Shameless Plug: Seasonal Book Promo

It’s that time of year for special gift-giving around my neck of the woods (so to speak) and as it is in many other places. And what better gift than a book or two?

Here are two books for your perusal. I hope you’ll consider them for this holiday season or for any gift-giving occasion.

“Storytellin: True And Fictional Short Stories Of Arkansas”. A collection of mixed-genre stories set in Arkansas from the early 1900s to the 1950s. Each of the fictional stories is preceded by a Cotner family story or event that inspired the fictional tales. Set against the rugged backdrop of the Ouachita Mountains these stories bring ageless tales of hope, fear, laughter, retribution, and kindness.

“Mystery Of The Death Hearth”. A Celtic tale of murder, power, and intrigue. In a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire, the Great Cross—made of Celtic gold and amber now claimed by the Roman church—goes missing along with a fortune in coins and precious gems. Murder soon follows, igniting tensions when church leaders maneuvering for political gain are implicated in the violent plot. When news reaches the Grand Prefect in Rome, Enforcers are sent to identify the thieves and recover the missing treasure. The trail leads to the Brendan Valley where it falls to deputy magistrate Weylyn de Gort to work with those whose ways are alien to his Elder Faith beliefs. Along the way, he must find an elusive young Celt girl and her missing grandfather, unravel the mystery of an Elder’s vision, and avoid death at the hands of an assassin as he faces the greatest challenge of his life.

Mystery Of The Death Hearth Prologue

June 21st in the Roman calendar

Summer Solstice

“This sacred site has been here longer than we can remember,” Elder Blaine the Slender told the small group of children clustered around him. They were surrounded by festival vendors in tents bearing colorful flags, all part of the crowd gathered there to celebrate the Solstice holiday. “Heed these stories well, so you may pass them to those who will come after you.”

He saw them nod, some smiling, many somber, all attentive.

“Learn your crafts well, listen to your elders, honor the gods, and respect the land. Enjoy the life you have been granted and help others do the same. No other goals should be attempted lest you fall into the evil snare of greed and dishonesty.”

A small voice whispered, “He means the Romans, right?”

“Not just Romans, young one. Celts, too, face dark temptations. The two worst enemies we all face are liars and thieves,” the Elder continued. “Take nothing that isn’t yours. Honor the code of doing what you will so long as you harm no one or their possessions. Have compassion for those less fortunate, help those in need. Follow the path of our Celtic Elder Faith, stay true to its teachings. You will be wise to–”

Blaine’s words were interrupted by heavy beating of drums and cheers from celebrants within the inner circle of the standing stones. Before Blaine could continue, a child spoke up.

“What about murderers, Elder? Aren’t they an enemy, too?”

Elder Blaine nodded. “Truly spoken young one. Murderers are the worst kind of thief. They steal your life.”

 

 

 

 

Book Review: 1177 B.C .

1177BC

1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline

I enjoy history and found this book a fascinating and educational read. The work is a quest to identify the forces responsible for the demise of the Bronze Age ‘civilizations’ of Egypt and its immediate neighbors. It is written in an easy to understand style with relevant footnotes, an extensive bibliography, chapter notes with comments, and a reference called “Dramatis Personae” listing the chronology of the major rulers and related personnel of the region beginning with Adad-nirari I (ruled 1307-1275 B.C.) to Zimri-Lim (ruled 1776-1758 B.C.).

Cline’s presentation is scholarly and focused exclusively on the blending of literary and archaeological evidence of eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Middle-Eastern (or Near East) regions of the Late Bronze Age, most notably the interactions and conflicts between Egyptian and Hittite empires, the Mycenaean civilization, and the elusive and hard to define Sea Peoples.

Inscriptions and regional letters from individuals, rulers, and emissaries presented in this work were a fascinating read providing insight into the thinking of the time and, for me, reinforce the common notion that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ It also stretches the definitions of what I would call ‘civilization’ and ‘civilized behavior.’ For instance, take this inscription from the pharaoh Kamose (17th Dynasty of Egypt) writing in 1550 BC about his victory over the Hyksos whom he calls “Asiatics:”

“I sailed north in my might to repel the Asiatics…with my brave army before me like a flame of fire and the…archers atop our fighting-tops to destroy their places…I passed the night in my ship, my heart happy; and when day dawned I was upon him as if it were a hawk. When breakfast time came, I overthrew him having destroyed his walls and slaughtered his people, and made his wife descend to the riverbank. My army acted like lions with their spoil…chattles, cattle, fat, honey…dividing their things, their hearts joyful.”

Cline’s thoughts on what, exactly, brought about the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations in his region of interest are based on facts gathered from the many scientific and literary research disciplines studying the region examining many factors including but not limited to earthquakes, droughts, disease, fire, warfare against invading Sea People, local insurrections, and changing economic considerations. He writes: “In my opinion, none of these individual factors would have been cataclysmic enough on their own to bring down even one of these civilizations, let alone all of them. However, they could have combined to produce a scenario in which the repercussions of each factor were magnified, in what some scholars have called a ‘multiplier effect.’ … The ensuing ‘systems collapse’ could have led to the disintegration of one society after another, in part because of the fragmentation of the global economy and the breakdown of the interconnections upon which each civilization was dependent.”

The presentation of the ‘multiplier effect’ and ‘systems collapse’ is a compelling argument for the eventual end of the Late Bronze Age in this region but one issue stands out for me as wrong. Though the work is a highly detailed, fascinating historical presentation, I find Cline’s assertion that the destruction of the regional civilizations covered in this work was somehow the result of the collapse of a ‘globalized’ society and ‘globalized’ markets that over a period time marked the end of the Late Bronze Age a bit off the mark. I would not normally quibble over such an issue but this incorrect terminology appears to be used solely to manufacture a direct correlation of those Late Bronze Age circumstances with today’s world; and, in doing so, somehow serve as an apocalyptic warning to our current, truly globalized market and intertwined global society. But Cline’s presentation focuses solely on a specific region. Therefore, Cline’s ‘globalization’ is actually ‘regionalization.’

In reality, the only consistent common denominator I could find between the collapse of ‘civilization’ in Cline’s Bronze Age stories and the drama of the world we live in today is they have humans serving as both the protagonist and antagonist in the drama that is human history, Bronze Age or otherwise.

I suppose Cline can be forgiven for attempting to draw parallels between then and now in an optimistic belief that somehow we can save ourselves from the same forces of destruction that ended the Late Bronze Age. Sadly, the most relevant similarity between the collapse of those “civilizations” and our current world is both were/are populated by humans and we do not have a good track record when it comes to learning from history.

Nevertheless, I found this book an intriguing read and a welcome addition to my library.

Thank You!

Me and Fayetteville's Mayor Lioneld Jordan

Me (left) and Fayetteville’s Mayor Lioneld  Jordan 

Wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation to all the great people who attended the book sales and signing at Nightbird Books yesterday. Had a wonderful turnout of authors and book lovers and enjoyed visiting with all of you.

Even the Mayor of Fayetteville, Mr. Lioneld Jordan, dropped by and purchased a signed copy of my short story book. We swapped stories of growing up in Arkansas and shooting marbles, a subject covered in one of the book’s short stories called ‘The Marble King.’ “Thank you, Mr. Mayor.”

A special note of acknowledgement and appreciation to Lisa at Nightbird Books for allowing local authors the opportunity to display their work. “Thank you, Lisa.”

Author Event This Saturday

nightbirdbookslogo

I will be attending the latest Local Author Event Day this Saturday, December 5th, 2015 from 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Nightbird Books store, 205 West Dickson Street, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet local authors, purchase great signed edition books for gifts, and support our local small businesses.

From Nightbird Books:

We are inviting our local authors into the store on December 5th to give you a chance to meet writers in our community and pick up some great autographed holiday gifts. Because of smaller space, we will have two shifts. The first is from 10:30 to 1:00 and the second from 1:30 to 4:00. This is always a fun event so I hope you can join us.

Participants include:

Sybil Rosen, John Walsh, Tom McKinnon, Susan Holmes, Jack Cotner, Carolyn Guinzio, Vance Clement, and Edmund Harriss from 10:30 to 1:00

and Denele Campbell, Radine Trees Nehring, JB Hogan, Paul Williams, Alexander Margulis, and Martin Jardon from 1:30 to 4:00

 

I hope to see you there!

Jack Friday Sales Event!

Happy Holidays colorized Pen and Ink copyright noticed

Forget Black Friday sales events. On this blog it’s Jack Friday.

Actually, it’s a sales event that goes beyond just this Friday featuring the Kindle editions of both my short story collection and my Celtic murder mystery novel. They’re  on sale now through December 5th for just $0.99 each. From December 6th through December 23rd they will be half their usual listed price.

Grab a copy for yourself or purchase for family and friends.

 

Book Review: Moriarty

Moriarty

It is not in my nature to publicly speak ill of another author. As a rule, when I read a book I find less than enjoyable, I tend to move on without comment and find something else to read. That’s been my rule up to this moment. What follows is a notable and necessary exception.

 

The plot of Moriarty by British author Anthony Horowitz takes place after Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes and nemesis Professor Moriarty struggle over Reichenbach Falls and disappear into its depths as described on the book’s cover:

“Days after Holmes and Moriarty disappear into the waterfall’s churning depths, Fredrick Chase, a senior investigator at New York’s infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, arrives in Switzerland. Chase brings with him a dire warning: Moriarty’s death has left a convenient vacancy in London’s criminal underworld. There is no shortage of candidates to take his place—including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.”

No spoilers intended but don’t believe a word of it. Not. One. Word.

This work drags the reader down the proverbial garden path where they are thrown into the deep well of disappointment and left drowning in a dark pool of unforgivable author deceit.

The attempt at constructing a clever plot fell woefully flat and unsatisfying, torturing this reader for some 300+ pages of a 362 page work as I struggled chapter after chapter to find something enjoyable. In the end, the reading experience left me exhausted, day after miserable page-turning day.

The entire work is overloaded with a multitude of pretentious and unnecessary descriptive elements and tedious dialogue both of which slowed the story down so much its equivalent wretched sluggish experience would be attempting to swim the Thames with an iron ball and chain on each leg.

Did I like the book? No. Would I recommend it? No.

I purchased Moriarty because of my familiarity with the televised work of Mr. Horowitz. Most notably, his screenplays on Midsomer Murders, Poirot, and Foyle’s War—three of my favorite television series and all are delights. He also authors the Alex Rider books for young adults. I have not read that series but after slogging through Moriarty, I won’t.

In my opinion Mr. Horowitz may be best suited to screenplays.