A Review by Marssie Mencotti of Windy City Reviews

Snowfall’s Secret. Natalie Silk. Solstice Press, August 23, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-book,
268 pages.
Reviewed by Marssie Mencotti.

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http://windycityreviews.org/

Snowfall’s Secret by Natalie Silk is a young adult science fiction novel about a young girl from another planet who arrives on Earth with a past that she can’t remember. Snippets of memory rise to her consciousness every now and then, and readers will find themselves rooting for her to put the pieces together to find the sense of home and family that she craves. Natalie Silk dreamt of her protagonist Dahliea when she was just a young girl. Years passed, as did multiple story drafts, as she persisted with her quest. She had to get Dahliea into print.
Snowfall’s Secret is an introduction to a larger story that promises to unfold in subsequent books. This is Ms. Silk’s third book and the second book in the Dahliea series. It is a wonderful read.

The story begins in late summer at Mike and Jennifer’s summer rental, a few days before they are to return to the city for the start of school. We travel with Jamie through the school year until we arrive at the snowfall that begins the dramatic action of the story’s arc. This long introductory style of exposition seems appropriate as the reader is drawn into the heroine’s plight and is fully
vested in her success by the time the action heats up. The title, Snowfall’s Secret, only becomes meaningful later when a ski trip is announced. I found myself waiting for a snowfall on either planet to reveal the secret.

The reader bonds with Dahliea/Jamie right from the start because she is so eager to adapt. Her confusion over where and why she is in this alien place at this particular time are tempered by her innate kindness and trust. She instinctively knows that she must fit into the family that found her.  Her thoughtfulness towards their younger child is particularly endearing. This young heroine is
smart, naturally curious, and brave. Within those epic attributes, Ms. Silk keeps her as natural as possible.

The overall story in Snowfall’s Secret glows with honesty. There are few dramatic tropes to stop the forward progress of the story.  Instead, a refreshingly real child/princess who is an intelligent young woman cautiously assimilates with new friends and a new family. She is allowed to behave as wisely and foolishly as any young girl does. Her decisions about what to wear and who to befriend are so clearly portrayed that the reader is reminded of their own angst trying to pick the “right” outfit and crowd. Ms. Silk gives us all of the youthful fluctuations between excitement and boredom, absolute judgment and fairness, and cluelessness and instinctual savvy, leading us to believe that the planet from which Dahliea comes is not so different from Earth and that the story will be relatable on a social and scientific level.
The author’s skills are apparent as we find out about Dahliea in the gentlest of ways. Ms. Silk unfolds her story like a beautiful flower, petal by petal. We find that there are powerful forces protecting and nurturing Dahliea as she transitions to Earth girl. For her welfare she is renamed Jamie. Nearly every week during this “enforced witness protection program,” she is asked to
complete more difficult tasks, necessitating that she always balance her two realities. We learn about her status, language, and family in flashbacks and with the addition of supporting friends and enemies.

The author gives Dahliea advantages. She has skills that are far more advanced than those explored and understood on Earth. She has a strong mentor and guide in her tutor. Her half brother binds her to an Earthly heritage through their mother—an Earth-born woman. Through her new friends, diverse and unique, she is provided with examples of how to behave and misbehave. But Dahliea is no angel. At the first opportunity to let loose, she carelessly disregards the rules.

The reader sees the first stirrings of a young woman who can be headstrong and spoiled and realizes that he or she does not know all the complexities of Dahliea’s privileged life on the planet S’Renen or why she is being shielded from that past.
Jamie eventually comes to live with her older brother who is unprepared to be a parent. He adapts slowly and is kind and understanding, but he is slipshod in some ways. This arrangement gives her some freedom and enables her to avoid the problems that could arise from a stricter fostering situation.

I found this book extremely enjoyable. It is sure to engage a young adult audience. The plot moved swiftly and logically. Things that were not fully explained were well within the scope of imagination. Prior to the snowfall, the book was real and gently written. After the snow appears, it kicks into high gear and is thrilling. Snowfall’s Secret is endearing, exciting, and well worth reading. Readers will wish they had the next book waiting so that they can continue with Jamie as she uncovers her true destiny.

An Interview with Jack Strandburg, Author

 

Hi all,  Let me introduce you to Jack Strandburg.  If you need a break from the daily, pick up one of Jack’s books.

  1. What genres do you enjoy writing?

Although my first published novel was a Western Humor, I prefer mystery and suspense, with some paranormal.

  1. Tell us about your latest book:

My latest book is a novella titled The Monogram Killer, a mystery/ paranormal.

  1. What inspired the story? Where did you get that first bit of “ah ha” inspiration.”

The inspiration came while on the treadmill listening to “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seeger. The first two lines of the song are, “She stood there bright as the sun on that California coast

He was a Midwestern boy on his own.” My initial idea was for a man to travel to another place to meet a woman, and brainstorming led me on

various paths to write the story.

  1. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

The main character is the antagonist whose behavior is guided by one of his ancestors, a noted serial killer, who leads him through vivid dreams to follow in his footsteps.

  1. How much research did you have to do for this book? Any travel involved?

I needed to research for the character’s ancestor, who was a real person, but I watched a documentary a few years ago, and was very interested in the history.

  1. What does your writing process look like?

I’m extremely detailed and use a combination of writing software with my own Word and Excel templates developed over a number of years. My background is in IT and I’m always “tinkering” to streamline my process.

Outlining for me is an absolute must, because I’ve experimented with free writing techniques and usually stall at some point. I need to have a blueprint to feel comfortable.

  1. What are you working on at the minute?

I recently signed a contract with Solstice Publishing for A Head in the Game, my first mystery novel, and am awaiting an editor. In the meantime, I also edit for Solstice, and am working on a short story titled A Matter of Honor.

  1. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

I spend time with naming my characters, and also keep track of first and last names to ensure I don’t have too many starting with “J” or “S,” for example. The more significant the character to the story, the more time I spend. I keep a spreadsheet with first and last names I use to name my characters.

  1. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

Love scenes are the hardest to write, so I usually limit the word count. I

love writing actions scenes.

  1. When did you decide to become a writer?

I wanted to write since my teenage years, but only since 1990 did I decide I wanted to be published.

  1. Why do you write?

God created people with gifts, talents, and dreams to use those talents. Writing is mine.

  1. Where do your ideas come from?

Web sites, reading, writing, newspapers, TV shows, movies, driving, literally everywhere. For me, it’s simply a matter of looking at a character, setting, or situation and asking, “What if?”

  1. What is the hardest thing about writing?

There are two roadblocks. The first is, since I’m so focused on outlining and answering all the questions, issues, and brainstorming to have the story all laid out nice and neat, I tend to procrastinate before writing actual draft. The second is letting it to and submitting, although as time passes, I’m realizing I don’t have to be as perfect as I think.

  1. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Jack Strandburg

Jack Strandburg was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio.  He is a degreed professional with a background in Accounting and Information Technology and recently retired after more than 33 years working for a Fortune 500 company.  He has been writing since his teenage years.

He self-published an inspirational titled An Appointment With God: One Ordinary Man’s Journey to Faith Through Prayer, by Trafford Publishing.

His first published novel by Solstice Publishin

g is Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid, a parody of the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

His third work, a novella titled The Monogram Killer, published by Solstice Publishing, was released in May, 2016.

He is currently working on a short story titled A Matter of Honor, revising his first mystery novel, A Head in the Game, writing journals for an upcoming inspirational non-fiction book; and completed 70% of a first draft for a second mystery novel titled War Zone.

He is an editor and proofreader for Solstice Publishing.

Jack currently lives with his wife and two grown children, in Sugar Land, Texas. He has three grandchildren.

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The best place is my website – https://jstrandburg.wordpress.com/.

  Social Media:

            https://jstrandburg.wordpress.com/ (Author website)

https://jackstr952.wordpress.com/ (Blog)

            https://www.facebook.com/jack.strandburg (Facebook)

            https://www.linkedin.com/in/jack-strandburg-0465a313 (LinkedIn)

            http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00CM9P9L2 (Amazon Author Page)

  Links to buy: Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid:

http://solsticepublishing.com/hustle-henry-and-the-cue-ball-kid/

http://www.amazon.com/Hustle-Henry-Cue-Ball-Jack-Strandburg-ebook/dp/B00BJ83O5K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461339661&sr=8-1&keywords=hustle+henry+and+the+cue-ball+kid

  Links to buy: The Monogram Killer:

https://www.amazon.com/Monogram-Killer-Jack-Strandburg-ebook/dp/B01G2B7IIC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471791612&sr=8-1&keywords=the+monogram+killer#nav-subnav

http://solsticepublishing.com/the-monogram-killer/

 

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Snowfall’s Secret Chapter 7 Morsel

It’s been a long time since I gave a morsel.  I hope you enjoy it . . .

She spent most of the day babysitting Ami. It was more like using the time as a distraction while waiting to be picked up for her first tutoring session. As three-thirty p.m. approached and passed, she began feeling more nervous. Where is Tom?!? It’s now three-thirty-seven and he’s late. Then she felt relief, believing that if he was late enough then, maybe, just maybe she wouldn’t need to go to the tutor. The doorbell finally rang and, with resignation, she slipped into her flip-flops, gave Ami an extra-long goodbye, and then patted and scratched Roscoe longer than necessary.

Smiling at her stalling tactic, Jennifer said, “Have a good time at the tutor’s.” Then she hugged Jamie.

Returning the hug, she said, “Thanks.”

Jennifer patted her back so that Jamie would finally release her.

“Let’s get going.” Tom shifted his weight to the door.

After driving a few blocks away from Mike and Jennifer’s home, Tom turned down the radio. He quickly looked at Jamie and then returned to focusing on the traffic. She barely noticed the volume of the music was lowered because she was so distracted with her own thoughts.

“I don’t think you know anything about American history or any kind of world history.”

“What?” She lost interest in the passing scenery and now looked at him.

“And what about your reading comprehension?”

Images of reading English with her mother flashed through her mind. “My what?”

“What level do you think you can read?”

She shrugged her shoulders as an answer.

Tom smiled. “You’re starting to act like a teenaged girl. I guess watching all that TV is starting to pay off. I hope you won’t need as much help in math or science. I used to watch a lot of science fiction. I wonder if your world is more advanced than we are in math and science.” He suppressed a grin. “Men in silver suits and aliens.”

“Men in silver suits and aliens?” She had no idea what he was talking about. “We probably are.” Her statement was more matter-of-fact than bragging.

“Humh.”  He parked the car in front of a small bungalow house with a porch that reminded her of the beach house. When Tom rang the doorbell, Jamie tried to peer through the door’s curtained window.

A woman with golden skin and pinned-up black hair opened the door. She smiled as she warmly said, “Tom and Jamie! Come in!” She unlatched the screen door and pushed it out.

Jamie’s mouth dropped. It was her Ly-Parz, her teacher from S’Renen. Only her eyes weren’t golden, they were now brown. She quickly swallowed her shock and began to respectfully greet her former teacher in S’Renen, “Chzw—” She didn’t finish saying ‘Good day, Teacher Ly-Parz,’ because a Thought slammed so hard into her mind she almost jumped.

No, Dahliea. Your brother mustn’t know who I am.

Even though Jamie saw that Tom had a fleeting quizzical look, she desperately wanted to ask about their mother. Was she found? What about her family and friends? Then she remembered the shimmer that she kept seeing that night at the beach house.

“Please sit down.” Mrs. Greenfield directed them to her living room sofa. “I have iced tea and cookies. Would either of you like something to drink or eat?”

“Thank you,” Tom said giving a polite smile.

Jamie was a little hesitant. “Yes, thanks.”

Mrs. Greenfield went to the kitchen that was in the next room and came back carrying three plates with small butter cookies, a pitcher of iced tea and three glass tumblers on a tray.

She placed a plate of three cookies and a napkin on the coffee table in front of each of them and began pouring the tea. “I’m so looking forward to helping you, Jamie,” and smiled at her as she handed her a glass of tea. “Tom tells me that you’ll be a very good student.”

Jamie looked at Tom and then at her tutor. “Uh, yes.”

“Thank you,” Tom said after he was handed his glass of iced tea. “Um. Jamie’s on the quiet side until she gets to know you.”

“Of course she is.” Mrs. Greenfield sat down in an armchair opposite them. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be nervous about,” she said, giving her a reassuring smile.

Jamie couldn’t stop thinking, Why are her eyes brown? Realizing that she never looked up from her plate of cookies, she tried to Block her tutor from Overhearing her.

Her head snapped up when her new tutor Thought while still smiling warmly, We’ll need to practice a lot on your Blocking, which made Jamie blush. At the same time she said out loud to Tom, “I have all the books and assignments for the school year. My goal is to get your sister ready for her first week of school. We have very little time. Yes? Once her classes begin, we can start on each homework assignment as they are assigned. I had suggested to your brother,” Mrs. Greenfield now looked at Jamie, “three tutoring sessions per week when school starts, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for one hour after school. Each session will be at four-thirty.”

Tom looked at his lap and inhaled audibly before looking at his half-sister, “I think you’re up to it even if it sounds like a lot.”

“Yes, I have to agree. It sounds like a lot to expect, but as we progress through the first few months, you’ll see how it’ll benefit you, Jamie, to be well prepared. A lot will be expected in eighth grade.”

“You’re going to start today.” Then looking at his sister’s tutor, Tom said, “Jamie and I agreed about her summer sessions with you until school starts.”

“Yes.” Mrs. Greenfield nodded. “Good.”

“Should I stay or can I come back?”

Jamie tried to hide the pleading look from Mrs. Greenfield knowing full well that her new tutor Overheard every poorly Blocked thought.

“You can finish your iced tea and cookies. Jamie and I will be in the kitchen getting better acquainted. I want to discuss the homework she’ll need to complete for our next session.”

 

 

Steve Bederman – Author Highlight and (yes, free) Free Book!

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He believes that what he has gained versus what, and who, has been lost has been a poor trade.
Mitch has become reclusive, living deep in the Colorado mountain backwoods with his wife who was the former President of Colombia. Since he handed over the company to his employees there has finally been relative peace and safety.
In this, CONNECTIONS, the fourth book of the series, the reader travels from Colorado, to Quebec, Colombia, and to Washington DC; The White House. His beautiful wife, Pilar Reyes Cruz, finally goes home to the land where she once was elected as the first female president of this machismo country. She is still recognized throughout the world for the salvation of her troubled people and, as many believe, the future of all of Latin America.
There is no running from lust, and love, and business, and negotiation. Terrorism can show its ugly face at any moment and in many forms. Seemingly disparate events are all connected. Whether Pilar regains her purpose and Mitch refocuses on running one of the most passionate and inventive technology corporations in the world, are but two of the many questions left to answer. The US President, the King of England, the President of Colombia, and the world’s back alley power brokers all converge into Mitch Jacob’s continuum of CONNECTIONS.

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