Monday, January 14, 2019


Ryszard Kapuscinski
Granta Books

Summary (from the publisher):
Imperium is the story of an empire: the constellation of states that was submerged under a single identity for most of the twentieth century - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This is Kapuscinski's vivid, compelling and personal report on the life and death of the Soviet superpower, from the entrance of Soviet troops into his hometown in Poland in 1939, through his journey across desolate Siberia and the republics of Central Asia in the 1950s and 60s, to his wanderings over the vast Soviet lands - from Poland to the Pacific, the Arctic Circle to Afghanistan - in the years of the USSR's decline and final disintegration in 1991. 

How is it that I’d never heard of the demise of the Aral Sea basin or the blowing up of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour? Growing up in the West, I’d heard all about Anne Frank and Auschwitz. I knew about the people who starved to death during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. I even knew a bit about the Bolsheviks and their brutality during the revolution. But for some reason, the USSR has gotten a pass, despite being responsible for tens of millions (perhaps over 100 million) deaths during the 20th century.

I just finished reading Ryszard Kapuscinski’s Imperium, in which he travels around the Soviet Union, interviewing people and observing the influence of the Soviets on the diverse people included in the “republic.” 

Half a year ago, I spent some time reading Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, so I had some idea of the breadth of the depth of Soviet totalitarianism and brutality, but some of the stories in Imperium broke my heart. Here are two:

After the Russians withstood Napoleon’s attack on Moscow, Czar Nicholas vowed to build a magnificent cathedral to show their gratitude to God. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour took 45 years to build and was perhaps the most magnificent building in the empire.

When Stalin came to power, he announced (in Pravda) the construction of a new palace. The news piece included the address where the palace would be built. Those who knew the city well would have recognized the address as the location of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Stalin ordered the destruction of the cathedral. But first, it would be looted. Once every precious stone, chandelier, religious vestment and work of art was removed, workers wedged sticks of dynamite into the stones and blew it up, piece by precious piece.

The palace Stalin had announced in Pravda was never built. Later on, Khrushchev built a swimming pool on the grounds where the cathedral once stood.

Kapuscinski compares the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to Notre Dame in Paris or St. Paul’s in London. I couldn’t help comparing it to the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of my ancestors helped in the 40-year construction of that building, which happens to have been built during the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. I cannot imagine how I would react if the president of the United States looted that temple and then blew it up, knocking down the hand-hewn blocks of granite painstakingly transported from the mountains using horses and wagons. I cannot imagine.

And then there’s the Aral Sea, which used to support communities of fishermen, craftsmen, and agricultural workers. When the Soviet leaders decided Moscow needed more cotton, they ordered all of these people to quit their trades and start planting and harvesting cotton. In order to produce more and more cotton, a river was diverted, upsetting the delicate desert ecosystem. The flooded plains were soon awash in salt, which had lain three feet beneath the earth’s surface. The river dried up and couldn’t reach the sea any longer. Amazingly, Soviet leaders actually considered blowing up two mountains with nuclear bombs in order to provide more water for their precious cotton production, but they knew the rest of the world would respond critically to such a project, and they wouldn’t be able to hide it. Today, the Aral Sea basin is ruined, a Soviet legacy that won’t soon be corrected.

These are two very short episodes in an amazing book. Kapuscinski’s writing manages to be both poetic and precise. Written like a travel log, the book doesn’t have an overall story arc, so it took me a while to get through it. Still, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a sobering reminder of the tragedy that inevitably follows an embrace of authoritarianism.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

GUEST POST: RYAN TOMLIN | The Campfire Technique

A few weeks ago I was walking back to my place from the store when I ran into Ryan Tomlin (aka R.J. Tomlin) on the street. He was selling poetry. Being in a hurry, I walked right past him, but then I stopped and went back. How could I resist an independent author selling poetry right here on the streets of Leeds?

Ryan was also promoting his latest novel, and I'm thrilled to have a guest post by him today at the BookPound. Personally, I find Ryan's advice in this post to be both liberating and motivating. Thank you, Ryan. Cheers!

The Campfire Technique – Why Writing Isn’t Always That Difficult

Writing a book can be daunting – anyone who’s given it a go will agree. Whether you’re writing an autobiography about your personal life and struggles, a dark thriller set in a dead-end town, or an epic fantasy series based in an imaginative, dangerous and enthralling world, if it’s not the story itself that’s hard to come up with, it’s the words you use to tell that story. And even on the rare occasion that those two line up, it always seems like it’s at the worst possible time. The world’s greatest poem might flow through you whilst you’re in the shower, but the moment you step out its gone. A walk through the park might fill your mind with an idea of a nine-book series that’s destined to be a best-seller, but the moment you get home it’s disappeared. Put simply; writing isn’t easy.

What’s always confused me about writing is that some best-selling authors channel their stories with complicated language, and vivid, distinct scenery, whilst others write just as engaging stories using basic vocabulary and short, sharp sentencing. My favourite author is Anthony Horowitz, and throughout the 23 books of his that I’ve read (Diamond Brothers series, Alex Rider series and the Power of Five series), I’ve rarely stumbled across a word I didn’t understand, or such a complex development of the story that I struggled to follow it. But despite this, each and every one of these tales has captured me like no other, and the worlds and places he’s taken me have been some of the most gripping and impactful… but how?

I call it The Campfire Technique. I’ve written various books myself – ten in total – and I’m not one to say whether or not those books are examples of fine literature. But through these stories I’ve gone on many adventures; I’ve navigated through a series of hidden tombs in the Amazon Rainforest, prevented various terror attacks across the U.K, and even invented a machine in order to save the population from extinction following a post-apocalyptic meltdown. I find it easy, as many do, to write and describe things that are close to my real-life experiences – an early morning walk through a misty park, or a hectic car ride through a busy city, standing on the edge of a train platform in the rain. However, when writing a new story, whether based in an extremely imaginative worlds, or one just like our own, I can honestly say it’s a rarity that I really struggle to keep my writing rhythm going. We all have a writing style – descriptive words we like to use, or a format in which we structure things – but when what others call ‘Writer’s Block’ shows itself, all of this goes out the window. And for myself too. So how do I prevent this stopping me from writing? To me, it really is simple; I stop thinking so hard, I relax, take a deep breath, and imagine myself by a campfire, telling the story to my friends or family.

I remember times as a child being told stories at campfire with the scouts or on school trips, and I can honestly say that some of stories I remember to this day. Was it their vivid language and deep characterisation? Was it there complicated sentencing structure, or use of punctuation? No… it was the fact that the basics of the story were told so well, that they didn’t need any of the complications.

When I first started writing books, I was so obsessed with structure and order – with using intelligent words and attempting to fill the readers mind with such sinister and unique settings – that, in ways, I lost track of the basis of what I was doing… simply telling a story. If what I was trying to say could be described in a few sentences, why go on for half a page? If it can be described in three simple words, why use five complicated ones? It’s easy to get addicted to the amount of words you’re writing, but if not each and every one of those words is making a difference, then there isn’t much point. The same way an incredible album might sound just as good stripped down to an acoustic ‘live lounge’ version – all the other parts are a nice addition, but they don’t really make it any better.

The Campfire Technique is telling the story in its most basic form. Whether applied to a whole story, a scene, or just a paragraph. If you’re struggling to move on the story, strip down to the basics – describe the scene in a sentence, focus on what the characters are saying, use short, simple sentences – and you’ll find the flow of the words coming a lot easier. Like I said, close your eyes, and pretend that you’re sitting by a campfire, telling it to your friends and family.

Give it a go – you might surprise yourself. 

Find Ryan here:


Tuesday, October 23, 2018


North and South
Elizabeth Gaskell
Penguin Classics (1996 version)

Summary (from the publisher)
As relevant now as when it was first published, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South skillfully weaves a compelling love story into a clash between the pursuit of profit and humanitarian ideals. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction by Patricia Ingham. 

When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the North of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. 

In North and South Gaskell skillfully fused individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature. In her introduction Patricia Ingham examines Elizabeth Gaskell's treatment of geographical, economic and class differences, and the male and female roles portrayed in the novel. 

This edition also includes further reading, notes and a useful glossary. Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65) was born in London, but grew up in the north of England in the village of Knutsford. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell and had four daughters, and one son who died in infancy. Her first novel, Mary Barton, was published in 1848, winning the attention of Charles Dickens, and most of her later work was published in his journals, including Cranford (1853), serialized in Dickens's Household Words. She was also a lifelong friend of Charlotte Brontë, whose biography she wrote. If you enjoyed North and South, you might like Jane Austen's Persuasion, also available in Penguin Classics. 
Elizabeth Gaskell

One of the hurdles modern readers have to jump over if they're going to really enjoy 19th century fiction is that pacing has changed remarkable in the last 150-200 years. Today's mass-market paperbacks read like thriller movies. Modern readers seem to crave plot-driven, conversation-led fiction. We want chapters to end on cliffhangers so we'll be compelled to keep reading.

Gaskell wrote North and South in a different environment. Imagery and description were not only expected but in many ways were necessary for readers who had limited experience. Today's readers have vicariously experienced so much more than Gaskell's readers would have. They didn't have television, movies, Periscope live streams, or phone-shot videos on Twitter. In many ways, modern readers don't need as much description because we've seen so much and our minds can fill in the gaps left between action scenes and conversations.

On the other hand, we haven't lived in 1855. We don't have high-definition video from that era to help us understand how sooty and smoky an industrial northern English town would have been. Most of us haven't experienced what it would have been like to watch a young woman waste away for wont of clean air, healthy food, and possibly antibiotics. And for this, we're grateful that nineteenth century authors tried hard to include so much imagery and description.

North and South tells the story of the Hale family and especially of the 19-year-old daughter Margaret. Margaret's father, a clergyman, has a crisis of faith and feels that he can no longer lead his parish in good faith since he's unsure of some of the basic tenets of his religion. This crisis of faith leads him to give up his comfortable position in the south of England. An acquaintance suggests that he seek employment as a tutor to one of the new "masters of industry" in the north. The family relocates to Milton, a bustling industrial town in the north, and they're shocked at the differences in the people and the culture.

The issues discussed in North and South are still being discussed today, perhaps more than ever before. What kinds of education are best for preparing people for the future? Do labor unions hurt or help the people they serve? What kinds of obligations do governments and churches have to caring for the poor? How much should you sacrifice for a clear conscience?

Gaskell has created some memorable and interesting characters in this novel. Margaret Hale is, in many ways, a typical Victorian heroine, but she's more complicated than some of the other female protagonists of the era. For someone so young, she has firm opinions about a variety of topics, but her new experiences in a new town help her to see the world as more complicated than she initially thought it was. This leads to great personal growth and a greater capacity to help those around her.

I can't wait to watch one of the several film productions based on this novel. I already miss the characters.

Monday, October 15, 2018


Today we're happy for the chance to get to know author Aldrea Johnson. She writes fantasy and has recently released the first book in her Dragon Bone series. Follow Aldrea's book tour for her new fantasy novel, The Battle for the Four Realms. Many thanks to Aldrea for the following interview:

What do you love about writing for young people?
I don’t think I intentionally set out to write for young people, But I love the idea that the young will identify with one the characters. For example girls/females can become powerful and self reliant and not rely on males to save them.

How do you feel that your early childhood in Jamaica affected your writing?
I don’t know whether it has except that I use Jamaican fruits, names for items/objects to give the story an “otherness” feel to the world/realm I created.

Which authors do you enjoy the most? Do you read particular authors while you're in the midst of a writing project?
Sterling E Lanier, CJ Cheerah, Ian Rankin, Dorothy Koomson, James Patterson, I very rarely read while I am writing and as a result I have a stack of books waiting to be read.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
I make rough notes, then I start writing chapter one, then I think of an idea of where I want the story to go. I would then start writing a different chapter and could be writing three/ four and more chapters at the same time.

What do you most like about writing? What do you least like about writing?
I love to see the character that has been living in my head come to life on the page and developing a life of their own. I am not very disciplined and find it really difficult to get started.

About Aldrea Johnson:

I was brought up on stories, tales of adventures of far off places, of princesses in peril and their princes rescuing them, they filled my head and sparked my imagination from an early age. I have very fond memories of “Lloyd Brown” or “Lloydy” as he was known to us children, telling the most wonderful stories. The only time he didn’t stutter was when he was telling stories, I would travel with him to those far off places from the Grimm fairy tales and just around the corner of the “Anansi” stories of Jamaican fables, these were amongst my favourites. By the time I had to swap the Jamaican sunshine for the winter “watery” sun of England at the age of almost eleven years old. My head was already crammed full of stories to accompany me on my very own adventure to far off England.

I may have spent my formative years in the Jamaican country side with the wild green woods and perfectly clear rivers but I grew up in London. Long winter days and darkened evenings would find me with my head in a book, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Arabian Nights and closer to home Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were later replaced but not forgotten by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, and Sterling E Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey.

I was a shy introverted child but while at school I was regarded as one of the “cool” kids; I was a real Jamaican with the accent to prove it.  Libraries became my playground; they helped to fuel my imagination where adventure after adventure played out again and again in my head.  I could be anywhere, any place, anytime from my little corner of the local library. I lived in my head; my stories gave me  a sense of belonging, they sustained me  and now somehow one of my adventures found its way onto the page and is about the be shared with others.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Around the Village Green
Dot May Dunn
Orion Publishing

SUMMARY (from the publisher)

It's 1939 and little Dot May Dun is playing with her brothers in the quiet lanes of their Derbyshire village. The grown-ups' talk of war means very little to Dot but things are starting to change in the village, for good.
When a prisoner of war camp is built close to Dot's village, and a Yankee base is stationed nearby, Dot makes friends with the most unlikely of soldiers. But her friendships are threatened when telegrams start to arrive in the village and the real impact of war bears heavily on this close-knit mining community.
From little lives spring great tales. Dot's childhood memoir shares the universals of innocence, love, loss and friendships. THE VILLAGE will move and entertain in equal measures.


Around the Village Green begins in the late 1930s, when the author is less than five years old and it continues through the War, ending in 1945. The brilliance of this memoir is that it captures childhood so well and gives us new insights into an event we've all read and heard so much about from many different perspectives.

I think it's quite difficult for adults to write from children's perspectives. It's simply been so long since we've thought like children. It's even difficult to remember what we knew then and what we still had to learn about. Dunn is so good at defining these lines. As a reader, I often found myself inwardly chuckling at the misunderstandings caused by children not quite understanding what a certain phrase meant or by reading more into a situation than was there.

For instance, the children have heard that there are German spies around the village, and it was true that a German POW camp was set up nearby. But the children start suspecting that certain villagers are spies. They don't have much to go on, but they do know that "Heinz" is a German name. So when a Heinz advertising poster goes up in a shop window, they decide to start watching the shop closely to see if Germans are involved.

Some of my favorite parts of the memoir were the episodes in which the author's family was exposed to foreigners. Dot's mother, especially, was wary of Americans and Germans. The American soldiers are stationed nearby, and the adults suspect them of being bad influences on the children. None of the children have ever seen gum before the Americans arrive, and soon the soldiers are giving out pieces of gum to the village children:

As suspected, nothing gets past Father and the next evening he gives us a sound lecture on the evils not only of begging from others but also of chewing gum. Gum, it seems, can damage every part of your inner workings, from stopping you breathing if you inhale it to stopping up your digestive system if you swallow it. I wonder why the Americans have come to fight the Germans, as it appears that most of them will die from gum before they even get going.

Dot's father invites three of the American servicemen over for tea, and they soon become friends. In the end, Dot remarks that "they have brought something that we have not known before, a sunlight and brightness in contrast to our dark and austere winter."

And then there are the Germans. The Germans have caused untold misery for the British people during the war. Dot's Uncle George and her friends' father have been killed. The whole village has lived with air raids and rationing and fear and constant threat of attack, all because of German aggression.

So when Dot's father asks a young German POW over for tea, Dot's mother is furious. The children all expect this German to be mean and angry and ferocious, and they're shocked when they see who he really is: 

"His hair is very fair---almost white--and when Father introduces me to him I expect a triumphant and superior look, but he is pale and tired-looking, and his eyes are full of fear and sadness. I had been determined to hold my head high, to be defiant, and to let him know that I am not afraid--that I too can hate. In my mind he has killed Uncle George and Arthur and Bert's father; he has even bombed the cities around us. But now I know as he stands here, I can see that there is nothing to hate. I can't get a grip on any part of him to hate."

Dot May Dunn
Not only does the family learn to love this 18-year-old German boy who is scared and homesick for his mother and sister, but he becomes like a member of their family. When he is transferred to another camp, he leaves a hole in their family and in their hearts. At one point, he rescues Dot's mother and cares for her as if she were his own mother. 

It's a heart-warming memoir that will increase your faith in humanity. I'm living in Leeds, UK, right now, and I was telling an older woman about the book because I had been reading it on the bus. She said, "I was five years old when the war started. Can I see it?" She looked through the book, nodding and smiling, and then she told me about how she actually liked the air raids as a child. Her mother had fitted out their cellar with little beds and cushions, and when they had to be down there, she let them eat the fruit preserves that were ordinarily set aside for special occasions. 

Childhood is a magical time of life, even in difficult circumstances, and Dot May Dunn captures this perfectly in Around the Village Green. Difficult topics are treated with reverence and respect, and you'll find plenty of opportunities to laugh as well. 

Learn more about Dot May Dunn here, or check out her other books, including Christmas Around the Village Green.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

REVIEW of TWOSPELLS by Mark Morrison

Mark Morrison
February 2018

SUMMARY (from the publisher)
Sarah and her twin brother Jon are heirs to an ancient magical realm and its most valuable treasure, an enchanted library. The library endows readers with the supernatural means of crossing into the uncharted inner-sanctum of the second dimension, inhabited with peculiar and sometimes perilous creatures. 

The children are emboldened with a wondrous mystical gift that no other being has ever possessed. But fate intervenes and triggers a disastrous inter-dimensional war that disrupts the fabric of time and space spanning multiple universes, tearing destiny a new and savage pathway. 

The two must rescue their world from a phantom hybrid alien race controlled by a demented dark-wizard, Jeremy Sermack. They will either assimilate or be exterminated. 

Will they be the saviors the prophets spoke of, or will they retreat to the perceived safety of their distant homeland?

I enjoy books that introduce me to new places, and this is a fantasy novel that is grounded in some actual places as well as some fantastical ones. At the beginning of the story, twins Sarah and Jon are traveling with their parents in Wales to visit their grandparents. The parents are interesting and engaged with their children, the kinds of parents all of us want to be. Sarah and Jon have interesting, individual personalities right from the start. The descriptions of their conversations and the countryside are unique and fun.

The protagonists soon learn that they have access to a magical library, and that's when the action really picks up. Readers find themselves jumping into and out of books along with Sarah and Jon, and the intensity makes for a great page turner. They encounter all kinds of creatures, from werewolves and dragons to zombies and ninjas.

Although Sarah is hesitant at the beginning of the story to accept the existence of mythical creatures, seeing is truly believing, and she soon embraces her role as rescuer of her world. Can these twins live up to the prophecies that have been told about them? 

Get a paperback or digital copy of TwoSpells at Amazon.

Monday, July 2, 2018


I have the pleasure of teaching a class in the children's organization at my church and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the father of a couple of these children is an author! So I'm pleased today to share an interview with Chris Seifert, an attorney and author with degrees in law and journalism. He also has a beautiful family and a great sense of humor. Be sure to check out his website and follow him on Twitter.

When did you first start writing? Do you remember what inspired you?
I think I’ve always been interested in stories, although it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what it was that got me writing.  When I was six years old, I wrote and illustrated a series of stories I called “The Adventures of Wally the Walrus.”  I still have a first edition copy of “Wally the Walrus” somewhere with all my old elementary school papers.  Later on, one of my friends and I hatched the idea to write an outer space adventure based on our playground escapades.  We never made it very far with that one, but writing a book was clearly something I was interested in doing all the way back then.  It wasn’t until I got to high school, however, that I started to truly focus some of my storytelling ambitions and develop a few more of the tools in my writer’s toolbox.  I must say I had a fabulous English teacher who gets much of the credit for that. 

Who are your favorite authors? Are there any particular genres you're drawn to?
I consider myself a science fiction fan first and foremost.  As I was growing up, “Star Trek” was something that captured my imagination, and I confess it’s never really let go.  The problem was I always found it difficult to get my hands on books that portrayed that same kind of optimistic “Star Trek” future I was craving (there are an awful lot of dystopias out there), and so I’m probably not as well-read in the science fiction genre as I’d like to be.  I mean, I’ve read some Carl Sagan, some Isaac Asimov, some Arthur C. Clarke, some Orson Scott Card, etc., but the one science fiction writer who really inspires me is Ray Bradbury.  Not that Ray Bradbury always paints a rosy picture of the future.  Often it’s quite the opposite, but he’s somebody who takes you to another world and then just kind of overwhelms you with the force and beauty of his language.  I actually think J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is the book I’d point to that best embodies the kind of wide-eyed optimism I value.  It also occurred to me recently that I’m drawn to stories about friendship and loyalty, which is probably why Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books are some of my other favorites.  Jerry Spinelli, Kate DiCamillo, and Gary Schmidt are a few contemporary children’s/young adult authors I admire.  Oh, and I love Harry Potter, but then who doesn’t, right?

When you sit down to write a novel, what do you do first? Do you outline? What does your process look like? 
I’m definitely an outliner.  You don’t make it through law school without becoming an outliner.  For me, endings are critical.  A great ending can elevate an otherwise ordinary book in my opinion.  So, I start with the ending.  Where is it these characters are going to end up?  What’s the pinnacle of their adventure?  Once I have that vision in my mind, then I ask myself how they’re going to get there. So, I guess you might say I sort of reverse engineer it.  I also try to pick a topic I’m extremely passionate about.  For example, a number of years ago, I wrote a novel about two teenage brothers who are obsessed with football.  Well, I’m obsessed with football, and so it was fairly easy to channel that excitement and energy into a novel.  As for the process, I’m afraid a big part of writing is just being willing to put in the time and do the grunt work.  When I was writing my football novel, I would close the door to my office at work every day at noon and write for an hour.  Some days, the prose I produced in that hour was absolute garbage.  (I was comforted knowing I could always go back and polish during the revision process.)  Other days, I couldn’t believe how easily the words flowed.  The key was consistency, chipping away at it a little bit at a time.  I’ve found that as I do that, I come to a point where I reach what I consider critical mass.  I look back at what I’ve written, and I realize I’ve made it this far, and I’ve still got enough in the tank to see it through.  Then, once I’ve finished a novel, I’m armed with the knowledge I’m capable of doing it all over again.  That’s been an empowering experience for me.

Do you see any parallels between your career in law and your creative writing? Do these two parts of your life feed each other in any way?
This is a tough question.  I wouldn’t exactly say there are parallels, but, yes, my legal career and my writing career certainly do feed and inform each other.  When I went to law school, I looked around and thought to myself, ‘My goodness, all of these people are brilliant.  I don’t belong here.’  No question many of them were brilliant, but what I soon found was that the writing skills I’d learned as an undergrad (I majored in print journalism) served me well in law school, and I was able to earn much better grades there than I had anticipated.  On the writing side, I’m a believer in the old adage, “Write what you know.”  When I sat down to write my science fiction novel, The Rocket Riders, I had to acknowledge I’ve never been to outer space.  But what I could say is I get excited about outer space.  Then I went about writing a father/son story about a boy who dreams of a future career in outer space and a dad who had those exact same dreams once – but set them aside for the greater good of his family.  The dad became instead – you guessed it! – a lawyer.  So, while I’m writing this over-the-top outer space adventure on the one hand, on the other hand I’m writing something very intimate and autobiographical about the choices I’ve made in my own life and the reasons for them. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m immensely proud of what I do as an attorney.  My job matters, and I get to contribute to society in a meaningful way, but at the same time I gave up something I was excited about (journalism) to, in part at least, provide a better, more stable life for my family.  With Rocket Riders, I was writing what I knew – and touching on some themes I think a lot of people can relate to.  Plus, I sprinkled in a bunch of inside lawyer humor for good measure.

What writing projects are you currently working on? 

Right now I’m working on a young adult fantasy novel with a good friend of mine.  I’ve never tried collaboration before (at least not since elementary school).  I’m such a control freak as a writer that I’m sure I’m a horrible teammate, but it’s been a fun experience so far.  I’m also brainstorming ideas for a couple of sequels to The Rocket Riders.  I’ve always been vehemently opposed to the idea of writing sequels, but as I consider how dear to me these particular characters are, I feel a desire to spend some more time with them, so I’m looking forward to going back to that well soon.

Thanks for the interview, Chris. Readers, be sure to check out some of the musical inspiration behind The Rocket Riders. You can find it here. You can also download a free e-copy of Chris's football novel, Red.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


HEARTWOOD (Silver Sagas, Book 7)
Lea Carter

SYNOPSIS (from the Publisher)

In the midst of his struggle to adapt to the fact that he will never fly—let alone walk—again, fairy Prince Isaac of the Wood Fairy Tribe meets a lovely doctor who claims that she can heal him. He would be a fool not to take the chance, but only he can heal the scars on his soul, scars won in a bitter fight against pirates mere months earlier. 

Doctor Cassidy Clark is a skilled surgeon, accustomed to her well-ordered life in the volcanic-glass domed cities of the Water Fairy Tribe. Confident that she could help the wounded Wood Fairy prince, she left her home, risking the secret of her tribe's existence. Now she finds herself stranded for an entire season at the Wood Fairy capital city of Weetu, tucked away in an old sugar maple. 

Will she be sensible enough to keep her distance or will she succumb to Isaac's winning ways?


As we meet the protagonist Isaac, he is recovering in the hospital from serious wounds sustained in battle. While I don’t usually think of fairies as warriors, it works, and I found myself being quickly drawn into the characters, their back stories, and their world of fairy tribes and royalty.

Even though this is the the book in the series, it’s not a problem to jump into this story as a stand-alone. The dialogue is charming, especially between Isaac and Cassidy.

By starting this story at the beginning of Isaac’s rehabilitation, the author has a chance to explore some important themes. Isaac is adjusting to life in a wheelchair, and this, of course, is not easy. He experiences frustration, exhaustion, and a self-consciousness that is new to him. Although we don’t all have experience with physical disability, we all experience losses, and this story helps us to make sense of loss.

Enjoy the camaraderie and good humor of this cast of characters. Kudos to Lea Carter for bringing them to life!

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