(Ice)-Manuela Escribano vs. Griselda Blanco

Manuela Escribano is a fictional drug dealer in my novella, Ice. I got the inspiration for her after watching a documentary about Griselda Blanco and other high-profile drug dealers. Blanco caught my attention because she was one of the most prolific female drug dealers, and she seemed to live two lives; one, a brutal, violent criminal, and the other, a loving, nurturing mother of three. Thus, the character of Manuela Escribano took shape (in the very early stages of Ice , the main villain was a Jigsaw-like character ironically named Emmanuel Bethel).

Although both my character and Blanco are immigrants who reside in Miami, Blanco is a native of Colombia and Escribano is from Nicaragua. Blanco had to endure extreme hardship in her childhood; whereas Escribano came from a privileged family. Escribano was well-educated, a teacher, and (unlike Blanco) did not use violence to get her way (until she partnered up with the sadistic Sebastian Quiroga). Blanco dealt mainly in cocaine, but Escribano made a name for herself by dealing in methamphetamine and “ice” (a stimulant drug similar to meth). A perceived betrayal by one of most trusted associates aroused Escribano’s everlasting fury, and Escribano is not one to let go of a grudge….

To read Ice: http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417274357&sr=1-4&keywords=ice

Author Spotlight-M.A. Demle

Normally, I do not review non-fiction. I am trained in literary analysis; that is, looking for themes and symbolism, analyzing a plot line, etc. However, I had the pleasure of a chance encounter with M.A. Demle and have decided to make an exception.

What I got was an unexpected surprise. As I was reading Demle’s An Immigrant’s Journey to Success: From Illiteracy to becoming a Teacher, I realized that I had a lot on common with the author. Like Demle, I am also a foreign language teacher, and what I have learned while reading his memoir will greatly benefit me in my own classroom.

The autobiography follows Demle from his childhood in rural Ethiopia, his immigration to Israel, his struggles to get the education he desired, his mandatory military service, and finally, his studies at the University where he majored in English Literature and became an English teacher. Demle taught himself both Hebrew and English, and reading his works has given me many valuable tips on how I can better educate my own students in a foreign language.

Demle does not sugarcoat anything; he describes in detail the hardships he had to face as a foreigner in an adopted homeland. He also expresses nostalgia for his native Ethiopia. He ends by stating that he hopes that his own son will not have to go through the same struggles he did to get an education and live a life of his choosing.

What I liked most about the book is that Demle proves that education is the responsibility of the student. Demle studies VERY hard to get the education he needed, and even switched schools when the school he was attending did not offer the course material he needed. Teachers can only provide the information, but it is up to students how to use and apply it. He also points out that learning is in itself a reward. These are facts that seem to be lost on many American students.

An Immigrant’s Journey to Success: From Illiteracy to becoming a Teacher is a very inspirational read. I would highly recommend this for anyone, but especially teachers and students of foreign languages.

To read: http://www.amazon.com/Immigrants-Journey-Success-Illiteracy-Becoming-ebook/dp/B00O6V4LRM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417194164&sr=1-1&keywords=MA+Demle

Ice Character Spotlight-Kira Holmes

Age; 22

Occupation: student

Family: Walter and Francine Holmes (parents), Shay Holmes-Carter (sister), Chris Carter (brother-in-law), Anthony Holmes (brother, deceased), Lekira Carter (niece), Anthony Carter (nephew), DeWayne Burgess (boyfriend), Earl Sheffield (uncle), Mayah Sheffield (cousin)

Kira is a real sweetheart. Everyone loves her, especially her father and her boyfriend. Only the soulless, psychotic Sebastian Quiroga can inflict pain on her with no remorse….

To read Ice: http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417055584&sr=1-4&keywords=ice

Ice Character Spotlight-DeWayne Burgess

Character: Dewayne Burgess

Age; 22

Occupation: paramedic, pre-med student

Family: Georgeanna (“Georgie”) and Nolan Burgess (parents), Kira Holmes (girlfriend)

Tenderhearted but quick-thinking DeWayne is about to face the toughest moment of his life. His skills as a paramedic will come in handy when he has to assist in a strange rescue.

To read Ice: http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417015458&sr=1-4&keywords=ice

Author Spotlight-Kerry Reis

Would you elope with the man you were in love with just because you “knew” he was “the one?” What if he called you in the middle of the night and asked you to pick him up from a deserted location, and when you showed, he looked like he had been to hell and back? And, he was secretive about his behavior? Ali had enough faith in her Ryan that she did that in this heartwarming tale that centers around the importance of family and sticking together.

In Reis’ Legacy Discovered Charles Barnett, Jr (aka Ryan Prescott), assumes the identity of his deceased college roommate so he can escape his domineering father and start a new life with the woman he loves. His wife and children are none the wiser, and even when he is outed sixteen years later, Ali still has complete faith in her husband. This story leaves readers anxious to learn if Ryan/Charlie, Jr. will eventually reconcile with his father.

The most clear themes of Legacy Discovered are family, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But Reis also explores themes of corporate dominance, class warfare, and the simple life vs. “keeping up with the Joneses.” The novel contains some delightful characters, among them Charlie Jr.’s mother, Hilary and his best friend and fellow attorney, Henry. Reis’ message is clear that “everything happens for a reason and will work out in the end.”This is a satisfying novel that leaves no loose ends, and readers will be pleased.

To read Legacy Discovered: http://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Discovered-Kerry-Reis-ebook/dp/B00FC56BAG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1416875367&sr=1-1&keywords=legacy+discovered

Author Spotlight-Tristan Cruz

“You can’t cross the ocean by staring at the waves.”

The Space Between by Tristan Cruz is an original yet thrilling twist on the star-crossed lovers theme. The story follows lovers Jack and Maddy as they both come to terms with painful pasts and try to recreate a new life with each other. Told in first person with alternating points of view by Jack and Maddy, Tristan is an expert at drawing the readers into the characters’ pains and joys. And the playful, lighthearted, and often sarcastic banter between the characters dilutes the syrupy sweetness that you often find in romance novels.

When Maddy first spots Jack when he is working as a contractor at her home, she is certain that he is the same man who had saved her life nine years earlier. As the two fall deeper in love, Jack’s past catches up with him. The reader can feel Jack’s pain as he struggles with the dilemma of hiding forever with the woman he loves or seeking vengeance on those who have caused him so much harm. The sex scenes are sensual and erotic but not pornographic.

Cruz’ writing style is wordy (like John Steinbeck wordy), but his words are like poetry and music, which negates the excessive wordiness. The major themes that Cruz explores are loss and grief (each one of the major characters in the novel has lost someone they loved), letting go, and moving on. Other themes include police corruption, independence, justice, and cowardice vs. bravery.

Cruz’ work is  pure, raw emotion that will take the reader (in the author’s word word) “to places [you] have never been before.” He was right; very rarely have I felt so emotionally satisfied after reading a novel. Well done, Mr. Cruz. You definitely have a future in writing.

Oh, and by the way, Tristan Cruz is also extremely smoking hot:).

To read The Space Between: http://www.amazon.com/Space-Between-Tristan-Cruz-ebook/dp/B00KXM8IEK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1416866916&sr=1-1&keywords=tristan+cruz

Ice character Spotlight-Sebastian Quiroga

Name: Sebastaian Quiroga

Age: late forties

Family: Mercedes de los Satos de Quiroga (wife), Cierra Quiroga (daughter), Natalia de los Santos (niece), and many other family members. A mother in Guatemala. Father is deceased.

Occupation: unemployed ex-Marine

Sebastian is pure ice down to the core of his soul. He cares about no one, loves no one, and seems to have no life goals other than to torture as many people as possible. For more than twenty years, he has held a “grudge” against someone whom he has never met and who creates the perfect pretext to satisfy a sick, sadistic fantasy. He has no qualms about murdering innocent people and ruining the lives of many. Will he get justice in the end?

To read Ice: http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1416760824&sr=1-2&keywords=ice

Avoiding Cliques, Tricks, and Trolls-Jessica’s Tips for a Writer Navigating Social Media

As a newly published writer, it’s easy to think that if you got your name on every social media site in the world, it would increase your visibility. But the truth is, self-promotion on social media is a time-consuming effort that takes away from your important tasks: reading and writing. And some sites can actually harm you. Here are few tips that I have had to learn (some the hard way) about an author’s use of social media (Not expert advice. Use at your own discretion).

1. Amazon KDP Community-Avoid!-Have you ever noticed that if you go on a public discussion or forum, there are always the same people on there 24/7? And the whole thread is a tedious series of nonsensical bickering, one-upmanship, and off-topic rants? And that very few posts actually relate to the original topic? Like almost all public discussion board, the KDP community has unfortunately been taken over by trolls and cliques. Entering there is like jumping into the Nile River while wearing Lady Gaga’s steak dress. Nothing good can come of it. All those people in there will do is bring you down. If you have a question, contact Amazon directly or ask a trusted fellow author. Don’t put your name up in the KDP community (or any other public discussion board).

2. Goodreads-Use with Caution-This is a wonderful resource for authors, but going in there can make you a target for vindictive people who amuse themselves by giving out hateful reviews (without actually reading your book). This has not happened to me yet, although I did have a run-in with a particularly nasty user (long story). I haven’t confirmed this, but apparently there was a group of female writers who would gang up on other writers and give them a series of nasty reviews. If this is true, it is unbelievable that women who are sophisticated enough to write a novel would resort to such juvenile behavior. However, most of my experiences on Goodreads have been positive, as the vast majority of people use it for the right reasons. just be selective about which groups you join, and even more selective about what you say in them (see my note above about public forums.)

3. Bookdaily-Not helpful-I did not see any increase in sales when using BookDaily, in spite of the 23,000 emails they supposedly sent. Not worth the money.

4. Facebook-Not helpful-Unless you have a large number of folks who “like” your author page, it is useless to get the word out about your story on Facebook, as the post will only be seen by friends and people who like your page.

5. Twitter and Google Plus-Somewhat more Helpful-I have connected with some awesome writers on Twitter and Google Plus. I don’t think it;’ a coincidence that I see a spike in my book sales after a mutually successful review exchange (speaking of which, I am going to write a post later tonight about the pros and cons of review exchanges). Having other people talk you up on social media is hands-down the best way to win readers.Your individual tweets will be drowned in a sea of other tweets, so make sure you introduce yourself via direct message (but be careful not to be pushy-this has a way of turning people off). The communities on Google Plus are only useful if you take the time to interact with others. Since these are not free-for-all discussion boards, they are mainly troll- and spam-free. There are sites that will tweet your book,but once again they tend to get lost in a sea of other tweets. For this reason, paying for tweeting service is a waste of money.

6. Blogs-Helpful This blog has also been helpful in helping me connect with other writers, but is only useful if you update it regularly and don’t talk about the same thing all the time (namely, “Why You Should Buy My Book-Part 63 1/2”). One bold follower emailed me directly and offered to buy and review my book if I would do the same for him. While contacting someone on his or her personal email is potentially risky, this writer was very professional and directly, and to be honest, I was impressed by his frankness. While I don’t advocate spamming, if a blogger has left his or her contact information, then do not hesitate to drop them a line (just don’t be spammy or pushy). (and if you’re a blogger who does not want to be contacted, don’t post your email for the world to see).

7. Paid reviews-Don’t-These people are in the business of telling you what you want to hear. An artificially inflated review will only disappoint genuine readers, and your reputation will suffer. Besides, this is unethical, the literary equivalent of a teacher who gives an A without expecting quality work. Listen to your reviews, and let a negative review make you better, not bitter.

8. My final word of advice-be like the Wizard of Oz, a larger than life presence veiled by a curtain. You want to make Dorothy want to risk an encounter with the Wicked Witch of the West to get to you. You want to get the word out about your writing, but you don’t want to make yourself a target for unsavory people who are masquerading as serious readers and writers. You also don’t want to get a reputation as a troll or a spammer.

Does anyone else have any tips they care to share? Happy writing!

List of people I’d like to knock out

1. The idiot who was smoking at the gas pump.

2. Everyone who is spreading the Ebola hysteria

3. Anyone who makes decisions about education who has never been a teacher.

4. The very next person who tells me to wear my hair down

5. Just about everyone who crosses my path when I’m in this type of mood.

Author Spotlight-Dean C. Moore

So, how is The Warlock’s Friend categorized?Like the shape-shifters who are its characters, It is absolutely the only work I have ever read that could morph into any genre. The main genre is fantasy, but it is also comical, erotic, science fiction and a tad dystopian. Moore is clearly very skilled at creating multi-genre works that satisfy. His writing skills are superb. Mr. Moore can write at an educated level without being so esoteric that the reader can’t follow him

A Warlock’s Friends follows a rag-tag team from Thesdor who are trying to obtain crystals from the city of Werth. The team consists of a half-human hunter named Heldor, a cosmopolitan witch named Cleo, an ordinary adolescent boy named Winston who can create monsters from his dreams, a vampire named Damian, a pint-sized wizard named Munich, and Silian. The novel follows them on their adventures as they find that even with all of their magic combined, they are still at times ill-equipped to face the challenges that lie ahead of them All characters are so fully developed that you feel you know them. The good-natured banter between the members of the group is hilarious.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is the irrelevancy of the time-space continuum. In one scene they are holding a Roman-Senate style meeting, and in the next, they are in the city full of modern technology. There are surrealistic images, such as the very large laundromat, that hints at a Salvador Dali painting. Neither time nor space seems to matter, as the characters can teleport at will and everything from the Egyptian pyramids to the modern-day events in New York are mentioned casually as one of the characters describe them as an event they witnessed. And quotes such as “Nothing numbs the mind into unconsciousness faster than getting anything you want,” “The future is not set in stone. it is up to us to change it with our actions” and “Hold onto your dreams too tight, they slip away from you like the sand between your fingers. You have to trust a little that the universe knows just what you need,” ad an irresistible philosophical element.

A little Logan’s Run, a touch of Chronicles of Narnia, a dash of Happy Potter, and a generous helping of Dante’s Inferno, creates, in my opinion, a modern -day masterpiece. Well done. Mr. Moore. I am going to play the role of Cleo for a second and play Spin the Bones….I see a movie deal in your future.

To read The Warlock’s Friend: http://www.amazon.com/Warlocks-Friend-Crystal-Spears-ebook/dp/B00J4X2EYY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416198711&sr=8-1&keywords=the+warlock%27s+friend