Month: October 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

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Let me ride in the wide open countryside I love, don’t fence me in. Under blue skies or starry skies, being able to see out to the horizon instills a sense of wonder in all of us. That, at least, is this week’s photo challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon.



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Review of ‘Stand by Your Man’ by Bobby Hutchinson

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Coal-miner’s daughter, Bobby Hutchinson, is normally a writer of romances, but it’s probably inevitable she’d write a book called Stand By Your Man. Only, this is not a romance by any stretch of the imagination. Oh, it has a lot of romance, but this is a rip-roaring, gas-passing mystery novel that will have you checking your underwear for railroad tracks for sure.

Maddie Bertusso is a private investigator in Seattle. She and her partner Hannah do all kinds of cases, from checking on straying spouses to purse snatching. When Maddie’s sister Francine gets hooked up with a convicted felon, Sebastian Fisher, though, the detecting schtick becomes intensely personal for Maddie. It becomes moreso, and quite complicated, when Maddie meets Sebastian’s brother Finn and his adorable daughter Zoe.

I haven’t read any of Hutchinson’s romance novels, but if they have the snappy dialogue, spot-on characterizations, and no-frills narrative of Stand By Your Man, she just might convert me to the genre. In the meantime, this is a mystery novel that stands in a class of its own. I got a free review copy of SBYM, but I’m putting the sequels on my to-buy list. It was a bit choppy in places, but then again, that fit the story which was about the ups and downs of romance, family relations, and a whole boatload of other stuff that our heroine had to contend with. You’ll like the ending – because it’s not the normal mystery novel ending, and I’ll say no more so as not to spoil it for you.

Kudos to Hutchinson for this five-star story!


Review of ‘Zeru’ by Philip Vargas

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Abasi lives in the Rustlands, an area of Takataka Dumps, one of the largest landfills in Tanzania. He lives alone in a part of the dump avoided by others who inhabit The Filth, that area of the dump with newer trash, but more danger. Abasi lives alone, partly by choice, and partly because he is zeru, or albino. His lack of pigmentation makes him a target of ridicule, abuse and fear from others who do not understand his condition, or the target of death and mutilation from those who think the zeru is a source of some magical power.

When a marauding witch doctor and his gang, looking for slave laborers, invade the dump and spot Abasi, his life, already miserable since his family was slaughtered by drunken fellow villagers, takes a decided turn for the worse. His only hope is the troop of baboons who occupy Baboon Hill, on the border of the Rustlands.

In Zeru by Philip Vargas, we see a world that few people are even aware of; a world of intense poverty, and the violence it breeds; a world of superstition; and as world of survival and hope. Though a fictional account, Vargas’s tale is an authentic rendering of life in Africa for those who are different, especially people suffering from albinism, who are brutalized in even some of the more developed countries of the continent.

Zeru is not a book for the faint hearted. It has vividly painted scenes of violence and bloodshed that will sicken many. But, in this case, Vargas has merely done what a good writer must, he has held up a mirror to life as it is, and in so doing, hopefully, made us more aware of what needs to be fixed.

This is an easy five star book, which I received a free review copy of, and I look forward to the promised sequel.


US Embassy Ukraine Gets High Marks and Yay! State/OIG Now Discloses Names of Inspectors

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Congrats to Embassy Kiev!


— By Domani Spero

Back in September, we blog-hoped that the arrival of the new Senate-confirmed Inspector General at the State Department would also bring some changes on how the office does its business.  One of the items in our wish list has to do with the redaction of the inspectors’ names from the publicly available reports.

We are pleased to note that the first embassy inspection report released publicly since new OIG Steve Linick took office no longer redacts the names of the inspectors.  State/OIG spokesman Douglas Welty confirmed that this is, in fact, a decision made by Mr. Linick.

So to State/OIG leaning on the side of disclosure —


If you want to know why we have been bugging about this subject forever, read our post here.  Now about the OIG report on US Embassy Ukraine:

Brief background: The US Embassy in Kyiv is the largest embassy…

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Statues or Carvings

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Here’s my take on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Statues or Carvings.


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Sand or Dirt

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As usual, I’m late responding to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. Sand or Dirt is from mid-October, and I’ve been busy since long before then, but would like to take a stab anyhoo. Here’s my offering:



Review of “The In-Between” by Jeff Goins

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I received a free copy of Jeff Goins’ The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing, thinking I would be reading another of those ‘I was down and Faith picked me back up again’ books, filled with homilies and platitudes that really tell me nothing new.

I wasn’t too deep into The In-Between, though, before I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, this is a book that is deeply grounded in the author’s religious faith, but you don’t have to be Christian to see the essential wisdom in it. His introduction, ‘Life Between the Panels,’ where he points out that we spend a significant, if not majority, part of our lives ‘waiting’ is worth the price of the book all by itself. His conclusion that the good stuff is neither ahead of nor behind us, but somewhere ‘in-between,’ or put another way, right where we are at the moment applies to all of us. Spending our waiting time constructively, rather than fixating on the next big thing, enables us to live more productive, fulfilled lives.

Goins offers an undergraduate degree worth of lessons in how to live the kind of life that at the end enables us to say, ‘I’m satisfied that I took advantage of every opportunity,’ and that includes the opportunities available to us during those periods ‘between the panels.’

Most books like this tend to be preachy, with a heavy religious hand pressing down on every principle. While Goins, as I mentioned previously, is obviously a person of strong faith, his use of stories and anecdotes of actual events (no matter how poorly they might be remembered) makes this book universally acceptable, and understandable.  These are real people and real events with which each of us can identify. A cornucopia of wisdom, with useful information on everything from learning to love to coping with loss, The In-Between is a book that you’ll want to read, and then re-read during those moments ‘between the panels’ when you’re waiting for the next thing to happen. Believe me, it won’t be a waste of time.

Five stars without hesitation.



Review of “Going Thru Hell” by T.J. Loveless

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Kylie is a Braider; a mortal with the ability to serve as a link between the worlds of humans and the immortals. Because of this, many of the immortals both hate and fear her, while others seek to protect her. For Kylie, though, the only objective that matters is to save her son, born of a union between her and the son of Thor, the god of thunder.

In T. J. Loveless’s Going Thru Hell, we follow Kylie’s often madcap adventures as she comes to grips with the true limits of her powers; deals with raging emotions; and tries to survive.

Loveless has woven a fascinating tale of fantasy, adventure, laced with generous helpings of ribald humor that will keep you reading until the last page, and then gasping for breath, and wanting more.

Go on a wild ride with Kylie from one end of the U.S. to another, from the world of humans to the realm of the pantheons of a wild variety of immortals, as she tries to save humanity, even if it costs her her own soul. I received a review copy of this book, but would gladly dig into my pocket for the shekels to buy it. The only thing that keeps me from giving it five stars are a few typos that unfortunately intrude at some of the most interesting places in the narrative, but fortunately, don’t detract from a fascinating tale.


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Review of ‘White Friday’ by Ray Jordan

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White Friday by Ray Jordan is ostensibly a story about Glenn Wallace, a graduate student living in a coed dorm along with both graduate and undergraduate students, who has something of a crush on a neighbor, Ashley. Glenn finds Ashley’s lifeless body in the elevator as he’s coming from the laundry room. He calls the cops, and is told that the post-Thanksgiving snow will cause a long delay in the EMT arrival, so he is to protect the body.
Things begin to get complicated when Glenn starts to receive texts from Ashley’s phone, and he finds that the body has disappeared.
White Friday has all the elements of a classic nail biter thriller; a missing corpse, a possible homicidal maniac somewhere in the dorm, and a sexy femme fatale out to seduce the reluctant hero. It has gritty, realistic dialogue, and characters that are totally believable. So, why do I only give it three stars? Well, for starters, the author jumps from one character’s point of view to another, sometimes in mid-page, in a way that caused me to have to skip back to pick up my train of thought. In a word, at times, the story became confusing due to Jordan’s effort to introduce clues or information in the possession of someone other than Glenn, who is the main protagonist.
A minor point, admittedly, but it pulls an otherwise excellent story down to the just good category, and I have no doubt that Jordan can, and will in future, do much better than this.


What to Do When Things Go Wrong

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If there’s one thing in life that’s sure, other than death and taxes, it’s that things will always go wrong. The power will go out, the street you’re on will be closed, or some other roadblock will get between you and the destination for which you’re heading.

When things go wrong, you have to make choices; do you give up, or do you find a way around the obstacle? If you’re armed with a plan, whether it’s a personal quest or a professional objective, getting around or over obstacles becomes less of a problem. If you don’t have a plan, you find yourself wasting precious time trying to figure out what to do.

Make no mistake about it; if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Even with a plan, things will often go wrong – no plan survives the first shot. So, it’s not enough to just plan; you must plan intelligently.

Not to worry, though; learning to plan effectively is as easy as learning to ride a bicycle. I’ve written a little book, based upon my fifty years of experience in the government bureaucracy, of the lessons in planning that I had to learn the hard way. I offer it to my readers in the hope that it will help them get to where I am in far less time than it took me.

It’s simple really. My philosophy is, ‘there’s always a Plan B. When Plan A runs into a roadblock, I’ve anticipated it, and immediately move to Plan B. You can too.


If you want to learn how to make planning easy, and more effective, get your copy of There’s Always a Plan B today. It’s available in paperback or Kindle version at the links below.




There’s Always a Plan B: How to Cope When Things Go Wrong by Charles Ray  (Oct 14, 2013)

$6.50             $6.18 Paperback                 

  • Order in the next 23 hours and get it by Friday, Oct 18.
  •     Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

There’s Always a Plan B by Charles Ray  (Oct 13, 2013)

$2.99         Kindle Purchase    

  • Auto-delivered wirelessly




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Daily Prompt: Significant

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Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing, or event from the last month of your life into the glistening marble of immortality. What’s the statue and what makes it so significant? This is my photographic take on significance for the Daily Prompt:  Michelangelo’s YOU.


The Ghost Files

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Too long or not, this is good stuff!

Linda Ulleseit

Ghost Files Banner

The Ghost Files

by Apryl Baker

Published: August 13, 2013 by Limitless Publishing

Ghost Files

Cherry blossom lipstick: check
Smokey eyes: check
Skinny jeans: check
Dead kid in the mirror: check

For sixteen year old Mattie Hathaway, this is her normal everyday routine. She’s been able to see ghosts since her mother tried to murder her when she was five years old. No way does she want anyone to know she can talk to spooks. Being a foster kid is hard enough without being labeled a freak too.

Normally, she just ignores the ghosts and they go away. That is until she see’s the ghost of her foster sister… Sally.

Everyone thinks Sally’s just another runaway, but Mattie knows the truth—she’s dead. Murdered. Mattie feels like she has to help Sally, but she can’t do it alone. Against her better judgment, she teams up with a young policeman, Officer Dan, and together…

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Review of ‘The Fifth Empire: The Harvest of Vincent du Maurier’ by K.P. Ambroziak

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In The Fifth Empire: The Harvest of Vincent du Maurier, K. P. Ambroziak takes us on the continuing journey of the ageless vampire, Vincent du Maurier, and his attempts to survive in a world that is consumed with the ongoing war between vampires and zombies, the undead corpses who have a taste, not only for human flesh, but of vampires as well.

In Vincent’s world, what is left of humanity, in its seemingly vain efforts to survive, has descended into something approaching barbarity. Vincent, though, tries to preserve his ‘harvest’ of humans, including the pregnant Evelyn, for whom he has developed a kind of affection, that might be called love, but is love perverted.

Once again, Ambroziak has succeeded in taking the reader into a mind that is as alien as if it had come from another universe. While the reader can never be completely sympathetic to the blood-lusting Vincent, we are made to see a fully-fleshed character with complex motivations and desires not dissimilar to our own should we be faced with such a situation.

This is not a book for squeamish readers – the level of violence and sense of impending doom is intense. But, if you want a fresh new take on the vampire novel, it is highly recommended.

I give The Harvest an easy, and well-deserved, four stars.


All Government Workers Are Essential!

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For the benefit of those who might have fallen under the sway of some of the vicious anti-government worker propaganda that has sometimes spilled out of the mouths of our elected officials, I say this: try to pick up your own garbage, inspect the meat and milk in your super market, keep the highways safe, take care of your relative traveling abroad, and thousands of other things that government workers do 24/7, not just here at  home, but around the world. Are government workers essential? You’re damn right they are!



If you agree, reblog or ‘share’ this with everyone on your list.


A retired, but still ‘essential’ government worker.

Review of “Thomas Clayton” by Randy J. Harvey, PhD

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When 15-year-old Thomas Clayton Gurley’s parents and sister are killed in an auto crash in Florida, he is sent to live with his father’s half-brother, Boats, in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Thomas and Boats take an instant dislike to each other, and the boy is sent to live with Buck Hagen, a foreman at the oil rigging company that Boats owns. It is while living with Hagen and his family that Thomas begins to regain a sense of family – and self.

It is also here that his troubles truly begin. In a new high school, he has to prove himself to Boats and to a murderous rival for the affections of Mar, the first girl he’s ever had a relationship with. As Thomas matures, he finds himself in a fight literally for his life, and the lives of those he has come to love, when the questionable relationships Boats has forged with shady politicians and business people comes to light.

Thomas Clayton, by Randy J. Harvey, PhD, is a story that grew out of a few dozen handwritten pages begun by Harvey’s father, Jay L. Harvey, and is dedicated to the story tellers of the Harvey clan, who ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’ Though the author’s disclaimer says that this is a work of fiction, and in no way represents real people, this tightly woven tale of greed, jealousy, and murder could very well have been ripped from the headlines of any daily newspaper. Gripping, realistic dialogue and intricate descriptions of places, events, and people; some told from the first-person viewpoint of young Thomas, and others in the third person, as characters and events sweep past in a torrent of emotion, will have you believing that it is a documentary, rather than what it is – a grand tale told in a masterful style.

The truth, in this book, doesn’t get in the way of a good story, but, by gum, you’ll close it after the last page and swear you just read the God’s honest truth. I read a copy which was provided to me for review, but by jingies, I’d be more than willing to plunk down some hard-earned money for a chance to read it, and I, for one, hope this won’t be Randy Harvey’s last offering.

I’m usually reluctant to give a five-star rating to a book, but this was the easiest five stars I’ve handed out in a long time.


Turning the Pages YA Blog Tour – The Ghost Files by Apryl Baker (redux)

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Okay, I know you’re wondering why this post is up again. Well, that’s because the blog tour actually starts today, but I had a senior moment on Saturday and jumped the gun. That’s okay; this is worth looking at a second time, so enjoy.


The Ghost Files, Volume I by Apryl Baker


Cherry blossom lipstick:  check

Smokey eyes:  check

Skinny jeans:  check

Dead kid in the mirror:  check

For sixteen year old Mattie Hathaway, this is her normal everyday routine. She’s been able to see ghosts since her mother tried to murder her when she was five years old. No way does she want anyone to know she can talk to spooks. Being a foster kid is hard enough without being labeled a freak too.

Normally, she just ignores the ghosts and they go away. That is until she see’s the ghost of her foster sister… Sally.

  Everyone thinks Sally’s just another runaway, but Mattie knows the truth—she’s dead. Murdered. Mattie feels like she has to help Sally, but she can’t do it alone. Against her better judgment, she teams up with a young policeman, Officer Dan, and together they set out to discover the real truth behind Sally’s disappearance.

 Only to find out she’s dealing with a much bigger problem, a serial killer, and she may be the next victim…

Will Mattie be able to find out the truth before the killer finds her?

Q and A:

Q:  So tell us a little bit about Apryl Baker.

A:  Well, in a nutshell, I’m the crazy girl with an imagination that never shuts up.  Seriously, sometimes I can be mid-sentence and I’ll get an idea and stop talking so I can write it down.  Terribly rude, I know, but my friends and family are used to it!

Q:  Mattie is a very, well, let’s call her unique.  What inspired you when you created that little bundle of attitude?

A:  LOL!  She is that, isn’t she?  Well, honestly, I had some foster kids living down the block from me and I had the opportunity to get to know them.  It took me the better part of a year to get them to trust me enough to open up.  I have to say they were the bravest, most courageous kids I’ve ever met. They are tough as nails, loyal only to each other, and they will break your heart.  Some of the stories they told me made me want to just cry.  Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great foster homes out there, the one they were in at the time I got to know them was one of those, but there are just as many bad ones as well.  I got to hear up close and personal just how bad some of them were.

Those experiences shaped those kids into the people they were.  They all had serious trust issues and sometimes the haunted look in their eyes made me hurt.  When I got the idea for this story, Mattie in my mind was a foster kid.  I wanted to show people that those kids are more than just the tough facade they show to the world, that they are vulnerable and sweet underneath their layers of shields.  I rolled all their attitude into Mattie and there’s a little bit of each of them in her.

Mattie Louise Hathaway is that tough as nails foster kid who looks after her own and will deck you as soon as look at you, but underneath all that attitude, there’s still a sixteen year old girl who’s scared, alone, vulnerable, and well 16!  She still notices the cute guy while being that sassy, snotty brat!

Q:  I know that most writers have to have music when they are writing.  Let’s face it, music has inspired so many different stories over the years.  What was on your playlist when you wrote The Ghost Files?

A:  Wow, well, I did listen to a ton of different music, but these were my favs:

Fall Out BoyMy Song Knows What You Did In the Dark (this song alone is responsible for the last five chapters of the book!)

Evanescence:  Bring Me Back To Life

Bruno Mars:  Just the Way You Are

Demi Lavato:  Heart Attack

Taylor Swift:  I Knew You Were Trouble

Taking Back Sunday:  Make Damn Sure

My Chemical Romance:  I Don’t Love You

My Chemical Romance:  The Ghost of You

Korn:  Freak On A Leash

Dashboard Confessional:  Slow Decay

Valora: I Waited For You

Q:  What advice would you give struggling authors in today’s market?

A:  My best advice is to never give up.  I still have stack upon stack of rejection letters sitting on my desk.  It sucks!  That will never change.  You write this amazing story, polish it up a hundred times, then send out the query letter you slaved over for weeks, only to get rejection upon rejection upon rejection.  Huge blow to anyone’s confidence.  Here’s the thing though, you have all these rejection letters, but it only takes that one yes to make it all better.  I almost gave up on writing, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  I have an amazing writing group, an agent that believes in me, and a publisher that is downright awesome.  Just believe in yourself.  You can’t see your dreams come true if you don’t keep trying.  Give yourself a minute to wallow in pity, then get up, dust yourself off and try, try again!

Q:  So why should we all rush out to buy The Ghost Files?

A:  That’s simple!  It’s awesome!  No, really, it’s a fun, but scary read.  I have been advised by all the Wattpad crew who read it before it was published that you cannot read it in the dark. Scared them senseless.  There’s a hint of romance, but the book itself is centered around the mystery of who killed Mattie’s foster sister and the fact that Mattie now has to face her own weirdness.  She can see ghosts?  Um, not something she advertises.  Then there’s Officer Dan…yum, all I’m saying.

 About the Author:


So who am I? Well, I’m the  crazy girl with an imagination that never shuts up. I LOVE scary movies.  My friend Chazz laughs at me when I scare myself watching them and  tells me to stop watching them, but who doesn’t love to get scared? I  grew up in a small town nestled in the southern mountains of West  Virginia where I spent days roaming around in the woods, climbing trees,  and causing general mayhem. Nights I would stay up reading Nancy Drew  by flashlight under the covers until my parents yelled at me to go to  sleep.

 Growing up in a small town, I learned a lot of values and  morals, I also learned parents have spies everywhere and there’s always  someone to tell your mama on you. So when you get grounded, what is  there left to do? Read! My Aunt Jo gave me my first real romance novel.  It was a romance titled “Lord Margrave’s Deception.” I remember it  fondly. But I also learned I had a deep and abiding love of mysteries  and anything paranormal. As I grew up, I started to write just that and  would entertain my friends with stories featuring them as main  characters.

 Now, I live Huntersville, NC where I entertain my  family and watch the cats get teased by the birds and laugh myself silly  when they swoop down and then dive back up just out of reach. The cats  start yelling something fierce…lol.

 I love books, I love writing books, and I love entertaining people with my silly stories.

PS: DO NOT GET IN MY WAY IF THERE IS A SALE ON AT TARGET – my home away from home!

Connect With Apryl: 

Amazon:  Ghost Files

Don’t forget to check out Apryl’s other books, The Promise and The Awakening!


The Promise (2)

Enter to win a signed print edition of The Ghost Files just by Liking Apryl’s Author page on Facebook!

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