A Wog Named George...
Blog... I hate that word. It’s an ugly word. It sounds like an unwanted biological function. “In the event of vomiting, diarrhea or sudden blogging, immediately discontinue use of this product and consult your doctor.”
Blog is a shortened version of “web log”. B-log. I get it, but I still don’t like it. I prefer the term wog. Wog has a warm, fuzzy element totally lacking in blog. “Hey, everyone, I’m wogging!” (Sounds like jogging, but without the knee pain.) Wog brings to mind something fuzzy and warm, like a puppy. “Look at the adorable little wog! I will love him and hug him and squeeze him and name him George!”
Alas, since I’m certain the universe will not drop the word blog in favor of wog, I suppose we’re stuck with it. In that event, I guess this is a good a time to tell our Underground readers I’m adopting a wog... I mean starting a blog.
I’m no stranger to blogging. I had a few over the past few years, but, they’re dead now. One died of neglect, one was devoured by trolls, and one I had to put down because, well, it got a little
out of hand. I buried them in the backyard next to the cat.
This time it’s going to be different, I promise. I’m going to make sure this blog has all its shots, a collar in case it gets lost, and will be fed and watered every week. I will love it, and hug it and squeeze it and name it George.
Naw.... actually, it’s just going to be called my blog. I might rename it if something catchy pops into my head at 2 in the morning. If you want to read the debut post click here
and take a look. If you like what you see, keep checking back every Wednesday for a new installment.
I know what my editor, AB, is thinking: “This blog is your
responsibility, Brian. You have to take care of it, take it for walks, and clean up after it.” Yes, AB, I promise I’ll take care of it.
Anyway, there isn’t any room left in my backyard to bury another wog.
As with many of the authors I review, I have had the privilege of getting to know Terri Marie as a person. I find Ms. Marie down-to-earth, personable, wears her heart on her sleeve and unafraid to voice opinions, especially when it comes to being kind to your fellow man. Ms. Marie is on a mission; a mission to complete three novels in a series entitled The Ties That Bind. Running From Beige is the first in her trilogy.
Welcome to the Underground, Terri Marie!
Kimberly: Please share with us a bit of your background.
Ms. Marie: The most important thing about me is that I’m a mother to two wonderful children. Those who have experienced being a single parent understand both the rewards and the struggles involved. I’m proud that booth of my children attend college. For many years, I worked as a nurse and then began working and volunteering at non-profit facilities. I’ve stayed pretty busy and in my spare time (whenever that happened!) I wrote stories.
Kimberly: When did you start writing and is Running from Beige your first novel?
Ms. Marie: Being a single parent, money wasn’t plentiful. I couldn’t always afford to take my children places. The stories I would read to my children is how we traveled to fun destinations. When they were in grade school, I began to write a story. My goal was to have a family keepsake bound and give it to them when they were older. Before I knew it, all of the children in my life, including my nephews and a niece, ended up being a part of the book. Over two hundred pages later, my family encouraged me to get it published. Finding an agent was, to say the least, disheartening. My book sat on a shelf for almost twenty years when I came across the topic of self-publishing. In October of 2011, after many mistakes and attempts, The Shack, Merry and a Cat Named Cha-moan, a children’s action and adventure novel was published.
Running from Beige was my second novel and took three years to complete. I would start writing, come to painful parts and walk away. Sometimes I wouldn’t write for weeks or months. I relied heavily on the supportive words of my friends and family to move forward. Writing Running From Beige was one of the most difficult things I’ve accomplished.
Kimberly: What made you want to write a novel about abuse?
Ms. Marie: The abuse of women is pandemic. When I was fifteen, a gym teacher asked me about the bruises on my arms. I told him the truth; that my boyfriend hurt me. “Stop pissing him off,” was the teacher’s response. This seems to be the mentality of many in society. I was a victim of several forms of abuse in different relationships. I used to cringe when I heard a woman say, “Well, he doesn’t abuse me. I mean he would never hit me.” It’s important the public is educated. Until they are, women are going to continue to die from domestic abuse. Not just by their abuser’s hands, but by their own. If a woman is emotionally neglected, verbally beaten down to nothing, cheated on, etc., it sometimes leads to suicide. Even though Running from Beige was painful to write, it was my way of reaching out to as many women as possible.
Running From BeigeAuthor:
: Best friends, Suzy convinces Connie to toss the apron, put away the pots and pans and run away from home. Tired of overbearing ‘good old boys’ husbands, just like Thelma and Louise, they hit the road to try and reclaim who they once were. During a three day women’s conference for abused women, the two meet Karen who is trying to escape an abusive husband who will kill her if he finds out where she is. Sharing a motel room, the three share their hopes, disappointments and dreams. Together, they learn to laugh again, experience the joy they’d thought they left behind long ago. When the conference ends, each are faced with a decision; should they go back home or begin a whole new life? Each woman makes a different choice. As their friendship grows, Running From Beige
is a reminder that if we aren’t here for each other, we lose something very important in life; the power of sisterhood.Quote
: Is this really all I amounted to after being a good mother and obeying wife for twenty years? Just a drab pile of clothes? When you are treated like you’re worth nothing, you really do begin to believe it. A loose pile of ugliness with no spine, unable to stand up on its own. Once I cross this one point, there is no turning back. This is my ticket to freedom. This is my ticket to everything. This is where I make it or I don’t, where I find out who I am.Opinion
: Running From Beige
is a great title for this book. Beige is blah, beige is safe, beige camouflages the real color that expresses how we feel inside. The novel has powerful, intimate moments sandwiched between the pages. There were times I felt the dialogue could dig a little deeper to express the heartfelt emotions, but overall a well thought out and emotional story. During the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, wives poured through books on how to make their husbands happy, or how to keep him at home, and television series such as Mad Men
was more real than some would like to admit. After decades of redefining who women are, the ‘stronger’ sex may want to think about downloading books such as Ms. Marie’s to avoid miscommunication. I look forward to reading future works of this fresh, new novelist.Rating:
4.5 out of 5 starsLinks to follow Terri Marie:Terri Marie's website
Terri Marie on Goodreads
Running From Beige on Amazon
If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
I have been a fan of Christopher Moore ever since I read Lamb: The Bible According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. The novel is told through the eyes of Biff, a philandering troublemaker who also happens to be Christ’s best friend.
A bestselling author with twelve novels published and a thirteenth coming out in April, Chris is hardly an “underground” figure. But, like everyone else, he had to start somewhere. I’m excited to invite Chris to the Underground to speak about the origins of his career, and to offer some friendly advice for aspiring authors.
AB: According to your website, you’ve worked as “a roofer, a grocery clerk, a hotel night auditor, an insurance broker, a waiter, a photographer, and a rock and roll DJ.” That’s quite a list! At what point did you decide you wanted to be an author, as well?
Chris: Well, I did a lot of those things while I was trying to become a writer. There's no track, like being a doctor or a lawyer, you just have to try to do it and hope you're successful. In the mean time, you have to make rent. I think I was 25 or 26 when I decided I wanted to write for a living, really go for it. I was selling insurance at the time. It was eight years before I finished and sold a book, and during that time I did most of the things you listed.
AB: I’ve often heard that as a new author, you aren’t ready to publish until you’ve written two or three books. Had you written any novels before Practical Demonkeeping?
Chris: No. I had started a couple but always got stuck in the rewriting of the first few chapters. With Demonkeeping I resolved that I wouldn't rewrite a word until I have a full first draft and I didn't.
AB: How long did it take for you to write Practical Demonkeeping? Now that you have more experience, is the process any faster? What have you learned over the years to make novel-writing easier?
Book Title: My Bonus Mom: Taking the Step out of Stepmom
Author: Tami Butcher
Published By: Five Star Publications
Publication Date: August, 2011
Tami Butcher promised herself that one day she would write a children’s book while teaching students at Phoenix Prep Academy. Drawing on her own childhood experience, she decided to write about the positive influence a stepparent can have on a child’s life. Today, Tami is busy promoting her book while helping to run the family restaurant business and raising three children.
Amy: Tami, thank you so much for joining us. Your book, My Bonus Mom, beautifully addresses a subject that gets a lot of negative attention which is the stepparent role in a child’s life. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for the book? Did the idea come from a personal experience?
Tami: This book is based on my life story as a child. My parents were divorced when I was 11 years old and this book takes a reader through all the emotions and feelings that a child might go through when facing divorce. It then leads you in a positive direction by talking about a stepmom as being a “bonus” in your life, which Nancy was. She was another person to love me, mentor my sisters and I and help me become the woman I am today. Not a person to take mom’s place, but a bonus in my life.
Amy: There are some wonderful illustrations in the book. Could you tell us about your experience working with an illustrator? Did you know Feras Nouf before you wrote the book or did your publisher put you together? What was it like to see your words translated into pictures?
Tami: This is an interesting and sad story. I have never met Feras. He is from Syria. I found him by looking at some children’s illustrators on the internet and finding a couple of books that he illustrated. We talked via email only. I would send him pictures of my family, Nancy, Mom, Dad and he took my live pictures and turned them into beautiful illustrations. We worked together nearly a year, never meeting face to face. When the book was published of course he was the first person I wanted to tell. However, I have not been able to reach him in over a year. I am not sure if it is from all the uproar in Syria, that there is minimal internet over there, or what may be the answer? I hope and pray that Feras is alive and well, only time will tell.
Katie here. I want to take a moment to introduce my good friend and writing partner, Amy Grossklaus. Amy wowed us with the excerpt of The Defiant last month. Now she is back with our first ever picture book review. Welcome, Amy!Guest review :
Since the earliest days of storytelling, fairy tales have provided readers with wonderful characters and enchanting settings that capture both young and old hearts. But while they are wonderfully creative, fairy tales have also cast a pall over the concept of what it means to be a “stepmother”. That is why Tami Butcher’s My Bonus Mom: Taking the Step out of Stepmom
is so refreshing. It attacks this stereotype head on and debunks the myth that all stepmothers must be cruel.
Let’s be honest, as kids we all shivered when the evil stepmother locked Cinderella in the basement just as Prince Charming arrived with the glass slipper. We gasped when the twisted stepmother of Snow White convinced her to chomp into the poisoned apple. There was even an episode of The Brady Bunch
, for those of you older than forty, which played off the idea of the wicked stepmother. So it is refreshing to finally read a children’s book that puts the idea of being a stepmother into a much more realistic and caring light.
In rhythmic verse, My Bonus Mom
tells the story of an eleven year-old girl learning of her parents impending divorce. It follows her emotional ups and downs as she begins to navigate this new life, and hits on one of the most troubling aspects of divorce: when a parent finds new love. While frightening at first, she learns this new person isn’t there to compete for her parent’s affection, but can actually become a “bonus” in her life. A wonderfully refreshing approach to a subject that is so topical today.
I highly recommend this engaging children’s story as it instantly grabbed me by the heart. Butcher’s heartfelt prose addresses every child’s fear in this daunting situation. The story does not gloss over the hardships children encounter like days away from Mom or Dad, and worries about being replaced in a parent’s heart. Rather, it honestly deals with the realities of the situation and shows how something positive can come out of a negative situation.
LINKSMy Bonus Mom
and Barnes and NobleOfficial website for My Bonus MomMy Bonus Mom on FacebookAbout our guest reviewer, Amy Grossklaus:
After working and writing in the advertising/public relations field for over fifteen years, Amy now focuses her time completely on fiction writing. Currently editing her second manuscript, she tries to balance her time between family, freelance consulting and community service work. She currently has a blog
which chronicles her experiences as she navigates the publishing industry as a new writer. If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower -but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Annalise sat in the small patch of grass to the left of the house watching her daughter watch a toad. She sat very still, her knees bent, back straight, palms pressing into the ground, pushing down deep to feel the cool swell of the moist dirt. The too tall grass licked at the back of her calves. Ants crawled up and around the thick blades. A fewested her flesh for greater purchase. Her body lotion proved to be too strong a deterrent. She would not move. Not for the tickling grass or the ants. Not for the cool breeze that she should have a sweater on for. Not for the sun peaking up over the silver maple, beaming directly into her eyes. Not if Willow called to her. She would not move.
Jaden’s voice rang out to Willow’s spot under her favorite silver maple, trunk size five and three-quarter inches in diameter, recorded on card number three hundred twenty-four. Willow’s deck contained cards on all the species of trees surrounding their house. And all the mushrooms. And grasses. Now her research led her from floral to fauna, starting at the bottom of the animal kingdom with reptiles and amphibians. Willow, pen in one hand and stick in the other, poked at a Northern American toad hunkered down in the shade of a fallen log. She counted the pokes, none touching the toad directly, but rather striking the ground in front of him, and recorded the number of strikes on the card tacked to the silver maple by a bit of chewing gum.
“Willow?” This time as a question.
“Yes,” Willow called back. She made two more strikes at the ground and then shrugged. No defensive toad poison to be seen today. She slipped the Northern American toad card back into her completed card stack and capped her pen. She raced down the hill to Jaden.
Andy Gavin studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game company Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best-selling Crash Bandicoot
and Jak & Daxter
franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and history books, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes.BRIAN:
Andy, welcome to the Underground. It’s a pleasure to have you here. I must admit, you’re one of the most fascinating guests we’ve had here at the Underground. You’re a very successful software developer, but what went through your mind that made you take up writing? ANDY:
From at least high school on I always intended to write a bunch of novels. Work just got in the way.
And the thing about making games is that you can no longer do it mostly by yourself. These days, most games are big teams of over a hundred people, with budgets over 50 million dollars. All that means that it’s not about your creative expression (most of the time), but about getting it done, well, on time, and on budget. And the roll of team lead is largely about firefighting and resource (achem...people) wrangling.
So, I really wanted to focus directly on the creative aspects. Dozens of story ideas have been bouncing around in my head for years, and I felt it was time to let a couple of them out.BRIAN:
These days readers often roll their eyes at the thought of yet another vampire novel. Yet, in Darkening
you made vampires fresh again by returning to their mystical roots. What led you to write a vampire novel for your first book?ANDY:
There are two answers to that, the visceral and the cerebral. With The Darkening Dream
, the visceral part was this image I had – and some might consider me disturbed – of a dead tree silhouetted against an orange sky, a naked body bound to it, disemboweled, and bleeding out. The sound of a colossal horn or gong blares. The blood glistens black in the sunset light. Bats circle the sky and wolves bay in the distance. But sacrifice isn’t just about killing. It’s a contract. Someone is bargaining with the gods. And on the cerebral side, I've always been a huge vampire fan and I've read and watched a large percentage of the oeuvre. But also as a history buff I wanted to write a supernatural story that was more grounded in real history and legend. I'm always thinking, "that could have been so much better if they didn't make up the historical backstory" so I started with the villains. What kind of ancient evil creatures might still be around? What do they want? And what legitimate human reason would they have to destroy the world (Buffy-style)? I don't exactly answer the question in TDD, because the motives of 5,000 year old baddies should be mysterious. But trust me, they have a plan, and the sheer audacity of it will literally shake the foundations of the heavens.BRIAN:
The occult, magic, mystical and religious references abound in Darkening
. While I was reading I kept wondering how much of this was research-based and how much was coming from your imagination. ANDY:
In constructing The Darkening Dream
I wanted the meta-story to play off conventional tropes. Broadly, a cabal of ancient supernatural beings has sent one of their number to recover an artifact needed to destroy the world. And surprise, it turns out a group of teens are all that stands between them and Armageddon.
How much more Buffy
can you get?
But that’s just the high level. I also wanted to ground this preposterous scenario in real history and legend. So as a methodology, in designing my array of supernatural beings and occult practitioners I turned to historic sources. Before our modern science and technology rendered magic quaint, it was the domain of religion and superstition. Of belief.
And each spiritual and magical system has its own framework. Proponents wrote out of certainty, out of faith. I merely dig up their writings and take them at their word. So in essence, it’s all researched, but I adapt it from real belief systems into those that work in a story framework.
If someone offered me a choice between having my eyeballs gouged out by a feral cat or reading a vampire novel I’d have to think hard about it. When I got into the book review business I promised myself I would stay clear of anything that sucked, especially anything that sucked blood. Therefore, I only grudgingly picked up Andy Gavin’s indie vampire novel The Darkening Dream
after someone I trusted talked me into it.
After the first ten pages I couldn’t put it down. I still hate vampire books, but I love The Darkening Dream
Perhaps the best way to describe The Darkening Dream
is a Dusk Till Dawn
with just a dash of Buffy
and The Mummy
thrown in to spice it up. While you’re trying to wrap your mind around that, I’ll just say this book is the most original novel I’ve read in years and has made me an instant Andy Gavin fan.
The Darkening Dream
tells the story of two teenagers in pre-World War I Salem, Massachusetts. Sarah is the daughter of a rabbi, who she comes to learn is a powerful wizard. Alex is a young Greek immigrant with a wizened grandfather harboring dark secrets of his own. Over the course of the book Sarah and Alex fall in love and stumble on a plot run by an evil sorcerer in league with an ancient vampire. We also meet a kinky blue demon, a painting with an attitude, and an Egyptian beetle-god. They’re all looking for a mystical artifact that holds the power of the universe and Sarah is the key to finding it.
Unlike most horror novels, Darkening
is character driven. Gavin’s characters draw you in because of the seamless way he changes point of view from character to character. This simultaneously gives Darkening
depth and speed.
The villains make this novel especially delicious. Gavin paints Nasir as a classic vampire while giving him a very human, yet twisted, practicality. But the vampire is not the best villain in this book. That honor belongs to the evil sorcerer and his sexually insatiable succubus girlfriend, who’s so bad she’s good. They steal the show and deserve their own sequel.
Even though the protagonists are young, this book is clearly not YA (Gavin classifies Darkening
as “dark historical fantasy.”) It’s chocked full with violence, gore, and wizard-on-blue-demon sex. It is suitable for ages 18 and up.
My only minor critique of Darkening
is Gavin didn’t fully develop the town of Salem itself. The period setting of early 1900’s Massachusetts never came alive and felt like a missed opportunity in what I otherwise found was a flawless story.
I’m astonished The Darkening Dream
could have been passed up by any agent or mainstream publisher. Andy Gavin unearths a tired genre I thought was long past its prime, injects it with a spurt of fresh blood and sends it into the night to with a blood-curdling 95 out of 99 cents. 99 cents of Andy Gavin links:
All things Andy Gavin
The Darkening Dream, free sample chapters
Find it on Amazon
Andy's next novel, Untimed
Find Andy Gavin on Facebook
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You can also follow Brian Braden on Facebook and Twitter and buy his book, Carson's Love.
If you want to read the first chapter of Brandi's novel, Tarnished,
leave a comment in the 'comments' section of this blog post. In order for your vote to count, you must have an email subscription to the Underground. If Brandi has ten or more votes by next Friday (May l8th) her first chapter will post on Underground Book Reviews.
Welcome, Brandi, to the Underground!
When I first met Brandi Megan Granett last December in New York City, I felt an immediate connection. Not only did her novel sound captivating, but she was an intriguing person. Although time was limited at the Algonkian Conference to really delve in and get to know another emerging author, I want to introduce Brandi to the Underground as I feel our readers will find her life not only interesting, but a breath of fresh air!Kimberly:
When did you start writing? Can you share with us the first thing you ever wrote? Ms. Granett
: I remember writing when I was in the third grade. My first short story was published in the elementary school newspaper. I knew then I wanted to be a writer.Kimberly:
Will you give us an overview of what your book is about?Ms. Granett: Tarnished
, set in the 1960’s, is the story of eleven year old Willow who always dreamed of discovering new things. But she never imagined discovering a magical gift. When holding treasures or trinkets made of silver, Willow’s mind’s eye explodes with the memories linked to the silver. When her mother’s depression takes them from their home in Allegheny Mountains on a trip to her grandmother’s house in the Everglades, Willow learns that she must balance the knowledge her gift reveals with the delicate constitution of her family. Tarnished
is told in the alternating voices of Willow, her mother, Annalise, and her grandmother, Julianna.Kimberly:
Is there a message in your novel that you wanted to convey to the reader? How did you come up with the idea? Ms. Granett
: I began this novel as part of the National Write a Novel in a Month Contest. A poet friend of mine, Gregg Glory asked me to do the competition with him. I was taking a Stats class at the time, and I said no, I was too busy. Then a musician friend from high school, Eric Squindo emailed that he and his girlfriend were selling everything to go live in the woods and write. This lit a fire under me, and I started writing Tarnished
as part of NaNoWriMo. (National Write A Novel In A Month Contest) Finishing this novel felt like winning the NYC Marathon.
As this was written in a rush, logging 2000 words a day, I’m not sure where the inspiration came from. I just knew I wanted to tell a story with a homeschooled girl in it as I was homeschooling my daughter, Megan, at the time. Each day I would start off at the end of the last sentence and just see where the story took me.
The message I want to convey is about the danger of secrets in your family and the danger of letting our past define out future. While revising this book, I found myself looking at Willow, Annalisa, and Julianna as extensions of myself; prior to this revision I would have never thought I wrote about “myself” but these characters clearly work through my own unfinished business.Kimberly:
Tell us about you; writing is a tedious career. Do you do anything to release the tension after sitting at your computer for hours?