Preview of Rescue in Reno: A new #LeiCrimeKW novella coming May 12



LeiCrime-50titles

May 12 is the launch date for 11 new titles in the Lei Crime Kindle World—new stories by professional authors in the fictional universe of Lei Crime, the creation of bestselling author Toby Neal.

One of those titles is mine: Echoes, featuring my Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. You will find it on Amazon as of May 12.

Over the next several days, you can keep coming back to Written Words for sneak peeks of other titles. Today we have Julie Gilbert’s Rescue in Reno, featuring another favourite Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott.

Rescue in Reno

By Julie Gilbert

“Did the doctor say you’re well enough to leave yet?” asked Marcella.

“This is a city hospital, honey. Spotting a doctor is like winning the lottery,” said Angela. “Sadly, it comes down to ‘he who makes the biggest stink gets helped first around here.’ I was drugged most of the morning, so I’m behind on my stink-making.”

“I can help with that,” Marcella promised. “If you’re truly well enough.” She leaned down and gave her friend an awkward half-hug then handed over the teddy bear wearing a Get Well Soon T-shirt. Angela looked like she needed to cuddle something.

“The bandage is on the wrong leg,” Angela teased, smiling her thanks. She turned the bear around and folded her arms around it, so that the thing stared up at Marcella with big, glassy black eyes. The bear’s right leg was swaddled in white bandages, and it had a soft, plushy crutch tucked up under its right arm.

“Sorry, they were out of left-leg bandages,” said Marcella.

“At least you got the flowers right,” Angela noted with a wink. “I’m touched you remembered I love irises.”

“Anybody who’s ever stepped foot in your office would remember you like them,” Marcella commented. “I think—”

Two sharp raps at the door interrupted her. Something slid across the floor.

Marcella dashed around the bed to get a better look at the thing.

It was a cell phone.

About Rescue in Reno

RescueInReno-Gilbert

The Biggest Little City might be the death of her …

FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott is still officially on vacation in Las Vegas, but the previous night’s violence has made her aware of the crimes against humanity going on in the tunnels. Before she can investigate too hard, the bad guys get proactive. They kidnap Anthony Pierce, the husband of Marcella’s good friend, and warn her to back off.

Predictably, she doesn’t react well to the threat. Marcella has several problems, including the fact that she’s being watched in Vegas while she really needs to be up in Reno if she wants to help Anthony.

Much as she likes her independence, Marcella’s going to need some high tech and highly skilled allies if she wants to pull off a rescue in Reno. 

*Note: the events in this story follow Violence in Vegas. It’s highly recommended that you start your journey there.

About the author

Julie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)Julie is a high school chemistry teacher who writes in several genres. She enjoys warm weather, hot tea, sweet coffee, reading, writing, teaching, and audiobooks.

If you love audiobooks, join Audiobook Edge for the chance at meeting a ton of great indie writers and narrators.

Visit juliecgilbert.com for info on getting a free sci-fi or mystery book.

Over Her Head: preview of a new #LeiCrimeKW novella



LeiCrime-50titles

May 12 is the launch date for 11 new titles in the Lei Crime Kindle World—new stories by professional authors in the fictional universe of Lei Crime, the creation of bestselling author Toby Neal.

One of those titles is mine: Echoes, featuring my Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. You will find it on Amazon as of May 12.

To get you excited about the new books, I will preview a bunch of them over the next several days. Today we have Shawn McGuire’s third Lei Crime Kindle World title, Over Her Head, which happens to feature the main character, Lei Texeira

Let Shawn know what you think of her preview in the Comments. 

“I know I’ve been tough on you these last couple of weeks,” she said.

Lieutenant Lani Kaapana was Gemi’s second FTO. The first had been an officer who was close to retirement and not interested in working all that hard anymore. He taught Gemi some things, but most of what she had learned in the month with him she had either figured out on her own or learned by asking other officers. Now that she thought about it, maybe that hadn’t been so bad.

“You have been tough on me,” Gemi agreed, “but I appreciate your approach. I think you know that I’m not one to take the easy route.”

“You’re going to be a fine officer,” the lieutenant said. “I’ve seen plenty of trainees come through this department over the years, only a handful of them have truly impressed me with their potential. You’re at the very top of that list.” She held out her hand to Gemi. “Don’t let me down.”

For a heartbeat, Gemi was moved by these words, but she knew showing emotion would negate everything the officer had just said. Instead, she shook her hand and thanked her once again.

“Your formal training is done,” Lieutenant Kaapana announced, “but don’t hesitate to come to me if you have questions or need help.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Crossing the parking lot, Gemi smiled, feeling a sense of pride at a job well done. She glanced at the spot where a lightbar would go as she climbed into her Renegade and started for her townhouse southwest of Kahului. Today was a big deal, she really should celebrate. There were only two people she would consider partying with, her friend Consuelo or her sister Ashlyn. Consuelo was finishing her senior year with a couple of summer classes at Kahului College and had a big test tomorrow. She couldn’t bother her. Ashlyn? That was touch and go. Ashlyn hadn’t been happy when Gemi dropped out of nursing school. She’d been even less happy about Gemi’s decision to enter the police academy.

Gemi had to admit, if only to herself, that writing traffic tickets and chasing down car part thieves wasn’t the exciting life she’d hoped it would be. On the positive side, she knew her actions were making the streets of Kahului safer. She would put in her time, however much time that meant, and be the best patrol officer she could possibly be, until she could move up the ranks. Her sights were set on becoming a detective.

Her cell phone rang, and Detective Lei Texeira’s number displayed on the screen. Gemi pulled into the nearest parking lot.

“I hear you’re officially done being a trainee,” Lei said.

“You heard right,” Gemi said. “Not a bad day, either. Busted Ozzie Lee on vandalism and drug charges, then said thank you and goodbye to my FTO. Now, I’m on the way home and will probably celebrate with a long run and maybe a big piece of chocolate cake.”

“You really know how to live the high life. Since you have no other plans, how about you meet me for dinner? We’ll celebrate together.”

The women had known each other for more than a year. Gemi considered the detective to be a friend and mentor. But they had never once socialized together.

“Why do I think you don’t really want to take me out to celebrate?” Gemi asked. “What’s going on, Lei?”

“Meet me at the Paia Fish Market,” Lei said. “I’ll tell you there.”

“You can’t even give me a hint?”

“Fine. You’re going to like it.”

Over Her HeadAbout Over Her Head

When women go missing in Maui, the island’s newest rookie cop is on the job.

One year ago, after rescuing her abducted sister, Gemi Kittredge turned in her college textbooks for a Maui County Police Department uniform. Now, the last thing Gemi expects is a phone call from her friend and mentor, Detective Lei Texeira.

Young women are disappearing and they suspect the Yakuza are involved. Lei doesn’t have to ask twice if Gemi is willing to go undercover to find them; taking down the organized crime group is the reason Gemi became a cop, after all. But when Gemi ends up in the Yakuza’s clutches, she’ll need her entire arsenal—badge, instincts, and mixed martial arts training—to get everyone out safe.

Over Her Head takes place after Dark Lava, book 7 in the Lei Crime series.

About the author

Fantasy and suspense author Shawn McGuire started writing after seeing the first Star Wars movie (that’s episode IV) as a kid. She couldn’t wait for the next installment to come out so wrote her own. Sadly, those notebooks are long lost, but her desire to tell a tale is as strong now as it was then.

She grew up in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Winona, Minnesota, called the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin (Go Pack Go!) home for many years, and now lives in Colorado where she loves to read, craft, cook and bake, and spend time in the spectacular Rocky Mountains. You can learn more about Shawn’s work on her website, www.Shawn-McGuire.com.

Previews: A new crop of #LeiCrimeKW titles



LeiCrime-50titlesMay 12 is the launch date for 11 new titles in the Lei Crime Kindle World—new stories by professional authors in the fictional universe of Lei Crime, the creation of bestselling author Toby Neal.

One of those titles is mine: Echoes, featuring my Lei Crime character, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. You will find it on Amazon as of May 12.

But I want to whet your appetite for the whole crop, starting with Meg Amor’s new book. It features one of my favourite Lei Crime World characters, Pono Kaihale. 

And here’s a little extra titbit just for you: Meg Amor shows up as a character in Echoes. Check it out.

Without further ado, here’s your sneak peek: 

Pele’s Revenge

By Meg Amor

I don’t appreciate Madam Pele’s e komo mai—welcome home present to me.

She and I have always had an adversarial relationship.

Pono Kaihale and I are looking at a cordoned off section in a fresh lava flow area. The park rangers look green around the gills, and it’s creeping me out too. There are some things you never get used to.

Stuck in the lava flow is what’s left of a body with a grim expression on his face.

Despite what they say—death doesn’t always take us peacefully. People often look startled or surprised, not relaxed, when they cut the cord and depart this earth.

The lava is still cooling and will be for days. But it has cooled enough to embed the body from the waist down, like he’s just sitting there, enjoying the view of the turquoise waters beyond the lava beds. Poor bastard.

One of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park rangers, Alex Melelina found him this morning as sunrise touched the East Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. We took this one because the Pahoa cops have their hands full with a local situation that needs all hands on deck.

Did he fall in and couldn’t get up? Drunk? High? Incapacitated in some way? I shut my mind down to cope with the grisly scenario it’s playing out, and until we had more facts it’s anyone’s guess.

The lava cooling around him is not very deep and it’s pahoehoe, the ropey slower kind that meanders and looks like pulled taffy or congealing black blood—depending on your point of view. The sharp, fast moving flows and the stuff that exploded from volcanoes with discontinuous layers of clinkers tended to be a’a. So named by Hawaiians because when you walk over it barefoot, you go ah, ah. It’s sharp, crunchy looking, and unpleasant.

“Something doesn’t feel right,” I say to Pono.

“Agreed,” he says, his face grimly set.

“Let’s treat this like a crime scene, just in case. How fast was she moving last night?” I ask Alex Melelina.

“A team was working down here until 11:45 p.m. taking samples because she was moving in a channel and at a reasonably fast clip. Covering at least 1500 feet an hour.”

“Okay. At least that might give us a time frame.”

Another vehicle pulls up and a man and woman who look like tourists jump out, both carrying backpacks. Or they could be reporters. I inwardly sigh. She strides up the gravel trail wearing a long aloha wear dress, covered in large green and hot pink hibiscus, pink slippahs, and a fresh, neon pink plumeria pinned behind her ear. The tall, thin part-Japanese man sports a hefty, professional looking camera. How the hell did they get through?

Her curves catch my eye, and long, fiery red hair blows in the wind coming off the ocean. Although I appreciate the change of view, they shouldn’t be down here.

I go down to ward them off.

Holding up my shiny, new gold badge, I say, “You can’t come up here. Police business.”

She high fives my badge like she’s toasting me with a drink. “Cheers! Hib O’Neal, acting ME.” And steps around me.

Pono snorts with suppressed laughter beside me.

About Pele’s Revenge

Pele's Revenge FINAL coverA world of drugs, deceit, and death awaits in paradise…

After a near-death experience, and burned out from working undercover vice, Detective Reef Kahili returns home to the Big Island of Hawai’i to mend his heart, and heal. But the first day on the job, he has to investigate the charred remains of the partially buried body in Madame Pele’s lava flow. He’s instantly thrust back into the world he tried to leave behind.

When he meets Hibby O’Neal, the mysterious assistant ME, he’s intrigued by her. But is there any truth in the rumors flying around the department about her and her late husband?

The closer they come to the truth, the more things heat up on the island as deeper, more sinister layers of deceit are uncovered. Four generations of an influential Big Island family are caught up in a tightening web of honor and dishonor.

Caught between solving a crime and his attraction for the enigmatic M.E., Reef wonders who to trust. He’s driven by integrity and honesty, it’s why he became a cop, but now that’s also in question.

Have his instincts let him down over Hibby?

Cover Art by Lucee Lovett

About the author

MegAmorMeg is a multi-published, award-winning, contemporary author, and has always believed in love and romance. She writes deep, sensual, romance stories about heartfelt connections and deep soul relationships.

Meg hand-wrote and “published” her first book when she was eleven about her parent’s separation. Constantly told as a child she had a vivid and (over) active imagination, the dawn of the computer era meant she could now take dictation at speed from the interesting characters galloping around her head.

She grew up in New Zealand, and temporarily lives in California with her American fur child: Leo Ray Jr., the Ginger Ninja. Her heart and soul are split between her American home state of Hawai’i in Kona on the Big Island, and the sultry, steamy Southern city of New Orleans. Nearly all her books are set in Hawai’i or New Orleans, along with snatches of New Zealand for good luck.

A new book walks closer



Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)Walking Out of War, the third book in the true-story trilogy about Maurice Bury, the Canadian in the Soviet Red Army in World War two, launches in two days. I’m excited. It’s already received three excellent early reviews that you can read on Goodreads. and I’m giving you another free taste of what’s coming.

There are going to be several special online events on and around launch day:

  • Army of Worn Soles, the first book of the trilogy, is FREE on Amazon from February 21 to 25.
  • Under the Nazi Heel, the second book, is on sale at 99 cents for the same period.
  • launch event on Facebook will feature giveaways of electronic and print books from the trilogy as well as other works.
  • A blog tour will feature excerpts and images from Walking Out of War. Watch this space for details and links.

And now, your taste of Walking Out of War:

Donbass, summer 1944

“How did you learn to break down a rifle so quickly?” the drill sergeant asked.

“I grew up on a farm,” Maurice answered. “You have to have a gun on a farm.”

“A shotgun, yes. Not an automatic rifle. I come from a farm, too,” said the drill sergeant. He was a small man with a round face and earnest brown eyes.

Maurice shrugged, hoping the sergeant would not hear his hammering heart. “I guess I’m just a fast learner.”

The sergeant’s eyes narrowed, but he moved on to the boy beside Maurice, who was fumbling with his weapon. “Get that magazine back together in the next sixty seconds or you’re on double guard duty tonight!”

I have to be more clumsy. And more careful, at the same time, Maurice thought.

Compared to his experience as an officer three years earlier, this training camp for soldiers was brutal. In August 1944, the Red Army had reached the outskirts of Warsaw and was within sight of the Gulf of Riga. They had pushed the Germans out of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia and were throwing every man they could find into the drive to destroy Hitler’s Germany.

In June, the Red Army had launched Operation Bagration. Two million men, thousands of tanks, heavy assault guns and airplanes, attacked in a coordinated series of attacks along a front that stretched from Estonia to Romania, accompanied by 220,000 trucks from the U.S., with tanks and guns from Britain, tonnes and tonnes of food and ammunition from the West. In two months, they pushed the Germans out of Belorussia.

The Soviets annihilated the German Army Group Center. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers were killed, wounded and captured, including thirty-one generals—a quarter of the German strength on the Eastern Front gone in two months.

The Red Army’s losses, while not as severe, were still huge: 800,000 casualties, including over 180,000 killed and missing.

What Walking Out of War is all about

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

What the early reviewers are saying 

“Full of heart and indomitable spirit”—Joy Lorton 

Walking Out of War is a well-written and powerful read, and a difficult one. The violence and war crimes are startling, and Bury, being a master at his craft, effectively paints mental pictures. He doesn’t linger on vile acts, however; he isn’t gratuitous. But he is a vivid writer and skilled at choosing the right verbs and adjectives to bring his prose to life, where the reader can visualize scenes as if watching them on film. “—Elise Stokes 

“A very compelling read.”—Frederick Brooke 

You can pre-order Walking Out of War for a special price until launch day.

Walking Out of War wraps up the trilogy



The long-awaited final volume in the trilogy recounting the wartime experiences of my father-in-law launches in e-book form on Wednesday,  February 22. You can pre-order it now from Amazon at a special discounted price.
Cover-WOOW-500x800 (1)

Walking Out of War follows up on Army of Worn Soles (2014) and Under the Nazi Heel (2016).

What’s it about?

Ukraine, 1944: After the Soviets burned the Ukrainian city of Ternopyl to the ground to crush the stubborn Nazi occupiers, they rounded up every remaining Ukrainian man around for the Red Army’s final push on Germany. Maurice Bury, Canadian citizen, Ukrainian resistance fighter and intelligence officer, is thrust once again into the death struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.

Fighting across the Baltics in the autumn of 1944 is tough and bloody. Then the Red Army enters Germany, where they’re no longer liberators—they’re the long-feared Communist horde, bent on destruction, rape and revenge. The Communists are determined to wipe Nazism from the face of the earth. And the soldiers want revenge for Germany’s brutal invasion and occupation.

Maurice has determined his only way out of this hell is to survive until Nazi Germany dies, and then move home to Canada. But to do that, he’ll have to not only walk out of war, but elude Stalin’s dreaded secret police.

Pre-order for less

Walking Out of War will officially be available on Amazon on February 22 for just $2.99 for the Kindle edition. But if you order before midnight at the end of February 21, you’ll be able to get it for just $1.99.

Get it for free

If you’re willing to write an honest review (tell the world exactly what you think—no influence from me), I’ll send you an advance review copy (ARC). Just email contact@writtenword.ca and put “Walking Out of War – ARC” in the subject line, and I’ll fire back a copy as soon as I can. The only thing I ask is that you post your review on Amazon as soon as possible, and if you have a chance, post the same review on the Goodreads page.

 

How you can win four mystery novels



But first, the third book in the trilogy looms

Walking Out of War, the third volume in the trilogy that began with Army of Worn Soles in 2014 and followed with Under the Nazi Heel in 2016.

ArmyofWornSoles-smallerRegular readers of this blog will know that I had promised to publish Volume 3 by the end of last year. But it just plain took longer than I anticipated.

The good news is that the outstanding editor, Gary Henry, has done his usual great work on it. The matchless David C. Cassidy has delivered another stunning cover concept and is now working on the final design.

It shouldn’t be much longer before you can read the final stage in the story of Maurice Bury’s war. In fact, the almost-final version is in the hands of some faithful, helpful beta readers, and if any readers want an Advance Review Copy (ARC) and are willing to write an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads or any other book review site, I’ll be happy to send one. Just use the contact button on this blog.

What took so long?

Maurice Bury after the war.

Maurice Bury after the war.

The journey to publication started many years ago, when I began talking to Maurice about his wartime experiences. I thought, “This would make a great book.”

Writing the story, though, took years. I ran into a real roadblock almost at the outset, when I was trying to create an outline. I thought for a while of writing parallel timelines, comparing various parts of Maurice’s journey by juxtaposing them in prose. I wrestled with the order literally for months, writing separ
ate chapters and then transitions that I ended up throwing away. Finally, a friend suggested that I just write it as it happened. In other words, linearly. First one thing happened, then the next, and so on.

It’s amazing how we need another party to tell us the most obvious things.

That was when I decided to break the story into three books, one for each phase of his experience:

  • Army of Worn Soles tells of Maurice’s experience as an officer in the Soviet Red Army officer
  • Under the Nazi Heel describes his time as an insurgent fighter against the German occupation of Ukraine
  • and finally, Walking Out of War is the story of Maurice fighting as a foot soldier, walking with the Red Army across Eastern Europe to Berlin for the fall of Nazi Germany.

Even though I had the whole outline completed before I published Volume 1, and had several chapters of Volume 3 complete, finishing it took longer than I thought it would. Months longer.

There were some little details that required more research, which was time-consuming—like what the machine gun that Maurice’s unit operated looked like. Or just when the Red Army reached the Niemen River on the border between Lithuania and East Prussia.

Maurice isn’t around to ask anymore, so I had to turn to history books, including Professor Orest Subtelny’s excellent Ukraine: A History, the Ukrainian Encyclopedia published by the University of Toronto, other books and, of course, Wikipedia.

tdbnletterAs those of you who read this blog will know, I finally found one little bit of evidence that somehow became a keystone: a letter of recommendation for Maurice and his friend, Basily, signed by a Lieutenant John Gardner. Brigadier General (Retired) Michael Joregensen of the Canadian Armed Forces interpreted some of the abbreviations at the top of the letter, which helped me identify the U.S. Army unit that Lieutenant Gardner belonged to: the 692nd U.S. Tank Destroyer Battalion. That little slip of paper, with its faded, misspelled typewritten message, put Maurice in a specific time and place. Suddenly, I saw how the stories he had told me, the notes I had taken and the historical information I had researched all fit together.

Finding that, I was glad I had taken longer to write this book.

When will it be done then, Scott?

As I mentioned, David Cassidy is working on the cover, and a few beta readers have the almost-final draft now. I hope to have their comments in my hands by mid-January, and then I’ll send it to some beta readers for feedback. And barring any disasters, I’ll be able to send advance review copies by mid-February for publishing on the anniversary of its predecessor, Under the Nazi Heel.IMG_0020.jpg

The next projects

Fans of my Lei Crime Kindle World stories featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm will be happy to learn I’m well on the way to a new Hawaiian crime story, and I think this will be my best yet.

A yet unnamed, this novel will reveal more of Vanessa’s youth and also an old flame with a huge problem, one that will make Vanessa choose between her old life and her new career.

Following that, I’ll be working on a new #SydneyRyeKW novella, featuring, once again, the irresistible Van Freeman and Earl LeBrun. I’m aiming to publish that on the next surge of Sydney Rye Kindle World books at the end of April.

How to get all the Vanessa Storm #LeiCrimeKW novellas FREE

Read the first two chapters of the new story, “Soft Summer Rain.” Watch for the clues that will tell you which two 1970s songs inspired it, and you’ll win four mystery novels. That’s right, I’ll send you all the Vanessa Storm e-books for free, including the upcoming volume. To get the story, all you have to do is subscribe to my advance information newsletter, Forewords. Once you fill in the information and confirm your identity, you’ll get a link to download it.

Don’t miss out—four e-books for making a good, informed guess and filling out an online form. You can’t go wrong!

Send your guess to me by email (contact@writtenword.ca)

  • Torn Roots

  • Palm Trees & Snowflakes
  • Dead Man Lying.

Get your leash ready to walk the big dog — on Facebook



Get to more about your favourite books, characters and their authors

Sydney Rye and her big dog, Blue, are among the most popular characters in fiction today. They’re the stars of eight novels and one novella by their creator, Emily Kimelman, as well as six novellas by other authors in the Sydney Rye Kindle World — including me.

Sydney Rye has also shown up in the Jet Kindle World in Emily Kimelman’s It Takes Two. The popularity of these titles shows that readers love Sydney and Blue and can’t get enough of them.

And now’s your chance to get more. The authors in the Sydney Rye Kindle World have teamed up with Book Rhythm to bring you the Walking the Giant Dog Book Party.

Come to the Facebook book party next Monday, November 21 between 7 and 9 p.m. Eastern Time, where you can win books, gift cards and other prizes. Chat with Emily Kimelman and the other authors in the Sydney Rye Kindle World. Get to know more about Sydney, Blue, Mulberry, Dan, Merle and all your favourite characters.

Who’s going to be there?

Emily-author-photob648f-delshereegladdenJulie Gilbert 2013 (5 of 25)bev

And of course, you!

Be ready to answer some tricky Sydney Rye questions:

  • Other than Sydney, who’s your favourite character in the Sydney Rye Kindle World?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • What breed do you think most shares Blue’s personality?

You can post a picture of your “Blue” and win e-books and Amazon gift cards.

Come to the Facebook page now and click “Going” just under the top graphic.

See you then!

sr_unleashedWifeLine-final-smallCatalystCoverFatalInterestWOWalkSoftlyLargerNemesisCoverStrangeBehavior 600x900

Who are Sydney Rye and Blue?

Sydney Rye is a woman who remade herself — with a lot of help from Merle and Mulberry — as a strong woman, dynamic and determined person after a series of traumatic events told in the first book, Unleashed. Sydney is fit, blond with gray eyes and two distinctive scars on her face.

Blue has the body of a wolf but the size of a Great Dane, the markings of a Siberian Hustky, the long, elegant muzzle of a Collie and the instincts of a German Shepherd. Also, he has one blue eye and one brown. He’s taken a bullet for Sydney and saved her life countless other times over the course of eight books.

They appear in eight Sydney Rye novels by their creator, Emily Kimelman. Sydney and Blue also appear in Emily’s JET Kindle World novella, It Takes Two.

 

What do commercial publishers really want from new writers? Not what they tell us



Photo by Wonderlane on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Surfing social media a few weeks ago, I came across a reference to an article from Penguin Random House, one of the Big 5 worldwide publishers called “What Our Editors Look for on an Opening Page.”

It was advice for writers who wanted to have their manuscripts published by a big commercial publisher like one of Penguin Random House’s imprints. But rather than advice, it’s really just reinforcing the narrative that the big publishing houses put out good books — when the truth is that they don’t take chances on good books from new authors. As proof, let’s look at the opening pages of the latest releases from Penguin.

Let’s look at what they say they look for in a manuscript from a new writer

1.      “A powerful opener”

is the most important thing, because it’s the first thing that editors see. If the opening doesn’t grab them, they’ll move onto the next submission in the slush pile.

For example, consider Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins. It was published last year by G.P Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of the Penguin Group, which is a subsidiary of Penguin Random House:

Jesse Stone no longer felt adrift. No longer a man caught between two coasts, he had finally left his days as an L.A. homicide detective behind him. If not his private shame at how his life had gone to hell. He was chief of police in Paradise, Mass. This was his town now. Yet there were still some things about the East Coast and the Atlantic he had never gotten used to and wasn’t sure he ever would. Nor’easters, for one. He found the brooding, slate-gray clouds and rolling tides a little unnerving. These late-fall or winter storms seemed to blow up out of spite, raking across whole swaths of New England or the Mid-Atlantic, leaving nothing but pain their wake.

As was his habit, he drove through the darkened streets of Paradise in his old Ford Explorer before heading home. He wanted to get a few hours’ sleep before going back to work. Maybe a drink, too. The storm wasn’t supposed to make landfall until about midnight, but the winds were bending trees back against their will, sleet already pelting his windshield. Jesse shook his head thinking about that. About how storms in the east warned you they were coming. About how they told you when they were coming and then kicked your ass.

Sorry, this doesn’t count as powerful. It’s an info dump, paragraphs of back story — exactly the kind of opening all the advice blogs and creative writing courses tell you not to write. Get to the story.

For all you writers out there, this opening breaks one of Elmore Leonard’s famous 10 Rules: “Never start with the weather.”

Of course, The Devil Wins was not written by Robert Parker, who died in 2010. Reed Farrel Coleman, a successful mystery novelist in his own right, won the contract to continue the Jesse Stone series.

Homecoming

Speaking of information dumps, consider the opening of the newest volume in the Boys of Fall teen romance series by Shannon Stacey, published by Jove, another Penguin imprint.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room with a pack of scared and sweaty teenage boys while wearing a little black dress and high heels wasn’t Jen’s idea of a fun Friday night.

Nothing could have dragged her out of there, though. Not even the promise of flip-flops and her favorite yoga pants. The police officer leaning against the wall and staring at the ceiling was Kelly McDonnell, one of her best friends. Kelly had been the first to arrive when the 911 call came in from football practice. Kelly’s dad—Coach McDonnell—had collapsed on the high school’s field and they were afraid he was having a heart attack.

When Kelly called her from the emergency room, Jen had been in her car on her way to a second date with the first guy in a long time who actually had potential to make her forget the man she spent too much time thinking about, but she hadn’t even hesitated before cancelling. Kelly needed her.

That’s a lot of data crammed into three paragraphs, and there’s been no action, yet. Just a girl in a party dress, sitting in a hospital waiting room.

2.      Unique perspective – ““What is one thing this book does better than any other book?”

Consider The Madmen of Benghazi, by Gérard de Villiers.

Ibrahim al-Senussi was stark naked when he stepped out of the shower, and he stopped dead at his bedroom door. Cynthia was sitting on the edge of the big bed, making a call on her cell phone. That wasn’t sexy in itself, but between the lapels of the young woman’s Chanel suit—his birthday present to her—he could see her nipples straining against the raw-silk blouse.

Cynthia’s shapely legs were bare from her upper thigh to her tawny, very high-heeled boots. The length of her skirt had once been quite proper—until she had the hem raised.

Al-Senussi felt the blood rushing to his crotch.

This does not do anything better than thousands of other books out there. In fact, it’s just plain bad writing. Who isn’t stark naked when they step out of the shower, other than drunks?

3.      Attention-Grabbing Characters

Consider the opening of Danielle Steel’s Rushing Waters, published August 30, 2016:

Ellen Wharton was pensive as she studied the clothes she had hung on a rolling rack, and the folded items she had laid out on the bed for her trip to New York. Organized, impeccable, meticulous, she was a woman who planned everything and left nothing to chance—her business, her menus, her wardrobe, her social life. She was consummately careful and precise about everything she did. It made for a smooth, order life, with few surprises, but also very little opportunity for things to go awry. She had been planning this trip to New York since June, as she did every year, to see her mother. She also went on Thanksgiving every other year, and she usually went once in spring. She intended to do some shopping for two of her clients, and she had an additional purpose to her trip this time.

Ellen ran a successful interior design business, with three assistants, a color specialist, and clients in several cities in Europe who loved her work. She created beautiful environments for them …

For decades, Danielle Steele has been on bestseller lists with title after title. She’s popular. But that opening does not portray an attention-grabbing character. She strikes me like any number of uptight business people who think they can control the universe.

This opening also breaks a rule from all the creative writing classes: “Show me, don’t tell me.” If I submitted this to an editor, I’d be told to describe how she carefully folded every item of clothing, how she entered appointments into her daytimer, how she checked her airline tickets for Thanksgiving. But Danielle Steele has enough bestsellers behind her, and enough of a fan base to write whatever she damn well wants.

But they sell

Yes, they do. The success of these books supports arguments I have been making for years:

  • The accepted tropes of creative writing classes do not translate into sales. Readers don’t care about Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Only writers and editors do.
  • Commercial publishers do not necessarily publish quality fiction.

“But you can’t blame a commercial business for making money.”

I don’t. What I blame the commercial publishing industry for is their snobbish pretense that only they can produce quality prose. And for not pushing for better, fresher, more innovative fiction and non-fiction. And for contracting a writer to continue a dead writer’s series, instead of publishing that living writer’s original work.

Some of the Big 5’s titles are examples of great writing. The Girl on the Train is a timely example. But some of the most innovative and gripping work is published by individual, independent, self-publishing authors.

What I want you to do

Don’t settle for commercial quality. If you like good books, look down the lists for independent authors. And if you want to find some of the best, check out these two independent authors’ groups:

And tell me what you think of the books on those sites.

 

Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever: Independent book review



fndlfcoverCaleb Pirtle III has proven that he’s an original writer. His books do not follow the usual tropes and stereotypical genre tales, whether he’s writing mysteries, sports stories or anything else. He’s not a genre writer — he’s writing modern American literature disguised as genre books.

Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever, his latest release, is an excellent tale, told in the author’s trademark  staccato, declarative and lucid style that brings the reader not just into the scene, but behind the character’s eyes.

An original plot

Set in the mid-1980s, the story of Friday Nights starts where the typical high school sports story ends: at the state championship game.

The high school in the small town of Avalon, Alabama, has had an underdog football team for decades. But this year, the team has been blessed with the golden arm of Casey Clinton, and the almost magical abilities of wide receiver Lucas Calhoun. In game after game, play after play, Casey has managed to find Lucas, who has caught every pass.

The state championship game attracts scouts from college football programs who want to see whether Casey is for real. But the night of the big game, it rains. In the final minute, with Avalon needing just one more touchdown to win, as Casey winds up for the forward pass, his foot slips in the wet mud. He falls, his pass goes wide, Lucas cannot reach it and Avalon loses.

It’s all over. There will be no more Friday night glory for Avalon, for Casey, Lucas, coach “Balls” Baldwin, nor anyone else in Avalon.

But it’s not over. It’s only early December, and the school year stretches ahead. The story continues through December by juxtaposing the experiences of Casey and Lucas.

For Casey, December is a season of continual phone calls from scouts from high-profile college football scouts, including the legendary Frank Hatchett, longtime head of the football program at the University of Alabama.

Casey feels the pressure of not just competing coaches who tempt him with scholarships, cars and sex, but also from his family, who want him to bring glory to them as well as the town; town leaders with competing interests; his wide receiver but never friend, Lucas Calhoun; and of course his teasing, virginal girlfriend, the cheerleader Chelsea Sinclair.

Lucas, meanwhile, the other half of the magical team that brought so many touchdowns and so much glory to the Avalon high school, is completely ignored. No scouts call him. The coach doesn’t talk to him, the rest of the football team shuns him. Chelsea, the “Virginal Queen” of Avalon, actively scorns and bullies him because he’s “trash.”

The contrast becomes starkest when the Alabama football program invites Casey to come see the Cotton Bowl in Texas, where they’re playing for the holy grail of college football. Lucas, in the meantime, begs Casey, whom he despises, for a scholarship, too, if he accepts a scholarship from a competing college.

Characters

calebpirtle

Caleb Pirtle III, author of Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

Pirtle’s lean style drives the reader through the story, where we meet many three-dimensional supporting characters like Brother Bailey Proctor, the sex-hating Baptist preacher; his frustrated, sexy wife, Karen; “Crazy Legs” Epperson, who was once a football star but whose scholarship hopes were destroyed by an injury; “Balls” Baldwin, the football coach, who allowed himself to hope for a state championship before he retired, but sank back into defeat; and Lucas’ alcoholic, father, Charlie. Readers quickly come to hate Charlie, for good reason.

A drunk who abandoned the family when Lucas was small, Charlie began to pay attention to Lucas during the final football season to try to get some reflected glory on himself. But after the team loses the championship game, Charlie is mostly out of the picture again until a murder in the second half of the book. The author’s skill allows him to achieve not redemption, but a little sympathy by the end.

Of course, as quarterback and captain of the football team, Casey’s girlfriend is the head cheerleader, Chelsea Sinclair. But Pirtle does not let stereotypes lie quiet. Chelsea is a clever little bitch with an agenda, simultaneously promising and withholding sex to keep her boyfriend on a short leash.

Bottom line

I read an advance copy in return for an honest review. As such, I found a number of minor typographical errors in the version that I read. But the story and the writing style rise far above those issues. This is an excellent read by a polished, professional author who knows his subject and his characters intimately.

Buy and read this book. You won’t be disappointed.

5*

Find it on Amazon.

Independent book review: One Upon a [Stolen] Time



OnceUponAStolenTimeThe perfect haunted castle story
By Samreen Ahsan

The old adage, “Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true” is the starting point for this story. Myra Farrow is a romantic young woman from London, UK, who is obsessed with stories about medieval knights and princes. She wants to be part of history, and wishes she were a real medieval princess. Frustrated with the impossibility of that, she reads medieval English history, literature and poetry, even making it the subject of her university degree.

Her parents have indulged her to the point of visiting every old castle and manor in the UK, except for one that’s abandoned and closed: the totally fictitious Hue Castle.

Myra’s parents, who run a successful business in London, are concerned that their daughter lives more in the past than the here-and-now, so they arrange a marriage for her to Steve Bernard, scion of one of the UK’s wealthiest and most powerful families.

But Steve isn’t just the inheritor of wealth. He’s actually a successful video game entrepreneur, and while he isn’t interest in Myra romantically, he does want her to be a model for shooting scenes for his new medieval-themed video game. And as coincidence will have it, Steve has chosen the abandoned, yet lifeless Hue Castle for his setting.

Hue Castle has all the necessary elements for a very spooky setting, like prison towers, dungeons and instruments of torture. But the most dangerous thing is a shrouded mirror. When Myra looks into it, she sees scenes from six hundred years ago, the vicious cruelty that brought down a curse so extreme that nothing grows at Hue Castle — no plants, not even rats live there.

As Myra returns to look into the mirror, she’s increasingly drawn into the lives of those dead for six centuries, and gradually, she begins to hear them and finally contacts Edward, the crown prince of England in 1415. Myra wonders whether she can even enter that time, and if she does, whether she would be able to return.

Characters

Ahsan’s strength is creating believable, familiar characters, and Myra is another example. She’s a romantic, obsessed with her fantasies of kings and princes and knights, but she is far from one-sided. She dreams about being rescued by a handsome knight, but she’s not weak. She’s a complex, modern woman who likes her cell phones and clothes, and her freedom and independence.

Steve is a complex man, too, who undergoes a transformation through the book and comes to love Myra for who she is. This sets up a love triangle and another level of conflict in Myra, who is already trying to choose between the past and the present.

Perhaps the most complex, appealing character is the tortured Edward Hue, the prince and son of the cruel (fictitious) King Stefan. You really feel for this character, and I was surprised by how fully Ahsan has realized this character.

Drawbacks

The only thing I didn’t like about this story was the framing device, the overly complex way she has set up the story, with Myra being set up by her parents with Steven, who is not interested in her at first. I understand why Ahsan chose the billionaire genius guy and the smart, regular girl structure for her previous two-volume Prayer series (A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded). She was showing what a love story like 50 Shades could be if handled by a writer with skill and talent. But there is no need for that here. Neither is there a need for the marriage to be arranged. Steve could have just hired Myra to be his model, and gradually fallen in love with her. It would have made the story simpler and allowed the author to get to the action quicker.

But that’s a minor point. This is a mesmerizing story that keeps you swiping your e-reader to get to the next page. It’s well worth a read.

Get it on Amazon.