A Review of “Fates Past” by Jason Huebinger

Jennly Reads

Everyone Has Regrets

Skeletons in their closets.

What if you had to relive them? Face them head on, come to terms and make peace with these personal demons and regrets. Could you? Would you?

These are the situations that face boyfriend and girlfriend Carrie and Cameron. While on their way to New Orleans for a weekend getaway something strange occurs and the road they are on doesn’t appear to be the one they should be traveling. While unable to catch their bearings due to malfunctioning electronics and unaware to gauge the time as all clocks only show 00:00, Cameron and Carrie travel on this “road to nowhere” until they reach an inn. The kindly innkeeper provides them with a room for the evening and the strange occurrences continue. While Cameron continues to hear a growling that Carrie cannot; Carrie is plagued by an incessant high pitched beeping and the cry…

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Update on Ballad of Best Buy Bonnie

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(Refer to previous post regarding a refund problem Best Buy’s Geek Squad)

And so the saga comes to a conclusion, a full six weeks after it began. It turns out I was right to an extent. The alleged refund was never fully processed.  Had I not called to complain, yet again  – this time to a customer service rep named Amanda – I would still be waiting in vain.

Amanda accomplished what Bonnie and the others before her did not, could not or would not. Not only did she define “business cycle” as a monthly billing period which is, for them, 28 days, but also she scratched beneath the superficial to determine that my refund was stuck in some kind of limbo. She redirected it to the proper processing channel and, this afternoon, the money appeared back in my account – five days, 3 business days, after she initiated the action. It is, however, a full 41 days since the story began.

Why was it necessary for Best Buy to treat me so poorly that they have now lost a customer for life? Clearly I was not important enough – or my refund amount was so token – that no one before Amanda wanted to bother investigating what happened to my refund. And the bottom line is that Best Bu’s bottom line is more important to them than fixing a heinous situation that allows something that this to happen.

Kudos to Amanda, but I reiterate that I will never order anything online again from Best Buy or Geek Squad and advise everyone reading this to seriously consider doing the same. The stores seem to be different. Refunds are processed in a more timely manner. And, though I have issues with the length of lines at the checkouts and the overall lack of urgency toward remedying it – before I complain – I have had decent customer service in the store. If I buy anything from Best Buy in the future, it will be at a local store. Lesson learned.

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Best Buy Bonnie – Or The Ballad of Wrong

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I’ve learned a few things over the years. As a retail manager I began to understand that the customer is not always right but that doesn’t matter anyway because the customer believe he or she is always right. In the balance, if you fail to take care of the customer you lose. Some of the companies I’ve worked for got that, others did not. And those that found a way to say NO to a customer are no longer in business. That is the bottom line, isn’t it? Doing whatever you must to stay in business – or on a personal level, remaining employed.

I have examples of what to do and what not to do, but this blog isn’t about that. It is about one strange situation from which I have, apparently, learned a lot more lessons than those with whom I have been dealing. Foremost lesson: don’t buy anything online from a big box retailer that does not understand why people use online ordering.

Every retailer wants to cash in on a share of the Internet business but few are willing to change their policies enough to accommodate the special demands of online customers. And that is one huge reason why so many brick and mortar businesses are going out of business. Only those willing to adapt survive against the 800-pound gorillas of the world who operate on razor-thin margins an extremely high volumes.

It is ironic that the very reason people would go to a storefront over ordering online – having direct personal contact with store personnel – is also the source of a store’s greatest potential failure. Unless a store is willing to do everything in its power to serve  customers needs it will lose that customer.

Best Buy has lost me as a customer, at least as far as online purchases go. It is very likely that I will think twice (if not more) about casting a shadow upon the threshold of any of their physical locations. And that is a very bad thing for  both of us. I know that. I’m not so sure they do. Negative word of mouth travels at the speed of sound – at least – and possibly the speed of light if the disgruntled customer is connected to the Internet and active on social media. For the record, I have nearly 5000 friends on Facebook. I have over 23,000 followers on Twitter. I’m a published author and publicist. I’m not the best choice for someone to piss off. Just saying.

Here’s the condensed version of what happened. A year ago,I bought a MS Surface Pro 3 and a package of software from a guy in Texas whose name is Zach – something or the other. He decided shortly after trying to run a version of Linux from a flash drive on the device that it was not right for him. He bought MS Office with the computer. He never installed it because he discovered Linux would not work as he wanted it to on the computer. He advertised it online and sold it to me. Unfortunately, everything in his purchase, in Best Buy’s system, was linked to his name by its serial numbers.

I installed MS Office, registered it with Microsoft and used it for almost a year before it began to alert me that I needed to renew my subscription. The alert contained  a link to Best Buy’s Geek Squad website offering me a $10 discount if I renewed through them. (It actually amounts to about $6 and change after applicable taxes are applied as buying directly from MS costs exactly $69.99). The $59.99 became $63.74 after the additional charges. Still, it looked like a slightly better deal. I provided my billing information and debit card number. Transaction complete, right? Wait until the expiration date, the charge would be applied to my account and I could continue to use my MS Office seamlessly. A print out was recommended that explained everything – except it started out “Thank You Zach”!

Okay, so it got my name wrong. With a name like Elgon I’m kind of used to that sort of thing. But when the appointed date of the renewal came and my MS Office stopped working and prompted me to renew it, I did exactly what the print out told me to do, call the Geek Squad.

I’m not sure why it was highly recommended to print out the confirmation. There was nothing but the Geek Squad’s phone number on it – nothing giving any real evidence of a purchase. Fortunately, I kept the card from the original software license. That was the only link I had to give over the phone that linked me to the actual transaction. As far as Best Buy was concerned, Zach renewed his subscription. And, as far as MS was concerned, the product installed on my computer had never been renewed.

After spending an hour or so on the phone with the first Geek Squad person I contacted about the problem, I was directed to a Geek Squad Tech Support person to see if there was anything they could do. After explaining everything to him (which took another fifteen minutes for questions and answers – during which I was asked several times what my relationship was to this Zach guy – I was directed to place the order for renewal directly with Microsoft, mainly because I have drafts of novels, personal financial records and irreplaceable historical family pictures stored on One Drive. He told me if I tried buying a “clean” license from Best Buy with a discount I might lose access to that. So, not an option. He also assured me I’d receive a full refund back to my card from Best Buy for the $63.74 I paid and that would take from 7 to 10 business days.

The secondary thing big box retailers don’t get about dealing with online customers is that their major competitor may state the same refund policy but in practice it is much shorter – like 3 or 4 days max. But whatever. I’d wait for the refund to appear on my bank account, figuring it would show up in a couple of days as a pending transaction, just as always happens with refunds from the 800-pound online gorilla. When this did not happen, I called Geek Squad again. Had to explain everything to yet another associate who, yet again, was asking me what my relationship was to Zach. I was getting better at the storytelling, though. This time it only took 35 minutes. However, it took another ten minutes to find the record of my purchase’s existence. That was only marginally referenced in Best Buy’s computer by the original product serial number and, of course, was still associated with Zach, not me, even though my card number was referenced as having paid for the renewal. At this point I asked for a confirmation number that would help find the refund. Again, I was assured everything was fine and I’d be receiving a refund to my card within 7 to 10 working days.

Seven working days have passed and still no indication that anything is in process. I called my bank and have been assured that they have no record of anything in transit and they told me that I’d need to contact Best Buy to confirm that it was actually sent to them. And so I called Best Buy again. Told my story to one person who couldn’t help me confirm anything. I asked for a supervisor and was routed “cold”, as the lady referred to it, to someone in charge of appliance problems not computers. She transferred me to another person, who assured me he was the right person to talk to. At least he took down my information and created a record in their system so others could find me by my phone number or email address. Again, I had to explain I wasn’t Zach, had never been Zach and was not related to Zach except for the purchase of stuff he’d originally obtained from Best Buy.

Before we could resolve anything at all, the phone connect we had died. It was full of interference from someone else talking to a customer who has bigger problems than I did – yes, I could hear what they were saying better than what the person I was supposed to be connected with was telling me. Finally, I lost contact altogether.

Another call to yet another associate to whom I explained everything again, in about 25 minutes, this time around, and he put me on hold for fifteen minutes before connecting me via a conference call, to Bonnie who allegedly handles billing and refund problems. After correcting some of the misinformation the other guy gave to her, she at least confirmed that my information was now in their system. She then cited line and verse what the first person I ever talked to told me about one to two billing cycles. She couldn’t confirm what a billing cycle was, though, saying it depended on my bank and that I was actually dealing with two billing cycles, Best Buy’s and my bank’s and that it might be another week or two before I receive my refund, just because of these billing cycles. I told her THAT was unacceptable but she said there was nothing she could do for me. I told her I’d make her famous as Best Buy Bonnie. I’m not sure she took me seriously. And I’m unequally certain whether Best Buy takes me, or any other customer, seriously.

And I’m still waiting on a refund that no one, Bonnie included, can absolutely guarantee will show up in my account – and not this guy named Zach, whose information including his credit card number, was still attached to the transaction on 4/26, when the refund was allegedly initiated. I’m not sure why no one can confirm anything anymore. I suspect it has something to do with credit card fraud. But what should be a pretty simple refund has turned into a source of great personal aggravation.

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Book Review: 122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Cheri Champagne's Blog

122 Rules (122 Series #1)122 Rules by Deek Rhew
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deek Rhew is a master when it comes to humour. Not only is this a great mystery, thriller/suspense novel, but Rhew adds his own flavour of levity that had me laughing throughout.

This was an effortless read. The engrossing plot kept me eagerly reading until the end. Rhew created a cleverly-written and well-timed novel. I genuinely can’t wait until I get to read the next in the series!

Kudos, Deek Rhew, on a spectacular book!

I received an ARC from the publisher, but I’ve already pre-ordered my own finished copy.

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How Dying Changed My Life

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On May 4, 1995 I died seven times. That’s what the surgical notes revealed. I might not know any of that except my health insurance required that I obtain the full transcript and forward it to them – so that they could later tell me what they considered unnecessary and therefore were not going to cover. But that’s another story for another blog.

Shortly after returning home to Connecticut from a trip to Florida to visit my parents, I came down with the symptoms of what I believed to be the flu. After running a high fever for an entire weekend, my wife insisted I see my doctor. Since I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur my primary care physician was a cardiologist. After doing some blood work I was admitted to the hospital for treatment of a both a strep and a staph infection in my blood. It was the beginning of a month long ordeal.

The blood borne infection pretty much destroyed my mitral valve requiring open heart surgery to replace it and repair a fistula – a hole inside my heart between the ventricles. The procedure took seventeen hours to complete and, as previously stated, I died seven times before finally being revived.

As an aside, if you can prevent the need for open heart surgery by exercise and eating properly, do so. It’s no fun waking up in a recovery room with cotton mouth from being on with the distinct sensation of a four-ton boulder resting on your lungs.

I survived, of course. It sucked spending my 39th birthday in a cardiac care ward but it was preferable to how things  turned out otherwise, had my wife not insisted I go to the doctor.

What changed in my life from before to after the surgery was my general outlook on life. I was a workaholic retail manager, pretty much married to my job. Prior to the illness I believed I was on the fast track to being promoted to general store manager and all the time I spent away form my family was more than justified because of how much I was being compensated in stock options and such. I was going to wealthy, after all. After a month in the hospital and three months of recovery, my status at work changed – though not officially.

I was still a salaried manager. While I was on medical leave I was compensated with regular checks, same as if I was working. Despite having to fight with my health insurance to cover my hospitalization and treatment, all but $7000 of the nearly $130,000 in bills was eventually paid. It could have been a lot worse. But, even after returning to work without any medical restrictions, every time someone from upper management came to visit my store, the first thing they asked me about was my health. Over time, it became clear they were never going to promote me into a higher stress position. And I’m certain they thought they had my best interests at heart.

Still, there were other changes as well, mostly with my relationships with my kids who I had all but ignored for the eight years I had been working as a retail manager. I valued my time at home and spent it with my son and two daughters. However, something else happened while I was sick. I had vivid dreams that lingered well after my recovery.

Although I had been playing at writing for some time – one and off since junior high school, really – I had never taken it all that seriously. I suppose that in the back of my mind I thought about publishing a book one day. I’d finished a manuscript at one point during college and considered submitting it to publishers. I’m glad I didn’t because it really sucked. At the time I thought it was an achievement, though. And maybe it was in a sense. I mean, after that I knew I could write something of considerable length and complexity. Afterwards, while I was military, I served as unit historian and wrote and published an award winning 400+ page unit history. So, I knew I had it in me to publish things. It was just I’d never done anything with my fiction stories.

I submitted a few things of a technical nature to computer technology periodicals. Some things were posted online. I had become a self-taught computer technician and some people sought my advice on things.

Before the illness I had begun digitizing the material I had composed on typewritten pages. I continued doing that while recovering from the surgery. So I had a few hundred pages of stuff formatted so that I could edit and revise with my computer serving as a word processor. But even after I returned to work I set aside at least three or four hours a day for writing and/or revising. In the process those fever generated vivid dreams I had carried around in my head since the illness began to erupt onto the virtual pages of  my computer screen.

Those hours were stolen from my wife, of course. Nightly she would ask me when I was coming to bed. She never understood the obsession that I’d developed and eventually it ended our relationship.

I can’t say whether I’d been a writer had I never fallen ill in the Spring of 1995. I have had the writing bug for most of my life. But I doubt I would have ever finished One Over X, my first novel. You see, I was comfortable with a practical life founded on going to work every day. I made enough money that it was easy to forego pursuing any dreams left over from my youth. I never envisioned how much my life could change, or that I would eventually become a author.

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Ironing Out the Wrinkles in a Plot

In some ways publishing Fried Windows in May of last year created a few paradoxes for the main character Brent. WARNING: If you haven’t read the book, you might want to before continuing on. I’m about to reveal some things about the plot.

There are some relationships Brent and characters in my other novels, particularly Andy Hunter, Terry Harper, Lee Anders Johnston and Caroline Henderson from One Over X (two of six books published) and The Power of X (as yet unpublished). There is also a loose connection between the mother  in Becoming Thuperman and Terry Harper – as they attended high school together. Brent meets Terry Harper while he attends Purdue University where the latter is pursuing aa doctorate in applied physics and eventually becomes a professor before taking a tenured position at the University of Texas.

Brent and Lee Anders Johnston hale from neighboring towns in rural Ohio. Both were musicians in their teen years. Brent actually played bass for a brief while in a band that Lee led. Lee was best friends with the lead guitar from Brent’s garage band – which is how they met. Ironically, as they were both the sons of farmers, their fathers knew one another, though not very well.

After the disintegration of Brent’s garage band over an issue about performing a Rock Opera Brent wrote for his senior English project – a piece on Beowulf – Brent and Lee perform an acoustic set at the Christmas party of a friend of Brent. It is the last time Brent and Lee perform together for nearly twenty years, though the two of them conspired during their connection to compose a few songs that will end up reuniting them in later years – and reinvigorating Lee’s career as a professional musician.

Lee departs Rock as his vehicle of musical  expression and begins playing Blues with a couple of musicians while he attends Purdue University – where he studies Engineering and meets Terry Harper, his professor of physics. In Lee’s Junior year at Purdue his folks sell their farm in Ohio and retire to Texas. Lee transfers to the University of Texas. The following year, Terry Harper is offered a tenured position at UT, based on his recently published best seller on astral physics the university. And, so Lee and Terry reconnect at UT and the Lee changes his major to physics.

While in Austin and immersed in the vibrant artistic community, Lee joins a country band called Faction. At a bar in Austin he meets Caroline Henderson, the daughter of Joseph Henderson, CEO of HENCO. They share a few dates before establishing a relationship.

When Lee is offered a research job in Colorado, three of the original members of the band follow him there. They form the nucleus of a new Faction that lands a recording contract. Lee and Caroline have a long distance relationship until she completes college.

To pursue his musical career,  Lee quits his job and accompanies the band to Memphis where they record their first album.  Then, against her father’s protests, Caroline joins Lee and goes on tour with Faction, actually performing with the band as a background singer.

So, where is Andy Hunter is all this? Anyone who has read One Over X, knows that both Andy and Lee have a relationship in another version of reality, where both work for Henco. Lee works at a product assembly facility while Andy is a coder for the instructions loaded into the devices the company makes. The company’s CEO is Caroline Henderson who took up the reins when her father, Joseph Henderson passed away – never knowing she is to the Andy who was born of an unwed mother who used to work for the Hendersons.

In the other world, the one where Caroline and Andy grew up as siblings, Andy studies applied physics at UT Austin and becomes enamored with Dr. Harper to the point that he begins writing a boot about him. In the process he attempts to create a device based on Harper’s hypotheses that can cancel out the effects of the electromagnetic fields of the Earth – theoretically opening portals to every other dimension.

The powers that be – as in the Universal Powers That Be – are not amused with Andy’s devise of how it throws a significant distortion into the over all matrix of fabricated reality – the shell they created as the distracting illusion of life. With it Andy can, pretty much, go wherever he wants – as long at he knows his destination. Therein lies the rub.  Andy knows that the device can do but doesn’t understand it’s potential. And in the process of exploring it he becomes genetically altered to be more like an extraterrestrial ancestor of humanity than a man.

Brent is a transplanted straddler, born into the world to correct the problems Andy will eventually cause. He gets sidetracked with his own issues and adventures but, moreover, he is intended to defeat Andy’s modification to the design. Brent is naturally drawn toward the people he needs to connect with in order to fix things. Yet he is uncooperative in dealing directly with any of his new found friends.  As a result, Andy changes many things both for Earth and Anter’x, a directly connect world – via wormholes – on the other side of the galaxy. There the wolfcats thrive – for a while anyway, along with a primordial ancestor of humanity called the Hovdin and a race called Sabatin that enslaved the Hovdin for a time.

In The Attributes, a two book set that I wrote a while back, all the timelines and plot lines are resolved. Imagine that! Me crop 2

 

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Where Is Alabaster Cove?

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Somewhere between the coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean in northern California there is a mythical town called Alabaster Cove. At least, I think that’s where to begin looking for it. You see, on top of everything else I have problems with, reality being one of them, there are random people I know who like making up stuff. In other words, my world is largely populated with writers.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a writer – unless you ask someone who actually lives with one. I’m sure my ex has a pretty long list of things she never really liked about living with me. Anyway, one of the writers I know fairly well conjured Alabaster Cove into existence. I’m not sure where it came from. Maybe it was an inspiration caught between imagination and a dream. You know the place, somewhere under the rainbow – or should that be over? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the place actually does exist even if only in Deek Rhew’s mind.

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Deek is part of a dynamic duo of fiction writing. Erin Rhew, his wife, is an accomplished sci-fi/fantasy writer. Deek does mystery/detective stuff. Together they constitute what Kurt Vonnegut Jr. referred to as a Nation of Two. They were born to be together. All they had to do was find one another and suddenly their lives made sense. And everyone else who knows them cannot think of one without the other. They are that inseparable. That, by the way, trumps what I was saying about living with writers. When both people in a relationship write for a living the result can be magical. Not sure if they plan to collaborate on anything – a sci-fi who dun it? Well, I’d buy it. For the present she proof reads his stuff and vice versa. Each is the other’s biggest fan.

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They live somewhere about in Oregon. It rains there a lot. Since I know a lot of prolific writers who live in the Pacific Northwest, maybe the weather has a bit to do with why they write so much. Maybe I should live there instead of sunny (mostly, anyway) Florida. It would be an experience waking up in a world where I would be surrounded with writers, each of us trying to one up the other with a quick turn of a phrase. Come to think of it, maybe that wouldn’t be such a good thing after all.

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Deek’s latest effort is a novella titled Birth of an American Gigolo. Disclaimer: it’s not an autobiography. The novella is set in the aforementioned Alabaster Cove. It is also a place mentioned in Deek’s upcoming novel, 122 Rules. So, if you aim to become totally immersed in the fantasy of Deek’s fiction, and want to get to know the people who populate the mythical town of Alabaster Cove, Birth of an American Gigolo is the jumping off point. Please make sure your life vest is fastened securely before doing so. Deek is pretty good at telling stories that drag you inside and hold you captive for however long it takes you to read them.

 

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Review of Rose Montague’s Norma Jean’s School of Witchery: Book 2 Ghost School

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First, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way. Rose and I have a professional relationship as fantasy authors. We read and critique one another’s work and do it honestly, I believe. I enjoy her writing so much that I support her art by purchasing her books. I’m pretty certain that someday she will be well known in the field and I may actually resort to name dropping.

A few months back when Rose Montague began to tease publically about a new Norma Jean’s School of Witchery book, I was elated. I enjoyed reading book 1. How could I not? There’s a namesake character in it. Imagine that! So, because she made an announcement about book 2, I knew the next book in the series was being edited for publication.

I always enjoy reading Rose’s books because in her fictitious universe damned near anything is possible. Also, I’m not sure there is any issue she will shy away from in her writing. As a result, her characters feel pretty realistic. Despite the genre and the fact that most characters have some pretty outstanding abilities to change the world to suit them, they have situations, problems with relationships and they need a little help from their friends from time to time to resolve things. So, as I began reading this one I was wondering what new wrinkles Rose might introduce. And after reading Ghost School, Book 2 of the series, I am not disappointed. There is a good deal of unexpected in this book.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention there are zombies. Lots of them. And, true to form, Rose’s zombies aren’t exactly your run-of-the-mill sort. Jewel, our returning heroine from Book 1, confronts several other challenges only one of which is figuring out what to do with a town or two filled with zombies and an evil, megalomaniacal necromancer who not only conjures them from the grave but also has stolen a piece of serious, super-secret military technology that is designed to amplify magical powers to a quantum level. Oh great! A bad witch on steroids! You get the picture.

There are other returning favorites from book 1 of the series and Jewel needs their help in dealing with the bad guy. Meanwhile, we learn all sorts of amazing new things about Jewel as she explores and defines her magical powers. Hint, she’s not just a pyro, folks.

The ending is surprising but necessary for what I think lies ahead and I can’t wait to read it. Also, there is apparently another spin-off in the works. Imagine that! Three series set in one highly imaginative universe. Gives me goosebumps.

If you’re reading this, stop after the next sentence. Read Book 1 first! Oops, you’re still reading, aren’t you? Well, you should never consider reading book 2 of a series before book 1. I mean, who does that?  So, first go get book 1. And, although this series isn’t written to depend much on Rose’s other series, its characters appear in this one from time to time. So, you may as well hop on over and start reading Jade and Jane, Rose’s two other published books about Jewel’s family members. There is a third book on its way in that series as well, so be on the lookout.

If you are new to Rose Montague’s work, she’s a gifted storyteller with a vivid and sometimes wild imagination. Her work sparkles with the magic she binds to the pages with spells that only she knows how to create. She has a great feel for characters and setting up challenges that leaves readers wondering how in the hell do you overcome that? Her target audience is Young Adult. She is unabashedly a writer as well as an avid reader of the genre. If you look, you’ll see her reviewing the works of other YA writers. Although I’m no longer technically in that chronological mix, I’m still hanging in spirit. The trick is to never grow up, right? I know I never will. Just ask my kids. Anyway, I enjoy a good YA book every now and then, and Rose never disappoints.

I give this a strong 5 for imagination, content and storytelling but a 4 for editing. In one place the POV shifts from Jewel to another character named Louise. A chapter break segregates it, so just be aware that toward the middle of the book that is coming. The shift is necessary and it does portend to some future things. There are a few missed typos. C’mon, every book has some, right? My overall rating is still 5.

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Feeding The Need

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

Those of us who write understand the gnawing of an idea that enters our consciousness through a dream or, perhaps, a simple crazy, disjointed, random thought that occurs during any given day. Eventually, it can lead to a story. That story may be several pages, a novel or several novels. But that is pretty-much how the process begins. And it isn’t like you can ignore the impulse to write. If you try, it will make you ill or turn you into an alcoholic. There is no other option but to write until having writ you can move on – usually to the next warped idea that comes to mind.

As a published author one of the frequently asked questions is: ‘When did you first know that what you were writing was a novel.” I have to qualify some things before I answer that, with regard to my present novel in release, Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce). Unlike the other thirty-some-odd manuscripts I have archived somewhere or the other, FW started out to be a collection of short stories. Those stories had recurring characters and the world – or rather universe – was shared. But when I wrote FW in draft it was sixteen separate short stories. At some point, fairly close to when I decided to submit it to Pandamoon Publishing, I decided to stitch it together as a novel. After that effort there were a couple of other chapters feathered into the story, just so that it made some sense and had flow as well as a story arc. Even so, I submitted what are the first two chapters to an online magazine. Independently a friend edited them, gratis – which was all I could afford. I loved her suggestions and went with most of them. The result: I submitted the two chapters as a single short story, fully expecting it to become my launch pad, a series submitted as installments to the magazine. At some point I would assemble the whole into a collection. That was my idea, anyway.

I was pretty much homeless at the time, and would have lived on the streets if not for the accommodations and largess of my brother-in-law and oldest sister. I did odd jobs for him as a way of paying my keep. But mainly I wrote and made great progress on a lot of that manuscripts I had never had the time to deal with while working 55+ hours a week as a retail manager.

I was not in a good place after what most have termed a mental meltdown. Of course, I don’t see it that way. Leaving my last previous job made all the sense in the world because. I honestly believe, I’d be dead by now had I not done so. After living in my brother-in-law’s house for nearly a year he delivered an ultimatum about my writing: sell something, or find a real job – as in anything that pays a weekly wage.

He and I have very different perspectives on money.

He has always believed I was my father’s prodigal son. I have always understood that money is as worthless as the paper it is printed on – a more durable sort of toilet paper, actually, especially so if  the majority of people ever bother to consult Webster’s as to the definition of fiduciary – which defines our monetary system. My sister got in the middle of all that. Of course, she loves me as her baby brother. But the reality of my situation put a lot of stress on her, and I appreciated that. I was divorced. My ex-wife pretty much sapped all my savings away in the process of paying debts for an ill-fated business venture. We filed for bankruptcy just before we divorced.

I’m not blaming her for everything here. There were more than enough errors to go around. But had I done what I wanted to do instead of listening to her, I think things might have turned out better. But, then, really, who knows?

What I am certain of is that my kids were better off for having experienced the negative side of happens to an otherwise apparently successful, affluent married couple. We had the $300k home in Connecticut. Paid cash for it. We had cars we owned outright as well. My company was making money and selling my stock options afforded me a lifestyle I had not yet earned. Our kids were attending the best school system in the state. But, within the course of a year and a half, it all unraveled. The tragedy took a few more years to fully play-out, but that when the decline started,around the time I was hospitalized for endocarditis.

I had open heart surgery in May of 1995 to repair a failing mitral valve. As I was recovering I was following O. J. Simpson’s trial on TV. I died seven times during the surgery. I would have never known that had I not needed to fax the transcripts of the surgery to the insurance carrier. They were disputing everything, of course. From my side of the experience, I had a couple of very long and persistent bizarre dreams during that experience. And those are also incorporated into The Wolfcat Chronicles, a series I have under contract with Pandamoon Publishing.

I toyed with writing for most of my life. I wrote a manuscript called Tarot while I was in college. Some of that lead directly to The Wolfcat Chronicles. I really and honestly believed Tarot would be published. I retyped it – you had to use typewriter back then – and allowed someone, a friend I respected, to read it. I expected her to tell me, “I love it send it away to a publisher now!” What she told me was a bit more sobering. “This is really a great rough draft. What you need to do is find a good editor.”

Dream shaken but not shattered. I still have that manuscript in a box somewhere about. I have consulted it several times over the years whenever I was beset with excessive hubris. It grounds me. Think of it as the portrait of Dorian Gray that is kept in the attic.

I went on a hiatus from writing fiction while I served it the USAF as a crypto-linguist and unit historian. In that secondary role I composed a 400+ page document that is, technically, my first published work. The distribution was exclusive to those with Top Secret SCI clearances. Maybe four or five people every looked at it. It won an award though. So, at some point, I assume someone must have read it. As odd as it might seem for a fiction writer, that was the impetus for me to pursue my other stories.  All of it came into resolute focus when I was recovering for the surgery. I needed to do something as a legacy for my children if not for myself.

It’s been a long and often frustrating journey spanning twenty years to this point. Fried Windows completes one part of my life and begets another, the life of a published author. Imagine that!

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Review of Justin Lee Anderson’s Carpet Diem

Carpet Diem Cover

Imagine the big bang was a little mistake that rapidly spun out of control, the result of divine siblings messing around and being unable to stop it. Of course they roll with it, wagering on which species will evolve to dominate. But the game was rigged from the outset so that it isn’t supposed to end in a stalemate.

The title Carpet Diem is a play on the Latin for “Seize the Day”. In this case, Justin Lee Anderson’s novel might be called Carpe Vestis or Seize the Rug. A unique, ancient artifact that Simon Debovar inherits from his uncle, a renowned archeologist, is the source considerable divine interest. You see, what Simon has decided to keep as his living room carpet proves to be the thirteenth and final piece of the ages contest pitting angels against demons. It is all they need to resolve the eternal competition, but according to the Rules, they must have the present owner give it to one or the other sides.

The rug, along with the rest of Simon’s considerable inheritance, came into Simon’s possession thirteen years ago after nearly all of his relations die at a family reunion, the result of an apparent accident involving pudding. As the sole named heir he becomes instantly loaded. And he, an asocial sort retreats even further from society, holed up in an apartment as an antisocial hermit who generally hates people mainly because they smell bad. Simon has disabled his doorbell to prevent anyone from ringing it. But then, after more than a decade of silence, it sounds, waking him from his sleep. He doesn’t answer the door so much from the curiosity of who might be calling but instead to learn how, after all this time, it has managed to ring. Those responsible are an unlikely pair, an angel named Daniel and a demon named Lily who have come bearing propositions. They have long since thrown in together to find the last artifact and are about to make their tempting offers to Simon in exchange. Yes, this is that kind of story, stretching the limits of imagination in the process of advancing plot and having some laughs along the way.

Justin Lee Anderson writes in the tradition of heavyweights like Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams but with a style all his own. He provides a host of bizarre and seemingly unnavigable situations for his characters, which include just about everything supernatural from witches and wizards to teleporters, ghosts and, of all things, an all-knowing deer. There are even some beings that are undefined in the nature of the universe, with unlimited abilities – just to make things more interesting. With imagination unbridled Anderson writes an absurd adventure leaving the reader wondering where it might go next. And the answer is, just about anywhere.

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