Monday, April 30, 2018

What’s in a name?

One would think naming characters would be easy, but folks, it’s not. At least, a lot of the times it’s not. Like naming your babies, there are so many things to consider. The character’s family history, the author’s personal taste, the cheesiness level, and name meanings are just a few of those things.

When I started writing the story that would eventually become Prophecy, my heroine’s name was Alexis. This was completely understandable because at that time I was a teenager and I loved the name Alexis. There was no reason to question my choice as she was my baby and I could name her whatever I darn well pleased. Right?

Welllll, not so much.

About thirty years later, Alexis and her hero resurfaced in my mind. It was time for their story to be told, but with certain changes. Alexis had grown, matured. She wasn’t the effervescent (and often annoying) nineteen-year-old she’d been before, and her name needed to reflect that change. 

Fortunately, for this story, I didn’t need to change it much. I bought a mega-sized book of baby names and perused it in search of the perfect name. It turns out that Alexis means “defender of mankind”. This is essentially what her character does—defends mankind on Earth. She becomes the voice and face of her people to the new intergalactic community Earthlings are suddenly exposed to. But since Alexis was forever stuck in my head as a teenage girl, the name couldn’t stay.

But, whaddya know, Alexandra also means defender of mankind and sounded more mature—like twenty-two-year-old mature. Hey! I had a first name!

There is a quiet and tender scene in Prophecy where Alexandra (aka: Alex) and her hero have a moment alone to regroup and actually get to know each other a little better. (I love this scene, btw.) Alex tells him her middle name, which is…oh, crap. I had no middle name! And not just any name would do. It needed to tie her to her people, past, present, and future. It had to be something really meaningful. One thing I knew about her family and past was that her father had been the head of the history department at the local university and had taught ancient history. He particularly loved ancient Greek history. How could I use this to choose the right middle name for her? 

Quick, back to the baby name book. Weirdly, I opened the book to the girl “G” names, and a short way down the page I found the name Gaia. Do you have any idea what that name means? Earth. It means, earth.


Defender of mankind of Earth. Done.

Now, what about her hero? He was an alien, so an argument could be made that I could just make up a name and attach my own meaning to it, but that didn’t feel right. (Although, in a moment of frustration I did do exactly this for a minor character in Salvation, but that’s another story).

The hero’s ancestors had been the basis of the legends of Atlantis. For the sake of my sanity, I decided the aliens interacted first and foremost with the ancient Greeks, but their subtle influence spread throughout Europe including languages, names, and mythologies. One name that caught my attention was Griffin, meaning fierce and warrior, like the mythological griffon. Researching this, I discovered there are griffons throughout many cultures’ histories in Europe and the Middle East.

But, Griffin seemed a little too trendy for my hero. Shortening it to Griff might work, but he was an alien and that spelling was too, well, normal. If I changed the “i” to a “y” and dropped an “f”…yeah. Gryf. That worked.

Of course, he would also need a middle name for that quiet, tender scene. Once again I madly flipped through that baby name book searching for male names of Greek origin. I finally found Dimitri. You'll never believe what that name means. It means: Loves the earth.

Oh. My. Gawd. Is that freaking perfect, or what?

The fierce warrior who loves the earth. Dayum, I’m good. But, once again the spelling needed to be “alien-nized”, and the final result was Dimytro. 

Close enough!

And that’s how Alexandra Gaia Bock and Gryf Dimytro Helyg got their names.

I told you it isn’t simple.

Btw, if you haven't read Prophecy yet, now would be the perfect time to get started. If you have read it, you might want to reread it now to refresh your memory. The release date for the third and final book in the series arcCollisionwill be announced very soon!

A nightmare of galactic proportions…
One normal day turns into horror when Earth is attacked. Now ER nurse Alexandra Bock is imprisoned aboard an alien slave ship with no way out. She deems all aliens untrustworthy, including the handsome blue-skinned Matiran captain who shares her cell.

A betrayal from within…
One night of treachery leaves Senior Captain Gryf Helyg a prisoner of his enemies. Because of him, Earth’s inhabitants face extinction and his home world is threatened. But his plans for escape are complicated by his inexplicable draw to the Earth woman imprisoned with him.

A chance to save both their peoples…
One ancient prophecy holds the key to free Alexandra and Gryf’s war-ravaged worlds. Can two wounded souls who have lost everything learn to trust and forgive in order to fulfill the prophecy, and find a love that will last for eternity?

USA Today Bestselling Author Lea Kirk loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her science fiction romance Prophecy series (Prophecy, All of Me, and Salvation). She’s made one foray into paranormal with her Kindle World vampire novella, Made for Her. Currently she is working on book three of the series, Collision, which will be released later this year

When she not busy writing, she’s hanging out with her wonderful hubby of twenty-eight years, their five kids (aka, the nerd herd), and a spoiled Dobie mix pup. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Work is writing by Barbara Edwards

 I need a subplot. A nice ghost is appropriate I think. I don’t want to talk about the story I have in the works. I don’t like to go into depth because I’ve found it dries up my juices. 

So I need a ghost. but what kind? 

To fit the story it needs to be gentle. No screaming in the middle of the night. No throwing items at the hero. No shivers or chills, well maybe some. After all a ghost should affect the people around it.

So I’m leaning toward a girlish laugh when no-one is there. A touch from a cold slender hand. I want the reader to wonder why this ghost is haunting this place. I don’t want any of the obvious reasons. No young female died here. No missing persons from this house. 

So why is she here? Oh, I already know but I’m not going to tell you yet. I need to build the story to support her presence. 

I can picture her. A sweet smile, slender, youthful, and energetic. She runs through the house, plays under the trees and in the garden. 

My hero doesn’t believe in ghosts and the house has no history of haunting. So what has my hero uncovered?

I have to keep working on this story. She’s got me hooked.

So back to the keyboard.

 Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.
Amazon Author’s Page

Friday, April 27, 2018

Write your Way out of the Corner by L. A. Kelley

You’re cruising along nicely, enjoying the literary scenery; characters jell, plots flow smoothly, descriptions create the mood of the proper time and place. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, you swerve. Ideas fall part and that engrossing manuscript that flowed along so neatly is now one hot mess. Don’t throw out your fictional baby with the literary bathwater. You’ve only reached a snag on the road to publication. Sometimes coming to a dead stop is necessary to get thoughts in order. In general, weakness occur in two places; character or plot issues. One method to get back on track is called the W5. It asks basic questions about character and plot and can help guide your thoughts.

Character Issues

If you want to round out your hero or heroine (H/H) consider how they interact with others. Who is directly affected by their actions? Only the H/H? What about friends? Family Members? Are they really important to the story or just window dressing? If they don’t advance the plot, what good are they? Too many clutter a plot and slow down the action. Secondary characters should have a specific purpose (so should the H/H.) If Joe the Coffee Shop guy’s only function is to give the heroine her cup of coffee in the morning than delete Joe the Coffee Shop guy and have her brew her own.

Are you clear on the strengths and weakness of the H/H? Every human has both, and both should appear somewhere in the story or else you have a caricature and not a person. How do these strength or weaknesses help the H/H agenda and move the plot along. How do they hinder? Who makes the decisions in the story? If one character is always leading, then the others are probably too weak and ineffective. 

Where is the most tension between the main characters? Is it a personality conflict or conflict of ideals?  How can they be resolved? Should one convince the other or is a combination of both the best pathway to success. Can the H/H get help from others? Do these characters have an alternate function or are they only there to feed information to the H/H? If so, they may not be important and the information they distribute can be found in another way.

Plot Issues

What is both the best and worst case scenario for this story? Think of at least three steps necessary for your H/H to achieve. What is the least and most important one of them? In most stories, the objective is obvious, but if your plot feels a little lackluster consider one alternative or a hidden agenda. This is the way people act in real life. They aren’t ruled by single motives alone.

Is the action well-paced? Will a reader feel rising tension beginning with the first chapter and have a satisfying letdown at the end? Novels don’t have only one climatic point, but a series of smaller ones, some more important than others. They lead up to the denouement or final resolution. Does the H/H take action at the right time? A writer can’t keep a reader on an emotional high throughout an entire novel. There has to be some downtime, too, to flesh out the story. Lastly, when will the H/H know they succeeded? Will it be at the denouement or shortly thereafter with a final resolution?

Have you considered the why of this story? Why must it be told? (“To score a publishing contract” is not the right answer.) The story should be told because it’s enjoyable or enlightening. Have you conveyed to the reader sympathy for the characters so that they care about the resolution? What about the characters? Are the reasons for their actions clear? Are obstacles placed in the path of the story’s resolution or are you merely throwing barriers in the H/H’s way to make the story longer. Each barrier should have a logical reason behind it and a different resolution.

Now you’re back on track. Put on that writing cap and get to work. The story awaits.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. She kills off characters with abandon if they don't mind.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

No Time To Kill by Nancy Gideon

What do we writers desire the most (besides fame, fortune and a self-cleaning house)? Time. Time to write. Time to relax. Time to take care of the business of writing.

I've had time to reconsider that. Be careful what you wish for.

A week after coming back from a fab (read: expensive shopping-wise!) trip to the Tucson Festival of Books and Sedona, my monetary security is rocked by the unexpected news that one of the attorneys in my office has decided to retire . . . in two weeks, and will not be paying any more rent. The rent that pays the salaries for me and our law clerk. Surprise, 30% of my income gone, just like that. Now, mind you, I don't have the luxury of a self-supporting writing career. After the shock and panic wore off (and some, I admit, righteous annoyance at the lack of notice), it was time to hunker down with the calculator and weigh the pros and cons: Time v Cash.

My Coolest Boss Ever and I crunched numbers and possibilities to provide an income I could live with (if not live on). Fridays off without pay was a no brainer. I could do that. Who wouldn't love a three day weekend every weekend? Then our suite neighbor stepped up and offered to take me on for four hours a week to do odds and ends for him. Our law clerk had just decided to go for a double masters next semester and won't have time to clerk, so the situation worked out pretty well in the end.

Now, how to spend that extra 8 hours (actually 10 1/2 without drive and prep time)?

My first Friday off while my grandguy visited over Spring Break I spent in Toys R Us looking for deals (there were none!), pet stores, restaurants, and a bookstore (never say No to a book!). The next, I spent on the couch binge watching movies. A recovery weekend, I justified. The third Friday, I slept in until 5:30 then went straight to the computer, spending the day doing a time line for where the previous book and my WIP overlap AND got in a new chapter written. Last Friday, I wrote way past noon, and it was marvelous.

And this is where I'll spend this Friday . . . 

With the extra day off, I can take advantage of the pre-conference Write-In time from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm before our Mid-Michigan RWA weekend Retreat from Harsh Reality and JUST WRITE! See ya' there, Diane Burton!

Okay, this can work! Just that extra day to pour out on the keyboard picked up my momentum for the rest of the week's pages and posts. My ultimate vision is to write Friday morning and use the afternoon to do writing business i.e. blog posts, gifs for FB/Twitter, excerpts, etc., freeing up the rest of my weekday early morning writing time to just do writing. And Saturday and Sunday - maybe I'll use as an actual weekend days off once in a while. All-in-all, not bad lemonade from that first sour bit of news.

Time is what you make of it, so make the most of it!

What would you do with that extra day?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nancy Gideon on the Web

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Shadow Tailor by Francesca Quarto

Her sister Janice, would be forever getting her five inch nails done. Originally, their plans included a full massage, for both of them, or a body thumping as Bernie called it, to annoy her older sister.
"Bernice," Janice responded with her usual eye-roll. "You have never appreciated the benefits of being pampered."
Bernie, as she always referred to herself, laughed.  "You do enough self-indulging for the both of us."
At eighteen and nineteen, the girls enjoyed their parent's wealth in very different ways. But they still managed to enjoy one another's company on small outings, like this day of shopping in Chicago.  
She left Janice to the cooing women, hovering around her in the salon and wandered across the street.
At first, the busy sidewalks were cluttered, door to door, with chi-chi stores and boutiques. After several long, city-blocks, these eventually thinned out and Bernie began noticing signs for consignment shops and ethnic restaurants and grocers with strange names. 
She turned down a side street, almost an alley really,hoping to find a used book store, with something more interesting than piles of torn jeans to look through. 
 Standing at the end of the block, she looked up, taking her bearings in the strange neighborhood she'd wandered into. 
Swinging in the mild gusts of summer wind Chicago is known for, was an ancient looking wooden sign reading, "The Shadow Tailor".
Bernie looked at it again, mouthing the words as she silently read it again. She walked over to a large front window, peering through the gritty glass. It was dark as night inside.  She figured the shop was closed, but it was only past two and there was no "closed" sign on the door. 
She moved  closer to the window, noticing the sweep of curtains, bunched up to one side.
Just as she was turning away, she caught movement from the corner of her eye.  A candle burst into flame on the other side of the glass, inches from her hovering face  
Not squeamish by nature and having a deep curiosity of the what she called the oddities of life, Bernice, never-the-less, felt an odd tingle of warning flood her body.
"Oh for Pete's sake!" she chided herself, "It's just a candle. People do light them!"
She left the window and stepped over to the door.  Its wood was scarred, pealing red paint was still vivid in places. but faded to a dead rose color, from years of Chicago weather.  
Bernie turned an old fashioned, but elegant brass handle, and was musically accompanied inside, by the soft chimes of bells.
It took several long and uncomfortable seconds for her eyes to adjust to the sudden change in light.  The candle that flared into existence earlier, was sitting atop a fireplace in a corner of a large room.  The candlelight's creamy glow showed off an ornately carved mantle and its surrounding rich wood frame. 
Nearby, Bernie spotted several pieces of over-stuffed furnishings.  Sofas, chairs, settees, all placed in a comfortable semi circle, as if for expected company. Several side tables were scattered around the seating, each holding a delicate looking tea cups and saucers, small spoons placed beside each of them. In the center of the grouping, a low coffee table was set with a lovely sterling tea service and a tiered silver pastry dish, with fresh smelling scones arranged temptingly.
In spite herself, Bernie felt her mouth water.  Then she realized she'd missed lunch a few hours ago.
"Hello.  Anyone about?"
Bernie tried to keep her voice cheery and friendly, not wanting to startle the shop owner, or staff, when they came into the dimly lit room to find her standing there.
Bernie's greeting was lost in such a complete a stillness, that it seemed to weigh down even the sound of her voice. Not wanting to stand like a fool, yelling out to an apparently empty store, Bernie turned to leave.  She grabbed the brass handle, immediately feeling a searing cold, bite her fingers.
She jumped back, a stinging sensation traveling through her hand and up her arm.  She was too stunned by the sudden pain to think about its source.  With her hand tucked under her arm pit for warmth, she studied the handle.  About to try it again, she froze when a deep male voice sliced through the silence like a sharp knife through Kobe Steak.
"I wouldn't do that again, unless you enjoy pain, but then I don't know you enough yet to answer that."
Stepping out of the shadows in a corner of the shop and into the candle's waving light, stood the most handsome man Bernie had ever seen.  
His hair was a glossy, black mass of curls, long enough to brush his collar.  His features looked carved from unblemished marble, patrician in elegance and undoubtedly self-assured.
Bernie was so enthralled with his perfection,she didn't focus on his warning.  She stood entranced as he moved closer to her, stopping next to a sofa.  
She recalled herself enough to see his clothes were all vintage late eighteen hundred's.  They were pristine in every perfect stitch and the cut of his suite was perfection.  His broad shoulders were enhanced by the careful attention of the tailor, capturing the easy flow of his body's movements.
"I'm so sorry to have disturbed you," Bernie said softly. "I thought you were a shop when I read your sign outside.  "Shadow Tailor" is quite an unusual name."
"Please, forgive my rudeness, Miss.  Would you care to sit for a few minutes and I'll be happy to tell you about my ...special shop."
Bernie didn't know how, but suddenly she found herself seated on the sofa next to the gorgeous man.  She gave her head a small shake, trying to clear the feeling that this guy had somehow influenced her usual clear-headed pragmatism. That levelheadedness would have told her to leave and fast! 
Her mind was racing while her heart was pounding like a kettle drum at the stranger's nearness.  She swore she could feel his body heat.
Wait, that's not heat I feel.  It's cold, like from the door handle. She shivered.
Bernie heard the delicate clinking of a spoon on a cup and saw that the man had carefully poured a single cup of tea.
"I think you'll find this to your liking and most relaxing dear lady,"
Without hesitating, Bernie reached for the steaming cup and with their eyes locked in a probing stare, she began to sip. 
She had taken a small drink, but the steam rose thick and fragrantly around her face and head. 
"I've never tasted anything as wonderful in my life," she declared in a voice that sounded dreamy and far away.
"What is.. this tea.. called?" she said as the china cup slipped from her hand. It silently fell to an ancient Persian rug that was stained by countless other visitors.
"Why, I must admit to a small vanity, my dear.  I call it Immortal."
Bernie was blinking furiously, trying to keep her eyes open and focused.  She used all her will power to stand on wobbly legs, moving slightly away from the sofa and the handsome man.  He stood, watching her struggle.  A leering look transformed his face as his tongue darted out to lick his full lips.
"I thought you were..a sign...said...Tailor."
"Indeed, I am quite adapt at taking the raw material that wanders into my shop and altering them into the many shadows I feed from over many long, painful nights.  Yes, they do become mere shadows of their former selves, but after awhile,they do stop screaming."

Friday, April 20, 2018

Draw from Real Life...Create Something New

I am what I call a visual writer. I see the book unfold in my mind like watching a movie. This is particularly true when it comes to write the action scenes. Not being a fighter myself, I find with those, it helps to actually see videos. Watching the action in progress helps me describe it on the page.

This is fairly easy if I'm writing a scene where the characters are human. Whether they are fighting using a type of martial art, or using weapons, YouTube becomes my best friend, because it has videos of all that. But what does a writer like me do when the scene is more fantastical. For example, my current WIP involves dragon shifters. The fight scenes in these books is dragon on dragon fighting, mostly in the air, but also partly on the ground.

What's a girl to do when she needs some visuals to inspire her?

I started with movies. Believe it or not, there are only a handful of movies or shows with more than one dragon. And even fewer where the dragons are fighting each other. (And I don't have time to wait for Game of Thrones to get to that point.) The best I found was Eragon which is technically dragon (with rider) vs. shadow dragon (with rider), but it helped.

However, one short scene only helps so much (I'm writing 8 books here), and when I watch these videos I don't write everything I'm seeing because those scenes are specific to those stories. Instead, I pick out individual moves or maneuvers that fit my characters, the terrain, the situation, etc., and piece together my own unique fight scene.

So if the obvious isn't the answer, move on to the not as obvious (but sometimes cooler)...

In this case, I decided to draw from real life. What fights in the air in real life? Birds. So, I started looking up nature videos where birds are fighting midair or attacking something on the ground. With that small change in focus, I found was exactly what I needed.  Lots of it, in fact!


I still have to pull out bits and pieces from each video to put together an entire fight scene. Maybe the spiraling tug-of-war from the video above. Maybe the way an eagle turns his head before flipping over to face an oncoming falcon. Maybe what a massive golden eagle does when attacking a mountain goat. But the point is, I now have a lot more fodder for my visual brain to engage with.

I write paranormal to escape, to not be confined by the bounds of this world and be able to let my imagination run free. The irony is not lost on me that this world is still informing my fantasy world at very in depth levels. It makes me stop and appreciate the beauty and majesty we can find right here. No imagination needed.

Hey writers... What do you use to help you write scenes with no basis in this world? What else would you think of as a real-life example for dragons fighting each other?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Finding Time to Write When You Have No Time by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

These days, most people have jobs, even if they’re writers (or perhaps especially if they’re writers), except of course for those Stephen King and Nora Roberts types among us. That means we have to “find time” to write.  We have to juggle our schedules and once we have the time to write, perhaps we are too tired, or uninspired to write anyway. So what’s the solution? For many of us, it’s habit and preparation.

Everyone wastes at least 30 minutes in a single day, watching TV, or doing something unnecessary. Make that 30 minutes work for you. Find time to write at a time and in a place that’s right for you. If you’re a morning person, get up ½ hour earlier, before anyone else, and write then. If you’re a night owl, use ½ hour in the evening to write. The point here is to write when your brain is “up for it,” and to get into the habit of doing it every single day, getting yourself into the habit of writing.

Easier said than done? Maybe, but it sure isn’t hard for us to quickly establish bad habits. Why not make a little more effort to create a good one?

That brings us to the where of writing. You need a ‘space’ for your creative endeavors. It doesn’t need to be a fancy, single-purpose office, but it should be cleared of clutter ‘space’ where you can feel comfortable and be relatively uninterrupted—which probably means your significant other or children should know this is time for you to work and you will be with them shortly. Unless they are on fire or the house is about to blow up, they should learn to leave you alone.

Speaking of being alone, be sure you are. Turn off your phone and the TV. It’s fine to have some mood music, if it helps you get your creative juices flowing, but anything that interferes with your writing has to go.

If you need a little prep to rev up your muse, choose some special music tracks that help you get into the mood of whatever genre you’re working on. Get your coffee, tea, water, or other beverage, a snack if it helps you think (and celery is every bit as fun to munch as licorice when you’re not really thinking about what’s going into your mouth), so you won’t have to stop once you get flowing.

Once you’ve begun to establish a habit of writing every day, challenge yourself. If you’re a goal setter, give yourself a word count to strive toward (perhaps not as daunting as NANO), but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always reach it. It’s just that more exciting when you do. Keep it reasonable so you can reach it, too.

Yeah, you’ve done it, you’ve become a writer. Just be careful not to become your own worst critic! Allow yourself to brainstorm, to free write, to let your ideas flow. You will find some beautiful flowers among the weeds.

I hope this helps! Write on!

Friday, April 13, 2018

World Building: Medicine by Diane Burton

A couple of years ago, I did a series of world building posts that concentrated on different aspects of the world building we do in our stories. We all build the “worlds” our characters inhabit. Sometimes we call it “setting” instead of world building. Whatever we call it, we develop the conditions surrounding our characters. Today, I’m concentrating on medicine of the future.

In my science fiction romance, The Pilot (An Outer Rime Novel), a medi-healer is used to cure the hero’s infection. In my world, the handheld device is too expensive for a cargo pilot (the heroine) to own. But her brother, who works for a galactic gangster, has one. He waved the device over the patient. It diagnosed and cured. A medi-healer would’ve come in handy for me two weeks ago.

This has been a bad winter health-wise for many people. Influenza that the flu shots didn’t prevent. People in hospitals, even dying. I counted my self lucky that when Hubs and other members of the family got sick I didn’t. My luck ran out right before Easter. I woke up coughing. Okay, a cold finally hit. So I thought. If I’d had a handy-dandy medical tricorder, like Star Trek’s Doctor McCoy, it would’ve told me I had pneumonia. In a scenario from The Pilot, a medi-healer would’ve diagnosed then cured. All with a wave of the device. No going to Urgent Care, no x-rays, no courses of antibiotics—one to cure pneumonia and a second course to take care of a subsequent sinus/ear infection.

That got me thinking about what else would the future hold in the medical field. In The Pilot, my character used a hover board to carry a patient to the medical center. It rises above the ground on a steady stream of air and is guided by one person. Remember the scene in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back when Han, encased in carbonite, is guided to the bounty hunter’s ship?

Creating a cyborg isn’t the future. It’s here now. Artificial joints are common. I have two titanium knees, and I know people who’ve had hip and shoulder replacements. Mechanical hands that function like real ones by being connected to the brain. The “Six Million Dollar Man” was fantasy back in 1974. Today, the severely injured can now be “rebuilt” with artificial arms and legs.

In Greta van der Rol’s Iron Admiral series, humans are fitted with neuro implants that allow them to speak without words. They can access data ports using their implants, no typing necessary, and store the info until it can be downloaded. Fiction? As his ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) advanced, Stephen Hawking, the physicist and cosmologist who just passed away, was unable to speak. Using a speech-generating device (SGD), he was able to communicate using a single cheek muscle. SGDs are used by many people for whom speech is impossible or difficult.

What else is coming in the medical field? Organ transplanting isn’t new. Creating an organ, like a kidney, using a 3-D printer is a real possibility. Curing diseases using a cell instead of a pill. Surgery using ultrasound instead of a knife. A vaccine patch instead of an injections. Robots doing surgery.

Nanobots, microscopic machines, could carry medicine to certain parts of the body to heal diseased parts or destroy (cancer cells) on a molecular level. In science fiction, nanobots are commonly used. Yet the thought of tiny robots running around through my blood stream is kind of creepy. If nanobots could destroy cancer cells without the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation, I’d take the nanobots.

What other fantastical medical advances are possible?

The Pilot (An Outer Rim Novel) blurb:

Sparks fly around the Outer Rim when rule-bound Administrator Trevarr Jovano clashes with free-spirited space pilot Celara d'Enfaden. She must deliver her cargo or lose her ship to a loanshark. Having lost her last shipment to pirates masquerading as Coalition Inspectors, Celara refuses to be duped again. Determined to make an example of those who flaunt the law, Trevarr seizes her ship. Yet, they must work together to rescue her brother and find his wife's murderer.

The Pilot (An Outer Rim Novel) is available at:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Left Coast Crime Fangirl

By Sandy Wright

I’m home from the Reno West Coast Crime conference. In addition to hosting a paranormal suspense panel, I attended excellent workshops and met a bunch of interesting new authors.

I always like to read authors I’ve met personally, talked with or listened to on author panels. It makes their stories resonate more deeply, to know something about the author.

I became interested in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series after hearing her speak about how she decided to write that series. And her presentation on the decisions she and the filming crew made when the books were adapted for the Starz series pointed out the difficulty of cutting a six- hundred-page novel into 60 -minute episodes for the Starz mini-series.

At the first writers’ conference I ever attended, Lisa Gardner, the guest speaker, told us about sneaking out of the house and driving downtown to interview prostitutes for one of her first books, Say Goodbye.  Now I’ve read more than a dozen of her novels.

At that same conference, a handsome ex-lawyer I’d never heard of, Bob Dugoni, congratulated me on winning first place in the conference’s unpublished writer contest that year. He was so nice, I picked up one of his books and read it on the plane ride home. It was really, really good. Now, everyone who reads suspense knows his name.

So, I attended Left Coast Crime this year, not just as an author, but also as a reader…a reader with an eye out to discover some new favorite authors. Some of them have just written their debut novel. Others are only new to me. I tried to make some type of personal connection with each writer on this list.

Please, take a look, and give some books I’ve listed a try, if you like suspense or crime fiction. Or, check out the whole gallery of titles for each author at your bookseller of choice.

Good reading!

      Todd Borg - Tahoe Blowup. When Tahoe detective Owen McKenna’s cabin narrowly escapes burning in an arson-set forest fire, the local fire department hires him to investigate. As more fires follow and people die, Owen can’t tell if the fires are an act of eco-terrorism or a method of murder. Why I’m reading – The author has a large series (15 books to date). Several of his plots interest me. He was nominated for a Lefty for Best Mystery. Plus, the detective has a Great Dane for a sidekick. (This title is book #2 in the series).                                                                                                                                                                                       
      Steven Cooper – Desert Remains.  A literature-loving homicide detective and a reluctant psychic stalk a psychopath who signs his gruesome crime tableaux with petroglyphs in the Arizona desert. An ingenious and promising series debut. Why I’m readingSteven and Shannon Baker were both so knowledgeable on a panel about law enforcement research. Cooper is a former TV reporter with multiple Emmys. The stuff he said about research made a lot of sense. Plus, his new novel is set in Phoenix, so I get to test those research skills.   


   . Howard Michael Gould – Last Looks - This book is touted as a new spin on a Hollywood P.I. mystery. With a blend of humor and suspense that calls to mind Harlan Coben and Robert Crais, Howard Michael Gould brings to life the quirky Charlie Waldo, a former cop confined to 100 worldly possessions and the claustrophobia of his own guilt over a former case gone bad. His journey back to the world is a ride well worth taking. Why I’m reading – My roommate Sharon Moore and I both met Howard the first night in the Lobby Bar and we found him delightful. You know how you feel when someone talks with you and listens, I mean, really listens? That’s Howard. His pedigreed background is Madison Avenue, where he won three Clios, and he was the executive producer and head writer on the TV show Cybill when it won the Golden Globe for best comedy series. I’m hoping his move to novels will be just as golden. It’s slated for publication in August.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
    Timothy Halliman – A Nail Through the Heart - American travel writer Poke Rafferty is out to right some serious wrongs on the predatory streets of Bangkok. While attempting to adopt a homeless girl, rescue a potentially murderous urchin known as Superman, and build a lasting relationship with the former bar girl he loves, Poke is pulled into two brutal mysteries. One involves a notorious Khmer Rouge torturer, the other a series of child-porn photos.

 As he doggedly plumbs these ghastly depths, Rafferty matures from a play-it-as-it-lays layabout into a man willing to meet his lover's culture more than halfway and find his moral compass at a time when the victims can be as guilty as the murderers are innocent. The fact that the referenced pedophile photo series and Phnom Penh torture house both existed heightens the impact of a narrative that's already deeply felt. Hallinan is off to a surefooted start with this new series. Why I’m reading –Halliman is a veteran writer who happens to be new to me. I attended both of his panels and, when he described his characters in the Taking Emotional Risks panel, it was easy to see this man cares deeply about his characters. He writes 2 series. When I asked him, after the panel, which book to read first if I love character-driven suspense, he recommended this first book of his Bangkok series.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
     Cheryl Reed –Poison Girls - It’s the summer of 2008. Chicago’s Hyde Park Senator is running for the White House, the city is vying to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and “Poison,” a lethal form of heroin, has killed more than 250 people, including dozens of suburban girls from prominent families.

Natalie Delaney, a crime reporter from the Chicago Times, discovers that daughters of Democratic powerhouses are the real targets. Obsessed with finding who is behind the killings, Natalie becomes entangled in an underworld where drugs, cops, gangs, politics, and privilege collide. Risking everything, this reporter becomes the story…
Why I’m reading- Cheryl is a former editor and reporter at the Chicago Sun Times, a professor at Syracuse University, and a journalism grad from U of Missouri, my alma mater. Her past is so full of excitement and awards, I’m willing to give her debut fiction novel a try—and it’s a plot that could have been ripped from today’s headlines. 

          Wendall Thomas - Lost Luggage by Wendall Thomas - Cyd Redondo, a Brooklyn travel agent who specializes in senior citizens, has never ventured farther than New Jersey. Until her Travel Agents' Convention fling, Roger Claymore, leaves her weak in the knees-and everywhere else-then sneaks out of her Atlantic City hotel room at three a.m.

Back in Brooklyn, when she reads about smugglers stopped at JFK with skinks in their socks or monkeys down their pants, she never imagines she will join their ranks. But days after the pet store owner next door to Redondo Travel is poisoned, Cyd wins a free safari. Her boss, Uncle Ray, wants to cash it in for computers, but Cyd is determined to go. When Roger turns up at the Redondo clan's door, Cyd invites him along as her "plus one." And just like that she is thrown heels-first into the bizarre and sinister world of international animal smuggling. Why I’m reading: This screen-writer turned author’s debut novel sounds like a hoot. Readers have described it as the travel agency business’ equivalent to bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.                                                                                                                                                                                 
  Mark Wheaton- Fields of Wrath - Following his ordination as a priest, Father Luis Chavez returns to the mean streets of his youth, hoping to put his past behind him. But the brutal murder of a worker in Ventura County’s vast farm fields compels Luis to return to his criminal roots in order to unravel a massive conspiracy. Teaming up with Michael Story, an ambitious Los Angeles deputy DA, Chavez goes undercover as a farm laborer to bring down an immense human-trafficking ring tied to one of California’s most prominent and powerful families.
Fighting to stay on the path of the righteous while confronting evil at every turn, Father Chavez finds himself in a battle of good versus evil, with the souls of hundreds hanging in the balance. Why I’m reading – A Priest who infiltrates a human-trafficking ring caught my interest. Plus, I have human trafficking in my work-in-progress, so it will be interesting to compare.                                                                                                                                                        

       James (Jim) Ziskin - Stix and Stones - "If you were a man, you’d make a good detective.”

Ellie is sure that Sgt. McKeever meant that as a compliment, but that identity-a girl wanting to do a man's job-has throttled her for too long. It's 1960, and Ellie doesn't want to blaze any trails for women; she just wants to be a reporter, one who doesn't need to swat hands off her behind at every turn.

Adrift in her career, Ellie is back in New York City after receiving news that her estranged father, a renowned Dante scholar and distinguished professor, is near death after a savage bludgeoning in his home. The police suspect a routine burglary, but Ellie has her doubts. When a second attempt is made on her father's life, in the form of an "accident" in the hospital's ICU, Ellie's suspicions are confirmed.

Then another professor turns up dead, and Ellie's investigation turns to her father's university colleagues. She embarks on a thorny journey of discovery and reconciliation, as she pursues an investigation that offers her both a chance at redemption in her father's eyes, and the risk of losing him forever.
Why I’m reading – First, every book of Ziskin’s has an intriguing premise. Second, the man has won almost every suspense award out there, and his latest novel was nominated for Lefty’s Best Novel award. Third, he was friendly and open and not at all “lofty” at the conference, despite being one of the best-known authors at the conference. Based on his recommendation, I’m starting at the beginning of his series.

Sandy Wright loves to take ordinary characters and thrust them into extraordinary situations.
In her debut novel, Song of the Ancients, a Midwestern woman moves west for a fresh start. Instead, she becomes the prey in an ancient war to open an underworld portal buried in Sedona, Arizona's magical red rocks.
Readers interested in the dark side of our supernatural world will enjoy of this paranormal suspense series, written by a real-life Wiccan high priestess.
And look for Sandy’s new suspense, Crescent Moon Crossing, to be released in 2018.