Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: Dark Visions by Jonas Saul

Kindle Edition
Imagin Books (2011)

Dark Visions is the first book in the Sarah Roberts mystery series by self-published writer, Jonas Saul.

I was kind of excited to begin reading this series, probably because the author has the last name Saul, and if he was anything like John Saul, well, I was sure to be in for a real treat. However, as with most self-published books I've read lately, or ever, I was seriously let down.

The book starts on a high note. The main character, Sarah, is an interesting character for sure. She suffers from a mental illness, trichtotillomania. That is, she has the uncontrollable urge to pull out her hair. A unique characteristic for any character in a story for sure. Not to mention she is also pyschic. An Automatic Writer. Meaning, she goes into these black out like states and when she comes to, she has written something in her notebook. A warning, a name, someone who she has to help.

One of these Automatic Writing episodes sends her to a local psyhic fair where she meets another psychic who warns her that she herself could be in danger. Lo and behold, Sarah gets kidnapped while trying to prevent another kidnapping.

Sarah Roberts, exit stage left.

From that point in the book, suddenly it's not about Sarah. She is no longer the lead character. We're taken through chapter after chapter of other characters who are trying to find Sarah. Her parents, the kidnappers, Dolan from the psychic fair, the police.

I am no expert in writing mysteries but I have definitely read a lot of them and never have I read a story where the character, who is supposed to be the one an entire series is about, becomes such a behind the scenes character. Sarah is supposed to be the hero, but for the better part of the book, she isn't even there. She does nothing except get herself kidnapped, escapes, gets herself kidnapped again and so on.

However, the action is great. The story moves forward at a good pace, albeit somewhat boring because I wanted more of Sarah Roberts and her quirky traits.

Most of the dialogue is forced and unbelievable. An interaction between Sarah's mother and father seemed like it was supposed to be heart felt and angry and show the strangled family dynamics, but instead of being sympathetic, I literally laughed and rolled my eyes through the whole scene. In fact, I didn't find I really cared about any of the characters and I really, really wanted to. Especially Sarah since there are more books about her.

Because this is Jonas Saul's first book, I think, I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt and move on to the next book in the series in the hopes that the characters become people I want to read about, who I can relate to and be excited or scared for.

If I was one to judge a book by its cover, I would say they are great, because the covers really are incredible. But when it comes down to it, it's what's between the covers, on the pages that really counts, and I was very disappointed.

But on to the next one.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday or Sunday Novel Progress, What Does it Matter Anyway?

Novel progress for February, summed up into one word, BLOWS!

Read my post from yesterday and you'll understand why. At least that is the excuse I am going to give myself and everyone else whose listening.

On the bright side, I had the first 30ish pages reviewed by a writer friend and she helped shed some serious light on the story. Now I think I can move forward. So here's the plan or commitment or whatever: I have a short story that needs to have the first draft completed by Monday. As soon as that is done, it's novel, novel, novel.

Let's see how that goes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Life and Its Many Tangles

You know how when you have a big plan to get something done and it seems there is always something preventing you from getting there? Sometimes it's simple procrastination blamed on the everyday stresses of life and sometimes some big event sets you back.

I had every intention of getting through the first draft of this novel this month. February seemed like a good month and quite frankly, I procrastinated long enough in January (and a bit into February).

And then my grandma died.

It was so fast. I talked to her on a Friday, she was great, wanted to know when I was coming to visit. Told me how weak her legs were getting, it was becoming more difficult to walk. I planned on going to see her that Sunday but then I got sick. (which incidentally I still have not recovered from)

That very same Sunday, she fell and broke her hip. I know if I HAD gone to see her, this very well may have still happened, but it's kind of impossible to not think about. It's funny, you know, as a writer we are told to play the "what if" game all the time, but when it comes to real life, we are warned against it.

Anyway, she was taken to the hospital and was prepared to undergo surgery for her hip. But remember, she was already 86 and had a myriad of other health issues that were a concern if she underwent surgery. But if she didn't, well that could be catastrophic, too.

I went to see her that Tuesday. Knelt beside her, so small and weak in a stinky hospital room that she shared with 3 other people, held her hand and told her I loved her. There are a million other things I wanted to say, but at that moment "I love you" seemed to be enough.

At the time I didn't want to admit, convinced myself she would be alright, but I knew that would be the last time I saw her.

Within a couple of days she developed pneumonia and by Friday she was gone.

My cousin and I wrote the obituary. (which, by the way, was a lot harder than I thought it would be)

The funeral was this past Monday. The week leading up seemed okay. I busied myself with work, teaching, and planning my BFF's 11th anniversary of her 29th birthday. In the midst of all this I was supposed to write a little something to say at the funeral. As it turned out, this was by far the most difficult thing I have ever written. All week, I tried but would get stalled, or it became too difficult to carry on. In fact, I didn't have anything really ready until Sunday night. All I week I tried telling myself I was having trouble because I had so many other things to do. When really, it was just that I didn't want to write it.

I was doing fine most of the time leading up, but the day we arrived in Invermere we were whisked away to my Grandma's apartment to start going through stuff. I already had what I wanted so I didn't think there was anything else I really wanted or needed. But of course, once we started going through everything there were other items I decided I needed to take. I found photos I didn't know Grandma had, I found blankets and dishes and spoons. (Grandma was a collector of little ornamental spoons.)

Everything came to a head at the gravesite. I didn't want to get out of the truck but of course I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't. It was a small service. My cousins shared memories. I shared what I could despite the fogginess of my own memories.

For the first thirteen years of my life, my grandma was the centre of my universe. She was a mother to me when my own mother was unable to be. She took me to doctor appointments, brought me soup - or a bucket - when I was sick, laughed at my mistakes even while convincing me it would be alright, and shared in my accomplishments.

I wish my memories weren't fogged by the years apart. But the things I do remember, I will hold on to forever.

Grandma taught me to play crib and never once did she let me win. In fact, I never beat her. Even in those early years she insisted I take my licks, pay my dues.

Thanks to endless hours of watching Matlock together, I developed a desire to become a lawyer that stayed with me until I graduated. Grandma never once doubted the ambitions of a pre-teen girl who didn't know any better. She told me I could be anything I wanted. At the time, I remember thinking I wanted to be just like her. Strong, determined, independant, someone who didn't take any shit from anyone. But kind when was needed, fun when it was needed, a shoulder to cry on when it was needed.

Then I moved away. In many ways I felt like an ungrateful child. The years between us grew and we lost touch. The older I got, the easier it became to not visit even when I knew I should. But she never stopped caring.

I saw it in her eyes when I brought my husband to visit for the first time. I saw it every time she laid eyes on Julianne. No matter what I did or didn't do, because of circumstances or choice, she was always there. 

And I saw it in her eyes the last time I saw her, as I knelt beside her hospital bed holding her hand. There were so many things I wanted to say, so many I'm sorrys and thank yous. Instead, our lives were summed up into three little words, the last that we spoke to each other.

I love you!

Now I am slowly getting back into the everyday. And writing. And hopefully now, the words won't stop flowing.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Father Valentine

By Madelaine Wong

Dear Father Valentine,

You can’t imagine the guilt I feel that you lay languishing in a prison cell. I begged my father, your jailer, to deliver extra blankets and food to you. After all, it’s my fault you’re there. I was the one who asked you to secretly perform the marriage ceremony between me and my beloved, a soldier. I knew it was forbidden by our most worthy Emperor Claudius II who commanded that all men in his army remain unmarried. You must understand, my husband would have been forced to draw lots. He would have been given a virgin not of his choosing and I would never have seen him again. We couldn’t bear the thought of being separated. Now, because of my selfishness, you are to be put to death.

My father is also a Christian and we both promise to do all we can to make you comfortable until your execution day.

With heartfelt thanks,


My Dearest Camilla,

I want to thank-you for sending me extra food and blankets. This prison cell is very cold. I hope you don’t mind that I distributed the food among the other inmates here.

It was my privilege to perform your wedding ceremony. Your happiness is reward enough for me. I was well aware of the law imposed by our pagan ruler and I chose instead to obey God’s laws. I am proud to have joined you and your husband, and many other young lovers, in Holy Matrimony.

It troubles me greatly that we are not allowed to practice our faith. Let us pray that the Roman persecution of Christians will soon end, so that we no longer have to hide like frightened animals. Truly, Camilla, it is enough to break my heart. Oh, the wickedness that takes place in the Coliseum! I heard that they are feeding Christians to the lions, even little children.

I will tell you that they have set the date of February 14 as my execution day. Pray for me. I will be beaten to death with clubs and then they will behead me. Camilla, I am not afraid to die. Knowing that I did God’s will is all that matters.

I wish you and your beloved many blessings and a happy life together.

Your Valentine

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Love Letters

February is the month of love. To celebrate the season, I'm putting out another call similar to the Letters to Santa. But this is all about love.

Send me your love letters or short stories with a Valentine theme. Make them gritty, gruesome, funny, sad or sentimental. Basically, anything goes.

Max. 1000 words.

Send to rzvaneck@gmail.com