Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review (Pre Release) - Antiartists by Ralph Pullins

Ralph Pullins' debut novel is a work of art. And like all works of art, people will either dismiss it as pretentious, or have something deep within themselves that becomes ignited, or some will not "get it" but still appreciate its wealth of angst, depth, existential life questions, and overall message. No matter their response, like all art, the artist - or in this case the author - will have done his job.

This story is about a lost, self destructive young art school drop out named Chris who is wandering around in life with nothing but his darkness. Fresh out of rehab, he does nothing but think. He is cynical, miserable and like an athlete who can't play his sport due to an egregious injury, Chris is an artist who can't art due to whatever injuries plaguing his mind. He can't create because he can't see beauty anymore, and whatever is determined to be beautiful by this world, he wants to destroy.

Throughout his tale, he looks for the highs (that don't involve substance abuse) that take him out of his pit of self pity, for a moment anyway - whether it be through inflicting pain upon himself or breaking things or associating himself with other miserable people or pushing people who care about him away - but he is never quite buying into it. He is so self righteous about the world and those who live in it and then so self destructive and full of crap at the same time that you don't know whether to slap him or hug him. Because when he's self righteous, he's right. And when he's full of crap, he's still right. 

Ralph writes in stream of consciousness much of the time. Whether it be the thoughts in Chris' head or the dialogue between characters who have reached a certain level of understanding, it is an interesting peek into the rabbit trails that exist within creative minds. Ralph is a gifted writer and has a real eye for details and expression. The story is edgy and disturbing but the foundation of it is the base of pretty much every human being, no matter how lost one is. Throughout the story, you can see how his encounters with certain beautiful things keeps him tethered to his true nature. When Chris finally has his revelation, brought on by an ancient work of art, he is able to at last accept this simple life truth: It is in the living that we find the beauty and the beauty is in the living. 

Outstanding debut. I look forward to reading more works by this author. I highly recommend it. 

This book will be released May 17th by Pen Name Publishing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

After People Read a Book

Now that my book is out there in the reading void, my words are being consumed by others. Judged, chewed upon, swished in the mouths and minds of people who like to think about the story and the many issues within it. Maybe a reader has been there, knows what Scout went through. Maybe a reader was brought up Southern Baptist and identifies with some of the teachings. Maybe a reader grew up in a small town. Maybe a reader - a native North Carolinian - has picked up on a mistake by this original Jersey girl. "Naw, someone from rural North Carolina never would have said that!"

Last night, my mother in law shared her thoughts about one of my characters. I know how I wanted to present my character. But I cannot control how readers interpret him or how their own minds might lead a character into a different or even opposite direction than my intention. It is interesting to listen to why she thinks this character was something else, how and why her mind viewed him as she did, how she saw what he did earlier and then later as something larger. I have talked with another who thought the ending would have been better if it wasn't tied up so neatly. She would have been okay with it ending after the third part because that's more realistic. One reader was bored with one of my characters, and I, that's my favorite one! How could he be bored with that character??

It is a new phenomenon for me - listening to others express how their minds viewed my people creations and their experiences while traveling through my world creations. Hearing their thoughts about this issue or that situation. Basically, generating discussion about important life events and moments that shaped my characters but ultimately, also shape us.

I used to be the person who participated in the discussion only. Now I'm the person who is trying to figure out why someone thought this instead of that or why a reader viewed something opposite of how I thought I described it...because I wrote the thing. But when listening, I can understand what they mean when they explain it. Sometimes it is not something I ever thought about myself.

I'm doing a lot of listening, and I love it. I love how different we all are and how we view life in that same light...there are many vantage points. That was why I wrote a story with varying narrations. Oftentimes, we get a story that is one-dimensional. But that is not how life works. Truth is truth in the  end, but sometimes we don't quite know exactly what it is alone - we need the contributions of others to see the sum of the parts.

When reading a book, we do the same thing as any other function in life: we bring our own life experiences, opinions, indoctrinations, predispositions, biases into the act of reading and interpreting a story. Sometimes we learn something...sometimes we help someone else learn something...but mostly, we become more in touch with ourselves and our fellow humans.

Happy reading! Oh, and PLEASE leave a review on Amazon and Good Reads! It can be just a sentence! It really helps us little guys!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Scout's Honor Launch - Yes, it actually happened.

This blog post on Finding Dori was written on April 15th, 2016.

Yesterday was my first book's launch day. I only get one of those. Kind of like a first Steelers game at Heinz Field. I only get one of those. So if the memory isn't a good one - or one you'd prefer to forget -then you're kind of screwed.

Back in June 2015, when I signed with Pen Name Publishing, the date of April 14th, 2016 seemed so far out there. And then slowly, week by week, edit by edit, building block by block, this new author experience and first book process came into a full blown photo. April 14th looked nice - a Spring day in North Carolina, a top-of-the-mountain feeling, a Rocky-at-the-Philadelphia-Art-Museum moment just a little while away....

But no. That was not my launch day.

My first book's launch day was spent on the 3rd floor at UNC Lineberger Cancer Hospital, the chemotherapy infusion center, just like every two Thursdays for the past month and a half, with my husband who is receiving treatment for Stage 4 colon cancer. If someone told me that would be my launch day back in June, I'd slap a face (or "cut a bitch" to quote my friend). Cancer isn't our family's "thing."

Well, now it is.

Basically, the Thursdays we spend there are long. My husband has to receive the chemo treatment which is the longest one, of course. We sit in our spot, he tries to get comfortable in the most uncomfortable place possible, the young UNC student volunteer comes by with his cart of coffee, Lorna Doone cookies and a smile, trying to make you feel like the worst situation in your life - ever - ever ever ever - might be momentarily lessened with his kindness - and really, it's not, but one thing I've learned throughout this is that when you have cancer or when your loved one has cancer, people at the cancer hospital are the nicest people on the planet. It's too bad they can't all be cloned and brought outside of the hospital experience and into the "real world" - whatever that even is anymore.

There has been nothing but horrible news, results, and overall moments throughout this entire situation. We keep waiting for someone to come out of a room and at last announce, "Hey! We got good news!" or "We got news that doesn't suck for once!" or "We got this under control!" or "Hey! Someone just found a cure!" Because really, that is all that will save him: a miracle. I know people believe in the "power of prayer," and if God comes through for my husband, maybe my highly cynical Christian ass will have a turnaround. Because God knows I've prayed - and I'm not much of a pray-er anymore. God knows lots of people have been praying, people who fervently adhere to their faith. Would be nice if my husband was the tangible recipient of these kind folks' diligent efforts on their knees. Would be great if he received the touch of God's grace. I know I've bargained for it.

We met with a wonderful lady at UNC Lineberger, who coordinates events that raise funds for the hospital. She came by our little encampment and we discussed how we can best use my book to raise funds for Gastrointestinal Oncology research at UNC. She is going to set me up a "landing page" where people can donate funds to this cause, buy my book - where a portion of the proceeds will go toward this directly, and also where we can tell our story.

Scout's Honor - which has absolutely nothing to do with cancer - is really the only thing that I have to give to try to help my husband and others in his situation or others who will be in his situation someday in the future. The hospital will be putting together a landing page for donations and my book and our story for me to share on my website and everywhere else I can share. If you donate or buy my book, please know that all the funds donated go directly toward the cause. So many charities use a lot of funds for their administration. This donation goes to the actual research. This is how progress is made - it is tangible, it is prolonging and saving lives, and I hope that something will be discovered in time to save my husband's life.

Thanks for your support.


UPDATE: The UNC Lineberger Cancer Hospital has set up the 2016 Scout's Honor page. If you would like to donate to Colon Cancer Research at this world class hospital, which is much needed, please go to 2016 Scout's Honor's Fundraising Page. ANY and ALL funds donated to this cause go DIRECTLY to research - and not administration, balloons, tee shirts and awards. Research. Period. Let's get this cancer on the national radar for a change. THIRD cancer...and SECOND cancer killer...and no one is talking about it! You are NEVER too young to get this devastating disease.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Scout's Honor Launch Day - April 14th, 2016

#manuscriptmonday #mondaymotivation

Finally, after nine months since signing my contract with Pen Name Publishing, my debut novel, Scout's Honor, will be released this month. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into writing the book, and then a lot of elbow grease went into the editing of the work. ("Santa Claus" is spelled "Santa Clause" in the book....sorry ahead of time to all of you nit-picky people out there....)

On April 14th, I will be running a couple of fun contests online. One is for this most amazing Scout's Honor mug. It is a good sized mug, 15 ounces. What is better than reading a good book hot off the presses than with a big steaming mug of coffee or your favorite hot liquid?
This is how the mug contest works: Buy my book from your favorite online retailer, take a screen shot of the receipt, then email me the receipt at This contest will run all day. At the end of the day, I will draw a name from a hat and the lucky winner will be announced.

The second contest will go on for two weeks and is just for fun. Do you love taking selfies? I know lots of people do. So....When you receive my book - whether on your E-Reader or in the mail in Paperback - take a selfie of you with Scout's Honor. Then email it to me at and I will share your selfie on all of my social media accounts as a "Scout's Honoree."  

Thanks to everyone for your support of my first book. And remember, a portion of the proceeds of the sales of my book will go to Colon Cancer Research and Awareness efforts. You are NEVER too young to be diagnosed with this devastating cancer. This is not an old people cancer. This is not a man's cancer. This is an EVERYONE cancer. Get screened. Get screened earlier than 50 if you can. It might save your life.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book Review: I, Peter Wood by Paige Hardt

#funfriday #bookreview

I, Peter WoodPaige Hardt is a gifted writer with how she uses words in a free flowing melody. She thoroughly describes details and carries thoughtful dialogue. Her characters are interesting and understandable. 

The book revolves around the aftermath of a broken family, where the patriarch, Peter Wood, is found dead. He leaves behind a will and instructions to be followed in the event of his death. He is basically a man full of regrets, and because he never reconciled them in life, he tries to reconcile them in death. He brings his ex wife and three children from that marriage together at his childhood home to learn more about who he was and where he came from. The family must face its various demons, some of which were brought on by the alienation of their husband and father. This story touches upon many issues that affect families everywhere: divorce, alienation, sibling rivalry, adultery, love, redemption, daddy issues, reckoning, and mysteries that surround one person's sudden death. 

The protagonist Audrey is a completely relatable young woman with her insecurities and self doubts and the complexities that surround an artist who carries within her a bleeding soul. The book is not very long, which makes it a fast and entertaining read. I highly recommend this book for your summer reading pile. Great independent author! Paige Hardt's website is

Happy reading,