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Best Dressed Books

The number of great indie books out there is astounding – beyond what I think most people truly understand. I’ve been in this business long enough to have learned that the legacy publishers don’t always pick the greats, which leaves more for the discerning public. Every author that I have added to my “lifetime favorites” list in the past 2 years has been an indie author. The general public, they don’t quite get this yet. I think that when indie “packaging” meets a professional standard, that begins to change.

The packaging for a book comes down to just two things. The cover and the blurb. One or the other is the *only* thing you have to grab reader’s attention. They’ve both got to be well crafted and professionally honed or you *will* lose potential readers.

Most people “cover surf.” In book stores, they scan the shelves and only touch the books that have covers that they are attracted to; no touch=no chance for purchase. Similarly, on the internet, they scroll through a ton of books and only click when a cover catches their eye; no click = no chance for purchase. The cover has to catch their eye so the blurb can keep them interested. Lack of attention to either element and an author’s best tool for marketing falls flat on its face.


A book release is like its red carpet debut. What do you want it to be wearing? Would you remember a celebrity walking down the red carpet in an off-the-rack or homemade gown. Those celebrities want to be remembered for what they are wearing and how they are styled in a positive way. They take a long time planning, and spend a fortune on the way they “package” themselves for an event. They understand the marketing opportunity of their attire and they grab it and run with it.

Book covers should be considered in the same light. Possibly given even more consideration, since a book usually gets only one red carpet gown. So pay attention to what you’re dressing your books in. They’ve taken months, years, and sometimes decades to produce. Give them the packaging they deserve. Plan ahead, hire someone who knows what it takes to make a book speak for itself. Without the right cover and the right blurb, a book might walk right by the spectators and go completely unnoticed and unrecognized as the masterpiece it is.

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Happy New Year 2014!

It's hard to believe, but another year has come and gone!

For me, personally, I have continued to remain clean & sober, and been proud to pass the message of recovery onto those who are still sick and suffering, or simply not living with enough self-esteem or self-confidence in order to reach their full potential.

I make no secrets about the fact that for many years - decades, actually - I was simply going through the motions in life, rather than living each day with a purpose.

However, after being released from prison in 2004 and getting my book, "Jew in Jail" published, I now wake up each and every single morning with gratitude and fulfillment, proud of how far I have come, yet knowing there is still much more to be done.

I have learned that true happiness is derived not from material possessions such as money, cars or jewelry, but by peace of mind, goodwill towards others, and love of family and friends.

For 2014, I hope to be blessed with even more opportunities to spread the message of recovery from addiction and keep motivating and inspiring others, no matter what difficulties they are experiencing, either via my blog, book, or in person at the various venues I am asked to attend.

What does the new year have in store for you?

Hopefully, 2014 will be the greatest year of your life, as you surround yourself with positive, loving people, who help make you the best person you were born to be!

After all, you are definitely worth it!

If you haven't read my book, "Jew in Jail" yet, I strongly urge you to do so.

It tells the story of how I was finally able to decide to turn my life around from my past addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling, under the worst conditions imaginable of being a minority behind bars.

In addition, I also invite all of you to check out this speech I delivered in October of 2012 to a group of inmates who graduated from a drug program at a jail in Richmond, Virginia, to demonstrate that, regardless of one's past, it is possible to overcome any difficulty and go on to lead a productive, positive and successful life.

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Aspiring to be journalists, worldwide the department of journalism and media studies is providing undergraduate students, the tools and technology to enhance journalism skills, preparing them to become better equipped journalists, professionals, researchers and community members to produce quality service by getting the public informed.

Lack of leadership gives rise to the proliferation of chaos, insecurity and economic mayhap and other problems. The same way a country without competent and effective journalists and media professionals, brews problems ranging from hatred, violence, mistrust, misleading, to crime. Frankly speaking a country without a journalist is alike to a country without a leader.

While under training in the field of journalism, a journalist has some rules to adhere to. These rules are the code of ethics. The code is to ensure that members adhere to the highest ethical standards, professiona competence and good behavior in carrying out their duties. Code of ethics governing journalism doesn’t differ, but commonly the same internationally. Every professional journalist is expected to try to convey a fair and reliable account to the general public.

The task of a journalist is to transmit reliable and neutral information, diverse opinions and to enable participation in the public debate. Freedom of speech must be accompanied by responsibility for any material published in the press or through radio, television or the Internet.

The public have the right to unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information as well as express themselves freely through the media. A journalist should not originate material, which encourages discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, color, creed, gender or sexual orientation.

Under no circumstances should news or a publication be suppressed unless it borders on national security or is in public interest to do so. Unfortunately the code of ethics has been completely abused by thousands of journalists yesterday and today. Many are no longer interested to read the newspapers. When you asked readers the reason, the answers are always the same, “There is nothing interesting or educative in the newspaper these days.” Writings with the aim of causing confusion, dividing the public and stemming from prejudice to hatred in the society are what is often read.

Like a bad judge, completely forgetting of his sworn oath before office, many journalists have forgotten about the code of ethics which they should dwell on to work efficiently. A journalist can write an article about crime and its effect in the society but when he fails to come to the conclusion with suggestions on how to deal with the problems, makes the whole article meaningless. This kind of writing is with many journalists, only to criticize but have no words on how to create peace or solve problems in the society.

There is much evidence to dwell on that the media today is losing its credibility. Some writings aren’t clear, due to conflicting issues and of certain media practices of serving their interests above everything else, which have raised eyebrows, casting a gloomy shadow on the media or journalistic ethics, based on truthfulness, honesty, fairness, accountability, impartiality and objectivity. There are thousands of journalists but only few in the field are committed and dedicated to fair journalism.

We mustn’t forget about the pollution of the electronic media. Too much violence, violent adverts, sex, pornographic images and immoralities on the television and internet, adversely affecting the behavior of children, have undermined the credibility of the media as well. Journalists should remember the responsibility as media professionals and their role in the society. The foundation supporting the modern news industry is efficiency, transparency, in this way; the credibility of the media mustn’t be squandered by incompetent journalists.

Has any journalist ever sat down to ask himself deeply “Am I sincere in regard to my work?” It’s a fact that many journalists have lost their lives for speaking or publishing the truth, but that shouldn’t prevent a journalist to expose scandals, speak the truth and continue deceiving the public. That guilt of lies and lack of confidence might haunt a journalist for the rest of his life.

“Let the truth deprived you of friends or send you to your untimely grave, if one calls him or herself a committed and dedicated journalist, better than living a life of false pretense.” 

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Sweet Memories of Christmas in Africa As a Child


Christmas is a joyous season full of love. As an occasion which symbolizes peace, giving and sharing, adults love it. So guess what it is like for a child when it is Christmas time? As a child growing up in Africa, the approaching of Christmas every year is considered a special occasion. At the end of the year, my father’s hard work could provide at least two chickens for delicious meal for the entire family, my mother, five brothers and three sisters.

My father wasn't rich but he tried to make his children very happy. Part of his education as a journalist in Europe, had influenced him and therefore used fork and knife to eat all his meals. It was the laying of his table and the fork and knife issue,I suffered every day.

I always forget to put the fork at the right place. My big head received a hard knock each time I made a mistake. I nearly told my father please you are not a white man eat with your hand. But I held my peace, because I would have received the biggest punishment I hadn't requested for. It’s rare to find television those days in the sixties and early seventies. Only few had them. My father had one after his journalism course sponsored by Frederich Ebert Foundation in West Germany, before the fall of the iron curtain in 1989.

Technology wasn't yet ripe. When the valves of the television get heated, the picture freezes and the screen becomes blurred. We hate it when watching interesting programs and such things happen. ‘Open and close’ was the system of how we watched our television for years. On Christmas Eve, my father comes home with small round biscuits in a tin called Piccadilly biscuits. With happiness we open our palms to get ours.

The biscuit was meant to be eaten but everyone is scared to eat his or hers because when it’s finished you can’t get any more till the next day. With our plastic cups, my father shares two bottles of Fanta equally, making us the happiest children in the whole world. He was a great father who loves his children in a special way.

“Where are all the flowers gone?” I would ask. It’s great to be a child. I missed those special days but they aren't coming back again. At times I sit behind a full bottle of Fanta,(not sharing with any one) but feel miserable like a church mouse, when two bottles of the same drink made us the happiest children in the whole world. Life is beautiful and wonderful. We should try and give that special love we had from our parents to our children. Wishing everyone a safe happy Christmas and prosperous New Year in advance.

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Military Musical Chair Mystery

Safely on the ground and a little worse for the wear, Robert
Ford, cargo plane owner and Carolyn Hanes, authoress are greeted
by uniformed men by the score. They are cordial, but seem to be
distracted, like they had just seen a ghost.

“Can we inspect your plane?” One of many asks a question without
inflection, giving it a demanding slant. “Standard procedure.” As if
they would know the difference.

Military Quonset Hut

“Yeah, I guess, but you won’t find anything,” Ford says as they
are led to a large Quonset hut. He whispers to Lyn along the way,
“Act as if we didn’t see anything.

Before she can even so much as nod, there is a huge explosion,
accompanied by a plume of smoke. The sound reaches them seconds
later. “. . . . one thousand six, one thousand seven,” Ford times the gap
between sight and sound. “One hundred miles northeast, hmmm.”

“What did you say, Ford,” asks a nearby Air Force officer?

“I was telling Miss Hanes that we covered the last hundred miles
with ease. Must be the desert air?”

“Sergeant Smith will guide you from here.”

Without hesitation, the officer joins an armada of military vehicles
racing off to the north and east. It is clear that they were not expecting
the blast. Two helicopters are dispatched to the scene. They will be at
the expected crater long before the ground vehicles.

In a weak moment, Sgt. Smith slips, “Some strange things going on around here these days.” Sometimes one can only shake one’s head. “Come this way.”

____304 Gwendolyn Hoff

They have entered an infirmary type building and are shunted into an empty room, save a table, five chairs and two guards.

“Musical chairs is one of my favorite party games and I believe
we need more people to play. How about you guys?” Lyn is trying to
ease the mounting tension. The guards will have nothing of it.

Smith directs them to the two chairs facing the other three, with
four feet between them. “Before we begin, I need to warn you that
this woman may not have anything to say. She pops in and out of
reality. It affects the way she communicates. One minute she seems
perfectly normal, totally out of it the next. We have had our best
psychological people examine her. The only thing they agree on is
that she is missing more than her memory.”

“Missing what?” Lyn wonders.

“One kidney and part of her frontal lobe,” contributes the newest
addition to the room. He is dressed mostly in white, distinguishing
himself from anyone else they have seen. “With no signs of surgery,
I might add. I have heard of people being born with one kidney, but
the human brain mass never deviates from its shape. Content maybe,
but not shape.”

“And you are . . . . who?” Lyn is losing her patience. “We have
flown across country, at your invitation and all we are getting are silver
streaks, explosions and what seems to be a military runaround.”

“Excuse my oversight, folks, but this case has me baffled. I used to
think my name was Ben Wright, now I’m not sure.” He instructs the
guards, “Tell the attendants to bring the patient.”

Military Musical Chair Mystery

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A Look Behind the Scenes of The Writer Died


Child neglect and abuse are global issues of concern. In Europe, America and other advanced countries, even though no amount of compensation could heal the scars from physical and mental injury, there are organizations set up to restore the confidence of a neglected child.

In Africa it is entirely different. A neglected child has nowhere to go and sometimes no place to sleep but daily faces the hallucinations of the world. It is the right of every child to be educated but a neglected child stays out of the classroom. No one cares to help because of the finances involved.

It became a task and responsibility to Kumbe, the main character of the book to educate himself because of his intelligence, after his father divorced his mother and neglected him. In a continent which education is in complete crisis, there are no words to describe the plight of an African child. They trade to raise money to be at school. Unfortunately some can’t afford to buy text books.

Imagine a school without a roof as they sit and learn under shady trees. Imagine a child who carries his table and chair to learn and after school carries them back home. The classrooms haven’t any tables and chairs thus; the parents who like to educate their children must provide those tables and chairs themselves.

This educational crisis in Africa is known universally. This has created a gloomy shadow on many Africans and many think every African isn’t well educated, facing discrimination worldwide in advanced countries. Yet there are doctors, engineers and pilots in Africa. The fact that an African student lacks a computer doesn’t mean he isn’t clever.

Kumbe became one of Africa’s greatest journalists attached to the president of his country, Kwame Nkrumah, for official duties. He gained scholarship from ‘The Fredrich Ebert Foundation” an organization in Germany, which promotes democracy, political education, students of outstanding intellectual abilities and personality. He also studied Journalism in London when he became a senior political correspondent.

“The writer Died’ is a book recommended for those hungry for diversity of culture. Many would ask Africa is rich in mineral resources and diverse culture but why is the continent behind in education and development? Even though corruption plays an important part in Africa’s economic crisis, the colonial masters also did Africa more harm than good. They killed the continent but it survived by God’s will.

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Rosa the last flower

After 40 years spent abroad, I returned to Annaba to see Rosa.

Rosa is a rose like no other; it is the most beautiful rose of the garden called the garden of love.

When I arrived to the garden that was the surprise! I found Rosa alone, gray and sad, I told her: Rosa where is your smile? you were an inspiration to authors and poets, you sing, you dance, you radiate joy and happiness for adults, children, and lovers.

She told me : kan Zamen كان زمان it was time of flowers , we saw life in pink, now look around you , the garden is full of garbage and dirt, they don’t call me Rosa as before, they call me blossom junk, the pollution affecting the air , greenery and even the words of everyday .

Before we had all the year for love, today we just have a Saint Valentine day, this day you are offered an artificial rose that has no soul or smell like the smile, friendship and love.

I returned home so shocked I did not find the words to describe my sadness.

The second day I returned to the garden, Rosa is not!

They say she is dead, others say she went with a group of Harraga to reach the other shore of the Mediterranean, nobody knows the truth.

I have not lost hope to found Rosa, she probably will return one day.

     And you; have you found your Rosa?


Adel Kherouf



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Dear (insert YOUR name here).

Hello (insert YOUR name here).

It's been a while since we last spoke, and I just felt like this was a good time to reveal some of my innermost thoughts to you.

Although I have gone through so much in life, my resourcefulness has never wavered, and I realize that my past has not only made me strong, but I possess unlimited potential to do anything I choose to in life.

I may have allowed so many fantastic opportunities to slip through my fingertips due to my past behavior and indiscretions, but know that there are plenty of good years ahead for me to achieve my goals in life.

I have also learned that true friends are those people who love and care about you regardless of how much money you have in the bank, what type of car you drive, or what you can do for them.

In short, a true friend will remain loyal no matter what, and I have gained so much invaluable insight into that and other facts, which has helped me grow as a person myself.

Another thing I have learned is to show compassion for others, since there are always those who will have less than what I do, and everything in life is relative.

Therefore, instead of worrying about what I do not have, I simply wake up each and every single morning to count my blessings on how truly fortunate I am.

I am certainly not perfect, since there is no such thing as perfection in the first place.

However, if I continue to stay on my current path of learning and growing as a person, I will consider myself to be a success.

I have no idea what my future holds, but what I do know is that my past mistakes and experiences in life have made me the person I am today.

So, (insert YOUR name here), thank you so much for always sticking with me through thick and thin, and let's continue to take on the world together!


If you haven’t read my book, “Jew in Jail” yet, I hope you do.

It is chock full of insightful information on how I was able to recover from my past addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling while incarcerated, and go on to lead a happy and healthful life myself.

Until next time, everyone, have a great day, and week ahead!

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The balancing act of life…

Deena Hammond is a 24 year old architect living and working in her home town of Miami, Florida.  In some ways Deena is very successful, but she comes from a poor background, and in many ways she is still inextricably tied up with those origins.  Her grandmother, Emma Hammond, who brought Deena up, is constantly demanding and never satisfied.  Deena’s adult brother Anthony is a small-time criminal, and her sister Lizzie, though still at school, is incorrigibly wayward and seems headed for a disaster of a life.  Deena is half African-American and half white and feels that she was never really accepted by the black side of her family when they took her in as a child.  In very harrowing circumstances Deena meets Takumi (Tak for short) Tanaka, the son of her world famous, distant and demanding boss Daichi Tanaka.  Immediately the personal chemistry and attraction seems right, but everything else between these two people seems impossible.  Deena is a mere underling.  Should she even be talking to the son of the owner of the business she works for?  What is more Deena’s family very much expects her to date a black man.  Can these two people overcome the odds and form a friendship, or even the romance they both desire?


Shewanda Pugh’s Crimson Footprints can certainly be classified as a romance; however, it is much more than that.  It is a story of class consciousness and racial division.  It is about the struggle to find the right equilibrium between work and family, and it is a story about trying to ‘do the right thing’.  Most of all, this novel is about balance in all things.  We are all different, but we must overcome our resistances and come to the centre ground if we are truly going to be a success in life.


10916215665?profile=originalPugh has managed to successfully weld sweet romance with biting ‘slice of life’.  Romance, especially the first phase, usually seems enjoyable, even with its ups and downs and Pugh captures the pleasant nature of first love well.  Mixed in with these chapters, though, are insights into the often seedy, cruel world of the lower class.  This juxtaposition works very well, jarring us, and reminding us that while life can seem pleasurable, there is always harshness, perhaps not too distant from us.  There is considerable irony in the contrasts between Deena’s romance, and her striving for career success, and Lizzie’s pure-flesh ‘sexploits’ and base efforts to get ahead (for example the Ch. 7 / Ch. Ch. 8 contrast).  Pugh’s phrasing, particularly at peak moments, is often excellent, lifting her prose from the mundane.  In Chapter 1, for example, which describes the run down suburb of Liberty City, we read of “Torn fences that imprison rather than embellished” the houses which Deena passes.  This care with words, and occasionally poetic turn of phrase, helps to mark out the book as more than the average read.  There are moments of pure humour, particularly the events surrounding Takumi’s cousin Mike and his fumbling attempts to capture Deena’s attention (CH. 47 & following).  There are also moments of true shock and also scenes of high drama that take us far from the average world of romance.  Pugh has included occasional swearing, and sex is very openly discussed and depicted.  This may offend conservative readers, but is certainly justified by the themes, characters and story line.


The book has a more unusual plot structure.  Part One (Ch. 1 - 7) serves as a general introduction to the Hammond and Tanaka families, and to Deena’s work.  The plot peaks early, then builds as complications follow.  Part Two (Ch. 8 – 42) is a very long section covering Tak and Deena’s extended holiday road-trip across much of the U.S.  Romance blooms as Deena learns to loosen up, then a series of couples are met.  These couples serve to show how Tak and Deena’s love perhaps could work.  The sequence comes to an unexpected close as events suddenly twist in a crisis.  This Part could perhaps have been divided into two sections, though the whole sequence is certainly united by the structure of the holiday.  Part Three (Ch. 43 – 64) covers the problem of the hidden nature of the romance, centring on complications during a working holiday break.  The disastrous climax of the novel is reached followed by a brief sequence wrapping up circumstances with the Tanaka family.  Part Four (Ch. 65 – 67) describes the complications with Emma.  This section is quite brief and perhaps could have been extended a little considering Deena’s grandmother’s earlier resistance, tenacity and belligerence.  The Epilogue, set some years in the future wraps up the plot lines nicely, though one question is pointedly left open.


As already indicated the main theme of Crimson Footprints is balance, or Difference/Harmony.  We like people ‘like us’, but we are all individuals.  What does it really mean to be ‘like me”?  Is this merely a matter of externals, or are internals more important?  We need to accept who people are, and where they came from, but not be bound by that.  An openness in outlook and balance is needed otherwise we will be bound forever in very limited circumstances.  On another level, how do we handle the conflict between work and family / social life?  Is one demand more important than another?  Can we neglect either?  Of course there are no easy answers, though those may be the first to come to us.  Life is complicated and this book explores these complications.


The family is a second important theme.  Families can be both sources of pain and sources of strength, and both features can occur in the same kinfolk.  Families are what make us, but at the same time are what we grow from.  They can be conservatively stolid, relying heavily on tradition, or can adapt to new circumstances.  We can ignore them, but we can never really escape them.  Following from tradition, a family can be a basic mother, father and children, or it can be a less conventional grouping.  Families are very basic to human nature and being taken in, or adopted, does not make it of less importance to us.  This very contrary institution in fact dominates us.  We come from families and then we make new families, or at least extend those which we have.


Another important theme in the novel is what could broadly be termed as success.  We are encouraged to ‘do our best’, to ‘do good’, to ‘shine’.  What is success and what are the traits that allow us to see it?  Is it hard work resulting in material objects?  Is it love, honesty, caring and ethics resulting in respect and attachment?  Is there room for both?  Millennia ago the ancient Greeks asked, “What is the good citizen?”  In response they formulated the idea of “Virtue” (Ben Dupre. 50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need To Know: Quercus, 2007, p. 96 – 99), that is, the character traits that make us wisely successful in both working life and family life, and indeed everything that we do.  This idea of ‘virtue’ is central to Pugh’s novel.  Deena struggles to be a ‘good person’ ethically, socially and workwise.  For her these are not separate issues, and not merely because she is in love with the boss’s son: all are tied up with who she is as a person.  Of course there is success in terms of one social class’s ideals or another’s, but what is truly wise success.  In the end isn’t success really related to what makes us “happy” (Ch. 20), as complex an issue as that may be?


Following from this there is also a minor theme of ‘religion verses ethics’.  The Christian religion claims to be the guide for good, but surely considering the evil things that befall us for no reason we should conclude that God in some ways unfairly hates us (Ch. 2)?  Indeed doesn’t hell hang over us like some permanent, inescapable damnation (Ch. 2)?  Even if these things aren’t entirely correct theologically, aren’t accusation and condemnation how Christians really act?  Is this really what good is all about?  Equally, for so many, isn’t Buddhism in reality simply a constraining tradition full of rules about obligation (Ch. 10), rather than a source of right behaviour leading to internal peace?  Once again this may not be correct according to the true tenets of Buddhism, but isn’t this how it often works out in practice?  If religion in practice isn’t such a good guide for ‘goodness’, what do we take as our guide?  Surely we must fall back into the painful position of finding our own way, and indeed Deena must struggle to find her own position.


Deena Hammond is an interesting character who we immediately like and care about.  What strikes us is her positivity in very negative circumstance and her determination to get somewhere better.  Deena is a ‘Star’, without being too perfect.  Despite her determination, in certain circumstances, particularly with her Grandmother, she collapses.  What unites these converse character elements is the fact that she is a self-accuser.  Her accusation drives her on to career success, but also holds her up in her battle with her domineering Grandmother.  While she accuses herself, Deena is somewhat driven to help others, particularly her siblings.  This kind of complexity does much to make Deena seem more real to the reader.  She is no cardboard cut-out.  Deena must learn to limit her career “expectations” (Ch. 12) and not rely so much on “reason” (Ch. 16) alone to solve problems.  These are human challenges the reader can recognise and understand, even if they do not personally suffer from them.


Takumi Tanaka is in some ways the ‘perfect man’ every woman dreams about.  He is “athletic” (Ch. 1), a success at both art and business (Ch. 5) and caring.  His limitation is that, while he can understand Grandmother Emma all too well, he only has a limited understanding of his own father and family.  Despite this the reader wonders if Tak could have had just one or two more faults to make him more human.


Grandmother Emma Hammond is an appropriate nemesis.  She is a narrow minded bigot, uneducated, an immense hypocrite and appropriately venomous, though occasionally she can give way.  The words “consistently hostile” (Ch. 1) certainly sum her up.  Her Christianity is certainly a biting irony.


Daichi Tanaka is describe by a magazine is “Architectural God” (Ch. 3) and his behaviour exhibits the kind of flaws that such adulation would certainly bring.  He can be arrogant, bad tempered, rude and cold, but he is also willing to give others a chance to prove themselves, and even work to bring out the best in people. Daichi is like Deena in his determined, even driven nature, and in his concern for others, but quite different in his self-adulation.  Pugh has these two character form an interesting and rich relationship, and has managed to make Daichi equally complex.


Examined from the perspective of Feminism it can easily be seen that Deena is a successful young career woman and entirely self-made. Deena’s challenge is to live up to the goals set by Betty Friedan (Cathia Jenainati. Introducing Feminism: Icon Books, 2010, p. 90 – 94) of being successful both in her job and family life, without falling into the same traps that men do (primarily favouring career over relationships).  Hatsumi, Tak’s mother, however, is by marked contrast a 1950’s woman: unloved, unhappy, trapped at home, but beautifully dressed.  Even Hatsumi, however, has a certain dignity and demonstrates a mind of her own, showing how women can rise above these circumstances.  Emma, for all her failings, is certainly headstrong.  Lizzie has a mind of her own, but serves as representative of the ‘sex object’ so propagated by traditional media and male driven dominance.  Pugh makes it more than clear that according to her this option is not to be desired.  Rhonda, Deena’s aunty, is also a career woman (Ch. 4), but demonstrates the bigotry which the ‘new woman’ faces as she must “constantly field unfounded accusations that she is a lesbian” (Ch. 4) simply because she does not fit a very narrow picture of what a woman should be like.


Daichi is very representative of the 1950’s male role model, being a stranger to both his feelings and his family, and believing that his duty as a male is solely to provide income.  He sees himself as the family figure head.  As the story progresses, however, this position comes under increasing, condemning scrutiny.  Tak, by contrast, is the twenty first century man: not New Age / Spiritual, but none the less in touch with his own feelings, and caring of others.  As an artist he expresses freedom and creativity, rather than being trapped in a rigid role.  Anthony Hammond, Deena’s brother, represents that large group of men who have not progressed to the standard proposed by twenty first century male Gender Studies.  He is everything a man should not be, trapped in a 1950’s ‘tough rebel’ role, renamed “gasgsta” (Ch. 56) as if it were something new.


This is by far a predominantly heterosexual novel, though, LGBTIQ people are very briefly represented by Bridget, “a lesbian” (Ch. 20), who is positively depicted as a successful career woman.  Two quite large families are depicted in the novel, plus other minor characters, and we wonder if more of a representation of LGBTIQ people could have been made, particularly in a book where ‘difference’ is an important theme.


The aged, who are often ignored in society, are chiefly represented by Emma Hammond, though this is clearly not a sympathetic depiction.  Of course being old does not automatically make you nice or wise.  The absent character of Eddie Hammond, Emma’s husband, is equally uncomplimentary, though that is not surprising as the two belong together, having chosen each other as partners.  Yukiko, Tak’s grandmother, by contrast proves to have learned wisdom over the years and in an important scene gives Daichi very useful words of advice.


This is a novel very much about minorities and highlights the difficulties those who would reach beyond their group face, as well as the difficulties those of mixed racial background face.  African-Americans are highlighted, as are the U.S. minority of Japanese-Americans.  This is, however, not really a book about political agenda or advancement in the standard way Post-Colonial Studies thinks.  We do not, for example, really hear of civil rights.  The social history behind African-American food is certainly mentioned early on (Ch. 4), and we hear that this is the food of slaves who must do with left overs.  Also we hear that architecture should reflect the culture of the ethnic group (e.g. Mayan farmers) and empower these local groups (Ch. 3).  As has been seen, both Deena and Rhonda are successful, black career women, and Daichi is certainly successful way beyond the normal expectations.  The bigotry faced by both Japanese and Negroes in the U.S. is also briefly touched on as is the difficulties of mixed race couples (Ch. 57).  The difficulties of people of mixed racial origin are also mentioned (Ch. 22).  In all of this, however, the emphasis is on personal coping rather than political agenda.  As has been said, this is a book about ‘Virtue’, and Pugh’s aim is to demonstrate the personal attitude in the face of these circumstances is what is important.  Personal action to overcome poverty, for example, is the solution, rather than simply social programs.  This is illustrated by the marked contrasts between the Tanaka and Hammond families.  The Tanakas, despite their problems and failings, are educational achievers, work achievers and socially successful.  The Hammonds, on the other hand ignore education, choose criminal careers, and glory in social bigotry and abrasiveness.  They lead lives full of failure and ineptitude and seem to glory in it.  Deena and Rhonda are of course the exception.  As can be seen Pugh is not pulling her punches.  This is a tough message and will be unpopular with at least some, though her message is overwhelmingly one of hope.


Similar to the position on minorities, Pugh takes an unusual stand in the Capitalist / Socialist debate.  The evils of poverty are openly depicted.  One example is the Liberty City high school where it is virtually impossible to take driver education courses because of under-resourcing (Ch. 7).  There is no doubt that people should be able to live better.  But once again the primary solution is personal virtue and not government programs.  Opulent wealth is not openly condemned, far from it, but it is not placed above interpersonal caring and personality characteristics of value.  Monetary wealth is of value, but not if that is all you have.  This is certainly in keeping with the theories of Marx (Gill Hands. Understanding Marx: Hodder Education, 2011, Ch. 6), but is hardly standard Socialism.  Pure Capitalism at the expense of virtue is certainly to be denied.  Anthony has his “Air Jordans” (Ch. 6) and Lizzie has her tawdry, growing personal income, but at what expense to them personally?  None the less this novel is in part a celebration of the American rags to riches ideal: the self-made man/woman.


Pugh is of course aiming to write about ‘real’ people and ‘real’ life, and so the field of psychology comes into play.  Psychology aims to discover truths about human nature and behaviour, and so is a useful tool and aid to fiction.  Deena is primarily motivated by guilt instilled in her by her overly-critical, religious grandparents who “bullied” her relentlessly (Ch. 12), and as a result is very critical of herself (Ch. 7), though she has achieved much in her life.  She is controlled by the voice of others rather than her own “decision making and self-regulation” (Michael J. Formica. Guilt is a Wasted Emotion: Psychology Today: July 25, 2008,   She is a rigid planner (Ch. 9) locked in schemes to ensure success, so that the critical voices (now in her head) will be appeased.  Of course Deena must break free of this circumstance, and that is a major plot line in the book.  Also it can be noted that Deena is a “rescuer” (Andrea Matthews. The Rescuer Identity: Psychology Today: April 21, 2011,, who feels that she must ‘save’ her sister and brother, but is never successful in doing so.  She carries out her ‘mission’ at great expense to her own development.  She tries to ‘save’ others, but has never really established her own self-worth.  Once again, it is clear that Deena must overcome this issue and Pugh explores this plot line in some detail.


A name can often help to shape us into the people we are, and studying names can sometimes help the reader to understand fiction.  According to David L. Gold (A Dictionary Of Surnames: Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 237) the family name Hammond means “home”, with the special implications of “high [ … ] protection” and “ancestor  [… ] protection”.  This is certainly very ironic as Deena’s home is indeed anything other than a place of strong refuge, and her grandparents are hardly shields against the ill-will of the world.


Pugh’s novel is not heavily symbolic: however, the image of architecture hangs over the whole book.  Architecture is “order in a world of chaos, sense in a world of madness” (Ch. 9).  It can be something false and contrived that we impose on nature, or it can blend with the environment, as Deena wants to do with her Postmodern theories (Ch. 5).  It can construct artificiality or it can deconstruct our fake ideas of life (Ch. 3).  As has been noted Deena is trapped in the construction of her family and their “expectations” (Ch. 12), as well as her own, and needs to break free into her own natural being.


Shewanda Pugh’s Crimson Footprints has many aspects to it. It has the themes of difference / harmony, family and success, which are explored in some detail.  Its characters tend to be complex and life-like, and are in tune with the ideas of modern psychology.  The issues of racial and class division are explored in depth.  The limitations of 1950’s values for both men and women are depicted, and the alternatives, as proposed by Feminism and Gender Studies, are examined.  The role of money verses personal worth, as seen in the Capitalist / Socialist debate, is investigated in some detail, though Pugh chooses an individual solution, and is not bound by the constrains of either of those theories.  Pugh writes well and she has created a successful novel which I am happy to rate as 5 stars out of 5. Crimsin Footprints (Book ed.) Crimson Footprints (Kindle ed.) Shewanda Pugh’s Blog Shewanda Pugh’s Facebook Page

10916215863?profile=originalShewanda Pugh

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4  out of 5 stars

What is it about you stranger?

This is a love story with a mystery at the heart of it, a paranormal mystery.  Why can Ashley Easton speak French so well?  Why can she ride a horse so well, after only riding for just a few weeks?  Who is the mysterious young man she meets in the dressage competition, and why is he so alluring?  A 3rd Time to Die by George A. Bernstein is a love story and a mystery, rolled into one.  It uses the concept of reincarnation as an interesting plot device.

Our first glimpse of Ashley Easton is of a woman rescuing a horse:

"Hey quit that!"  Her shout raspy, she banged the gate with the side of the pitchfork. (p. 25)

The horse has always represented passion and desire in literature, and A 3rd Time to Die is no exception.  Ashley's new horse brings her excitement and energy into her life and allows a new relationship to flourish.  Ashley is revitalised and energised by rescuing the horse; it also brings into sharp relief the way her life has changed. Ashley is an engaging character who knows her own mind and who is financially independent.  She feels a great deal, but takes a long time to act on these feelings: this is Ashley Easton's challenge.  The reader feels the occasional sense of frustration, and is delighted she finally gets herself going.

10916213292?profile=originalAshley’s lover, Craig Thornton is lovely and is everything that Ashley needs and wants: he is the polar opposite to Ashley's husband Keith, and is charming, interesting, fascinated by Ashley, shares her interests, and is caring.  Their relationship changes over time, and as they learn more about each other, their characters develop in surprising and engrossing ways.  A personal fault or two, however, might have helped to make Craig more real.

Craig Thornton is also an interesting contrast to Ashley because his marriage is breaking down, but it's not his fault: his wife is the one who is cheating.  Bernstein thus sets up interesting parallels and contrasts in the relationships.  The two spouses, Keith and Toni, are not pleasant characters.  Keith is a husband totally lost from the relationship: he ignores the children and takes a mistress.  I would have preferred a little more shading to these spouses to add more real complexity of personality: Keith doesn't help with the children, doesn't like anything about his wife anymore, is nasty in his other relationships; but has no redeeming quality.  He is a little too bad to be human.  He seems to have no saving grace: I know Craig is lovely but Keith must have been OK at one  point.

The novel examines relationships. The men and women in A 3rd Time to Die are not just seeking anyone but someone special. In the opening 1895's past-life visionary flashback Charles sees in Victoria, a woman who is "passionate, sensuous and willful" (p. 6).  He loves her for these qualities, and Ashley and Craig are similarly looking for very special traits.

Soul mates are important in this novel - people click and realise they are meant to be together. The website of the Australian Psychological Society says that: "newer fields of psychology, especially transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology, are taking seriously the holistic notion of human beings as comprising mind, body, and soul. These fields propose that people are spiritual beings living a human life that extends beyond our mundane existence and skin-encapsulated ego-self to include direct experience of the environment and the cosmos.  They recognise the importance of integrating spiritual with physical and mental reality, that spirituality is but one part of the whole.” (  The complications of the soul mates and reincarnation that have to be overcome make a really interesting plot device in this novel.  The question of whether Ashley and Craig will survive their love, and who is against them and intends them harm is a gripping question.

The last main character is the psychologist Dr Feldman.  He is an interesting character: he's helpful, but indecisive and his eventual insights and understandings moved the plot along.  Feldman is one of Joseph Campbell's helpers. In Monomyth, Cambell explains that:  "For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass. What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny.” (  Feldman helps Ashley and Craig understand what is happening.  This relationship is a satisfying aspect of the novel.

Ashley and Craig share a love of horse riding. As has been noted, the horse has always represented strong emotions and passionate desires in literature and this is also true in A 3rd Time To Die.  Since D. H. Lawrence, the horse has been a staple representation of sexuality, freedom and power.  Ashley's horse in the novel represents all the freedom of her youth, the regained sexuality that her unfulfilled marriage has stripped from her, as well as links to the past.  A secondary meaning for the horse spirit animal is the balance between the instinctive and tamed parts of your personality.  Ashley is thus more real when she is with her horse, Injun, than when she is in her house.  She feels freer, her speech with Craig is more natural, but she also learns more about herself and the issues that are troubling her: "Jeez, that's when this started!  The sense of riding through woods and whispered thoughts in French.  Nothing as intense as now.  Why the fantasy only haunt her when jumping a horse?" (p. 87).  This is the symbolism of the nature / culture dichotomy.
The story’s structure is that of several parts with the first long section establishing the various different relationships.  Ashley spends a considerable amount of time analysing her (hopeless) marriage, before concluding that there is nothing to be done.  This section was long and drawn out.  I wondered why it took so long to get to a resolution of this point.  Once the relationship with Craig was established and Bernstein managed to bring the pair together, the book moved along at a great pace.
In the final section the plot lines are drawn to a satisfying conclusion and the lovers’ relationship and future, and the circumstance of the nemesis are well resolved.  A final catastrophic climax is well done and keeps the reader guessing until the last moment.

The role of money in the novel is interesting: Ashley is well off, thanks to her Father's money.  She uses the processes and systems and makes them work for her to improve her life, rather than just make more money.  This is a positive role for women.

A 3rd Time to Die's main theme is of course reincarnation.  Have these people lived other lives?  Who were they?  Who is after Ashley and Craig now?  Carl Jung believed that in a person's life, synchronicity served a role similar to that of dreams, with the purpose of shifting a person's egocentric conscious thinking to greater wholeness.  Dr. Feldman helps promote this view in the novel.  He is also a psychiatrist using various methods to assist his patients.  Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience.  Transpersonal experiences may be defined as "experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos."  Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other sublime and/or unusually expanded experiences of living. (  Dr. Feldman moves from a more reductionist view of the mind to a more spiritual, Transpersonal approach and indeed the question of this new ideology and philosophy become central to the book.

A 3rd Time to Die is a love story with a twist, a paranormal mystery with an engaging heroine and plot surprises and developments which were very satisfying.  The characters develop in interesting ways through time and as the novel progresses.  The relationships were interesting and well-drawn.  The plot lines are drawn to a satisfying conclusion, and the lover relationship and mystery of foreboding doom are well resolved.  The conclusion is gripping and the answer is unexpected and pleasingly surprising.  I am happy to rate this book as 4 stars out of 5.  A 3rd Time To Die (Book ed.)  A 3rd Time To Die (Kindle ed.)  George Bernstein (Facebook page)  George Bernstein (Goodreads page)

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