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4 out of 5 stars

Escape from the system?

Sports journalist Russell Martell is on holiday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico .  His wife Rosalita has recently died and Russell feels lost and hurt, drifting through life.  Then his journalistic senses begin to come alive as he starts to get the hints of stories: not sports stories, but crime and current events, with a hint of politics.  What is the real story behind a body found in strange circumstances near the beach front?  Is the rumor of a police raid on a suburban house really connected to drug cartels?  Who is the colorful character Devon (Devo) that appears to be making a splash in town, at least according to the bar scuttlebutt?  All these questions seem to draw together, but only more questions emerge.  Soon Russell and his friend, Johnny Miles, will become caught up in an adventure where mystery and uncertainty abounds.  How will ordinary citizens survive, let alone take action in a world of gangs, police and government?  Seve Verdad’s Finding Devo: A Novel Adventure is a story of mystery and action which will intrigue and excite the reader as they follow Russell and Johnny in their desperate attempt to escape disaster.


10916217285?profile=originalVerdad writes well and he lifts his prose with colorful phrases, giving interesting atmospheric descriptions and character details.  Describing Devo, for example, Verdad writes: “But he is smooth.  Smooth as a pythons belly.  Smooth as a razor blade, a bullet, a warhead” (Ch. 83).  Much of the book varies between chapters in first person narrative, giving Russell’s point of view, and chapters in third person narrative, giving the perspective of various other characters.  This change in viewpoint works well to keep the story complex and interesting.  The text contains quite a liberal scattering of Mexican Spanish.  Sometimes an English translation is given and sometimes not.  The lack of translation is at first annoying, but the reader soon notices that these phrases are not of critical importance to the plot.  The book can certainly be enjoyed without knowledge of Spanish.  There is occasional offensive language, both in English and Spanish, but probably less than occurs in most people’s common language.  Only the most conservative will be offended.  Occasionally there are nice hints of irony.  For example Joaquín ‘Garras’ de Jesús, a brutal federal agent, is depicted “imagining his garras [claws] wrapped around the necks of those who might be responsible for such a barbaric massacre” (Ch. 48).  Who is the barbarian we wonder?  Similarly there is a nice contrast between Garras meditating in order to concentrate his powers of destruction (Ch. 48) and Russell meditating in order to survive pain (Ch. 50).  As a point of criticism it should be noted that the first half of the book is, in sections, a bit too wordy.  The party which Russell attends gets quite a few chapters allocated to it even though it is just one night.  Similarly the revelations from the computer disk, which the police find, go on chapter after chapter, even though we quickly get the basic idea of what they are saying and their relevance.  Also the bomb explosion gets several chapters, each one from a different character’s perspective, even though the basic response of all is shock.  These sections could have been condensed to make the plot move at a swifter pace.  After Chapter 50, however, the book really takes off and never slows until the very finish.  This point should not be overemphasized.  It would be wrong to say that the first half of the book is boring: it is just a little slow in some sections.


The novel is divided into three parts.  Book I Fiesta (Ch. 1 – 28) gives an overview of the circumstances in all its many complications, introducing the reader to the book’s many main characters.  This section is characterized by questions and mystery.  Book II Rain (Ch. 29 – 83) is a narration of disaster, then capture and escape.  It begins slowly but escalates midway into a high action and adventure narration.  Book III Camacho (Ch. 84 – 114) is a further story of escape in which questions are answered and resolution is given.  It should be noted, however, that even at the end of the book there are still some open questions, and indeed the reader wonders if Verdad plans a sequel.  This is not a book where everything is tied up neatly.


The characters are nicely drawn and we immediately relate to them as real people.  We like Russell because of his inquisitiveness and initiative.  His background in sports makes him appealing to male readers.  His grief over Rosalita’s death shows him to be a man of some feeling, beyond his All-American bravado.  But as the plot progresses the reader begins to see some of Russell’s failings.  He is “egotistical” (Ch. 51) and “rash” (Ch. 7).  Also as we read further Russell evolves from an ‘ordinary’ man to one who deals decisively, if perhaps extremely, with extraordinary circumstances.  Devo, by contrast, remains throughout almost all the book a man of mystery.  He is rumored to be a “pot grower” (Prologue), but we never quite find out how he gets his money.  He is variously a “psycho” (Prologue), a “wildcard” (Ch. 52) or just a good guy engaged in “shenanigans” (Prologue).  Devo is quite a performer who carries off acts in which he appears to change height, change age, and even flawlessly change his voice.  He performs slight-of-hand (Ch. 25 & 72) and indeed Verdad manages to make Devo seem almost mystical and magical.  Devo of course has his limits.  At one point he comments “I don’ know everthin’” (Ch. 50), but he is certainly no ‘ordinary’ man.  By keeping this character an enigma Verdad instills in the readers a sense of intrigue which keeps him reading.  The book has quite a host of other characters which Verdad also successfully draws.  He even manages to sum up quite minor characters in just a few words.  Teachers’ union leader, Teodoro Viareal, for example, is described as having “the voice of an excitable Chihuahua” (Ch. 7).


Ambiguity is one of the novel’s chief themes.  As has just been noted Devo is a man of mystery.  We do not know exactly how to place him.  He could be a hero, but seen from other angles he is quite villainous.  Moral and political ambiguities are at a premium in the book.  Actions, circumstances and perspectives are described as having both good and bad points.  Government officials fight for good, against terrorism, yet they are themselves corrupt and inept.  Capitalism, Marxism and Anarchism are all made understandable, being both praised and criticized.  Verdad constantly poses the reader questions which are not easy to answer.  This is not a novel which teaches a ‘correct’ viewpoint: rather it opens up complexity.  Indeed isn’t the world just that: complex.  Aren’t different people, with different perspectives, able to interpret the same event in very different ways with very different conclusions?


Corruption is itself so central to this book that it must be considered as a theme in itself.  Vice impairs the function of institutions which could work to the good.  We all say about our little misdemeanors that ‘it doesn’t matter’.  We even say our ‘shadiness’ gives us ‘character’.  But when our dishonesty ends in real trouble we are left embarrassed, and even ashamed of our actions.  We immediately seek to emphasize what little good we can salvage and hide the bad.


The individual is a third important theme.  We are single units, yet we are also in systems.  Do our actions count or is the weight of the system too much for us to make a difference?  The individual struggles for survival, and yet so much that happens is a result of external circumstances which we cannot control.  As single people we have a certain ignorance of the system and even naivety.  Yet also as individuals we have our own talents which we can use to direct our future, and even contribute to the bigger picture.  Are we better off in a system or purely as individuals, or is a mix better?  Is anything other than a mix even possible?


Verdad’s novel is very much set in a male world of macho toughness and competition and so there are a scattering of anti-female descriptions.  Russell observes “a pair of bubble head dolls” (Ch. 2).  Police Lieutenant Benito Cuevas Romero thinks “Why stand women at all, but for one thing…?” (Ch. 8).  Women are reduced to body parts: “… breasts – important assets for a girl” (Ch. 7).  Gloria Infante Velázquez, however, stands out as a major female character who is capable, successful and dynamic.  Her husband would not be a successful mayor without her help, and he is completely guided by her strong political sense.  Indeed Gloria, if she had chosen so, “might have become mayor of Puerto Vallarta herself, or perhaps Guadalajara, her home town…” (Ch. 5).  Certainly Gloria has her failings, as any person does.  She is driven by power, money and prestige.  In the middle of one of her business negotiations we read: “Her eyes had darkened, become bland, almost dead.  Shark eyes’ (Ch. 7).   But Gloria regrets her part in the major disaster that occurs.  She has a strong sense of “guilt” (Ch. 43) and immediately sets about devoting all her energies to set things right.  When attacked by corrupt policemen Brenda, Russell’s new love interest, fights like a “wildcat” (Ch. 60) and her sister Araceli joins the fight by hurling a baseball at the attackers.  Feminist readers will be glad to find that, in this novel, women are not meekly subordinate adjuncts to men, but rather dynamic persons in their own right.


As has just been noted Finding Devo is, at least on the surface, a world of male machoism in line with 1950’s values.  Both Russell and Johnny live for sports, womanizing, drinking, cockfights and have dabbled in law breaking (minor for Russell’s part and major for Johnny’s part).  This comfortably male dominant world, however, is very much undercut when both men find themselves in real trouble.  Suddenly Russell and Johnny are victims who need to be rescued.  Their bravado wears thin as they find themselves in waters way beyond their depth.  Certainly it is a male who ‘saves’ them and certainly they are not completely helpless themselves, but the brash American male image takes a beating.  Quite a number of other male characters in positions of power are also undercut.  Their confident acceptance of corruption in various forms, as a bonus of their ‘tough-guy’ power, leads to their downfall and ineffectiveness.  Devo, as has been noted, remains an enigma.  He is certainly a ‘tough-guy’ hero, but we never quite know how to take him.  Is he to be admired or viewed with some doubt?  He ‘pulls the strings’, but to what end?  Rather than the traditional 1950’s ‘super-hero’ we have an ambiguous magician who even at the end leaves us with questions.  How much should we admire him?  Devo has intelligence, skill and charisma, but is hardly a New Age man of feeling.  Russell by contrast gains positive re-connection with his emotions and is able to associate with others in a mature way.


The indigenous people of Mexico are represented in the text, though not always in a positive light.  Those people in power in the novel do not view the Indians favorably.  They are described as “naco” a “pejorative word often used in Mexican Spanish to describe the bad-mannered and poorly educated people of lower social classes” (Wikipedia. Naco (slang):__  As early as Chapter 1 we read: “They have no respect.  Better to send them all north.  Let the gringos deal with them, fill their jails with them” (Ch. 1).  But the Anarchist Carlos Mansalva (Manco) takes up the cause for the Indians.  We read “The entire continent belongs to us, those of Indigenous blood” (Ch. 8).  Further we read of “Zapatistas” (Ch. 5 and following) the politically left Indigenous Mexican movement.  The indigenous are mentioned as demonstrating for their rights (Ch. 7).  Indigenous people are represented chiefly by two characters: Javier Menticlaro and Paulo Pepino Revueltas (Chimp).  Javier is an influential Zapatista leader, though he could be viewed as a ‘bad’ character.  Similarly Chimp holds the respected occupation of police officer, but is certainly not represented positively.  It must be remembered that ambiguity is strong in the novel and so both the good and the bad of indigenous people is discussed.  Javier is a particularly ambiguous character.  We can understand him as an indigenous person, but do not necessarily agree with his actions.


In turn with the macho atmosphere of the book LBTIQ characters are absent.  There are indeed a couple of anti-Queer comments made in Chapter 2.  Perhaps one positive character could have been included in the party, at the beginning of the book, and we know that police are not exclusively heterosexual.  In an novel which so emphasizes ambiguity, and which asks so many questions, it is perhaps a missed opportunity that LGBTIQ characters were passed over.


The Aged, a much ignored group, are also absent.  They perhaps would have been inappropriate in the heavy partying, high action world of the novel.


As has been mentioned ambiguity is prevalent in this novel and peaks when it is viewed from the Marxist / Capitalist debate.  The Capitalist U.S. is viewed as a very safe place compared to the Socialist Mexico, yet the Capitalist desire for money and prestige is a very major contributing factor in the crisis of the novel.  Indeed Gloria’s Capitalist ventures end in defeat, not triumph.  But similarly Marxism is represented as being falsely hollow. Media Minister Lazarito Charlado is an appointee of the Socialist Reform Party, but is interested in the “advance … [of his] … fortunes” (Ch. 3), that is, in the personal moneys he can amass and the power and prestige he can gain.  Even more the Socialist influenced Zapatista movement is depicted as violent and aggressive.  At the heart of both Capitalism and Marxism corruption can lead to a political culture where power, authority and legitimacy are undermined.  Anarchism, a political ideology more left than Marxism, is partially represented in the text by the activist Carlos Mansalva (Manco).  Manco makes quite good arguments against Capitalism and for the advancement of the indigenous Mexican people, but he has quite violent tendencies. Even more Maco is depicted as being falsely hollow, like Lazarito, being motivated by the large amounts of money he can earn for his dubious dealings with Chimp (Ch. 58). Despite this criticism, though, Anarchism has a prominent place in the novel.  The actions of private citizens are seen as being more effective than those of organizations.  But can even individuals be trusted to act for the ‘good’?  The questions abound.


Finding Devo is very much a postmodern novel in the sense that there are no hard edges or categories anywhere.  As Brenda observes: “People are brutal, Russell.  The whole lot of us” (Ch. 18).  Even the ‘good’ are capable of doing ‘bad’ given the right circumstances, and indeed what is good and what is bad depends on the observer’s perspective.  Even the ‘bad’ character Masked Apocalypse, who by his nom de plume is associated with the devil, is given human motivation.


Verdad has written an action adventure, rather than a more poetic book, and so there is not much imagery and symbolism in it.  There are, however, a few elements of the symbolic.  Devo’s nickname hints at the word devolution, suggesting escape from a system, but once again questions, rather than answers, arise.  Which system is being escaped from?  Is it good or bad, or perhaps both, to escape a system?  Is to devolve to go backwards, or is there still a creative forwards motion in it?  Where exactly is Devo taking Russell?  Similarly, through much of the novel unusual weather hangs over Puerto Vallarta.  Light rain hangs over the city like a “mist” (Ch. 60) obscuring the view, making people feel slightly at odds.  This is symbolic of the crisis of the novel where for most of the characters, the action remains a mystery.  Confusion abounds and truth is obscured.  People think they have the answer, but are deluded.


10916217101?profile=originalLooking deeper into symbolism and myth it should be noted that Devo is a magician.  He uses metaphoric smoke and mirrors to trick, to obscure, when it suits him.  We never quite know where exactly he stands.  He uses electronic ‘trickery’ to help him pull off his ‘secret agent’ stunts.  This element of the novel draws upon the cultural mythology represented by the Tarot card The Magician.  Sally Annett and Rowena Shepherd observe that this card implies both “rules … [and] .. cheating” (The Atavist Tarot:__ London: Quantum, c2003, p. 47), and both Arthur Edward Waite (The Pictorial Key To The Tarot:­­__ Stamford, CT: U.S. Games Systems, c1971, p. 72)  and Giordano Berti and Tiberio Gonard (Tarot Of The New Vision:__ Torino, Italy: Lo Scarabeo, c2005, p. 19) note that the card implies both virtue and trickery.  Indeed going further Annett and Shepherd note that, when thinking of the card, “we must be aware that man’s ability to manipulate the elements can be used for evil as well as good” (Atavist Tarot, p. 49).  Berti and Gonard particularly emphasis that “ambiguity” (New Vision, p. 19) is the key to the card, and as has been noted this is a major theme in the novel.  Where exactly does Devo stand in the novel?  Is he a force for evil or good?  Karen Hamaker-Zondag notes of the card: “He has a vision or ideal to which he is devoted, and on which he expands his energies. [ … ] Hence The Magician possesses both flexibility and courage, and his vitality makes him want to do something worthwhile.” (Tarot As A Way Of Life: A Jungian Approach To The Tarot:__ York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, 1997, p. 132)  Devo is certainly heroic and his mind and actions are definitely set on a particular problem or project.  Sallie Nichols writes: “The Magician will include us in his plans.  He welcomes us on stage as his accomplice.  Some degree of cooperation on our part is necessary for the success of his magic.” (Jung And Tarot: An Archetypal Journey:__ York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weisner, 1980, p. 46)  Russell and Johnny certainly become caught up in Devo’s plans and in a sense he needs them to work his magic.


Seve Verdad’s Finding Devo is an exciting adventure / mystery novel with interesting characterization and generally good writing style.  The plot revolves around the main themes of ambiguity, corruption and the individual.  There is a fairly strong political emphasis, though no one system is favored as being ‘right’.  Men and women are depicted realistically, and in terms that would be viewed positively by those interested in modern Gender Studies.  Indigenous Mexicans are depicted, partially favorably, partially unfavorably.  At 565 pages the novel is probably not a weekend read, though it can certainly be read enjoyably over a longer period of time.  I am happy to rate this book as 4 out of 5 stars.  Finding Devo (Book ed.)  Finding Devo (Kindle ed.)  Seve Verdad’s Facebook Page      Seve Verdad’s Web Site


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Changing the game against the odds

I published Nigeria's first counter-terrorism novel titled operation game change earlier this year. The incessant wave of terrorist attacks and the prevailing opinion that the terrorists cannot be stopped fueled my desire to change this perception and by extension show those involved that the game can be changed if they change their approach. So far, the response has been good and the book is getting more attention from the public. My interview with Nigeria's number one newspaper can be read at

Terrorism must be addressed from both the ideaological and military angles for any counterinsurgency campaign to be successful as citizens must feel secure enough to provide Intel and lend a helping hand to such campaigns. Necessary personnel, equipment and investment must be put in place to combat the menace. Countries like the U.S have followed this template to great effect. As terrorists continue to step up their operations, measures and policies must be put in place to keep up with such emerging trends. In Nigeria, terrorism is quite new and we're still coming to terms with the intrigues associated with it. I believe that with more awareness, we can overcome the situation and change the game and Operation Game Change is just a start.

Operation Game Change is available at


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Work that Brain!

Have you ever walked into a room and forgot what you were doing there? It happens to me all the time. As we grow older, our brain’s neurons tend to grow weak but the good news is there are a few ways we can strengthen them.

1. Be a Volunteer Tutor – when you offer your services to help teach people, you sharpen your cognitive skills and work the part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex) that has to do with analyzing, planning and problem solving.

2. Work out – physical activity has a way of making the part of your brain (the hippocampus) that forms memories bigger by increasing the capillaries in that region which in turn helps new cells grow. Also when you lose weight, you reduce fats that can clog up your arteries which take blood to your brain and that makes it easier for your brain to be nourished which in turn leads to faster processing brain power.

3. Learn a new skill – any activity practiced intently has a way of increasing the density of white matter (the fibers that allows neurons communicate) in the part of the brain controlling direct hand-eye coordination, the intraparietal sulus.

4. Look left to right – when you forget where you placed something, move your eyes swiftly from left to right. Rapid horizontal movements of your eyes can cause both hemispheres of your brain to interact with each other more efficiently and this helps with memory recollection.

5. Take a nap – your brain is like a file cabinet which stores information but without sleep, it can get pretty messy up in there. When you sleep, your brain reshuffles received data and creates space for extra storage. This makes it easier to pull out information when you need it.

So there you have it, 5 easy tips to help you work that brain and keep your memories alive. See ya!

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This post was recently published on our website:

Gayle as Esprit Editor    Gayle'e retirement party presentAt left  you'll see a photo of "editor me" at my desk on one of the last days before retirement (in 2004) as Editor of Esprit magazine and Program Director for Evangelical Lutheran Women at our office on the second floor of Portage Place in Winnipeg. In addition I've included a photo of the gift I received at my retirement party in July 2004. As Ian and I were preparing to take off  for a retirement adventure driving down to Mexico in our newly acquired 35-foot motorhome, my boss chose to wrap an assortment of "helps" for that trip inside or underneath a large box decorated to look like our motorhome - complete with photos of Ian as driver and me as passenger.

After several years in Mexico, with trips up to Manitoba to maintain our Canadian residency, we returned to Canada for good. I hope to start blogging about our Mexico sojourn in the near future. Time will tell if I ever get to it. While there in Mexico I began editing Ian's writings and am continuing that in our present home in British Columbia, as well as now contributing to his writings. Here my desk is in our little den and I look out the window at the low mountains surrounding our part of the Okanagan Valley. The desk is different from the one at ELW, but just as messy. That's the way I work. I do not like a messy final product, however, and decided that it was time for me to have an editor's rant about what I am seeing on some web blogs and in many comments that come into our site.

I don't think I'm unique in claiming frustration when reading some comments on web blogs or even some particular web blogs which are so full of errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or just plain English that I feel compelled to edit them as I'm reading. Sometimes even understanding them is impossible, so I quit reading and trash the comment or close the web blog.

As I routinely check out other web blogs, I am more-often-than-not impressed by so many varied topics and excellent writing, but am also occasionally appalled by the lack of English writing skills by some bloggers. In those cases, I cross those web blogs off the list of ones I want to follow, no matter how interesting the topic might be. I find it painful to read something when I feel a need to correct practically every sentence. (As an aside: I lived in Germany for 18 years and ended up speaking passable German but would never in my life think of hosting a blog in German! I wouldn't feel confident enough to do a decent job of it. My late husband who worked in a profession there, could easily have hosted a blog in German. Obviously his language skills were much superior to mine.)

My motto is: "check, double-check and recheck anything you post", for it is easy to miss a word here or there if one doesn't do so. I always try to self-edit any of my blogs and usually have Ian read through them before posting. That isn't to say that I might not post a small grammatical or spelling error from time to time. It happens to the best of us. Almost inevitably after checking and re-checking the magazine I edited and having our executive director and a professional copy editor go over everything before publishing, I would find some little thing wrong when reading the issue after publication.

In the past I've found myself editing a lot of comments that come in on this web blog so that they can be understood. I conclude that quite a few of those who comment on posts do not have English as their first language and are obviously using an English-to-another-language dictionary when they make their comments. Perhaps they are taking an ESL course and have been given an assignment to comment on specific web posts. (Comments often come from the same site with different email addresses.) If that is the case, how I wish the instructor would at least give them some help in making the comments understandable. It is nice to get compliments or constructive criticism, but not if the comment cannot be readily understood and if the blogger receiving the comment has to edit it extensively in order to print it. WordPress usually identifies these type of comments as "spam"; in the past I've looked at every comment and sometimes chose to "un-spam"a few because I'd like to honour the intent. I have edited them for comprehension, though. I'm wondering if other bloggers have chosen to do this or if these type of comments simply get trashed. Here's an example of one comment we recently received, showing the places where I have cut out more than half of the words and added clarifying words in order to get what I think the commenter intended.

"Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your [web blog.] augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast."

Another recent commenter asserted that, though our blog's content was good, many of the posts were "rife with spelling issues." Well, that got my dander up! I did, however, calm down and try to address what I thought might be the problem. Here's my answer:

"We’re surprised to hear that you find several of our posts 'rife with spelling issues'. We are wondering if you might be pointing out our use of the British way of spelling English words, as opposed to the American way. (An example would be the use of “ou” in place of “o” as in “neighbour.” We are Canadians and so use the British way of spelling. I (Gayle) am the blogger and, though American-born, changed my way of spelling sometime after I emigrated to Canada and became editor of a Canadian magazine. I’ve kept up that way of spelling in retirement and, as Ian is British-born and I edit his writing, that method has worked out well for us. Then, too, Ian speaks Scottish-English so when he writes about Scotland in either his novels or memoirs, he uses what I call “Scottishisms.” Some of those words are only found in Scottish-English or may mean something entirely different in Scotland than they do in other countries where English is spoken. We’ve pointed that out in some of our posts about his memoir, “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.” I had quite an education in “Scottishisms” when editing that book! In addition, I had to turn off the spell-check as my word-processing program gave up on providing corrections! Of course, even editors sometimes need to be edited; however, I try to double-check whatever I post. We’d be interested in hearing from you further so that you could point out some examples of those spelling issues. Looking forward to hearing from you." To date, we have received no further communication on this subject.

That brings up the challenge when commenting on web posts of exactly what to say. Sure it is nice to have affirmation that someone "enjoyed" a post or found it "awesome" or "educational" or "informative." But does that really help the blogger to know how they are connecting with the reader? In haste I, too, sometimes choose to just give kudos by checking the "like" button on a post; but if I take the time and REALLY like or dislike something I try to comment on it. How did I feel when I read the post? Intrigued? Scared? Amused? Why and how? Perhaps the blogger was promoting a book, a picture, a poem or a piece of music that he/she had written, drawn, photographed or performed. Did the blog catch your interest so that you plan to order the book or picture, quote the poem or obtain the recording? Did the post remind you of a happening in your own life or a person you met or an emotion you felt? Then describe that connection. You might wish to reblog the post, giving credit to the writer and quote your reaction to it on your own blog or on Facebook, Twitter or the like.

Conversely, if a post draws a negative response from me and I think it can be constructive, I'd like to think that I would be willing to document why I had that response. Although I didn't post the following comment on a novel writer's blog but instead posted it on Amazon after reading the novel, here is an example of how I could make both a positive and, I hope, constructive negative response to the novel on a writer's blog:

"You have written a well-rounded story about a group of characters, each flawed in a unique way, all seeking redemption. Your background in counseling is evident throughout; perhaps that is what makes your story so believable. Your prose is clear, yet poetic. Your descriptions of both characters and scene are captivating. I would have given this book five stars had it not been for the unnecessary profanity which I felt cheapened the narrative, especially those instances when the name of Jesus was invoked through cursing."

I send a challenge to bloggers and commenters alike: If you can't edit your own postings, please, please find someone who can do the edit for you.

Please and thanks in a spirit of kindness and mutual understanding. Keep the relevant and understandable comments coming!

Gayle Moore-Morrans
P.S. In the meantime we have recently received a comment (perhaps sent in error?) which went on for several hundred words.  The comments were obviously a multiple choice list of helps for would-be commenters who needed guidance on how to word comments they wanted to make on various posts. In the past the comments we received from that particular commenter had included, solely or partly, promotions for his web blog that included little or nothing about the post he was supposedly commenting on. Many of the multiple-choice comments he included sounded similar to many of the comments we have received from a number of people over time. Thus, in the future I intend to honour Word Press' use of Akismet to check incoming comments and rate them as "spam", then delete the spam comments without reading them. Most of us writers and editors who blog find it difficult to have enough time to do our writing or editing what with all the other duties and distractions of life. We don't need 276 comments in our "Spam Comments" section. That is the number I encountered last week after not checking the comments for about a week's time. For the first time, I chose to permanently delete all those spam comments without even looking at them.  I truly appreciate the efforts a number of commenters make in sending in compliments or kudos on our posts, or even criticisms when they are constructive. However, I'm trying to promote our books or share views on writing, photographing, reminiscing or life in general and am hoping to glean relevant information from other bloggers instead of spending valuable time reading, rewriting, replying to or trashing umpteen comments a day. I am sharing these words in hopes that others will understand my frustrations and those of other bloggers who are surely having similar problems with unwarranted comments. Perhaps some of them will attempt to correct their comments or have them edited by someone else or those who just want to advertise their own blogs will cease and desist. At least I won't have to relate to them if I trust Akismet's weeding out those comments.

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Is Family Important?


To my characters in Against Their Will, family is important in different ways. Not only are the relationships that are typically formed between family members an important part of what the characters do and experience, but the genetic map they carry also has implications that not many people take time to consider. But genetic composition as well as relationships are two foundations on which families are built.

I attended a family reunion today. I really enjoy getting together with this group of people from my mother’s father’s family. We have much in common; we laugh, we catch up and we joke about the changes in our lives, mostly on how we’re getting old way too fast! It occurred to me, however, that family really does influence our lives and having one is not something to take for granted. While we are all born of biological parents, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we automatically have a family. Deaths occur, marriages never happen or are dissolved, children are abandoned or adopted. Many things happen in life that disrupt the flow of life via the biological family. Even non-biological families can suffer from dysfunction, or can thrive through good relationships. It is a sense of belonging to another, however, that drives so many on a quest for family in one way or another.

Lack of family is what drives Lynn McCaine in Against Their Will. As we meet her in the opening of the story, she is distraught over things she has learned about her family. She is frantic to return to the only family she knows at the time, her cat. Her search for family is a driving force motivating her to set out on a quest for knowledge. That quest costs more than her life.

Matt Grayson has a loving family. And, he is blessed to be able to appreciate them in the present. Like most of us, he takes them for granted from time to time. But, when it’s crunch time, they are there for him and him for them.

While family is an underlying theme in Against Their Will, a parallel theme is that of being there for and supporting others in our lives. When Matt and Lynn’s ill fated flight ends in flames in East Texas, Matt Grayson doesn’t stop to think about any danger he may be in, or the non-existence of a relationship with the woman in the seat beside him with violet eyes and independent hair. He is focused on one thing, making sure he gets her out alive. Why would a stranger do something like that?

How many of us would do the same? Why would we? What’s in it for us? What drives Matt to do what he does?

Against Their Will by Nancy Livingstone

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A Moment With Death

 Here is a little whimsy ... enjoy!

Sweet ambrosia! That was my first thought when I saw her that very first time. Not that I knew what ambrosia was. She sat softly weeping over her soon to be departed father. The sun shone in from the setting sun, giving a golden glow to her already golden brown curls. Even there in the hospital her scent was noticeable; citrus touched with coconut. So angelic!

He did not die that night as doctors came in and hooked him up to life support. That really puts me off schedule when doctors do that, but this time I did not mind. It meant I could return to look at her again. On my third visit, her father was released as the life support was removed. Ensnaring his evenly grey spirit in my gloved fingers, I folded it compactly to place within my satchel. All the while gazing upon her down cast head. Her slim shoulders shook with grief. Then she looked up and appeared to take note of my presence.

"Is death painful?"

"Do you see me?" I asked.

"Well of course I see you. I do not make it a habit to speak to thin air."

Her caustic nature caught me off guard, as it did not fit with my imagined angelic thoughts of her. Too I sorrowed, for only those close to death can see me.

"Death itself is not painful, but the moments before can be quite torturous depending on your method of departure."

She laughed! I did not know how to take her, but her laugh was so delightful I could not help but want to hear it again.

She was contemplating suicide, as nothing was at all wrong with her health. I convinced her to delay her actions if she would allow me to visit her. Often. Laughing in delight she exclaimed, "Sure it's perfect, I have a date with Death!"

Indeed, we did begin dating and it has now been nine months since we began our relationship. She is still suicidal, which causes me to hasten to her side at inopportune times, and yet I cannot fault her- for it keeps us close. I am searching the archives to find out if the ambrosia of the gods is real, giving it to her would be my greatest pleasure. To live for centuries with her by my side without the fear of losing her, ah to dream!

Tonight I meet with her again. My patience with my work is thinning, yet I have one final assignment for the day.

Mounting my pale horse I make my way to the home of a woman in need of meeting her destiny. Not all cases need personal attention, fortunately. Were that the case I’d beg the powers that be for assistants. So I'm it, Death. The Grim Reaper, also known as Azriel. I've only been doing this for a year. The previous guy retired and chose me, Draper, seemingly at random.

As my horse takes me up the steep mountain path, my mind wanders back to my own meeting of destiny. Life had been at a standstill. Getting fired had been the last of my troubles. A broken engagement and the death of my parents meant I saw no more reasons to stay. With no one to turn to, feeling lost and dejected I made a decision. At my height of despair, Azriel walked in to collect my soul, taking a pocket watch out from an inner pocket of his black robe, he clicked it and nodded with a satisfied bob of his head.

I had just slit my wrist and knew surely I was not yet dead. The blood welled up and then froze, like a still life; neither pain nor relief flooded my senses. Curiosity and even puzzlement filled me, as the specter pushed his hood back and the death mask, dissipated. Before me, stood a young man- younger than myself.

“This is death?” I asked.

The near specter shrugged, and replied, “Not quite. I am Azriel, the Grim Reaper personified. I have put time on hold.”

“Why? I have no wish to remain here!”

“I understand. Once, I was in your place. I’ve been monitoring you and feel I have found the right man.”

“The right man for what?” I felt a tingle run up my spine as I envisioned tortures and more.

As it was, Azriel tired of being Death and wished to retire. He proposed trading places, explaining it was possible since he had swapped out with his predecessor when he was trying to commit suicide long centuries past.

Reaching my destination. The home sat precariously on the side of the mountain, a young mother was alone with her child, depression filled her soul. With no means of support, her husband having been drafted, with no response until this day. He would not be returning. A mother of a newborn, too weak to go down the mountain to see a village doctor, and too poor to pay for the services anyway. Out of food, and with the ground still frozen- there was no hope of finding any.

A year ago I had a hard time taking lives so sadly wasted. Now I have gained an understanding and calmly enter, only to see she has a laser weapon (left behind by her husband), her child already vaporized. Being an infant it in no way needs to be attended by Death. I watch as the mother sobs and prays for forgiveness while unseen by her eyes the infant’s spirit ascends to heaven. Then turning the gun to her own pale face, her sad visage disappeared leaving her body and spirit. The wispy gossamer essence is easily snared by Death’s clawed grasp.

Because she was neither pure, nor easily condemnable, her spirit hung in the balance, these are they whom Death must collect. Folding her spirit like a package I place it in my pouch, and with a sigh of relief, my shift is over.

Thankful that I am not charged with judgment I deposit the collected souls and make my way to my well appointed apartment. Yes, being the Grim Reaper is grim. But it has its perks.

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10 Analogies for a Great Leader

1-     The Great Leader is like the Lion: He does not fear in any kind of tragic circumstances and grabs the 'Lion's share' (market share for his company) and also gives us the protection from other dangers. He faces the difficulties with courage, meets them, treats them and defeats them. 

2-    The Great Leader is like the Foundation of a Building: He penetrates enough in the roots in order to strengthen the foundation of the company. By penetrating means he has strong grip on the policies, procedures, products and services. This helps company grow more and more. 

3-    The Great Leader is like the Rocket: When in action, he focuses on the target with full zeal and zest. He does not get distracted by any other disturbances and challenges in his path. 

4-    The Great Leader is like the Doctor: Who knows the real root cause of the diseases (issues). He isanalytical in his approach. He not only take corrective actions in order to fix the issues but also takes preventive actions in order to overcome the diseases/problems so as to eliminate them permanently. 

5-    The Great Leader is like the Train Engine: He has a clear destination in his mind. He makes sure that all of the passengers (employees) reach their destination. The passengers (employees) belong to so many categories (low/high performing, active/inactive, sick/healthy, poor/rich etc) however he takes all of them along with him towards the target destination and steadily reaches there. He keeps the engine up and running to ensure that target is achieved by all means. 

6-    The Great Leader is like the Professor: He teaches his followers with theoretical, practical, pictorial, verbal, friendly and/or commanding ways of trainings. He is effective in communication and clearly elaborates his requirements/targets so that every single member clearly understands the target and his/her role.

7-    The Great Leader is like the Servant: He facilitates the tasks and paves the way for his clients (team members), eventually the clients focus on their major responsibilities.

8-    The Great Leader is like the Newspaper: He highlights and summarizes the critical happenings so that the readers (followers) are up-to-date about surroundings and adjust their work related strategies accordingly.  

9-    The Great Leader is like the Water: He cleanse the system by removing the dirt, by reducing the impurities. 

10-   The Great Leader is like a Cricket Captain: He organizes the players/resources based on the demand. He performs for his team and not for his personal achievements. For him, team comes first so his intentions from his team and company's perspective are WIN-WIN.

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Two years ago after snorkeling with sea turtles off the coast of St. Thomas, I knew I had a wonderful occupation for my cynical marine biologist, Jack Brandon--the hero of a writing project I called TURTLE SOUP.


FUN FACT: Turtle Soup was President William Howard Taft's favorite food.


Turtle Soup, the Novel: What’s it all about?

Sea turtles may be endangered but after an encounter with marine biologist, Jack Brandon, nothing will stop Sara Hart from naming her deli Turtle Soup. When Jack takes a job at the nearby Georgia Aquarium, Sara finds the environmental poster boy at her door, hungry and carrying a chip on his shoulder. Neither thinks the other has what it takes, until a scuba class reveals what lies beneath the surface.

FUN FACT:  Turtle Soup is made from the green cartilage that lines the shell of the sea turtle.

Reader feedback for TURTLE SOUP has been fantastic. I so appreciate the time readers and reviewers take to let me know how much they enjoyed Turtle Soup!

"Witty, original and unexpected, this is a delightful read."--Long and Short of It

 "The battle between these strong and well-defined characters is fun to follow! 4.5 Stars" Reviewed by Martha E.

"A story of love lost and the ability to find love again. Rated YOU GOTTA READ!"--You Gotta Read Reviews

FUN FACT: A mock variety of Turtle Soup using a calf’s head became popular in the early 1800’s.

An Excerpt…

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sara peeling off her wetsuit. She was under the showerhead in the rinse area, one hand against the green tile to keep her balance.

He couldn't help watching the little wiggle in her hips. The harder she pulled, the longer the rubber stretched, as if it were a piece of black gum. He would have laughed out loud if jets of water weren't smoothing her hair down in a wheat curtain against her back.

Her legs were athletic and trim. She needed a tan, his defenses observed. Before he could stop himself, he stepped into the shower to help her pull the wetsuit the rest of the way off. He caught her off-balance and had to grab her wrist so she didn't fall. Her hand landed squarely on his bare chest, his eyes in the valley between the cups of her dark bikini.

One leg of the wetsuit had flopped to the tiles, while the other was still glued to her calf. She looked down foolishly for a moment as if unsure what to do but their eyes met and she seemed to trade her embarrassment for unease.

The words I'm sorry passed through his mind, but he kissed her instead. Without thinking, he closed his eyes and put his mouth on hers, timidly, in case she bit him. She didn't bite, but she didn't lean into him either. Her lips had a light layer of salt residue that had not rinsed off and he kissed her harder enjoying the scent of her breath that rose up with the steam.

With a jolt, the water temperature switched to ice cold and he stumbled back. Sara had not been lost as lost in the moment as he'd thought.

"I'm sorry," she said as she screwed the faucet handle off. She wiped the water off her face and ran her hands over her hair. He moved to put his arms around her again but she stepped back out of reach. "Don't. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."

Her face was so red it looked like her cheeks could bleed. Humiliation singed Jack's pride. "You didn't mean that?"

"No." She tripped over her wetsuit trying to escape.

He reached for a towel and wordlessly she accepted. Struggling, she pulled the other leg of her wetsuit off at last. He stood on the pool deck waiting for something more.

Of course she didn't mean it. She didn't like him one iota. She would head straight home and tell her little niece everything. There'd be a cookie on the menu tomorrow called Crummy Kiss!

FUN FACT: The turtle in TURTLE SOUP is named “Sebastian.” He is not made into soup.

Find out more or Buy Now:

Adopt a Sea Turtle!





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Trying to get recognized

I guess I'm just too old to be able to list my books at his site.  I have two self published works and one other regular published book coming out in Sept.  At this time I do not have a web site, therefore, am unable to list my books in READERSBOOKS.  sigh!  I do look at this IWS site often, however and have learned a great deal about writing even though I've been writing for years.  So many good books out there.

My two self published books, "Karielle And The Gift of Magic" and "Karielle And The Return of Magic" should still be available through  It is true, self published books do not get the press they deserve unless one can afford the marketing.  Being an author now, I am trying to learn just how to 'GET OUT THERE" and before I'm 100.  You youngsters keep up the good work. 

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1. Clarity Be clear. Clarity is the primary goal of all communication, and in business writing, the degree of transparency in one's message can determine whether one succeeds or fails in a venture, whether you're transmitting a report or closing a deal. State the intention of your message, provide the necessary details, and request the precise response you need or want.

2. Active Voice Employ active construction (subject-verb-object). "This report was sent to me by John Smith" is not wrong, and it's probably the best choice if you want to distinguish one report from another, but consider whether "John Smith" should be the subject of the sentence; the active syntax is more vigorous, and usually more appropriate.

3. Direct Language Construct concise, declarative statements. Your goal is to provide or invite information, or to persuade or be persuaded. Your time is valuable to you, but the recipient or recipients of your communication also have constraints and deadlines, so take the time to express yourself with economy and directness.

4. Simple Words Favor plain, clear words and phrases over technical terms, jargon, or buzzwords. Take care not to complicate your vocabulary or stiffen your tone in an attempt to seem more businesslike or expert. By all means, use proper terminology to enhance clarity and demonstrate your knowledge and skills, but imagine how you would speak to your intended audience, and write with a conversational glossary in mind.

5. Tone Strike a balance in tone that depends on the particular context of the communication. Even within categories (memos, whether in print or in email form, or marketing content), the feel of the correspondence will depend on many factors. Consult with management and colleagues, study precedents, and consider the audience when settling on the voice of a particular message.

6. Role Consider the role of a particular piece of communication. If it's summarizing a report, don't go into so much detail that the report itself is unnecessary (unless, of course, you're providing an executive summary for a company leader who doesn't have time to read it). If it's part of a larger project, match your writing style to the approach of the overall suite of materials.

7. Goal Focus on the expected or hoped-for outcome. Whether you're writing to a superior or a subordinate, or to a colleague or someone outside your company or organization, be clear but courteous about the goal of your correspondence.

8. Candor Avoid euphemisms or generic references; name topics outright. Diplomacy is a foundation of successful business transactions, but you can undermine success by seeming too solicitous or vague about sensitive matters. Be forthright in your discussion.

9. Formality Standards for business correspondence have become more relaxed, but maintain a professional tone, avoiding slang or text-speak, exclamation points, and overly informal salutations and sign-offs.

10. Words with Friends Be cautious about making exceptions about formality when corresponding with coworkers or associates you consider friends or confidants. Just because you dish or swear when the two of you chat in person doesn't mean you should do so in email messages or other electronic communications located on a company network. Drop the formality a notch, certainly, but don't document your lapses in professional behavior. 

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It doesn’t matter how old you are, you are at risk of being judged and labeled by others. In The Power of Labels, author Marsy Beron highlights the fact that people are constantly watching us and classifying us according to mostly unfair standards that have been imposed by society and culture. Once we start school, the issue seems to exacerbate. Mom and dad are no longer there to help us manoeuvre through the labyrinth of labels and so, inevitably, a few names stick. As time goes on, children -- even those who were victimized -- begin to do some labeling of their own. This is how the cycle survives. They label their parents and other family members, they label their friends and acquaintances, and they even label themselves. The labels we assign ourselves are usually based on the unfair assessment of others and it’s quite a task to try to distinguish between the labels we have given to ourselves and those given to us by others. In essence, the labels we carry also become the filter through which we see and understand our world. But it’s never too late to straighten up the crooked mirror and replace the negative labels with positive ones. 

10916216852?profile=originalIn The Power of Labels, Marsy Beron shares candidly how harmful a seemingly inoffensive habit really is. She generously shares her own stories and those of others in order to help the reader see the point she’s trying to make. After identifying the problem, Marsy Beron offers real useful advice in which she urges the reader to rise to a new level; a level where the ideas and opinions of others are no longer harmful and painful. Marsy Beron encourages readers of all ages to love the stage they are in. The Power of Labels pushes us to take responsibility for our lives to the extent that we do not allow the judgment and opinions of others to affect our self-esteem. Marsy Beron urges us to go back into our past and dethrone those authority figures that might have hurt and offended us with their unfair assessments.

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