Monthly Archives: October 2013

Book Release ~ Seeing Through Other’s Eyes

AnnahcoverfinalAnnah, by Clay Gilbert. Available in Kindle and soon to be on market in paperback.

Joining the introductory Blog Tour for Annah’s release. Book one of the Children of Evohe. Annah’s Exile and Children of Evohe to follow.

When I was in college I had an English Literature term paper assignment that did not come with a list of books. We were to pick an author or two and compose our term paper based on what we thought their book or books did to add to our literary treasure and what we thought the author or authors contributed to cultural discourse. We did have to have the authors and titles approved. Imagine my professor’s shock when I informed her that I wished to do my paper on Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke.

Pulp fiction! Aliens and impossible space travel? You think THAT has literary value? Well, actually, I do. After much discussion I was informed that my project was approved but that I was taking a great risk. The paper counted for a large portion of the grade. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I stuck to my quest. And here is why.

Whatever the political or religious leanings were or are of some of our greatest science fiction writers, there is one thing the truly successful ones have in common. They are able to take our human foibles, the things that we are not particularly proud of and tend to hide, and transplant them into a place, a time, “world” that allows us to exam the consequences. We can do this examination without getting defensive, and without the built-in prejudices that we no longer notice because they are so woven into the fabric of our everyday lives.

In the stories that Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke crafted during their careers, they explored the meaning and the destiny of many cultural issues. Heinlein’s, Revolt in 2100 (Originally titled, If This Goes On) was about what would happen if our republic became a theocracy. Clark investigated what it would mean to the human race to actually become something more than what we are, to find those powers we keep seeking. In Childhood’s End he takes threads from many of our legends and ancient sacred texts and weaves them into a “coming of age” for the human race. Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy was a deep exploration of cultural modeling, done on a grand scale. In these stories we find the freedom to explore those things most sensitive because other people, other beings are experiencing them. A good writer does it well enough that after the book is closed, those thoughts linger. We begin to look around us and to think, what do we really want our world to look like? Is the health and welfare of every being on this planet, human or not, really my responsibility? And if it is, what do I do about it?

My friend, Clay Gilbert, is such a writer. I have spent many a stolen moment browsing through his blog where his main character, Annah, lives. It is there that she tells the legends of her people. She speaks of the traditions of healing, for self and race, and of hope that somehow those of us who share the miracle of life, will find a way of mutual understanding and growth. I believe that Annah’s tale, currently expected to be a trilogy, will be a classic in the science fiction and fantasy genre. It will call like a siren and take us to a place where we see clearly and return with a vision of our own.

clayphotoPlease check out my friend and colleague at Annah’s blog: http://childrenofevohe.com/
And find her books at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Annah-Children-Evohe-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00FWF3RH6/

Oh, by the way, I was given a B+ by a professor that rarely gave As at all.

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Filed under My Bookshelf ~ Fiction

Reviews ~ The World Beyond Facebook

Virtual Book Tours, Effective Online Book Promotion from the Comfort of Your Own Home by Jo Linsdell, Available in Kindle for a special release price of $2.99. ($4.99 after the tour)

virtualbooktoursJo graciously asked me to provide a review of her new release as part of her book-tour-in-progress.  I have to admit I am quite honored and shall give her the full Alcove Treatment.  First the basics.

Virtual Book Tours are a great way to create a buzz for a new release, or to put life back into an older publication. This book takes you through everything you need to know to be able to set up and carry out a successful virtual book tour.

The book is divided into 4 main sections for easy navigation:

1) What is a Virtual Book Tour?
2) How to organise your own tour
3) Promoting a tour
4) Useful resources

You’ll find it packed with links, tips, and advice to help make your tour a hit.

I don’t often visit the world of writing on my blog.  Most of the writers I have interviewed were invited to contribute to a special interest of the time, such as research for books on science fiction or history or some other topic I was delving into.  Sometimes I just get excited about something I’ve found that really helps me as I work through my own writing.  Most of the time, I stick to building my platform and letting my fans and readers get to know me.  That process is rooted quite deeply in how a blog is managed.

I adore many of the friends I have made over the past couple of years as I have become more deeply involved in social media.  I probably spend far more time on Facebook than I should; it is, however, my main source of “outside world” contact.  Granted, that can be a bit skewed.  What I have noticed is that many of the places I visit, the groups that have included me in hopes of my contribution, and the pages that are created for various and sundry books, products, or people, have become overwhelmed with advertising.  Some of my most cherished groups have clamped down hard on hawkers and provided a day or a place to “hang out your shingle.” Then, the managers work hard to keep the communication as informative as possible.

Many marketing gurus in the book industry will tell you that blasting your new release in a dozen or more groups/pages in social media is looked on as spam and does more harm than good.  Sadly, I tend to ignore most of those announcements, focusing more on the informative chats and concentrating on building my network.  I must smile as I write this, because I almost missed a review on my own book with this inattention. So, where can you express yourself, tell people about your latest work, define for the world the thing you most want to say?  On your blog. There are books on how to structure a really successful blog, whether you want to sell books or not – and I will look at them in coming weeks.  Right now I want to talk about Jo Linsdell and her marvelous little book about tours.

Blogs are wonderful things if used to their greatest advantage.  I use mine as a quiet place to express my discoveries, share my wonder, and build an audience for the way I think and write.  In that process, it is often fun to entertain a guest.  This, of course, is what happens in a blog tour.  It is a time when you have someone in for tea (or coffee) and chat about a mutual interest.  Jo shows you how to use that chat to the best advantage of the host and the guest.

There are rules one should follow to be a good guest and a good host.  If you want to discuss some aspect of a work in progress, then you need to find blog hosts interested in your topic, the way you work, how you write, where your inspiration comes from.  As noted, I have invited guests to share their point of view on a number of topics.  It gives my blog life, draws traffic and, well, I usually learn something very interesting.

I learned a great deal from Jo’s book.  She will take you through all of the steps of organizing, managing, closing and analyzing a blog tour.  This little book is packed with page after page of links and references to help you find the blogs that fit you like a glass slipper.  There are even commercial resources you can take advantage of, if you don’t feel confident enough to manage the first tour on your own.

One of my favorite parts (since I’m so obsessive when it comes to organization) is how you think through the process of organizing.  What do you want to accomplish?  What is your goal for the tour in general?  (Don’t cop out here and say – “sell books.”)  Think about what is most important about your work.  Do you write fun youth fiction where the character grows?  Is it steampunk or scifi fantasy?  Do your characters portray historical personalities?  If you know where you are going, then you have a much better chance of picking effective blog hosts (ones that will actually welcome you) and you will know what type of blog posts you want.  Reviews are only one.  There are interviews (of you and your characters) or feature stories.  Jo knows I like to do book reviews, and that is what she asked of me.

As it happens, I also work with a small publishing company, and marketing is one of our highest priorities.  Her book has saved me hours of research combing through the internet.  All those feeble attempts to have volunteers help me dig up suitable blogs for tours for our authors became passé the moment I read her book.  For this I will be forever grateful!  People are busy and volunteers do have lives.

I think that Jo has addressed a really important aspect of the cyber world, and she has given clear and sound advice.  Exchanging ideas, progress, thoughts, and connections in a media that allows reflection and preparation has a very different flavor from the “buy me,” “like me,” freebie  hurly- burly of social media.  Don’t get me wrong: I believe that there is a place and time for marketing on the big network sites.  But I much prefer the path described by my friend and colleague, Jo Linsdell.

Here comes all the “where to find her and who she is!”

roundwithname

Jo Linsdell is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing expert. She is the founder and CEO of the Writers and Authors blog and the annual online event Promo Day. Learn more about Jo at http://www.JoLinsdell.com

For more information about Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion from the Comfort of our own Home, please visit http://www.JoLinsdell.com or contact webmaster@JoLinsdell.com.

Some of the titles now available by Jo on Amazon are:

Children’s’ Books:  Out and about at the Zoo, A Birthday Clown for Archer (& Coloring book and in Spanish), Fairy May

Guides: Italian for Tourists: Pocket Edition, A Guide to Weddings in Italy

Social Media Links:

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube,
Goodreads, Amazon

Click to tweets:

Add Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion From the Comfort of Your Own Home to your to-read list http://bit.ly/VBTGoodreads

Learn everything you need to know about virtual book tours in this book by best selling author Jo Linsdell http://bit.ly/VBTKindle

Must read book about organising virtual book tours! http://bit.ly/VBTKindle #Authors

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Filed under My Bookshelf (and a movie or two), Stuff about Writing ~ Research Tools, Stuff about Writing ~ Tips and Tools

Dragons and Magic and Songs in the Wind

DeceptionsmToday we shall do something a bit on the lighter side of things.  Way back in March I posted a bit about how a writer finds a path between showing passion for their subject without getting pushy with the reader.  If you are truly passionate, you want to share the things you love so much and not overwhelm someone and chase them away.  I had asked Dianne Gardner to share a bit of her style in the process of writing her series, Ian’s Realm.  That article can be found here.

Well, here we are many months later and Dianne has become a fast friend and we’ve managed to get mixed up together in a number of projects.  I have read all of her books and novellas with the exception of Cassandra’s Castle.  Never fear, I have an advance copy sitting on my computer.

I find the series absorbing and rollicking good fun.  In fact, Ian kept me company into the wee hours of the morning during a recent hospital stay.  Add to a great story a truly talented artist and you have an irresistible mix. I have been invited to be one of Ian’s stops as Dianne showcases her anniversary edition of Deception Peak.  The book has undergone a complete remake with its new publisher, PDMI Publishing, LLC. Re-edited, re-mastered cover, maps, character reference charts and other great things make this not only a great story; it’s a collector’s item!  My duty in the ceremonies is to let Dianne talk a bit about what the future holds for Ian’s Realm.

My vision for the series!

When I began the Ian’s Realm Saga, the goal was to complete the three-book story arc and get it published. Simple undertaking (not!). Once the trilogy was completed something unsettle remained inside of me though, as if I hadn’t really written the whole story. There just wasn’t enough magic. The history was missing. And there wasn’t enough explained about the Meneks or the Kaemperns and their cults. Hence A Tale of the Four Wizards took shape, and a very loveable character named Silvio emerged. What happened to the old wizard in that first short story couldn’t be the end, and it wasn’t. You see him make a cameo appearance in The Dragon Shield (edited after the short stories were completed). There was more!

After Rubies and Robbers, I personally didn’t want to leave the Realm. I already missed Ian. But of course, I’ve already introduced plenty of dynamic personalities to carry on. Fast forward a few years and we have Ian’s daughter Cassandra.

Her story came from some real life events that occurred not long ago. I was helping a friend do some interesting research on her family tree which branched into Portuguese royalty at the turn of the century. The more I researched the more I got sidetracked until I discovered the last king of Portugal, Manuel II. Such a compelling story, I needed to write this young king into one of my characters and so enters Martim of Cassandra’s Castle. Cassie is one of my favorite tales and I’m not sure why.

Having had so much fun filming The Dragon Shield , it was time to make a trailer for Cassandra’s Castle, though the book won’t be out for a while. Our crew filmed at Fort Worden State park and Manresa Castle here in WA, and everyone was so excited about working together, we vowed to make a movie.

When I say crew I’m talking about a group of very talented, and experienced people. You can meet them on my website.

Currently, we’re writing the script, and making plans. I’m not sure how long the movie will take to film but we’re working toward that being our goal.

As far as other visions for the series? Anything! Like a piece of artwork I want to sculpt this story into 3D with audio and music (note the lovely music that Lexa Rose wrote with the lyrics to the songs of the Realm), audio narrative, a Boxed Set, a large coffee table edition with full color illustrations and gold leaf. We’ll see where this takes us, but it’s a project!

And that’s my friend, Dianne!  Full of never-ending energy and ever-growing ideas.  She left one thing out though, I really, really want to see Xylon and Promise dolls out by next Christmas…you’ll have to read to learn why.

So far the series includes: Deception Peak, Dragon Shield (scheduled to be re-released), Rubies and Robbers (also scheduled to be re-released), and four novellas about the wizards.  In process is Diary of a Conjurer and Cassandra’s Castle.

Now, for all the places you can find Ian, Abbi, and Dianne:

Ian’s Realm, the blog

Dianne’s Art Site (there is some amazing fine art here, folks).

Ian on Facebook

To Twitter to Dianne

And for goodness sake!  Don’t forget the launch party!

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Filed under My Bookshelf ~ Fiction, Stuff about Writing ~ Tips and Tools

Book Review ~ Seeking our Say in the Court of the Universe

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. Available in many formats for $9-15.00

FacesThere are many among us who have suffered some life changing event; an event that changes us in quick or slow ways, forever. These are the kinds of events that cause us to build “public faces.” More often than not, these changes build a wall between us and others at least in part because we do not wish to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to suffer more pain, or its repercussions, ever again.

We also build these walls in our choice to push those who are suffering away. Much like Job’s friends, we seek, in whatever way accessible, to understand the cause and effect of what we see. As humans we are creatures always in search of order. We cannot tolerate the arbitrary, we must find a pattern. In some of us that results in a search for God (or gods), in others it is the explicit effort to eradicate even the hint of the divine from our lives.

I believe, in some way, this was the seed to human sacrifice. In our ancient civilizations, with vastly less understanding than we have today, there was a strong belief that the gods must demand blood and restitution for the shortcomings of mankind. After all; there were famines, natural disasters, accidents, pestilence, and all sorts of ways to die. Perhaps, in their ignorance, they thought to choose those to send to the gods in order to save their own hides.

We have, of course, changed this view over the last several millennium or so.  Although the Aztecs were hard at it in the early centuries CE, there had arisen a culture in the Middle East that looked on the sacrifice of human life as an abomination. They did, however, hold tightly to the sacrifice of blood offerings. This interpretation of divine demand remained through the birth of Christianity. There was still a strong conviction that someone somewhere had to pay the price for all that was not right with the world. One of the problems we seem to face most consistently is what constitutes restitution and what constitutes the natural course of the universe and is there a difference?

This weekend, I decided to re-read a favorite tale I had read many years ago. There are times when I go through stages of hunting down everything by a particular author and read through it all. This remembered stage was a search for C. S. Lewis. He is best known for titles such as the Narnina series, the Space Trilogy and Christian apologetics. The subject of my blog is a bit off the usual track. It is a retelling of the tale of Psyche and Cupid. I found it quite intriguing at the time and deeply thought provoking now. Let’s visit Glome and meet the Queen whose thoughts and actions may touch your dreams and your fears. Perhaps you’ll find a treasure to take back home.

The story of Cupid and Psyche is quite old. We know it best from the Latin novel, Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) written in the 2nd century CE by Apoleius. The tale itself must be quite ancient since depictions of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche appear in Greek art as early as the 4th century BCE. The basic story is about a king with three daughters, each quite beautiful but none as beautiful as the youngest. Although the older sisters marry, the youngest finds only worshipers and no lovers. So much is the attention she receives she draws the ire of Venus. Venus sends her son Cupid to end the competition, but Cupid falls in love and takes her away to a hiding place. His only request is that she never tries to discover his identity.

Time passes and the young bride tires of being alone all of the time and begs to see her sisters. The visit is disastrous.  As a result of their jealousy of her new style of living, her sisters coerce her into revealing the identity of her husband. By exposing him, she brings the wrath of Venus upon them both and Psyche is forced to wander in a quest to meet the demands of this very jealous goddess. She wins in the end and is restored to her beloved Cupid.

I don’t want to give you all the story twists of Lewis’ retelling; it’s really a charming read. What I will do is tell you something of what I found within the pages of this rather different interpretation of the tale. You see in this story the elder sister does not see the palace, except through the mist in the middle of the night of betrayal.  She believes her young half-sister to be quite mad. She seeks some way to believe, some way to find an answer from her goddess or her Greek philosophical training and finds only contradiction and doubt. She finally makes the decision to coerce her sister into revealing the identity her new found husband.

The results are disastrous as Orual discovers her sister was quite sane and she is now responsible for sending the young lady into the wilderness to be tested by a jealous goddess.  Princess Orual returns home to become Queen Orual on the death of her father only a few days later.  Shaken to the core, she vows to always wear a veil, so that none can see how homely she is, and to slowly extinguish that part of her that was the caring and loving protector of her beloved little sister. She lives her life in constant fear that the gods will strike her down. And she never allows herself to love again.

Queen Orual is a wise ruler. She reverses the policies of her father and finds ways to protect the country from the vagaries of nature, to build their treasury and to protect their borders. An excellent fighter, she rides with her armies when required. The kingdom finds peace, and yet she suffers. It is by chance that during a casual trip, taken for pleasure, she happens upon a temple, built in honor of her little sister Istra (Psyche in Greek). The tale she hears is nothing like the story she knows and she vows to write her own story, the truth. She vows to seek justice from the gods.

I find the tale compelling because it is a search for a very elusive thing; something that we are so sure we know, and yet we face trials, suffering, and retribution. Like Job, we believe we are doing our best, that we make appropriate decisions based on the knowledge we have, only to discover we didn’t have all the facts. No matter how hard we seek answers, we only see darkly the things in this world. And, like Job, we reach a point where we begin to demand answers. Not because we don’t believe, but because we do.

In the book the Queen muses as she writes, “There must, whether the gods see it or not, be something great in the mortal soul. For suffering, it seems, is infinite and our capacity without limit.”

No, not so different from the world we live in. Seeking guidance, following precepts and yet suffering. Seeing a world in pain, and noting that much of what happens is an accident of birth. Is it any wonder that our highly developed, rational minds seek answers? That we reach a point when we stop and demand of the universe, of God, “Why?”

Our Queen sets out her tale in order to challenge the gods, to ask them to tell her what more she could have done with the information she had. In the end she learns that her love for her sister, her suffering throughout her life, brought solace during the years of Istra’s wandering. It provided support during times of trial, and that when the final test came her sister had grown to the point that even her dearest and most loved could not sway her from the task at hand. Istra (Psyche) does, in the end, earn the approval of the gods and win back her place at Cupid’s side.

Orual brings us to the lesson that although we often suffer the consequences of ill informed decisions, we still have a chance to build on our failures and turn them into something productive. We gain “face” if you will by what we do about suffering, how we treat those in pain, how we use the tools we are given to make the world a better place, however small that improvement may be. It is when we strive in this way that we earn the right, the obligation to stand, “gird our loins like a [rational being]” so that when we are asked we can inform.  That search for understanding can never end; else why are we given these incredible gifts of a rational mind, a spirit of wonder, and a will to seek truth?

 “I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Bookshelf ~ Current times, My Bookshelf ~ Fiction, My Journey with Job