Sunday, December 27, 2009

VBT tour schedule, January 2010

This is the January 2010 tour schedule for VBT-Writers on the Move. There will be no post on 1st or 31st January. Books and interesting articles by new and established authors will be featured and there will be a mystery site giveaway. So it's always worth while dropping by and leaving a comment! The number next to each person's name indicates the day in January that they will do their post.

2 Dianne Sagan is hosting Kevin McNamee
3 Harry Gilleland is hosting Maggie Ball
4 Karen Cioffi is hosting Lea Schizas
5 Kathy Stemke is hosting Heidi Thomas
6 Lea Schizas is hosting Martha Swirzinski
7 Vivian Zabel is hosting Liana Metal
8 Nancy Famolari is hosting Margaret Fieland
9 Elysabeth Eldering is hosting Mayra Calvani
10 Katie Hines is hosting Elysabeth Eldering
11 Helena Harper is hosting Dana Donovan
12 Liana Metal is hosting Debra Eckerling
13 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is hosting Dianne Sagan
14 Gayle Trent is hosting Helena Harper
15 Mayra Calvani is hosting Stephen Tremp
16 Marvin Wilson is hosting Linda Asato
17 Linda Asato is hosting Kathy Stemke
18 Stephen Tremp is hosting Katie Hines
19 Margaret Fieland is hosting Karen Cioffi
20 Darcia Helle is hosting Harry Gilleland
21 Martha Swirzinski is hosting Jane Sutton
22 Heidi Thomas is hosting Darcia Helle
23 Jane Sutton is hosting Nancy Famolari
24 Dana Donovan is hosting Linda Suzane
25 Dallas Woodburn is hosting Marvin Wilson
26 Linda Suzane is hosting Dallas Woodburn
27 Debra Eckerling is hosting Vivian Zabel
28 Heather Paye is hosting Gayle Trent
29 Maggie Ball is hosting Carolyn Howard-Johnson
30 Kevin McNamee is hosting Heather Paye

Happy reading and commenting!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A delightful trip for poetry lovers and a rare tribute to family and friends

I was extremely touched to receive this review recently of my book Family and More - Enemies or Friends? by Glenda Bixler at IP Book Reviewers.

"Helena Harper’s poetry book, Family and More, is autobiographical, but that does not detract from the feelings it engenders from readers! We are able to empathize with the author when she asks, which is my enemy? We are able to enjoy the stories she poetically shares about her family. Personally, I was, overall, impressed with the quality to the poetry and the skill that would be required to share these personal tales!

For indeed they are tales—the tale of her grandparents, her parents, and of herself as a baby. Surely we immediately know that Helena’s father is English and they were living there in England when she was born. And they were already hoping and praying that no war—no bombs or guns would invade the life of their child. Would their daughter be a symbol of hope for the future?

Soon we learn that Helena’s mother is from Germany and how that country was in her youth, only to have war enter that picture and the need to leave their country and escape, enduring “soup of water” for lunch or no food at all. Then we see the courageous woman grow and flourish, even while still under duress.

Will those of us who have never experienced war ever really understand? I think we can begin to by reading the words of those who are willing to share them so revealingly...

On she goes to share of her father, her grandmother, and even of her grandfather whom she had never known. Yet her love shines through as she has gathered information and placed it carefully together to both learn of and tell others of his life.

I found myself in the story of “The Colleague,” as I remembered the woman who was my first mentor and who has remained my best friend for over 40 years!

...showing the way to a younger one
with new ideas
but just three years under her belt.
A gentle manner guiding the younger
and an open mind willingly receiving...
And, alas, I also could well relate to “The Boss,” that individual—or worse—those individuals we all have in our lives who turn out to be “a devil in disguise, ready to stab you in the back...”

Harper then includes medical staff, coaches, etc., who have supported her in some way! Surely, Family and More by Helena Harper is a rare tribute; however, it is also a sharing of poetic words that are both beautiful and thought provoking in how we should remember and realize the impact of family and friends...and even an enemy or two. A delightful trip for poetry lovers as well as those who wish to remember their own families through the experiences of others."
G. A. Bixler
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Family and More is available at present as an ebook from http://www.eloquentbooks.com/Familyandmore.html but it will be coming out as a paperback with photos and more in 2010. So watch this space!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Introducing Deborah Weed, author of “The Luckiest Penny” and a woman on a mission to inspire


As part of the ongoing blog tour of the group VBT-Writers on the Move, it's my great pleasure this month to introduce children's author Deborah Weed.

Deborah was born and raised in Miami and has had an extensive thirty-year career in marketing/ entertainment that has included everything from being Director of Marketing for Fame International, responsible for a 26 million-dollar pavilion; Director of Development for Citibank; Creator/Producer of “Sensations”, “The Disappearance of Dino Dinero”, “The Sticky Bun Bandits” and “Compassionate Chip Cookies & Milk.”

However, a life threatening health challenge redirected Deborah's life. She got stuck and realized that people defined her by circumstances, rather than by a lifetime of experiences. After regaining her mojo, Deborah decided to leap into the world of writing, inspirational speaking and coaching so that she could provide a shortcut for others who are experiencing disappointment and feeling misunderstood.

The Luckiest Penny is Deborah's first book. It's the story of two rare 1943 pennies. One penny remains out of circulation, full of himself and selfish, caring only about how much money he is worth. The other penny decides to experience living and along the way discovers what really matters in life.



I asked Deborah some questions about her book.

What inspired you to write The Luckiest Penny?
I wanted to remind myself, children and everyone else that life has its ups and downs. Yet, we have a choice.Either we can stay in a box and avoid life's disappointments--or we can jump into life. Obstacles will appear and here is where self-worth comes in. . .The only way to believe in ourselves is to keep on standing back up!

Why did you use 1943, pure copper pennies, as your main characters?
If you have a 1943, pure copper penny in your purse it could be worth $83,000 or more. Can you believe it? A lowly penny, that was made by mistake during WWII, is very valuable. When I was stuck in bed with a misdiagnosed, life-threatening illness, I felt pretty worthless. When I heard about the 1943 penny, I found my metaphorical hero!

What is your goal?
This book was written to give children a healthy set of values that will assist them on their journey in life. I want them to remember what is really important so that they don't get discouraged by life's roller-coaster ride.

What is the theme of The Luckiest Penny?
The book’s genre is a fable/allegory. There are a couple of central messages in the book: why experience is more valuable than money; how love makes us all whole; and why it doesn't matter how much something costs but what it's worth to us.

Could you tell us about the illustrations?
The illustrations by Ernest Socolov transport the reader into the alternative world of a penny who is tarnished, yet loved!

I believe there is going to be a musical production about the book?
YES! An original, musical interactive production is being created and produced and should be ready very soon. The original songs are fun and yet meaningful. I will be working with foundations, schools, fairs, etc. to perform the production and then talk about what it means to us.

This is what others have said about Deborah's book.

The Luckiest Penny gives us all an opportunity to look at what we value about ourselves and others. It's an engaging story that encourages the conversation of self-worth and love.”
Laura Duksta, Author, New York Times Bestseller, I Love You More

"Here's a story that shares why we need to jump into life - Live Fabulous Now!"
Sandy Grason, Int'l Speaker, Author & Founder of the JOURNALUTION: Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life and Manifest Your Dreams

"Deborah Weed has written a timeless fable that reminds us and our children what really matters. This lovely story is about love and values, and it will enrich and inspire you at this time of great challenge and change, when so many families are having to reevaluate what is important."
Ellen Brazer, Author of Clouds Across the Sun, http://ellenbrazer.com/

"This book is a treasure to share with your grandchild of any age. The story of two pennies is intertwined with the relationship between grandfather and grandson. It shows children what unconditional love truly is and the value of every single person, no matter how small, no matter what!"
Lily Prellezo, Author of Seagull One: The true story of Jose Basulto and Brothers to the Rescue

To purchase a copy of the book or find out more about it, go to http://www.theluckiestpenny.com/

Deborah is currently working on a second children’s book with collaborator Ellen Brazer - a book that shares her father's wisdom (Dancing on my Father’s Shoes) - and she has established a social network to help people of all ages and backgrounds get unstuck.

Deborah is also an award-winning artist. Water sculptures are the primary medium for her mixed media pieces. The result is a salubrious technique that takes color into a new arena of purity that is vivid, fluid and alive. Residing in trendy South Beach is her inspiration. The vibe there is bold and daring and her studio is literally on the white sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. According to her collectors, her work titillates the senses and is very sensual.

You can contact Deborah at deborahweed@mac.com
And these are her websites:
http://deborahweed.ning.com/
http://web.mac.com/deborahweed
http://www.discoveredartists.com/gallery/ArtofBliss

Monday, November 30, 2009

VBT-Writers on the Move, December 2009 blog tour

This is the schedule for December's tour. All posts will be made on 1st December. If anyone is interested in joining our group of writers who all help to promote each other on an ongoing basis, then go to VBT-Writers on the Move and contact the group administrator, Karen Cioffi.

Dianne Sagan is hosting Lea Schizas

Karen Cioffi is hosting Heidi Thomas

Kathy Stemke is hosting Martha Swirzinski

Lea Schizas is hosting Brigitte Thompson

Nancy Famolari is hosting Kathy Stemke

VBT Writers on the Move is hosting Karen Cioffi

Crystalee Calderwood is hosting Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Katie Hines is hosting Stephen Tremp

Helena Harper is hosting Deborah Weed

Liana Metal is hosting Dianne Sagan

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is hosting Debra Eckerling

Gayle Trent is hosting Dana Donovan

Mayra Calvani is hosting Helena Harper

Marvin Wilson is hosting Mayra Calvani

Linda Asato is hosting Marvin Wilson

Stephen Tremp is hosting Gayle Trent

Elysabeth Eldering is hosting Katie Hines

Darcia Helle is hosting Linda Asato

Deborah Weed is hosting Liana Metal

Brigitte Thompson is hosting Nancy Famolari

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Be focused, be strong, be inspired, be grateful...

I wanted to share this message with others, so if you've ever felt like giving up, then take a look at Tony Robbins's 5 Keys To Thrive and Nick Vujicic's extraordinary video "Get Back Up". Nick Vujicic was born without any arms or legs and yet lives a happy and fulfilled life. Once you've seen this video, you will be inspired to never, ever give up and you will feel extraordinarily grateful for all the wonderful blessings in your life - it is very, very moving.

As I watched the video, I was vividly reminded of my own poem 'Thank you', which I've posted before but would like to post here again. It seems so applicable.

THANK YOU

Thank you for the breath that moves my body
and for the limbs that carry my spirit.

Thank you for the heart that beats in my chest
and for the mind that creates it.

Thank you for the fingers curling my hand
and for the toes dancing on my feet.

Thank you for the conscious energy surging through every cell,
connecting me to the ever-present ocean of eternity.

Thank you for the touch of my skin
and the comforting caress of warm water.

Thank you for the stillness of early morning
and the invigorating slap of cold air.

Thank you for the new spring life filling my eyes
and the symphony of bird song filling my ears.

Thank you for this land we belong to,
for the plants that talk to us
and for our sisters, the trees.

Thank you for warm smiles of family
and helping hands of strangers, friends in disguise.

Thank you for the laughter vibrating through my body
and for the words expressing from my mouth.

Thank you for the excitement of inquiry
and the fascination of discovery.

Thank you for bright patterns of T-shirt and trousers
and soft cuddles of dressing gown sleeves.

Thank you for the sweet melon melting my tongue
and the rich wine warming my throat.

Thank you for the dying sun
and for the colours that pulse
in unison with my soul.

Thank you for imagination's unfettered flights
soaring through infinite wonder and joy
and for inspiration, the whispered language of a loving soul.

Thank you for this magical, wonderful,
joyfully abundant, never-ending now.

Copyright © Helena Harper


What are you grateful for?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Remembrance



I was asked to write a poem for the remembrance service in my local community on 11th November 2009 and this is what I wrote - a poem to honour those who have fallen in the wars that have scarred and continue to scar our planet.
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Today we remember,
today we show respect,
honouring those who've fallen,
the brave, courageous dead.
My heart bleeds for their sacrifice,
for the families who've cried,
for the pain and hurt
when their precious loved ones died.

How many more victims must there be
before the heartache and fighting can stop?
Before families lose the fear
of being wrenched apart
and children can enjoy every day
because human lives are no longer lost?

The wars continue,
the fighting lives on,
but my hope is for a future
where such things will have ceased
and all of mankind can finally live
in unity and peace.

Copyright © Helena Harper
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If you have a tribute you'd like to share - poetic or otherwise - then please do!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Introducing Stephen Tremp and his 'Breakthrough' novel

This month the yahoo group VBT-Writers on the Move is celebrating its first anniversary. As part of this month's tour there are some wonderful prizes available to non-members, if they leave a comment on members' posts, so if you happen to drop by this post and you're not a member of the group, it'll be worth your while to leave a comment, as you may well be in line to win some great books written by members – and you will be given a choice! So what more could you want?

This month it is my pleasure to introduce Stephen Tremp and his first novel Breakthrough. I took the opportunity to first ask Stephen some questions.

What or whom inspires you to write?
I just see life and all of my experiences as one continuous action suspense story just waiting to be transferred to paper. I see “what if” scenarios throughout the day, regardless of where I am, what I’m doing, or who I’m with. I also draw much inspiration from Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, Stephen King, and the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child tandem. I read a lot of fiction thrillers and felt I needed to identify a unique niche market that a large segment of the population could identify with and get excited about. I think I’ve found it in a world where the Information Age is moving at breakneck speed, and breakthroughs in areas of science that were once fodder for science fiction are now becoming a part of our everyday life. I believe I’ve found my calling, my gift to the world.

How did you get started?
I accepted a voluntary layoff after toiling over 10 years in the banking and finance industry and took advantage of the opportunity to write full-time. Breakthroughs in physics and technology are broadcast into millions of homes via numerous cable channels in layman’s terms and computer graphics anyone can understand. I thought I would capitalize on this particular niche and incorporate them into an action thriller series weaving together breakthroughs in physics and technology with greed, murder, and mayhem. Will these breakthroughs benefit mankind and be used to further civilization, or will they be stolen and used for greedy gain? I think we know the answer. That’s why the world needs a hero like my protagonist Chase Manhattan.

What did you find to be the most frustrating step/process of getting your first novel published?
I signed a non-exclusive contract with iUniverse, who was acquired by AuthorHouse. During the transition, much information was lost and it took about two or three additional months to bring Breakthrough to market. iUniverse (really, AuthorHouse) originally sent my unedited draft off to print. Can you imagine my response when I received the (ahem) final product? This was just the beginning of a series of comedies of errors. But iUniverse has terrific customer service. They fixed everything in a timely manner. So some of the sting of their mistakes (which were many) were soothed by awesome customer service reps.

Do you have an agent? If yes, how long did it take for you to find one?
I do not currently have an agent, but I am actively pursuing one. I use Publisher’s Marketplace, a site to look for reputable agents and view deals they have made over the past couple years. It took about three months of receiving feedback from various sources before I felt my query letter was professional. I even had my editor / proofreader go over it. I now understand why, after my initial effort of sending out my query letter, I received rejections for every one. I feel much more confident today and have just this past week sent out about 50 query letters to specific agents. I’m expecting big things in the near future.

How long did it take you to write Breakthrough?
Two years from start to finish. I thought I could accomplish everything in about eight months. But after the first editing/proof reading, I realized I still had a lot of research to perform and character development to perform. Then I had a second editor / proof reader go over the entire manuscript a second time. This was money well spent.

Are your characters based on yourself or anyone else you know?
The protagonist, Chase Manhattan (I may have to change his name to Chase Hawkings) is loosely based on me, only he’s a little bit taller than I am, a little bit better looking, a little faster, stronger, smarter, and much richer. The rest of the good guys (and girls) and bad guys (and girls) are partially made up and partially based on people I’ve known throughout my life.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
Honestly, I don’t suffer from writer’s block, although there are times when I do write that I can’t use the material because it lacks substance or excitement. So I save the material and revisit the snippets in the future. I have a junkyard of sorts, and if I need a part, I go to my junkyard, grab what I need, then polish, refine it, and insert it.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?
I really don’t struggle very much as I love what I do. I love performing due diligence in my research. Much of the two years I spent writing Breakthrough was devoted to researching the latest and greatest in the realm of physics. I also had to research the Boston and Cambridge, MA area via the Internet as well as Boston police procedures. I also use Google Earth and yearly weather reports to describe a particular area. Honestly, there is so much information available at my fingertips, the biggest struggle I have is sorting through the wealth of information and eliminating irrelevant data.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get a book published?
The number one piece of advice I can give an aspiring author is to budget money for a competent editor / proofreader. Even editors who want to write and publish a book need an editor. This is the biggest, and one of the easiest, mistakes an author can make. Editors / proof readers are vital to your success. Vital is an appropriate word. It means: necessary for life. Don’t try to go it alone, even if you call yourself an editor. You need that second set of eyes to look over your manuscript before you forward it on for printing. You’re only as good as your editor / proof reader. Perception is reality, and the person buying your book will be the ultimate judge, not you, the author. I can say this with confidence, and hope to convince everyone I can to find a way to budget for a quality editor / proof reader. Most editors / proof readers will review your first 10 pages for free. I’m confident even the most experienced writers will be amazed at the results. Do what I did; pay for a few pages here, a few chapters there. Before you know it, your entire manuscript will be transformed into a work of art.

Please share with us your latest work-in-progress.
I am currently writing the next two installments of the Breakthrough trilogy entitled Opening and Escalation. These two books will pick up where Breakthrough left off and take the story on an international level. The setting is the United States, China, and the Middle East. These next books are very exciting as I use more discoveries and breakthroughs in physics in these books. Its too early to give away anything from these books, but for those who read Breakthrough, they will have a pretty good idea what direction Opening and Escalation will go. What’s awesome for me is that I do not have to not have to set my stories centuries in the future and use characters with pointy ears. Since mankind is on the cusp of discoveries and breakthroughs in just about every facet of our lives, I can use our modern day setting and not have to resort to using a science fiction genre. I’m also outlining an eerie Stephen King-type thriller entitled Murcat Manor set in Michigan.

Thank you so much, Steve.
It's been a pleasure, Helena. Thank you.



If that hasn't whetted your appetite for Steve's book, then I think this description of the book and the reviews it's been getting will!

Synopsis of Breakthrough
In a world where the Information Age is moving at breakneck speed, breakthroughs in areas of science that were once fodder for science fiction are now becoming a part of our everyday life. A group of graduate students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have stolen a breakthrough in opening and stabilizing Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or wormholes, as they are commonly known, that allows them to instantly transport people from one location to another. Their goal is to assassinate any powerful politician and executive controlling the world’s banking system that would use this technology for their own greedy gain rather than the advancement of mankind.

Meanwhile, in south Orange County, California, young Chase Manhattan, part of a new breed of modern-day discovery seekers, seeks to leave behind his life of danger and adventure and settle down as an associate professor of physics at University of California-Irvine. He also desires to build a lasting relationship with a beautiful girl he has not seen since high school. But within days, he uncovers the diabolical scheme on the other side of the country and finds himself the one person who can prevent more murders from happening and who can ultimately destroy the technology.

However, once the MIT group realizes Chase and his friends have the ability and motivation to not only take the breakthrough technology from them, but also thwart more killings, Chase soon finds himself in their cross-hairs, the latest target on their list of assassinations. As the death toll mounts, Chase and his friends must battle this group of ambitious graduate students from MIT on both coasts and in cyberspace in a desperate race to control or destroy this breakthrough that threatens to drastically change life as we know it.Breakthrough, the first book in the Adventures of Chase Manhattan series, begins with a bang and offers the audience exciting, new and diverse heroes and villains. The result is a fresh suspense thriller series, integrating elements of greed, betrayal, passion, lust, unconditional love, coming of age and hope. The action is swift, and there are numerous twists and turns that will keep the reader turning the pages and wanting more.
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These are just two of the many 5 star reviews the book has been getting.

Review by Mike M: Posted January 15, 2009
A timely book that speaks to our generation with its technological breakthroughs and the struggle to use it for good or for evil. The concepts were well researched. What I liked most were the refreshing characters. Its time to read about new good guys with diverse personalities who somehow find a way to work together. Same with the bad guys. Lots of action with terrific character buildup combined with twists in the plot. Never a dull moment. I also liked the discriptions of Boston, MA and Orange County, CA. I've been to Orange County and appreciate the attention to detail in the cities and establishments the story takes place. Really looking forward to the next book. Rating: 5-stars

Review by Bill Buzzo: Posted March 13, 2009
Breakthrough: The Adventures of Chase Manhattan is a well-written, fast-paced thriller that takes you on a wild ride of suspense and intrigue. Chase Manhattan is a modern day cowboy trying to save the world from people who would choose power, money, and fame over the common interest and overall good of the planet. The storyline grabs you, pulls you in, and leaves you wondering, wow! what if that could really happen?? I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to more adventures with Chase Manhattan. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading, especially those who enjoy thrilling suspense & action incorporated into modern day technology. Rating: 5-stars
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And here is an excerpt from the first chapter.

'He carefully opened the door of the floor safe in the Salon Suite on the fifty-eighth floor of the Wynn Hotel, one of the newest five-star mega hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. Inside: a single item he had been hired to retrieve from an anxious and panicked research scientist in San Jose, Calif. The risks were high—not only for his client, but for himself. He understood that if he were caught, there would be no leverage for negotiation. He would be killed quickly, and his body dumped somewhere out in the middle of the Mojave Desert, like so many other unfortunate, nameless souls over the decades who now called this vast wasteland their final resting place.

There was also the risk that this item could again fall into the wrong hands. He was being paid handsomely to retrieve the stolen nanotechnology—a breakthrough in transferring information that could soon replace the use of wires and printed circuit boards in computers. This development was one of the Holy Grails of the Information Age, exponentially expanding the amount of information that could be stored and the speed at which it could be processed.

He needed to return the breakthrough information to its rightful owner quickly since the possibilities for this discovery were endless and could usher in a new paradigm for how data is input, stored, manipulated, and retrieved. In the wrong hands, it could be used by rogue nations to exponentially enhance the performance of weapons of mass destruction.

Reaching down, he took out the flash drive containing 585 pages of PDF documents outlining how to build this new breakthrough from the bottom up. The thieves who stole the flash drive had set off a small bomb in one of the bathrooms of his client’s three-story office building. Then they called, threatening to blow up the entire building—solely to create the diversion they needed to steal the flash drive. The operation was an inside job masterminded by a trusted colleague whose betrayal Chase’s client never foresaw.'

Breakthrough by Stephen Tremp
* Hardcover: 424 pages
* Publisher: iUniverse.com (December 31, 2008)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0595710700
* ISBN-13: 978-0595710706
* Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches

Available here: http://tinyurl.com/yckmga3
$29.95 List price
$23.96 Online price
$21.56 Member price(Save 28%)

Readers can catch up with Stephen on his blog http://www.stephentremp.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thank heavens for the wonderful child remote!



















Children laughing, screaming, shouting,
frazzled mother searching, searching, searching...
Children screaming, shouting, laughing,
frazzled mother searching, searching, searching...
Children shouting, screaming, laughing,
frazzled mother searching, searching, searching...

Where is it?
Can't find it?
Ah, got it!
Mute button pressed...
Ah, what quiet! What bliss!
Did someone say 'Silence is golden'?
What a truly marvellous quote...
Thank heavens for
the wonderful child remote!

Copyright © Helena Harper

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Katie Hines's urban fantasy novel, Guardian

Katie Hines, fellow member of the group VBT-Writers on the Move, is my guest this month and in this, my second post about Katie, I'll be focusing on her upcoming book, Guardian, soon to be published by 4RV Publishing.

Imagine you have made a secret promise that can lead you to an incredible treasure and an ancient power. But in order to fulfill that promise, you must defeat an age-old sect determined to claim the treasure and power themselves. Would you do it? This is what Guardian, Katie's first novel, is all about.



Review by Deborah Hockenberry

“Promise me you’ll find the journal and search for the treasure,” gasped Drew’s dying mother. “It’s your destiny.”

Three months later, three teenagers sat around a campfire roasting marshmallows. Drew Newman is just about to tell his friends a secret when a man steps out of the darkness. The man carries an old fashioned sword and wears a long, hooded cloak. He lifts Drew’s chin with his sword. “Where is it?,” the man asks. “Where is the book?”

Who is this man and what does he want? Is the book the one Drew touched when he was a kid? The book was leather bound with gold and silver threads embossed on it. The threads formed a tree and its root system. When Drew touched the book magical things happened. Is this the book the man is asking about? What is this mysterious, magical book? Does this have anything to do with the promise he made to his dying mother?

Drew’s adventures start that night and continue when he travels to Nova Scotia where his grandparents live. Grandpa Ian tells him a story that involves Christ’s crucifixion, ancient magic and secret societies. Drew eventually finds out that he’s a contender to be the Holy Grail’s next guardian. He has to answer two questions correctly. Through his answers we learn what the Grail really is.

Ms. Hines combines Christianity and fantasy, making ‘Guardian’ a very enjoyable book. It’s fast paced with a lot of twists, turns and danger!”

===================================================================

TITLE: Guardian
AUTHOR: Katie Hines
PUBLISHER: 4RV Publishing
COPYRIGHT: 2009
GENRE: Middle Grade Urban Fantasy

Find out more about Guardian and the author at: http://katiehines.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Introducing fantasy novelist, Katie Hines

I am delighted to have as my guest this month fantasy novelist and fellow member of VBT-Writers on the Move, Katie Hines.

Katie has been writing snippets here and there for as long as she can remember. When in 8th grade, she wrote a short story called Underworld. Then, in high school, she wrote several poems that were published in an anthology.

Marriage and raising two children contributed to putting away writing for a few years, but she came back to it while in her 40s. Since that time she has been a contributing feature writer and columnist for a local newspaper, has written several features articles for another area newspaper and religious and humor articles for an online Catholic ezine. Her short story My Name is Bib, was published by the Loch Raven Review in October, 2008.

Katie has finished her first novel Guardian, which is soon to be published by 4RV Publishing, and she is now working on another middle grade, urban fantasy novel as well as a couple of chapter books. She is also extending My Name is Bib into a full, young adult novel.

I asked Katie a few questions, so readers could get to know her a little better.

Katie, what genres do you write and why?
I currently have a book under contract which is a middle grade, urban fantasy and I'm working on a follow-up in the same genre. That being said, I also have a young adult novel that I'm working on and a couple of chapter books. I write in these genres because they interest me and because I have a “vision” for my books - I hear them in my head, so am compelled to write.

What prompted you to write your first book 'Guardian' ?
It was really all my husband’s fault! He was the one who first encouraged me to pick up writing, and more specifically, to write a book (as opposed to newspaper articles or copywriting). I had a memoir that I wrote before I knew anything. It was truly horrible. But I also embarked on a several month long education tour, learning as much about writing and the publishing industry as I could. So, with my husband’s encouragement again, I wrote Guardian, which is much better than that first book!

What did you find the hardest thing about writing your book?
Catching my own errors, like having a person be in one room and two pages later be in another room, but not showing them walking from one to the other. That’s not a real example, but you get the picture.

What was the easiest part?
Writing a humorous chapter about chickens. I laughed all the way through writing it.

What pre-publicity are you and/or your publisher involved in to promote your book?
I have a blog, a website is under construction, I belong to many social networking groups, I have a media kit, am a guest blogger on other blogs, and am working on a teacher’s guide. I have also been a guest on a podcast and BlogTalkRadio.

What marketing will you and/or your publisher be doing after publication?
I will utilize corresponding with the contacts I’ve already made, create a media release, throw a book launch party, be involved in local book signings and school visits, and (hopefully) be able to travel in the South a bit to schools and bookstores on a physical tour, but I also anticipate a blog tour.

When you're not writing, what are you doing?
Cleaning house and cooking dinner. Also, keeping close ties with my children and grandchild. Family is big and important to me and comes first.

What are your future writing goals?
I want to finish some of the specific books I'm working on, but I also want to be able to balance my writing life with my personal life better. I take time off to be with family and friends; time I could be writing, but family is most important. I see additional books in my future, and (of course) I see myself winning the Newbery award!

Katie, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for such an interesting and informative interview.


You can catch up with Katie on her blog http://katiehines.blogspot.com

Drop by on Saturday to learn more about Katie's intriguing and fascinating novel Guardian. If you'd like to ask Katie a question, please leave a comment.



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Picture book delight



This poem was inspired by a discussion in one of my Facebook groups which was 'What is the most important part of a picture book?'

Picture Book Delight

Characters, story, pictures...
Which is the biz?
What makes a
picture book delight?
Is the message important?
Must it warm the heart?
For me, all have a part to play,
working together in harmony,
creating a sum
greater than the whole,
producing a wonderful,
magical synergy.

Copyright © Helena Harper

What do you think? What is the most important part of a picture book for you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Encapsulates characters and events breathtakingly

Latest review of my ebook Family and More - Enemies or Friends? (due to come out soon as a paperback).

Family and More by Helena Harper is a tribute, a family portrait, a synopsis of life.

"Family and More, a book of poetry by Helena Harper, is like a poetic synopsis of a wartime saga, the life of a family with a backdrop of history, a memoir told in poetic blurbs. The author encapsulates characters and events breathtakingly. There is so much here to think about once one turns the last page. I was left wanting more! More! Though I love poetry, I'm looking forward to the literary (poetic!) novel (or novels!) where Harper could explore the nuances of each and every memory, hook them together, let us see the relationships, the interaction, the settings, one poignant scene at a time."

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Multi-award winning writer and poet
http://www.howtodoitfrugally.com/

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Does our education system delight both teacher and taught?



With the start of a new school year and parents and children all over the country thinking once more about grades and marks and passing exams, it's a suitable time to consider whether our education system is really delivering what our children and what our society need. My overriding impression after having been a secondary school teacher in the U.K. for the past twenty years is that I've been on a merry-go-round. I've seen things being introduced, then abolished, then introduced again. I've seen more and more exams and tests being introduced and now some of those new exams and tests are being abolished -- and, perhaps, in the future they'll be reintroduced again; who knows? I've had to cut interesting discussions short in class because otherwise I wouldn't have completed the syllabus and been able to do past paper practice with students before the all-important exams. The students have been fixated on getting the highest grades they could because otherwise they wouldn't be able to get into university or do whatever else they wanted to do and would be deemed failures.

The paperwork for teachers has increased substantially because of the increase in the number of examinations and all kinds of other regulations that politicians have seen fit to introduce. Don't politicians just love to interfere with education even though they don't have a clue what teaching actually involves? Expressions of thanks from parents and pupils have grown fewer and fewer whilst complaints have grown ever greater.

The 'aha' moments I've seen in my pupils' faces and the strong bonds I've developed with my colleagues, most of whom are remarkable human beings - intelligent, caring, very hardworking and often showing a much needed sense of humour - have been rewarding. However, the system as it exists at the moment is far from ideal and the longer one is in it, the more aware one becomes of its failings. If teachers could get on with their jobs without interference from politicians; if we could get rid of restrictive syllabuses and fact-based exams that do nothing to promote independent, creative thought; and if we could stress cooperation with others rather than competition, then perhaps – as I say in my book It's a Teacher's Life...! (an amusing, often ironic collection of 'anecdotal' poems relating to the teaching profession) - it will be possible to

'create another
indisputable reality
where education delights
both teacher and taught
and restrictions and syllabuses
are but a long, distant memory.'

My ideal would be an education system where teachers are much more facilitators than instructors. Pupils would be able to choose what they want to study and how they want to study, aided by their teachers, and because they would be learning what they want to learn, there wouldn't be any motivational or behavioural issues. Classes would be much smaller than they are today and prescriptive syllabuses and exams would be a thing of the past. Such a system would produce creative, independent thinking adults, which is what our world desperately needs if it is to find creative solutions to the problems that are facing us today.
***********************************************************************************
What do you think? Do you think that our current education system delights both teacher and taught?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Heaven's Scented Kiss


A poem in memory of an aunt of mine who died recently...

Marie, a name of simple elegance,
like the lady that bore that name,
though her slim, slight build belied
fierce independence, courage and strength,
hiding a will that refused to bow
to norms of conventionality,
helping her to brave life's storms
with resourcefulness and dignity.

Devoted mother,
caring sister,
generous aunt,
freely giving her time
to help the sick and infirm,
informing and enlivening
with gayness of manner
and quickness of tongue.
Taking pleasure creating
culinary delights,
exciting two young nieces
with yawning,
cavernous appetites.
Delighting in nature,
her garden a passion,
feeling at one with plants and trees,
though garden work
as the years go by
is no real friend
to delicate, ageing knees.

Memories of a wonderful companion
for old and young alike,
brighten the eyes and curve the lips
as one sees once more this lady
recounting tales of days gone by
with softish voice and humour wry...
A gentle, kind and wise old soul,
whose days now pass in that garden beyond -
may she find enchantment there,
surrounded by love and peace,
rejoicing in the beautiful flowers
of heaven's scented kiss.

Copyright © Helena Harper

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sunstruck – a novel quite out of the common!

In my second post this month about multi-talented author, blogger and reviewer, Mayra Calvani, I am going to tell you about her novel, Sunstruck.

In the novel twenty-four year old Daniella is an architecture student living with her narcissistic, artist boyfriend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Abandoned by her father at an early age, Daniella always falls for the wrong type of man. Her most enduring male relationship so far is with her 30-pound Turkish angora cat. Thankfully, Daniella's mother is always there to offer a shoulder.

Several strange mysteries are threaded through Daniella's everyday life: her ex-husband, Ismael, has just opened an outlandish hotel for animal lovers that has her distraught; Ismael's wife, a rich woman Daniella fondly refers to as "Lady Dracula," has some gruesome ways to keep her skin looking young; Daniella's mother is founding a revolutionary, feminist society called The Praying Mantises; the island's national forest is being depleted of hallucinogenic mushrooms; meanwhile, young girls are disappearing and there's a nut loose, dressed as Zorro, slashing the rear ends of women who wear miniskirts.

Oppressed by all these crazed, eccentric characters, Daniella feels herself falling into an abyss. Then something horrendous happens, making Daniella wake from her stupor and take charge of her life.

Readers can find out more about the novel at www.sunstruckthenovel.blogspot.com

**************************************************************************
Review of Sunstruck:

“A Fast-Paced, Humorous and Titillating Read. Recommended.”
By Douglas Quinn, Author of Blue Heron Marsh (www.douglasquinn.com)

First, let me say that third person present (it takes me a chapter or two to get into the rhythm of the writing) and chic lit aren’t my usual reading fare but I liked the premise, so I dove in and was pleasantly surprised.
The characters are quirky and Calvani’s descriptions are wickedly delicious, sometimes irreverent and at all times scrumptiously entertaining. All this talk is making me want to run off to Taco Bell, Ismael’s favorite hangout–or is it McDonald’s or Burger King? Actually it’s all of them. Among other not-so-flattering traits, he’s also a fast food junkie.

Ismael is the disturbed ex-husband of Calvani’s moody and emotional heroine, Daniella. He is married to Lady Dracula, a woman who collects torture devices and gives herself blood facials. And who knows what she hides in a secret room behind the closet. And, there’s more. Calvani also gives us a mutinous Angora cat with its own passport, an anti-feminist, ass-slasher dressed as Zorro, an animal hotel where you can share a room with exotic and sometimes dangerous animals, magical mushrooms that make LSD seem like a sissy drug, Daniella’s mother, who favors retail therapy and coffee enemas, and Daniella’s live-in boyfriend, Tony, a surrealist artist who weaves his way through life in his own bizzaro world of drugs and an obsessive quest for fame.

Amid the chaos of her friends and family, will Daniella find peace and her place in the world? And who is this Zorro imitator, and what is this obsession with making the "Z" slash on the buttocks of girls wearing miniskirts? You may be surprised at the answers.

Prepare yourself for a satirical romp through Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Sunstruck by Mayra Calvani is a fast-paced, humorous and titillating read. Recommended for both chicks and...uh...well, you know, us sensitive type guys.

**************************************************************************
Sunstruck, parody/satire
Zumaya Publications
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-934841-18-1
eBook formats ISBN: 978-1-934841-19-8
Available from Amazon.com

Author’s website at www.MayraCalvani.com
Contact the author at mayra.calvani(at)gmail.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Interview with Mayra Calvani

It's my pleasure today to have as my guest Mayra Calvani, who is a fellow member of the group VBT-Writers on the Move. Mayra is a multi-genre author, reviewer and animal advocate who hails from San Juan, Puerto Rico. A regular contributor to Blogcritics Magazine and Suite101, she's a member of SCBWI and Broad Universe. She keeps two blogs, Mayra's Secret Bookcase and The Dark Phantom Review and she has also recently started another, fun blog called Pets and Their Authors, where her golden retriever interviews other authors' pets! She is the author of the novel Sunstruck and is the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

This multi-talented lady also does Spanish translations of children's picture books, is co-editor of Voice in the Dark newsletter, and is the National Latino Books Examiner for Examiner.com.

INTERVIEW

Mayra, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, but I live in Belgium now. I started writing when I was about 12 and have been hooked ever since. Though my favorite genre is the paranormal, I also write children’s picture books, nonfiction, and other categories like horror and satire. When I’m not writing, I love reading, playing the violin, blogging, reviewing, and spending time with my family.

What motivated you to become an author?
The magic of bringing the worlds of my imagination onto the page.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I was not an avid reader until I was about 11. That’s when I discovered Agatha Christie. By the time I was 14 I had read all of her novels. I had her entire mystery collection in Spanish translation. So I never really read children’s or YA books. I went straight into the adult books at a pretty early age.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
This is a bit funny because my latest novel, Sunstruck, is actually one of the first books I ever wrote—about fifteen years ago. It is a parody/satire and the style is very different from what I write now. I grew up in San Juan with an artist mom and from an early age visited many art shows and went to artist meetings. A quiet child, I mostly observed. My book was influenced by what I saw. Artist circles can be very interesting and quite strange at times!

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
Definitely stream-of-consciousness, and I think it shows in the writing. Back then, my inner critic wasn’t as strong, so I wrote more freely. I didn’t say no to any crazy ideas… and it is an unusual, crazy book. People either love it or hate it. One reviewer called it ‘Brilliant’, and another said she had never read another book even remotely like it.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
I’m constantly getting new ideas—they attack me like the plague. I can be at a table with dinner guests and getting ideas at the same time. I know, poor guests! If only they knew that sometimes I can’t listen to them, only because those imaginary characters take control of my mind. It’s like being taken hostage. But I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
I’m fascinated by moral dilemmas, such as the idea of a higher good, the idea that the end justifies the means. I tackle this in my supernatural thriller, Dark Lullaby. I’m also intrigued and pulled by the concept of vigilantism, the concept of ultimate justice vs. human law. These themes that obsess me have obsessed me since I was very young.

Are you a disciplined writer?
Not as much as I would like to be! I have my ups and downs. I try to be organized, which helps a lot, and manage to accomplish a number of goals each month. This helps me feel I’m progressing and keeps me motivated.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Write for yourself—not for the market.

Thank you so much, Mayra, for the interview.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Learn more about Mayra's book, Sunstruck, in my post on Thursday. In the meantime you can catch up with Mayra here

http://www.mayracalvani.com/
http://slipperybookreview.wordpress.com/
http://sunstruckthenovel.blogspot.com/
http://thedarkphantom.wordpress.com/
http://www.petsandauthors.blogspot.com/

Children's books:
http://mayrassecretbookcase.com/
http://mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com/

If you have a question for Mayra, please leave a comment.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Down to the Core: One Lovely Blog Award

Down to the Core: One Lovely Blog Award

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children: One Lovely Blog Award

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children: One Lovely Blog Award#links

One Lovely Blog Award

In the past couple of days, I've been touched and honoured to receive One Lovely Blog Award from two very different women, who are themselves very worthy recipients of the award: Karen Cioffi and Heather Paye.

Karen is the founder and coordinator of the yahoo group VBT-Writers on the Move. She is a tireless and selfless promoter of fellow authors, someone who is never daunted by obstacles, who is always looking to find better ways to do things - and her determination and positive attitude are inspiring.

Heather is a fellow VBT-Writers on the Move member. Heather is still very young but she has enormous drive and determination. Her passion for writing and reading comes through in everything she does and she has already had a novel published. She is someone who is not afraid to go all out to make her dreams a reality and as such is an inspiration to old and young alike.

All my fellow VBT members are worthy of this award and I know that several of them, like myself, have been recent recipients, such as Carolyn Howard-Johnson, who – despite being an amazingly busy and successful writer involved in all kinds of projects – still finds time to read others' books, post reviews and give encouragement.

It is now my pleasure to pass on this award. These are the rules for those individuals I choose. They are simple:

1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.

3) Notify the award winners.

There are three women I would like to pass this award on to, who have inspired me in different ways: Liana Metal, Yvonne Lewis and Jan D. Holiday.

Liana Metal: Liana is a fellow modern languages teacher. She is Greek and she teaches English, but she is also a book reviewer and freelance writer. She writes picture books for children, which she illustrates herself, as she is also a talented artist. The aim of her picture books is to not only encourage children to read but also to help them learn something about nature, and she writes in both Greek and English, which is no mean accomplishment! Liana was the person who first introduced me to the group VBT-Writers on the Move, so I have much to thank her for! She is also someone who is incredibly generous with her time and talents, she is a dedicated teacher and she is someone who is always looking for new challenges. I find her attitude truly inspiring.

Yvonne Lewis: Yvonne is a fellow poet from the UK. I recently came across Yvonne's blog when participating in one of the VBT-Writers on the Move blog tours and I immediately liked her style of poetry - quirky, humorous, affectionate, emphasising the positive things in life, the things we have to be grateful for. Her poems often tell a story, something I like to do in my own poetry.

Jan D. Holiday: Jan is a fellow children's author whom I first met on MySpace. When I eventually joined Facebook, Jan very kindly sent suggestions to all her writer friends to send me a friend invitation and so, thanks to Jan, I quickly had a long list of interesting and stimulating fellow authors to connect with there. She is another person who is also very generous with her time and is always willing to give advice.

None of the above may be bestselling authors (yet!), but they inspire me through their selflessness, generosity and kindness and their desire to emphasise the positive side of life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Limits, no limits


What the world says and what the spirit says - some thoughts....


LIMITS, NO LIMITS

"Limits,
lack,
insufficiency,
not enough,
borders,
boundaries,
limitations,
impossible,
separation,
fear,
I can't,"
the world screams -
and we listen...

"No limits,
no lack,
abundance,
more than enough,
infinity,
endlessness,
immenseness,
all things possible,
unity,
joy,
I can,"
the soul whispers -
but we don't hear...

Copyright © Helena Harper



Monday, August 3, 2009

Interview with children's author Dorothy Massey



For my second post this month about children's author, Dorothy Massey, I asked Dorothy some questions about how she started to write for children and why she likes to write for this age group.

Q. Dorothy, can you tell us how you got the commission to write stories for the "Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies" anthology?

A. I'd be delighted to, Helena. In 2007, the publishers, Pinestein Press, held a competition called Things That go Bump… . The brief was to write a short story for 7-9 year olds which was spooky and humorous. The setting was a school lunch room. I wrote a story called Little Red Riding Hoo…ood, based on the traditional fairy tale. As a result Pinestein asked me to write a further three stories for the anthology, which is called Mini Mysteries & Kooky Spookies. The result was The Ghost Twin Tales, three stories featuring the mischievous but lovable Wiggle and Woo.

Q. Had you written children’s stories prior to this?

A. I’d completed the Institute of Children’s Literature Course in Writing for Children and Teenagers and had written a couple of stories for that. Until then, though, I hadn’t had any children’s stories published.

Q. Have you written more children’s stories since?

A. Yes. Winning the competition and getting published gave me the confidence to write and submit more stories. Since then I’ve won another two children’s story competitions. Last year, I won Kangaroo Press’ Scary Halloween Competition with a story called Charlie’s Pumpkin Head. Recently, I was one of the winners of the Munch Bunch Storytelling Competition. My entry for that competition, Munch the Storyteller, was released as a podcast recording on the Munch Bunch website in March. The stories are read by the popular T.V. presenter and celebrity, Gail Porter. I’ve also received a commission to write for an upcoming children’s magazine, but details of that are still under wraps at the moment.

Q. What are your current writing projects?

A. I’m writing stories for a British publishing company who have requested submissions for a number of upcoming anthologies. I’ve also started a fantasy novel and am working on a couple of picture book manuscripts.

Q. Why do you like writing for children?

A. It’s so much fun and the possibilities are endless. It’s challenging, but rewarding too. We all have a part of us that is still a child. Writing for children allows me to take mine out to play.

I so agree with that, Dorothy. Thank you for your time, it's been a pleasure!

You can catch up with Dorothy on her blog at www.kidsbooksuk.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Introducing Dorothy Massey – children's author and teacher

It's a real pleasure to be able to introduce to you today children's author and teacher, Dorothy Massey. Dorothy is a fellow member of the yahoo group, VBT – Writers on the Move, and she is the author of a set of three stories about ghost twins, Wiggle and Woo, published in a Pinestein Press anthology in Dec 2007, entitled Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies. Dorothy was delighted to be commissioned to write these stories after winning first prize in Pinestein’s ‘Things that go Bump …’ competition with a story comprising a spooky twist on the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. Since then she has won further competitions, with one of her stories being recorded as a podcast by TV presenter Gail Porter to launch a new storytelling character for Munch Bunch products.

Dorothy has specialised in teaching literacy and has taught ESL, Adult Basic Skills, Family Learning and Creative Writing. The third edition of her publication for ESL students, ‘Better English’, published by Studymates, has recently been published in India.

She now writes fiction for children from pre-school to Key Stage 2 as well as teaching Creative Writing for Durham County Council’s Education in the Community. Two packs of poetry resources for Key Stage 3 written by Dorothy are awaiting publication with Zig Zag and she has a fantasy novel in progress.

Dorothy lives in Crook, a small ex-mining town in the North East of England and is a member of SSWAG (Seven Stories Writers and Artists Group). For more information about Dorothy and writing for children, visit her blog: www.kidsbooksuk.blogspot.com

Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies

Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies by Stephanie Campisi, Calvin Innes, Dorothy Massey and Marcia Nass is available from:
www.pinestein.com
www.amazon.com
www.amazon.co.uk
ISBN 0-9795364-2-1
Price $5.99/£4.75

Mini Mysteries & Kooky Spookies is a collection of one dozen mysteries and spooky stories for early readers. The book features six simple everyday mysteries that readers can solve along with six not-so-scary tales of some hauntingly memorable spooks. The three stories written by Dorothy Massey feature the ghost twins, Wiggle and Woo.

As one Amazon reviewer has said,
This is a terrific book. It is well-written, fun, exciting and challenging. It is a wholesome book that teaches children how to deal with tough, life-like situations, use logical reasoning and acquire people skills. I gave my 7 year old grandson a copy of this book and I was so impressed by his reaction that I gave another copy to my other grandchildren.
Sound good? Then why not purchase a copy of Mini Mysteries & Kooky Spookies today!

I'll be posting an interview with Dorothy on Monday. Drop by to learn more about this interesting and versatile author. If you have any questions for Dorothy, please leave a comment.



Sunday, July 26, 2009

Savvy Auntie's Day


My adopted Aunty Thelma is second from the right. The other people in the photo are, from the left, her eldest brother, Les, her twin, Joan, her mother, Hazel, and on the right, her father, Les Archer.

A few weeks ago I learnt that 26 July is Savvy Auntie's Day - a day when we can show our appreciation to all aunts, great aunts and godmothers. So in honour of all aunts everywhere, whether aunts by blood or by choice, I thought I'd post this poem, which is a tribute to an adopted aunt of mine, who grew up in a motorcycling family and broke a motorcycling record together with her twin, at Brooklands, when she was still just 15. A remarkable achievement at any time, let alone in the 1930s.



My adopted Aunty Thelma on her successful record-breaking attempt at Brooklands in the 1930s


The Adopted Aunt

A dear, old friend of the father,
this adopted Aunty Thelma,
a motorcyling passion combining
and open directness,
dryness of wit and
keen sharpness of mind
subtly enticing.

The surname Archer,
synonymous with motorbikes
in long-lost 1930s England,
inseparable from her sisterly twin,
both perfectly at home on those
roaring two-wheeled machines,
clad in helmet and leathers,
racing round Brooklands
at incredible speed,
models of skill
and consummate ease -
the world record broken,
an awesome feat and
wasn't it a breeze?
Yet she and her sister
still so young and innocent,
world record holders,
though not yet sixteen,
everyone safe, thank God!
And the bikes? Not a dent!

Flouting conventions
and blazing a trail
for the women of tomorrow
to follow and pave -
like beacons shining their lights
to those who are still far away,
yet rolling ever nearer
in wave after wave.
Yet when day turns to night,
this beacon called Thelma
discards the leathers,
the grease and the grime
and in graceful dress of mirrored silk,
moving with curved elegance
to the music of brass and string,
she turns men's heads,
making their hearts gleefully sing.

One she then finds and
married life starts,
house and work,
exercise and travel,
nieces and nephews,
godchildren galore
filling the seconds
and minutes of her days...
Among them two girls,
honorary nieces of
this old friend called Nick,
showered unfailingly
every birthday and Christmas
with cards of delight
and presents of wonder...
Into adulthood and beyond,
for almost half a century,
though bodily ills dissipate
energy and activity,
no birthday or Christmas is forgot.

No blood aunt could have shown
more love or compassion,
greater thoughtfulness or kindness
or heart steadier, more generous.
No relative could have given
greater cheerfulness or warmth
on visits to that cottage of ancient charm,
nestling in Hampshire countryside
of verdant green,
nourishing the soul with beauty,
peace and calm.

Time has now had its final say,
yet memories of a woman
tall and fashionable,
with happiness of heart
and lightness of smile,
of unceasing strength and dignity
as the lengthening years took their toll,
will most surely gladden the heart
in the days that are to come,
filling it with gratitude and thanks
for a wonderful soul,
freed now from physical bonds
and enriching eternity
with its infinite grace
and endless, glowing charity.

Thank you, Aunty Thelma,
for thinking of us so kindly
through all the many, many years,
for touching our hearts
with zest and joy...
You are family, indeed,
the love in our hearts tells us so,
and we will never forget you,
as witnessed by our smiling tears.

Copyright © Helena Harper

(This poem will be added to my other poems in my collection Family and More - Enemies or Friends?, when it is published as a paperback.)

What memories do you have of your aunts - adopted or otherwise? Feel free to share.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Anyone for tennis?



As a long-standing tennis fan and with Wimbledon having given us such great matches during the past two weeks, I'd like to post two poems as a tribute to the game and to the people who help us play it.

THE TENNIS GAME

Eyes lasering in
on the ball,
backspin,
top spin,
side spin,
no spin?
Legs running,
feet jumping,
toes tripping,
arms swinging,
heart pumping,
blood rushing,
lungs bursting,
mouth gasping,
cheeks blazing,
sweat pouring,
ball hitting,
ball missing,
ball in,
ball out,
hands clapping,
mouths shouting,
tongues cursing,
lips screaming,
racquets throwing,
movement thrilling,
endorphins fizzing,
exuberance peaking,
exhaustion winning,
eyes glowing.

Copyright © Helena Harper

THE TENNIS DIRECTOR

Not one of your green youngsters this one,
wet behind the ears,
oh no, not he,
the once lithe, young body of twenty or so years
marked now by middle-age spread and dubious knees.
Physically unprepossessing without a doubt,
fitness not what it was,
victim of recurrent infections
and numerous operations
on those annoyingly painful, troublesome knees,
but execution and choice of shot mesmerizing;
years of experience honing his craft
at home and abroad in countless foreign countries,
a teacher par excellence,
able to explain in few words and wise
varying techniques and match-winning strategies,
assessing the pupil with expert eyes,
for effective coaching an essential,
yet a mystery to younger colleagues
who have learnt but one way
and teach from the book
whether suited to pupil or not,
though it’s clear to all
once you know the difference
and properly look.

A tiny detail here,
one word there,
and understanding and game
start to transform,
for it begins to dawn
with ever increasing light
how mental attitudes affect shot selection
and the outcome of the fight,
and finally one comes to know
what “eye on the ball” actually means,
all so totally different
to what happened before
with the other “normal” pros
who coached by rote
and made lessons a bore.

And thus it shows once more
that appearances do indeed often deceive
and one mustn’t judge books by their cover or sleeve,
for if we do we shut out all kinds of possibilities
not thought of and wonderful,
which can lead us to paths
both surprising and joyful.

Copyright © Helena Harper

Friday, July 3, 2009

Owen Fiddler - a morality tale with a difference

Today, in my second post this month about award-winning author and blogger, Marvin D. Wilson, you can learn more about his morality tale Owen Fiddler and his latest book, Between the Storm and the Rainbow, which is an anthology of the best posts from his blog The Old Silly's Free Spirit Blog.

Owen Fiddler is the tale of one man's bad behaviour from his early years as a boy through adulthood. Owen Fiddler is a womanizer, a drunkard and a liar. He behaves horribly toward his mother, stepfather, and brother and he never takes any responsibility for his actions or their consequences because there is always someone else to blame - his brother Paize, his stepfather, his friends and others. There are some unique characters, including Lou Seiffer (Lucifer), a truck driver who lends Owen money, and Kris (Jesus Christ). And there is also Frenda, Owen's daughter, who becomes the light of his life. The story shows how Owen's life goes from bad to worse and how he finally finds salvation. As the book description says, Owen is “no role model for you or your kids, but reading his story will learn ya a thing or two, and that's a fact. This is an entertaining, thought-provoking, humorous and spiritually insightful book which will surely have you thinking about your own life. Hey you – yeah, you! Do you like to dance? Don’t forget to pay the fiddler!”

Owen Fiddler Trailor







http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVRkDSmwSjE



Below you can read an excerpt from the novel, Owen Fiddler.


Frenda, Owen and Kris Meet in the Never-World

Frenda turned to Owen. He was kneeling on the floor, hands clasped together over his heart, head down, wide-eyed and shaking. Residual human feelings rose up in her and she again felt the rise and fall of the heart as it went through the emotional gamut of love, anxiety, pity, anger, disappointment and hope. She dispensed with her aura and morphed back into her simple earthly form, dressed in a plain white cotton robe. She dropped to her knees on the floor facing Owen. She felt nothing but affection. She looked him in the eyes and said, “Daddy.”

The stark simplicity of her statement stabbed Owen in his heart and he burst into tears, falling forward into Frenda’s arms. She held him, caressed and stroked his back as he wept. After a long moment, she propped him back up, calmed him with a thought and said, “I have someone I want you to meet.”

Owen knew who it was she spoke of and he was not feeling ready for that meeting. “I’m not worthy,” he whispered, “I’m not worthy of your concern for me.”

“Oh, Daddy, yes, you most surely are.”

“I’ve been a carousing irresponsible drunkard all my life.”

“I don’t care. I forgive you.”

“I cheated on your mother, many times.”

“I forgive you.”

“I’m a sexual predator.”

“Forgiven; that and everything else can all be in the past. I forgive you.”

“I’m a thief, Frenda, you don’t understand. I cheat. I take things I haven’t earned, things that aren’t mine and I never repay my debts.”

“I do understand, Daddy, I can see everything now and I forgive you all your transgressions and misguided deeds.”

Owen paused for a time, trying to raise the courage to put forth his deepest dark secret, the one final damning admission that he knew would end this conversation with a victory in his own personal Hell. “F-F-Frenda,” he said with bowed head, “I … I … it was me who was responsible for your death. I stole the money from your purse, the deed that led to your fatal accident. I killed you, baby girl. Please just go now and leave me to my fate. I am unworthy of your love.”

Frenda laughed.

Startled, Owen looked up, “What’s so funny?”

“Daddy, look at me. Do I look dead to you?”

“Frenda, you know what I mean”

“No, I don’t know or accept what you mean. Life and freedom everlasting are what I know now, and I am growing a bit impatient with your stubborn self-pity. Daddy, are you sorry for all those things you’ve done?”

“Oh yes, baby girl, I am so sorry, so terribly sorry.”

“Then I forgive you. For everything. Now look, Daddy, we don’t have much time. You are due back on earth any minute now. It’s not a good situation for you back there. You are near physical death in a coma. Daddy, look at me. Look me in the eyes. What do you see?”

Owen looked into his daughter’s heavenly hazel eyes. Love and compassion poured into his being, swept over his mind, cascaded down over his heart and broke the dam in his soul. It burst open with the joyous acceptance of forgiveness. He hadn’t known this feeling before, was speechless in a precious moment of rapture.

Frenda sensed the change in him and repeated her request, “Daddy, you must meet with my friend. It is one thing for me to forgive and for you to receive my forgiveness; but ultimately for you to be with me forever, for you to have eternal life and peace, you must meet and reconcile with him. Can we please do this now? Daddy … please?”

Owen couldn’t believe his own voice saying, “Yes.”

Frenda tilted her head back, threw her arms wide open and voiced in a loud beseeching bellow, “KRIS!”

“No need to shout, I’m right here.”

Both startled, Frenda and Owen rose to their feet to the sound of Kris’ happy chortling, only to feel the floor removed from under them and witness the room disappear. They were now held in weightless suspension in the middle of an orb of light. It resembled a cosmic eye that looked inward at them from every direction.

The eye spoke.

“Owen, Owen, my friend, it is good to finally have an audience with you and to have your undivided attention. I have been here all the time. I have witnessed your sincere apology to your daughter and your acceptance of her forgiveness. Now here comes the bigger question. Can you do the same with me? I promise it won’t hurt.”

Owen was thunderstruck. He thought back to all the followers of this god who he had helped into adultery and hypocrisy. He remembered the innocent pastor who had taken the rap and lost his spiritual career over his misdeeds. His heart sank as he recalled all the foul epithets and curses he had thought and said guided toward anyone and anything that represented in anyway a believer in the Way of the Christ. He bowed his head and closed his eyes in an attempt to escape the stare of the inquisitive omnipresent eye.

The eye spoke.

“Owen, I know of all these things you are thinking. They are not you unless you hang on to them in your mind and do not repent of them. I offer you a release. I possess the capacity, with your permission and help, to rid you of your dark clinging to those deeds as if they represent the true and essential you. We are the same, Owen, but you have forsaken me in your deluded sense of self and separation from the All. Listen carefully, my friend. You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience, the knowledge of good and evil, the temptations of the flesh and free will.

You have not done so well with your choices so far, on that we are agreed. Your basic error has been in not understanding the interconnectedness of all things and beings. Everything is one, Owen. Because of this truth, this basic law of the universe, it is impossible to take from another without taking from yourself. When you harm another, you harm yourself. When you deceive others, you deceive yourself. Conversely, giving to, helping and loving others are none other than loving and helping your self. Do you understand this now, Owen?”

Owen did understand, in a momentous flash of enlightenment. He got it. His eyes went wide open. He felt strange and light. He could scarce believe the calm and happiness in his heart as he said, “Yes … I understand.”

“I can see it is true,” the eye of Kris said, “Now that you know the truth, the truth can set you free. Change is possible. Are you ready to change?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sorry for the mistakes you’ve made?”

“Yes, yes!”

“Do you believe in the Truth, and believe that I the One, the Truth, the Light and the Way, can cleanse you of your errant ways?”

“Yes, in Truth, I believe!”

“Good. You are forgiven. Go now, and stop making stupid mistakes.”

Owen disappeared, evaporated into a puff of mist. Kris materialized, smiled at the puff, and motioned it away with a sweep of his arm. A clap of thunder and a silver streak of vapor bolted toward earth.


Owen Fiddler
Retail Price: $16.95
Page Count: 212
ISBN 10: 1594315639
ISBN 13: 978-1594315633
Book Website: http://www.owenfiddler.com/
Available for purchase at:
http://www.amazon.com/
http://www.cambridgebooks.us/
or at your favorite bookstore.







Marvin's latest book, Between the Storm and the Rainbow, is an anthology of the best of the best posts from his award-winning and internationally popular The Old Silly's Free Spirit Blog. It is a book that will inspire you, stimulate deep thoughts and emotions and also give you plenty of laughter. When you read this book, you will see why there is such a global community of readers who count on their daily dose of The Old Silly's Free Spirit Blog.

Accolades for Free Spirit

“I stumbled upon Marvin's blog clearly by accident and found his words to be like verbal magnets pulling me into this world he inhabits. It is a terrain full of wisdom, humor, homespun philosophy, good common sense, a poetic sensibility and uncommon spirituality. Reading this man's work makes it easy to become a confirmed 'Marvaholic!'”
L.M. Ross, poet and author of Manhood and The Moanin' After
http://lmross-moanerplicities.blogspot.com/

“Marvin Wilson's award-winning Free Spirit blog not only surprises and shocks you; it tells it like it is, with a generous dollop of love.”
Jean Henry Mead, author of A Village Shattered and Escape
http://www.jeanhenrymead.com/
http://advicefromeditors.blogspot.com/

“I can count on one of three things from my daily visit to Free Spirit … a smile, a feeling of spiritual growth or something to make me think deeply. Many days, they are all rolled into one.”
Joyce A. Anthony, author of Storm

"It's an adventure reading what Marvin Wilson writes on Free Spirit since you never know what to expect from him, other than something that will delight, amuse, enrich or inspire!"
Connie Arnold, author of Beautiful Moments of Joy and Peace and Abiding Hope and Love


Between the Storm and the Rainbow
Retail Price: $18.99
Paperback: 426 pages
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press (February 12, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0982272235
ISBN-13: 978-0982272237

Available for purchase at:
http://www.amazon.com/Between-Storm-Rainbow-Winning-Anthology/dp/0982272235/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245688746&sr=1-1

If you wish to contact Marvin, you can email him at: marvwilson2020@gmail.com

Please feel free to leave a comment or ask Marvin a question.