Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Beware the Devil's Hug" and Leave the Kids at Home

            Marvin D. Wilson is a real pro when it comes to writing.   His latest novel Beware the Devil's Hug has been written so skillfully that it almost reads itself.  The chapters are brief, which makes this book a comfortable read.   Marvin's writing style has an economy of words that doesn't muddle the reading experience.   Any page will exhibit textbook examples of how to write, which makes this book a big plus for anyone interested in technique.

              Storywise this book also has what it takes to please most readers.   The lengthy cast of characters is presented so cleanly that it's easy to keep track of who's who in the story.   The storyline is well-paced with a good balance of tension and breathing room.   I didn't do a scientific measurement, but it seemed to me that Hugs is about 75% dialogue--good natural-flowing dialogue that allows for a fluidity of the reading experience.  The reader is put in the middle of every scene as it unfolds.

           Beware the Devil's Hug is a story for our times as it deals with relevant issues that could have been taken right out of this morning's newspaper.   The story centers around a mysterious old homeless man named Iam.  Initially repulsive to everyone he encounters, Iam has a power in his hug that cures disease, addiction, and hatred and allows the recipients of those hugs to see the world from an entirely new perspective.  The Old Man becomes romantically involved with a young crack-addicted prostitute whom he cures and redeems with his hug.  Iam also becomes involved with an organization that has been founded to bring the religions of the world together in peaceful agreement.  Throughout the course of book, this novel addresses important issues including child abuse, gangs, and terrorism.   The story crescendos into an interesting twist in its conclusion.

          And now here comes the part of this review that is somewhat difficult for me.   I don't really like to be negative, but my extreme subjectivity concerning certain aspects of this novel compels me to express these partly as a caveat for some similar minded readers and partly to address some of my own conflicted feelings about issues I've thought about in my own writing.  So please bear in mind that the following is a matter of personal preference and belief.

          Firstly, I'd like to warn any easily offended readers that there is profanity used and there are fairly graphic sex scenes described in Beware the Devil's Hug.   In some of the earlier tour stops Marvin has made this point, but I wanted to bring it up again in case any of my readers missed this.  I would not want someone to buy this book on my recommendation without knowing this from the outset--this book is rated "R".   By the same token I would not want to discourage anyone from reading the book because of this as long as they don't have a problem with this adult rating.

         In another tour stop Marvin said, "my books would offend the stiff, narrow minded and prudish."  Believe me, I know all the words and I've seen plenty of things in my life and read some very graphic writings and I'm not too easily shocked by much of anything.   However, that doesn't mean I want to read it now and by no means would I attribute my preference to being narrow-minded, prudish, or anything of that nature. 

           I've addressed this issue at other times.  I lean toward the idea that excess profanity and graphic sex can be distracting in literature if these things are not the main focus of the message that the writer wants to convey.  Don't get me wrong: Marvin's novel is not bursting at the seams with these things, but what is there still distracted me.   This is an issue I've struggled with in my own writing and I have tried to take a more subtle approach.   I welcome any additional opinions about this matter.

           The second issue I have with Beware the Devil's Hug concerns my own conflicting beliefs concerning the story itself.  I don't want to say anything here that will act as a spoiler, but I disagreed with some of the theological premises as I understood them.  And perhaps theology is the wrong word to be using here, but as I was reading I kept hearing John Lennon's "Imagine" playing in my head.  I really do like this song, but as I've grown older I've come to have a distaste for what Lennon's song lyrics represent to me.

            The ideas presented in Hugs conceptually sound beautiful and idealistic and will probably appeal to many people, but they are out of line with my personal theology--I think.   Perhaps I missed something as I was reading or maybe I'm just creating a greater complexity than should be present, but as I was reading I was thinking that the story was going in a different direction than where I thought it ended up.  Then again, I could read something different into the ending and interpret that it comes to a conclusion more like I was expecting.  My question that I do not recall seeing any explanation for is what is the significance of the book's title--Beware the Devil's Hug.  I wish I didn't come across with such abiguity here, but I don't want to give away the ending.

             Sorry if my rambling digrression took this review into the realms of commentary and reflection, but I think that this is also an indicator of a book that is well worth reading.   For me, if a book hasn't made me think and doesn't stay with me long after I've read it, then it is merely mindless diversion.   When I read I want to be entertained and this book entertains in a grand fashion.  However, I also want to stimulate my thinking and perhaps learn something.  I'm not sure what I've learned yet, but Beware the Devil's Hug did stimulate my mind and I continue to ponder the possibilities that the story suggests.  When a book stays with you after you've read it, you've gotten your money's worth.      


Buy Beware the Devil's Hug from Amazon .         


*************
Be sure to visit todays stop on the Virtual Hugs Tour:
Helen Ginger http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/ 10/28/10


And then the final stops of the tour:

Lacresha Hayes http://learntofeelpretty.blogspot.com/ 10/29/10

Kissie http://justkissie.com/ 10/30/10



....

38 comments:

  1. Arlee - wow, what and awesome, honest, and deeply thoughtful review. Your words let me know that Hugs is doing exactly what I hoped it would do - create passion, inspire refective thought, and stir up spiritual questions that demand personally achieved answers - among other things, of course. I want people to love one another as themselves, as we are all One in the One God, hmm?

    Beware the Devil's Hug, the name, is very simple. We 'see' people who are not like 'us' as scary, even evil, and are afraid of them. Hence, racism, bigotry, and of course, the greatest, most heinous oxymoron of all time, the 'Holy War'. But those 'others' are not 'devils' at all, they are just people like us, and there is nothing to beware if we but put aside out differences, see into the hearts of our fellow brothers and sisters, and hug and love one another, seeing all people through the eyes of the unconditional, non-judgmental, all-encompassing Love of Christ.

    I use profanity when writing 'badass' characters, cuz I am a real-world-tell-it-like-it-is writer. Mean street people don't say 'golly gee', and writing them that way sounds phony to me - this is of course personal taste, and I am not at all put off by your distaste for the harsh language. But it's my style, I pull no punches, and I want my books to reflect reality honestly and boldy.

    Not at all sure what your theological issues were, though. I am a spiritualist Christian, and I thought that was quite clear through the dialog and thoughts of Iam and Christian. I do NOT, however, believe that others of other faiths are doomed to Hell for believing in another faith/spiritual path, nor do I endorse any kind of prejudice against peoples of other faiths. Jesus led people to the truth through LOVEing them, just as they were, he did not hate them for not yet seeing the Truth.

    Again, this is wonderful, your thoughts/review comments, and how the book is stimulating dialog and thoughtful reflection. You are one among many who I am having this kind of interaction with after reading Hugs, so - I am a happy author! (big smile)

    I'll be back later to interact with others, also.

    Big Hugs and Love, Dude!
    Marvin D Wilson

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  2. Hi Arlle,
    I think you did an excellent review. Honest yet not to the point that it would turn me away. If it makes it to the library, I may just check it out.
    Love Di ♥

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  3. Lee, I think I understand where you are coming from with your concerns. I'll tolerate a lot in my movies, but far less in the books I read, although with either, if it bucks my spiritual beliefs, I walk away. (And I'm even more selective with my music.)

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  4. Lee, very open and honest review. I walk away from books that knock anyone's spiritual beliefs -- especially mine. I'll take my time reading Marvin's work because I want to get it right.
    Thanks for the review.

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  5. What I like about the country I live in (US of A) is the freedom of thoughts into speech. What I like about your post, Lee, is your honesty AND fairness. I am like Alex in that if things offend my Christian beliefs I don't read it or watch it. But, a world where everyone wrote like me, talked like me, looked like me (heaven help us) would be BORING.

    I haven't read Marvin's book yet, but I am so proud of him for writing from his heart and mind. The concept sounds very interesting and I hope he sells many.

    Great post, Lee, great post.

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  6. Honest review, which I appreciate if someone's reviewing a piece. I probably wouldn't read it though, if "R" is the rating.

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  7. You touched on a point that is very important. If the book does stir something inside the reader, then they will never read anything else by that author nor will they recommend it to anyone. Great review.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

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  8. Thanks for the honest assessment, Lee.

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  9. Marvin -- Thank you for your understanding and your clarification. I figured you are an intelligent and mature enough author to accept my speaking the truth as it applies to me. Thanks for being with us here.

    Diana -- Maybe Marvin can enlighten you more about library availalbility. This was raised about Alex Cavanaugh's CassaStar. Someone suggested that you go to your local library and request that they carry the book. They may have a request form to fill out. After that I guess the decision goes to whoever is in charge.

    Alex -- I read and watch a lot that goes against my beliefs, but have been getting more discretionary as I grow older. Marvin's book does not even come near being offensive enough for me to read, but others may not like some things that appear in the book. What I found in the book was mostly a distraction that detracted to some extent from my enjoyment of the read.

    Mary -- Please don't misunderstand anything I said. Marvin's book does not "knock" anyone's beliefs, it is merely on a different track than what I believe. The book does express somethings I have believed in the past and in some ways what the idealistic me likes to imagine in a different world.

    Teresa--Marvin is an excellent writer and from that standpoint alone anyone who appreciates good writing or is a student of writing craft would find this book worth reading. A person going into the reading of the book expecting a traditional Christian experience would be disappointed. Our expectations often have a great impact on how we perceive a reading experience.

    Golden Eagle -- I'd say read more classics in your youth. And I still encourage you to give Pride and Prejudice another chance--it's a product of the era and society it came from and it's actually quite funny.

    Mason -- I am definitely interested in reading more of Marvin's work because I like his style and his heart. I think he has a lot to offer readers.

    L.Diane -- I try to be as tactfully honest as I can be--that's just me.

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  10. Excellent review. I certainly commend your willingness to be honest rather than patronizing. The premise given on the book jacket alone would have kept me from wanting to read it, but your review only confirmed that for me.

    It is sad that books, songs, movies, etc. cry out and not only entertain us, but the satisfy many issues of the human condition that are base and "dark."

    Funny this review comes on the heels of my recent experience (see the last two posts) but I am glad for your honestly, clarity, your discretion, and your well thought out summary.

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  11. Arlee....Finally made it over here, and I find that your book review is intriguing~!! I shall search for it and if at our Library, take a read~! Uncanny that the pic that is on the front is a pic that I used from the web for a poem that I posted about another character...I have written a storyline in segments of diary entries of a homeless woman, so always search for pics...I liked your honesty and "heads-up" about the book...THANKS...Enjoy your weekend...
    Margaret...

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  12. Your review is the first one I've read recently that makes me really want to go out and buy the book. I am interested to see whether the issues that you describe would affect me the same and how I would interpret them. On the face of it the book sounds like it has an idealistic thread. A very interesting post, thank you :O)

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  13. All right, Arlee....
    You've convinced me to read The Devil's Hug.

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  14. LEE~
    Well done, Brother. You did a fine job of writing a positive review while attempting to balance it with the often difficult job of applying a critical eye. This is especially difficult when the author is a person the reviewer knows and likes.

    Although I have read only a brief synopsis of the book, I had already figured out the meaning of the title (and Marvin's explanation here confirmed that I had understood it correctly) and I want to add that I think it's a brilliant, brilliant title. That was the first indication to me that I might really want to read Marvin's book, despite the fact that I pretty much stopped reading fiction after my very early twenties. That is one of the best book titles I've come across in some time.

    Lee, as for your mild criticism of certain other aspects, I think I have a good idea of what you're referring to. (Well, you already have seen me criticize Lennon's song "Imagine" on both of my blogs, so you know we're on the same page there.) In my youth, I was far more idealistic than I am today, and there was a time I would have accepted the slogan: "All paths lead to the summit". I discarded that idea a good 16 years ago, if not before. I get the idea that "Beware The Devil's Hug" may include undertones of this sort of idealism. Perhaps not, I'll find out in due time. But if so, then like you, it's not a belief I can get behind.

    But that is NOT to say that I condone the castigating of others with different belief systems from my own. I happen to believe that we will all reach the summit eventually, but not every path leads there, and it may be necessary for some to go back to the crossroads and this time choose the road not taken. I TOTALLY back Marvin, however, when he writes that "Holy War" is the greatest, most heinous oxymoron of all time. (I also get the impression that Marvin and I could have some pretty interesting discussions related to our spiritual world-views. How many persons are there out there like me who read The Holy Bible from cover to cover every year and yet believe firmly in the concept of reincarnation? I have called myself at times a "maverick mystic", and I get the sense that Marvin would understand that, even if we disagree 180 degrees on some points.)

    Also, LEE, I agree with you, that unless explicit sex scenes are fundamentally and absolutely necessary to advancing a story (a situation I've yet to find), I don't wish to read them. We all know what happens when two people discard their clothing and hardly need it explained to us. As for profanity, I agree with Marvin in that realistic street characters will need some of it to emanate from their mouths, but I also think it can be used very sparingly without decreasing the "realism" of a scene. I once wrote a screenplay about characters living on Venice Beach, and despite the fact that I only used the "F-Word" twice in its 118 pages, I was able to convincingly portray street people. (A woman I knew who had lived on Venice Beach later told me that I nailed the characters so well that I dredged up bad memories for her and made her uncomfortable.) So, I know that "street people" can be drawn in literature without the necessity of excessive A-List profanity.

    Anyway, a good review, Lee, regardless of how difficult you found the balancing act. [And if Marvin should happen to see this comment from me, I wish to thank him for his reply to me on yesterday's 'Tossing It Out' blog bit.] I look forward to checking out the book for myself.

    ~ Stephen
    "As a dog returns to his own vomit,
    so a fool repeats his folly."
    ~ Proverbs 26:11

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  15. Everything that I could say has pretty much already been said. I WILL say, however, that I can't stand the song imagine. It lures a person in with it's tune and never mind what the song is actually saying.

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  16. Lee, you should write reviews professionally! :)

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  17. Gregg -- I will be commenting on your posts.

    Margaret -- I thought the photo looked like a familiar face. If trying to go through the library for this book, make sure you request that they add a copy to their collection if they don't have one yet.

    Madeleine -- I've always felt that a little controversy is more enticing than just an outright positive review. Let us know what you think about the book after you read it.

    Andrew -- After you read it you can review it on your site.

    StMc-- Too bad you and Marvin and I can't get together and banter some of these issues over some Grand Marnier or something. Thanks for your impressive comment.

    Marjorie -- "Imagine" is a beautiful song and it holds a lot of great memories for me, but I think it portrays an unrealistic idealistic view. But I guess the main premise is just to imagine what this idealism would be like and I can't totally fault Lennon for this. But I agree with you on this.

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  18. Dezmond -- Thanks for the flattery. If I get an offer I will seriously consider it.

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  19. Oh poop, I've just realised it's an ebook. I don't get on with reading lots of stuff off the screen (funny eyes) and my most recent post is all about campaign for real books LOL!

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  20. Madeleine -- this book is available as an Ebook, but it is also available as a real book!

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  21. Sorry I'm late. Your review has sparked my interest now. If it jarred you enough to view your values and realize what they truly mean to you then is that now a learning experience in its self?

    Wow, what a sentence. Good review Lee. :D
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow
    PS has anyone heard from Yvonne, Welcome to my world of poetry?

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  22. Holy Smokes! Look at all these comments, and all the great dialog and debate going on! This is EXACTLY what I had hoped Hugs would accomplish.

    OK - now to respond to some of these fine thoughts and reactions.

    Diana, just go to the library and ask for them to carry it. Check out the ISBN # on Amazon, and most libraires will accommodate.

    Alex, fear not with Hugs - it does (nor do I) not buck ANYone's spiritual beliefs.

    Mary, take your time, and I'd love to hear from you after you've been Hugged, ok?

    Teresa, thank you, your comment touched and warmed my heart. Hugs to you!

    Golden Eagle, if 'R' rating turns you off, then even though I would love for you to be touched by Hugs, it probably isn't for you. Arlee's rating is honest and true, it was necessary, I felt, for the book to ring true. I also write in PG-13, but Hugs had to get gritty to come across with realism.

    Mason - good point.

    Diane - glad to see you here. :)

    Greg - sorry Hugs is not your cup of tea, it seems, but then things are not what they seem, always, on the cover or the blurb - surfaces, hmm? Part of what this book covers. But if you care not for experiencing Hugs, let's just be friends anyway.

    Margaret - thanks for the comment, you can probably ask your library to carry Hugs and get it that way.

    Madelaine, I hope you enjoy your Hugs experience! It might be a bit idealistic, but then, as John Lennon sang and this seems to be b eing bantered about here on this post, "You may say I'm a dreamer ... but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us ... and the world will live as one!"

    Andrew - YAY! Please email me when you've had your HUG, with your impressions? marvwilson2020atgmaildotcom.

    Arlee - I'm going to respond to your great email you sent me this morning, but I want to take my time and send you some thoughts that are well thought out. I agree we have more spiritual overlap than underlap (is that a word? lol) and we are brothers in Christ, so ... just give me a little time, ok? This is a wonderful connection being made, I can feel it.

    oh - and thanks for clarifying about the ebook thing - Beware the Devil's Hug, folks, is available in print, ebook, and Kindle!

    Lee, I gotta sign off for the night, have to do the family biz/Grandpa thang, but I will check back in in the early am to respond to any later comments, ok? You've really done me a great favor with these two posts, and I tell you, from my heart, "Thank you, brother!"

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  23. Stephen - wow, brother - we DO need to have some dialog! I feel a strong connection with you, after reading your lengthy, thoughtful, and spiritually enlightened comment. Feel free to visit my blog - especially after the tour, right now it's just announcing where to go to follow the tour, but next week I'll be posting some real stuff again, and my email is: marvwilson2020atgamildotcom. Would love to get into some heavy discussions with you. I will also be visiting your blog after this tour is over.

    Hugs,
    Marvin D Wilson

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  24. Terrific review Lee. This book sounds like an intense, emotional experience that makes people really think. Awesome.

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  25. Good review. A book that makes you think and also sticks in your head ... makes me want to read it.

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  26. Jules -- I've been wondering about Yvonne myself.

    Marvin -- thanks for being so attentive to all of the commenters and for being here today.

    Jemi-- Thanks. The book has certainly stimulated some discussion and that's good.

    Helen-- If you didn't read it yet, you might want to check it out and weigh in with your perspective.

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  27. Great review! The books sounds intriguing, but not sure if it lines up with my spiritual beliefs, either. Thanks for the honesty and the rating!

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  28. LEE ~
    No doubt our Grand Marnier-infected meeting will eventually occur. On my next vacation to The Golden State, you can count on a visit from me. (I'll hand you my car keys at the door and bring my sleeping bag.) I can imagine the discussion will be lively and entertaining.


    MARVIN ~
    That sounds good, Brother. I am now "Following" your 'The Old Silly' blog and so your new updates do appear on my dashboard. I'll give you a week (or however long) to conclude your tour, and then when I see you are posting new blog bits related to other general matters, I will drop in and comment and we'll let 'er rip. Good luck with the tour and the sales!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  29. Hi Lee .. I agree with your first sentence .. Marvin is a professional writer of fine repute .. he's fun to be around .. have loved seeing all the posts on Hugs!!

    Have great weekends .. Hilary

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  30. Thanks for an honest review, Arlee. I haven't read the book, but it's always refreshing to read different takes. Have a great weekend.

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  31. Ooh, this sounds intriguing. Profanity and sex don't bother me if they are true to the characters and the story. If not, I simply find them boring.

    I think it's important for writers to read things that stretche their beliefs and perceptions. If something doesn't fit with your worldview, see it as an opportunity to peek into someone else's mind or culture. One challenge of writing is to create fully realized characters. A well-rounded story shows different perspectives and attitudes, and this also is a great source for conflict.

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  32. I so appreciate and respect your honesty in reviewing this the way you did. From your description of the book at the beginning, I began to have questions in my mind. And you addressed them.

    I'm more selective with what I watch, listen to, and read. And I love a head's up. Thanks!

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  33. Great review! I really appreciate the huge effort you've clearly put into thinking through how you've responded to this book. It's great to see a review that works through all aspects of the book, thank you.

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  34. What a thought-provoking review, Lee. I liked your respectful approach. I have truly enjoyed reading the comments and the debate! :-))

    Doris

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  35. Great review Lee! We will apply our values and
    our religious beliefs, which will in turn adjust our reaction to this type of book. I think you made it even more interesting, by stating what you liked and what didn't gel with you~ We will read it, with our moral compass intact and see how it applies to us~ I'm intrigued!

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  36. Marguerite--I like to be honest and fair.

    StMc -- Looking forward to it, but this ain't no campground--don't have to bring a sleeping bag.

    Hilary -- I'm sure many would agree with Marvin's professionalism.

    Carol-- Thank you for reading the review and leaving the comment.

    Elizabeth -- I think you are right. Writers especially should be a little open for checking out other viewpoints.

    Words Crafter -- I like to have a head's up as well--like the movie rating system.

    Amie -- I tried to be thorough in the limited space I had.

    Doris -- Yes, I agree that the comments alone were worth the time.

    Ellen -- If you read it, I hope you will share your thoughts.

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  37. Thanks for the review. Always appreciate info from a writer's perspective!

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  38. Karen -- Thank you for stopping by to read and comment.

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Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.
Once again I've had to disallow anonymous comments because I was getting so much spam and no actual comments from anonymous users. Sorry for any inconvenience but you can blame the scum that feel the need to spam blog sites.
If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee