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House Keeping 12/5/18

I’m still working on reviews. Same holding pattern as ever there.

That said, holding patterns are patterns and patterns can be broken. It just takes work.

Even better, I’m working on something that’s got me super excited. I’ve just got to iron out the last few details. I should be able to make a proper announcement sometime in the next couple weeks. It’s going to be an awesome send off for the year.

Also, I need to change it over, but for the rest of the month, anything I receive from ko-fi this month is going to go to charity at the start of the year. I haven’t decided what charity yet, likely one of the local food banks. I’ll have that on lock for next week’s house keeping post.

And that’s it for this week. Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I’m a bit of a rambly mess lately but I still like hearing from folks. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing  you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Either way, have a great week!

 

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House Keeping 11/29/18

I’m behind, behind, always behind. I’m still working on reviews, chugging along. But I’m a little worried that Christmas will be here before I’m done with the ones in progress now.

It’s still fun, I admit. I’m still enjoying reading the books and I have a fair amount to say, I’m just too scattered to get it down just now. That’s the part that’s not fun.

You keep going though, do the dance, sing the song. I’m exhausted though, we’ve had so many Christmas packages shipped already and this is just the beginning of things for the season. I need to start making myself write right when I get home instead of taking a nap. That might help with the catch up.

I’ve actually got to do it for that to work though.

Bringing up a thing again, the Odd Voice Out Kickstarter has successfully made its base goal with fourteen days to go. Anything from here out will allow them to do more with education outreach and the publishing house as a whole. So, give them a look, it’s definitely worth it.

The World of Darkness campaign is running at a decent clip, I still need to do some posts for that. My character is not as much of a character in game as originally intended, so I’m trying to figure out how to approach that. Since she’s sort of my planned framing device for the posts here.

That’s about it for this time. I’ve got a thousand ideas rattling around, just gotta crack them open and let them simmer a bit. If you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Tell me your holliday retail horror stories. If you really like what I’m doing, you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Any funds from that will be going towards a replacement video camera for introducing some video essay type things to the blog and, possibly, doing box openings for the monthly Second Star Books box. In any case, have a great rest of the week!

I return! I’m pretty happy with this one, hopefully I’ll be just as happy with the next one. This one’s thanks to Curiosity Quills Press, here is Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents Ive Got Henchmen cover

Teen super villain Penny Akk has bested adult heroes and villains, been to Jupiter, and caused a super hero to start heroing just to stop her. She’s super successful at villainy. But it isn’t what she wants. When she takes up a classmate’s challenge in an attempt to solidify herself as a hero she fails but opens the doors for her classmates to reveal their own powers. Suddenly it seems that every super powered kid wants to join the club Penny and her friends started to cover for their Inscrutable Machine activities or fight her, sometimes both. With a ton of kids suddenly looking up to here, a wanna be rival sparking for a fight, and a relationship building it’s going to be an odd semester.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen returns to the familiar world a super hero inhabited Earth and to the closer setting of the characters’ middle school. This works massively to the book’s advantage though as it gives a good basis for the characters to know each other and interact, putting the new characters on a solid footing right from the start. It also brings things back to the level of Penny worrying about her parents discovering her secret identity while trying to work out a way to ditch Bad Penny for good.

That’s a bit of a double sided thing here. It feels in a lot of ways like the Audit, Penny’s mom and retired hero, is either willfully deluding herself or not nearly as perceptive as she’s meant to be. But it’s still fun to see Penny interacting more with her parents again after not seeing them for most of the last book. Plus it sort of feeds into this family aspect that’s started off early on with the Inscrutable Machine being called on to help convince a retired villain to rejoin his family and be the father he wants to be.

A lot of things sort of echo down in this one and let the reader in on more of Penny figuring out who she wants to be. Her parents forbid super activity early on, leading to her also being unable to do things as Bad Penny, which slows things down a little. It also gives us this fun space for development though. We see Clair getting more into her cat burglar thing, following in her mother’s footsteps, and Ray is working out what he wants to do with himself and his powers.

There’s also this fantastic thing with the other super powered kids, they want what it seems like Penny has. They want to be able to practice with their powers and not to have to hide them. So, suddenly the club that our protagonists started to hide their super villainous exploits is full of all these kids who have seen what they’ve done and want to learn. That gives us room for all these scenes with these characters first seeing things like the Chinatown super villain weekends or even just meeting some of the various supers for the first time. It’s a nice reminder of how awestruck Clair and Ray were back in the first book as well as being a cool way to introduce some of these new characters’ personalities and abilities.

That said, there are a few weird characterization moments where it sort of feels like this one character wasn’t meant to be antagonistic but then part way through just sort of remembered that she really didn’t like Penny. It’s a little jarring. There was also this bit towards the beginning regarding super villains Rage and Ruin’s relationship that felt super awkward and unnecessary, it didn’t add anything or do much for the scene.

Those bits were really the only things that took away from my enjoyment of the book though. I really enjoyed the new characters and want to see more done with them in future books. And it left me excited to see what’s going to happen next. So, that earns Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen with a four out of five.

House Keeping 11/13/18

The adventure continues!

Welcome to the middle of November wherein I have no reviewed a book for more than a month, started on my NaNoWriMo project for the year, nor put things in place for the holidays.

No pressure or anything, right? Right.

There’s actually a number of things I’m excited for just now.

One is the kickstarter for Odd Voice Out publishing. I’m going to be writing a post about that in a couple of days but, they’re doing things with non-standard protagonists and modern issues that I’m really interested in. Definitely worth checking out, so give them a look.

I’m also, after much delay, finally getting to read the last Please Don’t Tell My Parents novel. Which, while I’m working on the reviews for books three and four, I’m still super excited to have gotten too. I’ve been enjoying the series and am excited to see where it ends up.

Last big thing, I’m feeling a bit more myself than I have been for the past couple months. Not sure where it’s coming from or if all the rest from being sick is helping somehow, but I’m going to roll with this as far as I can take it. See if I can get something like back on track. It’s looking good for it now at least.

Standard stuff to end out the post, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Tell me about what you’re reading or how much the coming retail season terrifies you. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. It’s three bucks that’s currently going towards a replacement video camera for attempting video essay kind of deals and probably a monthly box opening to go with the Second Star Books box. That’s all for now, have a great rest of the week!

Occupational Hazard Excerpt

And we are back with an excerpt from Occupational Hazard. This one is from chapter 18, so it’s a taste from a little further into the book than we usually get. It’s pretty cool to jump right in though. Enjoy!

OccupationalHazard-Cover

CHAPTER 18

“Here’s JBJ.”

 

Mick is already there when I arrive at the Giambini residence.

“Al, thanks for joinin’ us. I know you know Mrs. Giambini here. And this here’s JBJ.”

Slouching on a dining room chair is this skinny fellow with a blank, sullen stare and bored and distracted look. This is the person that earlier in the day Mick spent considerable time describing to me. I think to myself, “This is going to be mighty interesting.”

We know that the less JBJ knows about our situation the better, so Mick and I simply tell JBJ that in order to help someone from the neighborhood we need him to get us certain information about Gilbert.

We ask JBJ what his daily duties are.

JBJ says, “I ain’t tellin’ youse fuckin’ shit until youse tell me what the fuck’s in it for me.”

Mrs. Giambini gets up from her chair, dashes across the room to JBJ and gives him the traditional Italian mother’s smack to the back of his head, causing his head to almost hit the table in front of him.

“Heh, ma, what the fu—!”

Mrs. Giambini screams, “Scustamad e merd!” Loosely translated, “You selfish shit!” but the way Italian mothers typically shout it makes one feel deeply ashamed and miniscule.

“Junior! When this man (pointing to Mick) says jump, you jump. When he says crawl, you crawl. And when he says nothing, you go to him and ask, ‘What can I do for you to repay you for all the things you done for me and my family?’ And besides the help he gave your father, your uncle, your aunt, don’t forget who got you that lawyer when you got caught selling drugs in high school. He also stopped that facimm who let you buy liquor when you were only 15.

“And we don’t even know all the people he talked to for you, for them to give you another chance even after all the bad stuff you done.

“‘What’s in it for me?’ you ask. Oo gotz! You got the nerve to ask. Mick over here never asked that disgraziada question when we needed help. He did not have to lift a finger, but he did and he did and he did and he did. NOW, he asks for a little help and you act like he’s asking you to sacrifice your life. Va fa gool!”

JBJ says, “Okay, okay, Ma, sorry, but I’m worried about this job. What if I get fired ‘cause of what these guys want me to do?”

Mick jumps in, “JBJ, you got the job ‘cause of Carlo. Carlo is term limited out at the end of next year. So, ain’t no way you gonna be there long anyways. And I ain’t never gonna ask you for help if I ain’t gonna have your back if helpin’ me hurts you. Gabbish?”

JBJ seems to get what Mick’s saying and nods to show his assent.

“Now you’re gonna tell us whatcha normally do at the office and we’ll tell you how you can help. And during the time that we need your help, which’ll be for a month or so and maybe longer, you ain’t doin’ nuttin’ that’ll get you fired and you ain’t gonna quit either. Gabbish?”

Again, JBJ nods his head.

We learn that JBJ was basically a gofer for Gilbert. He would run both business and personal errands for him. His duties include reminding Gilbert of appointments on his calendar and keeping Gilbert’s cell phone charged. His desk is located right outside Gilbert’s office and the door to Gilbert’s office is generally kept open, except for certain calls, when Gilbert would order JBJ to close the door. That demand is always given when Gilbert got calls from the mayor or Stillman, whom JBJ said is a “fuckin’ snob.”

The initial assignment we give JBJ is to make a note of any contacts or calls with the 312 area code on Gilbert’s cell phone log. For the time being, we assume and hope that Gilbert would not use his work phone for his dirty tricks involving Mary.

We ask JBJ what would happen if someone noticed his looking closely at Gilbert’s phone while it iss being charged. He says, “They ain’t gonna say shit, ‘cause Gilbert has me programmin’ his phone to add different apps and shit. And if he’s got his door closed or is outa the office, I play all sorts of games and do other crap with his phone and everyone sees me do it and ain’t gonna think nuttin’ of it.”

JBJ did tell us the night we met that Gilbert was in Philadelphia the day of the call to the reporter, but that his train would have been in New Jersey at the time that call was made from downtown Philly. This meant that if Gilbert was truly on that train, Gilbert could not have made the call to the reporter, but we already assumed that Gilbert would have had one of his cronies make the call.

Mick would tell me later, “Jimmy Cavello’s brother-in-law, Max, works for Amtrak. I’ll get the ticket info from JBJ and have Max check to see if it was scanned by the conductor, so we know whether Gilbert was on that train. I once saved Max from gettin’ his throat slit. He was in a bar he had no business bein’ in. Lucky for him, I was walkin’ by or it wudda been bye-bye for Maxie. The guy who was gonna cut Max is still singin’ ’em high notes.”

JBJ also told us that Gilbert was in Philadelphia supposedly to attend some conference. However, as JBJ overheard Gilbert tell some colleague over the phone, Gilbert had no intention to attend any of the conference. Instead, JBJ reported that Gilbert said, “In the immoral words of Mick Jagger, I am going there to ‘make some girl.’” Apparently, Gilbert’s ulterior motive in being in Philly was to seduce some woman who was attending the conference. …

We instructed JBJ to see what he can learn about that lady. He told us that night that he was sure that Gilbert had gotten “lucky” with her, because on the Monday morning after the conference Gilbert came in, uncharacteristically, grinning from ear to ear.

JBJ said, “He’s mad always. He ain’t nuttin’ but a mean prick.”

Then added, “I know her name’s Margaret.”

I said, “Wait! That’s his wife’s name.”

JBJ responded, “No! His wife’s Margie and from the way he talks on the phone with this Margaret, ain’t no fuckin’ way in hell could she be his wife, ‘cause he’s always real nasty to his wife.”

As we left this initial meeting with JBJ, I asked Mick what he had done for the Giambini family other than what Mrs. Giambini said about how he had helped JBJ.

Mick says, “JBJ’s dad’s name is John Giambini Senior, but for some reason everybody calls him Frank. Anyways, I helped the old man when he got sick. Had my guys get him to and from his doctors’ appointments. When this one doctor wasn’t payin’ proper attention to him, I had a conversation with the doctor and adjusted his attitude toward Frank. And when I found out a male nurse mistreated Frank, Pedro had one of his guys make sure the nurse never made that mistake again.

“Then there’s the uncle, one of ‘em degenerate gamblers. Died without two pennies to his name. I made sure he had a proper wake and burial. His poor widow was left destitute. Rather than have her go to the poor house, I put her in one of my apartments and she’s never been happier.

“Al, hear me out, ‘cause this here too is a lesson for you, though I gotta say you already know this, proof bein’ how you helpin’ Mary and little Roger. Who knows, maybe this runs in our family? Anyways, if somebody needs help and I can help, I help ‘em. If I need help and someone can help me, like JBJ now, I expect that they will help me. It ain’t in any way even Stevens, ‘cause that ain’t how I like to be, but this is the way things is: We help each other anyways we can. Nobody keeps count who’s done more for who. You never know whatcha’ll need, when you’ll need it, so it ain’t the kinda thing you cudda keep track of anyways.”

As we both go our separate ways, we both agree that this twerp JBJ just may turn out to be an ace up our sleeve.

Guest Post: Alex S. Avitabile

I told you all I had I nifty guest post for you today. Especially given that it’s NaNoWriMo month, I find that there’s some really good advice in part one here. As a bonus, there’s also an excerpt from Occupational Hazard coming up tomorrow for you all. Enjoy!

Part I:  The Story about writing Occupational Hazard

The story that would over time become Occupational Hazard was originally conceived in the mid-90’s.   I would jot the ideas down and plot out different scenes and write dialogue, many of which would eventually prove worthless and would never make it into the book.

In 1999 or so, I would sit down for a timed half-hour a day for a number of days and wound up with 55 double-spaced pages, which pretty much set up the story and would serve as the content for what would eventually become Occupational Hazard’s first nine chapters.

However, my law practice and other responsibilities precluded me from my doing any significant follow-up to those pages until after I retired and signed up for a novel writing course.

I drew upon the story I had started for the content for assignments for that writing course, and both the instructor and I liked what I wrote, and that was enough to prompt me to pick up from where I had left off, fix it up and then work on figuring out and writing the middle and the end of the story.

Over the years, I suffered from writer’s block, primarily fueled by (1) wanting to write the whole thing in one fell swoop, which would leave me frozen, immobilized from the impossibility of doing that, and (2) insecurity from the fear of failing.

To overcome these debilitating forces, I had to take a leap of faith into the unknown, trusting that I would be able to tap the source of inspiration, whatever that is.  I also had to trust that by moving a step at a time, everything would eventually come together.

And ideas did come to me and I did manage to proceed systematically toward the finish line, to my great surprise and relief.  I can only guess that once I retired from the practice of law, my mind was relieved from the many matters that consumed it while practicing law and it was now free to intently focus on figuring out the succeeding steps of the story

I firmly believe that if I can write a book, anyone else can.  I urge those who want to write, just do it!  Finish you story! Then let the chips fall where they may.

Part II:  Some particulars about Occupational Hazard itself

There is no question that imagination was a huge factor in writing Occupational Hazard.  But the book also benefitted from my personal experiences, values that are important to me and wordsmithing that I like to engage in.

There were quite a few incidents from my life that were incorporated into the story.  Most were the initial inspirations that my imagination then ran with.  However, the story about Jackie Pintero in Chapter 17 was an accurate account of an encounter I had with a classmate, whose name was changed to spare that person embarrassment.  Also, Mick’s way of dealing with insects, set forth in Chapter 14, is my proven method of successful extermination.

And many of my characters were inspired by people I know, but only as a starting point, for my imagination would take over and complete the profile.  For example, while someone I know was the model for Gordon Gilbert, the model was no way as nasty or devious as Gilbert.

Writing the story also permitted me, among other things, to stress values that are important to me, like the importance for men to respect woman (Chapter 11), or the importance for us to help one another (throughout the book, but in particular Mick’s speech at the end of Chapter 18), or the value of diversity and of not sticking to “our kind” (throughout the book, but especially in Mick’s speech about “our kind” in the last chapter).

I like to wordsmith and in several spots in Occupational Hazard I work in particular phrases of note.  Some are risque in nature, so I will leave those to the reader to find.  But an obvious example is in Chapter 20, as the phrase in question is also the title to that chapter.

The excerpt from Chapter 18 includes two sentences that I think are good examples of how to speak volumes with only a few words and thereby engage the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks.  Here are those sentences in which Mick states certain ways that he had assisted JBJ’s father:

When this one doctor wasn’t payin’ proper attention to him, I had a conversation with the doctor and adjusted his attitude toward Frank. And when I found out a male nurse mistreated Frank, Pedro had one of his guys make sure the nurse never made that mistake again.

After reading these sentences a reader will wonder how that doctor’s attitude got adjusted and what mistakes were committed by the nurse and what happened to ensure they are not repeated.

Go to Occupational Hazard’s website, www.AlandMickForte.com, for more information about the book, me and other issues related to the story.

Thank you,

Alex S. Avitabile

OccupationalHazard-Cover

Alex S. Avitabile Bio:
Like his characters Al and Mick Forte, Alex S. Avitabile grew up back in the day (i.e., the ’50’s and ’60’s) on the then “mean streets” of South Brooklyn–present day Carroll Gardens. For the past some thirty years he has lived within walking distance of his original “hood,” which is now less mean and more gentrified, about which Alex is not so sure that’s a good thing.

Alex retired after practicing law for thirty-four years, and Occupational Hazard is his first published work of fiction. Alex is presently working on the second installment of the Al and Mick Forte series, which he hopes to publish in 2019.

So I’ve only been meaning to do this for the past two months. No worries, right? I did really want to make sure that I hit this one because there were some big changes that started with the October box that this one sets up for nicely. On to the review, enjoy!

the box itself

overview

So the September box was the last of the original set up Second Star Books boxes which opens the way for the current launch boxes and the quarterly seasonal boxes. So it is the last monthly box to have the theme complementing second book or a lot of the other items like the wall hanging. This works pretty well for me because I haven’t been entirely sure what I was going to do with some of the previous boxes’ items. Onward though, and kindly forgive my messy desk.

wall hanging

I admit I don’t do a lot of wall art, mostly due to apartment living. I do really like this quote though. I feel like I need it on five separate coffee mugs. The pattern is also something I like, the sort of red smoke thing that’s going on. Plus the wall hanging itself is well put together and I feel like it’s something I might hang up in a library nook once I’m some place more permanent.

death market candle

The candle, the candle, the candle. I think I look forward to these as much as to the books themselves. The Mercado de la Muerte candle earns a special place in my heart for smelling like delicious cherry pie and thus, combined with its name, making me think of cyanide. Almond being mentioned as one of its component scents probably helps.

books

The books for the month include Rebecca Schaeffer’s Not Even Bones, something I’m definitely going to need to dig into, and a special custom cover edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I no longer have an excuse to not read that. Plus the signed book plate is awesome, I really like it when they match the cover or have thematically appropriate art on them.

Here’s where we get into new stuff. With the new boxes one of the items each month is going to be an exclusive Second Star Books enamel pin. The September box came with two, the floral heart for Frankenstein and the bloody scalpel for Not Even Bones, plus a pin buddy to display them and future pins on. These look awesome and I’m really looking forward to seeing what designs show up in future boxes.

I completely forgot to take a picture of the woodmark book mark, which is unfortunate because they always look nice.

So, once more into the breach dear friends.

Got a couple of things I’m excited for. First off, I’ve got a guest post for you all coming up on Friday. Awesome, right?

Secondly, the kindle edition of Necrotech is currently available for $0.99, so now is a great time to check it out.

I’m also working on getting back to business as usual. I’ve been saying that for the last month. I also finally managed to not sleep through my last couple of off days, so I’m feeling a bit better about things.

Not much beyond that. Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing you can feed my caffeine habit and buy me a ko-fi. Anything from that just now is going towards a replacement video camera for attempting video reviews and/or box openings for the Second Star Book boxes.

 

House Keeping 10/30/18

Almost Halloween. Almost time for spooky things to creep into our world and make mischief. Good times, right? Just one more day.

That said, and as might be expected, I’ve got exactly zilch prepared for Halloween this year. I’m still trying to push out the reviews I’ve got and finish a couple of books, but there’s no theme to it and nothing horror inspired.

I’m also hoping to finally get my September and October Second Star boxes reviewed some time soon, but again, things are weirdly floaty.

That’s it for now though. Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Let me know I’m not just yelling into the void. If you really like what I’m doing there is, as always, supporting my caffeine addiction and buying me a Ko-fi. It’s three bucks and is currently going towards a replacement video camera for blog related ideas I want to try. Either way, any way, have a happy Halloween and a great rest of the week.

Guest Post: Nita Round

Hey all, I’m excited to bring you a guest post from Nita Round author of the Touch of Truth series. Enjoy!

As an author, it is always lovely to be able to share how our stories come together. So many thanks for inviting to say a few words. As a reader, I’m always fascinated by the processes that bring a story to life too. This brings us to “Raven, Fire and Ice,” which is the first in the Touch of Truth series.

The world is a post-apocalyptic future. It’s this world, but not quite. Think steampunk, a Victorian-fuelled fantasy where airships travel the world and horse-drawn carriages clatter across cobblestone streets. The clang of industry fills the air with the smoke and smell of progress. In this world, the veil between the ordinary and the extraordinary is thin enough to be transparent, and the paranormal is, well, not so unusual any more. Our main characters are three very strong-willed characters, and they function together in a way that makes them more than the sum of their parts.

It amuses me when I say this is a series, because I’d never anticipated writing anything more than a standalone novel. Here we are though, book two, “Raven, Sand & Sun,” should be released December this year (2018) and I am about two-thirds of the way through book three, “Captain, Ice and Floe.” I smile because I never envisaged a series when I started writing, in fact, I didn’t think that it would be this genre at all.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’d just published my third novel with Regal Crest and I wanted a few weeks off. No writing, maybe a bit of reading, nothing more. On an online forum about writing, the exercise of the week involved writing the perfect, ie most eye-catching, opening first line. They decided this exercise would have a maximum of 10 words. I’d commented on other first lines as I thought of my own. This is what I wrote:

 

Blood. Blood everywhere.

 

Nothing else. Just that. We had quite a discussion about those three words, but as far as I was concerned there was no story. It was just an opening line. I forgot about it for a few days. In fact, I didn’t think any more of it until it was time for my writing group get-together. At the writer group, we usually take something to read out. I had nothing in mind, but I looked at those three words and wondered if I could turn them into something. A thriller maybe, and so at the last minute I wrote:

 

Blood. Blood everywhere. Fresh blood.

Once white walls, smeared from floor to ceiling with shades of wine and scarlet.

Blood, and bandages.

Red on white.

Eight little shower heads, standing in a row.

The blood fell in tiny noisy drops.

 

 

A very bloody start. I had a title too, “A touch of madness.”

This is when a writer’s best friend steps in, her character. Enter Lucinda Ravensburgh, and she said. “No. I am not doing a modern thriller.”

“Who asked you?” I mumbled.

“Well go on, see how far you get without me.”

Nowhere as it turned out, and after a couple of days I gave in. “All right, what do you want?”

“Ahh,” she said, “I want a tower. Not one of those small squat things. I want a big one. The biggest in the city.”

“And what city would that be?” I asked. I made notes of course because I’m the secretary and PA of the characters.

“Mid-Angle, of course, don’t you know anything?”

Apparently not, but I let her have her way because in the end the story came together and our Lucinda, Miss Ravensburgh herself, did not let me down.

“And by the way,” Lucinda said, “we’ll not start the story with that line about blood everywhere, that’s just too much. You can start by telling everyone a little bit about me and the tower. Not too much though, I’d like to save some surprises for later.”

And that’s exactly what I did.