Hope everyone has a wonderful new year!!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: Air by Ryan Gattis

Title: Air
Author:  Ryan Gattis 
Publisher: Adaptive Books
Publication date: May 31st, 2016
Stars: 3.5
Where to buy: Barnes and Noble 

Summary: After 17-year-old Grey witnesses the tragic death of his mother in Colorado, he is shipped off to live with his aunt in inner-city Baltimore, where he struggles to fit in to a new school and community. His new friend Akil introduces him to the enigmatic Kurtis, the leader of a group that uses high-octane sports as a form of social activism. By challenging the police with death-defying stunts and posting videos of them online, Kurtis, Grey, and their group become unlikely heroes in the fight against the prejudice that surrounds them.
As Kurtis takes Grey under his wing, they create a group name, an insignia, and a cause attracting more and more followers as they post videos of their extreme acts. The lines between social activism and criminal behavior blur and their escalating stunts become a rallying point for the underprivileged and disenfranchised around the country, spreading like wildfire across the Internet. How far will Grey and Kurtis go to push their message, and can their friendship withstand their growing notoriety?
Review: Taking a look inside the mind of a 17 year old, Grey, and his friend as they endure a series of questionable events. After many changes in Grey’s life, he finds himself in situations encouraging his controversial behavior via the internet.

As a book intended to entertain, the sequences of action and thrill of the ride as Grey continued to push his own boundaries will keep you hooked. People can connect with a lot of the feelings portrayed by Grey when life hits it’s hard times. Life lessons in this novel being portrayed through the eyes of a young man brings personal nostalgia from a period in time most everyone can recognize as how we learn who we are and where our places in life might be. Bringing in many elements of today’s world, it is easy to remain connected to characters realistic and probable lives. A good, easy read for those looking for a modern novel to entertain on many levels. 


Monday, May 30, 2016

Guest Post: Christopher Morgan: 5 steps to getting a book published

5 steps to getting a book published

My bucket list has been dwindling over the past decade as I've been slowly ticking things off one-by-one. I've learned to play the piano (badly), visited the Galapagos Islands, seen the standing Moai of Easter Island & learned to SCUBA dive. I've been on safari in Africa, visited the pyramids of Giza and stood on a glacier in New Zealand. The most recent entry on the list to receive a tick is writing and publishing a novel. The process wasn't what I was expecting but I finally managed to get Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies across the line with more books in the Portallas series to follow. Here are the major milestones I had to complete before I could put that tick into the box.

Step 1 – Turning intention into action
So many people think about writing a novel but very few of them actually do. The first major milestone is taking the plunge and putting pen to paper (or perhaps fingers to keyboard). Many people that write something never see it through to getting published either. Overcoming the initial hurdle of actually taking some sort of positive action doesn't necessarily come easy but it is the most vital first step in the process. Nothing else can follow until you get something written.

Step 2 – Editing
You've written something. That's great! Is it any good? Well, the answer to that question will initially depend on who you ask. If it's anyone that knows you, or has any vested interested in protecting your feelings (that's anyone that knows you), then they are not the right person to help you edit your novel. As the author, you are also not the right person to edit your novel – regardless of how good you think it is. A professional editor is an absolute must and it's one of the few things that you should devote the most attention and value to.

Step 3 – Cover art
Should people just a book by its cover? No. Do they? Yes. This is potentially one of the most influencing factors in your novel being a success or not. There are ways to get a book cover done expensively or cheaply but however you end up doing it, make sure to get a good cover that's appropriate for your genre and target audience.

Step 4 – Determine a publishing route
Here you have two basic options – indie (self-publish your work and join the hordes of independent authors our there) or trad (find an agent and a traditional publishing house). There are pros and cons to both approaches and what's right for you isn't necessarily right for me and vice versa. If you manage to find an agent and/or a publishing house, they will do much of the work of getting your book published BUT you will have to surrender a good portion of any income derived from the book. If you self-publish, which is much easier than you might think, it will require a lot more work BUT you get to keep a much bigger slice of the pie for each book sold. This is a much bigger subject than I can cover here but keep following http://portallas.com/blog/ for more information, as I will be presenting a talk on self-publishing in Melbourne in August.

Step 5 – Marketing
Even the best written prose in the world will languish in obscurity if nobody knows it exists. If you've gone done the trad route, then your publishing house will have their own marketing budget and will, hopefully, be pushing your book for you. That doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels. Social media, on-line presence, book signings and speaking engagements are all part of the picture. And trust me – nobody will sell your book more enthusiastically than you will.

Christopher Morgan is an author, blogger, IT Manager, graphics artist, businessman, volunteer and family man living in Melbourne, Australia. Much of his time is spent volunteering for his local community. He creates visual learning resources for primary school children, which are marketed through his company Bounce Learning Kids. He is also involved in local civics and sits on various community & council committees.

Christopher was born in the UK and grew up in England’s South East. At age 20, he moved to The Netherlands, where he married Sandy, his wife of 28 years. Christopher quickly learned Dutch and the couple spent 8 years living in the far South of that country before they moved to Florida in 1996. After spending 7 years in Florida, Christopher and Sandy sold their home and spent the next 2 years backpacking around the world. Christopher has visited more than 40 countries to date.

Whilst circumnavigating the globe, Christopher wrote extensively, churning out travel journals. He and Sandy settled back in the UK at the end of their world tour, where their two children were both born. In 2009, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia, where they now live.

FORESTIUM is Christopher’s debut novel and is the first in the PORTALLAS series

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: Harmony, USA by Lewis Bryan

Title: Harmony, USA
Author:  Lewis Bryan 
Publisher: BookLogix
Publication date: April 22, 2015
Stars: 4

Summary: Harmony, USA, the quintessential, idyllic small town, is full of beauty and simplicity. But behind the scenes of this neatly kept town lies a killer, and once you begin to peel back the layers, Harmony has secrets upon secrets. 
Everything you convinced yourself is good and pure about small-town life is challenged. One by one, the secrets of Harmony are revealed. You must decide what is right, as you believed it, and what is justice. 
Will those who have done evil ever pull themselves away from the darkness, or will their past consume them forever? 
Harmony lays in the balance.

Review: Harmony, USA by Lewis Bryan was an interesting book to say the least. You would not expect what happens in this little town. Bryan does a great job with the theory of small towns have their secrets. Harmony sure had plenty. Each page kept me intrigued to find out what happened. I myself am not a big fan of mysteries, I feel like you can pick out the killer in the first few pages. But Bryan’s mystery was one that was hard to break. He wrote it in a way that kept you interested yet you couldn’t name the killer. It took me till almost the end of the book to figure it out and I was still shocked at who it was. Although I did feel like focus of the book was not around the killer so much has around sexual assault. There was something that made me feel uncomfortable at times when every character had been sexually assaulted at some point or another. Regardless of that fact the book was extremely well wrote and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a fast yet good read. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Jonesbridge Echoes of Hinterland by M.E. Parker

Title: Jonesbridge 
Author:  M.E. Parker 
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: July 7, 2015
Series: Echoes of Hinterland
Stars: 5

Summary: In this world-building series, perfect for fans of Ray Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451 and Hugh Howey's WOOL, to survive a grim island prison a young man and woman must work for the Complex. To escape it, they will need to destroy it. 

Myron enters the Jonesbridge Industrial Complex as a worker, a prisoner, commanded to harvest the scant resources that enable the powers that be to continue waging an unwinnable war. When Sindra—a fellow prisoner and a spirited fighter—joins him at the salvage line, he finds a new reason to live, and to escape. Even though any attempt to leave will lead to execution, Myron and Sindra plan a daring escape.
But when a guard is found murdered and Myron is blamed for the crime, it appears that they will not even get a chance to attempt to fly over the gorge that separates Jonesbridge from the rest of the world. It will take everything that Myron and Sindra have to merely survive their brutal overlords. It will take even more to set them both free. As their world changes, Myron and Sindra work through the Jonesbridge underground, meeting a mesmerizing cast of characters—dangerous survivors bent on destroying Jonesbridge once and for all.

Review: Jonesbridge Echoes of Hinterland, by M.E. Parker was a book that caught my attention from the first page. There was something about the futuristic aspect that gravitated towards me. To think that Jonesbridge could really happen one day. That our world that we know could be gone and left with ruins and a life that is surrounded by walls. Myron, the main character, really was something special. He made you believe that dreams could still happen. He makes you realize that despite how terrible his life was in Jonesbridge there was still something to hold on to. That just believing that something better was out there was all that he needed to keep surviving in a world that wanted to destroy your free thought. There was something about the way that although the life they lived was terrible, that a love could still be found. That even though they were different and the life styles were not normal they could still find each other to hold on to. I also like the fact that Parker relayed the message that people can change, those you once thought were horrible could actually become someone to help and guide you. Despite all the messages that Parker portrayed throughout the novel the book was well wrote. I would recommend this book, especially to high school students who are learning who they are and learning to embrace the dreams they have.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Guest Post with KayeC Jones

8 Ways to Find Inspiration

Finding inspiration is paramount. Whether you're a writer or an artist, a musician or dancer, inspiration is what drives you to your destination. It can give you a general focus, an ideal to live to or a goal to achieve.

But the need for inspiration isn't limited to professionals, everyone needs it. Mothers, fathers, teachers, entrepreneurs, secretaries, tow truck drivers, janitors... anyone and everyone.

But where do you find inspiration? You can find it anywhere, you just have to train yourself to look and to listen. People tend to focus themselves inwardly when they're trying to get something done. Focus is a necessary tool to get a job done, it can limit your perception and limiting your perception isn't so great for finding inspiration.

Here's a list of my no-fail ways to find inspiration.

1.  Talk to Strangers

I know, I know. This is the exact opposite of what your parents taught you as a child, but as an adult, it is a powerful place to find inspiration. Say hello and smile to the person in front of you in line at the grocery store and try to engage in conversation. Ask them how their day is going or make an easy-going joke about the wait. While some people are more receptive to talking with you and others aren't, talking to people and listening to a different perspective makes all the difference in the world.

2.  People Watching

You can fall into this by accident or deliberately sit in a busy place, but people watching is fascinating. They way people walk, talk and interact with people and things are always so different. You can see a woman picking up litter happily or a family of six having an argument. It gets your imagination flowing. You wonder why they family is arguing or why the woman is happy. I often make up stories to go along with what I'm seeing. The important aspect this teaches you is observance. You'll start noticing things around you that you've never noticed before which also stirs your mind and imagination.

3.  Walking

This can almost fall under people watching, but it really involves everything environmental. Your blood gets a natural pump, you get to stretch out and you feel better. Think about what you're seeing around you. Listen to the birds and the wind. Open your mind up and let thoughts naturally come to you. Many people find solstice or inspiration in running as well, but in many ways, walking is much better than running. You have to look out for roots and obstacles while running, but if you're walking, you get to have a closer look at that root or obstacle. And if you're not alone, you'll have the breath to converse.

4.  Exercise

But let's take number three even further. Exercising is important for health, we all know this to be true. Why? Endorphins. They help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria. Chances are that you're one of the many, many people who work long hours. Those long hours of stress creates cortisol, a hormone does some nasty stuff to the body, to put it in a nutshell. This is why moderate exercise is so important. After all, who can think straight when you're tired or moody?

5.  Read, Read, Read

This is for everyone. Turn off the television and read! You don't have to pick up Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. You can pick up anything. Magazines, newspapers, history books, art books, coffee table books, comics and graphic novels, books filled with quotes... anything and everything. Pick up something you would never pick up. If you usually read romance novels, pick up a science fiction novel instead. If you only read non-fiction, be brave and read a romance novel. Here's the kick: finish it! All of it. Even if you don't like it, because we learn from everything, even stuff we don't like.

6.  Begin a Dream Journal

This is something I've been telling myself for years to do as well. Put a pad of paper or a fancy leather bound journal next to your bed along with a pencil or pen, and every time you wake up from a dream, record everything you remember. Try to do it quickly, those memories have a way of slipping right out from underneath you. Many people believe the mind is capable of things far greater than we give it credit for, so why not give it a chance to express itself in a journal? You might be surprised what you read.

7.  Freewriting

I call this brainstorming, but many people call it freewriting. There are many ways you can do this, but one effective way is to pick a topic and set a timer, let's just say 15 minutes, and write anything and everything that comes to your mind. Don't stop writing until the timer goes off. Don't worry about grammar, spelling or choosing the right word. Just do it. Chances are you won't have anything you can use, but that's not the point. This helps you work past blocks and mental apathy. It helps you get the habit of never quitting.

8.  Relax

Lastly, and by far the most important, is to relax. It sounds quaint and trite, but it really is the most important thing anyone can do to find inspiration. But there's a trick to this, you have to truly relax. Many people think plopping in front of the television, sitting in front of a computer or smart phone is relaxing. That's simply not true. You may not be "working", but you're not relaxing either. Any one of those can easily put someone in sensory overload. Same thing with reading. I love reading, but some books or magazine articles can get my heart racing or affect my mood. Go cloud gazing, try meditation or just sit quietly in a comfortable spot and close your eyes. Relax.

Finding inspiration for anything you're working on can sometimes feel as though you're searching for the lone gunman on the grassy knoll. It doesn't have to be. Try using one of these eight techniques and you'll be amazed, I guarantee it.

I'll leave you with one final point that all of us need to remember: Believe in yourself. That is the greatest inspiration anyone can find.

Author Bio
KayeC Jones is newly published children's book author along with her husband Russ Hughes. They both write and draw, but work best together, bonking heads and scribbling on paper. You can find them at their brand new site and art blog and at Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, GoodReads and Pinterest.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Interview: Britt Holewinski

So, what have you written?

I have written a young-adult, dystopian novel entitled Schism, which I began working on more than 20 years ago after reading Lord of the Flies. My novel depicts what might happen if all of the adults in the world were suddenly killed following the accidental release of a virus, and the surviving children were left on their own.

What are you working on at the minute?

I’m feverishly working on the second novel in the Schism series, which I’ve entitled Ravin. It’s taking shape very nicely, and I promise it will not require 20 years to finish!


How much research do you do?

I am very meticulous about doing research for my writing. In addition to online research, I like to visit places I write about. I once investigated a manhole cover in Times Square just to make sure it was the proper size and location for my story. I have traveled to Bermuda to research the places I wrote about in the beginning of Schism, and I even visited the Channel Islands off the coast of France because I considered including this location in my second novel. It turns out that I won’t be using that location, but it was still an amazing place to visit!


Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I try to write between 500 and 1,000 words a day, or 5,000 words a week. Sometimes I succeed and surpass this goal, other times I fail. Writing is a creative process, and at times these numbers don’t always get met. That said, I believe in maintaining daily and weekly goals to keep myself on track.


Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

I write primarily on my laptop, but I often carry a notebook in my purse (with a functioning pen!) in case ideas come to me at the most inconvenient moments, i.e. while standing in the frozen food aisle in the grocery store. Also, I love writing in cursive. It’s a lost art, and sometimes handwriting my chapter outlines becomes a welcome break from the keyboard.


What is the hardest thing about writing?

Ignoring the inner voices that make you doubt your skill and devalue your efforts.


What is the easiest thing about writing?

I get to create my own world! It’s so satisfying. Whether that’s easy, I don’t know, but it sure is fun!


What is your favorite book and why?

Persuasion by Jane Austen has to be my favorite. I read it at a time in my life when I could identify with the main character, Anne Elliot, on such a personal level. Jane Austen is clearly a favorite of many people, and what I love about her writing is her mastery of words and the English language. She had the ability to convey so much meaning and emotion with just one sentence. Persuasion was Austen’s last completed work before she died, and though I love her other books, I think her words—and her own personality—truly came to life with this one.


Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

Schism is about children being left behind to run the world and their struggle to survive. I wanted the cover to contain symbols of a lost childhood (the worn teddy bear and ballet slippers), of physical urban decay (the cracking wall), and of the threat of violence (the gun).


Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

I love this question because I’ve been picturing this novel in my head since 1995, so you can imagine the actresses who have shuffled through my brain over the years. Right now, I picture Elle Fanning as a possible actress to portray Andy, my heroine. She’s the right age, and if she could tomboy herself up a tad, she would be perfect. I also feel she has the potential to dig deep and reflect the hardships Andy endures in Schism and in the next two books.

What is your favorite quote?

“Tomorrow is promised to no one.”


How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Amazon link:



Barnes & Noble Link:












Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Guest Post: Sarit Yishai-Levi

A Journey Back in Time

Writing my novel The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem took six long years, though the process took me back decades.

Stretching from the end of the 19th century to the mid-1970s, the story is narrated by the Ermosas, a Ladino-speaking family that emigrated from Toledo, Spain, and settled in Jerusalem. The historical events that took place in the Land of Israel during this period are entwined with the lives of the protagonists, beginning with the time of Ottoman control over the Land of Israel, through the British Mandate period, the struggle of the Jewish underground organizations against British rule, the War of Independence, and the first years of the State of Israel.

A novel such as this, laced with historical events, requires precise and in-depth research. Beit Ariella—Tel Aviv’s central library—with its passageways and hushed halls, offered me hospitality for hours on end. 

Perhaps because I’m a journalist by profession, I did not head for the books but rather turned to the newspaper archives, for I knew that it was there, in the newspapers, that I’d find life: reports of events, big and small, important or esoteric, human stories, juicy gossip, descriptions of political goings on and matters of state alongside documentation on performances and cultural events, theatre and movies.

Within the pages of the newspapers, I explored fashion, food, humor, private mood and public mood during these fascinating times.

In the culture section, I discovered that the primary pastime in Jerusalem during the 1920s-‘40s was visiting one of the city’s movie theatres, and that the best loved movie and greatest box office success in the 1940s was Gone with the Wind—a blockbuster that was shown on the silver screen in the United States and in the Land of Israel at the same time. I learned that in 1923, the revered Russian-Jewish conductor Mordechai Golinkin conducted Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, staged by the recently established Palestine Opera Company, while the Habima Theatre successfully staged William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in 1936.

What I found in the newspapers enabled me to describe life on the Tel Aviv seashore, with its cafes and laid-back spirit, an attitude I gleaned from a 1929 article defending the custom of Tel Avivians to walk in only their bathing suits on the streets adjacent to the beach—a behavior that persists to this day but had been shocking to some at the time.

I embedded these seemingly minor details into the narrative of my novel in order to build out the setting and transport readers into the Ermosa home.

From the yellowed, crumbling pages of the first Hebrew paper, HaZvi, I learned that for decades, members of the Sephardic community had forbidden their sons and daughters to marry members of the Ashkenazi community. The prohibition was so grave that in 1849, when philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore had offered a prize of one hundred gold napoleons—a fortune at the time—to anyone who would “intermarry,” he failed to find any takers. From within this news item, I wove the forbidden love story of Rochel, a young Ashkenazi woman, and Gabriel Ermosa, a young Sephardi man—the dramatic romance that drives the novel’s plot.

And while I learned of cultural events, trends, and attitudes from these papers, I also read about more serious matters, like the filthy alleyways of the Old City in Jerusalem, where sewage ran freely due to lack of infrastructure. These conditions were responsible for the Cholera epidemics in the 1830s and 1910s that decimated thousands in Jerusalem and left dozens of orphaned children to wander the streets, homeless. And it was here that I gained the inspiration to write the story of Rosa, one of the protagonists in my novel.

After reading about the practice of the Jewish Lehi underground organization in the 1940s to shave the heads of women who fraternized with British soldiers, I created the character Matilda Franco, whose relationship with a British officer is met with her community’s great disapproval. At the same time, I also learned about the curfews that the British frequently imposed on inhabitants of the country, about the siege on Jerusalem during the War of Independence—which left the city without food or water—and the ingenious solutions inhabitants of the city devised to survive.

There in the library, I lost myself to dozens of features, articles, and news reports, immersed in another time, and eventually created the Ermosa family. And through the personal and intimate lives of the Ermosas, I guided the reader through the different eras in the history of the Land of Israel.

In the course of the six years in which I wrote The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, I lived two lives: my own life (my work, my family, my children) and the lives of the Ermosa family. In my second life, I was led between the pages of history—large and small moments of life in the beautiful and difficult land where I was born and where my forefathers were born.

I grew wiser. I cried. I hated. I loved.  And I hope that, along with the history, this emotion translates through the page to readers.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Guest Post: Erik Therme - Tips on writing books

Thank you Erik for your time today. I hope everyone enjoy's his guest post. Don't forget to check out his book Resthaven!

“Any tips on writing a book?”

This is, without a doubt, one of the most common questions I’m asked. I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t come across someone who has either A.) Started writing a book, or B.) Dreamed of writing a book. And why not? We all have stories to tell, and the physical act of writing is nothing more than putting a pen to paper, or typing words into a computer. Right?

There’s more to it than that, of course, but for this conversation I’m going to assume you have a basic grasp of language, some natural talent, and a general idea of how to use punctuation. If so, I’ll kick things off with two pieces of advice before we get started.

First and foremost: Never, ever begin the process by thinking, “I’m going to write a 300 page book.” That’s way too daunting. And depressing. Instead, sit down and think, “I’m going to write today, and it might be only one page—or even one paragraph—and that’s OK.” And it really is. Life is busy. Paying your mortgage probably isn’t dependent upon completion of your book, so there’s no reason to rush. Writing isn’t a race. I’ve been writing since the age of fifteen, and it still takes me at least two years to finish a novel. Go at your own pace.

Secondly (and equally important): First drafts are a mess. They’re supposed to be. This is the time to pour everything onto the page to see what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to write badly. Just get it down and don’t look back. If I get to a scene that’s causing me problems, I’ll simply write INSERT CHASE SCENE HERE and keep going. Seriously. I’ve done this. And so have other authors. It’s allowed. Everything can be fixed later.

Still with me? Awesome. Now comes the fun part: Telling your story. There are a million things I could say here, but I’m going to narrow it down to three simple “guidelines” that have always worked for me. I have no doubt you’ll eventually forge your own guidelines; but until then, these should help you stay on the path.


In the original draft of my debut mystery, Mortom, my main characters discover the rat and key (the clues that drive the story) on page 30. When I did my rewrite, I realized that everything up to that point wasn’t really needed, so I “entered the scene late” by cutting out 25 pages, which led my characters to discover the clues on page 5. The beginning of the book immediately improved, and the reader was now immersed into the story much more quickly. I then ended the chapter “early” by cutting right after my characters find one last (shocking) clue, which—in theory—left the reader wanting to come back for more.


This rule came heavily into play with my second novel, Resthaven. In my first draft, my characters’ main conflict was to escape a locked building while being chased by the antagonist—a creepy, old dude who is out to get them. The story worked OK, but it still felt like something was lacking. In my next draft, my characters find a young boy hiding inside; so in addition to trying to escape, they also have to keep the boy out of danger. Adding the boy “raised” the stakes tremendously and helped pull the story together in a more fulfilling way. From there I continued to “build” the stakes by throwing endless obstacles in their path, until there wasn’t only the possibility of injury, but also of death.


This sounds like a fairly obvious statement, but it can be a hard rule to follow—even for established authors. In my upcoming novel, there’s a scene between two characters that has great writing (in my opinion, anyway), fun banter, excellent scene description . . . but no real function. The scene doesn’t advance the story or add anything to the characters’ motivations, so there was no reason to keep it. These are the hardest scenes to cut, but once they’re gone, it always makes for a stronger read.

And there you have it. All of my infinite wisdom boiled down into a handful of paragraphs. Writing a book isn’t easy, but when you finally type those two magical words—THE END—it’s all worth it. Until, of course, it’s time to begin the rewrite.

But that’s a conversation for another day.

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