Monday, May 30, 2011

Click x 2

So apparently all I have to do is confess my Kindle clicking problem on my blog and my obsession with the Buy Now With One Click goes away... or not.  I might have only purchased two books this week for my Kindle, but I purchased 3 real books (the kind you can hold in your hot little hands) this week, too.

First up: iDrakula by Bekka Black: 

Forever a fan of Dracula (you can read my review here), I was intrigued by this book after reading some tweets.  Having read the journal entries and letters in the original account of the the Count I'm really looking forward to getting the story via emails, text messages, twitter feed and instant messaging. Since we all know I'm a lover of tweeting this should be fun for me. =)


The classic vampire story that started it all gets new life for a generation of connected teens. 18-year-old Jonathan Harker is diagnosed with a rare blood disorder after visiting a Romanian Count. His girlfriend Mina and a pre-med student named Van Helsing team up to investigate the source of the disease. The teenagers discover a horrifying truth: the Count is a vampire. The harrowing events unfold through emails, text messages, web pages, Twitter feeds, and instant messaging-the natural modernization of Bram Stoker's original Dracula, which was written in letters, diary entries, and news clippings.

An Example:

"What happened?"

"Not sure. I was fine when I went to bed."


"But I dreamed that someone got into my room."


"I don't remember his face. He was tall, thin, pale...I was paralyzed. And then my neck hurt and my mouth was full of..."

"Of what?"

"Blood. My mouth was full of blood."

You can purchase iDrakula by Bekka Black for your Kindle HERE for $1.99

Next on the list is Cursed by Jeremy C. Shipp


Your life is no longer recognizable, every detail corrupted by unknown forces. The harder you struggle, the more you suffer. Your words mean nothing, your actions backfire, and one by one everybody you know is sucked down with you.

You are:

1) Nick

2) cursed

3) afraid all the time

That's because: a) someone or b) something is after you with a vengeance. Even with the help of other cursed people, you don't stand a chance because you're all, you know, cursed. That means you and everyone you know will:

1) suffer

2) die

3) amuse your tormentor

That is, unless you figure out how to manipulate the person behind this and turn their power against them. Check your list a second time because they're probably on it. The only thing left to do is scratch them off.

You can purchase Cursed by Jeremy C. Shipp for your Kindle HERE.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby

Cheap Shot

Thomas waited until the sound of Nicholas’ footsteps died away before his attention fell on Lanie. “You help me do this and I’ll let you go,” he said easing back into the couch. “You help me win that woman and you can have any man you want.”

“I want him,” Lanie blurted out. “I want Nick.”

“What? You think I don’t know that,” he snorted. “You’ve been hot for him since you met him. Not that I don’t blame you.” He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “There was a time I would have done anything to be with him.”

Lanie’s jaw dropped. Shock and then confusion flashed through her eyes. “You? But you-”

“Yes, a shock I know.” He finished off his glass of wine and leaned in closer to Lanie. A twinge of jealousy inched up his spine. This was going to be a lesson he fully intended to enjoy teaching his old friend. “You bring me one of your friends and I will guarantee he will turn to you when all is said and done.”

“A friend?” she asked skeptically. Couldn’t he just use his mind and hypnotize her into being his?

“I can,” he answered, reading her thoughts as clearly as if she’d spoken them. “But I want her to fall for me honestly. No tricks…well, not many anyway. Are you in?”

“Tell me what your planning first.” She already had the friend picked out, but she was dying to know what he wanted her for. “Let’s see if your idea’s even worth my time.”

“You doubt me?” he asked, the corner of his lip curling into a half smile.

“You? No. The likelihood of Nick letting anything happen between me and him? Definitely.”

“My dear, that’s where you and your charm come in. Turn it on, your mouth off and dig your claws in deep.”

“Meanwhile you do what?”

“I use your friend to gain the woman’s trust. I need a way in so to speak. One Nicholas won’t see coming.”

“You pretty much told him you were gonna go after her. Why not do it right there in front of him?”

“I want this to hurt him. I want him to feel the pain of real rejection.” Lanie watched as his soft brown eyes turned black. Now she understood. This was revenge.

“You still want him,” she giggled. “You’re actually jealous of that girl!”

He had his hands wrapped around her neck before she could even register his movement. She was pinned to the couch with a very angry vampire hovering over her. She could feel her throat closing up. Never before had she been this scared of him.

Thomas bit her ear with his fang, eventually slicing a thin cut on her earlobe. She felt his body shiver and braced for the pain she knew would come. The temptation to suck her dry right there was overpowering. She‘d touched on an emotion he’d managed to keep hidden for years. Not only that but she’d had the audacity to laugh at him.

“You forget how much I like to kill,” he whispered. “You mean less to me than the dirt on the bottom of my shoe. If I were you, I would remember my place. I would remember my master.” He let her go and brushed his hair out of his face. The fear he saw in her eyes put his mind at ease once again. “No, I don’t want him. I just want him to feel the pain I did when he rejected me all those years ago. Now, go get your friend. I have a beating to inflict before I can put my plan into action.”

“A beating?” Chocking her wasn’t enough?

“Not you,” he said gently. “Your friend. You see this girl; woman has a soft spot for victims. I’ll simply make it look as though your little friend has an abusive boyfriend and use whatever time I might gain to find a way in without Nicholas suspecting a thing. The damn fool won’t even know what hit him.”

“I still don’t understand,” Lanie said quietly. “How is knocking her around gonna get you anything?”

Thomas took a deep breath, fighting another overwhelming urge to suck her dry. “I’ll simplify. I beat your friend. I dump said friend, hurt and disoriented on the lovely lady’s doorstep. With another body there, Nicholas won’t be able to move in and out of the house the way he intends to. That fact alone buys me time.”

Time to rid himself of the friend, the woman and Lanie.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HUNTING STORIES by Josh Stallings

I'm very pleased to welcome Josh Stallings to My Friends Call Me Kate.  Yesterday you read about his first book in the Moses McGuire series and today, well, you'll read about the research he does to get the story just right.  It's an excellent post and I know you will enjoy it. 

Midnight, East LA, barrio bar. I sit watching young ladies take their clothes off and dance on a Lucite stage while men toss dollar bills at them. “Research my ass.” My friend Parker laughs. He compares me to Verhoeven and Esterhaus when they were doing Showgirls. Problem is, they are pigs. Me I’m… just chasing down a story. This is how I work. I find a world. For Moses McGuire that is sex for sale in LA. It is also Armenian mobsters. I sit in a club and watch the hardcore power boys strut their Armani and flash their gold.

“What are you doing here?” She is pretty in a tattooed librarian girl-next-door kind of way.

“I’m working on a novel, about the Armenian mob.”

“Shut up, no really shut up. Aren’t you afraid?”

“Of what?”

Her eyes scan the room, flicking across the mobsters. Somehow it doesn’t freak me. I’m not brave. But I grew up hard, that and I feel my literary license will protect me. So far it has. I took my wife to the valley to dine at a Russian mob club. It was an amazing evening and the food wasn’t half bad.

When I’m chasing down a story I go where it takes me. I walk the streets where Moses will stomp. I have spent all night on the streets of Ensenada for Out There Bad (Moses #2.) I took a streetwalker out for tacos at 3AM and got her to tell me how she got where she was. I stood in front of a brothel talking to the bouncer, across the street was a farmacia. In it’s window was a sign – Viagra and US made condoms. The bouncer said Viagra had been a boon to his business, older and older gringos come in and they can go three or four times a night. That scene is in the novel, and I couldn’t have written it half as well as life did.

I troll the Internet looking for facts and cases to lead me to the next story. I read first person accounts of life in the Mustang Ranch, a legal Nevada brothel. I read interviews with the women who work these places. I take Moses on road trips, letting his character fill my mind whilst flying across the desert.

On iTunes I start to build the novel’s play list. Music that I will listen to loud as I pound the keys. I got in the habit of listening to music when writing when my kids were toddlers and my office was a broom closet with just enough room for a desk and my typewriter. To block out the raging sea of domesticity I would put headphones on and fill my head with noise of my own making. I still use it, only now I believe it helps to keep the logical side of my brain busy listening whilst the creative side gets the job done. Thus effectively quieting the mob of inner critics to a dull roar.

Ok, I do all this and I have not written word one of the novel. What I’m finding is texture. What I am searching for is a thread that I can follow, sometimes it is an image or a scene. With Beautiful Naked & Dead it started with the name Moses McGuire, then I saw him with a loaded revolver in his mouth. I started typing the first draft. And I just kept typing until I ran out of story. Then it was time for more research. More low rent bars. More talking to strippers and bouncers and car-parks and who ever else I needed to talk to so I could get my head back on track. Oddly, the places I do my best thinking are strip clubs, on my motorcycle and at the shooting range. Again, I think I need to distract my logical brain so that I can think. At 80 mph on two wheels with every asshole in LA trying to run you over, trust me the logical side is fully busy.

I write my first draft as quickly as possible. Charlie Huston calls it writing with velocity. I type as hard and as fast as my two fingers can go. Later drafts are for cleaning up plot holes and sprucing up the word choices. First drafts are for capturing with passion the reason I wrote the damn story in the first place.

Writing a novel is like moving a very heavy steel hulled boat across a sandy beach. I bust my ass pushing and pulling, dragging the beast into the water. And then it starts to float, inch by inch it gets easier to move. And then all at once the current takes it and we are speeding down a river. From that point my job goes from dragging it, to just keeping it off the rocks. Fitzcarraldo, more the documentary about Herzog making it, Burden of Dreams is all about dragging a ship over a mountain. It is an almost perfect metaphor for how it feels for me to write a novel.

Josh Stallings is your average ex-criminal, ex-taxi driver, ex-club bouncer, film making, script writing, award winning trailer editing, punk.   Over his time in Hollywood he wrote and edited the feature film “The Ice Runner,” a Russian/American co-production. “Kinda Cute for a White-Boy” an independent feature he directed and co-wrote with novelist Tad Williams, won best picture at the Savanah International Film Festival. He also wrote “Ground Zero Texas,” a best selling Sony video game with Edward Neumeier (writer of RoboCop).   His first novel BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD is garnering great notice from readers and reviewers alike.   OUT THERE BAD (Moses #2) will be published early summer.  He is currently working on the third Moses McGuire novel.  He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Erika, his bullmastiff Nelson, Lucy the lab pit mix and Riddle the cat.

You can read more about Josh Stallings at his website HERE!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings

Prior to reading Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings, I hadn't dreamt about a book I was reading since my Oscar Martello reading days right before Christmas.  I was starting to think I'd lost my, uh... touch, for lack of a better word. I mean, it's not like I can will a character into a dream. In fact, my one and only dream about Oscar Martello didn't even have Oscar Martello in it.  Moses McGuire on the other hand...


Having never been in a club that featured GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! I was doing a pretty good job at blending in. My skirt was short and tight. My hair was teased to perfection. My make-up was immaculate. My music choice was hard-core 50 Cent with the perfect thump, thump, thump.  My pole dancing skills were flawless.

Wait a second. Flawless?

Ah, man!  The beginning of this dream is a nightmare of catastrophic proportions. Me, in a nudie bar with perfect pole dancing skills? Ya, right!  I can't walk in a straight line sober. What on earth made me think I could try my hand at pole dancing... even in a dream?


Well, before we get back to that, let me tell you about this book I found on the twitter feed. It was pushed on us really, really hard by my friend @McDroll (This is how we address ourselves on twitter. I'm @sabrinaogden). Anyway, @McDroll read this book written by this guy, @LysdexicWriter (Josh Stallings), that she found on twitter and totally loved. So she pimped it and talked about it until we were all forced to buy a copy.

Then an amazing thing happened.  People started reading it, people started talking about it, and people started falling madly in love with the main character, Moses McGuire. True story. Read the reviews on Amazon.

In Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings, you'll meet Moses McGuire.  Moses is an ex-marine, an ex-con, and an ex-husband in debt to the ex-wife and ex-bookie.  He's also been recently cut off from his drug dealer for passing a bad check.  The guys got a new career as a bouncer at a strip club, and for the most part, well, let's just say he takes his job pretty seriously. Moses is pretty miserable and he's pretty much made a mess of his life, but the one thing that I think keeps him going from day to day is the one woman at the club that isn't a stripper.  Her name is Kelly, and she's the only light in his world that is covered in darkness.

True darkness. Moses has been considering suicide since he was six years old. And at the very beginning of Beautiful, Naked & Dead we read about his personal day to day decision to either live, or die. 

In the story you'll read about Moses getting lap dances, popping pills and taking too long to come to the aid of the one woman that seems to matter the most to him, Kelly. After you read that, you'll learn of Kelly's brutal death and Moses going kick-ass crazy on the guys that did it. You'll also meet Kelly's twin sister, and read about a totally screwed up and, thankfully, brief romance. 

But most importantly you read about Moses. My guess will be that you will fall in love with him like so many of us already have. And while you're reading, you'll find that Moses is just as modest about his good looks in the book, as the author Josh Stallings is about his writing.  Maybe it's the modesty from both men that's making all the women nutty. I don't know. All I know is that I read this really incredible book with an amazing character and story line and that all I've wanted to do is read more about this character and encourage and support this author with his writing.  It truly is an amazing book. Hard-boiled, dark, full of suspense and fast cars, this is a debut novel with a character that can be stuck on repeat for years without me getting weary.  Seriously. I didn't call Moses hubba-hubba superlicious in a previous post for no reason, ladies. 

As for the dream...

I'll leave that to your imagination.

Josh Stallings is your average ex-criminal, ex-taxi driver, ex-club bouncer, film making, script writing, award winning trailer editing, punk. Over his time in Hollywood he wrote and edited the feature film “The Ice Runner,” a Russian/American co-production. “Kinda Cute for a White-Boy” an independent feature he directed and co-wrote with novelist Tad Williams, won best picture at the Savanah International Film Festival. He also wrote “Ground Zero Texas,” a best selling Sony video game with Edward Neumeier (writer of RoboCop). His first novel BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD is garnering great notice from readers and reviewers alike. OUT THERE BAD (Moses #2) Will be published early summer. He is currently working on the third Moses McGuire novel. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Erika, his bullmastiff Nelson, Lucy the lab pit mix and Riddle the cat.

You can read more about Josh Stallings at his website HERE!

Beautiful, Naked & Dead is available on the both the Kindle and the Nook. You can also purchase this in paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Click x 2

I'm actually quite surprised with myself.  I only bought two books this week for my Kindle. It's not that there weren't any other temptations out there, it's just that this week...  well, let's just say I was really trying to control myself.

My first purchase was Before the Witches: An Original Novella by Karina Cooper. (This is the only Kindle purchase I have ever read on the same day of purchase.) This novella sets the stage for her Dark Mission series, with the first book in the series, Blood of the Wicked, scheduled for release on May 31, 2011. The second book, Lure of the Wicked,  is set for release on June 28, 2011. 

You know, all I can really say is that I stumbled across some tweets by Karina Cooper and decided to check them out. I noticed she was releasing a novella  that would give back story on her new paranormal romance series, and thought...

This is a new series... starting, like, right now! Meaning... we can all we read it together and have fun talking about the books and about how incredibly hot the characters are and how wonderful a writer Karina Cooper is and, well... how incredibly hot the characters are.  I mean, really. Isn't that why we read paranormal romance in the first place?  I do.

In the novella you'll read about a witch named Katya Zhuvova.  Katya is a witch that has fled her country for a better life, landing in Seattle only to find herself forced to live in a brothel, one of many victims in the sex slave trade.  On the night before her planned escape Katya meets super hot Seattle cop, Nigel Ferris, who has been investigating the circumstances surrounding Katya's living situation.  But before Katya can escape the brothel and before Nigel can arrest the man responsible for her living arrangements, a series of earthquakes and other disasters happen bringing about a permanent change to the world as we know it and moving us one step closer to the Dark Mission series.

Before the Witches by Karina Cooper is a fast paced read with plenty of action and a couple of, eh... love scenes that you'll want to thank Karina for later. Seriously, I loved the novella and I'm hoping some of my coworkers will join me in reading this series.  So, what say ye coworkers?  Care to start a new paranormal romance series with me so we can get together during lunch and talk about the goodness we've been partaking of during our off hours?  HINT: If you're a follower of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward it's a safe bet that you're going to love the Dark Mission series.

Before the Witches is available on both the KINDLE and the NOOK and the price is only $1.99. You can read more about Karina Cooper and her Dark Mission series on  her website HERE!

The second book I bought this week:

Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey by Chuck Wending. 

This second book is a collection of 50+ essays that cover every topic under the sun regarding why you shouldn't be a writer.  Okay, maybe it isn't quite about that,  but there is an essay titled… “No, Seriously, I’m Not F**king Around, You Really Don’t Want To Be A Writer”.  If you want to be a writer, or if you're already a writer and just want to become a better writer, then I highly recommend this book.

Plus the cover art rocks! Seriously. Haven't you ever bought a book because of the cover? I have. More than once.

And for those of you following the Turning series by Dawn Kirby, the series now has it's own link at the top of the page. So, if you've missed a week or just can't get enough of Nicholas, Alana and Thomas, you can now read the series in its entirety as it unfolds. Totally cool!

Friday, May 20, 2011

TURNING by Dawn Kirby


“Have you heard a single word I’ve said,” Lanie asked impatiently. She waved her hand in front of Nicholas’ eyes, trying to bring him out of whatever trance he was in. “Hello? Anybody home?”

“Leave him be,” a deep voice commanded. Thomas walked into the room, a cool smile on his face. “He’s obviously got something on his mind.” His brown eyes narrowed as he concentrated on the thoughts spinning through Nicholas’ head. “Ah, I was wrong. It seems he has found a woman.”

“Nick finds lots of women,” Lanie snorted.

“Nicholas,” Nicholas said, turning glassy eyes on her. He had finally been able to tune into the conversation Alana was having with her brother and now this imp was determined to gain his undivided attention. “My name is Nicholas.”


“Why would I?” Alana was saying. Nicholas closed his eyes and concentrated fully on her words. “Bringing a child into a world as mean as this one would be cruel.” Music to his ears!

“Come on, sis,” Matt said, his voice dripped sympathy for his scarred sister. “Don’t be that way. You just gotta find the right guy. Get those good time vibes flowing again.”

“Matt, those vibes are gone for good.”


“Oh sure, you’ll wake up to correct me,” Lanie said, falling onto the couch beside him. Pouting was something she did very well. Not that it worked on anyone but Thomas. “For once I actually had a good question.”

“Wonder of wonders,” Thomas said sarcastically. He poured himself a glass of wine and cocked his brow at his pretty little plaything. He’d turned her for her body, not her brain. Putting an intelligent sentence together was not something Lanie excelled at. “Well, what’s the question?”

“I was just wondering,” she started, her focus on Nicholas, who still sat distracted. “What do you look for in a girl?”

“In a girl?” Nicholas asked. His thoughts moved between the beauty out there and the bother sitting before him. Lanie nodded, hopeful for an answer. She’d need to know how to approach him when she finally got the nerve to ask Thomas to let her take other lovers. “Nothing.”

Thomas couldn’t keep the snort of amusement to himself. “My dear, you ask the wrong question. Nicholas doesn’t hunt for girls. Women, real women are more his style.”

“Whatever, I mean what is it you look for in the ones you want to keep?”

“I assume you’re asking about the ones I want to make my equal.” Again Lanie nodded. His mind reluctantly left Alana’s. “That’s simple. I look for intelligence.”

“Not looks?”

“Beauty helps,” he conceded. Alana’s beauty was unrivaled in his mind. “Why do you want to know?”

“Just curious,” she said shrugging her shoulders. “I know what woofs Tom’s tweeters, but you’re a complete mystery.” Thomas lost his composure. His jovial laugh filled the room. Lanie rolled her eyes and did her best too tune him out. “Well? What gets you going?”

“Lanie, I’ve already answered your question. I want a woman, a partner I can talk to.” Nicholas said. He couldn’t stand ignorance and Lanie was ripe with it. “I want somebody who can think on their feet, give me her opinion. I want a lady in every sense of the word.”

“Oh, so you want a gal who reads, wears clothes that cover everything and is a total bore.” she said, giggling. “Wow, you’re really missing out on some really great times. You should give some of the party girls a chance once in a while. We just might surprise you.”

Thomas stopped laughing and put his hand gently on Lanie’s shoulder. “The last surprise he had was being turned.”

“You didn’t ask for it?” she asked stunned. She practically threw a party the night Thomas had decided to bring her over.

“No, I didn’t even know vampires existed until I was one.” He felt a surge of pain course through his veins. Alana’s mind was once again on the attack. “Damn,” he thought. He stood up to go to her, but Thomas quickly blocked his path out the door. “Excuse me. I have somewhere I need to be.”

“I’ll let you go,” Thomas told him. “But first tell me what you have in mind. The little woman in your head looks delicious.” His eyes twinkled when he saw a rage flash across Nicholas’ face. “Ah, you’ve already claimed her.”

“I warn you now, Thomas. This one is not one to be toyed with. Alana’s mental state is fragile at best.”

“Irreparable at worst,” he pointed out. “Breaking her wouldn’t take much. You’d have a slave for life if you took her now.”

“I’ve no desire to make her a slave.” Just the thought of treating her the way he’d seen Thomas treat some of his girls made him feel ill. “I’ll wait until she’s stronger and then I’ll give her the choice. I won’t force such a change on her.”

“Suit yourself,” Thomas said. It wouldn’t be much of a challenge, but the pursuit would be a wonderful change of pace. In fact he’d already made a promise to himself to try and get to her first. Nick’s mind had already led him right to her. Thanks to his lack of discretion, Thomas now knew her fears as well as her passions. “May the best Vamp win.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

PUNCH-LINES by Nigel Bird

I've very happy to welcome Nigel Bird to My Friends Call Me Kate this morning.  He's written a wonderful post that I'm sure you will enjoy.  Read, laugh, learn and be amazed!

When Elizabeth Taylor arrived for her funeral service earlier this year, she was 15 minutes late. It was a gag she’d set up to remind people that she was late for everyone and everything.

It reminded me that endings are crucial to stories.

I often read about the importance of a first line in a piece of fiction, but rarely about the last. It might be because we can’t sit and quote too many of them in case we spoil a book and for that reason, some of this will seem like beating around the bush. Regardless, it’s one of the things I really have to work on.

So let the beating begin.

Endings are great things.

I like it when an author packs everything into a box on the last page, but doesn’t lock the lid.

A denouement must be satisfying, tie up loose ends and be plausible, yet at the same time must leave the reader with a sense of wonder. It might be a killer punch the likes of which might finish a fight, a seed to get you thinking or a key with which the whole piece can be understood.

Longer fiction has to end every chapter in the perfect way – part resolution, part impetus and that must be tough, but the writer of a novel can afford to use the whole final section to draw things to a close and that must let them off the hook a little.

Endings are especially important in short fiction as they occupy more of the whole. When I leave a short story I want to feel shaken or stirred in some way or other, to have some kind of emotional kick at the finale.

Here’s an example of a very short story taken from the wonderful ZEN FLESH ZEN BONES:

‘A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!’

That final sentence really hits. It’s what the story was made for. Without it, the rest is stripped of power.

It got me thinking of Haiku.

I’m choosing one from Basho and relying on this as a good interpretation.

Morning and evening
Someone waits at Matsushima!
One-sided love.

Again, here’s a conclusion that tells a bigger story. This one leaves me with that tinge of sadness at the image.

To write a great Haiku, the ending will link the first two lines and explain why they were there in the first place.

Here’s another example from a poem:

Wilfred Own comes up with a cracker in his work about the horrors of war ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’. In it he manages to encapsulate much of what he is about:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,---
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

(which I think translates as ‘It is sweet and noble to die for one’s country’)

It forces one more turn of the vice and explains why he was making the effort in the first place.

The only novel I’m going to refer to is one of my favourite stories ever, The Count Of Monte Cristo.

After such an epic, finding the right tone to rest on must have been a nightmare. There’s been a little of everything and yet it needs to come to a close.

Keeping it at it’s briefest (in case you’re in the middle of it right now):

“all human wisdom is summed up in two words? - Wait and hope.”

It rounds off the immediate situation, but also allows for further rumination, like a digestif at the end of a good meal; after such a good book I want to have it live with me once I close the cover for the final time and that’s what Dumas managed for me there.

Moving on to epitaphs. Bette Davis has a lovely comment on her gravestone – ‘She did it the hard way.’ I’m hoping you’ll leave your favourites in the comments, or maybe the words you’d write for yourself.

I was going to use ‘On the whole I’d rather be in Philadelphia’ until I Googled it; it’s a great line whether it’s on a tombstone or not.

And what about great last words?

We remember them, I guess, because the good ones are the summary of a life.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) "I have just had eighteen whiskies in a row. I do believe that is a record."

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) "Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!"

Makes me wonder if these folk had worked on their final words. Do you think they said them and then refused to speak until death actually came?

I’d be happy if my last words could be ‘Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz’ or if I could go out singing at the top of my voice – Teenage Kicks, perhaps.

And there’s my writing.

I don’t sweat too much when I’m opening a piece. In fact, because I can’t start until I have a story’s voice and first sentence, there’s not a good deal I can do. Sure, I can rework it later, but it’s not a huge burden.

The ending, on the other hand, can often cause me real problems.

My favourite to date is the close of Beat On The Brat. It was a line that appeared in mid flow and as soon as it was in my head I knew it was the ending to aim for – all I needed were a few sentences to build to it and there it was. You can still see that one for free either at, or in the Needle Summer Collection from last year.

Which is where I’m bringing the curtain down.

It would be nice to finish with a punch-line, which is what got me thinking all this in the first place.

“What did the snowman say to the other snowman?”

If I were to stop there, no doubt you’d leave feeling dissatisfied.

Here, to make sure that’s not the case, are my final words.

“Do you smell carrots?"

46 years. It's been a long journey. I've been a primary school teacher for almost half of them, moving from mainstream to exceptional needs to additional support needs. I'm most happy with and most proud of my own family. Second to them comes my involvement in writing and peripheral projects. I co-edited the Rue Bella magazine for 5 years or so and am mighty proud of that too. Recently I've been more involved with writing my own pieces. I've been lucky enough to find spaces for some of my work and I'm hoping that one day I'll write a novel that's worthy of publication. I've given up gambling, alcohol, smoking and any kind of unnatural highs over the past few years and am looking for a new compulsion - maybe I've found it in Twitter. Yep, 46 years. I haven't always known it, but I've been a very lucky man.

Nigel Bird is about to serve up a 9 course meal. As an appetiser, there’s a morsel (‘Sebille’) at Flashquake. The Starter, ‘No Pain No Gain’ will be in Crime Factory. There’s something fishy in the form of a surprise. A visit to France for mains at Voluted Tales. If you’ve room, it’ll be time for Best Of British Crime Stories. For dessert, Pulp Ink, served up jointly with Chris Rhatigan and / or Blackbird Pie at Grimm Tales. Digestif is a novel that has all the ingredients and requires a bit more time in the oven.

And cheese.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dirty Old Town by Nigel Bird

As many of you already know I'm a lover of short story collections.  Honestly, I could read them 'til the cows come home. And since there be no cows in my neighborhood that could be a really, really long time!  (Ha! I only added that sentence so I could show off my favorite moo moo photo.)

I came across a collection of short stories floating across twitter, and before you even ask... Yes, I bought it for my Kindle.  Shortly thereafter I received an email from the author asking if I'd be kind enough to review his short story collection, Dirty Old Town

Dirty Old Town is a collection of nine short stories written by Nigel Bird.  If the name sounds familiar it's because Nigel recently had me as a guest on his blog, Sea Minor.  The collection that he's put together is pure entertainment from the very first sentence in the opening story to the last line that ends the collection.  It's brilliant, really.  Here's my little take on a few of the stories I found in the collection.

DRINKING WINE (Spo-dee-oh-dee): This is a great little story about a house wife that likes to listen to the old record albums that used to belong to her father.  Not only did this story bring back memories of my babysitting days, it reminded me of the days I would spend singing Linda Ronstadt's Blue Bayou on my very first record player.  I played that song so much that I had to stack pennies on the needle to keep the record from skipping.  "I'm going back some day..."

TAKING A LINE FOR A WALK:  A very sad tale about a school janitor that's growing old and who's about to be sent away on early retirement.  Basically, he's paying attention in class one day while he's cleaning up a mess and decides to put the lesson to good use.

DIRTY OLD TOWN:  This is a dark and twisted little story about what happens to dope dealers when the dope they're selling takes the life of the best gymnast on a gymnastics team trying to head to the Britain Olympics... There are some really, really great one-liners in this story. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight): The most laugh-out-loud story in the collection... It's a tale of a father and son breaking into a home on Christmas Eve.  Funny, in that the little boy promises his mother an item that his father can't afford and the father sends him down a chimney in search of said item AFTER he tells the boy that Santa isn't real!  What?  Hold up... what do you mean Santa isn't real?  This is my favorite story in the collection. I love, loved, loved the ending and I love that little boy!

Ha! Santa isn't real...  WHATEVER!

You'll also find Sea Minor, Sisterhood, One Hundred and Ten Percent, Three Little Birds and Silver Street.  Just like the author, all the stories are unique and original, and all are worthy of being read many times over.  Nigel Bird will be stopping by the blog tomorrow to give us a little lesson on Punch Lines.  It's a must read guest post that I know you'll enjoy. Until then...

Dirty Old Town by Nigel Bird is available on the Kindle, Nook and is also available on Smashwords for the great price of $0.99! 

Nigel Bird is about to serve up a 9 course meal.  As an appetiser, there’s a morsel (‘Sebille’) at Flashquake.  The Starter, ‘No Pain No Gain’ will be in Crime Factory.  There’s something fishy in the form of a surprise.  A visit to France for mains at Voluted Tales.  If you’ve room, it’ll be time for Best Of British Crime Stories. For dessert, Pulp Ink, served up jointly with Chris Rhatigan and / or Blackbird Pie at Grimm Tales.  Digestif is a novel that has all the ingredients and requires a bit more time in the oven.

And cheese.

You can read more about Nigel HERE!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby


“Well, how’d it go last night?” Jennifer asked as she slid into the passenger’s seat of Alana’s Jeep. “Did you finally get to have some fun?”

“I don’t know if I call it fun,” Alana answered, waiting for the door to slam shut, “but it did get me out of the house for a while.”

“According to Matt you had a wonderful time. He said you left with a good looking stranger.” She flashed a smile at her friend and put her seatbelt on. “Come on. I want details.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, “I didn’t leave with anybody. If he saw a man with me, it was probably one of the men on staff. They do offer that there, you know. Most women don’t like walking out to their car alone at night.”

“Hun, I’ve been to that club plenty of times and I don’t ever remember seeing anybody, employee or otherwise who even remotely looks like the one Matt described.”

“Do tell.” Alana put the Jeep in drive and pulled away from the curb with a smile on her face. Matt was her older brother and Jennifer’s roommate. “I’m dying to know what this mystery man supposedly looks like.”

Jennifer looked over at Alana dumbfounded. Was she serious? Had Matt just been pulling her leg? No, he wouldn’t joke about something like this. Not after what had happened to her and Paul. If he said she left with a man, she left with man. He was so terrified Ben would find a way out of prison and hunt her down; he’d taken to following her whenever she strayed off her normal work-home routine. He knew more about his little sister than she knew about herself.

“You’re serious? You really don’t remember the guy?” Alana shook her head. “According to your brother the guy was about six feet tall. He said he had, what was it again? Oh yeah, shoulder length raven black hair and iceberg blue eyes. I’d say he was pretty unforgettable”

“Raven black? Iceberg blue?” she giggled. He’s always had a habit of describing women’s features in relation to cars. It was only a matter of time before he started doing it with men as well. “I think he’s been huffing the paint way too long.”

“Maybe so, but he saw you walk out with the man,” Jennifer said adamantly. “Matt left right after y’all did, but he said your car was gone by the time he got to the parking lot.”

“No doubt he went straight to my apartment after that,” she said under her breath. He tailed her religiously and it was really starting to get old.

“You bet your sweet ass he did! He’s not about to let anything like that ever happen to you again.”

“And what’d he find when he got there, pray tell?”

“Your car in the parking lot and a locked front door,” she answered smugly. “All your lights were off, too.”

“And that’s unusual why? It was late. I lock my door AND turn out my lights before I go to bed.”

“Yeah, well-,”

Alana sighed. “Look, if I left with somebody don’t you think I’d remember it?”

“You wouldn’t if you were drugged,” Jennifer said quickly.

“Did Matt say anything about me acting like I had been? Was I stumbling out the door? Did he think I looked sick in any way?”

“Well no. He said you hadn’t had anything to drink either.”

“See, how can I be drugged if I didn’t drink anything? I’m not saying Matt didn’t see me talking to somebody, but that was all I did.” She vaguely remembered talking with a man, but she couldn’t for the life of her remember what he looked like or even what they’d talked about. Couldn’t have been a very stimulating conversation, she thought. “Besides, you know as well as I do the last thing I’m looking for is another relationship.”

“You don’t have to be in a relationship to get an itch scratched,” Jennifer pointed out. “We all do it at least once in our lives.” Alana started to say something, but Jennifer was too quick. “Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s too soon. You’re gonna have to let some of the fear go. I know that’s probably easier said than done, but if you’re ever gonna have a healthy relationship again something’s got to give.”

“I already gave up my peace of mind,” Alana said quietly. “I can’t afford to let anything else go.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

BUY NOW with 1-Click!

I was warned by my twitter pal, Spencer Koch, that Amazon had devised this plan to easily suck you dry by letting you save a credit card number in their system so when you wanted to buy a book for your Kindle, like... 8 Pounds by Chris F. Holm, all you had to do was click the button that said, "Buy Now with 1-Click"  and you were done. No address information. No double checking the shipping.  Just a simple click.

I didn't think it would become a problem for me. I mean, really. How many books could there possibly be on Amazon that I would be interested in? 

Click. Click. Click.

Turns out (after pulling a copy of my Kindle Orders),  I click that damn button a good 2-3 times a day. In fact, on November 25, 2010, I clicked that button six times. SIX TIMES!  On December 18, 2010... THREE. February 5, 2011... THREE. February 26, 2011... TWICE.  February 28, 2011... TWICE. April 28, 2011... THREE. 

Last week I clicked the button five times. FIVE TIMES, PEOPLE!  It would have been every work day last week, but according to my purchase order I skipped Wednesday and double clicked on Friday. And today, the day I'm typing this post, I clicked it twice. Back to back thanks to Ron... well, does it really matter who tempted me?

I'd really like to blame other people for my clicking addiction, but that really wouldn't be fair.  All the people that I have come to admire and trust with my book purchasing decisions are part of my wonderful twitter family. They clearly have my best interest at heart when they're innocently suggesting great reads by people that they know and like and have read.  I mean, really. It's hard to go wrong and I can't complain about the incredible mass of books I've accumulated since I first started purchasing Kindle books for my phone app with that "Buy Now with 1-Click" feature on October 18, 2010.

My very first purchase was 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror & Suspense by Chris F. Holm.  For an unbelievable price of $0.99 you get eight incredible reads that leave you shaking your head in disbelief and thinking horrible, horrible thoughts whenever you hear a noise in the wall.  You know the noises I'm talking about. The ones that always come around in the middle of the night when you're home alone, or when you're the only one awake in the house that can hear them.

My second purchase for my Kindle was Terminal Damage by the gang at Do Some Damage.  While the collection as a whole is excellent, it must be said that this was the collection that introduced me to Oscar Martello. After reading this I collected every collection of short stories that contained an Oscar Martello story.  I mean, honestly. How could I pass them up?  You can find any and all stories about Oscar Martello here.

Would you believe me if I told you I've been putting off my reading of More Sinned Against by Dave White for fear that his main character might take away my possessive feelings for Oscar? It's totally true. It's on my list to read, but after finishing a book this weekend I really think I'm okay with moving on. Not on, on. Just moving on a little. Now would be a good time to release an Oscar Martello short story collection, Mr. Weddle.  It'd be really nice to have Oscar around all the time. All. The. Time. 

My good friend, Elizabeth introduced me to Jeff Strand.  Not only do I plan to collect all of his book books, I'm creating a nice little collection on my Kindle. I know the writing is excellent because I've read about him over at Musings of an All Purpose Monkey, but truth be told... I'm a fan of the cover art.

I was introduced to Dave Zeltserman by reading an expert of Blood Crimes: Book One over at Paul D. Brazil's blog.  It's like a dark urban fantasy, meets crime fighter, meets vampires book. Dark and dirty with vampires, and some really good love scenes, believe it or not. Sounds like my kind of thing. I've recently purchased Zeltserman's Julius Katz Mysteries... again, thanks to Paul.  Well, I should blame Dave, too. He did talk about this character in a blog post and made me curious.  Plus, David Cranmer thinks the guy rocks.  I totally trust David Cranmer.

I've got a pretty good collection of hard-boiled crime by Anthony Neil Smith... some I've accidentally purchased twice (Kindle should really find a way to prevent that from happening).  Word on the street is Anthony should have another book available for my Kindle enjoyment shortly. Can't wait!

Who else... Oh, I bought two books by Brett Battles after reading reviews by Elizabeth White.  And I bought three books by some guy named J.D. Rhoades after someone, who shall remain nameless, retweeted information about the Jack Keller series.  Makes sense that I would buy it.  The books are about some hot guy named Jack... and it's a series. Cute men on repeat seem to be my thing. Can't wait to read these books!

I bought Beautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings because my friend from Scotland told me to.  She had read it and loved and promised me I wouldn't be disappointed. I wasn't. My review is in the making.  I'm just trying to find the right words to describe hubba-hubba superlicious without it coming across as cheesy.

So why am I telling you about this? Well, I'm hoping if I confess my Kindle  purchases on my blog each week that it might... might help me with my clicking problem.  So I've gone ahead and created a Sabrina's Kindle page for my blog. I'm hoping to update it weekly. Ya, I probably shouldn't be hoping for that since I'm supposed to be curbing my habit. Oh, well. You can find every book you will find on my Kindle listed; minus the freebies you can find on Amazon.

So take a look. If you like any of the books on the list feel free to click on the link and buy them. I haven't added today's purchases just yet. Just as well, since I just noticed on Twitter that that Dave White guy just released Witness to Death on Kindle this evening. Best $0.99 EVER! Thanks, Dave.

May 9, 2011... THREE!

Friday, May 6, 2011

TURNING by Dawn Kirby

Haunting Memories

Alana stretched her arms over her head letting the morning sun warm her body. It was early springtime here now and she was looking forward to waking up like this more often. The comfort the heat brought had a way of shaking off all the bad feelings her nights left her with.

Night time hadn’t always left her uneasy. In fact she used to love standing in the darkness, admiring the moon, counting stars, feeling a cool breeze play across her face. At one point in her life nights were her haven. The one place where peace and serenity ruled.

That was shattered the night her ex, Ben had showed his true colors. They’d been apart for weeks, but he still felt like he had a valid presence in her daily life. He made it known to everybody he had every intention of winning her back no matter what he had to do to do it. Losing a possession wasn’t an option for him.

She had known he was a jealous man, but she never thought spending an evening with an old high school friend would send him into a murderous rage. Especially since the guy had been a mutual friend of theirs since grade school. They never knew he was watching them until he jumped out from behind some bushes in front of her friend, Paul’s house and stuck a hunting knife in his neck.

After Paul hit the ground, gasping for air, blood pooling around him, Ben had jumped on her and started punching her mercilessly. When she couldn’t stand anymore, he resorted to kicking her. He hurled every awful name he could think of at her, each one punctuated by a kick to the gut of the head. She had no idea how long the beating lasted. She couldn’t even recall when Paul had thrown his body over hers, but he had. He’d died protecting her as best he could with what strength he had left.

The attack had happened over a year ago. Paul was arrested that same night and after pleading guilty to all charges sometime later, he was sent to prison for life. For months horrible dreams plagued her sleep. She relived the beating every time she closed her eyes. Paul’s lifeless blue eyes haunted her even now. In her mind it was her fault he was dead. Had it not been for her he would still be here. His wife wouldn’t be a widow and his son would know who his father was.

As time went on the nightmares began to fade. The visions lingered, never letting her forget her role. Day by day waking up grew easier. For the most part she thought things were starting to get better. That is until last night. What she’d dreamed of she couldn’t place, but whatever it was had scared the hell out of her. She woke up the same way she had so many times before; grasping her neck and frightened beyond belief.

“Damn you, Ben!” she mumbled. Even from behind the walls of a cell he had control over her. Tears stung her eyes as she pictured Paul’s body, the knife still lodged in his neck, blanketing hers. The memory as vivid now as it had been that night. “You won, didn’t you?”

Miles away Nicholas lay in his bed helpless to do anything to make the pain she felt stop. He’d seen the possible effects his actions would have had on her. Having survived such a brutal experience some regression was to be expected. That didn’t mean he had to like it. Truth be told he hated it. She was reliving the worst night of her life because of him. Because of his need, his desire to have a worthy companion. His consolation? One day he’d be able to take the offending memories away forever if she asked him to.

That thought and that thought alone urged him to sleep. Once she wore herself out working, cleaning running errands trying to forget, she’d need him. Alana’s nights were his now. He’d opened up a wound and it was his responsibility to help heal it. Whether she knew he was there with her or not he planned to stay by her side until she could finally let go of the past and embrace the future; their future.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Wolves of Fairmount Park by Dennis Tafoya

" always matters. Everything right that you do, it doesn't always make things better. Sometimes, I don't know. Sometimes it does just hurt everyone, but maybe that's how you know it was the right thing to do."                            
                             Brendan Donavan

After two boys are brutally gunned down in front of a drug house on the wrong side of Philadelphia, two families struggle to make sense of a crime that left one boy dead, and another boy, Michael Donovan, in a coma and fighting for his life. 

Grieving for the loss of his son, Geo, George Parkman Sr. sets out immediately to enact revenge on the person he feels is responsible for Geo's death, Orlando Donovan, the drug-addicted Uncle of the surviving boy. Concerned that Orlando's half brother, Officer Brendan Donovan, will do all he can to cover for Orlando's perceived involvement, George Parkman Sr. sends a seriously disturbed private investigator to take care of the problem. 

And to make matters worse for Orlando his half brother, Brendan, even thinks he knows more than he's willing to tell. 

Why were the boys at a known drug house? Why did they have so much money with them? What is the connection between these boys and a turf war between two rival gangs? Is it possible the boys were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to do the right thing?

With the remembrance of his painful past used as a guide and a desire to see things through to the end, Orlando sets out alone to find the answers that will hopefully bring peace to the father of the murdered boy, and acceptance from a brother that he has desperately wanted to please for years. 

As the story unfolds you'll find a Detective who's career was built on the back of a known drug dealer,   and see first hand how the disguise of friendship can place shadows over the reality that surrounds you.  You'll see brothers reunited and a supposed loving relationship dissolve without a word being spoken by either party.  And you'll see death. Death being the constant reminder of the realities that surround the drug world.
Whether it be an innocent death or deserved, death will find its way into the streets of all those who willingly or unwillingly pass by.

The Wolves of Fairmount Park by Dennis Tafoya, is the most engaging book that I have read this year. I was fascinated by how many characters in this book demanded attention, and amazingly surprised that they all received a voice strong enough to be heard without pushing the story out of focus.   The Wolves of Fairmount Park may be dark in its reality, but if the book had lacked these details there would have been no emotional development between the readers and the characters.  For me it became an emotional journey. Emotional because I  wanted to see Orlando succeed in his efforts, and because regardless of how awful some of these characters were, their deaths were still difficult to endure.

We think we know how things should be, who our friends are and how to trust, but for them... their only friends were the drugs they relied on and the money they needed to find to buy more.

The Wolves of Fairmount Park is available on both the KINDLE and the NOOK.

Dennis Tafoya lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and is the author of two novels, Dope Thief and The Wolves of Fairmount Park, as well as numerous short stories appearing in collections such as Philadelphia Noir, from Akashic Books. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Liars Club, a Philadelphia-area writers group. 

*This book was read as part of an online book group with Goodreads.  Goodreads is a great place for you to keep track of your reading, make friends with people that have common reading interests as you and join in on discussions about books that you have read.  If you are interested, you can open a free account with Goodreads here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

YELLOW MEDICINE by Anthony Neil Smith

"That's what you remember when you chop up your friend, the weird noises and the surprise at finding just how well we're put together."  
                                     Deputy Billy Lafitte

In Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith, we find Deputy Billy Lafitte starting a new life in Minnesota after Hurricane Katrina left him not only homeless, but without a family and a job when he decided to take advantage of other victims in the area by securing fees in exchange for his Good Samaritan-like behavior.

Even with the second chance provided to him by his brother-in-law, Deputy Lafitte manages to take kick-backs from the meth dealers that have set up shop throughout Yellow Medicine County, and finds himself in serious trouble when the past that he was supposed to be leaving behind in the South catches up with him in the Minnesota backwoods.

When one of the local kids, Ian, gets into trouble and goes into hiding from a group of outsiders that are wanting to move into their territory, Deputy Lafitte is asked by Ian's girlfriend,  Dawn, to help out.  From there things go from bad to really, really bad in a matter of minutes when Ian goes missing and the severed head of a blond beauty is found at one of Ian's hideouts.   After refusing a bribe from the group, it doesn't take long for Deputy Lafitte to realize that the new locals are more than just dealers looking for easy money, but are a group of terrorists wanting a quiet place to start their operation.

Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith, takes you on a wild ride of corruption and crime with a protagonist more than capable of finding his way in and out of the mess.  Deputy Billy Lafitte, although despicable and unethical, not to mention sleazy, is an amazing character in that he still manages to garner sympathy from the reader. His skills from his early days during Hurricane Katrina has actually helped him prepare and even possibly win a fight against a ruthless group of terrorists.  Not only is he quick to respond to each situation, he seems to have a clever ability to convince others to break the rules right along with him... seriously, there is no shortage of solutions for this one-man team fighting terrorist extremists. You might not like Deputy Lafitte most of the time, but you will learn to appreciate his character because he leads you to believe that he only cares about himself and that he's willing to do whatever he can to get what he wants, but towards the end of the book... well, the guy actually has a heart. And believe it or not, there  really is a good explanation for dismembering, burning and scattering the remains of his friend.

Yellow Medicine is the third book I have read this year written by Anthony Neil Smith, and just like the others, Yellow Medicine does not disappoint. Well written and highly-entertaining, the plot moves quickly and never loses its pace.   Anthony Neil Smith used the words "bat shit crazy" the other night on Twitter in reference to this book and I thought it was a great description. Yellow Medicine is definitely "bat shit crazy" in the best way "bat shit crazy" can be.  It's a must have for any fan of the noir / crime genre.

Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith is available for $0.99 on both the KINDLE and the NOOK.  And since I'm not sure how long this price is going to last, it's best you snatch a copy  now.  Don't have a Kindle?  You can download a free application for your computer HERE.

Anthony Neil Smith is currently the Director of Creative Writing at Southwest Minnesota State University. He earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers in 2002. Other novels by Dr. Smith include Psychosomatic, The Drummer, and Hogdoggin’. He has also published over forty short stories. Dr. Smith is also co-creator and editor of the internet noir zine Plots With Guns. To learn more about Anthony Neil Smith you can give visit him on his website, Herman's Greasy Spoon.