Monday, 7 November 2016

Interview with author of 'Pieces like Pottery' Dan Buri

We got the chance to ask author Dan Buri a bit about his writing process, what inspires him and what advice he has for other writers out there!


-          What inspired you to start writing?
I can remember writing as far back as middle school. It’s something I have always enjoyed doing. One of the first poems I ever wrote was about my older brother and his basketball playing abilities. I still remember the opening lines and I wrote them as a kid nearly 30-years ago:
I’m Joe the King of Basketball,
I’m the king of the basketball court.
All my shots are always on target,
None of them are ever short.
I didn’t say it was any good! I don’t remember any more than that. To be honest, I’m not sure how I even remember those lines.
The point is, writing has been something I have always enjoyed doing and something I have always admired in other people. Story telling is a beautiful gift. I love learning to hone the craft.

-          What kinds of sources do you take inspiration from?
I am moved and inspired by people’s real life stories. I love reading all sorts of genres, but I find myself inspired by the human spirit. For Pieces Like Pottery, I tried to capture the essence of overcoming tragedy. Every person has trials in life. Life always presents obstacles and disappointments. I wanted to examine how individuals overcome these obstacles in a variety of characters. I toyed with the idea of each of these stories being its own novel, and I still may expand a couple of them into full length novels, but I settled in on a collection of linked short stories because it presented the opportunity to have a range of characters and display that, despite how different all our life experiences are, we are all connected as human beings. We all suffer and laugh just the same. My hope is that readers recognize that and are inspired or moved to compassion through the book.
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-          Do you model characters after real people?
I think every character an author creates is based on a real person or an amalgamation of real people. I also think an author will drop a little piece of himself or herself into every character they create. It is just too difficult to not let experiences and biases seep into one’s writing. There is certainly a piece of me in each character throughout Pieces Like Pottery. This made it particularly difficult to finish the book at times. I had to tap into both a sorrowful and a hopeful part of myself for these stories, which took an emotional toll at times. That being said, I don’t create characters to represent someone in particular or to be a caricature of someone.

-          What does your writing process look like? Did it take you a while to develop?
Once upon a time I thought I needed to write in a particular time and place. I would typically write at night and need to be in the perfect mood to do so. With a very demanding job, a wife, and two children, however, I quickly found that I was not finding much time to write at all. I had to begin writing anytime I could find a free 30 minutes. I was lucky I did too.
I think young writers always wait for the moment of inspiration to strike. These moments are amazing, but they are a great luxury. The truth, in my opinion, is that writing is as much about editing and revising as it is about the writing itself. I have so many pages of my writing on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Maybe editing is a beautiful and inspiring process for some people, but for most writers I know, it is painstaking. There’s nothing inspirational about it for me.
Having very little time to write each day helped me to begin taking my writing to the next level, to learn to hone it as a craft, rather than writing simply being an inspirational hobby. I had to find time to write whenever I could, regardless of whether the circumstances were perfect.
That being said, I still love to write at night over a glass of wine or a whiskey. Nothing beats that.
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-          Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?
I’m sure most creative types are a little sensitive to negative responses, but it also comes with the territory. I welcome all reviews, good and bad. A good book, in my mind, should have both positive and negative reviews. If every review is good, then it most likely means that the book is “just fine”—the book probably doesn’t challenge the reader at all. There are great minds that love terrible books and great books that are hated by great minds. A book isn’t for everyone and that is perfectly fine. Great books have people debating their merits. So I welcome negative feedback.
I had one reviewer call my book Pieces Like Pottery blasphemous and anti-religious. This really took me by surprise, particularly because the reviewer went so far as to call me anti-religious, rather than just my book or just characters from my book. I am a practicing Catholic myself and the book intentionally has undertones of the Sorrowful Mysteries, so the critique of it being blasphemy left me bewildered. To each his own, though, I guess. After a writer completes his work, it becomes the reader’s. I have no interest in restraining opinions on my writing, whether those opinions are positive or negative. (But like I said, it sure is nice to get positive feedback. It’s only natural.)

-          Do you have favourite characters from your own writing? What made them so special to you?
I really enjoy Mr. Smith, the teacher from Expect Dragons, (one of the stories in Pieces Like Pottery). He also pops up in a few other stories throughout the book, but those are little hidden clues for the reader to find. I think many of us have had inspirational teachers and mentors in our lives. It is so important to have these people during key moments in our development as young people. I have had some amazing teachers and mentors in my lifetime. Both of my parents are teachers, as well as my sister and my sister-in-law. Teachers give us so much of themselves and as a society, at least here in the States, we tend to give them so little back. It’s really sad. Mr. Smith is an inspirational character and I enjoy hearing his thoughts on life.

-          What would be your advice for aspiring authors?
Over the years I have been lucky enough to be offered abundant feedback and to hear excellent commentary from a few creative people that I admire greatly. There are three comments/ideas that have stuck with me throughout all my writing endeavors. (Each of these is summarized in my own words.)
1.      When asked about the fears and doubts that she had with her writing, Elizabeth Gilbert (best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love) said she finally had an epiphany that her “writing muse” was telling her that this isn’t her story. If she doesn’t tell it, then the muse would move on to someone else who will. Ms. Gilbert discussed how freeing this was for her. She was no longer declaring to the reader: “Listen to me. I have something to say.” Instead, she was just the voice for an idea out there in the universe. It was almost as if she had no other choice but to write. This opened her up to write every day without fear of the result.

2.      Ira Glass is an American public radio personality and the host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life. He has a great quote for young creatives. In short, he encourages that your work is not going to be good when you’re first starting out. You may have an excitement for your craft and a killer taste for what’s good, but your execution is poor. The only way to improve your work, the only way to close the gap so that your work is as good as your ambitions, is to do a lot of work. Write. Every day. Every week put yourself on a deadline to write something new. It’s going to take awhile, but that’s normal. Good writing doesn’t come the first time you sit down.

3.      Louis C.K. is one of the most thoughtful and innovative comics alive right now. I once heard him speak about his HBO show, Lucky Louie, which was cancelled after one season in 2006. He was asked if he was disappointed and if he looked back at it as a failure. His answer was unequivocally: “No.” For him it was just another experience that taught him how to hone his craft, which was invaluable.

So those would be my three pieces of (long-winded) advice for young writers. One, don’t worry about whether you have anything important to say. If you are inspired, say it. Two, write constantly. You won’t become a good writer unless you’re writing all the time. Three, take every writing experience and use it to hone your craft. Something is not a failure simply because the public doesn’t receive it the way you would like.

Thank you, Lilaina! I am grateful for this opportunity to spend some time with you and your readers. You have a wonderful site! If your readers have questions or comments, or they would like to share their thoughts on my recent book, please contact me. I would love to hear from them. You can reach me via email at danburi777@gmail.com or on twitter @DanBuri777. Thanks!

Author Bio
Dan Buri's first collection of short fiction, Pieces Like Pottery, is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. His writing is uniquely heartfelt and explores the depths of the human struggle and the human search for meaning in life. 
Mr. Buri's non-fiction works have been distributed online and in print, including publications in Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and TC Huddle. The defunct and very well regarded Buris On The Couch, was a He-Says/She-Says blog musing on the ups and downs of marriage with his wife.
Mr. Buri is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized by Intellectual Asset Magazine as one of the World's Top 300 Intellectual Property Strategists every year since 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Pieces Like Pottery Links


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Book Spotlight - "Aberrant Robber." by James Gervois

Aberrant Robber
by
James Gervois


Set in 1680, England is almost a lawless country, especially if you are one of the many keen to travel in the new coaches plying their trade along the highways.  Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 under Charles II, the numbers taking to robbing, mugging, rape, pick-pocketing, burglary and other crimes, reach unprecedented levels.  At the top of the order of criminals sits the highway robber, romantically portrayed as a gentleman, one who only robs the rich, who does not harm his victims, who looks after the poor.  ‘Aberrant Robber’ introduces the reader to the real villainy, the real harshness, the real corruption of the times.

Wilful, determined and resourceful, Tamar Ellerby (21 years old), the daughter of a vicar, refuses to accept her father’s choice of marriage partner, running away from home to make her own life in London.  She has always been a tom-boy, trained in the art of swordsmanship and the use of pistols - a match for most men.  Tamar enjoys the thrill of the unexpected and the excitement of holding people up, acquiring a considerable amount of money in the process.  She meets and falls in love with the son of a Lord, prepares to accept marriage, only to catch her lover in the arms of another at the same time she realises she is pregnant. 

Taking poison, Tamar almost dies but is saved by Will Hugill (aged 18) who has been banished from the Earl of Danby’s estate, falsely accused of raping the Earl’s youngest daughter.  Will was blackmailed by others to inform on a well known highwayman – Bill Nevison, doing as he was instructed with tragic consequences.  He escapes, heading for London when he meets Tamar, robbing her and later being caught by her.  Together they set off after Nevison only to be thwarted when Will is unfortunately killed.

Tall, good looking, the younger son of a local squire with a passion for gambling and women, Cornelius Clarkson (aged 28) is befriended by John Bannister (aged 35), the main handler of stolen goods in the North of England.  However, even with Bannister’s generosity, Clarkson needs an increasing amount of money to pay off his gambling debts, keeping stolen goods for himself with the result that Bannister arranges for Clarkson to be arrested, tried and sentenced to death.  Clarkson escapes the hangman’s noose, seeking vengeance against those who set him up.  He meets Tamar Ellerby at the time of Will’s death, saving her from Nevison and then using her to help him deal with Bannister.  Clarkson succeeds but not in the way he expects, Tamar being the one who obtains the bulk of Bannister’s wealth.


‘Aberrant Robber’ builds slowly, absorbing the reader into the 1680’s, the pace of the novel quickening as events unfold, gripping the reader to the end.  ‘Aberrant Robber’ is a novel aimed at the adult fiction market, appealing to both men and women of all ages. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Teaser for "Aberrant Robber" by James Gervois

Sitting in the darkened corner of the large, ornate room, Cornelius Clarkson could smell the nervousness of the man standing in front of John Bannister’s magnificent, mahogany desk. The man wiped his sleeve across his brow, rocking back and forth, his hands gripping the edge of his hat. The man never took his eyes of Bannister. Clarkson grinned, enjoying the moment, appreciating the power Bannister had over others.

He had met Bannister more than ten years ago when he was in his late teens, bored with his life on the estate and anxious to find adventure. He had quickly realized that Bannister had the capability to provide him with the excitement he craved. Bannister had been visiting his uncle, Sir Godfrey Copley, the High Sheriff of Yorkshire and Clarkson had listened to the conversation, amazed that his uncle had agreed to pay Bannister twenty pounds for every highwayman and horse thief Bannister named who was successfully prosecuted. Clarkson had determined he would find out as much as he could about this short, wiry man with distinctively large ears, dressed in simple clothes. He 4 established that Bannister was the son of a craftsman who used to work on Wentworth’s estate, that he had died in an accident and left Bannister’s mother to bring up a family of eight children in near poverty. Bannister had left home at fifteen and gone to London where, rumour had it, he had joined a band of footpads, robbing wealthy merchants and making his fortune. When he had returned to Yorkshire, he had quickly wooed and married a squire’s daughter and moved into this grand house at Conisbrough, his wife producing three healthy children.

 With an income that was totally inadequate to fund Clarkson’s lifestyle of gambling and whoring, he had started working for Bannister, gaining his trust, introducing him and his family to local dignitaries, Bannister quickly developing a liking for his role as a country squire. Clarkson made sure Bannister was always seen to be a stout upholder of the law, knowing full well that Bannister was now the largest handler of stolen property in the north of the country. Between them they had developed a network of merchants and contacts whom they could approach to sell on any and all of the goods they received.

The man in front of the desk jumped as, disdainfully, Bannister threw the jewelry across the table, the man snatching at it and placing it back into the sack he was holding. Clarkson could see Bannister staring at the man, seeing the fear in the man’s eyes, the sweat gathering on his brow. He knew Bannister always enjoyed these moments when he had a man cowering in front of him, fearful of his reputation, knowing he could decide if they lived or died.

‘Worthless. Why do you bring me such junk?’ Bannister said in his normal, quiet, measured voice, a voice that made even strong men tremble.

The man gulped. ‘Please Sir. This is all I’ve got…it must be worth something.’

Bannister stood up and walked to the window. Clarkson admired his dress, the deep red colour of the top coat, the lace cravat and cuffs, the silk stockings and fashionably pointed, heeled shoes. He saw Bannister turn round, looking at the man. ‘I’ll offer you a pound.’

‘But Sir, this stuff must be worth a lot more than that,’ the man whined.

‘Take my offer or leave,’ Bannister replied, waving his arm towards the door.

Clarkson saw Bannister’s two minders walk slowly towards the man. ‘I’ll take the pound.’

Bannister held out his hand, taking the sack from the man. He dug into his waistcoat pocket, pulled out a pound coin and passed it to the man. He smiled. ‘If you want to improve your lot I hear the Bishop of Lincoln is travelling to Durham during the next few days. Apparently, he only has a few men with him. Travelling along the Great North Road.’

The man touched his forelock. ‘Thank you Sir…thank you for the information.’ He turned and left the room, followed by the minders.

‘Do you think he will fall for it?’ Clarkson asked, getting up from the chair and walking towards Bannister.

Bannister sat down and poured two glasses of wine, passing one across the desk to Clarkson. ‘I’m sure a rogue like that will not be able to resist, especially as we know he runs with that band of ruffians in the forest near Pontefract.’

‘It would be most enjoyable to see the pompous Bishop brought down a peg or two.’ Clarkson took a sip of wine, appreciating the quality. ‘And if he does rob the Bishop, we know where to look.’

Bannister held up his glass. ‘Act quickly Cornelius and we can…acquire the booty and ensure the Sheriff’s men capture the miscreants.’

‘And you can collect the twenty pounds a head when they are sentenced.’

Bannister chuckled. ‘It also rids us of a troublemaker…I don’t trust the man.’

‘Shall we go to town?’ Clarkson knew Bannister liked visiting the hostelries and inns that were increasing in numbers as more and more travelers used Doncaster for overnight stops between Edinburgh and London. He also knew Bannister was always willing to get away from his frigid wife and spend the night with an appreciative young woman.

‘Why not!’ Bannister stood up, issuing instructions, demanding his carriage be brought to the front of the house, his overnight valise prepared. ‘We should celebrate…this stuff can wait until our return.’ Bannister looked down at the stolen jewelry on the desk.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Review for "Dwarves in Space" by S. E. Zbasnik


"Dwarves in Space" by S. E. Zbasnik

Dwarves in Space by S.E. Zbasnik is the kind of book that can suit any mood you are in. It tells the tale of the spaceship Elation-Cru and its motley crew of misfits that cobble together friendship, and the ship itself. Captained by a human who loses the battle at keeping her past life a secret, they must put aside their differences and prejudices and work together to survive the hostile galaxy.


I have to say, Zbasnik created an amazing world. She used elements of science fiction, wild west and comedy to create something totally unique. This had the right balance of humor, action and romance that can suit any taste, and it certainly suited mine. The characters are well developed, revealing just enough of their backstories to make you understand them, without giving so much away that they lose their intrigue. The plot stays fresh, making just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, but not so many that you lose your way. Very few books can keep me on the edge of my seat, but the ending of this one had me so close to the edge I fell out of my seat, rolled across the floor and straight out of the door.

The only problem I had with this book (sometimes a big one, sometimes small) was Zbasniks’ habit of trying to pack too much detail into each sentence. Don’t get me wrong, the world she created is amazing, as are the characters, and I can understand the desire to enrich the story with details, to paint the scene of each moment as vividly as possible so the reader clearly understands your vision, but sometimes less is more and I hope for her next book Zbasnik feels more comfortable in her writing. 

Despite a bit of a confused and rocky start, I loved this book and can’t recommend it more. In fact, the world and the characters are so amazing I would love to see this on the big screen, and if producers don’t jump on this its their loss. 

Displaying Taliesin.jpg
A drawing of the character Taliesin
For more about the author click here
For the authors Facebook click here
For the books website click here
To buy it through Amazon click here


Friday, 5 August 2016

Movie review: When Calls the Heart



Okay, so this is obviously a first for me. I normally wouldn't have reviewed a movie but I was given the opportunity so I thought "hey, why not?"

When Calls the Heart is a Hallmark tv series, but I was given one of the movies to review. It's set in a small Canadian frontier town (I had to look up the date it's set, and it looks to be around 1910). The series is inspired by a novel series written by Janette Oke.

First of all, Hallmark movies are cheesy, but they're faithful in making you smile. When Calls the Heart is no different. Is the script profound? No. But it's sweet, and simple, and you don't regret sitting down to watch it. I definitely felt a bit out of the loop, though. I've never watched the tv series, and this movie takes place at the beginning of season 3 (the rest of When Calls the Heart Season 3 DVDs are also available). I was able to pick up enough throughout the movie, but I know I missed quite a few of the subtleties within the dialogue and even the side glances. Someone who has watched and enjoyed the tv series will definitely appreciate this movie much more than I could at this point.

One thing that kept bothering me was the landscape in the movie. Don't get me wrong: it was beautiful. But this is set in late December...in Canada. I did more digging and found it's set in a fictional town in British Columbia. And there's no snow. Okay, I know...here in Ontario we had a green December and part of January. But I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to being as close to historically accurate as possible. Yeah, it was in the negatives in December of 1910 (and for the next few years). They definitely either would have had snow, or would look much colder than anyone in the movie did. That bothered me the entire way through.

BUT! In general, I thought this was a sweet movie, and definitely makes me wish I had heard of this series earlier. I'm sure if I had been more involved with the characters before this I would have overlooked the lack of snow. I thought it was lovely to see a depiction of Canadian frontier life, the pride of their town, and the hardships that come with being on the frontier. It wasn't easy back then, especially if you had to leave your family to start a new way of life.

So you don't end up watching the movie the way I did, you can find When Calls the Heart series on DVD.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Book review: Two are Better - Midlife Newlyweds Bicycle Coast to Coast by Tim & Debbie Bishop

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As most of you know, I don't typically review non-fiction but something about this one stood out to me. Not only did it sound exciting and adventurous, how could I turn down a paperback copy with photos from the trip!

Tim and Debbie tell their love story in this wonderful book, showing how their faith in God allowed them to stay (mostly) patient in waiting for their spouse. It really is a great story, and it really shows how trusting in God and His promises can help you through anything. The two decide to take an extended honeymoon and cycle across the United States. That sounds daunting enough to me, and I'm in my late 20s! I absolutely love the reality the newlyweds share in their travel book/journal. They shared their fights, and their laughter, which is something often missing. There's no way a couple can go without fighting at least a little. It's all about how it's done, and in the end (as was said before) they relied on the fact that God had brought the two together and that would strengthen them as a couple. They used their own personal strengths and determination to continue going, even when the body was crying for rest. They understood that each of them were half of one person, stronger as one than two, because two truly are better.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Book Review: But Thomas Aiken is Dead by Alex McKechnie

But Thomas Aiken Is Dead - Part I

For the first time in a while, I found a book I couldn't put down...and I only got part 1 of 3! What a tease. This novel is written in the style of letters and an interrogation transcription. One is set in presumably present day. The other set in the distant future. The details and explanations given about the future were so natural and intriguing, I have to give the McKechnie credit. It was so well done and left me wanting more.

At first I didn't see how Thomas' writings had anything to do with Atia in the future, but it slowly appeared and we recognize the start of the development into Atia's present, our distant future, through the missing character of Fran. I can see how that transition intrigued Atia, as it intrigued me.

Something that stood out is how, with both Thomas and Atia, their words and discussions with their children deeply affected who they grew up to be and how they act. Thomas claimed that no one ever died. So Fern, his missing daughter, goes to see if that can be made possible. Presumably. We haven't found out yet, but we have a pretty good idea. (That's another thing! McKechnie didn't give me all the information, but I didn't feel the need for it. Of course, I want it. But I'm fine going along for the ride, and if you've read any of my other reviews, you know that's not often the case with me.) Atia went the opposite way, trying to show the benefits of ningen life, but the other half of her infant's...DNA?...leaned toward merging with all life forces. Prolonging life. 

The rest of the novel has been added to my "must read now!!" list. It was a great read, with superb writing (only a few blips here and there) and a fascinating story. There's so much more I could say about this novel, about how it made me think about humanity, our sense of community and the global village, how the fear of death and even loneliness can presumably spur technological advances and research....but I won't. Even though I only touched the surface of the themes McKechnie wrote about. I highly recommend this novel, to basically anyone who enjoys reading.