Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sacrifice by Kelly Komm


5 Stars

ISBN-10: 0-7414-4254-X
Publish date: December 2007
Trade paperback; 194 pages; $13.95
Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure
Recommended for: YA/Teens and Adult

Mystical and rich with vivid description.

After her parents are slaughtered by the evil Garshu, young Nell is raised by Garick, a wise elf who shelters her and protects her from danger by passing her off as an elf child. Until the day Nell discovers the truth. She is Human, a race that is thought to be nearly extinct.

Accompanied by Garick and a band of fascinating characters, Nell sets off on a perilous journey to rid the world of the bloodthirsty Garshulan soldiers, to destroy once and for all the Garshula and their nests, and to find justice for her parents’ death.

Kelly Komm’s writing is lyrical, moving and engaging. Mystical and rich with vivid description, Sacrifice is a mix of fantasy and adventure that will keep you turning the pages until the very last one. It is one of those rare finds, and although it is marketed as young adult fiction, even adult readers will enjoy this entertaining novel. I certainly did.

You can order Sacrifice HERE.

~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a freelance journalist, book reviewer and editor. She is also the author of three bestselling novels set in Canada, including the “compelling “ and “beautiful” Whale Song, the high-octane thriller The River and the sizzling psychic suspense Divine Intervention.

Friday, December 28, 2007

When 'stuff' happens - write about it !

Holiday Family Memories can be made under the Strangest Circumstances


It was the night before – the night before – Christmas, and all of the mice in our family, old and young were out at a festive local inn for a traditional holiday feast.

The nearby inn was a place that we had taken our kids since they’d been old enough to sit in a chair and eat without spilling at least half of it on the floor.
It was a great old place – several hundred years old and very colonial. And we always made a point of going to the inn just before Christmas because it’s always all decked out in wreaths, ribbons and candle’s, like something straight out of Currier and Ives.

The night of our dinner was no exception. In fact all of New England had been blanked by several back to back snowstorms, giving us the feeling that we actually had stepped back into a Currier and Ives world. It was perfect.

As we all filed in, the image was only enhanced by the cheery ambience of the large main dinning room. Wood fires roaring in massive fireplaces and garlands of greens strung all around the room.
But best all was the atmosphere and the people.
The people all seemed to go so well with the place. Large tables filled with families – grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads, kids, nephews, cousins. All dressed for the season in bright holiday sweaters and corduroys or tweed skirts. Everyone eating, drinking, talking and laughing. All so happy to be together at this happy time of year – just having a good time and enjoying one another’s company.

Well almost.

As we were shown to our table I happened to notice that there was a table of several very elegant and sophisticated people who certainly didn’t seem to blend in with the merry throng. And the brief glance that I had of their demeanor as we were seated several table away, seemed to indicate that they had no intention of it either.

Oh well, none of my business. There was certainly more than enough holiday cheer radiating throughout the room to fill even the most jaded of hearts. So peace on earth and good will to all … Or so I thought.

The first order of business I decided as we sat down, was to order up a bottle of the bubbly to toast all of our children finally making it home for Christmas together for the first time in several years My wife was of course delighted, gathering her babies from the four corners of the world. Our oldest boy in from LA after a two day adventure in winter flying. Our daughter finally finished with her continent hopping and happily ensconced back in Boston and our youngest son just returned from Europe.
We had our toast and commenced to catching up. Our twenty-five-year-old daughter, a manager at a publishing company (sadly for her writer Pa, in the medical field, not fiction.) was right in the middle of a very funny story when from out of nowhere an elegantly clad arm fell across her shoulder and a clipped, brittle voice said. “You’re going to have to lower your voice, you’re disturbing us.”
I looked up. It was one of the sophisticated young women from two tables down. She was standing next to my daughter and scowling at her in a disdainful way that I hadn’t seen since Holly Golightly put on her “Dahhhling” act in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Wha-a-at ?

Then the Poppa Bear woke up. Who the “bleep” was this prissy young thing disdainfully sauntering up to my daughter and pretty much calling her a … loudmouth?
My talented, educated daughter sat there stunned. This is a girl that had studied in Europe, been a journalist in the Outback of Australia, and gone skydiving in Switzerland and bungee jumping in New Zealand. She is not easily intimidated. But now – she was speechless. The arrogant young woman had finished delivering her pronouncement and was sashaying back to her table. Mission accomplished. Another family of rubes put in their proper place. The back of my neck began to get warm. I got up.

My wife halfheartedly put her hand on my arm but she was too upset to stop me and I was building up too big a head of steam to care.

I followed the elegant young lady back to her table and, Um-m-m, lets just say proceeded gently but emphatically, to give them ‘a piece’ of a father’s mind.
By the time I got back to our table, the holiday mood had most definitely been punctured, though everyone tried to make the best of it. In fact for the rest of the evening there was a steady parade of fellow diners and even waitresses and busboys that had seen the incident and described the disdainful table as a … Well, I’ll paraphrase and just leave it at “a real bunch of jerks.”

For the next twenty-four hours, my wife continued to lament that the rude, supercilious sophisticates had ruined our first full family reunion in three years.
But by the second day, Christmas Day, the story had started to produce laughter and when I heard the kids teasing and laughing about the whole thing – especially about their hot-tempered old man, I realized that a dinner that might have become just another vaguely pleasant memory among many pleasant holiday dinners at the old inn, was on it’s way to becoming one of those classic family stories. Perhaps one that the kids will even recall and laugh about long after their old man is pushing up daisies.

So remember, the next time one of ‘those things’ happens to you and your family, look at it this way. Maybe it’s just another family memory in the making.

All the best!
Ric

Ric Wasley
Author
• Shadow of Innocence – 2007
• Acid Test – 2004

http://www.kunati.com/shadow-of-innocence-hip-myster/

And please check out my McCarthy Family Mysteries free sample chapters on Amazon and Google!

Baby Boomer article series: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ric_Wasley

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Why I Love Revenue Canada

It was the eleventh hour. I'd written and rewritten my first novel, Taxed to Death, umpteen times over an eight-year period, and finally gave it to a professional editor prior to publishing. And then the question came - the one I hadn't anticipated as a neophyte - the one that ran my blood cold. "Have you run this by Revenue Canada? After all, you're using their name in your book and they might have issues with it." Indeed. My protagonist, Alex Bellamy, is a junior auditor with R.C., his colleague's been murdered, and Alex's investigation leads him to think that someone within R.C. might be involved.

Novel in hand, I sought the advice of an entertainment lawyer and asked him to read the book in search of possible libelous content. While he found none, he advised me to contact R.C., tell them what I was doing and ask permission to use their name in my story. Legally, he told me, R.C., or any real instituion I used, could say no. Having worked too hard and too long to abandon this book, I took his advice to heart.

Did you know there are friendly, helpful people at Revenue Canada, or Revenue Canada Agency as it's now called? After explaining my situation to a woman at the Vancouver Branch, she paused a moment, clearly taken aback by my request. "No one's asked to put us in a novel before," she said. Hmm. I couldn't imagine why. And then she told me that she'd have to speak to higher ups in Ottawa. The prospect of involving Ottawa put me in a cold sweat. If this went badly, I'd either have to scrap the book, risk a lawsuit or, worse, face audits every year for the rest of my life.

Within 48 hours, the woman phoned me back and reported that they'd need an outline of my book and the names of main R.C. characters to run through their database. R.C. wanted to ensure that no one past and present, anywhere in Canada, had those names. At this point, the sweat really began to pour. The names were Alex Bellamy, Andy Gowan, and Kelly Faust. What were the odds?

Astronomical as it turned out. No one had those names and furthermore, R.C. approved the project and wished me well. I have this in writing, in case you were wondering. I couldn't have been happier with their promptness, their courtesy, or more relieved at the outcome.

I'm sharing this to spare other writers the risk of legal problems in their novels. If you intend to use a real institution or corporation in your book, check with them before doing so. A couple of phone calls and an outline is a small price to pay for your peace of mind. Oh yes, and get it in writing.

HOW BAD DO YOU WANT AN AGENT?

by ALVIN ABRAM

I believe that it is any author’s dream to be represented by an agent who will elevate their writings to fame and wealth. It’s mine. But at what cost? That was the question that faced me recently.

I had an agent. I self-published a non-fiction book and was approached by a national publisher who wanted to purchase the rights. The publisher preferred to deal with an agent who knew all the pros and cons of the writing industry and suggested I find an agent. I approached an agency that was just starting and whose principal had a background that was impeccable. He agreed to represent me. He in turn, turned me over to a person who would represent the firm.

As it turned out that individual was a national disaster. I signed what I was to learn one of the worst contracts possible. I gave away everything. Three years passed and too many letters later trying to get the publisher to live up to their own contract, and the agent to do his job, I finally went to the Writers Union for help. After months of representing me, they threw in the towel and recommended I hire a lawyer.

I did. A big lawyer.

Two weeks after being contacted by my lawyer, the publisher offered to return my rights if I gave up any claims against the firm. I agreed. I earned $1,400 in three years in royalties and spent $1,500 in legal fees. If you do the math, I gave up three years of my life for minus $100. At the time I was 64 years old. Time is not a commodity that I can afford to squander. The agent received their full commission and shrugged their shoulders at my problem.

Flash forward to today. I have been approached by an agent interested in representing me. I have now written seven books – all self-published and grossed more than $150,000 of which I donated $20,000 to charity. Do I want an agent to disturb the status quo?

Yes.

I turned this agent down. This is a business. I just didn’t like his contract. I felt I gave up too much. That could be my problem. I’m too much of a free-wheeler. Maybe the reality for me is that I should be satisfied with what I have accomplished. That, too, is difficult to accept. I’m only 71. My next novel will be released in a few months. I’m told I’m at an age when most are thinking of retirement. I tried that. It sucks!

The dream is still there. I have become a local phenomenon. I still dream the dream of any author. I know I can never attain the full extent of that dream alone. But I also can’t attain that goal with just any agent. It has to be someone who believes in my writing and not what they can gain out of me. That’s the harsh reality of what I see. I’m reminded by something my mother once said to me before I wrote my first book. “You are never too old to dream.” So I still dream.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

When A Thought Becomes A Story

There's a great line in the movie Indecent Proposal where an architect holds up a single brick in front of his design class and proclaims, "Even this brick longs to be a building."

Here, the architect underscores a simple and profound fact - small things are the building blocks for larger things. Single ideas are the genesis of larger ideas. And, one thought can be the first brick to building a larger story.

Inspiring, isn't it?

Here's a picture of how one of my curious thoughts about geneaology so wanted to become a novel that it would not cease until it was done. Brick by brick. Word by word. Draft by draft. Rejection after rejection. Year by year for the last 60 plus months until it was realized.




Got a thought today? Don't give up. See it through.

It very well may be the difference between a single idea on piece of notebook paper and a bound book.

www.karenharringtonbooks.com

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Time to Rejoice, a Time to Mourn

First, I'd like to thank Cheryl Kaye Tardif for her kind response to my previous post, "A Letter to My Son". I have one more thing to share about my son, by posting a short essay that appeared in the Vancouver Sun newspaper several years ago. My son's birthday was ten days ago, on the 6th, and perhaps I should have posted this piece at that time, but then I thought that perhaps we should take more than one day a year to remember a tragedy. Here's the essay as it appeared in the Sun with a slight modification to acknowledge the passage of time.

On December 6, 1989, I was holding my 15-month-old daughter in my arms while watching a TV reporter sombrely describe a tragedy. Fourteen women had been murdered at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. Later reports revealed that these people died because a man they'd never met had decided female engineering students were feminists, and he hated feminists. The killer blamed this group of human beings for his own failures and problems, and shot as many women as he could before turning the weapon on himself.

On the following anniversaries of that day, I tried to imagine the terror those young women must have felt during their last seconds of life. Even a brief moment was painful and terrifying. Instead, I concentrated on TV images of mourners across Canada holding flickering white candles on snowy nights. Their songs and prayers were moving, yet I wondered if holding candles in a freezing Vancouver rainfull would make much difference to the victims, or many other Canadians.

In more optimistic moments, I believed these tributes would raise awareness of the enormous amount of violence that still permeates "civilized" societies. But as the years rolled by, I heard and read the names of more women killed by domestic violence or sexual assault. I began to doubt things would improve.

History books are filled with horrific accounts of the violence people commit against one another. The reality filled me with anger and, worse, a sense of inadequacy to help make the world less hate-ridden. What would it take to stop the countless forms of violence committed not only by men, but by women and growing numbers of children? What could I possibly do to make a difference?

In the spring of 1994, violence was the last thing on my mind when my doctor confirmed I was pregnant with our long-awaited second child. After two miscarriages and with a biological clock that was quickly winding down, this was as close to a miracle as I'd experienced. Our baby was due December 7th. I had hoped this child wouldn't arrive December 6th. I should have known better.

My son was born on a grey Tuesday afternoon, in the aftermath of a brief snowfall that had sent snowplows rumbling through the streets during my first stage of labour. Later that evening, when all was quiet, I remembered the massacre in Montreal. Earlier in the week, the media had mentioned upcoming memorial ceremonies, and thoughts of previous gatherings had been lingering in the back of my mind. I pictured the flickering candles that would be held, once again, in many parts of Canada. I then looked at my tiny sleeping son.

Perhaps giving birth to a male child on such a day was God's way of saying there's more than one way to look at things. Over time, December 6th has come to epitomize all that's wonderful and loving about this world, as well as all that is hateful and ignorant. For me, this day represents life's cycles: endings and beginnings that continue in so many different ways, on so many different levels. Through all of this, I've finally understood that I can help stop the violence. I can raise my children to accept all human beings regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual preference. I can teach them not to blame others for their misfortunes, but to accept full responsibility for their choices, to become adults in the fullest sense of the word.

When my children are old enough to understand, I'll tell them what happened at Ecole Polytechnique on December 6, 1989. If I raise them correctly, they'll do what they can to make sure violence isn't part of their lives, or the lives they touch. This is one way to pay respect to those fourteen young women, and to all victims of violence.

This December 6th, while people across the country held flickering candles in the winter night, I lit thirteen candles on a birthday cake. The way I see it, we all honoured life: past, present, and future.

www.debrapurdykong.com

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Darwin and the evoltion of psuedocide

Psuedocide, that’s the buzz word ripping up the press at the moment (certainly in the UK anyway). It’s back in vogue following the disappearance and reappearance of that canoeist chap. The things people will do to get their hands on a pot full of cash. Hold on a minute though. If Darwin had simply taken a job at Burger King for the last five years instead of hiding in a wardrobe, couldn’t he have saved more than he got paid for dying? Getting back to psuedocide for a moment, this article makes a lot of sense about the reasons why, in future years (in a society that tracks individuals ever closer through financial, employment and even recreational records) we can reasonably expect to hear about more and more disappearances supported by false suicides. I wonder what actions insurance companies are considering in order to future proof their interests in this respect. I’d like to think that they’re going to be a bit more imaginative than simply increasing life insurance premiums for the rest of us. Maybe they should start insisting that any claim resulting from suicide should be supported by a body. In the absence of an actual body, how about accepting a short video clip of the event? Now that would be something wouldn’t it; a whole cottage industry built up around filming suicides? It appears that Jimmy’s idea may not be such a stretch of the imagination after all. Funny how reality often mimics fiction some years later isn’t it?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cookin' with Cheryl on "Celebrity Chefs"


"Edmonton's own best selling author shares a Christmas story that mixes with her Strawberry Dumplings."

For the recipe, please go HERE!

*Please note: No fire extinguishers were harmed in the making of this film.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Letter to My Son

Yesterday evening, I wrote a letter to my son. Not so unusual except that he turned 13 (Grade 7) last week and lives with us. But as part of his language arts/personal planning curriculum, his teacher has the class keep a "letter log". Once a month, students write a letter to their parents about whatever's on their mind -- school, goals, hopes, etc. The teacher reads each letter, not to judge or comment, but to ensure the assignment's being completed. So, after my son's letter-of-the-month is finished, he gives me his duotang and I write (or in my case print because my handwriting's lousy) a response on the following page. The only guideline the teacher has is that we not be critical of whatever our children write. The idea is to support and encourage an exchange of ideas and thoughts.

The experience has been a real eye-opener because, although my son and I talk everyday, we don't necessarily talk about the things that come up in the letters. Like personal goals, for instance. At first, a small part of me resented being given homework from a teacher significantly younger than me, but I've come to appreciate and enjoy the experience. Often, I wind up sharing an incident about my school life in the "old" days. Through it, my son receives a bit of a history lesson about how things were for me when I was his age. Meanwhile, I gather interesting insights as to how things are with him.

As I wrote last night's letter, it dawned on me how important writing is, regardless of the form it takes. Committing ideas, hopes, dreams, fears, and memories to paper keeps us connected as family, friends, human beings.

Thirty years ago, I spent a year travelling alone in Europe for a year. I wrote in journals, I wrote letters home, and I began writing my first short stories. Family members gave me those letters as keepsakes. I still have the journals, the stories, and I'll always have my son's letter logs. When I grow old and I'm sitting in my rocking chair, unable to do much else, I'll read them all, and I'll stay connected to my loved ones, and cherished memories, and the power of the written word.

Gift Certificates...not as thoughtless as they seem.

I came across an article today that made an interesting point about how people are dealing with ticking off endless lists of ‘Xmas presents to buy’. A lot of us it seems are using gift certificates.

However, Judith Martin (known to millions as Miss Manners…apparently) dismisses gift certificates (and, by extension, gift cards) as "a pathetic compromise convenient to people who do not trust their judgment about selecting the right present for those whose tastes they ought to know."

Well bully for you Miss Manners, but I think that labelling people who send gift cards as dithering fools who can’t be bothered to empathise with their loved one’s is a bit harsh. What you seem to be forgetting is that a good percentage of the people who are tasked with buying gifts happen to be men.

What happened to that old axiom that ‘it’s the thought that counts’? We blokes have relied on that for years! For men, gift tokens are a welcome addition to a growing list of presents that we don’t have to think about too hard and yet still get heaps of appreciatiation for from girlfriends and family. Take flowers as an example. We go to the shop, grab a bunch of something bright and smelly and hey presto, we’re transformed into romantic heroes. You’d think that we’d scoured the Amazon, wrestled snakes and been chased by little men in skirts before picking the last orchid in the canopy. Chocolates for Grandma, another no brainer. Any Play Station game for the kids, although this is effectively a gift certificate anyway because you can guarantee that it’ll be exchanged within days for something rated 18. All these gifts have one thing in common; they have been developed by men over generations as the ideal, thoughtless gesture most likely to be received with kisses and hugs.

But it didn’t come easy this knowledge. Men through the decades have suffered slapped faces and endured cold lonely nights in the spare room as they searched for the ultimate in repeatable gestures. Just be thankful that ‘clothes iron’ and ‘washing up gloves’ did get struck from the list sometime in the early 1940’s. As for gift certificates Miss Manners, please leave my generation’s contribution in tact.

There again, if you really are against them and you’re looking for something hip and heartfelt, why not a copy of Recycling Jimmy or any of the other utterly brilliant Kunati titles………

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Writers Beware

Absolutely true comments made to me at a recent party after the host introduced me as a writer.

Guest: Oh, what's your book about?
Me: A family tragedy. A husband is shocked to learn his gentle wife has committed murder and begins looking for clues about impulsive violence in her family tree.
Guest: Ooooooh. Maybe the next one will be more hopeful.
[Goes in search of dip.]


Guest: Where do you get your inspiration?
Me: I like exploring the perspective of being the fly on the wall when something happens.
Guest: My ex-husband is a psychopath. Now there's a story.


Guest: Really? You wrote a book? I have a great story. Let me tell you about it...
[Ten minutes tick by]
Me: Really? You should write that. You have a lot of passion for it.
Guest: No, this needs to be told. These people ripped people off. They were bad people.
Me: So you quit?
Guest: No way. It's a good company to work for.


Guest: Your book is about generations? Let me tell you about mine. I know I just met you but. . .
Me: [accepts grateful drink from passing waiter]
Guest: Okay, so I wasn't my father's favorite child.


Guest: A book? A big person book?
Me: Uh, yes.



Posted by Karen Harrington, author, JANEOLOGY, Spring 2008
www.karenharringtonbooks.com

Saturday, December 08, 2007

New Holiday Contest where Everyone Wins!

Holiday Book Contest

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season and Christmas, I’d like to give some of my reader friends the gift of The McCarthy Family Mystery series.
I know that during this hectic season, it’s always a challenge to get everything done that’s on your list, so I thought I could perhaps help you out with at least one of them. In particular, what to get that reader on your list. And/or – what to read in that long line at the post office while you wait to dump your packages into Santa’s sleigh via the USPS.
The contest rules are simplicity itself. And best of all… everyone wins!
Just read all, some or even a review of; the latest McCarthy Mystery, Shadow of Innocence, then write a short review (between 1 sentence and 1 paragraph) and e mail it to; ricmrp@comcast.net.com, and the best entry, will win a complete set of the first two books in the McCarthy mystery series; Acid Test and Shadow of Innocence! Plus the winner will also receive an ARC (advance review copy) of the next exciting book in the McCarthy series; The Scrimshaw - due for release next fall and have the review reprinted on our website and other review pages.
But… unlike most other contests, in this one – everyone wins!
Everyone who submits a review, will receive a signed and personally dedicated, book plate. And the bookplate can be inscribed to anyone you wish. You, a friend, relative, dog, cat, gerbil … anyone!
So start reading and writing and… good luck !
All the best,
Ric

Ric Wasley – Author/Musician
 Shadow of Innocence - Kunati - April 2007
 Acid Test - 2004

And please check out my McCarthy Family Mysteries free sample chapters on Amazon and Google!
Baby Boomer article series: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ric_Wasley
*******
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

New from Kunati Publishing: SHADOW OF INNOCENCE - The Newport Folk Festival provides a groovy backdrop for this fun and exciting mystery set in the music and drug soaked sixties. The Baby Boomers and everyone else are sure to enjoy this appealing mystery featuring a pair of musician partners in love and danger. Don't miss Shadow of Innocence From Kunati Publishing.
Available now on; Amazon ,Borders, Barnes & Noble and at bookstores everywhere.
************
Ric Wasley has spent almost forty years wandering through corporate board rooms and honky-tonk bars. He now divides his time between writing mystery novels and observing the really ‘juicy parts’ of the human condition.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My New Favorite Lawyer

Hostile Witness is my second William Lashner novel and now I am truly hooked. What got me is the marvelous complexity of Victor Carl, the lawyer-protagonist-everyman. He is, contrary to the grishamlike model, a man who has been dealt a hand that is not quite up to his ambitions. He is the prototypical American hero with a dose of realistic ambivalence thrown in.
Hostile Witness also gives Carl a sex life and it's a life that's more realistic than rosy. Lashner doesn't exactly write sex scenes, what he does is give us the protag's view of what's happening and what it means to him. The effect is-sadly-not terribly erotic but wonderfully personal and the hero emerges even more fully human in the reader's eyes.
Lashner's plotting always seems to involve two cases. One is the major theme of the book and is strictly the work of the devil. The other is a minor theme and has a tendency to warm the heart. His plot construction, with its long set-ups and violently surprising twists is masterful.
Hostile witness is also a dark portrait of Philadelphia. Most people who know the city think of it as a fairly voluptuous place known for its pleasures: restaurants, theatres, foodmarkets, music and restaurants. (Did I mention restaurants?). But while the pleasures make for good living, they don't always make for good reading and Lashner accurately depicts the grime behind the crime.
This is lawyer-fiction on a whole new level.

Lynn Hoffman author of bang BANG

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Alois Kracher Dead at 48

Austria's Wine Community Mourns Alois Kracher
The sweet wine pioneer has died at the age of 48, following a brief,
heavy illness


The Austrian wine community is mourning one of its greatest pioneers.
Alois Kracher died early in the morning of December 5th from
complications due to cancer. His death came unexpectedly to many in the
wine community. With Alois Kracher's passing, Austria has lost an
irreplaceable visionary, not only because his wines achieved so much
international success, but also because of his dedication and service to
Austrian wines around the world.

In 1986, "Luis" Kracher, who was educated as a chemical engineer, went
to work at the winery of his father, already known as a sweet wine
specialist. The young Kracher's reputation soared very quickly due to
his new style of sweet wine making, and within only a few years, he had
become an outstanding ambassador of the new Austrian quality wine
philosophy. Alois Kracher went on to garner innumerable awards and
accolades, including being named - a total of six times - "Winemaker of
the Year" by the internationally renowned Wine Magazine in London. In
addition to the national and international awards, his wines received
the highest scores by some of the world's most influential wine critics.
All of this success and appreciation had turned Alois Kracher into
Austrian wine's most globally-renowned luxury brand name.

Alois Kracher had worked tirelessly, not only for his own winery, but
for the reputation of Austrian wine overall. He opened the door to the
international markets for many of his fellow wine colleagues. His son,
Gerhard, with the support of the Kracher family, will carry on the work
of the great wine pioneer from Illmitz.


--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and
the novel bang BANG. ISBN 9781601640005

Sexual Equality for Paedophiles


Recently my publisher was asking for discussion topics that could be linked to the subject matter of Recycling Jimmy. I was racking my brain, considering a possible tie in to one of its subplots, specifically the UK’s sexual offenders list (huge debate here from time to time) when who should pop on the MSN home page but Ms Debra Lafave. Does anyone remember her? Must admit, I don’t recall there being much reported (back in 2004 when she was first arrested) but she was nicked again this morning, this time for violating her probation. The reason? Apparently Ms Lafave bust her parole by talking to a co-worker who also happens to be a 17 year old girl and therefore a minor. Bit harsh that some would argue but what’s really wrong with this headline? Any suggestions? Well I’ll tell you what’s wrong; the fact that Lafave even has a bloody co-worker. What the hell is the woman doing at work? Why isn’t she in prison? Back in November 2004, when she was a teacher, Debra Lafave seduced and had sex with a 14 year old boy. Her punishment then? 3 years house arrest. What! Okay, I can understand that a 14 year old should maybe be grounded for being very very naughty but an adult who has sex with a child? Imagine if it had been a male teacher who had groomed and eventually raped a student in his classroom. Would justice be served then if the judge sent Mr Walker to his bedroom to think about what he’d done? If ever there was a cast iron case for sexual equality, then this is it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Update #3 on ACE and Cheryl Kaye Tardif in the Times-Herald

First, I have to share the lovely poem, written by Jan Taylor at ACE. She actually sold it to Hallmark years ago and it was on a greeting card. This is reprinted with permission.

Life's Perfect Balance

If all the days were sunny,
and the skies were always blue
except for maybe now and then
a rainbow's tinted hue.
Then life would be quite boring,
not too interesting at all.
Because for every Spring that comes,
there has to be a fall.
For each success...
a failure,
for every day...
a night,
for every moment of sadness,
there's another of pure delight.
And if we're able to accept
whatever comes our way,
we'll find a perfect balance
in our lives from day to day.
~*~

What great sentiments!

It was my publisher at Kunati Books who first pointed out to me that there was another article about me, Whale Song, Jan Taylor and the Alliance for Children's Enrichment in the Times-Herald, a Georgia newspaper. Reporter W. Winston Skinner follows this amazing story in his December 2, 2007, article titled 'Canadian author responds to wish on ACE Christmas list'.

I am so glad to know that my small efforts are actually helping. It was time worth spending. :)

Go to http://content.times-herald.com/searches.bsp and type TARDIF into the top search (Search the News). You'll see both articles that mention this story.

Also, please consider sponsoring a child this Christmas. It is immensely rewarding and truly puts the meaning of Christmas into the holidays. To sponsor a child through ACE, contact Jan Taylor at cjantaylor@aol.com or call her at 770-254-3339.

Happy holidays!
Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Passive exercise is killing us all

Me and my mate Malcolm spend quite a bit of time stood outside the office these days. The reason for this is that we’re both smokers. Now before you run off and tell the police, perhaps I should just clear up a few popular misconceptions about people who smoke. Firstly, we do not all carry a small puppy around in our pocket to stub cigarettes out on. Neither do we purposefully flick lit matches through the open windows of old people’s homes (that was an accident and no charges were brought). Never the less, we remain social pariahs; stared at like carnival freaks outside restaurants, chased from public parks by angry mobs. This is our life now, thanks to the over hyped phenomena that is passive smoking. Anyway, that said, we do abide by the rules and we try not to moan and, getting back to the shelter outside the office, we kind of enjoy the regular opportunity to grab a chat. This morning’s conversation (we have to have equal amounts of topics and cigarettes so here’s a tip girls: if you’re serious about finding Mr Personality, go get yourself a twenty a day man) was about global warming, specifically that frequently misunderstood and much maligned gas, carbon dioxide. During the course of the discussion we roughly calculated the contribution of CO2 in the atmosphere from you’re average set of lungs, and this totalled up globally to about 30% of the annual USA CO2 emissions. Big number that, but what struck me was that this is the figure calculated at rest. Imagine how much this increases during exercise when your lungs are pumping hard to drag 200lbs of flab round Central Park. My point is this. If we, the smokers, are to feel the full brunt of the law because of a possible link between poor health and passive smoking, shouldn’t those same agencies who persecute us be banning sweat suits too? The people who jog, sweat and grunt their way through life are in reality breathing too much and hurtling our world ever quicker towards its ultimate demise. Just a thought.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

When You Don't Like a Book

About fifteen months ago, two colleagues asked if I would write reviews for their books. I'd never written one before, which is kind of odd since I'd been jotting notes about mysteries I'd read for over a dozen years. After writing those reviews (luckily, I really liked both books) and posting them on amazon.ca, I realized I enjoyed the process a lot, especially when Amazon.ca makes posting easy. Since then, I've written over 20 reviews and, of course, some books were better than others.

I've heard many authors understandably bemoan a poor review. I mean, who wants that? But lately, I'm starting to appreciate the reviewers' side of things. I've run across books I didn't enjoy because of poor character development, plotting problems, or simply bad writing. I'm not a vindictive, nasty slammer by nature, but when I don't like a book I feel I have to tell the reader what I didn't like and why. The hard part is choosing the right words to say what needs to be said.

Honesty is crucial. If I write that I like everything, who will believe me in the long run? Constructive criticism's important too, even though some may interpret the critique as blatant slamming. So far, I haven't read a book where there wasn't something positive to say, and I'm a big fan of stating both the negative and the positive. Not everyone will like my approach, and certainly not everyone will agree with my opinions about a book, but this is partly what makes mysteries and the mystery reading community so interesting.

I expect that one dreaded day, a friend will ask me to review his or her book, and it'll be a total stinker. Will I say so? Not with those words, but I will find a way to say what I think. Maybe I'll lose friends and the respect of others, but that's the risk of reviewing.

In the end, what matters most is that I give a book the attention it deserves and that I use my integrity in writing a review. I love promoting writers and sharing opinions about new books. It's something I hope to do for a long time.

If you're interested in reading any of my reviews, visit http://www.amazon.ca/. My latest review is of Copper River by William Kent Krueger, a terrific read. The review I'll be posting this week is for Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, a book I had problems with. Which is what got me to thinking about reviewing and choosing the right words and writing this blog. If anyone wants to discuss a book I've reviewed, or thinks I should review, feel free to drop me a line.

Free autographed bookplates and bookmarks!

Order any of my novels between now and December 10th, and I'll send you an autographed bookplate plus a bookmark.

Email me with the following information:

1. Your Amazon order number (found in the Order Summary section of your confirmation email from Amazon).
2. The number of books and titles you ordered.
3. Recipient's names (are they for you or are you buying gifts?)
4. Your complete mailing address.

This offer expires December 10th, 2007, so order now! All requests MUST supply me with steps 1-4 above. Order from Amazon now.

WHALE SONG THE RIVER DIVINE INTERVENTION

Christmas miracles DO happen!

There are times in my life when I have to stop and take a moment to just listen to that "still, small voice". Some of you may know what I'm talking about. That voice that says, "Hey! Listen up! You're meant to do something here. But you won't know what unless you stop and...breathe."

There are times when I am so glad I stopped. This is one of those times.

I've told you about the girl in Newnan, Georgia, who asked for a few things on the Alliance for Children's Enrichment Christmas wish list that was posted in the Times-Herald. I've told you how inspired and touched I was to see that she asked for "Cheryl Tardif books", in particular, Whale Song. I've told you that I decided to sponsor this teen and send her a Christmas I hope she'll always remember. And I believe I've told you that I contacted some other authors on the teen wish list, plus some author friends who aren't.

What I haven't told you is...

Read the entire story HERE!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gayla Usla reviews The Last Troubadour - Song of the Montsegur

A fellow Kunati author received this review and I thought I'd post it here. If you're interested in historical fiction with a tarot twist, check out Derek Armstrong's new novel...

Elemental magic requires the right elements. I cannot conjure water of fire. Over these many years, have you not seen my skill?...The Sorceress Nevara defending her ability to perform magic in The Last Troubadour - Song of the Montsegur.

The Tarot is often talked about as being a tool for creative writing. It certainly has inspired many writers in many ways, but I must start by saying I have never been so enlightened by a novel inspired by Tarot as The Last Troubadour - Song of the Montsegur by Derek Armstrong.

To read the full review, please go to The Tarot Channel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We are all connected...

Some connections may seem tenuous at best. But others appear from nowhere, like the fellow who emailed me out of the blue to ask if we were related. I believe we are all connected. We're connected by past, present and future, by nature, spirit and energy, by hopes and dreams, by fate and faith, by love and light...and caring.

And yesterday, I was reminded again that this world we live in may seem unbelievably large--infinite even--and yet, the smallest of actions can set into motion something that spreads across land and sea, from one country to another, from one heart to another.

It all started with a wish list I saw online. No, wait! Let's go back further.

It started with an organization in Newnan, Georgia. The Alliance for Children's Enrichment (ACE) is responsible for helping the less fortunate families and children of the Newnan-Coweta area. Every year, ACE makes a wish list, with names, ages and gift wishes of children who live at poverty level. The hardest category to fill is the teens. Their needs are sometimes more expensive and they are often overlooked as many people want to help the younger children first.

This saddens me. I have a 17 year old daughter. Christmas is just as important to her now as it was when she was a child. And every child deserves to have something beautiful and colorful to unwrap on Christmas morning. That is the excitement, the thrill of Christmas.

So how did I find out about this organization and their kids?

Read the entire story here.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, bestselling author of Whale Song (Kunati Books)

Breakfast of Veterans

In recent years I suffer from a sort of patriotic dissonance when our national holidays roll around. Here's a column I wrote last Veterans' Day; I hope it resonates for some of you.

Best,

Jeff


I picked up Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions to re-read over the Veterans' Day weekend. It's one of those books I try to read every four or five years. I was a freshman in college when I read it the first time. I remembered it being a quick read. I didn't remember, though, that the story takes place over Veterans' Day weekend.

Here's what Vonnegut says in the book about Veterans' Day:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy…all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.

My grandmother remembered World War I well. She worked in an ammunition factory in Illinois during that war, having just graduated from high school. When I was very young, before America's involvement in Vietnam began, Grandma used to take me to visit her brother, my great uncle, who had fought in World War I. He was in a trench when the Germans attacked him and his buddies with mustard gas.

He got injured in that attack. I'm not sure if they called injuries from gas attacks "wounds" in World War I, since that wasn't the kind of injury that showed on the outside like a shrapnel wound or a missing arm or leg, or having part of your face or skull shot off.

My grandfather was too young to fight in World War I and too old to fight in World War II. About ten million men were just the right age to die fighting in World War I, and another ten million civilians of all ages died too. My grandmother and my great uncle said that they and everyone they knew thought World War I was the worst thing to ever happen in the history of mankind, and that they all thought that way until World War II came along. Almost 70 million people died in World War II, which made it roughly three and a half times more deadly than World War I.

Mr. Bush, the current president of the United States, says that if Iran gets the nuclear bomb, we'll have a World War III. Iran says it has no interest in getting a bomb, and Mr. Bush has yet to prove Iran is lying, which is more than we can say of Mr. Bush. I'd guess that Mr. Bush wants some of us to think that if there's a World War III, it will be 3.5 times as deadly as World War II, just like World War two was 3.5 times deadlier than World War I. Wow, that would mean almost 245 million people would die in World War III. I find that concept quite frightening. I wonder if Mr. Bush meant to scare me like that, with all that talk about World War III.

Fortunately for me, I'm too old to fight in World War III, just like I was too young to fight in Vietnam. The wars I fought in were against Iraq and Kosovo. Very few Americans died in those wars, and not all that many of our enemies died in those wars either, I mean, if you compare those wars to World War I and World War II. I'm also a decorated veteran of the war on drugs, I'll have you know. These days I take several drugs, but they're the kind doctors make you take to remind you you're no spring chicken any more.

My dad was just barely young enough so he didn't have to fight in Korea. He got drafted, and he and all his pals thought they were headed for war as soon as they finished boot camp, but both sides agreed to a cease-fire before that happened, so my dad got to spend two years with my mom in Germany instead. That's why I was born in Germany, instead of America where natural born Americans are supposed to be born. Because I was born of American parents in an American military hospital, I'm one of the very few citizens born overseas who can still become the president of the United States, but that privilege is pretty much wasted on me since I don't want the job. As an adult, I've tended to not think very highly of the people who've held it.

I'm a disabled veteran, though you wouldn't know it to look at me. My disability involves my back and my hip, conditions aggravated by many years of sitting in ejection-style seats while flying in Navy aircraft. So my injuries don't show, unless it’s a real bad day for me and I limp a little when I walk. Heh, my injuries, like my great uncle's, are on the inside.

A lot of present day veterans, veterans of Vietnam and the Gulf Wars, are suffering from wounds on the inside of the kind we now call post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD. In World War I they called that sort of thing "shell shock," and it was around World War II time frame that they started calling it "combat fatigue." I know a lot of people these days who think veterans who say they have PTSD are sissies, or worse yet, that they're faking it.

And you know, the people who say that about veterans with PTSD are veterans themselves. Many of them are veterans of Vietnam, a war in which 50,000 American troops died.

Some of these veterans scoff when they hear the killed in action figures for the present war in Iraq. Heck, more people of that age group get killed in highway accidents at home, they'll say. What's the point of all the hand wringing over that few kids getting killed in Iraq?

I ask if they mean that it's okay about the kids killed in Iraq because they would have died in highway accidents anyway, is that how they're saying it works? Are they saying getting killed in a war doesn't count unless tens of millions of other people get killed in the war too?

No, they mutter, that's not what they're saying, I know what they mean, don't I? And I tell them that no, I don't know what they mean. After that they usually start talking to somebody else.

These war veterans and the people they talk to after they're uncomfortable talking with me any more are still big supporters of Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney, who both went quite a ways out of their ways to avoid being war veterans.

I have this little veterans' memorial along the edge of my yard. It's where I put in some new plants early in the fall, so they'd be established when winter came and then bloom when spring rolls around. Puttering around the garage while I was in the middle of this yard project, I found a miniature U.S. flag on a small stick, one of those things you see real estate agents plant a million of in everybody's yard on the Fourth of July. I'd saved this one from the Fourth, for some reason. Anyway, there it was on a shelf in my garage, and I picked it up and took it out where I'd just put all the new plants and stuck it in the ground, where it has stayed 24/7 ever since.

I think of this little plot as my memorial to everyone I personally knew who died in uniform. None of them died in combat. Most of them died in "training accidents," mainly aviation related, things like disappearing into the side of a mountain or flying to the bottom of the ocean.

I keep thinking someone who thinks he's really, really patriotic will come along someday when I'm in the yard playing with my dogs or something and tell me how I'm not treating the flag properly, that I should know better than to leave it outside day and night, rain or shine, what with me being a veteran and all.

I can't wait to see the look on that person's face when I say what I have to say in reply to that. It should be pretty comical, the look on the face of that person who thinks he's so all fired patriotic.

That person might look like he just heard the Voice of God.

Kurt Vonnegut, in case you didn't know, was a veteran of World War II, and saw his fair share of the 70 million people who died in that conflict. He was an infantry soldier who was taken prisoner by the Germans along with some of his buddies, and was in Dresden when the allies bombed the snot out of it and burned it to a crisp. He wrote about that experience in another novel of his called Slaughterhouse Five. If Kurt Vonnegut came down from heaven and pitched me a ration of guff about that little flag in my yard, I'd probably stay calm and listen to what he had to say, and even thank him for stopping by.

Anybody else who wants to give me a hard time about that flag, though…

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and Military.com Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available March 1, 2008.
Writers Block...did you ever get a bad case of it? I mean is there a vaccine like the flu shot that will ensure you can't get it? I don't subscribe to flu shots and I suppose I'd do the same for Writer's Block immunization. Trouble is I have a wicked case of Block. Nothing seems to squirt on to the page. Getting up at 5am usually means inspiration. Those early morning hours have been my most productive. Not lately. I've got another manuscript in the works. Those characters are screaming at me. Get me here, get me there but I can't. They are stuck and so am I. There must be a remedy. If anyone has the antidote I'd appreciate a house call or at least a Fed Ex.
Talk later...Linda
www.kunati.com/linda-merlino/

Post Script: Keep Writing.....dreams do come true....don't give up, don't give in, don't quit...
Besides the question really is: What will you do with this ONE mad, passionate life?
Feed your soul every day...from the soul comes the magic...your magic, your own ingredients
Have the best day everyday...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Letters From the Attic: A "Home for the Holiday's" tale of first love

Letters From the Attic: A tale of first love, lost love and teenage angst


As I recover from another Thanksgiving filled with family, friends and stuffing myself - pun intended - with too much turkey and pumpkin pie, I thought I’d share a little time capsule that I came across in a packet of old letters recently unearthed from a junk pile in the attic. They helped me to recall another Thanksgiving over 40 years ago when I had no responsibilities and not much interest in Thanksgiving other than the fact that it would bring my hometown girlfriend and I together again for 5 whole days. A lifetime in teenage relationships.
I’m sure that you remember those days when you’d graduated from high school and had perhaps left the hometown and friends for the first time in your life. Way back then, in the ‘Stone Age’ of personal communications – long before anyone had ever heard of the internet – we used to communicate with these funny little things comprised of dark squiggles on flattened out, mashed up remains of trees. Paper and ink – called letters. And unlike today’s minimalist communications consisting of 1 syllable blocks of ‘code’ where ‘r’ stands for ‘are’ and ‘u’ stands for ‘you’ and none of it stands for very much, we used to think romantic, idealist and often ponderous thoughts and would commit them to paper.
Would the average teenager do that today? In fact would anyone do that today?

At any rate, I’ve taken a few snippets of that first Thanksgiving homecoming angst and the traumatic (at least it was at 17) events that took place over the subsequent weeks of the holiday season. In an attempt to faithfully illustrate the thoughts and feeling of the times, I’ve reproduced parts of some of the actual old letters that I found from that period of the early sixties when the entire fabric of society was poised right on the edge of change. Although no one at the time realized just how profound and widespread that change was going to be. And for those of us who remember those times and those who don’t but have only read about them, reading some of the thoughts expressed in these letters will probably provoke a reaction of: “Good grief! Were you really that sappy?”
Yes.
Was it a unique time in a unique place filled with innocent idealistic dreams? Or was it just a bunch of kids with naive and unrealistic expectations who had to get their fingers burned on the hot stove of life?
I don’t know – you decide. The only thing I do know is that scorched fingers not withstanding, it sure was fun getting there.

---------------------------------------


By late October of 1964, my high school honey and I had decided that we couldn’t bear even one more weekend of separation. And despite the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday was only a few weeks away, we just had to see one another.

So I managed to bum a ride with a friend who was going past her school.

--------------------------------------

We went to some ancient Ivy League pub where the campus poets and English majors hung out. It was paneled with oak that had darkened over the years, to a mahogany like patina. And the tabletops were etched with 200 years of carved student names - like something out of Dickens.
I wore a Shetland sweater and her hair was long and flowed softly around her face. Her eyes were green and gold as they looked into mine and we both wanted me to be a year older when I could transfer to nearby Amherst. Right - and Angels were going to fly out of my butt. However at least I looked the part, even though with my grades I was lucky to have gotten into any college anywhere. But that golden afternoon in October, amidst the red and yellow leaves of a perfect New England collegiate fall Saturday, everything was possible. Yes, I would be there soon. I would get into a nearby Ivy League school and we would play folk music together in a North Hampton coffee house and drive a yellow (her favorite color) Sunbeam Alpine, drink Russian tea out of yellow mugs and no doubt if we got married, we would have 2.2 children and dress them in yellow blazers!
We walked down the perfect campus sidewalk, crunching through rust colored leaves that gave off that special fall smell when you swoosh through them and we held hands in that ‘going steady’ way that you never see any more. That peculiar inverted twining of the fingers that said, “Look – we’re in love!”
Her hair smelled of the perfume that she’d worn on our first date back in high school. And for years afterwards, I would give it to every girl I went steady with. A little gift on about the second or third date. “Oh perfume”, they’d squeal. “You’re so sweet!” Yeah, right.
You know they say that smells evoke some of the most powerful memories and it's true. That's why I finally stopped giving it. But then, the perfume mixed with the smell of the leaves and fall and love. You can love many times in your life and thank God do. But there's something about the intensity of 17 year-old-love that's special. It’s pre-cynicism and post puppy love - a deadly combination.
But there were no thoughts and no regrets that day. Not until our eight hour universe came to an end, and I went home.


*****************



October 31, 1964
My Dearest Ric
I feel so completely let down after Saturday. I was so rapturously happy for eight hours and I know that this is only a counter reaction. I am as infatuated as when I just met you, but it's different now because I know and love you at the same time that I'm being snowed. I'm didn't realize how much I’d missed you until I saw you standing in the front hall. We had a perfect day which of course could have been much better if it had lasted longer but it will be perfect when I come home and see you again. Please see about tickets for Bob Dylan. I've been studying all day and looking forward only to a week from Friday when we can really be together
I’m smoking much less and I've lost about four pounds already. The only thing that I miss here is you. If we could be at the same college together, I'd be completely happy. Let's work on that. I have to go to class. I want to tell you very much I love you and want to see you soon.
All my love
Jen

--------------------------


November wore on, along with our patience. What was it the ‘immortal bard’ said about parting being “such sweet sorrow?” Don’t you believe it.
She came to see me.


------------------------------------------------

November 12, 1964
Dear Boy with whom I am in love,
Your picture is looking at me, actually sneering but an inviting sneer. If I didn't know you and love you so much, I'd think from the picture that you were cruel, but I'd still want to know you.
Didn’t we have a wonderful weekend! It passed so quickly. I slept all the way back in the car and when I got here I didn't want to be here, I wanted so badly to be with you. Remember the painting that you gave me? It's hanging here too. Everything I think of is related to you in some way. Sunday when we owned world was the best I think. Appropriately, it's raining now and I'm in a reflective subdued moved like when I was quiet Sunday afternoon. I'm not really depressed, I just want to be let alone and think about you.
Did anyone say anything about our appearance at the dance.

O’ West wind, when wilt thou blow
this small rain down on me
if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again
O’ boy I love, where are you and your milk white steed to come and take me away…. please come.
Take care of yourself
I love you so, Jennifer


*****************************


Then it was time. She came home for Thanksgiving and we went into Harvard Square and pretended to be the people that we wanted to be again.
And of course what freshman first semester of college would have been complete without a casually condescending ‘drop-by’ the high school dance to cast pitting smiles over the ‘Greasers’ and ‘Rahs’. The shallow, callow youths who were still entranced by the Twist, The Shimmy and The Boog-a-loo.
We knew better. The big world was changing. Our little world was changing. We were changing – we just didn’t know it then.

And then, like all of our dream factory time together, it was over and she was gone … again.


---------------------------------


My Love,
I miss you so. My English teacher told me today that my last paper was the best in the class, so good in fact that it rated a C +. I was sort of amazed. Maybe one has to be a genius to get a decent grade in this class. Oh well, I'll become a happy housewife. Guess whom I have in mind? But I won't be a housewife, I'm always going to be Your lover even if I'm not married to you. You know what I mean don't you. I was so worried when you growled at me over the phone last night. I didn't think you could be that cold and hard just because my letter was one day late. Are you really that way to other people? I did really want to see your play I'm going to come both nights and come back stage during the intermission and leave with you after the performance. It will be almost as good as carrying it your guitar case. Maybe I’m just not cut out for the scholarly life, it comes so hard. But I'm not going to let this school beat me. I'm intelligent and I'm going to prove. If I could only take courses I enjoy instead of the things like calculus and French.
that's all for now my darling, except to say
I love you,


--------------------------------------

Can you imagine today’s woman in college being concerned about a ‘growling’ (and probably pompous) boyfriend or graduating to become a “happy housewife?” But then the early '60s were really more like the '50s. And the standards and morays were really far more like those of the late 19th century, then what we think of today as being the liberated woman of the 20th and 21st century. We now think of the 60’s as the beginning of Women's liberation and the freedom of the sexual revolution of the late 60’s. But please remember, that in 1964, two of the biggest female stars and box office draws were Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe!


One of the few things that I did take an interest in that year as the fall turned towards Thanksgiving, was the play. In a conscious or subconscious empathy with my long distance love who was also minoring in Theatre Arts, I got a lead part in the fall play. It was Pygmalion and I played Alfred P. Doolittle - the only part I was interested in because it was a very heavy character part. So while I practiced my cockney, my love practiced her calculus and confessed she was happier with the arts than the sciences. A pattern of so many of our 60’s generation.
By the way, what have you done with that English or philosophy degree? Would you like to know what I've done with mine in and history and psychology? Yup, about that much.



The holiday clock ticked down to Christmas while we, with all the accumulated wisdom of our 17 years, pontificated and analyzed all that was wrong with society and how we were going to change things.
But what we couldn’t see, immersed as we were in our own little of our own little 1960’s sitcom, was that the times – both the world’s and our own - were already …”a-changing”.

And the next letter was a small tear in the fabric. She said she needed to stay at school and study rather than see me next weekend. I began to suspect that there was someone else. Another man? Boy? I mean after all, who in 1964 would give up cuddling and kissing for studying?


*************************


December 16th, 1964

My Dearest,

Hi there. It's 12:15, and I'm just getting started. Ricky, I'm so stupid. I can't believe it. I always regarded myself as a prodigy, however that image was just a little false. I can't see you before Christmas. I'm going to call to and tell you before you get this. Last night I told you that I could and I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. and work all day to day but I just can't get everything done. I have a play Thursday and a major English paper of the semester is due on Monday and. I have to get a “B” on it and I will have to write it this weekend. I know you'll be hurt, but I can't help it. I have to do well here and please don't make it a million times worse by telling me that you will die if you don’t see me. I want to see you too, very, very badly. But I just can't leave. If I have to worry about you (which I do most of the time) as well as myself I’ll go out of my mind. I get close to that sometimes too.
So Saturday is just another day with classis and studying. I don't know if all this is going to do me any good but I've got to beat this place and prove something to myself and my parents if it kills me. Please my love, try to understand.
I love you so much,
Jennifer


****************************


She wrote about the pressures of final exams and blue books, while I was sitting in Algebra II for the second time and failing it again. Sounds like a setup for a bad comedy routine doesn't it. “Hey, I failed Algebra II - twice!
Well, I did - twice. And of course sitting next to my ner-do- well Buddy, Charlie, didn't help matters.
Upon getting our test papers, we immediately wrote F's on them. Then neatly folded them into paper airplanes that would have done an origami aficionado proud, and sailed them up to the professor’s desk. He said it was the most satisfying pair of F’s that he'd ever given.
On the other hand, as much as I was blowing off my Freshman year grades, I was sweating out finals, as it had penetrated even my rebellious brain, that they were my only hope of remaining into college - any college - and avoid having my ass (and other even more important parts) shot off in Vietnam.
Jennifer knew this only too well and she wrote " I really worry that you'll get into some kind of mess when your in one of your black moods " Mess was really an understatement. Like the rolling Stones sang, “It's not easy facing up when your whole world is black."

And so things limped along. Our letters were becoming stale. Our relationship was becoming stale. Our love was becoming stale.

Letters that had been every day, slowed to one or two a week, then one or two a month. We were losing each other. What else was there to say - or do?
Despite what the poets say, everything that has a beginning must also have an end. Hey, that's the first law of the universe... eventual entropy. Still, and I always believed in going out with style. What is it they say? " It's better to burn out, then fade away."
So I wrote her. It was good she said. My best. My farewell Opus

And she wrote me back.

---------------------------------------


January 24, 1965
My Dear Ric,
Your last letter was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. I felt as if I were there watching you be so alone in the world. I feel as alone as you now, but that's necessary. We once wanted to hide together from the world and we made it for a while and had so much good and were surprisingly decent people. Yes without You I'm just a big prep and a pseudo something. And without me I know you feel you are not good or complete either.
You know how much I want you to be OK. We don't love the same way, we can't… but we do care what happens to one another. We are with a lot of other people now and it's bad in many ways, but good in some also, because somehow we have to be able to live in this world without letting it ruin us as I'm afraid it has started to.
I'll see you soon and then we’ll talk at all out.
my love and concern,
Jennifer



-----------------------------


Her letter was good too. She spoke of our wanting to hide from the world together. We didn't so much hide from the world as chose to make it irrelevant. She said we still cared about what happened to one another and we did - for all the difference it made. She closed with " we have to be able to live in this world without letting it ruin us as I'm afraid it has started to." In many ways it succeeded, because ‘first love’ was already running through our fingers like the sand on last year's summer beach.
The last words she ever wrote me were " I’ll see you soon and then we'll talk it all out."
But it was already the end. The talking likewise ended for good on a night wet with ice pellets and a dismal freezing rain.
As we finally, for the first and last time, and ran out of things to say to one another, I stood close to her and inhaled the sweet scent of her perfume and Terrytons and asked her the one, now dreaded, questioned.
You see, almost a year before, I had read her an old medieval tale about a brave knight and a beautiful princess who was able to capture the fabled unicorn because they could only be caught by a "virgin, pure". So our secret code phrase while parted, was always, " hey, are you still catching unicorns? ". I have to admit that on occasion I had lied, but she'd never had. And she didn't this time either. So when I asked her, already knowing and dreading the answer, she looked up at me, her eyelashes wet with cold rain or tears, and in a very, very small voice said…
" No ".

It was over.

*****************



Ric Wasley – Author/Musician

· Shadow of Innocence - Kunati - April 2007
· Acid Test - 2004

And please check out my McCarthy Family Mysteries free sample chapters on Amazon and Google!
Baby Boomer article series: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ric_Wasley

*******
New from Kunati Publishing: SHADOW OF INNOCENCE - The Newport Folk Festival provides a groovy backdrop for this fun and exciting mystery set in the music and drug soaked sixties. The Baby Boomers and everyone else are sure to enjoy this appealing mystery featuring a pair of musician partners in love and danger. Don't miss Shadow of Innocence From Kunati Publishing.
Available now on; Amazon ,Borders, Barnes & Noble and at bookstores everywhere.

********

Ric Wasley has spent almost forty years wandering through corporate board rooms and honky-tonk bars. He now divides his time between writing mystery novels and observing the really ‘juicy parts’ of the human condition.

Monday, November 26, 2007

About Taxed to Death


In my introductory post back in October, I mentioned my publication credits, including my Vancouver-based mystery, Taxed to Death, but I didn't talk about the book. So, maybe it's time to do this. The novel was written a few years ago, and the long-awaited sequel, Fatal Encryption, will be released in early 2008.
Taxed to Death is the story of a young, Revenue Canada auditor who stumbles into his first case of fraud. But when his colleage is murdered and Alex learns that someone inside Revenue Canada might be involved, he needs to find the killer before he too is murdered. Alex is forced to turn to secretary Jillian Scott for help; a lady he's never met and who has her own frightening reasons for refusing to cooperate. Soon, Jillian's fears and Alex's search for a killer embroil them in a bizarre and disturbing nightmare not everyone will survive. Reviewers say:
"Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down until I was done". George Robertson, Beyond Numbers.
"Taxed to Death is superb mystery of plot twists and turns. A masterpiece of suspenseful storytelling." Jim Cox, Midwest Review
"Purdy Kong does not hold back from taking a look into people's interior and private lives and that's a qualty which will take her far. Her writing is clean, capable, even poetic. Purdy Kong has found her voice." Edgar award winner, G. Miki Hayden, author of Writing the Mystery.
For anyone interested in reading the opening chapter, visit www.debrapurdykong.com
I'll add opening chapters of Fatal Encryption to the website in a few weeks, and talk more about this book once the chapters are posted.

Novel Writing in 30 Days - Crazy or Creative?


The answer to that is a definitive YES.

As of 9:45 pm this past Sunday, I completed the 2007 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. This challenge is aimed at writers attempting to write a novel of 50,000 words in the month of November. Coming in at just under 51,000 words, I have a first draft of No Teddy Bears, a young adult story about four foster children in peril. A first draft I am proud of because I crossed the finish line, I have a story with a beginning, middle and end. And unlike some of my NaNoWriMo colleagues, I think I have something worthy of the editing process. Now, if there’s a one-month editing challenge lurking about somewhere, count me out!

So do I have any lessons to share?

Nothing really revolutionary to the writing process. But this adventure did reinforce several basic writing habits that separate writers from wanna-be writers.

1. Write every day.

• This is a must just to build up one’s writing muscle. Just as a concert pianist must practice for a recital each day, so, too, a writer must practice her skills each day so that when the brilliant idea strikes, her metaphorical pencil is sharpened.

2. Write, don’t tell.
• You cannot talk about your story while you are writing it. Someone told me this years ago and it took a long time to understand why this is a good rule. Why? Because your enthusiasm for the story must flow from your fingers first. If it comes from your mouth first, you have just leached off some of the energy in the talking about it and your passion will want. Write it. Then talk about it. (Of course, I realize I broke this rule for NaNoWriMo somewhat. But I knew you would hold me accountable to the finish and that’s a pretty decent motivator.)

3. Begin with the seed of a scene that fascinates you.
• It’s almost imperative to begin any piece of writing with a scene or idea you cannot wait to write. It’s the imaginary carrot that you get to chase for a month, a year, whatever amount of time. For example, Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, found the genesis of that story in an image of a plane falling from the sky. This was his original idea. The story of who was in the plane, why it was falling and onto what country it was falling all started from that first compelling image.

In much the same way, one seminal image fed my process throughout the NaNoWriMo challenge. It was a simple exchange of dialogue that I heard on an investigative news report between a reporter and a four year old little girl. I was pleased to find that story still exists in cyperspace. Here’s the link. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=1872132&page=1
Read to the end of this feature, and you’ll have some idea about why this was such a powerful inspiration.

Have you read it now? Good. Then there will be no spoilers as I share the following.

I wanted to know about those children. Who they were? What kind of spirit they had to weather such a horrible storm? I wanted to see what kind of moxie was within a little girl who boiled down her abusive foster home experience by saying, “There were no teddy bears.” It’s a cautionary tale about the ideals of childhood. Her foster parents had robbed her of part of her childhood. She interpreted this as an absence of her teddy bear – a symbol of childish innocence. Wonderful. That was my carrot. My quest to get to the end of my story, to be able to flesh out the scene where my fictional little girl, Claire Chaucer, gets to say that line on the cusp of her rescue.

So when NaNoWriMo cranks up again next November, I heartily encourage you to participate and see what you can do in 30 days. You'll be amazed.

----

Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY, Spring 2008 from Kunati Books.

Memories...fact or fiction?

Yesterday was a good day. A couple of pals from way back when paid me a surprise visit at the lodge. Now normally these things freak me out because, in spite of what you girls think, blokes do have some personal pride and inviting visitors in to a place that looks like it’s just been burgled always puts me on edge. Fortunately though, when the visitors are ex-flat mates, this doesn’t apply as ex-flatmates are never concerned about anything other than how their mate is and how much beer he has in. ‘Place is looking good’ was about the only comment passed, that from Higgy as he crouched in front of the fridge to inspect his options. We never left the kitchen, save for the obvious reason, and as the lodge is small that didn’t have to mean leaving the conversation. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t too long before the topic of that conversation came around to Recycling Jimmy. Crabber’s came across a copy in the bathroom. Neither of them had seen it nor read it and, whilst both knew that it had been published, I guess it hadn’t really meant anything until they actually held and flicked through the pages. After the initial round of piss taking (mainly targeted at the dust jacket picture which does make me look a bit like a Dale Winton impersonator) came the obvious question, asked by Crabbers but on behalf of them both.
‘So am I in it then?’
‘Nah, it’s a story mate. Pure fiction about suicide for profit. Not really our bag that was it?’
‘Well this sounds familiar Tilley. It’s my scooter isn’t it?’
Higgy read out the brief description of Kev’s scooter from the book and I had to agree; it was his scooter, something that really pissed Crabbers off. He snatched the novel, told Higgy to get more beer and began flicking through the pages. It didn’t take him too long to find a riposte.
‘Page 158. I did that. Ran off with your trousers that time in the night club.’
It was true, and Crabbers’ account of what had happened in the Tropicana that drunken, devastatingly embarrassing night opened the flood gates to another round of piss taking and, as we ploughed through our past experiences as Manchester student’s, on more than one occasion I found myself thinking, ‘hmmm, that’s in the book too.’
So here’s me thinking that I’ve consciously written a piece of dark, fictional comedy when it turns out that, in reality, a large amount of it appears to be based on flashbacks from nights best forgotten! But believe me, I am almost certain that we never dressed someone up as a rabbit and dropped them off a cliff.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Short story: Sweet Dreams

©2005 Cheryl Kaye Tardif

I always hated camping—the strange lurking noises in the woods, the bloodsucking mosquitoes that voraciously drilled for blood…the thin canvas of a tent that could be so easily slashed by a bear. Then there were the shadows, pervasive and malignant, hovering in every corner. Of course, peeing in the woods wasn’t my idea of a good time either.

When Justin, my husband, decided we were going on a camping trip with three other couples, I groaned and whined like an errant child. But I knew that I couldn’t escape fate. So reluctantly I packed up our tents, sleeping bags and Coleman coolers stoked with more beer than food. Then we headed for the mountains and Lac de RĂ«verie.

Justin told me that meant Lake of Dreaming.

During the monotonous drive our newest friends, Margie and Burton, were ensnared in a deadly lip-lock. After ten minutes I avoided glancing over my shoulder and decided that they just weren’t interested in the antique store we passed. Or the three elk grazing in the ditch. And Margie and Burton certainly didn’t give a hoot about the dead skunk lying in the middle of the road.

For a fraction of a second I thought about interrupting their spit-swapping contest.

Instead, I slept.

It was pitch black when we arrived at Lac de RĂ«verie...

Read the rest of the story HERE.
_________________
Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention
http://www.cherylktardif.com

Friday, November 23, 2007

'Create a Corpse' contest is still on!

Ever want to 'strangle' your husband, or 'clobber' your high school bully?

Well, now you can! Here is a surefire way to get away with murder!

Enter my "Create a Corpse" contest and submit the name of someone you want me to 'kill off', and I'll gladly oblige the winner--no questions asked and no payment necessary.

_________________
Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention http://www.cherylktardif.com/

Thursday, November 22, 2007

DEFENDING SELF-PUBLISHING

THE WRITING LIFE by ALVIN ABRAM

I’m tired of reading comments on Self-Publishing as a potential threat to the industry. The writers always fasten on writers who produce chapbooks and offer that as the straw that will break the industries back. That's ridiculous.

As a published author of over 30 stories including Chicken Soup and Women's World Magazine as well as being published by (Key Porter Books), I consider myself a self-published author. I self-published 2 non-fiction, 1 children's, 1 anthology of short stories and 3 fiction novels, one of which was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award (2002) and the another won the 2005 International BookAdz Award. Am I a threat? Hardly. But I am also a gnat whose success will be emulated by others.

I self-published 2,600 copies of my first book in 1997 (278 pages) (hard cover). The stories were priceless but the writing was amateurish. By year end the book had sold about 2,000 copies/Retail: $27.95 and in 1998, I published 2,300 soft covers. Retail: $21.95 and sold a further 1,000 copies until Key Porter Books bought the rights. They published over 3,000 more copies for $25.95. Three years later I obtained my rights back and subsequently went back into the market with my books. I've sold over 6,000 copies of my book to date. I don't know what they sold other than the 1,100 copies from the royalties I received. There are only a few of my books left. I presume they remaindered theirs because I refused to buy them. It looked ugly.

In 2000, I self-published 2,200 copies of a similar book (254 pages) Retail: $23.95 on the same subject. I hired an editor who worked with me so that the prose sang. I only have 600 left. On June 2004, I donated $20,000 of my profit from both books to charity. How did I sell them? I hired a publicist, undertook a mid-western book tour, appeared on television, radio and was interviewed in newspapers in 3 countries. It's called marketing.

I have since self-published 3 novels and earned enough profit to pay for the fourth which will be launched in 2008 and still leave me with a surplus. In fact, I've sold more than $100,000 worth of my books as of last September.

When critics focus on self-published chapbooks, they are making a mockery of those of us who are not challenging the system as much as have a desire to enter it. One time authors have to enter a lottery of slush piles in the hope of being discovered. Agents have too many clients and not enough time to undertake much more than they have already. The rejections are plentiful and the waiting agonizing.

Those like myself are forced to enter the gray area of self-publishing with its mediocrity, poor quality and uninspired writing for many reasons. Poor quality is not one of them. Lately, the legitimate publishing industry are releasing sub-standard writing and trying to pass them off as having been written by good writers of the past. They are closeing the gap themselves.

I am not a writer who has put himself into a self-imposed exile but one who has a passion to put words on paper that make people laugh or cry. I, too, would like to be published by any of the giants of the industry but I am resigned to be a niche writer. I am 71. My future is limited. I began to write when I was 58. Does age mean I'm impotent?

I am not alone. Though I may not know too many like me, our numbers can only grow. In 1978, I was one of the largest linotype houses in North York. I exchanged my machines for the primitive computers of that time. My peers laughed that I was destroying my business. For a while they were right. But I survived until I retired in 2000 and they, the giants of my industry went the way of the do-do bird.

How many remember the do-do bird?

Guest blogger and horror author Mayra Calvani discusses book marketing


On the marketing of Dark Lullaby...

My latest release, Dark Lullaby, is a supernatural thriller about a young astrophysicist who is lured into the Turkish countryside by a beautiful woman who ends up being not what she appears to be. It is a bizarre, atmospheric horror tale that deals with the controversial concept of a ‘higher good’.

I was lucky in that the book was released in September, so close to Halloween. Normally it had been scheduled to be released in the Spring of 2008, but my publisher saw the advantage of the horror-book/Halloween connection. I was thrilled by the news and immediately planned my virtual book tour for the month of October.

My promotional efforts began last year. Even before I was offered a publishing contract, I had already posted an excerpt of the novel on my website, blog, and newsletter. When I signed the contract, I announced it via my blog and newsletter as well. Then, as soon as I had the cover art this past summer, I began to post it and talk about it on different writing/marketing sites, forums and groups. Some of these are:

http://www.gather.com/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/booksweloveauthors/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PumpUpYourBookPromotion/
http://morganmandelbooks.ning.com/
http://www.facebook.com/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/publishingandpromoting/

I also posted on the forums of organizations I belong to, like Broad Universe, as well as on my various publishers’ author forums.

Having a newsletter is very important and since I had been talking about Dark Lullaby for so long, my readers were expecting its publication by the time it came out. My virtual book tour, arranged by Dorothy Thompson at PumpUpYourBookPromotion started on October 1st and ended on the 30th, so it was a tough, hectic month and answering all the interviews in time was quite stressful. Advice: Don’t leave them for the last minute! They usually take a lot longer than you might think. In fact, they can be VERY exhausting, especially if you already have a busy schedule.

Of course, once I had the full virtual book schedule, I posted it on my website and blog and let my subscribers know via my October Halloween Special newsletter. But this doesn’t end here. You have to lure people into reading your guest posts and interviews, right? So I tried to announce my stops daily in as many places as time allowed me. It was tiring work but also rewarding. A promotional weapon I used to persuade people to follow me during the tour was a prize—in this case a free print copy of Dark Lullaby. A prize, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a book, serves as an incentive for people to read your posts and leave comments. (I later learned that giving a copy of your book isn’t a good idea—you may offer a copy, but not of the book you’re promoting on the tour. Why will people buy a copy when they think they might win it instead?)

Another thing I did before the release of my book was contacting reviewers and asking for reviews. As soon as I received a review, I made a big deal of it by posting it on my website, blogs, and all the venues I mentioned earlier. The more reviews, the better. I also asked reviewers to please post their reviews on Amazon.

One of the most powerful ways I know to bring traffic to my website—and therefore my books—is to write articles (these may be author interviews and reviews as well) and distribute them via various article sites like:

http://www.ezinearticles.com/
http://www.associatedcontent.com/
http://www.americanchronicle.com/

These are just a few; there are dozens of great article distributors online.

I also write regularly for http://www.blogcritics.org/ and http://www.ohmynewsinternational.com/. Never underestimate the power of a byline complete with all your important links! Traffic to my website has grown exponentially after I began distributing my articles early this year. This past month I got over 10,000 hits, and that’s not bad at all for an unknown author with only two books out by small presses.

The only downside so far has been that my book is available on Amazon but only via their “other sellers” and not via Amazon itself. In other words, my publisher, Whiskey Creek Press, is selling the book under Amazon’s ‘used and new’ section. The reason is that where Amazon to put a price on it, it would be over $20, and nobody will pay that much for a short paperback novel. The best, of course, is to buy the book from the publisher’s site, which means lower price for the customer and higher royalties for me. :-)

The other disadvantage I have is that, since I live in Belgium, I’m not able to attend conferences or do much in the case of book signings. I try to make up for this by being an aggressive online promoter.

Now that the tour passed, I’m trying to come up with new ways to market Dark Lullaby. One thing I am doing is putting together a mailing list of independent horror bookstores in the US and the UK. I plan to contact them individually and send them a postcard of the book. I also placed a 3-month ad on the Horror Writers of America monthly newsletter.

With so many books published each year, there’s so much competition these days, book promotion is a must if you want your book to be even minimally successful. Luckily, the Internet offers a wealth of information and opportunities to authors. The secret is to embrace them, not be afraid, and dive into them.

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and book reviewer. Visit her website at http://www.mayracalvani.com/.

Blurb from Dark Lullaby:

At a trendy Turkish tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. Soon, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her--her skin's abnormally high temperature, her obsession with milk products, her child-like and bizarre behavior as she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.

The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister's baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her. But nothing, not even the stunning splendour of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature. In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister's unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul…