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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Molly Hacker is Too Picky - Is she really? Fun, witty, and insightful

As so many of Lisette Brodey’s fans, I “met” Molly Hacker on her blog and was very curious to “connect” with her again in the novel. She is quite a character, witty, spunky, and a good sport. However, when it comes to finding Mr. Right, she has to overcome quite a few obstacles: her own somewhat confused ideas and feelings about love, her well-meaning but somewhat pushy friends, an important woman (the she-devil) in the media industry who is out to sabotage her.

To say that the book is entertaining is an understatement. It is a real page-turner, devilishly funny, engaging, and sensitive. It deals in an insightful way with problems of love, friendships, and relationships we all struggle with sometimes. And it gives us a fascinating, tongue-in-cheek picture of the world of journalism and the media.

Molly for all her blunders is someone you just have to like. All the characters are well-developed, vivid, and genuine. I particularly enjoyed the exchange between Molly and her best buddy, Randy. What a riot!

Another successful story by a very talented author!                  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Where is home?

I live in two countries and that's exciting. By there is another side to it: the feeling of rootlessness and the longing for a permanent home.


With Christmas looming once again
I drag gifts across town
board a plane heading for
what used to be home
always looking for that
     Hello dear
              so glad to see you

Old smells
the pulsing of familiar blood
some sense of lasting love
in a town of faces growing faint with time
friends scattered in Los Angeles
Santa Fe

Baby boots kick
a happy squeal and quick kiss
eyes sparkle
     then languish


This aerodynamic tumbling
     leaves stretch-marks
in my heart

Here I am
still searching the earth
     for a home

(from Path of Fire)

Friday, December 23, 2011

How many times can you read the same book? Do I need a shrink?

I’m a book addict. Seriously. I have the same withdrawal symptoms drug addicts describe: I get depressed, nervous, jittery--you name it--if I don’t have a book to read, either on my bookshelf or on my Kindle. Ever since I got that wonderful reading device, I have been able to feed my addiction and hold the symptoms at bay more easily.

However, there are still times I all of a sudden realize that I AM OUT OF BOOKS, HELP! I just finished reading a book and realize that I have to find a new one. Fortunately, I have a “to be read” list on Goodreads--that’s a really nice feature. If you see a book you like but don’t want to buy it right away, you can put it on that list and access it any time with your computer. Or, my Kindle is in the process of being recharged, or I am somewhere else and don’t have it with me. Or, or, or--it happens. So what do I do?

I REREAD books.

Okay, I know lots of people reread books they really like, so what’s so unusual about it? Well, ahem, I reread books I like many times; we’re talking ten, twenty, thirty times and more. No kidding! That’s how serious my addiction is.

I just put back one of those books I reread I don’t know how many times back on the bookshelf. It’s a novel by Anita Brookner, Hotel Du Lac, a novel that takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. Anita Brookner is one those prolific more traditional British authors who write in different genres. Most of her novels deal with flawed human beings who struggle with love, identity, relationships--the stuff that novels have been made of since time immemorial. But she isn’t the only author whose books I keep rereading.

There are many books on my bookshelves I have gone through many times. Interestingly enough, I reread books on my brick-and-mortar bookshelves more often than those on my Kindle. I don’t know why. It may have to do with the fact that those physical books are more visible. I just grab one off the shelf and voila--the evening is saved.

Why do I reread the same books again and again? Of course, I have to like or love the book in the first place. But still, I mean I know the plot, I know exactly what happens. One reason is perhaps that I read books not just as a reader but also as a writer. Each time I read a book again, I discover something new: an image I hadn’t noticed before, an interesting sentence structure, etc. However, that’s only half the reason. I reread books even before I started to seriously write myself.

The only thing I can explain my book fetish is that fact that when I read, I leave this world and enter into the world the author creates for me. I travel to distant places, I slip into different personalities, I experience life through a different sensibility. I get totally absorbed in the book and this happens every time I read the book.

I guess it could be worse; I could be addicted to a more dangerous substance. The only drawback is the fact that I am also an author and have to write books, not just read them. And right now, I’m struggling with my writing and boy; it’s so much easier to read. So I indulge myself until my author voice hits me over the head and I throw the book away and pick up my writing pad. I struggle through a few pages, feel better, toss my pad and--yes, you guessed it--grab the book again.

Am I the only one afflicted with this “disease,” this book fetish? I hope not!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Microsoft, I am filing for divorce!

Microsoft, you betrayed me. We have been partners for a very long time. Back in the “good old days,” eons ago, my husband and I bought our first PC, an IBM with the DOS operating system and a whole 64 K of memory. Talk about slow. But I was so proud, typing away in my first word processing program. I think the only other thing on there was a spreadsheet. The screen was black and white, well actually green and white.

And then, you came along, actually a young nerdy whiz kid and slapped Windows on top of DOS and Microsoft was born. Well, that’s roughly how it was. You provided computers and software for the everyday Joe and Jane--like me. Now, you weren’t perfect, far from it. Your system was bumpy and buggy, but it did for me what it was supposed to do, most of the time.

I mean, nobody is perfect. There are bumps in every relationship, but I loved you with your mistakes. Until a few days ago that is, when you broke my heart. Yes, you did. Don’t look at me with your big blinking eyes as if you didn’t know.

You provided a very nice program suite in Windows Vista, called Microsoft Office Live Small Business or, for short MS OLSB. It contained all kinds of fun stuff, such as email AND a nifty tool to create a website--and it was free. Nice and very generous of you!

I’m an author and translator and I run a one-woman business with a very modest income. A website is a very important part of my business. So I spent hours and weeks creating and maintaining my website. I am still working at it, fine-tuning it, adding to it.

A few days ago, I logged onto OLSB and found out by accident that this tool was going to be discontinued in a couple of months and it would be replaced by a new version, Microsoft Office 365 and no longer would it be free but you had to pay a monthly fee to use it.

Okay, I thought. I guess the freebie was too good to be true. Now, I wouldn’t mind paying the modest fee you are planning to charge for an upgrade. It would still be a good deal. So, I read on and then my world collapsed. Yes, Microsoft, you almost gave me a heart attack.

There it says: the website I had invested so much time and effort to create would be DELETED! And I would have to save all my documents and pictures and copy and paste the whole thing over to the new version. Huh? Are you freakin kidding me? Aren’t you the number one software developer in the whole darn world? You’re trying to tell me you can’t have a procedure to migrate the websites we created automatically to the new system? What? Are you stupid?

I don’t think so. You are far too experienced NOT to have the capability to do that. I think the reason is that you don’t give a hoot about your clients. Why should you care about us? After all SMALL business says it all, doesn’t it? We are too small and unimportant for you. Customer service for the little guys? What for?

I tell you why you should care. I read the many comments on the forum of loyal customers just like me who are irate and disgusted and can’t believe what’s happening. Many of them, including me, are looking for other website creation tools and hosting companies. I am in the process of recreating my website in another program--I am using the Expand2Web SmallBiz Theme from WordPress and I signed up with a different hosting company. And I tell you one thing; the customer support from these guys so far has been splendid. I call (thanks, Scott Nicholson, for recommending it!) and within seconds I get a real life person in the U.S. on the phone, helping me out.

You know, Microsoft, you’re huge and perhaps you’re too big to care for small fries like me. However, in today’s tough competition in the software and web industry, where comparable programs and systems compete furiously, the one distinguishing factor between the companies is CUSTOMER SERVICE. Got it, Microsofty?

Well, back to my website design--without you, honey. I’m moving on, MS. Hasta la vista, hombre! Ciao, Adieu.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A picture journey through my novels, part 2, Love of a Stonemason

This is the second part of the picture journey through my novels. Love of a Stonemason is the sequel to An Uncommon Family. Since both my novels take place in different countries, I thought it would be fun for readers (both past and prospective) to see some of the places which inspired me and made their way into my books.

More information about the first book, An Uncommon Family, as well as the pictures to it, you can find here.

Blurb for Love of a Stonemason:

The young painter, Karla Bocelli, is all too familiar with loss. When she was five years old, her mother died in a car crash in the south of Switzerland. Her Peruvian father lives at the other end of the world, and a year ago, her aunt and guardian passed away. Now, at age twenty-four, Karla almost gets hit by a speeding car. As if this wasn't fateful enough, Andreas, the driver, turns out to be a sculptor and carver of tombstones. In spite of his profession, Andreas is anything but morbid. Quick-tempered and intense, he exudes a rough-and-tumble energy. After a tumultuous start of their relationship, Karla comes to see in Andreas the "rock in her life," the perfect antidote to her fears of abandonment and bouts of depression. Andreas, however, wrestles with his own ghosts: an alcoholic father who abused him as a child and his own fits of anger. Together, the two artists must confront the demons that haunt them.

Love of a Stonemason is the story about the struggle of two artists with their past, their family, their creativity, and their love for each other. It takes the reader on a journey full of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds from the south of Switzerland to Italy and the Peruvian Andes.

And now, sit back, relax and enjoy:

Love of a Stonemason - a journey in pictures

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mrs. Dubeli goes to America—or does she? German/English/Confusion Galore

I’m having writer’s block, or something similar. After finishing two novels, I have been working on a third one. I figured I’ll make the series “Family Portrait” a trilogy with “An Uncommon Family” and “Love of a Stonemason” as part one and two. I wrote about 70 pages of part three, only to realize I’m running out of steam. The first part of the novel went really well, but now I’m stuck.

So, I figured perhaps it’s time to put it aside for now and write something totally new. Since I’m in Switzerland and have been doing a lot of German reading and writing, I thought about writing something in German for a change. I began a story with the title “Mrs. Dubeli goes to America” or, in German, “Frau Dübeli geht nach Amerika.“ It’s about an older Swiss lady whose husband worked in California off and on. During one of the trips there, he was found dead at the bottom of a cliff overhanging the Pacific Ocean. After getting over the initial shock and grief, Mrs. Dubeli begins to have doubts about the official version of her husband’s accidental death. She knew that he was extremely afraid of heights and would never even think of stepping that close to a cliff where he could fall down. Something was fishy here and the feisty and resolute Swiss woman decides to travel to California to find out for herself what happened to her husband.

Good and well, but now what? There are lots of possible scenarios. I keep switching from one to the other. I keep changing things and then abandon the ideas again.

1) He was pushed, because he was a danger to someone? Whom? Why?
2) He had an affair, fathered a child, and killed himself out of desperation?
3) He had an affair, fathered a child, and someone killed him? The lover? The lover’s husband?
4) He was involved in some shady business and ???
5) ???
6) ???

Oh, what a crack of you know what! I toss the notebook aside and go switch on the espresso machine.

On top of it, I keep switching back and forth between English and German and when I come to a point where I’m more than confused and afraid I’ll never write another decent story again, I flee from writing all together and keep on reading novel after novel. In the middle of reading a novel, I have a panic attack—but I’m supposed to write, damn it. I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating and screaming. HELP.
I try traveling, visiting friends, enjoying the beautiful landscape here but as far as my writing wasteland is concerned, nothing has helped so far.

Hey, does that sound familiar to anyone?
Well, cheers anyway!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I learn by going where I have to go

I have been talking to my friends from all walks of life and reading other author's blogs and the one question that keeps coming up in various forms can perhaps be summarized as follows: "Am I on the right path? Should I turn left or right? What if I find out after several years that I took the wrong turn, that I should've done this or done that instead of wasting my time on this or that?"

I guess we'll never know, if we don't start walking. It reminded me of the following poem by Theodore Roethke:

The Waking by Theodore Roethke

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go."

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Indie authors--a reality check!!

I have been talking and emailing with some of my fellow independently published authors about the problem of making it in the writing world, about selling books, getting some cold cash, climbing up the ladder of the giant Amazon or whatever other venue we have chosen. I can tell you, it has been a sob & whine fest (not wine, that would be a lot better), to say the least. I think we all need a reality check.

1) Writing books is hard. We are confronted with our demons of inferiority, doubt—does anybody really want to read this crap? Then there are moments of elation. Yes, yes, yes, I did it, I like it. If we don’t have these occasional warm feelings pulsing through our veins and arteries, we would give up sooner or later.

2) Publishing books the traditional way. That’s even harder, unless you have at least ten years to find an agent and the agent will need another ten years to find a publisher (if the agent lasts that long and doesn’t decide to quit and go bag groceries—there is nothing wrong with bagging groceries by the way). Okay, so perhaps I exaggerate a little. I haven’t tried that route for very long, so I’m not an expert here.

3) Publishing books as an independent author—fairly easy these days. BUT here is the clincher: promotion. It can be done BUT IT TAKES TIME. And that’s where many indie authors dive into a world of illusions. You write an excellent novel or two (that’s the bottom line), you do everything right, hire an editor, spend some money on a cover design, post in Amazon, B&N or other venue, blog about it, go on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, collect reviews and expect to sell books like hot cakes, quit your day job (big trouble), and live happily ever after. It doesn’t happen that way.

The competition is fierce. There are thousands of independent authors fighting for a spot in the limelight and on Amazon bestseller list. I’m not saying it can’t happen. There are independently published authors who are successful and are able to support themselves that way and there will be more in the future. I personally know of a couple, one of them is Scott Nicholson, my editor. If you study the background of the authors who made the jump successfully, you will notice several common elements.

1) Most of these authors have written and published many books, anywhere from 10 to 20 or more.
2) They tend to write in a popular genre (thrillers, romance, YA).
3) Some have been published traditionally before going indie.
4) They know something about promotion and if they don’t, they are willing to learn.
5) They work their butts off and have been doing it for many years, often without much external or monetary reward.
6) They got lucky (important factor).

So, what are we newbies who have perhaps one or two novels under our belt and published them last year and perhaps this year supposed to do? Well, I can’t tell you what you have to do; I can only tell you what I plan to do.

I don’t depend on my writing to make a living, at least not yet. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen one day, but I am not holding my breath. And not depending on the income from my books gives me more freedom to explore and experiment with my writing, and it takes that awful pressure away of having to sell books all the time. I make my money as a freelance translator, I do odd jobs, I work temp jobs at a university. I know, I know, I hear you. Then you don’t have enough time to write. I wrote and published two novels and I translated one into German. I get up at five in the morning (okay, so sometimes it’s six), I don’t watch much TV, I have no social life, at least none to speak of. If you write one page a day, you have a 365-page novel in one year (which is much too long for readers with today’s limited attention span).

I sell a few books here and there, get some royalty checks that make me feel great. And I am the happiest person on earth if someone likes my books. That’s the greatest feeling of all. That’s why I try to write reviews of books I like to tell other authors that they made a difference in my life, that they touched me in a deep way.

And isn’t that what writing is all about, what art in general is all about? To go beyond the surface of things, to dig a little deeper than the glitzy veneer of “success,” and to share something meaningful with others. Do I sound like an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy idealist? Perhaps.

See, my background is in poetry, so I am used to not making any money as a writer. Poets—even famous poets or poet laureates—can usually not support themselves through their poetry alone. They either have a university job, they translate if they know more than one language, they teach, they have workshops, they bag groceries.

But there will always be times, in spite of all the wonderful things I just listed, when we feel down, misunderstood, discouraged, just simply rotten. IT’S CALLED LIFE. Get it? If we feel that way, it helps to connect with other authors, blog about your whine fest. It’s always good to know, we are not alone. Perhaps do something nice for someone else, it makes us feel better. Perhaps read a book—writers are supposed to read! And then let’s get back to work.

Happy writing—and reading!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wickedly funny and delightfully entertaining - 5 stars for LIGHTHORSE MAGIC & OTHER STORIES by Lindsay Edmunds

In CEL & ANNA Lindsay Edmunds created a twenty-second century world full of fabulous events and fascinating characters. Her book LIGHTHORSE MAGIC & OTHER STORIES is a series of poignant stories about some of the quirky characters we meet in CEL & ANNA. These are companion stories to CEL & ANNA but they are fascinating enough on their own. In the first story, we meet Anna Ringer, the heroine in CEL & ANNA, and her mysterious and creepy employer Lighthorse Magic, a company that spies on humans for supposedly scientific research. The second story deals with Tamara Klugman, whose dull life transforms into a fascinating quest to save the world and the third story deals with Joan Holland, another character from CEL & ANNA, who is faced with the choice of protecting innocent people from the cruel and preying Public Eye, aka the Government.

Lindsay Edmund's writing is different from anything I have read in the science fiction/fantasy genre. She does a great job of mixing reality with fantasy. I love her original and refreshing style, the vivid images, and the wonderfully wicked humor. You don't need to be a science fiction fan to enjoy these stories. A fast-paced, brilliant read. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Love Binding Creative Souls

I enjoy an author that can use description to carry me away and place me in locations that I can enjoy within my mind's eye. Christa Polkinhorn does just that in Love of a Stonemason. From Switzerland to Italy to Peru, I enjoyed vistas I will never see; felt breezes across lakes and through valleys I will never personally feel; was surrounded by local scents from exotic dishes and fields of flowers that I will never smell.

The title of her book first intrigued me as my grandfather was a stonemason and her Andreas brought back many memories of watching the way 'Grampa' could press his will upon a piece of granite.

Her Karla is an artist and I understood her challenges when approaching a blank canvas. Once upon a time I painted and Christa tweaked my mind with the scent of turpentine and the feel of paint on the brush as it made magic on the easel.

But more than a romance between creative minds, this story digs deep into the early trauma of each and follows their struggle in resolving their individual demons.

This would be the perfect book to tuck in your suitcase or add to your kindle for that "myself" time this summer. Pick your own special spot - perhaps in the shade of a maple tree beside a secluded cove at the lake. Ah, sounds of waves lapping gently on the shore, glass of wine and Love of a Stonemason.

Betty Wilder-23-Small sRGBElizabeth Egerton Wilder
Author of The Spruce Gum Box

Sunday, July 24, 2011

5 Stars for "All for One" by Ryne Douglas Pearson

The cruel school bully gets killed. Six children discover his body, one of them may have murdered him. Detective Dooley Ashe, the Kiddie Catcher, tries to uncover the truth. Mary, the children’s teacher, would do anything to protect them. With different goals in mind, Dooley and Mary form an uneasy alliance. As the story progresses to its tragic end, both Dooley and Mary are confronted with demons from their past.

As one of the reviewers pointed out, All for One is in part a story about choices, choices we have to make, sometimes under pressure, and how these choices have results that determine the rest of our lives. It deals with psychologically complex and terribly flawed human beings. It is also a story about childhood abuse, injustice, and about good people who try their best and sometimes succeed and sometimes fail.

All for One is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in quite a while. The characters are convincing and portrayed with great sensibility. A fast-paced and well-crafted mystery, it leads the reader through a maze of events and flashbacks and unexpected twists to an amazing surprise ending. However, is not one of those contrived surprise endings of less successful thrillers. This ending, as unexpected as it is, is foreshadowed and makes total sense in retrospect.

Highly recommended. I look forward to more of the same author.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Launch of "Four Hundred Days" - Part Two of the fabulous Lor Mandela Series by Lisa Carroll

I read the first part of the Lor Mandela series: Lor Mandela - Destruction from Twins and I LOVED it. I look forward to the second part, which will be released July 15!

Here is a brief synopsis:
When Audril, the heiress to the Lor Mandelan throne, sneaks away to Earth to save one of her dearest friends, she finds that a power hungry tyrant from her own world has begun systematically obliterating towns and cities to get her to turn herself over to him.
On Earth, she meets a wildly eccentric old lady named Teedee Venilworth whose imaginary butler/fiancé supposedly holds the key to her success. But how can someone help if he doesn't exist? Could it be that creatures who dwell in shadow are not exclusive to Lor Mandela?

Book number two in the Lor Mandela Series, Lor Mandela – Four Hundred Days, is an action-packed whirlwind of intrigue and fantasy. Join the extraordinary characters from the first book, (both the good and the evil), as they traverse the haunted corridors of Alcatraz Penitentiary, travel via portal to an ancient castle on the cliff shores of Ireland, and meet a foreboding race of mystic warriors known as the Solom.

Soar on the back of a large horse-like creature to the Northern High Forests and discover that on the picturesque world of Lor Mandela, your friends can become foes, your enemies your allies, and just because someone dies, it doesn’t always mean that they’re dead.

Click on the image on the left to find out more about Part One of the series.
Links to books and author:!/pages/Lor-Mandela-Series/169357859780493!/lormandeladft

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hot off the press: "An Uncommon Family" - Book One of "Family Portrait"

Just published my new novel An Uncommon Family, Book One of the Family Portrait series. Book Two, Love of a Stonemason was published in 2010. In other words, I wrote the second book before the first. I do things backward sometimes.

The novels, however, can be read in any order. The link between them is the main character, Karla, the young painter. Here are the blurbs to both novels:

An Uncommon Family:
A chance meeting between a middle-aged woman, a widower, and a semi-orphaned child in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, brings together three people who grapple with a past of loss and betrayal. Six-year-old Karla, whose mother died in a car crash, has a hard time accepting the loss. Anna, her aunt and guardian, struggles with her former husband’s deception and her shattered confidence in men, and Jonas, artist and teacher, mourns the death of his wife.

While trying to help Karla, a talented but troubled child, Anna and Jonas develop feelings for each other that go beyond friendship. The budding romance, however, hits a snag when Anna discovers a sinister secret in Jonas’s past. While the two adults have come to an impasse, young Karla takes matters into her own hands. Together with a friend, she develops a plan to bring the two uncooperative adults back together. The plan, however, creates havoc and as it begins to unravel, Karla is forced to learn some difficult lessons.

An Uncommon Family is a story about loss, lies, and betrayal but also about the healing power of love and forgiveness. It takes place in Switzerland, New York City, and Guadalajara, Mexico.

If you want to accompany Karla on her way to becoming a painter and grow as a person while struggling with turbulent love relationships, try Love of a Stonemason:

The young painter, Karla Bocelli, is all too familiar with loss. When she was five years old, her mother died in a car crash in the south of Switzerland. Her Peruvian father lives at the other end of the world, and a year ago, her aunt and guardian passed away. Now, at age twenty-four, Karla almost gets hit by a speeding car. As if this wasn't fateful enough, Andreas, the driver, turns out to be a sculptor and carver of tombstones.

In spite of his profession, Andreas is anything but morbid. Quick-tempered and intense, he exudes a rough-and-tumble energy. After a tumultuous start of their relationship, Karla comes to see in Andreas the "rock in her life," the perfect antidote to her fears of abandonment and bouts of depression. Andreas, however, wrestles with his own ghosts: an alcoholic father who abused him as a child and his own fits of anger. Together, the two artists must confront the demons that haunt them.

Love of a Stonemason is a story about the struggle of two artists with their past, their family, their creativity, and their love for each other. Told from the point of view of Karla, it depicts the world through her painter's sensibility. It takes the reader on a journey full of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds from the south of Switzerland to Italy and the Peruvian Andes.

For a limited time only, both novels are available at Amazon for the Kindle (click on the cover icons on the right), at Barnes& for the Nook and at Smashwords for multiple devices for ONLY 99 cents each. Get your summer reading at an affordable price!

Lindsay Edmunds granted me an interview at her lovely blog. Check it out!

Check out Neal Hock's great review!

More reviews on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Uncommon Family - Preview

I was determined to write a new post for my blog this past weekend. However, I got so busy adding the finishing touches to my new novel, An Uncommon Family, that the post I had in mind will have to wait. Instead you'll get a short preview of my novel. Those of you who have read Love of a Stonemason will meet a familiar character. An Uncommon Family takes a step back in time.

Blurb and Chapter One:

A chance meeting between a middle-aged woman, a widower, and a semi-orphaned child in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, brings together three people who grapple with a past of loss and betrayal. Six-year-old Karla, whose mother died in a car crash, has a hard time accepting the loss. Anna, her aunt and guardian, struggles with her former husband's deception and her shattered confidence in men, and Jonas, artist and teacher, mourns the death of his wife.

While trying to help Karla, a talented but troubled child, Anna and Jonas develop feelings for each other that go beyond friendship. The budding romance, however, hits a snag when Anna discovers a sinister secret in Jonas’s past. While the two adults have come to an impasse, young Karla takes matters into her own hands. Together with a friend, she develops a plan to bring the two uncooperative adults back together. The plan, however, creates havoc and as it begins to unravel, Karla is forced to learn some difficult lessons.

An Uncommon Family is a story about loss, lies, and betrayal but also about the healing power of love and forgiveness. It takes place in Switzerland, New York City, and Guadalajara, Mexico.

Chapter 1

Karla licked the crispy cone, trying to catch the sliding droplets before they hit the ground. The raspberry ice cream was a dark purple, her favorite color. She wrinkled her nose as she caught another whiff of exhaust from the busy street along the Limmat River in the city of Zurich. It was August and hot in Switzerland. The six-year-old girl scanned the scenery in front of her with dreamy eyes.
     A longish canoe was sliding by a tourist boat on the river. People with funny-looking sun hats and dark glasses sat on the benches of the boat. Along the river on the other side, the built-together stone houses looked like a row of uneven different-colored teeth, gray, yellow, white, and some with a tint of orange. Behind the houses, on top of the hill, the linden trees at the park shimmered in their pale-green foliage and a curtain of dark-green ivy hid part of the gray granite wall.
     Karla took another lick from her ice-cream cone, then turned around and peered through the window of the art shop, where her aunt picked up two framed pictures. When she looked back at the sidewalk, her breath caught.
     “Mama?” she whispered.
     She saw the woman only from behind, but the bounce in her step, the long, reddish-blond hair flowing down her back, swaying left and right, the tall, slender figure—it must be her mother. She tossed the rest of the ice cream into the trash can, got up, and ran after the woman.
     “Mama!” she called as the woman got ready to cross the street. The light turned from blinking red to solid red, just as the woman reached the other side. Karla rushed after her, barely aware of the honking around her or of the shrill warning bell of the blue-and-white streetcar. She heard someone yell at her but by then she had arrived at the other side. The woman was walking along the river toward the Lake of Zurich.
     “Mama, wait!” Karla bumped into someone.
     “Watch it, kiddo.” A man stepped aside.
     “Mama . . .”
     The woman finally turned around and looked back, scanning the people behind her, then walked on. Karla stopped dumbfounded. It was the face of a stranger.
     A wave of despair washed over her. Not believing that she could have been so wrong, she started to run again. She didn’t see the slight indentation in the pavement. As she fell, she barely noticed the searing pain in her knees; the disappointment hurt more. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed. Mama would have helped her. Mama would have picked her up, hugged her, and even sang a little tune to her to make her feel better. But her mother was gone.
     “Are you hurt, honey?” a dark voice said. Karla felt a hand on her back. “Come on, let me see.”
     A pair of strong arms lifted her up. She looked into a face with a gray-white beard and kind, blue eyes below thick tufts of eyebrows. The man was tall and sturdy. He had wildish white hair. He reminded her of Saint Nicholas. But it was summer and Saint Nicholas only appeared in December.
     “Are you here alone?” he asked. “Where’s your mother?”
     The question brought a new flood of tears. “I thought it was Mama,” Karla managed to say, her chest heaving with sobs.
     “Karla, what happened? Why did you run away?” Aunt Anna came rushing toward her, clutching her purse and a large package. “I thought I’d lost you. Jesus, what happened to your knees?” She bent down, put the package on the concrete and examined Karla’s legs. Brushing a strand of wavy brown hair out of her face, she peered at the man with gray-blue eyes, the color of ice. “What’s going on here?”
     “I just happened to walk by when she fell,” he explained. “She said something about looking for her mother. Are you her mother?”
     Anna shook her head. “No, I’m her aunt. Her mother . . . died half a year ago.”
     “I’m so sorry.” The old man gently touched Karla’s cheek. “But she thought she saw her mother.”
     Anna sighed. “She still hasn’t accepted the truth.” She turned to Karla. “Tell me what happened, sweetie?”
     Karla told her between sobs that a woman had walked by who looked exactly like her mama.
     “But you know that’s not possible, don’t you?” Aunt Anna hugged her. Karla leaned her face against Anna’s chest and poured her sorrow into her sweater. It was soft but didn’t smell like her mama’s. Anna waited for her to calm down. “We have to take care of your knees.”
     “There’s a pharmacy right over there. I’m sure they have something to clean the wound and some bandages. May I?” Saint Nicholas gave Anna an inquiring look.
     Anna nodded and the man lifted Karla up. His thick hair tickled her cheek. Karla wrinkled her nose. He gave off a faint whiff of smoke, which reminded her of Anna’s woodstove. It felt a little comforting.
     At the pharmacy, a friendly lady took care of Karla’s knees. She wiped them clean, trying not to hurt Karla, who flinched and gave an occasional sob. “Sorry, hon, but we don’t want it to get infected.”
     While the woman bandaged Karla’s legs, Anna unwrapped the package she had been carrying. She handed Karla one of the pictures and held the other one up for her to see. “Don’t they look beautiful?”
     Karla nodded with a weak smile. They did look nice. She barely recognized them again behind the glass and surrounded by a fine wooden frame. One of them showed a woman, sitting on a chair and holding a little girl in her arm. The woman had long reddish-brown hair and the girl’s hair was black. They were sitting in front of a house. The stones in the wall had an irregular shape; they looked a little bit like cobblestones. It had taken Karla a while to make them look right. The other picture showed a tree with large purple and cream-colored blossoms. It was the chestnut tree in front of Karla’s old home. She had painted the pictures with her favorite pastel pens.
     “They’re gorgeous,” Saint Nicholas said in his deep voice. “Who painted those?”
     “Karla did,” Aunt Anna said.
     Saint Nicholas stared at her, then at the pictures, then at Karla. “How old is she?”
     “Six,” Karla said, brushing the last tears off her face. Anna handed her a Kleenex.
     “And she painted those by herself, without help?” The man squinted as he scanned the pictures. The wrinkles on his forehead and around his eyes deepened. He truly did look like Saint Nicholas.
     “Yes,” Anna said.
     “This child is very talented. Does she get any instruction?”
     “I’m actually looking for a teacher for her. She loves to draw and paint. If it was up to her, she’d do it all day long. And it seems to help her with . . . you know, the loss.”
     “Amazing.” Saint Nicholas shook his head and continued to scan the pictures. “Well, I happen to be a painter myself. I also teach a few children.” He looked at Karla and Anna with a serious face. “I’d love to have her as a student.”
     “I’ll think about it. That would be great,” Anna said.
     “Why don’t you check me out?” The man pulled his wallet from his back pocket, opened it, and took out a small gray card. “Here is my address and phone number and on the back a few references.”  He handed Anna the card. “Whatever you decide to do though, you don’t want a talent like this go to waste.”
     Anna studied the card. “Very interesting, Mr. Bergman.”
     “Call me Jonas,” the man said.
     “Anna,” Karla’s aunt said as the two shook hands.
     “You’re not Saint Nicholas?” Karla asked, surprised.
     Aunt Anna and the man laughed. “No, I’m sorry. You think I look like him?” He brushed through his wavy white hair.
     Karla nodded. “But you wouldn’t come in summer, would you?” She looked down at her neatly wrapped knees. The talk of drawing and painting had pulled her out of her deep misery. “Are you going to teach me?”
     The man smiled at her. “You talk this over with your aunt, all right?” Then he glanced at his watch. “Oops. I guess I missed my appointment.”
     “I’m so sorry,” Anna said. “We caused you all this trouble.”
     “Don’t worry. No problem at all.” He bent down and put a hand on Karla’s shoulder. “And, Karla, I know how much it hurts. I lost my dear wife a few years ago. We were together for over twenty years. I still miss her. But I can promise you, things will get better with time.”
     Karla took a deep breath and nodded. She had heard the words many times before. “Maja lost her mother, too.”
     “Maja is a friend of hers, a girl from Croatia,” Anna explained.

At home, in their house in a small town near Zurich, Aunt Anna fixed lunch. She heated up the leftover bean and vegetable soup and made grilled cheese sandwiches with tomatoes. The smell of food awakened Karla’s appetite. She was quiet and thoughtful but no longer desperate.
     “He was a nice man,” she said, folding the colorful paper napkins she had made herself with potato stamps. She put them on the blue-and-white place mats on the oak-wood table in the kitchen.
     “Would you like to take drawing and painting lessons from him?” Anna poured the soup into bowls and slid the toasted sandwiches onto the plates.
     Karla nodded. “Yeah, that’d be cool.” She smiled and traced her finger along the spots on the tabletop, where the sunlight, filtered by the leaves of the magnolia tree in front of the kitchen window, had sketched a pattern of light and shadows.
     “Cool, huh?” Anna smiled and gave the girl a hug.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5 stars for Love of a Stonemason - A true "vacation" book

I am very happy that my novel received another lovely and insightful review:

Reading Christa Polkinhorn's Love of a Stonemason is an inner visual experience. Not only will you "see" locales in Switzerland, Peru, and Italy, but also, because her main characters are artists, you'll feel you've toured a gallery of paintings and sculpture.

Karla, the painter, and Andreas, the stonemason, meet in what at first appears to be a typical romance plot device, but it's not. These characters have depth, which the author portrays with sensitivity and realism. The darkness in their pasts threatens the relationship they form. Their torments and troubles drew me in. At times, I wanted to comfort them; at others, I wanted to smack Karla or shake Andreas.

Just when Karla finally faces the last of her demons and deals with it, Andreas' personal hell erupts with full force. Each time, as these characters stumbled, I thought I knew what would come next, but I rarely did.

The author weaves the threads of her story into a beautiful tapestry. This debut novel is a worthwhile read and almost doubles as a vacation escape. Well done.

Linda Cassidy Lewis
Author of The Brevity of Roses

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Author in Training, Part 2: Revising – How much is enough?

I am in the process of translating my novel “Love of a Stonemason” into German. Having been away from the text for several months—I published it independently back in 2010—I look at it with fresh eyes and I’m beginning to see things I haven’t noticed before. When you translate a text, you pay close attention to every word and you notice details that escape you even with careful editing.

I have translated several books by other authors before, not novels but books on topics of Jungian psychology, which had been traditionally published by reputable American and Canadian publishers. I remember catching not just the occasional typos but inconsistencies in content that escaped the scrutiny of the author as well as the editors. Just goes to show: a text is never perfect.

However, that shouldn’t discourage us from trying to make it perfect, and one way to do that is to hire a good editor AND a proofreader. I had my novel edited twice. What I didn’t do is hire a separate proofreader and although my editor caught many of the spelling errors, he didn’t catch all of them and I may have added some as I was making the final revision. A few of my friends read the manuscript before I published it and discovered a few inconsistencies and typos. But even now, after its publication, a fellow author as well as a friend of mine are reading the book and are finding typos and other blunders. Although I cringe and hang my head in shame every time someone discovers a mistake, I am of course very grateful to all these people who contribute to the fact that one day, my novel will be (almost) perfect!

The wonderful thing about ebooks is that you can upload new and improved versions easily. With printed books it is a little more difficult but it can be done as well.

However, as I go through my book again, I also find not just typos but stylistic things that could be improved: two choppy sentences that could be merged into one, sentences which could be eliminated to make the text a little tighter, and so on.

The question I’m asking myself now: Do I leave the book the way it is (with the exception of typos, etc.) and use what I learned in my future novels? Or do I revise further? How much is too much? When becomes the desire to make it better an obsession?

Any thoughts on this? Authors: How much do you revise? When is enough enough?

PS: I’m going to talk about my experiences with writing and independent publishing for the next few weeks, so if you’re interested, click the Follow button on the right.

Happy reading and writing. And leave a comment, if you feel like it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Author in Training: The formatting of an ebook

Last year, I decided to publish my debut novel, Love of a Stonemason, on my own. My second novel is at the proofreader’s at the moment. Since I began to publish my books through my micro publishing venture, Bookworm Press, I have been following the development of independent publishing with great interest. I make it a point to read as many indie books as possible, not just to support my fellow authors but also to find out what’s out there and, last but not least, to learn what works and what doesn't work. As an “author in training” I believe that the best learning experience is reading the books by other authors and learning from both their strengths and weaknesses.

I discovered some wonderful books that really impressed me. To be sure, in many cases, the writing is still a little “rough around the edges.” However, one thing they all have in common: The authors have great stories to tell, stories that matter, stories they care deeply about. And I believe this fact alone gives them the right to be “out there” and available. Craft can be learned. However, the desire to write something that has meaning and that matters not just to you but to someone else is, in my humble opinion, the foundation of good writing.

As I mentioned, I am an “author in training.” I’m not an expert. I am just an avid reader and passionate writer. And I hope I’ll get some feedback from readers and writers as well as editors who happened to read these posts.

I want to start by pointing out an issue I have come across in many ebooks, and not just in the ones published by indies: FORMATTING. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like throwing my Kindle against the wall when I read a good story that was so poorly formatted that it more or less ruined the reading experience for me. I’m not talking about an occasional wrong indentation or a space where there shouldn’t be one. The transformation process from MS Word or HTML to the different ebook formats is not perfect.

What I am talking about is, for instance, inconsistent justification of the text: one paragraph being left-justified and the next one flush left and flush right. Or, what’s even worse, different fonts all through the book, font changes within paragraphs, the size of the font changing from one paragraph to the next. As a reader, you don’t know if the changes are voluntary or accidental. Sometimes authors use a different font or italics on purpose, for instance to set a flashback to a past event or action off from the ongoing plot of the story. So, an involuntary change from one font to the other can completely throw the reader.

Poor formatting is not only confusing but it makes the book look unprofessional. You can always spot check an ebook version before publishing it. On Amazon, for instance, it gives you the opportunity to view at least an approximate likeness of your book. And it wouldn’t hurt to download the book after it has been published (even if you have to pay for it) and check it out on your Kindle or on your computer with the free Kindle for the PC. If you publish on Smashwords, you can download all the different ebook versions for free. There is also an excellent formatting guide on Smashwords (also for free). If you detect formatting problems, you can always upload a corrected version.

If you do the formatting of your ebook yourself, there is an easy to understand and free program a friend of mine recommended. It lets you create several different ebook versions on your computer. You can then check them out carefully before you upload and publish the book. It’s called Calibre and it can be downloaded from here: There are other programs such as this. This is just the one I happened to come across and use for my books. It works well for me.

If you don’t want to do your own formatting, there are now many services out there that do the formatting for you at a reasonable cost. Since I have done my own formatting so far, I don’t have any personal experience with them. Suggestions are welcome!

The most important thing, however, is to check the formatting of your ebook carefully, whether you do it yourself or use a service. It shows that you care about your book and, most importantly, about the reader.

A good cover is important as well, of course—very important. But the best cover does not compensate for a poorly formatted ebook. On the contrary, a reader who buys your book because of its attractive cover and then discovers the formatting mess will really be irate.

Happy formatting! Check back for more blog posts on the fascinating and exciting world of independent publishing and all those writing pitfalls we struggle with, like spelling—ouch!!

And leave a comment!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Path of Fire - a collection of poetry

 Path of Fire
(For my Father)

We skipped church and
went into the woods instead.
As the sun streamed through the trees
tossing patches of light
on the ground,
we gathered twigs and branches
which he stacked with care,
kindling wood first
big logs on top. 

He lit the fire,
holding the match
into the middle of the pile.
It has to burn from the inside, he said.
The first flames leapt into the air.
then died down
hissing and spitting
and turned into a steady glow.

We roasted shriveled
winter apples,
peeled the scorched
skin with a knife.
Busy eating, I let the deer
graze safely in the
echo of my young girl’s voice.

The photo with the guilded edges
shows him behind a mug
overflowing with beer.

He faded in steps,
fingers trembling
as he tried to light his cigar,
hiking boots shined and unused,
dreams about death,

He left me his watch,
his rebellious mind, his
love of wine, of the
fire I now build on my own,

always trying to remember
to light it in the middle,
spread the embers evenly
and let it burn
slow, hot and steady.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Six Stars for The Brevity of Roses by Linda Cassidy Lewis

Every once in a while, I come across a work of literature, which is not only fascinating, entertaining, and moving, but which touches me on a deeper level. The Brevity of Roses by Linda Cassidy Lewis is one of those books.

The Brevity of Roses is a story about love, the power and beauty of love as well as the fear it can trigger and the pain it can cause. Love is what the three main characters—Jalal, Meredith, and Renee—struggle with.

Jalal, a handsome American-Iranian poet from a well-to-do family escapes a life of drugs, alcohol, a career he hates, and a lot of superficial relationships by moving across the country from New York to California. He finds love and embraces it but when tragedy strikes, he withdraws from life. Underneath the shiny veneer he presents to the world, he is slowly dying. Meredith, an anthropologist, struggles with feelings of guilt toward her former husband which hold her back from giving her heart fully, and Renee, a waitress and survivor of childhood abuse and neglect, falls in love but when it gets serious, her first reaction is to run. But it is the tenacious Renee who ultimately manages to break down the walls Jalal has built around himself and forces him to face his demons, a grief so deep it threatens to undo him.

While reading this book, I was often reminded of a quotation by May Sarton in her book Mrs. Stephens Hears the Mermaids Singing: “Love opens the door into everything, as far as I can see, including, and perhaps most of all, the door into one’s secret, and often terrible and frightening, real self.”

The Brevity of Roses is a carefully crafted, beautifully told story. The characters are complex and believable, flawed but loveable. With vivid descriptions, the author manages to engage our senses, our thoughts, and our emotions. And, without any explicit love-making scenes, she creates a highly charged and sensuous atmosphere.

Masterful debut novel by a talented author. I look forward to more of her work.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

German Translation of The Skull Ring by Scott Nicholson

The German translation of The Skull Ring by Scott Nicholson - Der Schädelring - is now available at Amazon for the Kindle (click on the image on the left) and at Barnes & Noble for the Nook. It is also available in various ebook versions at Smashwords.

Die deutsche Übersetzung des Romans The Skull Ring von Scott Nicholson - Der Schädelring - ist nun für den Kindle eReader bei Amazon (durch Klicken auf das Buch links) und für den Nook bei Barnes & Noble erhältlich. Es ist zudem in verschiedenen eBuch-Versionen bei Smaswords verfügbar.

Julia Stone wird sich erinnern, selbst wenn es sie umbringt.

Mithilfe einer Therapeutin versucht Julia, Kindheitserinnerungen aus der Nacht, in der ihr Vater verschwand, zu einem Bild zusammenzufügen. Wenn sie einen Silberring findet, auf dem der Name „Judas Stone“ eingraviert ist, schleicht sich die Vergangenheit bedrohlich an sie heran. Jemand hinterlässt eigenartige Nachrichten in ihrem Haus, obschon die Tür verriegelt ist. Der örtliche Handwerker bietet seine Hilfe an, aber auch über seiner Vergangenheit liegt ein Schatten. Und der Polizist, der das Verschwinden ihres Vaters untersuchte, folgt ihr nach Elkwood, einem Dorf in den Appalachen Bergen von North Carolina.

Nun ist Julias Kopf voller Erinnerungen, doch sie weiß nicht, welche echt sind. Julias Therapeutin scheint ihr Spiel mit ihr zu treiben. Der Handwerker versucht sie zu auf mehr als eine Weise „zu retten“. Zudem lauert ihr ein unheimlicher Kult auf, der nach ihrem Körper und ihrer Seele trachtet . . . .

Sunday, March 20, 2011

5 stars for Across Eternity by Aris Whittier

A gentle romance with a twist

One of the reasons I got interested in this book is its location. It takes place in a beautiful town along the southern Californian coast I know well. The other reason was that the author asked me if I would consider writing a review. I normally don’t write reviews on demand because I decided to only review books I liked. The blurb, however, sounded interesting and I loved the cover (you know a picture says more than a thousand words). Anyway, I read it and loved it.

When the sophisticated and successful Logan Richards meets Amber, a beautiful waitress of modest means, in a restaurant in Dana Point, California, it was “love at first sight” for him--make that “love at second or third sight,” since he had met her many times before, only she didn’t know it. Amber, however, enjoys his kind, sophisticated, and generous demeanor. After a flirtatious beginning, an almost picture-perfect relationship begins to develop. However, what is “too good to be true” does not exist in real life or in a well-written novel. There is a secret in Logan’s life, which throws a shadow over the sunny southern Californian romance.

Reading this novel, I laughed and cried. This is a beautifully written, emotional story about the power of love and compassion. And although Logan is an almost too perfect man, you can’t help but fall in love with him and Amber. Lively description of scenery and strong images and just enough tension to keep you turning the page.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

5 stars for Cel & Anna: A 22nd Century Love Story by Lindsay Edmunds

Love, Friendship, and Computers

Mix a twenty-second century version of Aldois Huxley’s Brave New World with a heartfelt story of love and friendship and you get the fabulous and fascinating tale of Cel & Anna.

I was looking forward to Lindsay Edmunds debut novel, having read her interesting blog posts, and I was not disappointed. Cel & Anna is a delightful page turner about a live computer who falls in love with its owner. Cel, the computer, orders thousands of flowers for Anna from a flower shop, which leads to a powerful data stream and creates havoc during the Middle Machine Age in the Reunited States, a world where humans and semi-humans as well as all life are controlled by a ruthless government. As a result, Anna and her friend,  Taz Night (who is falling in love with her as well), are being named terrorists and persecuted. Stuffing Cel into a backpack, the three of them escape. Their only hope is the friendship of outsiders, who risk their lives to protect them. This is a well-written, thoroughly enjoyable work, which is not only entertaining but has a deeper meaning. It is a book I read more than once, which I only do with works I really love!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

5 Stars for Love of a Stonemason

I would like to share a sensitive and insightful review of my novel Love of a Stonemason by Crystal Fulcher at her book blog My Reading Room.

Why I read this: The author sent me information about the book asking if I would like to review it, I was intrigued by the premise and agreed (and I am really glad I did).

How is the novel driven: Characters are the driving force in this book. It's about Karla, Andreas, family and friends.

My Thoughts: The first thing that went through my mind when I finished this book on Friday night was simply "Wow". I felt like I had been told a full story and while I wanted more of Karla and Andreas at the end, the story really was complete. I don't know when was the last time I truly felt that when I finished a book. Ms. Polkinhorn did a magnificient job crafting this story and getting it on the page. The characters, scenery and happenings in the book really came alive for me and I felt like I was watching and feeling Karla and Andreas through the full book.

How to classify this book - I first thought it sounded like a romance, but after finishing it, I would say it is more general fiction. Romance is key, Karla and Andreas' relationship is very key to the book. But most romance novels stop after dating and marriage usually, sometimes with glimpses of family life if there are several books in a series. The beauty of Ms. Polkinhorn's novel is that it continues through the years after they marry and delves much deeper into the characters of Karla and Andreas as they tackle the new ups and downs of marriage, of their art and of family.

Love of a Stonemason never lags in plot. Whether you are looking into depression, the ups of a great art career, the separation (distance-wise) of Andreas and Karla, starting a family, all of this flowed together so well and made a great story. I was never bored and wondering when something good would happen. It was all interesting and attention getting. It's as edge-of-your-seat as a non-thriller work can get. I was always wondering what would happen next, what aspect of life would be shown.

The realism is beautiful too. Love of a Stonemason truly shows the ups and downs of life, love and family. No family or person is perfect, there are always problems and always two sides to a story and that is what this book really looks into. I love that every aspect is shown and I really enjoyed the growth of the characters. Andreas and Karla are not superficial, you really get to know them through the whole book. I felt as though I knew them personally. The foreign setting and descriptions of landscapes and cities is also well-done. I also enjoyed learning about the art world, something that never really interested me before, but the author does a great job of making it interesting.

I laughed, I cried, I was frustrated with the characters (in a good way). I think I ran through most every emotion with this book. And what I love most is the feeling of the complete story and it's a story that will stick with me for some time. I found myself thinking of Karla and Andreas and the other people in their lives through the weekend. Really letting the story settle over me and how I feel now is that this is a definite reread in my book and that is saying something since I don't really reread books. My true hope is Ms. Polkinhorn will have another book on the way so I have another one of her books to enjoy. She brings realism to the story without it depressing you and leaving you down for days and I really like that. I do not have any complaints about this book and I think those of you who enjoy general fiction with a foreign-flair and romance will really enjoy this book.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

About the Book:

The young painter, Karla Bocelli, is all too familiar with loss. When she was five years old, her mother died in a car crash in the south of Switzerland. Her Peruvian father lives at the other end of the world, and a year ago, her aunt and guardian passed away. Now, at age twenty-four, Karla almost gets hit by a speeding car. As if this wasn't fateful enough, Andreas, the driver, turns out to be a sculptor and carver of tombstones. In spite of his profession, Andreas is anything but morbid. Quick-tempered and intense, he exudes a rough-and-tumble energy. After a tumultuous start of their relationship, Karla comes to see in Andreas the "rock in her life," the perfect antidote to her fears of abandonment and bouts of depression. Andreas, however, wrestles with his own ghosts: an alcoholic father who abused him as a child and his own fits of anger. Together, the two artists must confront the demons that haunt them. Love of a Stonemason is a story about the struggle of two artists with their past, their family, their creativity, and their love for each other. Told from the point of view of Karla, it depicts the world through her painter's sensibility. It takes the reader on a journey full of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds from the south of Switzerland to Italy and the Peruvian Andes.

About the Author:

Christa Polkinhorn, originally from Switzerland, lives and works as writer and translator in Santa Monica, California. She divides her time between the United States and Switzerland and has strong ties to both countries. Her poems have appeared in various poetry magazines. She is the author of Path of Fire, a collection of poems published by Finishing Line Press. Love of a Stonemason is her first novel.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Transparent Lovers by Scott Nicholson - murder, love, and faith - Preview

Private investigator, Richard Steele, is a typical Scott Nicholson protagonist: cynical, sarcastic, selfish, somewhat crude but with a soft and yet unspoiled spot in his heart. He ends up murdered (no wonder) and in the ante-chamber to Heaven and Hell, one of the gatekeepers, “a wrinkled woman with a flowered hat and librarian glasses” has to decide where to send him. He wants to go to Heaven but with a past of mostly bad deeds, Hell is the more likely place. However, the lady at the gate does consider a few of his “really good deeds” and gives him a second chance. He is sent back to earth with the mission to solve his own murder and he has to do it fast.

His task isn’t exactly made easier by his dead ex-wife, Diana, who committed suicide, and is hell-bent on making “life” miserable for him. Then, there is Lee, his girl-friend on earth, whose life is in danger. This last job on earth turns out to be much more than a simple murder investigation. It involves cracking the veneer of his cynicism and accepting the fact that love is, after all, a true force worth pursuing. A fast-paced mystery with a paranormal twist, full of surprises, humorous, gritty, and tender. Scott Nicholson gets better with every book.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Having the Valentine Day's Blues?

On my morning walk today, I saw a young woman sitting on a bench at the side of the road. She was talking to a friend and her face was red from crying. I don't know if her sorrow had anything to do with Valentine's Day. But it got me thinking. It's on days such as these that we sometimes realize how little love there is in our lives. It doesn't need to be that way.

Don't have a Valentine this time around? Why not pick up the phone and call someone, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, your kids or grandchildren or another relative or a friend you haven't talked to in a while? Invite them for coffee, hot chocolate or tea and crumpets (as the English would say). Buy a bunch of flowers and give them to the old lady next door. Love doesn't just exist between you and your significant other. Love is a lot more expansive and generous. It just waits patiently until you pay attention to it and pick it up.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Love of a Stonemason, chapter 5

Chapter 5 of my novel Love of a Stonemason. It is available both as Kindle ebook and trade paperback at Amazon and in different ebook formats at Smashwords. Average customer reviews: 5 stars.

Blurb and Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Chapter 5

A gust of wind swept into the yard, shaking the leaves of the chestnut trees and the rhododendron plants.
    “Not again!” Karla exclaimed. She held on to her easel and canvas.
     The Nordfoehn, a dry northern wind, had been blowing on and off all night. This wind was the only disadvantage in the otherwise ideal environment. Once in a while, it had an invigorating effect on Karla, but most of the time it made her feel irritable, anxious, even depressed, and gave her a headache.
     “All right. I guess I wasn’t meant to paint outside this morning,” she muttered, as another blast swept down on her. She gathered her painting tools and put them into her studio. She didn’t feel like finishing the painting inside, so she grabbed her sketch pad, sat down by the window, and thought about what to draw. She made several attempts, but was unable to concentrate.
     It wasn’t just the annoying wind. Ever since yesterday, she had been thinking of Andreas, his sculptures, his kiss. It had been more than a kiss between friends and it had stirred up emotions she didn’t care for. After a series of unsuccessful short-term relationships, Karla had decided to stay away from men for a while. And then this fierce, irritating, but oddly endearing guy with his biting humor had to turn up and unsettle her again.
     And the thing with Sarah. What was the real reason behind Sarah’s visit? Was it really just to apologize and talk about art?
     Sarah and Karla had had an on-and-off friendship for several years. They exchanged ideas about art, went to museums and galleries together, and sometimes critiqued each other’s work. The friendship, however, had cooled when Karla had caught Sarah sleeping with one of her boyfriends.
     Was Andreas attracted to Sarah? He had shown concern for her but Karla didn’t think he had more than friendly feelings for her. But then you never knew. And why should I even care? Karla tossed her drawing pad aside.
     The wind was blowing fiercely now, howling around the corners of the house and slamming one of the shutters close. When Karla stepped outside to fasten it again, she saw that the sky was a deep clear blue, the wind having wiped away all the clouds.
     Karla sat down again and forced herself to get a least one drawing done. She picked up her pad and a piece of charcoal. Almost automatically, she began to sketch Andreas, as she remembered him sitting in front of the stone slab. She realized she was out of practice drawing human figures, having focused mainly on landscapes. After several attempts, she ended up with a sketch she liked. It depicted his muscular body bending over the stone, a strand of hair hanging into his face. She left out the mask and goggles, wanting to show his face in profile.
     Perhaps she would give it to him on Saturday. Feeling more at peace again, she was ashamed of her anger at Sarah. She was her friend, after all, and Karla hadn’t even called her to find out how she was feeling after her breakdown at the opening. She picked up the phone and dialed Sarah’s number. It took a while before she answered.
     Sarah’s voice sounded tired. “I’m trying to take a nap.”
     “Sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you; I just wanted to know how you were,” Karla said.
     “I’m okay.”
     Sarah’s distant and cool voice irritated Karla. You make an ass of yourself at my first opening. You could at least apologize. “I heard you went to see Andreas.”
     “Yes. I did. I wanted to apologize.”
     “Oh, I see. Was that the only reason? You were all over him at the opening.”
     “So? What do you care? Are you two an item or something? How did you find out I went to see him?”
     Karla felt anger rise in her like bile. “He told me. He’s my boyfriend, Sarah.” Gee, what a lie.
     It was quiet for a while at the other end. Karla could hear Sarah’s breathing. Then her voice again, friendlier now. “Karla, look, he’s great. I felt really low the last few days. Just talking to him made me feel better. I have no intention of interfering in your relationship. You’re lucky to have him as a boyfriend.”
     Karla started to feel ashamed but she still distrusted Sarah. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
     “Oh, Karla, why bring up that old stuff. You weren’t even interested in the guy anymore.”
     “Yeah, but you didn’t know that when you jumped in the sack with him.”
     “Karla, you know what? You’re so fucking petty.”
     “Sarah, let’s not fight.” It was too late. Karla heard the click at the other end.
     Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? Karla lowered her head on her arms and sighed. Not only had she lied to Sarah about her relationship with Andreas, she had begrudged her friend the little encouragement he had given her as an artist.
     Perhaps Sarah was interested in Andreas. At least she was honest about her feelings. Karla, on the other hand, had appropriated Andreas, although she wasn’t even sure how she felt about him or how he felt about her. He had kissed her, he wanted to meet her again, but that was all. And Karla’s feelings for him? She liked him, she was even attracted to him, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to get involved.

* * *
     The following morning, it was raining, the Nordfoehn having collapsed the night before. The rain felt soothing after the harsh, dry northern wind and the sky was a lively display of towering dark clouds. The mountain tops were hidden behind layers of white mist. Stormy landscape, Rembrandt, Karla thought as she scanned the horizon. It had cooled off somewhat and the air smelled of burning wood from the neighbor’s oven.
     Later that day, Karla made an effort to clean out the storage room, which was overflowing with canvasses of half-finished and finished paintings as well as sketches on paper. She resisted this periodic chore. It forced her to decide which pieces she considered worth keeping and which she wanted to discard or paint over. Not an easy task; it required ruthless honesty and a discerning eye.
     Karla kept pulling paintings out of storage, putting them back in, pulling them back out again. In the process, she came across the canvass with the dark woman she had been struggling with. She glanced at it, shook her head, and decided to hang on to it. One day, perhaps, she would be able to finish it.
     In the evening, there was a pile of discarded sketches in the recycling bin and several canvasses that could be reused. The clean-up gave Karla a feeling of freedom. She took a deep breath and stepped outside to watch the evening settle in. It had stopped raining and the heavy clouds had thinned. The southern sky was pink with tints of purple and the evening breeze brought a whiff of wet grass.