Books Review – Caroline, Rebecca, Kaya

Meet Caroline
Kathleen Ernst
Illustrations Robert Papp
Hardback, 2012

Meet Rebecca
Jacqueline Dembar Greene
Illustrations by Robert Hunt
Paperback, 2009

Meet Kaya
Janet Shaw
Illustrations by Bill Farnsworth
Hardback, 2002

As part of Pleasant Company/American Girl’s decision to retire Molly, Misheal and I went back and read through some of the books – Misheal tackled Molly’s six book series, but I went through and did Molly’s companion books and have now moved on to the other Meet whoever books from the American Girl catalogue.

In Meet Caroline, we’re looking at the first shots of the War of 1812, and a little girl who lives in upstate New York on the shore of a great lake.  When war breaks out, she’s in a boat that her father built with her father and two cousins.  As they go towards Upper Canada, still British owned, they get seized by the British Army, who takes the girls back to their family but hold her father and cousin, Oliver, as prisoners of war.  [Side note – if Oliver is from Upper Canada, he’s a British Citizen.  I don’t know why they took him prisoner…]

In Meet Rebecca, we’re with a Jewish family in the midst of World War I.  Her problems start with not being allowed to say the prayer to light the candles on Saturday, and end with her persecuted Jewish cousins trying to get out of Russia with their lives.

In Meet Kaya, we’re in the midst of a Native American tribe somewhere in the Oregon/Washington/Idaho area (they only show us a map of the tribal lands, they don’t really say where they are) during Salmon Fishing Season.

So now on to my feelings about the books themselves.  First of all, I am a little disappointed (no really) that they broke their format of all the dates ending in 4, but it did open them up to things like the War of 1812, which we learned sadly little about in school.  (The other one, so far, is Cecile and Marie-Grace in New Orleans in 1853.)  But it doesn’t have any bearing on what I thought about these stories, I just wanted to throw it out there.

Some of the early dolls/books were period specific but didn’t really have a lot to deal with/understand.  What I noticed in these three books is that they have gotten a little bit more serious in what they’re talking about.  Caroline is captured by troops, Rebecca is dealing with religious persecution and Kaya gets into a lot of cultural stuff that we may not be that familiar with – family/community obligation, behavior affecting everyone (at one point, something she does causes all of the children of the village to get whipped), etc.

Caroline and Rebecca feel similar, despite being 100 years apart, because they’re dealing with the same sorts of things.  They both have family in really precarious positions – Caroline’s father in a POW camp, Rebecca’s cousins trying to get here from Russia – and they’re both in New York and family centric (although that’s a common theme in all American Girl books).

Interesting, though, was that even though Rebecca’s book starts in 1914, there’s absolutely no discussion about WWI.  For now, I give it the benefit of the doubt, as the assassination of Frans Ferdinand didn’t happen until the end of July, but the way the series starts out, it doesn’t feel like they’re planning to talk about it at all, and that’s my interest in the era.  What I did find curious was that the Russians were persecuting the Jews way back then and that’s not something I’ve *ever* learned in history class.  Public Education Fail for sure.  America seriously needs to stop being so selfish and start teaching about the world.

Kaya’s book, on the other hand, was so totally different.  Her story takes place in 1764, and aside from the Small Pox epidemic being a fleeting comment (her grandmother has the scars and the story to tell), her family doesn’t really have much to do with anything outside her tribe.  What I did like, however, was how close the tribe was.  Even the ones who weren’t blood relation were considered cousins and part of the extended family.  When Kaya’s actions (leaving her little brothers in the care of a blind person so she can go off and race her horse) cause the Whipping Woman to come out and punish all the children of the village, Kaya learns humility and to be a team player.  I have to say, I kind of like the Nimiipuu (nee-MEE-poo aka Nez Perce) culture.  I like how the focus is for the greater good and having a group of people that are family even when they’re not; too often in modern culture, we have families who don’t speak to each other, people who move apart and then let distance cause an emotional separation as well, etc.  Kaya’s motivation was to be a citizen that her tribe was proud of.  If only we had that today.

In all, I love that these books deal with serious topics, but do so in a way that kids (well, girls anyway) can relate to.  In all of these books, we get to see that girls, even if they’re expected to do submit to the female roles of society, can be strong, courageous, and awesome.  Women are more than the cooking and the cleaning, and even if that’s what’s expected of them, they can rise to any occasion, and that is a lesson that I hope every girl gets – you can be amazing, you just have to do it.

I’m going to give these books a 4/5.  I know they’re geared towards 10-year-olds (all the characters turn 10 in their birthday books), but I think they have a broader range than that (easily 7-12, but beyond that), and they’re great as topics of conversation.

Books Review – Molly McIntyre bonus stories

Molly’s Short Story Collection
Valerie Tripp
Illustrations by Nick Backes
Mini Hardback 2006

Brave Emily
Valerie Tripp
Illustrations by Nick Backes
Hardback 2006

The Light In The Cellar (A Molly Mystery)
Sara Masters Buckey
Hardback, 2007


So, recently, Pleasant Company – the people who do American Girl – announced that they were retiring the Molly doll.  For a lot of the people my age, this was the doll that our grandparents related to.  My grandmother, for instance, was born either the same year or the year before Molly would have been.  Thus, we decided to go back and revisit some of Molly’s books.

I chose to go through the books that have come out since I was so into the dolls for a couple reasons.  One, Molly isn’t my favorite and two, because of that I wanted to pick books that I hadn’t read, no matter how long ago.  They’re not that different than the main set, and all feature the same “story then history lesson” format that the company is known for.

The first one I read was Molly’s Short Story Collection.  This book is about the length of an index card, but a little fatter.  I can actually picture it sitting in the lap of the doll herself.  Anyway, there are five short stories in this book, and they range from camp to airplanes to puppies, all with that WWII flavor that Molly is good for.

The second one I read is called Brave Emily.  For those who are familiar with the books, you’ll remember that Molly’s family took in a British girl who had been sent to America to escape the war.  A few years back, they started letting the main character’s friends get a slightly more prominent role, and thus Emily got main billing on this book.  In it, Emily tries to fit in in a new country, and tries to figure out how somebody as seemingly insignificant as she is can do something major to help the war effort.

Then I read The Light in the Cellar, Molly’s mystery story.  Molly and Emily end up volunteering as Magazine Girls at the local hospital, and as such have to take magazines to each of the patients.  Except that weird stuff starts happening both at the hospital, the Red Cross, and at home – Molly’s and the home of one of the patients.  The girls end up in a world of black market sugar.

I don’t really have that much to say about these books.  The short stories were a great length for when you’re too busy to read a long book, and as a kid I would have totally loved the small, portable size of it because I could have easily thrown it in my backpack, brought it in the car, and carried it around.  Had I had it then, I would definitely have set my Molly doll up with it on her lap and let her read to me.  Alas, those days are a couple decades behind me.  Still, I wouldn’t mind stumbling upon a copy second-hand at some point.

Brave Emily is a little different.  Little known side note about me.  My aunt is British.  As in, sixty years later she still sounds like she just fell off the boat – I’ve told her this before, in fact – and her story is a bit similar to Emily’s.  She was separated from her family and grew up quite a distance away from anyone she knew.  So when I read this book, I couldn’t help compare Emily to my Aunt.  And because of that, I sort of teared up a little.  i may have brought this baggage with me, but I think that this book is a little better than Molly’s set because Emily brings a rawness to her that the girls of privilege that American Girl likes so much just don’t have.

The mystery was a simple, cozy mystery.  I suspected the guilty party and pretty much knew what was going to happen before the big reveal, but I was okay with that.  I mean, this is a children’s cozy mystery, not a hardened who-dunnit for adults.

I really liked these stories.  Yes, we get the ongoing theme of a stubborn ten-year-old girl, but really, who wasn’t stubborn at that age?  Follow that up with the combination of both headstrong and afraid, and you get a girl who takes the lead and then takes it upon herself to deal with the consequences, even though finding an adult would have made the whole thing go quicker or easier or whatever else.  I’ve been told that the mark of a good children’s book is that the kids figure stuff out without parental intervention, but I gotta say that in a couple of these stories, without an adult doing something or if they had just talked to Mom, the story wouldn’t have either happened or had substance.  Still, that’s to be expected from the genre.

I’m giving them all 4 page ratings, but with the following note.  If you have the other books, you of course want these, and even if you don’t have the rest of the books but have the doll, you’ll want the short story collection, if only to give it to the doll because it’d be so freakin’ cute. Also, there’s another mystery, but my local library didn’t have it.  I’m guessing that I’d feel the same way that I’ve felt about the rest of these books, so if you stumble on it, go ahead and give that one a read as well.

Book Review: The Naked Truth

The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) positive

Marvelyn Brown (with Courtney E. Martin)

Paperback, 2008


Okay, in case you weren’t sure, The Naked Truth is the memoir of a teen who contracts (HIV).

Now, where to start with this review.  Marvelyn Brown grew up in Nashville, TN, somewhere.  I saw this book on the shelf in Nashville’s very own library system, and it sort of jumped out at me, so I grabbed it.  And then I started reading it, and I wish I would have put it back.

Marvelyn (so named because her domineering, uncaring mother thought the name was beautiful *ahem*) contracted (HIV) through unprotected sex because she fell into bed easily and often with guys she barely knew.  The guy, who she chose not to name in the book, swept her off her feet and fed her what she wanted/needed to hear so that she’d sleep with him.  Awesome guy.

For a while, I sort of felt bad for her.  And then I kept reading, and I sort of don’t.  For starters, she managed to get through school knowing pretty much next to nothing about anything important, despite (initially anyway, until she decided she didn’t give a shit) getting honor-roll level grades for most of her life.  Her worries about protection were pretty much pregnancy related (and at some point she sort of wanted a baby anyway), but when she got the (HIV) diagnosis, she was like “okay, whatever” until she actually learned what the disease was from pamphlets.  Seriously?  Public School fail for sure.

Second, while she was somehow the face of (HIV) and everywhere on the speaking circuit, she was somehow broke and didn’t think to have insurance any way other than to go to college for a year and flunk out.  Nevermind that she had a tutor and worked “really hard” and managed a 16 on her ACTs.  For those not in the know, a 16 is a sub-par score.  How does somebody who got honor roll for so many years and still managed to graduate and all squeak out a 16?

Third, in the book, I kept hearing about how she was so charming and wonderful and funny and everything else.  The book was boring and unfeeling.  At first I thought it was because she wasn’t a writer, but then I realized she had a co-writer of an actual author, and… I don’t know what this book’s dysfunction is.  But the way it is written, I just don’t care about Marvelyn at all.  Most of the opportunities she got were only because she got (HIV), and she threw most of them away in a minute – Nashville CARES for a year, a magazine for a year, etc.  And she kept doing stupid stuff, like partying and running herself ragged, going off her meds because her t-cells were fine, moving with no money and no place to live (really, how do you move without a place to move to?!), etc.

Also, I don’t believe for a minute that “everyone in Nashville” knew she was (HIV) positive.  She knew about eight people, and we’re a city of easily half a million, if not more.

When I read Ryan White’s book (who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion), I cared about him.  When I read Paul Monette (who watched many of his lovers and friends die of this new unknown disease before he, too, succumbed), I cried.  But when I read this, I really ended with a “who cares?”

I can’t fault the technical writing of the sentences, although I wonder if the writer and co-writer being from such different backgrounds help muddled the voice of the book.

I flip-flopped for a minute about the rating, but in the end it came down to this.  If you want a book about HIV/AIDS, I could sit here and name a dozen in a heartbeat, and they’re all better than this one.  Nothing comes from this one except the “I’m a stupid victim” mentality, and really, it’s not worth it.  There’s so little about her disease that you may as well not be reading a (HIV) memoir.

Thus, I give it a 2/5 and tell you to pick a different one and only read this if you don’t have any other choice.

Book Review – It’s Perfectly Normal



It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health

Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley

Hardback, 1994, 2009

So, we’re back to the Banned Books List.  My library actually had an old copy and the new second edition, so I got them both to compare.  The only difference is an added chapter on the Internet and updating medical information and the resource list at the back of the book.  I ended up reading the newer one, for pretty much no specific reason.  They were both sitting there, I grabbed that first.

Anyway, IPN is a 90-ish page hardback book geared towards kids just about to start puberty.  All of the visuals are illustrations, some a little more cartoon-ey than others, but all drawn quite well.

At the very start of the book, we meet (what else?!) a bird and a bee, and they get to interject their comments for most of the book.  (The Bee is a little less willing than the bird, which is sort of odd since the bee is supposed to be male and the bird female, but whatever…)

As we go through the book, we get chapters on just about everything that somebody needs to grow up – puberty, both for boys and girls, growing up, sexual feelings, etc.

The drawings throughout the book include everything from anatomy to – my personal favorite – the page with male and female in all kinds of shapes and sizes and ages and colors.  A couple of the pics my knee-jerk reaction was OMG!, but really, I thought about how I was raised and what I’m doing at my age to feel okay with my body and myself still, and I think that a book like this would have helped so much.

So this is another book that’s on the banned books list because parents don’t want their kids to understand life when they’re at the right age to get that information, and as I’ve said before, that’s just really sad.

So share this book with any of the kids in your life – but do it the right way.  Have the adults read it too, and be grateful for the opportunity it gives for open, honest communications.  5/5 pages.

Book Review – And Tango Makes Three




And Tango Makes Three

Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

Illustrations by Henry Cole

Hardback, 2005

In the newer ranks of suddenly banned books, we have “And Tango Makes Three.”  So, of course, back to my ongoing saga of having to read it.

In this book, we are transported to New York City and the zoo.  There, all the penguins are taking mates and doing all the things that mates do together, including building nests, making eggs, and hatching penguin babies.

Except that we don’t follow one of those couples, we follow Roy and Silo, two boy penguins who, as it turns out, are very very happy together.  And they do all the things that a penguin couple do, except lay an egg, even though they actually take a rock to their nest to see what happens.

A zookeeper puts an egg in their nest for them, and they nurture it, just like the other penguin couples, and love it, just like the other penguin couples, and take turns taking care of each other and the egg, just like other penguin couples, until it hatches into little baby Tango.  Thus making three.

So, you know, parents banned this adorably cute book because, *gasp*, Roy and Silo are big, gay penguins, and we can’t have that no matter how fabulous the two of them are.

And the book ends with them lovingly snuggled together.  And then I turned the page and read… “Author’s Note:  All of the events in this story are true.”


So let me get this straight.  (*snicker*) People are trying to ban a true story from being in our libraries?  Again?  Just… *sigh*

I’m sure you know what my opinion on that is.

As for the book, it’s sweet, it’s charming, it’s simple, and again, it’s 100% true.  I love this book.  5/5

Book Review – From Pain to Parenthood

From Pain To Parenthood: A Journey Through Miscarriage to Adoption

Deanna Kahler

Paperback, 2013

I got this book through an email list that I subscribe to because it was offered to me at just the right time.  A very good friend of mine was celebrating pregnancy, about a year after mourning the loss of her first pregnancy.  On the other hand, somebody I had gone to school with was biting her nails because she was waiting for somebody else to deliver a baby so she could adopt her child after infertility.  So I really wanted this book, because I was hoping that this book would give me some sort of insight that would help me understand what they had gone through, something that could answer questions I had without me having to ask them.

The author, Deanna Kahler, is a writer, but this is her first memoir, and it reads like that.  It’s clear that her emotions and memories are all over the place still, because the book lacks the polish that a memoir should have.  In a way, this reads more like a blog or journal – there’s a lot of free thought/words flowing type of writing going on, but it lacks the smoothness and pizazz of a finished memoir.  Also, a lot of the stuff she says gets repeated in the next sentence or paragraph.

It doesn’t make the feelings she has any less important, or any less there, but it makes it harder to let the story engulf you and to feel it on an emotional level.  In fact, the book is very passive.  Part of the problem is the issue that all first person books have if not written really well – short choppy “I” sentences.

Also, the book suffered from an identity crisis.  Part of the book was clearly memoir, but then it would suddenly morph from “I felt this” to “so when one has this problem…”

In the end, I’m sorry I didn’t like the book more than I did, I really am.  Unfortunately, the way the book was written, I couldn’t get anything out of it.  Maybe it was because I am clearly an outsider.  I’ve never been pregnant, I’m not trying to have a baby, and I don’t have fertility issues that I know of (aside from an ever-louder biological clock).  So, maybe somebody who has struggled with these issues would get more out of it than I did.

But, that plays into my review too.  The book feels like a draft.  Like one major edit would make it incredible.  And because of that, I have to give it a 2/5.  If you need this type of book, don’t feel bad picking it up, but there’s probably something more polished out there somewhere.

Author Interview – Calinda B.

The Beckoning of Broken Things Button 300 x 225 (2)

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?

Calinda B, author of paranormal romance. I reside in the Pacific Northwest with my long time sweetie, and two fine cats. Two fine (grown) kids. We scuba dive weekly.

Tell us (briefly) about you…

I am an endless Work In Progress. A constant work of art. Creative. Adventurous. I’ve been a galleried artist. A rock climber. A firewalking instructor. A hip hop dance performer and teacher. Taught aerobics. Taught kids to improve their bodies through movement. Crazy life. I study the inside of me as well as the outside. Introspective. Self-aware. A little bit crazy (said with a smile). A little bit wicked (said with an even larger smile). Love to write. Love to shape worlds and characters. It’s like playing with dolls.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…

I’ve got 5 erotically charged paranormal romance novels out. 1 short story. 4 of my novels have been nominated for Best Erotic Paranormal, Best Urban Fantasy or Best Erotica. The Beckoning of Broken Things was short listed by a book group in the UK for Best Erotica. I’ll find out soon if it wins. My stories are often called “unique” and “refreshing.” I like to make up the character’s skills and abilities. Hence, I guarantee you’ve never heard of some of them – the ka’kriyaga? What? A Stealth Numen? What’s that? A Night Numen, the most badass of them all? (grins) Sorry, but you’ll have to read the books to find out more.

…and what you’re working on right now.

Right at this moment, I’m working in a standalone novel called Headspace. It’s set about 40 years in the future in Seattle. The heroine, Vienna Venetta, is a hip, cool, savvy gal with a unique ability to get inside another’s head and make them think they are having an actual experience. She came up with the idea of combining her techno-wizard friend Kaama’s skills with her abilities to create a virtual sex world. Her clients “pulse-com” her, they enter her Headspace world and the fun begins. Her clients pay well and no one will ever know who she is. Out in the real world, though, she’s got a little problem – she’s never had an orgasm. Can her good friend Jonas help her out? He is committed to someone else.

What are your earliest book-related memories?

One of my fondest memories was reading the Godfather – the scene in the bathroom with Sonny and Lucy: “Her hand closed around an enormous, blood-gorged pole of muscle. It pulsated in her hand like an animal and almost weeping with grateful ecstasy she pointed it into her own wet, turgid flesh. The thrust of its entering, the unbelievable pleasure made her gasp, brought her legs up almost around his neck, and then like a quiver, her body received the savage arrows of his lighting-like thrusts.” I was a 16 year old virgin. It made me blush. It made me feel ashamed. It made me want to keep reading it, over and over and over. (laughs) I guess it greatly influenced me as I am writing erotic scenes with nary a glance over my shoulder.

What are your three favorite books?

Hmmm. It’s hard to pick. A book has to really, really make me feel/think/consider to get in the favorite list. Currently, Hot Head by Damon Suede (loved the M/M tenderness, well-written and hot, hot, hot); Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning (super sex with a plot!) and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (just brilliant). Also anything by Karen Marie Moning or JR Ward. Basically, anything that’s over the top sexy and well-written.

How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?

Right now I’ve got Backstage Pass on my Droid, and Coping with Trauma (advanced studies in the effects of personal and interpersonal trauma and psychological insights) and The Joy of Writing Hot Sex (well, duh!) next to me. Overcoming Underearning(TM): A Simple Guide to a Richer Life (great book recommended by our business guides, especially useful for women) and Let’s Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books (Let’s Get Publishing) are on my Kindle. I used to only read one at a time. I finally stopped torturing myself for having numerous reads going on at the same time.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___

When I curl up with a book, I love to be deeply engaged…stirred…moved…provoked. I like to learn something, or be inspired to look at something a different way.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.

Gasp! Not even a question! Expanding the mind through both experience and reading of the experience or narrative of others is a treasured gift.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

Depends on who is doing the recommending. I have a good friend whom I listen to. I’ve also picked my last two books based on enthusiastic endorsement from Bloggers/Reviewers queries of their readers on Facebook. That’s how I found out about Hot Head and Backstage Pass

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?

I do it all the time (but my books are my favorites) (kidding!). Actually, I am an enthusiastic endorser kind of person. If I like it, whatever it is, I’ll endorse it.

What do you look for in a good book?

First – emotional depth, intelligence and complexity. Second, great interplay between the characters mixed with generous amounts of really great sex. I like books where the characters are challenged to grow in some way. One core issue. Its ultimate resolution. Books that take a stereotype and shoot it to bits. And my mood for books varies. Right now I’m into sexy erotica. Sometimes I like suspense. Sometimes sci-fi and urban fantasy.

Why do you write?

I find the act of writing to be one of the most soothing, relaxing and inspiring things to do. When I write, I relax. When I write, I create. I solve problems. I build worlds. I describe, define and then solve issues. I am God(dess). (laughs) It allows me to sort out issues in my own life. Purge frustrations. Laugh. Cry. Feel. I sit in my own world of mysteries. It’s very fulfilling.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

I can’t really answer this. I stay pretty focused in the present. And, believe it or not, I’ve done and continue to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do.

(later) Okay, that was the serious answer. The answer that bubbled up in me as I was driving around thinking about this question was “Okay, if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing right now I’d be Brian Sinclair in the book Backstage Pass, I’d live a rock and roll lifestyle (wait a minute – been there, done that), I’d have loads of freaky sex (been there, too), I’d meet someone who really matched me, heart for heart (wait – got that, too).” I have not, however, been a 28 y/o guy with a million adoring fans. And I do not play guitar. Is that what I secretly crave? Let’s hope not! (laughs) Honestly, I love my life and I am happy being a woman. If I were not writing and doing scuba and did not own a business I’m sure I’d find something interesting to do.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everywhere! I have a very active life. I love to travel. I love to explore. Virtually anything I do could be the seed of my next novel. I generally try to write about topics that push my own edges of comfort, like I’m doing in Headspace by writing about a woman who has never had an orgasm. Or topics that make me laugh. Or things I stumble upon out in the real world…things that make me go Hmmm. For instance, when I was in Hawaii a couple years ago I met a handsome young man who photographs whales. “I sex whales,” he said, smiling. “You what?” I replied, eyebrows arched. Apparently the only way you can determine the sex of humpback whales is to photograph their undersides. I told him he must be a whale whisperer. A character was born, right then and there – Wicked Whispering’s very own Kai Williams, the whale whisperer.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

1) Writing has increased my self-confidence. 2) Self-acceptance – definitely! 3) I’ve learned and continue to learn that I am an amazing person. I used to not think that about myself. I used to criticize myself to no end. 4) I’ve learned and continue to learn that I have flaws and that’s okay, too. 5) I’ve actually integrated my wild and crazy life into one cohesive hum. 6) I have taken courses in writing and learned to be succinct. Get to the point. Use words and imagery. I could go on and on. Writing definitely changed my life. It’s a very personal process.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?

Interesting question! Honey-pie thinks it’s fine, wants me to succeed. Isn’t really interested in the subject matter – he’s more of a technical guy. Kids support me but do not, do not, do NOT want to read their mom’s sexy writing. I understand and support that. Friends like it, think I’m fantastic, crazy, and wild for doing what I do.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?

That we’re all rich from our writing. Ha! Big myth there. I believe the statistics are that 3 – 5% of published authors are abundantly rich from their writing. And then there’s a myth that once you are a best-seller, then the money rolls in. I’ve read horror stories of authors who have sold millions around the world yet because of their publishing contracts, they only made about $30,000.00 over the course of a few years. That’s sad. And, I think there’s a stereotype that writers are nerdy, bookish and have nothing to do with the physical world. They live inside their minds. We come from all walks of life, I assure you. We just have the capacity to write.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?

I don’t think there is a single challenge. There are multiple issues when starting out that seem fairly common. For instance, anyone who thinks he or she will be an “overnight success” is in for a surprise. It takes time to build a fan base, build a following. You’ve got to “work it”, as in get out there constantly to promote your work. You do have to develop a thick skin. You’ll get a snarky review or two. Sometimes those are just downright mean. You’ve got to find a way to not focus on them. And, you’ll be assaulted with offers to be featured on this or that site and pay so and so and such and such to promote your work and gain exposure, blah, blah, blah. Do your research – just because it’s an attractive offer, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Above all, link up with various author groups. The support you can get is tremendous.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?

Oh, sure – when I started out I hadn’t mastered the Show vs Tell premise. Too much backstory. I went back after I learned that and re-wrote my first three books.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?

Interesting question. I’m actually leaning towards team collaborations these days (me, the lifelong lone wolf). I did an event with a couple of bluegrass musicians that was fun. I read erotic writing, they played between excerpts. They’re more than eager to do that again.

How do you deal with your fan base?

I post stuff to FB daily. My street team is awesome (and there’s always room for more). They’re like my super fans. We do monthly giveaways for those who complete their tasks. They’re a super supportive bunch. And I give them gobs of thanks and appreciation.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.

My fans would be surprised to know that I belonged to a bona-fide cult for a year and a half. I married someone who was part of the group. It was a definite, warp your mind, tell you what to think feel and believe cult. The guru dude had sex with women (not me) for “their enlightenment.” (shudders) He had seven wives. I didn’t know this until recently but at the time that I got the hell out of there, he was in lawsuits up to his eyeballs.

Anything else we should know?

When I was in junior high, my art instructor gave us an assignment to paint a poster with a quote that had meaning to us. My quote was one attributed to Jack London: “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Enough said.

Book Review – Stick It

Title: Stick It: 99 DIY Duct Tape Projects
Author: T. L. Bonaddio
Illustrator: Andrew Tomlinson
Printed: 2009
Format: Spiral Bound Hardback

Okay, so 99 duct tape projects sounded really awesome, when this book grabbed my attention, so I snagged it from a shelf and took it home with me, fully expecting to flip through the whole book and make a project or two.
And then I looked at the book.
And I’m really disappointed.

For starters, 99 projects is a total misnomer. Why? Well, when eight of them are wallets and several of those eight are the same thing but with different colors, you’re really not giving 99 projects. There is, for example, a whole chapter of rings – you know, all the same but different. So really there are like six projects in this book and a bunch of variations of the same six projects. And they’re not even the projects that I *wanted* to find – like duct tape roses or do it yourself corsets or gift bags or anything else. And some of these are, you know, UGLY. Fringe duct tape necklaces. Seriously.

And then there is the fact that the illustrations are *terrible* and really, if you didn’t craft and were trying this stuff out, the illustrations would be enough to make you never ever finish a project. They’re hand drawn in the way that, um, my 11-year-old niece could have drawn them. And I love her to death, but she’s not an artist. What about, you know, photographs? The only photos in this book are of the duct tape items SITTING ON DUCT TAPE so you can barely see stuff.

There is no redeeming quality. Some of this stuff is so ugly that I wouldn’t have known what they were if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was being told. (And really, some of them, I don’t believe that they’re what they say they are or that anyone would *ever* use them.)

So, really disappointed. I’ll be using craftster from now on.

One out of five pages for sure – it’s not worth the paper it was printed on.

Book Review – The Joy of Gay Sex

The Joy of Gay Sex

Dr. Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

Paperback, 2003 (Third Edition)


We are back in the world of banned books, and because of that, I need to preface this review with the following – I am neither gay nor a man.  I was, however, on the board of directors (and a founder) of a GLBT outreach and have many gay friends and family members.  So I am going to review this one anyway.

The first edition of the book was written in the late 70s, back when being gay was taboo and existed in the seedy underworld of America, hidden in back alleys and big cities, where people hid gayness and had gay sex like it was a fetish.

According to the prologue, the author (Dr. Silverstein with the help of somebody else) had intended a book made up of encyclopedia entries, blowjob erotica and sketches of men in the middle of whatever.  By the time the censorship was over, they had a dry, textbook of a book.  The anectdote of a little old lady who confused The Joy of Gay Sex with The Joy of Cooking was especially funny.

This book has, supposedly, been expanded and updated since then.  My problem with it is that the book is still geared towards that seedy underside of 70s gay culture.  The book is full of references to bath houses and glory holes and everything else.  But to put this book in context, the reprint was in 2003, so it was coming while Massachussettes was debating being the first state to allow gay marriage (the vote passed in Nov.), twenty years after they had named AIDS.  So when I read entry after entry talking about this great big scary epidemic of omg AIDS and everything else, it really pissed me off.

It pissed me off for a lot of reasons much too political to get into in depth here.  But really, because for every gay dude who went to a rave and screwed around in the bathroom, there were at least as many men out there who just wanted to be out of the closet and in regular society without persecution for the people they love.

And that is where I think this book failed.  Because they did not upgrade the book for the culture and society of today, they updated the entries they already had. What I failed to see was entries that said that something was popular in the 70s but had gone out of use.  What I failed to see were entries that painted the homosexual male as anything other than a sex-crazed pervert out to get as much cock as they could possibly have as fast as they could with footnotes and paragraphs that said watch out because everyone has AIDS.

So the book, in my opinion, is a failure.  While it paints a glorious picture of the early 1980s when everyone was suddenly dying of a mysterious disease that nobody understood, the same worlds that we get Angels in America and Borrowed Time, what it totally, epically fails at is bringing the book into modern times.  Bringing it to issues that would actually affect the average gay man today.

Like I said, I know I am not a gay man, but I know enough of them to know that the seedy 70s world that this book implies is not the world that everyone is a part of today.  I mean, this book lists married men as a category (meaning men who are married to women), but totally fails to talk about gay marriage at all.

I appreciate the research that went into this book 30 years ago for the first edition.  But because the book failed to update for the society of today (and partially because the illustrations are sometimes a bit creepy – think strong gay men with heart tattoos in odd places), I think the book falls short of what is needed today.  I keep thinking about the prologue and the book that the author wanted to do, and I really miss that.  This book is an AIDS IS COMING OMG trainwreck and just as outdated as it is current.  So for that I give it a 2/5.

Book Review – Waiting for Dad

Title: Waiting for Dad: A Yoga Story for Kids

Written & Illustrated By: Lakshmi Gosyne

Format & Year: PDF eBook, 2012


Okay, when I heard the title and concept, I thought that the book was going to go one of two ways; it was either going to be awesome or awful.  

So the book’s a pretty fast read.  The entire PDF is only 32 pages, and some of them are full page illustrations.  Basically, the kid is waiting to be picked up after school, and Dad isn’t there.  So the book is the kid’s imagination of what could have possibly happened to him.   And, for each scenario, there’s a somewhat appropriate yoga pose to go with it.

I have to say, the Yoga felt a little out of place in this book.  For instance, at the beginning, the kid waves to a friend and then we’re doing the “happy pose” – um.   While the rest of the book is illustrations, the yoga is photography, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I have to question who these kids are.  I’m guessing they’re the author’s children, but their positions are a bit sloppy – which is fine if they’re kids a the class, but since these are the how-to pictures, I’d really like to see better posture, you know? Their side stretch, for instance, is supposed to be stretching one side and curving.  It’s not supposed to look like a kid raising his hand.

Also, the layout was weird.  I wasn’t able to get a proper side-by-side view (whoever did the layout needed to put in a blank page near the front) so I was seeing the wrong two pages together.  I don’t know if being able to view this book properly would help or not, but the yoga and the text are sort of smushed on the same page, and I think that hurts the book a bit as well.  

The story itself was okay.  I think it ended pretty abruptly – another page would have been nice.  Or even another sentence.


So, it’s hard to rate this book.  Conceptually, I like it.  And I think that if, say, a teacher was reading this out to a class and getting them to do the yoga poses that it’d be kind of cool.  But just as a book to read, it falls flat.  Because we don’t do half page ratings here, I’m going to give the concept a three and leave it at the rest of the book needing tweaking to get there.

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