Review of THE INNOCENT by Dallas Author Taylor Stevens

The Innocent  (Vanessa Michael Munroe, #2)The Innocent by Taylor Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vanessa Michael Munroe is not your average – at anything. Her specialty is information gathering, but she will use her skills in self-defense if necessary. Jason Bourne and Lisbeth Salander have nothing on this chick. Cute and sometimes feminine on the outside, lethal on the inside.

Michael, the name she sometimes uses when posing as a man, was born in Africa to missionary parents who sent her away to be raised by friends at age thirteen. After further neglect, she ventured out on her own and became a translator for the local gunrunner. Sadistic abuse by a mercenary trained Michael to become expert at protecting herself, her most lethal weapons being her own two hands, with knives a close second. Even a small touch by a stranger causes Munroe to be consumed with the compulsion for battle.

Although Munroe is usually hired to gather information, traveling around the globe and creating alternate personas to get the job done, in the second of Stevens’ series, THE INNOCENT, Michael is asked by her best friend, Logan, to rescue a girl who’d been kidnapped by The Chosen of God cult and taken to Argentina. Michael, and her mercenary companion, Miles Bradford, must infiltrate the cult, and extract the girl with minimal collateral damage. Given the extreme complications, Michael believes the mission’s success might just come at a huge cost.

This book is not just fun ninja-killer-spy action. It also delves into Michael’s complex emotional and psychological make-up. Munroe constantly wrestles with the demons that chase her, even in her dreams. Her extreme skill at killing is contrary to what she believes a moral person should possess, and the guilt she wears like a second skin comes close to destroying her. I love the complexities of this character’s personality. Stevens does an expert job of showing us not only Munroe’s talents, but her human frailties as well.

Not only does Stevens weave a colorful tapestry of global intrigue and adventure, her personal experiences growing up in various third-world countries around the globe as a member of The Children of God cult fuels the complex emotional make-up of Vanessa Michael Munroe. Stevens’ first-hand knowledge of constantly living on the fringe of society gives her an expert insight into the fragile psychopathy of her main character.

Stevens is a firm believer in portraying authenticity, and her singular personal experiences allow her to do just that. Her past life as a cult-child gives readers of THE INNOCENT an inside look at the life inside a religious cult, where uneducated children are treated as property to be used for manual labor, begging, and sexual gratification.

Taylor Stevens has a genuine, no-bullshit style, whose fascinating, albeit tragic history shapes her stories. She loves to personally connect with her readers, and truly welcomes and values each and every compliment she receives. You’ll never meet a nicer, more gracious author who loves reaching out to her fans. Taylor Stevens – YOU ROCK!

I think it’s time for another woman to join the ranks of Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher, and Lisbeth Salander as one of the world’s most remarkable new-wave superheroes, and Vanessa Michael Munroe is just the one to do it!

View all my reviews

Choosing a Genre—Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story Part 7

K. L. Romo:

Kristen Lamb’s Genre Run-Down in a Nutshell.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.42.33 AMUnderstanding structure helps us write cleaner and faster. Whether we plan every detail ahead of time or just intuitively have the architecture in our head, structure makes the difference between a workable first draft and a nightmare beyond salvage.

I know a lot of you are chomping at the bit right now to get writing. All in due time. Today we are going to talk genre and why it is important to pick one.

Understanding what genre you are writing will help guide you when it comes to plotting your novel. How? Each genre has its own set of general rules and expectations. 

If we don’t pick or we get too weird, we will confuse agents and readers because there is no clear idea of where this sucker should be shelved. It will also make plotting more than problematic.

Fifteen years ago, when I first got this brilliant idea to…

View original 2,601 more words

Is It Safe To Be You??…

My day job is with a major global company.  A company that by all intents Stick boyand purposes is very conservative. Twenty years ago, when I started working for my firm, outward discrimination against homosexual employees was very real.  I personally knew of two people who had suffered from it – one wasn’t hired because being gay would be an embarrassment for his boss; the other lost her job because she was gay, and I was told had probably been blacklisted from getting a similar job at another major firm.  I was always so frustrated and angry every year when we’d participate in the annual anti-discrimination training: not only was sexual orientation not one of the protected groups, it wasn’t even mentioned.

Really?  I’d venture to guess that in the late ‘90’s, the gay population suffered more discrimination than any other group.

But now, everything has changed.  Finally.

One of our global leaders came-out in 2011, and was married in 2014.  For six years, she’s been voted by Forbes Magazine as one of the most 100 powerful women in the world. She is now championing diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace.  Not only for gay people, but for everyone.  No matter what their differences are, people should feel safe to be themselves at work.  Being allowed to be genuine about your life is not only the right thing to do, but this acceptance unleashes one’s creativity.  If you’re holding back your true self, how can you be truly inspired and passionate in your job?

Keeping It Real was the name of the panel discussion I participated in last week.  The main message of the campaign is that everyone should be able to be themselves at work, to feel safe at work and respected for who they are. Many huge global companies like mine are mentoring and advocating this position from the top down, their Out-Executives personally demonstrating the importance of everyone being true to themselves.  Not only is it the right thing to do, but many businesses have realized that it also makes great business sense: their employees are happier when they can be themselves, they are more creative and passionate, the retention rate is higher, and their employee loyalty is stronger.

Finally companies are beginning to value their employees for their differences, not just for their similarities.  We should all remember to not only embrace the message of letting people be themselves, but also actively advocate for it.  It’s not enough to just sit back and watch.

No one should have to hide who they are.

Don’t Forget About the Joy of Writing…

j0308984I recently read an interview with author Nicole Baart on the Women’s Fiction Writers’ website (hosted by author Amy Sue Nathan). Nicole had some very good advice for debut authors. Some points particularly resonated with me, and I wanted to share them here.

Don’t be defined by sales (or lack thereof). Of course a NYT runaway bestseller would be about the greatest thing ever …. But whether the books sells 1,000 copies or 100,000, don’t lose sight of the fact that you wrote a book. You bled on that page (maybe even literally) and a part of your soul is forever captured in those words. That is a huge accomplishment! Be proud of what you’ve done! Don’t let anything diminish the significance and beauty of your work.

What awesome advice. As a writer who is trying to get published, and hopes to one day write full-time, it’s easy to lose sight of these the truth in Nicole’s words. Yes, it is a huge accomplishment to write a book. But what I struggle with is the question, “What good is it to have written a book if it doesn’t have an audience?” How can we, as authors, touch people if a book has very few readers? But the next paragraph in the interview reminded me about the art of writing and what it means.

 Have fun! Embrace the experience. Throw yourself into it arms, and heart, wide open. There will be so many incredible moments, and if you’re too busy worrying about sales and reviews and whether or not you’ll get another contract, they will pass you by. Take pictures. Smile big. Drink wine with friends and throw yourself an epic launch party and sign your books with the flourish of someone who thinks every word you put on the page is brilliant (or, almost). Take selfies with your book baby. At some point, open up that big, beautiful book you wrote and curl up in a chair as if it (the book, not the chair) is someone else’s. Read it with fresh eyes and marvel at what you’ve done.

And that was my reminder that I love to write. I’ve always loved to write, since I was a little girl. Writing is how I express myself – happiness, sadness, anger – all of my emotions have been poured out into written words. Other than knowing I’ve tried my hardest to be a good parent and grandparent, the accomplishment of writing is what is most fulfilling to me. The act of writing itself gives me great joy. It’s my passion. I need to remember to smile big and be happy in the moment. And if along the way I get published, even better!

And maybe I’ll eventually even take a selfie with my 400 pages of manuscript. Why the hell not??!

On Finding Your Passion, and the Power of Purpose

Below is an article I read in my newsletter at Ernst & Young. It’s a very powerful article about finding your passion, and then pursuing it if at all possible.  The author, Bob Patton, has come to the realization that work-life balance is bogus and purpose is powerful.

We all need purpose, but how much more meaningful life would be if we could pursue what we feel passionate about, and make a living at it.

Work-Life Balance is Bogus!

I have been married for 32 years to an amazing woman who is way smarter than I am. I am best friends with my 25-year-old son and my 22-year-old daughter. And I have had an incredibly challenging and rewarding career!

I have the privilege of speaking to many groups, including students on college campuses, young professionals just beginning their careers and experienced executives. It is interesting how often I get asked the question, “How do you do it?”

I always enjoy sharing my philosophy that balance is bogus and purpose is powerful.

Balance is bogus
The definition of work-life balance and how you obtain it has been debated for many, many years. I have read numerous articles and have walked away as confused on the subject as when I began. I have watched friends choose a “9 to 5” job in order to demonstrate their commitment to work-life balance only to realize that they were miserable in their jobs and miserable at home. I saw other friends who prioritized their careers over all else only to wake up one day and see not only that they had lost their families, but they had also led an empty and unfulfilling life. To no avail, I continued my search to find the person who had successfully achieved perfect work-life balance.

Then one day I realized I was seeking an answer to the wrong question. What I really wanted was harmony across all of the many dimensions of my life. That is when I came to the realization that balance is bogus and purpose is powerful!

Purpose is powerful
Walt Disney was working for a newspaper when he discovered he had a passion for entertainment. John Grisham was working as an attorney when he discovered he had a passion for writing. Andrea Bocelli was also working as an attorney when he discovered he had a passion for singing. We were all born with unique gifts. Life is not about achieving some perfect balance, but rather it is about discovering the peace that comes from aligning your gifts to your purpose, something you feel you were put on this earth to do. Countless times in my life I have thought long and hard about doing something different. Work is difficult. Travel is tough. Many of my friends and family have judged me for the path I have chosen. But in every one of those dark days after much soul searching, I kept coming back to the fact that I love what I do and I feel gifted in it.

If you want to experience the power of purpose even in those dark days and tough times, you must:

  1. Determine your calling!
    Are you utilizing your unique skills to do what you feel you are here to do? I have gone through various skills inventories and personality profiles. I did every exercise in What Color Is Your Parachute? I came away from all my efforts with a really good understanding of why I work in the field that I do and what my unique skills are. If you’re currently stuck, consider taking one personal skills inventory and one personality profile to help you determine your calling!
  2. Seek confirmation!
    I sat down with those that were closest to me and walked them through my “executive summary.” I shared with them why I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I shared with them how I felt my skills and strengths best aligned with the career I had chosen. And I asked them for their input. I asked them to confirm my direction or to call out any biases that they saw in my conclusions. I then shared that, with their support, I was going “ALL IN!” I was going to pursue my passions and execute my purpose with a clear conscience and a strong conviction. After you determine your calling, seek confirmation with someone you trust who can give you sincere, honest feedback and help you grow!
  3. Be courageous!
    Life is all about choices, many of them difficult choices. I used to worry about what others thought. My pastor always said, “It is not who I think I am, it is not who you think I am, it is who I think you think I am.” The opinions of others used to significantly influence the choices I made. But once I understood my calling and I confirmed it with the people that I really cared about, then I stopped letting the opinions of those who don’t matter dictate my choices. I have found that when pursuing purpose it takes courageous steps to stay the course. It isn’t the lack of support from a company, a team or a boss that makes these decisions challenging; most often it is the lack of courage fueled by a deep conviction that results in a “trapped” feeling. If you can determine your calling and seek confirmation, I encourage you to be bold in your purposeful choices!
  4. Be prepared to compromise!
    The choices you make will reflect your priorities and often will require you to put the interest of others ahead of your own. At times I would work late, miss dinner or be away on a trip. But I knew and my loved ones knew I was doing what I needed to do. Other times, I would pack up and walk out while others were heads down; I knew I needed to be somewhere else with someone else. Yes, I missed golf outings and teacher conferences to attend to business. But I also missed many business meetings to attend to personal priorities. The key is I felt confident in each decision. These decisions are made situation by situation, not with rigid “work-life balance rules” of what time you stop working each day or when you can travel. If you let your inner conviction guide you, you will make the right decision every time!

Go “All in!”
I’ve had the amazing privilege of enjoying the fruits of a successful life across the many dimensions of purpose, family, career, hobbies, passions, etc., all sustained by the agreement and support of those I care most about. With their love and encouragement I have been able to go “all in” in all areas of my life. Finding purpose has been a journey of self-reflection, tough decisions and compromise.

I implore you to be courageous and take your journey. Utilize the steps I laid out above and find out for yourself that balance is bogus and that purpose is powerful!

—-

About the author: Bob Patton is the EY Americas Vice Chair of Advisory Services. He has extensive experience working with Fortune 500 companies in the consumer products, utilities and high-tech industries, as well as experience working with key public sector organizations. In 2011, Bob was recognized by Consulting Magazine as one of its Top 25 consultants honored in the category of Excellence in Leadership. In addition to his LinkedIn profile, you can also

Ten Ways to Tighten Your Writing & Hook the Reader

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.40.52 AM Image via CellarDoorFilms W.A.N.A. Commons

When I used to edit for a living, I earned the moniker The Death Star because I can be a tad ruthless with prose. Today I hope to teach you guys to be a bit ruthless as well. Before we get started, I do have a quick favor to ask. Some of you may know that I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so I’ve taken on our dojo’s blog to see if we can try out new and fun content and am using the moniker Dojo Diva.

I posted about how hard it is to begin and the fears that can ever keep us from starting. The way others try to stop us from doing anything remarkable. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories, so I hope you will stop by and get the discussion going.

Click the word “Comments” and a box should appear…

View original 1,899 more words

MEMBERS REVIEW

K. L. Romo:

I had no idea this had gone on.

Originally posted on Scribe:

THE TRAIN TO CRYSTAL CITY

By Jan Jarboe Russell

Published in 2015 by Scribner.

Train to Crystal City

Reviewed by Ron Hunka.

The regrettable history of the WWII Crystal City Internment Camp in South Texas has been addressed before in commendable books such as Nazis and Good Neighbors by Max Paul Friedman, but not to the degree of compassionate, richly- researched detail that Ms. Jarboe Russell has produced here. At times, this book is so intriguing that it reads more like a novel than a history.

The book largely follows the real-life stories of two young girls in different families, one Japanese, Sumi Utsushigawa, and the other German, Ingrid Eiserloh. After Pearl Harbor, the fathers of both families were arrested on shallow pretexts and jailed for indeterminate sentences. (In the case of the Eiserloh family, their American next door neighbors sold them out by providing false and misleading information to the FBI.)

Left…

View original 511 more words

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,851 other followers

%d bloggers like this: