Saturday, June 9, 2018

There are two components to this post. 

First, I'd like to briefly review a book I first read in 1962. I was a sophomore in college and the professor of my Sociology 202 class assigned this reading as a hypothetical example of what happens when a society and all its institutions, laws, norms and mores completely break down. I recently discovered this apocalyptic novel has been reprinted in 1995 and again in 2005.  It remains as compelling now as it was those 56 years ago. Maybe even more so, given the proliferation of nuclear tipped weapons in possession of madmen in this new century.

Alas Babylon, by Pat Frank: A nuclear holocaust has devastated the United States and much of the rest of the world. The patina of civilization has been swept away. Miraculously, a small town in central Florida is spared the ravages of the blasts and radiation. But the isolated community regresses to the dark ages when there is no electrical power, telecommunications, or television. Within weeks, there is no gasoline, no provisions left on retail shelves, no functioning police or protective services, no means of charging batteries and eventually no means of producing flame. But the small community of survivors learns to pull together and face what will undoubtedly be the longest night in history.

Although it depicts a terrifying eventuality, Mr. Frank has somehow created a story that captures the indomitability of the human spirit. It's populated with lovable (and some not so lovable) characters who for the most part have been well developed and to whom the reader can relate as everyday folks.  The story line follows a good narrative arc with a hook, action rising to a crescendo, a logical climax and a cliff-hanging conclusion. If one could find fault in the author's style it might be that this tale contains some stereotypes that reek of racism and sexism. But, hey, that's probably a reasonable depiction of the tenor of the times in Florida sixty years ago.

Component Two: Reviewing Books on amazon

Have you ever tried to post a review on only to get an error message that says you are not a qualifed reviewer? Several people who've tried to review my first novel, Finding Lien, have been told that in order for their review to be accepted, they must have an amazon  account and have purchased $50.00 worth of product within the preceding 12 months.

I invited the policy to the attention of my publisher and pointed out that this seems like a case of a  corporate giant holding authors and publishers hostage. After all, the more reviews a book receives, the more marketing visibility it has, and sales go up. We know that amazon's magical algorithms will uptick the market exposure of any book with 50 or more reviews. So everybody wins - the author, the publisher and the retailer (amazon). Right? . 

Black Rose Writing, the publisher of my two novels advised me that they were following the policy closely and hoped that some middle ground could be found. The reason for the policy is that there are some deviant companies out there who will open myriad false accounts, leave multiple reviews, then charge the authors for 50 or more reviews.

So, now you know the rest of the story.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Rebirth and Book Reviews

Darn, I had really good intentions when I launched this blog two years ago.  It was to be a platform for me to share things writerly — a little about my own learning experiences in commencing a writing career in my seventies, some hints for wannabees on "pulling it together," some techniques and practices that work for me in editing, finding beta readers, getting technical help and getting published, and maybe my impressions and reflections about recent books I've read.

Alas, after three posts, life came at me. I experienced the death of someone close to me, suffered a broken hip and subsequent replacement, became immersed in the writing and editing of my second novel, served as a willing, - but not terribly competent - caregiver when my wife, Elaine, went through a hip replacement and dealt with various and sundry other competing demands on my time.

But having just signed a contract for As The Lotus Blooms, my new novel, I have a bit more time on my hands and now I wish to resurrect my efforts at blogging with a pledge (to myself) to post at least once a month (better yet, bi-weekly whenever I'm not travelling).

So, in this first edition I'd like to briefly review, and enthusiastically recommend, two books I've recently read.

So - Here's the First Review:

 This is what I said on about this book.  "This is an  outstanding, but heartbreaking, tale of a devastating and progressive health condition, and how deeply it touches those it enfolds. The author, who has closely experienced the cruelty of Alzheimers in a loved one, has shown a great deal of courage and consummate determination in writing it. This well-paced and brilliantly written story is at once poignant, agonizing, funny in places and all-consuming. The reader will have difficulty putting it down but had best keep a box of tissues at hand. It made this hardened, former combat soldier weep like a schoolchild through much of the second half. But I feel I have emerged from this novel with greater sensitivity to the whole continuum of dementia and its emotional impact on those who must find a way of dealing with its encroachment on their lives. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to give justice to a description of this debut novel by an obviously compassionate, energetic and witty author. It is worthy of six stars."

This fine novel is also a finalist for the National Indie Excellence Awards. Irene also publishes a daily blog and writes a column for Grandparents Day Magazine, an Australian on-line publication 

And - Here's the second:

Equal and Opposite Reactions is a rollicking good yarn about complex relationships and emotions in middle-class American culture. The author has created an incredibly funny romantic comedy, which transcends the ubiquitous romantic triangle and expands it into a quadrangle, complicated by the interweaving of relationships between the children of the principal characters.  Cleverly plotted, twists and turns,  and exceptionally well written this part drama and part slapstick comedy, is a tour-de-force. Bravo Patti.

Stay tuned. Next time, I think I might blog about the pitfalls and perils of collaborating with another author.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Kirkus Review for Finding Lien

So Pleased to have this review of my Novel


R. Bruce Logan
Black Rose Writing (234 pp.)
$16.95 paperback, $6.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1-61296-690-8; April 19, 2016
A look at the sex trade in East Asia, told as a suspense novel.
This work follows a Vietnam War veteran who returns to his old battlefields to try to save his granddaughter’s life. It all begins when Peter Trutch is interrupted one sunny afternoon by a letter from overseas. An Australian graduate student named Andrew Quang has located a 40-something man in Vietnam named Nguyen Le Ngoc, who claims to be Trutch’s biological son. Trutch is taken aback but recognizes that it’s plausible: in 1971, on medical leave in Nha Trang, he entered into a liaison with a local woman named Dream. Alarmingly, Ngoc’s daughter Lien—Trutch’s granddaughter—appears to have vanished, and her family fears she’s been abducted into the world of underage sex trafficking.
Flying back to Vietnam to help search for her, a “knight in shining armor,” Trutch will face a harrowing underworld full of “pimps, thugs, mean-looking bouncers and cops blind to whatever nefarious activity is raging around them.” In three interwoven narrative strands, the book tells of Trutch’s journey in search of Lien, his wife Catherine’s attempts to better understand her husband’s secret, and Lien’s own horrifying story. Eventually, Trutch’s journey—like the war in which he once took part—leads him across the Cambodian border to Phnom Penh’s little Vietnam, Svay Pak. There, shots ring out, Lien cowers in an obscure room out of sight, and seedy officials warn the determined veteran: “You use many big English words. But they do not justify your desire to interfere with our way of life.”
Vietnam veteran and humanitarian Logan (co-author: Back to Vietnam: Tours of the Heart, with Elaine Head, 2013) has been familiar with this region all his adult life and describes it knowingly. Here and there, readers are reminded of the old horrors of the Vietnam War and the re-education camps and the raw feelings that still circulate around them. The author deftly details Lien’s plight. Readers learn of the “rape chambers,” cattle prods, meager food, and regular beatings the kidnapped girls must endure and their constant fear. While some readers may be misled by the novel’s oddly bucolic cover, the dangerous world described therein remains all too real. It’s important that readers be woken up to it.
A tense and distressing tale of a sad and all-too-common kidnapping in an exotic land.

Monday, June 20, 2016


                          On Being a Beta Reader

Ever been asked to be a Beta Reader?

What is a Beta Reader?

Through some phenomenal stroke of luck and maybe a healthy dose of Karma, Elaine and I have managed to create two published books over the past three years.  In both cases these were, for us septuagenarians, major undertakings requiring the investment of huge sums of time, energy, money, emotion and sweat. We agonized over sentences, argued over the elements of plot, struggled with verb forms, squeezed out dialogue and tortured ourselves through the development of our characters. But one of the most difficult tasks was finding honest, subjective feedback of our drafts from our Beta Readers —avid readers who, when asked, cheerfully volunteered to comment on our manuscripts. 

What we have learned is that it is best not ask your children, siblings, or best friends.  All too frequently their assessments are limited to, "I like it," "It's a good read," or, "I think you've got a book here." If they decide to take the risk of being brutally honest, they might come back with an in-depth analysis like, "I noticed typos on pages 13, 52 and 79, or "It might be a bit too graphic in chapter 8," or "Maybe there should be less (or more) sex," or even, "I was sad when you killed Andrew off." While these observations are all helpful, they do little to help us understand if our manuscript is sufficiently engaging or contains enough tension to capture the reader's interest and impel him or her to continue turning pages. 

So I did some research and found a list of specific questions for writers to ask their volunteer Beta Readers. Keep these in mind if you're asked to help a friend evaluate the worth of his/her writing project. Honest answers to these questions* should help your aspiring writer friend revise and polish his/her manuscript:  

  • Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
  • Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it's taking place? If not, why not?
  • Could you relate to the main character? Did you feel his/her pain or excitement?
  • Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
  • Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or that you became less than excited finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?
  • Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
  • Did you  notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  • Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likeable?
  • Did you get confused about who was who among the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Were any of the names of characters too similar?
  • Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?
This is about half of the questions on the list. But don't worry if we ask you to be beta reader for us, we'll parcel out the questions and tailor them for our readers. 

* The questions were found on and had in turn been extracted from the book Captivate Your Readers, by Jodie Renner.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Welcome to the Narrative Arc

Welcome to my new blog, The Narrative Arc.  My dear bride Elaine and I, were as usual, chattering away while walking a forest trail here on Salt Spring Island when we hit upon this title.  Somehow, despite our best intentions to be silent and at one with nature amongst the giant cedars of the rain forest in our backyard, we always break the silence with “book chat”.  We seem unable to walk any distance at all without one of us saying, “Remind me, when we get home to tell you about the stellar passage that I read last night”. Or, “Did you read so-in-so’s blog about the power of the first sentence in a novel?” Or. “What did you think about Greg’s digital marketing ideas for getting the word out about our books?”

And we are off, meandering through a conversation about our passions; reading and writing; fiction and non-fiction; books and blogs; style and technique; the hard work and joy of the writer’s life. Maybe it is the oxygen in the fresh forest air that feeds the desire to vocalize our shared passion for the written word. Come to think of it, we also manage to have these conversations on airplanes or ferries or motoring down a freeway or while cooking dinner. 

The Narrative Arc will be a forum for me to share some of these ideas that are hatched over bacon and eggs or while watching the rising sun paint the ocean a flamingo orange in the harbor across the road. I hope that is will generate a dialogue with my readers and fellow writers, a kind of Noah’s ark, full of ideas worth saving and sharing.

If we follow the basics of the Narrative Arc that we learned in Writing 101, this blog is at the stage where I need to “set the hook”; to tantalize, tease and entice you to keep reading. (Next up for me might be some graphic art lessons, but here is the idea!)

Perhaps the “hook” for writers and wannabe writers is the promise that I will write about what it has been like to start writing books in my seventies and the immense satisfaction and gratification of embarking on a creative endeavor no matter one’s age. I intend to include the trials and tribulations; the agony, the frustration and sometimes the disappointment of a writing life.  I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learned about overcoming writer’s block, getting out from a dead end scene or chapter, making the choice between self-publishing or using a trade publisher and the realities of marketing books.

For readers, the “hook” might be that I will also use this blog to promote awareness of the very real-world social problems that have smacked Elaine and me in the face during our travels in Southeast Asia. My books and the book that I wrote with Elaine are based on the knowledge that we have gained and the work in which we are involved, primarily in Vietnam.

I hope that you will jump on board the Narrative Arc. Subscribe as a follower, add a comment, ask a question, share, or better yet, submit a guest blog!

Welcome to the ARC!