Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hot review of Training Wheels, a novel set in the blistering summer of '74

Michael Stringer
Training Wheels

'Training Wheels' - Michael StringerA nonprofit fundraiser turned novelist, Michael Stringer, has authored a blistering fictional memoir entitled Training Wheels, a coming-of-age story that depicts a family's internal strife and struggle with radically shifting priorities and a sexually charged household atmosphere.

Told during three tumultuous weeks in the summer of 1974, the story features the sinfully candid, first person narrative of Kevin Copeland, a 15-year-old athlete, rock music lover, and youngest of four children. Kevin is a painfully inquisitive, girl-crazy young man who falls madly in love with the wrong girl at the worst time. Shelly is the wrong girl because she's the bold and seductive daughter of his father's mistress, and it's the worst time because Kevin's younger sister has hit rock bottom with drugs and counterculture friends, and his parents' marriage is rapidly coming unglued.

Kevin's certainly not alone in making irrational choices. After the radical '60s, many Americans turned introspective, searching for ways to redefine their beliefs about love and happiness, becoming desperately lost along the road. Kevin gets caught up in the free-love movement, too, risking everything to pursue the voluptuous girl of his dreams. Kevin's journey into first love becomes a perilous adventure that forces both families to face the bitter truths and harsh realities of their misguided decisions, of which there are many. All the mayhem reaches a fever pitch when Kevin and his disgruntled father lock horns in a ruthless showdown.

Stringer has shrewdly framed this story by blending the themes and styles of The Wonder Years, the popular TV show from the '90s, with The Ice Storm, the movie released in 1997 about the self-indulgent '70s.

"Training Wheels is a poignant and gripping family tale set in Los Angeles during an era symbolized by Watergate, happy faces, pet rocks, mood rings, and streaking," said Melissa Newman, author of House of Cleaving and Sister Blackberry. "It's no wonder that some people went a little... adrift."

During the early part of his career, Stringer wrote for newspapers and magazines until he finally decided to take on the challenge of pursuing a long-time goal, writing a novel.

Print and e-versions of Training Wheels, can be found at and as well as other online and bricks and mortar book stores wherever books are sold. Information about the book and the author can also be found at the publisher's website:  

Review originally featured at

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: The Last Fernandez by Sandra Perez Gluschankoff

A review of The Last Fernandez by Sandra Perez Gluschankoff

I loved reading this novel. Not for the faint of heart, this historical fiction piece explicitly reveals the triumphs and tragedy of two different, although comparable, pivotal periods in time. The key word in this story is “struggle.” Two women, separated by four centuries but connected in spirit, share this struggle against religious and political persecution. As two different stories are told, they develop into one.

Author Gluschankoff is not a wimp. She is not afraid to paint a harsh scene and put it before you, but is also capable of describing the tenderest of moments. The plot is packed with not a sentence or phrase wasted. This is not a one afternoon read; it requires close reading. I believe that the author’s multilingual skills resulted in some of the most eloquent prose I have had the pleasure to read.

My favorite character is the young Angelina. Her refusal, come hell or high water, to let go of that suitcase certainly defines “ends-of-the-earth” type stuff for me.

I highly recommend The Last Fernandez.

By David J. Kirk, Author of Particular Stones

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Susan Stepp Honest Advice for Teachers

My husband and I made a summer trek to New York state to visit our daughter’s
family. The drive is twenty hours so although we enjoy each other’s company, by North Carolina our conversation had deteriorated into counting how many Walmart trucks we’d passed and speculating the size of the sombrero that sits atop the “South of the Border” tower. That’s when I knew it was time for an audio book.

The book was 1776 by David McCullough. My lack of recall in relation to early American history is no reflection on my teachers but a result of my adolescent priorities consisting of cheerleading and lip gloss. So as I listened it was like sitting in history class again but actually enjoying myself. It’s a fascinating account of how we won our independence and who the players really were. I was astonished to learn that the men who fought were primarily farmers, vagabonds and just about anyone who could shoot a gun or carry a pitchfork. Half the time many were drunk and others walked away at will. An exceptional leader, George Washington knew what he was working with but managed to strategize and inspire just enough to pull it off. 

There were stories of amazing courage and commitment. I found myself deeply touched by the sacrifices made by this ragtag group of ordinary citizens and a sense of pride in who actually won our freedom. Not trained, military specialists but plain old people like you and me.

No telling how many Walmart trucks we missed while enjoying McCullough’s book. It was just that good!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Having Tea with my Computer

When I got this morning I had tea with my computer.  We've had this relationship for a few years now: sip, read a news article (who needs the television or newspaper?), back to sipping.  Then I had to get serious and do my weekly accounts… write a check for this business, send a check to that person… all done with internet banking.  I've estimated that I save over two hundred dollars in stamps each year doing this.  No wonder the United States Post Office operates in the red.

Gone to a doctor lately?  Their notes are done on a computerized tablet and then sent electronically to your files which are now nearly ‘paperless’.  Still another government program saving us money.
While interacting with my friends on Facebook, a thought occurred to me.  What would happen if a virus incapacitated the web?  Totally wrecking it.  Forever.  Or, at least, for months.  What would happen to our modern society?  Everything is connected via computers to the internet.  If the ‘net’ disappears, what happens to civilization?

The stock market wouldn't crash, it simply wouldn't exist.  What would that do to business?  How about communications?  Gone.  Education… hmm.  How many schools still have blackboards?
What about publishing houses?  Type-setting is done by computer.  Well, there would still be a great deal of books to read.  Just no new ones for a few years.  Oh, my God!  Facebook!  Twitters!  Tweets!  Tumblers! Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone.

Internet Crash?  Banish the thought.  There is no need to worry.  I mean what are the chances that some bitter genius would write such an apocalyptic virus?  Surely not very high.  So, relax.  Sit back and enjoy another sip of tea.
Robert Sells
Author of Return of the White Deer and soon to be released Reap the Whirlwind
Martin Sisters Publishing

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Using research to fuel creativity in your writing!

Hello! I'm Kayla Curry and I have one book published with Martin Sisters Publishing--soon to be two. My debut novel, Obsidian was published in August of 2012 and Moonstone is next!

Today I would like to talk to you about my writing process.

First, I start with the idea. It is the foundation for any writer. I have at least one idea for a story every day, but only a few of them actually push me to write. The primary characters usually accompany the idea.

Once I have the idea, sometimes I will write a little, but every time I will research like crazy. Research is the fuel for my creativity. When I'm searching the internet for information on my main setting or the culture I include in my story, I start to form secondary characters.

After doing some preliminary research, I will then begin to write and write and write. The program I use is Scrivener. It's extremely helpful for organization. I don't use an outline because I never know where the story will take me. If I run out of steam while I write, I will do more research to refuel my knowledge and further develop my characters.

About halfway through the word count goal, I will evaluate my characters. I literally put each one through psychology tests. These mainly include personality tests and this helps me make sure that my characters are developing how I want them to and also provide a blueprint for where they will go from the midpoint. They will take the test again once the book is written. Tests like this can be found online for free.

I keep notes on technical things like how many weapons a character has, what day they met other characters and eventually, I will map out their lives in a timeline. This comes in handy when I'm doing the second draft. The notes will be helpful in determining if there are continuity errors or plot holes.

After the second draft, I self-edit once more before getting it ready to send to Martin Sisters Publishing or in the case of my short stories, which I self-publish, my beta readers. This is when the editing process starts.

Thanks for reading! I'd love to see how you write in the comments section!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reviews for two great novels!

by Summer Hanford, author of Gift of the Aluien

The Kingdom by Jennifer M. Barry

The Kingdom is an engaging love story with a supernatural twist. It’s a beautifully written novel that captures the essence of first love. The hero, Prince Rioghan, is portrayed perfectly as a soul being saved by love, and the heroin, Lily, has depth as well as charm. The cast of supporting characters are interesting and dynamic, adding an extra flare to the novel. If I could change one thing about this novel, it would only be to make it longer. The ending, while satisfying, left me wanting more.

Return of the White Deer by Robert Sells

Return of the White Deer is smoothly written in an old-fashioned omniscient fairytale style. For all those who grew up reading fantasy from the fifties and sixties, Return of the White Deer harkens back to that childhood love of a well told tale of adventure, daring and surprise. It follows the life of a young boy who seems destined for greatness, revealing not only his secrets but the secrets of those around him as well. The plot is livened up with alluring twists and turns and has just enough mystery to leave you guessing. Robert Sells does a wonderful job casting a net of doubt, while pulling together every aspect of the tale for a singularly satisfying ending. My only fear upon beginning this novel, that it might be too brutal in its handling of animals for my taste, turned out to be totally unfounded and, in fact, a theme completely opposite to that of the book. It’s a terrific adventure, suitable for all ages.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kentucky Christian Writers Conference

One fact I learned early in my writing career was the importance of attending writers’ conferences. The benefits of writers’ conferences are gaining almost more information than our minds can hold, meeting with agents and publishers to present our proposals in the hopes of getting our works published, and the friendships we make at conferences are like icing on the cake.

Last weekend, I attended the 2013 Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Even though all 17 of the annual conferences have been great, this year’s conference was absolutely incredible. Dennis “Doc” Hensley was our keynote speaker. If you even have the opportunity to meet and listen to “Doc”, don’t miss it. The worship, led by Simeon Amburgey was amazing Spirit-filled worship, the food was yummy, the workshops were exactly what we needed, the first ever KCWC Taste of Kentucky Event was incredible, and the fellowship was wonderful.

The entire conference was so incredibly, 9 attendees, so far, have pre-registered for 2014. And, you can also. Go to and pre-register for the 2014 conference. You’ll receive a couple special perks for pre-registering. Plus, Liz Curtis Higgs will be the keynote speaker. I don’t want to miss her and I don’t think you will either.

Continually educating ourselves in our craft of writing is what makes us great writers. Any conference you can attend, take advantage of it. And, don’t forget to pre-register for the 2014 Kentucky Christian Writers Conference.

Nellotie Porter Chastain
Author of Breath Of The Mountain
Martin Sisters Publishing

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Creativity in the chaos; Organizing a career in writing

People who earn their bread and butter as writers stress the importance of having a disciplined routine.  Treat it like any other job, they advise.  I can easily spot the wisdom in this, just as I recognize the need to exercise daily. I would describe my own approach to writing as being more spontaneous—a nice way to put it—and having two distinct modes: creative and editing.

It would be nice if creativity, for me, had a convenient open and close valve, like a kitchen faucet.  Unfortunately, I relate to Jerry Seinfeld’s analogy about writing, that it’s more akin to standing beside the faucet and waiting for the drip. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that half of my rough draft was written on restaurant napkins.  Perhaps being away from the temptations and distractions of home had a way of freeing the imagination. My home office is not exactly feng shui.  

There are, however, times when creativity requires the proverbial kick in the drawers. I’m talking about writer’s block, those lingering periods of creative Sahara.  Some writers simply walk away from the problem. Read a few books. Commune with nature. If this resolves the problem for you, that’s great. For me, writer’s block is too much of an unresolved issue, so I need to work through it. But this approach is not without its problems. Usually the harder I work on a passage, the more overwritten it ends up feeling. This is when the editing mode comes into play.

There is a different type of clarity at work when editing. This is when I spot, hopefully, the missing comma or awkward phrase. Also, it’s a time when I can distance myself from my own work as much as possible. The true test is when I go back to chapters written months before.  If it still reads well, it more than likely stays. If I find myself asking who wrote this pooh, then it’s back to work.

This undisciplined approach worked for me for my first novel because, frankly, I need a lot of time to grow as a writer. But now that I’m seriously thinking about my next book, I should clean my desk.

James Dante author of The Tiger's Wedding           

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What are you reading this summer?

It is summertime, which mean there is plenty of time to find a shady tree and find a good read! I love the summer because it means I can finally get to the long list of books I have been dying to read all year long. There is nothing better than soaking in the sun and a good book. I rarely read anything that is instructional or educational because I have spent the whole school year reading textbooks. This time of year is when I have the time read whatever I want to read. There are five categories that I always read to get my summer fulfillment.   

1). Make me want to change the world book 

Last summer I read: "Middle of Everywhere" by Mary Pipher which is about stories about refugees and their struggles and entertaining challenges to adapting to the American culture. 
This summer I hope to read: "The Power of Words" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, which is about the cause and effect of media on different genocides in the 1900s. 

2). A non stop page turner, stay up until the dead of night and read in 3 days book 

Last summer I read: "The Passage" by Justin Cronin, which is a story about the United States in a vampire apocalypse. 
This summer I hope to read: "The Twelve" by Justin Cronin which is the sequel to the "The Passage". 

3) A classic   

Last summer I read: "La Casa de los Espirtus" by Isabel Allende, which is a famous story placed in the history of Chile. 
This summer I hope to read: "El Llano en Llamas" by Juan Rulfo which is a classic novel of Mexico during the Mexican revolution. 

4). A quick read 

Last summer I read: "The Five People you Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom, which is a "feel good" book about life and choices. 
This summer I hope to read: "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan MacNeal, which is a young adult book about a woman living in England during WWII. 

5). A MSP book 

Last summer I read: "The Deliberation" by Donna Brown, which is an exciting love story from the Christian perspective. 
This summer I hope to read: "Soul Hunter" by Blair Bohlan, which I can't wait to read! 

I am so excited to get my reading on this summer!  

What are some books that you are excited to read this summer?

Breanna Richardson. 
Author of "Destitution"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Get your book into the library!

Henry Hoffman

Public libraries represent a substantial portion of the book market. As a former professional librarian, I’d like to offer a few tips in tapping into this market. There are always exceptions to the rules, but the following observations generally hold true.

1. Local public libraries are very receptive to including the works of local authors. Furthermore, if your local public library system is a large one with numerous branches, there is the possibility they also will order copies for their branches (if you lived in the Los Angeles Public Library System region and the system ordered a copy for each of their branches, think of the bonanza!).

2. Most public libraries of substantial size (having multiple branches) have on their staff a Collection Development Officer or Acquisition Librarian. These librarians coordinate the purchases and are the people to contact. You can also touch base with the individual branch librarians if need be.

3. Since they don't have time to read every available title, librarians rely heavily on book reviews when adding titles. If you can garner an early review of your book (from a reputable review source), this is a huge help, particularly when it comes to library systems outside your local one. It is best to approach the library market from a geographical perspective---first the local ones, followed by the regional (state). In addition, if your work is set in a particular location, no matter where, look for libraries located in that region. Libraries are always on the lookout for titles to add to their local historical collections (e.g. "Florida Collection").

4. Most public libraries have a "patron request" procedure whereby a library card holder can request the addition of a title. They will usually honor those requests. So, if you have a good friend who is also a library card holder, perhaps they will put a request in for your title.

5. Public libraries generally order through a "jobber" (e.g. Baker and Taylor). Seldom will they order direct from a writer.

6. Public libraries, like the publishing industry everywhere, are heavily into the electronic versions of titles. Again, similar to the print version, request that your book be added to the e-collection.

7. There are state library associations. These groups usually conduct an annual convention where vendors are allowed to purchase booths to display their services or books. Depending on the costs, it might be worthwhile to pursue this option. 

8. Most public libraries have Friends groups. They are always looking for speakers, particularly local writers. These groups normally will allow writers to sell author copies at their events.

9. Finally, remember to be polite in your dealings with librarians, they can be of great help in both the research and selling stages of your book.