Book Review: Hunters Point

Hunters Point by Peter Kageyama is a good mystery with twists, but the unusual setting, unique protagonist, and surprise characters are what really set it apart.

The action takes place in San Francisco during the 1950s. Though not true noir (like The Big Sleep, etc.), that influence remains strong. But now tradition is being challenged as beatniks gather and racial and sexual boundaries are pushed. Meanwhile, the government is engaged in a nuclear arms race.

Kats is a Nisei (second-generation Japanese American). During WWII he and his family were interned; later he earned a Silver Star as a Ranger in the Korean War. Now a PI, he’s called in to find out who’s behind the strongarm tactics forcing owners in the warehouse district on San Francisco Bay to sell their property.

His first stop is the library; at his second, he finds Molly. Tough and lovely, she forces Kats to face hard truths about himself—but also provides a soft place for him to land. It’s not a spoiler to say she becomes his love interest since it’s immediately evident that will be the outcome, but happily the book remembers that it’s a mystery and not a romance. Still, their relationship provides interesting insight into some dilemmas faced by interracial couples.

As Kats and Molly, with a few other friends, dig deeper, the plot thickens and twists, dangers lurk, and surprises abound. Based on real-life contamination of the bay, the story imagines how several parties—from the mafia to the US government—try to profit from the incident and subsequent cover-up.

The author gives plenty of description to put the reader in the scene, from the aroma and flavor of various foods to the effect of pepper bombs. I could have used a little less description of moving through buildings, but that’s me. Overall the action is fast paced and keeps you guessing. Of course Kats’ Ranger skills are used extensively, but never going so far that the reader cannot suspend disbelief to enjoy the ride.

It takes a little help from actor Jimmy Stewart (one of several surprise characters who appear throughout the book for extra fun) to put the final piece of the puzzle in place, allowing Kats and the gang to wrap up the case with a bang.

I received an advance copy of HUNTERS POINT for an honest review. You can get your copy here.

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Playing with Poetry

Over the past year I’ve begun playing with poetry. It’s been a surprise to discover that the boundaries of form poetry somehow encourage creativity rather than the expected opposite. More and more I’m learning how helpful structure can be, and how too great liberty can act as a constraint. An interesting lesson for life as well as writing.

Here are a few of various short forms.

King of the jungle
Superior attitude
A fall will follow

Bright flames lick the sky
Towering red and yellow
Brilliant autumn leaves

Beneath the moon
Ghostly twilight shadows
Slipping through woods elusively
Wolf pack

A firm belief
Is a thief
Of learning

Flotsam and jetsam / Bobbing chaos in water / Life follows no plan

The louder the words
The more likely turds
For emotion hides reason
And calls facts treason

Flowers show off blooms
Beauty in varied colors
Hues of lovely skin

Wildcats reign supreme
Standing alone on the plain
Seeking new reserves

Young girl licking a red lollipop

Polly ate sweets every day;
“You’ll grow fat,” her mother did say.
So she got on her knees
And planted some peas
And threw all the goodies away.

Everything glows
Bright warm sunshine all around
When you smile at me.

Lone snowflake crystal
Uniquely formed rarity

Icy party drink
Chilliness makes me shiver
Got the cold shoulder

To give learning a chance
First admit to ignorance

Sink into comfort
Strong hands and hearts give support
Loving family

Imbibe ideas
Refine within then turn loose
To fly to new heights

Words flow
A powerful current transports
New worlds emerge to curiously explore
All time and every place open to experience
Book love

I don’t always write form poetry, though. In fact, one of my proudest accomplishments of the last year was receiving a nomination for the Pushcart Prize—and that was for a freeform poem titled “Lines.” If you want to read it, you’ll have to find the book it was published in: Seeing Through Their Eyes, an anthology of prose and poetry on the theme of empathy.

Don’t Be This Person. Vote.

A government “of the people, by the people, for the people” cannot function properly without participation of the people.

Don’t be a person on whom others won’t bother dote. VOTE.

Election Day is a Holiday  by Ogden Nash

People on whom I do not bother to dote
Are people who do not bother to vote…

They have such refined and delicate palates
That they can discover no one worthy of their ballots,
And then when someone terrible gets elected
They say There, that’s just what I expected!

And they go around for four years spouting discontented criticisms
And contented witticisms….

And they have discovered that if you don’t take time out to go to the polls
You can manage very nicely to get through thirty-six holes.
Oh let us cover these clever people very conspicuously with loathing,
For they are un-citizens in citizens’ clothing.

They attempt to justify their negligence
On the ground that no candidate appeals to people of their intelligence,
But I am quite sure that if Abraham Lincoln (Rep.) ran against Thomas Jefferson (Dem.),
Neither man would be appealing enough to squeeze a vote out of them.

That Time Reedsy Got It Wrong

Reedsy is a font of knowledge for beginning to mid-level writers. They’ve helped thousands of new and aspiring authors. That’s why it’s extra disappointing when they get it wrong.

I’m referring to the recent blog post “What is (sic) Hybrid Publishing? Expectations vs Reality.” Along with a few errors, the article is biased and misleading.

Digital book printing

Let’s break it down.

In the first paragraph, hybrid publishing is correctly described as combining elements of traditional and self-publishing, with the difference that the author subsidizes publishing costs “and are not given an advance on royalties.” That makes it sounds as though every traditional publishing deal comes with an advance. However, advances are getting rarer each year among traditional publishers. Unless the author has already proven an ability to bring readers, or is a celebrity of some sort, not receiving an advance is as likely as getting one—and when paid, will be minimal.

The third paragraph begins, “In theory, hybrid publishing is not the same thing as vanity publishing — but the reality can often be a little disappointing.” Actually, they are different by definition and in fact, not theory. It’s true that some hybrid publishing experiences may be disappointing. So are many traditional and self-publishing experiences.

Again the article implies that any/all traditionally published authors will receive an advance. That is simply not the case.

Next we are reminded that the author helps fund publishing with a hybrid press, and “have to trust that the press is doing what’s best for their book.” Yes, and they almost always do. Their own reputation and continued business depend on it. The implication that hybrid publishers are shady dealers who care little about the business is an undeserved insult.

Why, the article questions, not self-publish instead? They give a partial answer to their own question: “assemble your own team of professional[s]. . . .” Part of the point of a hybrid publisher is that most authors would rather be writing the next book than wresting together a team and riding herd on all the various facets of publication, which the author may know little about. A publisher has an expert team already assembled and working together.

Next up: royalties. The article claims that a traditional book deal will net the author 8-10% paperback, and that hybrid publisher “can” pay “up to 50%” in royalties. There are two errors here. That traditional deal is more likely to pay 6% (again, unless you’re already well established or a celebrity—that’s not the typical Reedsy reader). The same for the other traditional royalties they quote.

As for the hybrid royalty rates, one of the biggest hybrid publishers, sister companies She Writes Press and SparkPress (not to be confused with Ingram Spark) pays 60% royalty on print and 70% on ebooks. A small hybrid publisher I happen to be familiar with, Tranquility Press, pays 75-80%.

Why would Reedsy feel the need to overstate the payments made by traditional publishers and understate those paid by hybrid presses? I find the article’s statement “If you hire the right professionals to help you, you’ll still have all the practical support you’ll need — and you also get to keep the whole pie to yourself” particularly disingenuous—especially since, as it pointed out just above that statement, someone else tells you how much you can charge for your book without being penalized by having your royalty percentage cut. If you have to pay for all that professional help, and you can’t charge what you want without giving up royalties, how is that keeping the whole pie? (Of course, Reedsy’s business is to connect authors with people who could make up their team, so it makes sense that they’d advocate for that.)

The Reedsy article goes on to say that “there’s little to separate” the business models of hybrid publishers and vanity presses. It’s curious, then, that the next sentence offers a guide on how they are different. I did not need to read the guide to know the two main differences: Vanity presses publish anything, and generally don’t distribute. Hybrid publishers are selective, and generally do offer distribution. Also, many vanity presses will try to take the copyright, but no legitimate publisher, whether traditional or hybrid, will ever do so.

We are next told that hybrid publishers are no better at getting books placed or sold than self-publishers—so long as the author is willing to become a marketing expert herself. Another disingenuous claim. In addition, traditional publishers do very little, if any, marketing for the majority of their books. They bank on two or three each cycle to pay for the rest. If you aren’t one of those two or three, you won’t receive the benefits of traditional publishing this article extolls.

Here’s what it boils down to: hybrid publishing is a legitimate way to become published. The trouble is that many vanity presses are now claiming to be hybrid in order to sound legitimate. Reedsy should know this, and explain it better and with fewer errors.

Sources: – my company.

She Writes Press

Lesson From a Pothole

There is a corner coming into my neighborhood that for some reason always has a pothole. Two or three times a year it gets filled in, but always within a few weeks, the pothole is back. If you don’t give wide berth on that corner, you’ll get the jarring experience of a wheel in the crater.

Naturally, folks in the neighborhood don’t like the pothole. It’s unsightly, but that’s not what most people have against it. They’re more put out with the fact that you have to slow way down to miss the hole but still make the turn. I admit I felt the same way for a long time.

Then one day as I approached that corner after a rain, I saw two mallards, a male, and a female, at the edge of the pothole. They were taking turns getting a drink. I stopped the car and watched for several moments until they drank their fill and waddled away.

Not the ducks I saw. Other ducks enjoying a pothole elsewhere.

Not long after that, while the pothole still held water, I saw a squirrel drinking from it. Squirrels are nothing uncommon, no matter where you live, but that was the first time in my half a century of living I’d ever seen one getting a drink. The same day, a grackle bathed in the hole.

I began to think that maybe the pothole wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Then I remembered that this is Texas; drought-prone country. When it was no longer a puddle but merely a wheel-catcher, what good would the hole be?

The answer came several days later. The rain had dried up, even in the ruts and ditches. Driving out of my neighborhood, I glanced down and saw a post lizard sunning itself. Down in the pothole, it was safe from passing vehicles.

Now, I make it point to see what’s at the pothole whenever I pass. Often, there’s nothing. But sometimes I’m surprised by a chance encounter with nature. That wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have to slow down and pay attention. Wonder what I’d see if I slowed down and paid attention all the time?

Reposted from a guest post I did for One Woman’s Day, May 28, 2019.

I Was Meant to Do That

Most people have “imposter syndrome” at some point. For writers, it’s generally along the lines of, I’m no good at this; when will someone realize it and call me out on it?

I’ve never had that particular type of imposter syndrome—not because I think I’m so good, but because I truly believe good writing can be learned by anyone, and that even the best writers started out not so good. Being not great is simply part of the path, and how long one spends on that part of the journey depends on how hard they work to improve (and that goes for any activity, not just writing).

Two things have always made me feel like an imposter. The first is that I’m not, and never have been, compelled to write. Most writers will tell you they’ve been writing since childhood and could not imagine a life not writing. It’s as much a need as breath. Not me. There are some things I’d like to say to the world, and hope to get them written down, but I’ve never had that urgency or obsession with writing.

To go along with that, I never thought I was destined to write. Think about, say, Thomas Edison buying equipment for chemical and electrical experiments when he was still a child, or Jane Goodall being obsessed with animals as far back as her earliest memories. There wasn’t anything in my life (such as that compulsion mentioned above) to point toward being a writer.

Or so I thought. Recently, I’ve realized there were things. Two things, to be precise.

Neil Gaiman said last night that the thing he’s been most afraid of his whole life is his own imagination. Paraphrasing, because I didn’t record/immediately write it down: I’d be at school and think, what if my parents don’t come home today? Or, what if they come but they only look like my parents, and aren’t? So the thing that’s always scared me the most, is me.

I always had that same imagination, though my dreams could be happy or sad or exciting as well as scary. The phrase most often spoken about me, by far, when I was a kid was, “Teresa’s in a daze again.” (I know this because it was always said when I had to be shaken or poked or something to shift my attention from my imaginary world back to the real one. Which was generally several times a day.) When my imagination took off, the house could burn down around me and I’d never know it. There wasn’t anything wrong with my real world—I actually had a great family and life. But my mind never stayed settled there.

Barbara Taylor Bradford once said, “You can’t be a novelist if you can’t imagine things happening that have never happened; you need to be a really good liar. A novel is a monumental lie that has the ring of truth.”

The most common phrase spoken to me as a kid: “You’re such a liar.”

I didn’t consider myself a liar, even though I knew a clown didn’t ride the bull across the street every night, and there weren’t lions living in the trees behind my house, and I couldn’t fly three nights a month. And I knew the people I told such things to didn’t believe it, either.

But I couldn’t understand why all the books I read were fine, but when I told a story, I was a liar. Maybe if my family had ever used the phrase “telling a story” for a lie, I might have caught on sooner. But we never did. There were stories, and there lies, and it took me a long time to figure out the difference. For years, I was just looking for someone to play along with my stories. No one ever did. I was just a liar.

I’ve learned to give my stories that “ring of truth,” so now instead of being a liar, I can be a writer—as I was, evidently, always meant to be.

Need More Time to Read? Try These 6 Tips Inspired by Lemony Snicket

“It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read.” ~Lemony Snicket

Most of us have a (fantastically long) list of books to read, and oh-so-little time in which to read them—especially if we’re trying to diversity our reading or meet a challenge. Here are a half-dozen ways to sneak more words into our day, inspired by Lemony Snicket. One of his quotes appears at the end of each tip.

1. Keep a book with you at all times. Not only will you be able to read a page or two while waiting in line or on your break, you’ll prove yourself trustworthy. “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

2. Plan on it. It’s as true with reading as anything else: you have to schedule important things or they get crowded out. Whether it’s during morning coffee or before bed, find a time and stick to it. “Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.”

3. Don’t stick with it. Yes, you read that correctly. If you have to force yourself to read a particular book, ditch it. There are too many good things to read to waste time on the other stuff. “…what you don’t read is often as important as what you do read.”

4. Take a book to the gym and read while you’re treading or climbing. If the thought of that induces motion sickness, make it an audio book. “Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.” (Isn’t exercise a form of running for your life?)

5. Get a book of poetry (or essays or short stories). These generally contain pieces short enough to read in minutes, but with enough meat in the words to chew on for hours. Not a fan of poetry? All the more reason! “Reading poetry, even if you are only reading to find a secret message within its words, can often give one a feeling of power…”

6. Make yourself accountable by partnering with a friend. Keep it mellow with a discussion over coffee when you’ve both finished, or up the energy by seeing who can finish the book first, with the loser treating the winner to lunch. “‘I’m not a stranger,’ I said, and pointed to his book. ‘I read the same authors you do.’”

What I Want for Christmas

Every year at this time, people begin asking what I want for Christmas. Probably most of you respond to this question the way I do: Don’t get me anything, I have everything I need, all I want is your friendship, make a donation somewhere instead… Right?

But throughout this year, I’ve realized that there is something I want. I’m not talking about world peace and those things that all of us want all the time. I’m talking about an actual gift. Something personal. Something I truly desire. Yearn for. Downright covet.

It doesn’t cost a thing but time, and only a few seconds of that. It doesn’t even require talking to anyone.

So what is it?

Book reviews.

Reviews of my books.

Reviews of my press’s books.

Reviews of my friends’ books, my colleagues’ books, and even books by authors I don’t know.

Book reviews are so vital to authors. It’s practically impossible to overstate how important they are.

And it doesn’t have to be a whole page like when you were in school. Just a few words (I think Amazon requires 6. Not sure if GoodReads has a limit.) is all it takes.

So please, if a book touches you, leave a review on GoodReads or Amazon. Change an author’s life for Christmas. 😊

Something to Read

It’s that time of year. Lists to make shopping for holiday presents easier will appear with increasing frequency over the next few weeks.

For holiday (and birthday) gift-giving, I love the old saying Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

This post is to help you find that “something to read” for everyone on your list—including yourself. Some of these are new books; some are older. Most are not well known, so you’ll be helping your friends discover great new authors.

Picture book for the very young: Rockefeller by Donna Looper, illustrated by Rachel Hancock – In this uplifting tale children will meet the owl who lived in the 2020 Rockefeller Square Christmas Tree.

Chapter book for elementary-school children: What’s Up, Cody? by Brenda O’Bannion, illustrated by Katie Quinlivan – It’s a sad fact that most children will face a bully at some point. In this charming book, they can learn along with Cody, a young cowbird, what actions to take when that happens.

Middle grade: Stolen Whinnies by Wendi Threlkeld – A girl with a stutter meets a miniature horse that lost its voice in a mountain lion attack. Inspired by a true story.

Time Game series by D.A. Featherling – Twelve-year-old twins discover a game that lets them travel through time to solve mysteries.

Young adult: Hannah: The Lighthouse Girl of Newfoundland by Don Ladolcetta – In the tradition of Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables, a spirited girl grows into a confident young woman despite hardships.

The Exiled Trilogy by Katherine Barger – Nyssa, a young dream interpreter, races to save her family and others from an evil dictator.

Mystery: Smiley and McBlythe series by Bruce Hammack – How does a blind detective solve mysteries? It’s not a joke—it’s a fascinating twist on solving crime.

Agatha’s Amish B&B series by Vannetta Chapman – Cozy mysteries solved by an Amish B&B owner and her neighbor, a retired police detective.

Romance: Ranchers of Gabriel Bend series by Myra Johnson – Forbidden love between a cowboy of Hispanic heritage and a white ranch owner.

Historical: Women of Monterey series by Marilyn Read and Cheryl Spears Waugh – An aristocratic woman and a Native American face lives of turmoil in 1700s California. Also their book Beneath the Texas Sky is a great western.

Thriller: Disposable Souls by Kellie L Fuller – When Zoey uncovers a human trafficking ring, the perpetrators take her. Inspired by a true story.

Memoir/biography: Do Not Disclose by Leora Krygier – A second-generation Holocaust survivor discovers family secrets within secrets.

Memoir that reads like fiction: By and By, I Reckon by Brenda O’Bannion – A parallel memoir in which the connection between Leola and her granddaughter spills out in similar stories of poverty, love, faith, and resilience.

History: The 5th Little Girl by Tracy Snipe in conversation with Sarah Collins Rudolph – The experiences of a survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 inlaid to the story of domestic terrorism and the government’s response.

Poetry: Sweet Water edited by Yvonne Blomer – Poets across the US, Canada, and the UK write of water and life.

For your book club: Sousanna: The Lost Daughter by Sousanna Stratmann – Five-year-old Sousanna is taken from her loving Greek home to a foreign place where, unknown to her parents, she’s adopted by an American couple. Based on a true story.

For writers: Understanding Copyright, Authors Edition by Teresa Lynn (yep, me) – What authors need to know about copyright, fair use, and more.

For travelers: Travel Tales series by Winnie Bowen – a peek into the diary of a world traveler.

For people with no time to read: Try an anthology, such as Living on Covid-time. Or, an audio book. Sousanna is available on Audible.

There should be something here for anyone on your list. And no fighting crowds!