MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Monday, July 13, 2015

KIRKUS REVIEW: David Angsten's The Assassin Lotus



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In Angsten’s (Night of the Furies, 2008, etc.) latest thriller, an American living in Italy searches for his brother and the sacred, much-desired lotus before a team of assassins can find them.

Jack Duran’s relatively quiet life as a tour guide in Rome takes a drastic turn when someone tries to kill him. A few someones, actually, who want to know about the lotus flower Jack’s paleoethnobotanist brother, Dan, sent him. Jack doesn’t know why several factions, including the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, are interested in the lotus, but they’re sure he knows where Dan is. He doesn’t, but with a group of Iranian assassins on his tail, he decides to hunt for his brother, beginning in Turkmenistan. Jack and his brother’s girlfriend, Dutch archaeologist Phoebe Auerbach (with whom Jack was once infatuated), reconnect to track down Dan and the lotus—if they can stay alive long enough. Angsten certainly knows how to kick-start his story: Jack is on a date with mysterious Maya, unaware he’s being followed by at least two unknown parties. Angsten further establishes suspense right away with one assassin in particular, Vanitar, who blames Jack for his brother’s death and is fueled by vengeance. The book is rife with nail-biting tension, as when Jack must duck into an airport restroom before even getting out of Rome, before his and Phoebe’s search takes them inside a dark crypt. The action rarely stops. Jack (and eventually Phoebe) bounces all over Central Asia while traveling by plane, train, boat, and car. He’s also chased by professional killers, hotel security, and police in a variety of places, from a hospital to the desert. Love connections—between Jack and Phoebe as well as Dan and Phoebe—are teased, but Dan, his fate uncertain, isn’t around to ignite potential melodrama. On occasion, Angsten threatens to saturate the plot with detail—the purpose of the lotus, for example, is fairly simple and explained a bit too often—but these discussions among Jack and others are never tedious, since it’s only a matter of time before they’re back to evading murderous baddies.

Angsten hits all the genre highlights—action, suspense, mystery—in this worthwhile thriller.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Story Merchant Books: FREE E-Book Deals on Amazon


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What happens when beautiful, 20-year-old petty thief and ex-stripper Mink LaRue finds out she’s a dead ringer for the age-progressed photo of the missing oil heiress Sable Dominion?
Harlem-born Mink LaRue makes a beeline... Read More >

Friday, July 10, 2015

Jerry Amernic Author of The Last Witness on Voice of Israel!

VOI's Judy Lash Balint hears from author Jerry Amernic on 'The Last Witness,' the book he wrote to counteract ignorance about WWII.
Amernic, a Canadian journalist, interviewed college students and discovered they knew nothing about the Holocaust or WWII. He explains why he thinks his novel about the last living Holocaust survivor may help preserve this important historical memory.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Shark Week: Eli Roth On His After Show, Kissing a Shark, Prepping for ‘Meg'

Shark Week officially begins July 5, and for the third consecutive year, Discovery will have its own on-air after show, “Shark After Dark.” This time it’ll be hosted by Eli Roth, the writer/director who, appropriately enough, recently signed on to helm MEG.

 Shark Week: Eli Roth On His After Show, Kissing a Shark, Prepping for ‘Meg'



Is there anything that you’ve learned that will influence how you approach Meg?

Absolutely. The fun of Meg is that you’re making a movie with a shark the size of a Greyhound bus that’s eating people like Ms. Pac-Man. That’s what I want to see. I want that line of surfers and the shark comes and just eats them in one gulp. But I think what’s great is when you can do it like Jurassic Park where they ground it in real science. We can use this giant shark wreaking havoc on the ecosystem to talk about the function of sharks, and how important they are, and how they really are the ocean’s doctors, and how we need them, and how they really don’t have any interest in eating us but what we’re doing to their food supply. You can make the Megolodon the scariest shark and it puts everything into relation, just how friendly, and nice, and helpful the other sharks are. Sharks have gotten a terrible rap, but they’re fascinating, incredible animals. They say whale sharks live up to 150 years — think what that shark has seen in its lifetime. There’s almost 500 species of sharks, but everyone thinks of the great white. A lot of them are very gentle and filter feeders.

So I just want to have all these experts involved in the movie when I’m making it to really, really get the science right. And I’m gonna want to get real shark footage, too. I’m gonna wanna go in the water and film with great whites — and now I know the best people to do it with. So this is actually the perfect complement to the movie I’m about to dive into, no pun intended.

Shark After Dark airs Sunday, July 5 to Thursday, July 9 at 11 p.m. ET on Discovery. Shark Week runs July 5 to July 12 on Discovery.

Excerpt Yahoo.com


Story Merchant Books: FREE E-Book Deals on Amazon

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Robin Johns Grant's, Summer's Winter, is nominated for this year's Georgia Author of the Year Award in the New Novel category.

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GAYA Banquet and Ceremony takes place on Saturday, June 27.

The Georgia Writers Association recognizes Georgia's authors of excellence by presenting the Georgia Author of the Year Awards (GAYA) Ceremony. The GAYA ceremony has the distinction of being the oldest literary awards ceremony in the Southeastern United States while reflecting the current publishing world. The GAYA honors both independently published authors and those whose books are published by traditional publishing houses.

Prominent winners of the GAYA include David Bottoms, for his poetry collection Vagrant Grace (1999); Turner Cassity, for his poetry collection Devils and Islands (2007); Jimmy Carter, for his essay collections The Virtues of Aging (1998) and Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis (2005); Pearl Cleage, for her novel I Wish I Had a Red Dress (2001; Judith Ortiz Cofer, for her essay collection Woman in Front of the Sun (2000); Terry Kay, for his novels Valley of Light (2003) and The Book of Marie (2007); John Lewis, for his memoir Walking with the Wind(1998); Frank Manley, for his novel The Cockfighter (1998) and short-story collection Among Prisoners (2000); and Philip Lee Williams for his essay collection In the Morning: Reflections from First Light (2006). Poet  Bettie Sellers won a lifetime achievement award from the organization in 2004.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Conversation with Historical Thriller Writer Jerry Amernic

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Jerry Amernic
We are delighted to welcome author Jerry Amernic to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Partners in Crime Tours, which is coordinating his current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find his schedule here.

Jerry's historical thriller is titled The Last Witness (Story Merchant Books; October 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to spend some time with him talking about it.
— ♦ —
Omnimystery News: Introduce us to the lead character of The Last Witness.
Jerry Amernic
Photo provided courtesy of
Jerry Amernic
Jerry Amernic: My lead character in The Last Witness is Jack Fisher, a 100-year-old man who is the last living survivor of the Holocaust. He is a charmer and most sincere, but tenacious and got that way having been born as a hidden child in a Jewish ghetto in 1939 and then being taken to Auschwitz — and surviving — as a little boy after losing all his family. In short, Jack is a guy who doesn't give up and that's what I like about him.

OMN: Will we be seeing him in a sequel?

JA: Well, when your lead character is 100 years old, it doesn't leave much room for a sequel. But The Last Witness is a standalone book.

OMN: How did you go about finding the right voice for Jack?

JA: Jack is a male and I can't say why exactly, but my last living survivor was always going to be a man. No particular reason. However, another major character in the book is his great-granddaughter Christine and this character was never going to be a male. As for the voice, I find as a writer that the character "grows" into the voice as you write. The character grows inside you and pretty soon that character is writing his or her own dialogue. You are just the conduit.

OMN: The cover of The Last Witness calls it a thriller. Would you agree with that?

JA: I always have a problem with pinpointing the genre. My books are definitely historical, but they are also suspenseful and thrillers. But "thriller" can mean a lot of different things. Maybe it's best to have a look at the reader. My reader knows history and, if I may use such a word, is pretty sophisticated. This reader already knows history, is a student of it, and asks a lot of questions.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of The Last Witness?

JA: A historical thriller about the last living survivor of the Holocaust caught in a near-future world that doesn't know history.

OMN: How much of your own personal experience have you included in the book?

JA: Every character created is a compendium of both real and imagined characters. And the situations in my book are all real. They happened. They have been chronicled. What I do is take these situations and create characters who twist and turn with the story.

OMN: Tell us a little more about your writing process.

JA: I definitely let the story develop as I write. If there is a plan it's a loose one. Here is what I do. I write and write and write. And keep writing. I go back to the beginning and rewrite. The story evolves and gets developed like a painting or better still, a sculpture. The writer sculpts until the thing is finished.

OMN: How did you go about researching the plot points of the story?

JA: For The Last Witness I made a point of meeting real former child survivors of the Holocaust and hearing their stories. Some of my flashbacks take place in a Jewish ghetto so I read everything I could find about that. Other flashbacks take place in Auschwitz. Same thing there. And with me fact-checking historical flashbacks is very important. I want my story to be authentic. I don't bend history. I had a former child survivor proofread all my flashbacks.

OMN: How true are you to the settings in the book?

JA: Again, I am not one to bend history and here's an example. At first I was planning to write about the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. But no Jews from Warsaw were sent to Auschwitz. They went to other death camps and I wanted to write about Auschwitz. I settled on the Jewish Ghetto in Lodz, the next biggest city in Poland.

OMN: If we could send you anywhere in the world to research the setting for a book, where would it be?

JA: It depends on the next book. I'm currently in the middle of a novel I wrote years ago and it's about the Iroquois Indians. I have already been to all the necessary sites so what I'm doing now is rewriting and making it better. My most recent novel Qumran is largely about the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jerusalem. I made a point of personally visiting all the crucial places myself and inside the cover there's a great photo of me standing in the cave at Qumran which coughed up 500 Dead Sea Scrolls.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

JA: Absolutely. I'm a student of history and a nut about archeology. If I could do it all over again I would probably study archeology at university. And of course people are of great interest to me. We are indeed a crazy bunch who often do incredible things — both great and not so great.

OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author?

JA: My agent gave me the best advice. He said to write over my keyboard in ten words or less what my book is about. Then he said every page and every paragraph has to be about that, and if it isn't, cut it. It's not easy to do this, especially for new writers. The cuts are like amputations. An arm here. A leg there. But it's good advice. The key is to remember your reader. The reader is the most important person in the world.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer and thus I am also …".

JA: I'm a writer of serious and suspenseful historical fiction for the intelligent reader.

OMN: Have you ever used a pen name?

JA: I've never used one but Stephen King sounds like a good name to me.

OMN: Tell us more about the how the book came to be titled. And were you involved with the cover design?

JA: The Last Witness was previously The Last Child and before that it was The Last Child of Brzezinka. I'm not making this up. But I got some advice and listened. The cover was created by the designer and I loved it. They asked for my input and I gave it. We tweaked a bit and settled on things.

OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from readers?

JA: If I get emotion I'm happy. One reader said they were up all night sometimes crying in their bed. Any kind of emotion is good. Even if they hate it you have triggered an emotion.

OMN: Suppose The Last Witness were to be adapted for television or film. Who do you see playing the lead role?

JA: Gee, I'd like to be able to answer this, but I don't really know. The Last Witness would make a great movie. I've been told that. But I'm still at the book stage. Let's make it a success as a novel and we can talk about the movie later.

OMN: Have any specific authors influenced how and what you write today?

JA: My favorite author is James A. Michener. He wrote historical epics about a certain place and time with lots of incredible characters. I ate this stuff up. I would look forward to the evening when I could absorb myself in his novels. The Source is probably my favorite book of all. But I also like other authors like Ken Follett whose first book, Eye of the Needle, I still think just might be the best thriller ever written.

OMN: When selecting a book to read for pleasure, what do you look for?

JA: I want to be entertained, but I also want to learn. So when it comes to historical fiction I pick something that is interesting and that I want to know more about.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

JA: Let's go with movies. Top Five? Godfather I and II. Ben-Hur. Ghandi. Braveheart. Dances With Wolves. You get the idea.

OMN: What's next for you?

JA: As mentioned earlier, I'm working on a novel called Medicine Man which is about the history and legacy of the Iroquois Indians. The Iroquois played a prominent role in the formation of both Canada and the United States, and don't get nearly enough credit. Hopefully, I can help.
— ♦ —
Jerry Amernic is an author of fiction and non-fiction books. He has been a columnist and correspondent for daily newspapers, and is a contributor to many magazines. An avid student of history, the sciences, and archaeology, he is a member of such organizations as the Royal Ontario Museum, the James A. Michener Society, and International Thriller Writers.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at TheLastWitness.ca and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Reposted from Omni Mystery News



Monday, June 15, 2015

Leslie Neilan's Book of Leah Reading at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center


Nearly 200 people came to the screenplay reading of Leslie Neilan's The Book of Leah. The actors performed 7 scenes from Leslie's screenplay and Holocaust survivor Aaron Elster spoke about the importance of getting the film made. Four Jewish War Veteran were also honored at the event.


Leslie Neilan and Aaron Elster, Speaker/Author at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.







Actors John Judd, Lia Mortenson, Mark Grapey, AC Smith, Claire Cooney, Nina Ganet and Jonah Rawitz performed several scenes from the screenplay. They did an incredible job of bringing to life the characters for "The Book of Leah."

Paul Neilan (R)


Spencer Neilan (R)

Melanie Neilan (center L)


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When Blogging Can Cost You Your Life!

Saudi court upholds blogger's 10 years and 1,000 lashes

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi
Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court has upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment on blogger Raif Badawi, despite a foreign outcry.

Speaking from Canada, his wife Ensaf Haidar told the BBC she feared his punishment would start again on Friday.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for "insulting Islam through electronic channels".

Saudi authorities sent his case for review amidst global protests, after the first round of lashes in January.

For four years Badawi ran the Liberal Saudi Network, which encouraged online debate on religious and political issues.

Ms Haidar said she had held high hopes that her husband was about to be released, but he remained less optimistic.

When they last spoke three days ago he told her not to expect him home in the near future.

She called on the countries and rights groups that had campaigned for her husband's release to mobilise once more.
Protests were held following Badawi's first flogging by the kingdom

Badawi received his first 50 lashes in January, but subsequent floggings have been postponed.

A shaky video taken on a mobile phone showed Badawi being lashed by a member of the security forces.

The footage prompted international protests which were repeated every Friday, the scheduled day for the beatings.

In March, the kingdom expressed "surprise and dismay" at international criticism over the punishment.

At the time, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying it rejected interference in its internal affairs.

It is not clear why Badawi has not yet endured a second round though a medical report found he was not fit for the punishment.

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict version of Islamic law and does not tolerate political dissent. It has some of the highest social media usage rates in the region, and has cracked down on domestic online criticism.

Reposted from BBC


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Guest Post: Jerry Amernic: If you award the World Cup to corrupt countries, you get corruption. What did FIFA expect?


It stands to reason that when an organization like FIFA awards the World Cup to a country low on the Corruption Perceptions Index — make no mistake, this is an event involving a lot of money — it’s asking for trouble.

Those who investigate corruption in the course of their work — police, lawyers, journalists — are probably not shocked with the news that nine senior officials of FIFA, the top governing body of the world’s most popular sport, face numerous charges involving bribery and kickbacks. We are hearing about secret bank accounts in Panama and the Cayman Islands, and $150 million paid out in bribes over the past 20 years. Last year the World Cup was held in Brazil. In 2010 it was in South Africa. The next one will be in Russia in 2018.

Transparency International is a non-profit organization with over 100 chapters around the globe, and it monitors corruption. It is dedicated to a world in which government, business “and the daily lives of people” are free of corruption. Every year it produces a Corruption Perceptions Index that measures the perceived levels of public-sector corruption. In the 2014 Index of 175 countries, not one country gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds score below 50 on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). So the higher the number, the better or cleaner you are perceived to be.

For the record, South Africa ranked #67 on the list with a score of 44, Brazil ranked #69 with a score of 43, and Russia ranked #136 with a score of 27.

According to the latest index, the number-one or cleanest country in the world is Denmark with a score of 92, followed closely by New Zealand at 91, and then rounding out the top ten in order — Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and us. Canada. We are ranked number 10 with a score of 81, which means we slipped a notch. In the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index Canada was tied for 9th place with Australia, and in the 2012 Index we were also tied for 9th, but this time with the Netherlands.

Has the FIFA World Cup ever been hosted by a top-10 country, as perceived by Transparency International? Yes. Twice. The 1954 World Cup was held in Switzerland and the very next one, in 1958, was held in Sweden. But with the 2022 World Cup already awarded to Qatar, we will have gone 64 years without a single FIFA World Cup going to a country perceived to be relatively clean of corruption.

The 1986 World Cup — where Diego Maradona scored his famous “Hand of God” goal and what is considered the best goal ever, both in a quarter-final match against England — was supposed to be held in Colombia. But that country cancelled and was replaced by Mexico. Let’s go back to the 2014 Corruption Perception Index. Colombia comes in at number 94 with a score of 37, while Mexico is even lower at number 103 with a score of 35.

The most recent rankings by Transparency International show the United Kingdom at number 14 with a score of 78, while the United States is tied at number 17 with Barbados, Hong Kong and Ireland. They all have a score of 74. China is number 100 with a score of 36, and at the very bottom of the list we have a two-way tie with North Korea and Somalia, both of which score an 8.

The average score overall is 43, which according to Transparency International is nothing to write home about. The organization also does a breakdown which sheds lights on the perceived  level of corruption according to region.

The Americas — both North and South America — has an average of 45, and Canada is the highest-rated country for this part of the world with our 81, while at the bottom we have Haiti and Venezuela at 19. The other bottom feeders in the Americas are Paraguay, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guyana and Guatemala.

Here are the average scores for the rest of the world: EU and Western Europe — 66; Middle East and North Africa — 38; Sub-Saharan Africa — 33; Eastern Europe and Central Asia — 33; Asia Pacific — 43.

In the EU and Western Europe, the least corrupt country is the overall winner Denmark at 92, and the most corrupt is a three-way tie between Greece, Italy and Romania at 43. In the Middle East and North Africa the cleanest is the United Arab Emirates at 70, followed by Qatar at 69 and Israel at 60, and the most corrupt is Sudan at 11.

In Sub-Saharan Africa the best is Botswana at 63, and the most corrupt is Somalia at 8. For Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the top dog is Georgia with 52 and the most corrupt is Turkmenistan at 17. The other countries at the low end of the scale in this part of the world are the “stans” — Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan — along with Russia and Ukraine.

Finally, for Asia Pacific, the results are New Zealand at the top with 91 and North Korea at the bottom.

José Ugaz is the chair of Transparency International. In the 2014 Corruptions Perceptions Index he says this: “Poorly equipped schools, counterfeit medicine and elections decided by money are just some of the consequences of public sector corruption. Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable — they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in government and leaders.”

Ugaz also adds a poignant footnote: “Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries.”

It stands to reason that when an organization like FIFA awards the World Cup to a country low on the Corruption Perceptions Index — make no mistake, this is an event involving a lot of money — it’s asking for trouble. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be interesting to do an analysis of FIFA itself, not to mention the Olympics and even Major League Baseball for that matter, measuring the criteria used by Transparency International to see where they wind up on the corruption scale?

And while we’re at it, maybe the Canadian Senate, too.

Reposted from National Post.com