Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hellhounds, Zombies, and Lich Kings (Oh My!)

Hellhounds, zombies, and lich kings - oh my!

Continuing with our October script, let me introduce you to another series I've enjoyed that possesses elements of the season - and that little scaredy-cat me can handle.

A few years ago, I came across Becca Andre's The Final Formula series and found myself immersed in a genre I never thought I'd enjoy - that containing zombies.

Yes, it's true.  My son is the one in the family who loves most things zombiefied.  In a world filled with the undead these days, I've never jumped on that icky and stinky bandwagon.  Too gross and creepy for me by far.  So I was surprised when reading the first in Andre's series, THE FINAL FORMULA, to discover necromancers controlling the leashes of the zombie world.  But here it is a little less creepy and a bit more funny.

The real aspect of this novel that intrigues me is the mystery surrounding our female protagonist, Addie, short for 'Addled Alchemist'.  It's a moniker given by James, the young man who saved her life after she survived the explosive destruction of the Alchemica Academy.

Every alchemist's dream is to discover the Final Formula - the key to eternal life - and a Master Alchemist will do anything to find it. Anything.  Thus far no one has succeeded, but the night of the Alchemica's destruction changes everything.  However, Addie remembers nothing from that night - not even her true name.  The only clues she has to her past are the hundreds of formulas still occupying her brain and the nine tattoo bands encircling her biceps, certifying her as a Master Alchemist.  She's only missing the final one.

But Addie no longer senses a pull toward discovering eternal life - if she ever did.  All she wants to do now is spend her days peacefully puttering away in a lab - without blowing stuff up, mind you - and using her alchemy skills to help humanity and restore the good name of alchemists around the world.

But Addie's hideout with the Huntsman brothers is soon discovered, and a professional extraction team descends on Portsmouth, Ohio to capture the only known survivor of the Alchemica Academy blast.  What Addie never anticipated was being rescued by the Flame Lord, one of New Magic's elemental leaders.  But the Fire Element has a secret too, and if that information gets out to the world, it could spell all out war between the forces of New Magic and Old.

And Old Magic's ways are controlled by the undead.

Necromancers have lived among the world for centuries and adapted to the modern world by controlling that most applicable field of business - funeral homes.  But if the modern world knew their deceased loved ones were being embalmed and buried - and sometimes 'borrowed' for more nefarious matters - the Deacon and his family might find themselves more than simply out of business.  Even so, there are those among Old Magic who will do anything to seize power, even killing off the Elements of New Magic if necessary.

Addie finds herself thrust into the midst of this battle - with alchemy holding the potential of being everyone's saving grace.

THE FINAL FORMULA is a mix of mystery, intrigue, humor, and even some romance for those who enjoy a little (or a lot at times) heat.  There's a joke in that word, but you'll have to read the novel to find out why.  There is one racy scene and a few instances of strong language, but the focus of this first book is on discovering who Addie really is and what she's really capable of in the world of alchemy.

And it's the mystery that kept me coming back for more.  Pick up your free copy today at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever eBooks are sold.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Announcing a New Series!

Hello, dear readers!

A personal post to you tonight - and an update on the status of my upcoming humorous mystery series.

The first in the Before and After series entitled LOOK BEFORE YOU JUMP is coming along nicely. I'm nearing completion and have already begun first round edits with my critique group, as the critiquing process can be time consuming.  Once they've had a chance to thoroughly vet the manuscript, then my second round of edits will begin.

With some of the problems I had with the pre-order process of RISING FROM THE DARKNESS, the finale of the Deepest Darkness series, I've really debated whether or not I will go the pre-order route again.  We'll see what kind of time-frame I'm looking at once the initial round of edits are in and I have a better idea of exactly when I'll schedule LBYJ for release.

In the meantime, you can follow some of the quotes and tidbits of my new series by running over to my Facebook page HERE.  I really enjoy the direct and real-time interaction with fans that outlet provides.  Ask questions, comment, or just follow updates concerning my writing process.

Then watch soon for information on the cover reveal for LOOK BEFORE YOU JUMP.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Boogeyman Has a Name

If you want to up the creep factor this Halloween season, just pick up the third novel in JL Bryan's Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper series.  Of all five novels I've read thus far, THE CRAWLING DARKNESS has to be my favorite.  The mystery is entertaining and keeps you guessing, the history lesson of the Savannah area is intriguing, and the exploration of the character backgrounds really provide something to sink your teeth into.

Did I also mention this one is the creepiest?  On the verge of too frightening for me - but I made it through to the satisfying end.  I wanted to give myself a pat on the back, then hide under the covers for the remainder of the night just waiting for the sun-rays of morning.

'Cause the boogeyman is coming for a visit to a closet near you.  And no, I'm not talking about cuddly blue and green monsters who pretend to be scary.  In THE CRAWLING DARKNESS, the boogeyman has a name - a fearfeeder - and its power grows as it feeds off the deepest fears of its victims.  In most cases, children.  One moment it is a chainsaw wielding madman with a mask carved from strips of human flesh.  The next it is a nest of flesh-eating alien beings.  

It also embodies Ellie's greatest fear - the one that got away, but not before putting her boss and mentor Calvin into a wheelchair.  When Ellie's and Stacey's newest case returns them to a familiar street, Ellie knows she can't stop until this entity is destroyed for good.

But a fearfeeder takes on many forms, making it almost impossible to discern its true identity - and therefore capture it.  And it isn't immune from using dirty tricks to trap the team, turning the hunters into huntees.

A lovely three-story Victorian has been converted into three apartments and a small studio in half the basement.  The remaining half is a commons area with washers and dryers for the residents.  But something else lurks behind the locked furnace room door, crawling out at night like a giant spider from its lair.  In their investigation, a chance glance behind the door reveals an ancient well that was only covered over instead of filled in.  But someone has uncovered it.

And nameless evils crawl up from the darkness.

With Calvin's help on this case, the three investigators must come face-to-face with their deepest fears.  Ellie must weed through centuries of history to discern the truth about the evil occupying the land and discern who the faceless and nameless fearfeeder truly is in order to stop it.

Before another child vanishes in its clutches.

Pick up a copy of THE CRAWLING DARKNESS for your eReader from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere eBooks are sold.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Water Floods the Shadows

Since I'm such a fan of ELLIE JORDAN, GHOST TRAPPER, I thought I might take you on another journey with author JL Bryan this October night.  The fall weather seems to have disappeared in favor of summer again, but the ghostly offerings remain like an unquenchable spirit.

Even though the mystery is somewhat lacking in this sophomore release of the series, COLD SHADOWS is still a good story with enough chills, spills and bumps in the night to make you sleep with the lights burning bright.  The spills come from water, water, and more water flooding the shadows of the household in this second book, so be sure and grab your life jacket.  We also have the chance to see a little more of Ellie's backstory and her connection to the mysterious ghost who killed her parents.

The Pauldings are a kindly couple who have fallen on hard times and are forced to accept the graciousness of extended family, with the understanding they will spend some money fixing up the once grand Georgian home.  But when their rebellious teen-aged daughter secretly dabbles in the dark arts, she unwittingly awakens the sleeping spirits with secrets of their own.

Thirteen-year-old Juniper gets a wake-up call when her temper rises and objects go crashing about the room, the books on her shelf tumble off, and her clothes start flying out of the closet.  Is it simply the overactive imagination of an angry female on the verge of womanhood, a young girl searching for attention and significance, or something more malevolent?

Seven-year-old Crane is quiet and shy, unlike most boys his age.  Shortly after having moved into the old house, he develops a fast kinship with two imaginary friends.  Only problem - they might not be so imaginary after all.  And that makes Crane not-so-ordinary.

It's up to Ellie and her sweet and silly sidekick Stacey to discover the truth behind what really happened one horrible and frightening Christmas season - before the Paulding's son becomes the next victim.

Join me in reading COLD SHADOWS this Halloween season.  You'll never be able to look at a pond the same way again.  Or a belt.

Read the story to find out why.

You can pick up COLD SHADOWS at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere else eBooks are sold.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pursuing the Paranormal

As in my last post, this is the month for all things spooky.  October is well underway and Halloween is fast approaching.  So if you're looking for something horrifying and horrible - look elsewhere.

However, if you are as big a scaredy-cat as I am, join me for a milder version of the ghoulish and ghostly with JL Bryan's ELLIE JORDAN, GHOST TRAPPER.

I came across this series a few months ago after finishing my latest novel and discovered the first book was free for my Kindle.  I quickly downloaded books two through four and am happily awaiting the release of book five later this month.  One thing I appreciate?  The books are mostly well edited and allow us to follow along with the story progression as it happens (showing), with little telling - except for some necessary fodder for those of us who are a bit paranormally-challenged.  They're all told in first person from Ellie's perspective, so there are no issues with jumping POV within a scene.  Each book is a standalone story, however there is still a continual theme and backstory to Ellie that we see a little more of with each passing novel - translation:  best reader experience if read in order.

The other thing I appreciate?  As a certified scaredy-cat, the books are focused more on the mystery surrounding the haunted properties of Savannah, Georgia and their netherworld inhabitants instead of simply about the creepy-crawly things that go bump in the night - though there's still plenty of that too, to satisfy the paranormal aficionado.

Ellie is a twenty-six year-old paranormal investigator, something rather uncommon among those who are of the scientific mindset.  When exploring a new client's property, she is first and foremost a scientist searching for practical and worldly explanations for the problems her clients face.  But Ellie knows there are some things out there that defy the norms.  At the age of fifteen, she witnessed firsthand the power of the paranormal - and she's determined to fight back against those entities that would threaten a child.

Calvin, her boss and a former police detective, was the investigator on her parents' case all those years ago.  Because he couldn't get rid of her, he hired Ellie when he retired from the force and taught her everything he knows about investigations and ghostly presences.  As true retirement now approaches, he drops a bomb on Ellie's lap by making her the lead investigator and saddling her with a too-perky, ghost-hunter wannabe.

As if Ellie's life needed anymore drama.

But they get more drama in spades with their next client - and it's not Stacey's fault.  A family has moved into the ramshackle three-story Marsh mansion, hoping to fix it up and operate the property as a bed and breakfast.  But within days, their daughter Lexa is complaining about noises keeping her up at night - and the terrifying face of a woman who says only one word.

"Leave!"

The parents believe it is all the product of an overactive imagination - until they start experiencing horrors of their own.  But the family can't leave.  Their entire life savings is tied up in the old mansion.  Their last hope lay with Ellie - and she is determined not to disappoint.

Until they find this haunting might be more than they can handle - and Stacey threatens to tuck tail and run away from the evil lurking between the veil.

So if you've a stomach for the supernatural this Halloween season, consider picking up a copy of ELLIE JORDAN, GHOST TRAPPER available free for your eReader at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere eBooks are sold.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fun, Foibles, and Frolicking Phantoms

A chill is in the air.  A nip at the nose.  The wind moans across the moors.  The moon has eclipsed, and I hear a howl in the distance.

Yep, it's October.  You know what that means, don't you?  Halloween is on the horizon.  In honor of everything gusty, ghoulish, and ghostly, let's spend this month exploring some of my favorite books of the paranormal.

No, I'm not talking of the vampire and werewolf variety.  More like spooks and specters.  We all know by now that I'm a bit of a chicken when it comes to the creep factor and horror is definitely not my thing.  Therefore, the novels I'll be sharing are of a tamer variety, something with a bit of mystery and only a touch of the chills.

Our first outing of the month fits that description perfectly - and offers a heaping helping of humor to boot.  Years ago, I came across Kathleen Bacus' Calamity Jayne series and almost fell out of my boots laughing.  The humor throughout the series is constant, self-deprecating, and extremely irreverent.  Even though I always prefer to read a series in order, the third novel fits our paranormal pursuits best.  Since I bought them so long ago, the publisher has changed, which means the covers have changed (I liked the old ones better) and the titles have changed (I liked the old ones better here too).  However, the stories are still rootin'-tootin' good fun and that's what matters most.

The third book in the series CALAMITY JAYNE AND THE HAUNTED HOMECOMING (once called Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun) takes our intrepid cub reporter Tressa Jayne Turner from a story on homecoming king and queen to that mansion on the hill that has nearly made every brave resident in Grandville, Iowa wet themselves - Haunted Holloway Hall.

As the rumor goes, Miss Loralie Amelia Holloway was left jilted at the altar after her father paid off the proposed groom and made him disappear, leaving virginal spinster Loralie to spend her years wandering the family estate in her faded wedding gown clutching a bouquet of blood-red roses.  In death, she still purports to wander the grounds almost two hundred years later as the Lady in White, scattering rose petals and humming the wedding march while pining for that no-good, long-lost lover.

So why would any self-respecting (ha), hard-nosed (double ha) reporter go traipsing around the old three-story Victorian mere weeks before the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest?  To get the story, that's why - the biggest story this side of the county fair.  Or maybe Tressa will settle for a simple autograph of the greatest horror writer to ever come out of a small town.

But roadblocks stand between her and Ms. Elizabeth Courtney Howard - namely one Shelby Lynne Sawyer, the six-foot queen candidate to her four-foot king candidate, commonly referred to as Sasquatch and Tom Thumb.  After all, Shelby was the one who brought the story of the author's homecoming to Tressa in the first place, and she'll take it right over to the competition if Tressa tries to cut her from the interview of a lifetime.

Yet even though Lizzie is supposed to be staying at Holloway Hall with her assistant and driver, no one has seen hide-nor-hair of the reclusive writer as she works to finish her final masterpiece.  And all of Tressa's efforts give her zilch - except a little piddle in her panties from repeated brushes with Loralie.  But Tressa's not one to give up easily, not even when smoking hot Rick Townsend tries to distract her with clenches and kisses on the porch.

Hmm....maybe he'd have better luck with a chocolate cake.

Check out this load of fun, foibles, and frolicking phantoms this month.  Available on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and wherever else eBooks are sold.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Reviews Announcement


After four years, I will no longer accept unsolicited requests from other authors for reviews and interviews concerning their novels.  It is unfortunate so many do not understand the subjectivity of reviews and the constructive and helpful feedback I've endeavored to offer free of charge.  However, I will continue to work with a select few authors with whom I've developed relationships and whose novels I know are well-written and have enjoyed (you know who you are).  I will also continue to post reviews of novels I have personally purchased and liked.  For now, it is time for me to focus on my editing services and my own writing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

There's a Sale Going On!

There's a sale going on today!  And tomorrow.  And the next day.

Starting today, you can pick up a discounted copy of PIERCING THE DARKNESS for only ninety-nine cents.  That's right - $.99.

It's all part of my EReader News Today promotion.  To help support a fellow small business enterprise, go directly to their website HERE and click one of their purchase links to buy PIERCING (if you haven't already), the second novel in the Deepest Darkness series.  This way, they earn a few pennies for each purchase made by you, dear readers.  However, you can still go directly to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. to get the sale price if you don't want the extra step.

Tell family and friends to pick up their specially priced Ebook copy today before the sale runs out at the end of August.  And don't forget - you can still get the Ebook copy of RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS for free.  I always say, it's best to start a series from the beginning.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Life is Never Easy in Desiree Prosapio's MATCHBOOK

Last post we discussed in one book that current and rather divisive topic - illegal immigration.  Since we're on sensitive issues, why not discuss another dicey subject for today's post?

That of the plight of the homeless.

You may have your idea and ideals all wrapped up in a nice big bow, however this is another issue that has no real easy answers.  There are a myriad reasons people and families end up on the streets - and none of them are pretty.

So with that in mind, let's experience life on the street through the pages of Desiree Prosapio's recent psychological thriller release MATCHBOOK.  Take a deep breath.  Ready?  Set?  Dive in!

Book Blurb:
"I didn't have the attitude for the world's oldest profession. Or the shoes."

Meet Carol Lassiter, wisecracking, streetwise heroine of Matchbook. Emotionally lost after her daughter Ella's alleged suicide, Carol goes deep underground with no plans of resurfacing. But when a matchbook with a phone number scrawled inside is dropped into her "donations" box, Carol is plunged into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a mystery man who dangles a dramatically different story of Ella's death. But could he have a more sinister agenda? Carol wanders the underbelly of the city in search of the truth—and a nice rum and Coke—until Ella's secrets catch up with her and she must question her tenuous sanity.

Set on the streets of San Antonio, Matchbook is a compelling psychological thriller, as witty and entertaining as it is gripping.

A psychological thriller that will take you on an emotionally immersive ride with hope, friendship, humor, and gripping action set on the streets of San Antonio.

My Review:
Some heavy material here, folks.  Even so, there are moments of witty humor - Carol hasn't completely lost herself to the mean streets of homelessness and despair yet. 

After losing her daughter in a supposed heroin overdose, Carol's world crumbles.  The police close the case, but a mother's heart can't let it rest - especially because Ella was always championing those lost to drugs and booze.  Ella use drugs?  Not a chance.  So what really happened?

A year later, Carol is destitute after spending everything she had on a private investigator, whose only interest in the case was milking a grieving mother dry.  The mortgage turned upside down.  The credit cards maxed out.  Then the proverbial final straw hit the haystack and Carol lost her job.

Whoosh!  In one fell swoop, Carol is thrust into the streets.  Two years later, she's finally learned a few things about survival - if you want to call it that.  But she's jarred from her bottled bereavement when someone leaves a book of matches in her donation box while she lay passed out on the sidewalk.

Inside is a phone number.  On the line is a voice.  Something familiar about it niggles the dark recesses of her mind, but Carol isn't sure she's ready to tackle the demons that surface until the voice mentions the one person she can't forget.

"...I knew Ella.  I know what happened..."

When the voice begins to lead her on a path around San Antonio, retracing the last moments of her daughter's life, Carol's world is once again turned upside down - and this time, she may not have the strength to claw her way back from the truth.

Like I said - some heavy material here, however presented with some colorful characters to keep Carol teetering on the edge to avoid falling over the cliffs into insanity.  We're immediately thrust into the homeless world in the opening pages then follow along with Carol's discovery of what happened to her daughter.  A nice job of showing, weaving the past into the story along the way and making Carol a sympathetic figure without making her a pathetic soul.  There's still humanity and a tenor of true strength beneath that hardened exterior.  The world hasn't claimed her yet.

Point-of-view stays with Carol in first person, and we get a clear picture of who she is now and gradually see who she used to be.  Along the way we get to see several of her fellow homeless, Maurice being my absolute favorite.  He was such a hoot! 

Though the plot was mostly engaging, the pace was uneven and plodding at times - not a true thriller and more in line with the suspense/mystery genre.  This uneven pacing was especially the case once we finished Part One and switched over to Part Two.  For the first several scenes of P2, it felt like a different novel entirely, which pulled this reader from the story for far too long and caused me to almost quit reading.  However, eventually the main storyline did pick back up, though it remained somewhat disjointed.

The ending was a bit of a disappointment.  We had the old hat of the tired and overused antagonist's reveal where he explains why he did it - which was really no surprise.

Content Warning:  Some occasional rough language, but used sparingly.  The subject matter of homelessness and drug/alcohol abuse probably would be too heavy for young teens, but older teens (16+) might be okay if they enjoy reading about deep subjects and a middle-aged mother's insights.

Overall a thought-provoking read, but not a thriller.  A definite genre misclassification.  Good POV and characterization with nice showing are pluses.  I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, however very uneven pacing in the second half and a trite ending leave me with a rating of three stars.

Pick up a copy at Amazon.

Author Bio:
DesireƩ Prosapio is an award-winning writer, humorist, and a force for good in the universe. She writes in multiple genres including mystery, thriller, humor, and parenting.

In life, DesireƩ is novel, yet approachable; weird, but not in a way that frightens small children or dogs. She has, at one point in her life worked in a planetarium, been a test rider on the world's tallest waterslide, jumped out of a perfectly functioning airplane, and ridden a bucking horse across a field without being thrown (though it was touch-and-go for a few moments).

Her novels strike a chord with readers by creating a compelling connection between readers and the characters who live in her work; characters whose words linger in the night air like passionate fireflies, seeking union with the like-minded.

And they are page turners to boot.

Sign up for the mailing list for news on events, funny stories, links to resources, and general mayhem. http://eepurl.com/AL-RX

Or visit her website at http://www.wdprosapio.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Three-For-One Night with Liz Coley

Don't you find, dear readers, that sometimes living gets in the way of even the most carefully laid plans?  But when loved ones call, we must always be available to answer.

I guess that's my excuse for not posting reviews these last couple of weeks.  In that case, get ready for a three-for-one moment.  That's right!  Today's post includes not just one but three reviews - one for each of the first three books in Liz Coley's Young Adult series about the greatest teen-aged heroine of our time.

Or at least that's probably the way Tor Maddox sees it.

So get ready to enjoy a three-for-all with the first book in the series TOR MADDOX:  UNLEASHED.

Book Blurb TOR MADDOX: UNLEASHED:
When sixteen-year old Torrance Olivia Maddox, self-confessed news junkie, figures out that the mysterious and deadly New Flu is being spread by dogs, she has one question—if the danger is that obvious to her, why hasn’t the government revealed the truth and taken action?

Her search for the answer will take her farther than she ever imagined. But then again, she never imagined that man’s best friend could become public enemy number one, that men in black might show up in her cozy suburban neighborhood, that she’d spend her sixteenth birthday as a teenaged runaway, and that her effort to save one dog would become a mission to save them all.

My Review:
Let me start by saying that I typically steer away from the YA genre.  The angst-ridden, besotted, silly fluff just doesn't do it for someone who is used to reading hard mysteries and thrillers.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find our heroine, Tor Maddox, to be a sharp thinking teen beyond her years - and the fact that she is a ballet dancer rather endeared her to this former pointe shoe clad girl.

So Tor, full name Torrance - yes, after the Southern California beach known for gnarly waves - is fifteen going on sixteen, who actually thinks like a woman going on thirty and is addicted to the news.  She has her nose to the grindstone at Poway High and surfs the news feeds for information in her off time where she stumbles across a blog supposedly about U.S. government secrets.  Her first instinct is to ignore the latest post about man's best friend soon to become enemy numero uno, but then strange things start to happen.

And her chocolate lab, Cocoa, becomes a target.

So when a strange and deadly flu virus makes the jump from canine to human, Tor is the right girl to piece the puzzle together as mandatory visits to the veterinarian lead her to do the unthinkable in order to save Cocoa's life - placing her in the sights of government officials and earning her a meeting with one of CNN's top journalists.

But it all goes horribly wrong.

In order to know more, you will have to read the book - and I highly recommend you do.

Yes, there are moments that are utterly ridiculous for a sixteen-year-old to accomplish - but hey, isn't it every teenager's dream to best the adults and save the world?  Tor uses her reasoning skills along with her physical skills to move the story along in a way that you forget you are dealing with a bunch of teenagers and simply allows the reader to enjoy a good story.

Plotting and pacing are excellent, the story opening with a layer of suspicion as Tor reads the most recent secret blog post.  The novel is told in first person and properly maintains Tor's POV throughout without devolving into more than just a basic level of telling to provide necessary backstory to our characters.  Once that is over, showing instead of telling moves along quickly as we follow the events as Tor experiences them, involving some hilarious moments when she is faced with her first government official meeting.  I don't remember a single issue with editing, so thumbs up from me.

Content Warning:   Except for perhaps one swear word and some sad moments involving canine companions, there is virtually nothing objectionable in this novel.

Teens of all ages will love living large and dangerous through Tor's antics.  Adults will enjoy the smart moments where Tor more than adequately puts the grey matter to the test.  Overall, this outing earns a well-deserved five stars from me.

Book Blurb TOR MADDOX: EMBEDDED:
Tor's adventures continue in this second book in the series.

Life has been way too quiet for Tor Maddox since her fifteen minutes of CNN fame. Then agent-in-training Rick Turner reappears with what sounds like a simple assignment—to embed herself as his eyes and ears in her own high school. When she agrees to keep tabs on high school state swim champ Hamilton Parker for the Feds, she is plunged into the deep end of a sinister plot. Knowing that freedom, justice, and lives are at stake again, Tor jumps in feet first, but has she gotten in over her head this time?

When observe and report becomes kiss and tell, Tor’s first mission may blow up in her face.

My Review:
We're back at it with Tor in this second installment.  Along with turning sixteen comes that coveted little piece of plastic that screams FREEDOM like William Wallace never could.  You remember, don't you?

A driver's license!

But Tor's first outing behind the wheel without her parents ends in a multiple mishap she could never have foreseen - and brings hunky college boy and junior government agent, Rick Turner, striding back into her life to save her road privileges.  This time, he needs her sharp-thinking skills to assist him.

Oh boy, oh boy - Tor's first, real, live, government agent-type assignment.  To get close to a fellow student in her high school.

Boring!  But hey, this is Tor Maddox we're talking about.  The girl who thinks on her feet (and in her size eight pointe shoes).  The girl who finds trouble where none could possibly be found.  The girl who can't help but get everyone around her in trouble when they try to help, much to her parents' chagrin.

Tor's second adventure involves an issue straight off of the news screens - illegal immigration.  No matter which side of the fence you're on, this is not an issue with a straight black or white answer.  I have friends that immigrated here and spent years and thousands of dollars to do it in the legal manner.  Then I know several people who were brought here by their parents when they were young and had no say in the matter, living life along the periphery with children now of their own - and living in fear of what will happen to their legal children if they are discovered as being here illegally.  But then terrorists are known to use illegal immigration routes and team with coyotes, whose interests end with the money, to infiltrate the U.S. in order to wreak havoc.  It can be an emotionally charged issue, one Tor finds herself facing when the grandfather of her dancing nemesis is shipped back to Mexico and in Tor's pursuits, finds herself crawling through a tunnel underneath the border.

The story is again exciting and we get to see more of the interactions of high school life without it becoming too much of an angst-ridden hormonal mess.  Tor inserts herself into the lives of the swim team, specifically Hamilton, in order to discover what it is Hamilton's dad has in play concerning what's happening across the border.  In the process, her best friend Sasha's dance legs are ripped out from beneath him - quite literally - and he ends up spending most of this book in the hospital, which was a disappointment for me because he provided some necessary breaths of humor in book one.  Tor's brother, Rody, continues to show how capable he is in trying to keep his sister out of trouble while doing a lot of CYA for her with the parents.  And sparks continue to fly between Tor and Rick - which is a little difficult for me at times since he's twenty-one and she's barely sixteen.  At least this problem is addressed and dealt with early on in the book, though the connection these two have made the ending rather nice.  Just when you thought it was over, surprise!

Plotting and pacing are again handled well.  We follow along with Tor during her adventures, keeping the story moving along in showing mode instead of resorting to telling, which can be difficult to do in first person narration.  There's a little more teen angst here than in the first one, but the more mature subject matter of dealing with illegal immigration kept it from devolving into fluff.  I did find the characters of Hamilton and his dad to be a little extreme, falling into the caricature of bigoted redneck as very one-dimensional.  Maybe I just haven't been exposed to such an extreme in real life, but it felt to me a bit overwrought with no balance or redeeming qualities.  Only one or two minor editing errors revealed in this one.

Content Warning:  There are a few more and varied cuss words in this second outing, but probably much less than anything teens already hear in school.  There's the whole lying to parents thing and using one's siblings and friends for CYA that rubs me a little the wrong way - then again, I'm a parent. :-)  A potential relationship between a twenty-something and teenager is probably many girls' dreams, but it isn't gratuitous.

Overall, another smart read for teens and adults.  I give this one four stars.

Book Blurb TOR MADDOX: MISTAKEN:
Tor's investigations and adventures continue in this third book in the Tor Maddox series.

Eight leotards and a ball gown—that’s what Tor Maddox packed for her summer ballet intensive in New York. Pity she never arrived. Kidnapped once by the good guys and once by the bad ones, Tor finds herself involved in a high seas adventure featuring princesses and pirates, a wedding ring, and the guy she thought she’d never be allowed to see again, junior man-in-black Rick Turner.

Tor's employee ID promises, "Your Fantasy Starts Here." It couldn't be more mistaken.

Grab a flotation device, and welcome aboard for more shenanigans, villainy, and romance.

My Review:
In a remarkable twist of events, Tor is on her way to spending the summer in an intensive course with the Joffrey Ballet in New York City.

Oh, how I envy her!

The only problem?  She is intercepted by none other than Agent Hunky to join him on a secret assignment aboard a cruise ship when his co-agent is injured in an accident.  So now she's not only a sixteen year-old going undercover, but no one knows where she's gone.

And this time she has to share cozy accommodations with the man who shares the beat of her heart.

So while pretending to be a young newlywed couple hired to entertain cruise guests, Tor and Rick are charged with protecting a pair of royalty so they can safely arrive at their island destination for their planned nuptials.

I must admit, this third book was the least enjoyable for me.  It was very difficult to stretch my imagination to where a sixteen year-old could pass herself off as twenty-three.  The "mission" was never made clear to Tor, much less the reading audience.  Rick continued to keep her in the dark for no real reason, and their tasks aboard the cruise ship really didn't warrant the need for Rick to have taken Tor away from her Joffrey experience.  There was no clear motivation for anything that happened, which muddied the waters of what might have been worked into a somewhat interesting story.  It seemed the only real purpose here was to satisfy the budding romantic arc between these two characters.

Which kinda creeped me out - I mean, again we have a twenty-one year-old MAN playing house with a sixteen year-old GIRL.  Things went waaay too far in this outing for my comfort.  Yes, Tor is a bit more smart and savvy than your average teenager, but she's still that - a teenager.

Speaking of which, the royal engaged couple most times acted more like teenagers than adults.  Odd.  There was way to much angst in this third novel of the series, with Rick being so wishy-washy at times I thought HE was the girl, not some extremely intelligent government agent.  There was no mystery to solve here.  No smart and sassy characters.  No intelligent plot.  The ending was almost an exact replica of the end of the second novel.  Same dance, change locations.  I was quite disappointed.

The other thing that bothered me with this one was the fact that time after time, throughout all three novels, Tor uses her brother, Rody, and those closest to her to do her dirty work - mainly lie to her parents.  However, never once does Tor pay the price for her deceptions and manipulations.  By this third book, she's coming across as not a very nice young lady to use her brother like this and to constantly get him into trouble.  Rody is the one who suffers from Tor's manipulations and lies.  Tor never does.

With the plot so convoluted and muddy, this made for slow and/or uneven pacing.  POV was still first person with Tor.  Mostly showing instead of telling allowed me to follow along as the story unfolded.  It just wasn't the story I'd come to expect in this series.  Will those who enjoy the romance genre find it a good read?  Possibly.  Editing errors were kept to a minimum, but there were once again a few more in this novel than the previous two.

Content Warning:  Stronger language is a bit more prevalent throughout this third novel, as well as the age factor and these two characters sharing close quarters.  I'm probably showing my age (and the fact that I'm a parent) here, but it was enough to make me uncomfortable - and I've read and written some pretty uncomfortable things in my arsenal.  There's also a lot more moral ambiguity in this novel, which makes it questionable for younger teens.  Like I always say, know your kids before they read this book.

But for once again having a mostly well edited novel, solid first person POV throughout, and for showing instead of telling, I'll give this third outing three stars.

Take advantage of the TOR MADDOX series by picking them up at Amazon (one, two, and three) and Barnes & Noble (one, two, and three).

Author Bio:
Liz Coley writes fiction for teens and for the teen in you.

"Pretty Girl-13" from HarperCollins US and UK is available in eleven international translations and audiobook."There are secrets you can't even tell yourself."

Her first published work was science fiction short stories, published in Cosmos magazine and several anthologies. Self-published YA novel "Out of Xibalba" features a contemporary teenager thrown back to ancient Mayan times. "The story starts when the world ends."

Her latest "Tor Maddox" teen series, including short story prequel DISARMED, as well as UNLEASHED (1), EMBEDDED (2), and MISTAKEN (3) represents the lighter side of Liz.

Liz lives in Ohio, where she is surrounded by a fantastic community of writers, beaten regularly by better tennis players, uplifted by her choir, supported by her husband, teased by her teenaged daughter, cheered from afar by her two older sons, and adorned with hair by her cats Tiger, Pippin, and Merry.

Liz invites you to follow her @LizColeyBooks on Twitter and Instagram, like LizColeyBooks on Facebook, and explore her website at lizcoley.com, where you can watch the book trailer, download editing tips, and read her confessional blog postings "Scenes from a Life."

Liz loves reading aloud.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rounding Out the Reviews with NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL

There are just some authors who keep bringing you back for more - and that's what we have here today.  After having read the series somewhat out of order (see review of third HERE and first HERE), I'm pleased to bring to you CW Browning's second novel in her Exit series - NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL.  This one was well worth the wait.

Book Blurb:
All sins are punished one day.

For the ruthless traitor protected deep within Washington, DC, that day has come. Alina Maschik has only one goal: find, expose, and eliminate the person who brought a terrorist onto United States soil. For an assassin trained to hunt for a living, this was a straight-forward, text-book mission. But nothing is ever simple with Alina. Unjustly labeled a rogue agent, she's made it to the top of America's Most Wanted list, her own government wants her dead, and everyone close to her is becoming a target. Now, in order to protect those she loves, Alina must work quickly to uncover the traitor...before they uncover her.

Viper returns in the riveting sequel to Next Exit, 3 Miles, determined to ensure that a national traitor pays for their sins, once and for all.

My Review:
I have to confess - I love this series!  This second novel in the series of three thus far is two thumbs up in my book.  The characters are rich, deep, and three-dimensional.  There are so many luscious layers to peel away to get to the heart of our main characters, and it's a delicious journey getting there.

That's what keeps drawing me back - the characters.  Alina - code name Viper - is a tough chick, with an ingrained sense of justice and right versus wrong.  When she's on the hunt, she's like a bloodhound on the scent.

And that fox ain't gonna get away!

Throw in a little Hawk - real name Damon - and things get fun, not to mention complicated, real quick.

After the culmination of THREE MILES, we begin PAY TOLL a few months later, with Alina hiding in plain sight, flirting with danger, and ready to kick some major butt.  The fearless Feds come after her - but they've got it all wrong.  A high-ranking insider in the D.C. scene paid a well-known but rarely seen international assassin to create chaos on U.S. soil.

However, Alina foiled those plans - and now the crazed perpetrator wants her to pay by placing a target on not only her back but on everyone who helped the Viper.

But as he always has, the Hawk has the Viper's back.

To tell you anymore would be a disservice to those who like a twisted mystery tied up with a thrill ride.  Needless to say, there are explosions of ALL sorts waiting in PAY TOLL.  Even though each main story arc is tied up by the end of each book, there is a real benefit from starting at the beginning and moving forward, as the little things presented in the background of book one explode to the forefront of book two.

Even though I like this series, there are still technical issues that cause gnashing of teeth.  There is a continual overuse of several 'ly' words - in this episode 'slightly' stands at the forefront - as well as a lot of eye narrowing.  Easy fixes.  Yes, most of you by now also know I am a purist when it comes to a single point-of-view per scene/chapter.  PAY TOLL jumps POV around from head-to-head throughout a scene or chapter, which can at times be jarring.

However, the plotting and pacing are excellent - moving along in this one at a greater pace than either of the others at this stage.  As mentioned, the characters are rich and varied.  Scenes are explosive with lots of showing instead of telling (yay!) and we get a good sense of motivation on behalf of our fearsome duo.

If it weren't for the POV issues, this one would easily get a fiver from me.  As it stands - oh heck - I'm feeling generous tonight and will overlook my usual fussiness.  NEXT EXIT, PAY TOLL earns a five star.

Content Warning:  Minimal use of coarse language.  Slight steam in the kettle in one scene, but it tames quickly.  Explosions, death, and assassinations constitute some violence that would be a bit much for younger teens.

Purchase a copy at Amazon.  And don't forget to pick up the first one HERE and the third one HERE.

Author Bio:
CW Browning was writing before she could spell. Making up stories in the backyard with her childhood best friend, imagination ran wild from the very beginning. When she moved to New Jersey from Kansas at the age of seven, those tales became written words as she adjusted to life on the East Coast. Her first full-length novel was printed out on a dot-matrix printer at the age of eight. Through the years, the writing continued as an enjoyable past-time while she pursued other avenues of interest, attending Rutgers University and studying History. In time, though, it became apparent where her heart truly lie. CW still makes up stories in her backyard, but now she crafts them for her readers to enjoy. She makes her home in Southern New Jersey, where she loves to grill organic steak and sip red wine on the patio.

Visit her at: www.cwbrowning.com
Find her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CW-Browning
Follow her on Twitter @cw_browning

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Returning to Reviews with STAY OF EXECUTION

It's been awhile, dear readers, but today I'm returning to the reviewer's saddle and mounting up for a good ride through mystery, intrigue, and murder.  What better way to do that than visit a new release from an author previously highlighted here.

With her sophomore release of the Detective Cancini Mystery series, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to bring author Kellie Larsen Murphy to you once again.  My review of A GUILTY MIND, her debut novel in this series, can be found HERE.  Ms. Murphy is no stranger to gut-wrenching situations and hard-boiled police procedure and brings that to us once again in STAY OF EXECUTION.

Book Blurb:
Little Springs was just a small college town, the kind of town where everyone knew everyone and violent crime was nonexistent—until a series of rapes and murders at the college. After an outbreak of fear and hysteria, only the arrest and conviction of Leo Spradlin, the "Co-Ed Killer," could end the terror.

Years later, Spradlin is suddenly cleared based on unshakable DNA evidence, and no one is more surprised than Detective Mike Cancini. As new questions surround the identity of the true "Co-Ed Killer," Cancini struggles to accept his role in the conviction of an innocent man. Suspicions mount when Spradlin’s release coincides with a fresh wave of rapes and murders at the college, eerily reminiscent of the original crimes. Cancini is drawn back to Little Springs, caught in a race against time to uncover the identity of the latest "Co-Ed Killer" before the next girl dies…

A tension-filled psychological mystery, STAY OF EXECUTION is also a novel about loyalty, deceit, and the darker side of truth.

My Review:
The novel opens in a world of chaos as an imprisoned killer is released when the DNA evidence in the case initially used to convict him is retested and unmistakably exonerates him.  The media feeding frenzy begins.  The political points are pursued.

And a small town is once again shaken to its core.

Not to mention the detective who almost single-handedly placed this supposed killer behind bars, launching him into the nation's eye.  Now Mike Cancini calls into question every case, every lead, and returns to the small town to retrace his steps and pick up the cold trail of a murderer - even though his boss has forbidden him to do so.

So what does Mike do?  Takes vacation and returns to the hamlet of Little Springs, Virginia, revisiting old haunts, old acquaintances, and the ghosts of a gruesome past he'd thought long buried.

Until the murders start all over again.

Once again, we have a novel well plotted and paced, with characters you at times want to love AND strangle.  Detective Cancini is still a bit of an enigma with challenges, self-doubt, and personal family issues that help connect this reader to him.  However, I had trouble connecting with Julia Manning, the intrepid reporter inserting herself into this story.  She didn't feel fully fleshed out and did some things that just made me roll my eyes.  She seemed inconsistent, though will perhaps return as a love interest for Cancini in the following novel.  There also was an overabundance of pronoun usage and quite a few more editing errors that jumped out and bit me - mainly a lot of missing small words and punctuation.

But the tension at times was thick.  You could feel Cancini's absolute frustration.  The fear of the townspeople was palpable.  The sneers and snide sense of "justice" on the part of certain media personalities and politicians was almost visible and made me want to slap someone - emotion is always good in a novel.  The details in the police procedure (like the minutiae in the DNA testing) was very interesting.

After being so pleasantly surprised by the twist at the end of A GUILTY MIND, I'd hoped to get something similar in STAY OF EXECUTION.  However, before I even hit the 20% reading mark on my Kindle, I had every detail figured out, which left me a little deflated by the end.  I'd hoped I was wrong.  I'd prayed I was wrong.  But everything was exactly as expected when I turned the final electronic page.

Then again, I'm just a little weird that way.

Will most readers have it all figured out by the end?  Maybe not.  Is this a well-crafted story?  Yes.  Can you get a good sense of the fear permeating the atmosphere?  Absolutely!  And for that I'll give STAY OF EXECUTION four stars.

Content Warning:  There is occasional use of strong language in STAY OF EXECUTION.  Some subject matter may be offensive or disturbing to some readers, including the rape and murder of a couple of victims (though these are not drawn out to the extreme).

Pick up a copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Author Bio:
Kellie Larsen Murphy is the author of A GUILTY MIND and STAY OF EXECUTION, the first two books
in the Detective Cancini Mystery series. She has written for several mid-Atlantic magazines and resides in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four children, and two very large, very hairy dogs. She would be happy to hear from readers through her website, www.kellielarsenmurphy.com.

You can also visit her on Twitter @aguiltymind.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Release Day is Here

The official release day has arrived!

Starting today, you can pick up AND read the third and final novel in the Deepest Darkness series, RISING FROM THE DARKNESS.  You've been so patient over the last few years, dear readers, as I've tripped and traipsed my way through learning the ropes of marketing instead of writing.  Your wait is finally over.

Samantha's journey is at an end.

There are explosions.

There are deaths.

But there is also redemption - for some.

Pick up and read RISING today at an eBook outlet near you.  It's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and everywhere else eBooks are sold.

And don't forget to connect with me on Facebook, email, or comment on the blog to let me know what you think.  Happy reading!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Pre-order RISING FROM THE DARKNESS

It's May 1st, so can you guess what that means????

Pre-orders are live for the third and final novel in the Deepest Darkness series - RISING FROM THE DARKNESS!!!

The pre-order option is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, with Apple soon to follow.  Reserve your copy now for it to be automatically delivered to your eReader of choice at 12:01 AM on July 1st, the official release day.

Are you ready to find out what happens to Sam and company?

Pre-order by clicking on your site of choice here: Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

Then get ready for the explosive finale.

Friday, April 17, 2015

First Glimpse - Cover Reveal for RISING FROM THE DARKNESS

You've waited patiently for years, dear readers.

You've emailed, wondering where that next release is.  Wondering when that next release would surface.  Wondering how Samantha's journey would end.

I thank you for your patience, dear readers, as I learned the path of an indie author, the time-consuming ropes of marketing, and also while I stuttered about when life impeded writing.

It's been a few years since my last release, but the wait it nearly over.  The finale has almost arrived.  Now for the details.

Beginning May 1st you can pre-order at several major ebook outlets the third and final book in the Deepest Darkness series - RISING FROM THE DARKNESS.  Official release is July 1st.

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of the first two in the Deepest Darkness series, you can still access RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS free in digital format and PIERCING THE DARKNESS for $2.99 in digital format on the right sidebar.  Also available in print, for those of you who like to feel the weight of good 'ol paper in your hands.

In the meantime, be among the first to gaze upon the brand, spanking new cover below.  I hope you like it as much as I do!

Book Blurb:
It’s finally here – the explosive finale of the Deepest Darkness series.

Samantha Bartlett has a new mission – and this time it’s one of her own choosing.  Armed with information worth killing for, Samantha pieces together secrets spanning generations and uncovers the key to Debrille’s plans, including the horror of his true identity.  But will it be enough for redemption?  Especially when facing the bridges she’s burned?

Life was once clearly black or white, but now Joe Roberts has a target on his back – and it’s sighted by his boss at the FBI.  It’s not just from running off with their primary suspect in President Warner’s murder and then allowing her to escape.  No.  He’s the Elite’s latest scapegoat.  That alone begs the question.  Is Sam a cold-blooded killer or a mere pawn used in a global chess game?

World War III looms on the horizon as the Middle East threatens to implode, world alliances are scrapped, and a once tenuous truce with a former enemy collapses – all under President Durksen’s watch.  Shadowed by the Elite’s constant and vigilant guard, Durksen must find a way out of the hole he dug for himself long ago.  But can he accomplish it in time, or will the United States die like so many nations before it?

Explosions light up the night.  Friend becomes foe.  Sister against sister.  Lives are lost.  Sacrifices made.  But in order to realize true freedom, evil must be defeated.

No matter the cost.




A huge thank you once again to Genevieve at LaVO Design (www.lavodesign.com) for the awesome cover art.

Thanks also to participants in my cover reveal.  Click on the links and visit their sites to offer up support of fellow authors and readers.  I'll be updating the links throughout the day as posts go live, so keep watching.

Check out the post on Eden's blog at Eden Baylee.
Here's another from Kellie's blog at Kellie Larsen Murphy
And another from Nora's blog at Only God Writes Trees 
Fellow author CW has something to say over at CW Browning 
Heidi, another fellow author, has posted at Heidi Ruby Miller
Here's one from Gordon at Gordon Kessler 
Brian, one of my long-time critique partners, posted on Father Thunder/Mother Night 
Here's a shout-out from A.D., a UK author partner from Action Girl Books

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thanks Indie View!

All you ever wanted to know about little ol' me is over at the Indie View.  They were so gracious to interview me and highlight RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS.  Please run over and check it out - leave a comment if so inclined.

Catch it at this link http://www.theindieview.com/2015/03/15/indieview-with-d-a-bale-author-of-running-into-the-darkness/

RISING FROM THE DARKNESS UPDATE:  For those of you who are anxiously awaiting the return of Samantha, Joe and the cast of characters in the Deepest Darkness series, I'm nearing completion of the third and final book in the series.  The cover is almost ready for the big reveal - it's gonna be fantastic.  Lots of explosions, death and destruction.  Who will survive - and who won't - when it's all over. 

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Getting to Know Fellow Indie Andrew Watts

It's been a bit since we've had time together, oh patient readers.  While I'm busy plugging away on my next release, I thought it would be a good time to share another author interview with you.  He's a former Navy pilot with his first novella release, so he's got an interesting story to tell on both the reality side and the creative side.

But enough from me.  Let's open the door for Andrew Watts to weave the threads together about his intricate CIA thriller.  Welcome, Andrew!

DAB:   Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author? 

AW:     I have always liked telling stories.  When I was a kid in the 80s, I used to use my dad’s super technology – the VHS video camera – to make movies with my cousins or other kids in the neighborhood.  I loved reading as I got older and when I was on my last deployment, on board an aircraft carrier deployed to the Middle East, I decided to start writing fiction as a hobby.  I’m out of the military now, and a few people encouraged me to try self-publishing.

DAB:   I remember those old cameras!  How did your ten-year stint in the Navy influence the writing of your novella?
 
AW:     I am writing with the knowledge and experience of my ten year career in the Navy.  I have seen a lot of interesting situations.  For instance, I flew missions supporting the rescue of Captain Philips when he was taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009.  Flying on night vision goggles while Seal Team Six is below you on high-speed inflatable boats is pretty exciting.  I am hoping to bring some of that excitement to my stories.

DAB:   Heck, yeah!  Where did you come up with the idea for The War Planners?

AW:     I loved Red Storm Rising, by Tom Clancy.  I also loved the movie Red Dawn (the original, not the remake!)  The USSR was a great empire-villain for stories.  Today, I think there is only one country that has the capability to serve that role in a military thriller, and that is China.  You always read stories about the Chinese conducting cyber attacks on our military and building up their own military.  It’s a bit strange, considering the huge economic ties our two countries have.  But for fiction, they make the perfect stand-in villain.  (Even though I’ve been to China, and have nothing but nice things to say about the actual people there!)  I had written several chapters for different stories about how China could attack the United States.  Then I decided to play around with the some fun ideas on how it would all begin, if it ever did happen…

DAB:   Sounds like something I'd love to read...when I can find the time.  Tell us about the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.
 
AW:     Well, as a new author, I have yet to receive fan mail from someone that I don’t know.  But I have had a few total strangers sign up for my email list.  It was the same day that I ran a FKBT promo.  I sold 50 books that day, by far my best sales day.  I was thrilled.  But I can honestly say that I was even more excited when I got an email telling me that someone had signed up for my email list.  I looked at the name and didn’t recognize them.  That meant that they had read my book and liked it enough to want to hear about my next one! 

DAB:   That's always a great feeling.  When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

AW:     I almost always listen to music when I write.  I often listen to Pandora channels of movie soundtrack composers that I like.  My favorite right now: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ music.  They did the soundtracks for The Social Network and Gone Girl.  Great stuff.

DAB:   There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

AW:     I wrote a detailed outline for The War Planners.  I have also outlined my next work, but it is less detailed.

DAB:   Panster here!  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?
 
AW:     I am reading Swag, by Elmore Leonard. 

DAB:   What’s the best thing about being an author?  The most difficult?
 
AW:     The best thing about being a self-published author is the freedom to choose every detail of your work.  The most difficult thing for me is time management.  I have a full time job and three kids under six years old.  So I try to write at night and on weekends when I get chance.  It forces you to maximize the time that you do have. 

DAB:   And then some, huh?  What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?

AW:     I have tried a little of everything (at least everything that I’ve heard of).  Facebook posts, Facebook ads, Google Display Network, Goodreads ads, joining and posting on Goodreads groups, posting on Kboards, running ads on FKBT and a few other email lists.  I have requested reviews and author interviews from bloggers.  Oh and I have run Amazon’s KDP select promos and ads.  I am learning what works and what does not, and keeping a careful list to track ROI.  Next time I will be much more focused.

DAB:   Well when you get that next novel published try BookBub too.  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?
 
AW:     I am working on the sequel to The War Planners.  Title TBD.  But I’m hoping to launch it in April.

DAB:   Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

AW:     David is kidnapped by the CIA and thrown on a jet.  The CIA operatives tell him about a Chinese plot to attack the United States.  They need his help to figure out how the Chinese are going to do it.  But when he gets to the remote island base where they will plan the attacks, he learns that all is not as it seems…   

Thank you again, Andrew, for stopping by and sharing with us about your exciting-sounding novella.  I hope to have a chance to read it later this year...someday.  In the meantime, dear readers, check out the book blurb and pick up a copy of your own by clicking on AMAZON.

Book Blurb:
The Chinese economy is faltering. Civil unrest threatens the Communist leadership’s grip on power. But
where some see a crisis, others see an opportunity…

A CIA operative in Shanghai transmits two earth-shattering revelations to his contacts in Langley, and then goes missing. First, the U.S. government has been infiltrated with Chinese spies. Second, an inner circle of Chinese leaders have set in motion plans to do the unthinkable – to invade the United States of America.

Lena Chou is one of the few U.S. officials who knows the truth. She must put together a top-secret task force to help America’s government prepare for what will come. Now, in order to covertly plan the defense of the United States, Lena has gathered a Red Cell, a group of experts that will plan how China could best attack it.

David Manning is one of those experts. After he is abruptly taken to the covert island base where the Red Cell is being held, Lena presents the group with evidence of China’s imminent attack. But while the Red Cell plans for war, David suspects that something about this gathering of minds is terribly wrong…

Author Bio:
Andrew Watts graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2003 and served as a naval officer and helicopter pilot until 2013. During that time, he flew counter-narcotic missions in the Eastern Pacific and counter-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa. He was a flight instructor in Pensacola, FL, and helped to run ship and flight operations while embarked on a nuclear aircraft carrier deployed to the Middle East.  Today, he lives with his family in Ohio.  Check out his website for contact information and more.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Review of PIERCING THE DARKNESS

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Hump Day!

I'm still hard at work on RISING FROM THE DARKNESS and have made substantial headway the last couple of weeks.  The cover reveal is coming up soon!

In the meantime, check out the latest review of the second book in the Deepest Darkness series PIERCING THE DARKNESS, once again from Action Girl Books.  Find it by clicking here on the LINK.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Sitting Down With A.D. Phillips

It's a cold and dreary day, perfect for sharing an informative and fun interview with you.  He's a male author writing female action heroines in thrilling and pulse-pounding situations.  Characters are no-holds-barred, tough, gritty, and like to kick a little butt (or a lot).  Welcome to the blog, fellow indie author A.D. Phillips.


DAB:  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

ADP:    My main hobbies (besides writing of course!) are cinema and computer games. Favourite genres are action, thrillers, and science fiction. I've worked as a research scientist, and hold a PhD in Applied Mathematics (unusual for a fiction author, perhaps). Because of this, it's probably not too surprising that I tend to favour writing action and science fiction.

I often picture scenes playing out in my head as I write them, which gives my work a strong cinematic style. Often my chapters are full of intense action sequences and short, snappy dialogue. Ideas themselves can sometimes just come to me (don't really have a trick or any advice here). I tend to avoid 'being inspired' by something I've recently read/seen, as this can make novels highly derivative.

DAB:  Very much so!  Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

ADP:    A good question, given I'm a male author and my publishing label is Action Girl Books!

Almost everything I've done features a female in the role of action heroine, villainess, or both. I'm not quite sure what draws me to write female main characters. Perhaps its because they're still relatively rare in the action world and have tended to feature more in romance and mysteries (though that is changing, particularly with the growth in indie publishers and the restrictions that 'writing to the market' can impose).

I don't fret too much about writing/including females. If anything, I sometimes worry that maybe I make mine too tough (and possibly unrealistic). But the genres I write are quite escapist, really. A lot of male heroes perform unrealistic feats, so why should it be any different for women?

One of my recent works - Edith Clayton and the Wisdom of Athena - is written in first person perspective through the eyes of a teenage girl. This was a bit more challenging to do, as you're constantly writing through the eyes/mind of the opposite sex. Thankfully there are quite a few books out now told from female first person in the action/thriller genre, which helped a bit for preparation.

DAB:  And oh, that teenaged angst.  Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?

ADP:    Always the villain(ess), regardless of the novel. Won't give his/her name for this book, as it would rather spoil the mystery! I guess it's similar to actors/actresses who like to play villainous roles and do deeds they would (hopefully) never do in real life. Because it's more fun to be the bad guy/girl!

I especially enjoy writing crafty villains. I always try to avoid overly complex plans that rely on pure chance/luck (can be very annoying to any reader), but carefully laid, thought-out schemes that dupe the main character... I love putting those in. And intelligent adversaries that can match the hero(ine) mentally and physically. Nobody likes a one-sided affair or anticlimax.

DAB:  Two thumbs up from me in that regard.  Villains can be so interesting to write.  What kind of research practices do you utilize for writing?

ADP:    I tend to use the Internet for most things, though I've known people who advise not to. Sometimes it can be frustrating digging up information, but with my research background I enjoy the process. Ideally I would like to spend some time in foreign countries to get a better feel than you can from encyclopaedias and videos, but obviously money's a factor (particularly for an indie publisher!).

For now, I tend to base my scenes around locations I've visited / things I know something about. In any case, I would advise other authors not to worry too much. Having been a scientist, teacher and researcher, I know reality is very different from how it is portrayed in media. If things were written too realistically, they would be dreadfully dull (particularly for the genres I work in). I concentrate on getting the essentials right (where major landmark buildings are, appropriate clothes / speech for characters etc.) and invent most minor details.

For instance, Termination Notice is probably much closer to detective thriller fiction novels / Lifetime TV movies than real life police work. But that's what a lot of readers enjoy, and the tone I'm aiming for.

DAB:  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not. What is your preference?

ADP:    I did things very differently with my two recent novels. Edith Clayton I just had general ideas for, and went from there. The main plot elements were in my head from the beginning, but as I was writing and researching other details popped into my head.

Termination Notice was based around an unsold / unproduced film script I wrote some time ago. So I already had a lot of dialogue and the main plot developments. There were still some changes (cool bits that came to me when writing), and characters were more fleshed out for the book.

For first time authors out there, I would advise them to finish a book. Even if it's a poor first attempt (and they usually are), the big psychological barrier is that first book. Once you've finished one, the second feels easier - because you know you've done it before.

DAB:  So true.  Write, write, write.  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

ADP:    I've managed to avoid negative feedback on my novels so far, but in the past I've written interactive fiction. I imagine most readers of this blog won't know what I'm talking about, so I've put a brief explanation below.

To summarise, they're text-based computer games similar in design to choose your own adventure books, but a lot more complicated. In these you play a character, move through various described locations, input action commands, and get responses back. Think of them as interactive novels with multiple plot branches. I've done five of these and most took many months (essentially book length in terms of text).

Response on these has varied dramatically. One particular game got highlighted by a review site on a list titled 'The Worst of Interactive Fiction' (ouch!). But then another reviewer loved / praised the exact same work! Literature is very subjective, so I don't let bad reviews get me down. So long as they're written constructively and go into some detail about what aspects they didn't like, I don't really regard them as 'bad reviews'. The worst feedback is none at all - that can be very depressing.

I typically strive to improve and take heed of those comments I agree with. And disregard those I don't. You have to accept not everyone will like your work, and it's impossible to please everyone. I've seen a lot of TV series producers attempt to attract new viewers over the years by changing tone/style, and most ended up annoying their core audience. Sometimes you just have to stick to your style and keep working to make your books better.

DAB:  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

ADP:    I'm currently focused on reading books with female central characters, partly to put them up at my
review/blog site. I'm trying to mix traditionally published and independent works. I've finished the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (think everyone interested in action girl has read those!), and am just about to start on Divergent by Veronica Roth. I'm a bit late getting to these popular books because I've been working on my own stuff. I'm focusing on young adult because of my own Edith Clayton series.

For independent works, I'm on book two of your very own 'Rising' trilogy (and looking forward to the third when it comes out), and am about to start Pentecost by Joanna Penn - another blogger with many helpful tips for indie writers/publishers.

DAB:  Thank you so much for reading.  Of all your novels, which one is your favorite, and why?

ADP:    Edith Clayton and the Wisdom of Athena. It's an idea I've had for a while, and it's also a historical novel (which brought extra challenges) that blends in action and science fiction for good measure.

The book is my longest to date - around 81,000 words. Most of my books tend to be shorter because I absolutely hate filler and cut it out wherever I feel it doesn't advance something - plot or character development.

DAB:  Me too!  What’s the best thing about being an author? The most difficult?

ADP:    Best thing: when you finish something, read it, and enjoy it. I've always believed in writing books you'd want to pick up off a shelf (and not following whatever the current trend happens to be). But finishing a novel feels wonderful. At least until you get around to the rewrites!

Worst thing: when you publish a book, and very few people read it. This is particularly frustrating for those new to the scene. But it's important to remember there's a lot of competition these days, and independent publishing is often a struggle except for the fortunate/talented few. That said, I've endured plenty of form rejections over the years, so it's nice when you actually get positive comments. And having creative control is a wonderful feeling I wouldn't trade away.

DAB:  Amen to that.  What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?

ADP:    A lot of it has been trial and error so far. I sometimes feel the 'author platform' is overrated, and working on craft is essential. It's very easy to get bogged down by marketing.

I've put myself out on social media, started a blog - the usual. I find Twitter to be much more useful for making contacts than advertising. A lot of people seem to auto-tweet about their books continuously and do little else (a big turn-off for me, and I imagine most others).

So far, most stuff I've tried hasn't worked, but it's a case of experimenting. For instance, through my networking I got this interview with D.A. Bale. Also you have to remember to give and take a little. Reviewing other author's work / helping them gets a lot more respect than simply plugging your own work endlessly.

DAB:  I'm right there with you too.  Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

ADP:    Termination Notice is different to a lot of thrillers (indeed books), because it's not written from the viewpoint (heads) of its characters. I imagined watching a film and wrote only what could be seen and heard. This should give it a more original flavour, though I imagine the style I've chosen won't appeal to everyone.

As I've said, I don't like filler so I'm hoping I've put together something with plenty of drama, twists and turns. I do fast-paced thrillers with high body counts, so don't expect too many lulls in the action.

There's a sample over at the Action Girl Books blog (http://actiongirlbooks.wordpress.com) if people want to try before they buy. It's worth a look for anybody interested in murder mysteries with lots of action, thrills, and scares.

One last word to the blog-runner: thanks very much for the interview opportunity. Sometimes it's easy to forget that people who manage these sites are often writers too (certainly true in D.A. Bale's case), so any time given up to help a fellow author is much appreciated.

And thanks to you too, A.D., for taking time to give us this insight into your writing method and your novels.  I plan to read them someday - but not until finishing the final book in my series.  Until then, dear readers, take a moment and check out A.D.'s novels, available through all eReaders sales channels.  For more information, visit his website www.actiongirlbooks.wordpress.com.

Author Bio:
A.D. Phillips lives in Manchester, UK. The author holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics and currently works as an analyst, but has previously been a mathematics teacher and a researcher based at NASA Goddard, USA.

Despite having a non-literary background, A.D. has a passion for creative writing, and is the author of numerous works of fiction, most notably a series of text adventure games (in the style of 80s Infocom works) that are currently available as free downloads from specialist websites.

Most of the author's works feature female protagonists and/or villainesses. Favourite genres are action adventures, thrillers, and science fiction.