Books, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Urban Fantasy

Review: SNOW IN SUMMER by Laura Kemp

Description:

Front Cover

It’s been a year since Justine Cook defeated an immortal enemy that had hunted her family for generations. Settling into a peaceful life with her boyfriend in the small town of Lantern Creek, Michigan, she hopes to escape the events of the summer before. But the past won’t let go so easily.

When a woman named Amanda Bennett survives a fall from a cliff on Mackinac Island, it triggers a series of events that reawakens the past. Soon Justine and her brother Adam are pulled into a mystery that threatens to destroy the new life they have worked so hard to create. As people begin to die- people only Amanda Bennett can see- Justine must race against time to destroy a dark power she thought she had buried the summer before.

My Take:

SNOW IN SUMMER is Book 2 in the Yellow Wood Series and is scheduled for publication on 11.18.20. It is highly recommended that you read Book 1 in the series prior to reading Book 2 as many of the events from the first book have direct bearing on the characters and their many challenges in Book 2. Although the author does a good job of refreshing the reader’s memories where relevant, there is not a detailed summary of the previous work included. Having said that, the book stands alone fairly well as a compelling read with a solid plot and fast pace once the rationale for the extension of the previous story arc is established.

Justine and Dylan return from book one and the story is set in the summer following the events of Book 1 in the series. A new character, Amanda, is introduced early in the prologue, and her difficulties draw in the series’ returning characters. A portion of the story is set on picturesque Mackinac Island, a favorite vacation spot off the Lake Huron coast of northern Michigan, as Troy, Amanda’s lumberjack/horse trainer boyfriend has an apartment above the Calhoun stable near the Grand Hotel on the island. The strong romantic elements of the story present complicated triangles among the characters that challenge the stability of relationships, while the villain uses their human weaknesses to torment them and force a confrontation. Kemp does this extremely well while bending and twisting the paranormal elements of the backstory around the realism of the everyday struggles of the characters, like working their jobs, paying for school, and trying very hard to resist being drawn into the unsettled issues that remain from Book 1. The result is a mind-blowing, breathless, rollercoaster ride of life-threatening obstacles requiring tough choices and ingenuity to negotiate, while seeming plausible at an extraordinary level for a magical realism mash-up with a mystery/suspense/thriller.

Author Bio:

Laura signing books outside the Island Bookstore on Mackinac Island

Laura is a teacher who loves to write about her home state of Michigan. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University where she studied under Stuart Dybek, and has had her short fiction and poetry published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Word Riot, Tonopalah Review, SaLit and SLAB: Sound and Literary Art Book. “The Pursuit of Happiness,” – a short story she wrote while at WMU, was chosen as a finalist in the Trial Balloon Fiction Contest.

When not writing, Laura enjoys musical theatre, hiking, swimming, reading and performing with her Celtic band- Si Bhaeg Si Mohr. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and children as well as her dog, two hamsters, two gerbils, ten chickens, two horses and eight (and counting) cats.


Connect with Laura: Sea Legs on Land, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and Woody’s Book Tour.

Get Laura’s Books at Pandamoon Publishing and Amazon.

Amazon, Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Urban Fantasy, Writing

Review: SUICIDE SOULS by Penni Jones

Description:

Front Cover

Death is not always final…

Naomi and Luke have only one thing in common: they both died by suicide. They can earn a second chance at life by efficiently guiding their loved ones through grieving their untimely deaths.

Naomi excels at making her friends and family mourn, but the Death Shadow stalks ever closer to Luke. The dark entity carries non-compliant souls straight to Oblivion where unspeakably terrifying torture and the final goodbye await.

The two are forced to work together to navigate the in-between world in which they’re stuck. The only certainty is that the rules are unclear and shifting, and things are not always as they seem.

The pair must prove they’re worthy of another shot at life before time runs out. Can Naomi and Luke get better at living now that they’re dead?

My Take:

You’ve got to love an author who is willing to take chances, challenging norms, and pushing beyond the conventions of a genre. Penni Jones has done that with each of her previous novels: ON THE BRICKS and KRICKET. Although her writing has elements of mystery, suspense, and thrillers, there is always a gritty kind of realism as well. We can readily identify with her characters because they remind us of someone we know, or perhaps ourselves. She is frank, honest, and unafraid to tell us things others might decide not to. And what she says tends to be what we would think if we were in the same circumstances. This lends an immediacy to the story that allows the reader to become immersed into the story and care about what happens to its characters. SUICIDE SOULS is no different in its style but deviates from its siblings in subject matter. It is about life, death, and an afterlife that clearly is not exactly what the characters might have been led to expect. There is depth here that is subtly presented as a fairly simple, straight-forward story becomes more involved and complicated as the telling progresses. And in this, death becomes more and more like life, just with more frustrating differences.

As Naomi and Luke introduce themselves, we not only learn how they offed themselves but, over the course of the telling, we learn more than just the why. We learn about their character flaws, their insecurities, and their self-images that have followed them beyond death. Even though their physical natures perished with their bodies their self-images have followed them beyond the grave. For example, Naomi is busty and, in her own eyes, that has defined her relationships with men. Luke is insure about nearly everything including his obsession with superficial primary gender characteristics. Luke’s eyes rarely stray from Naomi’s boobs, even though they are merely echoes of what they were in life. As the story evolves, each of them must reconcile their pasts with their current situations. In due course, they come to realize how thin and vapid they were in their own lives – and perhaps why these flaws contributed to why they ended their lives. Although their lives were complicated and not all the different from the situations that define many of our own lives and those of our friends, they decided to end it all, only to learn that the end is only the beginning of a more complicated mess.

In death, Naomi and Luke’s existences become convoluted, confusing and, on the whole, a lot worse. Jones envisions an arbitrary structure that permeates everything around her characters as they navigate a minefield of manipulation and selfish intentions set against them. Redemption is not guaranteed as the author presents the world with a wry eye for the absurd and ill-conceived that reminds me of the societal commentaries embedded in the stories of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Jones’ characters make do with their lots as they progress toward uncertain conclusions. What results is an often biting treatment of the human condition that attacks conventional aspirations, ambitions, hopes, and dreams with hellish potentials largely beyond the characters’ control. The taking of one’s life is not glorified. Far from it. Death here is not the escape from life that some assume but an inevitable consequence of a larger process. Nothing is given. Nothing can be taken for granted. Your situation may vary and is not intended to get better. The best anyone can do is paying a lot of attention to the decisions one makes. The result is an engaging story that becomes more compelling and even hilariously farcical at the conclusion.

Author Bio:

Penni Jones

Penni Jones is a writer, movie buff, concert t-shirt enthusiast, reluctant multi-tasker, grunge music listener, and blogger extraordinaire of Scapegoats and Sacred Cows
Penni started writing stories as soon as she learned how to hold a pencil. She is an avid reader whose favorites include Mark Haskell Smith, Ariel Gore, Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut, Gillian Flynn, Christopher Moore, and Kelly Braffet.

Penni is an Arkansas native with a nomadic spirit. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. She has worked as a bartender, restaurant manager, bank teller, payroll specialist, event planner, and office manager. These days she focuses on writing. She currently resides in Michigan and probably has too many pets. She is currently the Membership Chair of Michigan Sisters in Crime. Follow her on Twitter at .

Pre-Order ebook of SUICIDE SOULS (launches on 2.10.21). Find info on her other books at Pandamoon Publishing.

Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing

Review: CRESCENT CITY SIN by Nola Nash

Description:

Front Cover

In the Crescent City, darkness blurs the lines between sinners and saints.

Having been brought back through the veil after her death, Zéolie wakes to find she’s being cared for by the mother superior. Secrets are slowly revealed as Mother Micheaux explains her connection to the past Zéolie’s father kept hidden all her life. Once her strength has returned, Zéolie tries to ease back into her home and life without Louis, but soon finds herself helping a young man who mistakenly shows up at her house looking for his long-lost mother. Feeling compassion for the young man who is far from his home in France, she and the Marchon girls attempt to help him locate his mother while making him feel welcome.

Julien, the young man, finds himself strangely drawn to Zéolie and slowly loses his heart to her, but his feelings aren’t returned when Zéolie makes a new discovery that changes her life once more. Jilted, Julien unleashes his grief in the form of magical power he didn’t know he had and finds comfort in the friendship of a local madame. Out of control and angry, he succumbs to the darkness inside of him and the taunting voice of a raging spirit hungry for revenge.

Can Zéolie and her magical menagerie pull Julien back from the edge of hell, or will the past take them all down? Walk down the gritty dark streets of 1830s New Orleans where the line between sinner and saint is as blurred as the line between life and death.

My Take:

As a follow up to the wild ride of CRESCENT CITY MOON, Nola Nash outdoes herself with the sequel, CRESCENT CITY SIN. I’m compelled to write spoiler alert here, but I will refrain from revealing any secrets. Having said that, if you haven’t yet started your journey into the freaky, surreal, spookiness that permeates The Crescent City Series, you need to punch your ticket now. Trust me, you need to start with CCM. However, you could easily read these two books out of sequence as each is solidly written and entertaining in its own right, though the second book would spoil some of the surprises of the first.

CCS begins shortly after the conclusion of CCM with a well-conceived, succinct first chapter that eerily links the two books, while reinforcing the underlying theme of the series, that the city of New Orleans is a world unto itself where natural laws are often subjectively applied. After all, voodoo is not only practiced but generally accepted as part of the subculture. So, it should be no surprise that witchcraft is practiced with often life-threatening consequences and the line between devout faith and magic is at best blurred or ignored altogether. The barrier of death can be transcended if you possess the method and means for the right reasons. Nash reminds us nothing in New Orleans stays buried for long.

Nash’s rare gift is weaving her descriptive settings and well-developed characters into the plot. Truly, the city she loves is a character in this story. It serves as a bridge between old and new, and an effective backdrop for the creepiest elements of this tale. The story ranks among the best I’ve ever read, both engaging and memorable. It becomes a fast read because of its pacing, which builds gradually to an adrenalin-pumping, gut-punching crescendo. And we’re left with a hint of yet another story to tell because, after all, nothing ever truly ends in the Crescent City.

CRESCENT CITY SIN releases worldwide on 10.28.20 from Pandamoon Publishing.

Author Bio:

Nola Nash

Originally from south Louisiana, Nola Nash now makes her home in Brentwood , Tennessee, with her three children. Growing up in Baton Rouge, she spent long hours onstage or backstage in the local community theaters, or writing stories that refused to leave her head any other way than to be put on paper. Her biggest inspiration was the city of New Orleans that gave her at an early age a love of the magic, mystery, and history. There are few better places for her to dream up stories than walking through the French Quarter or Garden District imagining what those places could tell.

When she isn’t writing, Nola is teaching middle school English, which means she gets to play with words all day while dodging hormones and drama. Except for the school plays and musicals, that is. Then, she’s the one creating the drama. If the weather is warm enough, she’s out on her balcony tending her garden and suburban wildlife that hang out there. If the weather isn’t great, she’s geeking out over BBC America. When she can, Nola sneaks a few minutes to meditate (only a few minutes because meditating can lead to naps and those make her discombobulated.) She also considers tacos and coffee major food groups.

Get CRESCENT CITY SIN and CRESCENT CITY MOON

Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Technology, Urban Fantasy

Review: PHAROS by Rachel Sharp

Description:

Front Cover

Jack and Rosie tried to return to their normal hacker lives after encountering the metal fae, but now people are disappearing. Their next-door neighbor Zelda, a psychobilly actress with a screaming habit, is on the receiving end of a home invasion by a living cloud that was likely meant for them. They’re not sure what they’re dealing with…and Rosie may have been infected by the same black dust as the missing locals.

She feels it drawing her out to sea, where the others disappeared. She knows better than to go, but when they exhaust their other options, Rosie follows the only lead she has; chasing the impulse she’s felt since encountering the black dust. It leads her to the Graves, an old lighthouse, where a Kindwraith has taken up residence. Instead of trying to kill Rosie, it heals her.

But if the Kindwraith is a helpful faerie…what’s eating people?

My Take:

PHAROS picks up about a year after the events in PHAETHON, Book one of the series. Note: PHAROS stands alone well without prior knowledge of the series. Sharp does an excellent job dealing with the backstory without it seeming forced. Jack and Rosie’s life is dramatically altered from what it was before book one, but it has settled into a new normal as they coexist with not only the knowledge of the existence of the fae around them but also cohabiting with Lassie, a brownie introduced in book one. Here, Zelda, a new, quirky neighbor is introduced and she rapidly becomes an integral part of the story.

Character development is Sharp’s forte, spending the correct amount of attention to the relationships exposed through dialog and interactions. She expertly weaves the plot elements around the characters as she explores the new challenges before them. But it is her way of telling the story that makes this book a must-read. It feels real despite the far-fetched premise and surreal situations; she invites the reader to suspend disbelief, almost immediately immersing them in a fantasy world where magical realism is not only the norm even if most people don’t realize the truth, but also an elemental part of the interworkings of its nature. The resulting foundation defines the interactions of fae with humans and exposes how dangerous or beneficial it can be depending on dispositions and circumstances.

I thoroughly enjoyed PHAROS and already look forward to the next installment, which I understand is currently under development.

Author Bio:

After a decade of touring the country, Rachel Sharp now lives in Vermont with several plants and her questionable sense of humor.

At time of writing, she is working on entirely too many projects. The previous statement will be true regardless of time of reading.

She also lives with chronic illness, plays ukulele, and tries to save the planet. Learn more about Rachel Sharp and her writing at her website. Get her books at Amazon and Pandamoon Publishing.

Amazon, Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel

Quick Review of The Lost War: Eidyn Book One by Justin Lee Anderson

The Lost War is well-written and engaging with solid, interesting, well-developed characters. Even the lesser characters feel real for their moments in the spotlight. For those of us who have experienced Carpet Diem, this one is different but in a good way. This is an epic fantasy brushed onto a much larger canvas, a world where magic isn’t exactly accepted but whenever it shows up it isn’t a surprise. Where Carpet Diem was an urban fantasy told with a sense of irony and wit, Lost War is an evolution in Anderson’s storytelling with great attention to detail that allows the reader to become completely immersed and escape our own weird, warped world for several hours.

Recommended for lovers of Epic Fantasy teen and above

Rating – Five Stars

Print Length: 572 pages

Publisher: King Lot Publishing

Publication Date: August 30, 2019

Available in US on Amazon and in UK on Amazon

Amazon, Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Two Weeks from Today

The launch of Homer Underby, Book 2 of The Thuperman Trilogy, is set for August 14. It continues the story of Will and Sandra, two precocious 8-year-old kids with active imaginations and budding superpowers. The story picks up where Becoming Thuperman, Book 1 of the series, left off. Sandra is grounded. Although Will is not, having his best friend unavailable is like being grounded. All they can do is wait until Saturday. If they win the first Little League game of the season Sandra’s grounding is over. But a new adventure is just beginning as the kids learn about a 20-year-old unsolved mystery involving the deserted old house down the street from where they live.

Homer Underby is a Pandamoon Publishing release available for pre-order at Amazon.

Authors Life, Books, Fantasy, Future, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Writing

What’s this…Another Update?

Cover for HOMER UNDERBY

This past weekend marked another milestone. HOMER UNDERBY is now on pre-sale for Kindle with a launch date of August 14th. That also means the ARCs are available and being distributed for pre-launch reviews. I’m proud of this book, not that I haven’t been proud of my others. But this one is a little different because of the collaborative effort that went into its conceptualization.

If you’ve been following my blogs, I mentioned that the first draft of BECOMING THUPERMAN was written in the summer of 2013, while FRIED WINDOWS was in editing. I polished up the draft a bit and submitted it to my publisher who eventually put the book under contract a few months later. From the outset I intended the book to be a one of kind thing as an author. It is a story about kids, after all, and although my books have been kid-friendly for the most part, they have been intended to be YA or older. Despite the ages of the two main characters, BECOMING THUPERMAN is not a children’s book, per se.

During the editing process for BT, about a month before it was released, Jessica Reino, the substantive editor, suggested that a couple of story lines might be easily extended if I feathered in some foreshadowing earlier on in the story. And after an hour or so discussing the possibilities, I had two more books plotted out in a rough outline. I know that’s the way some writers work, but it was unusual for me. My first drafts tend to be free form. I create an outline after the fact to organize the resulting chaos. So, you see, HOMER UNDERBY is the first book I have ever composed according to an outline. The third book in the series, titled THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA, will be the second book produced that way.

What about all my other manuscripts? They were created the old way. However, I am revising all my Wolfcat books and have begun imposing an outline structure for the sections that require some rewriting. And for those who are interested in following their favorite characters in other series, Brent from Fried Windows is in HOMER UNDERBY and THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA as well as THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES. Will and Sandra from the Thuperman Series are also in the sequel to FRIED WINDOWS, titled CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD. Ela’na from THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES appears in other manuscripts the titles for which have not been determined. In some of those stories Brent, Will and Sandra are also included.              

Authors Life, Books, Fantasy, novel, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Writing

A Tale of Four Books

For the past couple of months I have been in revision mode working on some unfinished and unpublished manuscripts.  Two of the novels-to-be serve as background on Brent Woods, the lead character in FRIED WINDOWS (IN A LIGHT WHITE SAUCE) published May 2014 and CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD (coming in 2020). Brent Woods also appears as a supporting character in the final two books of The Thuperman Trilogy, HOMER UNDERBY (Coming 2019) and THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA (Coming 2020). So, it was important to sift through the background material I composed several years ago and flesh out something in book form about Brent’s past. His senior year of high school is chronicled in WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT as well as his first semester of college contained in Losing It.

WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT were originally contained in a draft that was over 2,000 pages. After revisions and putting the story that now spans two volumes on a strict diet, it’s now around 500 in total with the WRESTLING IT comprising about 275 pages while HAVING IT is around 235 pages. I’m hoping both will receive good haircuts in the editing process. The story covers a lot of ground and introduces several characters that become important to understanding Brent’s motivations and relationships. There is more story to be told, enough for a third book about Brent’s senior year but it feels anticlimactic. The draft of what part of the story was never finished.

Front Cover for LOSING IT

LOSING IT, a book about Brent’s first semester of college, was already close to finished. In fact, I had arranged for an editor to take on the project and it was waiting in her queue. Over the past few years it existed under different working titles but has never been published.  As originally composed, it was told in subjective as opposed to chronological order. So, one of the major revisions this year was to reformat its flow so that it events are presented sequentially. Some scenes were removed. These may appear in future novels or separately as short stories.  Also, some sections needed to be rewritten to accommodate adjustments made to the WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT story lines, including the addition of new characters.

The third book I’ve been working on is titled DEADMEN DON’T WEAR WATCHES, another book with an odd title. Unlike the two FRIED WINDOWS books, this one is presented in third person. Brent Woods is a supporting character in this one and there are appearances of the grown-up Will and Sandra from The Thuperman Trilogy. The story is an urban fantasy, crime mystery thriller mash-up that follows Detective Mona Parker who is struggling with a perplexing serial murder case that threatens her job as well as her reputation for solving tough cases. DEADMEN is necessary to fill backstory elements for The WOLFCATS Series, book one of which is coming soon.   

Authors Life, Books, Fantasy, novel, Publishing, Urban Fantasy, Writing

I Wonder Is the Magic Gone

Writing is a curious habit by its nature. Some attempt turning it into a profession with varying results. One might have better odds winning the lottery than publishing a best seller that makes the author wealthy. Don’t quote me on that. But I’ll bet the odds are close.

Creative people, like writers, analyze things, read things into situations that others may not consider and, yes, see things that are not there. How else could watching from your back porch as a bird sings in a tree in your garden inspire you to write a murder mystery thriller? It happens.

With every book you write there comes a point, no matter what the book’s about or how long or short it is, that you wonder if it is good enough to submit for publication. If you have never experienced the magic of having someone else validate your art by accepting your work for publication, you may only imagine the exhilaration. It is a magical moment. But with each subsequent submission you will always wonder if the magic is gone, especially if it takes months for your publisher to get back to you. 

In some ways I’ve had an exceptional experience. Exceptional not in my subsequent success, but in that it kind of goes against the grain and bucks the usual course. When I wrote Fried Windows, I was in a bad place in my life. For many years prior I’d been battling demons, both internal and external, imagined and real. Toward the end of my tenure as a retail manager I was abusing alcohol and frequently felt depressed. Often the two are linked. I’d been writing for years. I’d published a few things, a couple of books through a small publisher and others I’d self-published. I sold some books, but I didn’t feel there was a great future ahead of me. Still, I never gave up on writing because…well, if you’re a writer you know that stopping isn’t a choice. It’s not how we are wired. I doubt my body would respond in the same way as if I stopped breathing, but it would be close.

Work, my ‘day’ job that is, had long since ceased to inspire me. Since all my kids had grown and were out on their own, I wasn’t sure why I was still going through the motions any more. When I married, I made a commitment to family and struggled a lot, putting in long hours, many too many times, to support them. Although I wrote whenever I could, because, again, it is what writers do, I set aside pursuit of my personal ambition of being a published author. Every parent understands that a part of the job is subordinating private dreams for the sake of putting your children first.

On February 22, 2012 I snapped. It occurred to me that no longer did I have a valid reason to continue putting up with my company’s abuse. It was my day off. Although I’d been scheduled to have at least one day off per week for the past 21 days, regularly, I was putting in 16-hour days and coming in on my days off. My masters were abusing their slave all because I was on salary and, let’s face it, they’d always gotten away the abuse before. Okay, technically they were paying me so it was not really slavery, but I wasn’t being fairly compensated for the hours I was working. You see, salaried = no overtime pay = abuse. They surely owned me for all intents and purposes. I received alarm calls waking me in the middle of the night that I had to respond to even when I had to come back later on to work an entire shift. And because my store was old the alarm system was buggy, It went off all the time. Only occasionally had there been a break-in.

I had been a manager all for the sake of getting paid a little more, never having my pay cut when business was soft, and maybe earning a bonus at the end of the year. That last part, by the way, is a moving target, a carrot that corporate dangles to entice while, in the background, doing everything they possibly can to make it unobtainable. If you have ever worked in retail management, you may have experienced some of that. Not every company does it, but the last couple for which I worked did.

It’s a given that nothing was ever good enough. And yet they told me I needed to be more positive. It’s damned hard to be positive when all you receive from your superiors is negative reinforcement. I was told to execute their plans not to think for myself. Hey, my last DM was an ex-Marine. He ran things as if he were still in the corps.

As a result of the pressure and stress, I drank to excess. Whatever didn’t hurt was so tense that I couldn’t sleep without putting myself into a stupor. Yeah, I know that’s an excuse. But it was why I drank so much. And so, roughly 7 years ago, I was enjoying my first day off in three solid weeks. Then, around 1 PM, I received the dreaded call from my boss telling me I needed to come in to work because his boss was there, in the store, raising hell about all the stuff that needed to be done. For some reason I was the only one on the planet who could do the work – oh wait, I’m salaried, so they were already paying me for doing it. Like Inspector Gadget, I was always on duty.

Like a good obedient dog, I went to the store. The guy I worked for was a new boss. In many ways he was the same as my old boss who had just retired about a month before, but in other ways he was not. My past manager was reasonable about dressing down if I was going to be doing physical lab, as in sweating a lot and getting dirty. Since the new guy told me I needed to put away freight, I assumed I could dress to make a mess. Ever before, when I came in to work ‘for a few hours’ to slam freight, that was what I did.. So, wearing casual clothes, I reported to work. When I saw my boss, he asked me why I wasn’t in uniform. I explained. He told me to go home and change. I started to do that, got all the way to the front doors and was about to go home and comply fully, when I asked myself, why am I still putting up with this crap?

Why was I killing myself – figuratively and literally, enduring the torment? My job was interfering with what I wanted to do with my life, what I loved to do, what I had been doing that day (my day off) prior to receiving the call – writing. I was divorced, my kids no longer needed Dad breaking his back to support them. Why was I doing it again and again and again?  Because it was routine? Because I had bills to pay? Because it was force of habit?

There is an old saying that most managers know but few heed. Never allow your subordinate to reach the point of not caring. I’d been pushed well past that and, although everyone told me after the fact that I was crazy to do such a rash thing, I handed in my keys and never looked back.

What are you going to do now?

I don’t know, look for another job, maybe something with lower stress. Or maybe I’ll just focus on writing. I’ve always wanted to do that, and I got sidetracked.

Are you nuts?

I thought you knew me well enough for that to be established. Yes, I am nuts. That’s part of the reason why I write.

For a few years I’d belonged to an online writing community. I won a couple of feel-good trophies for my writing. But being among other creative people served a valuable purpose, validating what I wrote in draft and posted online for all to read. Having the almost immediate feedback of other writers, be they poets, novelists, script writers or short story writers bolstered my confidence in storytelling. It helped me improve basic writing skills and allowed me to explore and expand the range of my author’s voice. Without that experience I would have never evolved past where the brute force of hammering out words led me, a.k.a. nowhere. 

For several years before that, I’d worked on downsizing my life. I’d started walking or riding a bike to work. Getting rid of my car was one huge expense eliminated. You see, subconsciously perhaps, I’d been adjusting for the inevitable all along. Something told me that I needed to learn how to survive on next to nothing because that was what it would take to become a full-time writer

I stopped drinking beer, not only out of necessity because there was no money for it. but also, because the reason for my drinking was gone. One day in March 2012, one of the people I knew in the online writing community challenged me to write a poem about being a child at a carnival. Not being a poet per se, what I wrote was of dubious merit. But the poets in the community were kind and encouraging about the noob’s effort. They wanted more of the same. But the well had already dried up. Instead, I wrote a short story. And, because that went over well. I wrote another story based on the first, receiving a stronger response than before. I continued, for 16 days, composing a story a day. Each story was part of a series that collectively I had called Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce), based on a scene in the first story. Still, titling them as a bundle was for my sake and did not necessarily imply intent for them to ever be a contiguous story.  

When I finished, I set all that work aside to pursue other works in progress that, at the time, felt more important. Around me, my world continued falling to ruin. With no job, and no money. I was living with relatives. And, as every writer knows, relatives don’t usually consider writing a valid endeavor – because it doesn’t generate a weekly paycheck and all you appear to do is sit in your room staring at a computer screen.

Have you ever considered the lunacy of that last part? You can sit all day staring at a computer screen in an office somewhere outside of the home and no one has an issue with it (maybe because someone is writing you a check for your attention). But an author gets paid long after the fact – if at all. Therefore, that’s not a job at all. Uh, isn’t that the point? I want a profession not a job. 

New Cover for Fried Windows

Around a year from the initial creative spurt that produced the nucleus of Fried Windows, I decided to stitch the sixteen pieces together, adjusting and amplifying the story arc that was there. You see, I’d always thought of the individual parts as a series of stories. But once i read it as a whole, there was some continuity. There were common characters and the same fantastic world. Why had I never read through the entire thing as if it were a novel? I saw the potential immediately. Sure, it was missing stuff. But there was magic in those pages. Somehow, I needed to continue that. Still, I wondered if I had it in me to transform what several people had validated as good, into something better.

Further validation came in a few months later when I signed a publishing contract for the book. Still, each time I write a novel there is concern about the magic – if it is still there. Do I still have what my publisher saw in my first or every previous work they have accepted?  The answer is always ‘we’ll see’ as I send it off. The only way you ever answer that question is to finish your work in progress and push it out into the world.    

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Review of Audible Service & The Three J’Amigos Trilogy (JADE, JANE and JILL) by Rose Montague

Recently, I upgraded my Kindle Paperwhite. The latest one has twice the memory and is waterproof (within reason, anyway). It also supports Audible audiobooks, which is rapidly becoming huge in the publishing industry, with many Indies and small publishers joining the major publishers with titles in release. So,  I decided to give this new thing a test drive.

Audible Trademark

Audible is an Amazon company, but you don’t need a Kindle device to enjoy the audiobooks. If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?) you can download the Audible App for Apple or Android and play the book through your Bluetooth speakers, headphones, earbuds or vehicle (if so equipped). There are some special trial deals going on for little or nothing. Once you see how much it frees you up, while still satisfying your lit needs you’ll want to sign up for it. You get one free download per month and discounts on other purchases throughout the period. What I have discovered is that I can listen to an average length book in a day or so, while doing menial things like laundry, cleaning the house, riding my bike, taking a walk, just about anything.

Author Rose Montague has been an early adopter of the audiobook format for her action-packed YA/NA books. Previously, I’ve read two of The Three J’Amigos Trilogy, as well as both of her other, spin-off books, which take place in the same universe but feature some other characters that have supporting roles in the trilogy. It was just with all the requests for reviews from others I hadn’t gotten around to reading JILL, which was published within the past year or so. But it was coming up on my “to-be- read” list.

All three audiobooks are narrated by Caryn Kuhlman, who does a fine job. It is essential for continuity between books of the same series to have the same narrator, I believe. Kuhlman varies her voice to make each character distinct, which helps a lot from a listener’s standpoint. For example, Jane in the series is “London Jane” and, yes, she has a British accent.

Cover of Jade Audiobook, 1st in the trilogy.

The one thing I will say that is a difference between listening to an audiobook and reading the eBook or print formats is that if you have read the print or eBook previously, it takes a bit to adjust to the narrator’s voice as opposed to your internal, reading voice. The characters are not going to sound the same as you have previously imagined. But you get used to that in relatively short order.

As for the story – I recommend taking the time to binge read or listen to this series. If you enjoy YA books featuring Supernatural beings (Supes), like Vampires, Shape-Shifters, Witches and Faeries, this is a series you’ll love. It offers a mind-expanding journey into the imagination of the author who is a great, natural storyteller. Her books’ pacing is quick.

Cover of Jane Audiobook, 2nd in the trilogy

Her characters are diverse. Jade is a Supernatural mutt, having the attributes of just about every supernatural being. Jane is a Vampire (Vamp) and a member of her community’s royalty. Jill is the Faeire Winter Queen who interacts with the human world on occasion. The female lead characters are strong, independent, sometimes snarky, sword-wielding, dagger-jabbing, (or steel-bat-swinging) badasses who you’ll be rooting for straight out of the gate. Oh, yes, there is a dragon in the mix as well. As J.R.R. Tolkien informed us, every good fantasy needs a dragon. There is plenty of action, excitement, and globe-trotting along the way, with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat guessing what will happen next. Rose’s books are a thrill ride waiting for you to jump in and claw at anything available while you hang on for dear life.

Cover of Jill Audiobook, 3rd in the series, 

Following this first exposure to Audible, I’ve decided I much prefer listening to the three books in sequence. While waiting for JANE to be written (after having read JADE) I had forgotten some of the story and had to go back into the first book of the series and catch up a bit. I am certain I would have needed to do the same with Jane before reading Jill. However, listening to the books proved to be the best way to revisit the story in preparation for JILL. The trilogy comes to a satisfying, fitting conclusion that also directs the reader to the author’s other series which features Jewel, a budding teenage badass in her own right. Having read both available books of that series I can say that I can’t wait for the audiobooks and also look forward to the next book in that series.