Monday, July 21, 2014

Marvelous, Mystical, Murderous

Black Sea Gods

(Book 1 of the Chronicles of Fu Xi) 

by Brian Braden

This epic fantasy raises the bar for Historical Fantasy to new heights.

I usually know after reading the first paragraph whether or not I will like a book. With Black Sea Gods, I knew after the first sentence that the writing itself would be good. Well, I was wrong. It is GREAT!

The story is pure fantasy that is not bogged down by still disputed ancient timelines, nor even real places. Yet I "smelled" the salt-water marshes, "saw" the homes tilting above the lagoon, "heard" the incoming tide rush against the pilings, and kept worrying about the fate of the Lo-tribe.

Interestingly, there are two different story-lines: One follows the arduous journey of an intrepid people; the other, the Chronicles of Fu Xi, tells of the birth, death and re-birthing of the gods. The marvel is how the two are fused into an "Aha-moment."

Black Sea Gods is a novel to be enjoyed on several levels: For the sensitivity and beauty of the writing itself (I still demand that in what I choose to read); for the astounding imagination it took to write a story of those early tribes and gods (with the initial unfamiliarity about names quickly being overcome); and lastly for the vivid descriptions.

Writing historical fiction myself, I often stopped to ask myself "how did the writer come up with this?" And then I had to check that, indeed, this is written by a male author (sorry guys, but it is that delicately sensitive in places, yet so vividly strong in others, with some brutal scenes thrown in).
A resounding "Highly Recommended."


Brian Braden is a founder and assistant editor for Underground Book Reviews www.undergroundbookreviews.com, an online magazine featuring the best new indie lit.

He is also the author of the novelette CARSON'S LOVE, and a contributor to FLYING TOASTERS, an anthology of short stories. 

He can be reached at brian_l_braden@yahoo.com 
or 
you can visit his website at www.blackseagods.com

Also,

Check out Brian's FB page for his plans of a grand launch of Book 2 of the Chronicles of Fu Xi: 


Tears of the Dead 

There will be games, prizes, and gift books by many participating writers.



Guest at BigAl's Books and Pals

BigAl's Books and Pals do an outstanding job of reading and reviewing Indie books, all to introduce Indie writings to a wide audience.

This morning, BigAl featured my guest post about my own experience of researching historical fiction - notably for KHAMSIN, The Devil Wind of the Nile.

If you like, you can read the entire blog post here - and laugh at my silly hat to boot.

BigAl's Books and Pals: The Minefield of Writing Ancient Egyptian Fiction, a guest post by Inge H. Borg

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New 5 Stars for AFTER THE CATACLYSM


5.0 out of 5 stars
 Like a Dirk Pitt novel...only better. July 15, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
After the Cataclysm: Legends of the Wing Scarab #3 by Inge Borg is the third in the series and the second book to feature the same main characters. The first book takes place in predynastic Egypt and the next two books in contemporary times. This book can stand alone, but rides nicely after the second book.

A short time has passed since the end of the second novel. The story revolves around the interactions of three groups of people. Egyptologist Naunet and husband Jonathan Wilkins are living in New England. Former Director Jabari El-Masri, fleeing from Egypt, thought to have died escaping is arranging his future with Lorenzo Dominguez a rich South American art “collector.” Jabari is trading the fifty pitch covered gold tablets for his safety and a new life.

To make matters interesting the super volcano in Yellowstone erupts, not only bring down American society and the Northern Hemisphere in a volcanic “nuclear winter,” but also affects the entire world with the loss of the only superpower. The world order and international law are now a thing of the past without a willing enforcer. Naunet and Jonathan are bunkered down in Jonathan's family home trying to weather out the natural disaster and protect their property. With no internet or phone service ham radio becomes the method of long distance communications. Jonathan receives a message from Jabari to meet him at a set of coordinates in the Caribbean.

The story moves quickly and will hold the reader’s attention. There is plenty of nautical information as most of the story takes place on a boat and ship. Woven into the adventure is the story of the fifty golden, engraved tablets, a curse, and possibly closure for all the characters. Even with the natural disaster and the collapse of the United States the plot stays focused on the story at hand.

I have read and reviewed the previous two books for Author Alliance (www.authoralliance.net) and a reading the third book, on my own, because I enjoyed the previous two books and enjoyed the story and characters. After the Cataclysm lives up to the quality of the previous two books. Borg pays attention to the details in all her books and that is part of what makes them interesting. She combines real and convincing elements into her story and leaves the reader a bit more educated at the end of the book. For action/adventure books this series rates high on my list.

* * *
I love the Dirk Pitt novels; but to be termed "even better" by this well-seasoned reviewer from AuthorAlliance is outstanding (Sorry, Mr. Cussler).
Made my day!



Saturday, July 12, 2014

FREE Ride for Bad Boy Edward


Since this bad boy has somehow weaseled his way into several of my novels, I thought I'd give him away FOR FREE to wet your whistle for his further machinations.

In Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea, he only kidnaps my lovely protagonist Naunet. Oh, I just remembered, he is also an accomplice to murder.

In After the Cataclysm, he lurches about on board the ghost ship scaring the heck out of Naunet once again.

And, by the way, in Shadow Love, he is also briefly remembered by Monika as the lousy con he turned out to be. 



Friday, July 11, 2014

KHAMSIN on HNS Award Short List

In August of 2012, Khamsin was enthusiastically reviewed and selected as an Editor's Choice by the prestigious Historical Novel Society; that was quite thrilling.

(I  have since changed the cover, eliminated quite a few pesky "nits" and formatting issues in the print version, and shortened several of my "Germanic" convoluted sentences.)

But not until I received an e-mail from the organizers of the First Annual Historical Fiction Indie Award did I realize that my 'beloved' Ancient Egyptian novel had been placed on their short list of nine books for their award.

They actually asked if I "wanted to participate" .... 
Well, duh! I posthaste complied with a few additional requirements - and now am gnawing on my knuckles. It is all up to the judges now who will reveal the winner in September - at their London Conference (I do so wish I could be there).

Competition is an awesome array of offerings - and you can check me on this here:
http://tinyurl.com/oyssz78

I also hope that, maybe, it will encourage my HF writer-friends to seeks reviews from the Society; they are a tough bunch, but a nod from them goes a long way.


 While it may not do much for increased sales - 
it surely is balm on the solitary writer's heart.




Saturday, June 28, 2014

Shadow Love is getting some Love

I am really stomped why this easy little novella isn't getting more reader love. So, I asked another reviewer to give me a woman's opinion. She really got the underlying reality - or is it - of it:



4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Read! June 28, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Monika Lenz is an attractive fifty year old who is disillusioned with men and life in general. She decides it's time to get her life back on track. A change of scenery and lifestyle is just what she needs to heal her mind and soul. She leases a cabin deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for one year. As time passes, the peace and quiet she so desperately wanted starts to backfire. The loneliness sets in and her drinking increases. The more she tries to heal herself the worse she becomes. She starts slipping in and out of reality, but the intriguing part of this story is neither Monika nor the reader knows what the true reality actually is.
Author Inge H. Borg does an exceptional job of keeping everyone clueless to the end. The writing is excellent, the characters are fully developed and the storyline is terrific. Great Read!
Recommendation: Purchase and enjoy.

* * *
This little story was in my head for literally decades. I remember telling it to my mother on one of my visits back home. She clasped her face in her hands and cried: "Ach, mein Kind, this will be you."

I vehemently denied such silliness - especially about the drinking part. As I sit among the pines in my lonely cabin in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks, I still resent the woman and her predictions. She had such an annoying way of being right (not about the drinking part, of course. And if she had been, I surely wouldn't tell you!)



Friday, June 13, 2014

A Punch in the Gut

Everyone has seen pictures of the imposing statue presiding over Rio de Janeiro. 

Especially now, when World Cup fever is at a pitch and nations ask "Who will be the winner?" it is more than appropriate to bring 
"Hard Landing, Poems 3"
by Canadian Poet Jim Bennett
to your attention. Why? 
Because cleverly using Brazil's landmark on its cover--"Hard Landing" clearly steps out in front of the fray as the winner.


This particular volume of the series is indeed a 'hard landing.' It came down on this reviewer with a haunting thud, especially "Childhood End." It continued to pummel my gentile sensibilities. Just when I thought I could take no more, a few limericks let me breathe, and grin. But not for long, and my grey matter was flung back into similes and metaphors. Bennett doesn't let you off easily. He rattles your comfy little cocoon; and makes you hate him for doing so when you had tried so hard to forget. He flaunts the truth in front of you showing you that only when you remember and forgive, can you at last forget.

So far, I found Poems 3 the hardest to read - but wasn't that the intent of the poet? It was also the one volume that I know I shall reread many times to rediscover more of its depths and truths. An astonishing volume of gut-punching poetry.



Check out Bennett's Other Poetry on Amazon:

On March 26 and May 3, I reviewed Poems 5 and 4, respectively (I know, I am going backwards - which does not detract from my enjoyment of these works one iota).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Spuckler gives SIROCCO 4 Stars

Joseph Spuckler gives Sirocco, Storm Over Land and Sea
(Legends of the Wing Scarab #2) 
4 Stars
SIROCCO, Storm Over Land and Sea (Legends of the Winged Scarab) by Inge Borg is the follow up to Khamsin (reviewed earlier this year at Author Alliance). This may be the first sequel I have read that takes place 5,000 years after the initial book. Khamsin set the stage in the ancient world and Sirocco picks up in modern Egypt, in fact, modern enough to include the 2011 revolution.
The Sirocco is a Mediterranean wind out of the south-east that can reach hurricane strengths and carries with it sand from Libya and North Africa. Sand from these storms reach Italy, Greece, and Albania and is dense enough to be seen on satellite photographs. Although slow in developing, the storms can wreak havoc on boats that are not prepared or do not take proper precautions.
Overall the story is well done and fast moving. It does fit well into the thriller category and ties in with real world and practical matters in antiquities. The novel has several subplots that converge to make an exciting story that is a bit more complex than your average thriller. There are several competing factions in the story. First is the team of archaeologists from the Cambridge Research Institute with the stand out character Naunet Klein. Their assistance is requested by the Jabari El-Masri who heads the Cairo Museum. El-Masri is feeling the pressure or the growing public unrest. He holds his position through favors and loyalty to President Mubarak. He is concerned with his future and the loyalty of his staff. Not everything he does is above board, but he rationalizes that it is for the safety and protection of the national and historical treasures. Also in the mix is the British gentleman Edward Guernsey-Crock: A man of mystery…a cocky man of mystery. Throw in some townspeople, art “collectors,” and fifty ancient golden tablets and a story quickly forms.
There is tension and suspicion between the various groups with Naunet taking on the role of the central character. Borg does an excellent job of filling the reader in on what would be for most unfamiliar subjects. She describes laser cleaning of metal artifacts used by archaeologists. There are some nautical lessons when the story line moves the open water. Borg has earlier shown in Khamsin that she knows Egyptian history. Her work is well researched. She also exposes the shadier side of the art and artifact world. As with her previous novel, it is nice to finish a novel and, although it is fiction, walk away a bit smarter.
Sirocco proves itself to be an action packed adventure story with an intriguing plot. It is the perfect book for a rainy afternoon or a story that allows you to live a vicarious adventure when your planned adventures fall through. Very well done.

See Joseph Spuckler's Review of KHAMSIN under the "Reader Reviews" tab
Read Joseph Spuckler's Other Reviews:
http://www.authoralliance.net/category/readers-lounge/author-alliance-reviews/joseph-spuckler

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Christoph Fischer: On Alzheimer's Disease

With the publication of his newest novel "Time to Let Go," Christoph Fischer brings the terrible and debilitating disease of Alzheimer's Disease to the fore.




In the following guest-blog, he delves deeper into it. He also sheds light onto real and imagined characters and the back story for his book. It is a fascinating, albeit frightening, revelation especially for those of us who have been fortunate enough not (yet) to have to deal with this illness, nor its inherent care-taker pressures.


* * *

“The Real Biddy Korhonen”
by Christoph Fischer

I grew up with only a few friends and with two older siblings who were miles ahead of me in their lives. My mother was a busy woman and so I spent a lot of time at my aunt’s house. She had always wanted to have four children but lost one child at birth. Her other three children were much older and didn’t need her much anymore, so my visits to her house filled a gap for her, in the same way as her attention to me filled a need in me. A match made in heaven.
Philomena, or Minna, as we called her, remained a source of happiness and encouragement throughout my life. I was always welcome and treated like a precious gift. She smoked, but she outlived both of her sisters (taken in their 40s by cancer).
In her late 70s, Minna was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Well, I thought, at least she lives, belittling her misfortune without much awareness.
The next time I saw her, her trademark happiness however seemed far away. She was crying bitterly because she had lost her hearing aid, a very expensive one, too. Suddenly her life seemed to revolve around retrieving things. She was spared the physical pain of her sisters, but she suffered severe mental torture.
She fortunately reached a happier stage as medication and care helped reduce the misery in her life, but the attention she needed was a huge toll to the family. Despite her memory loss, she seemed to vaguely recognise me; me, the ‘child’ that lived abroad and who rarely came to visit. She had not lost her warmth and happiness, or maybe she had just regained it after the bad patch I mentioned earlier.
Very recently I saw her again, almost unrecognisable: withdrawn, very unresponsive and almost reduced to basic functioning.
Surprisingly, she could still read and when I came to see her for a second time her eyes shone as if she did recognise me. I spoke an emotional goodbye to her and her hand was shaky and excited as she listened to my speech. She even responded by talking, using words that didn’t fit exactly but which expressed an emotion similar to what one would expect from a loving aunt in such a situation.
With her loving kindness in mind I created Biddy, the mother in “Time to let Go,” a selfless, giving woman, who even in her illness manages to show her innate kindness.  I know it would be wrong to praise her for a gift that many other patients do not have, through no fault of their own. Losing one’s memory and control of one’s life is a terrible thing that you can only understand when it happens to you.
“Time to Let Go” is partly meant as a tribute to my brave aunt and to the wonderful people who help making her life dignified and as happy as is possible.
* * *
Alzheimer
My book is inspired by personal experiences with sufferers from the disease. Nowadays, almost everyone knows someone who has relatives with Alzheimer’s and gradually stories and anecdotes about these patients have entered the social dinner party circuit and become common knowledge.
Alzheimer is a dreadful disease that cannot be easily understood in its gravity and the complex, frustrating and far reaching consequences for the victims and their families. There are different stages of the disease as it progresses and patients can move through them at different paces and in varying intensity. My book does not attempt to be a complete representation or a manual of how to deal with the disease. The illness affects every patient differently and there are many stories to tell and many aspects to cover. I hope that I can bring some of those issues to the surface and help to make the gravity of the disease more prominent. I did, however, decide to stay firmly in fiction and family drama territory, and not to write a dramatized documentary on the subject.
I have witnessed several different approaches to handling the disease by both individuals and entire families, and I have learned that the people involved in every case need to work out what is best for them.  In my book, a family works out their particular approach, which is right for them. They have different ideas about it and need to battle it out. These clashes fascinated me and I felt they were worth exploring.
Issues of caring at home, mobile care assistance or institutionalising patients are personal and, depending on where in the world you are, every family has very different options or limitations. The ending in my book must be seen in that context: as an individual ‘best’ solution that uniquely fits the Korhonen family.
* * *
As point of first reference and for a more comprehensive and scientific overview of information and help available I recommend:
http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/ in the UK, and http://www.alz.org/ in the US.
There are support groups, help-lines and many other sources available in most countries. These will be able to advise specifically for each individual situation.
I can also recommend “Because We Care” by Fran Lewis. This fantastic book has a comprehensive appendix with more or less everything you need to know about the disease: Its stages, personal advice on caring, information, tools and help available in the US.
For consistency, I exclusively used material relating to a medium advanced stage of the disease. To protect the privacy and dignity of the patients that inspired the story I have altered all of the events and used both first and second hand experiences and anecdotes. Nothing in this book has actually happened in that way. Apart from some outer parallels between my characters and patients I witnessed, any similarities with real people, alive or dead, are coincidental and unintended.
* * *
Airlines
The airline plot is not based on any real incident but is inspired by my own imagination. I used to work for an airline and so naturally, much of Hanna’s life is based on my own experience of 15 years flying. I lived with the awareness that every time a call bell goes off on a plane this could be a matter of life and death. What happens to Hanna in the book has never happened to me or anyone close to me. My flying life was not that extraordinary. Fortunately.
But every year airline crew are retrained in emergency procedures and aviation medicine, and at least during those intense yearly re-training sessions your mind cannot help considering the possibilities of such events.
The modern trend of the ‘suing- and compensation-culture’ and the extent of it in some cases worries me a little, which is why some of that concern found its way into the book.
The lifestyle of cabin crew and pilots is often falsely glorified as a glamorous string of free holidays and leisure. A recent crew strike in the UK has brought the profession into disrepute in the media, as fat cats and lazy bones.
My book aims to shed a bit of light on the realities of flying. I enjoyed the life and would not want to miss the experience but it is a tough life that demands huge personal sacrifices and flexibility, sleep deprivation on a massive scale and exposure to aggressive and abusive behaviour by a consumerist clientele. In the global trend of cost cutting, salaries are going down and what used to be a career is at risk of becoming a minimum wage job handed to people who have no experience and who have no incentive to give it their all.
My book is a tribute to my former colleagues in the airline industry, who, in my opinion, are unsung heroes and a bunch of wonderful, hard-working and very caring people.
* * *
Memory
What makes Alzheimer so terrible? What is it that makes a memory so important to one’s life that people compare its horrors to pain-inflicting diseases like cancer? You are alive and physically well, you eat and function as a human, but as an Alzheimer patient you are bound to be suffering, frustrated, depressed and unhappy.
Of course it is ridiculous to compare the two diseases, but while a cancer patient has still their awareness and choices, the Alzheimer sufferer is losing the core of their being, everything they ever were.
How can you define yourself if you cannot remember? You have had children, but you won’t recognise them. You won awards, had a successful career, made people happy, but you don’t know any of it. Who are you and what are you doing on the planet? Who are the people around you? As the disease progresses, these things become more intense and you can live in a mental prison of fear and disorientation. Your brain won’t do as you want it to. The fear of losing ‘it’ altogether, for some is impossible to bear. You are about to lose everything that was ever precious to you.
That thought is frightening to all of us. It can happen to all of us. The worst stage seems to be when patients still notice that something is wrong. We all know how annoying it is when we just put something down and don’t remember where. Imagine that happening to you all the time, every day, and you get an idea of how it might feel.  The caretakers see their loved ones slowly drift away into a stranger.
Biddy’s husband Walter, in my novel, becomes obsessed with preserving memories – his own and others. He begins to write a family chronicle as a constructive outlet for his fears. He is an important character with his musings about preserving knowledge, memories and facts and he allowed me to bring in thoughts about the disease on a different and more reflective level.
I hope that I have managed to write about more than just the clinical side of the disease. I stuck to the early stages of Alzheimer in the story because it gave me the best opportunities to work these thoughts into the story. It allows me to look back at Biddy’s past but with still a lot of hope.

* * *







Friday, May 16, 2014

Shadow Love - My very own Pentimento

I don't know if one's own regret, one's own pentimento is a reasonable solution? But painters change their mind all the time painting over their original drawings, so I thought I would too (again).

It's not that I want to rename my novella "Pentimento." That's already a delightful book by Lillian Hellman (and subsequently others have used it).

Wikipedia defines the word as such:
"A pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word is Italian for repentance, from the verb pentirsi, meaning to repent."


Apply that to my novella previously published as "Clouds of the Heart," aka "Shadow Sanctuary" - and you get a repenting (aka "hotted-out") SHADOW LOVE.

I am at a loss why this mysterious love story isn't gaining more traction; it's contemporary, keeps you guessing, and is also sympathetic to the mature woman (who is still very much a woman). It is something most fifty-ish, independent yet women who still yearn for love can relate to (except perhaps those drowning their sorrow in too much wine).

By the way, there is a brief appearance of our " old friend," the charming Edward in all his conning glory. That cad's becoming quite the celebrity throughout several of my novels; however does he manage to keep popping up?


I'd love to know what you think of the new cover and title?