Monday, December 29, 2014

KSHM Project links

The KSHM Project free stories are now on iTunes, Nook, Kindle, Smashwords, and elsewhere.

Here are some links:

Phone Booth - iTunes

Waiting - iTunes

Waiting - Nook

Phone Booth - Nook

Waiting, The Phone Booth, Four Vignettes - Amazon

Waiting, The Phone Booth, Four Vignettes - Scribd


Arabian Nights - a review

<a href="" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img alt="Tales from the Arabian Nights" border="0" src="" /></a><a href="">Tales from the Arabian Nights</a> by <a href="">Anonymous</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="">5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
The Tales from the Arabian Nights is probably the finest example of what a magical narrative should be. If I had to categorize this collection of tales, I would not call them fairy tales, but rather magical tales. <br><br>Since almost everyone is familiar with the premise behind these stories, I shall not go into detail concerning the backdrop for this fine collection. Rather, I shall express my opinion about them. <br><br>Aside from the impact these tales (once introduced in Europe) had on the western literary tradition, they continue to entertain generation after generation of readers the world over. Unlike many passing narratives, The Tales from the Arabian Nights remain timeless, for in their core they portray human nature perhaps better than any other similar collection. They can be enjoyed by readers both young and old, new and experienced, and even the returning reader is sure to find some new experience, some overlooked detail, or a new lesson. <br><br>For, in reality, these tales are lessons about humanity. Within Scheherazade's narrative are woven magical lands, mysterious creatures, powerful rulers, and humble commoners. Above all, there are lessons. Lessons about us, lessons about the human nature with all its imperfections. <br><br>Yes, as it is with most tales, there is justice, but the justice in this book is not always just, the rulers are often wrong, and the wrongdoers sometimes escape their punishment. And such is, and has been, our world. But there is an inherent hope that all will turn out well, that the evil will receive, in due time, its punishment, and that the victims will be recognized and treated as such. <br><br>And that is the same hope we have to hold onto even in our times, because our world is not that different from the world of Scheherazade. We may have replaced sultans with presidents, dervishes with priests, and camels with wheeled vehicles. Nevertheless, we remain flawed. <br>
<a href="">View all my reviews</a>

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

KSHM Project Presents . . .

Karl and I have decided that it was time to take the KSHM Project to a whole new level, and kick the bar up a notch.

As of a few days ago, all of our publicly hosted stories to date were consolidated and published on Smashwords, Kindle, and Nook. We are still waiting for Kobo and iTunes.

In the mean time, you can download it for FREE on Smashwords in the format of your choice:

We would like to thank all of our readers for their support.

We would also like to thank all the bloggers and websites where our work was featured. Your support is very much appreciated.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Guest blog post by Amber Foxx

Amber Foxx, recently posted an interesting article on her blog, which coincidentally mentions one of my novels, Escaping Barcelona. Since the article deals with a different take on my favorite narrative form - present tense - I asked Amber whether she would consider posting the article on my blog. She graciously agreed.

First, however, let me introduce you:

Amber Foxx writes the genre-crossing mystery series featuring healer and psychic Mae Martin. The mystery element in the genre blend gets stronger as the series progresses. The Outlaw Women is about one of life’s mysteries, but not solving a mystery. The Calling is part mystery, part realistic general fiction, part paranormal. Shaman’s Blues is a blend of mystery, paranormal, a twist on romance turned upside-down, and satire on the “woo-woo” world in New Mexico. Snake Face brings suspense into the mix.

Amber’s professional training and academic studies in various fields of complementary and alternative medicine, as well as her personal experience and travels, bring authenticity to her work. She has worked professionally in theater and dance, fitness and academia, and currently teaches yoga. She divides her time between the southeast and the southwest, but Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is HOME.

Amber's Goodreads page 
Amazon profile 

Amber's post:

The past, the present and the future walk into a bar …

… and the bartender says, “this could get tense.”

The only stories we normally tell in present tense are jokes. It’s hard to stay in the present, either in telling a story or in daily life. I’ve been thinking about this because of two books I just read. One is Jack Kornfield’s The Wise Heart, a Buddhist approach to psychology. The other is a short literary novel, Escaping Barcelona, which is written in the present tense. The pairing got me thinking about awareness of the present moment, narrative in the present tense, the nature of what’s in our minds, and whether or not the stuff which fills our heads makes for good fiction.

My freshman seminar students read The Wise Heart with me. One said the most valuable section of the book for him was the one on Delusion, especially the topic of inattention. In his words, “I know there are plenty of moments where I walk around lost in thought, not focusing on my surroundings, to the point that I’m basically sleepwalking.” Mind full, but not mindful.

In class, we did a thought-counting exercise from The Wise Heart. As we noticed our thoughts and began to find space between them, the messy and nonlinear nature of thinking showed up. Thought is seldom focused in the ongoing flow of experience. If consciousness is a stream, the water is full of floating debris: the repetitive cycle of “top ten thoughts” and stuck songs, digressions into past and future, sudden awareness of bodily processes, or commenting and judging and craving, interspersed with moments of clarity and attention.
In a May 2013 article in the New Yorker, Giles Harvey examined stream of conscious in literature from its early roots to the present. (I encourage anyone interested in the topic to read the whole article at Here are few of his observations I found relevant to my recent readings.

How much thought can a novel contain before bloating, or bursting, occurs?
Does the pleasure we get from seeing the mind at work, or the illusion of seeing the mind at work, cover the cost of the tedium involved in reading this? Art is meaningful because it is life-like without incurring the disadvantages of actually being life—that is to say, without being boring and formless. …
 Minds are weird, without a doubt. But not everything that goes on in them is worth our attention.

Author Henry Martin has described Escaping Barcelona as being written in first person, present tense, stream of consciousness. It is intimate and internal, but no more so than any literary novel written in the past tense. Most of the book doesn’t resemble the actual stream of consciousness. Martin usually shows inner processes fluidly embedded in a compelling story. Once in a while he stalls for a long rant or ramble from the nineteen-year-old narrator, Rudy—and like most mental chatter, Rudy’s inner material, while authentic, isn’t profound. Overall, however, Martin avoids tedium, and his book is neither boring nor formless.

To achieve this, he has to compromise the flow of the present tense, which at times compromises the flow of the story. For around two thirds of the book—not a continuous two thirds—the present tense is inconspicuous as events take place in dramatic sequences with the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings smoothly integrated into them and the clutter filtered out. Rudy encounters situations that provoke intense awareness—new places and people, relief after deprivation, and danger. Such moments could be told effectively in the present tense in poetry or a short story. In a novel, though, the story takes place over time, and the author has to skip over the dull parts and cover the gaps with summaries as he would in the past tense. Because of the present tense wording, I found myself jerked out of the plot by the awkwardness these transitions and summaries. Some of these shifts implied the perspective that what was being narrated in the present tense took place in the past. I want to be fully absorbed when I read, and this distanced me from the story.

In one of the last chapters of The Wise Heart Kornfield gives detailed descriptions of the inner experience of deep concentrated attention, a state of consciousness few of us will ever reach. “With concentration, no matter where we place our attention, it will stay focused.” He explores how this translates into concentration on bodily sensation, on a wide-angle perspective on our whole experience, or on a feeling like loving-kindness. After years of study, a practiced meditator might be able to stay in a state like this for an hour or two. Such a person’s stream of consciousness could stay in the present moment, and with that expanded wide-angle attention, could make a readable, continuous story. Except, a person with that level of wisdom wouldn’t make a good fictional protagonist. He or she wouldn’t make impulsive decisions such as Rudy makes that get the events in Escaping Barcelona started.

On p. 247 in The Wise Heart. Kornfield quotes a Jungian teacher and analyst. “There is in life a vulnerability so extreme, a suffering so unspeakable, that it goes beyond words. In the face of such suffering all we can do is stand in witness, so no one needs to bear it alone.” Escaping Barcelona portrays one young man’s suffering and vulnerability, and asks the reader to stand witness.

I cared about Rudy. He goes through hell without losing his humanity, struggling to maintain what he can of his integrity in a situation that challenges him just to survive. When he gets his big “aha” about himself, it’s a lesson worth learning, though it’s one the reader can see coming long before it hits him. I suspect most of our life lessons are like this. Other people can perceive that we need them, but we can’t until we suffer. The value of a story like this is the engagement of compassion. Escaping Barcelona has many strengths, but sometimes I found myself watching the author write instead of living the protagonist’s struggles. I reached the end impressed by Rudy’s resilience and wishing him well in the next stage of his journey, but I won’t be reading the sequels unless there should be special past tense editions.

I’ll read The Wise Heart again. It has made me stop more often to examine my inner noise and find the stillness beneath it, conscious in the present moment.

This post originally appeared on Amber's blog here:

I would like to encourage you to engage in a debate about the points raised in this post. Please comment on the original post on Amber's blog to keep the discussion in one place. I'll be dropping by to do the same.

A special thanks to Amber for allowing me to cross-post this.

For the record: A few months ago, I read, enjoyed, and reviewed one of Amber's books, The Calling, as part of the now-defunct The Source - a group on GR whose aim was to screen independent novels for quality. I have not engaged in a review exchange with Amber or anyone else. But as with any small community of like-minded authors and readers (looking to separate the wheat from the chaff), we are bound to stumble upon each other's works. There is no conflict of interest or ethical issue here.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Waiting - KSHM Project debut

The latest installment in the KSHM project was graciously published on a Canadian blog, Adventure Worlds. Since this is a debut piece not featured elsewhere, I'd like to send the traffic there, so you can see for yourselves what other stories are being featured on this growing blog.

Karl Strand and Henry Martin express their gratitude to Christian and Ben for letting us use their platform to release this photo story.

Please read and share the story, Waiting:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Long Valley by John Steinbeck - a review

The Long ValleyThe Long Valley by John Steinbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came to John Steinbeck's The Long Valley in the heels of his excellent novella, The Moon is Down. Not having read any of Steinbeck's writing for years, there was just something soothing about his prose that made me reach for another work of his. I must say that I was not disappointed.

The Long Valley is a collection of ten short stories, published in 1938. The stories are:

The Chrysanthemums
The White Quail
The Snake
The Raid
The Harness
The Vigilante
Johnny Bear
The Murder

At 186 pages, it provides a healthy dose of variety, and a nice sampler of what Steinbeck, as a writer, was capable of.

Those familiar with Steinbeck's writing will discover some familiar subjects and locations, especially the rolling California countryside where a lot of his work is set. Yet, while Steinbeck is undoubtedly famous for his work featuring the underdogs, and the out of luck characters he has become well know for, this collection of short stories explores a slightly darker side of his writing, one I was unaware of until now. The stories here are often dark in nature (not that Of Mice and Men was a cheerful tale by any means), and explore some darker thoughts inside the seemingly simple characters. There are stories of abuse, of murder, of revenge . . .

Steinbeck is a master of fluid prose. His narratives effortlessly flow from one character to the next, from a city setting to the farming communities settled among the hills and valleys. He visits hard-working farmers, devoted wives, immigrants, traveling hobos, and passionate gardeners. A cast of characters one would encounter without giving them much thought.

Yet, each one of them has an inner turmoil—at times subtle, and at time prominent—that adds a different dimension to each and every one of them. This dimension weaves in and out of the narrative, and can be overlooked unless the reader pays attention. Steinbeck's prose flows and flows, like a smooth stream where the rocks beneath the surface are hardly perceptible yet you are fully aware of their existence if you keep your eyes open.

And these rocks, the dirty secrets and dark thoughts of the characters are what makes this collection worth reading. Unlike in our contemporary works where violence, instability, and inner turmoil are 'in your face' to the point of dominating the story, Steinbeck's portrayal is subtle and almost nonchalant. It requires an active participation of the reader, as do most intelligent works.

Recommended for fans of Steinbeck, and for those who appreciate fine, timeless writing.

View all my reviews