A little about Bryan the Writer: Service is critical to … someone.

I know someone who legitimately would not lift a finger to help anyone, or so he says. In reality, I think he does many things to help people, but if you ask him, he will tell you he doesn’t do anything. I believe in service. Those of you who have talked with me know I am a proud veteran and spent seventeen years in the military. I really enjoyed it and sometimes I miss it. I am way too old, and fat, to do that kind of thing today.

What you probably don’t know is that I actually served on the Fire Department in our little town of Excelsior, Minnesota for three years. I was a fire fighter and basic life support provider. Lots of calls answered and I had a great time. Service is important to me.

I am a Christian and serve with my church in a couple of different capacities and I want to share one particular story with you that really had an impact on me recently.

One of the things I do is take communion to our shut-in members. It doesn’t take much time. We take a small communion kit (already prepped for us) to the nursing/retirement home where the shut-in is and give them communion. I am a Lutheran and we treat communion as one of the sacraments so it is really an important thing to us. But, that is not the point of this blog. It is what happened afterward.

Getting old is hard and I really feel sad when I see some of these retirement homes. People are essentially confined to a small world. Granted, they are surrounded by people their own age, but they really lose the freedom that comes with being able to take their cars out to the surrounding world or even move the way they want. So, getting a visit from someone is really a treat.

I always do the same thing, I sit with them and talk a little before getting down to communion. I let them talk about whatever they want. They tell me about their kids, their husbands or wives, and one lady proudly told me about their dogs. I tell them a little about me and why I am there.

After providing communion to one woman and finishing up with prayers, I put my kit together to leave and she said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“Thank you so much, I needed this.”

It was such a shocking thing to hear that I had to take time to process what she said. She ‘needed this’. I am not sure if she specifically meant communion, the visit, the prayers or all of it but to her it was something she ‘needed’.

We equate ‘needing’ to the idea of food and water, but not normally to other things. She wasn’t using the phrase the same way someone talks about needing to charge their cell phone or needing to take a shower. In her eyes, it was clear that she gave our visit the same valuation as the things you need to sustain human life. To her, that interaction was as necessary as breathing.

Upon leaving the little apartment she shared with another woman, she looked different to me. Less stressed, happier than when we came in. Who are we to say what is and what isn’t truly life sustaining? Again, I make no claim as to what it was that she needed, but she found something in us that day. There was something in our visit that provided exactly the thing she was in greatest need of. As if the visit itself breathed sustaining life into her.

Service can be anything from helping a neighbor to collecting food for the food pantry. The simplest of acts can lead to the biggest of rewards. Who was the recipient of the reward? I’ll let you judge for yourself.

-Your Humble Servant,

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Review: Death is Long Overdue

Death is Long Overdue (Phee Jefferson #1)Death is Long Overdue by Amy E. Lilly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are times when you want what I call an Airplane Book. This is the kind of read that is not emotionally so entangling you stress over reading it and you have to put it down on occasion because it weighs you down like a brick. I call them Airplane Books because they are the kind of book you want on a prolonged airline flight. Death is Long Overdue, by Amy E Lilly is definitely an Airplane Book.

Ophelia, Phee to her friends, is the quintessential librarian. She loves her books and the building built to house them. She loves reading, old movies, and her cat. Mostly, she likes her predictable life. A predictable life, which turns upside-down when she decides to break into the home of a patron who refuses to return his overdue library books. She discovers him dead.

Phee is joined by a host of likable characters, two of whom are potential suitors, in a quest to uncover who has undertaken a murder spree in her little town.

I found the writing to be good, the characters to be relatable, and the story line moved along at a good pace. I actually read the entire book in one day.

It is definitely a cozy mystery in every sense of the word. Low on violence and gore, there are a couple of adult references, but they were mild. The character does have sex, but wasn’t overly graphic and it is well done. I would have no problem handing this to a young adult to read.

I was entertained and that is one of the best compliments I can pay any author.

If there is one criticism (and it is minor), I felt like Amy was rolling out characters in too quick a succession for my mind to really grasp their relevance. But that’s it … literally the only thing I saw that could have been improved.

I can highly recommend Death is Long Overdue by Amy E. Lilly.

-Your Humble Servant,

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Review: The Elephants of Style

The Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American EnglishThe Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English by Bill Walsh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a fiction writer who loves the paranormal thriller genera. While I read widely in my own genera, sometimes I have to step out of my regular fare and read something else. I picked up “The Elephants of Style” because it was recommended in an article I was reading about editing.

Bill Walsh is a masterful, and humorously opinionated, writer/editor. He tells you where he is stating fact, opinion, and also his way of viewing things. It is fascinating how we take certain aspects of the English language for granted and then we come across a situation where suddenly what we thought was true really isn’t.

This book is well written and fun. There are a few places where the editor speak is way above my head (that is why I hire an editor), but I plunged through it till the bitter end.

For those interested reading more about the stylistic wold that is the English language, I highly recommend it. It is one of those books you can pick up and put down in between reading projects. I also thing it is one of those things worth tabbing at points and maybe adding a few of your own highlights here and there when you find things interesting.

Again, well worth the read for those who make a living on the written word.

-Bryan the Writer

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Review: Greetings From Sunny Aluna

Greetings From Sunny AlunaGreetings From Sunny Aluna by Eric Lahti

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always like to point out if I am already an existing fan of the author and anyone who knows me already knows I am a big fan of Eric Lahti. Eric hooked me with his Henchmen series and I have read his book, The Clockman, so it was perfectly natural that I would pick up Greetings From Sunny Aluna.

First, you have to understand that Eric is a masterful world builder and Aluna is a place I wouldn’t mind going to see. He paints two equal and opposite views. One of a city incredibly dangerous to those uninitiated in the ways of the darker side of Aluna. In the world that exists for the main protagonist Crow, he not only loves it but also feels at home there.

Things seem to go sideways in Aluna when a young boy, his pet dog, and his pet dinosaur (yes I said dinosaur) get taken from Earth to Aluna for their own protection. For those of you familiar with The Clockman, you will recognize some favorite characters. I personally would love to meet Mrs. Chow and dive into a bowl of her delicious noodles.

Eric not only has a way with world building, but he also has the uncanny ability to get you to care about the characters in my humble opinion, this is the mark of a truly great author. Without spoiling too much, something bad happens to one of the aforementioned characters, and it just about tears your heart out.

As each character rips and plunges their way through the world, you get to see that world through their eyes. You hear their thoughts, feel what they feel, and partake in every moment of their lives. This genuinely invests you in the storyline of Greetings From Sunny Aluna.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science fiction, action adventure, or fantasy. However, I would also argue that the story-line itself is so engaging that anyone who is looking for a good general fiction read will find something in this latest work from Eric Lahti that they will enjoy.

-Your Humble Servant,

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Review: Horror 101: The Way Forward

Horror 101: The Way ForwardHorror 101: The Way Forward by Jack Ketchum

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing is a tough gig in many respects. It can take a year or more to bring your work to the point where people can see it. There are times of horrifying depression and moments of incredible highs. However, there is nothing I would rather do than to write novels for my small but growing fan base. So, when a book comes along to help me out with tips and thoughts on the subject of writing in my genera, I tend to listen up. Enter “Horror 101: The Way Forward”, by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Hearing advice from the experts not only confirms that I am on the right track, but also that I am likely being too hard on myself when I want nothing more than to be a great author right then and there. Truth be known, it can take ten or more years to become a commercial success and this book does a good job reminding the reader of that.

Well written by professionals in the business and expertly edited by Joe Mynhardt and Emma Audsley, these bits of advice and tales range from the silly to the serious. This is a wonderful aspect of this book as it will bring a smile to your face and is not so heavy you will feel like it is constantly pulling you down.

For anyone who is going to be writing in the Horror/Thriller/Suspense genera, I would highly recommend reading this book. In addition to practical advice, it will keep you well grounded in reality and give you the spiritual fortitude you need to just keep writing.

-Your Humbler Servant,

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Review: The Wielders of Arantha; Book Two, Queens

Queens (The Wielders of Arantha Book 2)Queens by Patrick Hodges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truth in advertising. I was a huge fan of the first Wielders book. It was a natural for me to read the next one in the series. As the book begins, we see where Maeve and Davin are left off at the end of the last book. Dav is anxious about his unconscious mother and she is in need of medical attention.

The magically gifted ‘Wielders’, as they are known, are connected to powerful stones which gives them powers of one kind or another. It is only after Maeve, an earthling, and her son Davin make their way to an alien world that they find out about their latent powers. The question facing the reader is this, what happens if someone controls all the stones?

Not wanting to spoil anything, there is an advancement of a whole love story … perhaps two. Armies will clash, people will die, and ‘sisters’ who are not natural warriors will pick up arms to stop their foes. I hate spoilers so I will stop there.

The Wielders series is personality driven in the sense that it focuses on some very strong and complex central characters. He makes you see the characters by making them three-dimensional. When something happens to one of your favorite characters, you feel it in your gut and that is the mark of a great author. I would be remiss if I did not point out that Patrick is one hell of a world builder as well. You are sucked into the world he builds and it carries you though the story.

As far as continuity is concerned, it is easy to see where the first book ends and the second begins. I I will always argue that you should start with book one before reading book two, but that is just me. If you happen to read book two first you would miss some of the initial world building, but you could read book two without book one. But you would, after reading book two, go back and read the first one, I guarantee it.

Patrick is a solid and seasoned writer such that the prose flows off the page cleanly. You find yourself unwilling or unable to put down this page-turner.

I can whole-heartedly recommend Wielders, book 2 (Queens). If you read this one before reading book one, I will warn you that you probably should just order book one at the same time. Trust me, you will read it.

-Your Humble Servant,

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Why I Write, by Hurricane Irma

A small part of me hates flying. I know I’ve said that before, but it came into sharp focus today while the airplane I was on flew through the remnants of hurricane Irma. The woman, sitting across the aisle from me, was visibly terrified of every bump and sudden increase or decrease in altitude. I had to pat myself on the back a little though, while I wasn’t thrilled with my impromptu rodeo lesson, I wasn’t scared. Turbulence, even extreme, is part of modern air travel.

M80 Jet
Ready and bounce!

Bouncing around in the sky has a way of making you take more of a philosophical look at your life. At the same time we were gaining and losing 100 or more feet of altitude with little or no warning, I was reading a book about writing. I am really enjoying it. It is by Crystal Lake Publishing and is called, Horror 101: The Way Forward. The book is a collection of advice from other horror writers about the industry. One of the authors pointed out something I hadn’t really given any thought to. So, today, I want to give it a little thought. The question they asked was so deceptively simple it snuck up on me. What do I hope to get out of writing?

I know it is hard to believe, but writing a novel does not make people magically show up at your door with wheelbarrows full of money and a limousine waiting to take you to a book signing. As a matter of fact, so far I have spent more than I make as an author. So, why put up with the headaches and frustrations of writing?

I gave it some thought and the answer came to me in a flash! I do it for you. You … yes you. I am a firm believer that if I keep plying my trade I will ultimately be successful as a writer. For now, I am going to be content for things like what happened to me this week. I saw, on someone’s Twitter feed, a quote from one of my books. One of my books!

It is a small thing, but it made my heart sing in a way few things can. I grinned stupidly from ear to ear and got that wonderfully buoyant feeling I get when someone tells me they liked my story.

So no, you are not likely going to see me sneaking out to an expensive steak house and hob knobbing with the rich and famous. But, I really don’t want to. I would much rather work on stories which people enjoy.

Just some thoughts from 30,000 feet up. Have a great rest of the week everyone and if you haven’t liked me on Facebook, I will cry. I swear I will. Great big crocodile tears!

-Your Humble Servant,

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