A Snake in Paradise: A woman finds her inner strength — Independent novel review

Snake-new-mediumBy Eden Baylee

I loved Eden Baylee’s stories since I read her Fall into Winter collection. So when I saw that she had written a Lei Crime Kindle World novella, I had to read A Snake in Paradise.

Essentially, the story is one of a woman discovering her inner strength and learning to trust herself. My favorite aspect is how the author uses the snake as a symbol of strength and power, as opposed to the usual sneaky, evil associations.

The story

Madelaine Lee is a recently divorced woman who decides to turn her life around. She starts to call herself “Lainey,” rather than Madelaine. After decades of her overbearing husband preventing her from getting a tattoo, after her divorce, Lainey has a friend give her a colorful tattoo of a snake the length of her back. Then she treats herself to a solo vacation on the Big Island, Hawaii.

At the opening of the story, she’s clearly still in recovery mode: nervous, anxious to please. But she is making the effort to transform herself. She dresses so as to show off her tattoo. She books adventurous excursions.

At her hotel, she is victimized by a handsome man, who seduces her, then robs her and leaves her naked and bound hand and foot.

Drawing on her new-found inner strength, symbolized by the snake tattoo, she is determined not to let her experience ruin her vacation, and to help the police find the man who robbed and humiliated her.

Her self-confidence grows daily. She makes new friends and begins to like herself more and more. By the end of the story, she’s no longer the same Madelaine Lee, ex-wife. She’s self-actualized Lainey Lee. Like a snake, she has gone through a painful struggle and is now renewed.

This is an excellent book that follows a credible, sympathetic character’s development, who finds in trauma her own inner strength. From that, she changes her situation, her life and herself.


Kindle World

A Snake in Paradise is one of the titles in the Lei Crimes Series Kindle World. Bestselling author Toby Neal created the Lei Crime series, which now has nine books featuring Hawaiian Detective (and sometimes FBI Agent) Leilani Texeira, as well as a companion novel about a secondary character.


Eden Baylee, author of A Snake in Paradise

Kindle Worlds is an initiative of Amazon, where the company takes a successful series and invites other people to write shorter works that fit within the original author’s world. Toby invited a number of proven, professional writers to contribute to her Lei Crime world, and Eden Baylee joined with A Snake in Paradise.

In total, 11 authors have published Lei Crime Kindle World books of varying length, and I’m looking forward to reviewing more, including Christine Nolfi’s The Shell Keeper and Emily Kimelman’s Warrior Dog.

Cover reveal: JET – Stealth

JET - Stealth - 500 x 800



My next book will come out in about a week when the new JET Kindle World launches on July 28. So now it’s time to reveal the cover, designed by my favourite book cover designer, David C. Cassidy.

What’s JET – Stealth about?

Once Mossad’s deadliest assassin, Jet is headed for a new, quiet life in a tropical paradise. But when a mysterious, handsome agent with no tradecraft but with brilliant blue eyes asks for her help to secure a new stealth weapon, she finds she just can’t say no.

This addition to the JET Kindle World combines breakneck pacing and non-stop action with wry humor.

The JET Kindle World features new books and stories by many authors, all based on the characters and world created by bestselling author Russell Blake.

Watch this space and my Facebook Author page for an announcement about availability.

Exploring other worlds—Kindle Worlds, that is

I have not only entered the Lei Crime Kindle World, I have been exploring it deeply from a number of perspectives.

I missed blogging last week because I was busy traveling and writing, but I can now announce that my newest book is finished and the manuscript is in the hands of my editor, the redoubtable Gary Henry.

The new book is called Torn Roots, and it’s a part of the Lei Crime Kindle World.


A little explanation

The Kindle World concept is an Amazon initiative, where writers can publish stories and longer works based on another writer’s creation—a type of professional fan fiction. With Kindle Worlds, however, the original authors retain some control by setting parameters for the works from other authors, and get some of the royalties for the use of their concepts and characters. Amazon also performs a quality control function.

Toby Neal is the best-selling author of the Lei Crime series of nine (so far) novels that chronicle the personal and professional development of Leilani Texiera. In the first, Blood Orchids, Lei Texiera is a rookie police officer in Hilo, Hawaii. In later books, Lei is promoted to detective and moves to other Hawaiian islands, does a brief stint in the FBI on Oahu, and eventually settles down on Maui as a sergeant in the Maui PD. She makes friends, enemies and rivals, as well as an important love interest, gets reunited with some family members and loses others.

Author Neal takes great care in detailing her characters’ emotional and psychological journeys as well as solving mysteries. We learn about Lei’s traumatic childhood as well as the personalities of her secondary and tertiary characters. She also describes the social background of Hawaii, the setting of her novels.

Neal is the only popular author I can think of today who deals seriously with ethnicity. In most popular fiction, especially in the mystery/thriller genre, main characters invariably have English, Scottish or Irish last names, and their ethnic background is not a factor in the story. Leilani Texiera is the only protagonist I can think of with a multi-ethnic family background that has an impact on the character’s development as well as the story.

So yes, I’m a fan.

And that’s why it was such a thrill in January when Toby asked me, among a small group of other writers, to participate in her Kindle World by writing a novella based on her settings and characters.

And why I was so torn at the time, because I just could not meet her original deadline of April 1, 2015.

Eight other authors did publish excellent short stories, novelettes and novellas in the Lei Crime world:

  • Eden Baylee—A Snake in Paradise
  • Christine Nofli—The Shell Keeper
  • Emily Kimelman—Warrior Dog
  • M.J. Doyle—Hidden Poppies
  • Craig Hansen—Fireweed Trail
  • J.L. Oakley—Saddle Road
  • Corinne O’Flynne—Never Again
  • Julie C. Gilbert—Half-Moon Girls
  • Some authors wrote mysteries, some stories in other genres. I’ve read several, and they’re all excellent.

That’s just another reason I’ve been kicking myself for not getting my act together and publishing by April—to be associated with such a stellar group of excellent, and best-selling authors.

Thus, in late March, I resolved to get going and write a story in time for the second wave of Lei Crime books. I will be joined by some of the same writers who were working on second entries in the World, as well as some new people. I incorporated a few of Toby Neal’s characters, such as FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott.  I promoted Lei’s former police partner, Pono Kaihale, to Acting Lieutenant temporarily in charge of the police station in Hana, Maui County, Hawaii. And I created some new characters, including FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, geologist and PhD candidate Sam Boyko and environmental activist Rowan Fields.

HanaHighway2I decided to set the story in the Maui town of Hana, in the rain-forest, because the Haleakala National Park comes down to the ocean shore near there, and that’s an importMauiMapScreenShotant element in the plot. But as I started writing my story about a geologist working in the rain forest, I realized something crucial: I know absolutely nothing about the geology of Maui.

I convinced my lovely and very patient wife, Roxanne, to alter our vacation plans to Maui. (It wasn’t that hard. “Honey, how would you like to take a vacation in Maui?”) I wrote a complete draft of the story, about 35,000 words, and sent a copy to Toby Neal, the original author, as well as to my editor (Gary Henry).

When I got to Maui, I realized I would have to make several changes to the story.

I realized, as I drove the twisting, narrow, spectacular, breath-catching and death-defying Hana Highway, that I would have to restrict the action to a much smaller geographic area. There is no way I could have the characters zipping back and forth between the towns of Hana and Paia or Kahului, even though they’re only 40 miles apart, less than an hour’s drive on a regular highway. I spoke with Lieutenant Hankins of the Hana police detachment, who explained that “it’s not realistic to commute two to three hours every day on the Hana Highway.” The police department provides a “Lieutenant’s Cottage” as well as accommodation for seven other officers in Hana. I had to move Pono and his family there, at least temporarily, for my book.


Bestselling author Toby Neal and me meet in a restaurant on Maui, Hawaii, to talk of many things.

My lovely wife read the manuscript and made a number of suggestions. I am indebted also to Toby Neal, who read that same draft and recommended other changes to the characters’ dialog, use of idiom and to details about Hawaiian geography, flora, fauna and society. I’m so glad I got to meet her on Maui to talk about my book, her books and many other things (although we didn’t get to cabbages and kings).

Gary Henry made more changes and corrections to grammar, expression and punctuation, and pointed out some areas that were unclear or made little sense in terms of the story.

I made all these changes during my two weeks on Maui, and I think I have a strong story now. When Gary gets through the second draft, I’ll reveal some of it in previews.

Meanwhile, I put my cover designer, the matchless David C. Cassidy, through hell with ideas and suggestions for a cover image. I’m sure he has pulled out much of his luxurious hair by now, but we’re very close to a cover design. I’ll reveal that in an upcoming post.

It’s been a blast

working on this story. I’ve written it in near-record time for me, a little over a month for the first draft and two weeks for the second. Working in someone else’s established universe has actually reduced the amount of work I had to do. And what could be better than doing on-the-ground research in Hawaii?

Thanks again to Toby, Gary, David and, of course, Roxanne for helping me to make Torn Roots a better book.

The next world

Just as I was getting into writing Torn Roots, another independent author, the force of literature that is Russell Blake, announced his Jet Kindle World and invited me, among several others, to write for it. That’s my new project. It’s going to be hectic producing a Jet work for the end of July, but I have committed to it. This one is called Jet: Stealth, and is set just before the action of the first Jet story. I’m incorporating only the title character, and have created two new people for this: Van and LeBrun. It’s going to be yet another departure for me, yet another genre, but I’m looking forward to it.

I have outlined the plot, developed the characters. Now to write it.