Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: June 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Writing Has Taught Me to Keep At It

There are days when the last thing I want to do is work!

I’m sure it’s something all writers have to deal with. It’s so exhilarating to be creative and write novels that the last thing we want to do is crunch numbers, haul boxes, oversee annoying employees, drive a truck, and all those other mundane tasks that make up our day job.

Even writing is a lot more hard work than most people realize! There’s the thrill of creating, but that’s less than 25% of the actual work. You have to spend so much time polishing, editing, rewriting, fixing, changing, and finding mistakes. By the time your book is published, it’s 25% fun and 75% plain old-fashioned hard work.

But, like anything great, it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth waking up one more day to go to your boring day job and put in a solid 8 to 10 hours at the grindstone, all so that you can come home and put your 30 to 90 minutes a day into the work that makes you happy.

Most of the great writers started out writing in their spare time, and they had to find ways to work around their day job. They had to excel at their day job, too, as that was the only way to stay hired while trying to work their second job (write their novels). It’s like having two full-time jobs, and having to excel at both. A lot of hard work!

Thankfully, I’ve learned to keep at it.

Yes, my day job sometimes gets boring. Sitting and writing all day long can take its toll, both on my mind and body. But when I find myself complaining because I have to write another article, I remember what I’m doing it for. Thanks to the regular work that I have, I’m able to put in those hours of “free time” writing novels.

If you keep at it–both your “boring” money-making job and the “exhilarating” job of creating–you’ll find yourself a much better person in the long run. You’ll have the dedication needed for all the hard work of writing (remember 25% fun, 75% work), but you’ll also have that desire to create and the NEED for an outlet. It’s a beautiful balance, and one that can help you be a better, more professional writer and person overall!

 

The Soul Stone front cover

Book Review: Goddess’s Choice by Jamie Marchant 

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and I’m glad to be getting back to traditional fantasy after the last few books!

 

Goddess’s Choice

Samantha’s ability enables her to discern a person’s character through their multi-colored aura, and Robrek’s makes him the strongest healer the kingdom has seen in centuries. But their gifts also endanger their lives. Royals scheme to usurp the throne by marrying or killing Samantha, and priests plot to burn Robrek at the stake.

Robrek escapes the priests only to be captured by Samantha’s arch-enemy, Duke Argblutal; Argblutal intends to force the princess to marry him by exploiting Robrek’s powers. To save their own lives and stop the realm from sinking into civil war, Robrek and Samantha must consolidate their powers and unite the people behind them.

 

My Review: 4 Stars

I have to say that I enjoyed this book! It was a solid read, and though I can’t give it five stars (a few too many problems), it was one that made me want to read the sequel.

About the problems:

The book was VERY long! Something like 900 kindle pages. Ain’t nobody got time for that! It was hard for me to sit through it all.

There were a few issues with head-hopping–switching POV improperly. There were also a few typos and grammar mistakes. Not too bad, but enough to make me take notice.

The flashbacks were done a bit poorly. They didn’t make a lot of sense, and were a bit unclear.

The ending was fairly predictable–this is typical high fantasy, after all–but I enjoyed it. I was genuinely glad to see the villain get what was coming to them, and felt relieved that the pair of heroes saved the day.

 

I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good read, and who has A LOT of time on their hands.

As a bonus, Book 2 just came out this week.

 

The Soul Stone

Crown Princess Samantha and Sir Robrek struggle to solidify their rule in the aftermath of the king’s murder and Duke Argblutal’s attempt to usurp the throne. They are thwarted at every turn by those who seek power for themselves and desire to prevent their marriage. Just when they think their problems are solved, a deadly curse begins to spread throughout Korthlundia and Samantha becomes pregnant.

The Soul Stone front cover

Samantha must fight off priests, enemies, and her closest advisors while Robrek discovers the reason the goddess chose him as king, to defeat the Soul Stone, a stone capable of sucking the soul out of its victims, which threatens to obliterate all life in the joined kingdoms. Their archenemy, the Bard Alvabane, awakens the Soul Stone and plans to use its power to reclaim Korthlundia for her people (a people driven out over a thousand years ago by the hero Armunn). Armunn had to sacrifice his life and soul to contain the Soul Stone. Will Robrek have to do the same? Will the young couple have only a few short months to love each other?

 

Here’s a Taste:

Robrek led the princess through the corridors toward her quarters, the princess leaning against him, giggling, and singing a verse from one of the ballads:

“But who will bake my bridal bread,
Or brew my bridal ale?
And who will welcome my brisk bride,
That I bring over the dale?”

Her bodyguards had to show him the way; she was in no condition to do so. The two men Captain Hawk had appointed were still following him. Both they and Bearach and Conroy stopped at the door to Samantha’s quarters. Robrek followed Samantha in.

When they were alone in her bedroom, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him. Gently, he pushed her away. “You’re drunk, Sam.”

She clung to his shirt. “Please, Robbie, make love to me. Touch me like you did last night in my tent.”

Despite himself, his body responded, and he wanted nothing so badly as to give in. But it wouldn’t be right. “Sam, I can’t take advantage of you when you’re like this.”

Abruptly, she collapsed sobbing against his shirt. “Robbie, I feel so alone. They’re gone! Both of my fathers are gone!”

He led her to the bed. He lay down beside her and let her soak his shirt with her tears. Holy Sulis, she’s lost so much. At least she was crying now. It seemed inhuman to withstand so much loss with dry eyes. He wouldn’t have been able to.

After a long while the sobs subsided and were replaced by a soft snore. She’d fallen asleep on his chest. He gently extricated himself and stood. For the first time, he looked around her room. One entire wall was covered by a painting of a princess, resembling Samantha, riding a Horsetad. Horsetads ran free on the Reidhlean plains, and people said they could never be tamed. Robrek had never known anyone other than himself who had ridden one. He thought of Wild Thing, his Horsetad mare, down in the palace stables, and he reached out to her with his magic. She was sleeping contentedly in the paddock and didn’t want to be disturbed.

Besides the painting, the room held two huge wardrobes, carved with horses and stars in intricate detail. He opened them and found them full to bursting with dresses in silk and satin, lace and velvet, so many she could wear a different one every day for an entire year. Robrek shook his head. Although his father had been considered wealthy by those in the Valley, Robrek had never had more than a couple changes of clothes. Figurines of horses in gold, silver, jade, crystal, and precious stones arrayed themselves on the mantle. Ten years’ proceeds from his father’s crops couldn’t have afforded one of them.

Last night the princess had had him leave her tent before dawn—they’d been camped at the base of Gloine Torr waiting for today’s battle—so it wouldn’t be known they’d slept together. Tonight he didn’t know where to go. Robrek left the princess and walked into her reception room. A life-sized horse made of smoked crystal dominated one corner. It had a gold mane, tail, and hooves and wore a gold saddle studded with emeralds. On the wall was a huge tapestry of a white mare at the edge of the forest, helping her newborn foal stand. The mare reminded him of Roberta, the horse he’d helped Samantha choose at the horse fair where they first met. The mantle was covered with more horse figurines. There was enough wealth in this room to support the entire Valley for a hundred years.

What in Sulis’s name am I doing here?

Not wanting to wrinkle his bronze silks by sleeping in them, he removed them and placed them over a chair. Then he wrapped himself in a blanket and fell asleep on the rug in front of the fire.

 

About the Author:

Jamie Marchant lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her first novel The Goddess’s Choice was released in April 2012 from Reliquary Press. She released Demons in the Big Easy in January 2013. The sequel to The Goddess’s Choice, titled The Soul Stone, will be released in June 2015 from Black Rose Writing. Her short fiction has been published in the anthologies–Urban Fantasy and Of Dragons & Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds—and in Bards & Sages, The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Short-story.me.

Find Book 1 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Goddesss-Choice-Jamie-Marchant-ebook/dp/B007VPA9R6/

Find Book 2 on Black Rose Writing: http://www.blackrosewriting.com/sci-fifantasy/the-soul-stone

Read Jamie’s thoughts on her Website: http://jamie-marchant.com/

And Blog:  http://jamie-marchant.blogspot.com/

Chat her on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jamie-Marchant- Author/164706710298768

Tweet at her: @RobrekSamantha

The Power of a Bad Review

As writers, I think most of us have a natural fear of bad reviews. They feel like a criticism of our hard work and labor of love.

But that’s not always the case! In fact, I’m firmly of the opinion that a bad review is actually a good thing. Let me explain…

On Saturday, I gave a book a 2-star review, and posted that review to my blog–as well as Amazon and Goodreads. The author, of course, did NOT like that. This was the email I received:

I have just seen your review on Amazon. You know, I respect your honest opinion…

However, I came to you personally to ask you to review my book. You didn’t just pick it up. Basically, I expected some kind of courtesy, and if your opinion of it was so negative, to be supportive, especially as you are a fellow author, I would have expected you to not publish a review at all.  

I have never published a review that’s less than 3 stars for a fellow indie author. If I feel strongly that it’s bad writing or whatever, then I’ll tell them privately. I won’t hurt their reputation and their sales. That is common practice, seeing that when an author asks for a review, they expect some kind of support. With your 2-star review all you did is sabotage me. How do you help a fellow author by publicizing a 2-star review? 

I think the most preposterous thing about you, however, is that you had the gall to write to me and ask me to SHARE a 2-star review of my own book on your site!

Again, I have no problem with your honest opinion and if you were just a reader I wouldn’t give you a second thought. But because you’re a reviewer I contacted personally, and a fellow author at that, I am amazed by the way you treated my request.

Hopefully, one day, a careless reviewer just like you will help you realize how appalling and destructive your attitude is. Good luck reaping what you sow.

 

Clearly not a happy camper!

Here was what I wrote back:

If you read the review, you’ll notice that it’s not careless. In fact, I put a lot of thought into that review before I posted it. I didn’t want to smear you or your book, but I wanted two things: 

1) Readers to know what to expect. That’s what the review is all about. I understand that a bad review may not seem like a good thing, but when readers see all 4 and 5-star reviews, it looks a bit fishy. The occasional bad review is actually EXCELLENT, as it shows that you’re not just getting family or friends to review the book. 

2) For you to know what needs work. As a fellow professional writer, it’s often painful to see the quality of things that get posted on Amazon and sold as “books”. Self-published works have gotten a bad reputation because of low-quality writing. In the interest of improving things, I pointed out areas that needed work. Someone did give me a bad review on my previous book, and because of that, my current books have GREATLY improved. You’ll notice that I never attacked you personally, I just stated facts that stood out to me. If you can take this critique (which is what it is, and not a criticism) and use it to make your next book better, you’ll be a far better writer. And isn’t that what we all strive for?

In answer to your question, I’m helping you by forcing you to examine your writing skills and habits and see if they need work or improvement. I’ve been called out on my s**t way too many times to count, and I feel like it has made me a better writer. 

I’m sorry if you don’t like my review, but if you read the text on my website’s review page, it says that I will always be honest. I gave it serious thought before posting it, and I felt it needed to be done. It was not a careless act meant to sabotage, but it was meant to help. Perhaps in the future, you will consider posting a similar review for someone else, and they’ll eventually realize that you were trying to make them better at what they did.

 

Let’s examine the two points I made:

1. Readers NEED to know what to expect. If you were asked to review a blender and that blender exploded in your hand, would you keep that to yourself? Or, like a normal human being, would you post that information online?

Now, read over that review, and I didn’t bad-mouth or slam the author. I pointed out weaknesses in what (I think) was a pretty objective way, even giving the author the benefit of the doubt in some cases. It wasn’t a smear job–it was a thought-out, careful review of a product.

If I was a reader looking into a book, THAT would be the review I’d look for. Not the 5-star “This is AMAZING!” reviews, but the one that says, “These are the weak spots/flaws in this product”. That honest review is what makes readers decide whether or not your product is worth purchasing, and it’s an important part of the free market.

Without negative reviews, your book–or product–is way too suspicious. You can simply “buy” reviews, or ask people to only post good reviews. That’s “gaming” the system, and I don’t think that’s right.

I’m not saying it’s cool to troll Amazon with negative reviews. But if you have put thought and consideration into writing a comprehensive, clear review after testing a product (reading a book, in this case), it’s almost your obligation to post it and warn other people of what to expect. I wouldn’t want to drop $5 to $20 on a book that I’ll hate, all because someone was too afraid of offending others to tell me what was wrong with it. Would you?

2. You NEED to know what to work on. My first 3-star review was a heart-wrenching thing! Someone didn’t like the words I had spent months writing, re-writing, editing, and publishing. Woe is me!

And then I stopped to think about what that person said. I examined their review (a very well-written, concise, and clear one) to find the truth in what they said. I took the good with the bad, and used that to improve my writing. As a result, I KNOW my second book (Blade of the Destroyer) is far better than my first (In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent).

Now, every time I get a bad review, I look at it and mull over the reviewers’ words. There is always truth in what is said, and I use that to improve my writing. Thanks to a bad review, my writing is way better!

Let this be a lesson, folks! Bad reviews can be the kick in the ass you need to write better, but it can also help to improve your sales. After all, balanced reviews (with both the good and the bad) can be a far greater selling point than all the 5-star reviews in the world. I can’t think of a SINGLE novel–no matter how awesome–that has nothing wrong with it.

To all the people who will read my books now and in the future, if you have a genuine reason for disliking or not enjoying my books, I want you to tell me! Give me a 1-star or 2-star review if that’s what you think it deserves, but explain why. That way, I can look over your opinion and give it due consideration.

Your blasting of my work may be the key to my becoming a better writer!

TROUBLE EBOOK COV FLATDEC

Book Review: Into Trouble by Gordon Long

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I have a treat for you! I posted a review about Book 1 of the “World of Change” series–titled Out of Mischief–and I’ve just finished reading Book 2…

 

Into Trouble

Just as Mito seems to be solving her problems, Aleria’s hopes for a solution to her own difficulties fade as the dreams increase and her dissatisfaction with her life deepens.

A mission to obtain information leads her to a more subtle danger; is Lord Fauvé a clever rebel, or is he a very tempting solution to her search for a place in life?

TROUBLE EBOOK COV FLATDEC

But again the world she has been so sheltered from reaches out and slaps her in the face. Suffused with rage at her ultimate degredation, Aleria goes about taking her revenge with methodical skill.

But in the aftermath she discovers that she is even farther from the old traditional life she had always avioded. And when the dictates of society threaten her friendship with Mito, Aleria decides it’s time to straighten out the whole lot of them.

 

My Review: 4 Stars

First off, let’s dish about the bad:

The book had a few structural flaws. If I hadn’t read Book 1, I wouldn’t have understood a thing. There was no basic explanation to remind me of who the characters were when I first met them. If someone picked it up without reading Book 1, they’d be lost.

Book 1 was all action and activity, but Book 2 was much slower. Very little tension, fear, or trouble. I spent most of the book waiting for something to happen. Once it did, it was just two or three chapters near the end.

There was no real climax to the book. The “villain” gets his deserved justice, but with no real build-up or tension. There was no fear of failure or loss. Nothing to make me bite my nails or sit on the edge of my seat.

The climax was also too far from the end. I like my climax to be one of the final chapters, but there was still a few chapters of additional story after the climax. They help to further the plot A LITTLE, but they don’t help the tension of the story.

There was also no “hook” to make me interested in reading Book 3. I was hoping there would be a hint as to the “mystery” of the next book, but it ends all wrapped up a neat little package–with no loose ends to lead me to Book 3.

However, I did enjoy the book. The character of Aleria was great, though I liked her better in Book 1. There was a lot to make the story interesting, solid dialogue, witty writing, and the plot–while a bit slow–is solid and well-written.

 

Here’s a Taste:

The bandit leader looked around. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do with you.”

Aleria shrugged. “I sort of figured you’d do what bandits usually do. When you’ve had enough fun, you turn me loose, I walk to the nearest farm, and you skedaddle the other way.”

She glanced at him from under lowered eyebrows. “Now, if you was to kill me, there’d be king’s soldiers and Dalmyn mercenaries bustin’ the bushes from here to breakfast time. You’re much better lettin’ me go. I c’n understand you boys wantin’ some fun. Must be lonely, on the run all the time.”

She slipped her hand up her sleeve to feel the comforting steel of her hideaway dagger. “But next time, let’s do it proper ‘n’ private. None of this skirt over my head and everybody standin’ round.”

She tried to smile at him. “I do much better with a soft bedroll under me.”

 

About the Author:

Brought up in a logging camp with no electricity, Gordon Long learned his storytelling in the traditional way: at his father’s knee. He spends his time editing, publishing, travelling, sailboat racing and writing fantasy and social commentary, although sometimes the boundaries blur.

Gordon lives in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, with his wife, Linda, and their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Josh.

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Trouble-World-Change-Book-ebook/dp/B00RDGFPO0/

Connect with Gordon via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gordonalongrenaissancewriter

Writing Has Taught Me to Look for Mistakes

One of the hardest things for me to realize was that I am a flawed person. I don’t mean when it comes to personality or temperament, but I mean more along the lines of professional skills. Let me explain…

When I first started out writing, I knew that I had a lot to learn, but I considered myself pretty skilled. By the time I completed my first novel, In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent, I thought I had the writing thing down pretty well.

Boy, was I in for a shock! A few reviews opened my eyes (I’ll be writing about this on Friday), and I came to realize that I had A LOT to learn.

magnifying-glass

My dad always said, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” I always hated that saying, but it’s absolutely true! As I delve more and more into the world of writing, story-telling, and being an author, I realize that there is so much to learn.

Which has helped me tremendously! I’ve come to understand that I will make mistakes in my writing. With that understanding, I’ve started to actively SEARCH for those mistakes. If I can find them myself, it will improve the quality of the work by the time it gets to the people who are reading it–alpha readers, beta readers, editors, and finally the general public.

It’s amazing how often I end up correcting my writing. Take that sentence right there as an example. It started out as “correcting myself as I write. I changed the structure of the sentence in order to improve it (or at least I think it’s better).

Any time I write, I look for mistakes. I’m comfortable with the fact that I will make them, so I can look for them to eliminate them.

The same with life! I’m going to make mistakes as a partner, a parent, and a professional, but that’s not a problem. It’s just part of being human. But if I can look for the mistakes I’m making, I can correct and eliminate them before they affect those around me.

Thanks to this simple habit, I’ve improved not only my writing, but also myself!

 

NECKLACE OF ATHENA533x800

Book Review: Necklace of the Goddess Athena by Effrosyni Moschoudi

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and today I’ll be bringing you a book that combines Greek culture and mythology with time travel…

 

Necklace of the Goddess Athena

Phevos and his sister Daphne are time travelers from ancient Greece. Unaware of the reason their father has sent them to modern-day Athens, they settle down in this new world with the assistance of two orphaned siblings. Soon, the four youngsters stumble upon vital information that can help them find their missing parents.

NECKLACE OF ATHENA533x800

When they discover a secret cave in the Acropolis foothills, a precious finding causes them to become involved in a conflict between two Gods, one of which becomes their protector and the other, their worst nemesis. Who will prevail when the rival Gods meet again and will the mortal bystanders survive to tell the tale?

 

My Review: 2 Stars

I wish I had more good things to say about this book, but sadly I found myself disappointed.

First off, it’s over 600 pages long, and the story moved so slowly that I lost interest every second page. I feel like the author could have told the story with 50% of the words used–overwriting was a big problem with this book. To me, it seemed like the author forced an emotional turmoil to try to help us connect with the characters, but it felt forced and contrived.

To me, it seemed like English was the author’s second language. The construction of sentences and expressions were off–not incorrect, just abnormal, as if they were accustomed to thinking in another language and used that construction in their writing.

There was A LOT of purple prose, which I can’t stand. For example: “Ksenia…” he whispered and then the velvet of his lips came to seal hers with a silent vow of love in a tender kiss that was the first one for both of them. — Definitely not my favorite!

The book is written primarily in passive, there are a lot of run-on sentences, the grammar is a bit iffy, there’s missing punctuation and punctuation in the wrong places, adverbs like “funnily enough” are all over the place, and there is a lot of word repetitions. The overuse of adjectives and adverbs takes me out of the story.

The POV doesn’t really work. The book does a lot of head-hopping! It also tells what’s going to happen, but not in a good way. Things like, “Little did X character know that his world was going to change forever”. A bit too cliché, and poor writing in my opinion.

I found it odd that the author focused on details, like the dialect of Greek spoken by the characters. Some details are too niche-specific to be general entertainment. There are also a lot Greek expressions that aren’t explained or translated, so they don’t have meanings to the average reader

To finish it off, there was no real climax. I never felt a moment of panic, tension, or fear for the main characters.

 

Here’s a Taste:

Efimios stood at the edge of the precipice. Down below, the sea raged with tremendous force. A howling wind caused his long robes to billow like broken sails on a ship that’s lost in a storm. He opened his hand and stared at the necklace with loathing. The salty bite of the wind stung his eyes but funnily enough, that gave him comfort. He couldn’t have chosen a better place for what he was about to do.

“Athena, almighty Pallada! Protectress of the city of Athens, hear me!” he cried out with all his might and yet, his voice was barely audible over the deafening crash of the waves on the rocks below. As he stretched out his hand, the sky erupted with lightning and loud crashes of thunder. The pendant was now hidden from view inside his fist, but its golden chain was swirling in the wind, whipping his hand. Undeterred and not in the slightest afraid, he looked up to the rumbling heavens, his teeth clenched, his eyes alight with fury.

“Here in my hand,” he yelled, “I hold your necklace that you entrusted me with when I was only a child. For the services that I have offered you devotedly for the protection of Athens, you have repaid me with cruelty! I could perhaps understand it if you were to punish only me but my son? What has Phevos ever done to you? He is just a boy! How could you do this to him?”

Efimios lowered his hand to take one last look at the necklace. It glowed brilliantly as lightning bolts ripped the sky but its beauty was lost upon him.

“Do you forget so easily?” he burst out, his face contorted with wild exasperation. “I have been at your command for so long! And this is how you thank me? Did you think that following your orders has been easy for me? Because of you, I belonged nowhere and to no one, having anything but a normal life… but since you chose to repay me in this manner, surely you cannot expect me to serve you any longer! Indeed, this is where it all ends! Your wretched cave in the Acropolis hill will never be used again! I have made sure of that! As for your precious necklace, this evil noose that you had me wear around my neck, I have minded it for you long enough!”

With a forceful throw, the necklace of Goddess Athena disappeared in the vastness of the foamy sea. A myriad of thunderbolts flashed all around Efimios as he started to walk away from the precipice. He quickened his pace, and his face brightened with the promise of a smile. His heart felt lighter already. Without a shadow of a doubt, he knew that one day his suffering would end.

 

About the Author:

Effrosyni Moschoudi was born and raised in Athens, Greece. As a child, she often sat alone in her granny’s garden scribbling rhymes about flowers, butterflies and ants. She’s passionate about books and movies and simply couldn’t live without them. She lives in a quaint seaside town near Athens with her husband Andy and a naughty cat called Felix. Her debut novel, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, is a #1 Amazon bestseller in Greek & Roman literature. The first part of her romance trilogy, The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb, is an ABNA Quarter-Finalist.

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I5GXHCO

Read her thoughts on her website: http://www.effrosyniwrites.com

Tweet at her: http://www.twitter.com/frostiemoss

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authoreffrosyni

Or on Google+: https://plus.google.com/+EffrosyniMoschoudi

 

A Few Thoughts on Life…

I was browsing the Goodreads Quotes section the other day, and I found a few thoughts on life that I just HAD to share:

“If you boil it down, just because someone else does the wrong thing we are not exempt from doing what’s right.”― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

“Even when we do not actively participate in our destiny, we are still on a chosen path. Life has a way of making decisions for us.” ― Nina Guilbeau

“Adventure begins with a thought, decision and action.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita, Beautiful Quotes

“Although I may not like the different streets and paths life has taken me through, I have come to appreciate them afterwards.” ― Buky Ojelabi

“When we are able to do something so easily, we regard such thing as simplicity; but simplicity is complexity. Withing the things which are simple lay the things which are complex and within the things which are complex, lay the things which are simple.” ― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

“The worth of a person’s thought is measured not by the quantity but by the quality of the support that it has got and this quality is defined by a single factor, which is only people’s human character.”― Anuj Somany

“If you do not actually know the story, then do not pretend you can tell it.” ― B. Thomas Harwood

“While she wanted to look neither to her past nor her future, she lived exclusively in both. They had took different paths, but they had journeyed, so she realized, together.” ― Monica Ali, Brick Lane

“No matter how hard you try, there are times when things just don’t go as planned. And, it’s not because you are doing something wrong. It is because the thing you are after is not designed for you. It is not a part of your destiny.” ― Amaka Imani Nkosazana

“In the end, those who demean others only disrespect themselves.” ― D.B. Harrop

“We’re never the same person twice.” ― Jennifer-Crystal Johnson, Strangers with Familiar Faces

“It is the transience of life which proves its inestimable worth.” ― D.B. Harrop

Courtesy of Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/thoughts-on-life
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Book Review: Smile Now, Cry Later by Paul MacDonald

It’s Book Review Wednesday, the best day of the week. Today’s book is a humorous mystery novel, and the “detective” is none other than a cynical Human Resources rep. Say what?

 

Smile Now, Cry Later

176 million work in Corporate America.
86% are miserable.
Chuck Restic is one of them.

SNCL

Chuck is wasting away in a soul-crushing job as an HR exec for a large corporation. But when he ventures out of his Los Angeles skyscraper to investigate the disappearance of a colleague, he starts to feel alive again. Chuck’s not your typical Private Investigator (he prefers a passive-aggressive approach over the old-fashioned fisticuffs kind) but he is amusingly effective at solving crimes. And at last he is able to apply that HR experience — the same one that gives him so much consternation — to a finer purpose.

This first book in the humorous mystery series takes Chuck from the shady underworld of Armenian mobsters to the billion-dollar land developments that serve as the lifeblood of Los Angeles. Murder lurks at every turn and this amateur sleuth needs to find the killer before his name is added to the list.

My Review: 4 Stars

From the moment I opened this book, I found myself laughing at the main character’s cynical take on the corporate life. For anyone who has spent time in a corporate setting, it’s absolutely true. One of my new favorite detectives–sort of a modern day, passive-aggressive version of Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I.

The book’s main plot was all about real estate, which I found a bit hard to understand, but the author had a VERY solid grip on the ins and outs of the industry. He also seemed to understand life as an HR rep very clearly, and a decent understanding of police procedure.

The writing had a few flaws. It was written in primarily passive voice, and roughly 30% of punctuation was missing (a lot of commas needed!). The book’s pace was VERY slow. Not much mystery and thrill for a mystery/thriller.

However, it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the main character. It was a solid book, and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for something interesting and out-of-the-norm to read.

 

Here’s a Taste:

My first and only interaction with Ed Vadaresian was over an excessive cologne complaint. An administrative assistant and mother-to-be on the thirty-second floor was unable to complete her daily functions because of debilitating headaches she suffered throughout the day. She attributed the headaches to a heightened sense of smell brought about by her pregnancy and to the overwhelming scent of Mr. Vadaresian’s cologne. It appeared that his simply walking past her cubicle sent her reeling with sharp pains behind her left eye for which the only respite was a long nap in the darkened back seat of her Subaru.

The complaint was quickly escalated to my desk after an initial review warranted involvement from senior management. The administrative assistant had hit the trifecta for trial lawyers: lesbian, African American, and over forty. Throw in pregnant and she attained a legendarysuperfecta status which most HR executives never witness in their entire careers.

The administrative assistant was well-known to our department. In her brief four-year career she had lodged a total of seven complaints, including the one against Ed. They ranged from the ludicrous (serving Aunt Jemima syrup at the annual pancake social was a direct assault on her as a woman of color) to the extremely ludicrous (a request to eradicate the phrase “low hanging fruit” from our lexicon as it was offensive to women of a certain age). She also had an issue with tardiness, failed to meet many of her deadlines, and overall was a consistently inconsistent performer. All of this, however, was irrelevant when it came to the complaint lodged against Ed.

Human Resources exists not as a “resource” for associates (the term “employee” was eradicated decades ago from corporate offices) but as a way for corporations to limit exposure to lawsuits. The majority of programs, counseling, and conflict resolution services all worked towards a single goal: avoid getting sued. A decade ago I unveiled a new concept at the company called the “Mother’s Room” (it was renamed “Resting Room” after a complaint by a single-parent dad). This was a dedicated room on every floor where a mom could go to relax, or if she was breast-feeding, to pump milk in private. The rooms contained a small cot, a mini-fridge for the milk, and a phone in case of emergency. Publicly, we wanted to encourage a healthy work/life balance and smooth the difficult transition from having a child to returning to work. Privately, we witnessed an alarming spike in maternity-fueled legal actions and figured the costs of maintaining a seven-by-five room with an Army cot paled in comparison to the cost of attorney fees and cash settlements on unhealthy workplace lawsuits. There is no justice in Corporate America, only the lens of the liability framework.

So when the excessive cologne complaint was lodged by a low-performing associate with a history of mental instability against an associate who had a long, respected track record of adding value to the company, we had no choice but to bring Ed Vadaresian in for some feedback.

 

About the Author

Paul MacDonald is a 20-year veteran of Corporate America. He has endured countless PowerPoint decks, offsite retreats and visioning sessions, synergies and synergistically-minded cross-functional teams, to bring you the Chuck Restic mystery series. He lives with his wife, son and blind dog in Los Angeles.

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Writing Has Taught Me to Do Less

This may not sound like a good thing, but hear me out….

When I sit down to write, I want to keep writing until I have finished the story. I’m so excited about what I’m going to put down on paper that I don’t want to stop. Being a storyteller is highly addictive, as I’m sure many of my fellow authors can attest!

But if I spent all of my time writing, I wouldn’t get anything else done. I have a family to care for, responsibilities around the house, a body to take care of, and so on. If I don’t spend time with the family, at the gym, taking a break, and paying the bills, we’d be in serious trouble!

So I have to intersperse my writing with the rest of my work–as all newbie authors do. Unlike those of you fortunate enough to dedicate your life to the work you love, I (along with 99% of the world’s population) have to go to work every day. It’s hard to fit the “work I love” in with the rest of stuff.

I’ve written about how I’ve had to push myself hard to write more, but I’ve also had to learn how to do less. Why is this a good thing?

Back to the “addictive feeling” mentioned above. I can (and have) sit down and write for hours on end, but I’m pretty sure the people I live with wouldn’t like that. If I did that during the work week, a lot of other things (like the kids’ homework, the cooking and cleaning, workouts, taking the kids to their events, etc.) would be neglected. So I have to force myself to do LESS than I really want to do, all for the sake of keeping things on an even keel.

But in many ways, I think my writing comes out better for it. It’s hard at times to work on big projects one small chunk at a time, but breaking the writing down into small chunks helps me to keep things on track.

So I’m forced to do less, but it helps me make it quality. If I know that I’m only going to get an hour of writing time in, I’ll do my damnedest to make the most of that hour. In that hour, I get as much done as I can, and then I move on. No prolonging the work, no “just a little bit more…” Get in, write, and get out. Makes for much cleaner writing, and a much happier family!

Learn to do less at a time, and you’ll find that you get a lot more done in the long run–and with less displeasure from those around you.

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We All Have “Those” Days…

You know those days I’m talking about, the ones where the last thing you want to do is work!

Perhaps you’d rather spend all day sleeping, or there’s that video game that has been calling out to you for months. For some (like me), instead of working to pay the bills, I’d much rather work on my true passion: writing my novels.

I get pretty frustrated because I spend so much of my day sitting at a computer. I have to get all of my regular work out of the way in order to be free to do the “unpaid” work of writing my novels. So when it’s first thing in the morning and I’m sitting down to write another boring article on the same topic I’ve covered a hundred times, it’s tough to get started.

Thankfully, those days don’t come around all that often. I had one of them a few days ago, but already I’m feeling much better. But when that day rolled around, boy was it hard to find the motivation!

One of the problems is that I feel I don’t have a choice when it comes to my day job. The financial burden for our family rests pretty squarely on my shoulders, so it’s tough to take a day off to work on my “extracurricular projects”. I have a wonderfully supportive girlfriend who is always telling me to take a day off if I need it, but it’s just not that simple. I have responsibilities, articles that need to be written every day or every week. Taking time off is a Herculean effort of rearranging the workload and spreading it out over other days just so I can have a few extra hours of sleep and some relaxation.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this problem. Most freelancers face the same burden of having to work every day, and “vacation” is a word that carries the same mythical connotation as “unicorn” or “delicious fish oil supplement”. Everyone who works has those days when they hate what they do, and they’d so much rather be doing the thing that makes them passionate.

What works to help me get over these days? Unfortunately, the only solution I’ve found that actually works is “just suck it up”. As a father to four, I can’t afford the luxury of saying “I don’t want to work”. In a way, that’s a wonderful thing, because it eliminates any chance that I’d give in to that lazy, unmotivated attitude.

What works to help you get through those days? Leave a comment below and share your secrets…

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