Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye by Shari Brady--Review and Giveaway

You know, it's not often that a book really gets to me emotionally. Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye by Shari Brady ripped me up. I mean, ripped. me. up. My heart is still aching! It's a moving young adult novel about a teenager dealing with the loss of her sister and learning to understand her parents. Here is the synopsis:

Before my older sister Francesca died, I worked at the bakery and wrote songs, but now I write lists. Lists like ten reasons why it's my fault Francesca's dead, or five reasons why I should try and win Howie back, or one reason why I need to stop lying to everyone, including myself.

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is an extraordinary novel about one family's struggle to make sense of their world after losing a family member to addiction. Through sixteen-year-old Carmella's eyes, we witness the courage and strength it takes to overcome the consequences of grief, guilt and co-dependency. With conviction and determination, Carmella shows us what can happen when we're open to love, feel the pain of our loss, and find the courage to accept the truth of our lives.

I was into this book as soon as I started reading it. Ms. Brady does an excellent job of capturing the teen voice and the spirit of Carmella. Carmella is like so many girls in high school--struggling to fit in, dealing with peer pressures, clothing concerns, and boys. Of course, she has an additional burden: her sister Francesca died of a drug overdose which shocks their parents. Carmella has a lot of guilt over the passing of her sister. She constantly wonders if she should have spoken up regarding her sister's drug use. Knowing how afraid she is to take risks and admit how she really feels, you can't help but feel sorry for this poor kid who has no one to talk to.

Her parents are also well crafted characters. They both care about their children, yet they seem to be oblivious to a lot of things going on around them. However, like a lot of parents who experience this kind of tragedy, they tightened the rope around Carmella after her sister's death, not really hearing her concerns or needs. The relationship between the parents and the daughter is all too realistic and definitely eye opening.

Luckily, there is a boy in this scenario who influences Carmella in a good way. Howie is the boy that many of us would have liked to have met in high school--funny, cute, but not full of himself. Their relationship is interesting to watch develop.

This is a fast paced story and though it may seem that a tale like this would be depressing, I found it to be uplifting. It's the kind of book you want your teenage kids to sit down and read with you. It's a quick read, but manages to make a strong emotional connection to the reader. I look forward to reading more from Shari Brady.

As luck would have it, we are giving away a copy here at All Things Writing today! Be sure to enter the Giveaway and check out the author's bio and buy links.



About the Author

 Shari A. Brady is a native Chicagoan and previously had so many careers she’s lost count.  A graduate of Loyola University’s Business School and University of Chicago’s Creative Writing program, she’s finally a full-time writer, a dream she’s carried with her since she was twelve.  She lives in suburban Chicago with her awesome husband, two of the best kids ever, and their shelter dog, Betty Queen Elizabeth.  This is her first novel and her last career.

Amazon Buy Link for Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 27, 2012

Word Play for a Blue Moon

Every once in a Blue Moon, I republish this article. I wrote it right after I bought both the Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook. This was my first foray into real, nitty-gritty word-type stuff.

Since this is a Blue Moon month, I'd like to post a version of my original here. I had a ball writing this and hope you enjoy reading it.

My edition of CMA has nine (nine!) pages devoted to the topic of “Compounds and Hyphenation.” The AP takes a no-nonsense approach and lists, outright, that one should use hyphens
            whenever ambiguity might otherwise result,
            for compound modifiers,
            for two-thought compounds,
            for compound proper nouns and adjectives,
            for prefixes and suffixes,
            to avoid duplicated vowels,
            with numbers,
            for suspensive hyphenation (this means the up- and down-stairs).

I don’t think my husband understood my elation at all the hyphen information. A wordsmith can’t get enough about punctuation, though. At least, this one can’t.

When in doubt, Chicago suggests first looking in the dictionary to make the choice of whether to (a) use two words, (b) hyphenate, or (c) close up as a single word. (The alert reader has by now noticed that I prefer to use serial commas. This a completely different topic for another day.)

There are thus three possibilities for compound words: an open compound (two separate words used together), a hyphenated word, or a closed compound (two words made into a single word). The natural trend in the evolution of a compound word is from open to hyphenated to closed. An interesting concept.

This is fun to play around with (which). I took the advice of looking in the dictionary for some direction. Mine is Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. There are, of course, newer ones, but this one still seems to serve me well. Here’s some of what I found out. Let’s go top-down – a high-middle-low approach.

A topknot might make a person feel top-heavy, if it’s a top-notch topknot at the topmost point of the head. And if the topmost grade in class is top-notch, and can also be top drawer.

Does this mean the words “topmost” and “topnotch” are more fully evolved? Poor old “top drawer” has a ways to go.

Sailing seems pretty settled in, as far as evolution goes. One goes topside to operate a topsail. Closed compound words all around here.

Fire is less settled. At least torches are. A torchlight can illuminate a torch singer singing a torch song. A torchbearer can also do this.

A person can drink a high-ball on a highballing train with a bunch from high school. These are all nouns, all at different stages of putting-together-ness.

All references that I’ve found to “high school” are to an open compound. But what is the third story of a three-story school? If I say the room is located on the high school floor, do I mean this is the floor of the building that houses the high school? Or is it the topmost floor of the three-story middle school? (Okay, that phrase should rate an “awk” comment and I should reword it. The floor that houses the high school should be the high-school floor, I think, even though the adjective high-school doesn’t appear in my dictionary.)

Similarly, if I’m reading about a high school student, is this a student attending high school or a buzzed middle schooler?

All right (or alright), we’re already all ready to move down a notch.

The British possess a half crown, but we Americans use half-dollars, unless we’re paying with a half eagle (if we can find any). Also in England, although half crowns are legitimate, a halfpenny product can be purchased with a half sovereign.

In both countries one can see half-hearty plants that were raised by halfhearted gardeners.

And, by the way, that topsail can also be at half-mast.

The middle class is a middle-class group of people. That at least obeys a rule for hyphenating the adjective and separating the noun, however loose a rule that may be.

But the middleman needs to speak to middle management about his middle-of-the-road products.

Now we can move on down.

The lowdown on the lowborn brings us to the lower class. A lowlander, consistently, lives in the lowland.

The bottom-line is that this is a bottomless topic.

I’m looking forward to investigating night and day, hot and cold, or maybe even after and before. Then I’ll find another topic in my new style manuals.

This ends my original article. I never went on to ferret out inconsistencies in those words in the last paragraph. Maybe I should.

All pictures are in the public domain.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Holden Age of Hollywood by Phil Brody--Review and Giveaway

Okay, fellow writers. Stop what you are doing. Go to Amazon. Buy the following book now! If there was one book I read this summer that resonated with me as writer, The Holden Age of Hollywood is it! Out of five stars, I'd probably give six. I'm so glad we are doing a giveaway for this one, because it's a great, fast paced, witty, snarky read.

Here is the synopsis from the book:

"Hollywood died on me as soon as I got here. Welles said that, not me, but damn if he didn’t nail it, you know?" Sam Bateman came to Hollywood to settle a score, but amidst the sunny and 75, his plans went astray. Everything changed the day he drank in the intoxicating legend of Meyer Holden, the greatest screenwriter Hollywood has ever known, the one who pulled a Salinger and walked away. Holden now tacks pseudonyms onto his works and buries them in the bottomless sea of spec that is Hollywood’s development process. They’re out there for anyone to find—but at what cost? In his quest, Bateman severs all ties and sinks into a maddening world of bad writing and flawed screenplays. Paranoid and obsessive, the belligerent savant encounters an eccentric cast of characters—each with an agenda—in his search for the one writer in Hollywood who does not want to be found. Phil Brody’s The Holden Age of Hollywood is at once a detective novel, an unexpected love story, and a provocative exposé of a broken industry. With dark humor and incisive commentary, the novel immerses readers in a neo-noir quest to attain the Hollywood dream, integrity intact.

Sam Bateman is one of those guys. He's sarcastic, bitter, and at times, very clever. Disillusioned and jaded by Hollywood, Sam definitely knows how all the games are played, and he's pretty good at playing a few himself. He's not afraid to mess with people or tell them what he really thinks.
I liked Sam. A well developed character, I have to say that at times he reminded me a little bit of the narrator in Fight Club. I loved his narrative voice and the way the author shared Sam's unique perspective on the world. He manages to evolve and change which is good because when I first started reading the book, I was a little worried that there would be nothing but doom and gloom for this guy.

I really liked how the author, Phil Brody, gives the reader a great glimpse of what goes on when a film director is looking at scripts. In many ways, it's a lot like the process we know that agents use when they try to decide what authors they want to represent. However, I think the scriptwriters have it even worse! This book also provides a lot of insight into the script writing process and what makes a great story work. This is definitely a book any author, especially if you've been struggling a while, will enjoy.
Great movie quotes, a few wacky characters, and an interesting romance round this novel out. It's a fascinating look at a particular life style and I think the author captured the flaky and desperate side of Hollywood in a realistic way.
Put this one on your reading list, kids! Be sure to enter the giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 20, 2012

Exciting review news!

This isn't about reviews I've received, but about the ones I give. I've been reviewing for Suspense Magazine for a couple of years now and can say I've gotten a lot out of it.

For one, free books. 

For another, broader horizons. I've read things I wouldn't usually think of picking up. Many times, in fact most of the time, I've enjoyed them.

Another perk was the feature article the magazine did on me as a new contributor. I can't tell you that spread directly sold books for me, but it didn't hurt. (Can't tell you because I never know what sells what!)

But a new advantage has just arisen--it's very exciting!

Suspense has gotten word that Bowker would like to use book reviews from the magazine for the titles they key into their system. Bowker is the organization that assigns ISBN numbers, the book ID used by most (if not all) sellers and libraries. This is great exposure for we who review for Suspense!

One more bit of good news--for YOU--Suspense could use a few more reviewers. This is a time commitment and you must know how to write a decent review. But, if you have the time and have reviewing experience, this could be a great opportunity for you.

(If you'd like to know more about ISBNs, I did an article on them January 24th, 2011 here.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Burying Story Tellers

I spent the better part of July in Senegal Africa for my National Guard summer training.  It’s taken me this long to blog about it, but since I’m still on anti-malaria pills for another two weeks, I feel like the trip isn’t quite over yet and there was no need to rush.    

On a side note, if you ever get a chance to look at one of those maps that puts dots or colors for the number of malaria cases per 100,000 people, make sure you look for the country just north of the Most Infested Location In The World.  That would be Senegal. 

Mosquitos and their microorganisms aside, I must say even with the Marines (God love ‘em) in charge, I really enjoyed the trip.  The African officers and enlisted soldiers were awesome, yes, but I’m talking bigger than that.  They had a $23M statue bigger than the Statue of Liberty made from metal donated from Korea.  The Guns of Navarone?  Well, the ones used in the movie were French guns left behind in Senegal.  The people spoke French, and English, and their tribal languages, and occasionally German, and when they went to sell you hand carved wooden animals they did it with smiles and attitudes that somehow made you feel like you’d gotten a ludicrously great deal and made a lifetime friend in the process.  The country is 95% Muslim and they elected a Christian president, plus they have over 200 political parties. 

I mention all those things, and that just barely scrapes the surface, because I thought you might find them interesting.  I thought you might find them interesting, because they are real, and different.  See where I’m going with this? 

I know when I’m writing, I’ve more than once realized that my fantastical new race or alien species or exotic location sounded very recognizable to me.  And they were.  They felt recognizable because they were familiar, which is fine, but they were also neither real, nor different, which also makes them boring.    

It’s been a few years since I walked around with my notebook writing down everything I saw, but I found myself doing it almost as soon as I got off the plane.  I wrote down what the people on the street were doing, and the dynamics of a nearby village, and how the officers acted with their enlisted.  I did this because, in my opinion, what human beings actually do is always more interesting than what I could make up.  My part comes in putting it into a little more structured order with some pacing and a dash of dramatic license and hopefully a riveting opening first sentence that gets into your system like some super pathogen from a small parasitic blood sucking insect. 

Sorry, it’s just been 30+ days already and those pills make me queasy every time.  Anyway, here’s a thought to leave you with.  See this picture? 

It turns out that the Senegalese people at one time believed that since story-tellers and intellectuals never worked in soil, like farmers and most of the rest of their villages, that they couldn’t be buried in the dirt, or the Earth would become greedy for more than what it was due.  To compensate for this, they buried all their story-tellers in the trunks of the mighty Baobab trees.  Actually that sounds pretty cool. 

However, in 1960 the law changed, and the Senegalese were no longer allowed to toss their bards, narrators, poets, chroniclers and authors under the nearest aesthetically pleasing sapling.  AND, so the legend goes, that year, when they started burying their story-tellers in the ground, they had one of the worst draughts in history, because the Earth was thirsty for more. 

Real, and different. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Interview with Paul T. Harry

I love getting to interview authors. It's always interesting to learn how other writers handle both the process and business of writing. Paul T. Harry is currently doing a book tour for his science fiction novel The 5 Moons of Tiiana. Today, we get to visit with him at All Things Writing and we're doing a giveaway of his book. Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below this interview!

Mary Ann: Hi! Welcome to All Things Writing. We're glad to have you as a guest today!
Tell us a little about yourself and your latest novel, The 5 Moons of Tiiana.

Paul: Well for starters, I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada when it was a small, dusty town of about 60,000 in population. Our home was situated on the outskirts of town, surrounded by desert and there wasn't a whole lot to do. Back then, there were only three television stations and they went off the air fairly early, though that didn't matter as I didn't get to watch a lot of TV anyway. My father wasn't a big fan of the idiot box or the boob tube as he called it—he was a reader.

I can't remember exactly how young I was when he first gave me a book to read, but I do remember the book itself. It was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. That book opened up the universe for me. It was unlike anything I had read before and I was smitten. From that point on, I devoured every book in the series, and from there I went onto Burroughs’ Tarzan series. Along the way, I took in books by Asimov, Frederick Pohl, Robert Heinlein and many others. These were the writers that inspired me and filled my head with dreams of fantastic ambition. They were the cornerstone for me wanting to become a writer—that and the other curse my father gave me. He insisted that I learned how to type.

I didn't actually begin writing until I was in college, and I didn't start off by writing science fiction. During my high school and college years I was involved in theater, and my first piece of writing was actually a rock opera that I co-wrote with two other individuals. Later, after college I got married, and it was then that I ventured back into writing as more serious endeavor. Still, it wasn't until I started writing screenplays that I obtained a small measure of success.

Most of my screenplays and short stories at that time revolved around science fiction concepts, but it was also around this time, the germ of an idea began to form for The 5 Moons of Tiiana. I think it lay in my head for a good 10 and 12 years smoldering and developing until I realized I needed to sit down and write it.

As for the novel itself, here’s a quick teaser.

The 5 Moons of Tiiana is a science fiction narration on a soldier caught up in the middle of an interstellar war, faced with rescuing the princess he loves, and solving a 2000 year-old mystery that just might yield the secret to bringing peace to both sides of the galaxy.

Captain Rez Cantor is a commander in the Imperial Army’s Shadow Guard, and the personal attaché to Princess Leanna, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the Emperor, and sole heir to the Melelan throne.

On the eve of a treaty signing ending the twelve-year-war between the alien-hybrid Relcor and the Empire, Rez learns that the Imperial family has been slated for death. Under orders from the Queen, Rez is given his final command–save the Princess at all costs.

Faced with overwhelming odds, Rez abducts Leanna from the Imperial palace, and the two flee Melela along with others of the Imperial guard. Unfortunately, their ship is nuked as it enters warp, creating an event horizon that sends the ship 128,000 light years across the galaxy to the Moons of Tiiana. It is on one of these moons that Rez awakens upon a beach–injured and alone–without the Princess.

So begins the sojourn of Rez Cantor upon the Moons of Tiiana: Five moons stagnating from a 2000 year-old war that has left its alien races in limbo and decay. Five moons that crave a hero bold enough to lead its people out of the darkness. Five moons that hold the future of the Melelan Empire deep within the ashes of war.

So there you have it—pure adventure with hostile alien races and bizarre landscapes, a man searching for a young princess, but instead discovering a beautiful woman and a perilous mission where the fate of the galaxy is at risk.  It’s all here for your reading enjoyment.

Is science fiction your main genre or do you like to experiment in other areas?

For the most part I have stayed within the field of science fiction. It’s not that wouldn’t like or try other venues, it’s just that I enjoy tinkering with the “what if” factor too much.

According to your author bio on Amazon, you also write screenplays? Is The 5 Moons of Tiiana something you've also written in that format? Is it hard to switch from screenplays to novels?

No, The 5 Moons of Tiiana has not been written as a screenplay, not as of yet, anyway. For one thing, the scope of the story is far too large to be put into just one movie. It would have to be a series of movies. Additionally, I'm considering writing a prequel and a sequel to the book to fill in the back story on the Relcor (the bad guys) and the continued adventures of my hero, Rez Cantor. So, with that said, putting The 5 Moons of Tiiana on the big screen would take an effort equal to that of Star Wars.

Now regarding the second portion of your question—I don’t think switching from a screenplay to a novel is any more difficult than determining how you want to tell the story. Okay, I can see some of you rolling your eyes, so let me clarify that statement. It goes without saying that screenplays and novels are drastically different birds of a feather. Each venue holds its own format, point of view, nuances, and the method of delivery must be crafted precisely if the story is to be successful. And yet, it just really depends on what you want to accomplish as a writer, and how you see your story unfolding. For me, I saw The 5 Moons of Tiiana as a novel. It was too expansive a story for a two hour screenplay. And honestly, I think screenwriting has become too competitive today; it’s much more difficult than ever before. Twenty years ago, before the advent of the internet and e-publishing the reverse was true. Back then it was it easier to penetrate the facade of Hollywood. Additionally, I think the biggest drawback for screenwriters is giving up ownership to your writing. If you write a novel, a short story, or novella, the work is yours, minus the edits and corrections by your editor. With a screenplay you can end up with twenty fingers in the pie and still not get greenlighted.

 Okay, your protagonist, Rez Cantor, sounds like a bad ass! He reminds me of an Indiana Jones type in space. How did you go about creating his character?

The truth is I borrowed a lot of Rez from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character, John Carter of Mars. I wanted to take the reader back to a time where the protagonist was swashbuckling hero, intelligent and honorable, if not flawed. I wanted him to be smart, cool, and calculated, but with a certain level of charm. With that said, I actually owe a lot to the development of Rez to Dr. Jennifer Dare. She was the English professor I ran the story by when it was in development, and because of her Rez became stronger and more rounded as a character.  What I like most about Rez is his ability to adapt to any given situation.

I always like to know what other authors are reading. What's the latest book you've read that really grabbed your attention?

Destiny of Souls by Dr. Martin Newton, PH.D., and before that, Journey of Souls by the same author.  I found his research into our lives between lives astounding. His work gives real meaning to the adage: fact is stranger than fiction. Of course, not everyone will agree to his hypothesis, but still it’s a fascinating read.

I gotta ask: Agent or no agent? What's your take on authors and agents?

If Hollywood is on the line offering you an option on your book or screenplay, get an agent or better yet, an entertainment attorney—just make it one who is a Writer’s Guild affiliate. Truth is, I can’t really say. The last agent I had I fired because he was an idiot.

Thanks for being with us today. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Yes. In addition to my earlier comments about writing a novel verses a screenplay I stated that the writer needed to determine the right voice for his narration. That was especially the case with The 5 Moons of Tiiana. It was my first narration written in first person and it worked far better than I could have ever have imagined. It was a blast to write and I think that comes through in the prose. I do hope all of you will give this novel a read and let me know what you think.  And thanks for having me!

To learn more about Paul T. Harry or to purchase his book from Amazon, click on the following links:

Amazon code:
Paul T Harry Online:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 13, 2012

Perseid meteor shower

I fully intended to drive outside our little town and watch the meteors tonight. I didn't count on storm warnings and a sky full of clouds.

If a comet called Swift-Tuttle didn't leave debris in its wake, and if the Earth didn't travel through that stream every August, there would be no Perseid shower.

The falling stars look so simple, so pristine. I absolutely adore watching them--and sure hope to catch them on another night before the shower ends on about the 24th. The phenom isn't that uncomplicated, though. Think of everything that has to come together: the comet, the Earth, a more recent bunch of dust that fell off the comet in1862 that accounts for most of the shooting stars we see. The moon has to be fairly dim, too, not full, or we can't see many.

Good writing is like that, I think. A lot of elements have to come together, not necessarily in a neat and tidy way, to produce writing that, when the reader reads it, looks effortless. Simple, pristine. That's my goal! To write like a shooting star.

Photo from used by Creative Commons license

Friday, August 10, 2012

Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank--Review

***This book was given to me by the author as part of a book tour in exchange for an honest review.****

I love a good murder mystery, especially if it has a dash of humor in it, and I have to admit that being a southern writer myself, I tend to be drawn to tales set in the South. Perhaps that's why Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank entertained me as much as it did. I had put off reading it for some reason, and now that I've gotten to review it, I really can't wait to read more from this author!

Here's the synopsis of Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons from the book blurb:

When Rose reports for Fenton County jury duty she figures she’s lucky to get out of a morning working at the DMV. Instead, despite a disastrous encounter with the new assistant district attorney, Mason Deveraux, she’s picked as a juror on a murder case. As the trial progresses, she realizes an ominous vision she had in the men’s restroom proves the defendant is innocent. And there’s not a cotton picking thing she can do about it.

Or is there?

As if things weren’t bad enough, Rose’s older sister Violet is going through a mid-life crisis. Violet insists that Rose stop seeing her sexy new boyfriend, Arkansas state detective Joe Simmons and date other men. Rose is done letting people boss her around, but she can’t commit to Joe either. Still, Rose isn’t about to let the best thing in her life slip away.

First things first, this book is actually the second in the Rose Gardner series. I typically don't like to read sequels if I haven't read the first book, but one of the great things about Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons, is that I didn't need to read the first one. The author did a fabulous job of integrating in the back story without making me feel like I'd missed anything. That's actually quite an accomplishment! If anything, it made me want to go back and read the first book.

Rose is a nice, if somewhat naïve, girl who is just finding her place in the world. All her life she's had psychic visions which have been a plague to her, though they sometimes get her into entertaining situations. She comes across as a very relatable woman who manages to stumble into trouble, which drives her police detective boyfriend, Joe, crazy. I really liked Joe! He was that right mix of protective, jealous, sweet and endearing. Think about a snack that is both salty and sweet and you've got his character.

There were some fun situations and characters that helped drive this tale along. I love the "poisoned" casserole brought in by a jury member and the fact that the Judge is outraged because Rose doesn't know about Angela Lansbury and Murder She Wrote. Some of the character names cracked me up too, like Bruce Wayne Decker. Lots of Batman references there. I also thought that Violet, Rose's sister who is suffering from a mid-life crisis, was a strong character representing what many people go through when unwanted change comes along.

The story is fast paced and with so much humor, it was easy to read and enjoy. I did figure out who the murderer was, but it wasn't until close to the end. It didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book.

All in all, I could probably list twenty-nine and a half reasons why you should read this book! I look forward to checking out the first book in the series and reading the follow up to this one.

Here are the links to the book on Amazon, as well as, links to learn more about Denise Grover Swank:

Amazon code Kindle:

Amazon Code Print Book:

Denise Grover Swank Online:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Voodoo Love by Victoria Richards--Review!

Oh man, I love summer reading! I can't ever seem to squeeze enough reading in before it's time for me to return to my second love after writing: teaching. This summer I've been blessed with some great books to read, as well as, a few stink-o-ramas. Next Wednesday I'm going to pretend to be Oprah and post my top summer reads.

Today I'm focusing on a great read that I think you'll enjoy--Voodoo Love by Victoria Richards. It's perfect for that last minute trip to the beach or just lounging on a hammock with a dirty martini. But be sure you have a someone your romantically involved with nearby--you're gonna need them after reading this book!

Yes, it is a paranormal romance, but it isn't all sex and damsel in distress type stuff. In fact, the protagonist is a pretty sassy chick named Elizabeth who has a wry sense of humor and a talent for getting into trouble.

Here is the synopsis from the book:

Elizabeth Brown is a gun totin' hottie--though she claims on the gun totin' part is right! Elizabeth knows what adventure is about or at least she would if her memory would ever come back to her. She's been told that two years ago she was chased by a greedy thug, Diego Martes, who believed she knew the location to a pirate treasure cursed by voodoo and hidden deep in the sultry bayous of Louisiana. During the process of escaping, Elizabeth's lover and assassin for hire, Juan Carlos Montoya, drowned trying to save her. Though she now lives in a government arranged marriage to a cop in the small town of Barataria Bay, Elizabeth is still trying to remember the past, remember the danger, and most of all remember Juan Carlos, the dead Latino dreamboat who dragged her into the mess in the first place.

When Elizabeth's idyllic new life is interrupted by a ghostly visit from a still sexy Juan, she finds herself once again plunged into unwanted intrigue. With his help, her memory of the past begins to come back, along with her memories of their nights of passion. Together they must outwit an insane villain, Diego and go back to where Jean Lafitte's cursed pirate treasure is hidden in order to lift a deadly voodoo curse that threatens to end their love forever.

Victoria Richards does a good job of blending humor, romance, and the paranormal together, drawing the reader in and holding their attention. Fast paced, the book is an easy read. By the way, it's actually episodic on Amazon, meaning you can buy each section individually for .99 or you can buy the whole thing. I think selling episodes is an interesting idea. It gives the reader a chance to see if they like it without committing to the whole thing. I know that Amazon already offers the sneak peek option, but this lets you go just a little bit further.

So let's talk characters: Elizabeth is a hoot and not a push over, despite her situation. She handles things with humor and sarcasm, but comes across as tough and confident, too. I would like to have known a tad more about her back story, but hey--it's meant to be episodic. I think she and Eddie have an interesting marriage and Eddie was full of surprises that kept me wondering what he was really up to.

I liked the relationship between Elizabeth and Juan. It's sexy, but got some funny moments that surprised me and that you don't usually find in this type of book. Think of Stephanie Plum and Joe Morrelli or that '80s movie, Romancing the Stone, and you'll understand what I mean. Diego was a strong bad guy, if not a bit of a stereotype, and I loved how the ghost of a long dead pirate affected him. I think having victims of your past crimes haunt you would be a pretty gruesome thing to deal with!

Each episode ends with a cliffhanger and I have to admit that there were a few endings that really surprised me! These days that's tough to do.

Of course, I'm always a sucker for a tale that takes place in the bayou or in New Orleans and in this book, I got the best of both worlds. I hope Victoria Richards is busy writing something new!

You can check out Voodoo Love for yourself or learn more about the author at the following links:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Loglines, blurbs, and synopses

What are these things and what's the difference? Do you need all of them to promote your book? Yeah, you probably do. So what are they?

The logline is also known as the elevator pitch. It's very short, one sentence if you can manage that. It gives the briefest of plot summary and entices the listener or reader to want to learn more. Imagine you're at a conference and an agent, or even a writer or a reader asks you what your book is about. Here's where you give your logline. It's best to have it memorized, but no one will laugh if you whip out an index card.

For SMOKE, I'd say it's a humorous Texas mystery featuring Imogene Duckworthy, an unwed mom living in a single-wide who longs to be a PI.

This gets in the genre and sub-genre, location, the main character, and her motivation.

Blurbs are fuzzy, since this word is used for two different things. One is the cover blurb, written by the author and is similar to the logline but can be a bit longer. The other meaning is blurbs written by others that you will proudly display on your cover, signed by the authors who endorsed your book. The one you write will also be used as your book description online.

The one I ended up with for SMOKE is: Imogene Duckworthy, who yearns to be a PI, has landed a job assisting Mike Mallett in Wymee Falls, Texas. Bringing home a pot-bellied pig as a birthday gift for her daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, Immy discovers the body of the owner of Jerry's Jerky hanging in the smokeroom. Now she has her chance to prove her skills.

This gets into the plot a little, but doesn't give anything away. It tells the beginning of the action, how the story starts, and I hope it makes the reader want to know more.

The synopsis, however, is for an agent or editor and doesn't hold back on the plot. It should tell the whole plot, but succinctly. For a mystery, the killer is named, plus how the killer is caught or detected. In a romance, the push pulls are all spelled out, and how the obstacles to happiness are overcome in the end. For all genres, the ending is given. The synopsis tells the reader, the person you want to buy or publish your book, that you can put a plot together. I generally write a one-page, single-spaced synopsis for query letters. I capitalize each name the first time it appears and only use a few proper names, no more than five and usually less. Other characters are designated by roles: the sister, the landlord, the stage manager, etc.

Self-publishing eliminates the need for a synopsis for querying, but it can still be a good plotting tool. Writing out a synopsis can show up your plot holes and shape up your story line, so I'd recommend writing one, even if you never need to show it to anyone.

pitching photo: Shairon Martis pitching for the Syracuse Chiefs against the Pawtucket Red Sox, 7 September 2009.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Preparing for An Author Interview by Terry Ambrose

I love, love, love today's topic! We're talking about author interviews. This is actually something I've struggled with because you really want to be able to give answers that are interesting and reflect who you are. Our Guest Blogger, Terry Ambrose, knows his stuff! Read on!

Marketing a book is a difficult task. Author interviews are an important part of any marketing program. Are you prepared to make the most of that opportunity? In my National Crime Fiction column for, I cover both seasoned and debut authors. What I’ve realized is that many new authors—no matter how well they write—have no idea how to prepare for a press interview or how to answer questions in ways that help to sell books. Here are a few tips to make your interviewer’s job easier and improve that article about your book.

Two tiny pieces of marketing material are some of the most difficult to create and are also the two things used in most interviews. Those two pieces of information are the tag line and the short summary.

The tag line should be fewer than ten words and should give people a reason to read your book. It might be funny; it might inspire fear. But, whatever your tag line is, it should be something hard for readers to gloss over. For my debut novel, Photo Finish, my tag line is, “Hawaii, mystery, and trouble that never looked so good.”

That tag line tells an interviewer that the book is a Hawaiian mystery and that it’s either humorous or on the lighter side. Readers wondering why trouble would look good will likely read on for more information. For an interview, the tag line sets the tone immediately and gives your interviewer words to use when referring to the book.

I ask every author to provide a summary of their book so that the article would include a direct pitch from the author. But, instead of authors sending in something short, some were the equivalent of a book synopsis more suited to pitching an agent or publisher. Complete? Yes. Helpful for the interview? No. Here’s why. The longer the summary, the more it will read like a to-do list. When your interviewer is short on space, he’ll look for places to cut—and he may not cut the same to-do items that you would. In an author interview, don’t give details, evoke emotion or the reader’s imagination with the old “less is more” philosophy.

Some writers seem to think that evoking emotion means whipping out the adverb/adjective bucket. Or giving their expectations. For instance, something like, “This dynamically written novel concludes with a massive battle of epic proportions between good and pure evil that will leave readers breathless and terrified.” Twenty-four words. To tell me what? “Good and evil collide.” Sure, this is an exaggeration, but the point is that if the writer provides me with a lengthy and/or flowery book summary, I must distill that down for the article. Quite frankly, I’d much rather copy/paste a well-crafted summary of fewer than 25 words than create my own for a book I don’t know. Believe me, you’ll be better served by creating a 25-word summary and including it with your interview responses than having someone else do it. Then, you’re ready when asked, “What’s your book about?”

Another of the questions I usually ask relates to the theme or story goal. Some authors have told me they don’t make an argument. Instead, they write for entertainment. Others know just what their theme is and love being asked. I’ve even had authors tell me they only write to entertain readers and then give me their argument.

Whether it’s a petroglyph on a rock wall or words on the screen of an e-reader, communications is all about getting a message from one person to another. And that message has a purpose—or goal.  The goal of this post is to help authors improve their press interviews. I’ll bet your story has a goal. If it doesn’t, why did you bother writing it?

When you’re asked for an author bio, what the interviewer really wants to know is how your background qualifies you to write your book. For fiction writers, this can be difficult. For instance, Jane chooses to write about a serial killer, but Jane’s a retail clerk—not a cop, not a serial killer. Her closest encounter with the law was a speeding ticket five years ago. But, what drove her to write the story? If we go back to the story goal mentioned above, what can she draw on? How about something like, “Jane has always had an interest in serial killers and how their minds operate. She’s studied the profiles of…”

That’s the boilerplate stuff you’ll need for an interview. There will also be “personalized” questions. The personalized questions your interviewer asks will be designed to pull out more information that will make your book sound appealing or interesting. For instance, when asked why she wrote A  is for Alibi, Sue Grafton once quipped that she did it because she wanted to kill her ex-husband, but was afraid she’d “bungle it.” That answer is sharp, concise, and funny. Aim for that same level of quality and you, too, can have interviews that sell books.

Check out Terry Ambrose's book Photo Finish!

Wilson McKenna’s newest tenant is hot, gives great
hugs, and just saw a dead body being thrown from a
plane. McKenna’s not one to get involved in other
people’s problems, especially those of a woman half his
age, but before he knows it he’s volunteered to find the
plane and its owner—and found more trouble than he’s
ever seen in his life. He’s uncovered an island drug ring,
pissed off a sociopath, and set himself up as the victim
in a beautiful woman’s con that could cost him his life.

If only trouble didn’t have such great legs.

Photo Finish is available at a download site near you!



Terry’s website:

Photo Finish Landing page:

The McKenna Chronicles:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Circe--Book Review and Giveaway!

Disclaimer: This book was given to me as part of a book tour in exchange for an honest review.

I love a story that makes me pissed off at the main character.

Some readers are all about the likeability factor. You have to like the person in the story in order to continue the journey. While I think that is true, I also think that showing your main character to have horrible flaws is an intriguing way to keep your reader in the moment. That's just what Jessica Penot does in her novel, Circe.

Here's the synopsis:

When Dr. David Black takes an internship at a very old psychiatric hospital back home in Alabama, he vows two things—that he will be a better husband to his beautiful and loving wife Pria, and that he will stop cheating on her. Then his enigmatic supervisor Dr. Cassie Allen, a self-proclaimed witch with ties to the underworld, begins to draw him into her darkness. David finds it hard to resist her wicked sensuality, but even harder to resist her evil pull. As strange and violent deaths pile up left and right, David realizes that Cassie’s psychotic behavior is connected to the mysterious hospital itself. There a demonic force threatens to destroy everything that David holds dear—his wife, his family, even his very sanity.

I really expected the paranormal element in this story to be what drew me in.  After all, I'm a paranormal freak! While the "strange factor" is pretty awesome in this book, it's actually the characters that intrigued me and made Circe a great read. I was really torn on my feelings about Dr. Black. On the one hand, I liked that he was willing to work hard and take on the tough floor of Circe's mental institution, but it really irritated me that he continued to cheat on his wife, Pria. He worships her in so many ways, but yet, is unable to be faithful to her. He wants to be a good doctor, but he is drawn to the odd happenings at Circe. The idea of being a father is upsetting to him, and yet, he wants to be one, too. Some moments he hates his newly forming family, and at other times, he can't imagine living without them.

Pria was also an interesting character. She knows what's going on with her husband, but sticks by him, pledging her love. Normally, I would be turned off by what I would consider doormat behavior, but I think this character has just enough likeability to make the reader root for her and not feel that she is being taken advantage of.

And then there's the bad guy. Or girl in this case, the bad girl. Cassie's a real piece of work with few scruples and a morbid…dedication…to her job. I thought Penot did a great job of creating a witch character that wasn't too over the top and yet still incredibly creepy.

The plot is fast paced and tight. No complaints there! I read this in about two days and didn't want to put it down. Jessica Penot has several other novels released and I will definitely check them out!

Of the many, many things I've reviewed or read this summer, Circe rates high on my top ten lists!

As luck would have it, All Things Writing is doing a giveaway for this book. To enter, all you have to do it Like the blog post. You don't want to miss out on your chance to get a free copy of this one!

Don't want to take your chances in the giveaway? No problem! Here is the author's buy link and other info:

Amazon code Kindle:

Amazon Code Print Book:

Jessica Penot Online:

a Rafflecopter giveaway