Thursday, December 14, 2017

The 5 Best Indie Books I Read In 2017

I added the review feature to my blog a year ago in the hopes of helping out some of my fellow authors as well as getting the word out that there are some great indie books out there that readers should take a chance on. The format was for a monthly feature, which means that I've now read and reviewed twelve great indie books. Of those twelve, five really stood out as being something special, so I've decided to list them all in one post.

Number 5

Reading the blurb for this book made me hesitant to pick it up. The premise just seemed so over-the-top. But what I've discovered again and again is that it's not the premise which makes a book good or bad, it's the execution, and this is a well-executed book. I love the in-depth glimpse we get of the details of Penny's world. Not just the details of her life as a vicar, but also of her undying love for Doctor Who. If you're not a Doctor Who fan, don't be put off by all that. It doesn't detract from the plot. Even if you don't understand the numerous references, you can still follow what's going on in the story. And if you are a Doctor Who fan, then reading this book will give you a nice little surprise on almost every page.

Number 4

Smugglers and Scones by Morgan C. Talbot

This is one of those books with such a rich and beautiful setting you feel like you're really there. The descriptions of the old house, and the history that goes along with it, had me wondering if it were based on a real place. I actually googled it, if you want to know the truth. If this bed and breakfast was real, I wanted to book a room there (it's fictional, alas!). This one took me by surprise because cozy mysteries are not usually my thing, but a cozy mystery set in such a unique and intriguing location drew me right in and made me want to keep reading.

Number 3

Under Midnight Lights by Bree M. Lewandowski

This one's a sequel, so I won't say too much about it. Only that it's a romance, but it's also a beautiful story about a young dancer trying to make it in the competitive world of professional ballet.

Number 2

Under Winter Lights  by Bree M. Lewandowski

The first installment in the Under Lights Duet. It was also the first book I reviewed on my blog. It's another one that took me by surprise, because I didn't think I'd ever want to review a romance. I'm generally not one for formulaic fiction, so if the plot unfolds in too predictable a way, I'm usually turned off by it. I was far from turned off by this book. But, of course, it wasn't the romance that drew me in. It was the ballet. The descriptions are so beautiful and they made me feel like I was really there on stage with Martina as she danced. This was a book I truly did not want to put down, even after I'd turned the last page.

Number 1

Home to Roost by Chauncey Rogers

Definitely my favorite of all the indie books I've read this year, and high up on the list of my favorites in general. It's the story of a little rooster named Brad, but this is no carefree romp through the barnyard. The story is dark and it's sad and it leaves you with more questions than answers, but in a good way. The characters are so well-drawn you almost forget you're reading about a group of chickens in a hen house. I'm putting it at number one because I appreciate how the author is not afraid to drag the reader into some really dark places. That's an aspect that is missing from the other, lighter books on this list.

All right, you've got my list of the five best indie books I've discovered this year. What are you waiting for? Go read some of them! 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Indie Book of the Month: December 2017

Appointed by Fate by Skye McNeil.

This is not my usual genre, so it took me a little while to get into it. When it comes to books that fall into the category of Romantic Suspense, I generally prefer the story to focus more on the suspense part and less on the romance part. But this book offered up something a little different in the romance department, and by the end I was thoroughly enjoying it. 

First of all, I loved Cameron. He's the kind of rough around the edges guy I would never dream of dating in real life (I'm a nerd, I get along with fellow nerds, and I married a fellow nerd), but to sit at a safe distance and observe him in the pages of a book was quite the pleasant experience. I was totally routing for him and Joci to get together in the end.

But here's the thing...I wasn't sure if they were going to get together, and that's what I mean when I say this book offers something a little different. I know romance readers expect to get that lovely HEA at the end of the story, but honestly, that guaranteed HEA is one of the things that typically puts me off romance. I want to read a book that makes me feel invested in the characters. And once I'm invested, I want to worry about them. I want to feel that there is a real danger of things not working out in the end. That's what propels me to keep reading and find out how everything goes down. If I know it's all going to end in sunshine and rainbows no matter what happens along the way, it lessens the emotional impact of the book for me.

This book kept me guessing. Why? Because Cameron is not the only man in Joci's life, and for a good chunk of it I truly did not know which man she would end up with. I hoped it would be Cameron, but I couldn't be sure. For a while I wasn't even sure if Cameron was the one I was supposed to be routing for. That aspect of not knowing what was coming made this romance an engaging read for me.

In addition to a story that had me enthralled, I should also say that this is an impeccably well-written book. The editing is spot-on, the story never feels rushed or draggy, and the writing style did...well...what writing is supposed to do: kept me in the story without distracting me with odd sentences or contrived metaphors. This book is highly recommended for fans of Romantic Suspense as well as anyone who is tired of the same old, same old when it comes to romance in general. 

You can pick up a copy on Amazon.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Double Standards For Indie vs Traditionally Published Books?

Well...that title could open up about fifteen different cans of worms, and they are all worthy of being opened and brought out into the light. But I have a specific can I want to open today. A specific question I want to ask.

Do Indie Authors Expect Their Books to be Judged Differently Than Traditionally Published Books?

I could also word the question this way: Do Indie authors want their books to be judged differently? Ever asked that question before? Ever wondered what the answer might be?

You should know that I'm not trying to fling any accusations out there that I don't think will come back and land on me. I know this one will land on me. That's why I'm throwing it out there. 

My Story

This question goes back to one of the first critical reviews I ever got. It was three stars and the reviewer pointed out how she didn't like one of the characters and how the pace lagged at times. Another three star review for the same book stated that the backstory is revealed too slowly and that the reviewer wished more information had been given out right at the beginning because it would have made the book easier to follow in the first few chapters. I could list others, but they would all be in the same vein.

Here's the thing. I was upset that reviewers were giving my book three stars for things that had nothing to do with the quality of the book and everything to do with personal opinion. Didn't they know my book was self-published? Didn't they know it was also self-edited? Didn't they know there was a stigma attached to such things and they, as reviewers, held in their hands the power to erase that stigma by telling the world about this well-edited, grammatically correct book they had just read? How dare they dock stars for such a frivolous thing as personal opinion!?!

More Than Just My Story

This has not happened to me yet, but a common reason for a book getting a low rating from a reviewer is that the book is not the reviewer's preferred genre. So they may complain that a horror book is too scary. An erotic book has too much sex. A Christian book is too preachy. And if the authors of these books are indie authors, you will often find them complaining to their trusted colleagues that the reviewer shouldn't have picked up the book in the first place if it wasn't for them. Or at the very least their review should have made allowances for those things that make the genre what it is.

A Double Standard?

Fifty Shades of Grey was the first erotic book I ever read. Wanna know what my least favorite part of it was? The sex. Why? Because I wanted more story. I wanted to find out all about Christian's traumatic past and became increasingly frustrated every time he and Ana were in a serious conversation, and juicy details were on the cusp of coming out into the open, and then suddenly I was inundated by other types of juicy details, and other things (namely boobs and penises) came out into the open instead. And then I had to read about them having sex for the next four pages. Seriously, all I wanted was to know what happened to poor Christian when he was a kid. Couldn't the author just cut about two thirds of the sex scenes, then do a fade to black on the ones she left intact? The answer? Of course she couldn't, because her genre was erotic fiction and to write erotica you have to include a good deal of sex. 

So...had I written a review for that book, should I have glossed over the fact that I was annoyed by all the sex? Would it have been an honest review if I had written it that way? 

Of course, Fifty Shades is a bestseller that is now a popular movie series, so a few bad reviews will hardly kill the author's career. But what about a struggling indie author? When you've only got twenty or so reviews so far for your book, a handful of critical ones can look really bad. Should readers take that into account when reviewing them, and give star ratings based on objective things like grammar and writing style, as opposed to expressing their subjective, though honest, opinions of the story itself? 

I'd love to hear some other opinions on this, so feel free to drop your two cents into the comment section.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Question of Identity

If you're interested in the backstory of this post, I will direct you to a couple of posts I wrote which relate to this topic. You can read the history of my search for a career, and with it, my identity here and here.

Something you should know going in to this post. I'm one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason. I also believe in God. That's wavered over the years, but never really changed. Even in my moments of deepest doubt, the closest I've ever come to walking away from my belief in God was the day I thought to myself, "Maybe God's trying to tell me he doesn't exist." So, faith's not going anywhere any time soon. And considering that I'm now thirty-eight years old, it's probably a safe bet that it's not going anywhere ever.

If Everything Happens For a Reason

When you believe everything happens for a reason, you spend your life in constant search of your "purpose." If you're a Christian, you might read The Purpose Driven Life. I certainly did, though my commentary on the pros and cons of that book are beyond the scope of this blog post. And if you have any religious beliefs at all, even if you're what they call "spiritual, but not religious", you probably spend a lot of time wondering how you can use your calling to serve God.

Well, that's me. Like I said, those beliefs have wavered from time to time, but never gone away completely. And now that I'm near the middle point of my life, I think I can safely conclude that I'll always feel this way. And what do I feel? I feel that God made me the way I am and he gave me certain interests and talents and abilities and he wants me to use those talents out in the world. No, I don't think I'm some kind of "chosen one". I think God feels this way about everyone, myself included.

When God Doesn't Make Sense

When we providential types encounter hardships, it wounds us deeply because we wonder how God could allow this to happen. And sometimes we can't even fathom why God would allow these things to happen. Here's my story.

If you read the posts I linked to above, you know I used to direct a church choir. And after what I've just told you, you've probably figured out that I viewed that choir as my purpose. My calling. Here's a little more of the backstory.

I was thirteen when I decided to study music in college. At the time, my career goal was to direct a high school band. Well, I went on to grow and change and my goals changed with me. I set my sights on church choir for a number of reasons, but there's one that's pertinent to this topic. I wanted to direct church choir because I believed God had given me a love of music and wanted me to take that talent and give it back to him. So I did. I took my musical knowledge and I used it in church. Then I lost that job.

Afterward, my life spiraled out of control. I had lost my purpose. Worse. I'd been rejected by God himself. I had no idea where to go after that, so I kind of bumbled around and tried different things, all the while looking for that "calling". The one I thought I'd found when I took the church job. Well, I had obviously been mistaken about that calling, so I needed to find another. If God didn't want me working in the church, I needed to figure out where he did want me.

Well, a few years later I thought I'd found it when I got a job teaching music in a Christian school. And, though I won't tell the story because it's long, the circumstances that led to that teaching position were, indirectly and after quite a few forks in the road, the result of me losing the choir job. I was so excited. Providence was at work again! Now, surely, I was on the path God intended.

Then I lost the teaching job (basically, I was very shy, which made parents feel I was unapproachable, and since this was a private school and the parents paid the bills as well as our salaries, keeping the them happy was everything). So I was derailed from my path once again.

So, again, I had that feeling that God had rejected me. I shook my angry fists at heaven and demanded to know why he gave me a love for music if he didn't want me using it. I even wrote this poem about it:

A man picked up some clay one day
And held it in his hand
And he sculpted a little songbird
The fairest in the land

He gave his songbird wings of gold
And eyes of sapphire blue
In all the world no one had seen
A bird of such a hue

And he loved his little bird so much
He kept it in a cage
Protecting it from evil things
From envy, lust, and rage

But the bird wondered, "Why did you make me
If you won't let me fly
And must I stay here always
A prisoner until I die?"

At Christmastime the man declared,
"A gift I'll give my bird!
A singing voice the likes of which
The world has never heard.

And then my bird will sing to me
All pretty in its cage
A lovely song to bring me joy
When I reach old age."

And he loved his little bird so much
He kept it locked away
And brought it out to sing to him
For an hour every day

But the bird kept on wondering
About so many things
But mainly what the purpose was
Of a bird that cannot sing

And the bird became so lonely
Sitting there on the shelf
While the man never let it sing
For anyone but himself

And as the songbird sat alone
Its colors began to dim
And the man didn't know why his bird
No longer sang for him

And he loved his little bird so much
He let it fly away
So others could enjoy its song
Each and every day

But the bird never stopped wondering
About the one who'd loved it so long
So it returned just once a day
To sing the man a song

And so I sat. And I wondered. And I asked, "Why?" And no answers came.

An Earlier Calling

I think being a writer was my first real career goal. I'd written little picture book stories from the time I was old enough to hold a crayon. I wrote a poem, the first of many, when I was nine. I made various attempts at writing full length novels throughout my childhood, and finally managed to finish one when I was twelve. Poetry was my therapy as I dealt with all that teen angst during my high school years. And then...I stopped writing. I don't know why. It just didn't seem important any more. Music was my career. I needed to focus on that. 

But then, of course, the writing came back and took center stage in my life. And it's got me this my calling? Is this my purpose? 

A Lifetime of Experiences

I've explained my musical frustrations to you. I've had other frustrations as well. Other hobbies and interests that could have turned into careers but just never did. One of those is dance. I think I've blogged about this in the past as well, but basically I didn't discover my love of dance until I was in my twenties, and didn't start to get serious about it until my thirties. And two years ago, at the age of thirty-six, I signed up for my first ballet class. That's right, I started taking ballet at the age when most ballerinas retire. What was I thinking?

Well, I certainly wasn't going to go pro. You have to train your entire life for something like that and, like I said, most dancers my age are retired. But I thought I could at least get good at it. 

What I discovered is that ballet requires our bodies to move in such unnatural ways that if you haven't studied from a young age, there are things you'll probably never do. It's less to do with being too old than with not having spent years training your joints to go in all those convoluted directions. And while I, courtesy of the fact that I teach Yoga, have a fair degree of flexibility, there are things which ballet requires of me that my body will likely never do.

I became pretty depressed about all this for a while. After all, what was the purpose of studying ballet if I was never going to move across the stage with all the grace and poise of a professional? 

An Aha! Moment

I had become so discouraged about the whole ballet thing that I took about six months off. Just didn't go to class because after all, what was the point? But I can't go too long without dance before I start to feel that tug on my heart, and I finally felt it this week. I went back to ballet, and while I wasn't performing any better than I had been for the past year, I enjoyed myself. Even learned a couple of new things. And something occurred to me.

What if what God made thirty-eight years ago was not a dancer? Not a musician. Not an actress or a filmmaker or any of those other things I've tried to be over the years. What if what God made was a writer? And all those other things? They're just fodder for stories. Opportunities for me to follow the time honored advice of writing what I know, while constantly expanding that list of Things I Know. 

Could it be? Have I found what I was meant to do all along? Or is this another seat on the merry-go-round? Another stopping point on the journey that is my life.

We'll see. But in the meantime, I'm going to dance. And I'm going to sing. And at the end of the day, I'm going to write about it. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Redeeming Damien: How 70s Cinema Altered Our Perception of a Name

How a Decade Defined a Name

Two iconic movies about the devil came out of the 1970s. Both featured a character named Damien. While most of the world remembers the Damien from The Omen, I turn more toward the Damien in The Exorcist. I wish more people would do the same, and so I want to spend a few minutes redeeming that name. 

How Damien Has Affected Me

If you're familiar with my books, you may know that I named the main character in Primogénito Damian. Why did I change the spelling? Long story which I won't get into here. I just want to talk about the name in general. But I will tell you that I had just finished reading The Exorcist when I started writing Primogénito and had fallen madly in love with Father Karras, whose first name is Damien. Madly in love with a priest, you say? A little creepy, you say? Maybe, but he's such a great character (much more so in the book than in the movie) that I couldn't help myself. And that death scene ever. The one in the book, not the movie. I mean, okay, the scene in the movie is pretty great, but you don't know nearly as much about Father Karras in the movie, so his death doesn't have the same depth of meaning it has in the book. 

Anyway...long story short...I named the main character of my second book after my favorite character from my favorite horror movie/book. Just with a small spelling change.

What's In a Name?

Like most people who came of age later than 1976, I first heard the name Damien when I watched The Omen. And, like most people from my generation and the generation that came right before mine, I quickly came to associate the name with the devil. After all, it was the only place I'd heard the name, so of course I formed that association. Who wouldn't? 

Yes, I'd seen The Exorcist as well, but the Damien in that movie goes by Father Karras most of the time. His first name is only mentioned occasionally, and I, being a child when I watched it, was not able to figure out what they were saying. But now I know. His name is Damien, and that is significant.

Long before Damien was the name of the Antichrist, there was a Saint Damian (spelled the way I spelled it in my book...yay!) who is revered by the Catholic Church as a Christian martyr. But he's far from being the most famous carrier of that name whose picture graces the walls of the Catholic Hall of Fame. There is another who came later and who, I believe, was the inspiration for the character of the same name in The Exorcist.

I won't give you the whole history of Saint Damien of Molokai, often known simply as Father Damien. If you're interested, you can read more about him here. The short version is that he was a Belgian priest who went to work at a leper colony in Hawaii and stayed there until he finally died of the disease sixteen years later. 

I have no doubt that this Damien inspired the character of Father Karras in The Exorcist. In fact, if you read the book, he is even mentioned by Father Merrin in a scene close to the end. And what inevitably happens at the end of The Exorcist? Father Karras finds himself possessed by the same demon who had possessed Regan, much as the real Father Damien found himself infected by the same disease which afflicted those he had come to serve. 

But the meaning goes even deeper. The ending of The Exorcist is a beautiful depiction of what Jesus was talking about in John 15:13 when he said, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." A popular controversy surrounding The Exorcist is the debate over whether Christians should watch it. Billy Graham is famous for warning that "The devil is in every frame of this film." Well, maybe. There certainly is a whole lot of the devil in that film, but there's God as well. And in the end, God wins. No, it's not a happy ending with sunshine and rainbows and everyone going back to their perfect lives, but it's a satisfying ending. The devil is defeated. But what happens to Father Karras is even more significant. A lot of this is left out of the movie, but the book delves deeply into the doubt and the fear and the disillusionment he's grappling with. In the end it is  strongly implied that, through death, he finally receives the answers he's been seeking. He finally finds peace. So you see, it is a happy ending after all. And it's all because of a man named Damien.

Does My Damian Measure Up? I dare give out spoilers about my book? Hmm...maybe not, but I'll say that I believe my Damian does absolutely measure up to the standard set by those who have gone before. Much like his namesake in The Exorcist, Damian Fuentes must grapple with evil forces which threaten to harm the people he cares about. In order to defeat that evil, he must invite it into himself. He also has to make a pretty profound sacrifice toward the end. So I think I chose his name wisely. I think he wears it well.

So let's remember all the good Damiens in the world and just forget about that pesky little devil-child (but by all means watch The Omen because it's a great movie, regardless of the harm it's done to what was once a beautiful and meaningful name). 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Indie Book of the Month: November 2017

A Bargain in Silver by Josie Jaffrey.

I never would have thought I'd be choosing a vampire romance to feature on my blog, but this one captured my attention and I decided to give it a chance.

Okay, so we've all heard of the vampire romance and we've all heard of the zombie apocalypse. Have you ever seen the two combined into one story? That's what this book does, and that unique premise was what made me decide to read it. It sounds over-the-top and unrealistic, but the execution of the story is handled well enough that it is easy to suspend disbelief. And when the details of said zombie/vampire apocalypse start rolling in...well, that's when I got hooked.

I've said it over and over, but I'll say it again here. Nine times out of ten, it's the world building that sells me on a story. The world of A Bargain in Silver is so well-drawn and so intricate that I wanted to keep reading just to find out more juicy details. What are the weepers? Are the Silver really vampires? Why are Drew's eyes different from those of the other Silver? All through the book, these little tidbits of world-building are expertly woven into the framework of the story, making it a truly fascinating read.

The ending was satisfying. I've also said in the past that romance is not my usual genre. I don't typically go for fiction that is too formulaic because I like to be surprised. Well, this ending managed to surprise me. Not because it was any kind of "trick" ending, but because of the world-building details I've already mentioned. Things that are kept sort-of mysterious throughout the story are explained at the end and everything falls into place nicely. There was one tiny detail that may have been a small plot hole, but since it comes at the very end I won't give it away. And since this is the first book in a series, I'm hopeful that in subsequent volumes, this small inconsistency will be adequately explained and will not present any problems. 

So, yeah...a vampire romance featured on my website. Who knew? But this is one that I think is well worth the time it takes to read it, so if you're curious about it, please head on over to Amazon and check it out.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Is The Exorcist Still the Scariest Movie Ever Made?

There are two answers to that question.

The first is: It depends on how you define "scary".

And the second is: Yes. It is. It absolutely is.

How do you define scary?

I have a rule by which I evaluate all horror movies. It can really be boiled down to one question. How soon do they let you see the monster? In my book, the longer you have to wait to see the monster, the scarier the movie. 

Take the Halloween franchise. While The Texas Chainsaw Massacre takes the official title of the first slasher movie, Halloween, coming out in 1978, was really the one that ushered in the slasher movie obsession that was to come. I was a kid in the 80s, so I remember slasher movies well, and the format of all of those that came after borrowed heavily from Halloween. 

Here's the thing: Yes, in Halloween we do see the monster in the very first scene, but the monster is just a man. Actually, when we first see him, he's a six year old boy. Nothing menacing about that, except that he just brutally murdered his sister with a knife. Then he goes away for a time and no one else gets killed for...well...a good chunk of the movie. For me, it's the fact that the audience has to wait so dang long for the next person to die that makes Halloween scary. Because you're almost lulled into believing that it's not going to happen. That Michael Myers is just misunderstood. But you know it's a slasher movie, and you can't have a slasher movie without some good slashing, so you're expecting someone to die any minute. The tension builds to unbearable proportions. Every time someone goes off alone you're sure this is the moment. Only it's not. So the suspense grows a little more. And a little more. Until by the end you're absolutely terrified for the poor hapless teenagers in this film. 

One thing to note about Halloween: Once Michael begins his killing spree, he only murders three people. And he murders them by either stabbing or strangling them. Remember that fact because it will be important later.

Then comes Halloween II. Ah, Halloween II. What can I say about the movie that confirmed for me my theory that all sequels are crap and filmmakers just shouldn't try? Well, first of all there is no gradual build-up of tension this time. Michael Myers begins killing right away. By the end he's killed something like eleven people (yes, I counted). And he kills them in over-the-top, ridiculous ways. Burning in a hot tub. Exsanguination via an IV tube. The list goes on. And it's not scary. Not at all. Why? Because it's not gore that makes a movie scary. It's not the shock value. It's the story. It's characters that you've come to care about, so when their lives are in danger you feel afraid right there with them. 

So, back to The Exorcist. There is very little gore in this movie. And while there is some shock value (if modern audiences aren't shocked by a twelve year old girl masturbating with a crucifix, then I worry about society), the purpose of the movie is not to shock. It's to scare. And how does it scare? With story. With a plot that develops slowly enough that by the end you're so invested in the characters that the fact that they may all be killed by the devil absolutely terrifies you. I don't know what people mean when they say this isn't scary by modern standards. That the movie earned its reputation from the fact that 1973 audiences had never seen that type of thing on the screen before, but today's viewers would find it quite mild. I don't know what standards other people use to evaluate the fright value of a horror movie, but The Exorcist lives up to all of mine, and then some.

The Only Movie That Consistently Scares Me

Horror buff that I am, I've seen a lot of scary movies. And most of them scare me the first time around. But then I can go back and watch them and be relatively unfazed. Not so with The Exorcist. That movie scares the pants off of me every dadgum time I see it, and it never gets easier to watch. And I know I've seen it at least five times, probably more (I saw it first when I was eight, and honestly don't remember how many times I watched it during my childhood). 

Why is it so scary? Well, there's all the criteria I mentioned above. There's also the fact that it's a child who gets possessed by the devil, and there are few things a movie can throw at me that are more terrifying than an evil child. I also find the whole medical investigation into Regan's issues pretty frightening. I mean, think about it, here are these people who are convinced there's a rational explanation for what's going on, so they happily spend time with this little girl who also happens to be the devil and are all the while totally oblivious to the danger they've put themselves in. No, none of the doctors die, but that only makes it scarier. That gradual build-up of tension, remember? That's important. A horror movie can't horrify without tension. 
Also, for those of us who come from a Judeo-Christian background, the fact that this story is told from a Catholic point of view adds volumes to the creep factor. Why? Because what the movie shows us is a picture of the devil that looks a whole lot like the one we've all been taught to believe in. And for me personally, because I've hung on to my religious beliefs as an adult, there's just something about The Exorcist, some element of truth to the evil being depicted there, that kicks my body right on into fight or flight mode. Basically, the conclusion I've drawn is that, if the devil is real, he looks a heck of a lot like the thing that possesses Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think The Exorcist is still the scariest movie ever made? Or are you in the camp that says it doesn't terrify by today's standards? I'd love to hear the criteria you use to evaluate a horror movie, so please pop in and leave a comment.