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ABC News Quotes Me on Parenting

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I’ve been so off the grid while traveling, that I didn’t realize I’d been quoted by ABC News.  The subject is how parental supervision levels have changed from the last generation to now.  I talk about how cautious I am with my kids after a relatively lax, albeit well-meaning approach my parents took.  My parents thought children should be independent.  They were accustomed to freedom when they were growing up in a safer environment.  But the place where I grew up was anything but safe, and I was the wrong kid to be making independent decisions.  I couldn’t be trusted to consistently act in my own best interest, and I proved that repeatedly.  However, I will let me kids go to middle school alone next month even though it is a much bigger deal than it was when I commuted alone to middle school.  When I was their age, eleven years old, I babysat three kids who lived several blocks from my house.  Not only was I out alone, night and day; but three babies were in the care of an eleven year old.  Times have changed, at least for people I know (which is admittedly a small reference point in the scheme of things).  Here is the link.  http://abcnews.go.com/US/walked-school-kids/story?id=24809651

My Family and Me in the New York Times

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Meet my family and me, featured in a New York Times article along with our friend, Carlos.  What a great day it was, shooting the photos for the story, hanging out, laughing, getting to know the very talented photographer.  Many people have said to me that I should feel proud of being featured in this New York City story.  My automatic thought process was:  But I didn’t write it, I didn’t get paid for it, I didn’t save someone from a speeding train.

Then I had to give the matter some thought, and it’s almost funny that it took me so long to come to the following insights.  I’d be the first one to think there was something wrong with me if my relationships were terrible — the quality of our relationships speak volumes about us.  But when my relationships are good and my family is well-liked enough to be featured in a prominent newspaper due to our relationship with someone, it never occurs to me that this fact speaks well of us and me.  It’s almost funny because I would be the first person to tell you that our relationships are perhaps the most important thing we do, our legacy of love.  So, I’ve learned something about myself here, and I don’t think I’m alone.  I am a product of our society and culture:  I still measure myself too much by what I do and too little for what I am.  So, here is a story of a slice of my family’s life.  I’m pleased to share it with you, and I am very proud of my family!  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/realestate/upstairs-downstairs-in-new-york-city.html?_r=1   Read the rest of this entry »

Lower Power Named 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards Semi-Finalist

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

2014 ABNA Semi-Finalists Announced.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards have announced the 25 semi-finalists (out of 10,000 entries).  My novel, Lower Power, has been selected!  That’s top five of 2000 novels entered in my category, Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy.  If you’ve already read, thanks for all your support!  (If you haven’t read the free excerpt, please do!)   Click on the link to see all the semi-finalists.  They are all strong entries and I feel honored to be in the Semi-Finals with them.   If you want to read mine or the other excerpts, they are all linked within the semi-finals announcement below.   http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Novel-Award-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=332264011

My Thoughts on Goldfinch

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The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, I’m glad that’s over.  At least 500 pages of this book were extremely depressing, and it went on and on, page after depressing page.  The book was often sloppy and improbable.  I would give a pass to a self-published author with the kind of mistakes found in Goldfinch; but this author had the help of a staff of editors, and there’s simply no excuse for it.  For example, the one use of Spanish in the entire novel was wrong.  Obviously, the editors depended on Google translator instead of asking a Spanish-speaking person how to say french fries.   The ubiquity of cell phones amongst middle-school kids 14 years ago struck me as wrong.  A 14-year-old referring knowingly to a fertility drug.  The comment that Boris was most comfortable speaking in English followed by him speaking in broken English for the rest of the novel, and Theo teaching him U.S. idiomatic expressions, made no sense.  The way the characters talked, on and on, philosophically, in the end when they weren’t even on cocaine (frankly), was weird.  Even the end went on for ten pages too long, and the reader is supposed to take seriously the pages of a character’s grand philosophical reflections on life when he’s just off of a serious, long-term bender with no treatment or period of sobriety whatsoever?  I found myself wondering why anyone would enable this screwed-up kid by listening to him talk for so long.  Send him to rehab first, for God’s sake.  Having said all that, the Boris was a fabulous and memorable character (although his final scene struck me as improbable); some of the other characters were great; the writing was very good; and I stuck with the story because the author did make me want to know how it would turn out.  (And, for all that, I will give the novel four stars.)   However, at some point I did wonder whether the Pulitzer Prize is fixed like World Cup soccer.  I find it hard to believe that this was rated the best book of the year.

View all my reviews

Me in the New York Times

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My piece “On Roller Skates in a Downpour” appeared in the New York Times on Sunday. You can read the full piece here.

At right: Victor Kerlow’s illustration that accompanies the Metropolitan Diary entry.

Fantastic Publishers Weekly Review of My Forthcoming Novel, Lower Power

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Publishers Weekly loved my new novel, LOWER POWER!  PW chooses the semi-finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.  The semi-finalists will be announced on June 13th.  Here is the review.  I am very excited about it.
Publishers Weekly Reviewer:
A dark power spreads death and chaos in New York City in the midst of the early-1990s crack epidemic in an expertly-told tale of recovering drug addicts facing supernatural horror. Raven Douglas and Keith Wilson are two former drug users who are now clean when they and their fellow Narcotics Anonymous members begin to suffer drug nightmares and are drawn toward an abandoned building on 117th Street where high-potency cocaine is being distributed by the terrifying “BG” (Big Guy). Meanwhile, reporter Juan Miranda, with Raven’s help, unravels the truth behind a sudden spate of mass shootings and other mayhem, while also trying to rescue teenage addict and prostitute Gina, who becomes involved with one of BG’s lieutenants. The author cleverly works in recognizable references to events and personalities of the era, and does an excellent job of capturing the authentic feel of the meanest streets of New York City in its most crime-ridden days. The growing claustrophobic horror of the former addicts being drawn back into drug use alternates with episodes of horrific violence by B.G.’s “wet brain” zombies for an unrelenting cascade of horror that builds to an exciting climax in this superbly written tale of urban survivors fighting to save themselves once more.
Here is the link to the FREE excerpt on Amazon:  http://amzn.to/1h3ugAo  PLEASE read and review.  Your reviews count in the semi-finals!

2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards – Quarter Finalist Judge Reviews of My Novel, Lower Power

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Here are the 2014 #ABNA judge reviews of the excerpt of my new novel, Lower Power, available for free download here:  http://amzn.to/1eRPwxs.   I was a bit disappointed in the excerpts of the reviews that Amazon posted, which didn’t seem to convey the enthusiasm of the judges (IMHO).  So, here are the judge reviews in their entirety.
ABNA Expert Reviewer #1:
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
The author has a gift for writing with entertaining and gritty imagery. The backdrop for this excerpt is a very well fleshed out world. The… characters are easy to imagine and they feel real. The scenery is very dense. Reading along I was completely absorbed by the narrative.
What aspect needs the most work?
The excerpt seems to be written from the third person omniscient narrative mode. The author spends an inordinate amount of time developing the main character. Over the length of a decent novel this may not be a problem. There is a risk that the reader may not become emotionally invested in the main character. The work was so entertaining I have a difficult time pointing out a fault.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
This excerpt was extremely entertaining. I was hooked after the first page. I was constantly curious about what would happen next. I think this work would find a wide audience is the YA and urban fantasy markets if it continues as I suspect it will. I find the idea of the crack drug epidemic of the 90s being a vampire conspiracy intriguing.
ABNA Expert Reviewer #2
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
The strongest aspect in this excerpt is the way the author is able to create characters that are multifaceted and seem real. Louis, who is involved in drugs, is still concerned about his son. I also felt like the author did a good job of keeping the dialogue believable. There are profanities used, but not excessively, and it fits with the characters having the conversation.
What aspect needs the most work?
I am waiting for the various characters’ stories to connect. The description has tagged this as science fiction, but in the excerpt provided I have not yet read any part that is science fiction.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
I was happily surprised by this excerpt. I was initially hesitant to read it, not sure if I would enjoy the subject, but it was a well written story with a plot that interested me enough to want to read more.
So, again, here is the link to the FREE excerpt:  http://amzn.to/1eRPwxs  Please read and review!

Lower Power named Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards Quarterfinalist

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Great news.  My latest novel, Lower Power, has made it into the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.  That makes the second consecutive year, second novel, to make it this far.  The quarter finalists are the top 5% of entries.  I will post the link when the free excerpt appears on Amazon.com.  That was my favorite part last year:  I am looking forward to hearing what readers think of the excerpt.  Thank you all for your incredible support in my writing endeavors.

In the mean time, you can check out my novel that’s currently published, The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery.  It has received over 90 five-star reviews on Amazon so far.

Lower Power makes it to ABNA Second Round

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My new novel, Lower Power, is still a work in progress, but I did enter it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards competition this year.   It was selected to proceed to the second round of the competition.  Here is the pitch that was judged in the first round:

Lower Power

1992.  New York City is a place of crime, racial strife, police corruption and the crack epidemic.  A mysterious man – sadistic, malevolent and inhuman – turns an abandoned building in Harlem into the distribution point for a potent drug.  As addicts flock from all over the City to buy it, local recovering addicts find themselves plagued with nightmares and relapse.  Some disappear completely.  Then crack-addicted Louis massacres a Harlem Narcotics Anonymous meeting, using an assault rifle he could not possibly own.

Raven, a biracial recovering addict on the verge of entering law school, survives the massacre.  Dreams haunt her, and she is stunned to learn that a pregnant member of her N.A. group has also gone on a killing rampage.  Raven joins forces with Juan, a journalist.  They unravel the mystery, which points to the eerie abandoned building and the man called BG, who is now aided by corrupt cops (his “familiars”).

Raven and her friends struggle to stay alive, clean and sane despite BG’s progressively terrorizing supernatural power.  The city falls into chaos as he unleashes armed killers.  Police misdirection, a U.S. attorney campaigning for mayor, and riots hamper the City’s defense.  Juan, Raven, a teenage prostitute and Raven’s recovering-addict friends appear to be the only line of defense against an incomprehensibly evil force.  Yet, the recovering addicts are also the most vulnerable to BG’s insidiously attractive power.  Will they stop him before they lose their minds, or will they be forced to join him?

A chilling alternate history laced with political satire and allegory, Lower Power provides a backward glimpse at a tumultuous era in New York City.  It brings the reader deep into the City’s surreal drug world of the early 1990’s while providing a transcendent message of hope.

Signed Copies of The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

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Signed copies of my novel are now available at the Serenity Shop in Portland Oregon.  http://www.serenityshop.com/  They are also available at Choices Books & Gifts on East 78th Street, NYC.  http://www.choices-nyc.com/