Archive for October, 2011

Review: True Grime – Natasha Deen

Saturday, October 29th, 2011
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Blueberry Hill (August 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0986741914
ISBN-13: 978-0986741913
Order book here:

amazon

Order E-book here:
amazon

Synopsis:

Grime cop and teen fairy Pepper Powder lives for one thing: protecting the human species from magical zealots who seek to eradicate them with Violent Illness of Unusual Resistance and Strength (humans call them “viruses,” but their mistake is understandable. The very young often get their words wrong.). When a terrorist leader releases a necrophage bomb, it not only decimates Grime headquarters, it turns Pepper into the magical world’s first fairy amputee—but she’s not going to let a little thing like a missing leg stop her. To catch her criminal, and prevent him from unleashing a VIURS in one of the human world’s biggest shopping centers, West Edmonton Mall, she goes undercover as a human. But once Pepper’s theories of humanity collide with the reality of bullies, cliques, and environmental destruction, will she still believe humanity’s worth saving?

Characters:

Pepper Powder – Teenager, Fairy, Amputee and Grie Agent.
Aponi – A teenage Human friend of Pepper’s.
Harley Hands – Pepper’s partner in Grime.
Donovan – Pepper and Harley’s human contact.
clLou Louis – Pepper and Harley’s boss.
Claude Von Beulow – Escaped Criminal. Part of V.I.U.R.S.
Commissioner Paulus Puck – Grime Police.

Review

This book was a humorous blend of both fantasy and mystery. The character of Pepper was one easy to love, and the comedy based off of our humanity was spot on. The storyline was interesting, and kept me compelled, and it fit with all the characters.

The book seemed to, beneath the surface, make a lot of statements about us as humans, and I felt that was one of the writer’s strengths.

There was some strong language and adult situations such as violence so I’d recommend it for older teens, but even the old fogies among us can enjoy the story, and it was an enjoyable story.

If you get the chance, pick up this book, I think you’ll love every minute of it. I did.

About the Author:

Natasha Deen graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.A. in psychology. An advocate for vulnerable groups, she’s worked with the provincial government’s Children’s Services department as well as with non-profit agencies dedicated to helping functionally illiterate adults, and differently-abled people.

Realizing the power of allegory and myths to affect change in the lives of those around her, she turned to full time writing in 2005. Under the pseudonym Bronwyn Storm, she is a multi-published author with The Wild Rose Press.

Her novel, Ethan’s Chase, was nominated for a 2008 CAPA Award for excellence in romance. When not working on her manuscripts, she is a writing instructor and editor to teens, adults and children, and uses the template of the story to teach conflict resolution, empowerment and the “why” behind human behavior.

Natasha is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, the Canadian Authors’ Association, the Young Alberta Book Society, and sits on the board of YouthWrite. She is also a co-founder of the Edmonton Writing Group.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Mindi at Smith Publicity for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

2 people like this post.

Article: Solidarity Politics – Ange-Marie Hancock

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Rotary Dial Politics in an iPhone World
By Ange-Marie Hancock,
Author of Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics

So we’ve occupied Wall Street. Millennial generation protesters have joined forces with an unlikely assemblage of the older generation: Nobel laureate Joseph Stieglitz, Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon. The protests united folks concerned about a variety of different issues around the idea that “Wall Street causes inequality.”

Now that the media attention is focused on the Occupy Wall Street protests, how do we fundamentally resolve such inequality?

It has been difficult to resolve inequalities in the United States because our politics has not kept up with the advances that have emerged in the past 20 years. It’s as if the scholars who have developed new models of politics all have iPhones, while the media, average citizens and policy makers are still using politics that works like a rotary dial phone.

Today’s political discourse does not fully consider the linkages between the public needs of multiple generations — whether it’s strong public schools or college affordability on the Millennial side or having sustainable Medicare and Social Security on the Baby Boomer side. There is, in other words, a cultural generation gap that prevents us from connecting the dots to resolve persistent inequality in a comprehensive way.

The cultural generation gap is considered the product of two demographic trends that are causing anxieties in times of economic hardship:

  • the aging of Baby Boomers, who have spent their entire lives in a United States that is a white majority nation, and have no intention of withdrawing from the public arena, and

 

  • the ascent of Millennials (and increasingly their children), who are not simply the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history but also have the largest percentage of foreign-born individuals. By 2015 Millennials will be the second largest adult generation and are transforming the workplace.

Demographic trends are a lot like tectonic plates — they are very difficult to stop once they are set in motion. But the cultural generation gap isn’t a predetermined outcome. It because we have failed to eradicate the persistent overlapping disparities along the axes of race/ethnicity, gender, national status, and economic class.

Now resolving these overlapping layers of inequality would be challenging and complex in times of peace and prosperity. Throw in a global economic recession alongside two wars and the cultural generation gap grows ever bigger.

What are we to make of these compounding trends? Although cross-generational protesting is an important step forward to resolving overlapping patterns of economic inequality, we cannot simply protest in the same 20th century way, which most Americans are socialized to tune out.

First, eradicating inequality must go beyond generational spokesmen stating the talking points of the other generation. 68 year-old Stieglitz linked the slogan, “Wall Street Causes Inequality” to the case of young people who face prospects of spending the next few years underemployed or with no job at all. However, media coverage of the speech and interviews by Stieglitz himself failed to connect the impact of such underemployment and other issues facing Millennials to the needs of his own generation, which would move the conversation in a 21st century direction. Today’s Boomers aren’t going anywhere, but they will increasingly need healthcare and other forms of services that will be provided by Millennials. Who doesn’t want their own healthcare worker to have the proper training, education and employment opportunities in order to receive quality care? Shifting the narrative reveals the interdependence between needs across the generations.

Second, we ignore the racial, ethnic, gender, and national status aspects of college access at our peril. Stieglitz’s comments referred to a specific subset of the Millennial generation who have had access to college, who, most statistics show, are also more likely to be members of the majority class, race and national status groups in the U.S. But the challenges facing young people in terms of employment go beyond not being able to pay off student loans.

It is clear to me that recent college graduates face unemployment rates that are patently unacceptable. But increasing the coverage to all Millennials allows us to talk about the youth Stieglitz missed in his comments: the youth who were tracked away from college and into a host of dead-end opportunities, the youth products of a failed K-12 public education system in many low-income communities of color, and those who lost hope and left us too soon as a result of homophobic bullying. The longer they remain outside the employment sector, the less money is funneled into current benefits for Medicare and Social Security, programs that help keep Boomers and their older counterparts out of poverty in their older years. When AARP only organizes its members to protest government cuts — a rotary dial, defensive approach — they ignore the 21st century reality that support for policies that increase employment for younger folks is one of the best forms of insurance against future cuts — an iPhone approach that puts them back on offense.

Linking intergenerational values and interests helps us leave our rotary dial phones behind in favor of iPhone politics that can enable us to cultivate civic relationships across demographic groups, foster cross-generational dialogues and create 21st century solutions.

© 2011 Ange-Marie Hancock, author of Solidarity Politics for Millenials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics

Author Bio
Ange-Marie Hancock, 
author of Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics, joined the Department of Political Science at USC Dana and David Dornsife College in 2008 after five years as Assistant Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at Yale University. Prior to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, Hancock worked for the National Basketball Association, where she conducted the preliminary research and wrote the original business plan for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She has served as an international expert in American Politics for the U.S. Department of State and during the 2008 presidential election. She has been quoted in the New York Times, Forbes, on National Public Radio, KNBC, and she regularly supports USC’s Annenberg TV News by serving as an expert. She currently serves as the associate director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) in the Dornsife College and as one of the inaugural Dornsife College Faculty Fellows.

Over the past eight years Professor Hancock has authored two books and 11 articles. She is a globally recognized scholar of the study of intersectionality — the study of the intersections of race, gender, class and sexuality politics and their impact on public policy. Her first book, The Politics of Disgust and the Public Identity of the “Welfare Queen,”(2004, New York University Press) won two national awards.

For more information please visit http://www.ange-mariehancock.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


Interview: Alicia Arnold – Author of Creatively Ever After.

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Today we are pleased to have with us Alicia Arnold author of Creatively Ever After.

Rhodes Review: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

Alicia: I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a teenager, however, I didn’t consider becoming a writer until decades later. In 2007, I took a writing course where I was able to hone my writing skills and find my voice as an author. This course launched the concept for Creatively Ever After.

Rhodes Review: How did you start writing?

Alicia: My writing process started with identifying the problem, then creating a how-to book to answer the needs of business leaders and providing a solution to the creativity crisis.

Rhodes Review: How long does it take you to write a book? 

Alicia: Creatively Ever After took 4 years to write. I was working on a number of ideas simultaneously, but just couldn’t get the idea of writing a book on creative problem solving out of my head. 

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? 

Alicia: I work best in the morning and late at night. Writing the book consisted of waking up hours before my two boys stirred and getting a couple of pages done at a time. As ideas came to me, I kept notes on whatever scraps of paper I could find and would then spend weekends, early mornings, and nights synthesizing the ideas into the plot. My schedule became a bit frenetic with the demands of a full time job and kids on top of writing. I found it best not to add extra pressure by creating a strict writing schedule. Instead, I wrote when the mood struck me. When I hit a wall with writing, I put the manuscript aside for a little while. What I found was that I had to fall in love with writing the book over and over again. Reading and re-reading early chapters kept me going. And, soon I became curious about how the tale would end. Once I hit this point, everything fell into place.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

Alicia: When I hit particularly challenging points in writing the book, I would think about them just before going to bed and allow my subconscious to work out the details. This is how I wrote many of my best works while in college. Dreaming can be a wonderful tool.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? 

Alicia: It is important to find a topic you are passionate about. Writing can be a marathon rather than a sprint. By writing about a topic you love, you’ll improve your chances for following through. I feel the topic is more important than the mechanics of writing as there are lots and lots of great editors to help with mechanics. 

Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write Creatively Ever After?

Alicia: There were two inspirations for writing Creatively Ever After. The first inspiration was all of the dialogue about the need for creativity and innovation in business. There were many research reports and studies, including work by IBM (http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/31670.wss), citing creativity as the number one leadership competency for the future. The second inspiration was research and reports citing the decline of creativity. Newsweek’s cover article on the “creativity crisis” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html) helped shine a light on this issue. Knowing there was empirical evidence supporting creativity is learnable, I set out to help answer the call for creativity in business by writing a how-to book that would teach specific creativity skills, tools and techniques.

Over 50 years of research proved that creativity can be learned. When auditing all the reading materials around the topic of creativity, two things came to light. One, most of the material was academic in nature and challenging to read. The second was the material was not always well researched. Given these two dynamics, I decided to write an educational, yet entertaining book teaching based on the well documented and proven tools and techniques of creative problem solving.

Rhodes Review: Using Jack and Jill was a very interesting way to teach the process, how did you come up with this?

Alicia: Creatively Ever After is a business fable.In designing the fable format, I recalled vivid memories of Sesame Street and how I learned the alphabet through storytelling, song, and engaging techniques that seemed too fun to be called learning. When I teach creativity, I leverage these “edutainment” tools by teaching creativity through nursery rhymes. I’ve found even the toughest c-suite executives were able to let down their guard and open their minds to creativity when using this format. So, when thinking about how to combine the potential dryness of fact with the enjoyment of fiction, I landed on the business fable. Using the fictitious storyline of Jack and Jill to demonstrate the nonfiction creative problem solving process helped illustrate how the creative process can be used to solve challenges many think are not solvable. I chose Jack and Jill because it is a highly recognizable nursery rhyme and one that we’ve been trained to believe is unsolvable. Using the steps of the creative problem solving process I walk through how Jack and Jill – Define their Goal, Gather Data, Clarify the Problem, Generate Ideas, Develop Solutions and Plan for Action. As readers go through each of the chapters, Jack and Jill’s challenge with the hill becomes a metaphor for how readers can use creative problem solving to tackle their own challenges. Each chapter ends with content rich sidebars to recap learning and pose questions to help readers work through each of the steps of creative problem solving.

Rhodes Review: What are some of your favorite authors/books?

Alicia: My favorite books include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Secret Garden, and Orbiting the Giant Hairball. I love the perspective of human nature of these three books provide. 

Rhodes Review: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Alicia: I wish I could have dinner with Steve Jobs. There are lots and lots of people with great ideas. But, Steve Jobs was able to build a culture of creativity and innovation that broke through corporate culture and the barriers that stand in the way when introducing something new. Jobs’ vision and ability to execute were inspiring.

We’d like to thank Alicia once again for joining us here and taking time to answer our questions.


Review: Five Chiefs – John Paul Stevens

Monday, October 24th, 2011
 
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Import edition (October 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031619980X
ISBN-13: 978-0316199803
Order book here:

amazon

Order E-book here:
amazon

Review

We see a lot in the news regarding the U.S. Supreme Court. Particularly in the light of such cases as Citizens United and Roe V. Wade. In Five Chiefs we actually get a glimpse behind the scenes and at the history of the court through the five Chief Justices that Justice John Paul Stevens personally knew. The book begins with an overview of the first 12 Justices. The following chapter deals with the job of the Chief Justice. We then get into the bones of book which discusses each Chief one by one from 1946 to the present.

The reader also gets to see where John Paul Stevens himself disagreed with some of the decisions and the conflicts behind the scenes.

Some example cases:

Humphrey’s Executor: The court ruled that Congress was able to establish agencies such as the FTC that made and enforced their own rules and were not answerable to the President.

United States vs. Lopez: The court held that the gun free school zones act of 1990 (No guns in school zones) exceeded the commerce clause. Justice Thomas argued for this. Justice Stevens it appears was against it and stated that Thurgood Marshall would have een that “even if the interest in eliminating the market for possession of handguns by schoolchildren would not have justified federal legislation in 1789, it sure does today.” Essentially saying that we have to adapt the constitution to fit the times.

Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority: Say’s that federal power overseeing labor includes the power to prevent states from paying their employeees lower wages and/or discriminating against them.

Death Penalty: Said the Constitution did not allow legal systems “that permit this unique penalty to be so wantonly and so freakishly imposed.” Justice Steven states that they only allowed it because they felt that states would lower the risk of error.

If you are interested in the legal system or want a look behind some of the most famous Supreme Court decisions, then pick up this book. I think you’d find it very interesting.

Be sure and check out our giveaway here.

About the Author

John Paul Stevens served as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit from 1970-1975. President Ford nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat December 19, 1975.

Justice Stevens retired from the Supreme Court on June 29, 2010.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Anna at Hachette Book Group for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.


Giveaway – Five Chiefs – John Paul Stevens

Monday, October 24th, 2011

1) One Entry if you’re a follower [You can follow through Google Friend connect to the right, you can also sign up to follow through Twitter or Facebook].Thanks to Anna at Hachette Book group I”m able to offer my readers 3 copies of this book. To enter, follow these simple rules:
2) An Additonal Entry if you blog about this contest.
3) An Additonal Entry if you’re a new follower.
4) One entry each for posting on facebook and/or twitter.
5) Must leave a comment letting me know how you follow me, blog link to this post, facebook/twitter link, etc.
6) Contest will continue until 11/15/2011.
7) This giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada. No PO Box addresses (street mailing only).

See our review here.

2 people like this post.

Review: West By West – Jerry West & Jonathan Coleman

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031605349X
ISBN-13: 978-0316053495
Order book here:

amazon

Order E-book here:
amazon

Review

Jerry West. A Legend of Basketball. He’s also a fellow native of West virginia. It was rather interesting reading his memoir, because I knew many of the areas he wrote about. The memoir is a no holds barred, raw, look into his life. From a poor childhood, in which he details getting used items for presents, in particular a used bike, to his father’s abusive behavior. Throughout the book, you can feel the pain he still carries from his lack of his father’s love. You can also feel the drive he had to succeed because of the abuse.

He also details a major pivoting point in his life, the death of his brother David, who was killed in the Korean War. David’s death it appears left him to more or less survive on his own, and that’s when he turned to basketball.

Basketball it seems was his saving grace, but also a point of obsessions with him. He also goes into great details about a lifetime of suffering from depression.

Throught the book he covers some of the big names in basketball, and gives insight into his relationship with them. Wilt Chamberlin, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Dr. J. And some of the legendary coaches and announcers.

He also goes through some of the more heartbreaking aspects of his friendships with these sports Icons. He talks about his love for Shaq, his feelings when he found out about Magic Johnson contracting HIV, and the death of Wilt Chamberlin, his former Olympic Coach, and others.

For the basketball fans out there, this is a great walk through 5 decades of basketball history. For the non-fans, it’s an interesting look into a man’s life. I’d definitely recommend it.

We’re proud to be able to offer our readers the chance to win one of 3 copies of this book. To enter go here

About the Authors

Jerry West is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. After retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers in 1974, West went on to lead the team– first as a coach, and then as the general manager. He lives in California and West Virginia.
Jonathan Coleman is the bestselling author of Exit the Rainmaker, At Mother’s Request, and Long Way to Go. He is a former producer and correspondent with CBS News.He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Anna at Hachette Book Group for a review copy of this book.  It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.


Giveaway – West by West – Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Thanks to Anna at Hachette Book group I”m able to offer my readers 3 copies of this book. To enter, follow these simple rules:

1) One Entry if you’re a follower [You can follow through Google Friend connect to the right, you can also sign up to follow through Twitter or Facebook].
2) An Additonal Entry if you blog about this contest.
3) An Additonal Entry if you’re a new follower.
4) One entry each for posting on facebook and/or twitter.
5) Must leave a comment letting me know how you follow me, blog link to this post, facebook/twitter link, etc.
6) Contest will continue until November 8, 2011.
7) This giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada. No PO Box addresses (street mailing only).

See our review here.


News: Pay What you Can books!

Friday, October 14th, 2011

I just recieved an e-mail about this. for the next 7 days, you can set your own price. If you pay more than retail on a particular book, then she’ll donate a book to a children’s group or shelter, or you can pay what you want and pick up some gifts for those needy families on your list that might not be able to afford the luxury of books.

http://blog.writerslairbooks.com/2011/10/pay-what-you-can-books-really/


Review: Antiquitas Lost – Robert Louis Smith

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Paperback: 624 pages
Publisher: Medlock Publishing; 1st Ed. edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 061546047X
ISBN-13: 978-0615460475
Order book here:

amazon

Order E-book here:
amazon

Characters

Elliott – 15 Year old. A stranger in a strange land.
Sarintha – Young Princess trying to keep her kingdom together.
Hooks – A Susquat, a creature similar to what we call Bigfoot.
Marvus – Elliott’s Traveling Companion.
Jingo – Another of Elliott’s Traveling Companions.
Crosslyn – A Shamalan Priest
Woolf – A winged creature out to capture Elliott.

Synpopsis

A young boy, with deformities of his hands and feet is always picked on by the boys in his town. His grandfather fills him with tales about a New Orleans of the past and encourages him to search through the basement. Thats when Elliott finds the portal to Pangrelor, a world of magic and strange creatures.

Review

I think Mr. Smith, for his debut did a great job on characterization. Elliott was the reluctant hero out to discover his place in this new world. He does so against a backdrop of corruption.

Even the bad characters were multi-dimensional. As a reader, I could see their motives behind their actions, and you were able to get into their minds and see more of their background.

The novel drew me along on the journey as Elliott met winged creatures, wizards, sasquatches, and other creatures. The reader was also there for all the narrow escapes and battles that went along the way.

The novel was left open ended so here would be room for more stories, many more stories as it seemed involving Elliott and other worlds.

Each chapter was accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Geof Isherwood and these really added to the overall feel of the book. I think it’s a great fantasy, and I don’t recall any strong language in it. Due to intense situations though, I’d recommend it for those over 13.

It’s a tale in the classic style of fantasies such as Wizard of Oz, and I think when it’s released later this month you should pick it up. It’s definitely worth the price.

You can see our interview with Mr. Smith here.

About the Author

Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans, has numerous degrees, including psychology (B.A.), applied microbiology (B.S.), anaerobic microbiology (M.Sc.), and a Medical Doctorate (M.D.). He serves as an interventional cardiologist at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He is married and the father of two young children. He began writing Antiquitas Lost in 2003 while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans.

For more information please visit http://www.antiquitaslost.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

About the Illustrator

Born in 1960 in Quantico, Virginia, Geof grew up on Maryland’s eastern shore, in Delaware and New Jersey, before his family permanently settled in Montreal, Quebec in 1971.

From the age of nine, Geof set his sights on becoming a comic book artist. While in school, he drew his own primitive series of comics about barbarians, superheroes and his teachers, which he then colored, stapled into book form and shared with his classmates.

From 1983 to 1998, Geof worked on Namor, The Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, Cosmic Powers Unlimited, all of the Conan books, Doctor Strange — Doctor Strange Annual No. 3 featured the debut of Geof’s own supervillain Kyllian Kells; Daredevil, G.I. Joe, The ‘Nam, Power Man/Iron Fist, Swords of the Swashbucklers, Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Thor, X-Men Annual, Tales of Vishanti, Tales of Asgard, the graphic novel Revenge of the Living Monolith, as well as DC’s Suicide Squad and Barry Windsor-Smith’s Storyteller.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Leyane at FSB Associates for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.


Interview: Antiquitas Lost – Robert Louis Smith

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Today we are pleased to have with us Robert Louis Smith, author of the fantasy novel Antiquitas.

About the Author

Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans, has numerous degrees, including psychology (B.A.), applied microbiology (B.S.), anaerobic microbiology (M.Sc.), and a Medical Doctorate (M.D.). He serves as an interventional cardiologist at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He is married and the father of two young children. He began writing Antiquitas Lost in 2003 while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans.

For more information please visit http://www.antiquitaslost.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Rhodes Review: How did you get interested in writing?

Robert Louis Smith: I have been interested in creative writing from a very young age. Unlike most physicians, I have always been somewhat of a “left brain” person, and my favorite courses in high school and college were English and the language arts rather than science.  As long as I can remember, I have aspired to write a novel that could be appreciated by others. Aside from this, my decision to sit down and start writing was really motivated by two different circumstances.  On the one hand, there are authors out there (Hemingway and Dickens come to mind) who write so beautifully that I can’t help but marvel at their skill for the craft.  When reading these authors, I find myself wishing I could find it within me to write something as powerful, or beautiful as they have done – scenes that tells us something meaningful or thought-provoking about the human condition.  This is akin to a painter looking at the works of Michelangelo or Da Vinci and wishing he could create something as wonderful.  On the other hand, I have consumed countless books over the years, many of them bestsellers, where I have reached the end and thought: I could do better than that! In addition to these very different motivations, I also find writing to be a wonderful escape from the stresses of daily life.

Rhodes Review: What are some of your favorite books/authors.

Robert Louis Smith: I love many different books and many different authors.  Most of my reading-for-fun involves popular authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, or JK Rowling (to name but a few).  I suppose my favorite book is Stephen King’s The Stand, which I first read as a teenager.  Other childhood favorites include the Tolkien books, the Narnia books, and as an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter series.  But I like to read just about any good story, and I can get caught up in anything. For example, in researching how horses behave for scenes in Antiquitas Lost, I read Lonesome Dove.  I had never read a western in my life, and would have told you I had no interest in the genre, but I simply couldn’t put it down, and was sad when I reached the end.

 Rhodes Review: Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what way(s)?

Robert Louis Smith: It is inevitable that each of the characters have at least some things in common with their creator.  After all, each of their voices in the end comes from the writer. Antiquitas Lost is an epic fantasy novel, and many of the characters fill roles that are ultimately related to the “Hero’s Journey” plot structure.  I wrote the novel in a fashion meant to be somewhat consistent with this type of plot, so really none of the characters are autobiographical. That said, the protagonist, Elliott, has a mindset that is cynical in many ways, and this is something he inherited from me.  Also, I really like the character Hooks, who is a big beastly creature that serves in the role of protector.  He has a big heart, is childlike at times, and is also quite resourceful. I suppose I relate to him the most (despite the fact that he isn’t human!). 

Rhodes Review: Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?

Robert Louis Smith:  There are several Antiquitas Lost characters I would like to have dinner with.  For starters, I will pick Waldemariam.  He is the chancellor of the politically powerful Grayfarer Council, and he is a mysterious character with a hidden past.  In addition to being 8 feet tall, winged, and wolfish in countenance, he is also a complete badass.  I would love to see what he looks like in person and hear some of the battle tales he has to tell.  I would also like to hear more about his birthplace and upbringing on the far side of Pangrelor, as it is surely much different than anything introduced in Antiquitas Lost.  I would also be interested in having a conversation with Slipher. This character intrigues me because he is a member of the remorselessly violent serpan culture, yet somehow he seems like not such a bad guy. Throughout the book, I kept thinking that there was a good soul in there somewhere, and that he was reformable, if only he would let down his guard and trust. 

 Rhodes Review: What would your ideal career be, if you couldn’t be an author?

Robert Louis Smith: This is an interesting question, as I have chosen a “day job” that is well suited to me, but quite different from writing.  Most of my hours are spent as an interventional cardiologist performing medical procedures in the cardiac catheterization lab.  For a variety of reasons, this is an extremely rewarding career, and one that required many years of study and preparation. But medicine can be quite stressful, and the hours are often long and hard.  Over the years, I have frequently joked that my cardiology career is “plan B”, just in case I can’t make it as a writer.  It seems to me that a full time writing career is something reserved for the few, as it is difficult for most to financially support a lifelong career in a rewarding fashion.  For those who have found long term personal financial stability writing, in many ways, I would say they have the ideal career.

Rhodes Review: If you were to do your career as an author again, what would you do differently, and why?

Robert Louis Smith: Aside from the constant desire to become a better writer, I’m not sure I would have done many things differently.  Anyone who sits down earnestly to put pen to paper hopes to write something great.  But writing is something that takes practice, and it is only with repeated effort that we can learn how to take those wonderful visions in our minds eye and transcribe them in a way that will be meaningful to others. All the preparation in the world cannot supersede the importance and value of honing your technical skills by simply sitting down and writing. 

Rhodes Review: How long does it take you to write a book? 

Robert Louis Smith: If I had nothing to do but write, I suspect I could complete a novel in perhaps six or eight months. I am lucky in that I never seem to develop writer’s block (not yet, anyway).  The thing that really holds me back is the fact that I have a busy, full-time career in medicine, so my writing time is limited.  I do the majority of writing in the late-night hours, usually from 10pm to about midnight, and I am often quite tired this late in the day. Even so, if I have a long, uninterrupted stretch of nights, I can get quite a lot done.  Antiquitas Lost was written in fits and starts over many years, and I often had to stop writing for months at a time in order to prepare for board exams, after the births of my children, or when preparing a project for work, etc. I have often wondered what I could accomplish if I had unlimited time to focus on writing, and could do it at times when I was more refreshed.

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Robert Louis Smith: I mention below that it is important to be disciplined about writing. This is a critical point.  When I am working on a writing project, I plan a minimum of 2 hours daily (usually from 10pm to midnight) and I really make myself stick to this schedule.  Often, I get going and work beyond the two hour limit, but writing is like studying.  You have to sit down and make yourself do it if you want to achieve anything. Of course, if I didn’t have a “day job”, I would probably devote much more than two hours per day.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Robert Louis Smith: In life, I talk too much.  In writing, I write too much, which is to say I tend to include a lot of unnecessary verbage.  In both settings, there is value in discovering the economy of language.

Rhodes Review: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

Robert Louis Smith: I absolutely read my reviews and pay attention to them.  How could you not?  It is true that we shouldn’t let negative reviews discourage us from doing what we love, and that some reviewers, for whatever reason, offer unfair assessments.  But on the whole, I find that professional reviewers do a good job at picking apart the strengths and weaknesses of my work, and I’m sure this influences me on some level.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help my readers become a better writer? If so, what are they? 

Robert Louis Smith: Write every day.  Be disciplined about it, even if you think what you’re writing isn’t any good.  It is only through experience that you learn what works and what doesn’t.  Like any skill in life, practice makes perfect (and only God gets it right the first time).

Rhodes Review: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Robert Louis Smith: Since my debut novel is not yet released, I don’t have many readers to hear from just yet.  But something interesting has happened with Antiquitas Lost.  In late July, 2011, we put up a facebook page, which now has about 14,000 followers.  In mid August, we put up a website, which has already been visited by web-surfers from 50 different countries spanning every continent except Antarctica. I have no idea how all of this has come about, but I have great fun perusing the online profiles of the Antiquitas Lost followers, and reading the comments they post. Most say they are excited about the release, or wonder if the book is going to be any good (Kirkus says it will be, by the way). Others comment of the remarkable quality of Geof Isherwood’s illustrations (they are fantastic).  But the main thing I think of when I see the wide variety of people who show interest in the book is that these people were my target audience – the ones who I wrote the book for – and I hope they enjoy the ride as much as I have.

Rhodes Review: Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?

Robert Louis Smith: Well, I’m new enough that I’m not sick of answering anything just yet.  In fact, I’m glad somebody cares enough to ask, so thanks for the opportunity!

We’d like to thank Mr. Smith for taking the time to talk to us here, and you can read our review of his novel at: here