Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Review of my first picture book...

Gifts of the Heart
By Karen Boes Oman
Publisher: Create Space
Published: 2009

I read "Gifts of the Heart" by Karen Boes Oman which is a picture book that flows quite poetically. The book was about Christmas and the importance of "giving." The book was poetic, the artwork was superb and the story flowed successfully due to its great rhythm. The message of "giving" is something that I think people forget needs to be done on a daily basis not just during times of crisis or during the holiday season. This story is a reminder of such. This story is a reflection of the importance of doing for others and I think children will hear its message clearly while getting lost on this colorful, silly journey.

I think this book will immediately snatch the attention of young children holding it until the very end of the story. Most books are unable to do that but both Ms. Oman and the illustrator captured the essence of what a picture book should be--fun while learning at the same time. As a result, the adult will have to read the book over and over as the child will desire to get lost on the journey with the grandparents and Bo Peep as much as they can. What I enjoyed most is that the message of "giving" is evident throughout the book. There is nothing better than enjoying a book while acquiring knowledge at the same time. Well done...

I highly recommend this book to educators, grandparents, and parents alike. I also think it is a great book for social workers and counselors to use when working with children individually as well as in social skills groups.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Slow read but good book...

Two Brothers: One North, One South
By David H. Jones
Publisher:Staghorn Press
Published: 2008

This book takes the reader on a journey through the Civil War period allowing them to visualize—the pain, anger and pride—of the characters. It is a great depiction of such a difficult time in our history. I haven’t come across a book of historical fiction that has caught my eye before Two Brothers: One North, One South.

Mr. Jones’ novel spanned over a four-year period focusing on the Prentiss brothers who chose to fight in the war but on opposing sides. The characters are quite vivid allowing the reader to see the brothers as they stood in their uniforms—one blue and one gray—fighting in the same war on different sides of the country.

Walt Whitman visits with patients at the Armory Square Hospital and meets both brothers—William and Clifton Prentiss--when they are injured in the war. Mr. Whitman becomes the storyteller discussing the journey that each man takes during the war. He is the link between the two brothers as the story unfolds. The book embraces fiction and non-fiction but provides a good balance helping one to stay focused on the story rather than getting lost in the historical facts.

I am not a history buff nor do I generally read books like this, but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey I went on during this time period with Mr. Whitman and the Prentiss brothers. My only regret was some of the dialogue which I think slowed the pace of the book. I recommend this book for anyone interested in history—teens in AP classes, college students and adults— and it might also be a great support in classes that to some may be boring.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When the "real" job gets in the way...

What do you do when the "real" bill paying job gets in the way of your aspiring goals? Deal with it and work extremely hard to change it. For right now I go to work everyday knowing that I'm working toward something great. I find comfort in thinking about what lies ahead for me. I guess that's that thing called faith again. I walk through my eight hour shift with song ideas rolling in my head. You never know when and where inspiration is going to rear its head.

It is the desire that I have to break into the literary and music world that allows me to walk through my shift at work with a new swagger. I know this is temporary. I know that I am going to do the things that I desire as I asked God to allow me to do them. Faith! Knowing that there is an eventual end to my mundane eight hour shift, allows me to make it through my shift with ease. Faith, determination and an immense desire are a few ingredients in the recipe of my humble existence... the key factors to my success!!

Goals for today... run a few errands and write, write, write...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Faith Pulling Me Through...

I've had a few things on my mind this week but haven't let them get the best of me. Yesterday, I sat staring at the computer screen as a headache tried to distract me from the writing goals I had set. A few other things got in the way but I managed to brush them off as well. After a moment, I looked up and the blank page in front of me was filling up with words. Those words evolved into a song. After I sang it over, making sure I hadn't just thrown words together, it made sense. So, I printed it out, read it over, and liked the way it was written. I put it in my binder with the rest of the songs I've written and then I wrote another song and another.

I'm not telling you this to brag. I don't do that at all and I don't it like when others brag. I'm quite humble actually. I say this to confess that I was having a slow week with things getting in the way or staying at the forefront of my mind. I prayed and spoke with a friend, but it is my faith that has carried me through. I know that eventually what I'm doing will pay off. The late nights, the many little notebooks I scribble in, the ideas floating in my head, will all develop into something special. The idea of seeing my books in print and hearing Minister Steve sing melodies that I helped create evokes a feeling in me that I can't explain. Maybe that feeling is called... praise!

I write quotes on my Facebook page almost daily. Sometimes they are from others but most of the time they are by me. I do this because it forces me to hold myself accountable. When I wrote this week that "Sometimes you have to move out of your own way," I was also speaking to myself. I know where my strength comes from. I can't let anything get me down and block my blessings. So, I claim my success now and know that it will come to fruition--especially if I keep up at this pace. I'm working and "grinding," as they say, like this is my last day on earth. I hope it isn't. I'm going to continue to work very hard so that I can reach my publishing goals and I'll walk with the blind faith that my mother owns... this faith will carry me through...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reaching inside for creativity...

I thought I was going to have a slow day creatively. However, five songs later I think I had a pretty good day. I spoke with Minister Steve and things went well. Once things fall into place we'll start our collaborations. I have to stop and remember sometimes that I am right where God wants me to be. I want to be other places periodically but I remember that each and everyone of my steps have been orderd by God... in time I will get to where I desire.

Each day, each song that I write, all of this becomes more real. I can't wait until it all comes to fruition but I must exercise patience. Minister Steve told me today to "keep cranking those songs out so when we are ready, we are ready!" That advice comforted me and allowed me to work on a few more songs.

My book review is coming. This book, Two Brothers, is good but it is a slower read than Savannah Law. I hope to have it completed by weeks end or no later than the beginnig of next week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day...

I am not a big fan of Valentine's Day. In fact, I think it is overrated. However, it was a special day. We had a lot of fun just being together around the house watching movies and TV. We love each other each day of the year which is why this day doesn't carry much weight for me. But I do what I have to do...

I haven't finished my book that I am going to review next. I have about four to read and review. I have some time this week to read at least one book. We are supposed to get more snow tomorrow. I think its funny that the reports consistently say, "We are going to get around 4-6 inches but we also have a possibility of receiving 6-8 inches." The amazing thing is they keep saying that its no big deal. I guess they forgot that there are mountains of snow blocking roadways and many parking lots that have piles of snow in them making it impossible to park. Me, I haven't forgotten nor am I looking forward to more. As a kid, I prayed for snow because school would be cancelled, I didn't have to drive in it or shovel it and my only responsibility was to play. Those days are gone and so are my days of enjoying it!!

Make it a great week and be safe in all that you do. Happy writing, reading, and living. Without a book or music playing in the background... I wouldn't be living, I'd just be existing!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Upcoming review...

Two Brothers: One North One South
By David H. Jones
Publisher: Staghorn Press
Published: 2008
ISBN-10: 0979689856
ISBN-13: 978-0979689857
320 Pages

My next review will be completed hopefully during the early part of next week. Although the snow has given me a little extra time around the house, it just didn't promote the extra reading time that I thought it would. I had set my sights on accomplishing so many things and I didn't get to most of them. We spent a lot of time shoveling and trying to keep our walkway, sidewalk and cars clean. And, we spent time doing nothing. I guess maybe that's what both our bodies and minds needed.

Last night though I spent some time researching the songwriting industry. I am trying to understand the ins and outs so that my lyrics are protected. I want to take my creativity to another level and I want to do it right. Before I delve into anything I like to get as much information as I can and the internet is a great way to research companies that I would not necessarily have access to directly.

I work the next two days and hear that some more snow is on the way Monday night. If I get anymore snow days I will definitely to my best to use them better than the past two days... make your day a great one!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More snow...

We are snowed in again. Some guys stopped by and shoveled our sidewalk, walkway, driveway and cleaned off our cars. Now it looks as if they never showed up. I remember it snowing like this in the 70's and the news reminds me that there was a blizzard in 1996. I remembered that one after they mentioned it. I have images of being stranded on the NJ Turnpike in an attempt to get back home one winter and am grateful that I am hunkered down in the house today with my partner enjoying the snow!

I am amazed that so much snow can fall at one time. It stopped earlier today around eleven o'clock and now it is coming down with a vengeance! They have closed down three major highways in the Philadelphia area which has never happened. The only highway open is Route 95 and the troopers are out ready to give tickets to people who shouldn't be out driving. I drove on 95 South lastnight on my way home from work and it was quite an anxious thirty minutes for me. So, I have no interest in going back out into it. Especially since we are in the second phase of the storm which has changed from a winter storm warning to a blizzard warning.

A friend of mine in Philly sent me a text saying that she has cabin fever. Me, I am enjoying being snowed in. When I was younger I needed to run around but the older I become I appreciate the time I have in my home. Maybe it is also because times have changed. Years ago we didn't have computers and there was no such thing as ordering movies on the television, or playing an iPod through a Bose sound system. Maybe those changes have affected my desire to stay in the house. I don't know what it is nor do I even care... I am just glad I have found amazing comfort in my home.

*The photo on the left was taken this morning before our yard was shoveled and the one on the right was taken after it was shoveled this afternoon...

Getting on the "write" track...

Of course I know my title is not grammatically correct; however, if I wrote it the correct way the point would not be as clear! I started the new year off with a few goals in mind and one of them was to write more. I am working diligently to write for at least three hours per day. Of course on days when its possible, I'll write for more hours than that.

I wrote three songs yesterday before I went to work. I am writing gospel songs because those are the songs that are on my heart or in my spirit, so to speak. But I have written songs that could be in the country, pop or hip-hop genres as well. I basically write whatever comes to mind when I sit in front of the computer or that pops into my head as I go throughout my day. I actually bought mini notebooks that will fit in my back pocket so I can jot down lyrics as they come to mind. On some occasions an entire song idea enters my mind as my head hits the pillow at night. So, I grab the little notebook on the end table and jot the lyrics down.

I don't know why my creative bug is so active at this point in my life but I welcome it. There is a season in our lives for all events and I know that this is my season. This is my season to get on the "write" track and use the gifts that God blessed me with. I used to write a poem or short story here and there but I didn't focus on it like I am now. My mind, my heart and my spirit are aligned and are working to take my gifts to another level. So, I must stay on the "write" track doing something that I always loved to do but never had the courage to attempt!

My ultimate goals for 2010 are to be published and to have Minister Steve working on songs I have written. In order for these events to occur I have to put in the time and effort to bring it to fruition. In short, I have to get and stay on the "write" track keeping these goals in sight!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another snowy night on the way!

I grew up in Orange County, NY and vividly remember all the snow we had each winter. Since that time, we have had a few blizzards in various places where I've lived in the NY, NJ, and PA area. However, the past few years we've had winters that didn't closely resemble those childhood winters. Last year I think we had less than 20 inches throughout the entire winter. Now, we are only 9 inches from breaking the 1996 record of 60 or so inches.

Tonight we are supposed to get 12-24 inches. The exact amount depends on the way the wind blows, I guess. I am amazed but know that we were long overdue for a winter such as this. My plan for tomorrow is to be productive. I am going to use the precious hours when I am snowed in to complete or at least work on some of the projects I have started. I want this to be a publishing year for me and need to use these days as best as I can to bring my dreams to fruition. This fire in me is not dimming and it won't. After I bring my first book to publication I'm sure it will only burn brighter!

I have narrowed my search down to a few different self-publishing companies. A number of people I know have used Lulu or Outskirts Press. I am not sure if I will work with them as well but I haven't made any decisions yet. I am doing as much research as I can because I feel that I need to take great care in deciding on which company I will use. I know I judge a book by its cover so my cover is very important to me. I expect when I open the cover of a book that an author has taken great care to bring it to publication. So, I plan on doing the same thing. Although I am eager to get it done it makes no sense to do it incorrectly. In the end, it would cost me more. I have witnessed that and it takes away from the contents of the book.

When I see books that have been poorly edited or typeset, full of grammatical errors or shoddy covers, that's all I end up remembering about the author. I don't get a chance to read what the author was trying to say because the author chose to send out a less than professional piece of work with his or her name on it. I am going to work as diligently as possible to send out a book that I would want to spend my money on in the bookstore. I love books and I want it to show!!

I say all of this to say... "Get it done but get it done right. If you don't put your all into it, the end result will be a reflection of your efforts!" Do it right or not at all...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Savannah Law Book Review...

Savannah Law
By William Eleazer
Publisher:Elex Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-9824747-6-1
358 pages

Savannah Law by William Eleazer was a fast paced well-written fiction novel. I enjoyed this book from the first page to the epilogue. Of course, I was eager for it to end so I could find out what happened but I was sad at the same time that there was nothing left for Mr. Eleazer to divulge. From the very beginning, I was consumed with the energy of this fast past thriller as it twisted and turned while the drama unfolded. The characters were vividly portrayed as were the scenes where most events took place. I was able to see the story as I read along—sitting at the bar-The Library-near the campus, the arrogant lawyer parading around the court room, the judge’s flared nostrils reflecting his extreme distaste of this pompous lawyer, and the nights Jennifer’s life was at risk—which is a reflection of Mr. Eleazer’s superb storytelling ability.

One of the main characters, Jennifer, appeared to be extremely intelligent yet flighty. Many people ignore events that are uncomfortable but her responses or lack thereof, left me in awe and at times angered by her indifference to frightening events that occurred to her. At times, I wanted to “shake” some sense into her!
The author created believable characters allowing the story to flow easily as each character was clearly connected to the other. When the trials occurred in the court room I felt an array of emotions--Scott’s anxiety, the judge’s anger, Professor Nolan’s fear, sadness, contempt—while also visualizing the media circus playing out in the court room.

I have never attended law school but know people who have and this book was a clear depiction of their experience. I highly recommend this novel. It is an exciting journey in the life of a law student which coupled with Mr. Eleazer’s knowledge of this profession creates a great story. I highly anticipate his next piece of work.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow... snow... snow...

I just peeked out at the snow. It was supposed to start during rush hour this evening but it started after 9:00 p.m. It is now falling steadily and looks like we may get the twelve inches or so that has been predicted. They say it is going to be a heavier snow because it is not that cold outside. I am not looking forward to shoveling my car out in the morning in my attempt to go to work. I will do my best but they don't generally plow my street until the snow is just about finished. So... I may not be getting out.I will play it by ear and whatever happens...happens.

I am still reading Savannah Law by William Eleazer. It is flowing steady and smooth. I love the characters and each scene is so vivid. I hope I am able to read this weekend so that I can finish it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Busy day... not much writing...

Currently reading Savannah Law for my next review. The book is written by William Eleazer. I am less than twenty pages into it and am enjoying it a lot. I hope to post my review by the end of the week because I received three other books this week in the mail to review as well. We are supposed to have a snowstorm this weekend so I am sure I will be able to get it done. Nothing like reading a good book as the snow is falling outside while the fireplace is keeping you warm!

Today I wrote three songs. I wrote two gospel songs and of course, one sappy love song. I was getting into the flow when we had to run to the hospital as my partner's grandmother fell down in her apartment. We spent a few hours in the emergency room but three stitches and a broken nose later, we were able to come back to the house. I haven't been able to focus enough to write so I decided I will do it tomorrow. Of course there is always a melody in my head so I've just been jotting down the lyrics into my small notebook.

There is a fire burning inside of me and I can't wait to share it!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kissed By The Devil Books I & II... high praise!

Kissed By The Devil I
By Dashawn Taylor
Publisher: Next Level Publishing
Published: 2007
ISBN 13: 9780980015409
245 pages

Kissed By The Devil Book II
ISBN 13: 9780980015423
335 pages

I first met Dashawn Taylor on Facebook and had the pleasure of bumping into him on 125th Street in Harlem where I purchased the first book. As I strolled down the block perusing the pages, I was excited about the idea of reading the book in its entirety. From the first page to the last page, I was far from disappointed. Mr. Taylor is an amazing storyteller keeping you drawn to the story from start to finish. As soon as I thought I had figured what direction the story would take and was convinced I knew what was going to happen, the story went in an entirely different direction. His ability to maintain my attention kept my eyes glued to the pages.

From the very beginning you are thrust into the hostile, violent environment that encompasses the main character Heidi’s life, as she lay in a hospital bed after a violent domestic dispute with her fiance Jayson, who is dead. The story begins with Heidi trying to rebuild her life while never letting go of her feelings of bitterness from the past. Eventually some choices she makes have her once again fighting for her life and the lives of her family. While reading the book an array of emotions washed over me as I felt—sadness, anger, anxiety and praise—for Heidi. As soon as I would feel one emotion the story twisted forcing me to immediately embrace another one. I was on a roller coaster ride that was Heidi’s life!

The first book kept me thirsty for the second one which was all that and more. In my opinion, Mr. Taylor’s writing skills have improved since the release of the first book. The second book was a reflection of the care he put into making this book look--more professional from the improved quality of the cover, professional editing and pulling the quality of the book and story together--thus resulting in a tighter fit. I actually sat and stared at the book when I finished, in awe of his storytelling ability and the care that went into this book.

Although I unequivocally enjoyed the first book, this one had that little something extra that would give the series the praise it deserved. Mr. Taylor never disappointed as he allowed you to take another journey with Heidi as she tried to seek vengeance on those who had wronged her. Book II flowed easily allowing me to connect the characters to each other prohibiting me from putting the book down. I read it fast as my curiosity was peaked again on page one until I reached the last page. If Mr. Taylor continues to write in the professional manner that he did with this second book, he will be on the top of my list for urban thrillers.

I highly recommend this book to readers looking to take a dark ride on the streets of New Jersey while never leaving their chair. I hope other authors of this genre are paying attention to his talents and mirroring them to promote a better set of urban books to read… well-done Mr. Taylor you have definitely arrived as one of leaders in this genre.

Praise for Scorned Hearts...

Scorned Hearts
By Leila Jefferson
Publisher: My Time Publishing
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9780982053089
198 Pages

Prior to purchasing Scorned Hearts by Leila Jefferson, I was unaware it was a sequel to “He’s A Keeper.” However, it was a well-written novel allowing me to follow along easily without having read the first book. In this book, the main character Toni flees from California to Ohio after the demise of her relationship with her abusive husband Eric. It isn’t until the story unfolds that Toni realizes just how mean, abusive, and sadistic the father of her children is.

The move to Ohio is a long way from their home in Oakland, California from the climate to the racial makeup. Toni has difficulty adjusting to her life at work while her children, Amiya and Junior, hate being in a new state leaving their lifelong friends behind. However, Amiya finds a friend-becoming involved in adult behaviors-to help her change her focus while Junior is miserable without his father and seems to just be going through the motions. Finally, Junior gets to visit his dad which opens his eyes to the true beast his father is. Junior unfortunately witnesses his father in a different light immediately squashing his dreams of who his father was replacing his feelings with hurt and hate. The true depth of Eric’s madness is unknown to Toni until she looks into the eyes of her son.

Toni goes to see her husband to discuss their impending divorce and although her heart is drawn to him, she finds the strength to walk away with his signature on the documents. Although he expresses that he’s changed, his addiction and abusive manner continues and is quite evident when Toni enters the home. Toni, like her son, witnesses the life Eric has created for himself since their departure and easily walks away leaving that world behind. Afraid of starting a new relationship, Toni goes through a few changes trying to satisfy her needs and desires while adjusting to her new life.

This story flows from start to finish following Toni and her children through the triumphs and failures of their new life. Ms. Jefferson is a talented storyteller as she pens the story taking the reader through a twisting journey filled with an array of emotions—betrayal, hurt, sadness and pain with a little bit of love sprinkled throughout-- and eventually a murder. As I read this story I felt the pain, sadness, and fear as I anxiously turned the pages eager to see how the story would end. Ms. Jefferson has excelled in producing a great story, developed a book from cover to cover while paying attention to detail. Ms. Jefferson created a project that reflects her desire to promote a book of professional quality worthy of standing toward the front of store--my desire for all books by authors of color. Ms. Jefferson has helped restore my faith in urban literature. I highly recommend this book which will take you on a wild journey as life sometimes does.