Monday 20 December 2010

Rooting for the Killer: A Book Review of Merryll Manning: Trapped On Mystery Island

My Review of Merryll Manning: Trapped On Mystery Island:

Merryll Manning: Trapped On Mystery Island by John Howard Reid is an eccentric, odd mix of a British murder mystery and a screwball comedy, with an offhand, often irreverent manner. It has worthy qualities, but I found it disjointed and lacking somewhat in focus.

The book revolves around an island murder mystery getaway, a police detective, his girlfriend and an assorted bunch of peculiar individuals. These characters are prepared for a weekend of mystery and murder games. Instead a real life killer pops up and claims an actual victim.

This book has problems, the main one being setting. It is supposed to be set in Florida and there are one or two American references, but the tone, dialogue and descriptive passages are peppered with Australian (the author’s nationality) allusions. This is prevalent enough in the novel that it made it impossible for me to believe the Florida location, unless the book takes place in an alternate universe. These anomalies kept pulling me out of the narrative and interrupting the stream of the book.

I sometimes found the pace and dialogue a bit off-kilter, and the characters pushed to the edge of comedic parody. Much of the character interaction comes off a bit forced, like a series of staged, interconnected monologues. The individual viewpoints are lively and interesting, but they often veer into theorizing, philosophical or moralizing debates that do not flow naturally, but are randomly thrown at the reader.

Also, the lead detective character seemed, well, a tad incompetent. Subsequent to the real murder he doesn’t hunt for clues or try and keep to any sort of police procedure. Our detective barely interviews the suspects or examines for possible motives and appears to be far more comfortable in haphazardly choosing probable killers based on his “experience” and bad clichés. He does somehow manage though, to stumble on the killer and figure the rather apparent solution to the mystery.

I wanted to like this book for its quaint unconventional charm and the author’s excellent turn of a phrase, but I could not overcome the distracting aspects of the plot. For me, Merryll Manning: Trapped On Mystery Island unfortunately does not rise above the level of mediocre.

Saturday 18 December 2010

A Light Speculative Trip: A Review of Warped and Wired

My Review of Warped and Wired by Joshua Caleb:

Warped and Wired by Joshua Caleb is an enjoyable adventure novel, part sci-fi, part fantasy. You are not going to find any deep meaningful angst or heavy introspective character development, but you will find an amusing, delightful book full of sly humour, action and an intriguing premise.
"She shoved the glittering tangle into her pocket then thrust her fingers into the brick wall. The chill of cold space slid down her spine. Taking a breath of concentration and fortification, she grasped the edges of space and tore an opening in the wall. Her small, faintly lit apartment opened up before her. She stepped through the portal and into her cool living room. The portal whooshed shut behind her just as the footfalls turned into looming shadows. Angry shadows."
The book follows the escapades of two girls: Portia, a magical Sky Wryter, and Mlina, who has a serious computer problem. They are on the hunt for Mlina’s father so he can shed light on the secret of both girls’ past. Complicating matters are Portia’s odd relatives and a malevolent Dark Wryter who wants both Mlina and her father for his own malicious purposes.
"Looking past the creature, Portia noticed a dark figure walking down the tunnel toward them. She’d stake her staff it was Dragwen. A shaft of light struck the figure, revealing her suspicions. How had he followed them? Uncle Vi’son was about as secluded as a person could be. Dragwen stepped fully into the light, the blue glow glinting off his fangs."
The book is breezy and an easy read, giving the reader a fast-pasted plot and engaging characters, nicely realized. The tone blends the conflict and peril with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek wit and homage. I did think it faltered a bit in the emotional resolution; I found it somewhat rushed and shallow, with all the family threads tied up a bit hastily. Also, there were a few grammar gaffes here and there. Still, overall it is an entertaining book.

This book is available on Smashwords

Also, on Amazon in print and ebook form:

Monday 22 November 2010

Stunning Sci-Fi: A Book Review of Beautiful Red

My Review of Beautiful Red by M. Darusha Wehm:

If you like your sci-fi full of cyber-tech, intrigue, moral questions and just that slight touch of nihilism, then you should read Beautiful Red by M. Darusha Wehm. It is a well-written, well-crafted and engaging novel.

It is the story of Jack, who works as a security officer in a world where corporations run the show and most human interaction takes place in a virtual environment. One day she stumbles on some anomalous security breaches which lead her into the path of a radical protest group that may be engaging in sinister and criminal activities.
“She meticulously picked apart the code left behind by the intruders at Buyside, running every individual line through the nets looking for possible authors. She followed the path of the intrusion back to the other end, the originating end, hypothesizing and guessing where there were gaps in the information. She cross referenced, indexed, filled in the blanks and made progress. Eventually she narrowed it down to a shadowy group called variously the Red, the Society for Creative Anarchicism and nowherenet, depending on the part of the world. They had been blamed for various incidents in many municipalities and corporations, many of which were illegal in some jurisdictions, but there didn't seem to be any coherent understanding of their goals.”
The author, M. Darusha Wehm, knows how to write credible characters and how to create a realistic, potential society. She shapes a complete civilization where you feel the characters could exist comfortably. As a reader I felt her postulated world could easily come in to existence as a possible future.
“Even the people were eerily alike, with their vacant plugged in stares, fashionable bodies and faces, uniforms or corporate approved dress code outfits. Jack stopped and looked at her reflection in the mirrored window of the building next to her. She knew she wasn't as fashionable as most of the other people on the street; she couldn't be bothered to get a new face every year and she while she went through a phase when she was younger of going through several body types, she finally found one that felt right and just kept it. Even her hair colour had remained the same since she was a teenager - she now bought number 772 (sapphire) by the wholesale case.”
I enjoyed Ms. Wehm’s point of view and her plot was both interesting and provocative. Many of the themes woven into the novel’s structure tackle compelling societal questions. I highly recommend this book.

Author Website:

Beautiful Red is also available in e-book format at Smashwords 

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Pen Name or No

Another guest joins the blog today, author John Betcher.  He stops by on his virtual book tour to give tips on using a pen name:

Pen Name or No

Today's post has to do with an issue I have recently confronted in my writing -- whether to use a pen name instead of my real one.

A pen name . . . or nom de plume . . . as some say, is simply a made up name used in place of your real name as author of your work. There are reasons why one might want to do this. And reasons why one might not want to.

Why you may want to use a pen name:

Here are several popular reasons to use a pen name instead of your real one.

-- You want to change your gender. In certain genres, romance for instance, it seems that female authors are better received. This is particularly true if your main character is a female. And in other genres, thrillers perhaps, there is a preponderance of male characters. So you may want your author gender to be male. (These are just examples. I'm not trying to pick a fight.) If you're writing in a genre where readers prefer authors of a certain gender, maybe you want to switch yours if your God-given version isn't right for the task.

-- If this is your first book, you may wish to preserve your privacy by using a pen name. We all know that once our personal information is spread across the internet, it is widely available to anyone with nefarious intent. So privacy might be another consideration.

-- If you are already known for writing in a different genre, or appearing in a different medium, you may consider a nom de plume either: 1) to avoid confusing your readers as to the type of book they are buying; or 2) to preserve an alternate image for your previous work. St. Paul newspaper columnist, John Camp, writes as John Sandford, presumably for this reason.

-- If your real name is very common (eg. John Smith), or you share a name with another author, you might consider a pen name so your fans can more easily find your work on a search engine, or to avoid confusion with the other author.

-- If you want your author name to have a certain pizazz, you could spice it up a bit. "Rocky Savage" may sound more masculine to some than "Tracy Ween."

-- Or you may have one of those given names that might be male or female (like Stacy, or Sean, or Jamie). And perhaps you want to make your gender clear for the readers.

Why you may not want to use a pen name:

-- For many self-published writers, their personal name recognition (at least by friends, relatives and community) may be their best initial marketing tool. You might not want to lose that advantage by using a pen name. Community is a great place to start building your following.

-- If you have already established some name recognition with your other writing pursuits (columns, short stories, etc.), you may want to extend your "brand" to your new works. Using your real name as author of your new book(s) is a great way to do this. Hopefully, any goodwill you have established in your previous writings will transfer to your new audience. This is called "leveraging goodwill" in the marketing world. And lots of big companies use it. At one point the Gerber Company was known only for its quality baby food. But they have leveraged the the goodwill of their brand into baby clothing lines, and other areas as well. Why should we think a food packager can make clothing? Who knows . . . but leveraging works.

-- If your name is recognizable in some non-writing circle -- eg. you're a sports or entertainment figure -- using your real name can be a huge advantage. How many people would have bought "Chelsea, Chelsea, Bang, Bang" if the author weren't a famous comedian?

Well . . . those are a few reasons I have come up with.
I'm currently trying to balance name recognition, with the potential to confuse (or even alienate) my audience, as I approach publication of a new novel in a completely different genre from my "Beck" suspense/thriller series. I'll be happy to let you know later what I decided to do.

If you have other reasons for using a pen name or not, maybe you'd like to leave a comment.

Thanks, Anita, for allowing me to share your blog . . . and your readers. All the best to everyone!

About the Author:

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery. The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at and at

Friday 12 November 2010

Push Forward and Write Your Tale

I have a guest today, stopping by as part of his virtual book tour.  So please welcome, Joel M. Andre:

Push Forward and Write Your Tale by Joel M. Andre

Everyone has a story to tell. There is little doubt about it. Over the course of the day, I have different friends and others pitching me story ideas. Why do they do it? Because it is a tale they want to read. For some, I will take the time to write a short story that they can read and the tale dies there. Other times, I suggest they write the story themselves.

Yes, it takes about 6 months to draft a book and to stumble through the editing process. In some cases, it can take longer. There are many factors that come into play. But this information isn’t to discourage you. Instead it is there to inspire you. Think about the number of times you’ve read a book and were depressed at how it went. Often, you feel you can write a better story.
That motivation alone should push you into writing for a living. While you might never be able to live off your royalties from the book you draft, you will have something you can be proud of. This can be a tale that slowly takes off and then quickly becomes something people talk about years from now. You never know until you sit down and write it.

You might be surprised at how much of a stress reducer this can be for you as well. Many of us have stress and anxiety that can be taken away from writing stories. This can be your chance to escape to a work full of dragons, or fairies. There is no limitation to the world you create and that is the beauty of writing.

If you don’t feel like you can write a whole novel, then take the steps and write a short story. Take it from start to finish and then read it back. This is your chance to revisit the world you’ve created and to find a place you’ll love for a lifetime. You have the talent in you and I believe you have what it takes to write.

So push forward and tell your tale. Share it with the world if you like, or reserve it for yourself and perhaps a few friends. No matter what you do with it, there is one thing to keep in mind. When you are done, there is something to be proud. Most people will spend a lifetime saying they are going to write a book or story and you’ll have done it. Keep that in mind and let it motivate you for telling your story.

About the Author:

Joel M. Andre was born January 13, 1981. At a young age he was fascinated with the written word. It was at fourteen that Poe blew his mind, and Andre began to dabble with darker poetry.
Between the years of 1999 and 2007 Joel was featured in various poetry anthologies and publications. In 2008 he released his first collection, Pray the Rain Never Ends.
Knowing there was something deeper and darker inside of his soul, Joel decided to take a stab at commercialism. Releasing the dark tongue in cheek, A Death at the North Pole, created a dark world among the death of Kris Kringle. Ultimately providing a tale of redemption.
October of 2008 saw Joel release his second book, Kill 4 Me. A tale in which a woman is haunted by a vengeful spirit through text messages and instant messaging.
Taking some time off and doing a lot of soul searching, Joel took things in a new direction and dabbled in the Fantasy Genre with, The Pentacle of Light. The tale dealing with five major races battling for control of Earth, and the acceptance of their God.
Finally, after missing his detective Lauren Bruni, he released the book The Return in October 2009, this time moving the action from the North Pole and placing it in the small Arizona community he was raised in.

Andre’s latest book is The Black Chronicles: Cry of the Fallen about a dead man who seeks revenge on the woman that tormented him in peaceful Northern Arizona.

Currently, he resides in Chandler, AZ.
You can visit his website at

Thursday 4 November 2010

The Popular Culture of the Fantasy Genre

Our guest blogger today is Edward Stern.  He is delving into the fascinating subject of the fantasy genre and how it has melded into our current popular culture:

The Popular Culture of the Fantasy Genre

Today, fantasy is a popular and beloved genre with many loyal devotees. Featured in literature, television, and film, what was once considered a niche culture has now entered the mainstream with the popularity of the highly successful Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter books and films.

The roots of fantasy begin in ancient times. In mythology and early literature, it was not uncommon for popular legends to demonstrate many of the traits which now inspire fantasy today. In works as diverse as The Odyssey, Beowulf, and 1001 Arabian Nights, heroes on epic quests, warring gods, lengthy back stories, and beings not of the real world are all featured. Fantasy today is hugely influenced by mythology and folklore, and takes many of its tropes from the myths and legends of long ago times.

Medieval works were also a huge influence, as the Middle Ages-inspired setting is prevalent in many works, like Redwall and the aforementioned Lord of the Rings. The King Arthur tales and elements of Dante's Divine Comedy and even works by Shakespeare contained fantastical elements.

Still, many of these works took place in realms like ours but with fantastical creatures and occurrences. It was not until Victorian times that works were finally set in realms all their own, distinct from anything we know, and so provided the foundation for the fantasy genre as we know it. William Morris is considered by many to be the father of the genre for his pure fantasy tales set in a realm unlike reality. His works were largely influenced by the mythology of Norway and Scandinavia.

It was not until a century later that J.R.R. Tolkien created the Lord of the Rings and brought the genre to unprecedented heights. His extremely detailed, epic, and imaginative tales captured the imaginations of millions of readers and set a new bar for the quality of fantasy tales. The trilogy drew upon elements from mythology, folklore, and Medieval tales to create a timeless story of an epic quest.

Since Tolkien, the genre has become more popular and splintered into many different factions across the mediums of literature, television, and film. Fantasy has also seen more mainstream acceptance than ever with the Harry Potter books and films and the success of the Narnia films, among others. Fantasy is a thriving genre, one where imagination is the only limit.

Edward Stern is a frequent guest blogger and a writer for online publications.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Family Complexity: A Book Review of The House

My Review of  The House by Anjuelle Floyd:

The House by Anjuelle Floyd is an intricate book that deals with the myriad emotions that come with family. It spirals through complicated relationships as they display across the pages in the wake of a tragedy.

Anna is trying to divorce her husband, Edward, but he is fighting her over the disposition of their house. When he suddenly capitulates on everything, she discovers he is dying of cancer. This revelation comes as a shock and she halts the divorce and moves him back into their house. With this decision, Anna must face her buried feelings, her past and decide her future.

The House is a well-written novel with vibrant characters. The book deals at its heart with the most basic of subjects: family relationships. The complex interaction between the characters as they confront their history and the death that surrounds them is what keeps you reading. I can’t say I always liked the characters, or agreed with their choices, but that’s what made them compelling; they felt real and that is where the true strength of the novel lies.

The book isn’t perfect, however. Its weak points fall in the plotline, which sometimes stretches itself a bit thin, especially toward the end. I felt there may have been a few too many convenient happenstances used; it felt, to me, as a bit unnecessary and sliding to improbable.

Still, overall The House is captivating, and I can recommend the novel as a satisfying read.

You find more on The House here:

or check it out at Goodreads:

Ms. Floyd's website:

Just a note:  I received a free copy of this book for review.

Another of Ms. Floyd's books:
Keeper of Secrets: Translations of an Incident

Thursday 14 October 2010

An Interview with Brenda Youngerman

Today we have a guest, author Brenda Youngerman, who writes "fiction with a purpose".  She has graciously granted an interview where she discusses her books and her writing process...

Interview with Brenda Youngerman:

1. Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I am the youngest member in a very large family and always felt like I was on the outside looking. To make matters worse my parents got divorced when I was nine, in 1969 before many people were getting divorced so I was again the odd man out. I found myself observing more than participating. I didn’t really find my own voice until my writing was published. I have always had the ability to empathize, constantly harboring strays, even if it meant less for me. Writing comes naturally to me and I have been writing since High School. When my first novel came out, Private Scars, I tackled the very difficult subject of domestic abuse and I wrote it from the victim’s point of view. From then on I have written what I call “Fiction With a Purpose”. My novels deal with social issues that I feel need attention. I try to bring my readers along for the ride from the character’s point of view and if at the end of the book the reader puts it down and asks, “Was that real?” I know I did a good job!
I truly believe that ONE person can make a difference and that all things happen for a reason. We are all here for a purpose and I truly hope that the tales I weave are entertaining as well as informative and that the readers garner some sort of hope.
I have always lived in Southern California and I love walking on the beach with my dog and watch the pelicans.
I have 5 published novels: Private Scars, Public Lies, Hidden Truths, Sorrowed Souls and Restored Hope

2. How long have you been writing? Did you always desire to make it your line of work?

I actually started writing when I was in high school with short stories and poetry. I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember. Actually excerpts from my college journals are in Private Scars.
I only wish I could make writing my full time line of work. I actually have a full time job and write in the evenings and on weekends. And I only discovered this ‘love’ after my children were in high school and no longer needed me on a daily basis. And now I cannot imagine my life without it.

3. Can you tell us about your latest book?

Restored Hope is such a wonderful love story – buried inside a world of tragedy and sorrow. It actually was never supposed to have been written! It all happened as an accident. Samantha Miller is the third child born into a perfect world, but on her 10th birthday that world completely falls apart and her family disintegrates. Six months later she is the only child left and her father does the best he can but it just isn’t enough. Later on she meets a wonderful man who has been raised in a perfect family as well but also has issues. Restored Hope teaches us how not to judge others based on what you see; the world is not what it appears.

4. For you, what is the hardest part of writing fiction?

Believe it or not coming up with the names and descriptions of the people. I am so afraid that I am going to make everyone look the same. And I really struggle with names!

5. Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

When I start a book I generally have an idea what issue it will revolve around, and I come up with the title first. (I know --- who does that?) Then I let the characters go—the end product is rarely where I had imagined.   I do write an outline – Again --- nothing like the end product.
I try to write for at least an hour per night and four hours every weekend. But if I’m not feeling it, I don’t force it.

6. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

I think my greatest ‘difficulty’ is trying to stay sane when the characters are talking to me. I get to these points when I cannot get them out of my head and I don’t want to be anywhere but in front of my computer. That is not really too pleasant for other people.
The other challenge I face is the waiting game. I hate that time between turning it in to the publisher and having the book in my hand.

7. How do you research your books?

Well - - for Sorrowed Souls I immersed myself in the homeless community.
For Disrupted Lives – which is the one I am writing now I have done a great deal of research on the period I am writing about and I have a VERY good friend who was adopted and have used her as a source.

8. What advice would you give beginning writers?

If you are doing this for fame and fortune - - stop!
If you are doing this because it is what you love --- go for it! No one should take away your dream! Don’t let the naysayers get the better of you.

9. Who has inspired you as an author?

I really don’t have an answer for this one.

10. What’s next for you?

I am writing Disrupted Lives which was a suggestion from a reader who asked me if I would ever write a book about someone who had to give up a child at birth because her parents sent her away to have her child. This was done at the end of the 60’s and her boyfriend was drafted for the Vietnam War. Needless to say the book has turned into something MUCH BIGGER!

You can check out more about this author on her website:

Monday 11 October 2010

The Stereotype of Self-publication

Today we have a guest, Robin Cain, author of When Dreams Bleed, discusing the hot topic of self-publication.

The Stereotype of Self-publication by Robin Cain:
I am a self-published author.

I am stating this upfront to bring attention to some preconceived notions many people have about “traditional publisher rejects”. I’m aware that this is what many of you (readers) call us (self-published authors), so why not get it out in the open? I know… you think we couldn’t sell our manuscripts, our writing stinks; we don’t edit our work. Yada, yada, yada. Much of this is true about some self-published authors; some of it is just plain garbage. On the other hand, much of it is not.

Nowadays, while millions of writers are querying agents each year and not getting through, new avenues of publication are becoming easier, more affordable and making more economic sense. Why wouldn’t any new author consider self-publication as a means to an end?

The traditionalists will answer, “Exposure and reputation” and they won’t be too far off the mark.

When an author chooses (for whatever reason) to self-publish, he immediately loses the connections that a big-name publisher brings to the table. That is no small loss. Being backed by a Simon & Shuster can go a long way to getting one’s books in readers’ hands. Additionally, when an author chooses to self-publish, they immediately have the stereotype branding – “self-published: must not be any good”. These two items are tough to argue, but…news flash, folks: This is all changing.

With the advent of e-publishing, social networking, online media and book pricing wars, the book selling market is changing – and changing rapidly. The book business, once rationed off in predetermined slices, is now anyone’s market. More and more of the “unknowns” are getting a piece of it – a piece which up until now would never have been theirs for the taking. One may or may not be a fan of the Kindle or e-books in general, but their impact on the book-buying market can’t be ignored – particularly after Amazon’s announcement that Kindle book sales recently surpassed regular book sales for the first time in history.

With an increased market share and greater exposure, it is now possible for a self-published author to attain the same level of success as traditionally published authors - as long as they follow the same rules:

Write quality work

Get it professionally edited

Have it reviewed by a multitude of unbiased readers (and re-write if necessary)

Hire a professional cover designer and formatter

Create a good platform… and then market the hell out of yourself!

Unfortunately, there are a great many writers out there who don’t follow these rules and it makes it awfully difficult for those of us authors that did (and do). Regardless, whether traditionally published or not, reputation still has to be built one book at a time.

So how do we get rid of the stereotype and reach those readers who otherwise wouldn’t give us a second look? Like any author (super star or rising star), we just hope the cream rises to the top, word-of-mouth does us some favors and generous bloggers (Thanks, Anita!) give us some of their spare space…

© 2010 Robin Cain, Author of WHEN DREAMS BLEED

Robin Lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, daughter, three dogs, three horses and an adopted donkey named Sophia. As a novelist and regular contributing writer for The Examiner, she spends her days searching for the perfect words to amuse, enlighten and touch her readers. A 3-chapter excerpt of her book, WHEN DREAMS BLEED, can be found on her website,

Robin's blog:

Sunday 19 September 2010

My new blog: In the Spotlight

I have some news:

I just started a new blog, called In the Spotlight
I'll be doing post features on movies, TV shows, new DVD's and books.
My first post is a short rundown on my favourite episodes of the show Supernatural.

If any writers out there want a book spotlight, feel free to leave a comment and we'll talk about doing a feature.  Book spotlights will need a cover photo, a book blurb, author photo and bio.

Anyway, I hope you like the new blog and check it out. 

Wednesday 15 September 2010

A blog award has been bestowed, twice!

I've been awarded again. The One Lovely Blog award has been bestowed upon me, this time by Jude Roust from Mad about Romance and by Renee Miller of the blog Dangling on the Edge of (In)Sanity.

This is how the award works:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.

Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I have choosen fifteen blogs I discovered over on  They range from blogs about YA, sci-fi, erotic romance, book blogs and a few things in-between.

I pass along this award to:
  1. the writer's notebook
  2. Noctural Musings
  3. Thoughts on YA books for the not-so-young adult
  4. Blkosiner's Book Blog
  5. Letters from Sandra
  6. YA Addict
  7. Love Stories
  8. Just Bookin' Around
  9. Jacquelyn Wheeler's Blog
  10. Maeve Greyson
  11. Keta's Keep
  12. The Bridge Chronicles
  13. Bitsy Bling's Book Review
  14. Anna's Obsession
  15. Emma Michaels

Monday 13 September 2010

Vampire Kisses: An Interview with author Elizabeth J. Kolodziej

 Today, author Elizabeth J. Kolodziej is stopping by as part of her virtual book tour to talk about her book, Vampyre Kisses, and about writing.  And be sure to check out the link at the bottom of the page for her Contest Giveaway.

An Interview with author Elizabeth J. Kolodziej:

1. Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

Well, my name is Elizabeth J. Kolodziej (pronounced Ko-La-G). I am a newly self published author. My book is entitled Vampyre Kisses and it is a paranormal YA romance. So the reviews keep telling me. It is a book filled with awesome Greek Mythology along with vampiric folklore. I think it is a great mix. The best thing to me is my character, Faith, who finds out she is a witch. Mostly because there don’t seem to be too many books with witches and vampires anymore.

2. How long have you been writing? Did you always desire to make it your line of work?

I have been writing short stories, research papers, reviews, and everything else since I have been a little tot. I did not always want this to be my line of work though. When I was little I dreamed of being an actress on Broadway, but writing just took over my life.

3. Can you tell us about your latest book.

Of course! Take a look at the synopsis:

Vampyre Kisses is an enthralling story about a young woman named Faith, who was content with her life, but deep down craved more excitement. Then a mysterious man named Trent enters her life and everything changes. Surprising to Faith, Trent is a green-eyed vampire from Ireland. She is even more surprised to find out that she is a witch, and the last of her kind.

Faith finds out that she is destined to restore her witch line and becomes more powerful as she gains confidence and knowledge, but danger lurks everywhere. Especially when unknown assailants steal the most important gems from the vampire master and werewolf royalty.
Now surrounded by a world full of mystifying vampires and werewolves, can Faith gain enough power to help her friends and rescue the stolen gems?

4. Why did you decide to write in the fantasy genre? What is the hardest part of writing fantasy fiction?

My mother grew me up on fantasy. Witches and magic being my favorite. It was just always a big part of my life and fantasy is what I knew best. So it was natural for me to write about it. The hardest part of writing fantasy is offering something new to readers. Sometimes I would get the feeling that my book had nothing new to offer readers. But in reality it is very different from what is going around right now. Mostly due to the extensive mythology and folklore that is offered in the book.

5. Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

I write when I feel that itch to do it. When I try to write when I do not feel like it not much comes out. Normally I can get a couple thousand words out when I am writing at night.
My ideas come from everything around me, but mostly my huge imagination. I watch movies and say what if it was like that but with this twist and then it ends up being something completely different and I love it. Just everything around me gives me ideas. From music to movies to books to the people who are in my life.
My writing routine is basically trying to write at least 500 words a day, which is sometimes difficult for me cause I work a 40 hour work week as an office manager. But I try to make due with what free time I do have.

6. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

My greatest challenge would have to be getting over writer’s block. When it hits me it hits me hard. I use to have one friend in particular that I could turn to but that has changed. So now I just bug all of my friends and whine to them about it.

7. How do you research your books?

I read … A LOT! I mean I have so many books that it is starting to take up most of my bedroom. I just read and pick and chose what I like and then find another book that talks more about what I chose. I also do a lot of research on the Internet and talk to writer friends and readers about what they think might work.

8. What advice would you give beginning writers?

Do not give up on your idea. If you think its good write it all out and finish the book. You are going to be criticized, sometimes harshly, but you just got to keep on doing what you believe is right.

9. Who has inspired you as an author?

Lots of people, music, books, and things, everything around me inspires me. I am always looking to people in my life to give me ideas or hints of an idea. I never shy away from the unknown and I think that is what helps my imagination the most.

10. What’s next for you?

I am working on the sequel to the first book. I am not sure what I am going to called it yet though. Having a little bit of trouble with that. But it will have more to do with the werewolves and their history. Lots of great werewolf folklore will be added, which as been a lot of fun for me to research so far.

I have really enjoyed this interview. Thank you so much for having me!

You can find Elizabeth on FacebookTwitter and at the Vampyre Kisses website

Where to buy the book:

Publisher’s Website:
Barnes and Noble:


Giveaway Contest:

Saturday 11 September 2010

A Mystery with Heart: A Review of Healey's Cave

My Book Review of Healey's Cave by Aaron Paul Lazar:

Healey’s Cave by Aaron Paul Lazar is a wonderful, mellow mystery, gently wrapped in a mist of paranormal phenomenon. This is not your typical whodunit with detectives, amateur or professional; it is more of an absorbing unravelling of secrets, heartbreak and murder.
“It had been this way for fifty years. Fifty years of longing for the truth, of missing his little brother.”
Healey’s Cave centers on Sam Moore, his family, friends and the unsolved childhood disappearance of his brother Billy. When a grisly discovery reopens Billy’s case and links it to a serial killer, long kept secrets and fresh danger start spilling into Sam’s life. If that wasn’t bad enough, the unearthing of a strange green marble is pulling Sam back into the past to his and Billy’s childhood. Is Sam time-travelling, going crazy or is Billy’s spirit trying to tell him the awful truth? That a killer might be closer than he thinks.
“He fingered the warm glass and removed it from his pocket. It glowed softly. An eerie, green circle of light surrounded him. He felt protected as he approached the form sitting on the outcropping of rocks near the back wall.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, from its engaging plot, to the realistic setting and characterization. Even the haunting paranormal aspects of the book meld seamlessly and add an extra depth to the story; the supernatural side of the plotline is not overplayed. The reader may wonder at the how of the strange happenings caused by a small green marble, but there is never a feeling of being cheated. The author is very skilled at convincing you of the urgency and the need of these inexplicable events. The rest of the book satisfies as well, with the mystery elements pulling just enough twists and turns (plus one or two red herrings) to keep you guessing. There are ample suspects, a demented killer, motives, tragedies, and a bittersweet conclusion to gratify the average mystery lover.

However, the best part of the novel is contained in the rich depiction of the characters and their interaction. These characters are three-dimensional, well portrayed people, be they strong and family oriented, flawed with secrets or the puzzling dark villain. And they live in a world just as fully realised; you can almost smell the fragrant flowers on a wafting country breeze as you read the words.

Healey’s Cave is a superb book that anyone should take pleasure in reading.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Mysteries and Green Marbles: An Interview with Aaron Paul Lazar

Today's feature is a real treat. 
Mystery author, Aaron Paul Lazar, has kindly made a stop here at my blog on his virtual book tour to talk about his new paranormal mystery, Healey's Cave, writing and other tasty tidbits.    So please welcome Aaron Paul Lazar...

An Interview with Aaron Paul Lazar:

1. Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

Hello, Anita. It’s great to be here. Here are a few facts about me:
  • I’m first and foremost a husband, father, and grandfather. I love nature, kids, animals, classical, blues, folks, and sixties rock music, French Impressionist art, gardening, cooking, and photography. Oh, and I guess we ought to throw in reading and writing into the mix!
  • I’ve lived in the beautiful Genesee Valley region in western NY, near the Finger Lakes. Many of my books are set right here, in the lush fields, woods, gorges, and gardens.
  • I’m a lot like my two main characters, Sam Moore ( and Gus LeGarde ( My characters are similar to my father, who was a classical music professor, pianist, massive gardener, and a great chef. Therefore, we’re all kind of a bizarre and interesting amalgam. ;o)
  • I believe that readers can enjoy a thrilling ride with a tale told in a relatively wholesome way, versus gratuitous gore and meaningless sex. Although some people like that. LOL. Not that I don’t have a few juicy scenes between Gus and his new wife – after all Gus goes through, I figure he deserves some loving!
  • I’ve written ten LeGarde Mysteries, three Moore Mysteries, and am also currently writing book two from my Tall Pines Mysteries series. (not yet submitted to publishers).
  • I love to connect with my readers and am always accessible at:
Here are the books that are under contract for publishing, for the first two series. The rest are in the queue or waiting to be submitted until the time is right.

MAZURKA (2009)

FOR KEEPS (2012)

And here are a few awards, plus my website addresses: 
Preditors&Editors Top 10 Finalist * Yolanda Renee's Top Ten Books 2008 * MYSHELF Top Ten Reads 2008 * Writers' Digest Top 101 Website Award 2009 & 2010

And here are a few credentials:

My columns and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, Absolute Write, Mystery Fiction, and Great Mystery and Suspense magazine. I’m also co-owner on a Writer’s Digest Best 101 Websites blog, I’m well versed in self-promotion, and have an extensive marketing plan that includes frequent appearances at book clubs and library events, and promotion on my award-winning websites and blogs. In addition, I exclusively sign and sell books at Heron Hill Winery overlooking Keuka Lake, in Hammondsport, NY.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Hmmm. Good question. That part of my life sort of “evolved” over time. I always loved to write, from high school on. And I was an avid mystery reader since elementary school. Somewhere in my twenties, I knew I’d write a mystery series “some day”. I figured it would be when my children were grown and I retired.
Boy, was I wrong. When eight people in my life died within five years, I needed the solace writing brought. Being able to “control” a parallel universe was immensely therapeutic!

3. Can you tell us about your latest book, Healy's Cave.

I’d love to tell you about Healey’s Cave. First of all, here’s a synopsis:

Sam Moore's little brother vanished fifty years ago. No body. No answers. What Sam has is a boatload of guilt, since he failed to accompany Billy on his final, fateful bike ride. 
While digging in his garden, Sam discovers a green marble with a startling secret—it whisks him back to his childhood, connecting him to Billy. Thrust back and forth through time, Sam struggles to unlock the secret of his brother’s fate.

When the FBI investigates remains found nearby, Sam learns of a serial killer with a grisly fifty-year record. Sam’s certain it’s Billy’s killer. But what’s worse, his grandson fits the profile of the murdered boys. Will the killer return to Sam’s town to claim his final kill? Can Sam untangle the truth in time to save him?
And here’s where Healey’s Cave came from:

I blame the book on my wife.

I was minding my own business, wrapping up the fifth novel in the LeGarde Mystery series, when she turned to me and said, “You need to write a book from the killer’s point of view.”
I laughed out loud. I’d always written in first person, from a man whose character was diametrically opposed to villains. He was a good man, a man I admired and wanted to share with the world. Sure, he had his faults, but how could I switch from that kind of mindset to the inner thoughts of a killer?
Dale reads Stephen King and James Patterson. She loves psychological thrillers and even a little horror. Not like me with my relatively wholesome mysteries that skirt around the gruesome details of murder.
I put aside the thought until shortly thereafter, while rototilling my garden, I unearthed a green marble, a cat’s eye. I held it in my hand and wondered about the little boy or girl who lost it. I imagined how neat it would be to be able to hold the marble tight in my hand and have it whisk me back in time to the boy’s life. I’d be able to see what he saw, walk beside him, and maybe witness some horrible crime. And what if the villain was still alive today? What if he was my next-door neighbor?
That was all it took to dislodge me from the LeGarde Mysteries for a few months. With my wife’s urging, I gave into the desire to create a new world. I didn’t expect it to turn into another series. But it did. 
This is book one in the green marble series, otherwise known as Moore Mysteries. And yes, I blame my wife for the whole thing.

4. Why did you decide to combine the mystery genre and the paranormal genre for your new book series?

You know, Anita, I never even thought about the fact that my new series was going to be considered a paranormal mystery. I just thought it was a mystery, like all my other books. Then, when certain critique partners started reading along with me, one of them in particular (Lesia Valentine), chastised me for not telling her I had written a paranormal mystery, as she had done. 
I laughed out loud – I never really thought of the time-travel aspect of this book as paranormal. Then I thought a little harder. I did have Billy contacting Sam from “beyond” and what the heck would that be, except paranormal! ;o) But the whole mystery nature of the book was so strong that it couldn’t be labeled as simply a paranormal. Thus the label, paranormal mystery.

5. Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

I love talking about this part of writing, Anita.

My ideas come from everywhere. From family, movies, books, the news, and traumas my friends experience. Whenever I hear a new bit of odd news, or read a story that seems too weird to be true, or hear about unusual pain or horrors that people are going through in the “real” world, it sparks ideas within me. I often analyze my own fears, and turn those into themes.
How awful would it be to be stuck in an asylum, particularly fifty years ago? (Healey’s Cave).
How frightening to lose track of a toddler grandson, especially when you know there’s a villain who has it in for you? (Double Forte’)
How horrifying to run into neo-Nazis during your Parisian honeymoon and spend the rest of the summer either being chased or imprisoned by them? How would I react to being lost in the pitch black, hundreds of feet underground? Or have my car pushed and shoved into an alpine lake, while I drove it? (Mazurka)
Or lose my little brother, and never know what happened to him? (Healey’s Cave)
Or be chained to a wall in a flooding underground salt mine? (Firesong)
Or, or, or…. You get the point.

Life itself inspires me, and as soon as a new idea comes to mind, the “what ifs” start flowing.

6. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

My greatest challenge is saying “no” to requests for help or reviews. Don’t get me wrong – I take quite a few fledgling writers under my wing. I’ve spent lots of time giving them advice, helping with their manuscripts, nudging them in the proper directions for publishing or promotion. I’ve written hundreds of articles about writing, etc. with tons of advice freely given.  
But I can’t do it all. And it pains me when I have to turn down a request for a review. Just to set the story straight, I only review mysteries (with a few exceptions), and it’s after I’ve fallen in love with the first chapter or a sample of the writing. I only do this about six times per year. It all takes away from my own writing time, naturally.
Finding a balance isn’t hard, it’s just hard for me to say “Sorry, I can’t take that on right now.”

7. How do you research your books?

Lots of what I write just comes out of my own personal experience. When I do need to research, (for example, to remember the street names in Paris, or to learn about the Catacombs underground, etc.) I use the Internet. It’s so easy. I am constantly looking up facts, names, places, photos of stuff from the fifties and sixties. I remember a lot, but I need memory joggers, too.  Four of my books involve either life in the sixties (Tremolo: cry of the loon), or flashbacks to that general era. (Healey’s Cave, One Potato, Blue Potato, For Keeps.)

8. What advice would you give beginning writers?

  •  Read, read, read. Read in the genre you plan to write. And read some more. 
  •  Write every day. Even if it’s for fifteen minutes. After that, join online or real life writing groups and try to earn critique partners.  
  •  Share with others, help them with their writing, and learn from those who are willing to help. 
  •  Plan to give back when you “get there”, and remember how wonderful it was to have an established writer help you when you were a fledgling writer.
I have many detailed articles on nitty gritty writing advice up on at You’ll have to page through the years of articles to find all of them, but I promise there are great little pearls of writing wisdom there that I’ve learned from my own mentors. ;o) And if you have a question, feel free to ask. I don’t know all the answers, but I know where to go to check it out.

9. Who are your influences? What writers inspire you?

I adore the following writers: John D. MacDonald (his Travis McGee series), Dean Koontz (his Odd Thomas series is my favorite), Dick Francis, Clive Cussler, Laurie R. King (her Mary Russell series), Peter Mayle, James Patterson, Rex Stout, and many, many more.

10. What’s the next project for you?

I’m currently working on my fifteenth book, a paranormal mystery set in the Adirondack mountains, featuring Marcella and Tony Hollister, a couple who actually live on Honeoye Lake and run an antique shop there. When Marcella’s agoraphobic friend, Callie, receives a package from her long missing brother, Sky, the contents set in place a series of murders, threats, and mysteries that culminate in a heart-pounding finale in the forests of the Adirondack Mountains. One of the themes woven into the story involves essential oils, and how miraculous their properties are. I’ve recently become enamored with Young Living Essential Oils and am excited about the “new” one I’ve discovered in this story.
After this is done, I plan to collaborate with a friend on a book he’s already started regarding tips on how to find a job in this economy. He was one of my advisors when I was in “job search” mode, and I admire him greatly. It’ll be interesting to help with a non-fiction work, my very first.

Anita, thank you for having me here today. It’s been fun!

Aaron Paul Lazar

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at and and watch for his upcoming release, HEALEY’S CAVE, coming August 28th, 2010.

You can find Healey's Cave at and Barnes and Noble.
All of Aaron Paul Lazar's books are available through his websites. 

Monday 6 September 2010

Into the Land of Cyber-punk: A Book Review of "Under the Amoral Bridge"

My Review of Under the Amoral Bridge by Gary A. Ballard:

Cyber-punk, near-future sci-fi, urban-sci-fi, any one of those terms could describe Under the Amoral Bridge by Gary A. Ballard. It could also be described as a good yarn featuring an ambiguous, yet relatable, main character.
“‘I know a guy,’ were the only important words Artemis Bridge uttered these days. All of his conversations with those words were a carefully choreographed dance routine, each step planned out in advance with only rare deviations from his expectations.”
The plot centers around Artemis Bridge, a slightly shady go-between who can get you what you want, be it illegal or immoral. It is business as usual until one of his deals goes sour and he finds himself with killers on his tail and in possession of information he doesn’t want.
“A trashcan slammed into his forehead loudly, sending the gun and its owner flying. Bridge rolled over and sucked in precious, stinking air, his face caked with alley mud. At first, the sounds of scuffle barely penetrated the veil of pain, but his head finally cleared enough to comprehend the scene.”
The book is a fairly standard cyber-punk sci-fi novel, but it does have a nice touch of nihilistic cynicism set in a scruffy, corrupt future. The characters are well-rounded, with the focal character neither heroic nor completely indifferent; he is just a guy trying to get himself out of a bad situation in one piece. Also, the author does do a splendid job of painting his future world, a gritty, dark place full of people turned jaded, corrupt or apathetic. The book isn’t perfect, though; the review copy had a few formatting mistakes and typos, if nothing major or overly distracting, but the novel itself was worth ignoring a few errors.

Under the Amoral Bridge started life on the blogs as serial fiction, but it translates well to book form and it is a satisfying, entertaining read.

Under the Amoral Bridge is the first in a series of books entitled The Bridge Chronicles.  For more information on The Bridge Chronicles check out the official blog:

Under the Amoral Bridge is available in print through and as well as an ebook on Kindle and Smashwords.

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review.

Monday 16 August 2010

Definitely pick up these Loose Screws!

My Review of the book Loose Screws by Gerry Tortorelli:

Loose Screws by Gerry Tortorelli is an amusing, irreverent look at life and family and reminded me a great deal of Dave Barry’s writing, with that same funny slice-of-life style.

"One of the traits I admire in this friend is that he never sweats the small stuff. He doesn't even sweat the big stuff. He has as even a keel as anyone I know."

The book is comprised of short, autobiographical anecdotes that form a piecemeal memoir of the author. It is a fascinating look at one person and his family as they live and adjust to new cultures in various countries. The narrative is pleasing genuine and full of familiar family situations that connect with you as a reader.

"Over the years, I have become accustomed to various looks people give me. Like the look of non-comprehension when I try to speak French, for instance. During her stay, my mother-in-law contributed a new look I hadn't seen before- the 'If there was a good reason for me to let you marry my daughter, I, for the life of me, can't remember it' look."

This an entertaining book; at times I laughed out loud. The author writes with an impertinent style that makes for a breezy read and I guarantee you will be able to relate to some, if not all, of the engaging stories. Loose Screws is humorous and sweet, insightful and nostalgic, with a warm and witty voice. It is just a delightful book to read and I recommend it.

Available from:

Friday 23 July 2010

A Book Sale

If anyone was thinking about buying my latest book, The Incomplete Guide to Action Movies, now is the perfect time.  Due to a glitch in the system my book did not show up in search results immediately after I published.   By way of an apology they are offering it at a discount for readers.

You can now purchase The Incomplete Guide to Action Movies at 15% off with coupon code BEACHREAD305 until August 15, 2010, Just use the coupon code at the checkout!

Almost everything you need to know to enjoy an action film!

Presenting an irreverent manual for dissecting an action movie, a guide to the nuances of that summer blockbuster!

Consider musings about crashes, clichés and cannon fodder!

Discover how to survive an action movie!

Learn the proper way to watch a bad action film!

Disagree with the recommendations and the top ten lists!

Read all about it today (at 15% off)!

Saturday 17 July 2010

I Write Like...

For those who haven't heard there is a new website out in Internet World called I Write Like where you can have a few paragraphs of your writing analyzed and their algorithm will tell you which writer your prose most resembles.

Always willing to try something a bit goofy, I had the program analyze three different paragraphs from three different stories (from my book Passing Fancies).   It seems I'm quite the diverse writer because I got three different answers.

Here are the results:

1-  My short story, The Wild Hunt:

I write like
J. R. R. Tolkien
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

2- My short story, A Funny Murder:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

3- My fiction short, Dark, New World:

I write like
Arthur C. Clarke
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Now how can I disagree wiyth a pedigree like that!

Thursday 15 July 2010

Subtle Cyber-tech Sci-fi: A Review of Self Made

My review of Self Made by M. Darusha Wehm:

The short novel, Self Made, is an engaging sci-fi tech novel best described as cyber-punk noir.
“She said her name was Ivy Velasquez, and Dex wasn't sure whether that was her real name or a name she invented for his benefit. It didn't really matter; the funds she transferred to the organization's escrow account were real enough.”

Self Made by M. Darusha Wehm is worth reading. The opening was a bit flat, but the shaky prose doesn’t last and the book picks up steam quickly, building an intriguing world of online interaction, avatars and virtual murder. The plotline revolves around the “murder” of Reuben Cobalt, a virtual avatar. Andersson Dexter is hired to investigate the crime, leading him into the online world of avatar programming and “multis” that turns into a complex mystery to unravel.

The crime and mystery plotline is nicely written and the conclusion satisfying, with the allusion of noir and murder providing a flavourful background, but the true value in the novel is in the character interaction and the topics it reveals. Like all good science fiction, the book has subtle layers, and touches on a variety of issues such as civil rights, reality vs. virtual, gender identity and human interaction. The author has skilfully explored the depth of the characters; the plot revolves around the detective, Dexter and it is his complex personality that keeps the reader engrossed. The world the author created is filtered through his eyes, and it is fascinating.

“The last thing he needed was Shiraishi running around giving all the multis on the nets nightmares. Even if there were a serial multi killer out there, which Dex had no reason to believe, all a full scale panic would do is tip that person off to who the multis were. It was a dumb, rookie move, but Dex understood. They were his people. He was one of them, they were his community and he wanted to protect them. Dex understood, but he didn't share those feelings. After all, he had no one to protect.”

Besides the slightly weak beginning, there are a few distracting typos (although the book I read was an advance copy, so some of those problems may have been corrected), but nothing major and certainly nothing to detract from the reading experience. Self Made is an excellent book, especially for fans of cyber-tech sci-fi.

Self Made is available in e-book form at Smashwords:

It’s also available through CreateSpace and in a print version

You can also find this review on my Examiner Page

Note:  I received a free e-copy of this book for review.  

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