Category Archives: Book Reviews

Running Down a Dream by Tim Grahl

As a fellow creative, I found Running Down a Dream to be very helpful with hands-on suggestions on how to move closer to my dream––wrapped in a true story of Tim Grahl moving through his creative journey.  The narrative is genuine, heartfelt, and insightful.

At this stage in my life, I don’t have the courage that Tim Grahl had when he shared his roller coaster ride of trials and triumphs.  Any artist (writer, painter, business creative, etc.) can relate to the emotional meltdowns he experienced on his way to his dream. His candor, integrity, and vulnerability were uncompromised, fresh, and constructive.

It helps creatives understand that what they are going through, the resistance you feel, is not unique and you are not alone. Most importantly, Running Down a Dream gives you concrete tools to help solve the problem.  Some tools may not work for you, but using even one of them might just get you through any “stuckness” in your art. 

P.S.  If you are a writer, after you read Running Down a Dream, I encourage you to go behind the scenes and roll back to the time when Tim was still writing Running Down a Dream.  Check out the Story Grid Podcast episodes listed below (or subscribe and check out all of them!) where Tim Grahl talks with Shawn Coyne while writing the book, the questions he has, and how he developed the concept, theme, and flow of the book. For me, a lot of the concerns and questions he brought up are exactly the questions I had during my nonfiction draft.  Perhaps you had them too.

2/28/18 #115 Finding My Why
3/7/18 #116 Truth vs Truth
4/14/19  #117 Tell your Story
3/28/18 #119 Put the Darkness of Paper
4/1/118 #121 Book is Done! Now What?
4/19/18 #122 What does Shawn think?
You can find these episodes on StoryGrid.com/podcasts. One way to find these specific episodes is to use the search at the bottom and enter the episode title.  Also on Apple Podcasts. 

@storygrid @timgrahl

Book Review: “Do the Work” By Steven Pressfield

Ever had those nagging thoughts that you aren’t really a writer, you don’t have the time, or if only “X” (insert your excuse) you could finish that novel? Steven Pressfield, in his book “Do the Work” calls this resistance and it’s a must read for new and experienced writers alike.

51v-Geyya+L._AC_US218_Pressfield writes that resistance points are “…those junctures where fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, and all those other demons we’re all so familiar with can be counted upon to strike.” And although the book was intended to give writers a kick-in-the-butt, Pressfield’s kick is equally effective for all creative medium.

Pressfield originally defined resistance in his book “The War of Art,” and I highly recommend you read it. But if you’re short on time, he gives a nice recap of “The War of Art” here in “Do your Work.”

Resistance awakens with “… any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.” So, that ice cream bar you ate while on a diet, that college degree you’ve been putting off, skipping your morning workout, and not writing today, you guessed it — resistance.

He walks you through the enemies and allies we all face creatively, but as you’ll see, we find the same enemies and allies in everyday life.

“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

He states resistance is invisible, insidious, impersonal, infallible, and ubiquitous. The bad news: it NEVER goes away, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can keep it at bay to experience those moments of flow, productivity, and personal growth.

The good news: Pressfield offers straight forward, common sense, actionable suggestions. And I can tell you from my own short experience in applying them — they work!

He dives into the beginning, middle, and end of your writing process. Explains the resistance you will feel, and how to overcome it.

To get you started,

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Getting through the tough middle, he recommends “… Stupidity. Stubbornness. Blind faith. We are too dumb to quit and too mullish to back off.” Stupidity is a good thing. He is talking about not letting all the noise in your head, all the information you know block you from being creative. Be stupid – don’t think about how hard it is to succeed – just do it.

Another trick I like is the concept of “Trust the Soup.” In my other life (you know, the one that brings home the bacon), we call this – trust the process. “… letting go of the need to control (which we can’t do anyway) and put your faith instead in the Source, the Mystery, the Quantum Soup.” Quantum Soup – I just love that. It rings of universal consciousness and simplicity at the same time.

And one (of many) traps new, and even experienced writers fall into is thinking small. He says to “swing for the seat.” Go big, be bold, up your premise, increase the stakes. But remember – be ready for resistance especially here. It will rear its ugly head, but Pressfield states, and I have found to be true, that once you ward off (you never really slay) the dragon of resistance, it’s easier the next time around.

I highly recommend this book. It immediately increased my pages per day, and changed the way I handle that little devil on my left shoulder sowing doubt and fear. Now, instead of listening to him, I know

Resistance is the response of the frightened, petty, small-time ego to the brave, generous, magnificent impulse of the creative self.”

And I choose to thrive in that creative realm. I choose to be brave and magnificent.

So, I’ll close this review in the way he closes the book, “Stay stupid. Trust the soup. Start before you’re ready.” And I’ll add, read this book: Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield. It will change you, and your writing, for the better.

The Time it Takes to Blink: A Novel of Suspense & Horror By David Six

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I saw David Six’s tweet about his book, and I was in the mood for a suspense novel – right time, right place, you could say. So I surfed over to Amazon and downloaded his book: The Time it Takes to Blink.

Although I still can’t figure out from where the name is derived; nonetheless, I really enjoyed the book. His characters are engaging, relatable, and memorable. The main character, Frank Bruno, portrayed as a might-as-well-be homeless guy, living in an abandoned gas station and passes the day so drunk he doesn’t realize, it appears, that the tide pool from which he fishes every day, never garners any fish.

But yet, there is something-something that makes you like this guy, want to cheer for this guy, Frank Bruno. I wasn’t sure why at first, but slowly his story unravels, and any reader would be hard-pressed not to cheer on Frank Bruno. David Six does a masterful job of doling out the details of Frank’s backs story, intriguingly reeling you in with his fishing, Schlitz, and Anchor Steam beer.

His helper ally Rita “Sally” Salvanian, Frank’s cop-partner ten years ago and now Lieutenant, drags Frank out of his ten-year funk with the very same case that devastated his life and bullied him into living hell. She is independent, successful, driven, sarcastic, and just what Frank needs to end his self-pity and start living again.

The final two memorable characters I’ll mention are Jeja, a twenty-two-year-old neighborhood gang-avoider and want-a-be cop, and his grandmother who raised him. Although these are supporting characters, they are unique, fun, and people I’d like to know and definitely want to see in the sequel. Jeja is real, scared, insecure but outwardly confident, loyal, and clearly understands the right side of the road, while trying desperately to avoid the left, in a community where left is right.

His grandma, who raised him? Well, what can I say about a petite, elderly woman who has the local neighborhood gang leader eating out of her hand and calling her ma’am? Gotta respect that — and if you don’t — she’ll set you straight.

In addition to great characters, the plot is well timed, fast pace, and compelling. I know it sounds cliche, but it was hard to put the book down — even at 1:00 am with a 5:00 am wake-up call.

The tagline: A novel of suspense and horror. The horror is a mix of Hannibal-like crazy (the recent television version without the cannibalism but with all the weird who-thinks-of-this-ugly-human-horror stuff) and the BTK-like killer (Denise Vader who bound, tortured and killed ten people between 1974 – 1992). It can get a bit gruesome, but Six never crossed the salacious line. There was one scene where the reader learns a bit about the perp’s personal habits that, although totally weird and creepy, gives the reader a solid understanding of how off this guy really is – and the most horrific part – he appears normal to the rest of the world.

Any room for improvement? For characters and plot, Six gets five stars. Pacing and voice. five stars. The only area where it got a bit distracting is his use of smilies and metaphors. Usually a great trait for a writer, but Six’s overuse could be toned down, for me. That said, his ability to conjure up an image with unique and crystal clear images was superior to most.

I highly recommend David Six’s The Time it Takes to Blink: A Novel of Suspense & Horror, and I’m looking forward to the next adventure of Frank Bruno. Did I forget to mention the unexpected twist at the end?  You won’t feel cheated, all the clues are there but yet, it will stupefy you.

Time’s Up by Janey Mack: Great balance of plot, mystery, character, and a dash of surprise at the end.

t’s time you read Time’s Up by Janey Mack. I did. Enjoyable read with a great balance of plot, mystery, character, and a dash of surprise at the end. Maisie McGrane (main character) not only holds her own in hand-to-hand combat but also endears the reader with her self-doubts and relatable vulnerabilities.

Oh yes, I HAVE to mention the hunk-a-lushes leading good-guy-with-a-heavy-dose-bad-boy love interest.  Mackey’s portrayal of all the small things that make most women tingle — is subtle, and very effective.

Mackey carries off the first person presentation by expertly keeping the reader in the action; all the while peppering you with the funny and snarky sarcasm of Maisie.

Time’s Up is a light, fun, and memorable read. Not for those looking for complex theme, multiple plot lines, or numerous characters with deep back stories, but more for those wanting an enjoyable read, with memorable characters that will leave you beckoning for more.

The biggest compliment a reader can give an author:  Can’t wait to read what Maisie does in the next book! Thank you Janey Mack.