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Archive for December, 2012

ImageJumpstart the World
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Alfred A Knopf (2010)
186 pages, $7.99
ISBN 978037596665
Available in paperback and ebook formats
 
Elle is a girl who doesn’t belong anyplace–not even in her own home, after her mother sends her packing to accommodate her latest boyfriend. Elle finds herself thrust into a new apartment, facing the prospect of a new school, and she’s alone. But she’s used to being alone.
 
Then she meets Frank and Molly, and a gang of friends at school, who are Different. Or are they? Elle’s friendship and interactions with them deftly changes what it means to be beautiful, what it means to be special, and what it means to be true to the person that resides inside.
 
Catherine Ryan Hyde’s style reads is as if we have been given someone’s diary and, for just a few hours, we are allowed entrance into their secret world. We sit alongside Elle as she rides through the bumps, bruises and highs of her journey. More than that, Ms. Ryan Hyde captures silence like very few writers can. She takes the moments where everything is still, and she lets them just hold.
 
Because we read a diary, the exposition does not preach like it might in someone else’s hands. With Ms. Ryan Hyde, the events, feelings and conclusions simply are. The way everything plays out is the only way it ever could; the way we would expect it to if this indeed was a journal capturing a snapshot of someone else’s life.
 
Jumpstart the World is the story you read in a Saturday afternoon, so you can spend all day Sunday mulling over the imagery and the moments that rang true. Then the people and their lives creep into your heart and get absorbed into your lifeblood and stay with you in ways you can’t begin to imagine a few thousand words possibly can.
 
Catherine Ryan Hyde delivers yet another deeply honest and raw rendition of what it means to be alive in our current times; it is haunting and exquisite to see how the lives of the characters intertwine, and how they find their own kind of happy ending. Not the fairy tale kind, but the kinds that are around us, waiting to be realized, in the world we can reach out and make our own.
 
About the reviewer: Joanna Celeste is an author, editor, illustrator-in-training and budding book publicist, writing book reviews and interviewing authors as part of the WOW! (Women on Writing) Blog Tours. Her website is Image
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Would you give someone your own beating heart so they may live? 

That is the question Doctor Paul Vieyra will have to ask himself as his world comes crashing down around him, and the ghost of those who died on his operating table haunt his mind.
When Dr. Vieyra sister’s heart begins to fail and her life fade away, a new heart or surgery are her only chances for survival—a chance no doctor is willing to take. Dr. Vieyra will risk everything he has and more for his sister. He will need the help of both old and new friends along with his mental ghosts if he is going to overcome the incredible obstacles that stand in his way.

The clock is ticking. Will he be able to save his sister’s dead heart? What is he willing to risk? 

Buy Links: 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/read/2940015107401 

http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Heart-ebook/dp/B0094GZ3W6 

READ AN EXCERPT

PART ONE
THE FALL OF THE GOOD DOCTOR

Chapter One

The last thing any cardiac surgeon wants to see in the middle of a heart transplant is a ghost, yet there it was. All Paul knew was that this man was a successful insurance attorney for a large firm, a family man, who just happened to have a congenital heart defect that had gone undetected for years. The man’s surgery had been uneventful and routine, when suddenly his vitals crashed. The ghost-face of the patient sat up and looked deep into Paul’s soul through the windows of his eyes.

The man looked down at his open chest, filled with flowing circuits of bloody tubes and dangling metal equipment, and then slowly turned his head back to Paul. The patient’s eyebrows lifted as if he were about to cry. After working an empty jaw, his ghost-mouth was able to speak. “What-what about my kids? What about my wife?”

Paul locked eyes with the ghost. His heart sank. “They’re fine.”

“Liar.” The ghost smiled. “But they will be. I wrote my own insurance policy.”

“Everything is fine,” Paul said through his teeth. He moved his hands at a blinding blur of delicate fingers, each hand dancing a ballet with clamps and strings; he hurried because he knew time was not on his side. The Ghost was looking to him in the same desperate way all the others had, just before their bodies died. It was the look of a spirit about to pass the point of no return. “Let’s hurry up and finish. Quick, you close him up. Delores, get the suction ready.”

The woman wearing olive green scrubs that would disgust a horror-film makeup crew reached around his midsection with the suction wand and cleaned the surgery site one last time. At once, the crimson faded, revealing flesh stained yellow from the pre-op iodine. Delores finished and looked back at Paul. “Ready, doctor.”

The short doctor on the other side of the patient set his little arms to work, closing the steel plates of the retractor and stapler into the midsection of the unseen ghost.

Paul could not look away from the eyes.

The ghost smiled. “Thanks anyway, but I cannot stay. I know the way.” The man looked up and stared into the bright overhead lights, but his gaze was far beyond the bulbs. His mouth whispered one word, and the ghost closed his eyes.

“Let’s go, we’re out of time!” Paul roared even though he knew time was death, and death had already stolen the life they were trying to save. Paul thought death and time were just two faces of the same monster, like a two-headed abomination that sometimes occurs in nature.

Instead of handing back the retractor and stapler, Doctor Quick dropped them to the floor and Delores immediately filled his empty hands with defibrillator paddles. When the machine charged, the short man sent the electrical current into the chest of the patient. For a moment, the muscles in the patient contracted, causing his back to arch off the table. Everyone in the room paused and looked at the monitors.

As the flatline drew out like a blade, the ghost began to disappear, like sugar dissolving in water.

“Charge it again!” Paul commanded as if he were a general giving orders from up on a horse on some ancient battlefield.

Delores pushed the blue button and the machine gave a mechanical whirring noise followed by a flat tone. She gave a sharp nod to the short man.

“Clear!” Doctor Quick shouted. He placed the paddles against the pale flesh and again the electricity arched the back of the patient.

At the same time that the ghost vanished, the monitors noticed a weak pulse. The beat skipped twice, and then began a steady rhythm that kept a normal pace. A collective sigh filled the operating room.

“No matter how many times we do this, I still get the biggest goose bumps every time.” Quick said as he hopped down from the stool. When his stubby legs gained his balance on the floor, he looked up at Paul, who towered over him by almost three feet. Paul was well over six feet tall, not unusual for a man of Spanish decent, but standing next to him, Quick’s Irish four and a half feet always felt so much shorter.

“That’s because Mrs. Quick has you whipped.” Paul said, looking down at his colleague.

At first, the short doctor was speechless, his mouth frozen. Quick slid his glasses back on the bridge of his nose, backed out of the way of the orderlies removing the patient, and then simply shrugged his shoulders. “Oh, like you’re not?”

“Oh no, not me, I rule the roost at my henhouse,” Paul replied, puffing his chest out like a proud rooster. “I am the king of my castle; I wear the pants in my house. When I say, Jump, she says, How high!”

Quick gave him a look of disbelief and a nod to indicate he was slathering on the sarcasm nice and thick.

“Is that so?” Delores asked, interrupting Paul’s ranting. “So you would not mind me bringing that up to Susan at the book club meeting this Saturday, would you?”

“Man alive, I thought you were gone!” Paul said. He turned to see Delores watching him with her arms folded tightly across her chest. She was one of his best friends, and they had come close to fooling around together one drunken night before he married Susan and she married Duane, but they decided to remain friends instead of risking a good thing. “She would make me sleep on the lumpy couch for a week. With no lovin’. That’s not funny.”

“Well if you’re right, you have nothing to worry about. As the self-proclaimed king of his castle, you are not whipped, right, Dr. Paul Vieyra?” she asked sarcastically. “Like you said, when you say jump, she says how high, right?”

“What do you really want?” Paul asked. “I smell extortion here.”

She shrugged her shoulders.

He looked deep into her blue eyes that seemed to be the same color as the deepest parts of the ocean. “What if I doubled the two hundred I owe you for the Patriots game?”

“I suppose we’re negotiating?” she asked. “Negotiating is not extortion, you know.”

“Whatever you call it, I still don’t see what else you could want …” Paul stopped, his mind suddenly registering her target objective, and a horrified expression covered his usually happy face. “Give it up Delores, because it is never going to happen.”

“I want the keys.”

“That car is my baby,” he said. “You can have anything else you want, just not my Porsche. I’ve had her for less than two weeks. You can have my firstborn son, second and third too, just not my new car.”

“I promise I will wash it every day you and Susan are in Paris.”

“No deal,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest to match hers. “I would rather you tell Susan that me and Quick took turns punching cute little fuzzy kittens in the face. At least that’s not as bad as you telling her I went around saying she doesn’t have me whipped like a bad dog. If I must choose between couch and car, I choose the lumpy old couch over the fresh car scent, right Quick?”

“Please don’t drag me down with you, Paul,” Quick said, smiling.

“A car that you are not using while on vacation is better than the couch? I hate sleeping on the couch, tossing and turning night after night, and with no lovin’,” Delores said. “I guess Susan wouldn’t like you and Duane golfing on Sundays either. Now that I think about it, I’m going to tell Susan how you really feel about her cooking.”

“Two conditions,” Paul said, giving in. “Man alive, I should have my head examined for this. The first condition is the custom paint. If a shopping cart even looks at my car, I want you to jump in front of it as if you’re taking a bullet for the president. And no hot-rodding; the Owner’s manual says it needs five hundred miles of easy driving to break in the camshaft-thing.”

She lifted one of her blond eyebrows, inquiring what the mysterious second condition might be.

“The other condition is that Duane and I get to go golfing whenever we want,” Paul negotiated. “That’s the deal, take it or leave it.”

“That was actually three conditions there, Paul,” the short doctor stated.

“Thank you, but you are not helping me, move along,” Paul said in mock anger.

Quick did not move along, too pleased with the chance to witness his mentor squirm like a worm in the razor sharp claws of the eagle named Delores. “I am just saying, way to wear the pants, highness of his castle.”

“Three conditions, then,” Paul said.

“That’s a deal.” Delores smiled. “Duane can go golfing anytime he wants as long as I don’t catch him proclaiming to rule my roost while wearing the pants, but you still owe me two hundred for the Patriots game last Sunday. It was one hundred the week before but you went double or nothing. You are old enough to know better than to be betting on bums.”

“But they’re my bums,” Paul said, genuinely hurt by the admission. “I’m too old to be switching teams now.”

She shook her head at his stubbornness as she removed her soiled scrubs and pushed them into the hazardous waste bin. “Well boys, I’m off to go home and wear the pants and plan illegal street races with your new Porsche. You two have fun.” With a quick wink over her shoulder, she disappeared into the washroom.

“You sure showed her,” Quick said.

“Damn right I did!” Paul said, again puffing his proud chest like a victorious fighting chicken. “This operating room is my house, and around here, I’m in charge!”

Delores pushed the door open and leaned back into the room. “I’m sorry, did you say something about in charge?”

“What I said was,” Paul said, stalling to think. “At her house, she is always in charge. I was just making sure Quick knows all of your rules.”

“That’s what I thought,” she said, knowing exactly what he’d said before she asked. “While you’re at it, king of his castle, how about you go ahead and change your name to Mr. Susan Vieyra and learn to love your lumpy couch? Or maybe you would like me to have Susan super-glue the toilet seat down?”

“Man alive!” Paul replied. “Say what you want about my poor couch, but not the toilet seat! It’s all I have left!”

“Sounds like a king of a castle to me, always crying about the throne. Bon Voyage, boys.” She said and let the door close, leaving Paul and Quick alone in the operating room.

“Tell Quick he did another good job,” the voice of a ghost said. It was a faint and distant voice only heard by Paul, no more than a loud whisper from the corner of the room. “This might be your last surgery together before he moves to the city.”

“You did another excellent job today, Hollywood,” Paul said as if he had just thought of it on his own, not one of his personal three spirits that haunt only his mind. He was glad that today’s events had not led to a fourth. He had tried talking to a therapist about seeing ghosts of patients that died on his operating table, but the only answer psychology could offer was one form of insanity or another. He may not have known why they were haunting only his world, but after several years of seeing the three apparitions every day and night, it became normal for him. Paul looked to his colleague, who was smiling. “Are you really going to give up all this to move down to Los Angeles? What if I were to lower the operating table once in a while?”

“In six months, I will be monitoring the blood pressure of the stars, living peacefully in a crime-free neighborhood,” Quick said. “We’re looking at a five bedroom.”

“How do you know there’s a crime-free neighborhood in Los Angeles?”

“Well, there is one place that criminals will not venture into, that’s for sure.” Quick began to chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” Paul asked.

“It’s a gay community,” Quick said. “If anyone breaks in, they will color-coordinate the furniture, bake some double-fudge brownies, and add Adirondack chairs to the yard before they leave.”

“This gay community just let you in?”

“Sure, why wouldn’t they? They are all super-nice guys and they believe in the buddy-system.”

“Because I figured a gay community would have, you know, certain requirements for membership,” Paul said, raising an eyebrow at the young doctor.

“Well, I told them we’re a couple, but not exclusive to each other. I may have to take you out on a couple of dates, just to convince a few of the neighbors,” Quick said, laughing. “You should join us for the parade next weekend!”

“You’re crazy,” Paul said, beginning to laugh along with the short man. His three ghosts were already laughing.

Chapter Two

After his shift, like clockwork, Paul coasted along the old county highway, making his way to his sister’s ranch, as he did everyday without fail. The radio DJ ruined the end of a great classic song, with a young voice that sounded like the kid might have actually been conceived when that very song he had just played was new and topping the charts. He did proclaim his radio station to be the best, and the best radio station was proud to announce that Eric Clapton was coming to town. Some lucky winner was going to win two front-row tickets before the five o’clock rush hour traffic jams. Then a commercial with testimonials about how well Gold-Bond medicated powder worked for them came on, and Paul switched off the radio.

“You should probably catch that,” a ghost said from the back seat. “I haven’t seen E.C. in years.”

“You call Eric Clapton E.C.?” a woman’s voice asked.

“I sure do,” the first voice said with pride. “I have never heard an E.C. song I didn’t like.”

“I think we just might go see that old man pick his guitar,” Paul told his ghosts. “Susan would get a kick out of seeing a show like that.”

“The exit is coming up on your right; you can make it in the other lane if you hurry,” the third ghost instructed as if he were an award winning back-seat driver. “The faster you get over, the sooner we get to see Rhea.”

“I know where the turn is. Rhea is my sister, not yours,” Paul said, annoyed at the third voice, but he made the lane change by cutting off a silver minivan. Ever since the apparitions appeared, all he had heard from his three mental ghosts was how great his sister was, like paranormal OCD. “Keep it down back there.”

“Or else what?” the defiant third ghost replied. “You can’t do anything to us that you have already done. Just get me to Rhea’s or I will make it worse. Turn here.”

Paul did not have a reply to his empty threats, but thankfully, the three of them rode in silence. He exited the smooth county road and turned onto an old two-lane road riddled with potholes and cracks. There were no white lines marking the sides of the old road, only short weeds struggling to grow between the ditch and the pavement. A faded yellow dash attempted to center the lanes, but it veered and disappeared at random, making it unreliable. As he traveled down the small stretch of road to the farm, large sunflower plants leaned over the fence and bobbed in the gentle breeze on the other side of the barbed wire fence, as if nodding their daily how-do-you-do’s to a familiar face.

In his passenger side mirror, Paul saw a black horse, colorless and covered with a hide as dark as crow feathers on a moonless night, first catching up to and then it began sprinting alongside the sports car. He tapped the accelerator for a quick burst of speed, but the horse and rider shot into the lead like a living bullet.

The rider’s long blond hair bounced in the wind, seemingly free of gravity’s bond, and she matched every powerful stride the magnificent beast made, as if the two were one. As the field gave way to the fence, both lifted in unison, and Paul wished the horse would somehow grow long black Pegasus wings, able to take flight with his sister up to the clouds instead of landing and coming to a dusty stop. The black stallion reared his head up and stomped hard at the dirt, indicating he would like another run at the fields, just to show the shiny black automobile what he could do. Its tight muscular flanks twitched with anticipation, should the car decide to race again back the other way towards the bobbing sunflowers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ImageR.L. King was born in Grants Pass, Oregon, in 1978. King grew up in a poor mountain town. He and his family lived in an old school bus and shared an outhouse. They did not have a television until Reagan was re-elected.

King is the author of Two Bad Men (2005), Parallel You (2006), and Dead Heart (2007). These novels were created at the request of his friend who needed something good to read. King also published two short stories in 2010, for publishing credentials: “The Tell-Tale Soul” and “The Water-Grave Redemption.”

R.L. King currently resides in Oklahoma City, and works in the precious metals industry. He continues to write as late as he can most nights.

Author Links:

http://www.48fourteen.com/author/rl-king 

Social Media Links:

facebook; rl.king.9@facebook.com
twitter; @rlking1
goodreads; www.goodreads.com/user/show/12294225-r-l-king
blog; 48fourteen.com/users/rl-king
short stories; http://www.necrologyshorts.com/the-tell-tale-soul/
www.necrologyshorts.com/the-water-grave-redemption/

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My guest today is Gabriel Valjan, author of the Roma series, published by Winter Goose Publishing. The first book,Roma, Underground, came out earlier this year. The sequel, Wasp’s Nest, was just released this week. The third installment is scheduled for August 2013.

Valjan attended the University of Southern California for his undergraduate education and completed graduate school in England at the University of Leeds. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize. Valjan’s short stories continue to appear in print and online literary journals. He recently won ZOUCH Magazine’s inaugural Lit Bits Contest. He lives in New England.

Find the author on the web: Website/blog / Winter Goose Publishing Author’s page / Pinterest for Wasp’s Nest

Wasp’s Nest is available on Amazon Paperback / Barnes & Noble Paperback / Kindle / Nook

Read my review of Wasp’s Nest on The Dark Phantom Review.

Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?

Like most things in my life the road was not always obvious or straight. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. As a child I read voraciously, so I was quite awed, quite intimidated, by the great talents on the bookshelves at my local library. I began with a lot of self-doubt about my ability to sustain an idea, create multidimensional characters, and capture the tics of dialogue. I knew what I enjoyed in literature, understood to some degree how it all worked. I was convinced (still am) that nobody could teach the idea that starts a short story, a novel, or a poem. When I had set aside the initial excuses and insecurities, I discovered that I was having fun and I had stories within me.

What was your inspiration for Wasp’s Nest?

After I wrote the first in the series, Roma, Underground, I knew that I had created my cast of characters. Two things happened then: one, I wanted to see how each of my characters would grow and evolve, interact with each other, the world around them, and bond emotionally; and two, I wanted to take my own sense of ‘what if’ thinking and create situations and see how my characters would negotiate them. I believe what makes my characters interesting is that they each of them has their own ‘issues,’ as we all do in life, but mixed in it all is a cultural collision of American and European. In Wasp’s Nest, the ‘what if’ has to do with cancer research and technology. What if someone had a way of detecting cancer at the level of DNA and prevent cancer from occurring without chemotherapy, radiation, and disfiguring surgeries? Since the majority of us will die either from heart disease or some form of cancer, there is that ‘what if.’ And then there is the ‘what if’ in Wasp’s Nest of the threat a potential cure poses to those industries that profit from chronic illness. I don’t suggest that ‘what if’ is a pure either/or. Dance with the angel of a cure, but don’t forget that the Devil was also once an angel.

For those readers who haven’t read this or the first book yet, what is the blurb of the series as a whole and how many instalments are you planning?

I haven’t committed to an exact number, but I had planned six novels. The overall arc of the series is watching friends learn how to love and trust each other, learn how to move within a morally compromised world. The main character Alabaster (or Bianca if you prefer her alias) is difficult to know, extremely intelligent, and dichotomous at times in her thinking. She sees things others do not, yet she struggles with intimacy and trusting another person. Dante, her boyfriend, is a nice guy, a little too patient with her at times. Farrugia is a stoical investigator with an edge to him. His peer Gennaro is a widower who has never forgiven himself for causing his wife’s death. Alessandro has brains but picks the wrong women. Then there is Silvio, the ambitious and humorous interpreter. In Wasp’s Nest, readers will be introduced to Diego Clemente, a garrulous, very Boston character. Throughout the Roma Series I try to infuse authentic Italian culture and food.

In this novel, you dive into the controversial world of biotechnology, genetics, and pharmaceutical companies. Is the theory about wasps, the methyl toolkit, and their connection to cancer in your story a real thing?

The Nasonia wasp is real. There are three species indigenous to the U.S. and a fourth was indeed discovered in Brewertown, New York. In the novel I mentioned Mendelian genetics, which should return readers to basic biology. I try to keep it simple. I address the reason why this wasp was selected and why the fruit fly is an imperfect model. The reader will discover that the Nasonia wasp is no pleasant creature, but what I said about its genetics is true; it is easy to study, easy to manipulate, but the ‘what if’ is that current research in Nasonia is devoted to the development of pesticides. The concept of the methyl toolkit is real. The ‘what if’ I propose is pointed at oncology. I don’t think that it is misleading to say that we all have the potential for cancer. Women with a familial predisposition to cancer, for example, can be tested for the BRCA1 and HER2 genes for ovarian and breast cancers, respectively. A while back, the actress Christina Applegate tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, which was unexpressed, but she opted for a double mastectomy as a pre-emptive strike. This is an example where technology exists and the ethical debates begin. While some sophisticated ideas do exist in Wasp’s Nest, I tried to not make them inaccessible. I believe readers are intelligent and seek intellectual engagement while they enjoy a story.

How much research did the book required?

I always do a great amount of research, but I hope that what I decide to include is articulate and not beyond the grasp of the reader, or so implausible that it is science fiction. I research technology online and in technical libraries. While I don’t have a Ph.D, I’ve retained a working vocabulary from my scientific education. With the methyl toolkit I did speak with an immunologist and instructor who researches cancer and teaches at the graduate level. While I was remiss in thanking him in the Acknowledgements I had him in mind when I introduce readers to Portuguese food in Wasp’s Nest.  I should also mention that another form of research necessary to the Roma Series is cultural in nature. Two of my friends act as my editors. Dean proofreads all my work; and Claudio does the ‘cultural editing.’ Both men are far more knowledgeable in Italian than I. Claudio is a native speaker, a linguist, a journalist and a professional translator, with northern and southern Italian culture in his veins. While I can read Italian with respectable facility, only the native speaker can give you the authentic phrases and turns of phrase. This ‘cultural editing’ was crucial to the third novel, out in August 2013, since it deals with a volatile part of recent Italian history, with an unfortunate American connection.

I love the title, which of course suits the story well because it works on two levels. Did you come up with it right away or did you have to brainstorm?

I knew the title from the start. I had wanted to create a story in Boston. The title does work on many levels. It alludes to the insect, the Bostonian stereotype of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and the colloquial expression of getting into a mess, although I think the proper phrase has to do with a ‘hornet’s nest.’ One of the particular joys with Wasp’s Nestwas working with Winter Goose in designing the cover art. I should point out that the wasp on the cover is not a Nasoniacritter, but a yellow jacket wasp.

How long did it take you to write the novel and did you plot in advance?

I wrote Wasp’s Nest in four to six weeks, BUT I spent longer editing and shaping it before I submitted it to Winter Goose, where it underwent more editing with James Logan. Fellow Winter Goose authors Jessica Kristie and Sherry Foley provided me with invaluable feedback and suggestions before James touched the manuscript. Jessica is a poet so her contribution around imagery was helpful. Sherry is the author of two Winter Goose thrillers: A Captive Heart andSwitched in Death. She taught me other “suspense tricks.” I can’t emphasize how helpful they were for both Wasp’s Nest and for me as a writer. In terms of plotting, I knew where I was going with this novel. It did feel at times like “seat of your pants” writing, but I advocate getting the story down on paper and then editing afterwards.

What made you decide to make your main character a woman? Has this been challenging? If yes, in what way?

The genesis for the Alabaster character came from a dare. I was talking to a work colleague whom I’ve known for over ten years. Margaret knew that I was writing short stories at the time so she suggested that I try my hand at writing a female character.  The result was a short story entitled “Alabaster.” Yes, it is challenging to write out of gender and I would add that it is also difficult to write from a child’s perspective. I have a deep respect for children’s authors since they have to modulate story and vocabulary to their audience. I don’t think writing from a female point of view is insurmountable. Research can get you the answers. The skill is in transforming the knowledge into believable action and dialogue.

In Book I, it was Rome. Now, it is Boston. In both novels your locations are fleshed out in vivid detail. How important is a sense of location in a story?

In the Roma series I try to make the location a character. We can take our environments for granted. Wasp’s Nest takes place in Boston, the third, fourth, and fifth novels take place in Milan, Naples, and Boston. Cities change all the time: think of Whitman’s Manhattan and New Jersey, T.S. Eliot’s London, and Baudelaire’s Paris. The modern metropolis provides a remarkable backdrop to our individual and social conflicts and pleasures.

How do you keep up with what’s out there in terms of spy gadget technology?

I hope readers don’t think that they are getting Jane Bond. John le Carré Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy proved that spy-craft is a slow game of chess. As I mentioned earlier, I read a lot so I read the geek articles whenever I find them, rummage in the libraries when an idea takes root, but in terms of gadgetry I think I use a remarkable device called the ‘intelligent brain,’ and it happens to belong to a woman.

As it’s the case with book I, there’s a lot of marvellous food description in Wasp’s Nest

Starving is not an option in Italy. How could you not love the food and the attitude of La Dolce Vita?

If you could narrow down the three main elements of a good spy story, what would they be?

Ambiguity. Misdirection. Movement. A story has to move; the pages have to turn. Ambiguity in character and motivation is true to life. Human beings are not selfless creatures; that is why I think altruism is a virtue. One of the joys of a good mystery is watching intelligent people being intelligent.  This is damned difficult to write, since your protagonist has to be smart enough to spot something that neither the other characters nor your readers can see, even though it’s right in front of them.

You also write poetry and short stories, having published many in literary journals. What do you find more enjoyable: working in a poem, a short story or a novel?

Each has its appeal. Poetry is a house with all the necessary language; and by its nature, not often natural language. The short story is an airplane with a short runway and flight is imminent or the plane crashes. The novel is an endurance race, where there are miles to go, numerous paths to take, but you have only so much water and food: use them wisely. For me poetry is intimate and personal. While I enjoy the short-fiction format, I have noticed that what was once acceptable – twenty to fifty pages is now impractical, with most stories clocking in at 5,000 words. Flash or micro fiction is challenging. Is it a story or a vignette? I’ve only had one flash-fiction piece published; it was a 111-word story that I did for a contest for ZOUCH Magazine.

Congratulations on winning first prize in ZOUCH Magazine’s Lit Bit contest. Can you tell us about it?

I was searching for the “calls for submission” web pages and I saw page after page of requests for flash fiction. I felt dismayed but then I thought: What can I tell in a short, SHORT piece? I wrote one sentence that told a hero’s journey. The brevity of the form drew upon my experience in writing poetry.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m almost done writing the fifth book in the Roma Series. I’m trying to find a publisher for a three-volume noir series that I have written. It has two main characters, an American and a British woman, who are part of the American intelligence community. The novel starts in Vienna and continues in McCarthy-era Los Angeles and New York, highlighting the time, the mores, and the dark rivalry between the CIA and FBI.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Write because you love to write. No matter how great you think the writing is, please have someone edit it for you. Respect your reader and try to understand that not everyone will like you, that criticism, while an opinion, is an opportunity for improvement. If you find a writer that you like then write a balanced review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Last but not least – thank you for reading.

This interview originally appeared in Blogcritics

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ImageSURRENDER
The Ferryman and The Flame Book 1
Rhiannon Paille

Genre: YA Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 978-1480029859
Number of pages: 402
Word Count: 100k
Cover Artist: Marc Wolfe www.marcwolfeart.com

Book Description:

How far would you go to save everything you ever loved?

Kaliel was warned about her love for the Ferryman. One day he will marry the land and leave Avristar forever. She doesn’t listen, and because of what she is– a Flame– one of nine apocalyptic weapons, she sparks a war. In a desperate attempt to save her home and her love, Kaliel tries to awaken Avred, not knowing she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16049030-surrender


 About the Author:

Rhi was never a normal girl. Her life was an urban fantasy wrapped in a paranormal romance and served with a side of horror. To escape her everyday weirdness she began writing fantasy. She studied at U of Sedona and MIMT, obtaining a PhD in Metaphysical Science and Parapsychology. She’s married to a chef/comic book shop owner and she has a fondness for architecture. She frequents twitter and facebook, but if you really want to get to know her you should visit her site: www.yafantasyauthor.com

http://www.yafantasyauthor.com

http://www.twitter.com/rhiannonpaille

http://www.facebook.com/rhiannonpaille

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4653530.Rhiannon_Paille

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Donald Morris is a Professor of Accounting at the University of Illinois and the author of Opportunity: Optimizing Life’s Chances (Prometheus Books, 2006–Opportunitybook.com), co-author of Accounting Desk Book (Commerce Clearing House, 2005-2011), and has published papers on tax, business ethics, investing, and business strategy. He has a PhD in Philosophy from Southern Illinois University and a Master’s in Taxation from DePaul University in Chicago.

Morris is here today to talk about his latest book, Tax Cheating: Illegal–But Is It Immoral? which I had the opportunity to review this week.

Find out more about the book on Amazon or the author’s website.

Thanks for this interview. What made you decide to write this book?

The goal of writing about the ethical dimensions of tax cheating grew out of my reaction to a public opinion poll I read in 1999. According to the poll, 87 percent of Americans believe that tax cheating is always wrong. That level of agreement among Americans led me to wonder what forces were at work—was it a high level of patriotism, a belief that the government employs its scarce resources wisely, or an acknowledgment of the value of the tangible and intangible benefits we receive in return for our tax dollars? I wondered how such a distasteful process as filling out a tax return and writing a check to the treasury could possibly strike such a powerful moral chord in that many people.

Who is your target audience?

Individuals interested in tax reform and a tax system that is more transparent and less open to the influence of lobbyists and special interests.

What is it about filling a tax form that strikes such a powerful moral chord in so many people?

I think people are very conscious of being cheated, whether it is being short-changed by a sales clerk, knowing politicians wasting tax funds, or believing that they are paying more taxes because someone else is not paying what the law requires. The belief that we are being cheated, either by other taxpayers or by the government strikes a powerful moral chord in many people.

Why is there so much confusion about taxes?

The income tax system was introduced 100 years ago and it applied to less than five percent of the population. The tax return was a simple one page form. The tax rates were modest, with the highest under ten percent. During the intervening 100 years, Congress has added exceptions and exemptions to make some aspect of the law more fair to some group of taxpayers. With each new Congress, new exceptions were added on top of the old with no attempt to coordinate the overall result. The end-product is a tax law that is complex and which results in most people hiring someone else to prepare their return or purchasing software to help them resolve uncertainty. In attempting to engineer exceptions benefitting increasingly narrow constituencies, Congress has unwittingly produced a law that makes it impossible for anyone to judge if they are paying their fair share or their share plus part of someone else’s.’

What is your definition of tax cheating and how does it differ from tax evasion?

Tax cheating is paying less tax than the rules require and benefiting as a result. Tax evasion is one component of tax cheating but the majority of tax cheating is the result either of not knowing or understanding the complex rules that comprise the tax code or of taking advantage of the tax code’s complexity and self-assessment model to manipulate the rules in one’s own favor. Four thousand individuals a year go to prison for tax evasion. But millions of individuals engage in some measure of tax cheating each year, many (or perhaps most) without even knowing they are breaking the law.

There are many reasons for the growing amount of tax cheating.

  • i. Low audit rate—for some, the chances of getting caught are too remote to consider—leading to the “tax audit lottery” mentality.
  • ii. Awareness that others are cheating and the perception that the system favors those who are well connected.
  • iii. Self-assessment model of reporting is an “honor system” for many and easily abused.
  • iv. The tax code’s construction has rendered it incapable of fostering a sense of moral duty to pay the tax; by design it does not appeal to our consciences.
  • v. Complexity of the tax laws leads to the inability of anyone to judge if they are paying their fair share of the tax burden.
  • vi. Respect for the law is eroded as taxpayers assume others are cheating and that favored classes of taxpayers are provided with tailored tax breaks, not available to all.

In your book, you state that “More than one writer has addressed the ethics of tax evasion, some defending occasions when evading taxes is the morally proper thing to do.” Could you please expand on this, as well as give a couple of examples of these ‘occasions’?

Several authors have written on the ethics of tax evasion. Their arguments are based on extreme circumstances such as the propriety of evading the tax regime of Hitler or other repressive states. The claim is that evading taxes in such situations is morally justified. Others have taken the position that all taxation is stealing by the government so that evading such government actions cannot be morally wrong.

Can the average person fill out a tax form easily or do you recommend hiring an accountant?

The average person whose income is from wages can fill out a tax return, though not always easily. But to ensure oneself that he or she is benefiting from the numerous deductions and credits that have been peppered throughout the tax law, hiring a knowledgeable tax professional is recommended for anyone owning a business and for many people with children in college, who are going through a divorce, or who own a home.

What would you like readers to get out from your book?

Readers should gain a better perspective on what kind of tax reform it would take to make the current system more transparent and make it possible for them to judge whether the tax they are required to pay is their fair share.

Where is your book available?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Educating yourself about why the tax code is so complex—the result of 100 years of adding special benefits and exceptions that benefit increasingly narrow constituencies—will give you a better understanding of the problem facing lawmakers and a clearer picture of why the system that created the current tax code cannot be expected to reform that system without significant campaign finance reform removing the incentives for adding to the tax code’s complexity each year.

My interview with the author originally appeared in Blogcritics

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In this the second installment of his Roma series, author Gabriel Valjan takes secret government analyst Alabaster Black from Rome to Boston to investigate Nasonia Pharmaceutical and its CEO, Cyril Sargent for Rendition, the covert government agency she works for.

Nasonia uses advanced molecular biology and genetic sequencing technology to target human diseases. Sargent, who’s demonstrated lack of transparency in his dealings and unorthodox strategies in the past and who’s named his new controversial venture after a group of wasps, claims that his company is in no way perverting the natural order of things or doing anything unethical. He also claims that his research with wasps might lead to developing a methyl toolkit to use against cancer.

Thus, it is up to Alabaster to figure out what’s really going on and, because of her unnatural pattern recognition ability, she she soon gets hired by Sargent.

While this is going on, Alabaster is still being haunted by her last adventure in Rome in the form of a Bulgarian hit man set on killing her after a price has been put on her head. Old friends and a love interest from book I join in, adding further tension to the story as they uncover a twisted conspiracy.

I really enjoyed reading Wasp’s Nest. In fact, I liked this book better than the first one. Somehow, I was able to feel closer to Alabaster: she’s smart, bold and fearless yet has a soft side that is at times humorous. But mainly, I think it was the whole idea about DNA and wasps that did it for me. The information was fascinating. As Valjan did with Rome in his first book, Boston is fleshed out in vivid detail in this one, to the point where the setting becomes almost like a character. Also, as in the first book, the author goes into detail bringing Italian food to life–to the point where the reader has no other option but to love it. In short, an interesting, entertaining read. Recommended.

Read my interview with the author.

Purchase links:
Amazon Paperback
Barnes & Noble Paperback
Kindle / Nook

This review originally appeared in Blogcritics.

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Tax Cheating: Illegal–But Is It Immoral? is one of the most informative and interesting nonfiction books I’ve read in a long time.

From tax fairness, to cheating, to fraud, to evasion, to the complexity of moral and legal dilemmas and much, much more, author Donald Morris, in his clear, well-organized and straightforward style, offers an in-depth, fascinating glimpse into the intricate, multi-faceted world of taxes.

Why does the process of filling out a tax return and writing a check to the treasury strike such a powerful moral chord in so many people? Why is there so much confusion about taxes and the origins of moral duties? Are there instances when evading taxes is the moral thing to do? What is the difference between tax evasion and tax cheating and when is cheating unintentional? These are important questions requiring complex answers; Morris, however, does a good job in providing answers for the general layman reader.

Tax Cheating: Illegal–But Is It Immoral? published by the State University of New York Press, is clearly well researched and contains an impressive, extensive list of bibliographical data. If you wish to become more knowledgeable about the IRS, income tax, and the blurry boundaries of what constitutes tax cheating, I strongly recommend you pick this one up. This is an essential title that should be in any home’s reference shelf.

I should state that Donald Morris is a Professor of Accounting at the University of Illinois and the author of Opportunity: Optimizing Life’s Chances (Prometheus Books, 2006–Opportunitybook.com), co-author of Accounting Desk Book (Commerce Clearing House, 2005-2011), and has published papers on tax, business ethics, investing, and business strategy. He has a PhD in Philosophy from Southern Illinois University and a Master’s in Taxation from DePaul University in Chicago.

Purchase from Amazon or learn more about it from the author’s website.

My review originally appeared in Blogcritics.

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