Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The When, Where and Why of Who

An author whose books I've reviewed is revamping her Amazon page, but who...? Well, Who is one of the novels she had on that page. It's set in the not-too-distant future, here among everyday regular people, and an enticing strangeness has its characters wondering why. Here's my review:

Who - a tale of not-too-future technology and very present-day relevance...

Author Karen Wyle has the knack of taking present-day technology to a not-so-far-fetched future and asking those difficult questions that make it all real. In Who, she invites us into a world where selves can be digitally preserved after death. But will a digital nose still run when we cry? Do digital wrinkles increase or decrease with age? And will the digital self be true to the real? All of which leads to those central, most important questions, of life as well as fiction; how well do we truly know anyone—ourselves or anyone else? And what is self?

 Add politics, perfectly tuned to seem real without offending readers, whatever their persuasion; add art, with music, shape and form to enthrall and absorb; add two people who truly love each other, families who really can overcome disagreement, and a lawyer with vision and purpose; add “Digital Life Denies Life Eternal” messages on protesters’ banners; and add an enticing story that moves swiftly through art and science, religion and politics, relationships and law, love, loss and more—Who is smoothly written, hauntingly imagined, entertaining and thought-provoking, and a really great read.

Disclosure: I was given a copy and I offer my honest review.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Can you handle the publishing journey?

Today I'm delighted to welcome Debbie Lum to my blog, author of the new novel I Can Handle Him. It's her fourth novel, and she's kindly offered to share some details of how she handled the journey toward publication, so over to you Debbie, and thank you for visiting my blog.


I never set out to write a book. I’m not a reader, so books aren’t part of my everyday life. But now that I’ve written five novels, it’s fun to look back at how it all began. Here’s a countdown from the beginning on my publishing journey.

10. I had a story rambling around in my brain. One night, I got off of the treadmill, opened my laptop, and began to type.

9. Two months later, I thought maybe I had written a book. I Googled the words: “What do you do if you think you wrote a book” and devoured the answers. I read blogs. I ordered “How To Get Published” books.

8. According to the blogs and books from #9, I had done everything wrong. So, I tweaked my manuscript.

7. I hired an editor to do a manuscript review. She had good feedback! And she had a major suggestion: change the manuscript from first-person to third-person.

6. I rewrote the manuscript; hired another editor; hired a cover designer and interior formatter; hired a director for a book trailer. I incorporated a business and bought domain names.

5. And this is when I started working on book #2. And book #3.

4. I wrote query letters to agents. “Send five a week,” the reference books said. I sent out my first five and stopped. Why was I trying to get an agent? Self-publishing was easier. Faster. Everything was at my fingertips. I had full control. My own ISBN’s, hundreds of editors and cover designers for me to choose from, and all potential book revenue would be 100% mine.

3. I quietly enlisted friends to read and I listened to their advice. I made adjustments.

2. After a final manuscript review with a professional editor, I uploaded my first book to CreateSpace (Amazon), IngramSpark (Barnes and Noble and libraries) for print and eBook, and then iTunes and Kobo for eBook only.

1. And then three years after opening that blank Word document, I wrote a Facebook post announcing to my friends that I had written a book. They were all shocked but were more surprised when I said that I had already written the second. And then I blew their minds when I announced I had already written the third. That announcement was one crazy-fun way for a non-reader to launch a trilogy.

Wow! It sounds a wonderful way to launch it, and I kind of wish I'd met you years ago! I'm heading into relaunching my trilogy though, so maybe... Many thanks for the advice nicely hidden in your words.

Meanwhile, here's how readers (and other writers)  can find Debbie

Social Media:

and here's some information about that book (in case you've not been reading the quotes in this post):

About the Book:
Quinn Corbin’s got nothing to lose – except her life.

The 24-year-old bubbly optimist has arrived back in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas, with her new Master’s degree in hand, a great teaching job secured and romance on her mind. She and her best friend Tory Taylor are eager to reconnect with each other and some old friends, especially their handsome former co-worker Nick Allen. And Quinn’s finally got Nick’s attention. However, Nick is recovering from a disaster: his girlfriend Sienna Brown died when a fuel line burst as she was driving his car. Many in town blame Nick’s poor car maintenance for the fiery accident. Although Nick was never charged, Sienna’s older brother Reed thinks he should be. And Reed knows a thing or two about cars: his family owns the largest car dealership in town.

But Quinn believes Nick is innocent. So does her best friend Tory, a law student and sarcastic realist. Soon Quinn and Nick find their relationship growing when suddenly their world upends. Now Nick is in major trouble again and Quinn may have made the biggest mistake of her life. With incriminating evidence mounting against Nick, Tory works to prove his innocence. But Nick finds himself in a bigger battle when he must fight to protect, and win, his true love.

About the Author:

DEBBIE K. LUM is an unlikely author of five novels, a non-reader who was inspired by a self-esteem ad campaign encouraging little girls to dream big. Her romantic suspense novels (The Plebeian Series and The Doctor, The Chef, or The Fireman) feature fun, flawed characters with steamy and complicated relationships (and plenty of surprises!) She is a native of Tampa, Florida and earned her baccalaureate degree in Mass Communications at the University of South Florida. She was an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, serving that organization as Sunshine District chairman and president of the Tampa chapter. She enjoyed a 28-year career in marketing, working in banking, tourism and higher education. She splits her time between Florida and Texas. She is married and has two sons, one in law school and the other in college.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Reading for children, or reading for the child in me?

My mum was delighted to have her first great-granddaughter present at her 90th birthday celebrations, and the rest of us were delighted to occasionally hold the baby... well, except for my sons who much preferred cuddling the dogs. In honor of said small child, and using her and all those wonderful celebrations as my excuse for being so late posting book reviews, here are a few reviews of children's books... or books that appeal to the child in me. (I wonder what's the difference--kids books flow fast, are instantly relatable, inform while entertaining, make me think but not too much... What appeals to the child in you?)

First is Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe by Demi, a beautiful picture book with clear, readable text, appropriately honest history, and a beautiful blend of simplicity and opulence. It tells the story of the Patroness of Latin America, familiar to many but new to others, with pleasing cultural wisdom and well-researched history--appealing to the child in me for its gorgeous images and for the fact that I'm not actually familiar with the tale. Enjoy it with some well-balanced three-star coffee, and know it's a book to keep returning to as the child reader grows older.

Then there's the Land without Color and The Great Sugar war by Benjamin Ellefson, and the Wizard of Tut Tut Bun and Becoming the Wizard of... by John McCarrick. Enjoy these light reads (as I am doing--they appeal to the child in me by being quick easy reads with few complications) with some light crisp one-star coffee.

For somewhat older kids (or rather, young adults), The Gryphon Saga by L. E. Horn, containing Freeform and Freefight, takes characters from modern-day earth and transplants them far away among fascinating aliens with strange physical forms and characters nicely derived from backstory and type. Ideas from modern genetics are included too, and the characters change very convincingly while staying essentially the same--leading to interesting questions, of course, of what makes us, human or alien, who we are (now there's a question for the child in anyone!). The boxed set is still in pre-release; watch for it coming soon! Tales from the Gryphon Saga: The Fang War will probably release at the same time. And all can be accompanied by elegant, complex four-star coffee.

Finally, because  the history and excitment appeal without any question to the child in me,The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell begins the author's Saxon Chronicles (adult fiction) and vividly recreates a well-researched Britain long before it became in any way United. Inviting readers to support both sides in a war is an intriguing task, well executed, as Uhtred son of Uhtred grows up among the Danes, fights for the Kingdom of Wessex, and finds himself battling for the constantly shifting ground of the future England. I love the characters; I love the honest, unmythical depictions of competing religions, and, of course, I love the historical England (present day... that's a different story as we break up what we fought so hard to unite). Enjoy this one with some more elegant complex four-star coffee.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Not always romantic?

Goodreads wants me to classify books by shelves, but my own bookshelves are such a jumble, especially after returning from vacation. Is this one history or romance; paranormal or science fiction; contemporary drama or... well, or romance again. Yeah, romance seems to feature a lot, but it's not always romantic. Just like vacations maybe. So, while my husband and I endure the terrifying romance of World Cup Football, here are a few reviews of moderately romantic, sometimes terrifying books. And maybe I'll catch up enough to enjoy some non-football romance afterward with my long-suffering spouse.

There again, England's not been knocked out yet. Romance will be snacks and coffee on the sofa at seven in the morning to watch the next match!

In no particular order (except it seems to be the order I read these in):

First is Circled: Part of the Crime After Time Collection by Anne McAneny---crime, romance, mystery, murder, and some truly intriguing questions of how the past defines us, how past decisions dictate future cares, and how past betrayals don't have to last forever. Enjoy this one with some dark, intense five-star coffee.

Next is Ocean of Fear by Helen Hanson, a tale of a moderately unprincipled, wounded nerd, who meets up with some seriously unprincipled opposition. Slightly futuristic, intriguingly convincing, and told with just a light enough touch, it's darkly enjoyable tale and goes well with some easy-drinking two-star coffee. And yes, there's romance or failed romance hiding somewhere in the mix.

Spectre of Intention by Tonya Macalino is another moderately futuristic tale, set around the opening of the first space elevator. There's romance, for sure. But there are also intriguing questions of identity, security, independence and more. Enjoy with some complex four-star coffee.

Bull Demon King by J A Cipriano is short, sharp and exciting; a paranormal tale in the author's Thrice-Cursed Mage series, pitting a mage of unknown (but clearly limited) power against a monster whose limits are unknown. There's a girlfriend, but not much time for romance. The voice is convincing and strong, and the tale's best read with a good strong dark cup of five-star coffee.

Next is another novel blending present day and the future, normal and paranormal, every day people and tomorrow's mystery. Bob by Pat Bertram hasn't yet been released, but fans of the author, or of Hitchhiker's Guide, or of Lamb will be quickly enthralled. And yes, there's a touch of romance (and much much more)

Bruised Spirits by Alice Duncan is a mystery in a long-running series, with romance that grows gradually and fits the characters, time and location perfectly. Coolly evocative, cleverly narrated, the novels recreate LA of the 1920s while inviting thought about the present. Blending serious issues with entertaining action adventure, it's one to enjoy with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Daybreak by Sherrie Hansen is romance and more. After all, the characters already married in the previous novel (Night and Day). Now they're dealing with the realities of family life, how to protect each other, how to communicate, and blended families. It's a heady mix and just might break them up again. But the author deals with each step of their trials in an honest convincing manner, making it a cool, enthralling read. Enjoy the rich blend (when it's released) with some richly blended four-star coffee.

And finally, here's one that's just for authors: 180 literary journals for creative writers by Emily Harstone It's good. I should make use of it! And it does have sections on romance (though I'm not sure I'm up to writing romance... I'll work on it).

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Can you count to seven?

I went back to England for a month, celebrating my mum's 90th birthday, enjoying the countryside, coast and castles of North Wales, and spending time with family in the north and south of England. It was a great trip and I read many books; I even wrote some book reviews. But I've not written any blogposts for ages, and I've not written any more chapters of Imaginary Numbers (which is fast becoming ever more imaginary as its predecessors have now all been unpublished), and I've not...

And now I'm back. I must:
  1. post book reviews
  2. buy ISBNs so I can self-publish more convincingly
  3. republish my novels (using those ISBNs, then I won't be at the mercy of publishers changing course)
  4. republish my Bible stories (which are also in the process of being unpublished, this time due to ill health)
  5. read (I'm always reading)
  6. write (I wish I had time)
  7. shop, clean, cook, wash, plant bushes, shop, clean, cook... etc.
If you've ever looked at my muse you'll know I have a thing about sevens. So maybe now I'll try to post seven book reviews. Let's see...

Books read while on vacation:

I read The Bertie Project by Alexander McCall Smith on the plane. It's a good plane read; like others in the Scotland Street series, the chapters are nicely independent, quickly recapped where necessary, and each have a completeness of their own. So it's easy to put down the book for a glorious view or a meal or a drink. It's also a very pleasing tale of tangled loves and lives, and has a generous sense of "home." Perfect for the trip. Perfect for a well-balanced cup of well-balanced three-star coffee.

When I arrived I soon found my mum was about to give away her copy of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan so I had to read it--if only I'd had more room in my cases! A fascinating novel filled with short short stories, quiet little mysteries, pleasing characters and relationships, and, of course, the question of those lost things we leave behind; will the protagonist rise to the challenge of a fuller life? Are these characters related? And who will welcome a stranger? The connections may be a little forced, but that doesn't stop the novel moving forward with a force of its own and I really enjoyed it. Just add complex four-star coffee.

She wasn't about to give away Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop so I borrowed it. Of course, I always love Victoria Hislop. I love the way she recreates a country, its light and shadows, the scents and sense of history, and the relationships of people. This one has the curious added attraction of black and white images and a blend of genres--novels, short stories (again), romance, mystery and more. Enjoy with some rich elegant four-star coffee.

From Greece to Manchester, my next review is of Salem Street by Anna Jacobs, another one borrowed from Mum. It evokes the language history and people of Lancashire beautifully, and I hear the dialects of my youth ringing from its pages, see the streets, and ponder my roots anew. Add some strong female protagonists, and the world of England's dark satanic mills truly comes to life. Enjoy with another rich elegant four-star coffee.

I bought a copy of The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards from one of those great English bookstores where you find random books from random series seriously discounted. A great introduction to so many great authors and places, and how could I resist a mystery set in the Lake District? Downbeat, evocative, with fascinating detail, great characters, and a wonderful small town feeling, the Arsenic Labyrinth is one to enjoy with a well-balanced three-star coffee.

Another book from the same store is The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves. I love watching Vera on TV and I was delighted to find the first book in the series she is drawn from. It didn't disappoint. Clever, complex, told from multiple points of view, and trapping the reader as surely as any of the characters or crows are trapped. Who will be victim and who is the lure? Enjoy with a dark five-star coffee.

Then there's Sole Survivor by Dean Koonz--a very different novel but it was in the same bookstore and I've always enjoyed his books. This one felt slightly manipulative toward the end, but the setup was fantastic and the protagonist, sitting alone on a California beach, is a stranger I feel I've almost met. Slightly paranormal after a seriously scary set, it's another one to enjoy with a dark five-star coffee.

And finally, because I need to stop typing and drink coffee, and I'm too jetlagged to count to seven, there's The eleventh hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Oddly enough, this one was in a collection of random items handed over to me on the death of my 100-year-old aunt. So, of course, I had to read it. It's the 11th in a series with female protagonists solving murders. Not having ready any of the previous books, I was pleasantly surprised to find the women all have good reason to be solving murders, and interesting characters and relationships with others as well as with each other. The mystery's well-plotted too, and it's a quick read to enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Will GDPR help you find time to read?

I'm getting all these emails about resubscribing to blogs and GDPR regulations etc. I suspect I may end up with a much cleaner Inbox after this, and more time to read and write. Hurray! Though I do apologize to all those people I've failed to resubscribe to - those links that sent me nowhere or said I'd already been there or timed out on me... Who knows where I am or will be next week?

On which existential note, I think I might post some serious book reviews of serious books for a change. I've read a number of really enjoyable novels recently, literary, dramatic, confusing, intriguing, or simply so deeply evocative I couldn't put them down. So pick up a coffee and see what you think. Please remember, the stars of for the coffee strength and nothing to do with quality. (Is all coffee good?)

First is Annie’s Bones by Howard Owen, a literary mystery that alternates between past and present, evocatively recreating the world of a student who doesn't fit in and a loss that can't properly be mourned. Contrasting youthful eagerness with the jaded watchfulness of an aging adult, together with questions of crime and guilt, it's a really cool tale filled with really great characters. Enjoy with some seriously elegant four-star coffee.

Fistful of Rain by Baron R. Birtcher takes readers to rural America in 1975 where people are gradually coming to terms with the 60s, Vietnam and political scandal. The clear-sighted sheriff sees trouble looming and battles politics, false assumptions, miscommunication and mystery, while the reader is drawn into a convincing time and place, interacting with fascinating people. You'll want some more seriously elegant four-star coffee as you read this one.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan offers a similar sense of a changing world, inviting readers into the life of a British judge navigating the problems of children's lives and the right to live or die. It's a serious topic, and the author draws no simple conclusions, simply leading the reader to see through different eyes and ponder different lives. There's music in hope by the end of the tale, and mystery in trying to decide. A truly elegant tale, best read with more elegant four-star coffee.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is well-known to anyone watching the TV series (sadly, not me), and I've wanted to read it for quite some time. Again, it invites readers to see familiar questions in an unfamiliar light, this time by placing them in an imagined not-so-distant future. Again there are questions of religious interpretation balanced against human need and the possibility of laws being wrong. And again, there's a warning not to be too sure of ourselves. Perhaps a little darker than the other tales, maybe you'll want some five-star dark coffee with this.

The Autobiography of Corrine Bernard by Kathleen Novak is a novel, not an autobiography, and it's a coolly absorbing tale of a woman born in Paris during the Second World War. Balancing invisibility and independence, love and need, chance and choice, it's an absorbing and intriguing tale, told with a voice that combines lyrical French undertones with strident New York defiance. Enjoy with some seriously complex four-star coffee.

Finally there's The Revolving Door of Life by Alexander McCall Smith. Another in the long-running Scotland Street series, I'm always intrigued by how the author keeps all his characters unique and different, and how he interleaves their very different tales into one coherent whole. It's a charming, witty, intriguing and oddly thought-provoking novel, and an easy read to pick up and put down over several well-balanced three-star coffees.

And now I shall brew one of those coffees for myself and get back to some more reading and writing.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Movie, TV or Book for swords and sorcery?

Stephen Zimmer is always a very welcome guest on my blog, and I know today will be no exception, so pull up a chair, pour some coffee (or beverage of choice) and join him, right here, right now, with sunlight arising though his book the Depths of Night. Welcome Stephen!

And welcome to the Depths of Night blog tour,celebrating the debut of the Ragnar Stormbringer character. John Le Carre stopped writing about George Smiley after he saw him portrayed on TV, and I know there's a TV pilot starring him. So I had to ask Stephen, how do the TV Pilot and your writing influence each other. And what other influences come into the creation of these characters and their world.

The Influences of Character Creation When Writing in Different Mediums
By Stephen Zimmer

I write both screenplays and prose, so I find it important to state first that visual mediums, like tv shows and movies, and books are as different as apples and oranges.  They are two very different mediums within the greater sphere of storytelling.  Quite often, both are employed for the telling of the same story, or spotlighting a certain character, a dynamic that nowadays can include other distinct creative outlets such as game design and comics/graphic novels. 

A screenplay is very minimalist in nature.  It is a blueprint for what becomes a movie, and will involve input, development, and changes from a number of individuals along the way after it has been delivered by the screenwriter.  Directors, actors, producers, and others will affect it in significant ways, and put their own stamps upon it as the production progresses.  It reflects the team-nature of the filmmaking medium. 

A book is much more solitary and allows for the introspective, insofar that a writer can go into a character’s head, or provide an omniscient view of a narrative.  An editor becomes involved in the process, but this involvement is different in nature than the various parties that have effects upon screenplays.  The book is the end product, which is different than the movie/tv scenario where the screenplay is part of the beginning of a process that results in the movie or TV show, which is the end product in that scenario.

As a writer who has developed both screenplays and works of prose (in short stories, novellas, and novels), I have a solid appreciation for the differences of the two mediums and the mindsets needed for writing in each of them. 

The writing of the Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot represented the first instance where I developed a storyline involving a world and characters from my prose writing.  My grasp of the world of Rayden Valkyrie was very thorough when I wrote the screenplay, and certainly provided a great foundation for the new characters that emerged in the TV Pilot’s storyline.  Yet whether book or movie, I still have to have a comprehensive vision and understanding of a character, and their world, in order to bring it to life in a story. 

This resulted in having a back story for the Ragnar Stormbringer character that emerged for the screenplay.  The more I thought about that back story, the more interested I became in developing and telling it further, which lead to the desire to begin telling Ragnar’s story in dedicated works of prose. 

This, ultimately, is what led to Depths of Night, the forthcoming When the Cold Breathes, and other novellas and novels that I have envisioned that center around the Ragnar character. 

All of these projects give me more opportunities to explore the character of Ragnar Stormbringer, which brings further evolution.  Just like with any person, the more time that I spend with Ragnar, the better I get to know him.

Ultimately, though, whether screenplay or book, everything boils down to the core of the character and the type of story being told.  In this case, that entails heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery, of a kind where I have had many wonderful literary influences including the likes of Robert E. Howard, David Gemmell, and R.A. Salvatore   Powerful heroes, great fight scenes, action-driven plot lines, monsters, and sorcery thrive at the center of these kinds of tales, and it is no different with either my Ragnar Stormbringer or Rayden Valkyrie tales.  What I have to do as a writer is put my own stamp on these tales, and bring them out in my voice, in a way that connects readers strongly to these characters.

Being a filmmaker and writing screenplays has given me a cinematic perspective that definitely lends a hand in writing these kinds of tales.  I think the fact that I first explored Ragnar’s character in a screenplay, where you can only “show” and can not “tell” proved to be valuable in portraying him on the page later in my bookish realms.  It drove me to understand him at a depth that I could not put on the screenplay page, which served as a genesis for all kinds of story ideas involving Ragnar, including Depths of Night and the forthcoming novella, When the Cold Breathes.

In the creation of books or short stories, I can welcome the more interior aspects of Ragnar’s character and get them across on the page to readers.  The depth of understanding gained in the earlier stages is given an unbridled outlet in the writing of something like a novella.

I have really enjoyed my adventures with Ragnar and that is what is paramount in continuing these tales, though it will be interesting to see whether certain expectations develop in new readers who have first encountered Ragnar on the screen (where he is played by Brock O’Hurn in Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of Lionheart).   That will definitely be another new experience for me, but I am absolutely committed to telling the story of this fascinating, heroic character, through whatever mediums I am given the chance to!

I've not read this book yet, but I've enjoyed many of your other books, especially the Rayden Valkyrie novels. They take me back to college days when I too was hooked on Swords and Sorcery--Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber being my favorites then.

Thank you so much for answering my question so fully, and giving me an insight into what goes into those TV pilots too. And best of luck with the release. 

Author: Stephen Zimmer
Featured Book Release:
Depths of Night
May 21 to May 27, 2018

About the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Where to find him
Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7 

About the book: Depths of Night: After a harrowing end to a long sea journey, the famed northern warrior Ragnar Stormbringer and a force of warriors step ashore in the lands of the Petranni, a tribal people known for their workings in silver and gold. The search for plunder takes a sharp turn when homesteads, villages, and temple sites show signs of being recently abandoned.

When it is discovered that the Petranni have all taken refuge within a massive stronghold, Ragnar and the others soon fall under the shadow of an ancient, deadly adversary. Wielding his legendary war axe Raven Caller, Ragnar finds his strength tested like never before.

Where to find it:
Kindle Version
Barnes and Noble:

Find out more: Follow the Tour!
5/21 Beauty in Ruins Guest Post
5/21 Literary Underworld Guest Post
5/22 Sapphyria's Books Review
5/22 The Horror Club Review
5/23 Oak Hill RPG Club Review
5/23 Breakeven Books Interview
5/23 Bookwraiths Guest Post
5/24 MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape Author Interview
5/24 Ally Books and Reviews Guest Post
5/25 Sheila's Guests and Reviews Author Interview and guest post
5/25 The Book Lover's Boudoir Review
5/26 I Smell Sheep VLOG
5/27 MightyThorJRS Fantasy Book News and Reviews Guest Post
5/27 Jazzy Book Reviews Top 10 List

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Will you freeze?

Christine Amsden's Cassie Scot series starts with a cool premise and enjoyably mystery--think cozy crossed with paranormal--then morphs into a series, expands into a world, and quietly picks up the series storyline. The protagonist is married, a mother, the same person and she always was, but pleasingly, believably different. And the threat... well, the threats keep growing. Here's my review:

The characters in Christine Amsden’s Cassie Scott series wouldn’t let her go when the story was done. They wouldn’t let her readers go either, and Frozen takes up the tale with mothers and children, mothers and grandmothers, and the awesome responsibility of parenthood. Of course, this isn’t just regular parenthood. This is knowing your child will have magical powers, knowing you’ll temporarily inherit those powers, and knowing how to define yourself—never an easy task for Cassie who “set aside most of my old insecurities about not having magic in a magical world” but still feels “less.” How easily readers will relate.

The author's characters, for all their powers, feel aching real and suffer the same fears and insecurities as all the rest of us. They grow older, and grow in responsibility, very convincingly and appropriately. Their world remains scarily dangerous—a reminder, perhaps, that magic won’t fix things any more than anything else can. Power doesn’t always corrupt, but might. And prophetic sight doesn’t always tell the truth about the future.

Frozen is the sort of novel that invites readers to think as well as enjoying the tale. It’s powerfully human and magically powerful. It’s a great addition to the series, but it stands alone as a compelling story of relationships and mystery. There are no magic bullets, no deus ex machina solutions, and no one-size-fits-all methods of solving very human dilemmas. But there’s a great story, wonderful characters, and a coolly intriguing (possibly freezing) plot.

Disclosure: I was given a pre-release ecopy and I offer my honest review.

For readers who feel "less," not quite up to par. For mothers who feel trapped and changed. For those who wish they could see the future, and for those who know there are no magic bullet answers but kind of wish there were. For mystery solvers and lovers of the paranormal... Enjoy.

And find it here:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Is there a future when characters are frozen into their past?

Today I get to invite one of my favorite authors of paranormal and science fiction, Christine Amsden. She's the author of lots of books that I've read and loved, but her latest is another in the Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective series - a continuation of a series that (almost) seemed finished. Since I'm working on one series and dreaming of another, it seemed like a good idea to ask her, over virtual coffee, how she ended up with Cassie Scot starring and co-starring so many times, and how do real series get written. So, pull up a chair, pour a coffee (tea, soda, juice, water... just as long as it doesn't spill on the computer) and see what she has to say. Over to you Christine:

Writing a Series

by Christine Amsden

Cassie Scot was supposed to be a four-book series. Each book centered on a self-contained mystery, while the series dealt with some character growth and struggles. I wrote those four books together, even though they were released a few months apart, so that I had at least a solid rough draft of Stolen Dreams (book four) done before the original Cassie Scot went public.

It was an ideal way to write a series. I had a plan, changed the plan a dozen times, and rewrote to accommodate my new plans.

Then Cassie’s two best friends, Kaitlin and Madison, decided they needed stories of their own. I accommodated them, but it wasn’t as easy. The first four books were now set in stone, the rules of the world fixed, meaning that I had a silent partner in my new books: Younger me!

These days, I’m working on other projects, but Cassie still won’t stay quiet. Before I sat down to write Frozen, she kept saying, “Hello? Are you there? I’m not dead. I just got married. Not the same thing.”

It’s great that my character is still talking to me. This makes writing new books in her series easy. The hard part, once again, is that silent writing partner of mine. I no longer have the freedom to go back to book one and make little changes to pave the way for new elements I’d like to introduce. For better or for worse, my world is my world. I now find myself taking something of a leap of faith with each new volume I write, armed with only a few vague ideas of what might happen next.

Frozen is once again self-contained, but it definitely sets up the promise of new adventures to come. Maybe even new, deeper explorations of the world around Cassie. I knew some of this all along, but I’m making up a lot as I go along. I trust my future self can handle it. I also trust she’s going to read this and have some choice words for me when she does. :)

Honestly, writing a series is fun. It gives me the chance to go deeper into characters and world than any single book can. It also gives me the chance to revisit favorite characters, and it keeps me from having to reinvent a world from the ground up with each new volume. I like reading series too, and for the same reason. I get invested. I can’t wait to read more about Harry Dresden, Charlie Davidson, Mackayla Lane, Katherine “Kitty” Kat Martini, and others. I hope readers feel the same way about Cassie Scot. 

Well, this reader certainly does. Ever waiting for the next Dresden and the next Cassie Scot. I love that "not dead, just married" line. And I love how Frozen really does let your characters move on from their younger selves. (Click on the link for my review!)


Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. In addition to being a writer, she's a mom and freelance editor.


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ABOUT THE BOOK: Frozen (Cassie Scot Book Seven)

Apparently, life doesn’t end when you get married.

When a couple freezes to death on a fifty degree day, Cassie is called in to investigate. The couple ran a daycare out of their home, making preschoolers the key witnesses and even the prime suspects.

Two of those preschoolers are Cassie’s youngest siblings, suggesting conditions at home are worse than she feared. As Cassie struggles to care for her family, she must face the truth about her mother’s slide into depression, which seems to be taking the entire town with it.

Then Cassie, too, is attacked by the supernatural cold. She has to think fast to survive, and her actions cause a rift between her and her husband.

No, life doesn’t end after marriage. All hell can break loose at any time.


Print Release: July 15, 2018
Audiobook Release: TBA


Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot Book One)
Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot Book Two)
Mind Games (Cassie Scot Book 3)
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot Book 4)
Madison's Song (Cassie Scot Book 5)
Kaitlin’s Tale (Cassie Scot Book 6)


That’s when I saw it – the thing that had scared Evan. It was … a dog, maybe? But massive. As black as night. And with red, glowing eyes. If it weren’t for the eyes, I might have mistaken it for a werewolf. Well, that, and the fact that the moon hadn’t risen. Wolves didn’t turn when the sun went down, only when the moon rose. It wasn’t even the full moon; I would never have left Ana with Scott if it were.
            The monstrous thing lunged for Jim, a thirty-something man in very good shape who couldn’t seem to outrun it. It tore at the backs of his legs, drawing blood and sending Jim sprawling to the ground on hands and knees.
            I couldn’t move, and not because Evan’s power still held me. That thing was about two seconds from eating Jim, a man I happened to like and who I knew had a wife and two kids at home.
            A strangled yell emerged from Jim’s throat. Guns blazed – I hadn’t even noticed Frank and Sheriff Adams drawing their weapons. The beast growled, momentarily losing interest in Jim as it fixed those demon eyes on the two men trying to fill it with lead.
            Then, suddenly, it was in the air, flying backwards through the trees and out of sight.
            The guns went quiet but the sheriff and his deputy continued to run toward their fallen comrade. Evan stood stock still, staring into the woods, arms raised and waiting. Listening.
            Suddenly, the sound of a canine howling filled the air.
            “Move!” Evan shouted. “It’s coming back!”