Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: Harkness by Michael Bigham

Harkness is a superb edgy western murder mystery by debut novelist Michael Bigham.

Sheriff Matthew Harkness investigates the disappearance of two star-crossed teenage lovers. Secrets abound in the Oregon High Desert town of Barnesville, and Harkness must uncover a trail that leads to murder.

In Harkness, Bigham has created a conflicted hero who lives right on the edge of justice. A World War II veteran, Harkness returns to Barnesville and picks up a relationship with the woman he loves. Problem is, she's now married to the town's big-wig, who also happens to be his boss. His fairly regular routine is unsettled when Joey McIntrye, the high school's star football player, goes missing along with his girlfriend, Virginia Kelly. Having lived in Barnesville a long time, Harkness is privy to many secrets, and he must weigh what to reveal in order to help him solve the crime.

The challenge with a character like Matthew Harkness is making him likable enough. In the opening pages he's in bed with the Judge's wife. He drinks too much. Some of the words he uses would curl your mother's hair. He can be a bit violent at times. But overall, Bigham did a fine job of smoothing out those edges to keep the reader rooting for him.

Before I knew I would be helping to promote this book, I had read the first chapter and was totally intrigued. As a lover of westerns and mysteries, Harkness was a great match for me. Bigham delivered a solid story that kept me turning the pages. The tension slowly built to an explosive conclusion. Along the way, there was the comic relief provided by Addison, the wiener dog that adopts Harkness. In the end, I couldn't say I liked most of the people in Barnesville, but I would definitely return for another adventure; see who else is hiding dirty secrets there.

If you like western mysteries and conflicted heroes, you should give Harkness a try.

Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: Muskrat Press (October 17, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615721974
ISBN-13: 978-0615721972

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author. The author paid me to promote this book through a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book. This fee did not include a review. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Interview with Lindsey Pogue and Lindsey Fairleigh, Authors of After the Ending

Lindsey Pogue has always been a little creative. As a child she established a bug hospital on her elementary school soccer field, compiled illustrations and collages as a teenager, and as an adult, she expresses herself through writing. Her novels are inspired by her observations of the world around her—whether she’s traveling, people watching, or hiking. When not plotting her next storyline or dreaming up new, brooding characters, Lindsey is wrapped in blankets watching her favorite action flicks or going on road trips with her own leading man. Lindsey can be found online at her blog ( and on Pinterest (Lindsey Pogue).

Lindsey Fairleigh lives her life with one foot in a book—as long as that book transports her to a magical world or bends the rules of science. Her novels, from post-apocalyptic to time travel and historical fantasy, always offer up a hearty dose of unreality, along with plenty of adventure and romance. When she’s not working on her next novel, Lindsey spends her time reading and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She lives in the Napa Valley with her loving husband and confused cats. Lindsey can be found online at her blog ( and on Facebook and Pinterest (Lindsey Fairleigh).

The Ending Series Blog:
The Ending Series Website:
Twitter: @TheEndingSeries (

Where did you grow up?

LF: I grew up in the Seattle area, first in Renton, and then in Bellevue.

LP: I’m a Napkin. Actually, we’re technically called “Napans” I think. Anyway, I was born and bred in the Napa Valley.

When did you begin writing?

LP: I’ve always been a writer in some way, shape, or form. I’ve written for the newspaper, medical journals, grant reports, and so on. But my passion has always been researching and writing fiction. Although I have a plethora of stories, ideas, and outlines I’ve started over the years, this is my first completed and published novel.

LF: I’m sort of the inverse to LP. I’ve been reading my whole life--always fantasy or science fiction of some sort. Luckily the people who matter the most--my mom and my husband--have found it in their hearts to support my...quirks. Eventually, I realized there were stories stored in my head that I wanted to read, but the only way they would find their way to paper (virtual or otherwise) would be if I wrote them down (typed...honestly, I hate writing by hand, and yes, I know that’s practically heretical for a writer to admit...).

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

LF: When the muse strikes--and by that I mean when my characters pound the inside of my skull in an attempt to get their story out--I write. I have no choice

LP: I‘m generally inspired at night when my mind is winding down. I work during the day, so I can’t write whenever I feel like it, and I have to rely on really good notes that I jot down throughout the day when I’m feeling inspired, hoping that I’ll be able to draw upon the excitement I had in that moment and remember all the tidbits floating around in my mind by the time I actually get to sit down and write.

What is this book about?

LP: There are a few non-conventional aspects to our book that we feel make it not only unique, but enjoyable to a wide variety of people. For starters, After The Ending is a post-apocalyptic story told in first person, but the catch is that it’s from two different perspectives, Zoe and Dani. I write for Zoe and LF writes for Dani. The story begins with a universally contagious, deadly virus that infects everyone, including our characters and their loved ones. After the virus wipes out most of the human population, Dani and Zoe (best friends, mid-twenties) learn they are among the few who survived the pandemic. Although adult life has sent Zoe to the East Coast and Dani’s settled on the West Coast, their friendship is one of the few remaining things they have in the virus-ravaged they embark on separate journeys to meet each other at a supposed safe haven, the Colony. It’s through their individual journeys that the reader can experience what our heroines see and feel as they discover what the world after The Ending is like and, in turn, discover more about themselves as survivors.

LF: Something that we aimed to do from the get-go when writing After The Ending was to make sure the focus wasn’t entirely on the hardcore survival aspects of the post-apocalypse, but on the characters, specifically their personal struggles and relationships. The story highlights the undeniable power of friendship, love, and hope, and how they can make life worth living even when everything else is lost. There is romance, but there are also some definite science fiction elements, such as the spontaneous genetic mutations caused by the virus, leading to extraordinary abilities in survivors...or to insanity. We’ll be the first to admit After The Ending was written with a female audience in mind, as it’s very character-driven and the romance storylines aren’t negligible, but we have heard from male readers who enjoyed the book as well.

What inspired you to write it?

LP: I promised someone very important to me that I would publish one of my many stories, so when that person passed and LF and I got more serious about The Ending project, I knew this was my time to go for the gold and it feels amazing. I probably never would have taken the leap if it wasn’t for LF and our combined enthusiasm to follow our dreams.

LF: For me, a lot of what inspired me was LP. I mean, I never considered really going for it with writing until I met her. We were driving home from a book conference--this was while we still worked at Copperfield’s Books together--and we started talking about a story idea. I’d been thinking about writing something entirely epistolary that chronicled an adult woman’s post-apocalyptic experience. During the two-hour drive we toyed with the premise, tossing ideas back and forth, and by the time we arrived at LP’s house, we had characters, a rough backstory, and very general outline.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

LF: Niether. It was twisty, with lots of forks and backtracking. We went back and forth (and back and forth) on whether to pursue traditional publishing or go completely independent. We went the independent route, and since we published, we haven’t looked back. That’s not to say that we haven’t learned or that there aren’t thing’s we’ll do differently with the second book, Into The Fire, just that we’re exceptionally pleased with the results of After The Ending.

LP: Well put my friend. Twisty is a great word to describe it :)

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

LP: I’ll just say that I would’ve listened to my gut more. I’ve learned that there is a reason your conscious is trying to get your attention, so you need to take a step back and ask yourself “why?”.

LF: Hired a cover designer. For sure. I mean, I love our cover, but it took a long time. I’d rather pay someone who can do it way faster (and probably better), so I can just write.

LP: I think the process of coming up with the cover design was really fun though. There’s something to be said for seeing the entire process through--being the masterminds behind it all, being proud of all we’ve accomplished. While I know LF didn’t like doing the formatting and all the headache that comes with it, I think we can both agree the brainstorming process was SO much fun.

LF: This is true.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

LP: The book is available in three different formats: Kindle, hardcover and paperback. All are available at and you can also purchase the hard and paperback version at Copperfields Books and through Barnes and Nobel online.

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

LF: I know a lot of indie authors are questioning the merits of KDP Select right now, but I honestly think it’s one of two things that have brought us to readers' attention, the other being Goodreads giveaways. Being an unknown, never-before-published, independent author is scary, and those two services helped our “discoverability” immensely. We think.

LP: Yes!

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

LF: Write for you...the only way you’ll know if other people like (or hate) your words is if you write them down. And yes, no matter what, some people will hate them.

LP: Figure out what inspires you. For me, it’s observing nature or people. My boyfriend calls my people-watching skills “nosey”, but I call it research.

What is up next for you?

LP: I work for a non-profit as well as write, so book two in The Ending Series is my main focus right now. When I’m not at work, I’m writing my Zoe chapters for Into The Fire.

LF: I’m working on two projects right now. First, finishing up book two of The Ending Series, Into The Fire. And second, my solo debut, Echo Prophecy, the first in a PNR/historical mystery trilogy, is entering into the final editing process. I’m aiming for a late summer or early fall release with that one.

Is there anything you would like to add?

LF: Great questions! Thank you for having us!

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Guest Blogger: Allan Leverone, Author of Parralax View

It’s late in the Cold War, and the Soviet Union is slowly disintegrating.

In the midst of this uncertainty and upheaval, a mysterious group of KGB officials has concocted a desperate plan in an attempt to maintain power.

And one beautiful young CIA operative is all that stands between this shadowy cabal and the outbreak of World War Three.

Spring, 1987. CIA Special Operations agent Tracie Tanner is tasked with what should be a relatively straightforward mission: deliver a secret communique from Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

After smuggling the document out of East Germany, Tracie believes she is in the clear. She’s wrong. There are shadowy forces at work, influential people who will stop at nothing to prevent the explosive information contained in the letter from reaching the White House.

Soon, Tanner is knee-deep in airplane crashes and murder, paired up with a young Maine air traffic controller and on the run for their lives, unsure who she can trust at CIA, but committed to completing her mission, no matter the cost.

Dealing with Violence in Fiction
By Allan Leverone

A co-worker friend of mine recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Afterward, he came into work on crutches and with the knee immobilized in a brace, and was showing me the very tiny holes made in the vicinity of his knee, into which the arthroscopic devices had been inserted.

The holes were tiny. Minimally invasive.

I could hardly stand to look.

If you’ve read any of my books, you might find that assertion hard to believe. I don’t write violence just for violence’s sake, but I’ve spilled my share of fictional blood. Some would say more than my share. When the majority of your work is in the horror and thriller genres, violence and mayhem seem to naturally follow.

I’ve had people shot, stabbed, and beaten up. I’ve written car crashes, explosions, mining disasters and terrorist attacks.

And I have trouble looking at a tiny incision. In someone else’s knee.

My wife, on the other hand, enjoys watching those documentary-type TV shows about operations. You know the ones, on the Science Channel or whatever, where they show actual footage of surgeons repairing a hole in an infant’s aorta, or trying to fix the tissue trauma from a nasty gunshot wound, that sort of thing.

If I walk into the room while that kind of show is playing, I either turn around and walk right back out (okay, I run), or I ask my wife to change the channel (okay, I beg).

Why is that? How is it possible I can describe the most horrific scenes of carnage and destruction in the pages of a book, but my stomach does flip-flops at the sight of a beating heart muscle on television? How can I write about one human being shooting another at point-blank range, but when my kids were little, had to force myself not to panic beyond all reason when one of them suffered even a minor cut?

I suppose the answer would be the same thing that’s bothered human beings from the beginning of time, when we huddled in cold, cark caves hoping tonight wouldn’t be the night that pesky saber-toothed tiger prowling around outside didn’t tear us apart and eat us for dinner: fear of the unknown.

When I’m writing, no matter how gruesome the scene or how distasteful the subject matter, I can see it unfold in my head and I know where I’m going with it, more or less.

A surgical procedure taking place on TV, on the other hand, presents a cornucopia of potential outcomes, none of which are pleasing to my hyperactive imagination. Will blood start spurting from that beating heart the surgeon is holding in his gloved hand? What if he drops it? How about if he sneezes while making an incision? Will that be the end of the patient?

The same mindset applied when my kids were young and dripping blood from their cut fingers. They were injured and they were depending on me to care for them. Me! The guy who has a habit of entering rooms and forgetting why. The guy who can’t stand watching a surgical procedure on TV.

In the real world, the range of possibilities outside my control are endless, whereas when I’m writing, even if I don’t have a clear idea where I’m going in a scene, the range is limited to whatever I’m willing to write. There are lines that I know will never be crossed.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

In the case of PARALLAX VIEW, you can sense almost from the very beginning of the book that a violent confrontation – a showdown – is coming. That is the case in virtually all thrillers, so the reader knows going in to expect it and shouldn’t be terribly surprised when it happens.

What form that confrontation will take, and what outcome will result, is obviously up in the air, but a reader of genre fiction, particularly thrillers, presumably isn’t going to be turned off merely by the description of violence.

How about you? As a reader, do you tend to cringe when you come to the most explicitly violent portions of a book? Do you skip over those passages? How does your reaction to blood spilled on a page differ from your reaction to real-world violence, either televised or happening in front of you?

And can you remember why I came into this room?

Allan Leverone is the author of five novels, including the Amazon Top 25 overall paid bestselling thriller, THE LONELY MILE. He is a 2012 Derringer Award winner for excellence in short mystery fiction, as well as a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. Allan lives in Londonderry, NH with his wife and family, and a cat who has used up eight lives.

Visit his website at

Follow Allan:

Facebook at and Twitter at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Blogger: Bruce Willis from Iced Chiffon/Killer in Crinolines by Duffy Brown

When Reagan Summerside is asked to make an emergency bow-tie delivery to Magnolia Plantation for a wedding, she finds the groom face-down in five-tiers of icing and fondant, a cake knife in his back and her good friend and local UPS driver accused of the murder. Can Reagan find the real killer without winding up in the local swamp as alligator meat? Will Walker Boone, pain-in-the ass attorney and once-upon-a-time gang member, help her out or feed her to the alligators himself?

Pets in Cozy Mysteries
by the other Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis here. The other Bruce Willis with ears, wagging tail and daily yard-waterer in Iced Chiffon and Killer in Crinolines.

Have you ever noticed all the pets running around in cozy mysteries? And most of them are cats! What the heck? How did that happen? Does a cat greet you at the door, get your slippers, clean the kitchen floor after you spill the bacon and eggs? No! Cats sniff, turn up their nose and prance off. Dogs have owners, Cats have staff!

Once upon a time I didn’t have such a great life so I ran away and took up living under Reagan Summerside’s front porch. Don’t know why I chose her. Maybe because at the time Reagan’s life in Savannah sucked almost as much as mine.

But she’s an okay gal, even shared her McNuggets and fries with me but kept the martinis all to herself. I mean to tell you I could do with a martini or two on these hot summer nights.

Reagan has a consignment shop on the first floor of her half-restored Victorian. She and her Auntie KiKi who lives next door were going to name me Calvin Klein to fit in with the upscale clothes she takes in. One look at my mangled left ear, crooked tail and scared snout not to mention my questionable linage and they knew I was much better suited as Bruce Willis.

Life is good right now. Reagan says I’m the worse watchdog on the planet but I sure do make a lot of friends. If I fake a limp I can usually finesse a cookie or two from the customers and if I sit in front of the fridge long enough I get my daily dog…hot dog that is. The warm fall days here in Savannah are just made for me snoozing on the porch and one day I can get a slurp of Reagan’s peach martini.

So what is your opinion on pets in mysteries? Paw up or down? Do they distract too much from the mystery? Do you like it when they have a point of view? Do you like cats or dogs best in a book? (That’s spelled d-o-g)

About Duffy: While others girls dreamed of dating Brad Pitt, I longed to take Sherlock Holmes to the prom. I now have two cats, Spooky and Dr. Watson, and conjure up who-done-it stories of my very own for Berkley Prime Crime.

Visit me online at and friend me on Facebook at

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Review: Last Chance for Justice by Kathi Macias

News of her brother Myron's death brings Lynn Meyers back to Bloomfield. Still reeling from the loss of her husband, Lynn isn't eager to return to the small town she left  years ago so she can settle her reclusive brother's estate.

Rachel, Lynn's daughter, has just finished Bible college. She joins her mother on the trip to Bloomfield and soon gains the attention of two eligible bachelors.

The two women become caught up in investigating a decades old mystery that was close to Myron's heart. The more time they spend in Bloomfield, the harder it seems to leave.

After years of creating powerful, heartrending faith-filled stories, Macias turns to a lighter style that remains true to her Christian readers. With Last Chance for Justice, the author has created an easy read that is sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always entertaining. Masterfully told, this is the story of two women coping with uncertainty. Lynn has already lost her husband of thirty-five years when she receives word that her only sibling has died and bequeathed his creepy home by the town's cemetery to her. Her daughter Rachel has just finished college and her temporary job fell through, so she returns home in time to learn of her uncle's death and her mother's planned trip to Bloomfield. They journey together, not knowing what to expect. While Lynn is facing issues from her past, Rachel is praying for guidance for her future.

Everything readers come to expect from one of Macias' books is here: masterful storytelling, a strong plot, engaging characters, and faith. The difference being that Last Chance for Justice is not as emotionally charged as her books on human trafficking or persecuted Christians. I like this style. Macias does well with it.

Last Chance for Justice is the fourth Bloomfield novel released by B&H Publishing. Featuring multiple authors and titles spanning a mix of traditional print and eBook-exclusive formats, these are all stand alone projects set in the small town of Bloomfield.

If you enjoy faith-based cozy mysteries, you should give Last Chance for Justice by Kathi Macias a try.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (May 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433677172
ISBN-13: 978-1433677175

I received a free copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, November 11, 2013

First Chapter Review: A Man of Indeterminate Value by Ron Felber

A Man of Indeterminate Value is a thriller by Ron Felber. This book is now available for order. The first chapter was submitted by his publicist. Felber's book, Il Dottore is the basis for the FOX TV series The Mob Doctor.

BLURB:  In a world plagued by corrupt corporations and sinister forces that prowl the global landscape, John "Jack" Madson seeks salvation from deep within the man he is today and the man he aspires to be.

In the tradition of Raymond Chandler, John Grisham, and Michael Connelly, this crime fiction series launches with three noir thrillers bristling with authenticity, insight, and social commentary. From the boardrooms of Wall Street, to the steamy backstreets of Bangkok, to the secret Triads of Shanghai, award-winning author Ron Felber, originator of the FOX television series The Mob Doctor, takes his reader into the violent, surreal, and sex-crazed underbelly of 21st century America, the "empire in decline."

Witty, riveting, and diabolically clever, the heart-pounding pace, exotic locales, and unforgettable characters make the "Jack Madson" series a welcomed innovation within the genre of crime fiction.

A Man of Indeterminate Value (Book 1), introduces ex-cop Jack Madson as a disgraced Wall Street take-over artist and target of a failed suicide scam that leaves him the "most wanted" man in the Garden State of NJ. Madson is on a personal mission to take on corporate forces hell-bent on his destruction as they seek to IPO game-changing bio-medical technology to the Street worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

COVER: Dark, mysterious, edgy--everything a book in this genre should be. I like the contrast of the bold red text against the black cover. The hardened face of the man speaks to what the main character is up against and what he personally has at stake. Fabulous cover!

FIRST CHAPTER:  A cab parks opposite the Benedictine Brothers monastery in Newark’s Central Ward. Slipping the driver two large bills, Jack Madson says, "You never saw me." A wounded Jack climbs the steps of the monastery and rings the bell. When the door opens, he is face to face with Father Jeremiah, his former teacher.

KEEP READING: One difference between a good writer and a great writer is how much they can say in the span of a few words. Though I've read nothing else by Felber, I already see a masterful storyteller. In under 400 words, the author provides action, suspense, mystery, and a bit of backstory for his main character, Jack Madson. His tight writing is edgy and crisp. The few details speak volumes about who Jack is and why he's arrived at the monastery. A Man of Indeterminate Value looks like it will be a fabulous read. I'm immediately adding it to my wish list.

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barricade Books (June 16, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1569804907
ISBN-13: 978-1569804902

I received this first chapter from Jane Wesman Public Relations, Inc. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, November 8, 2013

First Chapter Review: The Grace Painter by Mark Romang

This is a Christian mystery/suspense thriller.

BLURB: Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is the one reflecting back at you from inside a mirror. Matthew London can attest to this difficult truth. Ever since the former NYPD hostage negotiator changed his identity and fled New York City for the backwaters of Louisiana, regret has ruled his life.

For eight years London has lived like a hermit in a declining plantation house. Only his talent for painting Renaissance-style murals and paintings keeps the inner-demons from totally destroying him. Each day the disgraced hostage negotiator longs for a chance at redemption, never expecting it to actually happen. But then a down-on-her-luck FBI agent shows up on his doorstep one evening. It turns out Jean-Paul and Sebastian Boudreaux, two local brothers famous for lawlessness have inadvertently kidnapped a little girl.

London is quickly thrust into the starring role of a daring rescue attempt. But before he can rescue the child from the dangerous Boudreaux brothers, he first must find a way to forgive himself for a past misstep, a blunder that forever altered his once promising life. But in the Atchafalaya Basin swampland, nothing is promised. Grace cannot be purchased or earned. It can only be given.

COVER: Love it. The background captures the setting and the foreground the protagonist and his talent. The dark color speaks to the suspense/thriller genre. Nice job.

FIRST CHAPTER:  Eight years after Matthew London has fled New York City with a new identity, Sebastian Boudreaux is released from a penitentiary in Louisiana. Having spent two decades behind bars, he's ready to find the ransom money his father had hidden prior to being arrested and sentenced to die.

KEEP READING: For now. I'm definitely intrigued by the concept unveiled in the prologue and first chapter. The prologue sets the stage for Matt London walking away from his job as a hostage negotiator with the NYPD. The first chapter takes place eight years later, with Sebastian's release and introduces his younger brother, Jean-Paul.

The cliffhanger ending of the first chapter encourages readers to continue, but I felt the style was much more telling than showing. There are no real setting details in the first chapter. Instead, the time is spent developing some backstory for Sebastian as the reader is brought through his present day release from prison. The reader gets a basic idea of who Sebastian is, what his relationship with his brother and father might be like, and that though he promised the warden he won't be coming back, that might prove harder said than done. This isn't a bad thing. I like getting a glimpse into who Sebastian is. It's just I wanted to be able to see what Sebastian sees. This guy has just been released from prison after two decades and he doesn't even notice anything happening outside his window or the rain sprinkling down on his head. Perhaps this is intentional, as the prologue has greater details.

I'm willing to stick it out for a few more chapters to see how the author begins connecting the pieces.

Price/Format: $0.99 ebook
Pages: 303
Publisher: self-published
Release: November 26, 2012

Kindle buy link ($0.99):

Nook buy link ($0.99):

Smashwords ($0.99):

I was born in 1967. Avid reader, suspense novelist, faithful husband, baffled father, factory worker, reformed head-banger, failed musician, contact sports lover, MMA enthusiast, distressed KC sports fan, Lord of the Rings geek, workout fiend, dog owner, nature lover, proud American, disgruntled voter, pistachio addict, caffeine-riddled, screw-up saved by grace, sojourner. This is me in a nutshell.

Mark Romang's Web Site:

Mark Romang's Facebook:

Mark Romang's Goodreads:

The Grace Painter's Goodreads:

Tribute Books Blog Tours Facebook:

The Grace Painter's
blog tour site:

I received a coupon code for Smashwords from the author to download a free copy. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Guest Blogger: Marian Lanouette, Author of Burn in Hell

A botched missing person’s case.

A nervous mob boss.

Lt. Jake Carrington’s gut tells him Phil Lucci is being cagey—with good reason. Jake can see this case has been mishandled from the beginning. Sloppy police work? Or does Lucci's hand reach as far as the WPD? It’s Jake’s job to find the answers.

Then Jake meets Kyra Russell, a woman with an unusual job—she runs the local crematory. Despite the heated attraction between them, Jake becomes more and more suspicious of Kyra. Her gambling problem has already cost her a marriage and custody of her son. More than that, she also happens to be friends with Phil Lucci. Kyra assures Jake that it's just coincidence, but Jake's experience and his instincts warn him not to believe in chance. Can Kyra be burning bodies for the mob? If she is, what will Jake do about it?

Challenges of Writing a Series
by Marian Lanouette

When you write a book, you develop your characters, create the story (plot) and sub-plots and then solve or resolve all the characters' issues in that book. When you write a series you have to love your characters. Why? Hopefully you'll be spending a lot of time with them. And it's not just important for the hero or heroine, you have to love/hate your secondary characters as well.

I know in my Jake Carrington Series I have already outlined five books. Each book targets not only Jake Carrington, it highlights a secondary character's life, wants and needs. I think it makes it more interesting than always focusing on more the main hero.

Is it easy to make all the characters human? Loveable? Loathsome? Again the answer is yes and no. So far I've been lucky. Readers have told me they really hate my bad guys and they give them the creeps. Why is this so good? I portrayed them as human beings with flaws that drew emotions from my readers, yet at some point in the story the villain might have been likeable until his/her true nature showed through.

It's also important that you keep a bible or in my case a OneNote file on all the places, descriptions of places, historical points of interest, clothes, character descriptions and so forth. You can't have your character being six-one in one story and six-three in another. Your readers will call you on those little facts
The more time you spend with these characters the more they become real to you, like your spouse. They will grow with your story, change over time and hopefully become better people—just like real life.

I also do character studies. I might never use that Jake loves baseball but I know he does and would jump at the chance to see a Yankees game. Or in another book I might have him run up against a Red Sox fan. That always makes for a good confrontation. Mia might like a certain brand shoe. All these idiosyncrasies are what make us individuals along with the characters.

Writing a series has its challenges, but I love it and I love I get to know my characters inside out.

Read an excerpt:

“Son of a gun,” Kyra whispered.

Life’s not fair. In the last two hours she’d dumped over three thousand dollars into the Goddamn machine. This bitch sits down right next to her and hits the jackpot on the first spin. I’ll never get my son back this way.

Kyra Russell wiped away the tears that rolled down her face. Why couldn’t she hit the jackpot? Ten grand—she only needed ten grand to pay her lawyer. Taking another hundred-dollar bill out of her purse, she stuffed it into the machine and hit the maximum-credit button, anticipating the results. Loving the rush, her stomach jumped with excitement. Each time, her mind cheered ‘this is it.’ As the wheels rolled into place, a cold chill raced through her veins. One by one, they landed. By the second symbol, she realized she’d lost again. Kyra’s heartbeat increased, pounding in her chest, beating in her ears like African tribal drums, causing her anger to spike. It’s the next one, she told herself, banging the maximum-credit button again. Lord, she needed to take a pee break, though didn’t dare leave her machine for fear someone else would hit the jackpot after she’d primed the machine.

Watching the attendant pay the woman, Kyra counted along with him. The
bitch won seventy-five hundred dollars. After the woman received her payout, Kyra tried signaling the attendant.

“Excuse me,” she called.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I need to use the restroom. Can you watch my machine or lock it down?”

“I need to call a supervisor over. It’ll be a few minutes.” He pressed the button in his earpiece.

She watched him whisper into it. After ten minutes, the supervisor came over and locked down the machine for her, letting her know she needed to be back within the hour or they’d release the machine.

“Thank you.”

“Not a problem, Kyra,” the supervisor said.

He read her name off her reward card, addressing her like he knew her. Well, screw him.

She pushed off her seat, rushing to the ladies’ room. Kyra didn’t want to stay away too long, giving them a chance to re-program the machine against her or reset it. She hated the new system with the tickets. Since they’d installed it, she hadn’t won like she used to. How else could she lose constantly? Winning used to be the norm when she first started. It became addictive. She’d won twenty-five thousand dollars on one spin. On another night, she’d won eight thousand dollars.

Boy, the cash rolled in then. The feeling was indescribable when those wheels rolled into place and the bells went off. The noise the machine made when it hit a jackpot had crowds surrounding her. Though on that night she’d gone home with only twenty thousand dollars—she’d blown five grand trying to win more. Greed always took over. Winning excited her. It was the rush, the euphoria she got every time she pushed the spin button that kept her coming back.

The casino treated her like royalty, even gave her a host. He got her into the popular shows or restaurants anytime she wanted. Nothing was too good for Kyra, as long as she showed up and put her money into the machine. She became a regular at the players’ lounge—eat and drink for free. Yeah, free, her ass. The cost was extreme. Somewhere along the line, Kyra lost her self-respect—along with her marriage, her son, and her savings.


One of ten children, Marian took to writing to explore new and adventurous places. While her friends traveled on planes for vacation, Marian traveled in books. With an overactive imagination she started creating her own characters and stories. If I Fail, A Jake Carrington Mystery is the first book in the series. Her second book in the series, Burn in Hell is now available. This month she released a novella called As the World Ends.

An avid reader, she discovered mysteries by reading the Daily News as a youngster. Intrigued by the real life crimes, and how the police worked and eventually solved them, ignited her imagination beyond the ordinary.

Marian has many plans (books) for Jake Carrington and his crew. The third book in the series Mated for Life will be out sometime next year.

Visit Marian online at:


This post first appeared at The Book Connection.

Friday, November 1, 2013

First Chapter Review: The Book of Paul by Richard Long

The first chapter of this paranormal thriller came to me from the author through his publicist.

BLURB: "Everything you've ever believed about yourself...about the description of reality you've clung to so stubbornly all your life...all of it...every bit of an illusion."

In the rubble-strewn wasteland of Alphabet City, a squalid tenement conceals a treasure "beyond all imagining"-- an immaculately preserved, fifth century codex. The sole repository of ancient Hermetic lore, it contains the alchemical rituals for transforming thought into substance, transmuting matter at will...and attaining eternal life.

When Rose, a sex and pain addicted East Village tattoo artist has a torrid encounter with Martin, a battle-hardened loner, they discover they are unwitting pawns on opposing sides of a battle that has shaped the course of human history. At the center of the conflict is Paul, the villainous overlord of an underground feudal society, who guards the book's occult secrets in preparation for the fulfillment of an apocalyptic prophecy.

The action is relentless as Rose and Martin fight to escape Paul's clutches and Martin's destiny as the chosen recipient of Paul's sinister legacy. Science and magic, mythology and technology converge in a monumental battle where the stakes couldn't be higher: control of the ultimate power in the universe--the Maelstrom.

The Book of Paul is the first of seven volumes in a sweeping mythological narrative tracing the mystical connections between Hermes Trismegistus in ancient Egypt, Sophia, the female counterpart of Christ, and the Celtic druids of Clan Kelly.

COVER: Love it. I'm partial to ancient-looking covers, considering I'm a history lover. There are some used book stores down south I love to meander through when we visit. This cover definitely captures an ancient Egypt type of feel.

FIRST AND SECOND CHAPTERS: The first chapter introduces the reader to Martin, who is practicing smiling in front of a mirror. He gives up for a bit and changes to push-ups, before returning to his attempt at smiling.

Chapter two brings Rose into the picture. A former competitive gymnast, she is currently a tattoo artist. Living in less than ideal surroundings, she wonders why she's up so early. After working late, she gets up and does a yoga routine before retreating to the bathroom for a long, hot shower.

KEEP READING: I'm on the fence about this one. I don't connect with or like either of the main characters, yet, which may be part of the problem. The synopsis tells me there is so much more to happen that I don't think it's wise to stop reading. I had to read two chapters because the first one was so short that it did not much more than introduce Martin and give us a tiny bit of insight into his personality. Who has to practice smiling? Obviously it's tough for Martin. What does that mean? So the reader is left with an intriguing question that makes her want to know more.

Long paints some great description with the details he chooses. Martin doesn't like the whiny voice of the main character in the television show, The Nanny. He's physically fit enough to do two hundred push ups. Rose lives in an area that includes a park filled with junkies and crackheads. She's inked and pierced. All of these details are important to drawing the reader in.

I would definitely give this book a few more chapters before making a final decision.

Prices/Formats: $19.95 paperback, $2.99-$3.99 ebook
Publisher: Open Eyes
ISBN: 9780615648644
Pages: 492
Release: June 2012

Amazon paperback buy link ($19.95):

Barnes and Noble paperback buy link ($19.95):

Kindle buy link ($2.99):

Nook buy link ($3.99):

iTunes buy link ($3.99):

Richard Long writes to exorcize the demons of his past and manifest the dreams of his future. His debut novel, The Book of Paul, is a dark, thrilling, and psychologically rich supernatural horror/thriller that blends mythology, science and mystery into a page-turning addiction. Richard is also writing a YA novel, The Dream Palace, primarily so that his children can read his books. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, two amazing children and their wicked black cat, Merlin.

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This post first appeared at The Book Connection.