“… gripping, thrilling, touching, ..perfect…The only reason this book got put down were things I couldn’t postpone any longer- supper was already late, the errands were put to the last minute… I couldn’t stop reading. You won’t either. Read this book. B.R.A.G.H OURAY’S PEAK 5 out of 5 stars.
“[O]ne of the best novels I have read…Leigh Podgorski paints a scenic picture of the Colorado mountain country and the Indian reservation in this beautiful, memorable, coming of age story… unique storytelling…[I] look forward to more from this author. Thank you Ms. Podgorski, I didn’t want the story to end! Jacqueline Bryant reviewed Ouray’s Peak 5 out of 5 stars…

Chief Jack knew: whenever the red man wars against the white, it is always the red man who loses.
But which was she?
Jamie said his mother’s blood flowed in his veins.
Just so, her father’s blood flowed in hers.
And so it had been husband against wife.
Father against daughter.
Brother against sister.
Whenever the red man wars against the white, it is always the red man who loses.
And what if the red man is you?
And what if the white man is you?
And what if the red man and what if the white man both together, mixed together, flowed freely together in the same veins and those veins were you?

Ouray’s Peak is the journey of Kristin Tabor that takes her cross country and deep within the Rocky Mountains in search of her mother, leading her to the discovery of her Ute heritage, and eventually opening her heart to love, reunification, and hope.

The novel is being offered as a GoodReads Autographed Giveaway Promo through September 29th


In another life, in another world, at another time, I took a detour from my beloved, from my drug of choice; I suppose one could say, for a brief moment in time— I lost my mind. In my early twenties I thought perhaps what I really really wanted to be was– gasp– an actress. I spent two whirlwind years at bucolic New England College in Henniker, NH– a lovely counterpoint to the hustle of Boston where I had done undergraduate work at Boston University. NEC offered something no other college or university– at least I checked out could rival– a semester abroad touring the British Isles with three separate evenings of theatre! Talk about baptism under fire!

One of our most erudite professors who made his home at our sister college in Arundel, Sussex, England was Clapham Murray– though we all knew him as Cope. Recently, because of this wonderful invention the Internet, I have reconnected with Cope and his son Peter who was but a mere lad while we were in Arundel rehearsing madly for thirty days before we set out, returning gratefully to the gracious campus for badly needed respites in between our tours all over green and glorious Great Britain. No one who was lucky enough to get to do the Arundel Tour ever forgot it, and I was indeed one of the lucky ones.

Cope directed one of our one-act plays, The White Whore and the Bit Player, and I suffered great bouts of jealousy that I was not cast to play either part. He is also an actor, appearing in several films, and a long time member of The Barnstormers Theatre in Tamworth, New Hampshire. Cope is also a writer, and has a new book hot off the presses, which it is my honor to feature on my blog:

Tales from O’Reilly’s Porch takes us back to a time when the world was all gin and cookies.

But who thought the girl of your dreams would write you off, by telling you that you are still a boy. So, you and your friend, Tabor Anthony, wanted to reenact Manet’s The Luncheon. So, one of the girls was buck-naked. After all, it was a party weekend. And then she said, “maybe the army can make a man of you; one can only hope.”

Little did she know. Who thought you were going to run into Jon Luther Halbrand, a gung ho West Point graduate, or that you would get involved with a theatre group called The Off-base Players, and that the leading lady would try to seduce you, a married woman no less. A boy, huh?

And then there was Gabby, Gabriella Kelly.

You can pick up your copy from Kindle and amazonbooks.com


This review is from: A Tale From O’Reilly’s Porch (Paperback) by Lyman Gilmore

A delightful page-turner from beginning to end! It is one young man’s engaging trip from college graduation where they mispronounced his name through an hilarious stint in the army and a satiric Texas country club society dance to his love for and commitment to theatre.

Happy traveling, my friends!


Is it or Isn’t It Magic Realism and Does it Matter?

News and Musings From Violet Hills Productions


Magical realism, unlike the fantastic or the surreal, presumes that the individual requires a bond with the traditions and the faith of the community, that s/he is historically constructed and connected. (P. Gabrielle Foreman. Past on Stories: History and the Magically Real, Morrison and Allende on Call. Magical Realism. Ed. Zamora and Faris, p. 286).

Magical Realism takes the supernatural for granted and spends more of its space exploring the gamut of human reactions (Susan J. Napier. The Magic of Identity: Magic Realism in Modern Japanese Fiction.).

Magic realism (is) a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report. Designating a tendency of the modern novel to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw upon the energies of fable, folk tale, and myth while maintaining a strong contemporary social relevance. The fantastic…

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Is it or Isn’t It Magic Realism and Does it Matter?


Magical realism, unlike the fantastic or the surreal, presumes that the individual requires a bond with the traditions and the faith of the community, that s/he is historically constructed and connected. (P. Gabrielle Foreman. Past on Stories: History and the Magically Real, Morrison and Allende on Call. Magical Realism. Ed. Zamora and Faris, p. 286).

Magical Realism takes the supernatural for granted and spends more of its space exploring the gamut of human reactions (Susan J. Napier. The Magic of Identity: Magic Realism in Modern Japanese Fiction.).

Magic realism (is) a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report. Designating a tendency of the modern novel to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw upon the energies of fable, folk tale, and myth while maintaining a strong contemporary social relevance. The fantastic attributes given to characters in such novels-levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis-are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagoric political realities of the 20th century. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms).

These are but three of hundreds of definitions one can find on Magic Realism, but if we sort through them we find, of course, a basic agreement on the basic tenets: a mixture of the real with (for lack of a better word) the supernatural, “a strong sense of contemporary social relevance,” a sense of indigenous cultures, and the very strong sense of a “taking for granted the supernatural.”

“A bit of history tells us that the term “magical realism was coined around 1924 or 1925 by a German art critic named Franz Roh…” (Alejo Carpentier, The Baroque and the Marvelous Real). Not a surprise that the term should come out of Germany in the 20’s, or that the movement should be rising there, though the literary movement is, of course, associated with Latin America. Latina journalist and social critic Isabel Allende transported the movement further in her feminist writings that protested elitism, racism, and sexism. And what better vehicle than Magic Realism to infuse and uplift her writings of a group mired in social and political powerlessness and suffering domestic brutality?

My question is—how much of the intellectual definition in fact can be transported before the genre is disfigured or transmogrified into something else entirely? Does it matter?

In today’s literary marketplace it seems at times that it is all about the label—though in truth, Magic Realism does not seem to entice anyone to pounce upon the BUY NOW button. Still, a category is a category, or a label is a label, and it would matter to the loyal group of readers.

Is Magic Realism the same as Surreal the same as Metaphysical the same as Paranormal?

Don’t cringe—of course not.

But where exactly does one draw the line?

For example, at last count there were over one million words in the English language—with new ones added and deleted continuously. Language is fluid. Are genres? And if so, how much so? Who decides?

For me, the largest question revolves around taking the supernatural for granted. Currently, I am working on a mystery series, Stone Quest in which the lead character, Luke Stone, is a psychic visionary. He has “fantastic attributes”: he has psychic visions and he has the power of healing; however, not only does he not take these attributes for granted, he fights like hell against them. As the character progresses through the series, he discovers even more “attributes”, which I won’t reveal here (spoiler alert!), and his battle with his “supernatural” self is a decisive part of the plot. I had at one time called the series Magic Realism—but have since stopped. I was for a while referring to it as Paranormal—but in today’s literary parlance paranormal means vampires and witches and things not of this series, so I have removed that moniker as well. I toyed with Metaphysical – but that didn’t seem quite right, so have now settled upon Mystical and so be it. For now.

I believe my choice to no longer designate the Stone Quest series as Magic Realism was the correct one, though, honestly, it saddened me because so many things about Magic Realism and its definition lure me: “Magical realism manages to present a view of life that exudes a sense of energy and vitality in a world that promises not only joy, but a fair share of misery as well. In effect, the reader is rewarded with a perspective on the world that still includes much that has elsewhere been lost. (David K. Danow. The Spirit of Carnival Magical Realism and the Grotesque). And of course, the master, the king, Garcia Marquez said “realism is a kind of premeditated literature that offers too static and exclusive a vision of reality. However good or bad they may be, they are books which finish on the last page. In other words…the magic text is, paradoxically, more realistic than the realistic text.” (Scott Simpkins, Sources of Magic Realism/Supplements to Realism in Contemporary Latin American Literature).

Ultimately, whatever I call it, the readers’ experience is up to me.

Unfortunately, it is also up to me, as an Indie author, to guide my readers to my books. And that is where the labels and where the accuracy of those labels comes into play.

We do owe our audience accuracy—and that means marketing accuracy as well.

Later this summer, I am planning on beginning my very first romance novel, Western Song, a contemporary western romance, adapted from an award-winning screenplay. The story has both Native American and Thai characters, and in the original screenplay, I touched upon both the religion and mythology of both cultures. Lots more room to grow these in the novel form. Lots more room to call upon Magic Realism here without jeopardy of compromising the integrity of the genre, too.


Watch this space…

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (6th – 8th August) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the link at the top of this post to find out about the other posts and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.


Where Do Your Ideas Come From?
Authors are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s a fair question. I have been fascinated with the metaphysical and the unseen universe as far back as I can remember. My favorite authors as a kid were Poe and Asimov, and then, when I got a little older, I started to delve into Jung. I did a lot of research for another book of mine, Ouray’s Peak, which is about the Ute Indians, and their world. Their lives are so connected with the Earth, with nature; they have the ability to hear and see and feel the things that lie beneath, the things for the most part that modern man has lost the proficiency for. I’ve read a good deal of Tom Brown and his Tracker series; he was a great influence. When I moved to California, I worked with Cahuilla Elder, Dr. Katherine Siva Saubel. She told me many things, among them, she told me about whistling for the wind. She lived in a dry desert climate, and when the heat became too much, she knew how to purse her lips together and blow gently to summon a cooling breeze. All of these things came together for me in the creation of the central character in the Stone Quest Series, Luke Stone. Creating Luke was akin to creating an alter ego; like bestowing upon myself those magical powers I could only read about and wish for.
The first book in the series is Desert Chimera. When we first meet Luke, he is only 28 years old, forsaken in the desert in the middle of torrential rains, and assaulted by apocalyptic visions. His mentor of seven years, the Cherokee shaman whom he calls Grandfather has suddenly died, and Luke has been on a desperate cross-country quest that has led him here. We find him praying in agony, but his prayers are answered not by the one he seeks, but by the One he thought he’d escaped seven long years ago, his nemesis, the black magician Armand Jacobi. Now, Luke must face the true horrors of his past. The ensuing battle will either be Luke’s final destruction or his ultimate redemption. During this struggle, Luke will also meet fellow travelers, whose lives will be placed in his hands, one of whom, Consuelo Arroyo, will open his heart.
Desert Chimera actually began as the play Desert Wolf. The play was produced at the Inter Act Theatre Company in North Hollywood. Besides the character of Luke, I had become enamored with the relationship between Luke and his mentor/nemesis Armand Jacobi. Desert Chimera explores this relationship, the relationship, really between good and evil, and between love and hate that dwells at the very center of Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi. The most interesting relationships, the ones we can’t forget or get over, the ones that haunt us for a lifetime, are the ones that are the most complex and not so simply reduced to right or wrong.
In the second book of the series, Gallows Ascending, Luke has left the desert; he has left Armand Jacobi, and has begun a new life at the edge of the sea in New Camen, New Hampshire. His first wife, Consuelo, whom he met in the desert, has died, and Luke meets Dr. Beth Rutledge with whom he falls in love. Accused of the murder of her daughter, stripped of her license to practice medicine, her marriage to prominent politician Adrian Mountzaire in tatters, Beth is haunted nightly by the chilling visions of a woman’s death by hanging, Then, a young boy goes missing, and Adrian Mountzaire turns up dead, lying in the sand right next to his wife. Now, Luke, the tracker, must not only find the missing boy but also the real killer of Mountzaire in order to save his newly beloved wife from the fate that haunts her dreams.
But his own dreams—nightmare hauntings—of Jacobi are never far behind him. Deep into the night, as Beth sleeps restlessly beside him, Luke finds himself allowing his mind to wander, allowing himself to unleash his psychic gifts and to furtively search that parallel universe to see if he can catch a glimpse of the man he served as disciple and almost destroyer.
The third book in the series, Neuri Shape-Shifter, finds Luke and Beth’s marriage reeling as their daughter Bridget Grace at thirteen struggles for autonomy, her psychic abilities as she approaches menses, if anything, to Luke’s chagrin, even greater than his. Adding to the tumult is the case of three missing girls vanished from the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Luke lived as the disciple of Armand Jacobi. Luke’s investigation into the missing girls takes him to the raging Vampire Club scene where ominous signs point irrefutably to Jacobi’s involvement. Then, on the day of Luke’s birthday, BG vanishes, leaving behind only a cryptic note. Gregorian chants hum, Catholic Saints animate, and fairy lanterns glow as Luke Stone is once again drawn into combat against the black magician, chasing his nemesis from New Camen, NH to Alphabet City, NY, to the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan in a battle to save his daughter’s life.
From the power of an idea, to the love of a character, to the force of a relationship, to the appeal of place, it is from these seeds that spring the stories writers tell. But here’s the secret every writer knows: We are but the vessel. Because when we are in tune, when we are in sync, we only transcribe what bubbles up from the stream of unconsciousness; what our characters incessantly whisper to us as we scribble furiously to catch their words before they fade away.
In the end, I’ll never know definitively what power led me ultimately to Luke Stone and through him to Armand Jacobi., and through both of them through the ever-widening creation of the Stone Quest Series. I know it is a place in which I love to dwell. I found myself one late summer’s day, just as golden day was turning to purple twilight, apropos of absolutely nothing, explaining to a friend why I write: “I can create my own world,” I told him. “I can make anything I want happen there. The characters’ lives turn out exactly as I wish them, too.”
Except of course, that was a fallacy: The characters’ lives, if I am in tune—If I am doing it all exactly “write”—turn out exactly the way they dictate they should.

Flying High with Magic Realism

Currently, I am completing the third book, Neuri Shape-Shifter, in my Stone Quest magical realism series. Recently, Evie Woolmore of Allonymbooks reviewed the first book of that series, Desert Chimera, and followed up the review with an interview. Desert Chimera was first envisioned as the play Desert Wolf some fifteen years ago that premiered at the InterAct Theatre Company here in Los Angeles. Evie asked me some very interesting and insightful questions, one of which was: What did writing the book offer you, in terms of exploring [the] huge range of material, that you couldn’t cover in the play?

Though playwrights have experimented with play forms for as long as the craft has existed, and though we now have technology that can spark and pop and make our audiences gasp and howl with joy and wonder, in the end with any play production there are limits: limits of budget, limits of time, limits of space, in short, limits of reality.  In trying to craft the story of characters such as Luke Stone who begins the play with an apocryphal vision in the heart of Death Valley and Armand Jacobi who is described as Luke’s nemesis and a “black magician,” for the stage, one can see how difficult those limits can be. How does one show the apocryphal vision to an audience when all one has is the actor on the stage? Does he voice a monologue? Throughout the play there were several instances of “magical” effects. How to affect those? Of course the hugely successful Wicked dazzled. But I did not have that budget. Nor a fraction of it. Perhaps the greatest frustration for me was the final duel between Armand and Luke in the Desert Wolf Café. No matter how brilliantly this stage fight was choreographed, it was doomed to remain at best only a stage fight.

But as a novel? What are the limits in a novel? In the physical realm, none.

However, when you are employing magic realism, you can take your readers as high as you can fly.

As I adapted the play to a novel, I had the opportunity to widen the scope of the piece, exploring, for example, the spirituality of the characters, especially my protagonist and antagonist, Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi. For example, I was able to fully describe the apocryphal vision Luke had in the desert as well as many of his other visions. Luke tells Consuelo about the first time he remembers healing. He had been forced to shoot a bird by his alcoholic abusive father. He gathered up the wounded bird in his hand; he felt his hands grow warm, he felt the bird’s heartbeat, the wings flutter, and the bird flew suddenly away. The novel also delves into the dark magic of Armand Jacobi and the life Luke led with him while he was one of Jacobi’s lost boys It describes the rituals Armand held with the young Luke at his side, the conjuring they did, the spirits they raised, and the moment when the darkness danced so far upon the razor’s edge of evil that Luke ran for his life. During the final showdown between mentor and pupil, I could go into as much detail as I desired, taking Luke into his past, and even deep within the cries of the desert wolves that howl outside the café as rain pelts the windows and Luke fights his nemesis in a battle that will culminate either in his triumph or the loss of his soul forever.

But creating magic realism is not akin to anything goes.

If anything, the writer must be more vigilant, more careful, more particular, more attentive to detail than in fiction that does not contain this element.

The writer is crafting an entire universe unknown, at first, to anyone but her. If your readers enter this unknown land and are not quickly given the key to its existence, if they do not understand the rules under which your world operates, they will all too quickly grow disenchanted, and exeunt.

If Luke Stone is suddenly able to solve all his problems by his magical powers—where is the tension? And if Luke Stone has magical powers, why can’t he solve all his problems by simply calling upon them? Moreover, and vice versa, of his nemesis Armand Jacobi is the so-powerful black magician who was his mentor and knows him so well, why can’t Jacobi easily over-power Luke? You had better make certain you have answers to these questions, and those answers better be good and they’d better be rooted in certainty and in the reality of the world you have created in which your characters dwell. It isn’t always easy when you play around with magic; it most assuredly makes for a far more daunting  challenge,  but in the end, both the creator and the reader are amply rewarded.

I am pleased to announce that I have just joined Zoe Brook’s Magic Realism Blog Hop. The above article is my first posting for the “hop.” Below are our other members. You can also visit and learn more about Ms. Brooks’ work @ http://ZoeBrooks.blogspot.com or on Facebook/ZoeBrooksAuthor
Have a great tour!

Indie Book Reviews (5)

Many thanks to Evie Woolmore of Allonymbooks for her very insightful review of DESERT CHIMERA. Evie is a very accomplished author in her own right; visit allonymbooks.com to view a complete list of her work, or Amazon either Amazon US or UK. And if you are interested in books that take you on spiritual journeys, take a look at


We mark the reopening of the book review list with a review of Leigh Podgorski’s novel, Desert Chimera.

Desert Chimera by Leigh Podgorski (Amazon UK and Amazon US)

Leigh Podgorski’s biography notes “her scholarship and fascination with the diverse cultures of the Earth” and her novel Desert Chimera is a testament to both that attention to detail and her desire to do justice to the beauty and complexity of those cultures. Set over a period of less than twenty four hours in the evocatively named Desert Wolf Café located “on a lonesome slice of highway” in Death Valley, four characters are brought together to witness another two fight for control of their entwined destinies. These six very diverse individuals with lovely names – café owner Eppie Falco, handyman Leo Monroe, travellers Mack Starr and Consuelo Vasquez, and the two central characters Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi – are…

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OURAY’S PEAK: “I didn’t want the story to end!”

My Coming of Age Novel OURAY’S PEAK recently received a lovely review on Amazon from Jacqueline Bryant.

Many on GoodReads might know me as the author of the mystical/occult mystery series STONE QUEST that contains the two books DESERT CHIMERA and GALLOWS ASCENDING.

Currently I am deeply immersed in completing book Three of the series: NEURI SHAPE-SHIFTER.

The STONE QUEST series features psychic tracker Luke Stone and his nemesis the black magician Armand Jacobi in a classic struggle, both physical and psychological, of good versus evil.

Armand was largely absent from GALLOWS ASCENDING as Luke leaves the desert and wanders to New England, his first wife having died in Death Valley. In New England he is drawn into a mystery that reaches back over 250 years and involves witchcraft and the brutal hanging of a beautiful young woman. Luke must solve the mystery in order to save his new beloved, Beth Rutledge.

In NEURI SHAPE-SHIFTER, Luke’s nemesis Armand returns.

OURAY’S PEAK, follows the journey of Kristin Tabor as she crosses the country and treks deep inside the Rocky Mountains in search of the mother who left when she was still a child.

I have re-printed the review below.

Please visit my Amazon page for more information on all my books:


or my web site:


All of my books are available free if you are an Amazon Prime user.


Jacqueline Bryant –

Amazon Verified Purchase


This review is from: Ouray’s Peak (Kindle Edition)

This is one of the best novels I have read of late. Kristin, a teenaged girl of partly native American descent (Ute), leaves the home of her brother and alcoholic father to search for her beloved mother, Christine, who has left the family to answer her true calling as a healer to the Ute people. This story so clearly portrays the adolescent longing for an estranged mother, the loneliness of separation from family, and the desperation of a search that at times feels near to hopeless. But Kristin has a strong spirit and unquenchable determination to find her mother and her true heritage as a native American. The hardships and obstacles she encounters every day of the journey hardens and also matures Kristin as she stands at the threshold of adulthood, but what will she do when she meets the love of her life and must learn to trust and surrender her heart again? Leigh Podgorski paints a scenic picture of the Colorado mountain country and the Indian reservation in this beautiful, memorable, coming of age story, which I consider excellent for young and older readers alike. I applaud her unique storytelling talent and look forward to more from this author. Thank you Ms. Podgorski, I didn’t want the story to end!


DC_PRINTMy Kindle Select Novel Desert Chimera, the first book in the Stone Quest series introduces the reader to psychic tracker and visionary Luke Stone will be offered free on April 14th.

Desert Chimera was first envisioned as the play Desert Wolf, and presented at the Interact Theatre Company, directed by Dave Florek, and starring Dave Florek (Prince of Belle Aire, Grace Under Fire, Captain Ahab, Audi among countless other television and film roles) in the role of Luke Stone with Greg White as Armand Jacobi, Tina Carlisi as Mack Starr, Ivonne Coll as Consuelo Arroyo (later replaced by Denise Blasor due to Ivonne’s demanding schedule), Bette Rae as Eppie Falco, and Jeris Pondexter as Leo.

After a very successful performance at the Interact, I decided to adapt the play to a novel to delve more deeply into the tantalizing relationship between Luke and his nemesis the black magician Armand Jacobi, the man who picked him up off the streets of New York City as an urchin run-a-way, healed him, and tutored him in the occult arts.

Desert Chimera explores the complicated relationship between these two men, Luke Stone and Armand Jacobi, and more deeply, the complicated relationship between good and evil.

When I first began developing the material, I read biographies of Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard as well as biographies of Church of Satan leader Anton LeVay. Both of these larger-than-life figures inform the character of Armand Jacobi.

I was also reading Tom Brown’s books about the man Grandfather who lived in the woods of New Jersey and lived by his preternatural tracking skills. Mr. Brown’s work influenced me greatly in the development of the character of Luke.

Desert Chimera  delves into Luke’s paranormal universe, his psychic visions, and his power of healing. But balancing the metaphysical aspect, the book explores Luke’s budding romance with one of the fellow travelers he finds at Eppie Falco’s Desert Inn and Cafe: the beautiful Consuelo Arroyo. These fellow travelers have gathered at Eppie’s Desert Inn in the midst of a torrential rainstorm. Now, with the arrival of Luke’s nemesis Armand, they are held hostage as the mercurial Jacobi exerts his will and power over Luke to gain his ultimate desire.

Throughout the book, throughout his journey both in the physical and on the metaphysical plane, Luke struggles with the concept of good versus evil, and ultimately with the even larger question: why should he choose good?

Not unlike the question ordinary people face every day, but on a rather magnificent scale. Luke struggles in the heart of Death Valley as torrential rain strikes, and as Armand Jacobi holds the fate of fellow travelers and his newly beloved in his powerful twisted grip. As the battle builds between the rivals, Luke is confronted with the full horrors of his past, horrors he’d thought he’d escaped from seven long years before.

But, Luke learns. no one can run from his past.

No matter how far or how fast you run, your past will always be there– whether it be just around the corner up ahead, at the tip of the next rocky mountain peak, or in a cafe in the heart of Death Valley– to slam right up against you.

Please visit my web site for more information: www.violethillsproductions.com

And be sure to visit my Amazon page: http://amzn.to/YomRl1


Those of you who follow my blog my have seen my guest blogger Richard Stephenson’s  post last week. His best-selling novel Collapse will be offered free on Kindle on April 14th as well.


Currently, I am on an Orangeberry Virtual Book Tour and enjoying it immensely. While “on tour,” I ran across fellow author Richard Stephenson’s blog. I found his post so compelling and important to to both today’s Indie readers and writers that I am posting his blog in its entirety here.


Richard Stephenson – Stop Criticizing Me!

By On December 29, 2012 

Stop Criticizing Me!

by Richard Stephenson

Okay, we need to talk.  Gather round my fellow indies, this is a safe place. A happy place.  Relax and take a deep breath.  Pull up a chair, some stale coffee is on the back table but the doughnuts are fresh.

Whether you are new to the self-publishing biz like me or have come to accept rejection and criticism like a pro after years or decades of writing, let’s be honest with each other – criticism hurts.  If you’re like me, your writing is a very intimate part of your soul.  You open up your very being and put pieces of yourself on the page.  In the simplest terms, you make yourself very vulnerable.

I knew going into this whole thing that Collapse would not be everyone’s cup of tea.  People’s tastes are particular.   I know my tastes are particular.  I’m a huge fan of the TV show Game of Thrones, however, I can’t stand the books.  I found the first one much too difficult to follow along with the dozens of characters. I tried my best to read it but had to stop about a quarter of the way into it because I just couldn’t get into it.  Martin is obviously a successful and talented writer, but I’m not a fan.

Do you remember your first negative review?  I know I do.  The funny thing about it – it was a three star review.  The reviewer was not kind, claiming that my writing style was horrible and that my dystopian thriller was aimed at twelve year olds.  Not sure how a book with graphic violence and language, a racist skinhead, and the victim of Richard Dupree’s crime was material aimed at twelve year olds.  That particular review bothered me a lot.  It raised my blood pressure and upset my stomach enough to warrant some pepto.  Then another negative review, another three star mind you, came just minutes behind the first one.  This review made the claim that Dupree’s escape from the courthouse was lifted completely out of Silence of the Lambs.  This upset me even more because I couldn’t see the parallel at all.  Dupree didn’t cut someone’s face off and wear it as a mask or dress up a corpse in his own clothing to confuse his captors.  I chomped on some more pepto tablets and realized I had a serious problem to contend with.  If three star reviews bothered me so badly, how on earth was I going to cope with one and two star reviews?

Then I got my first two star review.  My stomach started churning and I could feel my heart pounding.  My hand was actually shaking when I clicked the mouse to see what horrible bashing was in store.  Was a grown man about to cry?

It didn’t bother me in the slightest.  In fact, I had nothing but respect for the reviewer’s opinion.  Collapse was just not his cup of tea.  He was expecting a different type of book.  He thought the book would be geared more towards survival fiction in the same vein as James Wesley Rawles Patriots.  He also wasn’t fond of the main characters.  I totally get that.  To each his own.

As more time has gone by, I’ve collected seven two-star reviews and four one-star reviews to tarnish my combined fifty-nine four and five star reviews.  Most of them didn’t bother me at all, they made claims that they didn’t enjoy the story or the format of multiple storylines was too confusing.  Not a big deal.  Two in particular freely admitted that they gave up after a few chapters and stuck me with a one-star review.  Really?  You read less than 10% of the book and think that your very limited knowledge qualifies you to leave a review?  Gimme a break!  This is just my own personal gripe, if you think that you can give up on a book very early on and leave a review, that’s your right to do so.  I just find it to be unfair and in poor taste.  If I give up on a book a few chapters in, I simply move on to something else and wouldn’t dream of leaving a review.

Over at GoodReads I got two reviews that really offended me.  The two reviewers could not separate the storyteller from the story.  The first reviewer directly accused me of being anti-Islam.  Not the story, not one of the characters, me personally – ”The author doesn’t seem to like Islam very much…”  The other reviewer stated ”…the writing of a man that not only has major issues with the current US Government but has little faith in the populous to fix the problem of corruption.”   Let’s be clear, I wrote a piece of fiction.  Actually, let’s take it a step further and point out that I wrote a piece of dystopian fiction.  Clearly this reviewer doesn’t understand the definition of dystopian.  Let’s take one final step further and point out that I actually work for the US government in my full-time job.

On the last page of Collapse, I included a list of contact information so that readers could interact with me via Twitter, Facebook, this blog, and by email.  I understood that this decision would expose me to both glowing praise and harsh criticism.  A gentlemen sent me an email all but condemning me to hell for the offensive language in the book and was shocked that I let my wife read it.  (I’m guessing he believes that a woman’s delicate sensibilities couldn’t handle an F-bomb.)

Did I write this blog post to garner your sympathy?  Am I fishing for your complements to boost my ego?  Not at all, far from it.  Well then, Mr. Stephenson, what is your point you may ask?   I hope that by sharing my experience that other indies will learn the simple fact that you are going to get a lot of negative criticism.  That fact might be obvious to everyone, you might even be waiting on your first negative review at this very moment confident in the fact that you are prepared for it.  I thought I was prepared and ready, but I was not ready for criticism that just defied logic and reason.  I was prepared for criticism about a great many things.  Towards the end of the book I wrote a love scene that I knew would offend some people, I was prepared for that.  I wrote several scenes containing graphic violence that I knew would offend some, I was prepared for that as well.  Some portions of the book might lead you to believe I’m a hardcore liberal that hates conservatives and wishes to offend them (I’m not, by the way).  Much of Collapse requires the reader to suspend belief as a lot of fiction does, I was prepared for people to not being able to make that leap.

What I was not prepared for was criticism that, in my opinion, came out of left field and just flat confused me.  I had to fight the urge to leave comments on those reviews and engage the reviewer in debate, explaining my side of things and hopefully change their mind.  I decided against it because in my experience, once someone has made up their mind about something, it is often an exercise in futility to make them agree with you.  It often makes the situation far worse and in my opinion, is just not worth the time.

My advice, prepare yourself for anything.  Get ready for criticism of all types -constructive criticism that is tactful and polite, criticism that makes you ask yourself “Did this person actually read my book?”  Be ready for criticism that is harsh, rude, offensive, and even says your writing style is terrible.

Even better, if you can resist the temptation, don’t even click on the ones and twos.  😉

Women’s History Month Remembrance of Ruth Blay

March is Women’s History Month, and this month I would like to remember a very special young woman, someone who perhaps very few people might remember or have even heard of outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a young woman who was brutally and coldly hanged on the 30th of December in 1768 for the crime purportedly of murdering her child, but truthfully was so publicly punished, humiliated, and executed for the unspeakable crime of having sex out-of-wedlock. As per usual in that day, as per usual to this day in so-called “modern” Middle Eastern societies, the man who engaged with Ruth Blay, the father of the child, the other half of this equation, was never even publicly identified; to this day, he remains unknown.

I first discovered the story of Ruth Blay while I was in Portsmouth with my husband actor/director Dave Florek (Prince of Belle Aire, Grace Under Fire, Ghost Busters ll, Audi Ahab Spot, and most recently Grey’s Anatomy among countless other credits) who was  playing Happy in a revival of Death of a Salesman starring Dan Frazier (Kojak) over 25 years ago. I was dumbfounded by what I read and knew it was something I would have to write about. Consequently, I wrote the play Act of Grace which was a contemporary metaphysical/mystery/suspense interwoven with the historical story of Ruth Blay. Act of Grace ,because of its inclusion of two elder characters the Shirley sisters Amalthea and Druscylla, was chosen to participate in the Professional Older Women’s Theatre festival at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre in New York City.

Subsequently, I adapted Act of Grace to a screenplay. Interesting note: the play was an all-female cast; I wrote the screenplay accordingly. Pitching the screenplay, I was told an all-female screenplay, Thelma and Louise not-with-standing, would never sell. I needed to write in a “love interest” for my lead Beth Rutledge. I adapted. The screenplay went on to win several awards including the Women in Film and Video Screenwriting Competition.

Was it a better vehicle now that it contained a “love interest” for Beth Rutledge? It was different. Did I like it as much as the all-female version? Short answer– yes. Would I have liked to have written the modern American film version of the House of Bernarda Alba? Do you really need to ask that? Here is my question– Why is it that we can have X to the nth degree of all-male movies, perhaps with the one you-know-what female, yet we still cannot promote, encourage, make a film with an all-female cast?

Act of Grace had a huge fan in Cynde Harmon of Really Real films in Vancouver, but Canadian Development is tricky, and they couldn’t get the development money. The film was never made.

Recently, I adapted Act of Grace to the novel Gallows Ascending.

Applying some of the critique from the Women in Film and Video Award, I expanded the role of the love interest. I also changed his name and his identity from the rather flat character I had written in the film ( the source of the critique I had received) reviving it to the rounder, much more interesting lead character Luke Stone. Thus, I was able to incorporate GALLOWS ASCENDING into the Stone Quest series, incorporating as well the story of Ruth Blay.

Gallows Ascending will be offered as a Kindle free book this Sunday March 24th and Monday, March 25th. I hope the offer will attract many readers to download the book. Amazon prime members can download the Kindle book for free any time. After the free giveaway, the price for Gallows Ascending is only $2.99.

On December 30, 1768 an innocent young woman dressed in white was dragged through the streets of Portsmouth in a horse-drawn cart. Her shrieks filled the air. Some say a rude wooden coffin sat beside her. She was taken to the Old South Cemetery where on a rise facing the sea a gallows had been constructed. She was scheduled to be hanged at noon, but the Sheriff, Sheriff Thomas Packer, was cold and he was hungry, and so he gave the order, and Ruth Blay was marched up the gallows stairs two hours before her time. And even as the noose was placed around her neck, a messenger from Governor Wentworth’s office was riding to the cemetery with a reprieve. But the messenger could not make it through the throngs that had gathered to watch the public spectacle. And so Ruth Blay flew screaming to her fate.

In memory of Ruth Blay– rest in peace, my sister.

You can find out more about Leigh and her work @ http://www.VioletHillsProductions.com and @ her Amazon Authors Central page: http://amzn.to/YomRl1; or follow her @ twitter/leighpod52 and on FB @ FB/leighpod