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Authors Life, blizzard, Blog, life, management, retail, safety, uncomfortable, Writing

When you first realize that your company doesn’t really care about you.

This is not intended as a hit piece on a former employer, but I think it’s indicative of the corporate mindset in America. And since this happened twenty-seven years ago, the underlying condition resulting in the lack of respect has been around for a long time and likely is endemic in our culture. It came to mind today since a dear friend of mine experienced a similar thing with her employer as blizzard conditions bore down on her part of the country. Some things never change. In the world of business, it is always about the bottom line.

In the winter of 1994, a blizzard was coming. Everyone knew about it for days. We’d been preparing for it at my store, a home improvements center in Connecticut. Customers had been coming in looking for snow shovels, ice melting salt, forget about finding a snowblower, that had sold out well before the first major storm of the season. Despite having ordered more stock of storm-related items, by the day of the storm we were out of everything people might want except for batteries and flashlights and even those were running low.

Earlier that day we had a conference call with the district manager earlier. He said that as soon as the snow began falling we were to cut back our staffing and send our hourly employees home, in the interest of their safety. Anyway, we were not going to be busy, so the general manager and our six assistant managers could handle everything. That all made sense. But it was the rest that kinda irked me.

You see, the general store manager was required, at his discretion, to cut loose the assistants who lived furthest from the store, and to do it in order until there was only the general manager and one assistant – whoever lived closest to the store – remaining to stay until regular closing hours. Under no circumstances short of the police arriving at our doorstep and ordering us to close were we allowed to leave early. The company didn’t want to risk that a single customer would need something we would disappoint them, missing that potential sale.

Guess who was the assistant manager who lived closest to the store?

Here’s ‘the out’ for the company, the absolution of all guilt. They allowed the two remaining managers to split costs on a motel room for the night in lieu of driving home. Oh, and they’d also reimburse us for dinner and breakfast. The problem with all that is that the store wasn’t in the best neighborhood so the accommodations close-by were the sort of fleabag joints that local call girls took their johns. Finding anything better would still entail driving a good bit.

For me, driving home was closer. For the store manager, he lived halfway to Rhode Island. Yet, both of us drive 4X4’s, so driving home wasn’t a huge issue, other than the trip being nerve-racking and it taking a good bit longer than usual at the risk of being stranded if anything bad happened. You never know what you might face during a drive in a snowstorm. Plus, the blizzard would make for whiteout conditions which meant that driving blind was a possibility. And I told the manager that he could spend the night at my place. But he was confident that he would make it home regardless of the road conditions.

Of course, I called home to inform my wife that I’d not be home until very late. She was worried, not only about the bad roads but also driving while physically exhausted. By the luck of the schedule, I’d opened that morning, which meant that I’d been there since 4 AM. It would be one of those long days that we who were in management called working an ironman shift, being there for both opening and closing. It happened from time to time due to call-outs for sickness, covering for a required all-store management training session for which one manager, usually the administrative manager, was selected to run the for the entire day. The fact that we had a name for it should indicate that it happened often enough. Anyway, my wife was livid about how the company was treating its managers.

By 6 PM it was dark outside, except that the foot of snow that had fallen over the course of that reflected the street lights making for a fairly bright parking lot. We had four hours left before we could lock the doors and shut down the computers. We had already closed out all the resisters and put away all the money except for one till at the customer service desk where the register was configured to handle any possible transaction. And the manager and I were both fully qualified at all operations. But it had been over an hour since we’d had a customer. We’d locked all the doors except for the main entrance where the two of were were camped out.

Yes, we had a few customers that evening, averaging about one an hour. We knew the customers personally. They were regulars who lived fairly close to the store. It was weird what they came in to buy, though – nothing you would expect someone to come out in a blizzard to purchase. We sold, five 2X4X8’s to one customer, for example. I mixed some paint for another customer. Most of what we did was answer the phone to inform people that yes, we were open. The number of calls received didn’t match the number of customers who showed up at the door, though.

Shortly before closing, a guy showed up wanting to fill out an employment application. Yeah, I’m serious. That happened. The manager thought it showed how much the guy needed a job. I told him it showed how nuts the guy was. Subsequently, the manager decided to hire the guy. He didn’t last long. My gut was right about him.

Once we had closed out the last register, put away the money, and closed down the computer system for the night, the manager and I said our goodbyes and be carefuls. It took him well over 2 hours to get home, a drive that normally took him 45 minutes. It took me 45 minutes to cover 7 miles. As I was heading north the storm was actually worse around my house than it was closer to the store. When I arrived home, my wife was sitting in the family room, watching something inane on TV. Obviously, she had been worried about me. Heck, I was worried about me, too. It wasn’t an easy drive at all. At times it was difficult to know for certain where the road was. But I’d made it. But what she said to me resonated and remained in the back of my mind for my remaining years with the company, especially every ensuing time I was asked to sacrifice my personal time and safety.

“That’s how much your company thinks of you.”

Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Fried Windows, Magic, Magical Realism, New Releases, novel, Urban Fantasy

Do You Want the Backstory?

A few days ago I finished a revision of an unpublished manuscript. I have submitted it previously to my publisher but initially, I composed it as one book and it weighed in at a hefty 200K+ words, which is just not viable for a print book these days. Yet, after painstakenly condensing it and breaking it into two books, it was still passed over. It is not a critique of the work or the story so much as whether it meets the publisher’s overall preference for genre. You see, it’s a quirky story like Fried Windows, but it is more of a coming-of-age tale with a good bit of romance in it as well. It tells the story of Brent Woods coming to terms with his true nature as a wolfcat and his experiences during his senior year of high school. As you might expect of a book set in the mid-1970’s, there is an overall nostalgic feel to it and, of course, it is also filled with magical realism, since the main characters are wolfcats and witches.

Long books, especially when an author is nurturing a following, are not necessarily a good gamble for a publisher’s investment. However, I feel the story told in the manuscript is essential to understanding Brent Woods, the main character in the Fried Windows series. It even serves as the backstory for Pamela Roberts, a character who appears in the soon-to-be-published Ninja Bread Castles (coming April 13, 2022), the second book of the Fried Windows Series, and Dawn Penobscot, a character who will appear in book 3 of the Fried Windows Series.

There are some other unpublished manuscripts hanging around in ‘limbo’, which is what I call one of my computer’s storage drives that contain lots of my writing which may or may not ever be published. You see, it is a writer’s job to write and in order to do that, sometimes you create character profiles that evolve into background stories that allow for a better understanding of a character’s influences and motivation for a work that becomes published. Still, for those readers who become heavily invested in characters, knowing the full backstory is compelling enough that it merits an author sharing the notes in a story form. For that reason, I’ve decided to publish Brent’s story as chapter installments via Medium.

The process of publishing through Medium may take a year or so to complete. There are currently three books in the ‘It’ series (Finding It, Going For It, and Losing It) that are at a point of being ready to post as chapters for consumption. And, in the future, there is another story that I may bring to the world in this same way. That one goes much further back in Brent’s life, to the time when he was around 7 or 8 years old.

Look for my posts on Medium here

Mexico, Monterrey, New Music, Rock Music, Rock'n'Roll, Uncategorized, Villarreal Sisters

Finding Inspiration: A Review of Rock’s Latest Power Trio – The Warning

Remember when Heart was a novelty because they had sisters as the lead singer and the lead guitarist? Remember The Runaways featuring Joan Jet? What about The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, The Ronettes, or The Supremes? You didn’t know there were that many female bands in the classic rock period 60’s, 70’s, and Early 80’s? Don’t feel alone. It was a rarity to be sure. The industry seemed determined to package the Rock’n’Roll lifestyle embodied in male vocals often singing in falsetto with males playing the guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. There were some exceptions like Fleetwood Mac or the Talking Heads, where women played keyboards or bass guitar while also singing, but it was far from the norm.

The music industry has changed a lot since then. I was about to say it’s evolved, but in many ways, it’s devolved into its current state of overhyped, autotuned, commercial tripe. Supposedly, Rock died around 1996. At least that’s when I first heard someone proclaim that. At the time, I thought it was an uninformed opinion. You see, Rock music has always been rebellious and at least initially counter-cultural, distinct from the mainstream, even when it dominated the music charts and was considered the principal money-making vehicle for the industry. I believed it was wishful thinking on the part of tone-deaf executives looking to create a factory system to churn out cookie-cutter pop stars that they could exploit while ever cashing in on the latest trend. But then came Napster and later on Ipods. Music became more portable than just a CD or cassette player you could walk around with while you rocked out to tunes pouring into your ears through earbuds. It could be digitally converted into a compressed format suitable for sending and receiving over the Internet and storing en masse on a disc drive for easy playback.

I think a certain branch of Rock music actually did die around 1996. It was the sort that was heavily rooted in the Blues, the sort of stuff that Clapton and Page played, the kind of music that continued to live through Stevie Ray Vaughn until his untimely death, yet hangs on even now because it is essential and evokes a visceral response. Much to the detriment of the overall Rock genre and its many splintered sub-genres going off in different directions, along unusual tangents, its soul was anchored in the past to The Blues to which the up and coming artists rarely paid homage. Modern Rock became abstract, disjointed, and disconnected from the gut-punching emotion that has driven it from the mid-fifties until the nineties. Continuing forward as a viable medium depended on adopting some of the very things that were killing it.

Meanwhile, the Grammies began snubbing Rock bands, pushing their awards into the lower tiers of importance, not even worth a mention on the awards broadcast. Oh well, it had been a while since anyone in Rock took those awards seriously anyway, perhaps since Jethro Tull was picked as the best Heavy Metal band over Metallica, much to the surprise of anyone who followed either group and the chagrin of both bands. And being a Rocker from way back, I frankly never gave a crap about the Grammies. Only occasionally did they ever get things right in my estimation, about as often as the proverbial blind squirrel finds the elusive acorn. As proof, how many bands currently enshrined in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame never won a Grammy? But then again, The Hall of Fame’s credibility is often suspect as well. They seem notoriously slow to honor some of the greatest bands of all time.

I mention all this because long ago I sold my collection of vinyl albums. It was cumbersome to transport and I had entered a period of nomadic existence, exploring the world. Now, I pay monthly for the immediacy and portability of Spotify because I can take it anywhere, even if I only listen to it whenever I’m writing or editing. As important as music has always been to me, things have changed so radically over the past twenty-five or so years that very little about the current environment excites me. Certainly, there are some talented bands that stand out as exceptions, but you have to dig through the multiple layers of superficial crap on top to get to them because I’m convinced, the music industry does not want to give you and me anything truly fresh and original. They want to keep regurgitating the same tired tropes in the same mundane genres that already pollute the commercial airwaves of our corporately controlled world.

But then a band came along, a new power trio that serves as an inspiration, countering the prevailing narrative, bucking the system, maintaining artistic integrity, and all of a sudden it feels like there is a chance for a resurrection of Rock, performed the way it should be, the way it should have always been. They connect with their fans directly via social media on a regular basis and members of their ‘army’ have traveled from as far away as Europe, South America, Canada, Australia, and from all across the US to attend their live shows. And maybe – just maybe – you, too, are about to be warned.

The Warning: Alejandra (left), Paulina (center), Daniela (right).

A few months ago I discovered (or rather rediscovered) The Warning, the trio of Villarreal sisters from Monterrey, Mexico. The band is bi-lingual, singing most of their songs in English. Daniela (Dany), the eldest at 21, plays the lead guitar and sings lead on most of their songs. Paulina (Pau), at 19, pounds the drumkit and sings backing vocals except for several times when she takes over the lead. Alejandra (Ale), at 17, is the youngest but curiously the tallest of the three, though she claims she is also short. She plucks and slaps the bass while she also sings background vocals. All three play piano, having taken lessons from an early age. In fact, all three compose their original music on the same piano in their home where they learned. Some of their songs utilize the keyboard and when performed live, one or another of the trio switches from their primary role.

Like a lot of people, I first heard of The Warning in 2015 when they appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. At the time they were a curiosity – a novelty of some note, mind you – because they were so young (Ale was 9 at the time) and yet already so professional. Their schtick was doing competent covers of metal songs like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”, and AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. But the fact that they could play real instruments with such a high level of skill should have served as my warning to keep a closer eye on their further development. You see, they took advantage of every opportunity beginning with a YouTube video gone viral. They leveraged the flash-in-the-pan fame of millions of views to launch a Kickstarter to fund their first recording sessions and live performances. And with the help of Ellen granting them a summer course at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, they were primed to focus on a career as professional songwriters and musicians.

Seven years, two EP’s, and two albums later, they have become an inspiration to a lot of young girls who dream of one day following in their footsteps to become rock stars, or at least learning how to play an instrument or two and experience the beauty of creating music. And it’s about time for that to become the norm in music. The sisters have crafted a system for maintaining control over their art, having released all but their most recent EP with only the organic funding from their fan base’s purchases of their albums, clothing items, and swag on their website as well as the loyal support of their followers on Patreon. And over the past few years, they have opened for such legendary acts as Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and Alice Cooper and plan to open for The Foo Fighters for a show on their upcoming tour.

In August of 2020, following lengthy negotiations spanning several months, The Warning signed a contract with Lava/Republic Records to produce the first of five albums for the label with multi-platinum award-winning producer David Bendeth while the band retained an almost unprecedented level of control over the process. Now, along with a growing handful of youthful bands, The Warning is already at the vanguard of Rock’s resurrection.

Their debut EP with Lava/Republic, titled “Mayday”, which was released on October 8, 2021, features six original songs. I’ve heard that its release resulted from a compromise with the label that wanted to delay the release of a full album due to current market conditions caused by the resurgence of the pandemic. The band had already begun launching and promoting singles since May of 2021 in anticipation of a tour, and they wanted to maintain the momentum they’d already achieved from the popular songs and music videos that had created a buzz throughout their growing fanbase, including a number of reaction channels on YouTube.

The EP’s first track, “Disciple” is a driving rocker warning us about our dependence on social media and the influence of those wanting to control us. “Choke” is about the feeling of being stifled and dominated by others. “Animosity” is a rage song that is ostensibly about breaking up with someone but written in such a way as to be construed in a number of other ways. “Z” is about being born into the world of Generation ‘Z’. “Evolve” is about overcoming expectations to become yourself. And “Martirio”, the final cut on the EP and the only one sung in Spanish, is about Martyrdom where some live a life dedicated only to the sacrifice of self. Additional material is expected later this year as either another EP or a full album comprising the original songs along with the previously unreleased material. I don’t know which is the official plan as I’ve heard rumors of both.

The Warning was also slated to begin a North American tour back in 2020 which was first delayed but then canceled due to the spread of Covid. A new tour was scheduled to begin this month but has also been delayed due to the surge of cases. Expect new dates to be announced for later this year when, hopefully, things get back to normal and we can all enjoy live music performances again. But until then we have “Mayday” and the back catalog of their first EP, “Escape the Mind”, and their two albums, “XXI Century Blood” and “Queen of the Murder Scene”, along with solo single releases of “Narcisista”, their first single performed in Spanish which serves as a response to those who complained about them singing only in English, and “Enter Sandman” (featuring Alessia Cara), a track from “Metallica Blacklist”, a Thirtieth Anniversary tribute to the Black album’s release comprising covers performed by over fifty artists.

The Warning Band’s website

Uncategorized

Updates on Coming Attractions

The past two years have been insane for everyone. I don’t need to tell you why. But it’s been extremely difficult for the publishing industry and especially hard on authors. You see, for most of us to succeed we need to make personal appearances to promote our books. Despite our wares being available online that is seldom the best way to attract readers.

So we have had to resort to other means to get the word out about our latest books. One of the good things that have come from it is the launching of The C & E Show on the Pandaverse Book Club channel on YouTube where Christine Gabriel and I interview other creative people like authors, artists, and others who are involved in the industry. Although we have a ready-made bench of talented writers who are also signed with Pandamoon Publishing, we have interviewed many authors we have met through our other associations apart from our publisher. Look for an exciting calendar of new guests for the coming year.

Back in October of last year, THUPERHEROES, the concluding installment of the Thuperman Trilogy launched. For those who live near Las Vegas, I will be scheduling some personal appearances as soon as the dark cloud of the pandemic has lifted. By then we will be close to releasing NINJA BREAD CASTLES, Book 2 of The FRIED WINDOWS Series. Be on the lookout for the Spring 2022 release date on that as well as pre-order availability through Amazon and Pandamoon Publishing website. Later in the year or early next year, will be the release of the long-awaited first book of the Wolfcats Series, DAMMERWALD. So, it will be a busy year for me. And 2023 promises to be just as busy with new releases from The Wolfcats and Fried Windows Series, and possibly the first of a new series as well. As all of my books share threads of continuity, being set in the same sets fictional universes, it will be like reconnecting with old friends as they appear in other stories.

As for some of the other exciting launches coming from Pandamoon:

THE GREYS by Becky Barnard and Dave Housley

HOME FOR THE STARS by Laura Kemp

BLUE BILLY by Laura Ellen Scott

LAMA WITH A GUN by Seth Augenstein

TO KILL A UNICORN by D.C. Palter

HUMANITY DEVOLVED by Greyson Ferguson

TOKYO DIVERSION by Tony Ollivier

CONCESSION STAND CRIMES by Nicole Asselin

9 DAYS by Jule Selbo

BEACONS by Katie Masters

PHANTASMA by Rachel Sharp

CRIMSON TEARS by Christine Gabriel

ALMOST PARADISE by Brian Cohn

MILE MARKER 0 by Benny Sims

MARKETING FOR FREELANCE WRITERS by Robyn Roste

Books, Fantasy, Magic, Magical Realism, New Releases, novel, Publishing

Review of ROSEWOOD BURNING: Everly Series Book 2 by Meg Bonney

Published December 15, 2021 by Pandamoon Publishing #Fantasy #Magic #Adventure

Description:

Madison Rosewood returns to the cloaked magical world of Everly on a mission to find her mother, unite the kingdom against her tyrannical father, and stop the execution of the Magics once and for all. Before her revolution can even begin, however, Madison quickly finds her new life in flames.

As she prepares for the upcoming confrontation with her father, Madison grapples with her masked grief as she struggles to both control her new magical abilities and be the leader that her friends and Everly expect her to be. Vengeful villagers, blood-thirsty mermaids, deadly energy storms, and unexpected romances challenge her at every step. Forced to turn to her enemies for help, Madison faces revelations and betrayal and in their wake must make a decision that will change every relationship she has in Everly, including the one with herself.

My Take:

In the first book of the series, Bonney focused on establishing characters, the conflicts that would play out not only over the course of the first installment of the story but also the entire series. She also did a great deal of world-building so that we could experience the realm of Everly through the main character’s eyes. This is essential in fantasy writing because the physics of the created world might operate differently than the world with which we as readers are familiar. Since magic plays a key role in this story, ground rules were set for how it works and what the limitations are for its use. And the reader needs to know whether magic depends on the peculiarities of certain species or individual characters who may have mastered their abilities to stand out as somehow unique from others even of their own kind.

Bonney introduced us to Madison, who hates her nickname, Mad Dash, which she earned from her amazing speed on the high school track team, something that also gave her hope of a college scholarship. Despite her great ambitions, she suffers from several internal conflicts about her past and not knowing much about her parents, information about which her aunt who has cared for her since she was an infant has not been forthcoming. Her aunt has also been obsessed with preparing her with warrior skills well beyond mere self-defense. The adventure begins when Madison and her best friend Jason are lured into the fantastic world of Everly where magic is real and much less restricted than it is in our world. We are also introduced to the variety of mythical and magical beings that populate Everly.

In Book 2, Meg Bonney’s imagination unleashes greater detail and substance for the reader to explore as Madison and Jason return to Everly on a mission to save the magical beings from persecution and lead a revolution that everyone knows is necessary but hardly anyone seems eager to join or eagerly support. Madison’s heart is still broken over her tragic loss which intensifies her internal conflict. She is as irrational as any other teen can be, and her focus is divided at times, but her motives are pure. She wants to save Everly from her father who she blames for everything wrong with her life and Everly. In a real sense, the fantastic world around her seems to reflect her confusions and frustrations, serving as a metaphor for her life. She seeks revenge against her father and his tyrannical rule but also she fights against her own failing and uncertainty. What results is a solid and necessary next step in advancing the story and setting the stage for the third installment in the series.

Returning are all of the primary and most of the secondary characters from book one with whom we are familiar and whose stories we have invested in. But as the variety of Magics is expanded the reader experiences the diversity of culture and customs lending more of a realistic feel to the story. As was true of the first book, the story continues to have believable dialog despite the magical elements of the story and the fantastic environment of the settings. For example, Madison and Jason live comfortably safe amongst the Trolls who are extremely gifted at preparing meals. We also learn more about Mermaids and Witches as the story progresses and we root for the revolution that suffers as much from its ambitions as its disorganization. And there are some secrets that were hinted in Book 1 that are revealed as well as a surprise ending that foreshadows the major conflict ahead in Book 3.

Will Madison resolve the issues with heritage and spare her friends in Everly from the prohibition on magic? Rosewood Burning provides an exciting escape that I highly recommend as a continuation of the Everly franchise, which by the way, has been optioned for a future film or TV series.

About the Author:

Author Meg Bonney is a paralegal by day, a TV reviewer by night, and a writer every moment in between. Meg enjoys stories with strong emotional relationships that aren’t necessarily romantic. Her TV watching and writing have always been more focused in the sci-fi/fantasy genre where the stakes are high and the consequences are dire and because fairies, mermaids, monsters, and witches make her happy. Meg lives in Wisconsin with her husband, her two young daughters, two cats, three hermit crabs, and one very spoiled fish. Meg enjoys impromptu dance parties with her daughters, strong coffee, baking, and getting way too emotionally invested in fictional characters.

Book Available at Amazon.

Watch The C & E Show’s Interview with Meg Bonney 

Apple, Authors Life, Computers, M1, Mac OS, MacBook Air, Microsoft, Technology, Windows, Windows 10, Windows 11, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Back to Mac

Has it really been 15 years? I guess so. That was the last time I was in a similar situation – frustrated to the extreme with Microsoft Windows. Granted, there have been interim occasions of dissatisfaction with the powers that be in Redmond, WA, but none rose to the level of my issues with Windows Vista.

In 2006, I bought into the hype for the next edition of latest and greatest OS in the world. I’d been a long term Windows user since 3.1 and as a computer tech, I knew most of the tips and tricks to fix things whenever anything went amiss. Windows XP was by far my favorite version, though Windows 2000 was a close second. It was by far the most stable and Microsoft OS that still offered the ease of connection to USB devices on the fly, a great advancement over Windows NT 4. But 2000 was intended for business. So the mainstream was stuck between Windows 98 and all its issues and Windows ME, with its even worse issues. All Windows XP had to be was better than its consumer OS predecessors, which admittedly was a fairly low bar. Still, anyone who was alive back then and used a computer regularly probably had an overall positive experience with XP.

As Window’s successor, Vista offered lots of eye-candy, gee-whiz features. On the surface it was attractive, but its system requirements for having all those things turned on was staggering. And even then, state of the art machines running it seemed sluggish at times. For how damned pretty it could be, most people didn’t use versions with all the bells and whistles simply because they didn’t need such configurations. Also, there was an extensive and confusing assortment of flavors to choose from. The problem with Vista was that it seemed more like an OS designed by a marketing team than a functional operating system intended for productivity during the day and entertainment during the evening. Essentially most people didn’t get the point of Vista and so, they didn’t buy into it. Unless they just bought a machine with it preinstalled, they didn’t use it. For the majority of Windows users who were on XP, nothing was wrong with what they were using. If they were up-to-date with the security packages, Vista just wasn’t a compelling alternative.

But then, there was me. I worked in a computer store at the time. And that usually meant that Microsoft would issue complimentary discs of the new operating system to employees so that they could experience the differences first and and recommend the OS to customers. For whatever reason, MS decided not to do that with Vista. Maybe they didn’t want all us techies knowing first hand what a bloated piece of crap Vista was. I can’t say. But I managed to get a copy of Vista, the ultimate version with all the bells and whistles because I had a machine at home with the specifications to run it. Once it was installed, it was gorgeous. But it also made my system struggle. It was noticeably slower. After a week or so, I had turned off most of the eye candy in lieu of performance. For the most part, I was running Windows XP with a Vista skin on top. It seemed pointless, really. After a month, I’d ditched Vista and reinstalled XP. And a few months after that, I configured a dual boot with a distribution of Linux and discovered that I actually preferred the latter because it didn’t freeze or crash at all. There were entire weeks that I didn’t even once use Windows. Despite the pain in the ass of configuring Linux to suit me (something that has admittedly improved by leaps and bounds since 2007) it was a pleasure to just come home from work and be able to boot up a computer and not need to worry about updates and new virus definitions and all the other intrinsic parts of living with Windows.

So, you might be asking how I ended up using a Mac.

I could blame it on my youngest daughter. Despite having a techie father, she never got the hang of Windows – or rather the Microsoft way of viewing productivity. That’s really why the learning curve for a newbie picking up a Windows computer is steeper than Mac OS. Windows is, in many ways, counterintuitive. A lot of that has to do with the layers of complexity under the hood that allow it to be backward compatible. You see, Microsoft must support a wider range of users and environments than Apple. MS does not have complete control over the hardware their operating system will support. And, even though it is not really necessary to become an expert user in order to function within the Windows environment, it is by far easier for a curious computer user to adversely impact the stability of the operating system than it is with Mac OS, simply because the latter is pretty much locked down. The Mac side of the computing universe is intended for a different type of user, one who simply wants to be able to depend on their machine working as soon as it’s turned on. Knowing this, I ended up buying an iMac for my daughter.

Now, since the store where I worked sold Apple computers, I was familiar with the Mac OS enough to show the basics to anyone who bought a system, even though I’d never owned one myself. But after giving my daughter the standard tutorial, what surprised me was how quickly she was up and running with her new computer. In less than two hours, she was doing things on her Mac that she had never mastered on her Windows PC. And after a day or so, she was at a level of comfort approaching expertise. It got me thinking that the Mac OS’s simplicity might be a solution to my greatest frustration with Windows. Plus, it was much easier to find and install applications for a Mac than it was at the time for Linux. So, about a month after my daughter began using her iMac, Dad bought an iBook, which was more than I needed for my experimental venture into the other side of the computing universe. And I began using it as my daily driver.

For the next six years, I was a Mac guy…until a MacBook Pro – one I ended up with after my son changed computers – stopped working in 2013. The sticker shock of replacing it nudged me back toward the darkness of Windows. I bought a Microsoft Surface tablet and a keyboard as my next personal computer solution. Although I hated Windows 8 that came installed on it, it did make some sense whenever I was in tablet mode, which I rarely used. As soon as Windows 10 was released, I immediately upgraded it. And though I have always had mixed feelings about Windows 10, I grew to understand and mostly tolerate its quirks. However, within a few years, I was back to using Linux again for everything except the handful of work-related things that required Windows.

This summer, with the next iteration of Windows looming in the near future, I downloaded and played with a developer version for about a month. I was not as impressed as I would need to be in order to want to upgrade. In fact, there are some ‘improvements’ I absolutely abhor. Plus the requirements of TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot for the final release version feel particularly onerous to someone like me who would be dual-booting between Linux and Windows just because I prefer using Linux. Staying with Windows 10 is an option, of course, but support for it will eventually expire in 2025. And so, I began rethinking my essential needs for a computer. The more I did, the more attractive the relatively new M1 MacBook Air seemed. Not only is it light and portable, which is something I’ve always desired in a laptop but have not had since my MS Surface Pro died, but also the M1 can run for hours on a charge allowing me to unplug in a realistic and usable way. Also, I can travel with my daily computer without it weighing me down or worrying about where the nearest charger is when I’m in an airport waiting to connect with a flight. At 13 inches for the screen, it is compact enough to fit between my belly and the next seat back when riding a coach.

Mainly, I wanted the MacBook Air for doing my writing. I wanted to be able to get away from my desk, maybe go downstairs to work on edits – or – sit in bed and compose a chapter or two. Whenever the world returns to some semblance of normalcy, perhaps I can take a walk to a coffee shop to do some creative writing. So far, I’m loving the new machine. The keyboard is excellent, the best experience I’ve had with a laptop. The touchpad, though I usually opt to use a mouse, is by far more functional than any I’ve used. Thus far, I haven’t needed to default to a mouse, so who knows? I might actually turn into a trackpadder.

I’ll still be using a dual boot machine with Windows and Linux on it to do a lot of my work. But already I have shifted some tasks to the MacBook and generally think I could do everything from it if need be. Beyond being a composition and editing tool for my writing projects, it has the power I need to edit and produce the videos Christine Gabriel and I do for the Pandaverse Book Club’s The C & E Show. I plan to test that in the near future, so check back for updates on my Mac adventure as my saga continues and evolves. For now, just knowing it is possible (even when I’m traveling) is a huge advantage.

Amazon, Books, Mystery, New Releases, Noir, novel, Publishing, Writing

Review of 10 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery #1 by Jule Selbo

As a father of three, two of them daughters, I struggled to find heroic stories to read to my girls. It was easy to find such fare for my son, but there was a gross absence of children’s books that offered a brave female with whom my girls could identify. And so I fabricated a few stories to tell them at bedtime. But the experience made me acutely aware of gender bias. And it has not been limited to children’s books. Gratefully, that is changing in all age groups, largely due to the explosion of great female authors who are unafraid to buck the system and create strong female protagonists in genres that in the past have been dominated by male main characters.

I had the great fortune to read an early version of 10 DAYS by Jule Selbo. Honestly, it read like a finished work with nothing major that I saw needing to be addressed, which didn’t surprise me. Selbo is a highly competent writer with oodles of experience as a playwright and she wrote numerous screenplays while working in Hollywood. Recently she has become an award winning novelist as well. 10 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery #1 is her debut foray into Crime Mystery fiction, a genre she loves reading.

10 DAYS’ plot is solid, engaging, and compelling. The pacing feels perfect, building suspense toward a thrilling climax. Selbo’s cast of characters, even the minor ones, are authentic, well-developed to the point that some will become your friends while others will feel like enemies. The protagonist, Dee Rommel is, in a word, remarkable on so many levels that she is destined to become a fan favorite. She is a quick-witted badass in ever sense of the word with a burning desire to find justice for the wronged. It often compels her into risky, ill-advised, confrontations with bad guys as she champions her friends and family. And she does it all without toting a gun.

What Selbo accomplishes more than adequately establishes bedrock for the series yet to come. She creates an endearing female noir private investigator with whom most of us can identify. Selbo pays homage to genre archetypes while venturing into some largely uncharted territory, allowing the reader to share Dee’s dilemmas as well as overcoming the pain of her daily routine. We cheer for her because she’s just the kind of heroine who could easily be a sister or cousin. Her strong, overriding sense of justice and loyalty to her friends and family drives her always, even against mounting odds as her principal foil is fully revealed and fleshed out.

The book releases to the public worldwide on August 11, 2021 in eBook and print, so you don’t have long to wait. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect crime fiction novel, but this one will rank on everyone’s list. It checks all the right boxes and appends a few more in the process. I can’t wait to read the sequel. And yes, this thriller deserves to be made into a movie. So, take note, Netflix.

Authors Life, Blog, Books, life, Publishing, Writing

The Plague & Updates on Coming Attractions

I’ve spent the past few months revising several old manuscripts, one of them dating back to the days immediately after I finished the first draft of The Wolfcat Chronicles. I’ve breathed some new life and adventure into them prior to submitting them to my publisher. No guarantees any will be approved, but after investing the time, I’ve decided the stories are worth it. My most recent submission is a series called The Attributes, it’s two books plus a 5700 word short story prequel.

Bearded me.

In case you don’t follow me on social media, please do to stay up to date on everything Elgon.

Lately, I’m sporting a Pandemic beard and have grown my hair out to a length it has not been since college. I’m thinking of keeping both, even if I look like Santa’s demented uncle. I may trim the hair and beard a bit before jetting to Florida next month to celebrate my great niece’s wedding. (Congrats Britters – I’ll post some pics if I can.) I don’t know, though. I’m kind of favoring the continued scruffiness. In my old age, I’ve become a rebel again. Leave comments.

On the personal front: Just before Thanksgiving last Fall I contracted the modern day plague. My son and daughter-in-law came down with it around the same time, and I was babysitting for my grandson when I must have been exposed. Definitely not something you want to catch, though my symptoms were not nearly as bad as my roommates, who I suspect caught it from me even with all the precautions of washing hands, wearing masks in the house, and being hyper focused on cleaning surfaces. You see, this virus is as highly contagious as the officials say. Two of my roommates ended up in the hospital, one was there for a bit on a respirator. It is a lottery how bad your response will be to this thing. I believe my immune system fought it off because I take doses of Vitamin D and am otherwise pretty healthy. I had about a week’s worth of aches and pains, a low grade fever that never went past 99.5 F, a cough, and a little nasal congestion. My senses of smell and taste have not yet fully returned, though I’d estimate they’re back to 90%.

Over the past month and a half, I have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with no side effects other than my arm being sore around the vaccination site (the first time lingered longer than the second and was a bit more painful). Other than being tired for a day or so and my temperature running about half a degree higher than normal, I was blessed to survive it without much to report. Here are the options as I see it: catch this crud (as eventually you will) and take your chances on how severe your symptoms may become – or – take a couple of shots (the needle is fine gauge so you hardly feel it) and even if you’re one of the 5% who still catch the crud, you won’t have the severe consequences. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and neighbors.

As always, you will do you, but there’s my advice.

We are on track for the final book in the Thuperman series being published sometime this fall. Titled THUPERHEROES, it wraps up the summertime adventures of Will and Sandra, though they will appear as adult characters in future books. We’re also looking at DAMMERWALD, the long awaited Book 1 of The Wolfcat Chronicles, for later this year. And NINJA BREAD CASTLES, the sequel to FRIED WINDOWS, is also currently in edits and may make it to publication before the end of the year. Lots going on in 2021 in the world of Elgon.

Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel

Review of Priest Hunter by Jeff Messick

Priesthunter Front Cover

The Magehunters are no more, pulled down by the efforts of Jace and his Disciples of Arn. However, there is little time to get used to the new order of things, as Jace learns his father has been forcibly taken by the Church of Arn to serve out the remainder of his life as a warrior priest.

As a young mage, Jace needed to learn to control his magical might. Now he will learn power comes in many forms. To free his father, Jace must learn priest magic, the pitfalls of faith, and the downside of leadership. He must learn, then master these ideas, to even stand a chance against the leader of the church.

Morvane doesn’t want Jace’s father, he wants Jace’s power. Jace is all that stands between Morvane and a world that worships only those that hold power over others. Worse yet, when Jace uses his vaunted magical might against Morvane, his magic has no effect.

My Take:

Where Magehunter, the first book of the series, is an extended coming of age story overlaid upon the makings of a good epic fantasy tale set in a world where those who wield magic are more common than not, Priesthunter rapidly evolves from a quest to find Jace’s father into a classic battle of magic between good and evil. Our hero, Jace Kendrick, returns with full command of his gifts, which have often seemed more of a curse to him, along with Amicus, his companion and former enemy. They set out for Elorien, the seat of the Church of Arn where they believe Angus, Jace’s father, has been pressed to return into the service of a Warrior Priest. The stakes quickly escalate as Jace discovers that Morvane, the head of the Church, has imprisoned Angus to serve as bait to lure Jace into a battle in expectation of stipping the young Mage’s powers.

Messick expands his magical world with layers of complexity added to the characters’ conflicts, both internals and external. It is a story of rival and seemingly mutually exclusive forms of magic derived from the gifts of a pantheon of gods that the characters are only beginning to realize exists. Previously they have believed that all magic was sourced in Arn. But as we learn from a witch who Jace and Amicus encounter, things are not quite as they may appear.

The romance between Jace and Lianna that blossomed in Magehunter strengthens as their relationship is tested under the threat of a powerful antagonist bent on destroying everything Jace holds dear. The compelling fantasy tale that results offers much for lovers or the genre and we’re told there’s more to come in the series with Roguehunter, book three of the series, already drafted and books four and five envisioned for the near future.

About the Author:

Author, Jeff Messick

Jeff Messick is father, husband and author who lives in south Texas. Although he writes across almost every genre, excluding romance, he enjoys a splash of paranormal in his stories as evidenced by his first novel, Knights of the Shield, a mash-up of a police procedural detective murder mystery and a ghost story.

Most recently, he has penned the first two installments in the Magehunter Series, beginning with the series namesake, followed by Priesthunter. Yet to come are Roguehunter, Kinghunter, and Godhunter. He is also working on Lifeblood, a paranormal drama, and Aftermath, a sci-fi thriller.

Books, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Urban Fantasy

Review: SNOW IN SUMMER by Laura Kemp

Description:

Front Cover

It’s been a year since Justine Cook defeated an immortal enemy that had hunted her family for generations. Settling into a peaceful life with her boyfriend in the small town of Lantern Creek, Michigan, she hopes to escape the events of the summer before. But the past won’t let go so easily.

When a woman named Amanda Bennett survives a fall from a cliff on Mackinac Island, it triggers a series of events that reawakens the past. Soon Justine and her brother Adam are pulled into a mystery that threatens to destroy the new life they have worked so hard to create. As people begin to die- people only Amanda Bennett can see- Justine must race against time to destroy a dark power she thought she had buried the summer before.

My Take:

SNOW IN SUMMER is Book 2 in the Yellow Wood Series and is scheduled for publication on 11.18.20. It is highly recommended that you read Book 1 in the series prior to reading Book 2 as many of the events from the first book have direct bearing on the characters and their many challenges in Book 2. Although the author does a good job of refreshing the reader’s memories where relevant, there is not a detailed summary of the previous work included. Having said that, the book stands alone fairly well as a compelling read with a solid plot and fast pace once the rationale for the extension of the previous story arc is established.

Justine and Dylan return from book one and the story is set in the summer following the events of Book 1 in the series. A new character, Amanda, is introduced early in the prologue, and her difficulties draw in the series’ returning characters. A portion of the story is set on picturesque Mackinac Island, a favorite vacation spot off the Lake Huron coast of northern Michigan, as Troy, Amanda’s lumberjack/horse trainer boyfriend has an apartment above the Calhoun stable near the Grand Hotel on the island. The strong romantic elements of the story present complicated triangles among the characters that challenge the stability of relationships, while the villain uses their human weaknesses to torment them and force a confrontation. Kemp does this extremely well while bending and twisting the paranormal elements of the backstory around the realism of the everyday struggles of the characters, like working their jobs, paying for school, and trying very hard to resist being drawn into the unsettled issues that remain from Book 1. The result is a mind-blowing, breathless, rollercoaster ride of life-threatening obstacles requiring tough choices and ingenuity to negotiate, while seeming plausible at an extraordinary level for a magical realism mash-up with a mystery/suspense/thriller.

Author Bio:

Laura signing books outside the Island Bookstore on Mackinac Island

Laura is a teacher who loves to write about her home state of Michigan. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University where she studied under Stuart Dybek, and has had her short fiction and poetry published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Word Riot, Tonopalah Review, SaLit and SLAB: Sound and Literary Art Book. “The Pursuit of Happiness,” – a short story she wrote while at WMU, was chosen as a finalist in the Trial Balloon Fiction Contest.

When not writing, Laura enjoys musical theatre, hiking, swimming, reading and performing with her Celtic band- Si Bhaeg Si Mohr. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and children as well as her dog, two hamsters, two gerbils, ten chickens, two horses and eight (and counting) cats.


Connect with Laura: Sea Legs on Land, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and Woody’s Book Tour.

Get Laura’s Books at Pandamoon Publishing and Amazon.