I have a reason for my hiatus…

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The little lady above is the reason for my hiatus.  I have spent a good portion of the last 18 weeks hunched over a toilet or in a sleep coma.

So I am currently suspending my reviews for the time being.  I’m sorry.  I just have so much going on with trying to stay healthy, and awake, and I am still working full time and taking care of my other kids..and husband.

I am still reading, but not as often.  I’ll occasionally post every once in awhile, but it will be what I am currently reading.

Thank you for understanding…

Author Interview: Benjamin Dancer

In the spotlight today is educator Benjamin Dancer. For the month of April, proceeds from his book will go to a local program, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, that brings local writers into the classrooms.

Thank you for your interview. Can you tell readers a little about yourself?

I’m an Advisor at Jefferson County Open School where I’ve made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. I’ve been writing my whole adult life, and I am am the author of the novels PATRIARCH RUN, IN SIGHT OF THE SUN and FIDELITY. I have have three kids, and in addition to the fiction, I also write about parenting and education.

April is a month-long fundraiser for a local writing program, the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, that brings authors into the classroom. What do folks have to do to contribute to this great cause?

To contribute you can purchase PATRIARCH RUN in print or ebook on Amazon or in ebook on Smashwords. Word of mouth is very effective. So you could let other people know about the book, too. The best way to help connect PATRIARCH RUN to its audience would be to write an honest review on Amazon. All April proceeds go to the fundraiser!

 What does a typical day for you look like?

I get up around 4am to write every morning. These days, it’s to market the novel. I take my kids to school with me where I teach. And at about 5pm, we all get home. There’s dinner. Correspondence to catch up on. And by then I’m pretty spent. I tuck in the kids and hit the pillow myself.

Where do you like to write?

I write about fathers. Identity. Those are the themes that interest me.

What inspired you to write Patriarch Run?

I wanted to address themes mentioned above in a format men and boys would read. So I chose the thriller genres to carry the meaning I had hoped to convey.

How did you come to choose the title?

The story is about fathers. PATRIARCH. It’s a thriller, in which the rule is that the protagonist is always under threat, always moving. RUN.

How did you come up with and develop the idea behind Patriarch Run?

More than I am a teacher, I mentor young people as they come of age. I took the universal themes I witness in the lives of my students. Themes about the longing for a father. Themes about identity. And I made them literally happen in the story. Billy is on a quest to find his dad. Rachel, his mother, literally has to save herself. No one is going to save us in life. My students, you and I, we have to save ourselves. Learn to love ourselves. Be gentle with ourselves. This is Rachel’s quest.

Do you have any books in the works?

Once PATRIARCH RUN find its audience, I’ll bring out IN SIGHT OF THE SUN, a story about a White Mountain Apache boy going on his first raid into Mexico with his grandfather. Then FIDELITY, a story about a father who lost his son and became obsessed with his own grief. Followed by the sequel to PATRIARCH RUN.

What are your future goals as a writer?

I’d like to start by connecting with an audience. Then I’d like to contribute something meaningful to the lives of my readers.

What do you want readers to take away from Patriarch Run?

My hope is that you will be entertained. That you will carry the characters and themes. That they might provoke you. Maybe even help you.

Title: Patriarch Run                                                                                   Displaying paper front4.png
Author: Benjamin Dancer
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 312 pages
Series?: The Father Trilogy
Genre: Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon 

Benjamin DancerAbout the Author

Benjamin is an Advisor at Jefferson County Open School where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. He wrote the novelsPATRIARCH RUN, IN SIGHT OF THE SUN and FIDELITY. He also writes about parenting and education. 

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Guest Post by Benjamin Dancer

In the spotlight today is educator Benjamin Dancer’s recent novel, Patriarch Run. For the month of April, proceeds from his book will go to a local program, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, that brings local writers into the classrooms.

Bringing Authors into the Classroom

I teach writing to high school students. But I don’t see myself as a high school teacher. My job, as I see it, is to mentor young people as they come of age.

I’m an Advisor at Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, Colorado. I’m the English teacher. But the kids in my classroom are looking for more than English. They’re looking for meaning. They’re looking for something real.

Right now I’m teaching The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I use the text to teach the kids to read. I use the ideas in the book to teach them to think. And the story Pollan tells about food…I use that as a guide for our own educational adventures in the food chain. Like Pollan does in the book, we visit farms. Food markets. I bought the kids McDonalds then drove them to a feedlot with a 100,000 head of cattle that filled our nostrils with the stench of feces and urine. The poop was piled twenty feet high by tractors. The cows were covered in it up to their spines. Our lungs were singed from the ammonia.

I had the kids eat the burgers and take it all in.

Later in the semester I had the students interview their oldest living relatives. Out of that interview, the students brought traditional recipes to class, and we prepared meals together.

This week we’re discussing the ethics of eating. I have them justify it: their choice to eat, which is to say their choice to kill. I do this because I want them to be on solid moral ground. I do this because I want their bodies to be well.

Why? Because I’m their English teacher. It’s my job.

I also facilitate a writers’ group. Because I believe kids need mentors (more than just me), I partner with Lighthouse Writers Workshop, a Denver based community, to bring local authors into my classroom.

We meet at lunch every Wednesday, the writers’ group. This is a very committed group of writers (some students have graduated and still participate in the group via email from college). They take their writing seriously and provide one another with thoughtful, constructive feedback.

Once a month, we have a guest author. The guest author actually reads the week’s submission and critiques it, along with the rest of us. Imagine being seventeen years old and having your story critiqued by a published author.

After the critique session, we invite any interested student in the school to a craft talk with the author. After which, the kids get an opportunity to interact more openly. They get to ask questions about the writing process. About inspiration. About how to get published.

What’s really happening is that relationships are being developed. This is the secret to education. They can pass any law they want at the state or at the federal level. They can mandate testing. Or they can sell our schools to corporate enterprises. None of that will fix the problem we have with education in America.

Because the answer is this: teaching is about relationships. Kids need mentors. It’s that simple. They learn from the people they trust.

What happens in this guest author program is magical. Kids begin to see themselves as writers. They develop authentic relationships with authors in the community. They have consultants.

At my school, every student completes a Career Exploration Passage. It’s one of six rites of passages each student undertakes to graduate from high school. In the Career Exploration Passage, as the title indicates, students explore a career. The project involves an internship, research, consultants, a series of interviews, a resume. And eventually the student maps out a path to his or her chosen field.

The beauty of the curriculum at the Open School is that the students I work with get to consult with actual professionals. They get to interview our guest authors and develop relationships that will last long after high school is over.

To make all this work I went to our school’s Parent Teacher Student Organization(PTSO) and asked for $50 a month to bring local authors into the classroom. The parents on PTSO generously supported the program, and they also asked me to consider ways to raise money to pay for it.

It was a reasonable request on their part, responsible even, but I had to think about it. What could I do to help support my own program?

Meanwhile, I went to Lighthouse Writers Workshop and told them what our PTSO was willing to do. Lighthouse generously matched my school’s contribution.

So we had $100 a month to bring local authors into the school. Not much. But money communicates value. By paying authors what we can, we let them know that we value their profession. Their work. Moreover, writers are hungry, and, so far, the guest authors have been grateful for the gig.

This week we’re hosting Caleb Seeling, the publisher at Conundrum Press. Caleb also writes graphic novels.

Then it finally came to me a few weeks ago: how to raise money for the program. I had a book release pending for my literary thriller Patriarch Run. It occurred to me that I could donate the April proceeds to PTSO and, in that way, raise money to support the guest author program at the Open School.

Which is what we’re doing. It’s a good book. It’s a good cause. And we’d welcome your support.

If you’d like to know more about our amazing school (there have been many books written about it), let me know. And if you’d like to learn more about me or my stories, you could drop me a line about that, too.

Displaying paper front4.pngThank you for finding me,

Benjamin Dancer

Title: Patriarch Run
Author: Benjamin Dancer
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 312 pages
Series?: The Father Trilogy
Genre: Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon 

Benjamin DancerAbout the Author

Benjamin is an Advisor at Jefferson County Open School where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. He wrote the novelsPATRIARCH RUN, IN SIGHT OF THE SUN and FIDELITY. He also writes about parenting and education. 

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Spotlight & Excerpt ~ Patriarch Run

In the spotlight today is educator Benjamin Dancer’s recent novel, Patriarch Run. For the month of April, proceeds from his book will go to a local program, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, that brings local writers into the classrooms.

Displaying paper front4.pngTitle: Patriarch Run
Author: Benjamin Dancer
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 312 pages
Series?: The Father Trilogy
Genre: Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon 

Synopsis

Billy discovers that his father might be a traitor, that he was deployed to safeguard the United States from a cyberattack on its military networks. After that mission, his father disappeared along with the Chinese technology he was ordered to steal–a weapon powerful enough to sabotage the digital infrastructure of the modern age and force the human population into collapse. 

Against a backdrop of suspense, the story explores the archetypal themes of fatherhood, coming of age and self-acceptance through a set of characters that will leave you changed.

Excerpt

Rachel never rode over the summit of the mountain because of the treacherous nature of that trail. It was against all rational judgement that she found herself on it now. At tree line the horse climbed over the ridge, stepped out of the spruce forest and onto the packed scree that made up the trail from there to the tundra. The mountainside below them gave way completely to granite cliffs.
The trail snaked along the top.
At the highest point among the cliffs, with nearly a thousand feet of empty space beneath the hooves of Old Sam, Rachel spotted two figures several hundred yards in the distance. She talked to the horse. Said she couldn’t be sure, but it looked to be a man and a bristlecone pine.
The horse walked on.
“Watch your step, Old Sam.”
As they closed the distance, Rachel recognized him and saw that he was untying a rope from the gnarled tree.
“You couldn’t have picked a better view.”
Regan had looked at her once when he first heard the hooves on the scree, then he went back to his rope. Now he looked up at her face. Looked the horse over. Then he studied her eyes. She had divined his purpose.
He looked away. “Yeah, it’ll do.”
The two knew each other, but had rarely had cause to speak.
“I don’t mean to meddle, but it seems to me that the rope is ill conceived.”
Regan finished retying the rope to the tree, tested the knot and asked, “How so?”
“Too much length, and the wind, along with your own momentum, will lacerate your flesh against the rock.”
He looked over the edge. “That occurred to me as you were coming up. I shortened the rope.”
“Not enough length, and it’ll be slow and painful.”
He studied the coil of parachute cord on the ground and said with very little inflection. “It looks about right to me.” Then he walked over to a granite boulder.
“Seems you’ve thought it through.”
He sat down and pulled off his right boot. “We’ll see.”
Rachel reached behind her and took out a water bottle. Drank. She offered the bottle to Regan with a gesture.
He put out his lower lip and shook his head almost imperceptibly.
She capped it and put it back.
“Mind if I ask you a question?”
“Go ahead.” He pulled off the other boot.
“Why the rope and the cliff?”
“Coyotes.”
“I don’t follow.”
“When I was a kid, coyotes killed my dog. I heard the fight, but by the time I found her in the dark, they were already feeding on her guts.” He took off both socks and stood up. “They pulled her insides out through her anus.” He stepped over to the precipice and surveyed the valley.
“How old were you?”
“Six.”
Rachel nodded her head, which he didn’t see.
“With only the rope or only the cliff, I’d be left for the coyotes.”
“But this way it’s only insects and birds.”
He spun to face her, his widened eyes betraying surprise–or maybe alarm.
“Birds always eat the eyeballs first,” she continued. “Must be a delicacy to them. The insects just want a womb for their maggots. A nutrient-rich source to give their young a good start.”
Regan fidgeted with the socks in his hands.
“You could’ve picked a high branch.”
He looked distracted, as if he was still digesting the other image. “I thought of that.” He walked over to his boots, unbuttoning his silk shirt.
“Yeah.”
“A bear could cut the rope.”
“It seems you’ve thought it through.”
He took off his shirt, folded it and set it on a rock. “We’ll see.”
Rachel looked back over the trail. “Well, I best be goin’.”
“OK.”
She turned the horse, “Those are some fancy clothes.”
“Yeah.” He took off his belt. “The boots alone cost me eleven hundred dollars, and that was before tax.”
“I suppose it’s fitting.”
“It seemed that way to me, too, down at the house. But after being up here, I don’t think so.”
“How so?”
He wasn’t looking at her anymore. “I think I’ll be more comfortable without them.”
“What are you going to do with those eleven hundred dollar boots?”
He carried the clothes over to the bristlecone tree, put the boots on top of the folded shirt, the socks inside the boots and the belt around the boots. “Come back and get ’em if you like.”
“Well, I best be gettin’ along.”
“Ok.”
“You know my place?”
“I know it.”
“We’ll be sittin’ down for supper around six. Sirloin and potatoes. If you have a mind to, you’re welcome to stop by.”
He picked up the loose end of the parachute cord and started tying a hangman’s noose. “I appreciate that.”

Benjamin DancerAbout the Author

Benjamin is an Advisor at Jefferson County Open School where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. He wrote the novelsPATRIARCH RUN, IN SIGHT OF THE SUN and FIDELITY. He also writes about parenting and education. 

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Book Review: Range Wars by Coty Justus

Range_Wars

 

Ohhhh…the final battle.  So much is going on.  Here is the synopsis:

In the final book of the Birthrights series, evil seeks to manufacture an eruption of the supervolcano lying beneath Yellowstone National Park. Forcing earthquake after earthquake, with each progressively stronger than the one before, the plates sealing the magma within the chamber steadily weaken. Only The Ten can stop it. Two will be lost. Two will be found. 

Range Wars is set against a high plains backdrop, where a battle a quarter-millennium in the making begins at America’s first national monument, Devil’s Tower, and ends at America’s first national park, Yellowstone. Chosens fight alongside priestesses as The Ten marshal their forces for a Western-style Armageddon.

So many things to love about this book.

The first is that you get a glimpse into the lives of all the characters you have met in previous books.  They are all living at the stronghold, they all have kids and the kids are absolutely adorable.

Odessa, as high priestess, is told what needs to be done.  She is given a time line and specific instructions.  The family pulls together to make it a reality.  Well, most of them.

I love how the women are supported by their chosens.  Usually.  Again, Ms. Justus does a great service by illustrating that even when love is fated, it is not always perfect.  And every marriage, paranormal or not, has issues.

The plan is so audacious, but I love how each of “The Ten” use their powers and work together, even the little ones, to make it happen.

This one is a little dark as well.  The story goes back to the beginning and focuses on Odessa and Jason again and their family.  Odessa’s strength and faith shines through.

I don’t want to give anything away, but this is a very satisfying ending to an amazing series.  No loose ends, no what ifs, truly satisfying.

Overall, this is a fantastic series.  Very well written, very well thought out.  Ms. Justus sucks you into Wyoming, the religion of “The Ten”, the belief that some things aren’t always what they seem.  I love the strength, the resilience of the women and their chosens.  Their devotion to family.  A truly unique series, outside the usual realm of “paranormal romance” and very reality based.

What I mean by that statement is that time and time again, Ms. Justus presents issues that would come up in a real marriage if one partner in the marriage were to have paranormal powers.  I find this really refreshing, a completely different take on the idyllic paranormal life you see in other series.  These ladies have children who also inherit powers.  That speaks to me as a mother.  So in that way, the author made something from the fantasy realm very real and tangible to me.  Excellent work.

I recommend this to all women in general.  Awesome series in female bonding, strength, love and faith.  All of the women of “The Ten” overcome extraordinary circumstances, some literally come back from the “dark side” to create the life that they want.  Fantastic series and I was actually sad when it ended.

Book Review: The Roundup by Coty Justus

Roundup

This is book three in the Birthrights series.  This one is probably one of my favorites in the series.  I absolutely love the characters and the action and the description of the locations used in the book.  Here is the synopsis:

Sliced from her dead mother’s womb by a reclusive wildlife conservationist, Penny is lovingly raised in seclusion in the mountains of western Wyoming. Because there are those who wish her dead, she must always hide. When her guardian angel dies, leaving her alone at the age of twelve, she waits eight years for the one she knows will eventually rescue her. 

When Matthew sees Penny in a chance encounter at a gas station, he knows she is for him, but by the time he is able to turn his vehicle around, she is gone. For the next year, Matthew searches for his mystery woman. Finding her proves easier than keeping her, though, thanks to the contents of a leather tote.

I absolutely LOVE Penny.  She is funny, she is sweet and she is so good with wildlife and animals.  Her relationships with her animals is so precious.  She reminds me of my daughter, who loves animals as well.  And she is so innocent it is endearing, not annoying.

One aspect of the series I haven’t mentioned in any of my reviews so far is the character of Alicia.  She is interesting to say the least.  She is the mother of all the Stanton boys, and is fiercely protective, to the point of turning her back on her birthright in an effort to “protect” them.  She often makes wrong assumptions about the things she witnesses or the messages she receives from her goddess.

I also want to point out the unique quality of this religion.  I’m not well versed on other religions other than the usual judeo-christian based ones, so I have no idea if the one in the book is actually based on an actual religion, but I love it.  It’s not really a religion, per se, but more like a way of life.  It is a birthright.  These women are born of a bloodline of women with powers.  There are codes, of course.  And their duties are to propagate  and teach the next generation and battle the “one who is many”.  There are other members of “The Ten” who have gone “dark” that is to the dark side.

Again, I love the love story.  When these women find their “chosen” it is love at first sight.  And it is all consuming.  I love stories like that.

In particular with this story, as with The Stronghold, I love the incorporation of Native American culture.  With the fantastic descriptions of the landscape during Penny’s journey in this book, I really want to head to that part of the country.

Another things that I love as this series progresses is the relationships that grow among the women as the stronghold expands.  The friendship with Odessa and JB, how they welcome Penny with open arms.  How they care for each other and their children.  Very inspirational and much needed in a world where women usually stab each other in the back.

This book is probably up there with my favorites in the series.

 

Book Review: A Home on the Range by Coty Justus

Just found my latest paranormal romance series to binge out on….

ahomeontherange

The author originally asked me to review one of the books of her series.  I saw that there were a few books in the series, and knowing what I know about these types of books, I asked if I could read the others.  The author graciously complied and that is how I spent a good portion of last week engrossed in the world of The Ten and the Stanton family.  Here is the synopsis:

Book 1: Odessa and Jason 

After her mother’s death at the hands of a cult leader, Odessa escapes the cult, relying upon determination, instinct and a mysterious voice to keep her one step ahead of her pursuers. The blood-stained contents of the heavy leather tote she bears have already cost lives, and she is prepared to kill to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. 

Jason waits. He does not know what he waits for, only that it rapidly approaches from the east. Restless, he struggles to comprehend his inner turmoil, delving into his family’s past for answers, answers that may cost him his life.

There are five books in this series.  I highly recommend reading all of them.  Each can function as stand alone novels, there aren’t any cliff hangers, but characters overlap from one book to another, and the story continues until the final book.

I love so many things about this series, the first being that it is extremely female driven.  In the heritage that Jason and Odessa both belong to, without knowing it, it is female-centric.  The women are the ones in charge.  The women are the ones in power and it is the job of the men to protect.

Odessa’s strength and drive is overwhelming.  It sets the stage for later books and you understand why she is who she is in the greater scheme of things.

I loved reading about Wyoming.  I now want to go there.  The author does a wonderful job setting the scene, putting you right there with Odessa on her journey.

The love story is fantastic.  I love these stories where people meet and they just KNOW.  That they are meant to be together because they are greater together than apart.  I should note that this is a love story, but there aren’t any sex scenes.  They really aren’t necessary and this series is pretty safe for teenagers of all ages.

The rest of the series is as follows:

Book 2: The Stronghold (Jocasta and Alan)

Book 3: The Roundup (Penny and Matthew)

Book 4: The Maverick (Acrasia and Michael)

Book 5: Range Wars (The Final Battle)

Excellent start to an excellent series.  I will be reviewing each of the books for the rest of the month.

 

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