Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

FALL… In Love

A Compilation of Higher Thoughts – Volume I: Takeoff
by Bryan Thorne. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41b3A5FuI0L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_These poems, short stories, and explanations, are from the awakened mind of Bryan Thorne, starting when he was but twelve years of age, up to the publishing of this book (2012) when he was eighteen. A Compilation of Higher Thoughts is especially impressive for his limited experience at the time these were written, and the ideas one his age usually are not aware of, let alone able to express poetically.

This insightful passage is from the beginning. “The first step to making your dreams come true is waking up, because a dream can only take you so far.”

Interspersed between poems, and poetic short stories, are the author’s explanations of what he was thinking at the time, or what had just taken place. This was especially helpful to provide context, and an even deeper understanding, of each section. When speaking of love, loss, death, racism, loneliness, or friendship, the poem had further resonance knowing where it came from.

Mr. Thorne is a wordsmith who is able to look at words from different perspectives, play them against one another, and incorporate thoughts and feelings into focus, for an interesting read. A Compilation of Higher Thoughts is impressive. Here is one of my favorites of the collection.

 JUST A THOUGHT

 It’s funny
how people
fall
in love.

FALL… in love.

As if love is a trap
Something unexpected.

Something one
Would try to prevent.

Something one
Would try to aoid.

Something one
Wouldn’t want to happen.

Something one
Wouldn’t notice until it’s too late.”

 

Sink Your Teeth Into It

51r5342n2LL._AC_US218_Flash Fiction by Cathbad Maponus.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

If you like short shorts that cross many genres (horror, fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, etc.), then definitely get yourself a copy of Flash Fiction. There are trips into the future, into space, present unrealities, and lots of killing, dying, and violence.

Writing flash fiction, also known as short shorts, is a unique endeavor. Having an entire story make sense, grab your attention, and surprise you, all with a few sentences, is not an easy task. At least to do it well isn’t, and Ms. Maponus does it very well.

A couple of my favorites in this well-crafted collection are “The Veil” and “Old Man Jasper”. Some of the titles are as clever as the stories, such as “The Cat Wore Prada”. Here is one that I read twice, and enjoyed both times.

IF SHE REALLY IS…

“Henny Porter, ye are charged of witchcraft. Do ye plead guilty and beg the Good Lord’s forgiveness?” The Magistrate questioned.

“I gladly admit I practice the Craft!” Henny offered cheerfully. “Aye to the first part; Nay to the second.”

His face ghastly pale, Pastor Franken spoke. “Henny! Do you realize what such an admission means?!”

“Do not worry, Parson,” Henny replied, smiling warmly.

The Magistrate pounded the gavel. “Henny, you are found guilty of Witchcraft. Ye shall be burned at the stake at dusk!”

That night, it rained fire. Many bodies were buried; Henny’s was not among them.

After looking around a little on the web, I discovered that there are not that many collections of short shorts, and some of them seem questionable. Flash Fictionby Cathbad Maponus, is one you can sink your teeth into (perhaps literally).

No Other Choice

Secrets: In the shadows lurks the truth by Judith Barrow.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51GqVk8eBwLEach of the eight short stories in Secrets are very well written, and involve characters from Ms. Barrow’s novels. They include Nelly’s attempt to escape a convent with her baby, before it is given away; a nurse (Hilda) who has cared for her cantankerous mother for many years; Edith, who has been abused by her husband one to many times; Gwyneth, whose previous husband shows up unwanted, and unexpectedly at her new home; the fate of Alun Thomas, and his brother, who are conscientious objects during the first world war; Hannah and her son, reacting to the death of Hannah’s father; a fourteen-year-old and his friend joining the army during “the war to end all wars”; and Doreen, who has a baby during an air raid.

Most of these tales show the lives of women who have few options, or choices in their lives, and the extreme measures they take to be set free, and/or have some freedom (no matter how momentary it may be). Though the characters are taken from the author’s novels, each short story stands on its own, and could be a book entirely unto itself. The description of each individual, and their situations, are done with precision and care. By the end of the first paragraph readers have a good sense of who is who, what is going on, and the dilemma that is presented. This is no small feat. To weave together such a tight narrative is not an easy task for most writers. Ms. Barrow seems to do it with ease, and presents the primary protagonist with honesty, and empathy.

Having sympathy, and understanding, for the main character of a novel usually takes some time. To create an instant connection between the reader and the woman, or man, in a short story is even more difficult to do. I felt such a connection, regardless of the acts, or actions, they took, with every person in this collection. Doreen, Stan, Hannah, Alun, Gwyneth, Edith, Hilda, and Nelly, each had me rooting for them to triumph, get away from, or take whatever action was needed, to survive, or make sense of the world within which they lived. There are also a number of surprise endings.  Secrets is a book I recommend, without hesitation. Without a doubt, Ms. Barrow’s novels are just as well written, and well worth your time and attention.

More Alive Than Ever

Love: The Beat Goes On by Lynda Filler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51JCGXkVO9LHer life was flying, her heart was dying. Lynda Filler had a new job, loving family, and an almost too good to be true newly acquainted man she called “my cowboy”. There’d been for-warnings, “messages”, shortness of breath, but nothing really stopped her in her tracks (literally) until 2008 when she is told she has a form of congestive heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. Doctors told her it was a death sentence and she must “get your affairs in order”. Nine years later, after driving alone for many months between Canada and Mexico, visiting a shaman in Sedona, New Mexico, and realizing, “I was the change that needed to happen in my healing”, she wrote Love: The Beat Goes On. She’s more alive than ever.

I worked with hospice and bereavement programs for many years. Most people I met was dying, or had had someone die. Whenever I heard about someone having this or that “terminal” disease (or as the author calls it “dis-ease”), I accepted it as reality and tried to help them (and their loved ones) prepare as much as possible, and live whatever life was left to the fullest. Ms. Filler not only didn’t go along with the “program”, but somehow trusted something inside, and outside, herself. Against medical advice she took her own road. Her journey was not random. She learned to honor her intuition, take some risks, and, pardon the clique, follow her heart.

The chapters in this journal are most fitting and include – “The Widow Maker”, “Every Breath I Take”, “Swollen Heart”, “You Are Not Your Diagnosis”, “Red Rocks and Thunderstorms”, “Doctors and Doctorates”, “Is it a Miracle?”, and “It’s a Mind Game”. There is a perfect mixture of describing an event, what her personal reactions, thoughts, and feelings were about the experience, and her understanding and actions (if any) in response. Even though this pattern progresses throughout her writing, Lynda also becomes acutely aware that she is not what she writes about. “I have huge respect for all who survive anything, but I am not my story.”

Love: The Beat Goes On isn’t melancholy, or sanguine; it is as real as real can be. I know of few people who have learned to believe in something beyond themselves, willingly take steps into the unknown, and trust their own gut, as has Ms. Filler. Her life is example number uno of how to live a life of genuine belief and faith. Not in a religious sense, but with practical down-to-earth actions and spirit. This memoir is interesting for personal reflection, and provides a number of suggestions on how others can use what Ms. Filler learned for their own challenges. She doesn’t claim that her way is the only way, but her still being alive gives a lot of credence to what she has to say. “When I walked down from that vortex, my step was light. My heart beat normally again… and I knew it.”

 

A Book’s Fate

51Lxqzd5JpL._SY346_Being Indie: A No Holds Barred Self-Publishing Guide for Fiction Authors by Eeva Lancaster. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Ms. Lancaster states right up front that, “Books have a publishing standard, and Indie authors are accountable to their readers in making sure these standards are met or exceeded.” Being Indie explains how to meet that standard and provides steps for doing so. It also describes how to be a “savvy Indie author”, as opposed to simply getting your book published.

The author of Being Indie practices what she preaches. The book’s cover catches the eye, the layout and editing are well done, and the content very relevant. She also has an excellent on-line and social media presence. These are all aspects of being an indie author which are clearly defined and presented. This is an excellent resource for anyone considering, or in the midst of, publishing their own book.

There are three parts to this work. Part One (Pre-Publishing) includes sections on – From Manuscript to Book – The Editing and Proofreading Stage – What Type of Editor Do You Need? – How to Approach Cover Design – Book Design and Formatting – Fixed Layout or PDF. Part Two (Building Your Author Platform) has information on – Your Website or Blog – Guest Posting – Your Online Presence – Social Media Presence. Part Three (Post Publishing) is a recap of the first two sections.

What I appreciate most about Being Indie is the experience, and knowledge, the author has about the process and the honesty with which she speaks. There is no sugar-coating, or sells pitch, trying to get you to buy her products, or do it here way. Being an indie author takes a lot of hard work and diligence. Very few make a living doing so. Ms. Lancaster says, “Doing nothing, and leaving a book’s fate to the gods, will only ensure failure. It will not sell itself. No one will buy it if it’s less than a book should be. No one will notice it if it’s not attractive. That’s the reality. The sooner you realize this, the better.”

 

Dying and Living Zen

41CcmYmNunLJewel in the Mud: Zen Musings by Harmony Kent
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Jewel in the Mud is a laywoman’s guide to living life like a nun, as a householder living in the world. It is laid out beautifully, in fifty-two week increments, for anyone who chooses to practice being more aware of what is taking place with their inner and outer world. The author speaks from experience, having lived in both worlds. Ms. Kent resided in a Zen Temple for 13 years, and in mid-life decided to leave that environment, and began a new vocation, meeting a loving partner, and getting her own home.

Many of the weeks thoughts and words were previously conveyed on Ms. Kent’s blog. Luckily, for all who read Jewel in the Mud, she expanded her “Monday Musings” into book form. The weeks include titles such as, Nobility of Silence”, “No Strings”, “First, Breathe”, “Dying to Live”, and “It’s Okay. Have a Meltdown”. The illustration of the lotus flower for each week is lovely, and the caption summing up that section always fits perfectly. For example, in a talk about appreciation, she concludes with, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

Here is a brief excerpt from Week Eighteen, called “Life Before Death”.

“Mindfulness is simply about seeing what we have right here, right now, in this moment. It’s about noticing the myriad of small things that make our lives whole. And about catching the stories we tell ourselves. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way right in the present moment. The easiest way to notice as much as possible is to live each moment of your life as though it were the last moment of your life. Or, the first.”

In many ways, Jewel in the Mud, reminds me of the classes Stephen Gaskin held each week in San Francisco, California, in 1969 and 1970, which were later turned into a book called Monday Night Class. He spoke about life, death, community, love, and awareness, in a way that was easily relatable and personable. Ms. Kent’s work has the same vibe. Like Stephen, she does not come off as preachy, egotistical, or superior. Jewel in the Mud has gifts of compassionate and experienced insight for one and all.

From the Depths

51+ATsTqTWL._UY250_She’s Gone: Broken, Battered and Bruised
by JAnn Bowers. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

You wouldn’t think  that poems awash in sadness, heartbreak, loneliness, and darkness, would be interesting to read, but this collection is. The poet, JAnn Bowers, has used this form of writing as a catharsis, without any filter, or concern, for sharing her deepest hurt and pain.

She’s Gone is not for the faint of heart, or someone who wants to read happy, lyrical poetry filled with flowers, love, and sweetness. Though there is nothing wrong with that poetry, this is different. Here’s her poem Such A Fool which speaks of friendship and loss with insight and clarity.

As I sit here wiping the tears from my eyes

Knowing that I have lost you as a friend

You meant the world to me

My heart breaks because I know I will miss you

But then I know it’s time to move on

To deal with this loss

And bury the hatchet

That broke us apart

As I say my goodbyes

With tears in my eyes

I will walk away with my head up high

For I know you will always be there in the back of my mind.

And in my heart

For I know you are

Fighting it to

So take care, my friend

I will always cherish you.

Ms. Bowers states in the book that she has moved on and found some solace and breaks, from episodes of depression and hopelessness, but felt that the poems in She’s Gone were needed, for her, at the time they were written. Readers can identify with times in there lives when they too may have touched the edges, or were inundated, with such feelings of despair and pain themselves.

Stars Rising and Falling

51KWV913P1LMy Stars Are Still Shining: A Memoir by Amina Warsuma.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Amina Warsuma has experienced abandonment, bullying, abuse, jealousy, drugs, rape, destitution, wealth, celebrity, insight, care and compassion in her life, so far. In My Stars Are Still Shining she shares these childhood, adolescent and adult events, reactions, and consequences with complete honesty and understanding. Nobody is vilified, or perfect, including herself. I found her life to be both fascinating, and instructive.

The story begins with the background of the two women who had the most influence on Amina – Miss June and Miss Billie. She describes there lives growing up in Mobile, Alabama, how they ended up in New York, and how they came into Amina’s life. She shares there relationships, families, ups and downs, and personalities. Once that foundation is set, she takes the reader into her confidence and explores her own beginning years, and the mother (Virginia) who was so often absent.

“We were at Miss June’s no more than 10 minutes when my mother said, ‘I’m going to the store. I’ll be right back.’ She exited Miss June’s apartment and day after day, Miss June and I waited for her to return. A week passed and my mother was nowhere to be seen. My mother disappeared for 5 years.” Similar occurrences took place throughout Amina’s life, including moving from one house to another throughout New York City.

This is a fascinating book. It is part historical (about the South in the last century, and New York City and Harlem in the 40s, 50s, and 60s); part autobiographical (as the author grows up and comes into her own); and part biography (about Michael Jackson, and her longtime friendship with him and his family). Amina has endured many things, and flourished as a model, writer, actress, producer, and dancer. She reveals herself with both objectivity, insight and emotion. Don’t hesitate to get a copy of My Stars Are Still Shining.

A Cornucopia of Value

51a7xrY5DzLPublishing Tools of the Trade Every Author Must Know by Lama Jabr.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This book caught me off guard, and in a very good way. I’ve done a lot of research over the years into writing, publishing and marketing books, and thought I was aware of most of the resources available for writers. Girl, was I wrong.

Publishing Tools of the Trade Every Author Must Know is a cornucopia of valuable links to most every legitimate, helpful site that I’ve know about, plus many others that I had not heard of before. There is a brief description, and the direct link, for every website listed.

Sections range from “Editing and proofreading”, “Book promotion sites”, and “Author Interview Opportunities”, to “Blogs”, “Marketing” and “Social Networking Sites for Authors”. Every area of this resource manual is also updated regularly, so there are few links out of date.

What is most amazing, and appreciated, is that all this information is assembled in one place and provided for free. Lama Jabr has given us a unique service, without strings. Her kindness, and care, in putting this together, and offering it without charge, deserves deep gratitude.

For further information about Lama Jabr and Xana Publishing and Marketing:
http://xanapublishingandmarketing.com

You Can Do Better

15085511-571384093053277-7761181997008017758-nSo, this was interesting. After a few years writing the screenplay for my story “Sorrow’s Embrace“, it was finally optioned by Breezeway Productions, and is now in development with Breezeway and Buffalo 8 Productions. I thought this was the beginning of the end for this screenwriting journey and it would soon be in distribution. Thankfully, my head got pulled out of the clouds before I floated away.

Just as directors, actors, actresses, producers, and others are lining up to get involved, the casting director, Nicole, tells me the script needs some work, and isn’t good enough to send out to “named talent”. At first, I thought, “Okay. Let me know what needs to be fixed and I’ll get it back to you in a day or two.” What needed “fixing” turned out to be much more extensive and time-consuming.

After grumbling to myself about all the work it would take, I started the rewrite using her suggestions, comments, and insight. Two weeks later, I am proud to say that this is now a story that will not only attract “name talent”, but be well worth watching, when it is released. Though I was reluctant at first, and skeptical, I am happy to admit that she was right on all accounts.

Now, it is on to rewrite my other screenplays (Buddha’s Wife, and The Last Conception), which are based on my books of the same names. I thought they were good already, now I can see how to make them much much better.

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