Review of THE FIRE SERMON by Francesca Haig

Europe in the post-apocalyptic world.  The Earth has finally absorbed the fall-out 18109771from its nuclear destruction. Evolution has once again made way for the human race to continue.

But now each baby is born with a twin.  One male, one female. One perfectly healthy, one damaged.  An Alpha, and an Omega.

Society has been trained to separate the two – the Omegas bear the contamination of the blast that devastated the world centuries ago. The Alphas can’t risk being tainted by them, so as soon as possible after birth, the damaged are sent to Omega camps to live among other mutated twins.  As the years pass, the Alphas take more and more control of human civilization – giving Omegas poor-producing land with little in the way of comfort. Omegas scrape by but are starving; kept alive but at a minimum. Some even disappear.

But some Omegas are hard to recognize, having no physical mutations. Those like Cass are Seers – they have psychic abilities.  Some can see the future, some can see the past.  But all are powerful – both feared and sought out by all factions. Cass was with her twin Zach for thirteen years before she was taken away. But by that time, Zach’s life had already been tainted with bitterness – shunned by the Alpha children, he wants nothing more than to fit in. Cass just wants the separations to end, with families staying together – both the perfect and the imperfect.

But there is one connection each set of twins is forced to respect – when one twin dies, so does the other.

The Alphas have a plan to deal with this vexation, and it’s up to Cass, and her fellow Omega Kip, to lead the rebellion against the Alpha aggressors.  How far will they go to stop them? And how can Cass bring compassion for one’s twin back to the world?

Francesca Haig has done a wonderful job with both plot and characterization, and her writing style is very fluid, and lyrical at times. One of my favorite quotes describes battle:

“…This isn’t some bard’s tale…When bards sang of battles, they made it sound like a kind of dance. As if there would be a beauty to the combat, a musical clashing of swords while soldiers parried to and fro, and individual fighters distinguished themselves with feats of skill and daring.  But what I saw allowed no room for such things.”

I think Haig’s premise is very ingenious, and the plot is energized with the push and pull between those who have and those who don’t, with the twist of Ying and Yang, one always affecting the other – The Alpha and The Omega. What a great read, with the promise of two more to come.

Review of THE DOLL by Taylor Stevens….Female Super-Ninja-Killer-Spy – – With Heart!

15998316Vanessa Michael Munroe seems to be invincible.  Her stealth in investigation and her ferocity and skill in protecting herself and those she loves make Michael almost untouchable.

Almost.

Until an angry psychopath known as the Doll Maker enacts a plan to kidnap Michael and use the lives of those she loves as collateral to force her into performing a mission.  She is to deliver a kidnapped girl to a wealthy client. But how far can Michael go when so many lives are on the line?

Taylor Stevens has done another great job of throwing readers right into the plot of the novel; pushing us into the action. Munroe is plunged into a dangerous situation, and her reactions to the order she’s given once again portray another layer of her vulnerabilities.  Although her character is akin to a super-ninja-killer-spy, readers are also given glimpses of her frailties and weaknesses; what makes her human.

An early excerpt from the book artfully but succinctly sums up Munroe’s skill in what she does:

Do not let her hear your language…she will use language as a weapon. Keep the area around her free of objects, everything will be used as a weapon. Stay clear of her reach, she doesn’t need a weapon to kill you. Don’t use restraints, she will find a way out of them and they will only give a false sense of safety. Do not touch herLeave her in peace, and treat her respectfully, only then will the violence stay muted. Disrespect these and make no mistake, she will kill you.

But this book is not just about the action. In it, we are taken deeper into the personality of Vanessa Michael Munroe. The events which unfurl in the story shake her to her very core. And yet, again, even with the danger she must face, and the extreme consequences of failure, she puts her compassion for others in front of her hard veneer, and does what’s right to save the one most vulnerable.

Taylor Stevens is skillful in how she plunges readers into both the action, and the mind of Munroe, who becomes more and more complex with every new book. Her plot is fast-paced and entertaining, and I can’t wait to read the next one in the Munroe series – THE CATCH.

Thanks for another great read Taylor!

Marriage Equality & What We’re Not Discussing…

?????????????In response to the Supreme Court’s decision that same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States, I read an article written by Dr. John Duffy, which was published by The Huffington Post.  It hit a chord with me, and I wanted to share it with you.

Dr. Duffy points out that although the Court’s ruling overcomes a huge hurdle toward equal rights for everyone, there is still much to do to gain society’s understanding of what being gay is all about. To move toward eliminating the shame that many gay people feel by being different, and not accepted, many times by their own families.  The following excerpt from his article is very powerful:

For I have sat across from the young man fighting against his truth, his gay-ness, with every fiber of his being. Because it will disappoint his parents. Because he won’t be accepted or loved, but rejected. Because he has been taught that who he knows himself to be is wrong. So he fights. He fights against his very nature. The resulting anxiety and depression run so very deep.

I have sat across from the teenage girl who recognizes who she is, but loathes the fact of it, and loathes herself as a result. Because it makes her life so hard, so odd, so weird. It estranges from people she once considered safe. Thoughts of suicide hover in the shadows all around her. And yet in every conceivable way, she is better-than-fine: bright, driven, beautiful, athletic, funny. And gay.

And I have sat across from the man who has lived a lie his entire life, hiding beneath the trappings of ‘normalcy': wife, children, house, couple of dogs. Family man. But he is tortured nonetheless. For he is gay as well, and he and those around him, he projects, would find this to be unacceptable. And now an entire family is drawn into the dark.

 Dr. Duffy’s point is that everyone should be able to be true to themselves, to not live a lie, and to not feel ashamed of who they are. As a society, we still have a long way to go to ensure everyone can feel the joy of being themselves. He also asks anyone who is bitter about marriage equality to reconsider their position; to consider the fact that LOVE IS LOVE.  Period.  They can be part of the emotional anguish, or part of the happiness. They can make people feel good about who they are.  And isn’t that something all of us should have?

The Writers’ League of Texas 2015 Agents & Editors Conference…

CIhKJYwVAAEqs2I (2)I’ve never been interested in attending a conference before; never really been interested in chit-chatting with strangers. As I previously said, I’m not a mingler; the cocktail party thing is hard for me. But it’s now occurred to me that maybe this has less to do with the party, and more to do with who’s at the party!

At the Writers’ League of Texas 2015 Agents & Editors Conference, I talked to more people I didn’t know than I ever have, and I wasn’t shy about it. They actually wanted to meet me (except for the old couple on the elevator who I thought were discussing the hotel construction, but I guess not – the old man let me know he didn’t want me in their conversation!).

The people who attended had the same loves that I do – writing and books. I did meet one woman who apparently could only self-promote – I never did hear her say anything that didn’t have to do with her skill and fortune; never heard her ask anyone else about their work. But other than that woman, everyone was eager to know what I was working on, and eager to tell me about their projects.

One of the best things about the conference was the positive energy and attitudes that everyone had. Yes, it’s rare to have your first novel turn into a best-seller. But it could happen. One of the main messages I heard over and over in the presentations is that authors should continually strive to write well, and NEVER give up. If we just keep doing that, we will eventually have success.

The positivity, friendliness, helpfulness, and inspiration of all involved in the conference was so motivating that I can’t wait to go back next year. And I encourage all you authors out there to pencil it in on your mental calendars. It’s worth it!

Writers’ League of Texas – Agents & Editors Conference – Day One

imagesMy first day at the Writers’ League of Texas 2015 Agents and Editors Conference was awesome. It’s amazing what a mix of writers there are here – from poetry to memoir to fiction, I think there are authors from every genre represented.

It’s great to be around people who are crazy about writing; who are crazy about books. These people know what it’s like to get a rejection letter. Or twenty. But so many of them also know what it’s like to get an agent, and have their work published by a major house. Everyone is rooting for each other, trying to help each other in our quests to become published authors.

It’s also nice to socialize with agents and editors. They really are real people (even though so many times it seems they’re not – only the gatekeepers who won’t give us entry into the world of publishing). But I can understand how daunting it must be to receive hundreds of queries that require consideration, and how one person only has so much time, and can only represent so many clients.

I tried my first oral pitch last night at a cocktail party. The agent was so gracious when I told her I was nervous. And she didn’t just want to hear my ten-second elevator pitch – she actually asked for more of the story. And she also asked for a query. I also have two consultations set up for today – I am praying to the literary Gods that I can intelligently describe what my books are about.

I can see from attending this conference that it’s definitely more effective, and means so much more, to connect with people – authors, instructors, agents and editors – face to face, in person. Not just digitally.

I truly appreciate the chance to attend this conference, and am more inspired than ever to be part of this community, and help others like me in any way I can.

MEMBERS REVIEW

Originally posted on Scribe:

IT’S A LONG STORY: MY LIFE

By Willie Nelson with David Ruiz

Published in 2015 by Little Brown.

willie-nelson-its-a-long-story-my-life

Reviewed by Tony Burnett.

Willie Nelson’s new autobiography, A Long Story, My Life, is a must read for Willieophiles. The iconic Texas minstrel digs deep, spending a large portion of the journal exploring the lesser-known events of his childhood in Abbott, Texas and his early years developing his talents in the rough trade dives along Fort Worth’s notorious King’s Highway. Willie also reveals a number of surprises about his philosophical and spiritual journey, mostly as it pertains to his career decisions.

My Life, is neither a glorified PR statement nor a tabloid tell-all. It’s written in a conversational tone where most of his family and acquaintances (yes, including all four of his wives) are presented fairly and with forgiveness. He even claims to have a cordial relationship with the Internal…

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