Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Cozy Review: Confessions of a Red Herring--with a visit from the author!

Title: Confessions of a Red Herring (A Red Herring Mystery)  First in series
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Kensington (May 29, 2018).  Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1496716569
Digital ASIN: B075C8FDT5

Publisher's Blurb:
As a reporter, she’s used to covering the news. Now she’s the headline.

Alex Vlodnachek has been a reporter for 12 years, a P.R. rep for three months, and a murder suspect for all of 24 hours. When her agency’s double-dealing CEO is stabbed, scheming co-workers cast the new redhead as a compelling red herring. The story is media catnip—especially her salacious nickname: Vlod the Impaler.

Even Alex has to admit she looks guilty.

Out of a job and under suspicion, Alex is running low on cash when she’s visited by a second disaster: her family. Soon her tiny bungalow is bursting with her nearest and not-so-dearest. To keep herself out of jail—and save what’s left of her sanity—Alex returns to her reporting roots. She goes undercover to reclaim her life, break the story, and unmask a murderer. Pretty much in that order.

What she doesn’t know: The killer also has a to-do list.

And Alex is on it.

My Review:
I'll admit I had my doubts about this one at first. Alex seemed to fall into that too-common cozy-mystery category of young woman who can't get her life together. And for a while, it looked like that might be all she was. Then the author cranked up the disasters in her life until I was rolling my eyes.

If you hit that point and want to quit, take my advice: keep going. Right when I was ready to quit, the story grabbed me by the face and I was rolling through it at high speed, laughing at the insane plot and dying to know how it would all come out. So why the slow start? It's not that the book starts off slow--it doesn't. The author jumps right into a wild story. It just took me a while to warm to Alex, I guess. Once I did, the characters began to become real to me, and I wanted more.

I did notice that the book is a bit longer than most first-in-series cozy mysteries, and maybe that led to my feelings that we were spending too long piling up the misery before it began to unravel. It was the point where things began to go right where I really bought into the story, so that's possible. Maybe I was just having a bad week. In any case, after passing the middle, I read the remaining 200+ pages in 2 sittings.

The mystery itself wasn't too hard to figure out, but the author manages to create enough doubt to keep you reading (even aside from the desire to find out what Baba will do next). Alex's decision to root out the truth herself is pretty well justified (though it turns out the police are not being at all incompetent, just not fast enough for her). She needs to put a stop to this both to protect herself and because she is a reporter at heart, and for the most part it works, though there are some things she did that should have gotten her in a lot of trouble.

My take-away: This cozy isn't obsessed with food, with romance, or with handicrafts. As far as I'm concerned, that's a huge plus. There are interesting characters, including the most annoying and adorable puppy ever. The mystery is a little transparent, but it holds together and the story is a blast. Read it!
FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of Confessions of a Red Herring from Great Escapes Free Book Tours, and received nothing further from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

We are delighted to welcome the author to the Ninja Librarian's blog! She's here to talk about...

Dogs in Detective Fiction
By Dana Dratch
Some of the best characters in detective stories have four legs.

Just like the real world, dogs in mystery fiction get the characters out of the house and out of their comfort zones. They’re a very real reason to unplug, soak up the natural world – and notice the surroundings. Like that strange car parked at the end of the block. Or a neighbor lurking in a garage not his own.

They also solve a very real problem for writers: Revealing a protagonist’s thoughts. A character who talks to his dog is charming. A character who talks to thin air? Not so much.

And in a mystery novel, there’s none better at sniffing out a body. Cats are just as curious, but dogs share what they find. At full volume.

Four-footed sleuths have a proud history in mysteries. Here, in no particular order, are a few of best:

Asta. From Dashiell Hammett’s classic detective novel, “The Thin Man.” In the book, Asta is a female schnauzer.  In the Hollywood movie (starring William Powell and Myrna Loy), he’s a wire-haired fox terrier. What they both have in common: A nose for trouble.

Rowdy, Kimi and Sammy. The three Alaskan malamutes are regular--and crucial--co-stars of Susan Conant’s popular “Dog Lover’s Mysteries” series. If you don’t already suspect that dogs are capable of abstract thought, these three will show you otherwise. (And one anecdote--where Rowdy hides his human’s socks just to gauge her reaction--is borrowed from real life.) These three are smart, funny and exuberant.

Chet. The high-energy co-star of Spencer Quinn’s “Chet and Bernie” mysteries, Chet is the series narrator--which gives readers insight into his peripatetic dog mind. Also known as “Chet the Jet,” he’s the first to admit he’s fast, as well as smart. (And he’s right.) When you hang out with Chet, expect to discover not just how the suspects look and act, but also how they smell.

Scooby-Doo. OK, granted, this one’s a cartoon. But how many of us would love to just hit the road with our dog and a few trusted friends--and maybe solve a mystery or two along the way? (Even if the culprit is usually the creepy caretaker.)

Blanche. A canine character in Jonathan Kellerman’s best-selling “Alex Delaware” series. Unlike her predecessor, Spike, Blanche definitely sees Alex as her No. 1 human. And she has a soft spot for Delaware’s two-legged cop buddy, Milo, who slips her food on the sly. Besides, who can resist a French bulldog who smiles?

Tara. A great four-legged character in David Rosenfelt’s best-selling “Andy Carpenter” series. The fictional Tara, a golden retriever, was inspired by the author’s own dog of the same name. Best of all, she shares her moniker with the author’s real-lifeTara Foundation--which has rescued and placed thousands of dogs. Now that’s a very good girl.

Dana Dratch is the author of CONFESSIONS OF A RED HERRING, which came out May 29. A former newspaper reporter and current personal finance writer, she’s currently writing the sequel, SEEING RED, which has Alex, rescue-pup Lucy, and the whole crazy Vlodnachek family going up against spies, art thieves and a very determined murderer. 

Purchase Links
Amazon    B&N   Kobo   Google Play    BookBub

And there's more! Join the giveaway for your own copy of the book!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 28, 2018

Middle-Grade Book Spotlight: Some Very Messy Medieval Magic

Fellow Tick Tock Anthology author C. Lee McKenzie has a new book out, and it looks wonderful! I haven't had time to read it, but I want to share it now to help out the release, and I'll do a review when I read it. I just love that title :)

Title:  Some Very  Messy Medieval Magic (Book 3 in the Pete and Weasel series)

Author: C. Lee McKenzie
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press, May 15, 2018.

Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...

Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

About the Author:
C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand.

Purchase Links: 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

#Fi50 The End is in the Beginning

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!
fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration. Bonus points for hitting 50 exactly.
That’s it! But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at or create your own Fi50 meme pic…
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.

This month's prompt is "The End is in the Beginning." As usual, I have used it as my title, and gone on from there. Only, this time, I lost a word when I was thinking about it, so my story and title are just a little different:

The End is the Beginning

I heard the kids wishing I could make it another year. “It’s something, to live to 100!”

It’s something to live to 99, too, but I’m ready to fold my hands in eternal rest.


I want my rest. That hurts.

Curse it, no! I don’t want to be reincarnated!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Spotlight: Once, by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Damsels in distress, curses, echoes of faery tales and tragic love affairs swirl together in sixteen stories found in a dragon’s lair by a curious half-fae.

Unexpected changes to reality causes more than one damsel to turn into a strong, independent woman who takes charge of her own life.

A collection of short stories about Faerie and the fae that live in the human realm. A few of the stories had won competitions and all of them had enchanted readers.
Learn their secrets and enter the realm of the fae…

Title: Once... Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie
Author: Ronel Janse van Vuuren
ISBN EPUB: 978-0-6399476-2-4
ISBN Paperback: 978-0-6399476-3-1

Out today!
Available on most online retailers.
Also available in Afrikaans as “Eens…”.

Mortals cannot perceive the veil unless they are invited to – or extremely gifted. For centuries, Man and Fae have been kept apart, for nothing good ever comes from them mixing. The collection of The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog is proof of this.

Still, there are magical creatures that side neither with Man nor Fae.

Dragons are such creatures. They hold the knowledge of both worlds. Some even collect it in the written word, keeping it safe in their lairs.

An inquisitive half-fae once broke into the lair of a dragon known to hoard books. The knowledge she found was too much to keep to herself…

Here are a few tales, myths and legends from Faerie. Some may sound remarkably similar to legends held by mortals, while others are…  well… as otherworldly as the fae themselves.

About the Author: 
Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon.

Connect with Ronel on:
Ronel the Mythmaker:

And now... a special interview with the author!

NL: When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, or did you stumble into it later in life?

Ronel: I’ve always written a couple of stories to entertain myself, but I seriously started writing ten years ago. In that time, I’ve learned how to write properly, created entire worlds, did a lot of research into several folklore creatures, realised in which genre I want to write, and found my voice.

NL: What are your books about and who is the audience?

Ronel: This book, “Once…”, is a collection of short stories about how Faerie changed and the impact on the mortal realm when magic and fae infiltrated it. There are a few original stories steeped in folklore and a couple of fairy tale retellings with a Dark Fantasy twist. My intended audience is New Adult, but I’ve had readers of all ages for the Afrikaans version “Eens…” who bought it for themselves and enjoyed it enough to pass it on to their children and parents.

NL:  Do your stories carry a message?

Ronel: Absolutely. Dark fantasy is all about examining the human condition, looking at the consequences of actions and decisions, and how the beliefs we hold can change the way we see our world. I think “Rumour Has It”, “New Divide” and “Castle of Glass” depict all of this from different points of view about the same moment in Faerie history very well.

NL: Thanks for telling us about your book! Now tell us, what is the best thing about being a writer?

Ronel: Creating worlds, playing “what if?” and talking to my fictional friends.

NL: Yeah, we all like having a good reason to listen to the voices in our heads! Do you draft your books longhand or compose at the keyboard?

Ronel: Longhand. I find that there are fewer distractions when the computer is switched off – no quickly checking emails or updates, no playing around with inspirational images, etc. I then type it and store the original manuscript in a binder…

NL: You talked about doing research for the book. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for one of your books?

Ronel: I research a lot of folklore, most of it weird, so let me think… Probably the protein value of worms and if they’re a good idea for breakfast. The main character in “The Ashiest Princess” has them for breakfast every morning. Not all that odd: worms are a staple food in many communities.

NL: Well, the birds have worms for breakfast... Do you use a detailed outline before you start writing, or... ?

Ronel: It depends on the story. Some stories insist on being written before I can think about it – it’s like they’re already in my head, just waiting to be written down. Afterwards I do an outline and create a proper plot. Other stories insist on meticulous outlines and research.

NL: You live in South Africa. Since most of my readers are in the US or England, tell us a bit about that!

Ronel: Well, we have sun all year round which means I have to keep the curtains closed in my study or I’ll never get any writing done!

Once everything is dry in the winter months, a few crazies believe that they should burn everything down. It usually starts with a veldfire – and last year it ended with someone setting fire to my property (I live on an agricultural holding with horses, chickens, etc.) that we were lucky enough to stop before it destroyed everything.

There are horrible things in my country – like the endless attacks on farmers – but as long as you keep your head, stay alert and don’t act foolishly, there are so many things to enjoy and savour. We have gorgeous botanical gardens that are open year-round, each season brings its own beautiful plants and temperatures. If you’re an ocean person, we have the warm Indian Ocean on one side and the cold Atlantic Ocean on the other, and that wonderful sight where the two oceans meet and clash. We have forests, deserts, nature reserves, different biomes and animals to visit in their – mostly – natural habitat. You can turn every weekend into an adventure.

There’s so much more to say, but that will take an entire post ;-) In one of my stories in “Once…” I used the desert and forest elements, so it can almost feel like you’re in South Africa while reading “The Fae of Bremen”. Or you can run over a veld (field in South African terminology) with “The Field Mouse”.

Thanks for having me, Rebecca.
 Thanks for coming by! Your description of the country does make me want to visit, especially to watch the two oceans come together. 

Once... is available today, so check it out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#Fi50 Heads Up!

Thanks to a lot going on this weekend, we seem to have forgotten to post our usual heads-up for Fi50. So here it is.

Fiction in 50 is a regular feature in the last week of every month and I invite any interested composers of mini-narrative to join in!
fiction in 50   image Fiction in 50 NEW BUTTON

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration. Bonus points for hitting 50 exactly.
That’s it! But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at or create your own Fi50 meme pic…
and 4. Link back here so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.
At this time, I haven't been able to find a source for a free linky-list, so it's just comments. I recommend posting your basic blog link below, with the day you post your Fi50 story. You can also add a link in the comments on my story, posted the next-to-last Sunday of the month. Feel free to Tweet using the #Fi50, though I'll not lie: the Ninja Librarian is a lousy tweeter.

The May prompt is: 
"The End is in the Beginning."
You can use the prompt as a title, or not. Really, there aren't many rules, other than 50 words or less. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dr. Mom Blog Hop!

Today we're helping promote Elaine Kaye's new picture book by participating in the Dr. Mom blog hop!

Share a favorite memory you have of your mom. Or just share a picture of your mom that you cherish. Or you can do both!

Hey, this is harder than it looks. My mom is 89. I'm... uh, not 20 anymore (notice she's old enough to brag about her age. I'm young enough be trying to forget). That's a lot of amazing memories! I'm tempted to share the wonderful little book I wrote about my mom when I was in the 1st grade or thereabouts, but I don't want to distract from Ms. Kaye's adorable book, so I'll do that another time.

Instead, let me tell you about a favorite family photo (sadly, it seems to have been lost). This was back in the days when cameras not only used film, but if you didn't advance the film yourself, you could take two pictures on top of each other.

One of Dad's favorite possessions was our bright red, 17' canoe. When we kids were little, we could all 5 get it, and we enjoyed family outings on quiet lakes (Dad did some white-water, or at least whitish-water, stuff, but not with us). So Dad takes a photo up the canoe, where Mom is seated in the front. The next photo shot was of a buffalo (I have no idea where). You guessed it: a double-exposure, with the buffalo taking Mom's place in the front of the canoe. Lucky for Dad that Mom has a great sense of humor, and laughed as hard as the rest of us!

Since I don't have that photo, I'll share this one of all 5 of us, with the canoe and our VW bus, sometime in the late 60s.

And now for  the main feature!

Title: Doctor Mom
Author: Elaine Kaye
Genre: Picture Story Book
Ages: 5-8 years

It’s Saturday, and Gregory Green can’t wait to have fun with his dad on the riding lawnmower, but something is wrong. Sammy, his teddy bear and best friend, won’t get out of bed. Gregory is worried when he sees Sammy’s left leg is torn. This is a case for Doctor Mom! Can they fix Sammy? And just how did Sammy get hurt in the first place?


"Doctor Mom is an adorable story that shows how Moms can fix anything—even a torn limb on a beloved teddy bear! Children will enjoy the lovable little bear who needs a stitch or two and his boy who plays dress-up as a doctor." – Wanda Luthman, award-winning author of Little Birdie Grows Up

“A sweet and heartfelt tale kids can easily identify with, and all of that with a wonderful touch of magic.” – Tonja Drecker, reviewer at Bookworm for Kids



Elaine Kaye first created Gregory Green after her son, who loved her homemade pea soup, thus inspiring the story Pea Soup Disaster. Doctor Mom is the second book in A Gregory Green Adventure series and highlights something all moms and children can relate to; a beloved stuffed animal in need of a repair.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher's assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home.

She is a grandmother of three boys.

Now hop on around and see what other bloggers have to say about their moms!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Photo Friday: Wildflowers, Alpine Edition

A month or so back I did a wildflower post focused on desert wildflowers, and promised to get to the alpine flowers in another post. Then I got distracted... so here is a collection of alpine flowers from the Washington Cascades and a few from the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

These first 2 are more sub-alpine flowers, found in the forests.
I'm not actually sure what this is.
This is a saprophyte--it gets nutrients from the soil, not photosynthesis.  
This one grows in wet places, both above and below tree line, and in both mountain ranges.
Shooting star.
In fact, most of these flowers grow in both the Cascades and the Sierra, though some show variations between. This one, I think, is Cascades only. At least, I don't think I've seen it in the Sierra. Pasque flower.

The gone-to-seed stage.
 Believe it or not, this is the same flower, in bloom. I wish I had a picture of the in-between stage, because it looks totally different again. Sadly, none of those shots came out.

Assorted lilies and columbines can be found in both ranges. Columbine, despite looking fragile, mostly seems to grow in the shade of rocks on otherwise bare alpine slopes.
Either a tiger lily or a leopard lily. They grow below tree line.
Cascade columbines. The ones in the Sierra seem to be mostly a light, almost cream color. In the Rockies they are more apt to be 2-toned blue flowers.
Some kind of daisy (aster). These seemed to hang out right about treeline on last summer's Glacier Peak trip.

Lupine grow everywhere. Mountains, deserts, seashore. They also come in every size, from tiny things to giant bushes (to really giant flowers in Peru). These were modest, except in their profusion.
Lupine with Glacier Peak
Lupine up close. The leaves are a giveaway, though the flowers tell you it's in the pea family.
Sometimes an alpine meadow is a flower garden with a stunning backdrop.
Daisies, bistort, white and blue lupine, maybe some heather, and a photographer.
Indian paintbrush is another flower that grows everywhere, and in a number of colors, though most are shades of red.
This paintbrush has a penstemon growing with it, each probably offering shade to the other.
Alpine heather I see more in the Sierra, though I think it's everywhere.

The next couple really seem to grow only in the alpine, and in the less promising spots, at that.
Pussytoes sprout up where the granite is only barely turning to soil.
Phlox grows in small, low mats in similarly inhospitable spots. This one is covered with the morning dew still.
The Sierra isn't noted for flowers the way the Rocky Mountains are, but you can still get some amazing displays there. You just have to put yourself out there at the right time--and maybe get a bit lucky, too.

Hope you've enjoyed the eye candy!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Writerly Musings: Marketing

Being part of the IWSG anthology (that would be Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime) has been an education for me. Not only did I pick up a new awareness of some minor writing issues I have (mostly in the area of comma abuse), but the whole marketing process has been educational. Probably not educational enough, but I have picked up a few things to contemplate.

1. Get the word out, early and late. The publisher, Dancing Lemur Press, started early with tweets and FB posts, and got all of us authors to set up a blog and do regular posts about our stories, writing process, whatever. And they started early to set up a blog tour, or at least appearances on a number of blogs, with interviews, reviews, and so on. The book came out May 1, and that publicity push is still going on (including a Rafflecopter giveaway of a cool Tick Tock tote bag running to June 6!).

This one isn't so hard. I'm learning how to get more people involved in a release, and I know that I can arrange a blog tour through Great Escapes. I haven't done that yet for Death By Adverb, but I had a number of very helpful blog posts about it, thanks to my fellow IWSG authors!

2. Don't be timid: the publisher sends announcements to all sorts of bookstores, and we writers are meant to follow up by suggesting we can come and do signings, etc.

This one's hard. I have an almost insurmountable reluctance to put myself forward in that way. It feels pushy, and I've not yet figured out how to cure myself of a well-brought-up modesty.

3. I didn't learn this one from the Tick Tock release, but push the backlist (well, I see them doing that some, mentioning the previous IWSG anthologies along with ours, which is #3--check them all out). I finally saw a benefit from having a series, as I put the first two Pismawallops PTA books on sale during the month following the release of the new book, and included that information in the post on release day. Sales picked up, and I hope some of those will lead to new fans for the series.

I'm planning to work on the backlist this summer, as I'll not be able to do much writing (I am still trying to do some submissions each month, though). I intend to do a special "Hero Month" promotion for Halitor the Hero, so watch this space--and watch for other special offers, as I need to clear out my inventory before we move! The Hero promotion is still in the planning stages, but let me know if you want to be involved--I'll keep it simple.

4. Finally, just from following so many other writers, I realize that I've been remiss about my newsletter. In fact, I can't remember when I did the last one, and I'm overdue. I also apparently need to update my sign-up to meet new regulations. I'll have to get on that, and encourage everyone to sign up once I do. But in any case, I need to send out a newsletter, and soon. You can bet that newsletter will have some special offers in it!

Oh, and I need to do some blog maintenance, because my sidebar is now 2 books behind! I never was good at housekeeping...

For the moment, that's about it for what I know about marketing. It's no place for an introvert, yet we writers have to overcome our natural tendencies and do it somehow!

Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime
Can a dead child’s cross-stitch pendant find a missing nun? 
Is revenge possible in just 48 minutes? 
Can a killer be stopped before the rescuers are engulfed by a city ablaze? 
Who killed what the tide brought in? 
Can a soliloquizing gumshoe stay out of jail?
Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of Gwen Gardner, Rebecca M. Douglass, Tara Tyler, S. R. Betler, C.D. Gallant-King, Jemi Fraser, J. R. Ferguson, Yolanda Renée, C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Clemetson, and Mary Aalgaard.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these eleven tales will take you on a thrilling ride into jeopardy and secrecy. Trail along, find the clues, and stay out of danger. Time is wasting…
Release date - TODAY!
Mystery & Detective/Crime/Thrillers
Print ISBN 9781939844545 eBook ISBN 9781939844552
Get your copy today!


Death By Adverb

  Available today.

 Genre: Cozy mystery
Ebook: 85,000 words
Paperback:   approx. 285 pages
He murdered the language, but who murdered him?  

JJ McGregor’s not having her best summer. Her arm’s in a cast, her jeans are too tight, and her son’s in Texas with his dad. To make matters worse, she hasn’t spoken to Police Chief Ron Karlson since June. What’s more, she’s gotten fired by the biggest bully on Pismawallops Island. 

JJ thinks her boss's vile prose and grammar are poisonous, but he's the one who turns up dead, and against all odds her summer gets worse. Now there’s a killer on the loose, JJ's on the suspect list, and she'd better make her peace with Ron before someone decides she's gone too far in the defense of good writing!
Purhase Links:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mystery review: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place


Title: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place
Author: Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2018 (US edition). 363 pages
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
Flavia is enjoying the summer, spending her days punting along the river with her reluctant family. Languishing in boredom, she drags a slack hand in the water, and catches her fingers in the open mouth of a drowned corpse.

Brought to shore, the dead man is found to be dressed in blue silk with ribbons at the knee, and wearing a single red ballet slipper.

Flavia needs to put her super-sleuthing skills to the test to investigate the murder of three gossips in the local church, and to keep her sisters out of danger. But what could possibly connect the son of an executed killer, a far too canny police constable, a travelling circus, and the publican's mysteriously talented wife?

My Review:  
Okay, Flavia is not enjoying the summer. She hasn't been enjoying anything for about 6 months (I won't go into details that would be spoilers for the previous book). But the discovery of a corpse is just the tonic she needs, because Flavia is delightfully unlike most of us, and considers nothing so uplifting as a corpse. Better still if she thinks that corpse got that way with help.

Flavia has been doing some growing up in the past 6 months, I think, as is mostly betokened by the fact that she seems rather less of a know-it-all and more appreciative of her confederates. But her quick wit and knowledge of chemistry help fill in the gaps left by her lack of understanding of poetry or love, and as a narrator she is a delight. I like the new, less brash version of Flavia. She's not tamed; she's just gained some humanity. Relationships that have been left pretty undeveloped through the series are suddenly becoming important, and more nuanced.

The mystery is good fun this time, too. It's not completely certain that Flavia's corpse was murdered, but there is a history of murder in the town, and that provides lots for her to investigate. I was also very interested in how Bradley managed her researches in a place not her own home town, where the players aren't so well known to her. She does seem to have a grip on how to get information where she needs it, and uses well the reality that no one pays much attention to children.

My Recommendation:
I call this a solid addition to the series, and goes a ways toward making me forgive the author for the heartbreak of the last book. There is some debate whether the series is for middle grades or adults; my library classifies it with adult mysteries, and I agree. Flavia may be 11, but the things she's investigating aren't for kids. Your child may disagree.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The Grave's a Fine and Private Place out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Flash: Space Opera time!

Chuck Wendig is back on the job with our Friday flash fiction challenges, and in honor of May the Fourth commanded us to write a space opera, in 1500 words or less. So, more like a single aria from the opera, but I went for the melodrama of an early Star Trek episode. It's just under 1200 words.

Long Odds

“There’s no way we can win, on the face of it.” Captain Kira Andashar of the Earth Federation Starship Endurance didn’t believe in sugar-coating matters to her officers. “The invaders outnumber us three to one, and based on what they did to EFS Consequence they outgun us by far as well.”

“Should we surrender, then? Or run?” Lieutenant Albert Percival knew better. His captain wasn’t the surrendering sort, and they’d already proved they couldn’t outrun the aliens. When he asked his question he heard a few gasps, and at least one snort of derision. He ignored them and waited for the answer.

“We fight. And dammit,” Captain Andashar raised her voice, “we will win!”

A few young officers cheered, but Percival and his fellow lieutenant, Sharra Stonebrook, exchanged glances. How the devil were they going to do that?

“I hope she has a plan,” Sharra muttered to Albert. “Because I sure as hell don’t see any way.” Knowing what was coming next, the two remained as the other officers followed orders to return to their stations and prepare for battle.

Captain Andashar looked at her lieutenants. “Well? Any ideas?”

Despite the grim circumstances, Albert laughed. “I had a feeling you were going to ask that. To summarize, do I have any ideas how a single starship with suddenly obsolete weapons can defeat three alien ships with weapons we don’t even understand? Short answer: no. Not a clue.”

“Me, neither,” Kara Andashar replied. “But we’re going to need an answer in about 30 minutes, so we’d better start thinking.”

Twenty minutes later, the captain was at the con, her officers in place, and all prepared to sell their lives as dearly as possible in the defense of their planetary system. The patrol had a simple sweep of the outer limits of human space. Endeavor and Consequence had expected to turn up nothing, as the sweeps had for three centuries.

There always had to be a first time, Kara thought. She didn’t know she’d said it out loud until Albert answered.

“And unless we get very lucky, it’ll be the last, too.”

“Shut up and prepare for battle.”

Lieutenant Percival considered the controls under his hands. Sharra had the conventional weapons. What he had was the comms unit and control of the thrusters used for take-off and landing. Under his captain’s orders, he was going to turn the latter into a weapon, though if he handled the former right, perhaps they’d not need them.

The alien ships drew closer, and they were truly alien. They looked like a drug-induced hallucination of an octopus. These ships stayed in vacuum. They would be torn apart trying to enter the atmosphere of any planet that could support life.

Sharra said it aloud. “Damnation. If the ships look like that, what do you suppose the aliens look like?”

“The kraken,” Captain Andashar answered. “I don’t want to find out.” She was the only one who had seen the message sent from their sister ship seconds before it was destroyed by the aliens. Now, her face set and grim, she prepared to exact what revenge she could.

She hesitated, then ordered, “Send the message.”

Albert hit the button to send the pre-recorded message. They’d argued a bit over the wording, settling on the straightforward, “You are violating Human Space. Surrender to inspection and penalties for destroying EFS Consequence, or we will be forced to destroy you.” He wondered how they'd respond to that.

His translator flashed almost at once. He flipped a switch, looked at the message—they had decided not to broadcast into the bridge without checking first—and flipped a switch so everyone could hear.

The aliens had responded with a suggestion that was anatomically impossible, at least for humans.

“I don’t think that’s friendly,” was the captain’s comment. “Shields up. Fire photon torpedo across their bows, and send the second warning.” Behind her back she crossed her fingers. Their shields had never been tested. Until now there had been no enemies in space save a few pirates whose limited armament required no special defenses.

The second hail produced a repetition of the middle-finger message. A moment later Endurance shuddered as the photon torpedo launched. They all watched the viewer to see the results. Nothing. The alien ship didn't hesitate. Then a flare of light, and the bridge shook, knocking Lt. Stonebrook from her seat. She gave a yell of pain, but dragged herself back to her seat, fastened the landing straps, and grabbed the weapons controls. Chaos swarmed around her, but she focused her attention on aiming and firing a succession of torpedoes at the same spot on the lead ship.

"Damage report?" Captain Andashar demanded. Reports came in from all over the ship. Damage, but nothing fatal. The chief engineer suggested they could handle a half a dozen strikes before hull breach or loss of controls.

“We’ll never make it!” Captain Andashar couldn’t tell which of her officers yelled it, but she shared the feeling. Nonetheless she commanded, “Silence, there! And stay on your station!”

Now that she could see what the enemy weapons looked like, she began taking evasive action.

“Dammit, Captain!” This time it was Lt. Stonebrook. “How’m I supposed to aim when you do that?”

“Unerringly,” the captain shot back before the next swoop.

Sharra Stonebrook landed two more hits on the prow of the alien ship before the next shot struck Endurance. This one damaged their left thruster. Captain Andashar smiled grimly, and compensated in her next swerve. So did Lt. Stonebrook. Her fourth hit on the alien ship took spectacular effect. The empty space left behind revealed the second vessel.

“Captain! Third ship is at our rear!” The warning startled most of the crew, but Lt. Percival heard it as his signal. Flipping his screen to the rear view, he watched as the alien ship drew closer, ignoring the shouts and alarm bells, and the shudder of another hit on their shields. Through it all, he heard the captain’s quiet voice.

“Let it get close enough, Percival. Don’t panic.”

He let it get so close it almost had its nose up the thrusters, the whole ship shuddering from the repeated attacks on their shields. When he ignited the thrusters, the enemy ship vaporized as Endurance shot forward.

“Brace for impact!”

Sharra Stonebrook was already braced. Ignoring the pain from her injured shoulder, she maintained a steady fire with her torpedoes and blasters as the ships careened toward each other.

The third torpedo took effect. The impact of another enemy shot was followed immediately by the impact of the explosion of the alien ship.

Damage reports flooded in. Kira Andashar picked herself up from where the impacts had flung her, ignoring blood running down her face from a cut on her head.

“Navs! Map a course for the nearest base. Have we power?” The string of reports and commands seemed to last forever. Someone strapped a bandage on her head, but no one left stations except feet first until the ship nosed into the docking station, like her captain bloodied, but unbowed.


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
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