Monday 22 November 2010

Stunning Sci-Fi: A Book Review of Beautiful Red

My Review of Beautiful Red by M. Darusha Wehm:

If you like your sci-fi full of cyber-tech, intrigue, moral questions and just that slight touch of nihilism, then you should read Beautiful Red by M. Darusha Wehm. It is a well-written, well-crafted and engaging novel.

It is the story of Jack, who works as a security officer in a world where corporations run the show and most human interaction takes place in a virtual environment. One day she stumbles on some anomalous security breaches which lead her into the path of a radical protest group that may be engaging in sinister and criminal activities.
“She meticulously picked apart the code left behind by the intruders at Buyside, running every individual line through the nets looking for possible authors. She followed the path of the intrusion back to the other end, the originating end, hypothesizing and guessing where there were gaps in the information. She cross referenced, indexed, filled in the blanks and made progress. Eventually she narrowed it down to a shadowy group called variously the Red, the Society for Creative Anarchicism and nowherenet, depending on the part of the world. They had been blamed for various incidents in many municipalities and corporations, many of which were illegal in some jurisdictions, but there didn't seem to be any coherent understanding of their goals.”
The author, M. Darusha Wehm, knows how to write credible characters and how to create a realistic, potential society. She shapes a complete civilization where you feel the characters could exist comfortably. As a reader I felt her postulated world could easily come in to existence as a possible future.
“Even the people were eerily alike, with their vacant plugged in stares, fashionable bodies and faces, uniforms or corporate approved dress code outfits. Jack stopped and looked at her reflection in the mirrored window of the building next to her. She knew she wasn't as fashionable as most of the other people on the street; she couldn't be bothered to get a new face every year and she while she went through a phase when she was younger of going through several body types, she finally found one that felt right and just kept it. Even her hair colour had remained the same since she was a teenager - she now bought number 772 (sapphire) by the wholesale case.”
I enjoyed Ms. Wehm’s point of view and her plot was both interesting and provocative. Many of the themes woven into the novel’s structure tackle compelling societal questions. I highly recommend this book.

Author Website:

Beautiful Red is also available in e-book format at Smashwords 

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Pen Name or No

Another guest joins the blog today, author John Betcher.  He stops by on his virtual book tour to give tips on using a pen name:

Pen Name or No

Today's post has to do with an issue I have recently confronted in my writing -- whether to use a pen name instead of my real one.

A pen name . . . or nom de plume . . . as some say, is simply a made up name used in place of your real name as author of your work. There are reasons why one might want to do this. And reasons why one might not want to.

Why you may want to use a pen name:

Here are several popular reasons to use a pen name instead of your real one.

-- You want to change your gender. In certain genres, romance for instance, it seems that female authors are better received. This is particularly true if your main character is a female. And in other genres, thrillers perhaps, there is a preponderance of male characters. So you may want your author gender to be male. (These are just examples. I'm not trying to pick a fight.) If you're writing in a genre where readers prefer authors of a certain gender, maybe you want to switch yours if your God-given version isn't right for the task.

-- If this is your first book, you may wish to preserve your privacy by using a pen name. We all know that once our personal information is spread across the internet, it is widely available to anyone with nefarious intent. So privacy might be another consideration.

-- If you are already known for writing in a different genre, or appearing in a different medium, you may consider a nom de plume either: 1) to avoid confusing your readers as to the type of book they are buying; or 2) to preserve an alternate image for your previous work. St. Paul newspaper columnist, John Camp, writes as John Sandford, presumably for this reason.

-- If your real name is very common (eg. John Smith), or you share a name with another author, you might consider a pen name so your fans can more easily find your work on a search engine, or to avoid confusion with the other author.

-- If you want your author name to have a certain pizazz, you could spice it up a bit. "Rocky Savage" may sound more masculine to some than "Tracy Ween."

-- Or you may have one of those given names that might be male or female (like Stacy, or Sean, or Jamie). And perhaps you want to make your gender clear for the readers.

Why you may not want to use a pen name:

-- For many self-published writers, their personal name recognition (at least by friends, relatives and community) may be their best initial marketing tool. You might not want to lose that advantage by using a pen name. Community is a great place to start building your following.

-- If you have already established some name recognition with your other writing pursuits (columns, short stories, etc.), you may want to extend your "brand" to your new works. Using your real name as author of your new book(s) is a great way to do this. Hopefully, any goodwill you have established in your previous writings will transfer to your new audience. This is called "leveraging goodwill" in the marketing world. And lots of big companies use it. At one point the Gerber Company was known only for its quality baby food. But they have leveraged the the goodwill of their brand into baby clothing lines, and other areas as well. Why should we think a food packager can make clothing? Who knows . . . but leveraging works.

-- If your name is recognizable in some non-writing circle -- eg. you're a sports or entertainment figure -- using your real name can be a huge advantage. How many people would have bought "Chelsea, Chelsea, Bang, Bang" if the author weren't a famous comedian?

Well . . . those are a few reasons I have come up with.
I'm currently trying to balance name recognition, with the potential to confuse (or even alienate) my audience, as I approach publication of a new novel in a completely different genre from my "Beck" suspense/thriller series. I'll be happy to let you know later what I decided to do.

If you have other reasons for using a pen name or not, maybe you'd like to leave a comment.

Thanks, Anita, for allowing me to share your blog . . . and your readers. All the best to everyone!

About the Author:

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery. The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at and at

Friday 12 November 2010

Push Forward and Write Your Tale

I have a guest today, stopping by as part of his virtual book tour.  So please welcome, Joel M. Andre:

Push Forward and Write Your Tale by Joel M. Andre

Everyone has a story to tell. There is little doubt about it. Over the course of the day, I have different friends and others pitching me story ideas. Why do they do it? Because it is a tale they want to read. For some, I will take the time to write a short story that they can read and the tale dies there. Other times, I suggest they write the story themselves.

Yes, it takes about 6 months to draft a book and to stumble through the editing process. In some cases, it can take longer. There are many factors that come into play. But this information isn’t to discourage you. Instead it is there to inspire you. Think about the number of times you’ve read a book and were depressed at how it went. Often, you feel you can write a better story.
That motivation alone should push you into writing for a living. While you might never be able to live off your royalties from the book you draft, you will have something you can be proud of. This can be a tale that slowly takes off and then quickly becomes something people talk about years from now. You never know until you sit down and write it.

You might be surprised at how much of a stress reducer this can be for you as well. Many of us have stress and anxiety that can be taken away from writing stories. This can be your chance to escape to a work full of dragons, or fairies. There is no limitation to the world you create and that is the beauty of writing.

If you don’t feel like you can write a whole novel, then take the steps and write a short story. Take it from start to finish and then read it back. This is your chance to revisit the world you’ve created and to find a place you’ll love for a lifetime. You have the talent in you and I believe you have what it takes to write.

So push forward and tell your tale. Share it with the world if you like, or reserve it for yourself and perhaps a few friends. No matter what you do with it, there is one thing to keep in mind. When you are done, there is something to be proud. Most people will spend a lifetime saying they are going to write a book or story and you’ll have done it. Keep that in mind and let it motivate you for telling your story.

About the Author:

Joel M. Andre was born January 13, 1981. At a young age he was fascinated with the written word. It was at fourteen that Poe blew his mind, and Andre began to dabble with darker poetry.
Between the years of 1999 and 2007 Joel was featured in various poetry anthologies and publications. In 2008 he released his first collection, Pray the Rain Never Ends.
Knowing there was something deeper and darker inside of his soul, Joel decided to take a stab at commercialism. Releasing the dark tongue in cheek, A Death at the North Pole, created a dark world among the death of Kris Kringle. Ultimately providing a tale of redemption.
October of 2008 saw Joel release his second book, Kill 4 Me. A tale in which a woman is haunted by a vengeful spirit through text messages and instant messaging.
Taking some time off and doing a lot of soul searching, Joel took things in a new direction and dabbled in the Fantasy Genre with, The Pentacle of Light. The tale dealing with five major races battling for control of Earth, and the acceptance of their God.
Finally, after missing his detective Lauren Bruni, he released the book The Return in October 2009, this time moving the action from the North Pole and placing it in the small Arizona community he was raised in.

Andre’s latest book is The Black Chronicles: Cry of the Fallen about a dead man who seeks revenge on the woman that tormented him in peaceful Northern Arizona.

Currently, he resides in Chandler, AZ.
You can visit his website at

Thursday 4 November 2010

The Popular Culture of the Fantasy Genre

Our guest blogger today is Edward Stern.  He is delving into the fascinating subject of the fantasy genre and how it has melded into our current popular culture:

The Popular Culture of the Fantasy Genre

Today, fantasy is a popular and beloved genre with many loyal devotees. Featured in literature, television, and film, what was once considered a niche culture has now entered the mainstream with the popularity of the highly successful Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter books and films.

The roots of fantasy begin in ancient times. In mythology and early literature, it was not uncommon for popular legends to demonstrate many of the traits which now inspire fantasy today. In works as diverse as The Odyssey, Beowulf, and 1001 Arabian Nights, heroes on epic quests, warring gods, lengthy back stories, and beings not of the real world are all featured. Fantasy today is hugely influenced by mythology and folklore, and takes many of its tropes from the myths and legends of long ago times.

Medieval works were also a huge influence, as the Middle Ages-inspired setting is prevalent in many works, like Redwall and the aforementioned Lord of the Rings. The King Arthur tales and elements of Dante's Divine Comedy and even works by Shakespeare contained fantastical elements.

Still, many of these works took place in realms like ours but with fantastical creatures and occurrences. It was not until Victorian times that works were finally set in realms all their own, distinct from anything we know, and so provided the foundation for the fantasy genre as we know it. William Morris is considered by many to be the father of the genre for his pure fantasy tales set in a realm unlike reality. His works were largely influenced by the mythology of Norway and Scandinavia.

It was not until a century later that J.R.R. Tolkien created the Lord of the Rings and brought the genre to unprecedented heights. His extremely detailed, epic, and imaginative tales captured the imaginations of millions of readers and set a new bar for the quality of fantasy tales. The trilogy drew upon elements from mythology, folklore, and Medieval tales to create a timeless story of an epic quest.

Since Tolkien, the genre has become more popular and splintered into many different factions across the mediums of literature, television, and film. Fantasy has also seen more mainstream acceptance than ever with the Harry Potter books and films and the success of the Narnia films, among others. Fantasy is a thriving genre, one where imagination is the only limit.

Edward Stern is a frequent guest blogger and a writer for online publications.

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