Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

AN UNCOMMON BLUE Review

It's been a while. But that's because this has been a crazy summer. I did a friend's wedding, got a new puppy to train, my daughter's getting married next week, my son came home from his two year mission to Russia, we had a family reunion in Utah, and I went through my SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO book and did re-writes in anticipation for its second printing (addressing all the problems critics had with it).

So today, while it's thundering, I'm going to review this book: AN UNCOMMON BLUE by R C Hancock.
I met RC at a book convention this year. We were trying to sell books in the face of heavy hitters like Brandon Mull and Regina Sirois and having a rough time of it. But he bought mine and I bought his and it was all good.
Then later in the year he contacted me about Beta reading his newest offering. So I did it. RC is a fabulous guy. That book was so wonderful that I immediately bumped this book up to almost the top of my mountain of waiting reads.

Boy was I glad I did!

The premise of AN UNCOMMON BLUE is that the people of Telesphore have a fire in their right hand. The color of that fire defines their whole life: their caste, their income, where they'll live, their livelihood and how the people in general will treat them.

Bruno is born a blue--the best color. He should have all the perks society has to offer. But right before he's classified into a livelihood, a random boy runs up and reacts with him, changing his fire, tainting it with green. This automatically ends Bruno's chances at going to medical school, or living with his parents.

Worse than that, there is an altercation and a police officer dies. Now Bruno is on the run and wanted.

I really love it that Bruno does the best he can with what is thrown at him. He's basically a moral, principled person and goes out of his way to protect the downtrodden and misunderstood, even while being bullied and hunted himself.

Bruno is presented with the perfect way to prevail over his 'enemy.' Instead, he makes a string of selfless choices which have unimaginable repercussions.

The book was fast-paced and well written. I was fully invested in Bruno's life, hoping the people he helped would mean good things for him. He made the same mistakes any boy would. He stood by his mistakes with grace and loyalty. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

And you can't know how easy it would have been to spoil the ending...;o)

Buy AN UNCOMMON BLUE here. And tell RC I sent you...:o)

Write faster, RC.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

CAYMAN SUMMER Review


Here's the last book in the Taken By Storm trilogy by Angela Morrison, CAYMAN SUMMER.

I was avid to dive into this book because at the end of the last book, Leesie literally ends at the bottom of a cliff along with her brother, Phil. Only Leesie doesn't end. She's left with a broken body and an ocean of guilt. She feels God and her family can't help but shun her. Life is ash around her destroyed feet. She abandons her convictions, her school, and her family.

The only island she has is Michael. She clings to him and tries to embrace his kind of life. Only he won't let her. He is now her life raft in more ways than one. He sees that if she abandons everything that once drove him crazy with unfulfilled desire, she won't be the person he fell in love with.

This book is a journey--a search for truth and love and acceptance. Will it be back where they were before? Will it be down to the depths? Or will they both follow their bubbles up towards the light?

I fell in love with Michael even more, because he is wise enough to recognize his pearl-of-great-price and the beliefs that made her precious. I loved that Leesie finds that same pearl in Michael.

You can get CAYMAN SUMMER here. I fully endorse it.

In fact, I give this whole series a huge ten flipper salute.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Diver Down (UNBROKEN CONNECTION review)

As promised, I'm giving you Angela Morrison's second book in her diving series, UNBROKEN CONNECTION.

 Leesie, despite her insatiable need for Michael, follows her dream to college, while he goes off to South East Asia to become a boat captain and SCUBA instructor and leader. They've agreed to be friends and see where that leads them.

Along the way, Michael meets a gorgeous young prostitute who needs his help to break free from the trash guys who use her. But Michael's sights are set on the girl back home--the one who saved his life, and who keeps him buoyant.

Leesie sees pictures of Michael with the Asian girl and thinks he has abandoned her for the fleshpots of Phuket.  How could she not believe it when he's kissing the girl? And it's splashed all over the Internet. She goes running home to her safe haven.

On her way home, she realizes Michael would never betray her as she thinks he has. She defends him to her brother and their argument has devastating effects which change her life.

I had to find out if Leesie and Michael managed to stay together, and if Leesie had to sacrifice her convictions and morals to do it. So far, so good. But what will happen now? Will they lose their connection? Will it be separate ocean dives for the two of them?

You can get this book here.

I give UNBROKEN CONNECTION another ten flipper salute.

Friday, May 29, 2015

TAKEN BY STORM Review



I recently read a beautiful series by Angela Morrison. I dove into this series having already read and loved her book SING ME TO SLEEP.

The first book is TAKEN BY STORM. Michael has grown up in the deep water, exploring seamounts and deep canyons with his parents. His world is that of darting reef dwellers and the deep blue fade to black. His is the world of fins and mask, of Nitrox and regulators. It's a halcyon world, cradling him in contented exploration.

It all goes wrong with a wall of storm-driven water. A hurricane steals the lives of everyone on the boat but Michael. He's left to lick his wounds in the company of his grandmother in a place far from his luscious deep haven, far from the only medicine that works.

Enter Leesie.

She's a good little college-bound farmer's daughter who knows more about hogs and Sunday School than she does about her own heart. A sweetheart is nowhere on her horizon. She's chugging straight to university. But somehow Michael sticks to her like a barnacle, uncomfortable, but suddenly necessary. Soon their relationship is completely symbiotic. They can't figure out how to live together, but they can't be apart.

I really, really loved this book. I loved Michael's world of drifting reef sharks and free dives through schools of angel fish. I loved how Leesie loves him even though he isn't considered marriageable, even though she can't figure out a way to be his wife. I'm crazy about the thing where she doesn't keelhaul her morals to hang with her boy. And I love how Michael never stops loving her. He's so patient and values her so greatly. She's his oxygen tank and his life ring and his zodiak raft all rolled into one.

I learned the very basics of Scuba in the North Fork of the Santiam river, at a place where a hot springs feeds into the river, leaving it delightfully warm and clear to the very bottom. We'd jump off the bridge and try to catch the enormous trout with our bare hands. My favorite part was the diving, though. I've always wanted more of it. I'm like my diver sister in that way. I'm stuck in the desert, wishing I could figure out a way to get down to that liquid indigo world. It heads my bucket list.

So when I read this book, it spoke to me on a deep-dive level. I immediately went to go buy the other two books in the trilogy, finding out that I'd already bought them long ago. They were a whip-fast read--a series I'd take to the beach any day. Tomorrow I'll write about the next book in the series.


I'm giving TAKEN BY STORM a 10 flipper salute. You can buy it here.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Craziness Escalates


I haven't posted in a while because A. I'm getting ready for my daughter's wedding and in charge of someone else's, B. I'm doing re-writes on my Sunrise Over Scipio book in preparation for its second printing, C. I'm training our new puppy, D. Doing portraits I owed people and E. My youngest daughter just graduated from high school. Now only one son left.

I thought this summer things would slow down a bit. Not a chance in sight. It's totally crazy around here. We're hand sewing mint green ties and trying to get the dog not to poop in the house and he's tearing around like a crazy thing, making us laugh our heads off.

I pause in the midst of this to be petrified. Too soon it'll be just B and the Hubs and me, and then B will be gone. I'm both dreading and anticipating the pall of silence that will accompany The Leaving.

I feel like the life blood of this place is leaching into the sere desert coleche and I could desiccate along with the hulks of last October's pumpkins which I toss into the compost heap (I delude myself will someday it will nourish a garden). The new music will go, and knowledge about how to use most of the devices they've grown up with. The trickles and floods of laughter will ebb away down the cracks of the thirsty ground, leaving me and my Hubs--the guy who talks to himself constantly and me rarely--to knock around in our suddenly empty house like two marbles. O.o

 I don't want to sit here pickling in my juices. There are things to do. For one thing, I have to figure out how to pry my youngest barnacle away from his computer mother ship. Swim! Be free, my not-so-small fry. Move before you calcify and become affixed somewhere you don't wish to stay for the rest of your life.

I want to see new places, do new things, learn what it is to live in that sphere, to Become. I want to bloom, opening out my petals to the light of the Son, breaking free of the darkness.

I suppose it'll be the time to finally figure 'IT' all out. The time to go forward with courage and a sense of adventure. The time to finally figure out my Rubics Cube husband and stop trying to take off the color stickers to cheat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mark of the Jaguar Book Review

Today I want to feature the book MARK OF THE JAGUAR by Mark Cheney. I just finished the book.


It's clear that Mark is normally a non-fiction writer. His presentation is flawless and his research exhaustive. The book was engaging and interesting. I learned so much about Mayan culture I'd never known before. It's clear Mark has been to the places he talks about. Now I'd like to go to Teotihuacan and Chichen Itsa and a few of the other places he mentioned.

The book follows a boy (and then man) called Yax Kan on a voyage of discovery for truth. He travels his lands searching for evidences of Kulkucan, the Feathered Serpent, or Christ. Along his journey, he meets dissolute religious men, a gorgeous potter's daughter, a golden jaguar, and various fellow searchers for the truth. Yax is a stone carver and scholar of repute. His knowledge of herbs is a trove he can pull from in various instances.

He and his friends work to free a city from the slavery of crooked priests who use a crystal skull to terrorize the citizens into working in their salt mines.

Though a work of fiction, the book often reads as non-fiction. I felt as if I could open the flap of my tent and walk out into the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula.


Here's my interview with the author:

1)         When was the moment you knew you wanted to be an author?
Answer: Probably after writing Poof, the Wonder Dog in 6th grade. However, later in life I wrote numerous articles in connection with my business dealings, some being published in national trade journals, and a local newspaper column. It was not until traveling to Mesoamerica in 1995 that I considered writing about the ancient Maya. I met the publisher of a magazine called Explore the Maya World in the airport terminal in Belize City, Belize, and after a brief conversation he asked if I would like to write about some of the experiences I had just had touring the Maya ruins, etc. It was a couple of years later that I started writing Mark of the Jaguar.

2)         When did actually you start writing?
Answer: I wrote a whimsical song in about 1985, never published, then started writing non-fiction around 1990, and fiction in 1997. I wrote one poem during that period and won a contest with the local writing group and that helped inspire me to continue.
(I used to write songs while I milked goats. Yeah. None of the songs were about goats.)

3)         When writing a book, do you outline, or let the story take you where it will? How did your story benefit from your writing style?
Answer: Way back in 1967 when I first got home from a mission to Florida & Georgia, I developed an interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was enlarged to include the Nag Hammadi scrolls in Egypt. Once in Egypt, I began to study the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and then the hieroglyphs. Once I learned of the glyphs found in Mesoamerica, I dropped everything else and began looking for correlations with the Reformed Egyptian of the Book of Mormon. I started out writing the first 18 pages of my novel about a Maya shaman while stopped in traffic behind a school bus accident in 1997, then outlined the rest of Part One of the book. Due to size requirements in my first publisher's submission guidelines, I added the sequel as Part Two. Actually, I had a lot to learn, and after sessions with two different editors, and one LDStorytellers' Conference, I made substantial changes in hopes of improving my style and the story in the process. I had to have less narrative, more dialogue, and use more of the five senses in my telling of the story. 

4)         Tell me about the inspiration for this book—the story behind the story.
Answer: After two of seven trips to Mexico and Central America to visit the ruins of the ancient people who had lived there, I began to visualize what it must have been like to live anciently, hundreds of years after the close of the Book of Mormon, and still hundreds of years before the Spanish conquest of these areas. I saw and studied about many things which appeared to me to be evidences that the Book of Mormon people left behind in these ruins: monuments, glyphic writings, structures, and other cultural remains. (See my four articles at BMAF.org in Sept. 2014 describing some of them.)

5)         How was this book therapeutic for you to write?
Answer: It was amazing to have the plot lead me by the nose to places I hadn't expected, meeting characters that revealed themselves as I wrote. I was especially shocked when my protagonist suddenly, but very naturally as a 20 year old, was drawn into a romantic relationship! I was totally unprepared and had lots to learn to even begin to write with the romantic sensitivity it would take to describe his feelings. I was both humbled and helped in my own personal relationships by recognizing all that goes into this kind of writing. The adventure and discovery part was really fun for me, as that is the kind of books that I enjoy reading myself. Writing the book became my R&R after a hard day at work.

6)         What do you hope your readers get from your book?
Answer: Well, because of the book's connection to Book of Mormon archaeology, it has a spiritual element that I want to come across. My MC was on a path of spiritual discovery, and during his quest had many exciting experiences, both dangerous and beautiful, as well. I hope that the readers are drawn into an empathetic relationship with the characters that lets them envision what it might have been like to live anciently around 685 AD, the approximate time frame for the book. 
(I personally developed a real wish to see the places Mark describes.)

7)         What is a writing roadblock you've had to overcome, and how have you overcome it?
Answer: I hate to admit that I really did not enjoy rewriting and revising and even improving what I first wrote, since it really came from my heart, but I believed that I had to, based on my critique groups and one particular editor's advice.

8)         Describe your typical writing day.
Answer: Most of my writing is done in the afternoon now, when my wife is well entrenched in her own activities. Mornings and evenings are reserved for our activities together. Once I actually determine what I need to write, the first drafts come pretty easily. As I am an indie writer, I am fortunate not to have deadlines, so I can be pretty relaxed about how much I accomplish each week, and may not write 5-6 days a week, like many authors must.

9)         Traditional publishing vs. self publishing—how did you choose which route to go? What benefits have you seen from your choice?
Answer: Since it is a book with a connection to a particular book of scripture, I first went to an LDS publisher, one of the most well known. The process took over two years and as I indicated, included lengthening the manuscript to a page count that was not indicated in the online submission guidelines, but given verbally when I first sent in a shorter mss. Then I received a form rejection letter, which kind of shocked me after they had requested a number of changes that I made along with the lengthening of the book. Then I went to smaller LDS publisher and was able to actually have some face time with the editor who gave me further advice and asked me to resubmit the mss. This took almost two years before I received another rejection, but this time with the explanation that although the editor recommended publication, her boss gave it to the marketing people for approval and they nixed it as too much of a "niche" story that would not be marketable. After only two rejections, but with this "niche" problem in mind, I decided to self-publish rather than wait any longer. Now my family and friends have copies, and I am in almost the same marketing mode that I would have been with a publisher. The big exception is without a publisher, I am not in any brick and mortar bookstores yet. This could change if I get the award for which I have been nominated. Main benefits are that I chose my own cover and illustrations, no more rewrites, and I have more control than with a traditional LDS publisher. Also, my publisher, AuthorHouse.com does not let me have much input in pricing. I am allowed one price change ONLY, and that is only on the EBook. Something positive, since this was an historical novel set around 685 AD, I was able to include a glossary of terms, historical notes, list of characters and some illustrations of real things and people, like King Kan Balam of Palenque with my protagonist, Yax Kan. Some of the simpler line drawings I did myself, but my daughter did three main illustrations including the cover art, and I was able to get permission from V. Garth Norman, PhD, to use his drawing of the Izapa Stela 5 "Tree of Life" stone.

10)       This is your first published book. Are there others to come?
Answer: Probably. I am seriously considering writing a compilation of the non-fiction articles I have written, and also have been thinking about a book which will cover some of the cases I worked on as a missing persons private investigator. I once gave a presentation to Northern Arizona Romance Writers Association (NARWA) on how to go about creating a false identity for a character in a novel, from the real life experiences I had in tracing people.
(I once fought next to a guy who catches people lying for a career and has written 7 books on lying. He also works for the military interrogating people. I wish I could remember his name.)

Of course, if my first novel, Mark of the Jaguar, takes off I will finish the sequel I have outlined, but that remains to be seen, based on the Whitney awards outcome for 2014. I have been nominated, so am in a holding pattern right now.
(Don't wait for the Whitneys. Just write.)

11)       Why are you a writer?
Answer: Mostly to share my experiences with others, but it is also a creative outlet when it comes to poetry and fiction. There just about has to be some ego involved, I think, to want to continue writing. It gives me lots of "juice" when I get read and receive good comments.

12)        Did anything from your childhood play a role in helping you decide to be a writer? What was it? And how did that person/event influence you? 
Answer: I had excellent writing teachers from grade school up into undergraduate studies. I even took a Creative Writing evening class with my daughter, Tasha, while I was writing the novel. She had started one as well, so it was lots of fun.
(I have a Natassia too!)

13)        Is writing your day job?
Answer: Writing is my main avocation for enjoyment in my retirement. It keeps my brain actively engaged and opens me up to many new experiences. For instance, in 2013 I edited a book that a Facebook friend of mine had written in Portuguese, and then translated to English. It was really interesting to see how her translation included idioms not understandable in English, at least in America. The Portuguese language is very poetic and flowery compared to English, with lots of colloquialisms that we wouldn't normally understand, so the editing included lots of rephrasing. She is still working on the final drafts.
(It's my day job...along with ferrying the last few of my 6 kids to every place of their dreams, lion-taming (okay small nippy puppy), Boy Scout wrangling, wedding planning, and a trillion other details.)

14)       (Some might say this question is the most important of all...) What is your absolute must-have writing snack?
Answer: Until a few months ago, it was chocolate of one kind or another, now it has changed . . . to sugarless Russell Stover chocolates! Dry roasted peanuts are a close second. One of my nf articles is on the history of cacao, not coincidentally.
(For me it's plantain chips. I LOVE those almost more than chocolate.)

Links to my FB page and blogs, as well as Amazon, BN, etc. https://www.facebook.com/MarkoftheJaguarbook?ref=hl ; 

http://indiebookoftheday.com/past-winners/ (Scroll down to Sept. 11, 2014 to my novel.)


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Dog or not to Dog

Eh! I forgot to post my limerick for National Limerick day. So here it is in all its splendor:

We recently got a new puppy
We got him a leash and a cuppy
He's just like a child
He's sweet and he's wild
When he poops we wish he was a guppy
© 2015 by H. Linn Murphy
So what actually happened is someone dumped this puppy in the back of the pick-up in front of our house along with a bag of dog food. We really hadn't planned on getting a dog. My son has wanted a dog so much he can taste it, for years. We jokingly get him fake dogs. I don't know. Maybe we're a little bit warped.

So we got this dog the other night. Immediately the kids named him and went and bought him a leash and a collar. And then when he slipped that one a few times, they bought a choke chain. They're sleeping next to him and walking him and potty training him. It's going to be some serious heartbreak if we don't keep him.

But we also have a family trip coming up. And we have a wedding in the works along with being extremely busy. Dogs are expensive and training one is time consuming. They chew things up and poop all over and get out of the gate and die and get diseases.

But every day that goes by Riley (Bazinga) burrows further into our hearts.