Friday, December 30, 2011

Review of Homemade Sin, a novel by Mark Covington

The great thing about reviewing books is reading them. That was especially true of Homemade Sin. If you like a novel where the beautiful, slutty, ambitious female predator gets her just due, this book is for you. Ever wonder if there’s an upside to being a zombie? Want to see those who really control the world (e.g., your health insurance company) draw the short straw? Want to read about an evil cat with a God complex brought low … or was he? Do you like it when a genuine good-guy gets the girl and wins the day? How about a Greyhound with multiple personalities stopping during a dog race to dance like a Chihuahua as he has visions of himself in a pink tutu? In fact, take all your distorted perceptions about odd things that make you titter and roll them into one delicious jelly roll, and you have Mr. Covington’s newest novel, Homemade Sin. You will savor it; you will delight in it. Who would have believed buzzard puke could be so darn funny … and interesting. Who knew voodoo was homemade sin?

I must say I did not expect the story that unfolded with such wonder before my eyes. The descriptions of Key West and other Hemmingway haunts blew me away, and I was fascinated by Mr. Covington’s clever use of words and extensive vocabulary. Take the description of the Florida sky, for example: drunken charcoal-gray clouds, in the shape of beer kegs, staggered across the wine-purple sky like dark spirits coming together for a cloud coven. I loved it; I couldn’t put it down.

More than anything else, I enjoy witty writing, like when the main character, Roland, finding himself caught between two unsavory characters, refers to himself as the dead meat in the middle of an evil sandwich. I laughed out loud when GD SOBs turned out to be Gods, Deities and Supreme Omnipotent Beings. And the bastardized quote, absinthe makes the heart grow fonder brought a huge smile. These are just a sample of clever material salted throughout the novel; it was a joy to read.

While it is hard to boil down what I loved most about the book, I think I’d have to say the use of Tourette’s syndrome by the evil vixen villain was just wonderful. Under the guise of having no control of her frequent outbursts of obscene words, she told people exactly what she thought of them and their actions whenever she felt the need. Did the villain really have Tourette’s syndrome? I can’t say for sure, but I can say her use of expletives seemed darn convenient. But isn’t that the point with humor? Aren’t the cleverest things you’ve ever heard based on something real? After you stop laughing at something outrageous, don’t you say to yourself: That had to be real; no one could make that up! So it is with Homemade Sin.

I also liked the inclusion of aspects of Mr. Covington’s life in the book, the aspirations of a writer, snippets from his earlier play (Shakespeare in the Trailer Park) and the little boy who discovers a secret world in his parent’s liquor cabinet, to name a few. The humor is not all in your face … some is subtle. My favorite in this category was when Cutter (a piece of work in his own right), who just finished berating zombies for being transfixed, staring straight ahead, oblivious to the outside world, eyes glazed over, etc., immediately sits down to watch television in exactly the same state.

There is no question about it, this is a five-star read.

Thanks for reading,

James L. Hatch

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Thinking Man, Paralysis by Analysis

Now, for a satirical excerpt from "The Thinking Man, Paralysis by Analysis" by Nadina Boun.

No party or ceremony is ever complete without a drink or two. Hence, follow the rules of the drink as established by the king of the castle, The Thinking Man. Here is an excerpt for your your enjoyment:

"Rules of the drink host:

Should His Highness ever invite thee over for a drink, acceptance is mandatory.

Always bring His Highness a nice bottle of scotch regardless of what thou drinkst.

Plenty of refreshments will be provided by thee, please make sure His Highness’ glass is always full.

An invitation is by no means a contract to a shag. A Shag requested by His Highness on the other hand is mandatory.

Please treat the castle in regards to cleanliness only, as though it were yours.

Upon the last tune, make sure thou do not findst thyself lounging on couches.

Whence His Highness is no longer in sight, please find thy way to the exit door, promptly.

Do not attempt to make a toast unless thou art boasting about His Highness.

If by chance thy hands are full and a toast is proposed by His Highness, thy glass must be raised using one or another of thy limbs.

Vacate the lavatory immediately regardless of thy position, should His Highness attempt to open the door.

No fornication is to be allowed on the premises unless it includes His Highness.

Lastly, thou shall never lay thy hands on His Highness’ last bottle of scotch, else thy punishment is death in exile.

Thank you for accepting the terms and conditions of the drink invitation.”

May your glass be full, always, and thank you James and Miss Havana!

Nadina

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Tower's Alchemist by Alesha L. Escobar

"The Tower's Alchemist" takes place in an alternate WWII era. I've included a food-related excerpt as well as an authentic wartime recipe for bread pudding! Here’s the excerpt:
-----

I still hopelessly tried to make an American dish every now and then but then I would only end up frustrated and yearning for home while my belly groaned. I decided to see what Jane was cooking and went downstairs to her flat on the first floor. I knocked a couple of times and she answered the door, wearing a dirty apron and wiping flour from her hands. Her freckled face broke into a smile and she welcomed me in.

“Please, have a seat, Isabella. I was just finishing the liver sandwiches.” She went back into her kitchen and pulled a dish out of the oven.

“Liver sandwiches?” I wanted to grimace but unless I was cooking for myself I had no right to object.

“Well, it’s more like a meat-filled pastry.”

“Filled with liver?” As if I were supposed to overlook that fact.

“Not everyone in the world eats just loads of fried cows and cheese.”

“This is going to be interesting.”

“I’m trying to follow the ration recipes from Woman’s Weekly.” She gestured toward the magazine on her coffee table.

“Is it that bad?” I went over and grabbed the magazine and flipped through its pages. I took a few moments to scan its housekeeping articles and recipes.

“It’s starting to be. If you went to buy food more often, you’d know.” She arranged the liver sandwiches on two plates and invited me to come sit with her at the dining table.

“You’re cooking an awful lot lately.” I took a bite and gave silent thanks that she had at least seasoned the meat.

“Well I’m just honing my housekeeping skills, you know.” She bit into her sandwich and turned her left hand to reveal a diamond engagement ring on her finger. She must have slipped it on in the kitchen.

“Congratulations, Jane.” With a smile I got up and threw my arms around her. “I didn’t know...have I been away that long?”

“It was all so sudden, even I’m still surprised.” Her face simply glowed.

“Garret is a lucky man.” I frowned when she took it upon herself to plop another sliver of sandwich into my mouth. I wondered if she hid some stew or dumplings in the refrigerator and this was all to torture me.

-----

Certain foods were luxuries during wartime, and many meals consisted of soups, vegetables, and … SPAM. Okay, stop making that face.

Below is a recipe for bread pudding—give it a try! This recipe (and others) can be found at The 1940's Experiment.

Bread Pudding

· 10 ounces of stale bread (you’ll have to use your kitchen scales!)

· 2 ounces of margarine or butter

· 1 ounce of sugar

· 2 ounces of dried raisin sultanas

· 1 egg (fresh or dried)

· milk to mix

· cinnamon

· extra sugar for topping

Method

Put bread into a basin and add a little water. Leave for 10 minutes.

Squeeze bread out until fairly dry

Return bread to empty basin and add all the other ingredients (except spice) adding a little milk to make a sticky consistency

Add cinnamon a little at a time until your own taste

Place mixture into a greased pan (like a lasagna pan)

Cook at 160 degrees C for an hour or so until edges are browned and centre is hot

Sprinkle sugar on top 10 minutes before end of cooking

Allow to cool a little, slice and serve

Serves 8 to 10


Alesha L. Escobar
Author,
The Tower's Alchemist (The Gray Tower Trilogy #1)
http://www.aleshaescobar.com

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Writing of The Ice Bridge

Eight years ago my husband, Russell, and I were celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and decided to return to quaint Mackinac Island in Michigan. We’d been there a few years before, but just for a quick afternoon stopover on our way home from visiting family in Wisconsin. We’d loved the Island for the few hours we’d been on it and promised ourselves we’d go there again someday. So when we began to plan for our anniversary vacation we traveled back for a longer stay of six days. I’d made reservations months ahead at the Iroquois Hotel on the water’s edge of Lake Huron and when the time came, after packing up everything we’d need, we jumped in the car and took off.

The Island doesn’t allow cars, only bicycles, horses and snowmobiles (in the winter) so we left our vehicle in a Mackinaw City parking lot on the mainland and boarded the ferry that would take us across the water to the Island, our luggage and two bicycles in tow. It was much cheaper to bring our own bikes instead of rent them there.

It was late August and the Island was beautiful. Crowded with colorful, fragrant flowers, clomping horses, whizzing bicycles and, of course, lots of tourists. Fudgies as they were called because they came, purchased and devoured so much of the little town’s fudge.

The Iroquois Hotel was lovely with its bright pastel colors and friendly service; a fancy in-house restaurant and our room with its wall of windows facing the lake. A lake that to me was as large as an ocean…because it went on forever.

Our six days there were heaven. We rode our bikes, peddling around the horses, carriages, and equine taxis, around the eight-mile in circumference island and enjoyed the sights. The friendly people. The breathtaking views of water, boats and woods. The fudge. We sped along West Bluff Road to the ritzy Grand Hotel (made famous in the 1980 romantic time travel movie Somewhere in Time with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve), ate the scrumptious and lavish tourists’ brunch there and afterwards, so full we could barely ride our bicycles, we gawked at the magnificent Victorian mansions with their elaborate gardens lining Lake Shore Drive.

We visited Fort Mackinac and listened amusedly to people talk about the ghost soldier some had reported seeing when twilight began to fall. My husband, a photography buff, even slipped out of our hotel room in the middle of one foggy night to get artsy pictures with our new digital camera of the fort, hoping to catch the ghost. He captured no ghost, but plenty of stunning photographs.

One night we even sat, spellbound, as a Lake Huron thunderstorm pounded wildly at our wall of windows. It was as if we were gazing at a tumultuous ocean.

Then one day someone, in a cubbyhole of a local hamburger joint, over our lunch, said something about the ice bridge, as the islanders called it. During the dead of winter, when the straits froze over, it was a narrow path that stretched about four miles across the ice that separated Mackinac Island from the St. Ignace mainland. The locals would drive in old Christmas trees along the path to show the way, to show it was now safe. To them the ice bridge meant freedom to come and go for up to two months a year without paying ferryboat or airplane fees. To me it sparked an idea for my next book…what if someone crossed the ice bridge one wintry night and fell through the ice? And disappeared…maybe even died?

I started asking questions of the locals: Had someone ever fallen through the ice and perished? Turns out over the years, that yes, some people actually had. Fallen in. When the ice wasn’t firm enough. Or when they’d gone off the solid marked path. Or in a snowstorm. Some on snowmobiles. Some were saved, dragged out, and some had not been. Hmmm.

That’s all it took for the book to begin forming in my head. The rest of the trip I looked at the Island with different eyes. A writer’s eyes. Writer’s ears. I filed away the memories and the home-grown stories recounted to me. Though most of my earlier books were romantic horror, I’d written a couple of straight contemporary murder mysteries, Scraps of Paper and All Things Slip Away, a few years before and Avalon Books had published them. I’d quite enjoyed writing them.

So I thought I’d write another one with Mackinac Island and its real and fictional ghost tales as the background. I’d show the beauty of the island, changing of the seasons, what it was like in summer, fall and winter (tons of snow and ice), and describe the historical landmarks. I’d spotlight the quirky close-knit inhabitants and have the protagonist gather their imaginary spirit stories to put into the ghost book she was writing. I’d make the Island nearly a main character itself with its enigmas, water, snow, ice and fog.

The novel would be about a woman, Charlotte, jilted in love, coming back to heal and visit her poignant childhood playground, and her lonely Aunt Bess. She’d meet an Island cop, Matt, and together they’d not only fall in love but would embark on a great dangerous adventure together. There’d be a spunky old lady, Hannah, living next door and the four would be great friends. Until the old lady disappears on a winter’s night while crossing the ice bridge and the mystery would begin. Had Hannah been murdered by someone….how exactly…by whom…and why? The remainder of the book would be the unraveling of that mystery as the central characters try to keep from being killed themselves by the devious murderer behind Hannah’s death. I’d embed the Island’s so-called ghost tales throughout the book to spice up the story even more. So it’d be a romantic ghostly murder mystery. Ah, ha. I couldn’t wait to begin.

When my husband and I returned home, refreshed and happy, I started it right away, with the memories of lovely Mackinac still fresh in my mind. Gosh, how I’d loved that Island. A tiny piece of old-fashioned paradise. The book came easily to me. And so The Ice Bridge was born. Now with a stunning new cover by Dawne Dominique and edited by my publisher, Kim Richards Gilchrist, it’s out in the world for everyone to read and, I hope, enjoy.

About Kathryn Meyer Griffith...

Since childhood I’ve always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I quit to write full time. I began writing novels at 21 and have had fourteen (nine romantic horror, one historical romance, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel and two murder mysteries) previous novels and eight short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press.

I’ve been married to Russell for thirty-three years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have two quirky cats, Sasha and Cleo, and the four of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die.

Novels and short stories from Kathryn Meyer Griffith:

Evil Stalks the Night (Leisure, 1984; Damnation Books, July 2012)

The Heart of the Rose (Leisure, 1985; Eternal Press Author’s Revised Edition 2010) Eternal Press Buy Link: http://www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781615722327

Blood Forge (Leisure, 1989; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition, February 2012)

Vampire Blood (Zebra, 1991; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition, July 2011)

Damnation Books Buy Link: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615724253

The Last Vampire (Zebra, 1992; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition out October 2010) Damnation Books Buy Link: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615722075 You Tube Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZU77j_q4S8

Witches (Zebra, 1993; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition out April 2011) Damnation Books Buy Link:http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615723553

The Nameless One (short story in 1993 Zebra Anthology Dark Seductions; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition, 2011) Damnation Books Buy Link: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615723201

The Calling (Zebra, 1994; Damnation Books Author’s Revised Edition, 2011) Damnation Books Buy Link: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615725007

Scraps of Paper (Avalon Books Murder Mystery, 2003)

All Things Slip Away (Avalon Books Murder Mystery, 2006)

Egyptian Heart (The Wild Rose Press, 2007; Author’s Revised Edition, Eternal Press 2011) Eternal Press buy link: http://www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781615724437 My self-made You Tube Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cogCNYKzPqc

Winter’s Journey (The Wild Rose Press, 2008; Author’s Revised Edition, Eternal Press 2011) Eternal Press Buy Link: http://www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781615724604) You Tube Book Trailer address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZYCs2DVhHg

The Ice Bridge (The Wild Rose Press, 2008; Author’s Revised Edition, Eternal Press 2011) Eternal Press Buy Link: http://www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781615725182 You Tube Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28HZqu-my1g

Don’t Look Back, Agnes novella and bonus short story: In This House (2008; ghostly romantic short story out; Eternal Press in January 2012)

BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons (Damnation Books 2010)

Damnation Books buy link: httphttp://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615721313

You Tube self-made Book trailer with original song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0-U9c2Lwfo

The Woman in Crimson (Damnation Books 2010)

Eternal Press Buy Link: http://www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781615721979

You Tube Book Trailer Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcRBvDI5G4Y

My Websites:

http://www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith (to see all my book trailers with original music by my singer/songwriter brother JS Meyer)

http:// www.bebo.com/kathrynmeyerG
http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1019954486

http://www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=1019954486

http://www.jacketflap.com/K.Griffith

http://www.shoutlife.com/kathrynmeyergriffith

http://www.goodreads.com/profile/kathrynmeyergriffith

http://romancewriterandreader.ning.com/profile/KathrynMeyerGriffith

http://romancebookjunction.ning.com/profile/kathrynmeyergriffith

E-mail me at rdgriff@htc.net I love to hear from my readers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Excerpt: The Thinking Man, Paralysis by Analysis

Now, for a satirical excerpt from "The Thinking Man, Paralysis by Analysis" by Nadina Boun.

No party or ceremony is ever complete without a drink or two. Hence, follow the rules of the drink as established by the king of the castle, The Thinking Man. Here is an excerpt for your your enjoyment:

"Rules of the drink host:

Should His Highness ever invite thee over for a drink, acceptance is mandatory.

Always bring His Highness a nice bottle of scotch regardless of what thou drinkst.

Plenty of refreshments will be provided by thee, please make sure His Highness’ glass is always full.

An invitation is by no means a contract to a shag. A Shag requested by His Highness on the other hand is mandatory.

Please treat the castle in regards to cleanliness only, as though it were yours.

Upon the last tune, make sure thou do not findst thyself lounging on couches.

Whence His Highness is no longer in sight, please find thy way to the exit door, promptly.

Do not attempt to make a toast unless thou art boasting about His Highness.

If by chance thy hands are full and a toast is proposed by His Highness, thy glass must be raised using one or another of thy limbs.

Vacate the lavatory immediately regardless of thy position, should His Highness attempt to open the door.

No fornication is to be allowed on the premises unless it includes His Highness.

Lastly, thou shall never lay thy hands on His Highness’ last bottle of scotch, else thy punishment is death in exile.

Thank you for accepting the terms and conditions of the drink invitation.”

May your glass be full, always, and thank you James and Miss Havana!

Nadina

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Coming Soon: Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!

I recently completed Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, a paranormal comedy sequel to The Substitute. While The Substitute was written for the fun of it, with no objective except to make people laugh, the sequel covers many seedy social issues in a comical way. On acceptance of the manuscript, the Solstice Publishing editor offered, “I found it to be a humorous, gory, graphic, moral and ultimately satisfying tale.” That is exactly what I intended. In fact, the book is written like a saw blade, with sharp transitions that will make the reader grimace in one moment, and laugh out loud in the next.

In The Substitute, Miss Havana proved more conniving and evil than Lucifer, and eventually caused him great pain. People like it when the devil is defeated; it was easy to get laughs at Lucifer’s expense. The plot was both complex and simple. Simple because it depicted a war between shades of darkness; complex because it presented an accurate account of the rise of the Antichrist. I tried to follow biblical teaching, but presented the story in comical ways. In fact the Antichrist would have won, except for the insertion of Miss Havana in the mix. Yes, Miss Havana played an instrumental role in defeating Lucifer, but she did so for all the wrong reasons. And that’s where Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! begins.

In The Substitute, Miss Havana’s evil but comical nature doesn’t change over time. She likes the way she is and sees reason to change. She believes the world and hell owe her everything because she’s beautiful—that’s enough for her and it should be enough for them. But she performs a single selfless act during her afterlife, and there are unintended consequences associated with that, even if done for the wrong reasons. The act enables her to leave hell, but lands her in heaven’s probation. That’s where things get complex. I wanted to gradually transition her character from a horrid state-of-soul in hell, to a kinder, gentler state-of-soul at the outskirts of heaven, yet retain her core evil nature.

Miss Havana’s growth in probation is slow and awkward, and writing her transition was a challenge. I didn’t want to be too blatant about it. In fact, I wanted to gradually increase her decency and likeability without her knowing she was growing as a spirit. It was a tough road to walk as an author. While she could act in evil and depraved ways, she always did so with the best of intentions. She eventually assumes the role of The Angel of Death, and begins stumbling into social horrors, like domestic violence, serial killers, terrorism, the sex slave trade, orgies, snuff clubs and piracy. She consorts with the worst of felons she works to eliminate the evil she finds, especially the shadow creature known as Waldo (because he’s so hard to find). At one point, she even borrows a few dozen high-risk demons from her daughter, Lilith, the absolute ruler of the underworld, and releases them on the surface.

The complex social issues Miss Havana deals with are so terrifying it was difficult to discuss with them in a gentle way, especially while keeping comedy in the loop. The excerpt below gives some insight into how the comedy was approached with one serial killer. In this scene, the spirit of Miss Havana takes over a serial killer named Jesus Moses, AKA “The Red Reaper”, and prepares to give him some of his own medicine. For those of you who read The Substitute, you will recognize that Miss Havana is creating a pit of judgment on the surface for The Reaper, very much like she created eternal pits of ironic judgment when she ruled as The Queen of Darkness.

I linger at the front porch until a panel truck approaches—probably the transport he uses to move his bicycle near the kill location when he’s ready to act. The Reaper jumps out of the truck and heads toward the tool shed with apparent purpose. I drift along behind him and watch as he loads his backpack. When he picks up the fully-charged Multi-Cutter, I take over and speak to his mind in the same low growl that caused so many to shit themselves when I dispensed judgment below.

“Hello, Jesus. Are we going out for a stroll?”

He’s so stunned a trickle of urine leaks through his jeans. He crouches down, opens a small door under his workbench and pulls out The Judge, a Taurus pistol capable of accommodating either 410 shotgun rounds or .45 caliber conventional shells. Fighting to control his shaking hands, he verifies it’s fully loaded with 410 rounds. Whoever whispered to him is close, he knows that, but he has no idea just how close.

I growl again, “Wrong weapon, Reaper.”

He slams himself against the wall and peers out through the small window toward the house but sees nothing. He slides his back down the wall and stares at the door. Only his ragged breathing penetrates the silence.

Leaves rustling outside become an ominous and immediate threat. Using both hands to control his the tremble that consumes his body, he points the revolver toward the door. His breathing quickens; he waits. Breath degrades to the shallow puffs of the dying while his heart beat hammers against his ear drums and his eyes dart around the small space that is growing smaller by the second. The death knoll of the hunted chews at his stomach; bile fills his esophagus. The terror his victims felt the last few minutes of their lives invades his mind.

I like the irony of this, and believe Lilith would enjoy it too. I wish she were here to play this game with me. I will play it out until he quits, but he will never play again. His fear gives rise to a massive urge to defecate, something I should encourage. I hiss out loud enough to peal through his mind, “Reaper! It’s time to reap what you’ve sown!”

It works. He pisses and shits himself. I love this, but my fun has just begun. I take over partial control of his body, enough to command his muscles, but not to feel his pain. I gently set the revolver on the floor while he fights to keep it, and then reach for the cutter. I hold it before his eyes, turning it on and off for effect. Its gentle whirr is comforting to me, almost like music, but the sound strikes terror in his heart. Lilith really should get some of these.

Practice. I need practice. I make a few shallow cuts across his opposite arm, being careful to avoid bleeder veins and arteries, and am delighted the device cuts fabric as easily as flesh. Nice. He screams in pain. The cut is indeed ragged; I had hoped for that.

In Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, our heroine’s spirit acts as both assassin and advice columnist, and much of the comedy is revealed when she takes over a beautiful columnist named Miss Jackie, who works for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Controlling Miss Jackie, Miss Havana confronts serious social issues head-on, and does so in a comical way. I have included one such piece of advice below as an example, but please…don’t follow it.

Gag me with a bulldozer, it’s all crap. I’m so short of time, I resort to an advice concept I saw floating around the Internet some time back—a general purpose letter to eliminate a significant other. There are many pertinent requests for advice related to that topic, and even though the Internet advice was a joke, the concept was good. To use a general response, I need a general question, so I create a composite request for advice from many individual letters.

“Dear Miss Jackie: If a man is lucky enough to have a dog that loves him unconditionally, but kicks the dog every day when he comes home, even the dog will grow to hate him. I am that dog. My boyfriend has been an ass for so long I’ve lost track. I want out, but it’s like shaking shit from my finger—I can’t get the stink off.

“It’s always something: the children need us both; he’s out of work and needs my help; he’ll contribute more than child support if I let him sleep on the sofa; he’ll change, no matter how long it takes; etc., etc., etc. It’s all bullshit. I know that now. He won’t change; he can’t change. Even if he could, I still wouldn’t want the lazy bastard. He stamped out any love we shared years ago. How can I cut this cancer out of my life? Sincerely, Ready to Move On.”

I stretch my arms, interlace my fingers and crack my knuckles as I prepare to write a stinging response of truth. “Dear Sincerely Ready: Hand him this column with one hand while taking the key to your apartment back with the other.

“I regret to inform you that you have been eliminated from further contention as Mr Right. If it will help you adjust, I will keep your name on file should a future opening become available, but don’t hold your breath. That’s not likely to happen; however, to aid your search for future romantic endeavours, allow me to offer some reasons you were disqualified from competition:

“(1) You are violent. When asked what to say to a woman with two black eyes, you joked in response, ‘Nothing, you’ve already told her twice!’ You were dead wrong. The real answer is, ‘Get a gun and be prepared to use it!’ I did, and I am.

“(2) You are unreliable. I am tired of trying to make ends meet with your leftovers. Your inability to find and keep a job eliminates you from both the list of hunters and gatherers. Our dining experiences have left my wallet a little lighter, and your pants a lot tighter! Take your piece of cardboard to some other corner.

“(3) People like you are the reason we have middle fingers. I can’t stand you. Your last name is so objectionable I can't imagine taking it or hyphenating it. Your first name is so offensive I can’t picture myself ever yelling it out in a fit of passion.

“(4) You make people question God because, if he made you, he isn’t perfect. Everything is about you, always, and you have repeatedly failed the twenty question rule. I ask twenty questions about you before you ask one about me. I’m tired of asking, even more so of your lame lies.

“(5) Your frequent references to ex-girlfriends lead me to suspect you are a psychotic stalker. Your constant e-mailing and texting confirms it. You have too much time on your hands—go to work! Leave me the hell alone or I’ll have you arrested.

“(6) You are a child. Grow up! Your ability to belch the alphabet is not a trait I’m seeking in a permanent partner. You are dull and stupid. Even though you claim a photographic memory, you lack film. Your inability to fix my car or anything else is extraordinarily unappealing. Light travels faster than sound, which is the reason you appear bright until you open your mouth.Your wardrobe of sports uniforms is also childish.

“(7) You are too short for your weight, and the only exercise you get is pushing your luck.You believe you have the body of a god but, unfortunately, it’s Buddha. If you ever gain the ten vertical inches you need to bring yourself into balance with the rest of humanity, you may resubmit your application, but even then don’t hold your breath. Any son we might produce would, without a doubt, be beaten up at recess. Thank God we only had girls.

“(8) Finally, you must face the fact I am out of your league. Set your sights lower next time. Find a woman who doesn’t need help supporting her family, finds immaturity in a male appealing, likes being mistreated and enjoys servicing you and your friends on a continuing basis. Good luck with that.

“I leave you with one parting thought: If you go around acting like an asshole all the time, eventually you'll be covered in shit.

“Sincerely, The Woman of your Nightmares (if you don’t get the hell out of my life.). P.S. Re-read the real answer to number one above.”

Yes, Miss Havana came into her own in Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! She settled some scores that desperately needed settling, but drew God’s ire in the process. God’s response to Miss Havana’s misbehavior is shocking, and as much a surprise to her as it will be to the reader. I simply can’t share the ending—you’ll have to buy the book for that.

As always, thank you for reading,

James L. Hatch

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review of “The Tunnelers”

Sometimes I get the opportunity to review novels and short stories I’ve wondered about, like today’s review of “The Tunnelers.” The cover was intriguing and I liked the title, so was delighted when Solstice Publishing sent it to me to review.

I can’t say if “The Tunnelers” by Goeff Gander should be classified as a short story or a novel (48 pages), but I can say is it is one of the best stories I’ve read recently. The writing is outstanding, as is the editing. I’m picky; those things are important to me.

I can also say I was disappointed the story wasn’t longer. I loved reading it; I wanted to read more. The pace was fast and the topic interesting. In fact, this story could easily be expanded to a full-length novel, and would keep readers on the edge its entire expanded length.

I haven’t read anything presented from multiple first person perspectives for some time. That was refreshing. It is the Point of View I prefer. The characters were intense, and the implied activities of the “tunnelers”, all frightening, were dangled before the reader like a worm before a hungry fish. The tone of the story reminded me a lot of “old school” horror movies where the monster was only glimpsed … but the entire audience knew it was really, really nasty. Only creepy music would have made these monsters more threatening.

Okay, I won’t check under my bed tonight when I go to bed, but I might be attuned to any unusual vibrations from below. Remember the movie Tremors? The tunnelers aren’t worms. They are a lot smarter, equally persistent and can hunt you down wherever you live. If your house has a second story, that might be a good place to read about them.

Reviewed by James L. Hatch, author for:

xoxopublishing.com (The Judge, Infinity Quest, The Empress of Tridon, "The Final Experiment", Aftermath Horizon)

Solstice Publishing (The Substitute; Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!)

Eternal Press (Kill Zone)





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cynthia MacGregor's Kitchen

In addition to the food we are served at festive get-togethers, many of us cook holiday dinners ourselves—for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas—with, for most, either a turkey or a ham as the main attraction.

But all of this often leaves us facing three sets of problems:

1 – Cooking the holiday dinners often raises questions, ranging from how long the turkey is likely to need to cook to what herbs and spices best complement squash to how long you can keep leftover scalloped potatoes in the fridge.

2 – Leftover turkey or ham is a great labor saver and money saver for subsequent nights’ dinners, but how many nights do you want to eat rewarmed turkey or reheated ham?! What else can you do with it, though?

3 – All that eating is sure to put pounds on, which you’ll want to take off before they become permanently attached to you, but how?

Fortunately I have written three cookbooks that, taken together, can resolve all these problems and more.


Lost in the Kitchen, while not strictly a cookbook, does have a cornucopia of recipes that follow the information in the book. While Lost in the Kitchen was written primarily for kitchen novices, there’s plenty of information that more experienced cooks may still need to refer to from time to time…like cooking times and freezing times and what-goes-with-what and how best to store leftovers.

Stealth Leftovers helps you disguise your leftovers in scrumptious new presentations such as Casbah Turkey and Ranchero Romero’s Skillet Dinner, which are quick and easy to prepare and thoroughly delicious to eat. Nobody in your family will wrinkle up their nose and say, “Ugh—not the leftover turkey [or ham] again!” They’ll dig in…and ask you to make this dish again soon!


The Firehouse Diet is chock full of totally yummy dishes that are sensible and don’t taste at all like diet food. Now, let me level with you: Following the precepts of The Firehouse Diet will not cause you to lose 10 pounds in a week…but losing weight that fast isn’t healthy for you anyhow. No, what The Firehouse Diet does is help you to lose weight slowly but surely and sensibly, and to keep it off! The recipes are for good food, delicious food, food you’ll enjoy eating. So you won’t give up after three weeks and put all the weight back on again. You’ll stick with it…and keep shedding those pounds.

There you have it: The trinity of cookbooks you need not only this holiday season but all year-round: Lost in the Kitchen, Stealth Leftovers, and The Firehose Diet. Now, where can you buy these books?

XoXoPublishing.com is the publisher, and you can buy the books on their website or at Amazon.com.

Happy Holidays. Enjoy your cooking. Enjoy your eating. Make it a good one!


Cynthia MacGregor is the author of 54 conventionally published books and over 50 e-books, and also does other forms of writing, ranging from web copy to ads to catalog copy. An accomplished editor of books, magazines, and web copy, she also has ghostwritten books, blogs, and other forms of writing. A former New Yorker who has called Florida “home” since 1984, Cynthia enjoys cooking and entertaining, and she also writes for fun as well as for a living. Her plays have been produced by the Palm Springs Players (that’s Palm Springs, Florida—not the more famous namesake in California), and her wordplay is enjoyed by fellow members of PUNY, an online punsters’ group. A decided happy woman, Cynthia avers that “There is no one in the world I’d want to trade lives with.”


Monday, December 5, 2011

Review of works by Gary Peterson

Yes, I write, but I love to read as well. Today I've had the pleasure of reviewing a novel and two short stories by Gary Peterson, author for Solstice Publishing. The reviews speak for themselves. You will enjoy his books.

Review: The Old Miller Place by Gary Peterson

For those of you who remember the 1951 – 1969 Dragnet television series with Sgt. Joe Friday (Badge 714), played by American actor Jack Webb, this book is for you. The paranormal-mystery-thriller is set in the early 1960’s with dialog reminiscent of “My name is Friday—I’m a cop.” It’s also important to note DNA and other sophisticated crime-solving super-science techniques weren’t available then, so murders were solved by collecting evidence the old fashion way. By today’s standards, evidence was everywhere, but at that time, not so much. Mr. Peterson was careful not to jump-the-gun on the realities of that era, and ensured the personalities of the detectives and the technology of the day were consistent. Personal biases led police in one direction, while friendship and faith in the accused led retired detective Gary Wise in another.

I also liked the family atmosphere depicted in the book, a simpler time when hard times brought people together rather than tearing them apart. I believe the book is quite suitable for young adults and adults alike. There were baseball games at office picnics, homemade Christmas gifts and period television shows—all the things that could transport the reader back to that era, my era. Okay, so that gives some insight into my age, but it also made me appreciate the work even more. It was a great read. The ending made me feel good all over.

My problem in reviewing this book is not telling you how I felt about it, but how to describe it without being a spoiler. I can say this. There are hints throughout the novel about who the bad guys are, but I missed every one … until the perpetrators were revealed. Only then were the evil-doers clear to me. It was more fun that way. If I had guessed the ending up front, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the story as much as I did.

Here’s an overview. A vengeful office co-worker frames an honest and loving family man. He loses everything except his wife and children. He struggles to regain his life, but is framed again…and again. You can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy, although, I did wonder a few times if he REALLY was guilty. He is fortunate retired Detective Gary Wise comes to his aid, or better yet, that they come to each other’s aid.

Here’s what I can share without giving away too much. The paranormal component, while present, isn’t central to the story. Yes, it adds a few interesting twists, but the real meat of the story is the interplay between the accused, the police, the lawyers, the family of the accused, the victims (who, by the way, “pile up” over many years) and the perpetrators. I also liked the way Mr. Peterson approached the story. The novel begins very near the victim’s death as he struggles to remember how he got in such a terrible situation. Periodically, as the story unfolds, there is a flash forward to the victim’s current plight, which just gets worse with time. The story is gradually revealed through the victim’s recall of recent events, but his situation is so dire the reader will chew his nails wondering how he will get out of his situation. I won’t say how it ends here, but if you like mysteries, then you will love the ending.

Review: “The Kidnapping of Olivia Hammond” by Gary Peterson

This fast-paced short story immediately drew me in by exploiting a situation I’ve always been concerned about: the risks faced by female real estate agents when homes are privately shown. Although it’s her first experience with on-the-job-training after passing her real estate exam, Olivia’s worst fears are realized when she is kidnapped and chained in a basement beneath a cabin in the woods. The police will do nothing until she’s been missing for 72 hours and, by that time, she will be dead. Mr. Peterson rivets readers on every word as Olivia’s brother and faithful dog risk their own lives to find her, but the killer has ideas of his own. Their best efforts to save her could succeed or fail; you’ll need to read this cliffhanger to find out.

Review: Return to Painter’s Island by Gary Peterson

This short story delivers a sweet and nostalgic glimpse of childhood at a time siblings played together and children worked to help the family survive. I’ve never been to Painter’s Island, but it reminded me a place my brother and sister played as children, raft and all. One could almost picture this story as an extension to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was a fast and fun read; definitely a five-star short story.

Thank You!

To both Gary Peterson and all who stop by to read these reviews today, THANK YOU for being here. Please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

James L. Hatch, Author

xoxopublishing.xom: Aftermath Horizon, "The Final Experiment", The Judge, Infinity Quest, The Empress of Tridon

Solstice Publishing: The Substitute, Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!

Eternal Press: Kill Zone