Sunday, August 28, 2011

Does a Cover Really Make a Difference?

I judge books by the cover. It's true... and the only thing that will save your book if it has a bad cover is the first page.


I hate blurbs. I won't even read the blurbs on a book until I'm finished with the book, or... if a friend has written a blurb and I find it on the Twitters.

I also won't read the back cover with information about the book... that little synopsis thing.  Doesn't do it for me.

But the cover and the first page... I love them.

Here are some of my recent favorites.

I'm really not into romance, but I am into paranormal romance. You put a guy on the cover showing his nipple and you're bound to get my attention.

 Especially if it's attached to a mass of solid muscle like this:

Another catch... a really hot looking chick standing next to a really hot
 guy with a muscular arm and sleeve tattoo like this:

Or a combination of the two above like this:

I'm also a person that loves the use of color.
 I like muted tones like this:

But I also like this:

And it's hard to pass up a cover like this:

I also love simple covers like this:

And this:

And this cover is one of my favorites:
The first time I looked at a picture of this cover it was on my phone. I thought this was a duck, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out how it tied into the book. Ducks don't have teeth... just saying.

You can laugh all you want about how I choose my books, but I'll have you know that I've sold many a book at work just from showing my coworkers the cover. And it probably helps that I'm overly dramatic when I talk about books and my coworkers trust my taste.  But, still... if you want me to buy your book, you best have a great cover and a perfect first page!

When it comes to first impressions does the book cover influence you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby

The Slip

Nicholas stood in front of the balcony doors looking down at the court yard below, listening for any signs of life both in and outside the apartment. Matt had decided to stay with Alana until he knew for sure he could trust a supposedly friendly vampire with his little sister’s life. Carly had tried to reassure him, but a human trusting a creature he knows nothing about has proven to be next to impossible.

Hearing nothing but the sounds of steady breathing he moved towards the bed. Even with her knowing Ben couldn’t come in she still didn’t have her appetite back. Nicholas assumed with his presence and that of her brother along with Carly would take some of the worry off Alana, but it hadn’t. In fact she seemed to be more on edge. As tempting as it was to get inside her head and fix it, he couldn’t; wouldn’t. Some things she has to face on her own.

He sat down beside her and tucked her hair behind her ear. He’d never felt hair so soft. It was like running his fingers over a sheet of the finest silk. He leaned in to take in her scent again. Roses and vanilla filled his nostrils. Could anything smell more enticing? As he sat up his hand brushed her arm. Her skin was softer than a baby’s, but far too cool. Whether it be lack of food or some other reason, he didn’t know.

Nicholas pulled a flask out of his jacket pocket and drank until it was empty. His body instantly began to warm. His heart started to beat a little faster. His senses sharpened. An overwhelming feeling of dread settled into the pit of his stomach. Damn woman, he thought. He pushed past the emotions swirling through his mind and let his own body take the lead. Alana needed him.

He punctured the vein in his wrist with a fang and laid down beside her. He parted her lips just enough and let the blood drip slowly into her mouth. He’d never used his flask before, but it seemed necessary tonight. Weight was dropping off her at an alarming rate and nothing Matt could say was going to change that. His blood coupled with the unique blood in his flask should be more than enough to bring her back.

As his free hand swept across Alana’s face, her eyes fluttered open and closed again. The split second flash of blue struck him. The warmth he’d felt mere minutes ago turned into a heat so intense he was actually sweating. A vampire; sweating! He took his wrist away and smiled, kissing her lips gently. His hand slipped from her cheek, down to her chest. He stopped, feeling her heartbeat. Was it wrong to want to still that a little? Have her be his for eternity?

Shaking the questions from his mind he let his hands glide over her breasts, moving slowly down to her bellybutton. Stopping to kiss her exposed stomach he pulled her hips toward him, easing his body between her perfectly shaped legs. She stirred, but didn’t wake. His fingers bit into her thighs, leaving small red lines in their wake as he worked his way down to her ankles, his fingers kneading the firm muscles in her calves. He looked back up at her gorgeous face. It would be easy to turn her. With her vastly depleted strength he could do it before she knew what hit her. And she would be his. Nobody could take her away from him then.

“You do it now and she’ll never forgive you,” Carly whispered. His eyes shot to the door. “I’m not there, don’t worry. I just happen to know what you’re thinking.”

“I forget,” he mumbled. He pushed off the bed and stood up to regain his composure.

“I know you want her. I know it’s more for you than just chasing someone you can’t have. But you have to let her make the choice. If you don’t all your good intentions mean nothing.”

Of course she was right. What in the hell had he been thinking? He’d let himself get lost in his own selfish feelings and –

And it didn’t matter. Alana didn’t want him. She could barely look at him without fear or disgust buried in her eyes. How could he build a relationship on that? Hadn’t he already gone over this? Hadn’t he promised himself and her that he would do nothing more than guard her against Ben and Thomas? He wanted to stay here with her, but if she never leaves the safety of her apartment what did she need him for? As long as she stays here she’s safe? Why was he still here? Why was he torturing himself like this?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles by Edward A. Grainger

My father has always been a fan of westerns. And back in the day when most homes only held one television set you could always find us watching westerns when my father was home. You can laugh if you want, but Bonanza was actually one of my favorites and I had a huge crush on Little Joe. But since I'm all about the honesty here on my blog, it must be said that my heart, regardless of how small it may have been at the time, always belonged to Adam. When I was little I'd sit on the couch with my father and hold his hand as I watched the Cartwright boys saddle up and ride away on the Ponderosa.  In fact, when I visited my father a couple of years ago I still found myself sitting next to him on the sofa, holding his hand, and watching old westerns.

Well this week I've been missing my father something terrible. I'm stuck in a horrible spot in my personal life and there are days when I wish I could go back home to Oregon and sit on the couch with my father and watch westerns. But I can't. And even though he's recently told me I can come home whenever I want... I won't. Instead of packing my bags and walking away from my reality, I decided to curl up with a really good collection of western short stories by Edward A. Grainger.

I've never really read a western novel... never would have thought I'd be interested in them. My husband is a Louis L'Amour fan and is always telling me I should read the Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry. Well, like I said before, I haven't read any westerns and until this weekend I really didn't think I'd ever be interested in them.

You see, I'm not a girl with a love for all things pioneer-ish, and I hate camping. Dust in my hair, teeth, or buried under my fingernails, and using outdoor restrooms really isn't my thing.  And the thought of milking my own cows and killing and skinning chickens for my next meal kind of makes me nauseous. I don't how people survived back in the day and I have no problem admitting that part of my daily thanks is for the little things I have in my life... indoor plumbing being one of them.

Yet last night as I closed the book on the last short story I read in Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, I found myself overlooking the homestead and admiring my view of the cattle on my Uncle Jack's ranch in North Dakota. I haven't been there in years and I didn't realize how much I missed playing on that property until I cracked open a book about two marshals and their adventures in the wild west.

In Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles by Edward A. Grainger, you'll find seven incredible stories detailing life in the west, and how two marshals instill justice with the gift of persuasion and strong hands. Not only will you find these two tracking and taking down the bad guys, but you'll find them questioning the law, as well.

In the story Melanie, Cash Laramie deals with the reality of the written law when he stumbles upon a little girl being abused by those that should be caring for her.  He leaves the Uncle with a warning, only to return to find him abusing her once again. When the written law declares that nothing can be done, justice is served up anyway when the Uncle is found dead after going to fetch water... in the dark. My favorite line from this story is from Marshal Laramie, "when the town's people don't protect their children, then they're not fit to govern."

My favorite story in the collection was Under The Sun, co-written by Sandra Seamans.  The story is told through the perspective of a woman named Delilah, who finds herself living alone after her husband is killed from injuries in a grizzly attack. She's visited by the marshals letting her know that there's an Indian on the run, and that a father seeking revenge for the death of his son is hot on his trail. After refusing to leave her home until Brave Coyote is found, Delilah tries to take up refuge in her home only to find herself annoyed at not being able to take care of her land. Venturing outside, she comes face to face with an injured Brave Coyote, the man wanted by the law, but more importantly, the man that saved her husband from the grizzly attack and brought him home to die.  Seeing an opportunity to repay a debt for his kindness towards her husband, Delilah finds a way to bring closure for a town seeking justice, and freedom to an innocent man.

Another great story is Miles To Go, wherein we find Gideon Miles going out in search of a fugitive on his own, and struggling with how to explain why his devotion to law enforcement is so important even though being black keeps him from receiving the proper respect and equal pay as his colleagues. My favorite character in this story is the stable boy Keith... a boy who considers Miles a hero and hopes to one day be a marshal just like him.

The stories are written with such description that you can easily hear the sounds of the wagon wheels and the music in the saloon.  Not only that, you can easily visualize life in the wild west from the feeding of the horses to the dresses on the women in the saloon. A fist fight here and a gun fight over there... stepping back in time is easy with this wonderful collection of stories.

Oh, and before I forget... these are two extremely handsome marshals, as they've both managed to the get the girl a time or two in this collection. And I'd be a total liar if I didn't admit I've got a serious crush on Marshal Laramie. Hmmm... Do you think if I find a dress like the one Lenora was wearing that Marshal Laramie will come to my rescue?  


 A girl can always dream...

You can find Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles HERE.

Edward A. Grainger, aka David Cranmer, is a member of the Western Fictioneers and is editor/publisher of the BEAT to a PULP webzine.  His work has been published in Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Out of the Gutter, and Crimefactory to name a few. He lives in Main with his wife and daughter.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby


“You said I could have her!” Ben screamed. “You said she’d have no choice but to come to me.”

“No, what I said was she would be helpless against you,” Thomas corrected. “The trick is getting her out of the house so we can bring her here. Next to impossible considering she and the others know everything. ” Not to mention her deep seeded fear of his young companion. He poured his new house mate a drink and leaned against the wall, watching the crazed thoughts reel through Ben’s head. Some fools. “You know, staying so close to her all these nights may be why she still feels the way she does. What is it they say? Ah, absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

“In this case my absence may cost me,” Ben groaned. He’d picked up on a couple of things during the past few days. One, Thomas was in this for Thomas. Two, that rat Nick wanted to get Alana into bed. “You two had a plan way before you turned me. She’s nothing but a game to y’all.”

“Oh, make no mistake.” Thomas smiled. “Nicholas wants her. Mind, body and soul wants her. He usually gets what he wants. Not this time though. I’ll make sure of that. I want to see his desires crumble before him. Once I get that she’s all yours. She’ll be easier to break then anyway.”

“Who says I wanna break her?” Ben asked.

“After the things you did to her, breaking her down is the only way you’ll ever get her to come to you.”

Seeing his point Ben shrugged and looked down at the glass he’d been handed. A deep frown furrowed into his forehead. “What the hell? This isn’t blood.”

“It’s better,” Thomas chuckled. “Trust me.”


“Why’d you do it?” Alana asked Nicholas. He turned to look at her, stunned. A week had passed without as much as a glance his way. “Ben. Why did you go there? What made you think you had the right to do what you did?”

“His sentence wasn’t enough,” Nicholas answered. “There’s no hope of rehabilitation for a man like that.” He turned back towards the window and sighed. “I did it because I thought you and the world in general would be better off without him.”

“How noble of you,” she said sarcastically.

“I never said it was noble,” Nicholas said, keeping his eyes on the grounds. “Doing what I did makes me no better than him.”

Alana propped up on her elbow. “Then why do it?”

“My nature perhaps?”

“I see.” She rolled over and pulled the covers back up over her shoulders. “Let’s not take responsibility for our own actions. Play the vampire card.” Nicholas turned and in a flash was kneeling on the floor beside her. She jumped out of bed; scared and angry. “Don’t do that!”

“Understand this. I never use the vampire as an excuse for anything I do. When I suggested my nature, I meant me as a man. I’ve never been able to stomach men like Ben. They are cowards. They use people to make themselves feel better. They have a hole inside themselves they think only meanness can fill. Cruelty is easy. Kindness takes work.” He stood up and walked to the end of her bed. She eased back under the covers. “Forgive me if I scared you, but I won’t have you thinking I’m something I’m not. You, like everyone else are entirely too quick to judge.”

“Can you blame me? You said yourself you’ve seen what I’ve been through. You were even ready to kill him for putting me through it.”

“Now who’s using excuses?” He almost smiled when he saw the fire light up her blue eyes. Almost.

“It’s not the same thing!” she fumed. Her face flushed bright red. “He killed my friend. He tried to kill me. I think I have a right.”

“To judge him. Not others.” He returned to his post knowing what he was about to say would hurt her. But the words needed to be said to help her heal and nobody was willing to say them. “The attack was committed by one person. Yet you hold everybody at arm’s length. You deny yourself love, companionship. You stay locked inside this house away from the wonderful world you’ve been given. You allow the pain, the hurt to rule you. You have in a sense let him win.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan

As many of you know, my mother died when I was three and my family endured a couple of step-mothers after her passing. My father didn't pick wisely. I don't feel bad for saying that. He would tell you himself that his main purpose for remarrying was to have a mother for his children and not necessarily for love.

The step-mother that spent the most time with us was, in my honest opinion, abusive.  (I've written a post about her that you can read about HERE.)  A horrible person, she was clearly too old to raise a new family, especially with a little terror like me around. I believe her granddaughter was older than me. Yeah. I'm certain of it. I never cared for the woman from the time she married my father when I was in kindergarten to the time she left us when I was eleven. Although, had I known what would have taken place with that divorce...

Abuse... physical, mental, verbal... it stays with you, and it changes who you are.  Abuse permanently plants a seed of doubt just underneath that layer of confidence, and regardless of what you allow others to see on the outside, you're always just a stone's throw away from dropping the facade and walking away from the fake world of perfection that you've built around you.

Maybe that's a bit over dramatic. I'm just speaking on a personal level.

Regardless, my step-mother used a combination of abuse, and watching how it destroyed my siblings, I was desperate to save myself.  Remember that word... desperate.

Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan, unfolds in the court room and showcases a series of events involving  Detective Sergeant Hunter McKenna, Tom Shepherd, his ex-wife, the suspicious deaths of two teenagers, and the journal entries of Evelyn Shepherd.

In Harvest of Ruins, you'll read a story about a girl named Evelyn Shepherd and her struggle to find balance in her life after her parents divorce. Enduring the daily struggle with a mother that is insistent on her being the perfect and proper girl, Evelyn finds herself questioning the truth behind the friendships her mother has made for her, the friends she would like to have, and how she can still be herself without disappointing her mother. Honestly, I think Evelyn's mother is reckless, emotionally distant, and so caught up in the world of being perfect that she misses key opportunities to help her daughter.

Then you have Evelyn's father, Tom, who is the total opposite. He wants his daughter to find her own friends, her own interests, choose her clothes, and more importantly... he wants her to be a kid. But the differences between the parents cause a constant push and pull relationship with their daughter. The more her parents pull her in different directions, the more frustrated Evelyn becomes. And overtime, you can see her struggling with her desire to trust both of them. 

This struggle started when she was  young, long before her parents divorced.  At one point, after being assaulted by some boys at an activity, Evelyn was more worried about her mother being upset with her dress being ruined than she was about asking for help or telling her parents about what had happened. Even worse, the parents were so involved in their indifference with each other that they couldn't even see that something was wrong.

Add to this the struggles of her teenage years, a series of suspicious deaths, an investigation that leads to the questioning of Evelyn, a falsely reported rape, and the betrayal of Evelyn's "friends" and you can see why Evelyn becomes desperate. Desperate to stop the lies. Desperate to stop the constant push and pull from her parents. Desperate to find silence, but in a way that forgiveness will prevail. 

Sandra Ruttan opens Harvest of Ruins with a pretty intense scene. The scene is written so well that it leaves the reader making their own impressions regarding the death that takes place.  Since the actual victim isn't mentioned until later in the book, I found myself in shock when the victim was revealed. I even reread the opening just to see if I had missed something. Then, I actually had to put the book down to mourn the loss of a character I had grown to love.  

After this scene, Harvest of Ruins is shared with the reader through witness testimony and journal entries entered as evidence in a negligent homicide case.  It's an incredible look inside the drama that can unfold during court proceedings and is written without all the legal jargon that can usually lead to boredom.   

As for the ending...  Evelyn's desperation causes her to make a decision that seems completely unforgivable until she reveals her reason why. And her reason is so simple... it actually made me cry.

See, I'm one of those hopeless happy people that always finds a happy ending. In fact, I'd say that my biggest problem with reading is that I have a habit of writing the ending as I read along thinking that there is no way an author wouldn't rap up the book with an ending where the world is full of peace and all the characters are now tucked away into their happy places.  I'm not sure why that is.  Maybe it's because the happy ending I wrote for myself so many years ago as child didn't work out, and that the one I wrote for myself as an adult is full of too many cracks to ever end with the happiness that I seek. But regardless of my desire to seek a happy ending for all the books I read, I'm actually understanding and appreciating that they don't always end that way. 

Harvest of Ruins by Sandra Ruttan is available at AMAZON for $1.79.

Sandra Ruttan is the Bestselling author of Harvest of Ruins, Suspicious Circumstance, The Nolan, Hart & Train series, and is the Editor for Spinetingler Magazine and Snubnose Press.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby


“Why’d you make him leave?” Matt asked dumfounded. “As much as I hate to admit it, he may be your only line of defense.”

“I don’t care what he is!” Alana screamed. Her face flushed with anger. “You’re lucky I don’t throw your ass out, too.” She put her palms to her temples, pressing hard. She took a few deep breaths and looked back up at Matt. “The only reason I haven’t is because I’m hoping you have a good explanation for hiding this from me.”

He gestured towards the door and grunted. “That! That right there is why I didn’t say anything.”

“I threw a liar out.”

“How’s he a lair? You never gave him a chance to fully explain his position.”

She put her hands on her hips. Her eyes narrowed into slits. “Are you actually taking up for that…THING?”

“No,” Carly answered. She slid her hand into his. “Matt’s just saying Nicholas is in this for you. He wants you.”

“Wants, huh?” she snorted. “When did I ever say he could have me? I’ve never seen the man till tonight. Now he wants to offer me his undying devotion and protect me from a mess he created. How does that translate into a freakin’ relationship?” 

“Only in part,” Carly said gently. “Nicholas meant to kill that guy. If Thomas hadn’t followed him, he would have.”

“But he did,” Alana pressed. Tears started to well up in her eyes. “And now Ben’s out there; waiting.”

Carly walked over to her and lead her to the bed, urging her to sit. Alana did. Her legs couldn’t support even her minute weight anymore. While Alana sat there, Carly put her gift to work. Thanks to her subject’s fragile emotional state and weakening health it was easy to get inside her head. After little more than a minute she found the memory Alana needed to see. But finding it and extracting it were two different things.

“You said tonight was the first time you’ve seen him, yes?” Carly asked Alana.

“Yes,” she answered.

“But he’s the guy-” Matt’s voice was silenced with a wave of Carly’s hand.

“I wanna show you something, but in order to see it I need you to relax. Let go of everything. Can you do that?”

“Why?” she jerked her hand from Carly’s.

“Do you trust Matt?” Alana frowned. “Okay, apart from all this, do you trust him?” She nodded, though reluctantly. “Good. Then you know you can trust me. Now relax.”

Carly took her hand and closed her eyes. Alana sighed and closed her own. May as well try, she thought. After a few seconds she let her body relax. Emptying her mind was a little more difficult. Thoughts rushed in at her from every direction. All she could do at the moment is think.

Suddenly Nickolas’s smooth voice made her forget everything. She focused on the man sitting with her at the club she’d gone to a few weeks ago. She saw herself, happy to have him there. They were having a wonderful time. He’d actually managed to make her smile. As she did him. She looked closer at the drinks. No, it’s just water.

She watched as she; SHE ran her foot up his leg. She was the one to caress his cheek, slide her thumb across his lips. Heart nearly dropped when she saw herself lean across the little table to kiss him. Not some peck on the cheek either. To anyone looking on they would have thought she’d apparently been alone for far too long or she was a total slut. Dear God, what was I thinking?!   

She nearly stood up and screamed at herself when she heard her voice suggest they leave and go to her place.

“Stop,” she said opening her eyes. “Please stop. I can’t.”

“You haven’t seen the most important part,” Carly whispered. Her eyes were still closed, her hand still in Alana’s watching the night play out.

“Sleeping with him was a stupid mistake,” she said flatly. “I don’t need to relive it again.”

“Sleeping? Yes,” Carly said, opening her eyes. “Sleeping with him? No. He refused to let it go that far.”

“We didn’t?”

“No, Nicholas saw your pain. He looked inside you and saw what you’d been through. That’s what stopped him. That’s part of what kept you alive.”

“Part?” Matt asked, kneeling down between them.

“Let him come back in,” Carly pleaded. “Let me read him. I can tell what his intentions are. I can tell you if his feelings for you are what I think they are. If they are he’s no danger. If they are he’s quite possibly your only chance.”

“Babe, after listening to Lana’s rant I’m sure he’s long gone.”

“You’re wrong,” Carly smiled. She glanced out the window. They’re gaze followed hers. Nicholas stood right outside her bedroom doors. “He won’t leave until morning.”

As much as she didn’t want to let him come back in, she could see Matt wanted him back. Alana looked at the vampire’s back and softened a bit. She’d been the one to lead him on in the first place. What’s to say some of this wasn’t in some way her fault? What if vampires reacted first; asked questions later if at all? Finally she nodded.

Matt ran to the door. Nicholas turned to his head look, surprised to see a smile. “Lana says you can come back in.”

“Conditions?” he asked.

“I get to read you,” Carly said. “I’ve showed her the night y’all met. Now I need to prove to her that you are the best person to watch over her.”

“You should have left the memory buried,” he told her. Alana waved him inside, but didn’t move. “I could let her read me,” he said his blue eyes never left Alana’s. “Or I could tell you myself.”

“How do I know you aren’t lying?” Alana asked.

“You don’t,” He was standing before her in a flash. Alana, surprised by his speed jumped back against the headboard. Nicholas caught her eye and held it. “Yes, I went out in search of blood that night. But that was before I found you. Beautiful, charming, smart, sensual. All these things in one woman. I knew then I couldn’t let you slip away. But you have scars. Not the physical ones,” he said when he saw her hand move to her chest. “The mental ones. I couldn’t, wouldn’t take advantage of you while you were in that state. In my own way I have claimed you. I do want you. I may even go as far as to say I have fallen in love with you.” Her mouth opened. He held up his hand to silence her. “Those are my feelings. Whether you share them or not is up to you. I will not force anything on you.”

She thought about his words. Listened to his voice. The same voice she now knew had been there to calm her every night since Ben escaped. If he had wanted to hurt her, wouldn’t he have done it already? What if Matt’s right? What if he is the only thing standing between her and Ben?

“If I let you stay, you stay,” she told him. “I realize you have to sleep during the day. I’ll accommodate you there. But don’t think even for a minute me letting you stay here is in any way saying I have any feelings for you at all.”

“Understood,” Nicholas said, bowing his head curtly.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Happens When I Sleep...

I've never really been disappointed in my dreams. Most of the time they are a mixture of all the things I've been reading about and thinking about and talking about. Most of them are related to books I've recently read, or stories that I've recently encountered. When I like something I've read it resonates with me; stays with me a little while. Lingers. And then there are times when more than one book or character pop up in a dream, and even without a word being spoken I know what's being referenced.

For instance last night I had a dream wherein...

I was dressed in an Elizabethan dress that seemed two sizes to small for my breasts, and in my hands I held a book.  Bound in leather, the pages contained a graphic novel... outlining in specific detail the story that I read last week about a vampire named, Lillian.

So what the heck did I read???

I read a short story last week written by Stephen Blackmoore. Just a short story... it wasn't a graphic novel.  Stephen said he shared it so that we could get an idea of how he world builds... I asked some questions. He answered. But I'll be honest with you, I still have more questions. Why is there a hierarchy in this vampire world? Why isn't the hierarchy taking care of their own? Where will Lillian go? How will she continue to fight them so she can stay alive? Who the heck is the hierarchy and why won't Brady die???   Lillian was the feature of the graphic novel I was reading.  She was powerful. She was badass. She was everything I could never be. You can find the story -----> HERE. You should read it... And you should mark his website and check back frequently. The guy's got the goods. 

So what's up with the Elizabethan dress?

My favorite man, Dan O'Shea, is writing an Elizabethan Noir novel on his website. ROTTEN AT THE HEART is being written one chapter a day on his blog. And what the heck is this about?  It's a murder mystery set in Elizabethan times...  Lord Chamberlain has been found dead, and his son, suspecting a murder has taken place, pretty much forces Shakespeare (yes, William Shakespeare) to find the culprit. And how will Shakespeare do this?   By claiming he's gathering information so he can write a play in honor of Lord Chamberlain's death. I call this novel-in-the-making my... daily dose of delight.  It really is amazing and I would encourage you to mark his a page and read along with me.  You can find it -----> HERE.

So this is what I've been reading... and of course, dreaming about this week. Enjoy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

SICK by Brett Battles

I was just a few weeks into my LDS mission when I landed in the hospital with food poisoning.  After a week of treatment I was released and sent back out to do my duties as a missionary, but I never did feel healthy after that. I was constantly feeling sick to my stomach. My complaints led to more tests, and more than one MRI. One test even required me to drink barium. Awful stuff. Made me sick for days.

Then the results came in when my physician was out of town and this new doctor diagnosed with me pancreatic cancer. He gave me six months to live and sent me home with some meds. Then my physician came back from vacation and demanded a new test.  The pancreatic cancer? Turned out to be a shadow.

I wasn't dying. I was just sick.

Three days later there was a knock on our apartment door and a woman with the Health Department was there informing me that I was under quarantine. Turns out I had Salmonella E... a very rare form of salmonella.  A form of salmonella that is very contagious.  Want to know where I got it?  The hospital. Turns out their shipment of barium was tainted. Go figure.

I didn't die from my little illness, but it was a real concern for Washoe County. It was quite the little outbreak, and it took them a lot of time and interviews to track the source of the contaminant. Surprisingly there were no secrets. No cover ups regarding the source of the problem. People just tracked it, found all the people that were ill, and did everything they could to help us.

This obviously isn't the case in the novel Sick by Brett Battles.  After waking to the sounds of his daughter crying, Captain Daniel Ash discovers that she is seriously ill. After rushing her to the bathroom and putting her in a cold shower, Captain Ash goes to wake his wife for assistance, and sadly, finds her dead.

After calling for help, Captain Ash is surprised that the men coming to assist are dressed in bio-hazard suits, and even more shocked when he finds bio-hazard teams in front of all the homes in the neighborhood. Taken away in the night and later told that his family is dead, Captain Ash is left to deal with the loss of his family while being kept in an isolated location.  It turns out that Captain Ash has an immunity to the disease and the government uses him to find a vaccine for this deadly virus that is now spreading quickly and killing everyone within hours of exposure... Or at least that's what some people would have you believe.

In Sick by Brett Battles, you'll read about a ruthless helicopter squad assigned to shoot down innocent victims, a news anchor that doesn't know when to stop asking questions, teenagers being trapped with no way to escape the virus, and Captain Ash's incredible escape from quarantine. As the virus leaps from host to host and innocent lives are lost, you'll learn about the people behind the virus and the reason why it was created, and see just how far one man will go to bring justice to the family that he has lost.

Brett Battles was born and raised in southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on.  Though he still makes Californian his home, he has traveled extensively to such destinations as Ho Chi Minh City, Berlin, Singapore, London, Paris, and Bangkok, all of which play parts in his current and upcoming Jonathan Quinn thrillers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Turning by Dawn Kirby

Lanie’s Mistake

Thomas sat on the edge of the bed glaring at Lanie. Thanks to her all his plans had been dashed. That thing she’d chosen to be his ticket through Alana’s front door had turned out to be a huge disappointment. Not only had she divulged his plans, she had also told them who and what he and Nicholas were.

“You should have looked inside before you brought her here,” he said to Lanie.

“Maybe you should have looked inside before you did what you did,” she spat back. “You did say her mind was strong.”

“Careful girl,” he warned leaning back on his elbows. “Your time with me is limited.”

“Good,” she said pulling the satin sheet up to her neck. “I’d love to be free of you. You never wanted me anyway.”

“Ah, you are right about that.” Thomas flipped over on his stomach and pulled the sheet slowly toward him. As mad as he was, he couldn’t help wanting to look at her. Her long black hair felt like silk. Her pale skin as fine as the best china. Even her eyes called out to him. “I did turn you with only one thought in mind, but who on earth could blame me for that?”

“Pig!” she shouted. He tugged at the covers again. The sheet fell to her waist. He smiled. “You know, there is more to me than boobs.”

“Yes, there’s long limber legs. Delicate fingers.” He ran his hand down her throat. “That lovely neck. Lips that beg to be kissed.”

She smiled. If all else fails, let a man see you naked. “See? You really don’t want to get rid of me, do you?”

“It’s not a question of want my dear.”

Thomas stood up and took his pants off, tossing them into the chair beside the bed. This wouldn’t take long and he needed to regroup. He still wanted Alana. Maybe more so now than before. But with them knowing his plans and Ben stalking her like some rabid wolverine getting her would be hard. His rivals would see to that.

Lanie turned back the covers and grinned wider. Thomas crawled in beside her. Her arms circled his waist, pulling his body close. He wrapped her hair around his hand and yanked her head back. She moaned, rubbing her hips against his. Even she had to admit he was the only man who could make pain feel like something wonderful.

His hands slid down her body. She closed her eyes, enjoying the deep tingling sensations coursing through her body. “How do you prefer to go, love?” he asked nipping at her neck. “Daylight? A stake? Shall I drain you?”

Not taking his question seriously, she wrapped her leg around his waist and rolled his body on top of hers. He looked down at her, fangs out, eyes glazed over. She giggled. She loved it when he fed off her. It may leave her weak physically, but there was something powerful about the way he handled her.

“You’re the boss,” she whispered. He knew she wouldn’t take his question seriously. In fact he’d counted on it. “I am yours to do with what you will.”

Thomas licked his lips and looked down on her one last time. The ride has been fun, he thought, but she’d worn out her welcome the second her friend walked through his door. He shrugged and sank his fangs deep into her neck. She arched her back and tilted her head so he could feed better. Little did she know he planned to take it all.

She brought a leg up trying to remind him of why he lay between them. Her hands groped at his chest; his back trying to get some response from him. No matter what she tried nothing worked. Several minutes passed before she finally realized something was wrong. Her head started to go fuzzy. Her eyes went blurry. She lost feeling in the lower half of her body.

“Thomas,” she gasped. “You’ve gotta stop!” She pushed hard against his chest. He didn’t move. “Thomas!!”

“Yes, love,” he said softly. He licked away the thin line of blood trickling from the puncture wounds.

“If you’re gonna get that involved we might need to think about getting a donor,” she suggested. She tried to play off the fear that had gripped her, but he’d left her rattled. “I can’t feel my legs.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry that about too much,” he said stroking her hair. “Close your eyes love. I have a gift for you.”

He rolled off the bed and stuck his hand in between the mattress. He smiled wickedly when he pulled the stake from its hiding place. He crawled back on the bed, straddling Lanie. Her eyes were still closed. That trusting smile he’d come to know graced her perfect lips.

With a final sigh he plunged the stake straight into her chest. Her eyes shot open. Her face contorted in pain. Too late she’d realized her life had been in danger all this time.

“I told you your days were numbered,” he whispered.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Crime of Bad Parenting by Sandra Ruttan

I'm pleased to welcome Sandra Ruttan to the blog today. She has an excellent post regarding the aftermath of emotions surrounding the Casey Anthony case. Read. Think. Comment.  Please, don't be shy. 
I saw a tweet the other day that caused my jaw to drop.

"If Casey Anthony wants Nancy Grace off her back, she needs to start killing black babies."

It's really easy to pick on Casey Anthony right now, but when I can set my own feelings about the case aside, I find myself wondering more about the rage against this woman.

Is it about what she allegedly did to her daughter?  Or is this some weird way of absolving ourselves of any guilt we have buried deep in our own subconscious?

I don't mean guilt for the death of Caylee; I mean guilt over our actions or lack of actions and how they may have affected someone else.  How many parents out there have never said something to their kids that they regret?  Worse still, how many of you live haunted by the action you can't take back, or guilt about the thing you should have done?

I went through this a few months ago, when a student at the school I was working at was shot and killed.  I've been working at schools in Baltimore for the last two years.  I've worked in middle schools and high schools. 

I know drug dealers.

I mean, that's just reality.  Two students in one of my classes from last semester had to be put into protective custody after one of them got shot.  And I've never been particularly good at overlooking the big picture.  I can connect the dots.  I've talked to some of these kids, tried to reach them.

But when I heard about the student who was killed, and realized it was a student I'd talked to in passing on a number of occasions, I processed a lot of emotions.  There was shock and grief.

And guilt.

Had I done enough?  Was there something I could have said that might have changed the outcome for this student?

And then I saw this story about Edmonton-area mom who fought police and shedded her clothes during a "bizarre" drug-and-booze-fuelled rampage earned a judicial tongue lashing Tuesday.

(She pleaded guilty to assault, causing a disturbance, mischief and resisting arrest.)

After hearing the mother-of-three had committed some of the crimes in front of her 10-year-old son, provincial court Judge Ernie Walter fixed his steely eyes upon her.

"Get your life in order madam," said Walter. "Your children deserve better than this."

It sounds more like something you'd expect to read in a book than a news story, and yet Cher Alina Badger really did find herself branded by newspapers as a "bad mom".

If only being a bad mom was a crime.

Okay, being a "bad" parent is a rather subjective term, but when I read this article I really did wonder just how bad a parent has to be in order to have someone step in to protect the children.  This woman committed crimes.  Including assault.

Shouldn't any act of physical violence be grounds for some intervention?

While our society reels from the outcome of the Casey Anthony murder trial and her acquittal for murdering her two-year-old daughter, I think the only way we can really, honestly address the issue of how to protect children in the future is to start by eliminating assumptions.  Where mothers are concerned, society is often willing to turn a blind eye and excuse all actions.  The belief that mothers know best and sacrifice all for their children is one that's based on the example of millions of mothers that's true of.

Unfortunately, the mothers who are anything but selfless and protective of their children use the stereotype to their advantage, and even now, in the 21st century, courts still tend to favor mothers in custody disputes.  The only proof of equal treatment of parents would be an automatic assumption of 50-50 custody between fathers and mothers, with one parent being required to prove the other parent is unfit or unsuitable in order to take a higher percentage of custody.  And that's not the way it is.

I think every individual proves their merit by their actions, and that includes 'mothers' and 'fathers'.  We need to stop projecting what we want to be true of all mothers and fathers onto everyone without evidence that they actually are good parents.  That's the only way for us to look deeper, and actually put the welfare of children first.

This is an issue I wrestle with through the pages of my latest novel, HARVEST OF RUINS.  Evelyn Shepherd - known as Vinny - is a girl who is torn apart by her parents after their divorce.  Her relationship with her father is easy and natural, while her mother pressures her to be what her mother wants her to be, and manipulates her and controls her, with devastating consequences.

There are a lot of ways to damage a person, especially a child, and they don't all involve physical abuse.  As a society, we need to consider that.  Think about that "bad mom" and her son, and what type of person he's likely going to grow up to be if this is how his mother behaves.

In Vinny's case, it's her father, the one person who genuinely loved and cared about her, who's plagued by guilt over his decisions and the regret he has over letting his daughter remain in the custody of her mother. 

But the central character of the book is Hunter McKenna, who carries her own guilt over how her actions have affected her own life, and the lives of Vinny, her father, and Hunter's own daughter.

I think if we're all honest with ourselves, we've had a moment where we could have done more for someone.  Could have shown our child (or parent or partner) more patience, or could have reached out to help a friend who was in a desperate situation and needed our support.

And that's what makes guilt a good thing.  It's what causes us to examine our shortcomings and prompts us to try to do better in the future so that we don't repeat the same mistakes.

The only trick is, like Hunter, when we're wrestling with our guilt we have to learn to first forgive ourselves.

Sandra Ruttan is the Bestselling author of Harvest of Ruins, Suspicious Circumstance, The Nolan, Hart & Train series, and is the Editor for Spinetingler Magazine and Snubnose Press.