“Wandering Feelings” by Boyko Ovcharov: A Glimpse into the World of Those Driven by Emotion

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Much of the prose in this story was poetic and beautifully rendered, such that it did an excellent job of capturing feelings, which can be elusive and difficult to describe with words. The descriptions of various places provide excellent imagery and added to the dreamy, flowing nature of the story. The style is definitely unique and doesn’t conform to formula writing. There is no plot in the usual sense most readers expect and the characters are nameless. In other words, it breaks plenty of rules, yet in its own way, as a chronolog of feelings, it “works.”

As an astrologer, this story struck me as a great example of getting inside the head of someone driven by emotion, such as those born under a Water Sign (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces). If you’re not a deeply emotional person, you’re likely to see the characters in this book as illogical and possibly even dysfunctional in their inability to dismiss their unloving, materialistic upbringing and get on with their lives. However, for someone ruled by emotion, this is not easily done.

And for those driven by logic, not easily understood.  In fact, this latter group will probably be unable to understand the emotions expressed in this story. They may feel uncomfortable and perhaps even disgusted with the characters, who simply can’t seem to “get over it.” This is something that can cause great divides in relationships when people can’t understand how others are programmed. We’re all egocentric to some degree, especially when we’re younger, and think everyone sees the world as we do, or at least should.

Thus, if you fully relate to this book and become blissfully immersed in its beautiful prose and deeply felt emotions, you’re probably an emotional person yourself. Those who roll their eyes, keep waiting for something to happen worth noting or for the characters to get a grip and quit whining are probably logical by nature.

The richest part of life is often that which is felt. Those who have never fallen deeply in love, felt overwhelming joy or even its antithesis of debilitating emotional pain, are missing something. I believe this book is most important for those who don’t understand how deeply emotions can operate because it introduces them to a world with which they are entirely unfamiliar. Emotions are not always positive, e.g. love, but can be viciously destructive as well. Understanding that brings new insights into human nature, of which no one can ever have too much.

Rather than dismissing or criticizing the book or the characters, learn from it. Yes, there are people out there who are that tied to their emotions. If you’re not one of them, this is an example of what you’re missing, for good or ill.

You can find it on Amazon here.

The Devil’s in the Details

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Berncastel, Germany

Embellishing your story with the right details can make the difference between being vivid and memorable versus slipping away like a boring stretch of highway in the rearview mirror. Finding the correct balance is not always easy, however, since there’s no perfect level; it’s not only genre-dependent, but subjective. Some readers expect more while other’s complain about their eyes glazing over. I tried to read a novel a while back that was so loaded with specifics that I felt as if I were there and could map out the entire area.  However, the plot moved so slowly, if at all, I was never able to finish it. Other readers felt differently, however, as it enjoyed several favorable reviews. Nothing is ever simple about writing. Like they say, you can’t please all the people, all the time.

A skilled writer, however, knows when to get down to the nitty gritty details, such as what color blouse the heroine is wearing or what’s on the menu for that romantic dinner at The 21 Club. There’s no greater way to build mood and imagery, but bogging down an action scene, whether physical or emotional, is a definite no-no. Get your reader familiar with the territory beforehand, then fire away.

A sense of place is another important element that can greatly enhance your story. Street names, specific restaurants (whether real or not), historical landmarks and even the weather can take your reader on an excursion to somewhere they’ve never been, adding depth and character to your story. Cities have personalities, too, which can add to the mood if exploited properly.

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New York City

If your story takes place somewhere you’ve never been, there are various online resources that can provide the information you need. If you can’t afford to hop in your car or on an airplane to see for yourself, you can still obtain vital details. Wikipedia provides historical and demographic information for most cities and localities around the globe. Whether your hero or heroine has lived there his or her entire life or is visiting for the first time, a sprinkling of details will bring it alive for your readers, giving them the bonus of vicariously visiting someplace they may never get to in person. If, perchance, they have been there, you want them to recognize it, which will give you increased credibility.

Writing a chase scene? Google Earth is a fantastic way to roam the streets yourself! If you’re a visual type like I am, you’ll thrive on this blast of input. Research doesn’t have to be dry, boring or expensive. It can be fun as well as informative while providing inspiration and plot twists along the way. Give it a try and see if it takes your scenes to an entirely new level.

(Pictures by the author)

Review of “Both Sides Now” by John Reinhard Dizon

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This unique story entirely sucked me in. It has so much substance I scarcely know where to begin. The characters are incredibly real, not only the protagonist, but the supporting ones as well. It feels like real life because there are so many others involved with their own agendas. In this sense, it reads more like a biography as opposed to a novel. The plot is likewise incredibly complex and convincing while it skillfully portrays a slice of history representative of the 60s era.

Lucien Triskellion obtains his PhD in Germany and accepts a teaching job at New York University teaching German. Lucien is a big guy who was a champion amateur wrestler during his college years. It doesn’t take long for someone to notice the fact he can press 500 pounds and lure him into the professional wrestling circuit. If you’re not a wrestling fan, don’t let this stop you from reading this book. I, personally, couldn’t care less about this pseudo-sport, yet I enjoyed this story tremendously because it went so far beyond that. Wrestling comprises numerous settings, but the story was so character-driven that it was comparable to meeting someone really interesting and listening to their life’s story. For example, the dichotomy of Lucien’s life as a university professor versus that of a pro-wrestler, in which he was cast as a bad guy, is gripping in and of itself. If you’re a wrestling fan, then you’ll undoubtedly love it even more as it brings the human element alive with the conflict behind the scenes.

Of course with a young, hot protagonist like Lucien, there’s going to be a romantic angle. This involves Anneliese Krieger, another German immigrant, who lives with her father. As if Lucien doesn’t already have enough going on in his life, Anneliese’s father is falsely accused of Nazi war crimes incident to WWII which results in a gripping trial which is loaded with additional suspense.

The details of all elements of this novel are so vivid and convincing it was easy to get lost in it and forget that it wasn’t real. The author has the masterful ability to include just the right amount of detail to build strong imagery, clear sense of place, as well as character appearance and development. Whether it’s an address in New York City, a famous restaurant, Madison Square Garden, or legal terminology or courtroom protocol, you feel as if you’re there. Needless to say, this book would make an incredible movie.

They say an author should write what he knows, and clearly Dizon knows wrestling, which shows in how he immerses the reader in this crazy world. He’s footnoted some of the unusual terminology and slang, which helps if you’re unfamiliar with it. The business and politics of this sport are explored and exposed as well as the various complications this adds to Lucien’s life and even reflect on the trial of Anneliese’s father. While some of the detail regarding the players in the wrestling business was somewhat overwhelming, possibly a bit overdone, it nonetheless added to the story’s amazing credibility.

I don’t often find myself in a position where I’ll actually miss the characters of a book, but I felt as if Lucien and Anneliese were personal friends by the time it ended. If you enjoy a meaty novel with a different setting, strong, well-developed characters, and a breathless ride through the 60s, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this book. I absolutely give it 5-stars.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

The Importance of Formatting

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Typos, grammar and such are an amazingly common complaint in reviews, something which many indy authors encounter at some point. However, there’s another issue that can get you a bad rapp (or rep, as the case may be) that you may not even be aware of–formatting.

The guidelines for a printed book with an interior that looks professionally done are substantially different than those for an ebook. Considering how there’s a good chance most of your readers are going to opt for the electronic version, it’s in your best interest to make sure that it looks professional as well, not like an afterthought.

I suspect that numerous indy authors, after getting their book set up on Create Space, simply hit that button on the last screen to publish their book in Kindle format. This is all well and good, but don’t trust that automated process to produce an electronic version that looks anything like the printed one. At the very least, check it yourself, especially if your printed version has dropped caps at the beginning of each chapter.

The first thing you need to do is save a second copy of your book to use for the electronic version prior to formatting it for print. Then you can add headers, footers, chapter headings, dropped caps and so forth to the printed version without introducing potential corruption into the electronic version. If you’ve already done the formatting, then obviously when you save that second copy it will be to remove such things. typewriterEither way, it’s a lot easier than the old days, when authors wrote on a device like the one shown to the right. Those of you who haven’t had that experience don’t even want to know what it was like handling simple revisions that changed the pagination. Gives me a panic attack just thinking about it.

If you want to produce a professionally formatted ebook, the best guide for doing so is the Smashwords Style Guide, which you can download for free from their website here.

Even if you don’t use Smashwords’ service (perhaps because you’ve opted into Kindle Unlimited, which requires giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your work), the instructions will enable you to format a clean version that won’t aggravate readers enough to blast you with a bad review. It takes a little extra work, but it’s worth it.

Writing a book entails a lot of hard work, but that’s just the beginning. If you want it to be well-received by readers, it also needs to provide a comfortable reading experience. It’s not difficult to do and will be worth it. If it’s not something you care to tackle, then check into some of the services that will do so for a reasonable price, such as Fiverr.com.

Showing respect and appreciation to your audience starts with clean copy. Getting yanked out of a story by errors of any type, whether they’re typos, incorrect spelling, punctuation problems or formatting in nature, is not only distracting, but annoying. Some readers are more forgiving than others in overlooking such things, but sure as death and taxes, sooner or later, a reviewer will say so.

After all the time, sweat and blood you’ve put into your story, don’t let its message be diluted or even lost due to careless formatting. Take care of your readers and they’ll take care of you.

Spotlight Author Blog Tour: Meet Kim Cox!

I’m excited to be a part of RRBC’s Spotlight Author Blog Tour! This week’s featured author is Kim Cox, who writes in several genres, one or more of which is likely to be on your list of favorites. If you’re a fan of the TV series, “The Ghost Whisperer”, then her Lana Malloy series is just what you’ve been waiting for! Keep reading to learn more about Kim and this intriguing series.

Lana Malloy Paranormal Mystery Series

In the LANA MALLOY PARANORMAL MYSTERY SERIES, Lana Malloy is a psychic, private investigator who is on a mission to help the dearly departed even when they don’t realize they need help. With each book, Lana’s psychic abilities grow. As she’s pushed to new limits, she learns she’s capable of much more than she knew.

In book one, HAUNTED HEARTS, Lana sets out to solve her first case—the twenty-year old cold-case and double murder of her great aunt and her great aunt’s fiancé. If she succeeds, they’ll spend eternity together; if she can’t, they’ll be stuck as Haunted Hearts. With the help of the ghosts and a new love interest, she is able to find the murderer.

In book two, GET OUT OR DIE, the success of Lana’s first case has spread throughout the local Charleston area and her business is booming. At one pro-bono job, Lana helps a widow communicate with her late husband where she learns of a frightening new ability—an ability that could give the next spirit, an angry ghost, the upper hand if she’s not careful.

In book three, THE WEDDING CRASHER, Lana is on her honeymoon in Gatlinburg, Tennessee when she learns that a recurring vision about an abducted woman took place in nearby Knoxville. This case takes her hiking up mountainsides and trekking through rough terrain to find a madman before he can harm this young woman.

In the fourth book, CHRISTMAS CRUISE, Lana boards a cruise ship haunted by dead women who were brutally murdered. While aboard the ship Lana has an experience that mentally injures her. Once she recovers, she’s more determined than ever to find the murderer.

Coming up next, book five, HAUNTED BY HER PAST: Lana is faced with the task of helping, Jena, a domestic abuse victim escape the ghost of her dead, abusive, ex-boyfriend.

Other Books Coming In This Series

In book six, DEMI’S SERIAL CASE, the town of Charleston has a serial killer and Demi requires Lana’s assistance. Demi is Lana’s best friend and a police detective. Lana helps Demi profile the killer who is believed to be a copy-cat killer (copying another serial killer’s modus operandi) of the man who has been in jail for about five years.

In book seven, DEATH COMES CALLING, Derek, Tony’s brother has moved back to Charleston after living in the middle east and Africa, treating serious injuries while associated with the organization, Doctors Without Borders. A ghost that died in his care begins to haunt him.

Book eight is of yet untitled, but the idea is that shortly after Demi is promoted to Police Captain, she will be involved in a shootout that leads to her being charged with murder. Lana will need to find the truth in order to save her friend. The problem, the dead spirit isn’t talking and he’s the only one that knows what truly happened.

Also Available at the following book sites:

HAUNTED HEARTS – Book 1 – Available now in print and ebook through Amazon KindleAmazon Print24Symbols, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Page Foundry.

GET OUT OR DIE – Book 2 – Available now in ebook through Amazon Kindle24Symbols, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Page Foundry.

LANA MALLOY PARANORMAL MYSTERY (Box Set 1)  2-Book Set – Available now in ebook through Amazon Kindle24SymbolsBarnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Page Foundry. Save $2 by purchasing the box set.

THE WEDDING CRASHER – Book 3 – Available now in ebook through Amazon24SymbolsBarnes & NobleKoboiTunesPage Foundry, and Scribd.

LANA MALLOY PARANORMAL MYSTERY (Box Set 2) 3-Book Set – Available now in ebook through Amazon24SymbolsBarnes & NobleKobo, and Page Foundry. Save $3 by purchasing the box set.

CHRISTMAS CRUISE – Book 4 – Available now in ebook through Amazon24SymbolsBarnes & NobleKoboiTunesPage Foundry, and Scribd.

Read more . . .

SM - Book CoverallthistimeKCcoverIf you like romantic suspense, be sure to also check out “Suspicious Minds” on Amazon here and “All this Time” on Amazon with this link.

About The Author

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Kim Cox is an author of Paranormal, Mystery, Suspense and Romance. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with her chain saw artist husband, their West Highland White Terriers–Scooter and Harley, and a Yorkie mix, Candi. Kim is published in novels, short stories and articles.

Sign up for Kim’s Readers List for exclusive information, new releases, contests, giveaways, and free books.

Visit her at the following sites:

Author’s Website: http://www.kimcoxauthor.com

Blogs: Kim’s Musings, Kim’s Author Support Page

Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/kimcox

Social Media locations:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimcoxauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KimCoxAuthor

Google: https://plus.google.com/+KimCoxAuthor/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/kimcox

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kimwrtr/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimwrtr

 

Interview with Multi-genre Author John Reinhard Dizon

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John Reinhard Dizon is one of my favorite authors and definitely one of the most versatile. His literary repertoire includes thrillers, family sagas, historical settings, steampunk, sports, suspense and techno-horror to name a few.  His latest release, Both Sides Now, is a romantic comedy, and I must say that I have a bit of a personal interest in this book since I designed both the interior and the cover plus my daughter is the model on the back. While formatting the interior, I gleaned enough of the story’s basics that I’m looking forward to reading it properly in the near future.

I interviewed John a few years back, but in view of this new release, I thought it was time for a rerun with some specific questions directed at him about this latest work. While he dubs it a romantic comedy, it struck me as much more substantial, especially with its unique setting and situations. So let’s see what he has to say.

MF:  The protagonist in your latest novel, “Both Sides Now”, is an intellectual wrestler. You are a highly intelligent person and were a wrestler in a “previous life”, which explains the authentic feel and terminology of the sport. How much of this story is autobiographical?

JRD: Actually it’s far more biographical. Hans “The Great” Mortier was one of my mortierWorld Wide Wrestling Federation childhood favorites. There was a major roster change when Vince Mc Mahon bought the Company from his father at the end of the Sixties, and the stars from the old regime were swept under the rug. Mortier was not a German professor, so that is all ‘what-if’. However, a large portion of the story is going to be instantly recognizable to fans of the era. The novel is as much a testament to the era as it is to Hans Mortier.

MF: Ray Karpis, quite a shady character from the early 20th Century, has made an appearance in two of your books, this latest one as well as “The Triad.” What do you find most appealing about him?  Did you ever meet him?

TheTriadCover1 copyJRD: As a criminologist, I have to say that Alvin Karpis is my favorite gangster. He was the last of the Public Enemies but was so elusive and shadowy that hardly anyone knows of him. I wrote Both Sides Now before The Triad and paid homage to Karpis by naming the Lou Thesz-based character after him. Outside of his autobiography and the Public Enemies biography and movie, there is almost nothing out there about Karpis. Hence The Triad. I think I did a good job of bringing his personage to life. He was considered a genius, loyal and generous to a fault, and very much in touch with the modern world and technical developments. Like most of the great gangsters, he would have been a tremendous success in society and the real world had he not gone the wrong way.

MF:  You do a great job of capturing the flavor of other eras as well as places.  You’ve lived through quite a few yourself, but when you get beyond your experience, what’s your favorite research method for your stories?

bothsidesnowcover6.jpgJRD:  The Internet usually helps you find the resources you need to make your story work. Only in this case, as you mentioned, I lived through most of this. Ergo, it was mostly a matter of documenting my recollections. I spent a lot of time in the NYU neighborhood, Soho and Greenwich Village, so most of what I did was pull up addresses. I read hundreds of wrestling magazines so was familiar with the old-time arenas. I was also a paralegal, so that helped me make the courtroom drama all the more realistic.

MF:  You’ve certainly held a wide variety of jobs, which undoubtedly contributes to your writing. Authenticity is important if you want to be taken seriously as an author and when you can say, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt” the details bring the story alive. As far as the plot itself, do your stories reveal themselves as you write or do you know what’s going to happen, start to finish, when you first sit down to write them?

JRD:  Many times the characters end up helping write the stories, as Sabrina Brooks does in the Nightcrawler series. She just makes things happen around her. In this story, Ray Karpis greatly influenced the conflict in the storyline (pun somewhat intended). He becomes the voice of reason, letting Lucien clearly see all the possibilities if he chose that direction in life along the road to wrestling superstardom. I think it also lets the reader see ‘both sides now’ and will stimulate discussion as to whether or not Lucien makes the right choice.

MF: Ethical dilemmas make great material because the reader is forced to think.  You have a huge list of published work. How long does it take you, on average, to finish one of your novels?

courthouse1JRD:  It varies, considering how complex the story is. The action/adventure stories move along pretty quickly as there’s the adrenaline rush that keeps you writing. Historical fiction such as this takes a bit longer because you have to authenticate your work. Getting names, places and events wrong will leave your story dead in the water. The courtroom storyline in this novel took almost as much research as all the wrestling background. It probably took the better part of a year to put it all together.

MF: Wow! That’s so true, though, if you want to be taken seriously as an author. When a reader stops to roll his or her eyes because something is inaccurate it pulls them out of the story, which is the last thing an author wants to do. Of the numerous books you’ve written, do you have one particular character who’s your favorite? Why?

JRD:  I’m having to go with Sabrina Brooks, aka the Nightcrawler. Every one of her novels is an adventure in itself. She’s a beautiful woman who moonlights as a crimefighter, who seems to target the Russian Mob. She’s the CEO of a chemical company, which means she doesn’t have to do this but does anyway. She’s very compassionate and is a churchgoer, which makes her all the more unique. Her personal relationships suffer greatly as she gets beat up, and the Nightcrawler’s successes come at the expense of her personal life. I enjoy writing her story as much as people love reading it.

MF:  Multi-dimensional characters are essential to a good story.  So what’s your favorite part of the writing process? Which part is the most difficult?

JRD: It’s the dialogue. It may be my strong point as a writer, and it helps me develop the characters and give the reader the best insight as to the speaker’s personality and motivation. The reason why reality TV shows get over is because people want to see their heroes behind the scenes. In literature, the author allows readers to listen to the characters giving up their innermost hopes and fears. The most difficult part is bringing it all together, making the story plausible. You do your homework, you authenticate your background, you flesh out your characters, but your audience has to buy your story. That’s the make or break part, and I think I make that happen every time.

MF:  Yes, you certainly do! When did you decide you wanted to be an author?

JRD: I was writing dialogue for my stick-figure cartoons when I was six. I was fascinated by TV and the movies and wanted to tell my own stories. Many people will say my entire life was about turning my fantasies into reality.

MF: So obviously you were born to write, which isn’t surprising considering how prolific you are.  You’ve worn a variety of hats over the years in a wide variety of jobs and places. What can we expect from you in the future? At what stage is your next novel and when do you expect it to be out?

JRD:  The Blight is about a decorated fire team of Navy SEAL commandos working as an elite unit for the St. Louis PD. They are taking on a mass murderer intent on destroying the ‘social blight’ plaguing the city. Kirsten Streicher is a typical JRD bad-ass female protagonist. Only her team is heavily impacted by the madman known as X, and the writing is on the wall as their group is slowly disbanding. Kirsten is forced to move forward with a whirlwind romance beckoning, though she feels compelled to bring the killer to justice before her career comes to an end. As usual, there’s lots of social issues and moral conundrums discussed, and the standard JRD reflections of current-day controversies. I’m hoping to release it by Summer 2016.

MF:  Sounds like another winner! Is there any particular author or authors who have inspired you the most?

JRD:  Shakespeare, Ian Fleming and Robert E. Howard. The Bard for his conciseness and verbal dynamism, Fleming for his ability to take the reader to a myriad of locations, societies and situations, and Howard for his gift of lurid description and breathtaking action. I hope my readers see my work in a favorable light in comparison.

MF: From what I’ve read, I believe you can rest assured that they will.

You can pick up a copy of Both Sides Now on Amazon here.

Connect with John Reinhard Dizon:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/johnreinharddizonUSA

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/John-Reinhard-Dizon/e/B00DU9JNUQ/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JohnRDizon

 

 

Blog Tour: Annie Douglass Lima’s Latest YA Adventure Tale

I’m excited to be part of Annie Douglass Lima’s blog tour to announce her latest young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

The Collar and the CavvarachFirst Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

EXCERPT:

“Hey, it’s the new guy,” someone said, and heads turned. “What’s your number?”

“My number? Oh, um, I think they said I’d be Fifty-Eight.” A tasty-looking bowl of chicken and potatoes came within reach, but someone else picked it up, scooped some onto his own plate, and then passed it away down the table before Bensin could get any.

“So, you beat Ninety-Nine,” a Skeyvian gladiator across from him commented, his dark skin laced with pale jagged scars. “Soon as he gets out of the clinic, you better watch out. He’ll be out for blood.” He set down the vegetables he had just served himself, and Bensin picked up the dish, but the guy next to him plucked it out of his hands and sent it in the other direction.

“I didn’t actually mean to hurt him,” Bensin began, looking around for another dish of food. He was interrupted by derisive laughter from everyone within earshot.

“Fifty-Eight didn’t mean to hurt him! Ha! What kind of gladiator are you, kid?”

Bensin couldn’t think of an appropriate response. “Hey, could somebody pass me the chicken?”

“Dude, you better start meaning to hurt people if you want to make it here,” the burly Tarnestran beside him advised. “You can’t manage that, Gile will plan a blaze of glory for you sooner rather than later.”

Bensin wasn’t sure what the man was talking about, and his stomach was still rumbling. Everyone around him was eating now, but the serving dishes had all been passed down to the other end of the table.

“Gile won’t have to plan a blaze of glory for this one,” another gladiator predicted. “At this rate, he’s gonna starve to death first.”

* * *

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

About the Author

Annie Douglass LimaAnnie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

(See my previous interview with Annie here.)

Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnnieDouglassLima

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

Google Plus: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Some Benefits of Backstories

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As an author you’re probably already familiar with backstories.  These may reside nowhere but inside your head, but in order to develop authentic characters and plots, they need to exist.  Even if a character has amnesia, such as Jane Doe in the popular TV program Blindspot, he or she needs to have a past.  Life experiences, even for fictitious characters, are what make people interesting, provide motivation and bring out their personality.  As an author, if you don’t know this about your character, it’s going to make it more difficult to tell his story.  Dialog and action may be stilted or artificial without knowing what makes him tick.

If you’re having difficulty getting into a character, talk to him or her to find out more about their background.  You might be surprised what you’ll discover.  Character interviews are common these days in blogs, which further demonstrate this principle.  Talking about a character with other writers or your beta readers can bring out all sorts of great ideas as well.  If you get stuck, try this out.  I can have as much fun brainstorming with other writers about their current WIP as I can with my own, whether it involves character motivation or plot development.  Backstories are also great practice for new authors not only to develop their cast but their writing style as well.

It’s worth noting, however, that you shouldn’t confuse your readers by giving unimportant characters a name.  If you do, they’ll wonder later what happened to so and so.  The general rule is that any character who doesn’t contribute to the plot doesn’t need to be there, anyway, except in the case of certain group situations, like extras in a movie.  If they’re important enough to deserve a name, then they should have a backstory, no matter how simple.

For main characters, these backstories tend to come out in the course of the story to a greater or lesser degree, but not always so much for minor characters.  However, if you find a detailed backstory developing for a minor character, chances are he/she/it has something interesting to say.  You’ve undoubtedly noticed how various sit-coms have had spinoffs over the years, typically when a minor character becomes interesting enough to have his or her own program.  One that comes to mind is Frasier, which evolved from Cheers.  Another example would be the ewok stories that evolved from Star Wars.

It used to be that backstories were useful to the writer, but often sat in a file that never saw the light of day.  Now that ebooks are so popular and relatively easy to produce, they can serve a useful purpose for keeping readers and fans engaged, either as your full-length novel develops, between books in a series or even to add additional depth to a story that’s already out there.  Who knows?  It could evolve into another full-length story as you dive into what makes a character tick.  This is often how series and trilogies are born, when there’s a lot more to tell.  Fans who become attached to a character love to hear more about them.  And these are not always limited to the main ones.  How many movies have you seen where one of the supporting actors grabs your attention?  You never know who another person will connect with or for what reason.

Since this background information is often already written up, or could be relatively easily if it’s parked in your brain, it’s worth it to do some editing and get it into ebook form.  Print form works, too, since these books are usually short and make great giveaways or ultra-inexpensive samples.  As expected, the cover is the most expensive element of a book, so they might not be as cheap as you’d expect, but usually your cost will be around $2.  For example, my Star Trails Compendium, which is 135 pages long, costs me $2.48 while The Sapphiran Agenda is only 29 pages but $2.15.

Backstories work well for giveaways and teasers, both before and after a book is released.  My Star Trails Tetralogy series has two, which are free on Smashwords and its outlets and 99c on Amazon.  The Star Trails Compendium comprises all the terms, definitions and cultural background information for the series while The Sapphiran Agenda is a true backstory for a minor character, Thyron, who’s a flora peda telepathis, i.e. telepathic walking plant.  Many readers noted he was their favorite, though at least one found him annoying, demonstrating how you never know how they’ll be accepted.  Thyron has at least one more story to tell which I hope to have out soon.

Put backstories to work for you to gain new fans, retain old ones, and provide short samples of your writing style.  Short reads are popular these days as well, even having their own category on Amazon, which further increases their appeal and potential for finding new readers.  Whether you’re in the middle of a lengthy novel, between books or perhaps stuck with a case of writer’s block, these gems can be fun and easy to write and provide a means to maintain contact with your existing fan base.  If you need ideas or examples, feel free (literally and figuratively) to check mine out at the links below.

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The Star Trails Compendium

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The Sapphiran Agenda

Top image copyright 123RF

 

Review of Jeanne Foguth’s “Vi-purrs”

vipurrscoverXander de Hunter fans will be delighted to know that their favorite undercover cat is at it again in this exciting and vividly rendered adventure tale (or tail, as the case may be). If you’ve already read “Purranoia” (and you should, to fully appreciate this sequel) you’ll know that there were many unanswered questions at the end. Furthermore, Xander picked up a lovable sidekick, appropriately named Mischief. Her rebellious and inquisitive yet highly intelligent nature adds another important member to Catamondo. She continually rubs Xander’s fur the wrong way, especially her weird love of water sports, making the Sea Purrtector wonder if choosing to mentor her was really a good idea or not. The tension between these two adds conflict and more suspense, further enriching the story and plot.

The tale gets started when Xander’s buddy, Merlin, reminds him of the many unsolved issues from their Haitian adventure, driving him to follow up on the situation. This takes them to Jimaní in the Dominican Republic’s Independencia Province, where Mischief’s tante, Lucy Fur (be sure to say that aloud to get the implications) resides. They’d never fully determined the objective of Dr. Moreau’s genetic engineering operation. Furthermore, what happened to Damon, Chester, Mingus, Matsu as well as Clade and Allele, the odd cat-snake mix known as the vi-purrs?

An entertaining cast of characters including a rat named Scar, a chameleon named Mars, another cat named Sharkey who loves to quote Native American wisdom, and numerous others join with Xander and Mischief to find the answers. Their efforts are further complicated by a hurricane, adding to the suspense and intrigue. As always, the settings are described in vast detail such as can only be accomplished by an author who’s been there.

The complex world of Catamondo just gets better and better. If you love cats and a good adventure story that would make an excellent animated movie, this series is for you.

Pick up your copy in ebook or print format on Amazon here.

Other Books in the Purrtector Files Series:

Connect with Author, Jeanne Foguth:

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Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jeanne-Foguth/e/B00JDW7TC8/

Blog: https://foguth.wordpress.com/

Website: www.jeannefoguth.com

Review of Glory on Mars by Kate Rauner

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If you’re a fan of hard science fiction, and I mean really HARD, then you will love this book. In fact, I’m inclined to say that it’s only on the borderline of sci-fi, that it’s more what I would call science faction, i.e. so close to being reality that it’s not even that futuristic. Indeed, many people reading this book are likely to live to see a Mars colony in their lifetime. If you loved the movie “The Martian” then this story is a great follow-up to keep your imagination well-grounded on the Red Planet.

The Mars base the author designed is brilliant. She has thought of just about everything imaginable and described it at a technical level detailed enough to make you feel as if you’re there. She has hab modules, jumpships, walkabouts, surface suits and any number of other goodies. At the least, you know she’s not just making this up because her engineering background truly shows. Since I worked as a NASA contractor for over 20 years, I found many familiar things in this story, from the space technological presence in Noordwick, The Netherlands, since I’d been there more than once, and other terminology such as “frangible nuts” used with explosives to release their hold in various spacecraft applications.

By the time you finish this story, you feel as if you’ve completed a tour of duty on Mars. Anyone who may aspire to go there someday can get a very sound idea of what it would be like, from eating worms to the various hazards that abound on a planet that is not fit for human habitation without serious, high-tech intervention. There are radiation issues, maintaining an appropriate pressurized volume with the correct oxygen mixture, psychological challenges, vehicles for getting around on the surface, sometimes at a great distance, and so forth. In this respect it is exceptionally well-done. The author’s knowledge and undoubtedly a whole lot of research is evident and available for readers to enjoy. The side stories were excellent as well, adding additional detail and background which I highly recommend readers take the time to enjoy. They’re not required, but add to its richness. Thus, as an outstanding science fiction novel, I give this book a strong five stars.

However, if you want a bit more than engineering and science in a story, there are a few things I would have recommended be included, had I been a beta reader for this book. I realize that all reviews have a high degree of subjectivity, and the comments that follow are strictly my opinion and may not be shared in the slightest by other readers, especially if all you want is hard sci-fi. Nonetheless, that’s part of the point of a review, to share one’s opinion, and why over all I give this story four stars, so here we go.

While the numerous characters clearly had different personalities, to me they were faceless. Their physical descriptions were lean at best and missing at worst. She did a great job giving them very diverse and memorable names, many of which implied the individuals’ international heritage, but I never was able to “see” them in my mind, other than perhaps Yin and Yang, which were handled in a very clever manner that worked. I like to be able to picture the characters in a story and didn’t feel I had enough description of the others to do so.

The point of view (POV) was limited to one member in particular named Emma, with whom I connected somewhat. One thing to be said about the single POV is that it does lend the feeling that you were Emma and experiencing what she did. Nonetheless, with so many characters, it would have been interesting to get into their heads and viewpoint as well. The first half of the book contained a lot of description about the base and getting things set up along with the challenges involved, which could have been handled through other crew member’s POV so the reader got to know them as well. This would have rounded out the other characters a bit more and provided an opportunity to describe their appearance.

A little more conflict among the crew members would have added a bit more realism as well. This was touched on a little, but it’s highly likely that roughly a dozen people confined as they were under stressful and sometimes life-threatening conditions would have had a few clashes along the way. There was some tension, but people simply aren’t that mature and logical all the time, even if they’re engineers. This I know, given I’ve managed them in my previous life.

Another thing that bothered me was the cat. As a cat owner and lover, I expected the cat to have a more significant role, perhaps along the lines of Pete in Heinlein’s “The Door Into Summer.” I couldn’t believe it that when this kitten was taken onboard as they began their journey that he was not immediately given a name! Maybe I’m just a crazy animal lover, but I can’t imagine that someone in that group wouldn’t have done so. At the least, when they arrived on Mars, someone already there would have done the honors, since it was that group who’d requested the cat in the first place.

The cat could have been worked into the plot more as well. The base’s AI even recognized the cat as a team member! Cats are curious, (Curiosity would have been a great name, in honor of a previous Mars mission) they get bored just like people, and he would have undoubtedly had some interesting experiences in the zero-gravity environment during the journey as well as once they arrived on the base. Mine get into trouble all the time in a regular earthbound house. Owning a pet isn’t simple and it certainly wouldn’t be on Mars. He could have caused any number of problems and conversely, even provided ways to solve others.

Why did the previous crew request a cat in the first place? Pets add warmth, affection, and a new dimension of “home” to say nothing of comic relief. He could have contributed an additional touch of reality to an unreal situation. I probably wouldn’t harp on the cat issue so much other than the fact the cat is so prominently displayed on the cover. I found this very misleading, since the cat played essentially no role in the story, whatsoever, other than a few cameo appearances, where he could have easily become an endearing and potentially major character.

That precious piece of visual real estate known as a book cover would have been much better used to fill other gaps in the story. It would have been very helpful to have a drawing of the base, for example, with all its modules and such, which was well-described in the text, but not always easy to picture. Any artist would have had a blast with that. It also would have benefited by some people as well, which could have compensated for the lack of description in the text. A newly designed book cover would be a great investment for this story and thus represent its content more accurately. Potential readers for this book include hard sci-fi fans, preppers into self-sufficiency, and cat lovers, based on the cover. The cat on the cover could actually turn off some readers who would enjoy it the most.

Speaking of preppers, a bit more of the self-sufficiency side of growing food, raising fish and so forth would have been great as well. The use of heritage seeds, saving some of the potato harvest to plant for the next generation, or even the use of aquaponics could have further enhanced the story and also fit nicely with switching viewpoints.

In spite of all my grumbling above, I truly did enjoy and appreciate this book and what it took to write it. As a physicist and former “rocket scientist” myself, I found very few things I wondered about on the technical side. There were a few places where I thought about making a few calculations, then reminded myself it was only a novel and to lighten up! It provides a realistic view and excellent vicarious experience of what it would be like to be a space pioneer. For that, I highly recommend it. Just don’t expect much from the cat.

You can pickup your copy on Amazon here.