Cover reveal: Echoes, a new #LeiCrimeKW mystery



May 12 is launch day for a new crop of thrillers and mysteries in the Lei Crime Kindle World. And I have a book that will be part of it: Echoes. Since that’s one month from today, it’s time for a cover reveal. Once again, it’s designed by the unequalled David C. Cassidy.

Echoes - 529x800 V3

What’s Echoes about?

In 1999, the Kahuna was The Man on Oahu’s west coast. The coolest guy at the wildest parties, with the coolest posse, the best weed and the most beautiful girlfriend.

Then he disappeared.

Fifteen years later, that girlfriend is no longer a high school senior. She is FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, and she sees through every lie the Kahuna spins when he shows up again to beg her help.

How can she say no when the Kahuna wants her help not for himself, but to protect his little brother. Young Cole ‘Aukai is ready to set fire to the whole Oahu illegal drug trade—for revenge.

Echoes will be live on Amazon on May 12, 2017. Visit here to find it and all the new releases.

Book reviewers: If you’d like an advanced review copy, please email contact@writtenword.ca.

What is the Lei Crime Kindle World?

Echoes is the fourth book I’ve written in the Lei Crime Kindle World. It joins Torn Roots (July 2015), Palm Trees & Snowflakes (December 2015) and Dead Man Lying (2016).

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime Kindle World is based on the Lei Crime series, created by bestselling author Toby Neal.

Independent book review: Smoke Road



Scorch Series Romance Thriller Book 3

By Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

Luca Luciano is a jerk.

The books of the Scorch Road series are gripping, fast-paced page turners that will thrill, scare, arouse and thoroughly entertain you.

Smoke Road is the third volume in the new Scorch Road, six-book series being launched at a rate of a book a month by co-authors Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman. Both best-selling authors in their own right, teamed to write a six-volume series, releasing them at about three-week intervals.

The books I have read so far in the series follow a pattern. Each one has two main characters: one of the six Luciano brothers from South Philly, and a strong woman he meets. Together, they have to fight their way through the chaos unleashed by the Scorch Flu, a pandemic that kills 90 percent of those infected. Along the way, they gather clues about the source of the virus and a deep conspiracy that caused it.

Smoke Road’s male protagonist is Luca, the eldest Luciano brother. He’s the “alpha male,” a former Special Forces member built like a superhero.
The female lead is Dr. Haunani Kegawa, a medical researcher and advisor to the U.S. national security establishment who has found intelligence about the source of the Scorch Flu: a neo-Nazi skinhead group in Texas who has stolen a virus developed by the government and dispersed it across the country.

The plot of the whole series follows the well-established apocalypse scenario. As most of the country falls sick and dies, society and government fall apart. Gangs loot towns. Communities are reduced to scavengers, pirates, raiders or slaves. Think The Walking Dead, without zombies.

Dr. Kagawa is charged with finding the skinhead neo-Nazis responsible for the calamity, and given a unit of National Guardsmen to help her—the only military force close to the enemy that has not succumbed to the flu—which includes Luca Luciano.

As soon as he meets Dr. Kagawa, they’re irresistibly attracted to each other. This is where Luca becomes a jerk

Luca has deep-seated issues. He doesn’t trust any women. He uses them for his own pleasure—and to be fair, many use him for theirs. He’s a hunk’s hunk. But he believes all women are devious.

Dr. Kagawa is anything but. She’s clearly drawn on Toby Neal’s main character, Lei Texeira: she’s part Hawaiian, part Japanese; she has baggage stemming from a bad, nearly abusive past relationship; and she carries a piece of beach glass in her pocket at all times, which she holds and rubs to allay anxiety. This is a direct carry-over from Lei Texeira.

The story is basically a love story, with the pandemic apocalypse a setting. Luca and Nani are drawn together by circumstance and biology, and their personalities are just similar enough that they clash repeatedly. They drive each other crazy in many ways.

Like reality, it’s the man who’s wrong.

Toby Neal

Toby Neal

Emily-author-photo

Emily Kimelman

It’s frightening to me just how well women can read men’s minds.

This book is compelling and exciting, full of action, suspense and hot sex scenes. It’s a true mark of a writer’s skill to be able to write hot sex scenes without coming off as either pornographic or silly.

Well done, Toby and Emily. You’ve done what every writer strives to do: make a nightmare fantasy completely believable.

5*

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.

For your summer reading pleasure: 15 new #LeiCrimeKW novellas



It’s official: Summer has started

with 15 new books from the Lei Crime Kindle World gang — 15 top, bestselling authors with 15 new mystery, romance and suspense all playing prominent roles. For your summer reading pleasure, here are your new titles, courtesy of Toby Neal, the creator of Lei Texeira and her Hawaiian universeToby-thoughtful1

NewBeginnings 800x544New Beginnings (The Girl and The Fireman Book 1)
By Amy Allen

 

Life goes on without love … or does it?

 

StealingHonoluluStealing Honolulu (a hawai’i parkour adventure Book 2)
By Terry Ambrose

 

When the goal is to steal millions, all obstacles must be removed. 

 

Charade at SeaCharade at Sea
By Eden Baylee

 

A luxury cruise is ideal for a budding romance … or is it?

 

Dead Man Lying - 529x800Dead Man Lying
By Scott Bury

 

She knows when you’re lying …FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm is back on Maui to catch a killer.

 

ROAD SANPACHO1The Road to San Pancho
By Lynda Filler

In this fast-paced suspense novella Peace, suffering the heartache of the recent passing of her mother, goes on a journey down ominous highways to San Pancho Mexico in search of a father she never knew.

 

SC 4 TMITTreachery Makes it Tense (Shadow Council Book 4)
By Julie Gilbert

 

When a vanquished foe resurfaces with vengeance on his mind …

 

Hula Pie and Coconut Bras KindleHula Pie and Coconut Bras (Coming Soon!)
By AJ Llewellyn

 

 

 

Darker Dawn 2Darker Dawn (Coming Soon!)
By Fiona Manning

 

Can Tiare Kaihale save Lei from a crazed killer?

 

OutOfLeague_CVROut of Her League (Gemi Kittredge Book 2)
By Shawn McGuire

 

Paradise has a dark side, and Gemi has seen it.

 

ParadiseDownParadise Down
By Donna B. McNicol

 

Aloha Nicholás! But will this be a hello or a goodbye?

 

Spark my Desire 800x544Spark My Desire
By Noelle Pierce

 

One pageant queen, one sexy firefighter, one week in L.A.

 

SogawBadgeSoga’s Second Chance
By Patricia Sands

 

Some escapes lead full circle.

 

KAPU-FINALKAPU
By David Schoonover

Kapu means forbidden. Desecration means death. This ancient Hawaiian legal system collapsed in the early 19th century—or did it?

 

DragonTouched-Shenold copy (1)Dragon Touched (Kat’s Dragon Book 1)
By Carol Shenold

The fate of the world rests with unlikely heroes. 
Power comes with a terrible price … 

 

BornToLove-KWBorn To Love (Keiki & Lia Thriller Book 1)
By Amy Shojai

 

Can the past unlock the future and love preserve a life?

Independent book review: My Last Romance and Other Passions



A cliché-busting collection of romances by Kathleen Valentine

As an independent author, I find it important to write an independent book review from time to time — my own, unasked-for review of a book from a fellow indie. Here is my review of one such.

Kathleen Valentine is a literary leader. As a writer, she follows her own path and creates original, beautiful stories with characters readers can recognize because they’re taken from reality. 

I’m not normally a fan of romances. But I have to say that I was turned on, in many ways, by the collection of romantic short stories for grown-ups by Kathleen Valentine called My Last Romance and Other Passions.

Most “romance” novels I have encountered seem to be aimed at women who never emotionally got past high school. (To be fair, most action/adventure novels I have read seem written for men who never matured past Grade 8). They tend to follow one of two or three models:

  • the nice, middle class girl fixes the tortured billionaire—50 Shades of Crap was far from the first of this cliché
  • the two young lovers with damaged childhoods find safe havens in each other
  • the nice girl is drawn to the bad boy, and either
    • decides on the nice boy next door, or
    • fixes the bad boy.

There’s a lot of fixing in romance, and almost always by the female protagonist.

These are the tropes no matter the “hotness” level. There are these plots in sexy, steamy romances; in hot romances about Highlanders, cowboys, firemen and pirates; and in the “clean” romances — which means romances without sex.

The clean romance is the genre I hate the most. What are these writers saying — sex is dirty?

When Valentine breaks the rules

I guess it was inevitable that a writer named Valentine would write romantic stories. I’m just so glad she didn’t fall into the Hallmark Card type of romance trap. I found the stories in My Last Romance and Other Passions to be insightful, believable and entertaining — in other words, real literature.

Most romances, whether independent or commercially published, also feature characters with British, Celtic or otherwise very Western European names. Kathleen Valentine is one of the few writers in any genre I have read who’s willing to be inclusive and realistic in reflecting the diversity of Western culture today, and her characters have names like “Silvio” and “Asa.” And they’re not all middle-class suburbanites or billionaires or expatriate European nobility. They come from isolated towns in the Appalachians or fishing villages in Massachusetts or from poor farms in Texas. They’re people we know exist, but they rarely feature in literature or genre fiction.

Kathleen Valentine is breaking down the rules that have accreted over romance like so much mould, and revitalized it.

Grown ups do grown-up things

Another thing I really appreciate about these romances — the last and otherwise — is that they’re about adults, and they do adult things. Okay, I admit I have a bias at my age, identifying more with people who’ve lived longer and had more experiences.

But Valentine’s characters have businesses and hold down jobs, and it’s clear that the author understands everything this entails. They’re musicians who never sold a million albums but know how to rock the house down. They’re artists who capture beauty and truth but never get known beyond their home town. They have children and marriages, and occasionally — no, more than occasionally — they fail at their obligations, they stray and they cheat and they enjoy it.

The independent book review

9a285-kathleenvalentine1948_sx200_Kathleen Valentine is an accomplished, professional writer with a lot of successful titles on her Author page. This collection is an excellent introduction to her work, and should stand as a model for would-be romance authors.

5*

You can find My Last Romance and Other Passions either on Amazon, but I got my copy as an even better value, as part of the BestSelling Reads Valentine Bundle, featuring full length books from nine professional, independent authors. For more great values, don’t forget to check them out.

And of course, you should visit Kathleen’s own website and blog for thoughts and ideas from a real, talented designer and author.

Valentine sweet treat: 9 free BestSelling books



ValentinesTreatCover-smallerFor Valentine’s Day this year, BestSelling Reads is giving away 9 romance novels — for FREE.

That’s right: you can download a file with 9 great romances. All you have to do is subscribe to their email newsletter. And you can unsubscribe again at any time.

It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day, or to give to your Valentine.  Here’s what’s inside:

Get it now at BestSellingReads.com.

New cover: Dark Clouds



New cover Dark Clouds

I have updated Dark Clouds, Part 1: The Mandrake Ruse, complete with a new cover. I’m excited about it. I have to thank Quebec graphic designer Daniel Dufour for invaluable advice on typography and colours.

Original cover - Dark CloudsThe original cover wasn’t bad. I took the photograph in Venice, and while it’s a good image of dark clouds, when cropped and blown up to an image usable as a cover, the resolution was too low. Dots and artefacts were visible.

original Photo-clouds over Venice

In designing a new cover for my latest story, Palm Trees & Snowflakes (a Lei Crime short story), I bought some credits from a stock photo agency, and I had a few left over. So I found a really good image and reformatted the cover of Dark Clouds.

I also took the opportunity to revise the text itself. I took to heart a review that claimed there were some grammatical errors. I didn’t find any actual grammatical errors, but there were some typographical issues.

It’s interesting—I don’t think I’m the only writer who cringes over some of the sentences I wrote after a few years. I found some awkward or confusing passages in Dark Clouds, and fixed them. I then went on to fix up the second part of Dark Clouds: What Made Me Love You?, along with a new cover for it, too.

So let me know what you think. And if you want to buy a new copy, you can find it on:

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