Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review of Cora Flash by Tommy Davey

Cora Flash is a curious and witty eleven-year-old girl, who in the first book of the series, Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar, must solve the mystery of the missing gem. Despite her age, Cora doesn’t rely on anyone else to give her answers—she seeks them out herself, and in doing so, makes friends for life, such as Abby, a college-age girl who is a whiz at research and a fantastic friend, and Calvin, a silly puppy who will do anything to keep Cora safe and help her solve mysteries.

In the first novel, Cora is on the way to visit her uncle Andre in the town of Topaz Mountain. She’s on her first train ride alone when the diamond goes missing from another passenger’s luggage, and from there, it’s nothing but Cora trying to figure out what happened and why. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but if you’re looking for a book to enjoy with your young ones, think Cora Flash! She’s the next Nancy Drew, the new Boxcar Child, and in league with the best mystery-solving children to date!

The second novel, Cora Flash and the Mystery at Topaz Mountain, picks up after the first, so the sense of continuity is strong. Personally, I hope to see this continue with the rest of the series. At Topaz Mountain and her uncle’s hotel, a ghost is causing problems! Meanwhile, a nasty man is trying to buy out Uncle Andre’s land so he can build a strip mall and super highway. Even with the help of Abby and Calvin, can Cora save her family’s hotel and keep her uncle from selling? Who the heck is this ghost anyway? And how many flavors of ice cream can Cora really love before she gets tired of weird flavors, like popcorn and s’mores?

I rate the Cora Flash series five stars. Why? Because it’s fantastic, fun to read, and keeps everyone interested. Your children will love it, and even if you don’t have kids (like me), you’ll enjoy Cora’s loving character and how responsible she is.

Novel Publicity Blog Tour Notes:

Wanna win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar? Well, there are two ways to enter...
  1. Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official Cora Flash tour page.
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I've posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the tour page linked above.
About the author: Tommy Davey spent his youth writing mystery stories and plays, and watching reruns of Three's Company until every line of dialogue was permanently burned into his memory. When not writing, he enjoys traveling to favorite destinations including New York City and Paris, which he plans to feature in future stories. He lives in Toronto, where he was born and raised, with a Norfolk Terrier named Calvin. "Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar" is his first novel. Connect with Tommy on his website, Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads.

Get Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review of Child of Destiny by Dr. George H. Elder

Child of Destiny, the first in the Genesis Continuum trilogy, follows Kara, “the Companion of God,” who was born imperfect among a people who strive for perfection. On the day her blemish is revealed, Kara is thrust from her tribe into the wilderness and forced to survive with nothing more than a spear, an obsidian knife, and a few clay pots.

Dr. Elder’s exploration of a Stone Age culture through Kara at the beginning of the novel draws the reader in. What Science Fiction novel beings in the Stone Age, after all? The twist reflects upon a readership that expects advanced technology right off the bat, and plays to the strengths of a new kind of Sci-Fi novel. At the same token, Kara is a result of her culture—strong-willed, able to hunt and fend for herself, can defend herself, and willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

In the first chapter alone, Dr. Elder delves into the hierarchy of the Labateen, Kara’s culture and once-tribe. A strict set of rules is set up and adhered to: no Labateen may be allowed to live if he or she is born with a blemish anywhere on their body. It is the mother’s duty to inspect and kill the infant at birth should any such mark be found. Patches of darker or lighter skin are a sign that the goddess Ishtar has taken the infant into her power and that the child will bring despair and famine to the Labateen.

The mark, though, can be easily hidden by Kara’s red hair as it grows, and Kara’s mother takes her time after giving birth dying the infant’s hands and head black in a ritual meant to show the child’s favor with the Labateen god. The act of dying a newborn’s skin shows the alterations humans make to themselves and others as they age, and pairs well with the Stone Age culture and faith. If one can be seen as favored by god, then that child shall surely bring prosperity to her culture.

Other similarities between the Labateen culture and our own are astounding. Where Leah, Kara’s mother, dyed her hands and head at birth, we too alter our children. We baptize them, put clothing on their small frames, remove their umbilical cord, and give them an image they must maintain throughout their lives. If a child is born a woman, she must conform to our society’s beliefs of what a woman is. Should she not, she runs the risk of being shunned. The same is true here—Kara was born with a mark, and Leah knew that one day her daughter would be shaven bald for a right-of-passage ceremony. Because of this, Leah has prepared her daughter by letting her go on hunts and follow tracking expeditions. No one really questions this because Kara is the daughter of a high-ranking official.

As her hair his sheared off, though, the mark becomes visible, and Leah races forth to defend her daughter against the others of the tribe, including Kara’s father. Leah sacrifices everything in order to ensure her daughter’s survival, and her actions mimic those of mothers in our world. The bond readers experience between Leah and Kara in the first chapter alone is stark, raw, and compassionate. Any mother or daughter can understand the other’s actions.

Leah’s sacrifices weren’t in vain; Kara is allowed to live and is thrust from the tribe. She survives as a woman from a hunter-gatherer culture would—by hunting, tracking, and using the skills she has honed over the years to her benefit. Kara avoids her people and dodges detection the majority of the time. Yet, something is amiss, and she senses it when she leaves her shelter to find food after a seven-day period of no captured prey. In fact, there is nothing for her to hunt or scavenge in the immediate vicinity of her cave, so she heads further out in hopes of finding food.

When she comes across a spacecraft, she attempts to attack and kill it, but ultimately fails and is knocked unconscious. Kara’s reaction to the craft’s presence was executed in a fashion befitting a Stone Age woman. Her uncertainty is aptly felt as she approaches the craft and inspects it, then dives in for an assault. Such a reaction resonates with her upbringing, and even hints at her loyalty later in the novel. Though the craft is strange, Kara is willing to fight it to protect not only herself, but the Labateen. Perhaps her actions are not consciously in their defense, but they show her decision to get rid of the alien object rather than attempt to use it to destroy those who outcast her.

I give Child of Destiny four of five stars. The cultures are believable, the characters are deep and well-developed, and the plot is entertaining and keeps the reader guessing. My only concern is the ending; it feels as though Dr. Elder attempted to keep his readers hanging, and by doing so, did not answer enough of the questions he raised. At the same token, I anticipate reading Child of Destiny’s sequel, Pursuing a Legend. Also, don’t miss Deep Thought, another riveting Science Fiction novel by Dr. George H. Elder!


Dr. George H. Elder has a Ph.D. from Penn State in Speech Communication and a Masters Degree in nonfiction Writing from UNH. He also has a very eclectic work and personal history. He has been a college teacher, custodian, upper-level scholar, drug addict, weight lifting coach, bouncer, and much more. He has authored numerous articles in the popular press and even a scientific text book that examines the neuropsychological basis of human communication. He has also addressed subjects such as philosophy, free speech, weight training, drug use, nutrient effects, street life, and a wide range of other issues.

His varied life experiences and education give him a unique and interesting perspective, and he often weaves philosophical insights and pathos into his texts. His books are action-oriented, but they do not have simplistic plots wherein good vs. evil or some other hackneyed approach is used. Instead, Elder employs plot shifts that allow the characters and readers to question the relationships we often take for granted. For example, a hero may do great wrongs while a species once perceived as malicious can be revealed to be honorable and wise. This offers refreshing and exciting perspectives for readers as they delve into Elder’s texts, for one never knows what to expect.


Child of Destiny (The Genesis Continuum trilogy #1) by Dr. George H. Elder

The universe is nearing its inevitable end, everything is being rapidly devoured. The last hope of a dying universe is to awaken the Seeker, a legendary metaphysical being known only through ancient tales. The Seeker has the capacity to link the entire universe; they alone may be able to spark the rebirth of the universe.

Many of those that remain desperately want existence to continue. As the remaining races struggle to survive and fight over saving existence, lofty ideals give way to brutal pragmatism. Missions are sent out in search of the Seeker. One such mission encounters Kara an outcast noblewoman of the Labateen, a Stone-Age warrior culture. Kara is well versed in the Seeker’s litany, beyond what would be considered coincidence –to Kara the litany is simply the ways of God. Will Kara be able to help locate the Seeker?

Those who wish the universe to end in disorder, with no more than a whimper are not willing to sit by as others race to alter the end universe. As these opposing forces mount their defenses, racing to see their goals are achieved one question stands out…

Is Kara the key?


Child of Destiny (The Genesis Continuum trilogy #1) by Dr. George H. Elder

Edited by Julie Tryboski & Illustrated by Randall Drew



Kara had worked tirelessly piling heavy boulders around her hillside cave’s entrance, leaving a thistle-covered opening on the mound’s top that was barely wide enough for her to squeeze through. Over the years, successive layers of soil and jagged rocks were heaped on the boulders, and the humble shelter could now resist the fiercest storm and harshest winter. Long razor grass, thorny briars, and shrubs flourished on the stout construction, providing Kara’s home with a camouflaged barrier that served well against both four- and two-legged predators. The only drawbacks were meager lighting, invading spiders and centipedes, and the poor ventilation provided by the narrow entrance. Yet these were relatively small prices to pay for security. Moreover, the shelter was adjacent to a spring-fed stream that froze for only part of the winter. Of course, there was a constant need to collect firewood, gather fruits, nuts, and berries, and hunt, but Kara was proficient in these arts. She had to be, for such is an outcast’s lot.

She sat cross-legged on the cave’s floor, bathed in a shaft of sunlight that poured through the entrance. The flint tip of her spear needed sharpening, and she deftly chipped away tiny flecks of stone with a hard rock. Kara’s father had taught her the ancient art of blade-making, not that Torok ever envisioned his daughter would depend on such a skill to sustain a solitary existence. No, he had felt she was destined for great things within the tribe, which was only appropriate for the child of a Labateen chieftain such as Torok. And Kara grew to be a most unusual girl, a precocious child who tagged along behind hunting parties and played violent war games with the tribe’s boys.

By her fifth season Kara’s deftly thrown spear was regularly taking down prey that was nearly as large as she, all of which were proudly dragged back to the great cave. She even learned the old storyteller’s sacred litanies, repeating without error the lengthy and complex tales to the delight of family and friends. Torok was proud of Kara’s intelligence, strength, and courage, and considered her an ideal daughter. Never a man of many words, he once told her, “Blood of my blood, you are a very special child. God has blessed you in many ways and you make my heart proud.” Kara basked in the warmth of his approving smile, and found confidence in the tribe’s universal acknowledgment of her rare talents.

Yet neither Torok nor Kara knew about the awful mark she bore high on her scalp, the one her mother had worked tirelessly to conceal since Kara’s birth. The Labateen were the true Children of God, and only the most perfect in form could be accepted into the tribe. And to all appearances Kara’s long, thick, red hair, green eyes, hazel skin, and lithe athletic body were ideal, the quintessential elements of a Labateen woman. Indeed, all was perfect, except for a dark brown birthmark that hid underneath a luxurious mane of hair.

Leah, her mother, was horrified when she first saw the blight, although there was no one to share her shock in the isolated birthing cave. Her labor was long and difficult, and there were times Leah thought death would be a welcome reprieve. And a lonely, painful demise for mother and child was the inevitable penalty for a failed childbirth. This most sacred process was overseen only by God –- and God alone would dictate if both mother and child survived. But survival was only the first step, for then came the mother’s responsibility of ensuring that the child’s body was perfect in all ways. This was God’s test of a mother’s will to abide by the sacred laws that guided the Labateen for countless generations. These were the same laws Torok was sworn to uphold as the tribe’s Dorma, and thus Leah felt particularly driven to follow the ancient codes.

The birthmark’s grotesquery compelled Leah to contemplate bashing Kara’s tiny head against the jagged walls of the birthing cave, the floor of which was richly littered with tiny bony reminders of Labateen mother who had done their duty. Every Labateen woman knew that allowing an unfit or marked child to live would introduce impurity into what were God’s chosen people. The only right and merciful thing was to end such a star-crossed life swiftly. Leah roughly grabbed her writhing daughter, who still wore the blood and slippery wetness of a new life. She stared into the infant’s eyes, and suddenly her will to follow the old ways evaporated. Perhaps it was the long torment of giving birth, or maybe it was the blood loss, but Leah felt that God was guiding her thoughts and deeds. ‘Yes, God must want this infant to live,’ she thought, ‘And to live for a divine purpose.’

Leah deftly severed the umbilical cord with an obsidian blade and suckled the crying infant. With every passing moment the bond between mother and child grew stronger, as did Leah’s conviction that she was doing God’s work. But Leah’s convictions were the stuff of sacrilege, and that would lead to a dreadful fate for any Labateen. However, it was customary for a new mother to remain away from the tribe for ten suns after giving birth, which was yet another trial to help ensure that only the most able would walk amongst the Labateen. Leah took the time to make dyes from nearby plants and berries, being well versed in the art of marking. Indeed, as the daughter of an Elder and wife of the tribe’s Dorma, Leah was expected to be an exemplary marker and healer.

She carefully dyed her infant’s head, hands, and feet deep black, all signs that the child was one with God’s earth by thought and deed. She repeated the procedure over the coming days until the rich dyes were absorbed by Kara’s skin, hiding any sign of the blemish. When the day came to rejoin the tribe, friends and relatives saw the baby’s markings and she was quickly dubbed “Kara,” meaning, “Companion of God.” Many in the tribe thought it odd that Leah didn’t change Kara’s markings as the child matured, but few dared question a Labateen aristocrat. The query might be seen as an insult, and only blood could assuage such folly. The ploy served well in giving Leah’s daughter time to grow a thick and luxurious mane of dark red locks that hid the sin, at least until the age of ascension.

The spear’s tip was nearly ready, and Kara examined it in detail. A good spear and sharp knife were as essential as stealth, speed, and strength when hunting. Yet the hunt had gone poorly for seven suns, and Kara did not know why. Normally, late spring provided ample game, although one had to be ever watchful for the swift grenlobs that followed the migratory herds. The large, bipedal reptiles were armed with sickle-shaped claws and serrated teeth that turned many hunters into prey. However, a hunting party of Labateen was more than a match for any animal. Even a small party could bring down a tork, a hulking, wooly, four-legged brute with a nasal horn taller than a man. Yet tribal lore aptly described a lone hunter as the personification of a “sad thing,” and Kara was reduced to stalking relatively small rodents and marsupials, with an occasional fish supplementing a meager vegetarian diet.

She preferred hunting in the nude. But it was a chilly morning, so Kara donned a pair of well-worn moccasins and the long rawhide tunic her mother once wore. Although much-patched, the tunic was one of Kara’s prized keepsakes, and as she put it on thoughts of that terrible day wafted anew. The Right of Ascension takes place during the 14th springtime of every Labateen’s life, and the ritual is overseen by the tribe’s Elders. For women, Ascension entails having the head shaved with dull blades, being tattooed with sacred symbols, and silently enduring purification via the excruciatingly slow application of steaming hot water to the clitoris. The unremitting pain often caused visions, and these were a blessing from God if their meaning could be divined.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review of The House of Order by John Paul Jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo introduces his readers to a series of short stories set in real-life situations with a brush of Latino culture. In Rabbit Story, the first of sixteen tales, Manito speaks with his Tio Neto about family—this discussion, however, is not a traditional one. Manito recalls how Neto has talked about his Jefe and his sexual encounters with women in the area.

Manito asks if the story Neto is going to tell is about one of the women and Neto’s Jefe, and as it turns out, it both is and it’s not. Rabbit Story describes how Neto had to crawl under the house and catch his Jefe’s escaped hares. While Neto does not go into much detail, based on the context of the story, there is a great deal of similarity between the hiding rabbits and the women Neto’s Jefe slept with, and though the rabbits belong to Neto’s Jefe, it is Neto who must capture them.

On page nine, Neto “expected to find one of his Jefe’s girlfriends” when he spied on his Jefe after dark. Instead, one night, he commanded to wake up and go into the crawl space to find the missing animals. Neto’s Jefe snaps, “Goddamn it, boy. I’m telling you to do it. Do you want to be a man, Neto? Do you?” (page 11). He admits that he did not want to be a man, but that he also did not want to wake his Jefita, and so he went into the crawl space under his Jefe’s direction (page 11).

Entering the crawlspace is an allegory for Neto beginning the transition into manhood. The crawlspace is described as “a 16” wide black hole,” on page eleven, and Neto finds the courage to go inside, representing his first entry into a woman. Still, Neto had to find the rabbits within the tight space, and Neto recalls that as he went inside, he had never been so terrified or “wanted to scream so loudly,” and that his “legs trembled and his pajama top was soaked through and dripping” (page 11). The imagery here enhances the sexual nature of Neto passing through the crawl space in his search for the rabbits, mimicking the fear of a young boy’s first time and the physical stuggle to complete his task.

While going through the dirty space, Neto recalls giant rats scurrying through the darkness, and how his Jefe said not to let the rats take the rabbits because “them rabbits are sold” (page 12). The sold animals suggest that they are similar to women who have already been claimed sexually and that they are not allowed to be let free. To lose the rabbits is to lose money and sexual prowess. So, Neto grabs hold of them, and despite being bit, he maintains his grip. When Manito asks what happened after that, Neto says, “‘And then there was nothing’” (page 12), and he talks about how he did what he did to protect his mother, his Jefita. In that moment, Neto became a man through the act of retrieving the rabbits his Jefe had lost—meaning he took charge of the women his Jefe slept with, had one himself, and emerged a man in the end.

I give The House of Order by John Paul Jaramillo four out of five stars. The writing is clean, clear, and the stories are gritty, realistic, and draw the reader in. My only concern as a reader is the lack of explanation. If one is not familiar with Latino culture or terms, a few passes might be needed to clarify each of the characters, words, and their meanings—however, a diligent reader can work past it and will be rewarded with the rich tales in The House of Order.

Get your copy of The House of Order here today!

Friday, March 30, 2012

So it Begins

Okay, so today is the first of many in my trip to (hopefully) becoming a screenwriter for an animated series. What is the series about? Why should you care? Well, I can't tell you. That's right--I'm keeping the actual content of the series under tight wraps for now. Instead, I am going to blog about my journey from being a "writer" to aiming for something a bit bigger, where I can combine my love for art and literature.

This morning, I awoke early and continued my research on what I need to do in order to approach a company with my idea. I found tons of amazing information about writing a proposal for an animated series and how to go about developing the proposal so it focuses on the main character and how s/he sees the world and interacts with it. I discovered that related to one of the biggest mistakes people make when they work on a proposal.

People are creative, and because of that, we want to lay out the world our story takes place in right away. We want to give away all of the secrets and show off how complex the setting is before actually giving our audience a reason to care about it. This is why you should introduce the main character and have the setting unravel naturally--that way, the audience has someone to like and follow. They have a point of view to sympathize with.

I also found a few resources that might help me get my proposal out there once it's complete; that's pretty far down the line, though, and I am just nosing around now to make sure the goal I have in mind is actually achievable. So far it seems I have as fair of a chance as anyone else. Maybe a bit better, because unlike some people, I know how to write and I can draw (I am in no way a fantastic artist, but my work is clear enough that I won't need to hire an artist and spend countless hours trying to iron out the details of the characters). Visuals are pretty important because they give the audience something to relate to more than just the words.

At the same token, I know I am nowhere near talented or trained enough to animate (though I have tried my hand at it, and was pretty pleased with what I came up with). Sources say that if the company you propose to asks, "What would you like to do?" saying, "A little of everything," is a bad idea. I agree! I don't want to do a little of everything. Can you imagine how long that would take? Yeah, I'd like to be involved in design and see how my characters are being portrayed, but I also trust the animators and designers to do their job. After seeing my initial sketches, they will simplify and streamline the characters and settings much better than I ever could.

Okay, where do I want to be then? Writing. I want to be the one working with the writers, developing the world and the scenes and the characters through text. I want to be the one who hears someone speak the lines I wrote. So if you ever want to do something like this, ask yourself where you want to be. If you say you want to do "a little of everything," rethink that. Do some research; maybe production is your best fit, or design.

Speaking of animation, I'd love to hire the people who did "Avatar: The Last Airbender" to animate my series, but that's way down the line! (not to mention a little bit of a dream...)

I have the story mapped out in detail already, so I just need to do the art and write episode synopses (most sources suggest having 13-15 episodes outlined), and write a 22-23 page episode sample. Since I know exactly what is going to happen in the first season, writing out the synopses won’t be too difficult. The part that will take the longest is going to be the art. So, I am off to get a sketchbook (one that doesn't have a dozen pictures in it already). Oh, and I am making daily goals, small ones that let me stay on track and give me a reasonable deadline.

Today's goal: Start working on the series bible, specifically, focusing on beginning the sketching process.