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Have You Seen Luis Velez? ~~ Book Review

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6 out of 5 quills  ~~ A Review 

PERFECTION!! A masterpiece of a story. Every word impeccably placed.

I don’t write spoilers, (as my fans already know) so I will write about the universal message of this story. It begins with the improbable friendship between Raymond Jaffe and Mildred Gutermann, two of the most unlikely people to ever meet and develop a bond. But it’s about more than that. This is a story about ‘us’ and ‘them’. About all of ‘us‘ and the kindness that runs deep in every one of us. The instinctual compassion for one another that transcends the differences, the tribalism, the fear, the suspicion. 

“Oh,” you might say to yourself, “who needs another feel good book?” This book is not another feel good book. The story represents us and the unique characteristic in the human species. Empathy. An emotion that bubbles up easily or sometimes unwillingly in spite of ourselves.  The message is so subtly and cleverly woven into such a terrific story-line that you don’t even realize there’s a message until the last few pages.

If I hadn’t read this book and then I discovered how good it was but wouldn’t have an opportunity to read it, I would be profoundly bereft at the loss. Exaggeration? No. It’s that good. You can’t go through life and not read this book.

 

I hope to announce soon that I will be interviewing this special writer…so stay tuned.

Release date: May 20, 2019  To Purchase click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Interview with author, Boo Walker

TS. After picking a five-string banjo in Charleston and Nashville and then a few years toying with Wall Street, Boo chased a wine dream across the country to Red Mountain in Washington State with his dog, Tully Mars. They landed in a double-wide trailer on five acres of vines, where Boo grew out a handlebar mustache, bought a horse, and took a job working for the Hedges family, who taught him the art of farming and the old world philosophies of wine. Recently leaving their gentleman’s farm on Red Mountain, Boo and his family are back on the east coast in St. Pete, Florida. No doubt the Sunshine City will serve as a setting for a novel or three soon. Boo’s bestselling page-turners are instilled with the culture of the places he’s lived, the characters he’s encountered, and a passion for unexpected adventure. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? 
Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

BW. I write in my dream space, my mancave in a Spanish-style house built in 1925 by an opera singer in St. Pete, Florida. I’m surrounded by guitars and banjos that constantly try to distract me.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

BW. I have a pretty serious coffee ritual to start my morning and writing day. I always have a bag of single-origin, fresh-roasted beans, which I grind that morning. I measure out an exact amount with my scale, and then brew using a Chemex coffee pour-over. Once the caffeine starts to kick in, I’m sit at my desk. I’ve come to rely so much on this routine that my entire day is shot if I don’t have my perfect cup.
Depending on my mood, I most always write to music without words, be it jazz, classical, or electronic.
I also have a couple less productive rituals that are actually more like procrastinating actions. I’ve somehow come to think I need to restart my computer before ever writing session. It’s totally stalling. And then I’ll grab my guitar for a little warm-up session. Another stalling tactic. Once I’m ready to dive in, though, I use an app called Be Focused, which sets 25-minute intervals where I do writing sprints. I don’t allow myself to surf the net or answer calls or texts. The sprints are writing only. No distractions.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

BW. R.D. Blackmore lingers somewhere high up in my family tree on my mother’s side. He wrote a book called Lorna Doone. He was a big inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson, among others.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

BW. If I haven’t written by noon, I’m in trouble. I’m such a morning person, so only under deadline and at gunpoint can I write much in the later afternoon or at night.

Part II of this fascinating interview posts May 24th.    Click here to read my REVIEW of Red Mountain.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Interview with Patrick Canning, Author of The Colonel and the Bee

TS. I first ‘met’ Patrick when I stumbled across The Colonel and the Bee. Something made me order it and read it. Then review it. I don’t generally read fantasy but this was different…and beautiful…and my favorite character in the book was actually the three-story basket attached to the hot-air balloon. I ask, as I do all of my interviewees, for a short bio to begin the interview. Here is Patrick’s answer. 

PC. I’ll try to do it all in one breath: born in Milwaukee, grew up in Chicago suburbs, came to LA for film school, worked in film/entertainment throughout my 20’s, now trying to spend increasing amounts of time writing because I love it and I think I could be good at it with enough sweat/luck/coffee.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

PC. I rotate between a shared workspace, coffee shops, libraries, and my own apartment (where I get the least amount done). I live alone so being around people part of the day is nice. My dream work space has electrical outlets, a chair comfy enough to be in for hours but not so comfy you can fall asleep in it, ample people watching, low music, a bathroom, and if we’re aiming high, free refills.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

PC. Coffee and tea are almost always involved, but other than that I try to keep it as un-exotic as possible. Recently I started making the background of my Word docs legal-pad yellow. I heartily recommend this to writers who get sick of staring at bright white all day.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

PC. I’m exceptionally bad at foosball, but above average at ping-pong and pool.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

PC. Morning session/afternoon session, both 3-4 hrs. I’m still working on a more solid process and seeing what works. I heard one writer’s schedule (Dan Brown maybe?) is 4 am-11 am. That sounds weirdly alluring to me but I have yet to wake up at 4 am to give it a try…

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

PC. I think if you’re really procrastinating a lot, over and over again, it could be a case of wanting to be a writer more than actually wanting to write. I think a lot of people torture themselves over this when in reality they might just be chasing the wrong vocation. Some days are better than others to be sure, but if they’re all bad days, there’s no shame in career/hobby course correction.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

PC. Usually they’re a part of the initial idea but I love the revision stage when they start to crystallize and sound more like themselves in the dialogue. I try not to panic if elements like that are less than perfectly clear early on because they usually arrive by the time things wrap up.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Ballooning over Africa

PC. I came to novel writing through screenwriting, which I came to through a love of movies. I’ve always loved any kind of creative storytelling and the more I write, the more I enjoy it (for the most part), so that’s reassuring to me. Beyond that, it can be a matter of ‘why isn’t anyone talking about this’, or ‘this could be a nice way for people to escape’, or the ol’ reliable: ‘what if’.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

PC. The situation, followed very closely by the characters, and they become inextricable almost immediately (though both bend and change as the story takes shape).

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Join us March 22nd for the  conclusion of this interview with the talented Patrick Canning.

Did you miss my review of The Colonel and The Bee?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz. March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese

 

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Winter of Murder Receives Stunning Review!

Winter of Murder is the tenth book in the World of Murder series, and like its predecessors, it both stands alone as a remarkable read for newcomers and as an excellent addition to the series as a whole. In this story, Detective Stella Garcia journeys to Alaska to visit her son, who is interning with a field biology group in the Alaskan wilderness. He’s only been away from home for six months, but it seems an impossible distance away from her urban world.  Unfortunately, the one thing that consumes her professional life is as active in Alaska as in New York, as Stella soon discovers.

Predictably, murder enters the picture and the dead bodies begin to pile up, prompting her to set aside family time in favor of consulting with the local authorities, given her experience and background with solving homicides. Meanwhile, Detectives O’Roarke and Sneed are on their own without their third investigator Stella, which means not only a challenge to their crime-solving abilities, but new opportunities for their evolving relationship. While prior familiarity with these characters and their experiences will enhance appreciation for how much Stella and her comrades have grown since their first appearances in the series, newcomers will find the story completely accessible and thoroughly engrossing.

Personal and professional dilemmas abound, encounters between all are realistically portrayed, and the contrast between Stella’s urban world and the rural wilds of Alaska are well done, creating a compelling environment in which Stella finds herself far from familiar scenarios or approaches to solving problems. The background and atmosphere of Native Alaskans are particularly well done and lend to a story which is vivid on more than one level: as a detective piece, as a story of character growth and personal advancement, and as a cultural inspection of Alaskan peoples and places.

As Stella navigates uncertain territory and affairs, she gains new perspective not only about murder investigations, but her own relationship with her son.Steeped in personal growth and revelation as well as a satisfyingly complex murder mystery that ventures into cross-cultural perceptions, Winter of Murder is a gripping and strong addition to a powerful series. ’ ~~ D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with Actor PLaywright, Rick Lenz (part 2)

…with wife

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

RL. I sure do. I don’t think I’d stop sometimes, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve got a body and that it gets tired, hungry, thirsty, and sore from remaining in the same position too long.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

RL. I wrote a book last year that is now complete except for some editing. I’m not yet sure when it will be published, but I hope soon. It’s about an old actor, devoted to his wife, who made a few mistakes during his younger years. He gets a chance to redo those years, but discovers all he really wants to do is get back to his wife.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

RL. I switched my acting career from first priority to second about 15 years ago. Writing took its place as my great passion.

Q. How long after that were you published?

RL. It took me eight years to write some books that were publishable.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

RL. I don’t believe that will happen.

Q. What makes a writer great?

RL. Since writing is very much a craft (plus inspiration, of course) I think the major factor is wanting—no loving—to write and doing it until you get good. I’d add one thing to that: nothing you write is sacred. If it’s not exactly what pleases you, throw it away and rewrite it until it does.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

RL. It is never the same for me. The book I wrote last year unfolded itself within a year. My first two novels took me over 10 years to get right. My memoir, North of Hollywood, took only about a year. I really can’t say what the whole process looks like. I think if I knew that—and this is speaking only for me—I wouldn’t be a very good writer.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

RL. I came from a very dysfunctional family. It was often painful at the time, especially during my teenage years. So, that was certainly a factor. After that, I spent most of my life as a professional actor; my show business life, as a theater actor in New York, and a Hollywood actor, living in Los Angeles, has had a big influence on my writing.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

RL. I read, exercise, meditate, and spend my most joyful times with Linda and my children and grandchildren.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

RL. I have been a playwright (as well as an actor) for most of my life. I prefer writing books now. As to the genre of my writing, some people call it fantasy, but I do like to try to make it as a literary as I possibly can.

…with grandson

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

RL. I think life is meant to be joyful. But in order for that to be the case—again, speaking for myself—I have to constantly practice kindness, forgiveness, and the continual understanding that God loves me no more than He loves everyone else.

Don’t miss Part I of this wonderful interview.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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New Book in the Series, World of Murder

Book #10, Winter of Murder adds a new chill to the series. 

 

Detective Stella Garcia visits her grown son in the wilds of Alaska. He is interning with a field biology team. Their visit allows them to reunite after R.J.’s six month absence. Stella is delighted to spend quality time with her son. But murder has followed her north to the wilds of this vast winter wilderness and dead bodies start showing up in and around the Native village. Weather forbids local law enforcement from taking on the investigation and Stella is recruited as a murder consultant.

Caused by the absence of Stella, Detectives O’Roarke and Sneed deepen their professional relationship.  Once again they are called upon to solve a murder that was meant to look like an accident.

 

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with Rick Lenz, Broadway & Film Actor, Playwright, Turned Author

Cactus Flower circa 1969, Rick with Goldie Hawn & Walter Matthau

TS. Rick Lenz is a graduate of the University of Michigan, past member of the Actor’s Studio, and active member in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a veteran Broadway, television, and film actor who first came to national attention when he repeated his Broadway role in Cactus Flower,

the film version. He went on to appear in a long list of movies and TV shows. As a writer, his plays have been produced Off-Broadway, on PBS television and in regional theatres across the country. His memoir North of Hollywood was called “masterful” by Writer’s Digest, while his first novel, The Alexandrite was named “one of the best books of the year” by Kirkus Reviews. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

RL. I write anywhere I can: in my office on my computer. I write in doctors’ offices on a legal pad and also in the car when my wife Linda is driving. I write on my laptop in bed, or in the backyard on nice days, which most of them are in southern California. I write at the dining room table or, actually, anywhere I can do so without being rude to someone.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

RL. I honestly have no rituals or quirks about writing; I just do it whenever the muse is kind enough to land on my shoulder. My wife suggests I not answer this question in regard to anything else in my life.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

RL. I used to be tall, dark, and more or less handsome. Now, I am not quite so tall and I’m gray, and a bit funny looking.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

RL. I really don’t. I usually meditate in the morning, have coffee then start writing. On the other hand, if I’m going through a period of insomnia, I may write all night—I may do it in bed or sitting in my favorite chair in the living room.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

RL. Write a paragraph or two and see if that doesn’t get you going.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

RL. All of my characters are born when they have to be for the story. Most of my characters—when things are going well—are based on people I have known at sometime during my long life. There are a lot of characters, more than I’ll ever be able to use, lolling about in my brain.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

RL. I’m not sure. I liked the idea of writing when I was a kid. Later, when I became a theater actor and director, I saw the usefulness of writing too. So I was about 21 or 22 when I first started writing short plays.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Rick’s granddaughter

RL. Sometimes an idea for a character suggests the situation. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Maybe what I’m saying, probably I am, is that they really show up about the same time.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?  Join Us for Part 2 of this Intriguing Interview ~~ Feb…. 23rd

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and other books by Rick 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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What the Critics are Saying…

 ~~  A Review ~~

Book #9 in the World of Murder series is, as its predecessors, inspired by real life events which add an extra dimension of authenticity to the story line. It opens with the dilemma of Penny, who is experiencing an independent life after being buried in childcare and being a wife for eighteen years. A special arrangement has been made with husband Tony that preserves the semblance of their twenty-year relationship while allowing her more freedom; but when she meets Lyle at a bar, things change not because he loves her, but because he, too, plans to entrap her.

Investigators O’Roarke, Garcia and Sneed, come to investigate a murder where Penny is the victim. Could Penny’s husband, who loves her, be the perp? As the homicide detective team uncovers a myriad of perps, mishaps, and convoluted triads of circumstance, readers receive a vivid and fast-paced investigative story that offers more suspects than answers and keeps the action taut with a guessing game that holds no obvious answers and many possibilities.

As a love relationship and a special arrangement morphs into shootings, a cunning perp, and boys who inadvertently become part of a bigger picture they’d never planned, Triad of Murder excels in a romp through juvenile involvements and adult activities that challenges investigators and a community alike.

Stella, Jack, Phoebe, and friendships gone awry intersect over a murder that will keep readers involved in police procedurals and family relationships right to the end.

While mystery fans and prior readers of the series will find this a compelling addition, true crime enthusiasts should also place Triad of Murder (and the entire series, for that matter) on their reading radars: the reality-based events and action are exquisitely detailed and the story is hard to put down.
~~ Donovan’s Bookshelf

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Guest Blog by author, Rick Lenz

‘Delete’ Clever ~~ Make Room for Honesty ~~ by Rick Lenz, author

When I was a young writer, I made my living as an actor. During the first half of my acting career things went well. I tried to be as honest as I could in my work, but when I was offstage or off-camera, it seemed to me the best thing I could do was to be “cool.”

Between jobs, I worked hard on my notion of who I was and wanted to be. Without knowing that’s what I was doing, I convinced myself I had an image to build and protect. Like many young professionals, I thought it was important to be clever. If I said a cynical thing and got an appreciative laugh that was the kind of thing I wanted to learn to say more often. I was “hip.” On the surface anyway, there were very few things cooler than being hip.

The word isn’t used much anymore, but I desperately wanted to be and stay hip. When you’re young, people often seem to react positively when something cutting, or biting, or just plain mean is said at someone else’s expense. Often, I’m afraid, that’s a fair definition of what “hip” was at the time and “cool” often is now.

Those things wear thin very fast. A constant onslaught of clever soon gets to be something you want to turn away from. Clever too often turns out to be cruel.

Meanwhile, my writing, which became more and more important to me, suffered from the fact that I’d spent much of my adult life trying to invent my cool and clever self, the artificial me. It turned out that persona—for me—was not only an uncomfortable place to live, it was an alienating way to be a writer—and a writer cannot afford to alienate his reader. For years my writing suffered from that voice.

If you’re cruel, cruelty is what will come back to you. The wisest voices of the ages have not said, “Judge not lest God will judge you.” They’ve said, “Judge not that you be not judged.”

It’s not some outer power that’s going to come after you, seeking retribution. It’s you yourself, who will unconsciously (in most cases) know for sure that payback is coming your way. And it will get you and it will pay you back. In kind.

It took me far too long to learn that the most important thing I could do toward becoming a good writer was to be Don Quixote “In search of honor.” One of the synonyms my dictionary gives for “honor” is “mark of respect.”

It’s a wonderful thing to give your reader a “mark of respect.”

That does not mean that you can’t be witty or funny or even clever when that’s called for. But underneath whatever it is, readers deserve one thing from us beyond our professional due diligence: our respect.

Come back for my Interview with Rick in March ’19

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and February:  Patrick Canning.
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Book Review ~ Schugara by Joe English

 

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5 out of 5 quills.  Book Review  

 

If you like words as much as I do (and you know how much I do) you will love this book. Words chosen and arranged so masterfully. English’s use of language is superb. No surprise, maybe, as the author took thirty years to complete the book. And he was still editing when he sent me the advanced reader’s copy. That’s dedication…but it also shows in the final product. 

I don’t writer spoilers…that is, I don’t include the whole story (as so many reviewers do) in any of my book reviews. I review the writing and the story. Is the writing good? Is the story entertaining and complex? Are the characters believable and do I care about them?  In the case of Schugara the answers are a resounding ‘YES’!

We’ve all wanted to run away and reinvent ourselves at some point in our lives. I certainly have…upon reflection I have actually done it! And that’s what this story is about. Several characters run away and they end up on the same remote island in the Caribbean. This book will require your full attention. It is not ‘light reading’ as the multiple characters are rich and the story complex. 

My only negative critique is with the publisher. The back cover of the book does not give a synopsis of the story to lure a reader into buying it. Reviews are fine but they should be taglines on the back cover and full reviews saved for inside the book.   The format is very distracting. (Maybe the issues were only in my advanced copy. Let’s hope so.) Unjustified spaces. Indents too deep. All these issues, including line spacing, contribute to the final number of pages, 500+, and may be a negative when a reader considers buying the book. Believe it or not, buyers check to see how many pages there are. No effort was made to create an author’s page on Amazon.com and other outlets, which is basic marketing. The readers want to know more about the book and its author. 

Having said my piece about the production of the book, it’s a fine piece of writing and I congratulate the author. Waiting anxiously for his next book. I think there’s a book in Joe Rogers, Zero and the bookstore, The Yellow Harp. 

Did you catch my interview with this author?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  other AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and in early 2019  Patrick Canning.
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