Saturday, November 29, 2014

The poetry of John Burnside

Somewhere in the house, unheard, unseen, eternity comes creeping like a thief 
- from Officium, a poem by John Burnside

I do not pretend to be a poet or even understand the nuances of poetry.

But, like many, I think I can recognize superior craft. If  I knew more, had I been trained formally, I could say more.

This slim volume - about 75 pages-  of poetry by John Burnside is outstanding. It is serious reading. Here is a poet who chooses words with the greatest care - and who knows, though it's unlikely, that he was helped by a good editor - and gifts the reader with an exquisite reading experience.

The cries of hunting  birds, unhooded for the kill

What must it be like, to be a poet of such depth, finding layers of meaning and substance in every word, in every experience, in every thought?

with something more inventive, than dismay

Most of the poems do not exceed two pages, which is probably a good thing. They are muted and mature, with many obsessed with death and the past. Perhaps adding other poems of a different variety would have diluted their impact.

cloves at the back of my throat. like a cherished tumour

I was unhappy that it was only 75 pages. Of course, few buy poetry, and therefore production costs are important. I also wish the poems had been double spaced for an enhanced experience.

Required reading for he who thinks he can write poetry.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Van Gogh

A great poem and video that captures the agony of the great painter, Vincent Van Gogh

Taken from

Expressing Van Gogh's inspiration for the painting. One line says :
"Look out on a summer's day."
This is giving Van Gogh's vantage point looking out from the asylum at Saint-Remy. When he first entered the asylum, he painted mainly from his room or the courtyard garden, but later went further afield to paint.
Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.
 Now I understand what you tried to say to me

how you suffered for your sanity
how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
they did not know how

perhaps they'll listen now.
These are references to other Van Gogh paintings. Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze, Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.
This is Van Gogh's tragic Death. Even though he loved painting, his paintings could never love him back.

Van Gogh attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest, which ultimately led to his death two days later.
For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.
Van Gogh's artistic legacy is contained within his paintings, drawings and writings. They are everlasting and will never "forget" the style that created them. They are Van Gogh's eyes that watch the world. This is all metaphorically speaking though.Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the strangers that you've met,
The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.
Finally we come to the conclusion of realizing Van Gogh's eternal struggle.Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Thanks to all showing interest in my book on Goodreads and Netgalley!

I hope it lives up to your expectations!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review - The Magician's Daughter - Poisoned Pen Press

The Magician’s Daughter

Author: Judith Janeway
First Edition 2015  Pages: 227
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2014951265
ISBN: 9781464203381      Hardcover  9781464203404      Trade Paperback
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

This is not a book for a lazy afternoon. You must be alert and be willing to focus on a very hypnotizing story, and you will be rewarded.

A lot of us prefer details. We want a painting to emerge before the action takes place.

But this is a different kind of book altogether. Every sentence has energy and unpredictability. And that means if your attention wavers, you’re going to lose something important. Other words that come to mind: laconic, staccato, brevity, précis …  you get the idea. The author weaves a spell, and quite like magic, nothing is as it seems.

A young magician Valentine Hill searches for her mother, and her entire past for that matter. There’s not much maternal about her mother, as we discover, but the world has such people so one must reluctantly accept that broken stereotypes are more realistic. The plot is unusual and the characters distinct. There is nothing weepy about anyone, and in a few short but telling words, the author is able to give a person a clear identity. Ironically enough, Valentine has none, except twenty seven library cards.

The action in San Francisco involves a scam, FBI agents on the prowl and a light touch of romance. Nobody seems to be who he or she says they are, except Valentine. Bloodshed is matter-of-fact and the author does not spend too much time on related incidents, which suited this reader quite well. The protagonist is hyper, extremely intelligent and has a code of ethics given to her by her Aunt June that she refers to again and again. An unusual taxi driver, a long-lost ‘uncle’, a scam – these are some elements that complete the plot

The author, as mentioned before, uses very tight language. It sometimes trips you a little too sharply. The reader is challenged, which is a good thing.

I have two very tiny quibbles, neither of them of any great significance. First, the use of the name of a man for a woman and the other way around too. It seems unnecessary in an already high-speed book with many details to keep track of. And there is a flight number that’s wrong – I checked!

If I were asked for a blurb, I might say - 'Hypnotic story-telling... casts a spell ... '

Four out of five for this book!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Other Poisoned Pen Press releases

Avoidable Contact

Racecar driver Kate Reilly is suited up and ready for the start of the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona. But what's ahead will test her will and nerve more than any other endurance race.
Even before the green flag waves over Daytona International Speedway, Kate receives word her boyfriend Stuart is fighting for his life after a hit-and-run earlier in the day. Still reeling from that news, Kate must absorb other shocks in the race's opening hours, including an on-track accident with tragic consequences and an eyewitness who claims Stuart was run down deliberately by someone from the race paddock.
Alternating stints behind the wheel of her Corvette racecar with stretches of quizzing colleagues and searching for clues, Kate taps every possible source—friend, foe, and family—to find out who's after Stuart and why. As the race clock counts down to zero hour, Kate must come to terms with her own fears about the past and decide who she's willing to trust. Only then can she identify who's willing to kill to keep a secret buried—and stop them before they lash out again.

Tammy Kaehler
Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate hospitality introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery. Tammy works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.

Phantom Limb
Psychologist and Pittsburgh Police Department consultant Daniel Rinaldi has a new patient. Lisa Harland, a local girl, once made a splash in Playboy and the dubious side of Hollywood before bottoming out. Back home, down and out again, she married one of the city’s richest and most ruthless tycoons. Lisa’s challenge to Danny is that she intends to commit suicide by 7:00 PM. His therapist skills may buy some time—but, exiting, she’s kidnapped right outside his office.
Summoned to the Harland estate, Danny is forced, through a bizarre sequence of events, to be the bag man on the ransom delivery. This draws him into a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a brilliant, lethal adversary. Complicating things is the unhappy Harland family, whose members have dark secrets of their own along with suspect loyalties, as well as one of Danny’s other patients, a volatile vet whose life may, like Lisa’s, be at risk. What is really at stake here?
Phantom Limb, fourth in the acclaimed series of Daniel Rinaldi thrillers, will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Dennis Palumbo 2013
Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. He’s the author of a mystery collection,From Crime to Crime, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand, and elsewhere. Night Terrors is the third in the Daniel Rinaldi series.

TheMagician'sDaughter cover
Magician Valentine Hill always begins her act with: “Reality is illusion. Illusion is reality, and nothing is what it seems.” Valentine herself is a case in point: she is unquestionably real, but she has no legal existence. Her mother, a skilled con artist, has never revealed Valentine’s real age, birth place, or her father’s identity –except to say that he was a magician.
No grifter herself, the scrupulous Valentine has spent years searching for her evasive mother, desperate to learn the basic facts of who she is. Literally, to get a life. Robbed of her stake in Vegas, she chases it to San Francisco where a series of odd events reunites her with her mother who, Valentine is sure, despite her respectable façade, is playing one of the city’s super rich. And Valentine quickly enters a world where truly nothing is what it seems. A socialite is a ruthless criminal, a car mechanic a psycho killer, and a cab driver a seductive gangster. After a friendly FBI agent is killed, Valentine forces herself into playing a grifter’s role to put the criminals –and her mother –away. Or at the very least, get what she wants from mom. Will her skills as a magician prove enough to help her maintain the illusion?

The Author:

Judith Janeway believes that she was born with a Ticonderoga no. 2 pencil in one hand and a canary yellow lined pad in the other because she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing stories. Her current story, The Magician’s Daughter, is the first in a series of three mysteries. Judith lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes in the interstices of a life that encompasses working, traveling, having fun with family and friends, and playing far too much sudoku.

Newly released books from Poisoned Pen Press

Poisoned Pen Press Mass Cover Reveal

Title: Beyond Suspicion  
Author: Catherine A. Winn
Publication Date: May 5, 2015

Shelby is an average girl with the normal desires of a fifteen year old and possessed of a generosity of spirit that used to be called sweet. Shelby’s average life is rocked when her divorced Mom remarries Roger, another average man, but one who knows nothing about parenting, and treats Shelby as if she were a girl half her age living in the previous century.
Dashed expectations, some gut-wrenchingly bad parenting, a major blow-up, and the kidnapping of Shelby’s little brother Josh while under her care rock the family to breaking point.  Shelby tells the police she’s seen a white van cruising the neighborhood lately, and she thinks she saw it just before Josh disappeared as well. But to her horror, the police are not interested: Pointing to angry texts to her girlfriends about getting back at Roger for his refusal to let her attend a party, they accuse her of murdering Josh. The police focus on the woods around the park, driving Shelby wild with fear and anger that the kidnappers will get away. With TV reporters all over the front yard, Shelby sneaks out the back to find her brother, any way she can.

So begins Shelby’s race against time—and against a world that has turned on her, particularly via social media, where kids she thought were her friends call her a freak and a murderer. But Shelby finds deeper friends along the way. There’s mysterious Matt, who helps her search. And there’s Jess, who watches out for Shelby as she tracks down the kidnappers down even as they pull up stakes to leave town.

About the Author:
Catherine A. Winn, a former art and elementary school teacher, lives and writes in Texas. An avid reader of all types of mysteries from cozies to thrillers, she’s found writing them to be equally thrilling. She is currently working on her next Whispering Springs mystery.

Title: Collar Robber
Author: Hillary Bell Locke
Publication Date: May 5, 2015

How can you make money from a painting that you don't own, can't steal, and couldn't fence even if you succeeded? What if you convince people you already had stolen it? 

An assortment of shady and brutal players in Collar Robber think that—leaving a corpse or two along the way—they can use that bright idea to gouge fifty-million dollars from Jay Davidovich's employer, Transoxana Insurance Company.  Davidovich, first met in 2012's Jail Coach, is a Loss Prevention Specialist. Fifty million would be a good loss to prevent.
Cynthia Jakubek from But Remember Their Names has jumped from the gilded drudgery of lawyering with a big Wall Street firm to the terrifying adventure of starting her own solo practice in Pittsburgh. One of her clients wants to help Davidovich—for a hefty price—and stay alive in the process.  Another wants to get married in the Catholic Church to a fiancée who was briefly wed years before to someone who now has an interest in the painting. An annulment is needed.

As Davidovich and Jakubek face brawls on street corners and in court rooms, confrontations in brothels, confessionals, and Yankee Stadium luxury suites, and Tasers, machine guns, and religious vestments used as weapons, they have to remember that “take no prisoners” isn’t always a metaphor…

About the Author:
Hillary Bell Locke graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, worked for a prominent New York law firm, and now practices law in a city far from New York, but not under that name.

Title: False Tongues
Author: Kate Charles
Publication Date: April 7, 2015


The Reverend Callie Anson should have learned her lesson by now: revisiting the past is seldom a good idea. But she succumbs to peer pressure and attends a reunion at her theological college in Cambridge, where she is forced to confront painful memories – and the presence of her clueless ex, Adam.

Margaret Phillips, the Principal of the college, has a chance for happiness but before she can grasp it she has to deal with her own ghosts – as well as corrosive, intrusive gossip. Both Margaret and Callie learn something about themselves, and about forgiveness, from wise retired priest John Kingsley.

Meanwhile, in London, police officers Neville Stewart and Mark Lombardi are involved with the latest stabbing of a teenager. Was the victim – gifted, popular schoolboy Sebastian Frost – all he seemed to be, or was there something in his life that led inevitably to his death? The police find themselves plunged into the queasy world of cyber-bullying, where nothing may be as it seems.

While they're apart, Callie and Mark's relationship is on hold, and his Italian family continues to be an issue. Will Mark realize, before it's too late, that while his family will always be important to him, he is entitled to something for himself?

About the Author:
Kate Charles, a past Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Barbara Pym Society, is a Midwest native who has lived in England for more than twenty years. Her involvement in the Church of England has provided both backdrop and inspiration for her novels.
Title: Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Japan
Author: Vasudev Murthy
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
It’s 1893. King Kamehameha III of Hawaii declares Sovereignty Restoration Day ... Tension grows between China and Japan over Korea ... The Bengal Famine worsens ... A brilliant scientist in Calcutta challenges the system … The senior priest at Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji temple is found dead in mysterious circumstances.
Dr John H. Watson receives a strange letter from Yokohama. Then the quiet, distinguished Mr. Hashimoto is murdered inside a closed room on a voyage from Liverpool to Bombay. In the opium dens of Shanghai and in the back alleys of Tokyo, sinister men hatch evil plots. Professor Moriarty stalks the world, drawing up a map for worldwide dominion.
Only one man can outwit the diabolical Professor Moriarty. Only one man can save the world. Has Sherlock Holmes survived the Reichenbach Falls?

In a seriocomic novel that radically ups the ante, Sherlock Holmes and Watson find their match in more than one man (or indeed, woman) as a clock inexorably ticks. History, mystery, romance, conspiracies, knife-edge tension; a train in Russia, roadside crime in Alexandria, an upset stomach in Bombay, careening through Cambodia, nasty people in China, monks in Japan–here’s a thrilling global chase that will leave you breathless (occasionally with laughter) as the Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years series begins.

About the Author:
Vasudev was born in Delhi and has meandered around the world with lengthy stopovers in Tallahassee and Dallas. His books span a variety of interests, from Indian classical music to crime fiction, humor, and business management. A violinist and animal rights activist, Vasudev lives with his family and five snoring dogs in Bangalore, India where he runs a consulting firm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Upcoming books

Two new books coming up

How Organizations Really Work - by Bloomsbury - Dec-Jan

Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Japan   - by Poisoned Pen Press, Scottsdale, Arizona

Covers soon

Good to work with excellent, responsive editors!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Science of sorrow

It's not as if the light in the house
became purple without warning or cause
we knew, somewhere deep within,
in a room with no windows,
lived the science of sorrow

We agreed, then
to speak quietly
with the comfortably deaf, who smiled
happy in the ocean of no-sound
the conversation was profound
and there were no conclusions

I walked away
and was not followed
even though the shadow of the other
stretched endlessly ahead
I made a note to myself
about how light moves in waves
not straight, but blindly random,
like cigarette smoke
searching for lungs

It's only right
that it should be purple

Monday, November 17, 2014

The School for Writers - a short story

The school for writers

Dear student

I welcome you to my school.

I am pleased and greatly honoured that you wish to learn how to write from me. Your parents must be commended for encouraging you. They love you and understand your eagerness to write.

But I must warn you, dear student, that the teaching here is not of the manner you expect.

If you seek awards and recognition, then travel to Tokyo or even Osaka. There are wise teachers there, with university degrees, who will help you to write and be acclaimed by the mindless men and women who live in cities, lurching from day to day, wishing to clutch a story that they can believe in.

The experience of life is what must guide your hand. Suffering is your pen, not just a brush and ink. Forcing oneself to write is contemptible. Once you have experienced pain, have experienced profound sorrow, then your hand will rise, the pen will appear and the paper will surge forward in acceptance. Why should it matter that the ink is white?

You have not heard of some of the greatest writers of Japan. Of that I am quite sure. In your textbooks, you read about Kusuke and Wakayama and Dazai and their creations. They wrote and were respected, you have been told, by even the Emperor.

But have you heard of Sakaguchi or Zeami or Enomoto? Most likely not. And do you know why? Because no bookstore has sold their books or has even heard of them.

I knew Sakaguchi well, and so, when you visit me, you shall stay in the room named after him. He had nothing that he could say was his. He truly had nothing. He meditated for twenty years at a stretch. Peace. Complete peace. The wildest of men calmed down in seconds in his presence. When he opened his eyes, we knew he was enlightened. The paper that waited to be written on crumbled, unable to bear the weight of his stories. He was a very great writer.

And Enomoto. He was blind. His world was within him. We could not access it. We saw him stumble, reach out, groping for support. None ventured to help him because he detested help. He fought light, he fought demons. He was crushed from within. Who could have understood his stories had he written them? But the blind read his stories and were comforted. Do you understand?

I command you to suffer and be deprived, my dear boy. I shall teach you, but after your experience in suffering. Your soul must be scarred by red hot coal. You must be broken from within and then you must come to me, your sensei, and bow. I shall watch you suffer and shall not help you. But when you come to write, I shall tell you how to express your sorrow in words of fire, made with the ink of your tears.

Welcome loss. A writer must be naked. The world must greedily strip of you of self esteem, of everything you own. You must feel the most wretched loneliness. You must feel like a dying tree in a desert, termites eating you from within. And then the words will emerge. It is not important that the words be written in kanji. They may be in a language and script that only you know and that you wish to forget. I shall be by your side and teach you how to do that, my dear boy.

Look in the library, my dear boy. There are many books, do you not see? These are the stories my students wrote. Not one book may leave this school, for no one shall be able to see them and read them.

Neither will you find a student in this room. I have sent them away to experience pain. I watch them for afar, happy to see them grow stronger with pain.

I shall applaud you then, dear boy, if you do as I say and return and read the books in my library. My school will be proud of you. I shall tell other parents, quite like yours, that I helped you because you were willing to suffer and live in agony. Your parents agreed that my fees for teaching you how to write are really quite modest.

Sensei Takagi