Books and Works

A Cinquain about Home

 

Okay, so awhile back I tried my hand at some poetry (see A Fireside Tanka, Aug. 30), and today another attempt is being made. This is just a Cinquain about being content with your home and lifestyle, despite what society says.

goofytruck

On blocks or wheels, sanctuary for me

The world outside but a caustic soup

Campstove, canned ravioli, so content I’ll be

No stairs or room for a group

Mansions won’t move at the turn of a key

 

 

 

 

 

Rise above!

If you attempt to rise from the chalk line that many have drawn around you, there will always be those who snicker behind your back. They will fail to believe it is possible, despite all evidence to the contrary. Cast aside, any notion of changing their minds and do not waste an ounce of energy in the attempt.

Focus instead, on those who support and applaud your efforts, for their encouragement is fuel for the body and mind. They are your people, and you must remain fiercely loyal and equally supportive. In this age of a shrinking world, they could be across the table, or across the ocean. You will never find them until you step boldly outside those imaginary limits you and others have set.

Life is short. Today I challenge you to sweep away that antiquated outline made of dust and follow your dream. Do not let the fear, self-doubt, or the criticism of the pessimists’ chip away your resolve. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small. Remember that cathedrals were built by many stones stacked one upon another.

 

 

 

“Animals can talk all year long!” Scientist declares.

Disclaimer: This study was conducted in the wee hours of a dark winter day under the influence of a caffeine high. The findings may be inconclusive. However, this reasearcher stands by his theory that animals can, and do, talk throughout the year, not just on Christmas Eve. An application has been filed for government funding, to further this investigation.

horsechewingfence

“Kin oo git me a faw ‘r fomethin? Tis is hurtin’ mi teeth an’ I wanna git out!”

 

charliearoundfishtank

“I’ve been circling this thing for hours, and there’s no way to get at those floating creatures! The ‘multi-verse’ theory is true! Mind blown! Wait a minute, is there something watching me?”

Lostturkeys

“We’re lost again, aren’t we? Why didn’t you just ask that chipmunk for directions? Stop ignoring me, Tom!”

Duckclass

“Well done, you three! Daffy and Donald! Pay attention! Can’t you two stop thinking about eating for even a moment?”

horsewantsfree

“Okay . . . now just put down that camera and use those opposable thumbs for something useful, like opening this door! Yes, just right here, you see where I’m pointing with my head?”

 

Guest Post: Self-Publishing, by Mark Bierman

Not too long ago, I had the privilege of being hosted by talented blogger, DA-AL, on her wonderful blogsite Happiness Between The Tails. I encourage everyone to visit her site, there is a variety of topics, it’s well crafted and there’s something for all! Thank you again, DA-AL for this opportunity.

Human trafficking occurs in every country, including Canada and the U.S. In light of this, Ontario novelist/blogger Mark Bierman dedicates 50% of profits from his book, “Vanished,” to organizations that help victims of this terrible crime. He first guest posted on Happiness Between Tails here. Read on for what he’s learned about self-publishing…

“Self-Publishing” by Mark Bierman

It’s 5a.m. as I climb out of bed and begin to brew the cognition ignition potion, or coffee if you wish to go by its scientific classification. The percolation underway, I pad off to my writer’s den, or the “spare bedroom,” as some in this house call it. The computer is poked awake and generates particles of light that spread across the mahogany desk until they reach the ‘bills to pay’ file box. A tiny shadow figure climbs into the box, and peers malevolently up at me.

“Karl Jackson, if you wish to pay my bills, that’s fine, just be sure to hop back into the story when you’re done.”

If anyone can afford to liberate us from debt, it’s the villainous King of the Klondike. I keep my voice calm to hide my concern. Oh, he goes on these forays almost daily but has never before managed to enter our world until the file marked, ‘trimmedprodigalson,’ has been opened. Hmmm . . . I must look into upgrading the firewall. The filename is not the title for the new book but rather denotes the concept. The ‘trimmed’ portion is the result of my cantankerous nitpicking of the original manuscript. I can’t speak for every author, but for me, a book is never really finished. I’ve yet to reread my first novel, Vanished, for sanity’s sake.

It’s a Wednesday, and I’m off from my survival job as a Correctional Officer. That means I have a full two hours of novel writing before the rest of the house is awake and the nineteenth-century morphs back into the twenty-first. When the clock chimes seven, my role as an author ceases, and I put my parenting hat on. There are kids to feed and drive to school, after that, chores, a workout, and whatever else the day brings. I try to squeeze in marketing between it all and combine it with other tasks. Instagram is often dealt with while riding the stationary bike, what else am I going to do, count the tiles in the basement ceiling? Twitter, best posted on between the hours of nine am to three pm, can be done at lunch, Facebook too. I’m careful not to crow about myself, too often. The rule of thumb is to focus 80% on others and 20% on yourself. So far, that formula has worked well for me.

bigrock

Blogs are the hardest and most time-consuming. I commit the sin of failing to post regularly, I know better. To truly grow your audience, you need to be consistent. Many bloggers post daily and have themed days. It’s something I’m working on, but time is not my ally here.

So, how did this all begin? How did someone in my profession decide to become an Indie Author? To tell you the truth, my job is precisely the reason. The pay is great, and with twenty years in, I have plenty of vacation days and a pension at the end of it all. Sounds great, right? Well, those perks come at a cost. The toll on your mental health can be overwhelming. Five years ago, I decided to find a positive outlet for my creative side, a place to share and bond with people who are focused on a dream and appreciate the work you do. The one positive thing I will say about my years in law enforcement is my vast collection of story and character fodder. Oh yes, there’s plenty of that in the good old Big House.

So why Indie? Are you not good enough to find a publisher? The truth is, I tried, but only twice. I waited six months to be rejected by both. I’m too impatient for that. Plus, I’ve heard stories of publishers changing parts of storylines or characters, nope, I wanted to control my own material. Of course, this may not apply to all publishers. Please don’t get me wrong, if you wish to pursue the traditional route, go for it! It’s a personal choice.

sunset

Whichever path you choose, I highly recommend using Beta-Readers and professional proofreaders. No one wants to get those Amazon Reviews that call in to question the author’s level of grammar comprehension. Some of the best reads I’ve come across are Indie, others, not so much. However, I can say the same about traditionally published works. Remember, tastes vary, and some will cry for more chocolate while others prefer vanilla. Don’t expect a romance junkie to read your thriller through the same lens. You can’t write for everyone, find your niche, and build your fan base.

One last thing, before I go, find your ‘people.’ By that, I mean your support crew. Be it fellow authors, bloggers, reviewers, those in the industry, and in the know. They will help you become a better writer, offer constructive criticism, encourage and open doors for you.

I love this gig but writing and marketing a novel is a herculean task. This may sound silly, but I liken it to pushing a giant boulder that resembles a half-moon. The flat side remains motionless until heaved onto the rounded side. There may be a brief reprieve as you watch it roll for a short distance, but then it lands on the flat side again. If you leave the stone too long, moss grows on it. Yes, you can keep hoisting that stone in solo fashion, hoping that the flatness wears into a curve, but you’ll probably end up overworked and discouraged. Wouldn’t it be nice to have loyal and encouraging people to help keep that sucker moving? You will, of course, do likewise for them. I’ve been fortunate to find such a community. This includes da-AL and the members of Rave Reviews Book Club. Rave Reviews, founded by author Nonnie Jules, is an online community of both Indie and Traditionally Published writers, of all genres, all walks of life, and from around the world. I’ve been part of this family, because that’s what it feels like to me, for several years.

I found them by accident one day, as I was searching for more book clubs to join. I had been a member of several at this point, but something drew me to Rave Reviews, they are genuine and committed to helping. Currently, it is the only book club I’m involved with. They have helped me grow as a writer. Yes, there is an expectation of paying it forward. While that does take you away from your own project for a brief time, just remember, others are doing the same for you.

 

bigvanished

There is a catalogue that includes books written by members. Everyone is encouraged to pitch in and do their best to support their fellow members by answering questions about writing, providing feedback about works in progress (Beta Reading), as well as advice and support on social media platforms. They have great programs such as, ‘Books of the Month,’ which feature member’s and their works, podcasts that allow a member to discuss their work, and even emotional support. I’ve personally been a ‘Book of the Month’ author and have also been featured on several podcasts. I once had a question about a book I was working on, whether or not to publish it as a series or as a single book. The problem was I had too much story for a single book, but not enough for a third. I was unsure and posed the concern to the group. Within a half-hour, I received advice that two-book series are acceptable. What a relief!

I highly recommend joining. You can find out more about Rave Reviews here.

Thank you, da-AL, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog! I also want to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to visit this post. I wish you all the best in your writing career, or whatever you choose to do in life. Follow your passions, and take heart that setbacks are usually temporary and often the greatest teachers. Now if you’ll please excuse me, Karl Jackson is drinking my coffee and using my tablet to play Minecraft. It’s time to write him home.

Find out more about Mark and his writing at his website here and his blog here.

What’s your publishing game-plan?

Review of The Contract Between Heaven and Earth, by Gwen M. Plano and John W. Howell

The Blurb:

The earth is under the threat of a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an intervention that involves two souls returning to earth. The chosen two sign a contract that they will work to avert the disaster.
Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien, a teacher, become heaven’s representatives on earth. The story follows them as they individually and then together face overwhelming obstacles and eventually end up on a strategic Air Force base in California. It is there that they discover a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States. The terrorists have a plan for global dominance, and they are determined to complete their mission. Although military leadership appears to have the President’s best interests at heart, it is not clear who can be trusted and who should be feared. The action is rough and tumble as Brad and Sarah try to figure out the culprits of the plot that will turn into a worldwide conflagration unless stopped.
If you enjoy thrillers, this is one with enough twists and adventure to keep you riveted and guessing. If you like your thriller along with a good romance, Brad and Sarah’s initial attraction and eventual love will sustain you as they live out their heavenly and earthly desires.

My Thoughts:

A story thick with layers, both in plot and characters, the turn of almost every page is a revelation of another clue, not only for the reader, but for the main characters themselves.

After entering their hosts, they must re-discover each other and their inexplicable feelings of romantic love, as they work to unhinge a terrorist plan to destroy a world leader.

To be honest, I am not an avid reader of romance, and if it were not for the backstory, I would have declared the relationship between the main characters unrealistic and a bit ‘over-the-top.’ However, in similar fashion to the rest of the novel, the reason for their behavior grows abundantly clear and I found myself nodding, ‘yes, this makes perfect sense.’

The attention to detail and logical flow of events is amazing. There are no gaps in the sequence, and never once did I find myself questioning how a certain fact or situation came to pass. Everything is explained and that is no small feat, especially since the book was co-authored.

If you enjoy the comfort of a predictable plot, look elsewhere. If you want to figure out the ‘who-dunnit’ in five minutes, I wish you the best of luck. There are so many twists and turns that I’m almost given to recommend the print format be made into the shape of a corkscrew.

To John W. Howell and Gwen M. Powell, I offer a hearty round of applause. You both certainly pulled it off and your talent shows. Well done!

Five well-deserved stars!

About the Authors:

John Howell

John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the tension. The final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016 concludes the thriller series. John’s fourth book Circumstances of Childhood, launched in October of 2017 tells a different thriller story of riches to rags, football, Wall Street, brotherly love, redemption, and inspiration with a touch of paranormal to keep you riveted. The fifth book is a collaboration with the ​award-winning author, Gwen Plano titled The Contract. Heavenly bodies become concerned about the stability of the Earth and send two of their own to risk eternal salvation in order to save the planet. The Contract achieved number one status in its genre. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Lakeway, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

If you wish to purchase a copy of this novel, or another written by John, you can do so by following this link: John Howell on Amazon
plano

Gwen M. Plano, aka Gwendolyn M. Plano, grew up in Southern California and spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in Japan, New York, Connecticut, and California. Gwen’s academic background is in theology and counseling. Recently retired, she now lives in the Midwest with her husband and enjoys writing and travel.

Gwen’s first book is an acclaimed memoir, Letting Go into Perfect Love. Her second book, The Contract between heaven and earth, is a thriller fiction novel, co-authored by John W. Howell. It is available now for pre-order. Author Jan Sikes read the manuscript and wrote that “The Contract is the perfect blending between the physical and unseen world with unbreakable bonds between human and spirit.”

If you wish to purchase this novel, or another written by Gwen, you can do so by following this link: Gwen Plano on Amazon

 

 

 

Partial Excerpt from Chapter 1 of my Upcoming Novel

Happy Saturday! It’s one of my rare weekends off from work and I thought I’d share a segment of Chapter One from my next novel. I refrained from putting the entire chapter on here because of spoilers. No, I don’t have a title for the book yet, I always seem to leave that for the end. It’s just a quirk of mine, I guess. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy!

 

Chapter One

Seattle, Washington

June 6, 1889

 

“The tide’s out! The stream won’t reach!” cried a firefighter from Engine Company Number One.

The steam-powered Amoskeag chugged on as it sucked the frigid water from Elliot Bay, before sending it smashing against the only flameless wall of the Commercial Mill.

“Just push the dang thing into the depths!” A bystander suggested. He pointed a beefy finger towards the black smoke that poured from the pumper’s stack. “It’s only making things worse!”

This was the end of the mill, it was obvious, even to thirteen-year-old Danne Stromgren. The place where he’d worked with his father, Albin, for the past year, would soon be ashes. Mother had once told him that hope was the best cure for despair, but there was little of the former and plenty of the latter on the faces of Father and the other mill workers. Some of them shouted bad words at the firemen, the kind that would have earned Danne a mouthful of soap. Danne added one or two but Father squeezed his arm hard. The pain was far worse than the taste of Sapolio.

“It’s not their fault! Look around! Half the downtown is on fire! There’s not enough water in the pipes! We must get your brother from school and hurry home! Do you understand?”

The question was not meant to be answered, that became clear when Father pulled him into the street. Removed from the cooling wind of the bay, the sudden blast of heat gave Danne a new sympathy for melting candles. Smoke wasps stung his eyes and built hives in his lungs, he tried to cough them up. They dug in with lengthy stingers.

Swarms of people raced through the downtown. They fled from stores and businesses that had made their final sales. Piles of clothing and food had grown legs. Mr. Rennalls burst from his barbershop, with his latest victim at his heals. Half of the man’s face was still covered in shaving soap and blood. A young woman crashed into Danne from behind. The cobbletones beneath him sparkled with hundreds of orange, red, and silver stars. She dropped to her knees and hastily snatched up the necklaces and rings as she muttered to herself about stupid, clumsy boys.

Guilt overcame the “clumsy” boy and he stooped to help. He was yanked to a stand.

“Not worth dying for! Keep moving!” Father commanded.

Another block flew beneath their feet, and yet the inferno remained one step ahead. Heated tongues lapped greedily at an unused wooden fire hydrant in an apparent attempt to destroy the enemy. Danne’s expectation that water would burst from the hydrant in a counterattack, went unmet. His father’s words about the lack of water pressure came back to him.

A familiar, though blurry, sign came into view. Danne wiped away his tears. Wallack’s Seamstress Shop! Erik’s school was a stone’s throw away! A silent prayer for his younger sibling’s life was cut short by a loud explosion. He was shoved to the ground. The impact, along with a crushing weight on his back, stole what little breath he had.

“Stay down!” Father shouted into his ear. There was little choice, Albin was a large man.

Danne tried to scream for release. He pushed against the cobblestones, attempting to lift himself high enough to breathe and when that failed, was reduced to slapping the street in helpless desperation.

“Get up!” Father’s strong arms hauled Danne to a stand. His deprived lungs sprang into immediate action, filling themselves to the bursting point. Their good intentions were punished for failing to distinguish air from smoke.

Father paid no heed to his son’s coughing fit and pulled him forward with the power of a locomotive. The boy managed a quick glance backwards and saw that a fiery fist had smashed through the wall of the liquor store.

“Don’t look back, Danne! Faster!”

They were almost at the end of the street when the liquor store exploded. A fiery storm rained over the entire block. Falling embers landed around and on the two of them, but they’d escaped the worst of it.

“Keep up boy!” Father snarled.

Danne was yanked around the corner and onto Marion Street. This street, for the moment, was untouched by flames, but the smoke was beginning to creep in. Madrone Elementary, a half block away, came into hazy view.

They reached the school and were met inside the main entrance by Erik’s teacher. Her name always escaped Danne’s memory, but it sounded something like sausage. That’s what he called her, Mrs. Sausage. Leave it to him to think about food at a time like this. He could be forgiven for her name, he’d skipped a grade due to his intelligence and extraordinary vocabulary. He’d left the school a year before she’d arrived.

At the moment, Mrs. Sausage was frantic. She white knuckled the handle of a large-cloth bag and spoke quickly. She declared that Mother and Charlotte had already taken Erik home.

Danne was jerked backwards by Father’s hand, twisting his torso and causing a momentary twinge of pain.

The door opened to a scene from Pompeii. Pillars of soot moved over the neighborhood, like ghostly serpents, dropping bits of ash onto gingerbread trim and turning greenery into slate.

The boy’s stomach wanted to empty. If it were not for the strength of Father, he would already be lying in a pile of vomit, gasping for that last breath. A two-legged fish in a hostile world that he once called home.

Unlike Pompeii, this volcano actually moved! And with freight-train speed! The boy dared himself to look back but refused his own challenge. There was no need for him to see it. The wall of heat that toasted his back combined with the crackle of wooden bones splintering was proof enough. There was no outrunning or avoiding an iron horse that required no track. All seemed lost until they reached the intersection of Abbey and Thorn. A quick turn onto Abbey and they’d arrived! Mother, Erik, and his younger sister, Charlotte, stood anxiously in front of the fourth rowhouse on the left. A two-storey Gothic-Style that had been home to Danne from birth.

“Thank you, Lord!” Mother cried in relief. She embraced them both.

There was little time for a happy reunion. Abbey street would soon be a memory.

“Grab anything of reasonable size and value. Put them on the front yard!” Father ordered, “I’ll be back soon.” During their dash through the chaotic downtown, Father had noticed people hiring wagon drivers to move belongings onto ships docked at the wharves. The idea had yet to be generated in this neighborhood. The patriarch rushed off, not waiting to ensure that his orders were carried out. There was no reason for him to do so, his commands were always obeyed.

This is only a segment of the first chapter. To include more would include spoilers.