EMbark on a Star-Spangled Summer Adventure!"

Friday, August 8, 2014

RACHEL ANN NUNES: Taking a Stand Against Plagiarism

Beloved author, Rachel Ann Nunes, is a prolific writer, authoring over 40 books, in a variety of genres. More than that, she has mentored dozens and dozens of other authors, both personally, and through the writers' guild, LDStorymakers, she helped found. LDStorymakers now hosts annual writers' conferences to improve the talents of hundreds of writers each year, and so it can easily be said that Rachel has been paying it forward for years, and that her influence in the writing community can not fully be measured.

Recently, one of her older titles, "A Bid For Love,"  was pirated and eroticized by someone, (I won't honor her with the title of author) using a pen name. Additionally,  this plagiarist's allies have launched an attack against Rachel and her body of work. They are writing abusive reviews of stellar titles, and posting libelous comments on social media.

Rachel is fighting back, for herself, and once again, for the rest of us who could be affected by the malicious piracy of our work. Click this link to read Rachel's story in her own words, and/or visit Rachel's Amazon and Goodreads pages to post a positive comment of her books. In this way you can help counteract the damage, and do something positive. Thanks so much.

http://rachelannnunes.blogspot.com/2014/08/standing-against-plagarism.html

Friday, July 4, 2014

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY

Some days, like today, I hunger to get back to writing historical novels. I love all history, but I expecially love American history. Here's a small segment from a Fourth of July address I gave some years ago. It's based on a magnificent talk by David McCullough. I hope it adds an extra spark to your Independence Day festivities.

Washington's army must have known that just because it was right didn’t mean it would be easy. They had endured devastating losses on the battlefield, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, and epidemic dysentery. Men defected, men deserted. They were starving, and filthy, without any winter clothes and their numbers dwindled as the battles increased. More men died in prisons ands from disease than from war wounds. They crossed rivers during freezing winter storms and marched through a noreaster that caused the temperatures to plummet so badly that “two men froze to death on the march.” Though their numbers and circumstances worsened, Patrick Henry understood what carried them on. He declared:
 "there is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us."

Friends and angels perhaps. They never should never have won the Revolutionary War. Sherrie Dew, a corporate president and member of several international boards, puts it this way: “They were outmanned, outmaneuvered, outsmarted, and outgunned again and again by a superior British army, yet they prevailed. The only explanation is the intervention of God.”
On Dec. 31, 1776, all the enlistments for the entire army had expired leaving every soldier free to go home. Washington called the troops into formation and urged them to reenlist, promising them a large bonus if they did. As the drums rolled, he asked those willing to re-up to step forward, but nobody did. Many of their farms were neglected, their fields had lain barren and their families were starving. Despite their desperate poverty they were ready to reject the money. They just wanted to go home. Washington turned and rode away from them. Then he stopped, turned back and rode up to them again. Listen carefully to what he said:

 “My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.”
“. . .your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. . .”  Consider another general named Moroni who, like Washington, was attempting to rally his own troops by writing the necessity of the cause upon their hearts. The words he used are known as The Title of Liberty and they read:

"In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children,”
Words that touch upon the noblest of men’s sensibilities. Moroni’s words brought loyal men forward to defend their families and homes, and likewise, when Washington’s drummers began to roll the drums, the men began stepping forward. “God Almighty,” wrote Nathanael Greene, “inclined their hearts to listen to the proposal and they engaged anew.”

As beloved as he was, Washington could have set himself up as a king, but understanding that another form of government was desired for this land, he announced that he would not seek another term and that he would instead relinquish the Presidency. Imagine the thoughts of conquered King George III when he heard that Washington might do this . .  that the men who had led a rag tag army against the greatest army in the world and had beaten them . . . the man who was revered enough by his people to be catapulted into the highest office in the land . . . that this man would then turn and walk away from that position of his own accord against the cries for his people to remain there . . . When King George heard this he remarked,
“if he does he will be the greatest man in the world.”

 Character, integrity, honesty and a vision of the greater cause, “the glorious cause of America” is what made these people great. And it is what can and must make our generations great as well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Surviving the Synopsis

More and more writer friends are reporting that a synopsis or outline is now required by their agents and/or publishers. It sounds easy enough, right? You wrote the book, so how hard can it be to distill 1-2 pages of the manuscript's most critical plot points, characterizations, and its unique essence, and do it in a style that models your writing voice?

It can be harder than you think.

After asking agented friends for their best synopsis-writing advice, I jumped in and suffered through the paring-down process much the same way I did when abridging a book for audio production. The key is "selectively neglect."

First, prepare your query letter. Read, reread, cut, change, and tweak until you're sure it illustrates the uniqueness of your book. Now use those query points as the scaffolding for your synopsis.

Outline or list the MC goal, primary opposition, and the resolution.

Now insert key plot points that support the story, and the twists and obstacles upon which the action turns.

Pare the list down to the absolute most critical points, and expect to suffer a little as you selectively neglect some seemingly delicious moments in favor of more critical ones.

Write what you've selected in a story format that reflects your writer's voice, and walk away.

Return, reread, edit, and walk away again. If you're within the agent's length parameters, (usually 1-2 pages,) repeat the edit, read, walk away advice a few more times asking yourself if what you've written succinctly summarizes what's special about your book. If it does, great! If not, cut some more and then reread, edit . . . You get the picture.

Get some fresh eyes on this baby. Beta readers are a writer's heroes!

Good luck.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Available Now: "SLEEPING BEAUTY and the BEAST," by Melissa Lemon

http://www.lulu.com/shop/melissa-lemon/sleeping-beauty-and-the-beast/hardcover/product-21681887.html;jsessionid=0F926E53FCBDB12E799A06404B20C936
Sleeping Beauty and the Beast

I'm blessed to be in a critique group with an incredibly talented group of women authors, several of whom are releasing books over the next few months.

I've watched these books grow and evolve over the past months, and I am nearly as excited for their release as the actual authors are. So it is with great excitement that I announce that Melissa Lemon's newest fairytale fantasy, "Sleeping Beauty and the Beast," is now available in hardback, with paperback and ebooks version coming soon.

I haven't gotten my hands on a finished copy yet, but I can tell you that Melissa Lemon is a Frankensteining genius at dismembering beloved stories and putting them together in unique new ways that create fantastical adventures with the power to lull us away anew.

Get this book for your family bookshelf!

Trapped in a cursed sleep, the only experiences Princess Eglantine has are the ones in her dreams. There she meets Prince Henry of Fallund, a neighboring kingdom on the brink of war. Meanwhile, Prince Henry's brother Duncan discovers a vicious beast imprisoned for murder.

Captivated by her, he works to free her from both the prison bars she's locked behind and the ones surrounding her heart and mind. Sleeping Beauty and the Beast reinvents and seamlessly intertwines the classic fairy tales Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast.

I'll be reviewing it in full in a few weeks, but trust me. You'll want this one.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Flag Day is here, June 14, and in a day when some people treat saying the Pledge of the Allegiance  as a grave controversy, I’d like to raise a voice of celebration for the red, white and blue, and for the day set aside to honor it.

America will mark the bicentennial of our National Anthem and the flag that inspired it in September. Sadly, unless you live in a War of 1812 historic zone, you may have heard little hoopla over this anniversary, a sobering thing considering that most historians agree that this was the moment America became united—the United States of America.

 Upon visiting the birthplace of the flag, Fort McHenry, a British man commented that no other country reveres her flag quiet the way America does.
I live in Maryland, surrounded by War of 1812 history—-the Chesapeake Campaign and Commodore Joshua Barney’s audacious Chesapeake Flotilla; the dark days surrounding burning of Washington; the destruction of the President's House, the Capitol and much of historic D.C.; the critical Battle of Baltimore; its star-shaped guardian--Fort McHenry; and the most famous and beloved of all flags, the Star-Spangled Banner. The Smithsonian has gone to extensive efforts to preserve and study this American icon. The exhibit is beautiful and a must-see for anyone coming to Washington D.C.

There are fables and myths that abound over America’s banner. Though Flag Day celebrants visiting Philadelphia will still see Betsy Ross’s house front bearing a plaque commemorating her as the creator of the first flag, historians no longer ascribe that honor to her.  That news breaks the hearts of a generation raised on that sweet tale, but while researching material for FREE MEN and DREAMERS, highly respected historians explained that though Betsy Ross was a flag maker, and was acquainted with Robert Morris, and possibly George Washington, no document, no writing of Ross's, and no entry of any of the principles, confirms any part of the tale. In truth, Ross's grandson was in danger of losing the family home around the time of the centennial, and he began spinning that tale just in time to bring guests to his home to see where the flag was made. It saved the home, and tainted history.

Other historical truths may upset history lovers who were taught the same beloved, but inaccurate stories I heard growing up, but we needn't fear true accounts, no matter that they are different. I attest that the real story surrounding the events and patriots who made this history are even more compelling.

The Star-Spangled Banner did not fly continuously during the Battle of Baltimore.
A terrible storm began the night the British bombarded Fort McHenry, and Major George Armistead feared the combination of wind, and the rain which had soaked the large, woolen banner, would over tax the pole, possibly causing it to snap. Since the fall of the flag would signal the defeat of the fort, the Major ordered the large garrison flag lowered during the height of the storm. It was the smaller storm flag which flew through the night. The large garrison flag was raised before dawn so the British and the Americans would see that the fort had withstood the 23-hour bombardment. This change was hidden to Francis Scott Key during the night's fog, but it was the large banner that greeted him the next morning, inspiring him to take up pencil and the back of a letter to write the famed poem that became our anthem.
The flag in 1914

Bombs bursting in air did not tatter the flag.
I too was told those tears were sacred battle scars. As a child I had been taken to the Smithsonian to reverently stand and gaze upon the scarred fabric, and I was awed, but historical accounts from the Armistead family, and scientific analysis prove, that the tattered edges of the flag were made by the fort's commander, Major Armistead, who cut pieces off the end of the adored flag later that year, which he mailed to friends and patriots requesting a memento from the valiant banner.  The true story is less dramatic, but carries its own patriotic charm, about a beleaguered people who rallied around this rectangle of fabric until it became precious--a thing to be treasured. That's no small matter, is it?

There are so many wonderful stories, many of which have already slipped from textbooks, and will be lost to the next generation. Stories about the Chesapeake Flotilla, and the real truth about the saving of the Constitution from the fires of Washington.
Restored at the Smithsonian in 2014

History evolves as documents are uncovered, archaeologists make new finds, and scientific testing improves. Truth should be what we seek. In the end, the real story will be as compelling as a fable, because it tells the true response of a people in their own day. Holding the line on truth in recording history will become more critical. Parents need to take the lead on this and expose their children to America's past. Don't count on flawed textbooks and teachers to do it all.

That's why I gathered some friends to help me sponsor "The Star-Spangled Summer Adventure," to encourage families to hit the road and explore America and her history this summer. And to sweeten the deal, we've assembled a treasure chest of family prizes to be awarded to one family at the end of the celenration, on September 13th, 2014.

Click the badge to the right to learn how to get involved and be entered in the drawing. But whether or not you participate officially, I hope you will take advantage of the amazing history and compelling stories about America and her people in your own backyard.

I'm honored the reviewers of my Free Men and Dreamers books attest to how much they have learned about America from reading my carefully researched books. Yes, they are historical fiction, so they read like sweeping novels, but the history was meticulously researched. I'm very proud of that.

So whether you read my books, visit the Smithsonian, stop by Baltimore's plethora of flag sites, join us on the Star-Spangled Celebration, or seek out other sites in your own community, there are lots of patriotic things for families to enjoy while teaching critical American history and instilling the crucial values of honor, gratitude, and patriotism.
http://www.laurielclewis.com/summer-adventure.htm

Enjoy!

Laurie L. C. Lewis

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book Nook Review: "Quantum Breach" by Denver Acey



QUANTUM BREACH
by
Denver Acey


Debuting author, Denver Acey, drew upon a lifetime of professional experience in cyber-security when crafting his first novel, Quantum Breach. Hollywood’s inaccurate portrayal of this growing global threat, and the criminals behind it, were his motivation.

Acey’s bio reveals his frustration. “Hackers are more intelligent and more sophisticated than simple teenagers who guzzle down Mountain Dew while playing video games. Cyber crime is a billion-dollar business that encompasses organized crime and foreign governments. For these elite hackers, the fruits of success are iconic trademarks, innovative patents, and government secrets.”

Quantum Breach brings all these elements together in a story that immerses the reader in cyber trade secrets and intriguing plot twists, while highlighting the tenacity, and sometimes brutality, of this new breed of criminal.

Tanner Zane understands this mindset. It was once his own, that is until hackers targeted his grandmother, wiping out the resources built over a lifetime of hard work. Her suffering was an epiphany for Tanner, who cleaned up his act, took on a legitimate job, gave his own ill-got fortune away to charity, and opened his heart to the religion that gave purpose to his former girlfriend, Megan Holland.

Tanner feared his past locked some doors forever, like the one that led back to Megan, but others had opened wide to him, and after seven successful years at his new firm, Tanner earned a corporate-sponsored two-month sabbatical, which he planned to spend on an extended road trip  enjoying his parents’ company. But when Tanner enters their home to pick them up, he finds them bound and gagged, and he too is attacked, bound, and driven to an unknown location in the desert.

He and his parents are held in separate, unfamiliar places, and soon the plan is revealed. Tanner must use his hacking skills to hijack plans for a world-changing device from one of the most secure facilities imaginable. If he fails, he and his parents will be killed.

But as Tanner methodically progresses on his hacking scheme, he must also create an escape plan subtle enough to go undetected by the dangerous men monitoring him, while communicating his need to some savvy techie before time runs out for him and his parents.

Acey delivers on the creative and technical sides of Quantum Breach, imbuing this novel with a crisp tension spurred on by fascinating technical clues and reveals in almost every chapter.  Acey illuminates the psychology and intimidation that goes into a master hack, which I found particularly delicious.

Quantum Breach does occasionally lag between these intriguing cyber revelations, when dialogue and literary technique alone must carry the read. Acey’s vocabulary choices and phrasing lapse into a YA feel at times, such as his repeated reference to the kidnappers simply as “bad guys,” which lessens their fearsomeness and dilutes the tension.

Even so, the overall appeal of the book makes it a worthy, enjoyable read with enough mystery and suspense to keep die-hards well-engaged, signaling that as good as Quantum Breach is, Acey’s best work is likely yet to come.

Quantum Breach is published by Cedar Fort, and is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/The-Quantum-Breach-Denver-Acey/dp/1462114342

Monday, June 2, 2014

Book Nook Review: "MEN OF DESTINY," by Lu Ann Bropst Staheli

MEN OF DESTINY,
by
Lu Ann Bropst Staheli

 

The premise behind LuAnn Bropst Staheli’s comparative of Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith intrigued me, and "Men of Destiny" proved to be a rewarding read.

Staheli is an accomplished, heralded author known for the depth of her research and her gift for writing biographical stories that breathe life into her subjects. In Men of Destiny, she highlights the undeniable parallels between men most people would consider two very different nineteenth-century visionaries, laying out her case through a series of fascinating biographical sketches that will open readers’ eyes to these historical peers’ similarities.

While Lincoln’s road was political, and Smith’s was spiritual, both envisioned a better world, and each knew that the path to that world would not be easy or peaceful. Indeed, they were martyred for their respective causes. Each of Staheli’s eleven thematic comparisons of Lincoln and Smith showcase general commonalities between the men and their families, which she then expands on using incidents and experiences from each man’s personal history.
Even those who already feel they know Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith well will find that this focused study of themes present in their individual lives, and the tender comparisons drawn between these two men, further our understanding of them and the era in which they lived.  Our appreciation for the obstacles they overcame, and our recognition of a divine guiding hand in their lives is heightened, challenging any notion that chance alone brought two such men, who defied the notions of their day, eventually changing the lives and destinies of millions, upon the world stage “at such a time as this.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith and President Abraham Lincoln came from humble beginnings. Both knew a life of frontier hardship and physical toil. Both were seekers of truth. Both were leaders who saved lives, either by keeping people from physical slavery, or by freeing their eternal souls. And both men died as martyrs to their cause, leaving behind wives and children to cope with the devastating loss.
Contemporaries by birth, Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln were men born of destiny to a nation ready for growth and change during a time of spiritual and political reawakening. The similarities in their lives are uncanny.
Born into poor farming families whose ancestors had arrived in America during the 1600s, both boys knew the difficult life of living on the frontier with land to clear, homesteads to build, and crops to cultivate and harvest. Both Joseph and Abraham experienced the loss of an older sibling, affecting them deeply.
Both Joseph and Abraham married women against the preferences of their new wife’s family, both had children who died, and both ran for the office of president of the United States. Neither man was well educated as a youth, yet each grew up to be a great leader who would change the lives of millions—one as the head of a church, and the other a nation. And in the end, both men died as the result of assassin’s bullets, a martyr for their cause.
“It is no coincidence that the world of Abraham Lincoln was also the world of Joseph Smith,” said Bryon C. Andreasen, a Lincoln expert. “The same historical conditions that had prevented past generations of common folks like Abraham Lincoln from becoming the leaders of their people . . . had also made it difficult, if not impossible, to restore the full gospel to the earth” (Church News, May 26, 2009). Those were the very leadership positions that Joseph and Abraham were born to fill.
Men of Destiny’s well-researched information on Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln is laid out clearly and concisely in an easy-to-read format that will fascinate adults without overwhelming youth. Men of Destiny would be a wonderful book for family study, not only of these two contemporaries, but it also offers great potential for launching discussions on themes Staheli has defined, such as “Humble Beginnings,” “Finding Religion,” “Leadership Through Moral Principles,” and others. What better teaching tool could there be than anecdotes and examples from the lives of great men like Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith, which Staheli provides in abundance.
Families would do well to add this book to their family library. I believe it will be a book they will return to time and again.
Men of Destiny is published by Walnut Springs, and is available in paperback or ebook format on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Men-Destiny-Abraham-Lincoln-Prophet/dp/1599929082/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1401631188&sr=1-1.