Friday, September 27, 2013

Indie Book Review: Between These Pages, by Catherine MacKenzie, Part 1 of 2

My apologies to Catherine MacKenzie for the late review.  I thought I would have it done before now, but I fell behind on my schedule.  The biggest event that slowed me down was the FBI Green Dot Moneypak Virus (mentioned in my last blog).

Between These Pages has been one of the best books that I’ve read by an independent artist, and I want to give it a proper review.  To do the book justice, I plan to give it a two-part review.  I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but I’m going to give my synopses of the individual stories within the book.

1.      Collecting Knocks:  The story is somewhat vague, but sometimes that’s a good thing.  Some of my favorite stories are the ones that leave a little to the imagination.

2.      Doorbells and December:  The story is told at a slow pace, meant to bring the reader into the world of a woman who must take care of her grandson, after the disappearance of her daughter.

3.      Away with the Fairies:  A boy is coping with the divorce of his parents, and has a new life that includes three new sisters.  The boy doesn’t quite fit in, but with some help he learns how to cope with his new situation.

4.      Night Candy:  This story is full of innocence lost.  A little girl sees many things that she doesn’t quite understand.  I read the story thinking, how far is Cathy willing to go?  I wasn’t disappointed.

5.      Island Lovers:  This one stood out the most to me.  The story involves the strange rituals of an island tribe, and how those rituals affect two people who are in love.  I won’t give away the ending.

6.      The Party:  A birth mark results in a woman’s negative self-image.  Despite her feelings about her appearance, a masquerade party allows her to enjoy herself, and gives her a new sense of confidence.

7.      Balloons, Chocolate and Flowers:  This is a story that takes readers on an emotional journey that many people have been on before.  A young woman thinks about giving her boyfriend another chance after he has cheated on her.

8.      Rear View Mirror:  Very cool flash fiction story about a woman who has just committed murder.  The body is stashed away in the car, but... you’ll have to read it for yourself.

9.      Hourglass:  A story about twin brothers that ends with a twist.  One brother is constantly cleaning up after the other, and he’s had enough.

I’m straying a bit from my normal format, but I would like to say… Who would like this book?  I think the majority of the stories in this book were written with women in mind.  The first half (this half), is especially geared toward women.  However, there were a lot of thrills and horror in this half of Between These Pages, making it enjoyable to a wide variety of tastes.

Personally, I think the book is well rounded, but the second half actually contains the majority of my favorite stories.  I think this book is worth buying, and hope that the readers of my blog will support this author.  Cathy MacKenzie is one of my favorite personalities when it comes to writers.  I’ve always thought she had a crazy side, but she’s managed to put her insanity into a bottle, and pour it into a book for us to read.

Which story is my favorite in this half of the book?  Rear View Mirror.  Although it’s probably the shortest story in the book, it’s full of cool imagery.  It comes in fast and hard, and delivers everything a good short story should.

Keep watching for the second half of my review for Between These Pages.  Until then, check it out for yourself…

Email Catherine MacKenzie at

Joshua Hicks recently released Flashlight Stories, an anthology of short stories that are meant to terrify.  The book is only 99 cents until after Halloween.  Get the first story free (plus a flash fiction introduction) with any sample download.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Experience with the FBI Green Dot Moneypak Virus

So, I haven’t posted a blog in a while… a long while.  I haven’t posted anything about my new book, and I haven’t reviewed Catherine MacKenzie’s book like I said I would, either (my apologies to her).  That leads me to my first post since early August…

The FBI Moneypak virus that infected my computer several weeks ago would be hilarious if it was not so annoying/scary.  It put my independent writing career on hold as it taunted my family from our laptop.  The image:  Large FBI letters, a message that we had been CAUGHT in illegal activities, and a webcam photo of my girlfriend, staring at the computer in confusion.

We were accused of viewing and/or downloading child pornography, bestiality, and/or instances of rape.  The virus used our own laptop’s webcam to capture my girlfriend’s image as “proof” that she was indeed the one identified as committing these crimes.  Of course, I knew this was a scam, because my girlfriend had been browsing artist trading cards while me and our little girl were watching Curious George on Netflix.  We were supposed to believe that the picture was taken while the crime was being committed, but my girlfriend’s sleep shirt (which she was still wearing) and ruffled hair (from just waking up) made it clear that the “FBI” had caught her lazily looking for quotes to paste onto artwork.

Not only was the “evidence” far from convincing, but the “FBI” seemed to be willing to clear the accused of all charges for a $300 fee, paid to a Green Dot Moneypak card that can be purchased at Wal-Mart or local convenient stores.  Wow!  No prison!  The FBI was either being considerably generous or we were targets of a huge SCAM.

What’s funny about living during a time when the internet is available on a plethora of devices, is that sometimes people forget about their options.  Usually, when I need to search for answers, I use the computer, but my computer had malware.  It wasn’t until the next day when it dawned on me that I could start my Nintendo Wii, go to Youtube, and search for a way to get the malware scam off the computer.  It was the complete opposite of trying to flip on a light after the electricity goes out.  Instead, I had power when I thought I had none.

I found the answers to my problem on Youtube, and I’m including a link to the video for anyone who might need instruction on how to remove the virus.  You will need a second computer that isn’t infected, an empty flash drive, and possibly a blank CD.  We used my girlfriend’s parents’ computer to go online and download the program to get rid of the virus (put on flash drive), and the program to override the virus before it gets a chance to disable the infected computer (put on CD).  It might have been a time-consuming process, but it was easy to accomplish once my girlfriend had access to her parent’s computer.  We’re not sure what gave our computer the virus, but the guy in the Youtube video claimed to have acquired the virus (after searching for a lot of questionable files in order to make the video) from something as simple as a searching for Danica Patrick.

Sadly, I have heard plenty of stories in which people were scammed into losing money because of this virus.  Sending money won’t get rid of the malware.  The FBI isn’t really locking your computer.  If you get a message that asks you to send money to pay for a crime, don’t bite.  Chances are, you’re being scammed.

Here’s the Youtube video that helped me get rid of the FBIMoneypak Virus

To download my horror story anthology, Flashlight Stories (get the first two stories completely free with sample).  Still only 99 cents for a limited time:
From Smashwords
From Amazon