Book Review: Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

Book Review: Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

Title: Invisible 
Author: Lorena McCourtney

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She's not your average crime fighter!

Meet Ivy Malone, an inconspicuous older woman who has a mutant curiosity gene that often lands her in trouble. Unlike most women her age, she snoops and pries her gray-haired self into one hilarious escapade after another. So when vandals romp through the local cemetery, Ivy can't help but put her snooping eyes to work as she launches her own unofficial investigation. 
Despite her unconventional sleuthing, Ivy soon becomes discouraged by her failure to turn up any solid clues. And after Ivy witnesses something ominous and unexplained, she can't resist putting her investigative powers to work again. Even the authorities' attempts to keep her out of danger and her nosy neighbor's match-making schemes can't slow Ivy down. But will the determination that fuels this persistent, spunky sleuth threaten her very safety?
"I laughed out loud. McCourtney's charming mystery debuts a voice both enchanting and startling."-Colleen Coble, author of Without a Trace
"McCourtney's skill at blending whimsy, quirks, and questions into a lead character makes Invisible a must read."-Lois Richer, author of Dangerous Sanctuary
"Invisible is a treat! Ivy Malone is a heroine with spunk and determination!"-Carol Cox, author of A Stitch in Time

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The Challenges of Writing a Series

The Challenges of Writing a Series, guest post by Ian Thomas Malone

The concept of a series should at least in theory, be the dream of every writer. If you love the characters and world you’ve created, why give them up? When one story ends, why not begin another using what’s worked before? Obviously if this consistently produced positive results, we’d see a lot more series than we already do. The truth is, writing a series presents a unique set of challenges.

The first that came to mind actually isn’t much of an issue in the year 2016. The most apparent problem with writing a series is the risk that readers who pick up later installments may not have necessarily read the previous entries. The rise of Amazon, particularly Kindle, has largely done away with this worry as readers are less likely to accidentally purchase a novel that’s in the middle of a series than they might be at a bookstore. Even then, it isn’t particularly difficult to acquire earlier books. This does not necessarily free the author from the associated concerns of having to deal with readers who aren’t familiar with the plot or the characters.

Sitting down to write the second book in a series is a weird experience. You don’t feel the need to re-explain everything, but the feeling that you should can certainly present itself. The desire to endear your characters to your readers is a natural part of writing. A sequel changes that whole dynamic because the audience already has opinions of the characters.

This creates a few interesting possibilities for character arcs. Books don’t have fewer pages because the groundwork for their characters has already been laid out in the previous book. What to do with them? Do you let the plot take charge or do you give your characters new personal challenges to push them further than you ever could in a single book?

The answer is actually quite simple. Do whatever feels natural. That may seem like a big copout, but it’s important advice. As an author, you spend more time with your characters than anyone else, but your readers will notice if characters who were once calm and collected suddenly start behaving rash and arrogant. Character traits need to be consistent.  

I’ve found this to be the case in my “Dialogues” series. Written entirely in Socratic Dialogue, The Dialogues present many challenges for building a relationship between the characters and the readers. Each Dialogue focuses on a theme of college or high school life and few characters make multiple appearances. The series does have one main character, George, who appears in every Dialogue, giving the reader a consistent voice to identify with.

I wrote the series with hopes that a reader could read any Dialogue and still enjoy it even if they hadn’t read any of the others. The third book, Five High School Dialogues, presented a unique challenge as it is the first in the series to not be set in college. Essentially, FHSD is a bit of a reboot in the sense that I hope to attract readers of a slightly younger demographic than those of Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues.

It’s important to not toss continuity out the window, even in a series like The Dialogues. I’ve always been a big fan of Easter eggs in my work and newer Dialogues occasionally mention the events of previous Dialogues. Longtime readers can enjoy the references in a way that doesn’t necessarily affect new readers.

Ultimately, there’s only one consistent rule to keep in mind when writing a series. Make sure there’s a story that needs to be told. Sequels can be fun or they can ruin the original material.

How do you know when to turn a book into a series? You just sort of do, which makes the concept seem simpler than it actually is. I’ve been on both sides of the equation. My “Dialogues” series only became a series when I started coming up with material for a second book. Readers have asked about a sequel to my novel Courting Mrs. McCarthy for almost a year now. I’ve thought about ideas and wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m not going to force it even if it’s something that people want.

Obviously that isn’t a problem if you’ve planned a series, or trilogy, all along but you’ll still want to watch out for many of the same things. Respect your readers and the time they’ve invested in your work. Give them what they need to enjoy the world you’ve created without bogging them down with facts you’ve already said. Most importantly, have fun. That’s why we’re in this business. 

The Challenges of Writing a Series, guest post by Ian Thomas Malone
Ian Thomas Malone is an author and a yogi from Greenwich, CT. He is a graduate of Boston College, where he founded The Rock at Boston College. He is the grandson of noted Sherlockian scholar Colonel John Linsenmeyer. Ian has published thousands of articles on diverse subjects such as popular culture, baseball, and social commentary. His favorite things to post on social media are pictures of his golden retriever Georgie and his collection of stuffed animals.

Ian believes firmly that "there's more to life than books you know, but not much more," a quote from his hero Morrissey. When he's not reading, writing, or teaching yoga, he can probably be found in a pool playing water polo. He aspires to move to the Hundred Acre Wood someday, though he hopes it has wi-fi by then.
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Interview with Austin Williams

Interview with Austin Williams #author #Books

Tell us about your latest book.
Blind Shuffle is the second in a series of thrillers featuring the character Rusty Diamond. A washed-up Vegas magician who reinvents himself as an amateur sleuth, Rusty uses the tools of his former trade to combat a broad range of criminal elements. Each Rusty Diamond book is written as a stand-alone thriller that does not require any familiarity with the previous novels, through readers who take the books in order will notice certain instances of continuity that add to the larger narrative. In Blind Shuffle, Rusty travels to New Orleans to reconnect with his estranged mentor in the art of magic, only to find himself embroiled in a desperate search for a missing woman. Readers are given a few more pieces in the puzzle of Rusty’s past in this book, including a complete account of the horrific event that caused him to flee Vegas and go into hiding in fear of his life.

Interview with Austin Williams #author #Books
What advice do you have for other writers?
At the end of a writing day, it’s a good idea to leave one small chunk of work unwritten. Even if it’s so clear in your mind that you could easily spend another thirty minutes knocking it out—don’t. Resist the temptation and let it percolate overnight. When you commence work the next day, you can immediately dive into a piece of writing about which you’ve already formed a positive impression. This helps to eliminate a common hazard for the writer—that unpleasant sensation of sitting down to work and asking yourself: “Where do I start?” By saving a nugget of uncompleted work from the previous day, you’ll never have to answer that question.

What’s your favorite quote about writing/for writers?
A few good ones:
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” — Maugham
“Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” — Faulkner
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” — Bellow
“The first draft of anything is shit.” — Hemingway

How long did it take you to write your book?
It can vary, but a presentable first draft generally takes about six months. The amount of time that passes from the first draft to a finalized and fully edited manuscript depends on the extent of necessary revisions. Having a book published and available to readers eighteen months from the date when I first begin working on it seems reasonable, though it’s wise to allow for some flexibility from one project to the next.

How do you research your books?
I rely on two very different kinds of research which are equally important: online and in the field. Having access to every encyclopedia in every library on the planet via Google is obviously a huge advantage contemporary writers enjoy over their predecessors. Online research is invaluable but not comprehensive, in my experience. I place a premium on location when developing a story, and try to create a sense of place for the reader in each scene and chapter. To gather an adequate amount of locational details—street names, landmarks, details of architecture and speech that comprise local color—I find it very helpful to visit whatever set of coordinates on the globe I’m attempting to render in fiction. Blind Shuffle takes place in and around New Orleans, and a week-long trip I made there to gather information in 2013 proved invaluable.

Interview with Austin Williams #author #Books
Who is you favourite character in your book and why?

I enjoy writing the central character of Rusty Diamond, because he grows more complex and yet hopefully more relatable with each new book in the series. One of the earliest concepts I had was that Rusty should be an enigma to readers at the start of the first book. He has a shadowy backstory that comes together in bits and pieces as the series progresses. Each book in the series is written to function as a stand-alone thriller that requires no familiarity from the reader with the previous books. However, there is a larger narrative connecting them all, in which the mystery of Rusty’s past becomes gradually unveiled. Ideally, the more readers come to learn about and understand Rusty, the more invested they’ll be in his ultimate fate.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I’m currently writing the third book in the Rusty Diamond series, to be published in late 2016 or early 2017. In keeping with the pattern established by the first two entries, this book will take Rusty to a new location—Las Vegas—and challenge him with a new set of threats and antagonists. I try to resist the temptation to “raise the stakes” with each successive installment, feeling it’s more important to just write a book that works on its own merits. Nonetheless, it does seem like the level of jeopardy facing Rusty tends to escalate the further the series progresses. Hopefully he’ll find a way to survive his mission to Vegas and perhaps return to fight another battle.
What are you currently reading?
I’m rereading Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen. It’s been a few years since I’ve paged through this collection of short stories by the younger half of the Coen Brothers filmmaking team, and the enjoyment is undiminished. As with most short story collections, some entries are stronger than others, but they all contain the specificity of tone so familiar to fans of the bothers’ films. Ethan Coen writes dialogue with the same formalist’s precision as David Mamet. Every comma, semicolon and ellipsis is there for a reason, exactly where the author intends it to be. The result is a tempo of language that’s both stylized and realistic, and the overall impression is of a master craftsman doing detailed work for his own enjoyment as much—if not more than—his readers’.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Too many to list. That’s not a glib answer, just an acknowledgment that after decades of steady reading my tastes and tendencies have been shaped by a pretty diverse range of literary voices. Also, I’d be lying if I denied the influence of movies on the kind of fiction I write, with an emphasis on dialogue, pacing, and what film academics call mise-en-scène.

What formats is the book available in?
Blind Shuffle, as well as the previous Rusty Diamond book Misdirection, is available in trade paperback and e-reader editions, through all major online retailers and a selection of brick-and-mortar bookstores. I’m grateful for any purchase of my book—in whatever format and through whatever channel—though a print copy bought at a traditional bookstore carries a special charm for many writers in this increasingly digital era.

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The Argument of Gender, Eternally.

The Argument of Gender, Eternally. Guest post by Mark Taylor

You can’t take a step on the Internet without falling over people arguing over how few strong female characters there are in literature. Or how characters are always gender defined men. And let’s be honest, most of the time the commenters have a point.

There are a huge number of male protagonist stories out there.

The people arguing with them are not writers though. It’s people who think they have ownership of something. People that think they own a genre, a franchise, or a character. And they’re wrong. But they like to vocalize. And no one comes off looking good. And for me, as the writer, I see the art coming off the worst.  

From the writer’s prospective, for me, it all began with what we are told on day one. It’s writing 101.

Write what you know.

Like most writers, I have no formal training in writing aside from my schooling some *cough* years ago. And English Literature really didn’t go down the gender rabbit hole. It was all Shakespeare this, and Dickens that. So no help. No. I learned my writing skill from reading, and from the Internet. And being a boy in the 70’s and 80’s I was given traditional boy material to read. Stuff about vampires (male), time travellers (male), space adventurers (male), monster hunters (male), footballers (male), etc, etc...etc.

Then the Internet told me to write what you know.

I wrote about men doing things. And like most writers, I wasn’t writing about men because women weren’t. I wasn’t writing about men because women couldn’t. It was because I didn’t know how to write women doing those things.

Because everything was telling me I didn’t know how to. I thought I didn’t know how to. 

So I didn’t.

Now I’ve been writing long enough to have learned. I now write characters. They are neither male nor female in my eyes, and they go where the story demands. They have to face the challenges that are set for them. I only define gender, because I must.

So we writers have the ability to correct the mistakes of the past. And it doesn’t stop at m/f gender equality. There is of course sexuality, gender alignment, race...and the list goes on (and sadly) on. Perhaps to the extent that we have all felt it. Writers change. We grow. As a collective we are on the cusp of understanding, and making the change, and committing to the equality that we want...that is needed.

But then why is little changing—or at least changing quickly—to remedy the problem?

It’s because of the bigoted that I spoke of at the beginning. 

Taking it down to a base stereo type: The woman wants to see strong female characters in science fiction; the author wants to write strong female characters in science fiction; some science fiction readers want to retain their idea of science fiction and states that the woman is wrong. 

To which the obvious answer is then to ignore the reader who doesn’t want change. I am the writer, I write what I want. 

Except I’m scared to. 

There is a famous franchise science fiction/fantasy book available to purchase which has nearly two thousand reviews. It is a book (I haven’t read) which has received negative reviews (over 50% of the Amazon reviews are a 2 or 1 star) about nonsensical garbage from people (many, or most at a glance, of who are not listed as verified purchasers) who speak of problems with sexuality, race, gender. 

In other words, not the writing, not the material, not the author, but:

It’s my and I don’t want you to change it.

And small authors can’t afford to have hundreds of one star reviews. Because of bigoted entitlement.

The only way to fix it is to bite the bullet and change it. At the core level. The author can change it, and nobody else. And yes, some of us are going to get the negative reviews. But the more of us who take the choice to change, the more change we will make.  

We’ve identified the problem. We can change the problem. Now is the time.

Mark Taylor's debut novel crash landed on planet earth in 2013. Its dark brooding style benchmarked his writing and has led to further releases of novel and short story collection alike. 

While most of Mark's work is macabre, occasion has it that he will write about kittens and daisies. Just not very often. 

Some say he is a product of his environment, others, a product of his own imagination.  
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Book Showcase: Heaven’s Forgotten by Branden Johnson (with giveaway!)

#BookShowcase: Heaven’s Forgotten by Branden Johnson (with #giveaway!)

Title Heaven’s Forgotten

Author Branden Johnson

ISBN/ASIN 978-1-943755-05-9

Amazon purchasing link

#BookShowcase: Heaven’s Forgotten by Branden Johnson (with #giveaway!)
Book blurb 
Moira just wants a normal life for her daughter, Penelope. And sometimes, it seems like she has achieved it. Penelope is a sweet, smart, and precocious four-year-old girl. However, she is also the product of Moira's affair with an angel. Her parentage gives Penelope strength far beyond what any child should possess. It also makes her the target of fallen angels who intend to use her mysterious powers as their way back into Heaven. Worse yet, one of those fallen angels is her own father. Now, Moira finds herself caught up in a terrifying struggle for Penelope's life against beings more powerful than she can imagine. And when Penelope's true power is revealed, it will shake the foundations of reality.

Suspenseful and action-packed, Heaven's Forgotten demonstrates the power of a mother's love against the longest odds in Heaven and on earth.

Penelope liked to swing. On the playground, it was really the only thing she liked to do. The other children scaled the jungle gym, staking their claim to its peak and roaring superiority. Others clambered up the slide and screamed and laughed as they slid down to earth again. 
    Penelope did not want to return to earth. On the swings, she never had to touch the ground.
    She had the whole swing set to herself this morning. That was okay. The other kids were nice sometimes, but she enjoyed swinging alone. She kicked her feet out and pulled on the chain and turned her face to the sky. The fall back down was exhilarating, even a little scary, but bearable because she knew she would rise again. Below her, the rest of the children scurried around the playground like the ants in their classroom ant farm.
    She saw the little girl below, in her pink pants and white ballet slippers stained brown with mud. Penelope did not respond. She only kicked harder and let the wind cut across her face and blow back her hair, let the scattered droplets of rain splash her cheeks. If it started raining harder, the teachers would make them go inside, and that wasn’t any fun. She hoped it stayed just like this. Just like this forever.
    “Hey, Penny.”
    The little girl was not leaving. And now there were three others besides. They stood with their arms crossed, all alike.
    “We want to swing. Get off, please.” The little girl with the ballet slippers tapped her foot impatiently on the gravel.
    “I’m swinging right now,” Penelope said.
    The situation was clear. There were four swings and five girls. Five was bigger than four, so there weren’t enough swings for everyone.
    “Get off, stupid,” said another girl. “You’re stupid.”
    Penelope decided to be good. She closed her eyes and imagined her mother telling her, “Be good. Be good. Be good.”
    Out loud, she said, “No, and don’t call me stupid because I’m not.”
    “You are stupid,” said a third girl, this one with a big white bow in her hair. “You’re stupid and if you don’t get off and let us swing we’re gonna tell Mrs. Ritzky.”
    “Stupid! Stupid!” the girls began to chant. “Stupid stupid stupid!”
    But Penelope was being good.
    “Stupid stupid stupid stupid!”
    Sometimes being good was hard, but she knew that her Mommy was right, and that she had to be good, because—
    “Stupid stupid stupid!
    Penelope shoved her feet into the gravel, sending it showering over the four girls. They screamed and covered their heads.
    “Say you’re sorry to me,” Penelope said. She stepped from the swing. But she did not raise her voice. She kept her tone under control, like a good girl. She stood before the girl in the ballet slippers and said, “Apologize.”
    The fourth girl, the one who so far had said nothing, the one who had taken a large chunk of pebble to her forehead—a wound that was already swelling into a quarter-sized welt—stepped forward and shoved Penelope.
    Penelope fell on her backside in the gravel.
    “Stupid!” said the girl with the welt, beginning to cry. “You’re mean!”
    Penelope closed her eyes. A blush crawled over her, like a rash, spreading out from her face to the ends of her fingers and down to her toes. Her muscles ignited. She took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes, the girls were staring down at her as she sat in the damp gravel on her butt.
    Then in a flash she was on her feet, and her hand flew out and smacked the first little girl’s nose. The girl flew back, sprawled, a tear like a fault line rending the leg of her pink pants. Penelope hit the next girl, and the next, and the next, and then a pair of grown-up hands had clasped her shoulders, and she kicked out behind her and connected with a teacher’s shin, and the teacher howled and fell away. Then at least three other teachers grabbed her—Penelope wasn’t sure how many, she was so focused on the girls who were lying on the ground holding their faces, holding in the blood that leaked between their fingers and pooled in the gravel.
    The hands dragged her from the scene, and she listened to the crying. Even the teacher, the one she kicked, seemed to be crying, or trying not to cry.
    She let her body go limp, so the grownups would have to struggle to move her. It was a technique that worked quite well on her mother. Then she shut her eyes and wondered what her mother would say, when she learned how bad Penelope had been.

Author bio
Branden Johnson is a writer living near Chicago with his wonderful wife and hyperactive chihuahua. When he's not writing, he's playing music in the post-rock band These Guys These Guys. Heaven's Forgotten is his first novel.
#BookShowcase: Heaven’s Forgotten by Branden Johnson (with #giveaway!)

Connect with the author links (website, social media) 



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Book Review: Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs

Book Review: Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs @Writers_Authors

Title: Killer Cupcakes
Author: Leighann Dobbs


Things are going great for Lexy Baker. She's finally opened her dream bakery, gotten rid of her cheating boyfriend and settled into her grandmothers house with her perky dog Sprinkles at her side. 

But her blissful life doesn't last long. When her ex boyfriend is found poisoned with cupcakes from her bakery, Lexy finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation headed up by her hunky neighbor detective Jack Perillo. 

With the help of a gang of iPad toting, would-be detective grandmothers, Lexy decides to take it upon herself to find the real murderer in order to clear her name and get her bakery back in business. 

As things heat up on the murder trail, in the kitchen and between Lexy and the hunky detective, it's a race against time to put the real murderer behind bars and get back to baking. 

Will Lexy get her man?  

Includes the recipe for Lexy's famous cupcake tops! 

(This is book 1 in the Lexy Baker Culinary Cozy Mystery Series with Recipes, but you don't have to read them in order if you don't want too!)

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