Recommended: My Book Reviews

I occasionally write reviews on Goodreads. When I have new ones I’ll post a link of my recommended books here.

The Future of Recommended Books

There has been a discussion around the blog-sphere concerning author quid pro quo marketing that leaves readers questioning whether they can trust reviews.

These are legitimate (a word here that means “justified”, in case you are a Republican representative from Missouri) concerns. I myself do not trust the big book seller’s starred reviews anymore.

My end-run is to build a list of reviewers whose opinions I trust. I typical start at Goodreads to see what my friends are reviewing/reading.

The more venues you peruse the more likely it is that you will find reviewers whose opinions you can respect and trust. Some of my favorite reviews come from these bloggers, publications or websites:

Diane Prokop

The Rumpus

NPR

Lithub

I don’t read much science fiction or fantasy so it’s especially import for me to trust the reviewers opinion. These guys are funny too.

Elitist Book Reviews

 

Food For Thought

Someday, I will add a section on food. It will be here.

80 Dead in France: Anger to Hate

80 dead in France. Another, I was going to say senseless tragedy, but the fact is this action made sense to someone. Not to me, not to you, but SOME ONE thought it made sense to kill those they hated.

Killing families, children? And likely someone helped him find the sense in it. What was it? Religious zealotry? Misplaced nationalism?

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about it over the coming days, the killer’s excuse, his mission. Was he mentally ill? A sociopath? Was he acting alone?

Do any of these killers act alone? There’s a lot of anger in our world. Anger that is fanned until it is a burning hate.

How Hate Thrives

Appallingly, here in the USA, we have politicians and a political party that inflames crowds into supporting this kind of vileness as a strategy. We have media outlets perpetuating it, and encouraging members of our society to despise one another for our differences. They make hate a headline, poking at embers till they roar again and throw another log/lie on to keep it going.

Hate is running rampant through our populace weakened by poverty, and isolationism created by corporate greed and political complicity. Business and government, rather than valuing its workers or citizens, uses them for their own gain then discards them.

They’ve stolen the middle class, and driven more, and more families into poverty leaving a lot of people with nothing else to do but channel their anger. And where is it channeled, and by who? Right where the wealthy and powerful have laid their kindling.

Who is behind the propaganda on issues such of abortion, religion, and race? If fuel is being added to the fires on these volatile issues it is the 1% who paid for it. They are no different from worst dictators and regimes in the world that uses the disenfranchised to do their dirty work.

They’ve fostered a vast wasteland of ignorance across our country. Those who want nothing but control and authority without any duty and allegiance to those they repress. Keep em stupid. These agents of financial totalitarianism bankrupted our goodwill toward all, and have left The United States of America divided, racially, financially, and morally for the convenience of deflecting the hate that should rightfully be aimed at them.

We Can Be Angry Without Hate

How do we fight that? Casting your vote is essential. Using your words to spread peace, and understanding. Be seen–your presence is a powerful indication of an issues importance. Practice mindfulness. Notice those suffering, as well as those acting with disregard for our nation’s best interest. Seek justice for all.

Value reason, kindness, inclusion, respect, empathy, and education

We cure the hate, the divisiveness, and the regime of oppression, by acting together. The police are not the only ones able to protect and serve our fellow citizens. As they work to improve relations between themselves and the communities they serve, so should we.

We are not a more racist country now, than we were before the recent events. It is the voices of division that have been amplified not multiplied. Do not lose faith in our country. There is so much to do and it isn’t happening fast enough. ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ is a convocation. A call for all to see and notice an injustice. It is not a restriction of concern for others.

Reject the tolerance of hate speech. And when those speakers inevitably decry their right to say what they want–agree. Yes, free speech, your speech, is a protected right. You, however, are not protected from the repercussions of that speech. Suffering the consequences of your words and actions is what we teach toddlers, isn’t it about time you learned that lesson?

These killers of our loved ones, our families, our neighbors, for whatever reason, thought their actions made sense. We have to stop letting killing one another make sense to anyone.

Truth: Orlando, Trump and You

It has been a heartbreaking week.

Orlando, Florida

How do we makes sense of yet another mass killing? Should we make sense of it? Will we shake our heads, wring our hands and refuse yet again to act against it?

I refuse to rationalize another hate crime. I just can’t do it. I don’t care about the gunman’s third grade report card that clearly indicates an already troubled youth. The subsequent stories coming out about his latent homosexuality, his politics, his wife, his religion, his mental state. Fuck him.

Emotions do that. They rile us, impassion us into reacting, acting out before we think of the consequences. I’m momentarily blinded by despair.

Until. Until commonsense returns. Until the horror of their voices screaming dim and the images soften. Then I can reason. I can make choices on how to respond, how to make sense of this tragedy. How to act, not react.

Trump

I picked up Robert McKee’s Story this morning, a passage resonated so loudly I had to jump up and write about it.

Strangely enough, he is discussing a vigilant movie called Death Wish, a movie I abhor, one critics panned, but audiences responded to for its theme, “Justice triumphs when citizen’s take the law into their own hands and kill the people who need killing.” Mckee’s is appalled.

“Of all the vile ideas in human history, this is the vilest. Armed with it, the Nazis devastated Europe. Hitler believing he would turn Europe into a paradise once he’d killed the people who needed killing… and he had his list.”

Striking isn’t it? Not only speaking to the mass murder of members of the LGBTQ community that took place in Orlando, FL this week, but our current political climate of hate and its lead propagator Donald Trump.

Mckee’s point is two-fold. One, he is glad he lives in country where this kind of movie could be made, that he opposes all censorship.

“In pursuit of truth, we must willingly suffer the ugliest of lies…If everyone is given a voice, even the irrationally radical, or cruelly reactionary, humanity will sort through all possibilities and make the right choice. No civilization, including Plato’s has ever been destroyed because its citizens learned too much truth.”

Plato had banned all poets and storytellers thinking their ideas too easily spread via emotions. That emotions were dangerous, the truth is dangerous.

Think about that in context of what is going on now, and the rise of Donald Trump. He lies, he panders to the worst of our self-centered society. His vile ideas, the racism, misogyny and hate spill out of his mouth in direct response to his audience because of emotions, not intellectual discourse. He whips his followers into a frenzy of fervent intolerance, creates a reactionary force that acts against common sense, human decency and its own best interests.

You

But, I still believe in YOU, America. We will not elect a hate spewing racist bigot.

Secondly, Mckee, talks about story’s power to influence being an artist’s social responsibility.

“… we have no responsibility to cure social ills or renew faith in humanity, to uplift the spirits of society or even express our inner being. We have only one responsibility: to tell the truth… For although an artist may, in his private life, lie to others, even to himself, when he creates he tells the truth; and in a world of lies and liars, an honest work of art is always an act of social responsibility.”

Sure, you’ll get people who will argue that truth is subjective and you’ll get just as many who’ll argue it is clear as black and white, but there are universal truths in humanity by which we gauge a stories success. Truth, in these cases, are about resonance.

Though he is talking about fiction, and how your story reverberates with your reader, I think it speaks to our own personal narratives as well.

Tell the truth.

The marriage of a gay or lesbian couple has no effect on your marriage.
The person’s mode of peeing in the stall next to you doesn’t affect you and is none of your business.
That job taken by an immigrant is one you refused to do.
You pay taxes for the privilege of living here, it is our collective coffers as Americans, and all are entitled to its benefits, as all able to are needed to contribute fairly.
You are better off because of what we accomplish collectively, stop trying to divide us, we are indivisible.
Liberty and Justice is for all, not just you.

These truths are self-evident.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Truth resonant within even if you try reject it.

There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

– Anaïs Nin, diary, Fall 1943

You don’t have to like the truth, or agree with it, to uphold its tenets.

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
– Gloria Steinem

Imprisoning others hinders your own freedom forcing you to always be on guard.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin

And just because I love a good quote…

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
– Ronald Reagan

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
– William Faulkner

It’s on all of us, this responsibility to truth and freedom, and each other. All for one, and one for all.

Further Reading

Responsibility and Freedom

 

 

 

 

 

What is Writer’s Block?

I’ve never acknowledged having writer’s block because I don’t believe it is a thing. At least not a single problem to be overcome, but more of catch all problem for what keeps you from writing.

Think about it. Can you literally not write? Forget the staring at a blank page and not knowing what to write, but the actual mechanics of it. Of course you can write. Whether you type, use a pen, or dictate, the words will come out of those instruments at your direction.

The rub is what words come. I’m a firm believer in it doesn’t matter what you need, or want to write, just start and you will find your way there.

Write you shopping list, a wish list, a list of places you’ve been. Write out a poem or song you know by heart. Just write and keep writing for 20 minutes non-stop. Walk away. Come back tomorrow. Write about politics, about your opinion on a world crisis, on why you should be able to eat chocolate cake for breakfast. Write for 20 minutes then stop. Come back tomorrow.

Everyday, until you hit it. The day you can’t stop at 20 minutes. The day you figure out what it is you want to write. It will come. Writing is a practice you have to show up for and exercise whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have something to say or not. Whether you feel sick or tired, or are too busy. Show up everyday, for 20 minutes and practice being a writer. Banish writer’s block by writing.

How to Host a Book Launch Party

I had the privilege and honor of introducing and interviewing my friend Satin Russell at her first ever–book launch party. Never having hosted a book launch party before, she relied on her experience as an audience member to inform her own. It came off without a hitch, was entertaining and helped spread the word of her coming works.

How Satin Threw a Book Launch Party

Like writing styles, you have to find the method that works for you. Start by choosing a venue that suits your personality. Satin’s was at the small bistro Crave, in the charming town of Amesbury MA, which is noted for it’s thriving art community and plethora of downtown eateries. Crave’s warm and inviting ambiance with a eclectic selection craft beer and small batch whiskeys reflects Satin’s easy going, fun nature. The very knowledgeable bartender introduced us to some fine tasting bourbon and new whiskeys-added bonus for us cocktail lovers.

Typically, a book launch would occur at a book store, your home or rented venue, but thinking outside the box served Satin well. Crave graciously open early 12-3, before their dinner service. They even donated a gift certificate for the give-away. It proves-never be afraid to ask. The venue earned new customers, well worth their time accommodating this event.

Invite family, friends and fellow writers who will chat, nosh and take great enjoyment in bearing witness to your success. Surrounding yourself with those who love and support you is a smart move for a launch-if no one else show up at least you’ll have fun. Though this is a celebration don’t waste this opportunity make sure you publicize it. Market your launch event. Send out press releases, invite local media, and put up notices-everywhere.

Decide how you’ll actually run the event. Satin chose to have me interview her. This allowed her to relax and mingle before hand since she was nervous about standing up there by herself. She started with a reading then we interspersed the questions with a few short excerpt introducing the audience to the characters. We’d written the questions in advance, refining until we thought we’d covered everything the audience would be curious about. She is an eloquent speaker, at ease and funny. She ended with taking questions from the audience. I don’t think it could have gone any better.

Self-publishing isn’t an easy task.  It takes guts and faith in yourself. Satin’s commitment to pushing through the doubt, embracing all that you need to learn–hiring an editor, a cover artist, a format specialist, and marketing, impressed all of us.

I hadn’t thought much about throwing a book launch party before–my work is not quite ready for prime time–but I’m glad I got to see first hand how it could be done. Since then I’ve done a little research. Here are a few good resources if you are exploring how to host your book launch party.

Bookbaby’s How to Throw a Book Launch Party That Isn’t a Waste of Time

Writer’s Digest 9 Steps to Hosting a Book Launch Party

The Book Designer’s 12 Tips for Successful Book Launch Parties

Tiana Warner’s The Complete Book Launch Party Checklist