Sunday, January 26, 2014

Author Interview: Yoram Katz, Author of The Kabbalist

I was recently approached by new author Yoram Katz about his historical thriller, The Kabbalist, which he describes as "a thoroughly researched historical detective/mystery novel, which spans 2,000 years of history, and puts the mystical doctrine of Kabbalah (which everybody talks about, but most really have no clue what it is...) in a new perspective." We conducted an interview via email.

Please tell us a little about you and your book.
As most Israelis do, I served the 3-year mandatory service, and participated in a war or two.
I then studied Philosophy and Psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I was so impressed, that having completed my BA in both, I immediately ran away to spend two years in Europe and Africa and then landed back on earth to study for my BSc. in Computer Engineering.
Most of my career since has been spent in the flourishing Israeli hi-tech industry, where I held some senior managerial positions and travelled the globe. My career sent me for a few years to Singapore where I relocated with my wife and three children.
I have always been an avid reader planned to find the time to write my own novels. With three children at home and an intensive career, the time for this never materialized, until, a few years back, I realized I could use the time made available for me during my trips. It felt right.
 The Kabbalist is my first published novel. I am now working on the next.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
There are a few scenes I like but I would rather talk about an early scene in order to avoid a spoiler.
There is this scene about a Jewish refugee running away from crusader Acre after it had fallen to the Muslims in 1291. He somehow managed to escape the crumbling city by sea, but now he is fighting for his life after his ship has capsized. He is terrified, but what happens to him next at sea is totally unexpected, changes his fortune – and lays a foundation for the rest of this multi-layered plot. It is an introduction to other twists the reader can expect in the story.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
What I expect a good book to provide me:
1.    Escape - keep me absorbed in the subject and plot
2.    Entertainment – enjoy the experience
3.    Enlightenment – I want it to teach me something new, give me an insight I did not have, or introduce me to new ideas. I want it to leave something with me after I have finished reading it.
Some people are OK with having 1 & 2. I need all three to be satisfied. That’s what I want my books to be like.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I have not published other novels so far. I am very fond of history, but I do not see myself necessarily tied to historical fiction. My next novel was inspired by a three-year stay in Singapore and my impressions of role spirits play in the Chinese day-to-day life.

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes? If so, can you explain it briefly?
This novel is based on a “conspiracy” historical theory. It happened to me at least twice that I decided to take it in a certain direction and then found that this “new” direction had been actually brought up before by other scholars.

Yoram’s book is available at Amazon in both paperback and eBook. A trailer can be viewed on Youtube. The book also has a presence on Goodreads

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: Discretion by David Balzarini

As a young man, Colin Wyle is not particularly impressive. The son of a former professional basketball player, Colin is cordial and likeable enough, but ultimately he’s forgettable. He, like many boys his age,  spends most of his time daydreaming about the unattainable girl-of-his-dreams, Natalie Merian, and the rest of his time trying to figure out a way to earn his father’s respect. Then one day while attending church with the family of one of his friends, Colin begins to hear a voice. The disembodied personality calls herself Christel, and she begins guiding Colin to a better life.

Thanks to Christel, Colin becomes a sports hero and wins the affections of his girl and the growing tenuous respect of his father. Is she a guardian angel, a psychic spirit guide, a muse, a daemon? Colin doesn’t know, and frankly he doesn’t care. Things are going perfectly, and Colin is on his way to the life he’s always wanted. Then, one day while on a holiday trip to the lake, everything changes. Natalie disappears. Suspicion falls on Colin and his father. Days pass, tension mounts, and then out of the blue, Christel is in Colin’s ear telling him the steps he has to take. Hours later, Colin’s life is changed again, Natalie is saved, the man who had her is dead, Colin is a killer, and the police are covering the whole thing up to save face.
Years pass. Colin and Natalie have remained friends, but he is in a new relationship, engaged to be married. He has an investment job which he has been very successful at with Christel’s help. Then, again torment from his past arrives. New evidence has surfaced in several cases similar to the one involving Natalie’s abduction. Investigation is sure to uncover his involvement in the death of her captor. Colin needs Christel now more than ever, but is she everything he’s always assumed that she was?

Discretion by David Balzarini is a thriller with a message. A born again Christian, Balzarini weaves a tale that’s more about consequences than resolution. None of the thriller elements of the story are ever reconciled in the traditional manner, but fatalists and those who enjoy affirmation of faith in their literature are sure to take comfort in the book’s suppositions and anti-resolution.

The story is told mostly in a first-person present voice which I personally find off-putting. When I write, I create my notes and outline in first-person present. The beginning paragraphs of this review are also written in that POV. It’s more urgent feeling and gives one the sense of being instantly connected to the action. However, as I tell a story, I prefer to put all of the action in the past, where it belongs. “Guy walks into a bar,” may work for a joke told to friends at a party, but if I’m writing to an audience, I want them to understand that the action occurred in a tangible reality which I am recounting — not one which I am describing on the fly.

This is not to say that Balzarini doesn’t create a richly textured atmosphere. Indeed he does. His words are carefully chosen and I understand why he elected for the immediacy afforded by telling the story as if it’s happening in the now. I’m not noting this to say the writing is poor. Quite the contrary, it’s excellent. However, for me, there was a curve where I had to acclimate to the style in order to appreciate the writing. So this isn’t a criticism as much as it is fair warning.

I will say that I wish there had been more resolution to the traditional mystery element at the end of the story. The focus at the conclusion is more on Colin’s spiritual resolution than on wrapping up the story of how Natalie wound up where she did that long ago summer day; and there was no warning that this was going to be the case in the book’s description. In fact, the description gives no indication whatsoever that the story is less Taken and more Angel Heart. I, for one, wish I had known that going in.

David can be found on Twitter and Discretion is available for the Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.


When my father calls, my nerves tingle like wires hanging near a bathtub, not touching so to create havoc, but close enough to experience the palpable energy of two opposing forces near one another.
On the second day, during the three days that Natalie was missing, my father ranted and raved about Natalie and every conversation with Jackson or Viktor, the attorney, centered on the removal of liability—as if his status were the only thing that mattered; not Natalie’s life that hung in the balance. And I’ve resented him since.
I answer his call, not because I want to, but because if I don’t, he’ll call until he reaches me and it’s better to take the poison now than wait.
His greeting is cheerful; my response tries hard to be neutral, but it errs on the side of hostile.
“I know you’re busy, but I wanted to stay in touch. How’ve you been?” my father says. He sounds oddly cheerful.
When I left for college, he got nostalgic. He began telling stories of my childhood as if it was some magical time. Little League World Series. Baseball and academic scholarship. A late round pick by the Florida Marlins. The dream coming true for him, to see his son achieve greatness in pro sports.
Christel made other plans. Once the pro sports career went south, he lost interest just as fast.
“I’m managing. Been busy.” I start pacing around my office.
“Yeah, I’m not buying it. What’s going on?”
He never wants to know when it’s about Natalie.
“So…what’s news?” I say after the long silence.
“I sold three of the businesses and plan to whittle away the rest over the next year or so.”
“Really?” He must be going postal. Or Brooke has him by the balls to travel more and attend to her every need.
“Yeah. I can’t believe it either, but I’m moving on from them. tirement doesn’t suit me, I think. But what the hell, I’ll give it a try.”
“Call the network back, then. They’ll have you in a New York minute.” Then I will go back to never hearing from you. How I like it.
My father laughs at the thought. “I like the idea, actually. I’ve never been one to lay on the beach, watching the sunset…ah, I don’t know. I’m not ready to be done working.”
“I must agree. You’ll go crazy before long.”
“Brooke wants to spend six months in Europe.”
“And there is the motivation.”
“Son, you knew that was the reason before I said so.”
“True.” I pause a moment. “Seriously, though. Call the network back. Kenny and Chuck could use your company. Teach them how to play golf while you’re at it.”
“You know she’d throw a fit, so why entertain it?”
It would be fun to watch. I’d drive to his place so I could watch the video footage. “Because it would be fun for you. Pay wouldn’t hurt either.”
He sniffs and remains silent. He’s stewing over the idea. He’s got to be trying to figure out how to slip this past Brooke. The man lives for action. He and I exchange a few pleasantries and hang up, parting on the notion we’ll connect again soon but we know it’ll be months before we talk again.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Blurb and Cover Reveal: Common Sense

Book two in the Lupa Schwartz Mystery series, Common Sense, will be officially released in February, however you can now get a pre-release copy on Smashwords. Enter coupon code LE27X for a 25% discount.

UPDATE: Coupon now expired.

SECOND UPDATE: Common Sense is now available at the following online retailers: Amazon paperback, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, iBookstore, Smashwords, and on Goodreads.

I’d finished describing my surprise at how easy it was to identify Dave since – after all — he’d been pulled from a river after drowning. I’d thought he’d be bloated or discolored, but he’d looked like himself. Then out of nowhere, Schwartz had asked me if Dave had often gone night fishing alone, and I’d gone suddenly mute.
Common sense tells Cattleya Hoskin that her reporter ex-husband wouldn't have gone out night-fishing by himself in the middle of an investigation. The unaccommodating local authorities see it differently. In an effort to prove them wrong, Cattleya enlists the help of her private investigator friend, Schwartz, to follow through with Dave’s investigation—theft from the power grid in a small Ohio town.
The inquiry is complicated by crooked contractors, a menacing white van, and some long-abandoned coal mines and antebellum tunnels. Aggressively loud church bells and the amorous advances of a bounty hunter Schwartz brought in to help add to an already convoluted situation. Yet Cattleya feels she owes it to Dave to figure out what happened to him, for better or for worse.