Friday, February 19, 2016

How Do You Build A World?

I hope my Hemlock stories find a home sometime. They're set in a world not too far from our own, where four teens learn the power of magic in their dreams. But why do their parents want to keep them away from the wizard school, and who is the white lady?

Of course, if Hemlock finds a home, I'll have to finish writing the series, as well as writing everything else, and book reviews. And I'll have to worm my way back into their curious world.

But for now, I'm about to start on the next of my Five-Minute Bible Story books. I'm imagining myself back in the world of the New Testament, and following Paul through shipwreck, riot and storm. They're kids' stories, so I don't want to include too much detail - just enough to give a sense of what's happening, without making the world feel alien. It should be fun.

And in other books...

Author Walt Socha creates worlds not too far from our own in the nicely Twilight Zone-style stories of Eclectic Shorts. Pleasingly unsettling and satisfying, hauntingly evocative and with enjoyably upbeat conclusions, they form a great collection to enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

Nagah and the Thunderegg by Darrell Mulch bends the edges of reality similarly with its first person narration of a life, from Oregon farm to war and back, via mountain peak and ocean depth. Alternating comedy, tragedy, pathos, terror and humor, it's a fast and fascinating read filled with music, mystery, personality and plot. Enjoy with some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee.

Road to Shandara by Ken Lozito starts in the world we know, but creates a very different world when the protagonists loses everything he loves. The college senior with a love of family and martial weapons suddenly becomes a stranger with a strange quest in a well-drawn world which promises history and pain. There's lots of detail and it's a slow read, but it's got great characters, great world-building, and great plot. Enjoy with some richly elegant four-star coffee.

In Chalk's Outline, author J. J. Hensley creates the world inside three characters' minds, rendering each entirely convincing, timing each dark revelation on the path to understanding, and drawing an outline within which a body might lie or a promise might die. It's a wonderful psychological thriller, best enjoyed with the very best of five-star dark, intense coffee.

But children's books create worlds too, with pictures or with words. Elphie and Dad Go On An Excellent Adventure by Hagit Oron recreates the inner life of a child while portraying a father's concern for safety, all in the context of an elephant taking his child shopping. The pictures recreate modern Israel quite convincingly as well. It's beautifully done; one to enjoy with a well-prepared two-star easy-drinking coffee.

The Midge and Moo stories by Kerry McQuaide feature a pear-shaped child and favorite toy. Since children aren't actually pear-shaped, the author is building a world here too, and one in which children feel safe (though the stories are very short). Letters to Santa creates a sense of a child's view of Christmas as the letters progress through each day. Lost in the Garden presents a nicely rhyming lift-the-flap style story, complete with topiary and more. Enjoy these with some easy-drinking two-star coffees and happy children.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Have you entered the world of female protagonists?

When I was ten, fourteen seemed like the perfect age. I started writing stories whose protagonists were always female, of course, and always fourteen... and most probably always me. When I was fourteen, I decided it really was the perfect age so... when I was fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, I continued writing stories whose protagonists were fourteen-year-old females. I really wanted to stop the clock, but life moved on.

There's a limit, of course, to how many life experiences a fourteen-year-old protagonist can encompass, and I learned, in time, to enjoy being older, and to write about guys, dogs, cats, babies, middle-aged grandparents, or even "old people" (but help, how old do I think I am!) I spread my metaphorical wings to encompass a worlds of many protagonists, and I tried to remind myself, once in a while, they shouldn't all be men.

Huh? How did all my protagonists get to be male? Perhaps it was something to do with the books I read--certainly as a kid I much preferred my brothers' adventure stories to the sweet little ditties of girls' lives, hence writing my own tales of fantastic female fourteen-year-olds I guess. Did I betray my roots. But I digress. My second novel, Infinite Sum, should come out soon, with its (four-to-forty year old) female protagonist. But I've just finished editing the third book in the series, and Andrew, the main character in Subtraction, is definitely a guy.

Anyway, here are reviews of some book I've read recently with female protagonists. Grab a coffee and choose your read to match the brew, or the other way around.

Born to Magic by David Wind is set in a fascinating future America where women have mastery over magic, and men have finally learned to live in relative peace under the tutelage of the dominant king. But recent history was war, and distant history remains a mystery. The female protagonist undertakes a classic heroes journey in this novel, aided by a young man who balances love interest, danger and power very effectively. The author gives just enough hints of his future history to make it fascinating without being overly detailed. And the world kept in balance by the science of women's magic, plus women's logic, is surprisingly appealing. Drink some well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee with this book that beautifully balances male and female protagonists, science and emotion, magic and power.

Essence of Aptitude by Esha Bajaj has twin female protagonists in a dystopian world where teens are analysed and defined by microchips then assigned to their perfect role in society. When one twin becomes the ruler while another falls to the floor, sparks might fly. The story's slow, with detailed society as rigid as its characters. Women clearly hold equal powers with men, except in the case of... well... you'll have to read the next book to find out I guess. Enjoy lots of bold dark coffee while you read this slow dark tale, and watch out for the cliff-hanger.

Coming back to earth, Deadly Traffic by Mickey Hoffman features an intriguing female protagonist. Surprisingly inept at solving mysteries, but great at working with wounded teens, she's taking time out from school to work with dogs instead. But things fall apart, friends might be foes, and the result is a mystery that delves into the underbelly of corruption around illegal immigration, and still offers a fast, pleasing read. Enjoy with some complex four-star coffee.

Getting It Right The Second Time Around by Jennifer Frank features a female protagonist tied down in present day Boston by commitments, good intentions, broken dreams, and low self-esteem. Pithy quotes from a dead (female) relative add enjoyable humor to the tale as Alison struggles to determine just what or who should set the course for her life. It's a low-key Christian romance, with some thought-provoking lessons about following our own paths. And yeah, the protagonist has to be female to make this one work. Drink some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee with this enjoyable, if sometimes wordy, read.

On Trial by Zanna Mackenzie is a short story that takes readers to the Lake District where an intrepid young woman hopes to qualify to protect and serve celebrities. But solving the mystery of the missing celebrity bride, together with her equally intrepid team, becomes more complicated when the boyfriend arrives. Amber has 24 hours to resolve it all or lose everything in a fun, fast read best enjoyed over some bright, lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Olly by Isabella Sinclair is a quintessentially feminine novel, featuring complex details of the protagonist's love life and activities, all bound by an overarching storyline of lust, life and the pursuit of love. There's an intriguing backstory of a failing world to match the failing lives. Seriously explicit, so reader beware, but it's an intriguing tale to enjoy with some strong dark five-star coffee.

Thirty Days of Red by Geraldine Solon features betraying and betrayed loves as well, with some seriously sensual scenes, and some seriously unreliable narrators. It's an interesting, twisted tale with a compelling ending, deserving another strong five-star coffee perhaps.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What's in a Cover, with Proposals and Poison and a dog?

I learned that the cover for Rachelle J. Christensen's latest Wedding Planner novel has just been revealed. Isn't it cool! Not just a great cover picture, but a cool, fun plot, and a giveaway. But you'll have to read to the end of this post to find the details. Meanwhile, thinking of covers got me pondering...

Proposals and Poison

...what's in a cover? My Old Testament Bible Stories have just appeared in print with their gorgeous new covers, provided by the publisher. Which one do you think is new? And what makes it so good? The colors? The design? The sense that it wasn't created by a kid on a computer?

I can tell one thing that makes Rachelle's new cover great - it's got a dog on it! Add a dog and I'll take any book down from the shelf. But it's also got that hint of intrigue as the man hold something - what - behind his back. What secrets will this wedding hide? Read on!

Proposals and Poison, Wedding Planner Mysteries book #3 Rachelle J. Christensen

“Cozy mystery meets romantic comedy in this fabulous, fast-paced story.” Cami Checketts author of The Resilient One, A Billionaire Bride Pact Romance

Love can be a very dangerous thing. At least it seems that way to Adri Pyper, the premier wedding planner in Sun Valley, Idaho. When one of her clients dies mysteriously, Adri takes the advice of the local detective and swears she will stay out of the investigation . . . this time. Luke Stetson's involvement in the case, along with the possibility of a kiss between the two, should be enough incentive to keep Adri out of trouble. But when a dog-themed wedding is almost ruined by a suspect, Adri and her assistant, Lorea, are thrust into private eye mode. When poison enters the picture, even a reluctant sleuth can’t steer clear of danger.

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“Packed with danger and romance, intrigue and entertainment, Rachelle Christensen's Wedding Planner series is romantic suspense that will keep you turning pages late into the night!” --Maria Hoagland, Author of The ReModel Marriage (Romance Renovations series)
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RachelleAuthor Rachelle J. Christensen Rachelle is a mother of five who writes mystery/suspense, nonfiction, and women’s fiction. She solves the case of the missing shoe on a daily basis. She enjoys raising chickens and laughing with her husband. She graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in psychology and a minor in music. Rachelle is the award-winning author of ten books, including The Soldier’s Bride (a Kindle Scout Selection), Wrong Number, Diamond Rings Are Deadly Things, What Every 6th Grader Needs to Know, and Christmas Kisses: An Echo Ridge Anthology. Her novella, “Silver Cascade Secrets,” was included in the Rone Award–winning Timeless Romance Anthology, Fall Collection.

Rachelle has a VIP mailing list where all subscribers get access to free books, guides, and other resources. Sign up now to hear what exciting news Rachelle has to share.

Diamond ringsVeils and Vengeance
Series endorsements

“Mystery, suspense, murder and romance all intriguingly tied together in one very fun walk-down-the-aisle cozy mystery!”—Shauna Wheelwright, reviewer

“I love a great mystery that keeps my interest and keeps the pages turning. I loved the Hawaiian setting, that was a character on its own. As the story progressed, I enjoyed where the author went with the mystery, doing a perfect job of planting the right amount of seeds to try to throw me off the trail of who the killer was.”—Mindy Holt, reviewer
Giveaway Details $25 cash giveaway plus an ebook bundle of the Wedding Planner Mystery Books 1 & 2. (gifted via Amazon)   Ends 3/3/16

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Short's Not Just For Kids

Every once in a while I get to review a short book. It gives me a break from the long ones, refreshes the parts other books can't reach, to paraphrase an old English beer commercial, and lets me feel good about getting a few more book reviews off the waiting list. Of course, reviewing a short book takes just the same amount of time as reviewing a long one. But reading it's faster.

Oddly enough, writing a short book isn't necessarily that much faster. It's faster than writing a novel, simply because the fingers don't have to fly over quite so many keys and pages. But editing short takes way longer than editing long. With fewer words, each one has to count, whether in a children's book or an adult's. With fewer pages, every error sticks out like a sorer thumb. And those fingers that typed so hard hover over the keys while the eyes hover over the words.

I'm editing my Fred and Joe stories at the moment. Each short story needs editing on its own. Then I have to check the placing, the overall arc, the question of whether Fred's younger by the end of the book than he was at the start. And then I find my brain switched off and I typed a correction filled with rhyming words instead of the words I intended. Poor brain.

Anyway, my short books for last week include two children's books and two adult romances - an interesting mix. They were all interesting reads as well, so find some coffee and choose your read:

Oliver and Jumpy - the well-dressed cat and friendly kangaroo - have another set of three stories out in 34-36. Each story has a different illustrator and a different feel, making it an intriguing addition to the collection. There's even a story of how the cat got his hat. Enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

President Lincoln, from Log Cabin to White House, by Demi is a very different, and much more serious children's book. Bright images with a pleasing sense of space invite children into the tale, and provide a wise sense of contrast as past moves closer to present. If I were looking for a book about a famous president, this is the one I'd choose. And I'd drink some well-balanced three star coffee while reading.

In more adult fiction, I enjoyed reading and reviewing two more lunch-break e-books for Nights and Weekends:

Eternity Swamp is classic short tale of horror - I imagine reading it on a dark night before Christmas - I'm not sure why. It echoes with strains of the fiddler at the crossroads, and it's told in a beautifully smooth consistent voice. Dark and haunting - your sins will find you out in this swamp, so you'd better drink some seriously dark five-star coffee while you read.

Not2Nite has a really great title, and offers a fun short read (130 pages) to match. It's set in London, in the Blitz, and stars an American trying to organize a future while an English woman wonders about the past.

Monday, February 8, 2016

What's In A Title?

My novels have mathematical titles - I even call them "mathemafiction" when I'm feeling whimsical. The titles have the advantage that there aren't many other novels sharing them, but that doesn't help people find theem on Amazon. You type one title, and Amazon helpfully guesses you really meant another. So my novel (Divide by Zero - the only one published yet) languishes behind Continental Divides and the Zeros of Dangerous Ideas - and then only if you specify you're looking for a book.

Divide by Zero has the disadvantage, of course, that nobody knows what it means, but it's perfect for my book - a village divided under the infinite horror of a terrible crime. Would you pick it up? (Please do!) And will you read the companion novel Infinite Sum, where a middle-aged woman seeks escape from the sum of past trials?

Perhaps you'd rather go for a novel with more fire in its title? I've just read two very different, fiery tales, and enjoyed them both. Their covers and titles are great. And both books languish behind others with the same name when I search on Amazon.

Set the Night on Fire by Connie Dial takes readers back to the early seventies, to the mean streets and demonstrations of Los Angeles, police corruption, genuine police-work, and an under-cover cop who might be even more undercover when she surfaces. After all, back in the seventies, women cops were mostly assigned to policing women's prisons. The protagonist is a younger version of Josie Corsino, from the author's other novels, but you don't have to have read them first. In fact, this might be a great place to start with the series (and I seriously hope there'll be lots more to come, to fill in the gap). Enjoy with this bold intense read with some five-star bold intense coffee.

Donna Fletcher-Crow's An All-Consuming Fire is a Christian romantic suspense that blends English religious history with a modern-day TV show, Christian faith and themes with modern teens, and mysticism with a healthy does of American mother-in-law realism. A very cool blend, to be enjoyed with a nice hot smoothly balanced three-star coffee.

Perhaps the sea offers a source of good titles. It certainly has for author Aaron Paul Lazar, whose Paines Creek Beach series has just had a new addition in The Seadog. This one actually makes it to the top of the page! Seadog, perhaps, has just the right mix of well-known word and new idea. The book has a perfect mix of sensuality, mystery and scares as well, and should be a great read with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Well-known phrases may be a good source of titles too. So what about Where the Bodies are by L. V. Gaudet? Sadly it's listed way down the page on Amazon. A book asking where the Yummy Tummy is comes before it. Ouch! Where the Bodies are is a story of everyman and everywoman under threat, either as victim or perpetrator of terrible crimes. Each character has a backstory and a reason for every deed, and the sting in the tail might seriously unsettle. Read this one with a seriously dark five-star coffee.

Then there's falling for... Everyone falls for something or someone. Falling for Chloe by D Stearman comes top of its page. At which point I realize the number of positive reviews may have something to do with position on the page, as well as a well-chosen title. Falling for Chloe has 42 of them (a good number), and it's a well-told tale of the lure of fame and fortune, set against true love. There's a nicely underplayed Christian theme that works perfectly with the story, and the voice of the narrator is achingly real. Enjoy some well-balanced three-star coffee with this one.

And now I'll go back to dreaming of 42 reviews and mathemafiction novels that rise to the top of an Amazon page. If you read Divide by Zero, please leave a review! It really needs some more!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Switch In Time?

Once upon a time I wrote a novel in which two timelines intertwined. In one, the protagonist was middle-aged, trying to resolve the issues she still had after childhood abuse. In the other, the abuse was yet to take place, and readers followed along with the child while innocence headed to betrayal. I was told the novel would never sell - it never did - and that writing multiple timelines was a strict no-no, especially for relative unknowns.

The novel truly never sold, but it's been rewritten since then. The later, much better version is called Infinite Sum and I'm eagerly awaiting its release from Indigo Sea Press. Meanwhile, I've snatched some very enjoyable moments from the (also very enjoyable) time of my mum's visit, and read some excellent books that do, in fact, blend more than one timeline successfully and enticingly. I dream and hope my novel might be up to the quality of these.

So, grab a coffee; remember the rating is just to tell the blend of coffee to choose; and pick your book:

Rainbow Gardens by James Malone is an amazing tale of two World Wars, the time between them, the trials, hopes and despairs of being an immigrant, and trolls. If that sounds impossible, please pick up the book and find out how the author intertwines timelines, lifelines and a wonderful touch of mythology, plus the Mark of Cain. If it sounds intriguing, please pick the book up too, and enjoy with a perfect cup of rich, elegant four-star coffee.

The Good Life by Marian Thurm blends a present day timeline, where a family with two young children vacations in Florida, with the story of how the couple met over a muffin, bonded over the longing for stability and family ties, and rejoiced in a good life that was never quite what either of them thought. There's a thread of dread from first page almost to the last. But it's a thread the author ties beautifully and managed to tinge with hope, also from first page to last. A wonderful, surprising, haunting read, this is another one to enjoy with some complex four-star coffee.

Five Bullets by Larry Duberstein blends timelines too, this time following the story of a Jewish family living in Prague during the Second World War, and a successful American businessman in the time that follows. But Carl Barry and Karel Bondy are the same person, and a wall of silence separates the present day from the past. The author brings the horrors of war and holocaust vividly to life, and shows that blood and family can be far more than they seem. It's another wonderful novel, deserving another complex four-star coffee as you read.

Then there's Donna Fletcher-Crow's An All-Consuming Fire which blends a historical narrative of early English mystics with present-day murder, mystery, moderate mayhem, and the wedding of two religiously inclined Christians. It's a very cool mix, full of the magic of English landscapes, well-wrought details of British television, modern teenage rebellion, and genuine faith. Enjoy with another complex four-star coffee.

Highly recommended - all four of these. And coffee too.