About My Book

Learn more about my first book, Six Pack: Emergence.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review: Day Moon

Dystopian novels can tackle some interesting "what if" scenarios and Brett Armstrong accomplishes that in his novel Day Moon.

In the near future, a 17-year-old boy named Elliott is tasked with logging printed works into a computer database for Project Alexandria, founded by his grandfather as a means of keeping all human knowledge secure and accessible to everyone. This means printed works are destroyed in good faith. But Elliott discovers that a book of William Shakespeare's works that belonged to his grandfather do not match what has been logged into Project Alexandria.

It presents the "what if" scenario about the government keeping digital copies of books and other printed material, only for the government to determine what is kept and what the work really meant, instead of allowing people to read the work as originally written. It begs the question about who decides what when it comes to writings that are passed down from generation to generation.

The "what if" scenario is what makes Day Moon an interesting read. But it also sees Elliott unraveling a mystery along the way, all while trying to figure out who he can and can't trust. Armstrong keeps Elliott's character consistent along the way -- Elliott is a Christian, but he doesn't preach about it and instead goes back to his beliefs as part of his motives for deciding what action to take and who he should trust.

I did find a few spots in which it seemed Armstrong pulled away from Elliott's POV and into the mindset of another character, but they didn't detract from the book overall. I would chalk that up to how writers try to show, rather than tell, the emotions of a non-POV character but don't always nail it.

Day Moon is a book that makes you think, regardless of what your religious or philosophical beliefs may be. After all, history is filled with people who have taken popular works and tried to change them based on what they think is appropriate, often in ways that deny others a chance to read the works for themselves and determine what they mean.

It goes without saying I consider Day Moon a recommended read. You may purchase it at Amazon.

Friday, June 23, 2017

On Yanez, Castile And Our Desires To Be "Safe"

For readers who are used to me posting something on Sundays, once in a while, I step away from things that are author and book related to talk about other things that come to mind. It's where I write about things that would be political in nature, whatever happens to pop into my head.

The topic that's weighed on my mind for the past few days was the case of Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile. Yanez was found not guilty by jury of second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety. This happened despite much of the evidence indicating that Castile complied with Yanez's orders and Yanez panicked.

As much as I would like to go back and change the verdict, I understand this is how the judicial system works. With that said, there are some lessons that we can learn from this case, which say a lot about the issues we have with society in general and various players within it.

Here are my observations, some of which you may not have considered, but I believe do need to be taken into account to understand why we've gotten to the point we are at now with how police officers do their jobs.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Twenty Questions With Jessica Kreger

My guest for this week's Twenty Questions session is Jessica Kreger. Her debut novel, Fit to Love, was released earlier this year. Here's the cover blurb.

After her mother’s tragic death from diabetes, mousy Daisy Day embarks on her own life-saving mission to lose a hundred and fifty pounds. Handsome personal trainer and Army veteran, Eric Anderson, seems like the answer to her prayers, but he’s way out of her league…not to mention taken by a picture-perfect model almost half her age. 

But when Daisy lends her marketing acumen to launch Eric’s personal training business and helps him overcome his grief from losing his brother in Afghanistan, he realizes he has more in common with her than his own girlfriend. Yet when the hours of training pay off, and Daisy is transformed into a head-turning beauty, he’s not the only man to notice. 

Daisy Day is fit to love and she’s already fallen for Eric… but with his now ex-girlfriend chasing after him, and another man in Daisy’s arms, is it too late for him to catch her?

Now let's hear from Jessica about her novel and her interest in writing. Remember, if you would like to do a Twenty Questions session, you can look here for more information.

1. How did you get interested in writing?
At an early age, I developed a passion for reading from my mother, an English teacher, and writing quickly followed. I remember penning journal entries, poems, stories, and songs in composition books in grade school. I also dictated a children’s story to my dad, who typed it into our first desktop computer.

2. What inspired you to come up with this story?
In a former job as the director of research communications at the University of Miami medical school, I attended a symposium on obesity research. Beyond the numbers and case studies, each mother, father, sister, and brother had a story, and often their stories were intertwined with complications. While working out at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center, I saw good-looking personal trainers coaching plus-sized clients. Many of the clients struggled through the fitness routines, but with lots of encouragement, they returned again and again. I knew that each client had their own reason to conquer their killer circuits. And poof! The idea for Fit to Love (https://www.amazon.com/Fit-Love-Jessica-Rachel-Kreger-ebook/dp/B01N9VMOHK), my debut novel, was born. It just came out this year, and was released to audio book (https://www.amazon.com/Fit-to-Love/dp/B0725XQXQ5/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=) this month. My book is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Kobo.

3. Tell me about the main character, Daisy Day, and what inspired you to create her.
In between riding the elliptical at the gym and listening to research showing obesity rates skyrocketing, the seeds for my heroine were planted in my mind. I wondered what would happen if a woman who was motivated to get fit after her mother’s tragic death from diabetes ended up in the studio of a handsome personal trainer?

4. What characters, other than Daisy, did you find enjoyable to write as you progressed with the book?
Handsome personal trainer and Army veteran, Eric Anderson, seems like the answer to Daisy’s prayers. He’s a modern day Hercules, and creating him was dreamy.

5. From what I gather from your book blurb, you have a love quadrangle, so to speak! How challenging was it to write a story like that?
It was actually really fun, and I believe it made the story more realistic. Of course, a hunk like Eric would already have a girlfriend when Daisy comes along the scene. And his girlfriend would be a model at that. I named her Star. But maybe Star wasn’t exactly right for Eric. Perhaps inner beauty was what he was truly looking for, and a plus-sized woman could also be beautiful to him. Cue in my heroine, Daisy, and poof! There’s a love triangle. The quadrangle occurs when the hours of training pay off, and Daisy is transformed into a head-turning beauty. Eric’s not the only man to notice (cue in neighborhood jock Mario, Daisy’s longtime crush).

6. What are some of the themes you explored in writing the novel?
Finding happiness again after loss is one of the major themes I explore in my novel. After her mother’s tragic death from diabetes, mousy Daisy embarks on her own life-saving mission to lose a hundred and fifty pounds. Then, when Daisy lends her marketing acumen to launch Eric’s personal training business, she helps him overcome his own grief from losing his brother in Afghanistan.

7. What information did you glean about military life to make your story realistic?
I’m the daughter of a Vietnam-era veteran myself, and the feeling of pride in having someone you love protect our freedom comes from my own personal experience. When I conducted research about Vietnam and Afghanistan, I learned a lot about the sacrifices our brave men and women make in service to our country.

8. What other things did you learn along the way as you wrote and edited the book?
I learned more about overcoming adversity as I developed the character of Penny, Eric’s younger sister. Although she’s hearing-impaired, she hasn’t let her disability, or the doubts of others, stop her from achieving her dreams. She’s in her third year of internal medicine residency at the University of Miami and works at the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, the VA.

9. Do you have other published works (short stories, poetry, etc.)?
This is my debut novel, although I have lots of works in the wings.

10. What do you find is the right environment for you to write?
I like a quiet room, well lit, with plenty of Florida sunshine.

11. Are there specific programs or tools you find useful to help you with the writing process?
The best tool to help me with the writing process is exercise – it gets my blood pumping and creative juices flowing.

12. What have you found to be useful methods for promoting your writing?
I developed many sites to promote my writing, including: an Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jessicarachelkreger, a Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16410360.Jessica_Rachel_Kreger,
a website: http://jessicarachelkreger.com/, a Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/jessicarachelkreger/, and a Twitter page: https://twitter.com/JessicaRKreger. I’m also counting on this blog (thank you, Bob!), and others like it, to spread the word. My fellow Clean Reads authors have been amazing.

13. What are some of the famous books or authors you have enjoyed or inspired you?
I lapped up all of Michael Crichton’s medical fiction. He was ahead of his time, and his writing was enthralling.

14. Any aspiring or independent authors whose books you’ve read that you liked and want to mention to others to check out?
Check out fellow sweet-romance writer Kristin Wallace (http://kristinwallaceauthor.com/) and also try out romance writer Victoria Pinder (http://victoriapinder.com/). Kristin and Victoria have been my mentors in the South Florida Romance Writers, my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Of course, you should also pick up “Six Pack: Emergence” by blog host, Bob Morris.

15. What advice would you give to those who want to write a novel before they actually get started?
Pick a story that you can fall in love with. You’ll be spending a lot of time with it, so it has to come from a place close to your heart.

16. Tell me about your other experiences as a professional writer.
I enjoy writing in any capacity, and have over seventeen years of experience as a professional writer. I’ve worked in university communications, healthcare communications, software documentation, and financial communications. I earned a B.A. in English from Penn State University and an M.A. in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

17. Other than learning about obesity, were there other things you remember well about your time as the research communications director at University of Miami’s medical school?
One of the highlights of my time in that role was supporting and promoting the cutting-edge medical research that the physician-scientists conducted on the bench and in the clinics. The breadth of research was astounding—ranging from discovery science at the smallest molecular level to large, community-wide epidemiological studies.

18. What can you tell me about your experiences with snorkeling?
Snorkeling the South Florida waters in the summers is full of adventure – you never know what delightful sea creatures you will encounter along the colorful reefs. During my last snorkel, I swam with cuttlefish, an eel, a sting ray, a sea turtle, cow fish, puffer fish, and schools of sergeant majors, among many other marine life.

19. Can you tell me more about some of your favorite TV shows?
My current favorites are all crime dramas – I love a good whodunit, especially if it keeps me guessing until the end.

20. Who would win a battle of superhero skills: Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman?
Wonder Woman, hands-down. She even has the most recent movie!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What Goes Into A Star Rating?

The recent reviews I've posted got me thinking about the common method of rating books, movies or just about anything else: Star ratings.

What's funny about star ratings is that different sites can take the same star rating system but use each rating to mean different things. Take Amazon, for example. A three-star rating at Amazon means you think the book was OK and a two-star rating means you didn't like it. But go to Goodreads, and a three-star rating there means you liked the book while a two-star rating means it's OK. Neither site allows you to leave a "zero star" rating or indicate that you didn't finish the book for whatever reason (though you ma indicate as such in a review).

I could get into those people who used rating system on a scale of 1 to 4, or those who go with a 1 to 10 scale (though the latter types don't use stars -- maybe because they'd run out of room for a 10-star rating?), but I'll keep the focus on a five-star rating. Though I don't put up star ratings on my reviews and instead talk about what I like or didn't like about a book, I will give you my ideas of what a five-star rating system means to me, to include the "zero star" rating.

Five stars: Strong book overall. The strengths greatly outweigh the flaws. The characters are easily identifiable and the writing flows well.

Four stars: Great book overall. Strengths still outweigh the flaws, though the flaws are somewhat evident. But they don't take away from the overall quality of the book.

Three stars: Good book overall. Strengths outweigh the flaws, but the flaws are crucial ones. Improving those flaws would have made the book better, but it's still worth reading.

Two stars: Mediocre book overall. The flaws are greater than the strengths, though the strengths are easily identifiable. But it's not a book I would recommend.

One star: Weak book overall. Too many flaws that overwhelm what strengths there are. Take a pass on this book.

No stars: Didn't finish it. Flaws were so bad, they made me stop reading.

One's view of a star rating may differ, though. That's why I appreciate that most review sites explain their star ratings to people. But it's important for people to understand what reviewers consider when rating a book, rather than go into their own perceptions about what a star rating is.

It's also important to remember that some stories may not work for certain readers or reviewers. If somebody liked the concept of a book and somebody else didn't, the former person will give it a better rating than the latter. After all, people do take into account what appeals to them or what they are looking for the most when they review anything.

And that's where star ratings can sometimes be a problem. If people just look at the rating and don't take a deeper look at what reviwerers are saying or what they judge a book by, they aren't going to get the bigger picture about the book and whether or not it might appeal to them. Star ratings need to be looked at as one piece of information about a book, rather than the whole picture. And that's where the review itself comes in.

Even though I explained above what I consider a star rating to be, I'm not planning to put them up on my reviews here any time soon -- though sites like Amazon and Goodreads want you to do that, so I guess I'm stuck there!

Seriously, remember that what one person or site gives a star rating for may not be what another person or site may consider -- and that everyone looks for different aspects when considering which books appeal to them.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Review: High Summons

High Summons is the debut novel for Eli Celata, a fellow Clean Reads author. It's a fun read about Jon Blythe, a college student who knows he is gifted in magic but believes he can't find his purpose in life and wants to further explore magic in hopes he'll find that purpose.

He meets up with Jordan, who agrees to teach him more about the ways of magic, which leads to Jon joining Jordan in demon hunting. Jon learns quickly that it's more than he bargained for, as his ventures into the world of magic lead him and Jordan on a quest throughout the city of Rochester. Meanwhile, Jon struggles with his father leaving him at a young age and not being there for him to train him in the ways of magic.

I liked Eli's portraly of Jon Blythe and his struggles with his expectations about magic and demon hunting, where he not only has to learn why Jordan will only teach him so much at a time, but overcome his struggles with how to live a normal college life, knowing the dangers he must face... especially when he wants to spend time with his friends when more demons become aware of Jon's presence. And he must learn the answers as to why his father left him at a young age and why his mother didn't talk to him more about the things Jon could do.

The magical action is good and so was the world building. There were passages that left me confused, though, and points when the dialogue was lackluster. At those times, it made it difficult to follow the plot along.

But Eli's work in developing characters is what made the book work for me. Not only did I enjoy learning more about Jon Blythe, but about what makes Jordan tick, too. I am interested to see how their paths develop in future books.

Recommended read.