The Killing Isn’t Over Yet… OPERATION: GENOCIDE by Yvonne Walus

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An inhuman agenda… A clandestine organization… And the killing isn’t over yet…

 

Title: Operation: Genocide
Author: Yvonne Walus
Publication Date: September 2013
Genre: Thriller/Murder Mystery

Operation Genocide An inhuman agenda…

In 1982, Annette Pretorius lives a life of privilege afforded to those of European descent in South Africa, but when her husband is murdered, she discovers a shattering secret: he’d been commissioned by the whites-only South African government to develop a lethal virus aimed at controlling the growth of the black population–already oppressed under the cruel system of apartheid.

A clandestine organization…

The murder came with a warning to Annette from a secretive organization: keep our secrets or you too will die. Captain Trevor Watson, Annette’s former boyfriend, is appointed to lead the investigation. Watson’s loyalty is tested as the evidence stacks against his high school sweetheart.

And the killing isn’t over yet…

When the investigation points in a terrifying direction, Annette and Watson face a wrenching choice: protect those they love or sacrifice all to save innocents from racial extermination.

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Yvonne Walus A refugee from communism and the bitter cold of Poland, I lived in South Africa for 16 years. It’s certainly not a trendy setting for a novel, and I know people on either sides of the political spectrum will find OPERATION: GENOCIDE controversial. By trying to portray what South Africa was like at the height of its apartheid era, by inspecting both sides of the coin, I’m sure I’ve managed to offend all parties.

Still, I’m not sorry. South Africa means a lot of things to a lot of people: lions in long yellow grass, diamond mines, apartheid, Nelson Mandela, rugby. All of those images are right, yet none of them – in my opinion – are representative of the misunderstood country or its people. None of them describe what it’s like to live in South Africa, both in the 1980s and today.

I’d like my readers to smell the red dust of the continent and to fall in love with Africa the way I did when I first set foot there as an impressionable teenager. I left my heart in Africa, and I invite you to do the same.

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#MusicMonday: My 5 Most Influential Rock Albums

Last week, Maria Savva – fellow author, and probably the only friend I’ve ever had who is as obsessed with music as I am – tagged me in a Facebook challenge to name my top 10 influential albums. Not my favorite albums, but the albums that, in some way, influenced me. This was such a fun challenge that I thought I’d do a variation of that here. Today I’m sharing five of those albums, along with a brief explanation as to how they influenced me. And, of course, I’ll share some of those songs. I’m not sure if these are my top five. It’s difficult to assign sequential order to these things. They all, in one way or another, moved me, shaped me, changed me.

Music

 

Led Zeppelin 1, while not my favorite Zeppelin album, is where it all began. If I had to name one band that has most influenced me over time, the one band that continues to hold a spot above all others, that band would be Zeppelin. This was my introduction to Rock. Choosing a song to highlight is a challenge. My first instinct was to go with Dazed and Confused. I was obsessed with that phrase as a teenager. I wrote it on the back of my denim jacket and the outer edge of my Earth shoes. But, as I thought about it, I realized the song that influenced me most, the song that really changed my perspective of music, is You Shook Me. This is an old blues tune written by Willie Dixon. The core of my love for Rock is absolutely my love for Blues. But, at that time, I knew nothing about the Blues. This song rattled my very core.

 

 

 

Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album… Heavy. Dark. Ozzy. Need I say more than that? The song choice here is an easy one for me. It speaks to my sense of justice, my feelings of injustice, my inner peacenik. This is War Pigs:

 

 

Next up is Procol Harum‘s self-titled album. I couldn’t find the specific album to link to. Mine is the original 1967, mono recording from Deram. This album might have been my introduction to the trippy keyboards and kind of mind-melting sound of rock. The song that made this a must for my budding album collection back in my youth was A Whiter Shade of Pale:

 

 

Days of Future Passed by The Moody Blues (with The London Festival Orchestra) influenced me in a different way, far more lyrically than musically. The spoken word poem on this album was a revelation for me, heavily influencing my period of poetry writing. The poem, called Late Lament, was not credited separately on the original album. (1967) The first half of the poem comes roughly 3-1/2 minutes into the first song on side one, The Day Begins. The second half of the poem comes on side two, at about the 5-1/2 minute mark of the last song, The Night: Nights In White Satin. I think I wrote at least part of this poem on every school notebook and every textbook cover I had. Here is the poem in its entirety:

‘Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?
Pinprick holes in a colourless sky,
Let insipid figures of light pass by,
The mighty light of ten thousand suns,
Challenges infinity and is soon gone.
Night time, to some a brief interlude,
To others the fear of solitude.
Brave Helios wake up your steeds,
Bring the warmth the countryside needs.

Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight,
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which one is right.
And which is an illusion?

 

Number 5 on my list of influential albums is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. This was a whole new sound for me. It felt more like an ‘in your head’ experience than a lot of the rock music I’d been listening to before this. Separating one song for this album is difficult. For me, the album worked best in its entirety. I was immersed from start to finish, as the songs just bled into one another, no beginning and no end. But of them all, Us and Them struck me deepest. The smooth, airy vibe and the deep, slightly dark lyrics might have been my first experience with beauty and darkness combined. That feeling of dichotomy now heavily influences my writing.

 

 

And there you have 5 of my most influential albums.

Albums

What are some of yours?

Thanks for listening. :)

Exposing Myself! Work-In-Progress Blog Tour

Confessions

I have been tagged in the Work-In-Progress Blog Tour! I’m hoping this will force my ambition out of hiding, so that I might finally get these characters out of my head.

First, thank you to Emma Gray for tagging me. Her WIP is called Power Play, and it’s the sequel to Party Games. Read her blog post – Power Play – my entry for the Work In Progress Blog Tour – for a teaser on these two books. You can also follow her on Twitter to keep up to date on all her writing.

This challenge has rules to follow. I’ve never been good at following rules, but I’ll do my best.

The rules: Provide the link back to the post by the person who nominated you. Write a little about your current WIP and give the first sentence of the first three chapters, then nominate four other writers to do the same.

So here’s my first problem. I’m still working on the first draft. And this is my confession. When I write, for the most part, I have no idea what I’m doing. I just listen to voices and write what they tell me. I don’t have an outline. I don’t even divide anything into chapters until my first edit. I do, however, separate scenes and, fortunately, I write sequentially. If this was just a random mess of scenes, I’d really be in trouble. See, I’m already breaking rules. Since I don’t know for sure where my chapters will divide, I’ll do my best to designate the spots I think will begin chapters two and three.

First, though, I’m supposed to tell you a little about the book. I have no title yet. At least not one I’m willing to publicly declare. Since I have no title, I of course have no cover. What I do have is the first half (approximately) of what will eventually be the first book in a new series. Series title? Yeah, well, I don’t know that either. As I pointed out, I’m just listening to voices. Don’t blame me if they aren’t giving me this information yet.

Wanted

I can tell you this book is suspense, but not exactly my usual suspense. This one is paranormal. Or is it supernatural? The terms confuse me these days, since paranormal has come to define all things vampire. There are no vampires here. No werewolves. No shapeshifters. I’m writing about humans with… abilities. The series will not feature one specific character throughout. Instead, the series will revolve around a group, the group of humans with abilities, and each book will feature a different character. This first book, the one I’m now writing, is dark (no surprise there, if you’re familiar with my writing) but not graphic as far as detailed violence, has a bit of romance, and even a touch of humor. (I hope!)

This book features Eli Hayes, who is a dark and powerful man full of secrets. Along with Eli, my second POV character is Amanda. She loves Eli, though she doesn’t really know him at all.

Now on to my attempt to sort out chapters. Here are the first lines of (what might be) the first three chapters:

Chapter 1: Eli Hayes stood alone in the darkness.

Chapter 2: This was not one of Sandra’s better days.

Chapter 3: Amanda wanted to kick the smiling young couple strolling hand-in-hand out of the coffee shop.


 

Now for another rule I’ll break. I’m supposed to tag four fellow authors to keep this tour going. The problem I’m having is that the authors I know who routinely blog have either already participated or are not currently working on a new book. Rather than spend a lot of time trying to find people to participate, I’m going to tag three authors I like in hopes they feel like playing along. If they’ve already played or have no interest, they can just ignore me.

I am passing the torch to Carmen DeSousa, Geoffrey West, and Jenny Hilborne.

 

I’ve exposed myself as the scattered writer I am, with complete lack of control over my characters – and therefore my mind. Yes, I admit it. I’m mostly in the dark. They come and go as they please. Eli has just flicked the light on and would like a word. I’m off to listen to what he has to say.

Thanks for reading. :)

Review: STEIN, STONED by Hal Ackerman

Stein Stoned

In the sixties, Harry Stein was the foremost authority on cannabis; writing the book on indoor cultivation, inventing thirteen different hybrids, and planting “Victory Gardens” across America behind police precincts, legislature courtyards, and legendarily in the rose garden of the Nixon White House.

Flash forward to the 20th anniversary of John Lennon’s death and Stein is now employed by a “product liability re-insurance firm” and spending his 50th birthday counting a warehouse full of shampoo bottles. Although not the revolutionary of the future he once imagined himself to be, staying on the path of the straight and narrow allows Stein to keep that which he holds most precious in his life: joint custody of his teenage daughter, Angie. When Stein comes up 1,000 shampoo bottles short in his count and his investigations lead him to stumble upon the body of a brutally murdered supermodel, he is forced down a trail littered with old friends, new enemies, and one final journey into the world he long since left behind

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He knelt there in full extension, holding up the dish rack like an offering from a supplicant at the altar of Chaos. He wondered who those people were whose mornings began with freshly squeezed orange juice, pressed shirts and a crisply folded newspaper.

My Review:

The book started with promise. I liked Stein’s character. He’s an aging hippie, once the epitome of “pothead”, who is now trying to raise his daughter responsibly. While I liked the premise and his character, the story quickly fell apart me for. One major problem area came with characterization. All the women in this book are spineless and/or crazy, acting like lunatics and willing to do anything for Stein, despite receiving little to nothing in return. Well, aside from his domineering and controlling ex-wife, who is the complete opposite of all the other women. Then we have the gay men, who are part of the major plot. Their characters are completely stereotypical. Rather than comical, as I think they are meant to be, it feels like a bad sitcom.

“Why would I be hurt? Just because I took the little trollop in? Gave him a home, gave him love, made him a reasonably civilized human being, taught him the business, taught him all of my secrets, and as a reward he left me and marketed the things I gave him freely? Why would that hurt?”

“I only meant financially,” Stein murmured.

This brings us to the plot – or plots. There are really two storylines here. The major plot is about the theft of shampoo bottles. Having spent many years in the hair business, I know all about the importance of labels and name brands. But, even with that knowledge, this plot was over-the-top, bordering on silly. Also, the suspense and intended twists wind up an overly complicated mess. There is a murder, with graphic content that feels out of place in this otherwise kind of comic relief story. Without offering spoilers, I’ll just say that Stein’s part in this feels forced and his emotional investment unrealistic.

The secondary plot is about the missing pot, and that was initially far more interesting. Sadly, that storyline took a turn into the absurd. In both cases, Stein appears to be the only person able to solve the problems for these complete strangers.

“So you brought me along as a decoy?”
“That and your air conditioning. And of course your scintillating company.”
“Nice afterthought.”
He mistook her irony for compliance.
“So you’ll do it?”
“Absolutely not.”
“Really?”
“I’ll change my life for you, but not my hair.”

While the story has moments that shine, and parts did make me laugh, overall it lacked depth and was too ridiculous to take seriously.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

#MusicMonday: Indie Rock Band PEUR Coming At You

Peur

The band is Peur. Their origin is Manchester, England. Their sound is hard-driving alternative rock.

Peur is offering their first EP as a free download. Can’t beat that, especially when it’s well worth paying for. Here’s a look:

Astronauts

1. Lights
2. Anarchy
3. Pursued By Bears
4. Empires
5. Grey Blood

 

Now for a sample. This is Anarchy:

Don’t panic
Just stand up and resist

 

Here’s their modern take on one of the best classics ever, House of the Rising Sun: (Also a free download!)

 

And here’s their single, released last December, and guaranteed to wake you up – This Will Destroy You:



The band is:

Peur

Peur

Joe Lomax
Ryan Greenhalgh
Sam Tempest

 

Connect with the band on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Their music is available to stream free on Soundcloud. Watch and listen to their music videos on their YouTube channel.

These guys are quite generous. To receive a free download of their EP We Can Be Astronauts, and also their cover of House of the Rising Sun, go to the Music page on their website, type in your name and e-mail address, and you’ll have your free downloads delivered. It’s that simple. And no worries, they won’t spam your inbox afterward.

If you enjoyed their single This Will Destroy You, please consider making a purchase. As we all know, free music is a cool thing but it doesn’t help support the band. Their single is available for download on iTunes.


Thanks for listening. :)

Review – Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero by Douglas Perry

Eliot Ness

The true story of Eliot Ness, the legendary lawman who led the Untouchables, took on Al Capone, and saved a city’s soul.

Eliot Ness is famous for leading the Untouchables against the notorious mobster Al Capone. But it turns out that the legendary Prohibition Bureau squad’s daring raids were only the beginning. Ness’s true legacy reaches far beyond Big Al and Chicago.

Eliot Ness follows the lawman through his days in Chicago and into his forgotten second act. As the public safety director of Cleveland, he achieved his greatest success: purging the city of corruption so deep that the mob and the police were often one and the same. And it was here, too, that he faced one of his greatest challenges: a brutal, serial killer known as the Torso Murderer, who terrorized the city for years.

Eliot Ness presents the first complete picture of the real Eliot Ness. Both fearless and shockingly shy, he inspired courage and loyalty in men twice his age, forged law-enforcement innovations that are still with us today, and earned acclaim and scandal from both his professional and personal lives. Through it all, he believed unwaveringly in the integrity of law and the basic goodness of his fellow Americans.

Published: February 2014

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You never knew what you were going to find on the side of the road in Chicago Heights, but a dead body was never a bad guess.

My Review:

Eliot Ness is a fascinating man, best known for his role in leading The Untouchables while chasing Al Capone. Here, Douglas Perry introduces us to the real man behind all the hype. If you’ve read The Untouchables or seen the movie, you might be surprised to learn how much of Ness’s memoir was overblown hype. In fact, Eliot Ness never approved the final manuscript, which he had not actually written, because he died before the book was finished.

Legend has it that Eliot personally selected the men who would become known collectively as the Untouchables.

I was impressed with the breadth of content here. Aside from the Capone years, we learn about Ness’s career as Safety Director in Cleveland, his obsession with corruption, his battle maintaining his reputation, and his transition into business that seemed to be his final downfall. Despite all the good Ness did, he died broke and in relative obscurity.

The pack of reporters followed Eliot up to his office in the Alcohol Tax Unit’s suite and continued to fire questions at him as he cleaned out his desk. “I am going to be a working safety director,” he said. “I will do undercover work to obtain my own evidence and acquaint myself personally with conditions.”

Perry shows us the human side of the legend, which I find far more interesting than the glamorous view designed to sell books and movies. We’re also given a look at what the world was like during this tumultuous period in history, when mafia men were openly running some cities.

The Mayfield Road Mob, also known as the Hill gang, was Ohio’s leading crime outfit. They did business however they pleased, without fear of police interference.

The writing itself lacks a bit of personality, coming off a little dry with its ‘just the facts’ format. But the writing is also clear and precise, and the timeline easy to follow. Definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone interested in Eliot Ness and/or this period of history.


Thanks for reading. :)

Review: PARTNERS IN CRIME by Ian David Noakes

Partners In Crime

MILLY CLOUD’S husband did the dirty on her, using her credit card for hotel rooms, restaurant bills and sharp suits; NOAH SMITH has tried to better himself and quit his job – but failed to tell his wife when he couldn’t get another and turned to a credit card to cover it up; HARRY HOLMES thought he had a formula for winning the national lottery – he may be smart when it comes to Affidavits and Cross Examinations at University, but borrowing from a loan shark to purchase 5,000 lottery tickets wasn’t his brightest moment.

All three lives collide when Harry attempts (and fails) to take his own life in the park, but when a drug dealer pulls up selling drugs to kids they take it as a sign – rob the undeserving!

Are Milly, Noah and Harry just as bad as the people they steal from, or can they justify it by balancing a life of crime with good deeds and worthy targets?

PARTNERS IN CRIME is the comical first book of a series that will tussle with controversial current events: from law enforcement corruption to escalating debt problems, from political correctness gone mad to dysfunctional relationships.

And the question of ‘what is right, what is wrong, and how far people will attempt to bend morality if pushed in a corner and threatened to survive.

Published: April 2014

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Chunky more than likely had a gun, knife and grenade tucked under his pillow, and one of these locals was casually humming along to a song from The Inbetweeners, oblivious to his surroundings, karate kicking and chopping fresh air as he rocked his head back and forth with enough force to inflict irreversible brain damage.

My Review:

Partners In Crime introduces us to three strangers who are, for various reasons, experiencing difficult times in their lives. Their chance meeting and ensuing partnership leads them into a comedy of errors. The humor sometimes takes us to the edge of credulity, which is part of the fun. It never feels ridiculous, but instead endears the characters in a way that makes us root for them.

If he had clapped his giant hands together, he’d have caused a sudden vacuum of wind and propelled Milly, Noah and Harry into the nearest brick wall.

This short read is the perfect introduction to a promising series.

It turned out that Harry was scared shitless of dying, a fact supported by his shocking scream that had, just that minute, rivaled Milly’s.

 

Thanks for reading. :)

Characters Misbehaving! The CONduct Series by Jennifer Lane

The CONduct Series
Can Two Ex-Cons Find Love?
Will the Mafia Let Them Live Long Enough to Find Out?


Romantic Suspense with a Psychological Twist: Now Available in a Boxed Set!

BOOK ONE – With Good Behavior:

With Good Behavior In a world gripped by organized crime, family dysfunction, and dim hopes of redemption, can
true love persevere? For Sophie Taylor, a beautiful psychologist who lost everything when she violated an ethical boundary, and Grant Madsen, a handsome naval officer who sacrificed everything to protect a loved one, finding that love may carry an unbearable cost.

Starting their lives over in Chicago, both are fighting influences from their family and running as fast as they can to escape the past. When their paths cross outside the parole officer’s door, the attraction is instantaneous. But a hidden connection may not only shatter their fledgling love, but prove deadly to them both.

BOOK TWO – Bad Behavior:

Bad Behavior Grant Madsen’s got issues. He’s still battling his Mafia family and doing everything possible to keep his loved ones safe. With the cruising season coming to an end, he has to find another job soon or he’ll rejoin his father in prison. And he’s trying to convince his rebellious teenage nephew to stay away from their criminal relatives (you can imagine how that’s going). But worst of all, Grant’s parole officer has mandated that he attend therapy.

The only saving grace is that they’re couples sessions with his girlfriend, Sophie Taylor, a fellow parolee who’s struggling with a few issues of her own. Sophie desperately hopes her past with
Grant’s brother won’t destroy her future with him. There’s a sleazy professor at work who revels in sexually harassing women in the psychology department. And her father still hates Grant.

Their psychologist has his work cut out for him.

When Grant’s ruthless father hints at a plot to get out of prison, Grant must use everything he’s learned in therapy and beyond to try to stop him. It’s a race against time and a race to rescue Sophie from the Mafia’s clutches once again. But this time McSailor and Bonnie refuse to play victims. This time the cuffs are coming off.

BOOK THREE – On Best Behavior:

On Best Behavior Planning a wedding is never easy—especially when the Russian Mafia wants you dead.

On Best Behavior—the third and final book in The Conduct Series—finds our favorite couple moving forward, despite the odds. Following a pardon by the Governor of Illinois, excons Sophie Taylor and Grant Madsen are finally free to pursue their love and the life that lies ahead for them. Grant now fights the forces that have hurt his loved ones by working undercover for the FBI, and he has infiltrated the Russian Mafia in Chicago. Sophie dives into swimming with Grant’s nephew, Ben, and into her career as a psychology professor. Thankfully, now it’s Ben’s turn to heal through
therapy sessions with Dr. Hunter Hayes.

With so many things going right for Grant and Sophie, it’s too bad the Russians aren’t their only threat. When Grant’s father, Enzo Barberi, discovers his own son thwarted his plan to break out of prison, his overdeveloped sense of vengeance flares to life. As Sophie scrambles to save her fiancé, it’s impossible to say who will kill Grant first—the Russians or his Italian family. Can love triumph over evil? Are hard work and a pledge to be on best behavior ever enough?

Once again, author Jennifer Lane brings a harrowing tale of romantic suspense with a psychological twist, and it’s sure to leave readers breathless.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble
 

Author: Jennifer Lane
Title: The CONduct Series Boxed Set
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9781623421694
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Author Website: http://www.JenniferLaneBooks.com
Twitter: @JenLaneBooks

 

Character Interview with Grant Madsen and Sophie Taylor from
The Conduct Series

Sophie: Thanks for having us to your blog, Darcia. I appreciate your support of prisoners and parolees.

Grant: I do too, Mrs. Helle. Thank you for standing up for cons like us—people trying to make up for past mistakes.

Sophie: I wouldn’t call us cons anymore, honey. But we have made our fair share of mistakes.

Grant: You never were a con, Bonnie. (He laces their fingers together and she smiles.)

Sophie: So, Darcia, you asked how things are going one year after our wedding. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Grant: Let’s get the bad news over with.

Sophie: Okay. You know Grant, also known as McSailor, is back in the navy, right? Well, we thought he’d be stationed at Great Lakes for some time, but he just got orders to deploy to the Middle East.

Grant: I’ll be on a bird farm—an aircraft carrier—supplying air support to Iraq.

Sophie: And I know he’s thrilled to defend our country again, but I’ll miss him.

Grant: (He draws their enjoined hands to his mouth and kisses her hand.) I’ll miss you so much. We have a lot to work on before I go.

Sophie: I know what his wink means (Laughs). Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get pregnant yet.

Grant: But it’s not all bad news, because we sure have fun trying!

Sophie: My doctor says we’ve been through a lot of stress. I’m trying to calm down through yoga and swimming.

Grant: Sophie’s an amazing swimmer. We did a triathlon relay at the lakeshore last week—Sophie swam, Ben biked, and I ran. (Beams) Sophie had the fastest swim time of all women in the race.

Sophie: (Beams) You and Ben rocked it, too.

Grant: (Looks at Darcia) You want to know how my nephew Ben’s doing, ma’am? Here’s where we get to the good news. Ben’s been dating Lindsay for a little over a year, and he’s doing well in high school. He wants to study criminal justice in college—maybe he’ll be a cop like Lindsay’s dad, or a federal agent.

Sophie: We’re so proud of Ben. We’ve visited some universities around Chicago, and my dad offered to pay tuition. Yep, my dad’s doing well. I got him to join this dating service for professionals, and he met a woman in her fifties who’s been really good for him. I’ll let Grant tell you about his father.

Grant: (Pauses) I…I started visiting my father in prison about six months ago. (Sophie strokes his hand.) It’s rough between us—he’s still angry with me, and I’m still hurt by how he destroyed our family—but at least we’re talking. I can’t believe he finally agreed to attend therapy with the prison psychologist. Maybe he can learn how to deal with his PTSD symptoms.

Sophie: I wonder if his psychologist will make him write a letter to you, to share his feelings for you.

Grant: (Snorts) That would be some letter. (Presses his lips together) My dad never chose to be a good father to Logan and me, but maybe he can be a good grandfather to Ben some day. Well, we don’t want to take up too much of your time, Mrs. Helle. Best of luck with your health, your family, and your writing, and keep up the good behavior.

 
 
Author Bio:
Get psyched for romance with psychologist/author (psycho author) Jennifer Lane! By day she witnesses tremendous growth in her psychotherapy clients, and by night she wrangles misbehaving fictional characters as she writes sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist. She can’t decide which is more fun.Stories of redemption interest Jen the most, especially the healing power of love. She is also the author of The Conduct Series, a romantic suspense trilogy that includes With Good Behavior, Bad Behavior, and On Best Behavior. “In a story of betrayal, responsibility, treachery, and honor, Lane does an excellent job portraying the intricate intersection of two lives connected by love…and lies,” said reviewer Susan Swiderski.

Ultimately, whether writing or reading, Jen loves stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time she enjoys exercising, attending book club, hanging out with her plussize, “I’m not fat, I’m bigboned” Izzie cat, and visiting her sisters and their families in Chicago and Hilton Head.

 

Giveaway:

To celebrate, Jennifer is offering a *signed* paperback copy of With Good Behavior, as well as one ebook boxed set.

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#MusicMonday: CLOCKS AND CLOUDS – A Classical and Rock Fusion

Clocks and Clouds

I’m most often drawn to music with vocals. Lyrics play a large part in my love of music. But I also love music for the pure beauty of the sound. And now and then a musician or band with no vocals captures me, moves me, enthralls me. Clocks and Clouds is one such band.

I first listened to their cover of Madness by Muse, which immediately hooked me:

 

Then I listened to their album The Creation of Matter, which I purchased along with the Madness single.

The Creation of Matter
1. Audeamus
2. Pierce The Night
3. Their Finest Hour
4. Libertango
5. Pastorale
6. End Inevitable

 

 

 

Here’s a sample. This is Pierce The Night:

 

The band has a new single out called Aliantha.

 

They have two more albums available that I’ve already added to my wish list. What I’ve shared today is just a sampling. I encourage you to go explore!

Now that you’ve heard them, let’s meet the band.

Clocks and Clouds

Clocks and Clouds

Stephanie Shogren: violin
Lucas Shogren: cello
Derek Powers: drums/percussion

 

Connect with the band on Facebook and Twitter.

You can stream their music free on their website, Soundcloud, and Spotify. Some songs are available on their YouTube channel.

And here I go with my spiel once again. While we all love to stream music free, and it’s cool that bands allow us to do so, it doesn’t help them pay the bills or support new music ventures. So if you like what you’ve heard, please consider making a purchase. You can purchase albums or single songs on Amazon, iTunes, and their website.

* Aliantha is not currently available on Amazon. Also, be aware that, in an Amazon search for Clocks and Clouds, another band pops up with them called Of Clocks and Clouds. They are not the same. *

 

Clocks and Clouds 3

Thanks for listening. :)

Holding On To Hope: Making A Difference From Behind Prison Walls

LFP The following essay comes to you from behind prison walls. This is the fifth in a series written by Tyler, a young man serving life without the possibility of parole, for a nonviolent crime he committed at the age of 17. His words are eloquent in the face of such injustice.

 

Prosecutorial discretion or concurrent jurisdictional laws define a class of cases that may be brought in either juvenile or criminal court. No hearing is held to determine which court is appropriate, and there may be no formal standards for deciding between them. The decision is entrusted entirely to the prosecutor. ~ US Department of Justice, Juvenile Offenders and Victims: National Report Series Bulletin 2011

 

Behind and Beyond the Wall
August 10, 2014

Prison2 Prison, especially maximum security, is not a place that most people would include on a list of places that can have a positive impact on kids who are in danger of ruining their lives by entering a criminal life. There are plenty of good reasons you would leave prison off that list – and I have written about a number of those reasons in previous posts.

But, I have also written that no matter where you are and no matter what you did to get there, you can decide to live a life of purpose and positive focus. The truth is that even in a place like maximum security prison, there are men (and women, I assume) who want to help young people that are angry or confused to avoid the bad choices that harm others and themselves.

I am fortunate enough to be part of a small group of guys who carry out a program that is targeted at diverting kids who are or might be headed down a bad path. My Dad does not want me to give the exact name of the program because he is worried that it could lead people to figure out which institution I am in. My early years in prison were marked by numerous attempts on my life. Dad is not convinced that the people who were trying to eliminate me back then have given up on their goal. I told him not to worry about it, but he worries. So, in this post, I am going to call the youth diversion group I belong to “Youth Right.”

I am proud of being selected to be a member of Youth Right. Out of thousands of inmates where I am warehoused, only nine have been selected. As I said, I am fortunate. In order to be considered for the group, an inmate’s Corrections file is thoroughly reviewed. Inmates with recent disciplinary actions, sex offenses, active gang affiliation, etc. are mandatorily excluded. Correctional Officers and other prison staff step up their observations of inmates who are being considered and who are part of the program to ensure the integrity of the program.

Youth Right is not a “Scared Straight” experience. We try to reach the kids and others by relating our stories to their lives rather than play-acting the “scary convict.” Although the program is primarily about helping kids turn away from negative influences and thoughts, we also see college students seeking degrees in psychology, criminology, etc., future law enforcement and corrections personnel, even the occasional Correctional Officer’s children, and more. It is a very cool thing to be part of.

Each Youth Right visit to the penitentiary starts with the inmates addressing the crowd. Speaking with any “free person” is an anxious experience for prisoners as we feel the differences between us and the “free.” The reasons we are where we are, along with shame and embarrassment, come creeping or crashing into our thoughts. But, dealing with those feelings and letting people see us completely is also part of why we are there.

So, for the most recent visit, it was my turn to open things up. I stood up and introduced myself to the kids, parents and officers. It was a medium-sized group of 20-25 people. As always, when I began my speech, my heart raced, I felt a slight loss of breath and my hands were all clammy. Whew…

As I stared out at the crowd and made eye contact with some of the teenagers, the first thing I noticed is how young they all looked. Kids. I could see right through their attempts at confidence, resistance and cockiness. It was clear that what lies beneath is uncertainty. I wondered if I wore that same expression when adults tried to talk to me so many years ago. It is hard to believe that I was pretty much their age when I began my prison sentence. I gathered my thoughts, took a deep breath and began to tell them my story.

“My name is Tyler. I am 29 years old. I have been incarcerated for over a decade. They call me “County born and State raised.” Show me your hands if you think you know what that means…”

I always try to encourage the people who come for a Youth Right tour into participation. I want them to relax and have the confidence to ask questions. Not only do I believe this will help them to think about what I am saying, as they relax so do I. After the first few sentences, my nerves started to subside. Passion took the place of nerves and I became aware that I was holding the whole roomful’s attention.

I spoke freely as I discussed my past, the crime I committed, how fast my life spun out of control and the remorse I feel for my past actions. As I brought my speech to a close, I reminded everyone to ask questions during the tour of the facility. I directed that last reminder to the adults as well as the kids. Once the other opening speakers finished, the group started their escorted tour of the prison.

As the teenagers filed past, I curiously looked at the way they were dressed. They wore an odd combination of skater, rocker and hip-hop – all on a single person! Sagging “skinny jeans,” a strange haircut, hats on backwards and slightly tilted and tight T-shirts seem to be the new normal. When I was a teen, kids that rode the edge sure did not dress like that. It looked pretty silly to me. While I was thinking about how the kids were dressed, I had to smile to myself. I sounded just like my Dad!!! What the hell?! When did that happen?

The tour took everyone through the exercise area on the yard, into a housing building and an actual cell. Along the way we talked, interacted and found humor in the reactions of the “free people.” When we reached the dining hall, we broke up into smaller groups; each one led by a Youth Right member.

When the groups are smaller, we get the chance to have one-on-one conversations. It says a lot about the trust and confidence that the staff has in the Youth Right members that they would allow us to be so close to “free people.” We are convicts, who did something bad in our pasts. But, we are not bad now, and we are trying to do something good.

The experience is always most impactful when we split into smaller groups. It was no different on this tour. My fellow Youth Right members and I listened intently as the kids told us their stories – the things they have been through in their brief but not easy lives. We wanted to be aware of the right moments when we should interject with advice, admonishments or encouragement. Some laughed as they spoke; some cried. And we all fell silent as one kid or another released words of frustration and anger. I gave one of the kids a couple of claps on the back after he spoke. The effect that had was way more than words.

When the tour ended, I felt sad. I wondered if anything we had done that day would make a difference. Would any one of the kids we saw start out his or her usual weekend drinking a 40 oz., but this time think, “I don’t want to live this life anymore?” I wished I could be there consistently, pulling up when that kid was with the “homeboys,” taking him away from that world to get something to eat or shoot some hoops or whatever… Just something to get away from the usual.

As the last of the group left for the “free world” my Youth Right members and I looked at each other, kind of lost in our own thoughts. We all shook hands, saying things like, “Man, you did good,” or “That poor kid…” The Correctional Officers said “Good job, fellas.” Then we headed back to our “usual,” to our cells that are always waiting.

But on this day, we broke up the “usual” and we did something good for others. Let’s hope we made a difference.

Thanks for reading.

Tyler

*
Tyler’s father – Nicholas Frank – has written a memoir of his family’s experiences, which I highly recommend. Nick’s publisher recommended he change all names to protect everyone’s privacy. In the book, Tyler is called Nathan. Here he would like to be known by his own name.

Destructive Justice A LOST BOY, A BROKEN SYSTEM
AND THE SMALL LIGHT OF HOPE

By all accounts, Nathan Frank started out as a terrific kid with the brightest of futures ahead of him. With the advent of adolescence, however, Nathan’s world and his relationships begin to unravel. No matter which way he turns, he seems to find conflict. Eventually, with his powerful personality, he becomes his own generator of conflict as he steadily enters a world of drugs, defiance and ultimately a criminal street gang. Finally, he runs off the rails at full throttle, coming to a hard stop at seventeen years old when he is arrested for his participation in a botched robbery. With his arrest, Nathan is swept into a justice system of condemnation and ruination for those who enter its control. There, the fact that he is a troubled teen means nothing – maybe less than nothing. Nathan is tried as an adult and sentenced to multiple life terms for his crimes. So at seventeen, he enters a world where exploitation, violence and abject hopelessness reign. Forgiveness, rehabilitation, redemption are hardly even notions within our justice and corrections systems. Logically, Nathan should be crushed by his fate. He very nearly is. But, the man Nathan becomes, a man who finds his strength in fundamentally good qualities that he suppressed for so many years, will not be crushed. Somehow, in one of the worst places on earth, he rediscovers the best parts of himself. Destructive Justice follows Nathan from the great promise of his earliest years, to the great tragedy of his adolescence, to the small light of hope for an even greater redemption.

Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes and Noble

 

Links to Tyler’s previous essays:

Letters From Prison: Behind and Beyond the Wall
Letters From Prison: Time To Live, Not Just Exist
Letters From Prison: Dodging Bullets On The Prison Yard
Is This Forever? Choices Made, Lessons Learned

 

I’d like everyone to remember that we don’t allow kids to vote until they are 18, because we don’t trust them to make informed decisions before that time. We don’t allow kids to drink alcohol until the age of 21, because we don’t trust them to behave appropriately until young adulthood. Yet we have no problem sending a teenager to an adult court, where we expect them to participate in their defense as an adult would and we then treat them as if they are adult, long term criminals. What happened to our understanding that our youth behave irrationally? What happened to the possibility of redemption?

In 15 states, presumptive waiver laws define a category of cases in which waiver from juvenile to criminal court is presumed appropriate. Statutes in these states leave the decision in the hands of a judge but weight is in favor of transfer. A juvenile who meets age, offense, or other statutory thresholds for presumptive waiver must present evidence rebutting the presumption, or the court will grant waiver and the case will be tried in criminal court. ~ US Department of Justice, Juvenile Offenders and Victims: National Report Series Bulletin 2011

Thanks for reading. :)