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Meet Marcia Turner: talented, versatile indie author of murder mysteries

Today’s Books Are Cool feature is about Marcia Turner, indie author of murder mysteries. Marcia has recently published two very different books in the genre which we’ll take a quick look at first before hearing from Marcia about her books and writing.

misplaced coverMisplaced Loyalty was Marcia’s debut detective novel. Patsy Hodge won’t be second best – not in her job as a police detective or to another woman. After a relationship with a man at work who turned out to be married, she transfers to another area and finds herself working for the prickly and opinionated John Meredith. She forms an uneasy alliance with another female detective in Meredith’s team, Tanya, as they investigate what at first appeared to be suicides but are now realised to be assisted suicides – in some cases, very assisted. Patsy proves to be a very sharp investigator, which antagonises Tanya, but she’s not the only enemy Patsy makes. Surprisingly, her biggest initial enemy, her boss Meredith, proves to have another side. He’s been frankly a complete bastard to women in the past, but it’s time to change. Especially when Patsy appears to be in real danger. However, whether two such strong-willed people can make as successful a private team as they do a professional one remains to be seen.

This is a supremely successful murder mystery with rounded, convincing characters who grab your attention and an extremely clever and unpredictable plot. There’s tension, terror, intrigue, humour and romance, and this book will appeal to anyone who likes any of those elements since it’s so readable and entertaining.

Next up is Murderous Mishaps.

Muderous Mishaps CoverFive work colleagues meet up at the reasonably nice St James Hotel for a weekend of pampering and self-indulgence. There aren’t many other guests there – a few priests, an elderly couple, a much younger people and a few others, including a hotel inspector. So Suzie, Jenny, Debby, Charity and Anna should get plenty of attention from the spa staff and the dishy French barman. Hotel manager Gina Brown determinedly keeps standards the highest she can, despite the fact that this weekend she’s having to deal with Cornwall’s heaviest summer rain in decades, power failures – and a dead body. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink, and several people overindulge over the period!

The police arrive swiftly to deal with the body and with the weather meaning no one can leave the hotel, it shouldn’t be too hard to solve the crime. And there’s no shortage of perpetrators ready to own up. When DI B asks for a confession, several guilty parties jump up. So who really did commit the crime? And just how many murders were there?

There’s a lot of entertainment to be had from this lively, clever and very funny murder mystery. Marcia Turner has woven a fascinating plot and she has a lovely, natural writing style. You’re there with our fun five leading females as they tease each other, take part in the karaoke competition, and although they get the claws out on each other occasionally, they’re genuinely kind and caring. They take other guests, notably Barbara and Simon, under their wing and look out for each other. And only one of them might be a murderer…

Marcia Turner has a great eye for detail and the close-knit community she creates in this hotel draws us in. Every single one of her characters is complex and truly intriguing. No little mannerism or quirk escapes the author’s eye. The plot is ingenious, to say the least, and keeps us interested, puzzled and guessing to the very end.

marcia picAnd now, over to Marcia!

Tell us briefly about Misplaced Loyalty.

Misplaced Loyalty was my second full length novel, although the first published. The first novel I wrote was Murderous Mishaps although written under a working title of “Whodunitchiclitthing”. Once I’d completed that, I decided to see if I could write a serious whodunit. I wanted it to be a little different, so I threw a will they won’t they into the mix. It was a huge learning curve in just about every way, and eventually absorbed every spare minute of my time. Once I had finished it, I missed the development of the characters and began to plot out the next in the series, whilst editing/rewriting what eventually became Murderous Mishaps.

What’s the story behind the story? Why did you write the book?

As mentioned above, I was coming to the end of writing Murderous Mishaps, and wanted to write something less frivolous. I saw a news item on a poor man who had been badly injured and wanted to end his life. He had been an active sportsman and father, and found himself a quadriplegic, unable even to feed himself. He was brave enough not to take the option to end his life quietly, but challenged the law through the high court, wanting to be given permission to end his life legally, and on his terms. He did that to both protect his family and those that would have to help him, and to provide hope to others in a similar situation. He lost his case and his reaction was harrowing. He died a few weeks later. I began to wonder, what if? What if there was someone willing to risk helping those who saw no future, irrespective of the law? Those whose lives had become so retched, that death was the most palatable option. But what if that person started making the decision as to when the time had come?

I wanted to consider the argument from both sides. I wanted to show that there are people, who, for one reason or another, truly had reached the end of their life as they see it, and the misery it causes them waking up each day. I countered this by showing that some days they were glad that they had seen their loved ones one more time, and that giving others control over their existence could prove fatal. I wanted to question that if such an agreement had been made, at what point does the decision to end your life pass into the hands of others.

Was it an easy story to write?

Surprisingly, yes. I had the basic premise as to how the victims would die, and I knew I wanted to show that whilst these awful things were going on, life for everyone else carried on as usual. I think that’s why I introduced the will they won’t they element. Meredith & Hodge were desperately trying to find and stop the villain, whilst trying to decide whether or not to become involved with each other. I would confess though, that I didn’t decide finally ‘who did it’, until I was over half way through.

Which character are you most like? Patsy? Jasper? Meredith?

Hmm. That’s a tough question. Probably a mixture of Patsy and Meredith, weighted toward Patsy. I am quite calm and pragmatic about most things.  I don’t like to be the center of attention, I’m quite happy to be on the peripherals looking in, but more often than not get dragged in to the thick of things. When I explode, which is rare, it is of that moment and then I move on.

 

And now we’d like to hear a little bit about your latest novel Murderous Mishaps.

My “Whodunitchiclitthing” was born from a conversation with a friend. She had been asked to help someone who had ‘killed’ their partner with an odd weapon. The conversation ended with her saying, “They wouldn’t believe you if you wrote it down!”  I wasn’t working at the time, and having always enjoyed writing I thought, why not? I sketched out a story where I was able to drop in many of unusual and amusing things that had happened to my friends and colleagues over the years. I borrowed a pet irritation from here, and a mannerism from there, and my cast was born.

It’s fair to say it’s less serious than Misplaced Loyalty, even though we have a few bodies. Was it more fun to write?

Not really, as it was supposed to be farcical, and because I’d never attempted anything like it before, I found getting some of the scenes to work without overdoing it really difficult. I’d love to write stories that make people laugh, and admire writers who seem to be able to do so effortlessly. It was never supposed to be a comedy but nor was it serious, and when I decided to publish it I was concerned that readers would think I meant it to be taken seriously.

Your lady characters in Murderous Mishaps are successful, glamorous businesswoman. I get the feeling you’re one too. Who are you most like out of Anna, Jenny, Debby, Suzie and Charity?

Glamorous is not a word I would ever associate with myself. It made me laugh reading the question. However I was a Regional Director for a large corporate for many years and I was competent at my job. I suppose if I had to choose a character most like myself, it would be Anna, sensible, reliable, a tiny bit adventurous, and so not totally boring.

enid-blytonWhat’s the main appeal of crime fiction?

I like reading all types of fiction but I like to be challenged as the story develops. I grew out of Enid Blyton at about nine years of age, and started reading Agatha Christie because that was mainly what was lying about.  I like to work out what, why and how with whatever I’m reading, and when I came to writing Murderous Mishaps, it seemed natural to drop all the things I wanted to include into a whodunit.  Surprisingly, some of my favourite novels are not related to crime in anyway.

Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?

I found a graphic designer quite by chance, gave him a brief synopsis of the stories and he came up with various designs. With both Misplaced Loyalty and Murderous Mishaps the covers jumped out at me. With Ill Conceived the second in the Meredith & Hodge series I did give him several of my own ideas. I am not artistic in anyway shape or form, but I know what I like. The aim with Murderous Mishaps was to ensure readers knew this was not a serious read. With the other two, I wanted to catch the eye and whilst depicting perhaps a little of the story, ensure that it raised more questions than it answered.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I don’t think there was an absolute moment. I’ve always enjoyed making up stories. I would find myself in situations where on the face of it everything was normal, but someone would do or say something that wasn’t quite right. I would find myself making up dramatic reasons for it, just for my own amusement. The reality of course was far more boring. One day I simply sat down in front of the laptop and started writing fuller versions of my thoughts and exaggerations.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

To research how things work as an indie author. Join as many writers groups as you can find time to attend both on line and in person if possible, and learn by other people’s mistakes. I am not at all technical and managed to make as many mistakes with the first upload of Misplaced Loyalty, as was possible to make. I also didn’t consider how I was going to promote it to anyone other than people I already knew. So, do your homework first and be prepared. I now have the legacy of some reviews which would have been great if it wasn’t for the mistakes I made. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty it get yourself an editor!

This is your baby. You have nurtured and developed it, you have done your absolute utmost to give it a good start in the world, and then you let it down at the final hurdle by sending it out into the world without first making sure shoelaces are tied, and it trips up on the first outing. That can be corrected of course, but some damage will already have been done. It would be so much better to avoid the fall if at all possible. An editor will tie the laces for you.

And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

Not really, I’m just an average mum, wife, or work colleague. I happen to disappear for hours on end in front of a laptop, and I sometimes ask odd questions at inappropriate moments much to others amusement. Such as, “can you get DNA from urine?” whilst eating dinner.  Other than that I’m normal!

Thanks Marcia!

You can buy Marcia’s books here:

 

 

 

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The Splintered Circle by Ruby Stone: a thoughtful mystery with a strong sense of place

splinteredThe Splintered Circle is a thoughtful and original mystery. An elderly man, Max, has hired Raif Condor to retrieve items for him and deliver them. The items are heavy and turn out to be fragments – splinters – of stone. If Max, via Raif, can gather all the pieces then he can solve a puzzle and discover the whereabouts of something very valuable.  However, the final splinter eludes him and there are some other issues he needs to deal with as well.

We also have Fleur Fern, who is sent by a private detective trying to discover what happened to a man who has disappeared. Her investigations take her to Guernsey where, handily, she’s able to stay in her aunt’s cottage while she works.

Raif has to travel quite far and wide in his work for Max, and suddenly realises he could be at risk. He’s sure he’s being watched. Fleur makes some unexpected discoveries of a personal nature which bring her and Rair into contact. The German occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War emerges to have a crucial role to play in the unfolding mystery of the stone splinters.

The Splintered Circle is very much a book about places. The author has an incredibly sharp eye for detail and creates the various locations that are depicted in this novel with great authenticity and atmosphere.  Characters too are well portrayed. They’re interesting, complex, realistic people, but each one with an attractive amount of mysteriousness about them that adds to the general air of mystery in the book.

It’s well written, very carefully structured novel and the changing focus from Raif’s activities to Fleur’s investigations keeps the reader interested and on their toes. There’s tension, intrigue and touches of humour. The plot moves at a good pace and it’s original and certainly not predictable. There’s more to solve than the problem of stones and readers are kept guessing to the very end.

Ruby Stone has produced an impressive and enjoyable novel with the added interest of the modern historical elements within it. Her book is well presented in terms of editing and formatting, and has an attractive, well designed and exectuted cover that hints at the contents and inspires interest.

I look forward to reading more by this author.

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Pipeline by Christopher Carrolli: Tense Paranormal Thriller

pipelinePipeline by Christopher Carolli is a tense paranormal thriller, the first in a series. A pipeline is when the dead attempt to communicate with the living through technology such as television, phone or computer. This is what happens to Tracy, whose fiancé David died in a car crash six months ago. She suffers from survivor’s guilt since she was in the car too but survived. And suddenly she hears David’s voice on the television, hears his favourite song on the radio which tunes itself and gets silent phone calls from an unknown number. She needs help, but not from a psychiatrist. Her friend Marcia points her towards a group of paranormal investigators. They attempt to solve the mystery of what David is trying to tell Tracy but time may be running out.

This is an extremely exciting and well written book. You’re on the edge of your seat all the way through. Carolli has created some intriguing, complex characters for us to discover. Not just Tracy but everyone we meet has an interesting background and a persuasive reason for being involved in this paranormal investigation. It’s far from being another ghost story. This is a gritty, gripping, modern novel with an ending that is far from predictable. It’s a brilliant and thought provoking start to what looks like being an excellent series.

 

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Spotlight on Gabriela and the Widow by Jack Remick

gabriela widowAbout the book: Through the intimate bond of a companion and benefactor, Gabriela reconciles the painful experiences of her youth as she is reshaped by the Widow, La Viuda. Together, day after day, night after night, La Viuda immerses Gabriela in lists, boxes, places, times, objects, photos, and stories, captivating and life-changing stories. It seems Gabriela is not just hired to cook and clean; she has been chosen to curate La Viuda’s mementos while taking care of the old woman’s failing health. “As you grow thick, I grow thin,” says the widow, portending the secret of immortality that will overtake both women.

Jack says of his novel: Gabriela and the Widow is a very personal novel not at all based on personal experience. It is a novel about two women, one dying—The Widow; the other—Gabriela, is blossoming. It is an archetypal Mother-Daughter novel working the idea that culture passes through women. It is built on the notion that our memory is fallible and that our stories have to be written down for them to be meaningful. It is a novel about the transformative power of love and respect. It is also a novel built on the idea that women share deep and universal secrets regardless of which culture they live in.

My comments: I found the book to be a gripping read. Gabriela is an amazingly resilient and resourceful character who has a miserable time as an adolescent after she loses her family. She doesn’t want much from life really – just a pair of Nike trainers and to keep busy, but even simple ideals are hard to find in a corrupt, oppressive world. It’s not an easy book to read at times in terms of the harsh content, but it’s one you can’t put down. You get so drawn to Gabriela with her freshness and uncomplicated approach to things. Jack Remick has a gift with character creation. He portrays everyone sharply, even minor characters that we only meet in passing. We know exactly what makes them tick and whether we like them or not within a sentence or two. There is plenty of action, an intriguing plot and a lot of enjoyment to be drawn from this novel.

jack remickAbout the Author: Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer and novelist. In 2012, Coffeetown Press published the first two volumes of Jack’s California Quartet series, The Deification and Valley Boy. The final two volumes will be released in 2013: The Book of Changes and Trio of Lost Souls. Blood, A Novel was published by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, in 2011.

You can find Jack online at http://jackremick.com
Blog: http://bobandjackswritingblog.com

Twitter: @jackremick

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jack.remick

Publisher Website: http://CoffeetownPress.com

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours, which this post is a part of, visit http://worldofinknetwork.com

Buy the book here:

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Not Just Another Blue Moon Café

bluemoonThe Blue Moon Café: Where Shifters Meet to Drink by Ioana Visan is a collection of seven short paranormal stories. The short story is not an easy genre to market, especially given the proliferation of novellas these days. However, this collection works almost as a short novel, given the unifying underlying theme of shifters, and the characters who are common throughout, although the disparity in the stories’ lengths mean they don’t really equate to chapters. Werewolves – mutts – and the less common were-eagles who double up as crows are the main characters we meet, but there are humans and “smoking hot vampires” too. The Mayor is trying to keep things calm in his town with a rather volatile mix of different shifter species and has various levels of success.

There are plenty of humourous touches and lots of imagination in evidence in these quirky, tightly plotted stories. There’s romance, tension, craziness, suspense, threat. Each story in the collection has a slightly different tone, from comedy in Once in a Blue Moon, with the added moral of ‘be careful what you buy off someone in a bar’, to tension and conflict in A Mutt Problem, to definite foreboding yet optimism in The Day We Shot the Moon out of the Sky. The various characters are sparsely yet adequately portrayed. This author concentrates her writing energy where it matters most – in creating atmosphere and entertainment. The book would benefit hugely from a more original title. There is a sea of books with Blue Moon Café in the title, many of them collections of short stories, and I worry that this book could drown in them. It deserves to stand out from the crowd. Sadly, the cover doesn’t do the book full justice either and doesn’t reflect the class and quality of Ioana Visan’s writing. But this is definitely a book worth reading.

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Dynasty O’Shea by Clarissa Cartharn: Promising Debut Fantasy

Dynasty OShea new cover 7(2)Title : Dynasty O’Shea

Author : Clarissa Cartharn

Length : 389 pages

Genre : Fantasy

Jack and Rachel O’Shea and their children are ordinary people living ordinary lives – or so it would seem. But everything changes when Jack turns up at Rachel and the kids’ home with a mysterious jewel. One of the kids accidentally creates a portal to another world, Spassenia, while messing around with the jewel, and Jack and Rachel are thrown back into a world they thought they’d never see again. While the children struggle to comprehend their newfound status as royals, their parents must battle to regain the throne of Gammalion. Through many incredible adventures through magical kingdoms complete with their own legends, peoples and fascinating creatures, the O’Shea family learn some vital lessons about themselves and become closer than ever before.

This is a promising debut novel. It includes everything you might expect from an epic fantasy – mythical creatures, incredible landscapes, bloodsoaked battles, heroic characters and even some romance. The various realms of Spassenia are richly populated with diverse and fantastical tribes and animals. Each member of the family is uniquely characterized and learns much about themselves and their family.

From the epilogue of the book, I gather we can probably look forward to a sequel, so those readers who have fallen in love with the world of Spassenia will surely be delighted to have another chance to explore that world with their favourite characters.

 

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Night-Time Buddies: Fun, Lively Adventure but Tricky Language

NightBuddiesStickerCover300dpiThe content of this book is spot on for a young audience. John Degraffenreidt has exciting adventures at night-time when, of course, adults think he’s in bed and asleep. Outwitting grown-ups is always appealing to kids! John’s buddy, the red crocodile Crosley, is in a bit of bother. Some imposters that look like him are causing trouble so Crosley and John need to stop them.

This book offers likeable and intriguing characters, with the larger than life, irrepressible Crosley, a crazy, imaginative plot and plenty of fun. However, it’s the presentation that’s the controversial element in this book. I love the way different typefaces are used to make each page look as lively as story it’s telling is. That’s a nice touch and it works brilliantly. Less so, in my opinion, the language. Most of the characters have their own dialects and what they say is spelt how it sounds, at least to the author’s head. As Crosley says in the introduction: “If there’s a word ya can’t understand, just say it out loud an’ then ya’ll get it. Hey, just don’t spell it that way at school or in a spellin’ test! If ya want, make a game outta findin’ all the misspelled words in the story!”

A touch of over-eagerness there to make it acceptable to spell words wrongly? Maybe. Confident readers won’t have any problems with it but kids who find reading more of a challenge may be a little perplexed. The danger with writing in a dialect is that it becomes annoying after a while. It’s a fun, well-intentioned ploy that would work perfectly with an older audience, but can be very hit and miss with younger kids.
Also, fermez la! isn’t something French kids would say anywhere near an adult! Teachers don’t tolerate it in the schoolyard either. (I live in France and have three bilingual French-English kids.) I’d have preferred to see ‘Taisez-vous’ so a bit more research there would have been good. My last minor moan is that there are rather too many very long dashes around the place too. Any mannerism used more than moderately becomes irritating.

However, pedantry aside, this is a lively, fast paced book that is fabulously illustrated by Jessica Love and makes for entertaining read.

You can buy the book here:

 

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Flying High: Meet Don Rush, Children’s Author, And His Feathery Creations

I recently worked with Don Rush on his delightful and very unusual children’s books which wife Cathy has been involved with too. Robby’s Quest for Seed and Robby’s Quest: Ocean Bound are about a group of courageous birds. We have Robins, Sparrows, Mourning Doves and a Blackbird making up a small loyal flock who find themselves facing very big adventures for such little birds. They face long journeys, nasty cats, lost children and natural disasters. But this tight-knit band of feathery friends overcomes adversity through sticking together and using their ingenuity. Kids will learn a little about birds without realising as they read these lovely adventures.

I talked to Don about his stories.

robbyquestTell us briefly about Robby’s Quest for Seed and Robby’s Quest: Ocean Bound

Robby’s Quest for Seed is a story about a close-knit group of birds that decide to migrate south from Ohio for the winter. Everyone in the group has a role; Robby is the leader and Benny makes sure none of the little birds fall out of the formation. They are diligent about performing their responsibilities. The birds vote on most of the important issues they must decide.  During the trip, Joy is lost and nearly becomes lunch for a cat names Hershey. Ultimately, the searchers save her. Later when the birds arrive in Florida, they find that a hurricane has destroyed the entire area. The birds get some advice from a Dalmatian and they head west. After some drama on the way, they finally arrive in Arizona, safe and sound. Ricky steps up his role and becomes a leader.

Robby’s Quest: Ocean Bound is about the same flock with a couple additions, Ruby and Josie. Ruby is Ricky’s new girlfriend and Josie is Joy’s new best friend. This time Ruby suggests the flock fly to San Diego because the Arizona summer is too hot. Again, they have their roles and a specific formation. They arrive in San Diego and split up to investigate their new home. Ricky and Ruby fly to Coronado Island, the Doves fly to the pier and Jay and Josie fly to the beach. Later Joy and Josie fly out to a cruise ship where they fall asleep and end up lost at sea. They get some help from Wanda the Whale and eventually are found in Mexico.

What’s the story behind these stories? Why did you write these books?

I tried a couple times writing books about management styles but the words escaped me. I’m medically retired and on disability. I had too much time on my hands. My wife and I would sit outside in Arizona and watch the birds. We put up a birdfeeder and the little birds would kick the food to the ground so the bigger birds could eat. The other birds would sit on the block wall and patiently wait their turns. We really enjoyed watching them and one day decided to write a story. We finished the first book the day Riley, our grandson in Minnesota, was born.

Were they easy stories to write?

Once we began writing the books things went fairly well. My wife and I would kick around ideas about the birds and what they might do on a trip like this. Once the characters had a personality it seemed to go pretty well. We tried to come up scenarios that a child would enjoy reading about. We modeled the birds and the other characters in the book from people and household pets. We had a blast writing the books.  I published the first story on Amazon KDP. Several people suggested they wanted a paperback so I self-published on Createspace. We learned some hard lessons like don’t ever publish a book until you are ready. I’m not a patient person and that’s probably why I have health issues. I wanted to publish the books to leave something behind for our kids and their kids. After getting some help from yourself editing these books and building new covers we re-published a nicer looking product than previously.

robbyoceanWhich character are you most like? Robby? Benny? Naughty Joy? Hershey the cat?

I’m more like Robby because I always liked being the manager or leader.  and our daughter in her younger years was like Joy, high-maintenance. Benny was created after my real brother Benny, somewhat grumpy but actually friendly once you get to know him. The cats Hershey and Nomi are our household pets. Hershey actually is a big, fast and strong cat with a mischievous streak. The Dalmatian Sammy was my daughter’s favorite pet.

The covers are fun. Tell us about them.

I was looking for an illustrator on the internet and found Kaui on Craigslist. She actually only lives about an hour from me so I liked the idea of having a local do the drawings. Kaui made some sketches and we agreed on the appearance. She came up with the idea of the U.S. map in the background with Robby and the others on the cover. We were talking about a picture with the maple tree and bird feeder but this cover seemed appropriate. The illustration was actually the front cover of the first book until I learned how to make a cover. Then I inserted the illustration in the cover so it looked more professional. I really liked the covers especially the watermark on the back cover. Our thought is to have a different color cover on every book we publish.

What are you working on now? Will it be out soon?

We are writing Robby’s Quest: Return of the Cat. Hershey and his family decided to move to Nevada. At the same time, the birds are traveling to Las Vegas for a few days. At Lake Mead near Vegas, they run into Hershey once again. After they escape (a near miss once again) the birds fly to Vegas and meet a Pink Flamingo named Penelope or Penny for short. Joy wants to see the world and Penny tells the birds where to see the sights like the Eiffel Tower, pyramids of Egypt, skyline of New York with the Statue of Liberty, all right down the street. Joy is excited to be able to visit all these wonders of the world all in one town.

We are not doing very well marketing tour books and with the illustrator, book reviews, editing, promotions, the cost is making publishing the third book more difficult. I’m trying for spring 2013. I already have a sketch for the third cover from another artist. I think she captures the Lake Mead scene very well.

Why do you think there are so few books with birds as their characters?

I’m not really sure. I never paid much attention to birds until I had the time to admire them. I’m hoping to change that if I can get our product in front of the kids.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I don’t think I’m an author just yet. To me an author is someone that can write a novel. I like Stephen King and I really liked the style of Capotes “In Cold Blood”. I can see myself writing crime novels someday. I love CSI, Criminal Minds and other similar shows. I think my books are mainly just short stories for children. Personally, I think my vocabulary is somewhat limited. Even though I took three semesters of English in college, I still struggle with my words. Over the years, I thought about writing a story but never felt I had the ability. I wanted to prove myself wrong. If nothing else, I managed to publish something and I’m proud of that effort.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

I think self-publishing is the way to go. I hate the thought of sending my work to a publisher. These people live in their own little worlds. They are unresponsive and generally difficult people to get in with. A publisher won’t read your work without submission from a literary agent and literary agents won’t even call you back.

OK, I’m stepping off my soapbox. The new author should make sure their product is ready, edited properly and looks appealing. Then get the social media thing going like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, etc. Building a website is critical. The website serves as the hub to everything. Once you have the hub you can direct traffic to it and the reader can learn where to buy the books or what you are working on, all at one site.

OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favorite bloke’s gadgets and why?

I like my cell phone, especially since I learned how to send texts and pictures. I’m like a kid in the candy store.

rushpicI’ve always been partial to computers. Cathy and I use to build computers back in the day. We ran a bulletin board from our computer called the Dawg Pound where people could call into our computer, leave messages to each other, play games or download files. We learned a lot about computers as a result. We had three phone lines and would take 50 to 100 calls a day. This was all before the internet. We just bought a new computer with Windows 8. I hate learning new software!

We love our car. We bought a 2012 Chrysler 200 and it’s awesome.

Can’t forget our pets. Hershey crawls up on my lap and lies across my chest. He is a cool cat.

What food can’t you resist? Probably not seed I imagine!

I like popcorn and that starts as a seed! I really like shredded beef tacos and steak with hashbrowns. I am a diabetic so I have to watch what I eat. I love pie and cake but don’t touch them anymore.

Please describe your perfect day away from writing.

I enjoy taking day trips and driving to San Diego for a couple days is my favorite. I love the area. I use to live there back in the early 80’s. I certainly couldn’t afford to live there anymore but I love the ocean. Coronado Island is probably my favorite stretch of beach in the world. I can watch the ocean for hours and forget everything going on in my life at the time. We use to enjoy driving to Laughlin, Nevada to spend a day or two but gambling just isn’t much fun anymore. It’s very difficult to win anything.

And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

I never expected to make a million writing and selling our books. I would be happy if we could cover expenses. I really enjoy doing this and it fills my day. I told my wife that even if we won the lottery I would still write and market these books because it’s been so much fun and I feel good about leaving something for the kids. Our books can stay on the market forever and hopefully our children and their children will keep these titles up and running.

Where to find Don, Cathy and their books:

His website is here.

 

Here’s his Smashwords page.

Twitter: @dcrushbooks

And you can buy Robby’s Quest for Seed here:

And Ocean Bound here:

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Children’s Christmas Story – Caitlin and the Christmas Angel

Enjoy the story and please feel free to substitute ‘Caitlin’ with the name of the little angel in your household!

 

Caitlin and the Christmas angel

The Christmas tree looked lovely — except for the silly gold star that mum insisted on putting at the top every year.

Caitlin sighed. A proper Christmas tree should have a beautiful Christmas angel on top. Her best friend Nicky’s did. Grandma’s did too, and so did the huge tree in the square outside the town hall.

“Mum, can’t we get an angel for our tree?” she asked as she put the last garland of tinsel onto the tree’s prickly branches.

“Whatever for?” said mum, surprised. “We’ve got a pretty star. It always goes on top. It represents the star of Bethlehem that told the world where Jesus was born.”

“I know, but the Christmas angels told the world about Jesus too,” replied Caitlin.

“You’re right,” smiled mum, “but the star stays.”

So that was that. Caitlin was so busy over the next few days, getting ready for Christmas, that she more or less forgot about the tree. It wasn’t till Christmas Eve that she thought about it again.

Mum was in a panic. She couldn’t find the Christmas pudding she had made months ago. She knew she had put it in a safe place, but she couldn’t remember where.

“We’ll have to make another,” she announced. “I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find it.”

“Can I help?” asked Caitlin. She loved helping mum bake.

Between them they measured out the ingredients and stirred them all together.

“Remember to make your wish as you stir the pudding,” said mum.

This was Caitlin’s chance! She shut her eyes and without a moment’s hesitation she silently wished for a Christmas angel.

But almost before she knew it, it was bedtime and there was no Christmas angel to be seen. It looked as though her wish was not going to come true.

Full of disappointment she put out a mince pie and glass of milk for Santa and trailed sadly to bed. She didn’t even feel excited about the presents she might get. It didn’t feel like Christmas Eve at all.

She was just dozing off when she heard a tap-tap-tapping at the window.

“Must be the wind,” she muttered sleepily to herself.

But then it came again, only this time a lot louder. It was more of a thud-thud-thudding!

Caitlin sat bolt upright. Could it be Santa at the window? Perhaps he couldn’t get down the chimney?

She hurried to the window and dragged open the curtains. She gasped in astonishment. There, looking cold and tired, was a real, live Christmas Angel!

Caitlin stood staring at her until the angel called through the glass. “Well, are you going to let me in or not?” She sounded a bit cross for an angel, Caitlin thought.

Caitlin leapt into action. She heaved on the catch and slowly swung the window open. In came the angel with a lot of cold air.

“Here I am, one Christmas angel as wished for,” she announced with a flourish.

Caitlin just gaped at her.

“What’s the matter?” snapped the angel.

Caitlin jumped. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare,” she said. “It’s just that, well, you’re a real angel. I only wanted an angel for the Christmas tree.”

“Well, why didn’t you say that in your wish,” sighed the angel. “Honestly, what a mess. Here I am, I’ve just flown all the way from the North Pole and I’m not wanted.”

“North Pole?” echoed Caitlin. “I thought Christmas angels came from Heaven.”

“Not Christmas pudding Christmas angels,” explained the angel. “We’re Santa’s department.”

“Oh dear, I’m so sorry about the muddle,” sighed Caitlin. “Will you have to fly all the way back to the North Pole again?”

“No, I’ll get a lift back from Santa when he calls here. I’ll just have to wait until then.” The angel adjusted her halo. “By the way, I’m starving. It really is a very long way from the North Pole. Have you got any food?”

“There’s the mince pie and milk I put out for Santa. Will that do?” asked Caitlin.

“Yum!” said the angel, brightening up at once. “Santa won’t mind if I have them. He’ll get millions of mince pies and glasses of milk tonight, after all!”

Caitlin led the angel to the lounge. The ashes were glowing in the grate and the Christmas  tree lights were twinkling daintily.  The angel perched on the fireplace and happily munched her way through the mince pie. Then she drained the glass of milk and absentmindedly wiped her mouth on her sleeve. Caitlin tried not to giggle.

“I see why you wanted an angel for the tree,” said the angel, nodding towards the star that sat wonkily and dully at the top of the tree. “It is a bit grim, isn’t it.”

Caitlin nodded in agreement. “Yes, but mum says it’s got sentimental value so I think that means it’s worth a lot. You wouldn’t think so, would you?”

The angel shook her head and she Caitlin stared sadly at the star for a moment or two. Then Caitlin had an idea. “Angel,” she asked shyly, “will you play with me. I’ve got these lovely board games that I never get the chance to play with. Mum’s always too busy, and dad thinks they’re boring. They’re not,” she added quickly, “they’re really fun!”

“Oh, yes please,” said the angel, hopping down from the fireplace at once. She was a lot more cheerful now that she’d had a rest and some supper. “I love playing games. I’m brilliant at picture lotto and dominoes. I always beat Santa. Let’s see what games you’ve got.”

They hurried back to the bedroom and Caitlin lifted down some games from the shelf. Then she and the angel settled down on the floor and opened the first box.

Caitlin didn’t know how long they played for, but they got through all her games. They did some jigsaws too and listened to some story tapes. The angel wanted to read books next, but Caitlin’s eyes kept closing.

“Oh dear, I’m going to have to go to bed,” she yawned. “Thanks for a really great time, Christmas angel. And I really don’t mind about you being real, I mean, I’m glad you are. You’re much nicer than a pretend angel. Thank you for coming.”

“That’s OK,” smiled the angel. “I’m very glad I came. Now, quickly, off to sleep before Santa comes. I’ll tidy up.”

That was the last thing Caitlin heard. Or did she hear a deep, booming chuckle a bit later the night — the happiest chuckle ever? And was she dreaming, or did she catch a glimpse of a large, round face surrounded by lots of whiskers peering round the bedroom door? And did she hear the angel saying goodbye to her and wishing her a wonderful Christmas?

Caitlin couldn’t be sure. But when she awoke next morning, she knew at once that she hadn’t imagined the angel. A few of the games were still on the floor. And Santa had been — there was a big sack of presents at the foot of her bed.

Caitlin dragged the sack into the lounge where she could hear mum and dad chatting.

“Morning!” she called happily. “Happy Christmas!”

“Happy Christmas!” said mum, and dad gave her a big hug.

“Look,” he said. “There’s an extra present for you under the tree.”

Caitlin rushed over. The label on the present said “To Caitlin.”

“Who’s it from?” she wondered. The paper on the parcel was the loveliest she’d ever seen. It had pictures of tiny reindeer all over it. Caitlin carefully unwrapped it, and gave a cry of delight. Here was her Christmas angel at last! And it was a beautiful angel. It looked very much like her visitor from last night.

Dad and mum looked very surprised.  Then mum said: “We’d better get dad to put that lovely angel on top of the tree. I have to admit, it’s a lot prettier than my poor old star!”

“Thanks mum,” said Caitlin. “And thanks Santa and the Christmas angel,” she added under her breath.

She watched as dad stood on a chair and put the angel — her angel — at the very top of the tree. She smiled happily.

The angel smiled too.

 

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Picking A Good Book Title

We all know how important a cover is for a book or ebook. Well, so is the title, but this doesn’t always get as much time and effort put into it as it should. And especially, authors don’t seem to be doing much if any research to see if the title they want has been used. It’s not a great idea to give your book the same name as one that’s already out there.

Recently I’ve read across the following books with titles that turn out to be very popular:

Scorpio Rising: I read the book of this name that Monique Domovitch had authored. But amongst many others, Alan Annand, R. G. Vilet, Daisy Denman, Rosie Orr, Alex MacDonough, Richard Katrovas, Ms Scorpio N and Mark Sheldon have also written books with this title.

The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Eriksson (excellent, by the way): Oral Roberts, Richard Copeland, John Mulinde, Penny Dawne, Edythe Draper, Kristen Bretweiser and Jeff Gunhus have their versions too. Again, that’s only some of the authors who had the same idea. There are a lot of Wake-Up Calls (plural) out there too that could get confused.

Passion in Paris: Rusty Blackwood, Adam Carpenter, Helen Hardt, Robyn Grady all have versions.

Losing It by Simon Lipson (do read this guy) has rivals by Zaria Garrison, Melanie Douglass, Lindsay Rech, Laura Fraser, William Miller, Valerie Bertillini – and those are just from the first page of results on Amazon.

The danger with using a title that’s already been employed is that it makes it harder for readers to find and buy your book. They might be looking up your Gardening with Nail Scissors but come across someone else’s tome of this name and buy that instead, not realising their mistake. Or, when they call up the title on Smashwords, they find six other books with the same name, all of which have snappier covers than yours and so one of them gets the sale instead. Heart-breaking isn’t it?

But other people have the same idea as you do, and sometimes at the same time. And there’s nothing you can do about that. My ‘The Witch’s Dog’ came out pretty much alongside Frank Rodgers’. And I’d checked to see if there were other ones out there before I settled on my choice. The stories are completely different, but they’ve got the same name. There’s an ‘Escape from the Volcano’ out there now, very similar to my ‘Escape the Volcano’. My ‘Oh Dad’ of 1999, has been followed by one in 2000 and another in 2008. ‘Oh Santa’, again the only one at the time, is the name of a Christmas collection of songs by Mariah Carey’s. OK, not a book, but the same title which gets in the way when folk are looking for my masterpiece. And ‘Beat the Hackers’ as a search term pulls up CDs by Beat Hackers, a rap group!

So, you can’t avoid the problem happening completely, but I would strongly advise you to come up with as original a title as you can to keep your book totally unique. Maybe others of the same name will come along later, but at least you got in first!