There are three things that I love most in life: Reading a good book, making a long “To Do” list, and trying a new flavor of potato chips (I’m a Chip-Connoisseur – I can often be found trying a new chip while reading a good book in a country recently checked off my “To Visit” list).
Today, let’s focus on my first two loves: Reading and Lists. Everywhere I go, I see “Must Read” lists for 2013. I already feel like I’m falling behind. My list just keeps growing and growing. Now, I know that everyone out there isn’t as obsessed with list making as I am, so I thought I’d share mine with you! This particular list is of authors I want to KEEP reading. If they want to share it, I want to read it!
I’m sure you’ve all seen alsam2 around the BookRix water cooler – he’s a regular fixture in our community. You Get What You Pay For was the first story I ever read by John and it is the reason why he was added to my watch list. It is well written, heartfelt and kept me interested the entire time. My eyes welled up when the main character was telling the story of his wife, and then again at the ending. Due to the amount of time I spent studying film and literature in university, I rarely come across a movie or a book that is able to surprise me. YGWYPF has a completely shocking twist at the end that I just didn’t see coming, and for that, I thank you John!
Here’s another rave review from A Kevin Review: The Talented John. C. Laird:
This week, I read three short stories by John C. Laird. The first is a completely beautiful kind of modernized fable, a tale of prophetic justice and the possible aftermath of living one’s life according to certain principles…I am not a Christian, but I know them well, and I still found You Get What You Pay For (YGWYPF) fun to read and a totally imaginative, boldly written story and my little synopsis here will take little away from the fun and surprise of reading it.
5. Nina Kari (xxxauroraxxxwiccan)
Nina is another member that you’ve probably seen around BookRix – and if not, I’m wondering how you could have possibly missed all TWENTY-THREE (23) of her books – especially if you’re into Young Adult (YA) lit. You’ve also probably seen her featured in one of the monthly Cover Art albums because she has an eye for cover design. Nina is a young writer, but what she lacks in years, she makes up for in plot! Her stories are interesting, heartfelt, exciting, romantic, funny and sad – sometimes all on one page! Her top rated book, Mates, has a staggering 550 hearts, followed closely by Forbidden Fantasy with 462. Sure, there might be a werewolf or two in her repertoire, but trust me, her talent is unique and won’t leave you with any kind of Stephanie Myers aftertaste.
I was first drawn to Nina’s writing when I stumbled across Dawn of the Wolf a few months ago, but what really made her a concrete part of my list was The Unconditional Love of Mr. Ted, a short story with maturity and life of its own.
Here are some glowing comments (about her books) from the community:
One of the best books I have ever read on bookrix. Love it!!!! – missfeisty575
I haven’t even finished the book and yet I’m freakin’ loving it. I don’t want it to end! – nicks.girl
Me:write more or I will die of heartbreak. Doctor:I can confirm that will indeed happen – lauren11246
6. Laurie Paulsen (lauriemariepea)
Laurie Paulsen is the creator and moerator of the Into The Darkness group, and for good reason – she writes horror stories. Grasping At Shadows was extremely well written and completely fear inducing. I’m the kind of person who hides behind my hands, a pillow or even the entire couch when watching a scary movie, so I’m sure you can imagine my heartbeat increase and rising nausia that accompanied these horrific dark shorts. I’m going to leave it up to Kevin to tell you how awesome it is to read yourself scared. A Kevin Review: Grasping at Shadows (and looking under the bed…):
These are not tales for children. However, IF you like having what I call “the pattooties” scared out of you – and delight in images so frightening they linger and wait for you in that short-cut through the cemetery in the wee hours, epitomizing our worst fears from childhood not yet convinced there is nothing really out there, or under the bed or in the closet or the basement or in the mind of the person standing before you, to be afraid of or at least a little concerned about – you’ll really enjoy this one. Ever read something so disturbing you keep stopping to look up, scan around the room, you feel vulnerable, feeling the people around you, on the subway, bus or in the laundry, can sense your…discomfort, “Hahaha, this is…sure is scary…”, wet armpits, nervous laugh?
Stay tuned for My Watch List Part Three to find out who else you should be reading!
This week, I read three short stories by John C. Laird. The first is a completely beautiful kind of modernized fable, a tale of prophetic justice and the possible aftermath of living one’s life according to certain principles. Christian principles. While not supposing Mr. Laird is a Christian at all (because he may well not be one),these images and characters are free to be used by anyone. I am not a Christian, but I know them well, and I still found You Get What You Pay For (YGWYPF) fun to read and a totally imaginative, boldly written story and my little synopsis here will take little away from the fun and surprise of reading it. So, here we go:
…a completely beautiful kind of modernized fable, a tale of prophetic justice and the possible aftermath of living one’s life according to certain principles.
After two decades of marital well-being with his beloved high-school sweetheart/wife, Wendy, she is diagnosed with first one, then another, then another of various degenerative illnesses. After over a decade of accompanying, and caring for, his beloved mate down the path of gradual physical deterioration ending with her early “release”, we find Adam, facing an imminently fatal brain tumor, the effects of which were already becoming painfully apparent.
“Putting his affairs in order” included naming his divorced sister and her young daughter sole beneficiaries of the death benefit of a life insurance policy on himself. Then, between the fruits of prudent investments over the years, the death benefits from his wife’s life insurance policy, and the sale of the house, there is a small fortune to leave behind. With the end of his journey calmly in sight, the void from all those years of abstaining from sex/sexual contact altogether because there was no desire for it amid Wendy’s suffering, he decides to go out out with a bang, literally and figuratively. One day, he finally gives-in to the goading of one of his good buddies: Use the small fortune to go to Las Vegas and purchase the services a high-end “escort”/prostitute, the kind usually reserved for the big spending, high-profiling movie-stars, politicians, royalty, etc. He was going to die, after all, right after twelve years of celibacy. He could afford to do it, and suddenly it was a no brainer.
Upon hearing Adam’s story of honor; marital fidelity, non-abandonment, sacrifice, and suffering, the super fox of an escort promises him an experience which will surely be the best that money can buy. Well, it doesn’t end after only one night and not even two. Laird’s account of the dying man’s last ever intimate encounter with a highly skilled, professional sexual pleasurer whose “…knowledge was the sexual equivalent of the Library of Congress,…” is handled with tasteful analogies of the breadth of symphonic and artistic creation, in moments like brush-stokes of tensions, releases, textural syntheses on the canvases of their humanity, and just left me breathless.
Okay, fast-forward to Adam’s funeral where familial intrigue enters as the disinherited brother slithers in to pay his respects (…not) with his lawyer in tow and they proceed to challenge his/their misfortune. While very real characters, they’re also pretty funny and even referred to as a comedy duo. (from an early 1900s comic strip, which makes Gabby about the same age as Sarah Conventry from Redemption) They know all about the monies spent or “squandered” in Las Vegas and claim that Adam had obviously become mentally incompetent, the proof being the “Las Vegas fiasco” where he was taken advantage of by the hooker. In the meantime, the loving sister and niece are simply glad to have this friend of Uncle Adam’s from Nevada, who had brought him such happiness in his last days, in attendance at all.
Cutting to the chase, after being called a “two-bit whore” by the brother’s lawyer, the “escort” reveals she has uncovered enough embarrassing dope on the brother and his lawyer (pretty bad stuff too) to land them each either in jail or run out of town on a rail tarred and feathered and can probably find more, all of which she would make known to the appropriate legal institutions and would even come (all the way) back to do it unless they stop proceedings contesting Adam’s will and make themselves scarce. It’s pretty comical. Well, the surprise ending is huge. She then gives an envelope to Adam’s little niece, instructing her to give it to her mother, along with the explanation of what and why, once she’s gone.
…my theory of Laird setting a trap for men. Between the three books his scenarios are using all the “objects of temptation” of which men are susceptible…
Going Home is powerfully written and in very few pages places you there…in harms way. It’s almost too good in it’s descriptions of catastrophe. Very cinematic. The implications at the end are thought provoking indeed. Who gets to go home? The pure? The virginal? The innocent? The story is a little gory and causes discomfort… A Catholic necessity? Laird is a very good writer and probably even an open minded sort (given the subject matter of YGWYPF). I got caught up with this pattern in Redemption just before the tense chess match after her sentence was brought to life. YGWYPF being the clincher in my theory of Laird setting a trap for men. Between the three books his scenarios are using all the “objects of temptation” of which men are susceptible, things men like and do at basketball games and chess matches, a new twist on the selling your soul game.
Now. I really enjoyed reading these and I figure there’s is no harm in my mentioning the “contractual loop-holes” in each story. Lessee… celibacy rewarded with a cornucopia of sexual indulgence? There seemed to be a warning at the end of going home about how few are allowed into heaven. Lastly, in Redemption, the Devil can be out-witted and instead of winning a soul he loses two. I liked it a lot in spite of the Souls – kind of a direct rewriting of the basic tenets of the Christianity we all know.
To wander a little, Sex. Traditionally, references to archangels are only in masculine or in other words genderless and only masculine to denote authority or importance. In YGWYPF there are both and they each exist at the same time. I mean, given there’s usually no sex at all concerning what we know about angels, why not? This is a perspective I (for one) have never heard of or even imagined. Angels in such roles doing such things. “My goodness!” The expressions “giving in to lust of or temptations of the (pleasures of the) flesh” come to mind. Also it seems there is no fee for bringing a little happiness to this deserving soul before he leaves behind his earth-bound existence. He has earned it. Hence the title. You find these two names (M & G) in Going Home too but in a completely different social role, although performing the same actual function – That of comforting.
With all that said, John C. Laird is a very powerful storyteller. I have to say I liked YGWYPF the best, second is Redemption, Going Home is good however unsettling. Powerfully spun yarn in each. Great storytelling.
(A Kevin Review is something special. Our team is filled with so many fun and charismatic characters, all vying for the chance to write a witty review. Lucky Kevin came out on top – always entertaining us with his offbeat, and sometimes eccentric, opinions and curious ideas.)
We can never learn enough about the authors who write our favorite books, but I’m out to try my best. Here are some fun questions I asked John C. Laird (alsam2) author of 16 BookRix books.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In high school. Several of my friends enjoyed a few of the stories I wrote and encouraged me on. I continued writing my first couple of years of college but never really became serious about it. Then life proceeded to get in the way and several decades passed before I decided it was now or never. That was about two and a half years ago, and now I shall ride this wave all the way to the end.
2. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Although retired after 30-years in law enforcement, I still work part time as a private mail courier. And believe it or not, I still have two teenagers at home, ages 17 and 15 (girl and boy). Enough said on that. But I do like jogging with my black Labrador, Jaxon, and enjoy a good game of chess. And I have found several good chess players on BookRix. As a matter of fact I’m in the middle of two games right now, with the outcome still up in the air on both.
3. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Seventeen. But picking a favorite is a tough one. Every one of my stories has a part of my heart and soul in it, to one degree or another, an experience I’m sure all writers have. For me, probably the three I’ve currently e-published through BookRix , took the most out of me: “Redemption”, “You Get What You Pay For”, and “Going Home”. Of those three, “Going Home” taxed me the most. Every time I’d go back to revise and edit, I’d get tears in my eyes. For me, it was a tough one to write emotionally.
4. Is anything in your book(s) based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Both. The three I mentioned above were entirely fictional (although the basketball arena in “Going Home” is real). Others have varying ‘chunks’ of real life experiences in them. The whole first half of “Turn Around When Possible” was based on a real vacation in 2012. In other stories I have taken a particular incident and let may imagination run with it.
5. What is your favorite book? Why?
“The Black Rose” by Thomas B. Costain, 1945. Set in medieval England, it is an ‘epic’ (a measly 400 pages) romance that spans the world from England to China and back, the separation of the two true loves, and the struggle of one to return home to be reunited with her love. I don’t know how to explain it–the trials, tribulations and ’sweep’ of the story just got to me.
6. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
What advice can I give that hasn’t been given over and over? Let’s go with this: Imagination, desire and stamina can take you a long way, but if you want to increase your readership and be a success, you have to learn the rules. Yes, gang, that means proper grammar, spelling, tenses, punctuation, etc., etc., etc. If you don’t write it properly, don’t expect many people to read it (other than your family and friends). And don’t forget to edit when you’re done. Then edit again. Writing may be fun, but there is a ‘work’ component to it.
Now it’s time to move onto some questions that are just for fun:
7. If you were written about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?
“J.C. Laird Vaults Past Stephen King With New Best Seller”. Ahhhhhh, the wonders of the imagination…
8. If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?
A big chunk would be immediately invested to provide for the future. There also would be quite a bit of traveling on the agenda. A few luxuries and then I would give some away. One of my favorite TV shows when I was young was the “The Millionaire” in good ol’ black and white. An anonymous millionaire would give away one million dollars to someone or to couples and the stories would revolve around how the money would affect the people (not always good). The stories fascinated me.
9. What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
A little bit of everything. All the shelves are filled. My wife and daughter have special diets because of health issues, so the problem for my son and I have is finding something in particular we’re looking for and how long that something has been in there. It’s usually an adventure.
10. If you were a Star Trek or Star Wars character, which one would it be? Why?
Star Trek: Pavel Chekov. Just being realistic. I would have been good at all the things he was in charge of, from the original series through several movies: Navigator (TOS); Weapons Officer (I); First Officer, USS Reliant (II); Navigator, Weapons Officer, and Chief of Security (III-VI)
11. If you could have been told one thing that you weren’t told when you were a teenager, what would you like to have heard?
“This too, shall pass,” and “Time heals all wounds.” All the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family life, broken hearts and romances; it would have been nice to know I would outgrow all of it.
12. If you were to name one piece of clothing that describes you, what would you say?
Sweat shirt. Add a pair of sweat pants and you’d have the complete ensemble (wearing that combo right now).
13. What cartoon character best represents your personal philosophy?
Wile E. Coyote, for his determination and persistence. We won’t talk about his continual failure to succeed in catching the Roadrunner. Let’s stick with the positive.
14. Why am I asking you these questions?
To give me a headache. You’re a sadist.
15. Where is the furthest you have ever traveled to?
Bermuda. Told you I’d use some of the money to travel more.
16. What is your favorite unusual food combination?
Green chile in most everything. In New Mexico, the question is red or green? I prefer green: on my cheeseburgers and sandwiches, in my soup, my omelets, in my mash potatoes; you get the idea and can imagine the combinations. Haven’t tried it in ice cream yet, though…
17. If you had to be a teacher of something, what would you teach?
History. Always loved it; it was my major in college and I was going to be a teacher of it. Turned out I didn’t have the temperament for that line of work. My tolerance for juvenile delinquents was/is pretty low; I would have gotten sued somewhere along the way if I had continued.
18. You were bitten by a vampire, now what? (Or werewolf)
Put me out of my misery: if a vampire, put a stake through my heart. If a werewolf, shoot me with a silver bullet. If a zombie, shoot me in the head. Unlike some of the younger generation, I wouldn’t want to become any of them. Uck, disgusting.
19. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Believe it or not, a marine biologist. The ocean and the life it contained fascinated me. One of my favorite childhood TV series was “Sea Hunt” with Lloyd Bridges. Black and white, of course.
20. What is your #1 guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. What can I say?
Well, now I really want some chocolate…
Thanks to John for answering my questions – if you want to check out more of his books, just stop by his profile page by clicking HERE.
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