The Best Advice So Far – Book Review

unnamedThis is a book that I reviewed in 2015 and have been thinking about lately as so many people across the world struggle with feelings of disenfranchisement. Lots of us feel buffeted by events beyond our control and choices made by others. The beauty of this book lies in the affirmation that “You always have a choice.”

Erik Tyler is a frequent visitor to my blog, a friendly soul willing to engage with me and other bloggers who kindly comment on my posts. He sent me a copy of his book, The Best Advice So Far, which I loved, and therefore am pleased to share again.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I read personal growth books. Many of the lessons stuck, but many required too much work: hours of self-analysis, a spiritual conversion, expensive travel, learning a new practice, joining a cult, and wearing beads, headbands, and robes. I just didn’t have the time between working and raising a family. Being a happy person shouldn’t be that hard.

As unique individuals, we all define happiness differently. In the middle third of my life, I discovered that happiness, for me, is a wonderful side effect of integrity, authenticity, and kindness, an outward spreading of “the love.” Sometimes that takes the form of service, but more often it’s a way of being in relationship with others without all the filters, free of the junk I used to drag around, manacled to my ankle.

So, what does this have to do with Erik’s book…

What I loved about The Best Advice So Far is its simplicity. It’s a well-organized and beautifully written guide to cultivating the integrity, authenticity, and genuine kindness toward self and others that lead to satisfying relationships, and ultimately, to happiness. I’m a believer in the power of perspective and that attitude and approach have incredible power over our lives. This is where the power of choice comes into play. I may not be able to change my circumstances, but I have a choice about how I will perceive, process, and respond.

The book is not a religious, theological, or spiritual treatise, but rests on sound psychological principles and practice. In each chapter, Tyler introduces a topic based on his own experiences, foibles, and insights. The anecdotes are entertaining tales in and of themselves, and on many occasions, I found myself laughing or reduced to tears. I can’t remember the last time a “self-help” book touched me so deeply.

At the end of each chapter, Tyler offers Questions for Reflection and Discussion. They provide fodder for further growth, for journaling, for individual, couple, and group exploration. I plan to use some of them as topics for discussion with my adventurous women’s group.

CJIWfXjWEAAdJW3In my few interactions with Erik, it’s clear to me that his principles are in practice. I recommend this book to anyone who seeks a life of greater connection, meaning, and happiness. Enjoy.

Erik is an author, speaker, blogger, youth mentor, family advocate, singer, songwriter, musician, poet, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer, and lover of life. He lives in the Boston area of Massachusetts.

Follow his blog at: The Best Advice So Far

And browse his book on Amazon: The Best Advice So Far

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy

While I was taking a break and guzzling cold medicine, a lovely review of The Sorcerer’s Garden showed up on Rosie Amber’s book review blog. The review is compliments of  Suzanne Rogerson. Thank you, Suzanne and Rosie!

I hope you enjoy this review as much as I did:

***

Today’s team review is from Suzanne, she blogs at Suzanne Rogerson Fantasy AuthorSuzanne has been reading The Sorcerer’s Garden by D Wallace Peach.

My Review

Wow, this was a breath-taking adventure that barely stood still.

I was intrigued by the title and the blurb really stood out for me, anything to do with writing and writers and I’m sold! As I started reading, possibilities whirled through my mind…

The start of the story felt a little over the top in the action sense. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but then I realised this was the start of Cody’s story – his tale of slaying the dragon with his brother. I thought this was very cleverly done by the author. This larger than life action helped to distinguish between Madlyn’s real world and Cody’s work in progress. However, as the story developed everything becomes more complicated for Madalyn and soon the two worlds are colliding and you have no idea what is real and…

(Continue Reading: Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy)

To Hunt a Sub – Book Review

To Hunt a Sub is Jacqui Murray’s debut fiction novel and what a read it is.

A nuclear sub goes missing and retired Navy intel officer, Zeke Rowe, is called in to help with the investigation. It turns out that a cybervirus is the culprit. What Rowe can’t figure out was who did it or how to stop the perpetrator from sinking every submarine in the fleet. He joins forces with Kali Delamagente, the developer of an AI named Otto whose unique ability is compiling clues and finding things – like ancient people, kidnappers, and modern subs.

Rowe’s not the only one whose interested in the subs or Otto’s capabilities. Bent on destroying America, a terrorist is making Kali’s life miserable, breaking into her lab, hacking her computer, and making hostages out of those she loves. He nails warnings to the dead bodies of anyone who gets too close. As the terrorist ring closes in, time is running out and the stakes are rising.

One thing I enjoyed about this read is the technical reality Murray created for both the scientific and military aspects of the book. I completely believed the naval and investigatory hierarchy and protocols, as well as the operation inside the sub. I was fascinated by her explanation of Otto’s capabilities, the security efforts Kali employs to protect her data, and how she used Otto’s data to help Rowe.

If that all sounds like too much science, the characters are also well-rounded human beings with colorful histories and rich emotional palettes. There’s a little romantic attraction thrown in for fun though it isn’t a main focus of the story. The plot is high energy and complex with twists that require the reader to pay attention.

To Hunt a Sub is an entertaining novel for anyone who enjoys military thrillers. A well-written read and great fun!

Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray

About the Author:
J Murray blogs at Worddreams and has wonderful tips for writers. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

To Hunt a Sub on Amazon – Universal Link 

The Bone Wall: 2 Blogger Reviews

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The Bone Wall – Amazon Universal Link

Kevin Cooper from KC Books & Music recently graced one of my books with a glowing review. Of course, I did a happy dance around my house, and the dogs barked their heads off at the excitement. “No, we’re not going for a car ride,” I shouted. “I got a super review.”

There’s no greater gift to an author than when someone “gets” your book and tells the world about it. Kevin is a great friend of indie authors, a reputable reviewer, cover designer, and accomplished author and musician in his own right. I encourage writers and readers to browse his site. Without further ado:

Kevin’s Review: The Bone Wall

This futuristic/dystopian tale is presented to us in the first-person pov from the perspective of two very different, if not truly opposite personas: Rimma who is angry and bent upon revenge for the death of her father and against all who oversaw the destruction of heaven, and her twin sister, Angel who hopes against hope for a better world of peace, love and harmony.

Rimma not only vows to kill all the biters, (those responsible for the destruction of heaven) but forces Angel to vow that she will allow Rimma to bear all the burdens and consequences so she can protect her.

The only thing stronger than Rimma’s burning desire for revenge is her love for Angel and all that she stands for… In a world bent upon self-destruction, Angel must survive at all costs. The story is deeply thought-provoking, extremely well written and constructed; It’s not the kind of story you want to read quickly and get it over with but rather, one you want to savour. There are countless raw emotions and events to draw you ever deeper, and never a dull moment passes in this action-packed epic fantasy/sci-fi tale.

The Bone Wall is a truly exceptional work which brings out the best in D. Wallace Peach… Without doubt my favourite to date and one of the easiest five-stars I’ve ever given. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

** ❤ **

Somehow, this ended up being my lucky week with a second review, this one by the talented author and blogger, Jacqui Murray. She blogs at Worddreams, and I love her site for her writing tips and “How to Describe” thought-starters. Check out her Top Posts and other resources on her right menu bar.

Jacqui’s Review: The Bone Wall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Bone Wall follows the story of two twins, entwined in a failing world that neither is prepared for. When the world almost destroyed itself over 300 years ago, it managed to seal in some of the planet’s inhabitants while condemning the rest to live outside the protective shell, in a world that was barely life at all. Now that shell is failing and the inhabitants within must figure out what that means to them. What follows is a savage fight to save a dystopian world that will never be the same.

This is D. Wallace Peach’s fourth novel. Not only is it a page-turner, but it challenges our notions of humanity, fairness, and equity in a world where none of those can truly exist.

** ❤ **

Thanks you to both authors for taking the time to read and share their thoughts on their blogs. It’s a great honor.

Amazon Universal Link

Indie Book Reviews: Part II

Once again, while I’m away, I’m catching up on posting the book reviews that I completed over the past few months. This is Part Two. Comments are open, but since I’m still off the internet grid, it will be a bit longer before I can reply. Please click through and check out a wonderful blogger’s site. Or, better yet, try out a book! Enjoy!

my-vibrating-vertebraeMy Vibrating Vertebrae: and other poems by Agnes Mae Graham 

A wonderful collection of poems by Agnes Mae Graham, saved and published by her children C. Graham and L. J. Baker as a tribute to her mother. I read this book over a weekend. Many of the poems are playfully clever, a clear sign of Ms. Graham’s robust sense of humor. She even titled one “Nonsense Rhyme.” Yet she also writes poignantly about her love of home and family, and the trials of life including a beautiful piece about the war “The Terror and The Tears.” The poems stand on their own, but they also provide a sweet glimpse of the poet and her life. A great read.

Chris Graham’s Blog: The Story Reading Ape
Amazon Universal Link: My Vibrating Vertebrae

 

dog-boneDog Bone Soup by Bette Stevens 

Dog Bone Soup is an engaging tale set in the 1950’s and 1960’s and though Stevens indicates that the book will speak to boomers, in particular, the family drama and the emotional world of the characters are timeless and relatable. The story follows the oldest brother in the family, Shawn Daniels, a boy whose young life is burdened by dire poverty and an abusive, alcoholic father. His proud mother does the best she can for her children, and Shawn becomes a man before his time, helping to support the family.

Though the story deals with a struggling child in a tough situation, the book has many moments of childhood humor and delight, especially between the brothers. Shawn not only survives his rough start but comes through as a strong individual with solid values and high personal integrity.

Stevens writing is captivating, raw and sweet, with well-drawn characters. I read the prequel “White Trash” prior to this book, however, I feel that Dog Bone Soup easily stands on its own. A compelling read about childhood resilience and growth into manhood.

Bette Steven’s Blog: 4 Writers and Readers
Amazon Universal Link: Dog Bone Soup

 

conflicted-heartsConflicted Hearts by D. G. Kaye 

D. G. Kaye writes a compelling narrative about her narcissistic mother who whirled through Kaye’s childhood life like a tornado, prone to rages, self-absorbed, and unreliable as a parent. Her father was in and out of the household, his relationship with his wife volatile, and Kaye remembers dreading his next departure and worrying that he might not return at the end of each day.

It wasn’t until she turned 18 and left home that she was able to begin looking back at her life, evaluating the dynamics of her relationship with her mother, and making choices for her own well-being.

Conflicted Hearts doesn’t read as a story as much as it does a reflection on Kaye’s life and emotional growth. For those who grew up in emotionally chaotic households, the dynamics of blame and guilt will sound familiar. The constant worry, the burden of responsibility for siblings, and the desperate need to keep the peace will ring bells.

Kaye’s writing is candid with bits of humor and some light moments of joy in her journey of growth. The message of the book speaks to the strength of a positive attitude and outlook, and the role of forgiveness in moving forward. If you love memoirs and reflections on personal growth, this book will hit the mark.

Debby Kaye’s Blog: D. G. Kaye Writer
Amazon Universal Link: Conflicted Hearts 

 

twin-desiresTwin Desires by Pamela Wight and Ashley Brandt 

Twin Desires accomplished it’s twin goals with plenty of romance and a thrilling plot. Sandra Eastman is making a comfortable life for herself when corporate CEO Blake Sinclair takes an interest. Unfortunately, his attentions coincide with the escape from prison of Blake’s psychotic twin brother. Alex has one goal – to murder his brother and flee with his fortune. Sandra is a pawn in a deadly plot between a brother who loves her and his twin who wants to kill her. Wright has developed distinctive characters with a lot of personality and fun dialog. Frequent point of view shifts took some getting used to, but otherwise, Wright’s writing is on the mark. A fast-paced and suspenseful read. Lovers of romantic thrillers will have a great time with this one.

Pam Wight’s Blog: Roughwighting
Amazon Universal Link: Twin Desires

 

poetic-ritualsPoetic Rituals by Ritu Bhathal 

Bhathal’s Poetic Rituals is a collection of poems that explores life’s rituals, those of a mother, wife, lover, and teacher. There are real gems in here with lovely imagery, humor, passion, and ambivalence. My favorite poems were the lighthearted rhymes about being a mother of young children. A great read to visit and browse throughout the day.

 

Ritu Bhathal’s Blog: But I Smile Anyway
Amazon Universal Link: Poetic RITUals

Indie Book Reviews: Part I

While I’m away, I thought I’d schedule a couple posts of book reviews that I completed over the past few months. I’m a slow, slow reader, but I’ve polished off some good reads. This is Part One. I’ve left comments open but won’t be around to respond for a bit since I’m off the internet grid. Please click through and check out a wonderful blogger’s site. Or, better yet, check out a book! Enjoy!

the-eternalsThe Eternals by Richard Ankers 

This was a great read on many levels. The Eternals are the last inhabitants of a dying Earth, undead vampires waltzing away the centuries with garish pomp and courtly pretenses. The protagonist Jean is disdainful of the aristocratic decadence and yet amoral when it comes to his own behavior. He lurks on the fringes, cavalier and condescending, until he takes a bite of the princess and drinks her dry. Suddenly, he’s a man on the run, falling in love and rediscovering his humanity.

Though the characters are vampires for the most part and have the expected vampiric characteristics and capabilities, this isn’t your typical vampire tale. I’d say it’s more a story about a man who happens to be a vampire. Jean is an antihero in some respects, violent and sarcastic, yet I rooted for him from the start. Ankers does a wonderful job with characterization and dialog. Jean has a distinct voice, and the entire book is poetic and beautifully composed.

The world building also grabbed me at the start, part steampunk, part post-apocalyptic fantasy. The Earth is clearly fetid and dying, the few last humans are clones, the horses are cyborgs, the landscape is manipulated, and rivers run blood red. Human know-how has been lost but their technology persists, most clearly in the presence of flying machines. The descriptions are gripping – imagine a man dragging his coffin through a dead wilderness, terrified of the sun.

The end came together a little too easily for me with the introduction of new characters that save the day, but I have a feeling that they will play a role in the sequel that Ankers mentions at the book’s close. I will definitely be picking it up, as the villains will surely seek their revenge. Jean and his love, Linka, are only safe for the moment, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Richard Anker’s Blog: Richard Ankers
Amazon Universal Link: The Eternals

 

pure-trashPure Trash by Bette A. Stevens

Stevens’ short story, Pure Trash, is a prequel to her novel Dog Bone Soup. It sets the stage by introducing two young brothers, Shawn and Willie, and is a study of character, poverty, and economic discrimination in the 1950s. The characters are beautifully presented which makes the bullying and unkindness of the adults all the more wrenching. A lovely introduction to the following book and a solid short story in its own right.

Bette Steven’s Blog: 4 Writers and Readers
Universal Amazon Link: Pure Trash

 

versions-of-selfVersions of the Self by Christy Birmingham

“Versions of the Self” is a collection of 80 heartfelt poems set up in 8 sections, each taking an honest and poignant view of a version of self. Through her carefully crafted words and exquisite imagery, Birmingham explores the complex elements of human growth and relationships that are both personal to her and universal to many. This collection is emotionally rich, empowering, and beautiful to read. I recommend “Versions of Self” to any reader who loves poetry that explores the human experience and is told from the heart.

Christy Birmingham’s Blog: Poetic Parfait
Universal Amazon Link: Versions of the Self

 

the-reviledThe Reviled by Cynthia A. Morgan

The strongest part of this book is the beautiful lyrical language, detailed imagery, and descriptions of a fantasy world with a rich history and fleshed out cultural tradition. It’s not a quick read and it takes a bit to get going, but for readers who love to immerse themselves in a story and characters, it will fit the bill.

Ayla is one of the fey, a winged fairy with unique gifts who leads a gentle life caring for the young fey in a nursery. All is well until she senses the presence of another, a mysterious dark fey who doesn’t reveal himself, but watches her from the forest. When nothing changes after many uneasy visits, Ayla begins to communicate telepathically with him and when he makes no attempt to harm her or the children, she becomes curious.

The story picks up with the introduction of Gairynzvl, the dark fey who quickly became my favorite character. Of all the personalities, he struck me as the most emotionally nuanced with a compelling story of abduction and a desire to return from the world of the reviled to the world of light. His hope is that Ayla can help him bridge the gap and reach his goal. It’s not an easy journey as the worlds of light and dark are destined to clash.

This story pits good against evil, but more than that, it’s a tale of hope, fidelity and forgiveness, love and redemption. There’s a bit of romance and plenty of fantasy. It’s a strong start to Morgan’s series and appropriate for YA readers.

Cynthia Morgan’s Blog: Book N Volume
Universal Amazon Link: The Reviled

 

rhymes-of-the-timesRhymes of the Times by Judy E. Martin

Lighthearted definitely describes Martin’s Rhymes of the Times. This is a collection of witty poems that I thoroughly enjoyed browsing during my day. No topic is off limit when it comes to Martin’s humor and charm. You’ll find giggles, sigh’s, and guffaws in these pages. A delightful read.

 

Judy Martin’s Blog: Edwina’s Episodes
Universal Amazon Link: Rhymes of the Times 

Author Interview – Steven Baird

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This is a selfish interview on my part. I’ve been wanting to pick Steven Baird’s writer-brain since I began following his blog a couple years ago. I love his writing, his fresh, lush imagery, his exquisite word choice. I picked up his book Ordinary Handsome and then his book A Very Tall Summer. I became a groupie. My review of Ordinary Handsome is here.

So, I convinced him to answer all my questions under the pretense of a blog interview. I hope you enjoy!

1. Welcome, Steven. Thanks so much for letting me satisfy my curiosity about you and your writing. You state in your bio that you started writing at age 10. But you didn’t publish until 2015. What took you so long?

ordinaryhandsomeiiThat’s a good question. I have written a lot over the years, submitted some manuscripts, did some editing work, but nothing clicked. So I focused on improving the writing, experimenting with different genres, shifting pov’s, playing with the language. I wanted to see what I could do. It took some time because I am so self-critical. I had a lot of uncertainty and self-doubt, and that can be crippling. What did I have to offer, and was it worth the reader’s time? And now, yes, I think I do have something to offer.

When I started as a kid, I was cribbing off writers I admired, unconsciously mimicking their styles, and it was a terrible hybrid. The first attempt at a novel was after I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Man, I dug into that… the story, the cadence, the narration, everything. And then Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. And then Faulkner’s ‘The Sound & the Fury’. My writing was awful, as you can imagine, but I was so excited! It was a melange of enthusiasm and bad writing! But it was a learning experience. I was putting things down on paper! In those days, that meant typing on a portable Brother typewriter… reams of paper and gallons of White-Out, and carbon copies of everything. It took a long time to physically prepare a submittable manuscript.

Back then, I sent out almost everything to publishing houses and magazines, and collected piles of ‘unfortunately, your work doesn’t meet our criteria’ rejection slips. Stories to Reader’s Digest, Field and Stream, and, yes, even Playboy. I kept at it. They should have sent me Christmas cards, I was that persistent. I published a couple of short stories in regional magazines, and poetry and weird little vignettes. I wrote a weekly humor column for the newspaper I was working for, and that lasted ten years until I gave it up… humor is a hard gig! Eventually, I found the whole ordeal of writing-and-rejection discouraging, and stopped writing anything substantial for about five years. My confidence was shot. And then I started again, working on a novel called ‘The Penitent Thief’. It was abrasive, violent, vulgar, and I fell back into it with gusto.

Self-confidence has always been an issue with me, and I couldn’t quite come up with a tone I was happy with. I have at least a dozen or more trunk novels stored away, and probably twice that number of unfinished pieces. I was learning.

I wrote a novel called ‘Cronic’ shortly after I was married. It’s available on Amazon, and it’s an unusual, violent story of a kidnapping. Creatively, it’s a transitional novel. I really played around with the dialogue and settings, and discovered a more confident, rollicking voice. And then I wrote – after a few false starts – ‘Ordinary Handsome’. That was the one. I decided to completely rework the core concept of ‘The Penitent Thief’. My voice was calmer, and the only similarities between the two are the main character – Jimmy Wheat – and the consequences of a tragic getaway, how they spread into other people’s lives. I couldn’t have written Handsome as a younger man. I didn’t have the experience or maturity.

2. I remember the old typewriters and correction tape. I don’t think I would have had your persistence without the advent of personal computers. I’m thrilled that you kept with it. What do you enjoy most about writing? What do you dislike?

I love those moments when it all clicks… when all the elements come together. I like how it still surprises me. How those big ‘what if’ ideas take shape and add texture and dimension. Honestly, I don’t know where the ideas come from, but sometimes they’re like bursts of fireworks, real ‘wow!’ moments. I didn’t know for certain how to end Handsome until I was closing in on the ending. Then it hit me, and I wrote the last couple of thousand words in a single sitting. It’s a huge rush when it works.

What I dislike is my own uncertainty. Can this work, is there enough of a story to sustain it, do I have the chops? Beginning a new book is hard because you’re still high from the last one. You have to invest so much of yourself: time, energy, and heart. It’s sort of like trying to fall in love again, and with this stranger who smiles and then shrugs. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

3. One of the things that impressed me about your prose is your precise word choices and rich sensory imagery. Does that come naturally or do you have to work on it? Any tips on writing prose that you’d be willing to share? 

verytallnewtrucover2Well, I really don’t like cliches. Everything’s been said that’s going to be said, so why not find an interesting way to say it? I’m selective and patient. Does it come naturally? At this point, I think so, yes, but after years of practice. The words are the ingredients in the stew, and I want that stew to have the right flavor. I play around with a lot of flash fiction pieces. Snapshots of characters and conversations. It’s a great exercise… there’s that freedom of not having to plot or finesse. And they’re great for coming up with larger, more substantial ideas.

4. I agree completely on the freedom of flash fiction – it’s all the fun without the labor. You describe yourself as a slow writer. Tell me about your process. Do you use a particular structure? Pantser or outliner?

I guess a little of both. Before I start, I let the idea grow in my head. Think about the characters, the setting, the overall story… map it out until it gels into something workable. Sometimes it’s a particular image: A woman standing alone in a cornfield; a boy dying at the side of a road. They capture my attention and I want to see more. I don’t write outlines, but I do develop the story in my head. Sometimes it pans out, sometimes not. I make cheat sheets on the characters, phrases, the geography of the landscape. I don’t have specific endings in mind, because I want it to be natural and not tacked-on or forced. I follow my instincts, and I trust my characters to take me to there.

When I write, I edit what I’m doing after the chapter is done. Immediately. Strip it down, tighten the bolts. I don’t like to open the document the next day and see messy, rambling copy. I cut a lot of the extraneous stuff, and there is a lot. I’m merciless.

5. Another thing I enjoy about your writing is that you write with an incredibly tight point of view. The result is almost no narrative backstory. Instead, the story percolates up through the characters’ (often unreliable) memories and perceptions. Tell me about this choice and how you balance the tight pov with your readers’ need for cohesion.

Well, thank you, Diana. It’s just the way that fits me, I guess. I know the characters very well, and I like to focus on what they’re seeing and feeling. Their past is a catalyst to how they react, and it feels more fluid if it’s revealed along the way. I want the reader to share the characters’ journey, involve them in the intimacy of the story rather than handing it out in large blocks.

I’m not really a complicated writer, but I try to weave the story so everything stitches together in the end. Sometimes a little reading patience is necessary, but if the reader is engaged, I think it’s worth the trip. So I have to make it engaging… through the characters, the mood, the flow of the story. Create empathy and believability. I think I do that.

6. That reader patience definitely pays off! I noticed a common theme in character and setting in Ordinary Handsome and A Very Tall Summer. Both have characters struggling with poverty in rural settings. Tell me about this choice and how it’s meaningful to you.

I’m familiar with poverty, or at least living paycheck-to-paycheck. I grew up with it and still struggle. I’m a working-class guy. I know these people; I played with them as a kid, I’ve worked with them, I’ve gone hungry with them. It’s real stuff. There’s no pretension: this is who I am, this is what I do, this is how I survive. Those are stories I’m interested in. There’s no abstraction in being poor. There’s grit, but there are also huge dreams, huge courage.

7. The grit, dreams, and courage comes through and gripped me as a reader. Both books I’ve read have a ghostly quality or “thin grasp on reality.” This gives your books a paranormal feel, but they’re more than that. How would you characterize your books? What kind of reader would enjoy them?

coveramazonI’d like to say I write literary fiction, but that sounds so fancy-pants. It’s not really supernatural or paranormal, but I’ve used those elements. I do like the concept of employing a dream-like reality, where these people have a fragile understanding of what’s going on, how they’re looking for the core of what it means. I think there’s a deep romanticism in the characters – and in me… a yearning for something better, something with a solid foundation. Literary fiction, I guess, is probably the broadest category to describe it. I hope any readers would come away with something that will stay with them for awhile, that it will be something relatable.

8. Your books do stick with a reader. I’m proof of that. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Read tons. Write tons. Believe in what you’re writing. Write what interests you, not just what’s popular or current. Learn the fundamentals: grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Don’t be afraid to fail… the more you write, the better you’ll become. Be daring!

9. What are you working on now?

It’s a fairly ambitious project titled ‘The Stone Age’. It’s set in the ’70’s, about three children growing up in Upstate New York. The title refers to a terrifying incident that happens to them that sets their childhood in stone and establishes who they become as adults. There’s love, betrayal, and a very human monster who shapes their lives. I’ve wanted to write something about childhood for a long time, about all its frailties and innocence, and how it fades into adulthood but never completely leaves. I can’t say more than that, but I think it’s going to be pretty substantial book.

10. Give us a teaser for one of your books.

This one comes from “Ordinary Handsome”. It’s a few quiet moments between the main character Jimmy and his dying wife. His confidence is badly shaken after a botched getaway, and his heart is breaking.

I kissed Arlene goodnight. The room was shrouded with blankets and black curtains. A dull 40-watt light bulb constantly shone on her night table, displaying a cluster of pill bottles and cups of stale water. Her forehead was warm, and her hair dull and fine. Her breathing was steady but shallow. The skin on her face looked too tight. And her hair smelled like black tea. I don’t remember if that was its natural smell or if it’s just a never-ending memory, a smell concocted from the drugs and the sweat of dying. I think her hair always had that smell, and it was something always uniquely Arlene. I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t dying.

I can’t tell you how much my heart broke with every goodnight kiss. I sat beside her for a few minutes each night and stroked her hair. I don’t know if she knew I was there, or even sensed it, but it calmed me. I would cup the side of her face and, though it was always damp and somehow greasy, I could feel the soft underneath-skin, the skin I caressed and kissed and marveled over. Minutes would turn to more minutes until I was afraid to leave her, afraid to stay. I don’t know that I had the courage to see her – feel her – die in my presence. I think that kind of courage was beyond me. But I would. I wanted her last physical perception to be my hand stroking her hair, with a kindness that let her know I was still amazed that she chose to be with me at all.”

newauthorpicblSteven Baird – Short Bio 

Steven Baird is an author, amateur photographer, and 36-year newspaper compositor. He does not like speaking of himself in the first person. He has published three novels, including his latest, A Very Tall Summer, and has been writing since the age of 10. He is a slow writer.

Steven is a native Canadian living in southwest Virginia with his wife Angela, a horse, dog, cat, and a Neurotic Band of Chickens (their official stage name). He does not take himself as seriously as his portrait would suggest.

Link to Steven’s Amazon Page:  Here

Steven’s Blog: Ordinary Handsome

Twitter: @SMBairdOrd