Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Helena Harper: Family and More - Enemies or Friends?


I recently read Helena Harper's Family and More - Enemies or Friends? and am pleased to post my review on VBT - Writers on the Move. Helena is a member of our merry band!

Family and More – Enemies or Friends? is more than a collection of poems, it is a story I enjoyed and learned from. As you read this book it becomes clear that the author put a great deal of time and effort into the choice of every word used. Each poem has a melodic flow that moves smoothly into the next.

Family and More enlightens the reader to the conflicts and confusion that exist in a family divided by war. Being the child of a German mother and English father in the aftermath of WWII, the author delves into her family’s history by examining the lives of several family members as well as other personal relationships. Each poem is an intertwined life. With descriptive imagery these people come alive; you see their struggles and triumphs.

This wonderful poetic story goes beyond a family history; it depicts the futility, frustration and hardship of war, along with the frailties and strengths of the people that make up each of our families.

Family and More – Enemies or Friends? is a beautifully written book. I highly recommend it.

You can contact Helena at: webmaster@helenaharper.com

To learn more you can visit Helena at:

Author's website: http://www.helenaharper.com


Karen Cioffi

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Art of Science by Ransom Noble


It's my pleasure to present Ransom Noble and her newest book, The Art of Science. This is an exciting time for Ransom, with her new baby and new book! Okay, let's get right to it.

A little about Ransom Noble:

An early love of reading and the sciences led Ransom into writing and a career in mechanical engineering. Believing determination can help one attain any goal, she constantly sets new goals for herself and encourages others in their quests for knowledge. Ransom can often be found with her husband and their friends listening to music or playing games (every kind).

Her work includes:

"Qui's Contract," a short story that appeared in Ruins Metropolis, June 2008

The Art of Science, April 2009 by 4RV Publishing.

Now for a synopsis of The Art of Science:

Janie Hunter begins seventh grade looking forward to doing activities that she enjoys. Her mother has other ideas, she thinks it's time for Janie to start preparing for college and Art club isn't a part of that plan. When Janie qualifies to get into Argonauts, a special after school science club she has to find a way to make her mom happy and do the things she loves.

When Janie’s dropping grades and her first dance come to her mother’s attention, Mom intends to steer her in the ‘right’ direction.

To make matters worse, a boy at school threatens to make her miserable, though his motives aren't clear. Janie just wants everyone to get along, but even her friends can’t manage that.

As an added bonus, here's an excerpt from the book:

Sophia met Janie outside the school. “Mom says we’re to be home right away, Janie.”
“I’m on my way.”
“I’m driving us. Get in the car.”
Janie grimaced. “I’ll walk.”
Sophia rolled her eyes. “Don’t be difficult.”
“I’m not difficult.” Janie got in the car with her sister. “You don’t have to rub it in all the time. You got your license last month.”
“I don’t mean it that way, Janie. I’m just wondering why Mom wanted us home so fast.”
“Wait …” Janie paused, completely shocked for a moment.
“Doesn’t Mom have to work?”
Sophia shook her head. “I guess not. She just called the school to tell me to pick you up. We’re supposed to go directly home. I don’t know what’s going on either.”
Janie’s fingers traced the raised patterns on the cover of the book sitting in her lap. What could this be about? She and Sophia didn’t speak again on the drive. When Sophia pulled the car in the driveway, Janie realized she was missing the first Art Club meeting. Too late now; she hoped the teacher would allow her to join next time.
Sophia and Janie walked in the house, dropping their book bags by the door. “Mom? Dad?” Sophia called.
“We’re in the dining room,” her mother called back. “Please join us, girls.”
Four wineglasses sat on the table, filled with white grape juice, Mom’s favorite family celebration drink. Janie and Sophia sat in their usual seats. “What’s the big deal, Mom? Did you get a promotion?”asked Janie.
“No, guess again.” Mom’s smile was bursting with happiness.
Janie didn’t remember the last time she smiled like that.
“What?”
“You.”
Janie’s heart pounded. “What did I do?” It had to be something good, or Mom wouldn’t be smiling, right?
“You got into Argonauts at school.” Mom’s smile grew larger.
“I’m so proud of you, honey.”
“What?” Janie hadn’t heard of such a thing before.
Mom explained, “It’s a special program at school. On Wednesdays, you’ll stay after school for two hours with some other very smart children, and you get to do exciting science stuff. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Let me remember: They said you’ll be studying chemistry, physics, electronics and robotics. It will prepare you for the future.”
Janie didn’t say anything. Why did everything have to be working toward the future? At thirteen, college seemed far away to Janie.
“Wow. Congratulations, Janie,” Sophia said quietly.
“Yes, congratulations, Janie,” her dad added.
“You’ll get all the information about it tomorrow.”
“But volleyball meets on Wednesdays!”
Her mother continued like she never heard her. Most likely, she didn’t. “And Dad will be able to pick you up afterwards. Isn’t this wonderful?” Mom smiled down at Janie.
“But what if I don’t want to quit volleyball?”
“This is going to help you get into college, Janie. This is important. You can play volleyball on the weekends or next summer.”
Janie gulped down some grape juice.
“And we’re going out to dinner to celebrate.”
Janie sat quietly the rest of the evening. The decision had been made. She thought her dad must not have mentioned Art Club yet, since her mother didn’t add that to the lecture.

Well, that about raps it up for now, below is the Facts Sheet:

Title: The Art of Science
Author: Ransom Noble
Illustrator: Stephen Macquignon
Category: Young Adult
ISBN 10: 0-9818685-4-1
ISBN 13: 978-0-9818685-4-7
Pub Date: April 2009
Price: $12.99
Pages: 87
Publisher: 4RV Publishing, LLC
Language: English
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
Web sites:
Find Ransom Noble

Visit 4RV Publishing
Media Contact:
Ransom Noble
noble.ransom@gmail.com

It's been a pleasure hosting you today, Ransom. I hope The Art of Science is a HUGE success!

See you in blog world,
Karen

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Boxcar Children: The Seattle Puzzle - A Kid's Pick Review


Reviewed by Samia (4th grader)

Title: The Boxcar Children: The Seattle Puzzle
By: Gertrude Chandler Warner

The fantastic book I read was The Boxcar Children: The Seattle Puzzle. The creative author was Gertrude Chandler Warner. The Boxcar Children were orphans. They had run away and found an old box car in the woods. Soon, their grandfather found them.

The Boxcar Children are taking a vacation to Seattle. They solve a mystery by finding notes everywhere they went. They could have to solve the riddle to find out what is going on. They figure out that the grandfather is in the plan.

This was a great book and I recommend it to anybody who knows how to read.

Rating: 5 Stars

VBT - Writers on the Move will be featuring Kid's Pick Reviews every Tuesday and Thursday. Get your little ones involved in our Review Segment. Children love the idea of having their book reports/reviews posted online. Please be assured we will never use last names, school names, or any reference to locations. Get children involved in reading and writing about what they've read - it can open a whole new world to them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"The Secret" to Great Book Promotion



This is from my Sharing with Writers newsletter. I thought it was worth a repeat for those of you who don't get that newsletter with its tons of writing and promotion tips in your e-mail box. (-:

Question:

The Secret [by Rhonda Byrne] says that one reason people's dreams don't come true is that they give up just before they are about to succeed. I am ready to give up. Just call me Peggy, WannaBeWriter

Answer:

I believe that people do give up too soon, especially when it comes to promotion. It's one reason I talk about persistence so much. And The Secret also talks about positive energy. That's what promotion is. It's your best shot being put out into the universe and that sometimes (not always) takes time.

That's not to say that at times it's not natural to feel like giving up. Putting aside having a well-written book that hits the market at the right time, the speed of an author's success is usually strongly influenced by its genre. That's one of the reasons I shared all the stuff I learned when I was promoting my first novel, This Is the Place, by writing my first how-to book, The Frugal Book Promoter. Fiction--especially nonspeculative fiction--is one of the hardest genres of all to promote and I wanted others to know it could be done.

This Is the Place won its publisher's Mille Award for marketing and sales the first year it was published but only after it almost failed for lack of promotion by the publisher and by me! And not until after I lost a really big wad of money hiring a publicist who didn't understand using the themes and other elements in a novel to promote it!

This Is the Place is a literary novel published in 2001 (though it's still available in the new and used book section on Amazon for about $1). I think I sold about 2,000 and even that relatively small number was probably sold because it was set in Salt Lake City and was released just before the Winter Olympics in that city.

But that fortuitous timing wouldn't have helped had I not figured out that I needed to promote it and that I was the only one with the passion to do it right. The Secret also talks about passion--only they call it bliss or joy. Once I got started I even got my novel into a couple of airport book stores.

In fact, one of the reasons that The Frugal Book Promoter sells well is that it isn't general. It's personal and passionate. It's full of ideas based on my personal experience selling the hardest of all genres--poetry, short story collections, and literary fiction. I could add memoir (my next book) to that list.

The point here is that none of the three was a huge success by publishing standards. But they were by my standards. They sold well enough, I learned from writing them and promoting them, and I really relished the little successes when they came. When I couldn't trace great results from the promotion I was doing, I kept doing it and kept adding more ways to do it.

What if I'd given up on one of those dark days when nothing seemed to be working? My world--not just my writing world but my entire world--would be a different place. Am I bragging? Damn tootin’. I knew The Secret long before it was written. And I'm still practicing it.

I hope you will, too.
CHJ

-----
The blogger today is Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dairy of a Wimpy Kid - A Kid's Pick Review


A Review by Karina (4th grader)
Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
By: Jeff Kinney

What I loved about the book is the beginning. He was telling us that it was a journal, not a diary. He also said, “His mom had bought it for him.” He also said, “I am not going to write Dear Diary this and Dear Diary that!”

Also, I like that they have funny little comics. So, I recommend this book to ages 7 and up. It would make you laugh so hard. I would also recommend the next books. Diary of a Wimpy Kid Rodrick Rules. Also, Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Last Straw.



Karen

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pierre Dominque Roustan - The Interview


We're back with Pierre Dominque Roustan. To get to know Pierre a little better, here are several questions and answers:

1. How and when did you know you were a writer?

That’s a difficult question to answer, because it was most definitely a process over time. I was always interested in writing but never knew I had a gift (desire) for it. It was when I hit my freshman year in college did I realize that there was something to this whole writing ‘thing’. I had a professor at the community college, one of my first classes there, English 101, I believe, tell me flat out that I “had a gift”. Now it wasn’t what he said that convinced me of that, though. It was what I wrote for him in class. Either he went easy on me, or he saw something in my writing that had been developing for so long ever since I was little. I would most definitely say that that final subtle pivotal point in the journey of discovery was at the age of 18 when I became so enamored with writing essays for my classes. I can safely say, at that point, I became a writer.

2. What are some of your favorite authors to read?

I had such a variety of authors I loved as a kid and as an adult, and I can safely say that it contributed to me being a writer: I liked all sorts of books growing up. I was into Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien (of course!), even those classics by Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway. Leading to more contemporary ‘today’ authors, I’m a BIG fan of Terry Goodkind. I’ve read Terry Brooks as well. J.K. Rowling, of course! I was just getting into some other favorites of mine like Jordan Dane and Robert Liparulo. On a literary level, I was enthralled with such works by Sandra Cisneros, Tim O’Brien and Joseph Conrad. Those were some of the best in literary fiction I had ever read. Oh, and Toni Morrison! She was a remarkably intense writer.

3. Which do you prefer: e-books or print?

That’s quite the relevant question in today’s publishing market, now isn’t it? And you’re asking me that question at a very interesting time. Maybe two years ago, if you had asked me that, I would easily, hands down, say print. There’s nothing better than the smell of paper on a good book and being able to flip those pages really fast and hearing that buzzing sound when you do. Plus the cover art’s always cool.

HOWEVER…I’ve noticed quite easily how difficult it is to read on the computer. The reason I bring that up is that I do have a lot of friends/colleagues who write as well and always love to have me as a beta reader. They send me their work via e-mail and I read it right on my computer while my rump goes to sleep. It’s not fun. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had an eReader or a Kindle. It would make reading other people’s work so much easier. That, and the concept of buying any book on one of those electronic devices does have a certain appeal to me. For those authors I have a particular affection for, I’d definitely still always prefer print. But other authors that I would just like to read, just to expand my literary field, owning a Kindle or eReader seems priceless (even though it’ll always feel like I’m shelling out an arm and a leg for such a thing).

4. What’s your favorite food?

I love it when people ask me that question! It always feels like I’m on a date. I have the perfect answer. My favorite food is…. YES. Meaning, put in front of me monkey brains, and if it simply looks good, I’ll eat it. Simple as that. I’m a human trash can.

But I can go specific (I’ll limit it to a top ten, no particular order): pizza, shrimp scampi, chicken salad, chilli, soups, breakfast food, ice cream cake, Chinese food, sub sandwiches, Mexican food.

5. If you could choose any wild animal, what would it be?

That’s definitely an easy one. I love wild animals, and I’ve always had a thing for wolves. They’re so beautiful. Majestic. And I identify with them so well, in that they always seem shy, even timid when it comes to ‘man’. I’m much the same way to a certain degree; I can be guarded. But you see, the thing is—people, to me, particularly my friends and loved ones, are the other wolves in my pack. And I’m generally a nice wolf. So when I see other wolves from other packs, I don’t usually get defensive or violent or unusual. I’m generally very friendly. I’m an easy person to get to know.

6. If you were going to die in the next three days and you could do the next ten things without worrying about cost, what would you do?

I would go bungee jumping (never done it), get a tattoo (don’t have one), visit Europe (never been there), visit all the States except for Nevada, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Florida and Rhode Island (been to all those States already), donate $1 million to one of those Children’s Funds, get married (again. Yes, I was married before. And let’s just say it didn’t ‘pan out’), anonymously donate money to an engaged couple looking to get married, buy a Playstation 3 and all the Final Fantasy’s and play all of them all night until I’ve beaten them all (except for Final Fantasy 7 and 8, already beat those), visit the grave of my grandfather in Nicaragua (his name was Pierre Dominique Roustan, too, so it holds a lot of meaning for me), SLEEP and do NOTHING for one whole day.

7. What advice would you give other aspiring writers out there?

It’s simple. Just enjoy your craft for yourself. Let it delight you. In the end, you’re the only audience. That’s how it originally starts. The bonus, the gift, comes around when others get to witness what you’ve created and how much you delight in it. There’s no better high than that, having someone else read your stuff and watch them be fascinated by the fact that you actually wrote something. Forget about the stress of whether or not you’ll land an agent or publishing contract or start that dream career as an author. What truly gives you joy should be that you wrote something that represents the deepest part of you and that you have a friend or family member you can share it with. It keeps you writing. It also keeps you believing in the goal itself. Because don’t get me wrong—goals are good. Having the goal of publication is good. But don’t let it consume you. Your writing comes first. Your desire comes first. Your love for words defines the spirit in you, and don’t ever forget that.


Thanks so much Pierre for being our guest. It's been fun and interesting.

Karen Cioffi

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pierre Dominque Roustan


I'm pretty sure this is VBT's first author interview and it's my pleasure to welcome Pierre Dominque Roustan, author of The Cain Letters. Pierre and I are members of the Facebook group Red River Writers and are participating in their organized tours.

Pierre, I know this is an exciting time for you - you are now published! Please tell us about you and your book.

Wow, this is a nice place you got here, Karen. It’s not every day I get to step out of my pad at the Writing and Reading Universe and explore. Allow me to introduce myself then! Pierre Dominique Roustan. Yes, you readers out there can say it: it’s a cool name. And that’s because I’m cool. I’m a 2nd generation Hispanic, born in Chicago, Illinois, son to a fiery Puerto Rican woman and a tough-as-nails Nicaraguan man. And, yet, you ask why I have such a French name…. Because my dad’s half-French. Yes. It’s true.

I’ve been writing ever since I remembered being able to walk. It was one of those things you just couldn’t get away from, you know? My parents had me tested for giftedness, and the results came back showing I was gifted. What gift(s) I had? Wasn’t sure. Didn’t care. So much so that I sometimes omit the pronouns when I write. However, my parents cared, teachers cared, others cared; and they saw something in me. It didn’t take me long to realize that I loved to write—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, anything. I just had this need to fill the white space on a piece of paper with some sort of manifestation of my imagination (that’s a mouthful there), so much so that I followed my heart and earned a B.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

As I stand now before you, I’m a published author. My debut will be released in December. The number of people I could thank outnumber my fingers and toes and the fingers and toes of my family. I’m not exaggerating. I think it’s fair that I give you some insight into my journey of publication, though….

I write urban fantasy and thrillers (and sometimes those two genres go together for me). My debut is a fast-paced thriller known as THE CAIN LETTERS. Look for it. However, it wasn’t my first finished manuscript, nor my first project.

I actually wrote my first ‘story’ at the tender age of 10, I believe. It was about 20 pages long. The next ‘story’ I wrote landed me a 200-pager. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I think I was a freshman in high school. I then wrote another story that stretched to 300 pages long. Here’s the real kicker, though; the next project I took on actually pulled in about 540 pages…. 154,000 words, and the best part about that was I, initially, thought that was too short!

Go figure. I guess I was long-winded.

And then came THE CAIN LETTERS. At 74,000 words, it moved fast. I had learned a lot about storytelling, about pacing, about plot, about character. THE CAIN LETTERS is a culmination of all that I’ve learned.

For those aspiring writers out there, let me tell you: following a dream kills. The good thing, though, is your passion for writing makes you reborn every single time. Through every rejection, every bout with writer’s block, every setback, anything getting in your way, that desire to write brings you back up. Every single time. Let me tell you how dreaming kills: I received over 100 rejections for THE CAIN LETTERS, about 97% of them from literary agents. And those 100 rejections were spread over one year, almost to the day. The middle of March, 2008, was when I finished the manuscript. I just signed my contract with Eirelander Publishing about four days ago—without a literary agent. Funny how time flies.

You never know what’ll happen. I just learned to keep trying. It paid off.

Those who’ve followed my blog might know a bit here and there about the book and the characters, but let me paint a picture for you real quick:


Enter: Alexandra Glade.

An auburn-haired, gray-eyed beauty of a woman, black trench coat, turtleneck and tight pants, armed to the teeth with all kinds of weaponry. Think “The Matrix”, “Underworld”, “Blade” with a little bit of sex appeal, and there’s Alexandra for you. There are days I regret a little bit creating her in my head, because I worry that she might beat the living hell out of me. Because she can. She’s essentially a trained killer.

Only she kills vampires. For a living.

With her team, an organization known as the Berith Lochem, Hebrew for ‘Divine Covenant’, she hunted rogue vampires and other abominations for the sake of God alongside her comrade Kyan Tanaka, a Japanese man bred into the world of a mercenary until he found God. With remarkable resources, the Berith Lochem served the Vatican and other clients looking for a cleansing of some kind. They were like bounty hunters.

It was easy, you know? Hunting vampires. The life was so linear. And simple. Until a strange book surfaced that seemed to be of some interest to many of the damned—most notably two master vampires of cunning strength and power, two of the strongest in the world, actually—a Russian known as Nikolas Stahl and a savage Los Angeles native named Mason Richter. The book had ancient knowledge regarding something that had been locked away, secret, since the beginning of time—

The origin of the vampire. How it all began.

No longer was Alexandra’s life so linear. Her journey suddenly came upon forks of all kinds. And obstacles.

The book, dating way back to the times of the Exodus, revealed the origin. And it was a shocking one. One that would shake the pillars of the world, of faith—

The world’s first vampire was the world’s first murderer. Fitting. And terrifying.

Cain, brother of Abel, son to Adam and Eve, had struck a deal with Satan to cleanse himself of the guilt, the shame, the despair of a dying world and the mark of banishment on him. The cleansing took away his humanity, took away his soul even—and made him into what was commonly known as…vampire.

Driven by blood, as a reminder of Abel’s blood on his hands, Cain walked the earth. Immortal.

What Alexandra realized was that Nikolas and Mason planned on finding Cain. The secret book revealed his hidden location for so many centuries. What Alexandra feared was what they intended to do once they found him—

It didn’t take her long to realize that they were planning on killing him. These two master vampires, countless ages apart from a man of the book of Genesis, were going to silence the father of the damned.

Now on any other day, Alexandra Glade, Berith Lochem vampire hunter of vengeance, she wouldn’t have a problem with the idea of the father of the damned dying. But she knew Scripture. And what she knew terrified her even more than Cain….

She couldn’t allow Nikolas and Mason to kill Cain.... For the sake of the world hung on the balance that Cain had to live. All her training, all her scars, everything, anything that made her who she was, a hunter, she had to forsake and leave, protecting the very first vampire from death. All to save mankind.

Could she make such a decision? With her duty, her need to hunt and kill vampires, her fierce vengeance…. Could she reject all of that…. And save a fierce killer like Cain?


I’ll let that simmer in you a little bit. I can’t give all of it away, people. Come on! You’ll have to read the book when it debuts.

THE CAIN LETTERS is, indeed, a beginning of what is most definitely a series for me. Having landed a contract, you’ll see a few more continuations, following the adventures of Alexandra Glade and the Berith Lochem. But until then, face the fear that is THE CAIN LETTERS. And believe. Believe in evil.

That’s all I got for all of you, readers. Give it up for Karen Cioffi as well! Put your hands together. It has been an honor being her guest, and do give her the honor of reading her work as well. Feel free to make as many comments as you like! Karen and I will be checking. Questions? Concerns? Coffee? Cupcakes?

Well, that's not quite all, Pierre will be back tomorrow with a questions and answers interview.

Don't forget to stop back tomorrow,

Karen

Read Well, Creative Writing Resources

Read Well, Creative Writing Resources by Deborah Lyn Stanley When we read well, we write well. I list a few good Creating Writing books belo...