heroes-in-Hell series and The Sha’Daa Series), I am also a active Poet. The son of a U.S. Army Sergeant and a Nurse, I’ve penned four published anthologies verse, ‘AUTUMN BLUSH’ and ‘JUBILANT WHISPERS’ (Racket River Press) and ‘DARK PARCHMENTS’ and ‘WHEN THE NIGHT OWL SCREAMS’ (MoonDream Press). I am currently compiling an illustrated collection of poems for children titled THE GREAT SOAP REBELLION. I recently announced the publication of my new full collection of science-fiction and fantasy poetry titled “ANDROID GIRL and Other Sentient Speculations” (Three Ravens Publishing, 2020). In recent years, my poems have regularly appeared in the HWA Poetry Showcase and the Rhysling Anthology, as well as in various other magazines, webzines, anthologies, and journals.

My earliest writing endeavors, for both poetry and short stories, began in High School. The local newspaper published three of my rhyming poems over the course of two years, and I penned my first short stories during creative writing classes my junior and senior years.

Though my poetry writing took a 20-year hiatus after that, I embraced short story writing and scriptwriting during my college years, but after graduation from Syracuse University spent my free time working exclusively on writing spec screenplays and teleplays.

Middle-Age, Divorce, the death of my Mother, and a two-week tour of Ireland to spread my mother’s ashes marked the end of my 12-year attempt to break into the film biz as a scriptwriter, and I found myself embracing writing poetry and short stories exclusively during every spare moment I had/have in my life in the intervening years.

In my late 50’s, I have come to terms with my demons and find that poetry and short stories are a genuine catharsis for all my existential challenges and dreads.

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

I was recently laid off from my job of 24 years (a technical editor of engineering journals) and am currently looking for full-time work. I spent all that time writing on evenings and on weekends, and occasionally lunch hours. You take the time you are given as a writer and make the best of it. That is all there is to it.

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

Everywhere and anywhere. I am both a short story writer and a poet, and I find a muse in the news, in movies, other poems and short stories and books, TV shows of all kinds, nature itself, conversations I overhear out in public, the taste of food, the smell of a pine tree… inspiration is all around us, in everything we do or are exposed to. We just have to listen to it… Also, Google and Wikipedia are great ways to begin conducting any and all research. 

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

Start typing! Stop putting it off. Write! Creativity is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Cultivate patience and discipline (it’s going to take awhile to get good, and setting aside time every day to write, lunch hours, before you go to bed, etc. is all part of the game).

Please tell us about your current release.

“QUARANTINE WORLD: Trapped In The Coronaverse” is a poetry chapbook, a small collection of poems about my perceptions and experience witnessing and dealing with the Corona Virus and Covid-19 throughout the first half of 2020. It is available on Kindle, will soon be available as a pocketbook-sized paperback on Amazon, and is also going to be released as an Audiobook on Audible in the near future!

Can you provide us with a small exert? 

Endure
Is anybody out there real,
I ask myself most every day
and if you are can you now feel
that we’re all in a shadow play.
Does anybody else exist,
I ponder staring at my hands
or did you all up and enlist
to ride spaceships to Mars’ red lands.
Will anybody know if I
just up and vanish from the Earth 
knowing that all things surely die
as counterweights to every birth.
Or did the universe espouse  
bringing expansion to a halt
and then contract down to my house
where I defy god’s harsh assault.
Please tell me how one can endure
defeat and solitude’s allure.

What exciting story are you working on next?

I’m currently editing and putting the final polish on two shared-world anthologies I created, and which contain short stories by a lot of talented authors. They are SHA’DAA: ZOMBIE PARK (which is part of The Sha’Daa Series and will be published in late 2020 by MoonDream Press) and NOT TO YIELD (which is a science-fiction military space opera that I plan to Pitch to a number of Big Publishers when it is finalized later this year).

Who are your favorite authors?

Oh the full list is endless, for both my favorite Poets and favorite Authors, so this is just a sample short-list:

Roger Zelazny, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, Pablo Neruda, Stephen King, Lord Byron, e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Connie Willis, F. Paul Wilson, William Butler Yeats, Ursula K. Le Guin, Dr. Seuss, Nancy Kress, Mike Resnick, Sylvia Plath, Ray Bradbury, Walt Whitman, C.J. Henderson, Langston Hughes, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Rumi, Shel Silverstein, Anne McCaffrey, Jay Leeming, Samuel R. Delaney, and oh so many others!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

My poetry collections and some of the Sha’Daa series have begun, and/or will soon begin, to appear as audiobooks on Audible!  I highly recommend you check them out. The Voice Talent in each publication is fantastic!





Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Horses in NYC and why firecrackers are important for children

Link to article... mostly about electric cars...

I came across this picture last week.  In the course of thirteen years the streets of NYC went from 1 car and a lot of horse poop to 1 very confused horse and lots of cool, vintage cars.

Of course, they weren't vintage back then.  They also cost less than most people's single paycheck today.  In 1913, you could buy a Model T for $525.  By 1916 it was only $345!  Imagine that!  Ford motors selling cars cheaper each year!

The revolution from horse to car was radical and quick.  The radical shift was washed away by the rise of washers, dryers, and fridges.  

You can fast forward (pun intended) to the 50's and 60's when things like VCR's and TV's came commonplace.  

Then there was the ever amazing development of the home computer.  Zach gave us Saved By The Bell but also popularized the cell phone. And today we are at another precipice.

Everyone wants to predict the next wave of change: electric cars, solar power, drone delivery for burritos.

I even saw an amazing documentary where this man dressed up in an "iron" suit powered an entire tower.  He also could fly, shoot rockets, and weld.  I always thought the power to weld was a dangerous add-on for iron man, but it never seems to come up as a problem.

Which leads me to our main point.  In one of the iron man movies, Tony Stark drops into Chattanooga, TN.  He spends some time in a barn / garage with a young boy.

When I was a young boy in Chattanooga (well, Ooltewah, TN to be exact) I move through the very distinct phases of boyhood for my generation:
-1. Play with models people bought for me (hot wheels, GI Joe, etc)
-2. Build models / assemble kits (The GI Joe tank took all kinds of work!  But ran off 6 D batteries and a corded remote!  awesome!)
-3. Discover fireworks
-4. Blow up most of everything your parents bought and you built.

That level of discovery and fun was not an accident.  For years I ran a summer camp in Tennessee.  I recall all the trade journals discussing how to advertise camps to parents.  Yes, to parents.  They, after all, are the ones who pay for camp.

In my childhood, we went to camp to do the things that we could NOT do at home.  We did not have ski boats, zip lines, or tennis courts.  Today, those things are more accessible.  If not in actuality, a small electronic device allows you to be an olympic athlete, ESPN X game star, or a great assassin with bunny ears.

Over the 1980's parents started shrinking their children's worlds.  It was safer to play on a rec team with rules, uniforms, and referees than in the street.  It was safer to stay in the yard or subdivision than wonder miles from home or off in the woods.  (I recall a friend of mine getting bit by a copperhead in the woods.  Our parents sent us back out to finish the tree house a week later).  Then backyards were exchanged for basements.  Big screen tv's became the window to the world rather than actually walking outside.

I have a daughter who loves being outside.  But where I could go out and find ten kids to play with, her friends are all inside.  If she can coax one out, it is to walk our neighborhood with their phones in their hands.

As a camp director, we discussed advertising camp not as a place to have "bigger, greater" fun, but rather as a place to have unplugged fun.

I see some of this with the concern for environmentalism, marching for causes, and an emphasis on being outside.  I am also hopeful that our experience in quarantine will cause us to value face-to-face relationships more.  And in doing so, radically change our now zoom / Skype society.  What if the smart phone and chromebook were the horse and buggy?  It is my hope, that the next big transformation will not be a way to power more technology.  I hope it will be a path for the rising generation to live with technology but not in slavery to it.  If they need my help, I'm happy to buy some firecrackers.








Monday, June 29, 2020

Interview: Yacoob Manjoo

Author name: Yacoob Manjoo
Title of book we’re promoting: Let it Flow
Genre of book: Poetry anthology
Yacoob Manjoo is a South African writer, blogger, and communications professional. His work has appeared in various publications, including The Coinage Book Two: Journal of New South African Writing; ProductiveMuslim.

I met Yacoob through a writer's FaceBook page.  He has several published articles on AboutIslam.net.  Several concern the important holiday of Ramadan.  Here is a link to one on self-care:

Becoming Your Best Self In Ramadan


Here is our interview:

1.     When did you first start writing toward publication?In early 2016, and everything was finished in late 2019. The book is a collection of material I’ve published on my blog, so the content itself ranges from 2006 until 2019. But in between, there were plenty of changes made to the material to get it to the best possible state.

2.     Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?My full-time job is in communications, so writing is part of my everyday work. However, the personal and creative writing is done in my spare time. I don’t schedule it, but when I am inspired, I try to take the time out to write. That can be difficult at times, but I do my best.

3.     Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?My stuff is mostly poetry, so it’s pretty much everyday life – challenges, joys, reflections…whatever comes, comes.

4.     What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?Trust in your own creative process and output – always stay true to your own heart, regardless of what others may be doing. You have a unique voice and a unique offering to give the world, so don’t try to conform to trends. I strongly recommend reading / listening to the work of Seth Godin – who offers plenty of wonderful advice for creatives (and pretty much anyone putting out a product or service).

Also, that common advice about ‘read everything’…I don’t agree. We’re already flooded with content, and you need to leave mental space for your own creativity to flourish. That can be more difficult if your mind and heart is full of the words of others.

5.     Please tell us about your current release.It’s an anthology of my personal writing – poetry and reflections – called “Let it Flow”. The title stems from the ease with which most of the material came to me – almost as if it just came through me, without me actually doing any work.

The blurb reads: "When inspiration strikes, there’s no choice but to write. You become the instrument through which fears and dreams, hopes and frustrations, and thoughts hidden from the world all flow – cathartically – onto pages that reflect snapshots of life. "Let it Flow" captures a journey of poetic self-expression through the author’s twenties and thirties – evolving from an insecure young man, through marriage, fatherhood, and the toils of adult responsibility. Coupled with spiritual reflections on life and the world we live in, this collection hopes to inspire, uplift, and benefit all who browse its pages."

6.     Can you read / provide us with a small exert? (optional – under 200 words)
Wet, winter days have gone,
sun streaming through once more.

Bare branches –
once naked and alone,
now clothed –
in hues marking the season of rebirth,
as the One Who gives life
displays His inimitable power,
bringing life after death,
light after darkness.

Take lessons from these signs:
for, whilst personal winters may dampen your spirit,
rejuvenation is just around the corner.

And all that you struggled with –
trial after trial, weighing down on an already-tired soul,
will, too, come to an end.

Like the caterpillar
that remains within its chrysalis for a period,
transformation was always underway.

And as time brings a new season,
shed the attachments that no longer serve your development,
and emerge
as one more beautiful,
ready to float through life's currents –
the good and the bad,
all part of the journey
to becoming
a better you.




7.     What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve gathered enough material for a follow-up anthology in similar vein, but I’m not rushing it at all. I’d like this new one to be a more visual experience, with the graphics complementing the text – setting a mood which settles before the reader gets into the crux of the poem or reflection.


8.     Anything additional you want to share with the readers?In today's world, thousands of books exist to teach and entertain readers. There are also the 'practical' ones - about self-help, business, and much more. Then there's politics and news, causes, and a whole lot more.

But poetry - that follows the path of the impractical. Superficially, that kind of material may be of little discernible value in today’s fast-paced, information-dense, politically and economically-obsessed world. But it's immensely important. As humans, we relate to each other through sharing experiences. Sometimes, if we can convey our experiences and ideas well enough – through a story, a poem, or a thoughtful reflection – the one who receives gains far more than just knowledge, or a temporary thrill. As a reader, you are inspired. Encouraged. The words resonate with you on a deeper level. You *feel*. It’s said that what comes from the heart goes to the heart. Poetry comes from the heart, and it hopes to penetrate the reader's heart in a way that other types of books cannot. That’s why you should give it a chance.

For a far more effective explanation, there’s this little book called “How Poetry Can Change Your Heart” – by Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley. It’s a remarkable read I’d recommend to everyone – even those who feel they have no inclination whatsoever towards poetry.


9.     One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?The e-book is available on all major platforms, and the print edition is available in South Africa via direct order. I can also ship internationally, if readers are willing to cover the exorbitant shipping costs. Info about the book, including a comprehensive free sample, is at: https://dreamlife.wordpress.com/book

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Regina Walker Interview



AUTHOR INTERVIEW: REGINA WALKER

I had the pleasure of asking Regina Walker a few questions (Quarantine style, of course).

Her book, We Go On, is available now. I just bought a copy today for my Kindle. Here are her links:


We Go On? : Contemporary Christian Fiction

Regina's Bio:

Regina Walker was born in the beautiful state of Colorado. She moved to Oklahoma in her late teen years, where she has resided ever since. She likes to curl up on the couch and binge-watch crime shows with her hard-working husband. When she's not wrestling with a writing project, she can be found wrangling their children, riding their horses, or tending the garden. Along with finding horses on their small farm, chickens, dogs, and cats can be found at nearly every turn.
Regina crafts compelling characters facing some of life's hardest challenges. Her heart's desire is to always point toward Jesus through the way her characters face challenges, relationships, and adversity.


And here is our conversation:

When did you first start writing toward publication?

Ten years ago. I was writing three times a week for Yahoo articles and working on finishing a novel for the first time. (I’d started a lot.) I drafted it. But I never could edit it into the story I wanted it to be. I gave up for a time. My debut novel (which was not the novel from ten years ago) released on June 12, 2020.

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

I write around being a stay at home wife and mom, having a hobby farm, and homeschooling. I get up before everyone and write with the rising of the sun.

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

Prayer, people watching, living. I find that inspiration isn’t lacking. The discipline to record the inspiration and write as the Spirit leads is a challenge at times.

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

To pray first, and then write. Actually write. Not market or social network or search. Actually write. And writing takes a lot of practice. Rarely what we write is permanent and some of it is just for the writer and for practice. Write anyway.


Please tell us about your current release.
First, let me give a warning: This book deals with loss by suicide and the grief a family endures.

Life has been comfortable for the Miller family. Liz and Josh have devoted their lives to raising their two sons. Their oldest son, Colby, reached adulthood and set out on his own. A few hard knocks sent him back to live with Mom and Dad until life got to be too much, that is. 

As Liz and Josh grapple with the hole in their hearts left by Colby’s early departure from this world, they find themselves at odds with one another and with their faith.

Will they remember that Jesus is enough in the middle of this dark storm? Will they see through their own pain and help each other and their teenage son, Tyler, learn to live despite the grief?


Can you read / provide us with a small exert?


“Josh,” she forced out, but her voice was weak.
Tears trickled down her cheeks, first just one, and then another, but more followed.
“Josh,” she mustered with more volume.
He came around the corner with a tuna sandwich in his hand. Mayonnaise dotted the left side of his upper lip.
“What’s wrong honey?”
He offered her his hand, but she shook her head. She lifted her wobbling hand and pointed at the wall of pictures.
“Take it down, Josh. Please.”
He lowered himself to the floor on her right side. He looked up at the pictures and then over at his wife.
“We already talked about this, love. We are keeping the pictures up, to help us remember our son, to help us remember all of the wonderful things we shared with him.”
He took another bite of his sandwich and dabbed at the corners of his mouth with the napkin he held curled up under the sandwich.
“It’s too much though. It reminds me of everything we’ve lost. Every time I come in the door, there is his beautiful, smiling face. He looks so happy and I just—” She started coughing from sobbing.
“That’s how I want to see him, every single day. Happy. These pictures help me do that. Besides, taking them down would be just like trying to forget him, trying to erase him. You cannot erase my son,” Josh said.
“Erase him?” Liz’s voice quivered.
“Isn’t that what you’re trying to do? Forget everything so you don’t have to think about the bad?”
“No, that’s not what I’m trying to do,” Liz said.


That's great! What exciting story are you working on next?

Still With Us is a contemporary Christian fiction as well. This story follows a very broken mother-daughter relationship, the pits of addiction and isolation, and more. It won’t end there, though. This story has a powerful reconciliation and redemptive ending. 

Thank you for tackling difficult topics with a spiritual eye. And I do believe there is real power in fiction. As a former counselor, I know so many people find healing in reading story. Even Jesus tended to tell story more than communicate facts. Is there anything additional you want to share with the readers?

I am so thankful you took the time to stop by today. I hope you have find many good reads in your life and that each book grows you in some way. Happy reading!

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






Monday, June 22, 2020

BookLife Review

Reviewed by BookLife!
BookLife

BookLife Prize - 2020

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10
Assessment:
Plot: Phillip, the new kid in school in Harwood's coming-of-age novel, faces realistic and relatable student and teen problems. The only thing that's going well for him is his English class, where he reads Ender's Game and discovers an outlet for his frustrations in the teacher's daily "jam sessions," free writing exercises that jump off from a creative prompt. Harwood's novel makes the everyday dramatic and urgent. Here, Phillip's fear of disappointing his mother, or his worry about what will happen when a suspended bully returns to school, prove gripping.
Prose/Style: Harwood's prose is clear and unadorned, offering little in the way of description. Instead, it's highly sensitive to Phillip's feelings as he bumbles through his school days and slowly discovers who his friends are. The kids' dialogue is sometimes flat, lacking the inventive weirdness of actual child-chatter, but the adults' speech is ideal: authority figures who soothingly help point Phillip (and possibly young readers) toward strategies for handling anxiety. Some passages of action falter, and more rigorous proofreading would standardize distractingly inconsistent product names. For most of the book, though, the prose persuasively connects Phillip's feelings to the scenes around him.
Originality: Harwood invests familiar character types with fresh power: spitball-blowing bullies; a fantasy-obsessed band of social outsiders; and a sensitive and observant English teacher. The embarrassments and minor disasters that Philip experiences in Jam Sessions aren't new, but through his eyes they feel fresh. Classroom scenes of Phillip and other students writing and sharing their own creative works based on a teacher's prompt are especially strong, as each kid's writing is unique and revealing of their personas. (That's true, also, of the instructor's sensitive responses.)
Character Development: Phillip, his friends, his teachers, his mother, and even his bullies all feel alive on the page. These seem like real kids, in a convincing world, facing real problems that readers might learn from – but that aspect of the book never interferes with the narrative's momentum or excitement.
Date Submitted: April 18, 2020
You are welcome to use this Critic’s Report as promotional copy or as a blurb to promote your book. Please note: When attributing quotes from this Critic’s Report, you must credit The BookLife Prize.