Thursday, November 25, 2010


Friday, November 19, 2010

37 Things To Know About Grammar

By Matteson Claus

From the back of the book:

"In 37 Things To Know About Grammar, Matteson Claus salves the wounds of every survivor of high school English troubled with nightmares about comma splices and sentence fragments. From informal emails to formal business letters, the rules of grammar most people need from day to day can be reduced to simple, easy-to-apply guidelines that will scare no one, and Claus organizes them into just 37."

You would think a book dealing with 37 grammar topics would be huge, but Matteson Claus condensed the most useful information into only 233 pages measuring 6-1/2 by 5-1/2 inches.


As a writer, I can definitely appreciate her work. The topics she presents are some people often ask me about and now, I have a book to refer them to. That’s handy for me and for others who need a quick reference guide to questions about commas, verb tense, pronouns, adverbs, sentence fragments and more … not to mention those pesky dangling modifiers!

I’ve reviewed several books recently that deal with grammar and English and this is one of the best. Easy to read and use, this little book is a gem in the rough world of reference books. In fact, Claus herself refers to it as “the hot nightclub of grammar books: only certain grammar gremlins are allowed inside.” She purposely made it simple and useful – a wonderful addition to everyone’s shelf. Yes, even those who aren’t writers will find themselves needing some grammar guidelines from time to time.

Next time you’re in a bookstore, stop by the reference section and take a look at 37 Things To Know About Grammar. You might just find a reason or two to take it to the check-out counter.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fated book review and blog tour

Welcome to the Penguin blog tour for S.G. Browne's new book "Fated." It is my pleasure to introduce the author himself.
Following the interview with S.G. Browne, you will find my review of his book.

1. Talk a little about your life outside of writing.

I’m a big fan of ice cream, particularly Ben & Jerry’s. I once ate three pints in a week. That’s when I realized I had a problem. As for my leisure time when I’m not eating ice cream, I bike and do tai chi and try to meditate on a regular basis. I also enjoy the theater, but I’m not so big on the ballet or the symphony. It’s my opinion that the symphony should end at the intermission. After that, I just fall asleep. I prefer movies and don’t watch much television since I overdosed on it as a kid, though I’m in the middle of Season 4 of Entourage on Netflix. And, of course, I love to read. I’m currently reading A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick.

2. Why did you take up writing?

The short answer: Because I couldn’t see myself wearing a coat and tie every day and commuting to work.

The long answer: In 1985, while a sophomore in college, I read The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I got so caught up in the adventure unfolding on the pages that the world outside of the book ceased to exist. And I thought: “I’d like to make someone feel this way.” In addition, over the next couple of years, I became involved in an annual stage competition at my college, The University of the Pacific. Band Frolic was a competition between all of the living groups (dormitories, fraternities, sororities) involving a 15-minute skit that included acting, singing and dancing. After three years of writing, directing, staging and choreographing the entry for my fraternity, I realized I wanted to be a writer. So after taking several writing classes, I moved to Hollywood after graduation to get involved in the entertainment industry. Eventually, I got out of there and moved to Santa Cruz so I would have more time to write.

3. How did you come up with the idea for “Fated?”

In July of 2004, I was sitting in a mall watching people walk past and wondering what they would be doing in 15 to 20 years. As I sat there, I started writing a scene from the POV of a main character who knows what the future holds for everyone because he’s Fate. Eventually, that would become the opening chapter for “Fated.” The concept and themes and other characters developed out of that initial chapter. Though I didn’t actually start writing the novel for another 2 ½ years.

One of the main ideas within “Fated” that helped to shape the novel was the separation of the concepts of Fate and Destiny. Most people think of them as the same thing. But Fate has a negative connotation (his fate was sealed; a fatal disease; a fate worse than death), while Destiny carries a more positive outlook (destiny smiled upon her; he was destined for greatness; it was her destiny). This led to creating the characters of both Fate and Destiny, with Fate being a disgruntled employee of the cosmos who deals with the majority of the human race fated for mediocrity and failure, while Destiny enjoys shepherding the rest who live up to their potential. And that, in turn, led to the introduction of other characters, such as Death, Karma, Lady Luck, Sloth, Gluttony and the rest of the Deadly Sins, among others. It was a lot of fun.

4. Who is your favorite character in the book?

I’ll have to go with Fate, who is also known as Fabio. I thoroughly enjoyed his voice and being able to share his perspective of human nature. True, as the narrator, he’s more in my head than the other characters, but as another writer once said: There’s a little of me in all of my characters, but none of my characters are me. I can’t recall who said it, but I don’t want to take credit for the quote.

But if I had to pick a favorite character other than Fate, that would probably be Destiny. She was a pleasure to write and developed into a nice, complicated character.

5. Is there anyone in your life who is especially supportive of your work?

I don’t think I can answer that question with just one person. Or even a couple of people. My parents and family have always been supportive of my writing and I have a group of friends I’ve known from high school and several from college who have been amazing advocates of my writing. And then there are all of the wonderful people who’ve read my book and promoted me on their websites and recommended my books to everyone they know. I couldn’t make a list without leaving somebody out. It would be impossible.

6. What’s next for you?

I’m finishing up edits on my next book, which is a dark comedy-mystery noir that takes place in the course of one day in San Francisco and involves a private detective who has an unusual relationship with luck.

And now for the review:

"Fated" by S.G. Browne

From the back of the book:

“Over the past few thousand years, Fabio has come to hate his job. As Fate, he’s in charge of assigning the fortunes and misfortunes that befall most of the human race – the eighty-three percent who keep screwing things up. And with the steady rise in population since the first Neanderthal set himself on fire, he can’t exactly take a vacation.
Fabio is frustrated with his endless parade of drug addicts and career politicians, and it doesn’t help watching Destiny guide her people to winning Nobel Peace Prizes and Super Bowl MVPs. To make matters worse, he has a five-hundred-year-old feud with Death, and his best friends are Sloth and Gluttony. And worst of all? He’s just fallen in love with a human being.”

This book has to be on my list of the biggest surprise reads of the year. When I first looked at the book, I wondered if it would be as good as other critics claimed.

Then I began reading it!

What a fun book. In it, we meet all the characters that influence our life and emotions … Anger, Envy, Greed, Temperance (who prefers to be called Tim), Lust, Prejudice and more, including the ones mentioned above.

The main character is Fabio, or Fate, hence the name of the book. He always seems to be in trouble with Jerry, which is short for Jehovah, and he’s literally become bored with his job. So, he takes it upon himself to help his humans make better choices on the paths through life. Unfortunately, he’s altering those same lives, often with dire consequences.

Then, he falls madly in love with a human, breaking the No. 1 rule: Don’t get involved. That leads to more rules being broken and more meetings with the Boss. Funny thing is, Fabio really believes there is a chance God won’t know what he’s doing, so he might just get away with it.

S.G. Browne has a wonderful imagination. He’s created characters that you have to appreciate and whether you like them or hate them, you have to smile.

Great dialogue. Wonderful personalities. Humorous events.

What more could you want?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins we go!

1. When pigs fly south, you know it's going to be a bad winter.

2.You saw them flying, seriously?!

3. Call me crazy, but I really want a new winter coat for my birthday.

4. I just want to be warm and prepared in case those pigs are right, if you know what I mean.

5. The most entertaining person in my life is my 1-1/2 year old grandson because he definitely has an advanced sense of humor and already knows how to make a person laugh.

6. I'm anxious to find out who's next?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing in a motel room, tomorrow my plans include a nice leisurely drive back home and Sunday, I want to finish some writing that's due next week!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Book Campaign and book review

Welcome to the Eco-Libris Green Book Campaign blog tour.

This is the second year I’ve participated in the event and I’m really excited to again help spread the word about using recycled paper to print books.

The campaign last year was very successful – 100 bloggers participated and more than 15,000 readers were exposed to the campaign and it received very positive feedback from publishers, bloggers and readers.

This year, 200 bloggers are taking part in the campaign. Each has read a “green book” and the reviews have been published simultaneously at 1 p.m. eastern time (10 a.m. where I live in Washington state).

Eco-Libris has a specific goal with this blog tour – to use the power of the Internet and social media to promote “green” books and increase the awareness of both readers and publishers to the way books can be printed in an eco-friendly manner. In other words, books can and are being printed using recycled materials.

After I posted my review last year, which you can read here, I had a discussion with author Ross Anthony. He self-publishes his books and he asked about using recycled paper and what I thought about it. I told him I was very much in favor of it and I really do like the paper as it’s often seems to be a higher quality and thicker than new paper. He then published two books – “Zen Repair and the Art of Riding Chili” and “Circle Earth and the Circumference of the Planet” – using recycled paper and sent me copies to review, which can be found here.

For this campaign Indigo Books and Music, the largest book retailer in Canada, has stepped up to help increase the impact and reach.

It’s also pretty exciting to 56 publishers from the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. are taking part and have donated the books for review. I think that’s awesome and it’s just one more reason why I continue to support Eco-Libris by promoting their campaign and reviewing one of the “green” books.

Among those publishers is the WSU Press. I was so excited to see them on the list because Washington State University is my alma mater. The book I chose to review is “Greenscapes: Olmsted’s Pacific Northwest” by Joan Hockaday. The places the author tells about are all within driving distance of where I live, so it was another reason for me to select this book.

This is my review for the book I chose. You can see the other posts by going to the Eco-Libris Green Book Campaign site.

Book review
Greenscapes: Olmsted’s Pacific Northwest

By Joan Hockaday

From the back of the book:

“Like his famous father and mentor Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., who designed New York’s Central Park, John Charles Olmsted believed pastoral spaces were integral to a healthy urban environment. By 1884, he became a full partner as the Olmsted firm’s landscaping successes in the East sparked a nationwide City Beautiful movement. … With careful attention to natural vegetation and vistas, and new landscaping and plantings, he (John Charles) skillfully created verdant outdoor havens crafted for full advantage of a site’s topography. His greensward legacy is still enjoyed daily by people across the Pacific Northwest.”

I’m a huge fan of good architecture, especially that of the early 20th century. I love to look at historical buildings and if there is the possibility of a tour, I’m there!

This wonderful book is a tour in itself. With super photography highlighting some of John Charles Olmsted’s best work here in the Pacific Northwest, accompanied in many cases by his original sketches, it’s like visiting some of the best right from your own easy chair.

The writing is also excellent. The book begins with a short biography of the man who would become the designer of such sites as state parks, college and university campuses and elite neighborhoods, as well as events such as the Lewis and Clark Centennial and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific expositions. From there, it takes the reader on a historical tour of the dozens of places in Washington, Oregon and Idaho where Olmsted’s influence can be found.

Talent is common, but to have the gift of design he possessed is a much rarer occurrence. I would personally place him in the class of other architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, one of my favorites. The buildings and grounds Olmsted designed are nothing short of marvelous and now that I’ve read through this book, I’m anxious to find the time to revisit some of them with a different perspective after having learned a little about the history behind the structures.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Upcoming events

I've been rather lax with my blog recently -- sometimes, we just get very busy.

That's about to change as there are lots of interesting posts coming up in the near future.

This Wednesday, I will be taking part in the Eco-Libris Green Books campaign. At 1 p.m. EST, 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-
friendly paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases. This year’s participation of both bloggers and books has doubled from the event’s inception last year.

The 200 books to be reviewed are in a variety of subjects, including cooking, poetry, travel, green living and history, and come from 56 publishers from the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. that are participating in the Green Books Campaign. This diversified group of publishers includes both small and large presses who all print books on recycled and-or FSC-certified paper. 
This is the second year I've participated and it's really a lot of fun. I have a great book to review this year! For a complete list of participating blogs, go to the campaign's main page at Eco-Libris.
On November 17, I'll be reviewing the book "Fated" by S.G. Browne. I hope to have an author interview to go along with it.

As the holidays approach, I plan to have lots of reviews of Christmas books, including two from Pump Up Your Book blog tours on December 17 -- "I Am Santa" and "The Christmas Chronicles."

In between, there will be a variety of other book reviews, as well. So, be sure to follow my blog for regular updates on what's happening. I just know you'll enjoy it!