Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe - Photo From his Museum Website

I have always liked the mysterious. When I hear the name Edgar Allen Poe, the first thing I think of is mystery and macabre stories. Pictures of old abandoned graveyards come to mind, along with mysterious figures lurking in the shadows. Something horrid is about to happen at any moment. I think Mr. Poe was a bit crazy, but then when you think about it, most writers are, in their own way.

I read that he started the detective story genre back in 1841 with his work The Murders in the Rue Morgue, a grisly tale of a double homicide. Grahams Magazine published this short story. This information inspired me to write this post. How many of you knew that? I certainly didn’t know that Poe’s work inspired future writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.

Mr. Poe lived a tough and tragic life, but he was determined to write, and write he did. He published his first novel at 18, and was a prolific writer, writing for various magazines in his short life of forty years. He struggled with debt all his life, at one time burning his furniture to stay warm. I wonder why it seems to be this way for many writers and artists. Very few gain any fame or recognition while they’re alive.

How many of you have books by Edgar Allen Poe in your personal library?

To read more about his life, click here:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review for Costa Rica by Lonely Planet

From Amazon

This is an excellent resource book, if you plan to travel to Costa Rica. In addition, it is small enough to take along for easy reference, measuring 5” by 7 ¾” by 3/4”. The authors have separated the book into sections of the country, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. Each section has detailed maps of each major town in that section, along with information on many places to stay, whether your preference is a hotel or hostel. There is also mention of numerous places to eat, along with activities to get involved in, such as tours, festivals, golf, horseback riding, kayaking, etc. There is so much detail in this book that it makes it easy to take a do-it-yourself sightseeing tour.

This guide even lays out how to get around, if you haven’t rented a car. It gives ferry and bus service schedules in areas that provide them, giving the price, times of service, and approximately how long it takes to get to your destination.

The authors have covered everything from one end of the country to the other and important places of interest are marked on easy to follow colored maps.

Each section provides info on the towns in the area, as well as any activities in that town. There is also a list of lodging and eating-places. The traveler can make arrangements easily after they are tired of looking at everything the country has to offer.

As a bonus, in the beginning of each section of the country, there is a brief history, details on climate, and the best time to visit, along with a list of parks.

In the back of the book, there is a more detailed history of the country, as well as tips on living there and basic Spanish you may need to know in order to speak with the locals.

The book has many beautiful colored pictures of the gorgeous scenery and animals you might see on your adventure. I can’t think of anything that isn’t covered. Even the cover features a colorful tree frog that makes you anticipate booking this trip.

5 stars

Wonderful Travel Guide for Costa Rica

Sunday, April 21, 2013

ABNA 2013 Contest Update

From ABNA Website

Twenty-five lucky writers have moved on to the final phase of the contest. The judges have picked the top five entries for each of the following genres:

General Fiction



Science fiction/Fantasy/Horror

Young Adult Fiction

If you have an Amazon account, you may wish to download excerpts from the categories above at this link:
On the left side, there is a list of blue links for each category.  Click those to download the excerpts for the books.

The public is encouraged to read, rate, and review these twenty-five excerpts. Publisher’s Weekly reviews are also available to read for these writers. Publisher’s Weekly representatives have read the entire manuscripts of the stories that have made it this far in the contest.

Supposedly, customer reviews are supposed to count in the selection of the five finalists on May 21.

Good luck everyone. Five of these people are going to receive a dream-come-true with a publishing contract.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Payback is a Bitch...

...Even for cats. Right now, two of girls are fighting over the top bunk in the cat tree. This started a week ago. Tootie hasn’t been up there, in the crow’s nest, for a year. One day, she launched herself from the back of the recliner and landed in the cat tree. Once there, she crawled up several levels to reach the top.

Sunni's Photo's

She stayed up there all day much to Koki’s disgust. The next day it was the same thing, and so on. Koki thought that was her exclusive spot. She took it over after the boys passed on.

She looked up at us with a worried frown, and fussed and fretted about, wanting us to get Tootie down. When we didn’t, she took it upon herself to try to prod Tootie out of there. David swatted her on the behind, and Koki sped off upstairs where she hid the rest of the day.

Koki - Sunni's Photo's

We finally figured out what the whole thing is about, payback. Tootie always sits in David’s lap while he’s watching TV. Lately, Koki decided to make herself at home there. You could see Tootie sitting on the sidelines wringing her hands (paws). Koki would stay there for hours, so Tootie finally found a way to pay her back.

It’s funny to think this crazy stuff goes though a cat’s mind.

This post would normally go on Surviving Life, but I’m using it for the April Challenge, so I posted it here. To go to Surviving Life for cat and life stories click here:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Remembering Jonathan Winters

Jonathan Winters - 1925 - 2013
Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

The world lost a great comedian on Thursday, April 11 2013. Yes, I know this isn’t a writer, but this man had a gift for ad-libbing something funny at any time. The reason I am posting this is that I danced with Jonathan Winters at a dog show in Santa Barbara, Ca in the 1990’s. He, along with Bo Derek, and a few other celebrities attend this yearly event. At the time, I was selling a natural deodorizer and that was my reason for obtaining a booth in the show, in the first place.

When Mr.Winters came by my booth, he was interested in the products, stopped to look at them, and made many jokes. I saw him coming down the isle between the tents. He was joking around and thoroughly enjoying himself. I suspect he always enjoyed himself.

He asked me to dance with him after he looked at my products. Of course, my mouth dropped open, “is this for real,” but I obliged and we went dancing down the path and back to my booth. All the while, Jonathan Winters was joking and laughing. I will never forget this experience.

He was so genuine and such a happy guy. I read he entertained people wherever he went, even the tellers at his bank.

Jonathan Winters - Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

Here is a bit of history. Born on November 11, 1925 in Bellbrook, Ohio, Jonathan lived most of his adult life in the Santa Barbara area of CA. He was a big influence on Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, George Carlin and Bill Cosby, plus other comedians. He played many eccentric characters and appeared in hundreds of TV shows, and over fifty movies. Mr. Winters was a bottomless pit of creative energy and was a pioneer in the field of improvisational stand-up comedy. He had his own comedy TV show for a time, and was the voice for characters in many animated films.

He also liked to paint and exhibited his work in art galleries.  How many of you knew that?

Jonathan Winters - Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

I thought this was an interesting tidbit. Jonathan Winter’s career started because of a lost wristwatch. He was a newlywed at the time, and they couldn’t afford to buy another watch. His wife encouraged him to enter a comedy contest in which the prize was a wristwatch. He won the contest, got the wristwatch, and was on his way as the comedian he would become.

Jonathan Winters - Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

In 1959 and 1961, Mr. Winters found himself in a psychiatric hospital because of nervous breakdowns and bi-polar disorder. He didn’t keep this a secret and made mention of it, if he did his classic “flying saucer” routine.

Jonathan Winters was a man with a big heart, playing himself in a children’s TV series on PBS, in 1996, “Bloopy’s Buddies,” in which he encouraged children by teaching them about the benefits of good health through nutrition and exercise.

He leaves behind two children. His wife of sixty years died in 2009.

Here’s a video of some early days.

Jonathan Winters - Photo from TMZ

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Aren’t these guys cute?

This post would normally go on my other blog, but I’m using that one for the A to Z Challenge, so I’m posting this here this time. If you’d like to read any of my posts for the challenge, please go here:

Sunni's Photo's

These are actually antelope squirrels, but we call them chipmunks. They are very curious and mischievous. They run when we go outside, but are soon sneaking a peak from the rocks to see if we’ve brought any peanuts.

We have a few dozen of these little chipmunks that decided to make their home in our rock wall. They are cute, but they are taking the place over. We don’t really mind too much because they are entertaining to watch, but they eat everything in sight. They love peanuts and when we throw some out, they go to work quickly either shelling and eating them on the spot, or packing them off to their burrows. In this way, we are encouraging them to stay around, but I wish they’d stay out of my flowers. I don’t dare plant any veggies either, except that I’ve discovered they don’t like basil.

Today I caught one of these little guys in one of my flowerpots. I was actually surprised that they hadn’t discovered the flowers before now. It’s been two weeks since I planted them. I thought I had finally found something that they wouldn’t eat to the ground. Every year, I try a different kind. Eventually, I’ll find ones they will leave alone, I hope.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Words to Avoid in Writing

When I read this a couple of months ago, I thought it was good to know, so I am posting the words I am trying to avoid, or use sparingly in my writing.

The following words slow the text down.

Well - Quite - And - Then

Really - Great - Just

So - Very - Good

Totally - That - Like

Use this word sparingly.


Delete or change these and don’t start sentences with them. Now this is hard.

For - And

Nor - But

Or - Yet


It is also a no-no to use “ing” words in action scenes.

To read this original post in more detail, please see Lisa’s blog. She has some good writing advice. I hope that she won’t mind me posting a summary here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Life Cut Short

Katie Enos from her Website

Today I would like to post something that I received from Vincent Lowry at GoodReads.

Dear Readers & Authors,

Our group has reached a special milestone mark: 10,000 members! I want to use this opportunity to help out one member in our group who had a daughter who loved to write. His daughter's name was Katie Delia Enos. She died in a pedestrian accident when she was 14, but she wrote hundreds of pages of material (poems, songs, books) in her pursuit to become a professional writer.

Katie deserved more time to follow her passion. I hope you'll join me in taking a moment to visit her website, and viewing her book, “The Chronicles of Articia.”

Here are the links to Katie's Work:

Katie's Book:

Katie's Website:

Katie's Goodreads Profile:

I hope you will visit Katie’s site and read some of her work. This is truly a life cut short too soon, which goes to show you that you need to make every day count. Here is a short piece:

The Person Hiding in My Reflection

By Katie Enos

Colored like a sunset tide is a gaze sharply slicing through the reflective glass. A furrowed brow is set much too seriously, as if trying to unfold the pieces of the face that stared back at it. One eyebrow is raised skeptically, always calculating and analyzing its surroundings. I tilt my head trying to see the deeper meaning in my features, trying to imagine the connection between my looks and my character as I stare in the mirror for the required five minutes.

From the dark brown hair fastened tightly in a bun, a curl as bright as woven gold comes loose. A flash of unruly hair prominent through the typical browns is like my temper; al-ways there, but not always visible. I begin to grow frustrated with the girl in the mirror, and she cocks her hip as if mocking me. In a moment, her lips curve in a half smile, not quite detectable in sight but rather in feeling, like the sensation of something good just around the corner. A chin was set high in a stubborn fashion, symbolizing either persistence or complete adamancy. Shoulders are held stiff like ancient mountains, proud but slightly arrogant.

The image watches with the misty eyes of a daydreamer, glazed over with a sort of trance as if in the middle of a reverie, or a vision. Every once and a while, her true fears surface in those eyes, terror that her life would amount to nothing, that her work would have no impact. Words written are meant to be read, and sometimes I worry that my thoughts and ideas will be lost with time.

My dream is to be an author, to be immortalized in print and live forever in the minds of avid readers. I want to access the power in being able to shape the minds of the young and open, and alter the minds of the old and resolute. Imagine the power in living forever, and passing on your ideas through generations. With each new reader, a new layer of meaning is uncovered in writing, meaning that even the author may not have seen. In the mirror, I see a girl that wants to change the world, and change the way people think and reason.

Reflection and image mean nothing, for the girl in the mirror is more than a one-dimensional picture. She is someone who has followed my footsteps with every lesson learned, and every mistake made. She has been there to help me find a foothold in the world, and to catch me when I fall. As the lights blink out, obscuring her face, I realize that although that image is one that will puzzle me in years to come, she and I aren’t so different after all.