Monday, November 9, 2015

Journey to the End of the Night by Celine, a review

Journey to the End of the NightJourney to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Originally, I thought about writing an eloquent review of this book, but intentions do not always come to bear fruit. The longer I think about it, the less apt I am to do it, so, instead of procrastinating, I'm just going to 'wing it' live on GR.

Here it goes.

I first borrowed this book from a library, but did not finish it in time. Well, I went to a store and bought my own copy. This alone should be enough to tell you that I liked it.

Reading this book took me way longer than it should have, but that is an entirely different matter. Life gets in a way, sometimes.

The Journey to the End of the Night is a very unique book. It deals with multiple themes, as seen through the eyes of the narrator who very well might be Celine himself. It sparkles with brilliant logic, it bores with pragmatic rhetoric, it shines like a torch of enlightenment, and it dumbs down history and geography for the sake of a mischievous joke. Above all, however, it is a wonderful, amazing work of literature.

There are some who disregard Celine for his war time achievements and decorations, and see him as a hypocrite for writing an anti-war novel. Well, those who experienced the war first hand, and succeeded in it, are perhaps the ones best suited to write an anti-war novel. Then again, this is not really an anti-war novel. The first part is, but it goes way deeper than that.

The Journey to the End of the Night is largely a journey into the pitiful bourgeois existence of the middle class men and women we see every day. It is at night that our inner demons come out, hidden under the cover of darkness where Celine observes, a cigarette in one hand, and his penis in the other. Or perhaps not.

It is a journey into the darkness of the human soul. It traverses the first World War, French Colonialism in Africa, immigrants' struggles in America, and the petite bourgeois existence. Thrown into the mix are lust, murder, fleas, suffering, brothels, slavery, camaraderie, rebellion, hope, faith, drinks, and a lot of denial for the sake of escapism.

Above all, it is a story of humanity, not just one man alone. If one considers a plot of any kind, the novel finishes quite unresolved. However, if one considers the narrator as the story, it comes full circle, in a lazy sort of way. The events are circumstantial at best, but there is a raw reality to them. The protagonists are faulty, and the antagonists are very much like the protagonists, often blurring the line between them. After all, is there a clearly defined evil and good in the world, or do the lines blur more frequently than not?

Undeniably, Celine was an author who knew what he was doing. His writing style matches the story perfectly, and he is never too high up on his soapbox to not poke a bit of fun at himself.

I'm glad I ended up purchasing a copy of this book, as I plan to reread it sooner than later.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mad Days of Me he Complete Trilogy SALE

It's been a while since I did any promo, so . . .

Starting November 5, 2015 - November 12, 2015 the complete trilogy, Mad Days of Me is on sale at $0.99. This is a Kindle Exclusive deal, which you won't find elsewhere.

That's right, 800+ pages of thought provoking fiction for $0.99.

The trilogy first emerged in 2007 when the first book was published by a small Canadian Press. Since then, it  underwent a major rewrite, and grew to just about 290,000 words, proofread and edited by industry professionals.

The story follows an educated, middle-class, young adult named Rudy who, upon visiting Barcelona, finds himself assaulted and robbed of all his possessions. With the odds stacked against him, Rudy embarks on an epic journey of survival, which takes him through the gritty streets of Barcelona to the beautiful island of Ibiza, then to France, Italy, Austria, and back to Spain. Struggling to maintain his sanity and humanity, Rudy not only fights to find stability and happiness with his love, he must overcome his own demons and his past.

The separate books in the trilogy have received over a 100 ratings on Goodreads, and 50 Amazon reviews. 

You can check out the book here:

What others are saying:


"The Mad Days of Me trilogy . . . is a massive accomplishment: a study of the archetypal angry young man who finally - and tragically - is given something to be angry about. Suffering from PTSD and haunted by demons old and new, Rudy fights to move past it all, fights to find love, fights to find peace. He is at once a noble creature and a lowly one. He is a monster; he is gentle; he is cruel. He is human. And that, more than anything, grants him sweetness.

Rudy and his demons will be with me the rest of my life. Of that, I am certain." - Roberta Pearce, author of A Bird Without Wings

"The ability for this author to make you care for the main character Rudy in these book and to see life through his eyes is where the gold lies in this series." - The Lazy Book Reviewer

"As a reader, I was engrossed and taken away - exactly the way you wish a book to take you away.
As a writer, I'm touched and inspired, because I climbed somebody's mountain and I can see more of the world than I could before.

. . .
Henry Martin is a super talented bastard." - Edward M. Wolfe, author of In the End: A Pre-Apocalypse Novel

I highly recommend this novel for anyone that enjoys unique, masterfully written literature. Every novel was fantastic, and the conclusion was stunning and evocative. I cannot wait to read Martin's other work." - Sherrod Wall, author of From Heaven to Earth


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Stocking Stuffer now reduced

The last volume in the KSHM Project photostory series, The Stocking Stuffer is now featured at a low price of $0.99 worldwide. This is an Amazon exclusive volume, so you won't find it elsewhere.

The Stocking Stuffer is the KSHM Project's fifth volume, and it predominantly deals with the darkness in the human mind. The volume consists of five short stories, each featuring a couple of wonderfully creepy photographs by Australian photographer Karl Strand.

When we were working on this volume, we had no idea it was going to be our last. But life often throws unexpected things down one's path. Still, I must say that I'm happy we went out with a bang.

The visual aspect of this volume cannot be overestimated, as the photographs breathe potency to the stories.

I'd like to invite you to step out of your comfort zone and delve into The Stocking Stuffer.  The Stocking Stuffer on Kindle

Mankind The Story of All of Us - a review

Mankind: The Story of All Of UsMankind: The Story of All Of Us by Pamela D. Toler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fairly breezy fly-by look at the evolution of mankind beginning with the early days when humans roamed the grasslands of Africa, then jumping to the ice age, immediately followed by the establishment of first societies and the transition to farming. From that point on, the path is more concise, covering the major (and only the major with a capital M) developments in humanity.

Since the subject topic is so vast, it is understandable that a feat of this magnitude cannot be accomplished in a single volume. However, seeing that this book was released in conjunction with the History Channel mini series of the same name, one must realize that History Channel is not exactly the right source to seek enlightenment. Rather, as the channel itself caters to the lowest common denominator and attempts to keep the viewer interested with sensationalism, this has to e taken into account when considering this book as a whole.

So, did I learn anything new? Not really. But the book provided an opportunity to share a journey with my child, and for that I am grateful.

The chapters in this book are fairly short, fairly educational, and fairly entertaining. They allowed me to share the milestones in mankind's development with my child, have conversations about topics we read about, and, hopefully, entice a further future explorations into the complicated history of humanity.

As with any work of this kind, one must realize that history, in general, is written by the victors. Thus, the topics covered in this book were in line with that approach, highlighting the successes and disregarding the disasters. It was to be expected. Aside from a brief cautionary chapter following the story of Hiroshima, there was hardly any exploration of the darkness of the human soul, or the simple fact that history, as we know it, repeats itself. The book, nevertheless, provided me with an opportunity to discuss the fact that empires rise and fall, and that nothing is to be taken for granted.

The book suffers from the same 'being politically correct' expectations so many books suffers from today, as it attempts to have an almost universal appeal. One exception was the chapter on Congo and the terrors committed there. The distant past, however, was almost romanticized. Likewise, the not so distant past, especially the industrial revolutions and the agricultural 'revolution' failed to depict the evil the so called 'visionaries' committed along their path of greed. the chapter on agricultural revolution could have been better if the benefits of GMOs were discussed against the dangers associated with the practice, for example.

Overall, even though I cringed every now and then, it was a read I enjoyed, if for no other reason than to spend a time with my child. That is priceless.

One major caveat is the poor editorial input. The book contains many typographical errors, and the chapters are often interrupted by separate stories which is distracting.

I don;t think I can recommend this to history buffs, but I would recommend it as a gateway to start talking about history with those unfamiliar with the story of mankind.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard - a review

My Struggle: Book 1My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgård

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the interest of full disclosure, I gave up at around page 336, so I did not finish the first volume. Thus, my review is based only on the first 336 pages. ONLY.

My Struggle started wonderfully strong with the premise of the human death and its relation to all things. The prose was strong, philosophical almost, and thus my initial impression of this book was highly favorable. I recall comparing it to Henry Miller's finest writings.

However, little did I know that the book would soon take a turn for worse.

Karl Ove writes in a casual, almost pensive style I can relate to. The first part of the book deals almost exclusively with his childhood, and the story opens promisingly enough to capture my interest. A dysfunctional household, escapades with friends, young age drinking and smoking, his desire for girls, his struggles at school. Sure, I could relate to all of that. Except, Karl Ove achieves no breakthroughs, no emotional growth, and, in the end, he becomes just a punk for the sake of being a punk.

And then, somewhere around page 200, he writes that he hardly remembers anything from his childhood. Seriously? I just spent the last 200 pages discovering minute, unimportant facts about his childhood written in an unnecessary detail. He clearly contradicts himself here.

Fast forward to part two of book one, the part largely written in the present time. Karl Ove continues to be not much different from the young punk I disliked, except that now he has literary ambitions. He knows that what he is writing is not good enough, yet he does not change. When his father dies, Karl spends too much time contemplating death, and not really dealing with it.

While I'm at this point, I would like to admit that I, too, often contemplate death. The finality of it gives me a certain comfort. I think of it every time I ride my motorcycle, for example, fully aware that the next second could be the last. It gives me an introspective view on my life thus far, and, in turn, makes me appreciate life. There is no fear, just an awareness. Karl Ove, however, writes as if he was whining, which disturbs me.

His writing examines minute details of life which do not add anything to the story. In theory, he is writing an anti-novel, perhaps using the banality of everyday moments to show how unimportant those things are in the grand scheme of things. But this is where he fails. He makes no discoveries, no profound statements, no breakthroughs. His life is just not interesting enough for me to care about.

Henry Miller, for example, wrote in minute details about his life, but his life was interesting. It was full of art, women, adventures . . . Miller loved life and lived it to the fullest. His writing reflects that. Karl Ove's, in comparison, is just "Bleh" and does not add anything to broaden my horizons.

Knut Hamsun wrote similarly, but he had his insanity to add an extra dimension. He made sense. Karl Ove just takes an inventory, whines a little, takes more inventory . . . "Do something with this!" I wanted to scream at the book.

At times, My Struggle read like a writer's exercise in writing. If you had written, you know the times when you sit down at the computer (notepad, typewriter) and want to write, but nothing good comes out. Then you sit there and start writing about mundane things, little snippets of recollections, little memories, and it does not really go anywhere, but it causes your fingers to move and your mind to focus. Most authors do that. But most authors do it as an exercise and not as a writing project.

In short, as a reader I feel cheated. I was given a brilliant example of writing with the opening, but it was later replaced with the mundane reality of Karl's world. Frankly, I do not see what all the fuss is about, and I cannot comprehend why the critics praise this work.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Happy Death by Ambert Camus - a review

A Happy DeathA Happy Death by Albert Camus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Camus' A Happy Death is presented as "May be read as a preamble to The Stranger" (The Stranger, being one of my favorite books).

So, where shall I begin?

There are, undoubtedly, very strong similarities between A Happy Death and The Stranger. As a reader, I could view A Happy Death as a hint of what The Stranger would be. After all, both books feature a protagonist named Mersault, both books deal with death, and both books deal with a character who is, in a way, unaffected by the world that surrounds him.

As a writer, I should view A Happy Death as an incomplete The Stranger. An attempt to put forth ideas expressed in the latter, a writing that is not as good as Camus' later works, a writing that dances around more than takes you towards the destination, a writing where metaphors and side stories are used excessively and distract more than add to the text. For the writer here struggles at times to be concise and on point, and there seems to be an unnecessary array of poetic prose which does nothing for the text at large.

Academia, however (and especially the Afterword) disagrees with my views from both of the above angles. Having been both the benefactor and the victim of readers' (and academia) interpretations of my own texts, I must admit that the academia often looks for hidden meanings in anything which does not follow a clear path or the established ideas of who a writer is. Nevertheless, as a writer, I must acknowledge that, at times, instances and incidents just are random. So, I largely disagree with the academia when it comes to interpreting literature, as it often writes more theses and books about a book than the author himself/herself.

But I shall approach Camus' A Happy Death as neither a reader nor a writer. Instead, I shall approach it as a thinker. (How dare I call myself that?)

A Happy Death consists of two books: The Natural Death, and The Conscious Death.

In The Natural Death we meet Mersault, a man whose mother passed away, who works a lousy job, rents the empty rooms in his house to derelict individuals, and stays in the room that used to be his mother's. Mersault is a vain individual who does not really care about anything (on the surface) a dates a girl because he enjoys the attention he receives when they are out together. It would have been fine, except, he is also jealous. He makes her talk about her past lovers, and she introduces him to Zagreus, her ex-lover who is now crippled.

This book opens interestingly, with its ending, followed by a flashback of sorts where the circumstances leading to Mersault's crime are explained. It comes full circle quite nicely, and we learn a great deal about Mersault, his life, and his state of mind. The language itself has a raw quality to it, matching well with the theme. There were times when I enjoyed The Natural Death more than The Stranger, as it seems more real, more thought-through.

In The Conscious Death, Mersault appears on the scene in Prague, and with a completely different mindset. He is growing derelict, both in his appearance and in his inner state of mind. He is becoming a haunted human being seeking a meaning to his life. Through a series of travels, he eventually ends back in Algiers where he finds himself, and, in the end, finds a happy death.

This book did not satisfy my cravings for more Camus. It is more fragmented, and, at times, appears unnecessarily distracted with snippets of poetic verse that add little to the character himself. Mersault grows tormented, abandons civilization, and then longs for it again. He makes inconsistent choices (and not in the 'unreliable narrator' way). He is at once a hedonist and a puritan, talkative and silent, a seeker who is blind. There were choices that did not sit well with me, and, personally, I felt the build-up to the conclusion (which came at random) was rather drawn-out. All in all, The Conscious Death was an interesting exercise in thinking about the complicated human nature, but it did not live up to the expectations.

Compared to Camus' later works, A Happy Death seems unfisnished (to this reader). It was still worth the read, but not likely a reread any time soon.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Giver by Lois Lowry - a review

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Reading The Giver right after finishing Williams' Stoner was a mistake. Now that I'm done with it, I feel like I had just completed a satisfying meal complimented by a delicious dessert, only to reach for a glass, take a sip, and find out it has sea water in it. My palate is ruined.

I must admit that, before writing this review, I looked at some of the reviews posted on Goodreads. I also must admit that either my literary tastes have been spoiled by past quality offerings, or that most of the [over one million] people who rated this book have no idea what quality fiction is. Whatever the real case might be, I feel sad.

Where should I begin? Oh yes, at the beginning. The Giver lacks originality. Those who read widely will probably find elements from other books and stories, done and overdone ad nauseum.

The premise of The Giver vaguely resembles the ideas put forth by Plato about 2500 years ago in his The Republic. The idea of a society where predetermined ideas replace choices for the greater benefit of an unknowing populace has also been explored in many utopian and dystopian books alike. Unlike the original proponents of such ideas, The Giver does not have a clear path to follow, as it dabbles in both utopia and dystopia without any clear direction. The entire book is composed of a fabric so full of holes, that an alert reader simply cannot take the information presented for granted.

Instance after instance, the reader is offered a 'fact' which contradicts reason, yet the author either does not consider the reader intelligent enough to see this, or valuable enough to bother with an explanation. Simply put, the author asks the reader to suspend disbelief without providing the necessary path for this to occur. To me, this is both insulting and a sign of laziness.

Let's assume, for a moment, that I was writing a novel, which takes place in a world where everyone walks. Suddenly, the protagonist takes off flying. As an author, I would have to create a backstory, a believable explanation why the protagonist has ability unique to him. Lowry, however, does not bother with explanations. Acts are presented as a matter of fact, despite their pertinence to the advancement of the plot, and there is no justification.

The plot itself, if it can be called that, is rather shallow at best. Imagine, for a moment, a society where feelings are superficial, emotions are unnecessary, and a ruling body makes choices for the populace, which is unaware of the lack of reality, that ensure the smooth continuation of the utopia. Then, out of the blue, a boy with a power to see beyond (unexplained) is told that he was selected to carry the pain of memories for the entire community (again, no explanation why the regular citizens do not have memories, emotions, et cetera). The boy begins to receive memories, both painful and joyful, and mentions to his teacher that it would be better if all citizens had memories. The teacher agrees, but reasons that he has thought the same for ages, and could not find a way for it to happen. The teacher recalls an incident where an earlier apprentice quit and the memories transmitted to her escaped and entered the citizens. Suddenly, he and the boy realize that this is the way to enable the citizens to have memories, and they hatch a plan for the boy to escape the community so that, once he leaves, the memories he has will return and enter the population. Wow. Really? Ahem . . . boring. There are so many holes in this, and the author does not bother with any explanations. How are the memories contained within only one individual? How do the memories leave that individual and enter the population? How come the memories cannot leave the physical boundaries of the community but the individual can? Why does the 'giver' not leave himself do accomplish this? Why did it take him ages to figure this out? How come no one has done it before?

Okay, what am I, an idiot?

Thus, as a utopian/dystopian tale, this fails.

Some, however, view this as a coming of age story, since Jonas (the protagonist) has an awakening and finds his consciousness. Again, I cannot view this work seriously as a coming of age story, because the awakening is mediocre at best, and the required character arc is lacking. Jonas might have had an awakening, but it was nothing groundbreaking. It was more like: Oh, I have a power. Oh, I'm learning things. Hey, my father has been lying to me! Okay, this should stop. I'm outta here before they kill the baby, which recently entered my life.

The story had the potential to explore the disenchanted nature of the protagonist, the buildup and the excitement of discovering the truth, only to have the weight of the truth crush him. It had the potential to explore inner turmoil, the will to rise against injustice, deception, and the wrong rule. But it did not. It presented the tale in an arc that was rather flat.

The plot and characters aside, I found the writing somewhat dull. It lacked on many levels.

In conclusion, I must admit that I am, perhaps, more critical in my review than necessary. Nevertheless, in light of the countless glowing reviews posted on Goodreads by English Majors, educators, and readers, I feel it is my duty to be critical. When numerous books of higher literary merit are overlooked and virtually unknown, a book awarded the Newbery Medal should live up to the standards associated with that prestigious award. Looking back at it, I do not see why it was awarded.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stoner by John Williams - a review

StonerStoner by John Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read the last pages and having said my farewell to a man who had kept me company for the past few days, it is with a certain sadness that I gaze upon the closed covers of Stoner, a novel which manages to divide friends and foes alike. Fortunately for me, I came to meet Stoner with an open mind, paying no heed to the numerous reviews already written.

I met William Stoner during a warm summer evening. He entered quietly, hardly drawing any attention to himself as the opening lines laid the crux of his life bare before my eyes. There was an odd familiarity to him from the start . . . at first, I thought of Hamsun and his Hunger, even, perhaps, of Camus' Mersault. Yet, the more I read, the more familiar he became, (a cast of characters flashed through my mind - Severin, Don Quixote, Cornelius Conlon, Dr. Rieux, Cosimo, even the old drunk Chinaski) and I realized that Stoner was all of them and more.

What do all these characters have in common? They are the reflections of us, of our trials and tribulations, of our shared pain. They are human, faulty and beautiful at the same time, and we can relate to them because inside every one of them we find a little bit of ourselves. When I looked at William Stoner, I found a lot more than I would be comfortable admitting.

The novel itself is rather simple, I must admit. Nevertheless, it is in the simplicity where lies its brilliance. It lacks any plot to speak of. Instead, John Williams used a straightforward linear narrative to establish the form of a man, and then slowly proceeded to peel away layer after layer to expose the intricate human being beneath the out-of-style clothing.

William Stoner is not exactly a likeable human being, but he is a sympathetic one nonetheless. I could not help but to feel empathy towards him, from his childhood to his rough entry into the world of academia to his descent into a pitiful existence where only habit and custom kept him going. William Stoner is neither a hero nor a villain, but he is profoundly human. A vulnerable human being hiding beneath a callused shell, a man who is driven by the pureness of thought without any regard for his own advancement, whether at work or at home.

Obstacle after obstacle, Stoner does not really overcome his woes, with the exception of one small victory, which he did not even desire. Rather, he grows numb. Comfortably numb, but numb nonetheless. Yet, as he does, he does not do so for his own sake. Most of the time, for the sake of being left to be himself, he is selflessly putting up with whatever life throws at him. And even when, finally, he begins to enjoy life while he has an affair, it ends with pain brought about by the need to protect others rather than himself.

In a way, Stoner has to be both admired and chastised. His life has a purpose, but that purpose was realized upon an external impulse. His own decisions, often noble yet misguided, merely advance his fall. His suffering is not spectacular, yet it is constant and universal to a degree that we can all relate to in one way or another.

Stoner is one of those rare books that do not shake your world, but help you realize more of it. It is a masterful study of man torn apart. It is philosophical in its simplicity and approach, yet existential in its progression and conclusion. It is, undoubtedly, a work of literature, and it just might be the best American novel of the past fifty years.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

A couple of special deals

This past weekend, Amazon US ran a discounted promo on Mad Days of Me trilogy. In my opinion, the event was a success, so I decided to extend the offer to our fellow readers across the pond in the UK (Amazon currently does not support countdown deals in other markets).

Mad Days of Me, the complete trilogy is currently available on Amazon UK for 0.99 (less than a pound) through July 18, 2015. If you enjoy an original storyline, multifaceted characters, and some spectacular background (Barcelona, Ibiza, Southern France, Italy, Austria), than this might be a story for you. Don;t let the low price deceive you - there are 800+ pages of unconditional realism between the (digital) covers.

You can check out Mad Days of Me here:

Also, I'm currently running a Kindle Countdown deal on my poetry collection, The Silence Before Dawn. This is taking place in both US and UK. Same deal, 0.99 in your local currency, and it is good through July 19 in the US, and July 20 in the UK.

The Silence Before Dawn is an avant-garde collection of 73 poems compiled within five categories:

Relationships: Reflections upon love, fragile feelings, and the pain that comes with loving.

Thoughts: A look into the poet’s soul, where anything goes.

Confessions of a Troubled Soul: Deepest desires and simple reflections, mainly the product of the poet’s twisted mind.

Tickling the Surreal: Welcome to the border of reality . . .
a personal outlook at our surroundings.

The Noise After Sunrise: Revisiting places that touched the poet’s soul, and a look at the brighter side the rising sun reveals.

Amazon UK deal:

Amazon US deal:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

800+ pages for $0.99 on July 10

Well, you read that right. From July 10 to July 12, 2015, you can get the entire Mad Days of Me trilogy ebook for less than a dollar. That's six years of writing and 800+ pages of a story like no other out there.

There is no catch, but this edition is exclusive to Kindle, so you'll have to get it here: Amazon

Don't be alarmed by the lack of reviews - this puppy just came out. If you really want to know what other readers and reviewers thought of the books, check out the reviews for any of the three books in the trilogy (Escaping Barcelona, Finding Eivissa, Eluding Reality).

So, what is this book really about?

Sorry, I can't give you a simple, one line synopsis a la boy meets a girl and they live happily ever after as soon as they slay some mysterious creature and save the world from itself. It's a bit more complicated than that.

Nevertheless, here is an attempt:

Rudy, a nineteen-year old runway finds himself half-naked outside a subway station in a city whose language he doesn't speak. Without his passport and with the odds of survival stacked against him, Rudy embarks on an epic journey in search of inner peace and an escape from the city that holds him hostage. This journey turns into a complex love affair with a woman who saved his life, but hides as many skeletons from her past as he does. Faced with the prejudices of a small island community, a crooked cop who wants her for himself, and their own struggles, the couple's future is in peril. While battling inner demons and PTSD,  their relationship traverses four countries as Rudy seeks himself in order to be the man he needs to be for the woman he loves. Unconditionally realistic, Mad Days of Me is a story of the human spirit, its endurance, and the power of dreaming.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Flash Fiction

Well, after some urging, I decided to enter the Flash Fiction contest run by Tablo Publishing this week.

My first entry is a short story (498 Words) about an unlikely relationship between two people who do not speak the same language.

If you enjoy the story, please click one of Tablo's 'likes'

Keep an eye out for more entries in different categories.

Thank you

Thursday, June 11, 2015

KSHM Project book 5 now available

It's hard to believe that a random photo and a random quote found on the internet resulted in the KSHM Project photostory idea. It's even harder to believe that we just completed our fifth volume.

This one is really special. No, not because Karl and I did it. It is special because it is our darkest volume yet, and the photography compliments the stories beautifully (or vice versa, depending on what came first). This is first-ever horror/crime issue, and the images are really disturbing. I hope that you will check it out for yourselves.

A Stocking Stuffer on Amazon


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tidying Things a little

After playing around with short stories and poetry for a while, it is time to go back to novel writing. I've had a couple of ideas floating around in my head for a while now, and the longer I avoid writing, the harder it gets. So, I finally decided to make the commitment and write a little every night until the voices in my head quiet down a bit.

Before taking the plunge, so to speak, I wanted to tidy things up around here. Once I get going on the next novel, all other things will have to be put on hold (I don't deal well with multiple stories going on at once).

There is the upcoming issue of the KSHM Project, which is almost ready for release, and I've been toying with the idea of of releasing a combined edition of the "Mad Days of Me" trilogy as one ebook. Both of these project should be done before the end of June.

For now, I'll show you the covers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Bird Without Wings by Roberta Pearce - a review

A Bird Without WingsA Bird Without Wings by Roberta Pearce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Bird Without Wings by Roberta Pearce was my first-ever romance read. Hmm . . . no need to run for the hills, I'm not about to turn all romantic on you. Nevertheless, I read quite a few very intelligent comments by Ms. Pearce on Goodreads, and wanted to find out whether that intelligent writing can also be found in her novels. So, I bought a copy and started to read.

There is no doubt that Ms. Pearce can write, and write well. While I kept shaking my head in disagreement with the subject matter and the genre-typical choice of words, the writing more than made up for the head shaking. Expecting to sample a few pages and move on to something else, I'll admit that I was pulled into the story and read the entire book. That's how good the writing was.

The novel made me laugh, it made me care, and it made me interested in the final outcome. No, not whether the gal gets the guy--it's genre, so there has to be a happily-ever-after--but Ms. Pearce is quite apt at writing a story within a story, and that secondary plot kept me curious until the end. It was a mystery of sorts, well-developed and full of twists and turns, and it involved some hideous family heirloom art kept around for the sake of tradition. Quite clever, actually, and (to me) much more entertaining than the gal/guy thing.

The mystery aside, the book is full of wonderfully crafted characters I loved to hate and hated to love. The two main protagonists, Callie and Lucious (or Luscious, as Callie sometimes calls him) have everything a character needs and then some. They are both complete, backstory and all, which fits perfectly with their current behavior. A secondary cast of characters, also fully developed, plays some minor and some major roles along the way, adding to the realistic quality of the plot.

Since my usual reads are vastly different from this book, I would have liked to see certain traits and backgrounds take the front stage, but then this book would have been a psychological study of a damaging childhood rather than a romance novel, which was not Ms. Pearce's intention. Thus, my rating is mainly based on the quality of the writing, the character development, and how invested I became in the story.

Chances are, I will not read another romance novel any time soon, but I'm glad I read this one.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Reaching Kendra by Edward Wolfe - a review

Reaching KendraReaching Kendra by Edward M. Wolfe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This year seems to be the year of reading books way outside of my usual interest, which is psychological realism and literary fiction. That being said, I was intrigued by the few interactions I had with the author on Goodreads . . . intrigued enough to grab a copy of Reaching Kendra.

While this books falls outside the spectrum of my interest, it is hard to classify.

After the first few pages, when an average, albeit a little quirky, guy Keith gets the hot adventurous reporter Kendra, I said to myself, "Oh no, please don't be a romance." Nevertheless, the plot quickly took a turn, and the romance was not to be. Well, not the in the cheesy, laughable way romance books tend to go, anyway.

The turn I mention was Kendra going on an assignment to Iraq, to cover the troops' withdrawal. Here, the author uses the story as a platform to offer a glimpse into the mind of a suicide bomber, and one very plausible scenario behind the bomber's decision to detonate himself. But there is much more - a museum visit serves as a short lesson in history of a region many Americans know only from the media reports and the spin news corporations put out to further their own agendas. Through Kendra's interactions the reader grasps a compelling visual of life in a war-torn country, while at the same time recognizing the detachment those back home feel for the region as a whole.

When Kendra is injured in the explosion, her spiritual life takes the center stage and drives the story forward. Keith and his corporate life are set aside, and an entire new dimension to his personality and experiences sets this novel in yet another direction. It becomes a painful love story, a story of two individuals worlds apart yet together all the same, each suffering in their own way.

A cast of secondary characters comes alive as the plot thickens, each playing their respective roles and further advancing the story. Kendra's parents view the situation from a religious angle, bringing in the questions of dogma and spirituality. Keith's mother serves as the embodiment of control and guilt, while the carefree coworker and greedy boss serve as a reminder of two cultures clashing in our contemporary corporate world.

Then there is the metaphysical element, a ghost angle, and the age-old question of spirituality versus organized religion. See, I did say that the book was hard to classify.

Overall, Reaching Kendra was not only entertaining but also educational. It is a well-written novel that, while hard to classify, was a pleasure to read. If you are looking for a cookie-cutter romance, then this book is not for you. However, if you are an adventurous reader who likes to be surprised, then Reaching Kendra may be just the right book to read next.

I have purchased this copy, and a review was never solicited by the author.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Scarecrows by Christine Hayton - a review

ScarecrowsScarecrows by Christine Hayton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer first: I have received an advance copy from Ms. Hayton as a gift. A review was neither stipulated nor requested. I occasionally interact with the author on Goodreads as we both belong to the same group, and came to know her through her reviewing some of my work, which she purchased on her own.

A second disclaimer: I'm a paper book kind of a guy, and have resisted the ebook format for years, rejecting every ebook offer that came my way. Recently, however, I bought a tablet/laptop thingy, and had a six-hour flight ahead of me. A novella seemed like a good way to test the Kindle app and my patience with ebooks.

I read this novella in one sitting, taking two coffee breaks along the way. Scarecrows is definitely not my usual read, but both the writing and the story kept me interested and engaged. The short novella packs a solid plot, and the writing is never boring. The use of tense shifts within the opening paragraphs of each chapter was an effective way to provide just enough background information to characters and events, without taking the reader down memory lane in separate chapters in order to explain the current events. It was an interesting technique, one I do not encounter often.

The novella is hard to characterize, as it plays on several planes. In a sense, it is a 'traditional horror', that is, one without the gore and explicit violence one finds in contemporary offerings. Yet, at the same time, it is a murder mystery, and a psychological exploration of two different individuals. One, a child confined to a mental institution; the other, an adult with brain trauma. Their 'illness' is completely different, yet related on multiple levels. I thought that was quite clever.

The plot was plausible, the police procedures reasonable, and the depictions of a mental health facility believable. Interactions among characters were well written, and added to the plot as it thickened. A well edited and formatted, this was an enjoyable read. I'm glad I gave it a chance.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Severin's Journey Into the Dark - a review

Severin’s Journey Into the Dark : A Prague Ghost StorySeverin’s Journey Into the Dark : A Prague Ghost Story by Paul Leppin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Severin's Journey also became my journey into the dark. The dark of side streets, the dark of the human heart, the dark of the human psyche.

Leppin's use of language is masterful, his sentences tight and to the point. He grabs you by the neck and sends you tumbling down a dark Prague street in the heels of Severin, a young, confused man, who despises everything around him because he despises himself. The internal conflict is as good as Knut Hamsun's Hunger, albeit it uses a completely different approach to portray the raw lust for love, understanding, and acceptance.

When I say acceptance, I do not mean the external acceptance of the character by his surroundings; I mean the acceptance of himself by the protagonist. Severin has a little something of Hamsun, Kafka, and Ungar, but there is also a bit of Dostoyevsky's romantics and Capek's revolutionaries. Severin is conflicted, uncaring, unhappy individual who tries to quench his thirst for love and understanding by experiencing with women and even playing with death, but what he finds always disappoints him. He is desirable yet he, himself, desires not a single one of the women he ends up with, that is, until Ruschena enters his world. Until then, Severin leaves a path of destruction and heartaches in his wake as he moves on, unaffected. Ruschena changes it all, and, for the first time, Severin finds himself on the other side.

Yes, the book ended rather abruptly, but not so much as to be bothersome. While some of the motifs are dated, the story at its core remains relevant today. Well-written human stories are timeless.

Twisted Spoon Press puts out well designed, beautiful books with quality content. This fine example of German-Czech writing is no exception.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Writing as Art: Eric James-Olson discusses Eluding Reality

Eric James-Olson decided to take a stab at dissecting a short excerpt from Mad Days of Me: Eluding Reality. You can see his take on my writing here: in the Writing as Art series.

From Eric's website:
"Writing as Art digs deeply into the literary, structural, and poetic devices that make writing an art form. The excerpts and short fiction presented are chosen from a list of submissions sent by authors around the world. The purpose is educational and based off of the idea that we can all learn from each other."

This series is something I'm personally interested in, as it showcases many different styles and techniques. I'll be watching for future installments, and I'd like to encourage you to do the same.  

Playing with readers' emotions

Playing with readers' emotions

When a reader opens a book, he/she does that with a minimal knowledge of what lies ahead of them. The reader might have read a few reviews, spoken with friends about the book, or seen a recommendation somewhere. These sources aside, upon opening a book, the reader embarks on an emotional journey guided solely by the words of the writer and the actions of the characters themselves. Since reading is a unique and personal experience, it is often said that no two readers will read the same book the same exact way.

The book cover, however, plays a vital role in altering the reader's perception of the book itself. A cover can convey the settings, characters, genre . . . even a tone in which the book might be written. The cover's visual element adds to the reading experience (or detracts from it) and, in essence, prepares the reader for the journey which lies ahead.

Thus, when it comes to novels, the cover artist has the important job of not only attracting the reader's attention, but also conveying the essence of the work contained inside the book. Covers act as icebreakers between the reader and the author's words, a gateway to the fictional world the author created. The importance of the visual element cannot be overestimated.

In my own work, I always felt limited by what covers can convey. My novels tend to be complicated tales of humanity, with multiple plots and themes concurrently running alongside the story of the protagonist. This is especially true for longer fiction.

When I started working on the KSHM Project with Australian photographer Karl Strand, I quickly realized that our photostories offer a unique opportunity to engage the reader not only with my words, but with Karl's images as well. Since most of our work consists of vignettes and short stories, by the time the reader finishes the work, he/she still remembers the image at the center of the story, thus adding a visual element to the mix. This brings me to the point of playing with the readers' emotions.

One of our recent short stories, Waiting, features a double exposure photographs of a lone man in a dark alley, with a young girl heading towards him. The girl is translucent, seemingly out of place. The man, however, stands slightly slouched over, hands in his pocket. He does not appear threatening, but he does not look like someone you would approach late at night. The image itself is somewhat eerie.

As with all of Karl's images featured in this project, I knew nothing about the photograph when it arrived in my inbox. Yet, as soon as I opened it, I saw an opportunity to engage the reader on an emotional level using the power of perception and the image itself. When the right story came to me, it all flowed.

The story opens with a flashback, feeding into the reader's perception that the narrator is not a good individual. As the story unfolds, the reader must assume that the narrator does not have good intentions, but before he/she can condemn him entirely, the narrative switches, opening a way for a whole new set of emotions. Yet, I decided to mislead the reader again, and switch the focus of the narrative elsewhere, bringing up an unexpected ending.

With the image still fresh in mind, the reader then musts reevaluate his/her initial perception. This follows in line with the majority of my other writing, which aims to show the reader that not everything is as it seems, and that we can learn from the often overlooked aspects of our society, such as homelessness, grieving, statelessness, et cetera.

Please check out our story, Waiting, in your favorite online book retailer. It is completely free to download. If you would like to comment, I'll do my best to respond promptly.





Sunday, February 22, 2015

KSHM Project - Upcoming Issue

We are at the final stages of getting the next issue of the KSHM Project released. This one is called Elusive Realities.

I will update the blog once the issue appears on the regular channels.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

KSHM Project is finally FREE on Amazon Kindle

The three sample photostories in the KSHM Project have been free since released everywhere except Kindle. As you may know, Kindle will only price match to free, but it does take a while. Well, as of this morning, all three KSHM pjotostories are free on Kindle: Amazon Kindle

Karl and I are currently working on two upcoming releases, one in the vignette form titled Elusive Realities, and one featuring three short stories showcasing the darker side of humanity.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winnetou by Karl May - a review

WinnetouWinnetou by Karl May

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a reread for me, a reread thirty years in the making. There are times when I reread the books I had loved as a child, that I find them mediocre at best. To put it simply, not many books stand the test of time, and the mind had since moved on to more challenging things to entertain it. However, this is not the case with Winnetou and Karl May's writing.

I fondly recall the innocent years when I devoured his books lusting after the wide world and all it has to offer. Karl May took me not only to the wild American West, he also took me on adventures in the Middle East and beyond. Through the main protagonist in many of his novel, a German adventurer, "Charlie", I learned of good men and bad men, of honor and betrayal, of right and wrong.

So when I found a recent translation at a local store, I purchased the first book that made Karl May a household name in Europe - Winnetou. With inevitable reservations, I pulled the cover off and cracked the spine. It turns out that I did not have to worry about being disappointed.

The writing is on the lighter side compared to most of what I read nowadays, nevertheless, the storyline is just as engaging as it was when I read it all those years ago.

The reader is immediately introduced to Charlie, a German immigrant who came to the US to work as a private tutor for a wealthy German family. Charlie is bright, educated, naturally inquisitive, and all around handy. He has had a foundation in sports, knows how to shoot well, and is determined to the point of being stubborn. When Charlie befriends an older gentleman named Henry (the rifle maker), Charlie's life is about to change.

Mr. Henry helps him get a job with a surveying company to explore the course of a railroad through the Apache territory. Charlie had never been 'out West' but he read a lot about it, so he is naturally eager to go.

Through a series of events, Charlie proves himself as a natural westerner, earns the nickname Old Shatterhand (through his ability to knock out an opponent with a well placed fist at the opponents temple), fights a grizzly bear with a knife, survives several ambushes (some from whites and some from Indians), becomes a blood brother with a Mescalero Apache, and an enemy of the Kiowas.

This book is packed with adventure, and while some of the abilities and events come across as exaggerated, this book is a lot more than that. It is a story of an unlikely friendship when two worlds collided. It is a story of the atrocities white settlers committed against Native Americans, a story of greed.

While Karl May wrote his 'western' books without having set foot in America, he was an advocate for the Native American tribes and their cultures. He wrote about mistreatment, about land theft, about reservations, about government lies. He wrote about tribes being pushed from their traditional lands into small reservations where they had to fight against each other for hunting grounds; about a lot of the evil things white men did in order to grab land and gold.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable read full of little lessons in decency, in honor, and in right and wrong. The most enjoyable part - seeing the wonder in my daughter's eyes as I read it aloud to her (the same wonder I must have had all those years ago), and our subsequent discussions about the story, humanity, and history.

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