Crashed by Timothy Hallinan

CrashedCrashed

Timothy Hallinan

Soho Crime, 2012, 356 Pages

ISBN No. 978-1616952747

Reviewed by Patricia E. ReidTimothy_Hallinan_1

Junior Bender is a burglar but he has some rather unique ways of approaching his jobs.  Some of his methods will have you rolling on the floor laughing but they seem to work for him – at least most of the time.  There are a few moments when the reader wonders if Junior will survive to steal another day.

An LA crime boss is producing a porn movie starring Thistle Downing. Thistle is a former child star who was loved by her fans but time has taken a toll on Thistle and she is currently living in a drug-induced stupor, destitute and uninsurable.  The movie would bring income to Thistle but would only send her further down her current path of destruction.

Junior is blackmailed into accepting the free-lance job of finding out who is sabotaging this movie.  His job is to keep the movie on track. The problem Junior is running into is that he likes Thistle and knows the movie is not the best thing for her even though she needs the money.  Junior sets out to fulfill his obligation but at the same time do right by Thistle and this isn’t an easy thing to do.  Junior has some very interesting friends who lend a helping hand  along the way.

I want to read more and more about Junior.  He is a character that is full of charm and certainly has some interesting escapades.   Crashed is written in a totally different style from the Bangkok series.  This novel proves that Timothy Hallinan can entertain us with more than one type of novel and I for one want to read everything he writes.

Yes! We Need Beta Readers by Kate Gallison

Kate Gallison You’ve worked through the last thrilling climax. You’ve typed, “THE END.” You’ve put your opus away for a couple of weeks and thought about something else. You’ve pulled it out again, read it through, shouted, “OMG, this really sucks,” fixed all the problems you noticed, and pronounced it cured. Perfected. Ready for prime time.

Now what?

Do you give in to your itch to fire it off to your agent? Or, having no agent, to fire off queries to a list of prospective agents, promising them a completed manuscript? Or, scorning the traditional publishing route, offer it to your eager public as an e-book, with no further tweaking?

No. Ten out of ten successful writers advise against this. You must give it to at least one friend or acquaintance, three would be better, people who normally read, and best of all who read in your genre. Otherwise you risk going out the door with literary spinach on your teeth.

What are they supposed to tell you about your book, other than that it’s great, riveting and compelling, absolutely the best thing they’ve read all year? (They are, after all, your friends. Otherwise you’d have to pay them to read it.)

First of all, your beta reader is not for doing line-editing or correcting your grammar and spelling. If you can’t spell or parse an English sentence by this time, you should probably take up the accordion. What you want to ask your beta readers to do is make note of any egregious howlers they may notice and any questions that arise in their minds about your book. Perhaps you have placed Seattle on the shores of Lake Michigan. Perhaps you have changed the heroine’s hair and eye color between Chapter Three and Chapter Four.  Perhaps some parts seem to lack energy, are in fact stupefyingly boring. Perhaps you have left gaping plot holes.

We get very close to our work, sometimes so close that it’s hard for us to see obvious things. We change things, too, as we go along, and we don’t always readjust the other things that are affected by our changes. Some of us have verbal tics that need pointing out. I once read an otherwise excellent suspense novel in which the author wrote, “He nodded,” and “She nodded,” something like five thousand and seventy-two times in the course of the book. By the hundredth instance I began to be irritated. When at last the writer said, “It was his turn to nod,” I cried, “No! No, it isn’t! Everybody stop nodding, already!” Unfortunately I wasn’t a beta reader. The EdgeofRuinCover 300x453thing was already in print.

Luckily I had beta readers for THE EDGE OF RUIN who pointed out to me that they could see no reason why the murderer committed the second murder. I was able to fix that before it went out. Plot holes are my personal weakness. If you know what yours are, you can get your beta readers to watch out for them. Then, when your book goes out the door, it will be the very best it can be.

Kate Gallison

Need a laugh today?

The Annual Bulwer-Lytton winners are always good for a laugh! Here are some of my personal favorites from the 2012 winners’ list. Be sure to go check them all out!

“Your eyes are like deep blue pools that I would like to drown in,” he had told Kimberly when she had asked him what he was thinking; but what he was actually thinking was that sometimes when he recharges his phone he forgets to put the little plug back in but he wasn’t going to tell her that. — Dan Leyde, Edmonds, WA

Corinne considered the colors (palest green, gray and lavender) and texture (downy as the finest velvet) and wondered, “How long have these cold cuts been in my refrigerator?” — Linda Boatright, Omaha, NE

The stifling atmosphere inside the Pink Dolphin Bar in the upper Amazon Basin carried barely enough oxygen for a man to survive – humid and thick the air was and full of little flying bugs, making the simple act of breathing like trying to suck hot Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup through a paper straw. — Greg Homer, Placerville, CA

As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta’s face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows. — David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

The syncopated sound of the single-cylinder steam motor, designed by Mier Vander, reminded Mier of the time his father took him to the Mollen Bros travelling circus to see the “Corpulent Lady” and to sit upon her lap immediately following her lunch of sauerbraten and ale. — Jim Tierney, Murrieta, CA

Her fixed gaze at dinner reminded him so much of an owl that he found himself wondering when she would regurgitate her meal into a pellet and told the waitress they didn’t need a dessert menu. — Leah Sitkoff, New York, New York

Her skin was like flocked wallpaper and her eyes had seen better days, but when her bloodless lips murmured “Hi, Sailor,” my heart melted from the inside out like one of those chocolate-covered ice cream bars on a summer day that runs down your arm and gets all over your new shirt. — James Macdonald, Vancouver, B.C

Many years have passed since the events related here, but I remember them almost as well as if I had really been there, because I think about them frequently, turning them over and over in my mind, changing the facts to make me into more of a hero than I actually might have been, had I been there to do half the things I claim I did. — Thor F. Carden, Madison, TN

He got down from his horse, which seemed strange to him as he had always believed that you got down from a duck or a goose. — Terry L. Johnson, Tularosa, NM

Milton’s quest for the love of Ms. Bradley was a risk but no sorry trivial pursuit yet he hadn’t a clue why she had a monopoly on his heart’s desires – in fact, it boggled his mind and caused him great aggravation because, in his checkered and troubled careers, he had always scrabbled hard and it drove him bonkers that she considered life just a game. — Linda Boatright, Omaha, NE

As I gardened, gazing towards the autumnal sky, I longed to run my finger through the trail of mucus left by a single speckled slug – innocuously thrusting past my rhododendrons – and in feeling that warm slime, be swept back to planet Alderon, back into the tentacles of the alien who loved me. — Mary E. Patrick, Lake City, SC

Tucked in a dim corner of The Ample Bounty Bar & Grille, Alice welcomed the fervent touch of the mysterious stranger’s experienced hands because she had not been this close with a man in an achingly long time and, quivering breathlessly, began to think that this could be the beginning of something real, something forever, and not just a one-time encounter with a good Samaritan who was skilled at the Heimlich Maneuver. — Mark Wisnewski, Flanders, NJ

Haley’s crystal eyes surveyed the vista that stretched in front of her like a vast comforter tossed over the form of a slumbering giant to the hills that arose abruptly like the hastily drawn up knees of the giant when he has to reach down and rub the cramp out of his foot that he experiences when he’s stretching underneath his vast comforter. — Robin Siepel, Bakersfield, CA

Wrong Hill To Die On by Donis Casey

Wrong-Hill-to-Die-on-Casey-Donis-9781470817558Wrong Hill To Die On

Donis Casey

Poisoned Pen Press, 2012, 250 Pages

ISBN No. 978-1464200465

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Donis Casey

Donis Casey

In 1916 Alafair and Shaw Tucker’s ten year-old daughter Blanche is suffering from a disease of the lungs.  No matter what Alafair or the doctors tried Blanche did not improve.  Alafair’s youngest sister Elizabeth lives in Tempe, Arizona.  Alafair cannot pass up the opportunity to see if the dry air will cure Blanche’s health problems while visiting her sister.  Shaw decides that the older children are capable of handling the farm and all the responsibilities while he accompanies his wife and daughter on their trip.

Blanche begins improving almost immediately when they arrive in Arizona.  Elizabeth is married to a lawyer and has a six-year-old son Chase.  Chase is a terror and Elizabeth seems to have no control over him whatsoever.

Elizabeth plans a welcome party for Alafair and Shaw.  The Tucker’s are introduced to Elizabeth’s neighbors and friends.  The party is okay, but Alafair soon realizes that all is not well with her sister.  Elizabeth’s marriage does not appear to be in the best of shape, the community is talking constantly of Pancho Villa’s raids, and tensions are high between the Anglo and Latino communities.

The morning after the party Alafair discovers a body in a ditch.  Most of the community knows the victim but no one knows or will admit to knowing the reason for his murder.  Alafair’s detective instinct moves into high gear and in spite of warnings from Shaw she immediately begins her own investigation.  The fact that there is a movie company from Hollywood in Tempe making a film adds another element to the puzzles Alafair is trying to solve.

Wrong Hill to Die On is a great addition to the Alafair Tucker series.  It is not necessary to read the previous books to enjoy this current novel.

Working With What You’ve Got: How To Promote Yourself Naturally

Natalie Buske Thomas and Cassandra Thomas discuss using natural talents to promote yourself and your business.

Natalie Buske Thomas

Natalie Buske Thomas

Natalie: I gave it my best shot, but I discovered that I’m not a natural blogger. I’ve never been

good at sticking with journals. I remember the pure joy of receiving my first diary. It had a pretty picture on the cover and it came with a tiny padlock and key. I was so excited! I named my diary Taffy. She would be my friend and I’d write in her pages every day! My nine year old self kept up with that pledge for less than a week.

Sadly, my adult self never took to journaling either. So when I read one article after another about how one “must” blog as a part of a successful marketing plan I felt nothing but despair. What would I blog about? I didn’t enjoy reading blogs, let alone writing them. I simply couldn’t see the point of it. I gave it a good try, in fits and starts. My career as a blogger ended the same way poor Taffy did – within a week I had forgotten all about my blog.

Today my blog serves as an announcement board for all the other things I do to promote myself, things I am naturally interested in. And unlike the dismal failure of my blog, the things I’m naturally interested in work! For example, my “Does your pet have what it takes to be in a mystery novel?” pet contest has been popular from day one. The animal photos are wonderful and their stories make me happy. Their human owners are campaigning for their pets by sharing my website on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The winner will be decided by the highest number of votes.

I’m promoting myself by doing what comes naturally to me: bringing people together. I’ve always loved organizing events – anything from a small open house party to a live show involving hundreds of people. Staging interactive events plays to my natural interests and talents, whereas blogging, while it works so well for many people, has never worked well for me. Ironically, ever since I quit blogging I get asked to write guest blog articles for others! This is a good fit for me because it is interactive: someone contacts me to write the article and because I’m a guest, there is usually feedback of some kind. Also, unlike my own blog, there is no commitment to keep doing it.

Other examples of how I promote myself naturally:

- I’m also an oil painter. I realized that I should be painting my own book covers. Posting the progress of my paintings gives me Covert_Coffee_Cover_for_Kindlesomething to share and interact with my fan base.

- When I couldn’t combine my talents or interests in an obvious way (like painting the book covers) I found other ways to draw upon what comes naturally to me. I gave my fictional characters some of my own interests. This allows me to wrap my interests into the promotion of my books. Even something as simple as a love of flower gardens has opened the door for promotion. I have a Pinterest board for gardening, and now that a garden scene has been written into my latest mystery Covert Coffee, I can promote the novel when I share my flower photos and indoor gardening tips.

- I also enjoy meeting new people, celebrities, and going behind-the-scenes at shows. When I did a recent author interview I told radio talk show host Bob Krejcarek about how I sometimes ask my friends if they would like to be a character in my Serena Wilcox mysteries. Bob volunteered himself (live on air!) to be a fictional character in my next mystery, Bluebird Flown. It was a fun moment, and I’ve already written him into my work in progress. A few weeks later I saw America’s Got Talent semi-finalist Eric Dittelman’s show at my daughter’s college. Afterward, I was able to talk with him for a few minutes and I asked him if he would be willing to be a celebrity character too. He agreed. It’s been an absolute blast writing Bob and Eric into Bluebird Flown.

Cassandra: I use Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter and other social media to promote my work, but I too find that promoting myself

Cassandra Thomas

Cassandra Thomas

naturally is less stressful, more effective, and even fun.

- I collaborate with my mother (Natalie) on “Dramatic Mom“, a cartoon series written by my mother and drawn by me. My talent for drawing cartoons makes this an enjoyable and natural side project for me to promote my graphic novels. Since “Dramatic Mom” is about our real life family, it’s also a way for fans of my work to get to know me better. Also, working with my mom is a way for us to help each other. Focusing on partnering with someone else can take the focus off of self-promotion.

- I enjoy knitting and crocheting. My first project I used for promoting my graphic novels was a crocheted doll of one of my characters. I set the doll on my display table at a convention to draw attention to my display. Currently I’m creating clothing designs based on the clothing and accessories that my characters wear in my comics.

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- I don’t get nervous public speaking, so I am comfortable giving live drawing demonstrations in front of an audience. I can record these demonstrations and maximize their promotional value by sharing them online as well.

Natalie: Working with what you’ve got is a genuine and enjoyable experience, and isn’t that what life is all about?

Things every author should know

PJ Nunn

PJ Nunn

In its truest definition, only one book ever written –  past, present or future –  can be the best book of all time. Odds are yours probably isn’t the one. Your promotion efforts will be more readily received when you understand that.

Effective communication in whatever form involves a two way exchange of information. Words are only effective when comprehension is involved. So writing and promotion are most effective when you know your audience. Research and feedback matter.

A writer who never reads what someone else writes is like a chef who never eats what someone else cooks. Where’s the point of comparison that challenges you to grow and improve?

If you only write when the muse strikes, isn’t that similar to only eating when you want to eat? And if that’s true, is it possible the end results are similar? Either scrawny and weak or overfed and out of shape? Knowledge and discipline, when consistently applied, can change anything for the better.

Much of the chatter on internet social media, even in writing groups, is repetitive parroting and often incorrect or incomplete. Take time to know the source and do due diligence before accepting advice – however popular it might be – and implementing it.

It’s unlikely that any publisher will ever do more to promote your books than you will.

No author is spontaneously clever all the time. Trust me, even with practice some never get there.

There are more people on the internet who are aware of what you say and do than you know. Be careful what discussions you take part in and what you allow your name to be associated with.

A single drop of water falling on a rock soon evaporates and leaves no trace.  The same is true for several drops in a short period of time. But the subtle, consistent dripping of drops over an extended period of time begins to make a mark that becomes permanent. Think of effective book promotion like that. Don’t go for the flash in the pan that won’t be remembered, but the slow-and-steady effort that etches your name in the minds of those who see it often enough.

The Good, The Bad and The Murderous by Chester Campbell

Good,%20Bad%20cover%202The Good, The Bad and The Murderous

Chester D. Campbell

Night Shadows Press, LLC, 2011. 257 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0-9846044-4-9

Reviewed by Patricia E. ReidChester

At the request of Jaz LeMieux, private investigator Sid Chance agrees to help Djuan Burden, who is accused of murder.   Djuan’s grandmother is a long time friend of Jaz’s live-in housekeeper, Marie Wallace.  Djuan has only been out of jail for about six months and now he is back in jail on a murder charge.   His grandmother is convinced that he is innocent and Jaz wants to do everything she can to help a friend of Marie’s.

Jaz is an ex-cop and wealthy business owner but enjoys being a sidekick on Sid’s investigations.  When the two visit Djuan’s grandmother, they discover that Djuan went to a small medical equipment store in Nashville’s Green Hills section. The purpose of his visit was to complain about charges on his grandmother’s Medicare account.  Djuan’s grandmother, Rachel Ransom, had not paid a lot of attention to the many notices she received from Medicare but when Djuan saw that she had been charged for items such as a power wheelchair he decided to complain.  Rachel has never owned a wheel chair and has no need of one.    When Djuan went to the equipment store to complain, he found a dead man behind the desk.  Frightened that he would be accused of murder because of his prison history, he ran.  A witness spotted Djuan leaving the scene of the crime and the police immediately charged him with murder. A crooked cop who had no qualms about planting evidence didn’t help Djuan’s case one bit.

Besides trying to assist Sid in the murder investigation Jaz was also dealing with a problem of her own. Jaz’ company has been accused of racial discrimination.  There was no basis for the accusation, but the fact that it had been made brought about a lot of bad publicity for Jaz and her company.

Before Sid can prove that Djuan did not commit murder, Jaz finds that she is in trouble with the police.  As the two work together to clear both Djuan and the false accusations against Jaz, it becomes obvious to Sid that there is a professional hit man in town and it would appear the hit man has decided that Sid will be his next victim.

This is a great addition to the Sid Chance series.  The problem of Medicare fraud needs to be addressed because so many older people like Djuan’s mother don’t take time to analyze all the information they receive from Medicare so phony charges many times are paid and go unnoticed.

Chester Campbell’s books always make good reads but the Sid Chance series is special.