Back on Track

New reviews coming soon! I'll be importing my work from the past two years, but in the meantime,
I'm reclaiming my small place on the web.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Non-Fiction Review

Spirits in the Garden
by Joan Solomon
ISBN-10: 097861660X
Review by Heather Froeschl

If only we would take a moment to stop and not only smell but really see the roses, it may be revealed that the spirits of nature are beckoning to us to pay attention. Joan Solomon offers a spectacular look through her own eyes in her book, “Spirits in the Garden.” This award winning collection of photographs is a treasure and a promise to the planet.

Throughout time, cultures have embraced the spirits of nature, calling them fairies, gnomes, sprites and leprechauns and spreading tales of magic and mischief. Taking a closer look at our natural surroundings, evidence of familiar sights can be found, perhaps even proof of the myths. Solomon finds the faces of the Iris dragon, the Yarrow flying gargoyle, and the Wild Violet gnome. In untouched photographs, she points out what is waiting to be discovered. Sharing the homeopathic herbal properties of numerous plants, the author exposes her admiration and respect for nature’s gifts. From a stomach soothing dill tea to delicious violet jelly, readers will delight in several recipes for reconnecting with nature. And that is the whole point, this need to reach out and experience the joy of our natural world.

“Spirits in the Garden” is a reminder that all life is connected and if we open our eyes and our minds, we can find delight in the simplest, exquisite blossom. After pouring over the offerings in this book you will find yourself looking closer at your own garden, the trees in the park, the flowers on your desk, and you will be inspired. To my delight, a portion of all proceeds from the work of Joan Solomon is dedicated to environmental and animal concerns. Can it get any better than that?

Historical Fiction Review

Shades of Gray
by Jessica James
ISBN-10: 0979600006
Review by Heather Froeschl

There was a divide among the states, among brothers, families, and friends. There was a common ground, in honor. Jessica James’ book, “Shades of Gray,” is a novel about the Civil War in Virginia, but it is more about the honor and dedication, beliefs and convictions of both sides, than about the battles themselves.

Captain Hunter, a Confederate cavalry officer, is a fierce and worthy opponent to the Union. His determination and cunning is respected and feared. He’d never met an equal on the field, until a Union spy came face to face with him at a river crossing. Sinclair, with an imposing beast of a black horse, was a legend, escaping the grips of death again and again. These two foes would hunt each other, evade each other, and eventually, save each other’s lives. Sinclair holds more secrets than the future plans of the southern forces; Sinclair is a woman in scout’s disguise. Known only to her cousin’s husband, Colonel Jordan, she is sent on missions to deliver messages, bring back information, and try to stay alive. Her desire to fight for her beliefs leads her to much more; going up against the famed Hunter becomes a challenge she cannot stop herself from pursuing. What she ends up allowing herself to do is well beyond what is expected, or accepted in the days of the Civil War.

Capturing the reader’s attention from the start, Jessica James offers a different sort of historical fiction. While the conflicts and skirmishes are detailed and enthralling, the feeling within the soldier is what is so important here. The passion and depth of convictions is clear, respectfully portrayed on both sides, to a point. The plot is intricate with southern nuances, northern straightforwardness and the inner and outer battles of war. The humanity of feelings we cannot control is an outreach that will hit home. Life does go on, even in the middle of hell on earth.

Well written and expertly executed, this novel is sure to be embraced by readers of many genres. Surely, anyone interested in history, the War Between the States, or Virginia herself, will love it. Jessica James brings readers into the very minds of those who were there; you cannot leave this book unchanged in your understanding of the souls of the Civil War.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fiction Review

Thursdays with Death
By Scott Knutson
ISBN-10: 1430318481
Review by Heather Froeschl

Loss is the key to finding. Without losing control, how do know you need to find it again? Without losing love, how do you know it is worth seeking out? In Scott Knutson’s book, “Thursdays with Death,” readers will take a spiritual journey unlike any other, and they may find an understanding about life that they hadn’t realized they were missing.

Looking for answers, as we all are, Lanny Stone invited a spiritual guide into his life. He was surprised to find that his teacher was Death. In a game of poker, he places a bet and come up in debt. Debts must be paid and Lanny signs a contract. Now, Lanny Stone has a standing appointment with The Grim Reaper, on Thursdays, at 9am. During these appointments it is learned that Death adores Krispy Kreme donuts, as well as other interesting things about past lives, present plans, and future opportunities. Other realities are now in view and Lanny is learning to be open to them. As far as spiritual lessons go, he is getting the Cliffs Notes version in a hurry. Surprisingly though, this doesn’t all seem like new material to him. He begins to understand life, and death, as well as his teacher, Death himself. It does come as a bit of a surprise, at least to the reader, when Lanny learns that there isn’t just one being known as Death. He wonders what The Grim Reaper is getting out of these visits, and this contract, besides all the donuts he can inhale. What could Death possibly want from Lanny Stone?

This entertaining, fast paced, deceivingly simple read is actually a lot deeper than you might first think. The humor involved (and dealing with death with humor is much better than dealing with it with sorrow) lightens the impact of spiritual lessons. The hope and promise of better things, the non-permanence of death, the lighter look at a sometimes terrifying icon, is a testament to the author’s spirituality. The writing style is modern and fun; the plot one that is fresh and deliciously twisted. I simply adored reading “Thursdays with Death” and hope to see more from this author soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Author Interview: John Reyer Afamasaga

Interview with author John Reyer Afamasaga regarding his Emotional Techno Fiction

etfiction: Emotional Techno Fiction was conceptualized by John Reyer Afamasaga in 2001, a novice free-eBook-author, who believed that he has to synthetically create his work, due to his lack of ability, experience and finesse as a writer.

A number of slants are presented by etfiction as to the relevance of its roots being steeped in music, rather than just literature.

He takes the word Techno, in two senses. First, in relating to the style and type of music DJs produced from sampling other peoples’ recordings. Second, relating its technical connotations, referencing the DJ and their approach to creating their music, because of their use of turntables and samplers in the place of instruments.

etfiction is a story telling technique, which takes its development and deployment method, in principle, from the way DJs create their dance tracks.

In 2007, the novice looks to attract the attention of publishing houses, in his aim to get the free online eBook publisher etfiction’s books into the most classic of editions – print.

Heather: Afamasaga, aside from the principles and theoretical stuff, what’s the practical application of DJing to writing books? If at all there are any?

Afamasaga: Simile, techno, technique. The rig, turntables, PC, Apple Mac, Laptop or media playing device is the pen. The record, disc, audio or digital file is the same as an authors’ ink. The mixed track is the idea. The feeling from the crowd makes emotion. The experience is often as surreal as fiction.

Heather: So this is your method of writing?

Afamasaga: It’s a development process. I am conscious of it when I write; its part of that security blanket we find in having created our own way of writing, because I used to get so much flak about the way I wrote. I decided no one can tell me that it’s wrong, clumsy or lousy, as it is my genre. Of course there are the universal groupings that all written communication come under, is it “rubbish” or is it “worth reading”?

I always say to myself before I sit down at the keyboard: “The ‘Impassioned’ DJ is about to perform his ‘Plausible’, yet still ‘Colorful’ set.”

Heather: Go on…

Afamasaga: Impassioned - etfiction relies on fuel; inspiration, the power of some passion. The writer, prior to beginning the writing process, must be at the point where they have no choice but to perform their task of putting into words, what they instinctively know and now wholeheartedly believe. This may produce questionable reason and even challengeable facts due to the stream of consciousness that runs through the writer and out onto their pages of words.

Plausible - etfiction must, over a long passage, provide a concept, complete so as to stimulate conversation, that is Intertextually self fulfilling in both fact, according to the narrator, and acceptable in sensibility to the reader, making etfiction plausible.

Colorful - Similar to a DJ’s output, a record which may include many different samples from many genres, eras and styles, etfiction is at mercy of whims, tangents, and exaggerations by the Author, or Narrator, which are permissible as deemed necessary under the heading, Impassioned.

Heather: Your slogan is “A narrative from a Pacific Islander who speaks through an illiterate in America.” Is this a derogatory remark against the US?

Afamasaga: No, it’s not. It’s actually much simpler than that; it’s a compliment to my lead character John Lazoo. He can’t read or write, but it takes Lazoo to put this whole show together.

Heather: John Lazoo was your first book, after reading the second, WIPE, and then Illicit Blade of Grass, I often got the feeling that your were almost rambling, angry, almost like voices you often refer to. Were you hearing these voices?

Afamasaga: Of course, as did the characters Lazoo, John Page, Metofeaz, Le Mac, Polina. Yeah, I’ve always heard voices.

Heather: Did you ever seek help?

Afamasaga: What for? Actually I did, but I was told I can’t be schizophrenic, or I wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the voices outside and inside of my head. Maybe depressed, delusional, imbalanced and a bit paranoid, but who isn’t, ah?

Heather: Lazoo, Metofeaz, Le Mac, and Afamasaga, are they real?

Afamasaga: Of course they’re real. Lazoo is the Id, Metofeaz is the Ego, Afamasaga is the Super-Ego.

Heather: And Jon Le Mac?

Afamasaga: Jon Le Mac is everyman and his dog, that Lazoo refers to as MICE, he is actually, what bridges the divide between LMLA-ink and the markets. Everyone loves Le Mac and Le Mac loves everyone.

Heather: So Jon Le Mac is who I am interviewing?

Afamasaga: You’re interviewing me, which is when Lazoo and Afamasaga agree.

Heather: What happens when Lazoo and Afamasaga disagree?

Afamasaga: Then Metofeaz goes on a writing rampage, and Le Mac starts to carelessly mass market the work. Lazoo goes inside himself, Afamasaga vanishes and we just cross our fingers that Lazoo, or Afamasaga can save the day at the end of the carnival.

Heather: Your stuff is almost diary writing if you take out the settings and the character names.

Afamasaga: As is a lot of stuff by new authors or the stuff that one tends to feel most about, which causes them to first put pen to paper in a serial manner.

Heather: Are you worried about being considered brash as to suggest you have created a genre of your own?

Afamasaga: No one really knows or cares. If I get a job writing copy in a newspaper, I’d be happy. It was meant to be therapeutic, a career change, and a reinvention of myself.

Heather: You say that you lacked the ability, experience and finesse to write and this is the reason why you designed etfiction?

Afamasaga: The erection of the structure (etfiction) within which I felt safe and eventually comfortable that I could produce work was only part of the impetus required to achieve all that had to be found, sorted and presented. At this very time I was also going through huge emotional and personality changes, which I identified from having looked at Freud and then finally at Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis, an approach to psychology, which takes its origins from Psychoanalysis, but then announces that our growth requires spirituality to be distinctly acknowledged as a “hormonal vital” of our different layers to attain and sustain growth.

Heather: Hormonal Vital?

Afamasaga: It’s my little addition to the equation, showing my respect for Assagioli’s work. Freud was most definitely the pioneer who made the whole matter accessible, but for me and my religious upbringing, Roberto’s admission of the soul’s existence and its requirement of satisfaction in that Spirituality is fundamentally what really does set us aside from the linguistically confused animals. Oh, “Hormonal” in that, up till Roberto, the body of understanding was without soul, his addition was the regulator for me, and “vital” as to not clash with engrained Christianity, which I don’t really want to be seen selling, ok?

Furthermore, a part of Psychosynthesis that defines the changes from one person to another that I was going through – “Transmutation” was succinct; in my visualizing of what it was I had to do. In that the cross-fading of tracks by a DJ, was a perfect example of what had to be achieved in the smoothest possible way, while keeping the groove, so to speak. Firstly, I had to get beyond my past, so I could see where I was heading. Then I had to give a value to the person who I used to be, and not completely demonize that character, so I could call upon those experiences in a way which I use to darken my work, and then after recognizing the persona, I would have to change them, or move from one to the other. Yes, change into the person who I wished to be, but still have on call the experience of who I once was. Transmutation made this possible. In the end, instead of relying on the old persona as source of experience, the Mutation process I underwent left the mark I cannot forget, that being “change” (process), its dark lonely times is the emotive pool I dive into from time to time when I need to douse myself and intently the words, story and work in those darkening moods.

I also worked as DJ, for a while, in my younger days.

Other concepts I found complimentary to etfiction, were Astral Projection and its inducement through self hypnosis. And also, Active Sensoring: quieting the environment around you, from being inside the environment, from having actively listened to it, and then understanding it, and since you are actually a part of the environment now, you are not aware of its obliqueness anymore.

Heather: Is Psychosis a part of this seemingly eloborate act? According to Afamasaga it could have looked that way.

Afamasaga: There were times in my Transmutation where I was very disoriented, when I was disillousioned. Obviously the gouging of deep seated emotional systs, their excavation and airing, which was done quite violently in John Lazoo, could seem to be psychotic, but because the ID, and by now the EGO were pretty much in agreeance, of what we were up to, I knew we were of our own mind. But also, the Mutation I mentioned, personally for me, was a gouging; it’s not some teddy bear’s picnic, you know? A woman once told me that I was a brave man, not in a macho way, but in the way I face up to issues, deep, from when one was young.

Heather: Who was the woman?

Afamasaga: Lotte.

Heather: What’s the plan from here?

Afamasaga: Get a publishing contract, get married, and finish the ten books.

Heather: Sounds like a good plan.