From the Desert to the Rust Belt

RoadrunnerFrom the southwest to the midwest. It’s a given that fall comes earlier to some areas faster than others. While we enjoyed a slow decline in morning temps in Goodyear, there were not all the outwardly signs of the slide into winter as we are currently beginning to note in northwest Indiana. I love the landscape of Arizona, the cactus, the beauty of sunrises and sunsets and I never tired of the artistic parks crafted with the perfect balance of sand, rock, and arid vegetation–there is an amazing variety of plants and trees in the desert. And so many hiking trails! There is a bounty of hiking trails for everyone from short to long or level to climb. Continue reading “From the Desert to the Rust Belt”

Pinterest-How To Up Your Engagement With These Six Simple Rules

PinterestPinterest is now being used for people on a how-to quest. How to pursue a project or interest. Pinterest reports informative pins are up to 30% more engaged than other pins. Want to bury your pin? Just make a simple pin with a picture. To make them more informative, however, you might want to take a college course on colors, form, and journalism or buy ebooks, webinars, and read, read, read informative blogs. Or, try employing these six techniques: Continue reading “Pinterest-How To Up Your Engagement With These Six Simple Rules”

Blacktip Island – Review

Blacktip IslandBlacktip Island by Tim W Jackson

Genre: Currently #3585 in Best Sellers Rank for Literature & Fiction-Action & Adventure-Mystery & Thriller-Crime

Publisher: Devonshire House Press

Publication Date: September, 2016

Submitted by author for review

Blacktip Island Cover invites inspection and obviously conveys a Caribbean theme

Psst–want to have a fantastic Caribbean adventure and save some moola? How about an Islander hop to a fictional Caribbean, Blacktip Island? Ahh, the sun, the surf, the people…but what about the people? Well, that’s the thing, you see. Blake Calloway had it good, working in his dad’s investment firm, right up until he screwed up a few decimal points. An innocent mistake! Unfortunately, when he tries to disappear on a remote island with some cash, blending in with the other scuba enthusiasts, he accidentally rescues one of them–again–an innocent mistake. So much for blending! And just like that, the book has you within the first few pages. Continue reading “Blacktip Island – Review”

Find a New Author Support Community

Relocating can be a major pain, whether in state, or across the U.S. In our case, across the country.

Where do you begin to find an author group like the one discovered years before and lost with each successive move? If you use the computer and do internet searches, you can browse the web. But where to start? Meet-Up’s? The local library? You need encouragement and support with your writing goals. You need positive critique. You need to find the holes in your work so you can plug them.

The rewards for finding the right author community are numerous and there are resources out there to help: Continue reading “Find a New Author Support Community”

Forbidden Birth – Review

Forbidden BirthForbidden Birth by William Rubin

Genre: Currently #1949 in Best Seller’s Rank for Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense, Medical

Publisher: Crystal Vision Creations

Publication Date: July, 2016

Submitted by author for review 

Forbidden Birth – Cover conveys medically themed novel

I was sent this book by the author, Dr. William Rubin, as a medical thriller to read and review. After reading “Forbidden Birth,” however, I’m wondering if it shouldn’t have been classified as cross-genre, as there were also elements of horror, crime, and mystery; even sci-fi.

Dr. Christopher Ravello has given up a lucrative medical practice to join the newly formed Medical Crimes Division as a homicide detective of the New York Police Department. Compelled to fight crime on the street level after the brutal murder of his mother, he moves his well-to-do family to a blue-collar hood of questionable security and works with childhood buddy Kev Kennedy as they bump up against a serial killer known as The Giver. The antagonist is presented as extremely intelligent and, indeed, we get to know him well as he rationalizes the necessity for the work he is doing and the status he’ll achieve when his work becomes known. Continue reading “Forbidden Birth – Review”

Coca Leaves and Kola Nuts-America’s Favorite Drink

What patent medicine begun in 1885 eventually became one of our most popular drinks?

Here’s a hint: It contained two “medicinal” ingredients–extract of coca leaves (cocaine) and kola nuts (the latter being a source of caffeine). How much cocaine was actually contained within the syrup at the time is unknown, but we do know that cocaine continued to be an ingredient in the syrup (however minute) to secure the trade name “Coco-Cola” right up to 1929.

Colonel John PembertonWounded in the Civil War, inventor Confederate Colonel John Pemberton became addicted to morphine. His need to replace morphine led to the formulation of the Coca-Cola recipe, originally produced as a coca wine. It was formally registered as a French Wine (Coca) nerve tonic. It was reformulated in 1886 in a non-alcoholic version, became Coca-Cola, and sold out of Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. But “soda” drinks had already become popular.

Coca-ColaIncreasingly found in pharmacies by the 1830’s, soda fountains were helping to dispense medications with the flavor of mineral (or naturally carbonated) water. Back then, two plant roots, specifically sarsaparilla and sassafras, were recognized for their unique flavor and presumed to contain medicinal properties. Sassafras (as well as sarsaparilla) was a major ingredient in root beer, brewed as a mildly alcoholic beverage. (Studies found sassafras oil caused cancer or permanent liver damage in laboratory animals in 1960. A process was then discovered to remove the harmful substance.)

And, by the way, Coke’s main competition was created by Caleb Bradham of North Carolina when he concocted a fountain drink in his pharmacy that was intended to aid digestion and boost energy in 1898. The main ingredients are pepsin (a digestive enzyme) and kola nuts, later to become Pepsi-Cola.

And really, this is nothing. Think what man discovered they could do with rice, corn and grapes and those drinks have been around for thousands of years! ©2016 Virginia Williams Resource Box

Creating a Book Trailer–DIY Or Not?

Book Trailers 101My stated goal last year was to make a new book trailer. It didn’t happen. Looking at book trailers these days, most appear to have been professionally crafted; definitely not your standard home-grown variety. I tried creating a book trailer four years ago and had a great time with it–writing about it on this blog.

But things have changed a bit since I made that first book trailer. Even in that short span of time, the technology has gotten better, sources for free video clips have widened, and the bar has been raised considerably.

Video Editing Software

Back when I tried that first book trailer, I used Windows Movie Maker, the default Windows video editing software, to create “Cocos Island Treasure.” It’s a fairly basic program, keeping it simple from font choice to video to photo clips to audio. (I experimented with introducing a voice over in addition to music clip in “Lucky Joe.”) Other popular programs are Sony Vegas and iMovie. Sony Vegas was sold in May 2016 and now may be more expensive than before extended into Sony Pro and certainly more sophisticated than my level of expertise. iMovie was created by Apple and is the default video editing program for the Mac. The iMovie alternative for (PC) Windows 10 (and older) is the Movavi Video Editor. The latter currently runs $39.99. Yes, there are free trials.

Continue reading “Creating a Book Trailer–DIY Or Not?”

Craig’s List-Looking for Furniture?

Pool Shark Cue RackCraig’s list has a reputation for unusual or hard-to-find items; it’s a go to whenever you are looking for something. Looking for a desk recently, I found some very unusual items and I’m not sure if it is just a representative sample of what can be found perusing “furniture,” or whether it’s the area of search (NW Indiana). For instance, this area seems to be big on “man caves.” Here is the perfect accessory for the pool table out there. Called a Pool Shark Cue Rack, it will hold 4 for the measly price of $100.00.

The French tend to go a bit overboard with their French Provincial; this love seat with matching couch at only $400. (Do you like the way they pulled the plastic off for the picture and then left it there?)

French Love Seat

 

Herman Miller Landscape Social Chair

 

 

 

 

Need something a little more modern with some color? How about these Herman Miller Landscape Social Chairs–only $150. (Well, you have to imagine it with legs.)

Even more simple, you say? How about these “hand chairs?” $100 each. Pick a color–any color–or not.

hand chairs

An absolute must-have around here with all these lush green areas, however, are riding lawn mowers. You won’t find them in furniture–or lawn equipment for that matter. Apparently once you finally get one, it’s stays in the family for life. I didn’t see one. ©2016 Virginia WilliamsResource Box

Beyond the Red Carpet-Heart of Stone – Review

Beyond the Red CarpetBeyond the Red Carpet/Heart of Stone by Debbra Lynn

Genre: Heart of Stone is #653 in Best Sellers Rank for Mystery, Crime Fiction, Murder

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Publication Dates: December 2016/June 2016

Submitted by author for review

Because I was sent these two books of the Hollywood Lies series together, I’ll review both here beginning with Beyond the Red Carpet, a debut effort by Debbra Lynn. Though I am not usually one to read a book with some serious “adult content,” (language and sexual content) this book caught my attention with an interesting plot that was laid out by flashbacks setting the ground work for the present (2015) scene–describing a well planned, or “perfect” murder. Both covers are dark and set the stage for murder mysteries.

The initial protagonists don’t all stay in that position as the plot progresses. Not the first time a marriage has been misrepresented as a beautiful, loving couple, Marcus and Sophia have their share of conflicts that escalate into ever-increasing paranoid revelations by Marcus. He has become involved with Sophia’s best friend, Cat, who is definitely no friend, getting her claws into Sophia’s husband, who is a wildly successful and powerful Hollywood director. Continue reading “Beyond the Red Carpet-Heart of Stone – Review”

It’s Almost NaNo Time Again–Get Ready!

Nano CrestOn Sept 27, 2015, I wrote regarding my introduction to NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month website created by Chris Baty in 1999 and succeeded by Executive Director, Grant Faulkner in 2012. Think you still have a book in you? November is the month to find out. Just 50,000 little words, only 1,667 words per day in 30 days. Think you can do it? How about if you had help, a coach, or several coaches, hints, information, word count, encouragement, and other participants pushing to complete their book in the same month? It’s a band of engagement–join the fun!

National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The experience is free–yes–they’ll accept donations and getting into the spirit of the thing, you can order NaNoWriMo mugs, clothing, books, and posters. And it’s so simple: Continue reading “It’s Almost NaNo Time Again–Get Ready!”

Bought Any Clothes For Your Pet Lately?

Dog painted to look like a tigre.No, this blog is not all about dogs, it just seems that way lately. I was struck recently by a couple pictures I saw of dogs dressed in human clothing and dogs painted to look like other animals.

My own dog, shown on this blog before, hurt her foot and has been way over attentive to it, licking the fur off and practically laying the foot raw. She is receiving an Epsom Salts soak every night, and it does seem to be helping a little, though my son and daughter-in-law thought she might need a plastic hood designed to keep an animal from aggressively attending an owie (sometimes REALLY important).

Harry Potter dogThis is the third time she has had a sore paw (she gets stickers between her toes) and the second for the hood and once again, I was struck with how difficult it is for her to negotiate her normal routine. That hang-dog look is obvious; the change in attitude a dog exhibits upon being “dressed.” Is it really possible they can be embarrassed or demoralized? Ask most canine owners and they would say YES! (Once again creating an anthropomorphizing quality to a canine.)

So, besides the restrictions to eating and drinking, do costumes, clothing, or protective devices actually change a dog’s attitude? We know, depending on the costume or clothing, it can change the dog’s body language, which is especially important when confronting other animals.

Costume May Lead to Stress cave dog 

The inability to signal other dogs might lead to stress, which in turn may make the dog less tolerant. If the dog cannot produce subtle signals, she/he may resort to more obvious or vocal signals–i.e., barking or lunging. Additionally, a change in temperament may change his normal pack order. Knowing your dog well will help you watch for important behavior cues.

dog coneWhile clothing or bootees might be a good thing in the winter for some thin, shorthaired or small breeds, it can in some instances allow the dog to overheat.

In the case of the “head cone”, I’ve had one vet advise for it and one against it. Guess it depends on the dog. ©2016 Virginia WilliamsResource Box

The Meaning of Dreams

We’ve all dealt with dreams, some better than others. And here again, the theme of getting older. But this lady continues to nail it square on–love her observations, sense of humor, and philosophy. Here for you to enjoy as well, “Life in the Boomer Lane.”

Life in the Boomer Lane

dream

Life in the Boomer Lane has always taken an interest in dreams, specifically the following: What do my dreams mean?  What does it mean when I know I am dreaming in the dream? Why do I remember some dreams and others not? Why can’t I have great sex in dreams? (Readers note: LBL has never actually had any sex in dreams. She didn’t mean to imply that she only had mediocre sex).

Scientists keep trying to come up with answers to explain dreams. About the only thing they can agree on is that, in most cases, one must either be asleep or in a semi-somnambulent state listening to one’s spouse drone on and on, in order to dream.

As a service to readers, LBL will now answer some of the top questions about dream: 

Why do I dream?

The answer here is that, in the absence of dreaming, sleep is…

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Molding Men – Review

Molding Men by Ray RonanMolding Men by Ray Ronan

Genre: Currently #279 in Best Sellers Rank for Historical Fiction, German

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, LLC

Publication Date: November, 2015

Submitted by author for review

Dark, foreboding cover easily gets across the supernatural/occult insinuation.

Interesting choice for the title. This dynamite, hard-driving suspense novel, “Molding Men” by Ray Ronan is a winner from page 1. Molding Men could as easily have been Molding Character.

The abominable living conditions created by war-torn Germany points to all the directions men take in response to the worst that man can do to man–or is it always human? What form can evil actually take? In this supernatural thriller, evil takes the form of Historian, Herr Brandt, as he weaves in and out of multi-plotted cataclysmic historical events combined with the fictional German family of Terrell Engels. It is no secret that Adolph Hitler, ergo his Nazi party, had a fascination with the occult and although other novels have been penned using the knowledge, this tale takes a unique twist. The story weaves in the fictional “Historian” character, whose principle is that he does not record history; he creates it. Continue reading “Molding Men – Review”

Commute–The Train People

commuter-cartoonTaking a commuter train, I am sure, is somewhat akin to riding the Greyhound. There is an unmistakable impression that follows–the “train people.” But there are a whole myriad of train people; there were the train people that caught the rails during the depression hooking a ride to wherever the train was going, and the train people who refuse to fly–taking the “smell the roses” route of transportation–and then there are commuters.

In America, a steam engine was installed in a vessel in 1807 that hauled passengers from Albany to New York. England opened their first steam powered rail line in 1825, France in 1830, and Germany in 1835. In New York, a fella named Beach tried to create a secret subway system in 1870, but was denied any extension to his successful 400′ line.

Subsequently, subway systems were built world-wide including London, Paris, and Madrid. New York City built a subway that eventually became one of the largest in the world. (I’ve ridden “the tube” in London [awesome] and traveled under the English Channel from London to France–unfathomable [pun intended]. Commuting to work by rail was born!)

South Shore Line to ChicagoWe became one of the faceless crowd as we joined the group boarding the South Shore Line in Portage, Indiana, for the Millennium Station in downtown Chicago yesterday for the bargain price of $4 one way per person. (It was built between 1901 and 1908.) The line that operates between South Bend International Airport and downtown Chicago is now an electrically powered inter-urban commuter rail service operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

Interior commuter trainThere were people pulling carry-on bags we used to call luggage. There were students heavy laden with backpacks, shoppers, tourists, and people like us–out to enjoy a day in Chicago. The train, thankfully, was equipped with WiFi, but unfortunately didn’t keep everyone occupied, as we were treated to the lady on the way into Chicago on a non-stop conversation that no one in the car had a problem hearing. Likewise, a younger man on the way back had to involve us in this profanity filled, F-word laden conversation. At least the lady’s conversation included sage, age-driven advice. I didn’t learn a thing from the guy. ©2106 Virginia Williams

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One More Little Mystery

I’ve reblogged other author posts before and I’ve commented on the uncertainties of getting older, including moving and some of the other issues plaguing the senior crowd. Nancy Roman looks at life in general at 65. I’ve been reading this lady for awhile and greatly enjoy her little forays into retrospection. She has a way of producing that nod, knowing smile, and agreement. Perhaps you’ll enjoy her posts as much as I.

notquiteold

I’ve written lately about a few little mysteries that have bugged me for a long time.

Some important – like I NEED some answers concerning the assassinations that changed our lives.

And another from my childhood –the Betsy Ross tale of the five-pointed star– that I was able to solve in a few minutes, now that we have Google. (Of course, it took me much longer than a few minutes to duplicate the solution.)

So here’s the last in my little series of unsolved mysteries. And in addition, I get to pay tribute to a sweet woman that I knew for a short time back in the 70s.

In 1976, I got a job.

This may not seem like a big deal, but getting a job in 1976 was no easier than it is right now. I was 25 years old, a BA in English, living with my…

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Successful Blogging – What Is Your Niche?

So much talent out there to help, mentor, encourage, and push an entrepreneur into successful blogging. Or from successful blogging to successful freelancing, promotion, or sales. I love writing–one thing it’s not–is boring. There are so many creative ways to exercise the expertise or talent. And it is always a resourceful and satisfying outlet. Fortunately, now you can find so many experts out there, there is little you can’t satisfy by researching successful bloggers. I have several “go-to” bloggers that seem to have no limits on topical advice.

 

The Take Action WAHM

One of my faves is The Take Action WAHM (work at home mom). I spend a LOT Of time reading–that is in addition to my review reading. Always something new to study–here it’s the “niche.” Goodness! I’ve read numerous articles on identifying my target audience and to be honest, it is not something I can zero in. If the goal is sales of historical fiction novels, my grandfather’s books seem to cross all boundaries. Women buy for the men. Men buy for their…sons(?) The young buy for their grandparents; the elder for their grandchildren. Only those who have to study it in school do not love history. And McShane’s stories are full-on Irish blarney–hard to separate fact from fiction.

 

 

Kelly writes for stay-at-home moms, the pearls and perils. She contributes to her family’s finances through affiliate marketing and freelance writing. She has a vast archive of information on her pins “Blogging A to Z.” Kelly found her niche. Continue reading “Successful Blogging – What Is Your Niche?”

Not a Whimper

Cats can be very dangerous, if you’re a dog. Whether it’s instinctual for a dog to chase a cat or just that most cats immediately go into fight or flight–most being flight–they absolutely demand the pursue response.

Dog and cat fight

Let me just say, I don’t think dogs are born with the need to chase cats. My theory is that it’s the cat’s fault. Or, perhaps, secondarily, the human’s fault (moi?) for trying to get an older, resident cat to accept a puppy. Accept a puppy? Not going to happen. In our house, the cat (fight) tried to relieve the puppy of one of her eyes. Scared the puppy so much, she decided all cats must die. And she’s held to that mantra ever since.

I am usually very careful about having Frosty around cats in the cat’s domain. Hubby–not so much. This morning, little Frost (all 13 lbs. of her), launched off the kitchen chair after the gray house cat known here as Mr. Gotto (flight).

She landed wrong.

Frosty with bandageLots of blood and a visit to super-vet Dr. McPheron of Crown Point, and it was decided Frosty will live. Our son asked how “Stubby” was doing, but it’s apparently not more than a lost toenail. We have something to give her for pain control and she’s appears to be sleeping comfortably at present.

However, she’s been shaking and panting heavily–I know it hurt. But she hasn’t even whimpered. ©2016 Virginia Williams Resource Box

Dead Lawyers Don’t Lie-Review

Dead Lawyers Don't LieDead Lawyers Don’t Lie by Mark Nolan

Currently #1 in Books, Mystery, Thrillers, Spies & Politics, Assassinations

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Publication Date: January, 2016

Submitted by author for review

Dead Lawyers Don’t Lie – great cover, but I wish he’d have included the dog beside him (in proper “heel” formation, of course).

Tired of books that end before you have a chance to get to know the characters, the motivation, the plot? Look no further than “Dead Lawyers Don’t Lie,” by Mark Nolan. Once I really got into this book, it became a reward for the day–Jake Wolfe is the really bad-assed good guy–ex-Marine. He’s been there, seen it all. His attitude evolved with each new scar on his well honed body. He has the confidence to handle any situation and his sense of propriety leans towards the “Good Samaritan” side. His job as a photojournalist has given him access to a fine network of people, although his closest friends are those who served with him. He shares a relationship with Terrell that only men together under fire can understand and appreciate. Their conversations are good-humored and natural; dialogue as would happen between loving and respectful men.

But here’s the thing: The book you think you are getting at the beginning changes. There are twists, yes, but even more than that, these characters mature. His coincidental assignment locations have almost given him “first responder” position to two unusual homicides–lawyers murdered in creative ways by an assassin known as “the Artist.” Jake’s forensic eye offers intimate intel to his buddy, Terrell, a SFPD lieutenant and Terrell’s partner, Beth Cushman. Continue reading “Dead Lawyers Don’t Lie-Review”

Typos, Edit Errors, and Omissions

If you’ve been writing very long, you know how easy it is to overlook your own errors, whether they are typing errors or otherwise. I had another pair of eyes looking over “Cocos Island Treasure,” and I’ve been through it so many times, I almost have it memorized, so I know how dismaying it can be for someone to glance at your pages and find mistakes. It’s a subject I wrestle with all the time: When I’m reading Indie authors hard-won newly published works, do they want to know if I find problems?

Edit Errors
Was there another error they missed?

I finally settled on the compromise of contacting the author directly through a private message. Lacking English degrees, I don’t claim to check for grammar or punctuation. Lacking an editing contract, I don’t mark obvious errors. However, if we are to raise Indie standards of publication and elevate the reputation, I’m hoping the author will take a word to the wise in the spirit in which it is intended. If I see it; others must.

 

GDFGDFGPerhaps I’m noticing more edit errors lately because of heightened awareness through the publication of my grandfather’s books. Maybe there is just a slip in the level of English education in the younger generation. As with the failure to activate a turn signal on a vehicle, is it possible using Spell Check is conceived as unnecessary?

Botched HeadlineHowever, even the professionals seem to be missing more mistakes lately. Or are the errors an attempt at humor? Some headlines (whether newspaper or internet feeds) would definitely seem so. While I’d be prefer that everything we produced was “perfect,” it appears that mistakes do happen to everyone. ©2016 Virginia Williams (Credit Pics 1 and 2- SlipTalk. Credit #3 – PubGuys)Resource Box

Death Unmasked – Review

Death UnmaskedDeath Unmasked by Rick Sulik

Genre: Currently at Amazon’s Best Seller’s Rank #4837 in Books, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Supernatural

Publisher: Christopher Matthews Publishing

Publication Date: November, 2015

Submitted by author for review

The title Death Unmasked could be descriptive of the topic. The cover ties to the coat involved in the story, but doesn’t readily explain the book subject.

Interesting plot premise (reincarnation) and a subject that fascinates me. I also read and enjoy paranormal novels and really wanted to love this book as well. Rick Sulik apparently has an affinity for poetry and offers his thoughtful expressions of life intertwined within the plot of his book. His poetry ranged from pensive to beautiful. The subject and the plot have a great potential.

The book begins with a heinous scene reflective of the horrors inflicted on citizens by the Germans during WW2, that of the cruel death of married lovers; Laura is first raped, then murdered, and Emil vows retribution before his death.

Now to present day Houston Police Detective, single Sean Jamison, who is burned out at 57 years of age and reclusive. He is busy pining for his one true love, and involved in the investigation of a crazed serial killer who likes to leave the haunting line from the “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde, “Yet each man kills the thing he loves,” as a token taunt at the scene of his sadistic murders.

That’s the simple part and that’s where simple ends. Sean Jamison, the first and main protagonist, climbs on his soap box rather often. He has realized through several happenstances that this is not his first life and that his last life ended horribly cruel. His partner, Bill Roman, is a candidate for anger management. His captain, Virginia Schaeffer, is a really horny (middle-aged?) single woman who suddenly and inexplicably falls in mad, over-the-top passionate love (after one heart-to-heart) with Sean, who is saving himself for his previous wife who he feels is now living a present day existence as well. If only he could find her! Are you confused yet?

Bill Roman is taking psychic lessons from Sean, though initially scoffs at the suggestion, and helps to find and apprehend a felon. He will try to use the same power later to help catch the antagonist, the serial killer (who previously kidnapped his wife).

But wait–there’s more: spoiler alert! The serial killer has noticed a flea-market coat that has a particular significance for him, and marks the coat so he can track the new owner. Uh oh! The new owner of the coat, coincidentally, may be connected to Sean’s previous life’s wife.

When he does find his wife from another life, they throw caution to the wind and enjoy a rather public tryst, forgetting his wife from another life has a current day fiancée. In his mind, he has found his wife, his life, and his family. But if she’s still his contemporary, I’d wager that’s too late.

Another spoiler alert: Some of these people are all connected, and I mean brother and sister connected, in previous lives. And the serial killer? You’ll just have to read it–or maybe you already know.

The dialogue ran stilted at times, preachy (and unrealistic); and the characters were inconsistently fleshed out. I had a little problem with the continuity, with scene jumping, or contradictory timing of day/night. Descriptions ran a little on the verbose side bordering on TMI.

Rosepoint Rating-three of fiveThis book will benefit greatly by a critical eye for cut, slash, and rework as the idea is solid–it should work better.

The Author: Rick Sulik served in the US Air Force Military Police prior to working with the Houston and Pasadena Texas Police Departments, followed by ten years as a courthouse bailiff. He retired in 2013.

Rosepoint rating based on current problems: Three of Five ©2016 Virginia Williams Resource Box Continue reading “Death Unmasked – Review”

Is It Time To Dump Smashwords For Kindle?

SmashwordsI gave up on Smashwords this week.

Their Wide Variety of Formats

I’ve monitored my stats almost every day since I downloaded the first manuscript for my grandfather back in 2012–and the stats are dismal. At the time, Smashwords seemed like a good addition to my marketing plan when I published with Amazon and their Kindle site. If you aren’t already aware of Smashwords, they publish and make available ebooks bestowing freedom to authors to set their own prices. Smashwords further makes available your digital downloads to Nook (Barnes & Noble), Apple IBooks, Scribd, Oyster, and Kobo, and allows downloads in EPUB, PDF, and MOBI formats.

It’s not as if they aren’t busy trying to help promote their authors and introduce them to new readers. They are currently running (July 1 – July 31) their annual Summer/Winter Sale. In view of the complete lack of activity (probably not their fault) on any of my listings, I declined to join. They keep up dialog in their “Site Updates” as well as “Press Releases” in which they recently noted Smashwords and Publishers Weekly joined to launch an ebook best seller’s list.

Free Downloads

And I have to hand it to Mark Coker. It is not as if he hasn’t tried getting some of us off the sidelines. His free downloads, “Smashwords Style Guide” and “The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success” are comprehensive and indispensible for an Indie author as the publishing format on Smashwords is neither as easy nor forgiving as Kindle. Continue reading “Is It Time To Dump Smashwords For Kindle?”

Waterfalls of Lava

Lava Flows into the PacificIn an incredibly dangerous challenge, Alison Teal surfed toward the base of the cliff where waterfalls of lava are flowing into the Pacific Ocean at the southeastern coastline of the Big Island, turning the water upwards of 2,000 degrees. (Teal obtained permission from local Hawaiian families to film the feat.) The lava produces steam, but also becomes explosive as the burning lava turns into solid rock, which can then become hardened molten missiles. Teal said that surfing toward a lava flow falling into the Pacific has been a dream of hers since she was a child (and she is no stranger to Hawaii. Her parents, who watched safely from cliffs overlooking the scene, are National Geographic photojournalists.) Kilauea has been erupting for 33 years and remains one of the most active, but it has been three years since the last flow of lava hit the beach and this event has been anticipated for weeks.

Alison Teal
PIC BY PERRIN JAMES / CATERS NEWS – (PICTURED: Alison Teal paddles out to Kilauea volcano.

©2016 Virginia Williams

Update on Pokémon:  The game is getting tougher. Who knew you’d need math skills to play this game? I’m at Level 15 – 61 virtual characters of 143.Resource Box

Children from Dark Houses-Review

Children from Dark Houses by Carlyle Clark Children from Dark Houses

Genre: Currently #262 in Best Sellers Rank for African American, Mystery, Thriller and Suspense

Publisher: Branch & Crane

Publication Date: June, 2016

Submitted by author for review

Children from Dark Houses is a title that will hint at the plot and seals suspicions with the cover.

The book will introduce you to two new and unusual PI’s, Atticus Wynn and Rosemary Sanchez, a duo unaccountably made for each other. While their personalities may be 180 degrees apart, these are opposites that work well! Carlyle Clark spares no one, poking fun at Atticus, as well as most of the remaining characters in the book. And characters there are! While the patter from Atticus is just a bit over the top in the beginning, the dialogue evolves as the unique plot develops into good natured humor along with his delightful incite and observation of people.

Atticus and Rosemary are hired to find Imran Khan, who has run away from an exclusive reform school by his unhappy and volatile parents, Habeeb and Heena, who would rather not draw either the attention of the police or a lot of notoriety into their extremely lucrative and organized network of moving money. (The reader is introduced to the term “Hawala,” finally giving a name to a previously known but unnamed system of money laundering.

Imran’s main squeeze, Sebellia, is a nasty lady with a crude and vicious “cousin,” Eiger. Sebellia has connections with an outlaw biker gang, the Demon Dogs (who are another whole story unto themselves), and it becomes obvious that Atticus and Rosemary have a tiger by the tail. Included with the other colorful characters, Mawroo the cat, who periodically adds his own “cat condescension” to the scene.

Here are protagonists you come to love to love and antagonists you love to see they get what is coming to them. Believable dialogue, non-stop action, surprises and fun along the way. I received this book in exchange for a review. I think this author is off to a terrific start and he has a series that will keep his readers looking for the next installment.

Author Carlyle ClarkCarlyle Clark should know about cats–he has two along with a dog. Married and a Chicagolander, Clark is also an avid sportsman and martial arts enthusiast. Bullseye!

Rosepoint Rating based on the correction of current edit errors:

©2016 Virginia WilliamsResource Box

 

Twelve Points for Review Submission

Most new Indie authors believe reviews are the make or break of a book and aggressively pursue them. There are numerous articles on the algorithm Amazon uses to determine Best Sellers Rank. While it is generally considered to be reviews that help to get you to the top of the pack, it isn’t, according to what I’ve read. Amazon won’t disclose their algorithm, but will readily agree that good reviews do seem to help drive sales, which IS the major contributory factor in Best Sellers Rank.

ReviewsI’ve written before on reviews, discussing whether or not 300 five star ratings are really all bogus or not. Having written and posted over 100 reviews myself, I’ve always strived for honesty, striking a balance between what I liked about the book as well as what I didn’t. Most of the books I review are Indie books, although I’ve also read more than my share of best-selling authors in the past year and posted those reviews whether the author needed it or not.

Reviews can run anywhere from a short informal paragraph or an in-depth analysis of the book of more than 500 words detailing not only the description of the plot, but a critical view of how the topic was handled. Point being: Did you agree with the observations or challenge every posture? I’ve developed the following twelve points in the submission of my reviews. Continue reading “Twelve Points for Review Submission”

Dog Days of Summer

There is a reason we call our dogs our “fur kids.”

Frosty-a Bichon FriseWe love them almost as much as our own. We have a tendency to anthropomorphize them because they seem to connect so tightly to us; intuitive to our emotions and moods. I’ve posted pictures of my own little girl dog, Frosty, on this blog before. Like posting pictures of your children, you can’t help it because they are so “doggone” cute.

Cool DogThey are so much a part of us (for over 30,000 years now) that we have “dog days of summer” activities with them. Better let them run and play now because it won’t be long before we’ll be sharing a “three dog night” as winter chills down. Uh oh, and there are many more fun doggy expressions, like these few: Every Dog Has Its Day, It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, Work Like a Dog.

Sleepy FrostI sincerely try to follow Cesar Millan’s knowledgeable posts and admonish my excited little (10 year old) pup when she sees me grabbing my purse to be “calm, submissive” before I’ll take her anywhere. Cesar is a fount of information re all things canine and continually drives home his formula for successfully “balanced” dogs:

First-ExerciseThen

Discipline-and Lastly

Love

 How is that possible? Perhaps he should be teaching us how to avoid reacting all soft and cuddly to excessive cuteness. ©2016 Virginia WilliamsResource Box

Kristen Lamb’s Blog-Writer’s Resource

If you haven’t stumbled across Kristen Lamb’s Blog, I’ll provide you with a treat today. This entry was posted on July 25th and particularly caught my eye as my attention to my FB fan page is woefully slow. Topical and current:

Breaking Facebook Dependence—How to Create an Enduring Author Brand

Kristen is a Writer’s Digest Award Winner for the 101 Best Website for Writers and 2013 winner for the Top 10 Blogs for Writers and best selling author. Moreover, she is quite attractive. Enjoy!

PS: For those following my Pokémon GO progress, I’ve made level 14 and have now collected 51 virtual characters. ©2016 Virginia WilliamsResource Box

 

 

Hail, Caesar” – Supreme Satire

Hail, Caesar!You probably know me better by the book reviews I frequently post. I really love reading and take most requests, happy to return a truthful review. Today, I’ll take a major departure and review a video we watched recently called “Hail, Caesar.” Released February, 2016, you’ll either love it or won’t like it at all. I did–my two guys didn’t. Hubby slept through it; no contest as he can sleep through most anything. Son called it a bore. NOT.

Taking place back in the 50s heyday of Hollywood, Eddie Mannix (played supremely low key by Josh Brolin) is an savvy movie exec trying to handle all the problems of both his actors and film producers at Capitol Pictures. Today he is tackling a disgruntled director, a singing cowboy, Tobey (played adorably by Alden Ehrenreich), an Esther Williams type synchonized swimmer, and a handsome dancer. Mannix sneaks an occasional cigarette though he promised his wife he’d quit, and seeks forgiveness numerous times from a priest who tells him, “You’re really not that bad, my son. You don’t need to confess this often.” Continue reading “Hail, Caesar” – Supreme Satire”

Pokémon GO Is Serious Exercise

PikachuMelanie cocked her head just to the left and snatched a quick glance at me. “You know you are the oldest one here,” she whispered, “and I’m the next.”

As I gazed around at the jostling crowd pushing the traffic around Crown Point Square, I didn’t need to guess their ages. Of course, she was right. These were largely teenagers, sprinkled with pre-teens and an occasional millennial. “Yeah, I know.”

Later there was a man possibly in his 50’s walking with his son, his own smart phone in his hand beckoning us across the street. “We have the light, you know,” he called as he waved his arm at us. Traffic was heavy with vehicles making lefts in front of us, pedestrian crossing or no, in their hurry to get to the next PokéStop. It was pushing 10 pm on a fairly temperate Wednesday evening and Mel sighed, “I really didn’t expect this much traffic.” Continue reading “Pokémon GO Is Serious Exercise”

Research Your Best Post Times

Regardless what you’ve been told or read, evening hours are the best to post social media content according to Kevan Lee. Following the charts for the best time of day or week to post all the various social media accounts can be a tricky and confusing matter. Even within the account there may be one or two “best” times varying in Twitter; for instance, from noon to three Monday through Friday, except five to six pm on Wednesday (according to sources), but no time on the weekend? Huh? Does that mean everyone is posting at work, possibly on lunch time or afternoon break? Perhaps afternoon break then, but he cites three pm and literally into evening hours. So have you researched your best post times?

I have to believe the stats may be leaning heavily on reporting by male respondents, as it would seem to me that the evening household commotion is still largely dominated by women. Mothers engaged with children’s after-school activities, mothers getting dinner; and then preparing for the following day leaves little time for computer games. Does she really crumple at 10 pm to catch up with Facebook friends or scan Pinterest? (I remember being too exhausted to do much other than collapse gratefully into bed.) Pinterest stats, by the way, say best engagement hours are between two to four am and evening hours every day, five pm on Tuesdays, and eight to eleven pm on Saturdays. There appears to be nothing we can no longer track down to the minute!

Perhaps accounting for the popularity of photos and the ever-growing demand for videos, Instagram has a stronger showing of engagement over Facebook or Twitter, although both the latter have increased video acceptance. As for photos, Kevan maintains that The average interaction % on Instagram is up to 10 times higher than on Facebook.” Instagram best engagement hours are anytime Monday through Thursday, except three to four pm.

Need I repeat, however, the increasing interest in branding through video? Book Trailers 101 Continue reading “Research Your Best Post Times”

Natural Wonders of Our Planet Earth

There are so many natural wonders on this planet of ours that is impossible to list or picture them in one short blog. There may be several in your area, as these phenomena can occur in more than one area of the world, while others are located in one isolated area and one area alone, as with a few of the exceptional spectacles in Iceland. Planet bound or skyward, they awe and inspire, difficult to capture on film or digital camera–rare when they are–natural wonders of our planet.Lenticular clouds

Heavenward, our climate makes for some spectacular shows such as water or fire spouts. How about lightning that strikes upward, not down? Those strikes have been captured and authenticated. This is a lenticular cloud–some so alien as to be mistaken for UFOs.

Rainbow eucalyptusGlorious trees grace our environment. How about the Rainbow Eucalyptus? This tree, also known as the rainbow gum is probably the most colorful tree on the planet. Found in the Philippines and Indonesia, it also grows in Hawaii. The bark starts out as green. Then as the bark ages, it begins to turn color as the chlorophyll is replaced by tannins.

Spotted Lake in BC, Canada, takes on a polka dot appearance in the summer. The water evaporates in the summer leaving large deposits of colorful minerals. Also known as Kliluk Lake, there are numerous videos on YouTube that exhibit its beauty.

Columnar basaltColumnar basalt is the result of lava flows that has cooled quickly and cracked vertically. This particular phenomenon is found around the world. The “sailing” stones of Death Valley move hundreds of yards at a time–by themselves over the sand.sailing stones

The planet is 71% water, 29% land. It is filled with so many natural wonders and as harsh, varied and violent as it can be, still is our fragile planet. I am awed every day at the site of new displays of beauty and worried at its ability to withstand the indolence of man. ©2016 Virginia Williams Resource Box

Exaggeration

I’ve written before regarding my author buddy, Michael Reisig. I really enjoy his style of writing, but more than his style of writing, it is  the philosophy behind everything he writes. It’s almost poetic and almost always goes straight to my heart. Reisig just seems to nail both the best and worst in man. He understands it apparently, otherwise how could he describe it so eloquently? The following came in his last newsletter, an observation I felt worthy of reprinting. Enjoy!

ExaggerationMichael Reisig

By Michael Reisig

I was sitting by the fireplace with a friend yesterday, drinking coffee and trying to keep away from the winter weather, and he was telling a grand story. I suspected that without a deliberate attempt to be deceitful, some of the story had been embellished, and given the situation that was perfectly okay. But the thing about exaggeration is that there’s a fine line between being a grand storyteller and a bald-faced liar, and I think the crux lies in how often and how willing you are to bend the truth.

You might think of exaggeration as a custom peculiar to man, but if you study nature you realize that it’s common in animals and birds as well. Mating rituals are often all about embellishing or magnifying elements of their bodies – fluffing out feathers, exaggerated actions, enormous bellows and roars. Actually that sounds to me like a night at the local watering hole.

But the problem with exaggeration is that it ultimately diminishes distinction, because it becomes the harbinger of disappointment and often cheapens the final appraisal. The lesson here being the more you profess, the more you may be forced to produce. Take resumes for instance: there are few of us that haven’t gone to great pains to create an image there – they’re more like grand embellishments of who we’ve been in the past and a wish list of the qualities we assume would be an advantage to the situation at hand (staying within boundaries that won’t make us look like absolute fools if someone actually checks.)

Let’s face it, many times in excitement or indignation, our conversations seem to take on a life of their own – the colorful embroidery of words are out of our mouths before we can stop them, and in a moments of quiet afterwards we chide ourselves for not correcting such blatant corruptions of the truth. I can’t help but be reminded of the quote by Kahlil Gibran: “Exaggeration is truth that has lost its temper.” But at the same time, exaggeration is often nothing more than a tool – used by governments, television networks, politicians, and novelists. We inflate situations, or deflate situations to suit our needs, or simply ignore situations with the exaggerated aplomb of the deaf.

But where is the line between exaggeration and lies? Where is that fine line where truth and conscience take a back seat to ego and exigency. The truth is, it’s an individual territory in each one of us, because no one weighs the value of honesty exactly the same as the person next to them. I have certainly met people with whom there was no distinction between truth and lies, and there was no pride or sleep lost over the matter.

In hopes that all your stories carry a gem of veracity, I’ll leave you with a quote by 19th Century humorist Josh Billings; “There are some people so addicted to exaggeration they can’t tell the truth without lying.”

His last book, “Down the Road to Key West” continues to be a best seller on Amazon. Check out his books or read more about Michael Reisig, the author, here.

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Pokémon GO May Not Be Senior Friendly

Pokemon GOWhat is all this hullabaloo about Pokémon GO? Are you one of those “10 years and older” willing to see what the uproar is about? This is not the first time I’ve tried to catch up to the latest craze. Pokémon GO has now hit more than “21 million active daily users.” You’d think there would have to be something really captivating about it. Turns out, it’s Augmented Reality. (That’s AR to anyone older than 10 years.) A few days ago, I wrote about AI (Artificial Intelligence). This game appears to be a long way from intelligence of any kind. TPokemon Go Ballhe whole point seems to be that of throwing a virtual ball at a virtual creature.

Pokemon Pikachu
Pikachu

Being such a progressive older person, however, I do have a smart phone. And this game is free. (They always start out that way.) But then, here is the catch–there are no instructions. What little print is included must be at 6 pt–WAY too small to read.  I assume that’s because Pokémon is totally familiar to our younger generations who still have good eyes (the original Nintendo game is 20 years old), and they are well acquainted with the annoying little yellow creature and need no instructions.

Pokemon turtleBut Pokémon GO was only released July 6th and this version is specifically designed for mobile application, Apple iOS and Google Android devices. The game was developed in San Francisco by Niantic and uses the phone’s own GPS to appear in gamers physical locations. WHOA! (That’s the “augmented reality”!) Using the device’s camera, different monsters pop-up, who can range from dragons to crabs (I “caught” one yesterday). They all have these amazingly unique names; don’t ask me what the crab was called. Continue reading “Pokémon GO May Not Be Senior Friendly”