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Karen Perkins’ Valkyrie Series – Pirates and Romance

Karen Perkins

Well written historical fiction should cause the reader to wonder what really happened – to ask what in the story is fact and what is not. If the story is well executed it should be told without anachronism or other annoying flaws, accurately depicting the period in question. Ultimately it should be the kind of story that leaves the reader thinking that if things didn’t happen exactly this way, perhaps they should have.

The Valkyrie Series is a pirate tale with a love story of two thrown in to the mix. In the background it also points out some of the more glaring social issues of the period such as colonial exploitation, slavery and greed along with the institutionalized oppression of women and man’s inhumanity as contrasted to the desire for freedom of choice.

Karen Perkins begins her tale with Ill Wind, a novella length story that introduces us to 14-year-old Gabriella Berryngton. Set in the late 17th Century we are transported back to a time with very different rules. Although her story begins in colonial Massachusetts Bay her father arranges for her marriage of convenience to Erik the son of a wealthy Dutch businessman named Jan van Ecken. Against her will she is taken aboard a ship to the Caribbean island of Sayba. On the way she learns that van Ecken’s business associations are at least questionable and, as the story progresses, she learns that she is aboard a pirate ship. Her adventure as well as a great deal of suffering at the hand of overbearing and oppressive men is just beginning.

Gabriella begins as an innocent girl but rapidly becomes experienced in the darker aspects of the real world into which her father is forced her, a dangerous existence defined by wealth, slavery and nefarious dealings with some unsavory characters.

The second book of the series, Dead Reckoning is a true novel in length and in structure. It is told from the perspective of two character, Leo Santiago who we met briefly in Ill Wind and Gabriella van Ecken, the previous is bent on revenge against the pirates that tortured and raped his mother before killing her and the latter seeking escape and freedom from her imprisonment as the nominal wife of Erik.

Dead Reckoning has the feel of a epic journey into the world of privateers marauding the Caribbean. Again the attention to detail in the descriptions of the ships and the character’s clothing is second to none. The level of accuracy makes it easy to lose oneself in the adventure, getting so involved in the story that you continue to think about the character and wonder at the outcome of their stories long after you set the books aside. Karen Perkins is herself an accomplished competition sailor, so it comes as little surprise that the nautical terms and descriptions of the ships, their rigging and the basics of how to sail such marvels of construction is meticulously factual, leaving the reader feeling as if he or she has learned something and might even be able to survive aboard such ships.

The third installment of the Valkyre series is Look Sharpe! Having read the books in the numerical order as perhaps intended is not necessary, though. Since Karen Perkins structured the story from the perspectives of its several main characters the reader might actually start by reading Look Sharpe! and gain a different perspective on the characters and their stories. Though I found Dead Reckoning to be the most complete novel in a traditional sense, each of the three installments has its strengths as a story.

The risk of telling a story from multiple perspectives is that the story gets lost in all the background details and the reader gets bored with hearing the same bits told over and over, albeit from differing perspectives. But here Perkins takes care to avoid redundancies. Although there is some overlap in the details, having each character’s unique point of view is actually enlightening. The way Perkins presents the material is effective instead of distracting. However, there is a huge problem in structuring a story as multiple character profiles. And the Valkyrie Series story arc suffers in the process.

There is a different way of presenting the story using a mixture of character point of view and chronological order. In order to create the story in such a manner the entire story must be drafted first then arranged into a logical flow. The difficulty in this method is that it is time consuming and requires an author to extend work on an epic tale such as this over a span of years instead of the usual few months it takes to draft a novel.

My problem with giving any of the books in this series a complete endorsement is that two of the other books feel incomplete as novels and the one that merit the title, Dead Reckoning, leaves many questions unanswered. Look Sharpe! answers the questions of who is Henry Sharpe and why does he act as he does in assisting the events in Dead Reckoning. I can assume that the soon to be released Ready About and the short story Where Away also serve to fill in the backstory’s details.

Structural problems aside, the Valkyrie Series has a lot to offer for those who love historical pieces about pirates and high seas adventures. The character based story telling delivered in first person lends intimacy in the connection between the reader and the characters making for a enjoyable read. Had the story arc of the entire series been used as an overall structure for telling the series from the perspectives of Gabriella, Leo and Sharpe (and perhaps Magdalena) I believe the books could have made a stronger impact as works of epic adventure literature. Perhaps, once the story is completely told, the author might reorganize the various parts and tell the story chronologically through each character’s perspectives.

The quality of writing is first rate with only a few minor editing errors. Some of the spellings are peculiar to the period and the fact that the author is British. Single quotes are used in dialogue, which is not a big deal to American readers who have read some British authors in the past. Because of the manner of telling through the eyes of multiple characters there are jumps in time and a few instances of overlapping events seen from different points of view.

Regardless of the structural shortcomings of the series I highly recommend these books. Perkins is a gifted writer. Her characters live and breathe for the reader.

The Valkyrie Series

Trailer:

https://www.goodreads.com/videos/66279-the-valkyrie-series

To buy on Amazon.com:

Ill Wind

Ill Wind : http://tinyurl.com/omwgyml

Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning: http://tinyurl.com/qbkpurv

Look Sharpe!

Look Sharpe!: http://tinyurl.com/op6e88l

#pirates #HighSeas #Adventure #Caribbean #KarenPerkins #romance

 

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Persona Non Grata by Stephen J. Stirling Is Refreshingly Engaging

Persona Non Grata Cover

Stephen J. Stirling had penning an exciting, fast-paced, refreshingly engaging read that is topical, blending both religious dogma and current events. Although set in a fictitious version of Crimea, not the one you’ll find on any map, the political intrigue rings true enough in a captivating, suspense-filled tale.

Paladin Smith, the story’s unlikely hero, is a high school history teacher and devout follower of the Mormon faith who starts each day teaching a seminary class to teens, just as he did many several years ago when he has Victoria (Toria) Grant in his class. After he saves her from date rape her uncle misreads his interest in her forces him to leave town. Now that adversary from his past returns as a Congressman who needs Paladin’s help to save Toria. The strength of his faith is tested as the strange mission requires Paladin to travel 6,000 miles and do something well beyond anything he has ever done – perhaps something he never dreamed was possible. In the process he relies on the inner strength of his faith and receives an opportunity to save more than one life and also change the world.

I particularly enjoyed the way Stirling casts his Paladin into the political intrigue. At first everyone assumes he is a special envoy from the US but then, as he true identity come into focus he becomes an officially unwelcome person, hence the title of the book.

There is a powerful message of hope contained in Stirling’s words and it is delivered along with page-turning action and steadily building suspense to a climax that comes as a surprise after all the underhanded chicanery going on in the background. The reading experience is enjoyable and a distinct change from recent fare.

To buy on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/nxcp8zk

#suspense #PolicticalIntrigue #novel #Mormon #StephenJStirling, #MustReadBooks

Steve-Stirling-author

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Dreams Don’t Die Unless You Let Them

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It was an overreaction, I suppose. But first thing in the morning, a time when you might just be as optimistic as you will ever be for the entire day, I read a post on Facebook. All of it was fine, about the light of stars arriving when in fact the star died long ago. That’s the nature of the universe. But then, at the end the premise was made that like the stars I dreams die as well. I beg to differ.

Maybe dreamers die, or at least they appear to die. Their dreams live on. Dreams contain within them the means of achieving of immortality, if that’s what’s desired. You see people die. Like the universe and stars that is part of our nature. There is a brief span for each thing. Whether it is a few minutes, a few millennia or millions of years, nothing lasts except the  elemental matter from which all things are derived. Isn’t it odd that matter comes from the death of some stars? So without a star perishing somewhere in the cosmos billions of years ago all the stuff of which you and I consist would not exist. That’s science.

Me, I believe a lot of strange things but one of the enduring, beliefs is consistent with everything else regardless how strange it might seem to others. People are born to dream. Those who allow dreams to die within them make that choice. It is sad and unnecessary, but it is part of believing the illusions others set before us. We are expected at some point to cave in to the mounting pressures of practicality. We set aside our dreams promising, perhaps, to come back to them when we have the time. All too often time expires. The dream is still there, though, just unreeled. The dreamer dies but the dream never does.

Not everyone is radical in their perspective. I understand that. For thirty or more years I played the games others set before me. Participating int he practical life, enslaved to a clock, allowing others to tell me when to be somewhere and also what I needed to do in order to earn the pittance I’d agreed to work for. That is real life, right? I opted for that in lieu of chasing the dream of being a musician or a writer. And now that I’m on the backside of the adventure that has been my life, I see the error in that kind of thinking. It wasn’t an either/or choice. I should haven never set aside the dream. Look at all the time I wasted being practical when instead I could have pursued the dream.

Now, I hear you. You have obligations. You settle down, have a family and everything that goes with that. That’s what life is about – well, some of what life is about. But I propose that life is also about the adventure, learning, growing and dreaming. If that is not included in your adventure, then life becomes bankrupt as you die well before getting the chance to return to your dreams.

What prevents you from realizing your dreams is not your obligations to others or the necessity of survival. Sometimes it is as simples deciding to take a chance and just go for it.   Yes, you might fail. But you might succeed and I’ll bet the odds of success are better than the chance at winning the lottery – and it costs nothing except for making the choice and sticking to it until you reach your dream’s destination.

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There is a sacred event that happens when an artist has produced a tangible artifact for posterity – in the case of a writer, something printed on pages. Holding an actual book in one’s hands, seeing one’s name on it, reading one’s own words in print that others, strangers even, will read is both sobering and humbling. It is the culmination of a process that at inception is a crazy idea that turns into a dream. And a few months or years later you can hold the evidence of the dream in your hands.

No, thats not why writers write. But it is a worthwhile experience that only writers can have the moment the writer feels like he or she is an author.

I never stopped writing, by the way. Really it was more that I doubted anyone would want to read my silly stories. Still, I continued to write them because, well… as every writer will tell you, you don’t have much of a choice. If you are a writer you will write. The reason I was in my mid 40’s before publishing my first book was a matter of deciding not to listen to everyone else. I knew how hard it is to become published. I went through the rejection. But at some point I figured out that when a publisher says ‘no’ really it means ‘not yet’. Either my timing was bad or the manuscript wasn’t ready Either way it wasn’t that the dream of publishing a book was wrong. It just wasn’t the right time.

Fried Windows is about dreams and never giving up on them. It is not my first publication and I’m determined that it won;t be my last. It is different than what came before it. What comes next will continue to be unique. It is a beginning point set int he middle of the main character’s life and there are many more stories about him and in which he participates as a supporting character.

WP_20140728_005                                                            FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

#writing #dreams #ambitions #author #writers #publishing #FriedWindows

Buy Fried Windows here: http://tinyurl.com/o4hd2kq

 

 

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Anybody Can Do It – Sort Of

 

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One of my past bosses was prone to saying things like, “If it was easy anybody could do it.” Then he’d immediately add, “And it wouldn’t be fun.” Eventually he contracted all of that down to “If it was easy it wouldn’t be fun.” I never thought much about the implications of what he was saying until I moved on to working for someone else, a guy who was more prone to saying hackneyed things about his aunt not being his uncle because she lacked the balls – or something like that. Clearly, though, my old boss saw merit in the difficulty of the struggle. To him that made the work fun.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say work is fun but there are things that make the time seemed to pass by quickly. The effort involved in doing something makes it an adventure. It also defines us as individuals by the level of struggle we are willing to endure to succeed. To some extent it is true that the people who aren’t famous are the ones who were unwilling to put forth the effort required. Although in some instances it seems others become famous for no apparent reason, there is always a reason for it and if it didn’t take them effort to get there it certainly requires effort to remain there. Also, what is required for fame to endure will tend to piss off some people along the way. Family and some friends have the choice of being supportive or feeling neglected. At times they may believe that the famous person has changed. That’s not the usual case, though.  I’ll explain some o that later.

All this came to mind this morning while I was writing a book review. Yeah, that’s how my mind works: do one thing while thinking of several other things in the process. I’m weird like that. Anyway, last night a good friend and I were discussing fame and why it comes easy for some people and not others. I asserted that anyone can be famous, it’s just that most are not willing to follow through and take the necessary steps for whatever reason.

Why would someone set out to become famous then not complete the process? Well, there are several very good reasons. Foremost is that being famous is not what people think it is go ingot be like. I’ve never been famous but I know people who are or have been for a period. So I have some insight on how it changed them and how it did not – kind of a before and after. Let me start out by saying that when each one became famous for a while it was fun for them and their closest friends who enjoyed the moment vicariously or through close association. It didn’t really change who they were but it changed how others, particularly strangers and friends who, in truth, were hardly better than acquaintances, responded to them. True friend were still friends. There wasn’t as much time to spend together, perhaps but that was sort of understandable with all the demands of maintaining fame. Then, far more abruptly than the fame came, all of it went away.

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That’s pretty much how it happens, I guess. And from having witnessed the process a few times I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone has it in them to be famous. What is required it connecting with the moment and as many people as possible. You entertain them for however long you command attention and when it is over, if you don’t have something new to give, fickle human nature takes charge. The audience move on to the next greatest thing and unless you have something to bring their focus back, of have some slick marketing behind you with a publicity campaign to keep your name out there in public view at all times, you lose the spotlight.

Andy Warhol mentioned the 15 minutes of fame everyone supposedly has. It is pretty much the same thing, expect these days, with the Internet and everything else, it is more like five seconds. Yet never before has it been more possible to be famous. Writers don’t need publishers to share their writing, musicians don’t need record labels, and clearly you don’t need to be an actor or have any real talent or skills to be on TV. You just have to do something that provokes others to take interest. Then you, or rather what you do/did, goes viral. If you know how to hang on and adapt you might be famous for more than ten seconds.

So here’s a simple five step plan for fame:

1) grab attention.

2) hold attention.

3) gain more attention.

4) extend and maintain interest.

5) repeat steps one through four.

Yeah it is overly simplified, but that is also my point. We make it too hard when it’s really not. All you need to be famous is to get everyone’s attention and keep it for a while.

The first few moments of a song or the first few sentences of a book MUST gain attention of the target audience, otherwise what follows is irrelevant. That’s the nature of the world and I think that’s is why most people fail to become famous. They don’t have a firm grip on attention grabbing. The five seconds you have to convince anyone that should be famous expires while you are still thinking of the right way to begin.

#fame #attention #famous #publicity

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Advantages of Kindle Unlimited Go To Authors and Readers

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Okay, so a bunch of my friends are confused about what Amazon is up to with the Unlimited program. Let’s call it what it is: competition advantage. The program offers both authors and readers several advantages, though. Really the only ones who aren’t in favor of the program are those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo in the publishing world where the major houses dominate.

This is what’s good about the program:

For Readers: The benefits come from being able to download and try any book that is on the KDP program, roughly 600,000 titles, regardless of whether he or she owns a Kindle device. If you have a Kindle application on your computer, tablet or phone you can use the Unlimited program as well as those who own Kindles. The first month of the program is a free trial. You can borrow up to 10 books at a time. Then you must return a book in order to download your next book. But, unlike the previous and still existing lending library program Amazon has with KDP, it is not limited to one title a month or restricted to only those who own a device. After the trial period, the reader can continue in the program for $9.99 a month. Also, the reader can still purchase any book they want to keep as a private library item.

For authors: Unlimited virtually eliminates the advantage to pricing an eBook lower. A reader will no longer be as sensitive to price in determining which books to download. In fact a reader may be more inclined to read higher priced books because, well, they cost the same $9.99 a month on the plan. For the reader there may be perceived additional value in books with higher retail prices but, for the author, higher retail means a larger share of the lending pie when it comes to paying out royalties. Ten percent of the book is the threshold past which royalties are paid. Ebooks already display at least 10% o the book for readers to sample. So effectively there is no change in that. Once a reader advances beyond that point sale is recorded for the author’s account and it also counts for ranking purposes. Yes, the royalty is lower than if the book had actual been sold but here you have to think in terms of it as revenue the author would not get otherwise. It is a sale made to someone who previously may have not downloaded the book al all. Again, the advantage is to the author. Unlimited expands access to the library download feature in KDP that to this point only Kindle device owners could use. Authors in the KDP program are competing with 600,000 titles for Unlimited as opposed to 1.4 million titles for the overall market. As a result, it should be somewhat easier for authors to climb in the sales rankings with this new program.

For small publishers and those who self-publis: Unlimited gives access to a range of marketing features through Amazon KDP that traditional major publishers are less inclined to use. Although eBooks must be listed exclusively with Amazon for them to be on KDP that may not be such a bad thing considering the marketshare the 800-pound gorilla has. Major publishers do not like the KDP program because it required exclusivity which they perceive restricts their distribution options while also eroding their control over the market. However, if they were to participate in the program all the advantages I’ve mentioned would work for them as well, except that their eBooks would not be available through every distributor out there.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I think this is a good thing for authors and readers alike.

#Amazon #Unlimited #Publishing #eBooks #Kindle #KDP #Authors #Readers

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Surviving Heart Surgery

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Everyone should have a cause or maybe a group of causes he or she supports. What we believe in defines us as individuals and as humans. You never know when an organization you support will directly impact a life close to you…or perhaps your own.

I recall as a child wondering why my parents were such easy marks for charity pitches. They seems to donate to anyone who asked. They were good, caring people ho hated to see anyone suffering. But as a kid the dollar or two they gave seemed like a lot of money I could have used for better things like candy or a new toy.

As I matured I began to understand why my parents did as they did. Their money went to support research that was finding cures to debilitating diseases or discovering treatments to enhanced the quality of life for those with afflictions. So by the time I was an adult I was accustomed to donating to charities, primarily those that helped children, fought cancer or benefitted animals. The American Heart Association is one cause I have supported for years. As it turned out, in May of 1995 I needed the research al those donations over the years had supported.

You see I had open heart surgery. The procedure used to replace my mitral valve involved a tissue graft fashioned into a new valve, thus preventing most of the negatives associated with artificial valves, like using Coumadin or some other blood thinner for the rest of my life. The surgical team worked all day and, I’m told, I was clinically dead seven times before before my heart began to heat again on its own. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the medical research that went on years before that day with the support of The American Heart Association and others is why I had a chance. Had I been born twenty or so years before I know I would not have made it.

*This is a personal and unsolicited endorsement of  The American Heart Association. The logo belong to the organization is used here for purposes of association of the personal story with the beneficial work of the charitable organization.

#AHA #AmericanHeartAssociation #OpenHeartSurgery

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Animals Enrich Our Lives

I’ve decided I need a dog. Not just any dog, either. I need a dog with a story to tell. I’m thinking I’ll make him or her the subject of a book, granting my new friend a level of immortality afforded to those to inhabit fantasy worlds.

 

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There a love of animals in me. I had several pets as a child, including some farm animals like lambs, a pony and a horse. Usually we had dogs and cats as well. As a result I’ve written some stories with animals in them. I’ve created fictional animals as well, some that don’t exist outside of the worlds I create.

The Wolfcat Chronicles establishes a whole mythical world about fantastic beings that are the product of gene splicing DNA of cats wolves and humans…and a lot of other stuff of course, otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a story, now would it? But it occurs to me that I don’t often write about real world dogs in my stories, mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve had a pet of my own.

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While I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law, their dog, Barnaby – a King Charles Cavalier – was my daily companion. He used to sleep in my room while I wrote in the morning, keeping me company curled up at the foot of my bed. Afterwards, when I was staying with my son, there was Rocco, his American Bulldog. We used to go for morning walks and, otherwise, he’d keep me company in the room where I did my writing. The place where I stay now doesn’t have a dog. That fact makes me miss my writing buddies all the more.

When I’m back in the real world, having a place of my own again and playing this game as it is intended, I’ll probably visit an animal rescue shelter and adopt a friend. Many of my people friends do that. In a way I’d like to have a puppy and watch him or her grow up, but I also know there are many mature dogs out there who need someone. They’ve had rough lives through no fault of their own except for being born into this crazy world. I’m not in a situation where I can do that just yet. But I will be.

I think everyone who can should adopt an animal according to his or her preferences. Not only is it healthy in reducing stress, but also it enriches our lives to have a close friend who loves us unconditionally. Since that appears to be an extremely rare trait in human relationships, that is why we gravitate toward pets.

#dogs #RescueAnimals #pets #PetEnrichedLife