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Igor Stravinsky on Creativity

Some years ago, as I began to test the validity of my dream to write fiction, I got interested in the music of Igor Stravinsky. Everyone who loves classical music knows the three landmark ballets he composed before World War One and the noisy scandal one of them caused in Paris in 1912.

There's much more to Stravinsky's music than those three pieces, however. He wrote music for another 40 years or more. He was a pioneer who led the movement toward neoclassicism and late in life adopted twelve-tone proce3dures that Arnold Schoenberg introduced. Stravinsky's range in his later years was astonishing. He wrote operas, symphonies, concertos, more ballets, chamber works, songs, dramatic oratorios, orchestral pieces, sacred music and masterpieces like the "Symphony of Psalms", the "Symphony in C" and modernist works like "Threni", based on the biblical prophet Jeremiah's lamentations, and "Canticum Sacrum".

One aspect of Stravinsky's journey through life that fascinated me is secondary to his music. Like many of his contemporaries, political ups and downs affected him. He left Russia before the Bolshevik tyranny, lived in Switzerland and France, and fled Europe when the nazi's came to power. He moved to the U. S. settled in the the Los Angeles area and became an American citizen in 1946. All the time, in spite of wrenching dislocation, he kept on writing music.

I don't know how much of his music is played today but I suspect that many still believe that he had one of the 20th century's great creative minds. The nasty parts of life couldn't derail hin.

Now, the reason I bring this old story up is that while I carry out physical exercises late in the evening,  I've been listening to vinyl recordings of his music that I collected decades ago and also reading a print copy of lectures he gave at an American university that he called "Poetics of Music". The third chapter has particularly interested me, because in it he discusses the creative process.

It's dense reading, but I've been able to fashion a sequence out of his comments that goes like this:
The problem Stravinsky addresses is that "modern man is...losing his understanding of values and his sense of proportion" and "a failure to understand essential realities." Referring especially to trends in the Soviet Union, he writes that music is degraded to "servile employment and to vulgarities..." With regard to creativity, he lays down several propositions:

                                                             Beginnings
  • The importance of the will in creative work. He says that speculative volition is the origin of all creation. "I cannot help having the desire to create.
  • Inspiration is a secondary phenomenon. Primary is "balance and calculation, through which the breath of the speculative spirit blows", after which "the emotive disturbance at the root of inspiration may arise".
  • "Step by step, link by link, it will be granted (the artist) to discover the work."
  • "All creation presupposes at its origin a sort of appetite that is brought on by the foretaste of discovery."
  • He writes several times about the "pleasure of creation".
  • "We are called upon not to cogitate but to perform." Mozart said something similar, that all symphonies that remain in the composer's head amount to nothing.
  • "The act of invention implies the necessity of a lucky find and of achieving a full realization of this find."  

                                                                 At Work

  • Stravinsky emphasizes the prime importance of order and discipline.
  • He writes that he may come up against an unexpected occurrence and puts it to good use at the right time. 
  • The ability to observe always accompanies the power to create. We may recognize truly creative people by their ability to extract something worthwhile out of the "commonest and humblest thing".
  • We don't manufacture acccidents but observe them to take inspration  from them. Accidents are most likely the only things that truly inspire us. 
  • Composers work hard to gain the satisfaction they're looking for. 
  • The shock we receive from unforeseen obstacles awakens our power to create.
  • Stravinsky stresses the importance of culture and tradition. For him, tradition assures that creation will go on.  It's a heritage that comes to us with the stipulation that we use it fruitfully before we pass it on to the next generation. 

                                                                Conclusion

  • What's the creator's job? To examine the marerials his or her imagination sends, understanding that "human activity imposes limits on itself".
  • Stravinsky writes about being terrified at the start of new projects because of the multitude of possibilities that come tlo him.What's to guarantee a good piece of work if everything, both good and bad, is available to him? He finds rescue and true freedom in the notes of the scale and the twelve sounds in an octave and the varieties of rhythm.  
  • He tells us that the act of turning to concrete things like the notes of a scale frees him from the anguish of unrestrained freedom. He testifies that he has no use for what he calls "theoretic freedom". 
  • He dislikes talk of art as complete freedom. Art is like everything else: "one can build only upon a resisting foundation". He asserts that his freedom will be great and meaningful when he limits his "field of action".    

Stravinsky blames Richard Wagner's music dramas for the troubles for he offers a  remedy for. It would be difficult and very likely harmful to try to  dismiss Wagner and his followers from the musical scene.  Still, the rewards of building an opposing movement, as  Stravinsky suggests,  could be enormous and healing.

 

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Freedom;'s Light - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of: Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Rob was interrupted from his peaceful sleep by the ringing and vibrating of his phone.  He reached over Ashley to grab it, and what he heard coming from the other end of the line froze him, words that took some time to sink in:  "Eagle's Claw," the recording repeated over and over.  Rob put the phone down.  "Damn it!  Ashley, honey, you need to get up, sweetie," he said gently nudging her.  Ashley was slow to wake but realized something was dreadfully wrong, as soon as her sleepy eyes landed on his distressed face. "Rob, what is it?"  "Something bad has happened," Rob replied, frantically searching for the TV remove.  "I need to see the news.  There's been...some kind of major terrorist event," he said. 


What had happened was one of the worse attacks the U.S. had ever seen.  Two planes had just flown into the World Trade Center.

Rob is a member of an elite team called Light Force.  They were being sent on a mission to investigate and report back the activity that was taking place at a terrorist base in Afghanistan.  Washington believed it to be a missile with the intent to make another attack on the U.S.  What Rob and his team find is far more dangerous than a missile and they find themselves without radio contact in which to order an air attack.  Their only option is to destroy it themselves.

I'm not a fan of books regarding war but I did watch on television as the towers came crashing to the ground and the thousands of innocent people crashed with them.  After reading the first few pages of this book I found myself wanting to read more.  What takes place within the pages are fiction, I assume since I've never seen news of these events, but the possibilities of this having taken place are quite possible.  It brought home to me the true acknowledgement of those brave men and women who protect us every day at the risk of their own lives.  I recommend this book to be read by everyone in the hopes that the next time you see one of these brave men and women, you'll take a minute to stop and just say "Thank You!"

This is one of those books that I would love to see made into a movie.  You can bet I would go to the movies to see it!

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Do You Have Time to read Long Novels?

Long works of fiction -- collections of novels that tell the stories of one or more characters -- have been features of the literary scene for a long time. The oldest I can think of and that I've actually read in English translation is the Japanese epic "The Tale of Genji", that  Lady Murasaki wrote in the 11th century AD -- stories of the loves and battles of a charismatic prince.

In the western world, the 18th century English novel "Tom Jones" fills three volumes. But apart from a major exception I'll get to shortly, series of novels didn't come to prominence till the 20th century. Here are a few examples:

  •  "The Forsyte Saga" by John Galsworthy.
  • The underrated "Parade's End" about World War One by Ford Madox Ford.
  • The "Regeneration" trilogy also about World War One by Pat Barker. 
  • "The Sword of Honor" set during World War Two by Evelyn Waugh .
  • The twelve volume "Dance of the Music of Time" by Anthony Powell
  • A series about Frederica Potter and others that starts with "The Babel Tower" by A. S. Byatt.
  • The Snopes trilogy by William Faulkner.
  • "The Deptford Trilogy" by the Canadian Robertson Davies.  
  • The mountaintop in the form is doubtless Marcel Proust's  "Remembrance of Things Past".
  • A proliferation of multi-novel series is now available on the internet as ebooks and often in print. I'm now reading the first novels of two: one by Christopher Gray, the other by Robert Hobkirk. 

To me, it's remarkable that so many novel sequences are available, when up-to-date folks tell us that the number of readers is going down and that people concentrate only in short spurts. We can usually find more to life than what current statistics tell us.

Novel sequences can bring readers several benefits:

  • Prose versions of whole societies while they focus on several lives. 
  • Worlds to lose ourselves in and explore.
  • They give authors and readers space and scope to explore thoroughly characters and situations.
  • Like other works of art, they can inspire readers and writers to stretch themselves.

In regard to the last point, I can mention that a five-novel series of my own called "Witnesses" is available as an ebook on kindle and as paperback on Create Space. The first novel is called "In the Time of the Scythians".

As for the exception I referred to, the German writer Goethe wrote a multi-volume novel called "Wilhelm Meister". He divided his novel into two parts: Wilhelm's "Apprenticeship" and his "Years of Travel". He worked on it for decades, from the 1770's through the 1820's. His labor received a reward, for it's now considered the first novel about a person's education or "bildungsroman". It came to be regarded highly after his death. Schopenhauer, for example, called it one of the four great novels. He said: "Where we were looking for pleasure, happiness and joy, we often find instruction, insight and knowledge, a lasting and real benefit in place of a fleeting one. This idea runs like a bass-note through Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; for this is an intellectual novel and is of a higher order than the rest." (quote from wikipedia).   

Goethe didn't follow novelistic conventions. He relied on narrative, "telling" rather than "showing" and didn't take the trouble to devise a plot. A couple of features stand out for me as I move into re-reading the second volume of the "Apprenticeship". Goethe and his hero both enjoyed the privileges of the upper middle class -- money, confidence, ease of movement. but he had a wide rather than narrow view of society. He included in his story members of the old German aristocracy and also working people, actors, and gave a sense that society worked well, in spite of numerous complaints. Apart from a band of vicious robbers. all contributed to the welfare of the whole. An old, eccentric, impoverished harpist and his young female companion Mignon stand out as creations of a first-rate artist. At least as an author, Goethe appeared to lack the snobbery that we often associate with exceptionally fortunate people.

A related  feature is the spirit of the piece. Even in the midst of crisis, Wilhelm acts as if all will go well and works to impart his assurance to others. I found his kindness to Mignon and the harpist especially memorable during my first reading of this story and look forward to reading again a sublime moment that comes later on.

This work has more to offer than I've hinted here. I have no doubt that as is the case with other long novels, readers will make their way to Wilhelm Meister for inspiration and a writer's knowledge of life...even in today's world.

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Ghost Hunting Diary Volume VI - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of: Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Nearly every call I get pleading for help from a person distressed over a haunting begins with them insisting they have a demon in their home.  In thirty years of investigating the paranormal, I've only encountered what I believe were three actual demons.  Unfortunately for me, one of those infiltrated my own home and tried to abolish what I hold dear.  Have no doubt - demons are real, and they're the nastiest, most malicious entities on the face of the earth.  They have no conscious, and while they do know right from wrong, wrong and destruction of your life (both physically and emotionally) are what they wish on their human prey.  They have patience far beyond anything within our human ability and begin their destructive infiltration slowly, in a barely perceptive manner.  If not exposed early on and banished, they will weak havoc on your entire life.

I believe I've read everything written by Author T. M. Simmons and am never disappointed.  In Book VI we go through crossing overs, of those that didn't take advantage of the crossing when they died.  You'll learn about one of her favorite cemeteries 'Cottonwood Cemetery' as well as an old nursing home 'Calvert' where many have died and many are still hanging around.  But for the first time since I've been reading this Author's work, I've never heard her write about demons and after reading her experience with one that invaded her home, I'm glad to hear that they are seldom encountered.

You may not believe in ghosts, spirits, demons, nor other super-natural beings but I can assure you that if that is the case, after reading this book you'll at least start questioning your belief.  I personally feel that I've run into maybe 2 spirits in my life.  One was standing on the side of the road in front of a cemetery.  It was raining and when lightning flashed I saw him with a child standing there in the pouring rain.  After the flash, it was gone.  No there was no place for them to hide.  The area was open and even if they ran they wouldn't have been able to hide.  This little experience was what made me want to learn more about spirits.  Yes I said learn about the, not see any more of them.  The more I read and learn the more I want to stay 'unseeing.'

So, if you are in the least bit curious, this book, along with the whole series of Ghost Hunting Diary, are a must read.  I've surely enjoyed them.  This author also writes some really good mysteries involving some of her ghosts.  Check out Silent Prey and Northwood Prey for some enjoyable reading.

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Photo courtesy of augustacrime.com.

To perform a successful crime scene investigation, there are a myriad of individual procedures used by investigators. And, of course, different crimes call for specific methods. Despite, however, the various tactics and circumstances, individual investigators generally utilize the following nine universal steps in order to conduct a fruitful and efficient crime scene investigation.

Establish Scene Dimensions / Identify Potential Hazards

An investigator must initially locate the main area of the disturbance, i.e. the focal point of the crime. This could be a ransacked living room, a traffic intersection where a collision occurred or a remote part of nature where a murder took place. Once the focal point has been ascertained, the investigator creates a radius of the area, in which all the immediate, relevant physical evidence may be present.

It behooves the investigator to create a relatively large radius, due to the fact that it is much easier to later condense the crime scene than enlarge it. It would be detrimental to the investigation if the area was too small, and crucial evidence (outside of the area) was compromised by onlookers or the media.

In addition to establishing the focal point’s radius, the investigator must identify the potential areas of ingress and egress of the criminal. The safety of all people in the area must also be taken into consideration. Therefore, any sort of hazardous materials, weapons or intentional traps must be identified.

Secure the Perimeter

Every single person who enters and exits the crime scene will “add or subtract” crucial material from the crime scene. Thus, it is vital that the lead investigator secure the area as quickly as possible.

In order to control access, the scene is generally cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape or other methods, such as rope or cones.  Further,  an entrance is established for all personnel to use when entering and exiting the scene. Once the common entryway has been created, all people who enter and leave the area must be documented. For larger and more complex crime scenes, additional consultation and evidence storage areas may be created.

Organize and Communicate

Prior to the collection of evidence, the crime scene investigators must develop a theory concerning what exactly transpired at the scene. Once the team has a working knowledge of what type of crime occurred, the investigators will be more prepared to anticipate what kind of evidence may be present.

A method for developing the crime theory is to interview witnesses, or persons of interest. Once the investigators have obtained sufficient information, the team will develop their strategy for collecting evidence.

Perform Initial Survey of Scene

A preliminary crime scene survey is performed in an effort to prioritize the collection of evidence. While conducting the scene walkthrough, the lead investigator will identify and take photos of important evidence.

Investigators will also document certain aspects of the crime scene, so that the scene conditions are properly captured. For example, the investigators will note weather conditions, the exact position of items such as furniture, the presence of any smells and whether the lights were on or off.

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Photo courtesy of linkedin.com.

Process the Scene

After the plan has been established and the initial survey has been performed, the crime scene investigators conduct a diligent, thorough and coordinated investigation of the scene. At that time, the team will collect all probative evidence. The collection of evidence includes the proper digital documentation of the scene and evidence, which also may include 3D scanners, diagrams, models and sketches.

While the collection of evidence is being conducted, it is vital that all investigators follow strict protocol in the collection, packaging and preservation of the evidence. If the integrity of any of the evidence is compromised, it could hinder the investigation and eventual prosecution.

Conduct Second Walkthrough

For quality control purposes, a secondary walkthrough is conducted by the lead investigator so as to ensure that the entire crime scene has been thoroughly searched.

Preserve and Record Evidence

In order to ensure that all collected evidence has been documented, the investigation team will create an inventory log. Each piece of evidence is described in the log, and such description must match the photo of the evidence and the crime scene report description.

The evidence log and crime scene report establishes the chain of custody, which will follow the evidence throughout the duration of the case.

Perform Final Survey

The final survey allows the investigators to conduct a critical review of all aspects of the crime scene investigation. Each team member participates in the final survey to ensure that no inadvertent errors are found in the documentation, and that the paper trail is thorough, accurate and complete.

One last search of the area is performed to ensure evidence was not overlooked in hidden or hard to access sections of the crime scene.

Release Crime Scene

Once the final survey has been completed, the lead investigator or other authorized persons may release the crime scene. Oftentimes, in order to gain re-entry to a released crime scene, a warrant is required.

I thoroughly enjoy the topic of crime scene analysis and investigation. I hope you found this article both informative and interesting. And, most importantly, I hope you learned something about the fascinating world of criminal science.

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Books: Compulsion  Dead Game  Dark Mind Dead Burn Dark Pursuit

Silent Partner  Screenwriting

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 COMING SOON!

Find out how heroine Emily Stone conducts her crime scene invesitgations.

DEAD COLD, An Emily Stone Thriller

DeadCold

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Trudy, Madly, Deeply - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of: Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and a Dish


Gloria's unpainted lips pulled back into a lopsided grin. "Weren't you the one who sold me a cinnamon roll last Thursday?"

"That would be me."

"Interesting career path."


Tell me about it.'  I just prayed that path wouldn't lead to me wearing my breakfast on my shoes before the day was over.


She grabbed a form from behind the counter and slid it toward me.  "Fill this out."


Fifteen minutes later, Gloria handed me a laminated badge with the county seal that looked about as official as my library card.


"That's it?"


"That's it, hon.  She patted me on the hand.  "Try not to lose it or do anything to get the county sued."

Charmaine 'Char' Digby had just been sworn in a a deputy coroner.  Her last job, at Duke's Cafe, owned by her great-uncle Darrell Duquette, was where she served meals to most of those she would now be working with and unfortunately some that she would be investigating.

Her first 'case' turned out to be the death of a family friend who had been hospitalized for pneumonia but turned up dead due to asphyxiation.  According to one of the doctors, this was a bit unusual.  Apparently the Doctor didn't believe her death was an isolated incident.  There appeared to be several more recovering patients that died mysteriously, just before being released.  Char's task now is to find the person responsible for these deaths before another happens.

This book turned out to be one that was so different from any I've ever read.  It was an enjoyable book to curl up with at night.  It had humor and suspense, which made it even more appealing.  I followed Char through her suspicions and agreed with her, at times.  But when the true story of what was going was disclosed I was shocked.  It wasn't the 'who nor why' that I expected.  I'm now ready to go to the next chapter with Char in Book 2 'Sex,Lies, and Snickerdoodles.'

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For about a year now, I've been sending newsletters to people who signed up for an email list I've been building. I usually send out letters twice a month and feature whichever of my novels is free on kindle for five days that week. I've just finished a letter to tell readers that the fourth novel in the one series I've written will be free for five days. The email will go out Monday at 10:00 am.

While I worked on this brief message, I realized that I wanted to do the best I could to get readers to know about the series I call "Witnesses". For one thing, it covers a swath of American history, from a 17th century war between English colonists, who wanted native land, and a coalition of tribes who hoped to drive the intruders out of their territory. The bloody war they waged was costly to both sides, especially to the natives.

The series also includes references to later American conflicts -- the Civil War, 19th century battles between natives and the American military, and a losing conflict in Asia in the latter half of the 20th century. I also invented accounts of a fictitious battle in the recent past that the American government and concerned citizens fight against an imaginary cult called the Scythians.

So the five novels of "Witnesses" highlight armed conflict as a long-standing part of American life.

The special emphasis of the series is that it portrays the effects of war on the lives of ordinary people who didn't start fights but must deal with them. The people in the series cope bravely and competently with crises that disrupt families, communities, and nations. They reflect on their experiences and tell or write their stories in hopes that others will benefit by gaining courage to endure or hope that hardships will pass or finding inspiration to search their own experiences and share their knowledge of the world and its quandaries.

When I wrote the early drafts, "Witnesses" was one long, unwieldy novel. I broke it up into five parts and added new material. It took me 25 years of steady work, with an  interruption or two, to get it in shape so that I was satisfied that people could read it.

Throughout the time of revision and my attempts to overcome fears that no one would want to spend time with my work, "Witnesses" kept its nature as an experiment in narrative. The novels consist of eight novellas and 14 short stories with two narratives around and between them. One is about Paul Kingsley, who wrote the stories and novellas, while the other concerns the editor Stephanie Markham, who brings Kingsley's writings together,  arranges the surrounding material, and tells part of her own story.

To explain why warfare and America's past hold my attention so much, I can say that after finishing undergraduate work with a degree in history, I served for four years as an enlisted man in the American army, with a year and a half in Bangkok at the start of our war in Vietnam. After that, I went home to eastern Massachusetts, whose history has always been close to my heart. I can add that I've been an ardent reader of fiction since I was a teenager, and still am.  My ambition has been to make a contribution to the art of story-telling, as a witness myself. In other words, there's a lot of me, in disguised form. in this collection of novels. My task now is to find readers for it.

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Studying Other Writers

I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing. I try to write every day, I keep a journal. Whenever I read a particularly good book, I write a review for myself. Sometimes I’m so impressed with the author’s writing style, the seamless way in which a story is told combining all the right elements, in the right proportion, I study the author’s technique; not for the purpose of imitating his/or her style, but to understand what makes one author’s writing stand out from another’s.  

 

In most novels the following elements are present in one form or another - protagonist, antagonist, conflict(s), setting, dialogue, exposition, theme, minor characters, storyline, plotting. But it is the way those elements are put together that distinguishes good writing from bad. I recently read a novel that contained all the above elements; however, as I read I was aware of the author’s missteps and rather than losing myself in the world the author had created, I found myself noticing the problems with the novel. It’s like making a cake. One might put all the ingredients together, but if they are not in the right proportion, the cake will taste awful. 

 

While one can learn to write a novel in a relatively short period of time, reading well-written novels can elevate the writer’s sense of aesthetes. In art schools, students are taught to study the masters. I’m not suggesting that beginning writers have to study Shakespeare, Milton, Twain, Dickens or other writers of a period long ago. It can help; however, there are excellent novelists writing today. What I am suggesting is that when you come across a novel that moves you - not just the storyline itself, but in the way the story unfolds, by how the various elements come together to create a whole – believable characters, authentic dialogue, vivid settings, complex plotting, and a theme that resonates long after you put the book down, reread it or examine passages as one would study a painting or a textbook. Note what the author did that captivated you. Ask yourself how the author made you give up your time, lose yourself to spend hours, days, even weeks to enter his/her world.

 

My reading lists spans continents. I read widely. I read fiction as well as non-fiction, and poetry as well as drama. If you were to ask well-known authors for their reading list you’ll find they read widely, too. In essence, reading good writing enhances your own. 

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On Book Marketing: Organic Growth

A week or so ago, I stopped in at the Book Exchange in west Toronto. During my visit, I had a chat with Tom Colson, the owner, who's well-informed about many things, including present-day conditions in business. He told me that thanks to big box discounters and on-line shopping, many retailers could expect a spell of rough going. He showed me an article in a Toronto paper about declining sales at two well-established clothing chains.

He also introduced me to the concept of organic growth, as opposed to aggressive methods that some business folks use to make money quickly, which sometimes work out and sometimes don't.

Tom's comments brought to mind one of my favorite subjects these days: book-marketing. Some writer-publishers adopt what looks like an organic strategy: write the best books you can, publicize them thoroughly, increase your reach, get to know other writers, be patient.

It's easy to find other ways writers use to create and market their books: figure out what's selling now, write in those genres, and take advantage of the latest marketing techniques: videos, keyword and category research, etc., and pay one of a dozen experts who'll show you how to multiply sales.

At the same time, marketing by organic growth  has strong supporters, too.  I recently read and re-read a book by Dan Blank called "Be the Gateway", which advocates procedures that fit in with organic growth.

A gateway is the means by which a writer or musician or visual artist brings interested people to their work. Let's use ourselves as an example. The first step is to identify our story or narrative and express it in a way that's congenial to our intended audience, in other words to connect our narrative with theirs. Fox example, supposing the theme of our work is the proverbial rags to riches story. In marketing material -- email, blogposts, on social media, in conversations, ads, or public speaking -- we emphasize that our work will inspire people to move beyond forces that oppressed them in the past and strive for fulfillment, freedom of mind, and courageous hearts.

Along the way, we find help from the marketing activities of other artists, not the big stars, but people a bit ahead of us on the road. We read their blogposts, sign on to their email lists, study reviews of their work, research people who follow them and make contact with these fans when we can by email or social media.

Our goal is to learn as much as we can about people we want to include in our target audience. We learn who they are, what drives them, and how our gateway lines up with their interests.

Often, building our audience is a matter of dealing with one person at a time, in conversation or through contact on-line. Dan Blank advises us to invest in the people in front of us who are interested in our work. Focus on individuals, he says, rather than abstract numbers, like how many twitter followers we have.

He describes his method as a four-step procedure:

  1. We look for like-minded people.
  2. We let them know the similarities between them and us.
  3. We share with them what we have in common.
  4. We shape the conversation by asking questions and listening to what they have to say.

As I read "Be the Gateway", I found several comments that especially got me thinking:

  1. Don't wait for people to find your gateway. Bring them to the gateway one by one and help them walk through.
  2. A quote from Brian Eno: "Stop thinking about works of art as objects and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences."
  3. A quote from Leo Babauta: "Frustration stems from focusing on what we don't have. The antidote is appreciating what's already here."
  4. "Creative work fails to find an audience when the creator assumes a value in the work that the ideal audience can't see because the creator didn't make it clear to them."
  5. "Fear is the biggest barrier. We resist stepping out of comfort zones to connect with people who can help us."
  6. "What lasts is not how we react to something but what we create."

Dan Blank's mind works differently from mine, so I had to think to make sense of some of what he wrote. As a result, I found his work both encouraging and potentially useful. He communicates well the value of organic growth.  

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Charge of an Angel - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of: Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

"I will never know who I would have been if this hadn't happened to me.  That is so hard for me to live with.  I don't know the real person I was, and I never will.  How can I live with something like that?  I feel robbed - cheated.  First, my mother and my brother are taken from me.  I found out that my father is not my father, and then I find out my virginity, youth, and innocence was stolen right in front of my face.  Why me?"

Her name is Leona Marie Tillard and her life has been turned inside out.  One night she, her mother, father and two brothers went to bed as a family.  When she woke her mother was gone.  Sometime later her brother went away and Daddy will tell her nothing about where they are or why she can't see them.  Daddy was lost without her mother and needed someone to 'comfort' him.  With Leona being the only female in the house, she stepped into that position.  Then comes her Daddy's marriage to another woman who has three children of her own and her family is complete again.  So she thought.

When I ask Author Linda Wattley if this book was fact or fiction she assured me it is both.  After talking to her, we both confirmed we knew young girls who were put into a position of being sexually abused by parents, other relatives, and adults that were in their lives.  The same adults that were supposed to take care of them and lead them in the right direction chose instead to impose their own sick needs on these innocent children.  And in some instances they even included boys in their desires.

Are the children to be blamed for not telling?  No way.  The threats they receive if they tell is too fearful.  They are brainwashed to believe that what they are doing isn't wrong. Supposedly, it's all done as an act of love, a way of showing love, and proving they are loved.  If they are found out they are treated by others as being sick as well and that they should have known better, known it was wrong, refused what was being done to them.  How can you know something is wrong if someone who is supposed to take care of you and teach you right from wrong is committing the crime against you?  You simply can't.

Charge of an Angel is book one of three.  It takes you through the abuse that Leona endures, her feelings, and her ways of escaping from realty.  It will make you hurt for her and those like her.  It will make you want to really hurt the person doing this to her.  And it will have you waiting to see how life treats her as she gets out of her abusive life and goes on as a young adult.  I know I'm patiently waiting on book 2.

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Photo courtesy of le.ac.uk.

Forensic science is a world filled with mystery, intellect and instinct. During a forensic investigation, every morsel of evidence discovered could be crucial, and no detail is too small. It truly is a fascinating science, and here are five captivating facts that will ignite your imagination

Forensic Science Has a Long History

There is evidence that forensic analysis was used around 44 B.C when Julius Caesar’s private physician conducted an autopsy of Caesar’s body after his assassination. The physician was named Antistius, and he was able to determine which wounds to Caesar caused his ultimate demise. The forensic discovery of which wounds led to his death, allowed the investigators to determine who used the fatal weapons.

In 1235 A.D, a book was written in China called “The Washing Away of Wrongs.” The author details the account of a murder being solved due to flies gathering on a sickle. Supposedly, the investigator was able to determine there was dried (practically invisible) blood on the sickle, and that the flies gathered on the sickle to feed off the blood. The investigator’s revelation of this fact led to the confession of the murderer.

Forensic Methods are Not Foolproof

If you watch enough television, you would think that a criminal’s days are numbered if there is any forensic evidence linking them to the crime. The reality is, however, that forensic data is wrong sometimes. Not a lot. But sometimes. Two common methods of forensic evidence used to convict a person are fingerprinting and bullet ballistics.

Fingerprinting

Prior to the advent of the modern automated fingerprinting system, well-trained experts would manually match the fingerprints lifted at a crime scene with those of the accused. This would often entail endless hours of looking through hard copies of fingerprints. Modern methods have made this process much more efficient and accurate. The fingerprint search and match can be completed within minutes (sometimes seconds.) Although the days of sifting through thousands of records to find a match are gone, even the most experienced forensic analyzer will admit that there still is no statistical guarantee that the  matching of fingerprints is 100% accurate.

Bullet Ballistics

With respect to bullet ballistics, the process goes like this. Each gun has a unique surface within its barrel. When the gun is fired, the bullet flies through the barrel and is imprinted by its unique grooves. The bullet then impacts an object, and is therefore damaged. So, when the ballistics investigator conducts the  investigation, they must use a meticulously, precise technique to match the damaged bullet with the correct gun. But, before that can occur, the investigators first have to find the bullet and the alleged gun. There is a lot of work, which requires extreme attention to detail. Thus, it is evident that even the smallest miscalculation can lead to an inaccurate match.

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Photo courtesy of scitechconnect.elsevier.com.

Head of Information

A highly efficient method used by forensic scientists in identifying a person’s remains is a process called cranial morphology. People that hail from different regions of the world oftentimes have different shaped skulls. The different features are generally found in the face and palate areas of the cranium.

Forensic anthropologists will examine a skull and be able to determine if the person’s ancestry is of European, African, Native American or Asian descent. The scientific method is generally 85% accurate in determining the racial ancestry of the remains.

Crime Solving Bugs

Well, maybe bugs do not really solve a crime, but investigators do study the little critters to determine certain elements of a mystery. The science behind this is known as forensic entomology, which is essentially the study of insects at crime scenes.

For example, the materials found inside a maggot’s stomach can lead investigators down the right path to figuring out how long a body has been decomposing. Moreover, a particular insect’s “activity time” at a crime scene can aid scientists in determining the time in which the crime occurred. Also, as certain bugs are only indigenous to certain locations, investigators can narrow the place of the crime based on the insects present on the possibly relocated corpse.

Your Mouth Hides the Clues

When it comes to precise identification, your teeth are usually the most reliable method used by forensic investigators. In fact, teeth are used to accurately identify the remains of a body in over 93% of these type of cases.

Teeth are made from the same material as bones, and each person’s dental imprint is unique. So, you combine the durability of bones with the unique character of each person’s teeth, and the end result is precision.

We have all seen movies in which the charred remains of a person are identifiable simply because of their teeth. But, dental imprints can be used in more subtle methods as well. For example, the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy was excellent at alluding law enforcement. His intelligence and cunning made him a worthy adversary. His downfall however was the bite marks he left on the butt of one of his victims. The forensic investigators were able to match his teeth to the bite marks on the murder victim. This crucial piece of evidence led to his eventual conviction.

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Forensic science is such an interesting field, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to share all of this information with you. Continue to check out my blog for more updates on forensic science, criminology, and the world of criminal justice.

 

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Books: Compulsion  Dead Game  Dark Mind Dead Burn Dark Pursuit

Silent Partner  Screenwriting

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 SOON TO BE RELEASED!

DEAD COLD, An Emily Stone Thriller

DeadCold

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An invitation to "Art & Soul"

If you are within striking distance of the San Francisco Bay Area, I invite you to the special day of inspiration for writers and all creative artists . . .

Art & Soul
A Workshop/Retreat on the Gifts and Ministry
of Creative People

Presented by Alfred J. Garrotto
June 24, 2017 — San Damiano Retreat, Danville, CA
9 a.m.—4 p.m.

To register, call or contact San Damiano Retreat directly:
http://www.sandamiano.org
or call:
(925) 837-9141

$55 per person (lunch included)

Based on the presenter’s book, The Soul of Art, this workshop/retreat focuses on the creative gifts of both professional and aspiring writers, actors, composers, dancers, fine artists, musicians, playwrights, et al. The God-given talents of artists of all genres uplift humankind and lead audiences to deeper awareness of life’s higher meaning.

Participants will explore the divine source of their own gifts and inspirations and take away with them even greater joy in sharing them.

Attendees of all faiths are invited.

Contact Information
algarrotto@comcast.net
www.alfredjgarrotto.com

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Deadly Gamble - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

Working on a case for Stacy North would have probably been the last item ever on my agenda.  Stacy had been my best friend and roommate in college.  My best friend, right up until the day she eloped with my finance, Brad North.  Although I came to realize later that it was all for the best, such situations do tend to put a damper on friendships.  So when she came to my office asking for my help in recovering a 'stolen/lost' Rolex watch Brad had given her for Valentines day just two weeks earlier, my first thoughts were no way.  But there was a desperation in her eyes that pulled me back from throwing her out.

Charlie Parker and her brother Ron  are partners in RJP Investigations.  Charlie normally acts as the accountant while Ron does the dirty work but he was out of town at the moment and Stacy was desperate.  She had to recover the watch before the next night so Brad wouldn't find out it was missing.  As Charlie started to pull the details out of a tight mouthed Stacy, she found that the person who took the watch was a bit more than a thief.  Apparently he was also a lover.  But after finding out that the watch had been pawned at a local Pawn shop, Charlie was able to retrieve it and return it to Stacy.  End of story.  End of case.   Well, it would have been the end had it not been for a murder that takes Charlie and Stacy deeper into an investigation that will end with Stacy being the main suspect.

I turned page after page looking for hints as to who the murderer really was.  I knew who I hoped it would be.  I knew who it wouldn't be.  I knew who I thought it would be.  Turns out that I was wrong all the way around and was in for a total surprise at the end.  This book really took me on a thrilling mystery.  I loved it and can't wait to read book 2 'Vacations Can Be Murder.'

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All Lies - Lies #1 - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

My father's last words to me were "I come from a long line of idiots..."  My family did have an abnormally high incidence of stupidity running through its genes.  As far back as I could determine, my ancestors - the men, to be specific - were known for their questionable actions, actions that usually left them dead.

I (on the other hand) was 38 years old, but had never really lived.  I had no passions - well, other than baseball, which can be a pretty solitary interest.  I'd always been one of those invisible people.  If I was a character in a movie, I'd be the first one eaten by the shark.  I had worked at my current job for ten years and was good at my work.  I handled the customers well and, as far as I could determine, my staff all liked me.  I possessed a decent amount of common sense and problem-solving skills - a necessity of my job.

Del Honeycutt's life is about to take a full turn.  The death of his father will bring to light the history of crimes committed 85 years earlier by his great-grandfather and a few of his friends.  As he researches this unwanted history with the help of mystery writer Sabrina Spencer, he finds that not only is his life in danger but also the lives of Sabrina as well as the relatives of those they contacted regarding this long forgotten crime.

All Lies is unlike any book I've read.  The characters of most murder/suspense books are macho characters that decide they are the only ones that can handle the business at hand.  Not this one.  They actually acknowledge the police and even inform them (most of the time) while solving and ending the history of ancestors long gone.  This lack of 'Bad' Good Guy characters made this an easy book to read as well as one that I didn't want to put down.  If book 2 'Fatal Lies' is anywhere near as good as book one, I can't wait to jump into it!  I recommend this to all mystery readers.  It's a refreshing change.

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Soldier With A Backpack - Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

I always welcomed sleep because it was a form of escape from the grown up world.  When I would go to sleep, there was always an angelic presence waiting for me.  At the time, I didn't know it was this presence drawing me there, I just knew I couldn't wait to get there.  It was so normal to me that I never wanted to awaken.  In fact, it angered me that I had to wake up at all.  When I heard about the soldiers diagnosed with PTSD, and their struggle to have a decent night's sleep, I was confounded because it is like I am the total opposite of them.  My nightmares are more in the awakening state than the sleep state.  The world is a war zone to me.  My sensitivity to my environment is often times nerve-wracking.  The first thing I wanted to do in an uncomfortable moment is go to sleep.

Author Linda Diane Wattley writes about her life, from childhood to adult.  She writes of the horrors of being molested by someone close, watching the fights between her parents, the desertion of her mother and older brother, leaving she and her younger brothers in the presents of her father who later brings another family into their lives.  She shares all of her feelings as these events take place as well as the other horrors live deals her as an adult. 

As I read Soldier With A Backpack I couldn't help but relate to many of the events that took place in her life and how some of those events affected my life as an adult.  I know very few people who haven't commented on how 'hard their childhood was' myself included, but after reading what this author went through I can only thank God for the life I had as a child and my life as it was and is now as an adult.  I know several veterans who suffer with PTSD but never quite understood it until now.  I guess I also never realized that you don't have to be a veteran to suffer this mind fogging disorder.  There is one piece that the author included in the book that I must share.  It's actually by a Jim Kwik and fits all of us, with or without PTSD. 

Here it is "If an egg is broken by outside force, Life ends.  If broken by inside force, Life begins.  Great things always begin from inside."  If we could all remember and live by these two short sentences then there is nothing that we can't handle and deal with throughout our lives.  This is a book that I recommend to everyone!  Including young adults.

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New book completed and at the publisher

   My latest book is done and is at the publisher being edited and cover art being done.  It is the 4th book in the series of homicide Inspector Vince Torelli, San Francisco PD.  Titled "Blood Debt", it concerns the shooting of a double murder suspect by the SFPD whose death is not accepted as lawful by his family.  Family members travel to San Francisco to revenge his death and an ongoing game of cat and mouse ensues. 

   The investigation begins in San Francisco, goes to Tennessee, then back again to SF for the shocking conclusion.  The first chapter is available below, and, as with all my books, posted at my web page www.jschembra.com. ; I hope you will stop by and spend some time there to learn more about me and my books!

BLOOD DEBT by John Schembra, a Vince Torelli thriller:

Chapter One

 

 

Vince paced back and forth in front of his desk, hoping for the call from the Department Operations Center advising that the tactical team he had requested was ready and heading to the staging area. So far it had been two hours of waiting by the phone, drinking lukewarm, stale coffee.  His stomach was in turmoil and the delay was driving him crazy.

A few hours ago he had finally gotten an anonymous tip that led him to where Jimmy Lee was holed up, and after he and his partner, Bobby, had confirmed Jimmy was there a perimeter was established, effectively closing off all exits from the building. Bobby and several patrol officers and detectives were surrounding the apartment building where the suspect was hiding, trying to keep out of sight.   

 Over the last ten days Vince and his partner, Bobby Mattox, had been working a particularly frustrating homicide case. It was an especially brutal double murder that occurred at a less than sophisticated bar in the Tenderloin District. During a night of hard drinking the suspect had gotten into a fight with two dock workers after they began making fun of his southern accent, calling him a hillbilly and southern trash among other unsavory things, including references to his lack of intelligence and disparaging remarks about his mother. He had given almost as good as he got in the fight, but ultimately was beaten down by the two dock workers and thrown out of the bar.  As he picked himself up from the sidewalk, battered and bleeding, he could hear the laughter at his expense from inside the building.

Seething with anger, he staggered to his pickup truck, removed a three foot section of two inch iron pipe from the bed and walked back to the bar.  He opened the door and walked inside, holding the pipe alongside his leg so it was nearly unseen in the dim light.  All heads turned to look at him and several of the patrons pointed at him and started laughing again.  Spitting a gob of blood onto the floor, he said, “This ain’t over.”

The two men he had fought with were leaning against the bar, nursing their drinks, holding wet bar towels to their bruised faces when they noticed him.  They looked at each other, nodded, and one said, “Let’s get it done.”  They started walking toward him, saying, “You ain’t had enough yet, okie?  We got lots more for ya and this time you won’t be walkin’ away.”

He waited until they were within five feet of him before bringing the pipe up.  With a two handed grip, he swung it in a powerful sideways arc at the closest dockworker.  The pipe connected to the side of his head with a sharp crack, crushing his skull and knocking the dockworker sideways.  Blood spurted from the fracture in his skull as he collapsed, dead before he hit the floor.

The second dockworker stopped in his tracks and stared in shock at his friend lying on the floor, blood pooling around his head. He never saw the pipe coming and moments later he, too, was lying on the floor.  He would live for three more hours, dying on the operating table at the hospital.

Jimmy Lee left the bar and walked unhurriedly to his truck.  Tossing the bloody pipe to the ground, he casually got in and left the parking lot.  Fingerprints lifted from the pipe and the crime scene resulted in an NCIC hit identifying him as Jimmy Lee Jackson, a small time criminal originally from a small town 40 miles outside Memphis, Tennessee. 

Jimmy had arrived in San Francisco eight months earlier looking for work.  Finding a job with a janitorial service, he rented a small apartment in a seedy neighborhood and settled in.  He had few friends by choice, preferring to keep to himself.

It had not taken long for Vince to learn Jimmy Lee’s San Francisco address through the post office and within a few hours surveillance was placed on his apartment while the manager was contacted. He provided Vince with the name of the company Jimmy worked for and a description of his truck, including the license plate. Vince was told that Jimmy Lee had not been seen coming or going since the day before, nor had the manager seen Jimmy’s truck at the apartments.

Within twenty-four hours Vince had run out of leads as to Jimmy’s whereabouts, so he made a call to the family in Tennessee and talked with Jimmy’s brother Aldon.  He told him why he was looking for Jimmy and what Jimmy had done, asking if there was any friends or any family in the Bay Area with whom Jimmy might seek shelter and whether anyone in Tennessee had heard from him in the last couple of days.  Aldon said Jimmy Lee hadn’t contacted anybody in the family and they had no friends or family living in California. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide any other information that might help Vince.  He did tell Vince he was getting on the next plane and would be in San Francisco in a few hours. Vince asked him to call when he arrived in the City.

It seemed as if Jimmy Lee Jackson had dropped off the face of the earth.  No trace could be found of him in spite of the best efforts to get his picture out to the other detectives, patrol officers and sub-stations.  Vince even had flyers with Jimmy’s picture posted around the neighborhood where he had lived in the hope someone would see him and call the department.   After having identified the suspect within a few hours, the case had gone stale.

Aldon Jackson had stayed a few days, mostly wandering the Tenderloin talking to locals, trying to find his brother. He flew home, giving up his search when he couldn’t find out where Jimmy Lee had run to ground.

Vince called Bobby again using his portable radio to see if anything had changed since his last call. “Vince, nothing happened on this end in the last seven minutes since your last transmission. What about you?  Have you heard from Operations yet?”

“Not yet.  Should be anytime.  I’ll call you when I know the SWAT team is enroute.”

“OK.  We haven’t seen any movement from the apartment in the last two hours. Be assured we’ve got it sealed off.  He’s going nowhere, partner.”

“OK.  Talk to you soon I hope.  Out.”

Vince slammed the radio down on the desk in frustration and resumed his pacing, muttering to himself.  Looking at the clock he saw it was now 10:25 p.m.  He walked to the coffee station and poured himself another cup, then walked back to his desk and sat down.  Sipping the bitter, tepid brew he stared at the phone, willing it to ring.

Ten minutes later the phone did ring.  Vince snatched it up before the second ring. “Torelli.  Tell me the team’s ready,” he said.  A woman’s voice on the other end said, “Yes, Sir.  The SWAT team is on their way to the staging area.  ETA is less than 10 minutes.”  “Great,” Vince replied and hung the phone up.  He grabbed his body armor, pulling it over his head but not fastening the straps, and his black windbreaker with the yellow “POLICE” stenciled across the front and back and ran out of the office.

Vince drove like a madman, weaving through the thin traffic.  He did not turn on his emergency lights or siren to avoid drawing attention to himself and to not warn the suspect he was coming.  He pulled up to the staging area the same time as the SWAT team and contacted the SWAT Commander. After handing out photos of Jimmy lee and providing a short briefing, the team leader laid out the team’s assignments, designating the entry team and the follow-up officers.  He assigned Vince to follow the entry team, telling him not to enter until the apartment had been secured. Vince told the team leader he wanted to be with the entry team when they went in to make the arrest himself. After a minute or two of somewhat heated discussion, the team leader agreed with Vince’s demands. Though this was against their protocol, he knew Vince had been a SWAT officer for a few years when he was assigned to patrol, and was familiar with their procedures and techniques, plus he knew this was an unwinnable argument. Vince would be there with or without his permission.

Ten minutes later they were poised at the door to the apartment where Jimmy Lee was confirmed to be hiding. Using their breeching tool, the door was quickly smashed open and the first two team members rushed in, one covering the room to the right and one to the left.  The saw the room was empty and quickly moved toward the bedroom door, followed by Vince and two more of the SWAT team.  The entry team positioned themselves to either side of the door, waiting while Vince, crouched down to the right side called out, “Jimmy Lee Jackson. This is Inspector Vincent Torelli of the San Francisco Police Department.  We have a warrant for your arrest.  Come out slowly with your hands up.”

Immediately, three gunshots sounded from inside the bedroom, the bullets ripping through the flimsy door and impacting the far wall.  Vince heard running inside the room, then a window breaking.  Grabbing his radio, he keyed the transmit button and shouted, “Shots fired, shots fired.  Suspect is armed and fired on officers.  Heads up at the rear, he may be coming out the bedroom window.”

As the SWAT team prepared to enter the bedroom Vince heard shouting from outside the apartment, then a fusillade of shots.  More shouting occurred, then silence.  A few seconds later his radio crackled to life. An excited voice shouted into the radio, “Shots fired to the rear of the apartment.  Suspect is down.  I repeat suspect is down.  We have one officer down and need an ambulance.  Suspect has been neutralized.”

Vince sat down on the floor.  “Ah, shit” he exclaimed.

 

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A Book-Marketing Challenge

Experts at book marketing have recommended that writers promote their work by telling their personal stories in a way that will benefit the readers they hope to reach. That’s quite a challenge for people who like to focus on their work and aren’t accustomed to calling attention to themselves, but anyone can give it a try, including me. So here goes.

 

I’ve read a fair amount of material by authorities who recommend that writers study the market and write what a sizable portion of the market wants. As far as fiction is concerned, the bestsellers are romance, erotica, thrillers and mysteries – important information for people who want to make a living from their writing. I’ve read, for example, that more than 40 percent of all ebooks sold are romance novels, partly because of the marketing skills of the people who write them.

 

Myself, since I began writing long before the internet and self-publishing existed and earned my income in other ways, I didn’t follow the pattern of any popular genre but wrote what I thought I could do my best at. As a result, I have 13 literary fiction novels available as kindle ebooks and also as print-on-demand paperbacks from Amazon’s CreateSpace.

 

The question is -- if I follow expert advice and tell you something about my writing and my own story, what will you and other readers gain?  

       

  1.        Persistence and a lot of work usually bring results. If I can work for decades on writing projects I cared about and still do, so can other people.
  2.     Some people who’ve read parts of my work have felt inspired to continue with or take on creative projects of their own. Maybe they thought they could do a better job. If so, good for them.
  3.     I suspect that my novels will bring readers into environments they haven’t experienced before. And offer new perspectives, fresh ways of seeing.
  4.     As much as I admire Shakespeare’s great tragedies, a dark view of life doesn’t come naturally to me. Many problems can be solved. Very few people live with calamity day after day. My characters pass through emotional, physical, and spiritual difficulties that they use their skills to overcome. I hope that my novels will encourage readers to be upbeat about life.

Here are a few characteristics of my work:

  1.      Some of our best novels – “Madame Bovary”, “Huckleberry Finn”, “David Copperfield”, “Pride and Prejudice” – focus on one character or situation for hundreds of pages. My novels often deal with communities rather than individuals – extended families, a theater company, people involved with a war in 17th century America, and more. I frequently tell more than one story in  a novel. 
  2.       Many of my characters are middle-class people, though that term wasn’t so common in the pre-Revolutionary America I’ve often written about. I like to emphasize the lives of ordinary folks – soldiers, teachers, artists, a museum guard, a bookseller. I like their courage, honesty, and ability to endure. 
  3.       I discovered a while back as I reviewed my work that my novels have a common theme: renewal – of individuals, families, communities. 
  4.       Another way to look at my novels is that they give one writer’s view of life in a democracy. Every way of life has flaws. Our current form of democracy favors the preferences of the majority. Anyone who strives to excel or who needs special care can walk a lonely path. And money gets more attention than is good for us. On the other hand, our form of democracy allows people to be themselves, to mingle freely with others, and to strive to improve their situations, which can mean being helpful to their neighbors.
  5.       Though I like to think that our superb literary tradition inspired my novels, I’ve experimented with narrative format. I’ve put two time periods, centuries apart, side by side in alternating chapters. Another novel includes its main character’s dreams, poems, letters to his late wife, misadventures with the devil, and a fictionalized biography he wrote about a 17th century predecessor. I’ve written a five-novel series that weaves together novellas about a 17th century war, stories from another war in the 20th century, and a campaign against a destructive cult.
  6.        I’ve read more than once that sales of literary fiction are anemic. Does that discourage me? No. A person who believes in something will keep on with it never mind that prevailing winds    blow in other directions. I hope the work I’ve done will have enough exposure and arouse sufficient interest for others to say, “Yes, I have the staying power myself to create a body of work that’s original and uplifting even if it takes me a long time and no one is paying attention.”  We begin to find the solution to the last challenge when we understand that it's possible to find ways to encourage readers to pay attention. 
  7.           I should note finally  . I’m a retired pastor with the Lutheran Church- Canada, I believe that a Christian understanding of life permeates my writing.     

 

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Just a Touch Dead - Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

My long, pillar-box-red hair fanned out around my head like a vibrant halo, my fringe artfully covering one eye.  It looked great, really thick and shiny.  Why couldn't I get it to look like that normally?  I looked closer.  No, it wasn't my hair, or it wasn't just my hair, it was a rapidly spreading pool of blood from the back of my head colouring the pavement.  Huh.  But at least my white Christian Dior trouser suite was blood free.  I'd have died it that'd had any bloodstains on it.  Oh, wait.  No, I couldn't be dead.  If I was dead I wouldn't be floating around watching.  I'd just be, well, dead.  Right?

Meet Bridget Sway.  She has been hit by a bus but she isn't really dead.  At least that's what her 'angel' Charon has told her.  She is simply on a 'day trip' giving the doctors a chance to pump her body full of drugs so it won't hurt so much when she pops back in.

Charon had her board a bus filled with a group of crying people.  Something just wasn't right but she agreed to go along for the ride.  Then Charon explained to her that the other people on the bus were actually dead.

This book grabbed me from the beginning.  It's actually a short book serving as an introduction to Bridget Sway.  It has a touch of humor, while giving you a touch of the dark side of what Bridget finds in the afterlife.  For me - I have developed the desire to read the next book in the series... Beyond Dead.

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Curst the Day - Annabel Chase, Author

Curse the Day - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

Daniel carried me in his arms like I'd watched Superman carry Lois Lane countless times, except Daniel didn't wear a unitard.  This time I forced my eyes to stay open so I could watch the town pass beneath our feet.  No easy feat for someone with my anxiety issues.  It was, for lack of a better word, magical.  I saw the church spire on a distant hill and the clock tower in the town square.  The town was bustling with people, or creatures that looked remarkably like people, and the buildings seemed to stretch beyond the horizon.

I still felt the need to pinch myself.  Today I'd met an angel, two fairies, and what I was fairly certain was an elf.  And now I was bout to meet a coven of witches.  It was an amazingly lucid dream and I was sure I'd awaken at any moment.  Never again would I eat the entire bag of Doritos before bed.

Emma Hart, Attorney, was on her way to meet with a new client.  Apparently somewhere along the way she has taken a wrong turn, or was it a turn that was really meant to be?  Whatever the case may be she, being the kind person she is, spotted a man standing on a cliff preparing to jump to his death.  She stopped her car and proceeded to prevent his demise from happening.  In the process she apparently didn't turn her car off before exiting.  She turned around to see it coming straight for her.  Her only means of escape was to jump into the lake.  Not good for a non-swimmer!  But before her own fatal death could occur, the man on the cliff swooped down and headed straight for her.  He flew!  He had wings.

Welcome to Spellbound.  Emma has found herself trapped in a community that housed everything from Witches to Vampires.  She also found that being an attorney put her in the perfect position of becoming the next Public Defender for Spellbound.  It appears that the original defender was murdered.  He was a vampire and someone had 'staked' him.  She now has the duty of taking over his case load as well as finding his murderer.

This book is so funny!  It's book one in the Spellbound Paranormal Cozy Mystery Books and I enjoyed every page.  Someone needs to pick this series up for a TV movie series.  I have no doubts it would be loved by the young generation as well as those of us in the older generation.

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