Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bowled Over by Denham's The Bowl and the Stone

I was lucky to read and review an early copy of this novel by Bish Denham. Set on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin islands in the 1960s, The Bowl and the Stone centers on young Nick and Samantha (Sam), their friendship, and some spooky ghosts. 

Image: luca.porfido

Considering the age of the protagonists, you might think this is a story primarily aimed at the middle school set. Much of the first half of the book goes into delicious details of the rich imaginary life Nick and Sam enjoy. Amazon explorers, pirates, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are just a few of the roles these two take on in games that span the island from the beaches to the ruins of a sugar plantation. They drink limeade, plan a joint 12th birthday bash, and one even wears a crustacean shell mask for Halloween. 

Image: Ian Sane

The life these two lead makes me want to weep in nostalgia for my own childhood. I was lucky enough to grow up on the edge of a huge neighborhood. On one hand, I had miles of hilly, paved roads for biking and rollerskating. On the other hand, my house was surrounded by woods with streams and climbing trees and an old dump where you could find blue glass bottles on a lucky day. We also had a dock on the bay of a huge manmade lake (Lake Hartwell) behind the house. For many years, my dad would take us out on our second-hand speed boat to swim or let my mom waterski. 

It was a childhood where I could hike, wade, or build forts in the real world, not just in Minecraft. I had a huge territory to explore, and no one monitored me as long as I was home in time for dinner. Today, I don't let my kids go to the mailbox without watching from the window. 

So, in that sense, The Bowl and the Stone is for those of us who remember childhoods spent outside, racing the sun home on a bike or splashing through a stream a month before it was really warm enough to do so. It's a love letter to the past. 

But go back far enough in history and the past holds deadly secrets. When the ghost enters the tale, Nick and Sam's friendship is tested as the tension mounts. I appreciate how Denham presents the horror of slavery and the connections between the past and present. How the title elements weave into the story is pure art. Finally, the time spent featuring the relationship between Nick and Sam pays off in a bittersweet ending as well. This is a five star read. I highly recommend it.

The Bowl and the Stone is available now at: Amazon and Smashwords

Bish is running a rafflecopter contest if you'd like to win a copy along with a comprehensive book tour to share more about St. Johns Island, jumbies, and all sorts of things.

What are your fondest memories of childhood?  

Friday, October 21, 2016

If I Was A Mobster Blogfest and Celebrate the Small Things

Happy Friday! Today I'm pulling double duty with two blogfests. First I'm helping blogger Chrys Fey celebrate the release of her new book 30 Seconds Before by imagining what type of mobster I could be. Second, I'm also celebrating the small things with Lexa Cain and her co-hosts: L.G. Keltner and Tonya Drecker.

So let's get started. If I were a mobster . . .

You know what? It's hard to imagine being a mobster, because that word makes me think of someone who imposes their will on others, usually in an illegal way to do something, well, illegal. I'm not one tell people what to do (excluding kids and husband, duh) and I'm pretty uptight about following rules. 

However, my in-laws came up with a brilliant idea I wouldn't mind imposing on large portions of the population. You know those fitness bands? How they record calories burnt and so on? Imagine you could set up you kid's (or spouse's) electronic devices to sync with a fitness band. Then have an app that would make the electronic device inoperable until the user had burned enough calories to "power" the device for, say, thirty minutes at a time. Wouldn't that be cool?

Of course, as the leader, I would be exempt, because there is no way I could power my laptop long enough to get all my writerly chores done. Hypocritical you say? Well, isn't that a key characteristic to any good mobster?

And now, the cover reveal:


Blake Herro is a cop in the Cleveland Police Force. Ever since he was a child he wanted to do right by the city he loved by cleaning up the streets and protecting its citizens. Red, a notorious mobster, has other plans.

On a bitter December night, ten police officers are drawn into a trap and killed by Red’s followers. Blake wants to bring down the Mob to avenge his fallen brothers and to prevent other cops from being murdered. Except the only way he can do that is by infiltrating the Mob.

Every minute he’s with these mobsters he’s in danger. Around every corner lies the threat of coming face to face with a gun. Will he make it out of the Mob alive or will he be their next victim?


To celebrate, 30 Seconds, the follow up story, is on sale for 99 cents!

Sale Oct. 21st – Nov. 4th



Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series (Hurricane Crimes and Seismic Crimes), as well as these releases from The Wild Rose Press: 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter

Now please hop around to the other participants!


What do I have to celebrate this week? 

Image: tracywoolery

1. The bee sting that left my left arm a swollen, itchy mess has calmed down considerably after two weeks. Downside? I have no more excuses to put off getting my flu shot.

Image: Lucky Lynda

2. We're going to a rock and gem show this Sunday! Downside? My older daughter has caught crystal mania and will want to buy everything. (I blame the famous YouTubers she follows). 

3. Carnival Kettle Popcorners. OMG, these are the yummiest thing ever! I could seriously eat a huge bag in one sitting. Downside? I usually eat the huge bag in one sitting. (And now I can't get up.) Intervention, STAT!

Would you like to be a mobster? Have an out-of-control snack craving? Any downsides to your celebrations this week?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things

Friday the 14th! Dodged a bullet there with the 13th falling on a Thursday this month. Whew! Anybody out there superstitious? Getting into the Halloween spirit? Well it's time to celebrate the small things that made our lives interesting this week with our host Lexa Cain and wonderful co-hosts: L.G. Keltner and Tonya Drecker.

Image: Dan Perlman

1. Nobody came home from school this week complaining about scary clowns

Did this phenomena hit your town? Hopefully it's old news by now, but if you didn't hear, there have been sightings of people dressed as clowns all over the US (and other countries). Allegedly, the clowns try to lure kids into the woods with candy or just attack folks with a meat cleaver. Or was it a nail file? Anyway, as you can imagine, real clowns are not happy about this fad at all.

2. I may succeed in turning my child into a wolf.

Furry vest with an awesomely long and fluffy tail? Check. Fluffy ears on a headband? Check. Fluffy gloves? One down and one to go. The snout is going to be the hard part, but with a rubber dog's nose and a set of vampire teeth from the dollar store, I'm going to give it my best shot. All this without a sewing machine! Pictures to be posted upon completion. I mean really, who wouldn't want to be a wolf?

3. I only lost one night of sleep after watching The Conjuring 2.

Why do I do this to myself? I just hope the nun-demon with the fanged mouth isn't a popular costume this year. Maybe I'll have my husband do the candy-at-the-door thing just in case. (The image above is from a life-sized model you can purchase for $2,000. Now that's scary!)

How was your week? Anything chilling to report?

Monday, October 10, 2016

L.G. Keltner's Critiques 101: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

How to Deal With Critique in a Constructive Way

One of the main issues the main character in the Self-Help 101 series deals with is her writing insecurities.  In the latest installment, Self-Help 101 or: How to Select a Costume to Help You Deal With People, Dani has started a blog.  While some of the feedback she gets from her readers is good, she also gets her share of negative critiques.  It’s a reality all writers must be prepared to encounter.

First of all, it’s crucial to understand not all critique is equal.  There are some people who take joy in hurling vile insults at anyone they can reach.  When you put your writing out there for the world to enjoy, you’re also exposing yourself to people like this.  It can be frustrating to read abusive comments about your work that offer no constructive criticism, but it’s important not to let things like this stop you from writing.  If a comment offers nothing valuable, it’s not worth your time.

I’ve also seen authors deal with one-star reviews that make you wonder why the person chose the book in the first place.  An example of this would be someone saying they hate reading books with teenage protagonists while reviewing a book that was clearly marketed as featuring a teenage protagonist.  Reviews like this can also be quite frustrating, but these can also be safely brushed to the side.  They are not an indictment of your work.  This person was never a part of the book’s target audience anyway, and you’re never going to be able to write something that everyone loves.

The critiques that a writer should take to heart are the ones that make thoughtful observations about the material.  If enough readers say that a particular part of your story doesn’t work for them, then you should consider what they have to say.  Learning to analyze and make use of good constructive criticism is a vital skill for any writer to have.  Ultimately it’s up to you to decide which suggestions you’re going to take into account in the future.  Just remember that this kind of feedback is valuable, because it’s how you learn and grow as a storyteller.


Seth was silent for several moments as he read the despicable comment.  “I wish I could punch whoever wrote that,” he finally said.  He was seething.  The prospect of Seth rushing off to defend my honor was both laughable, because the guy may be many things but a fighter is not one of them, and sweet, albeit in a somewhat barbaric way.  Not that I’m any better.  I know I’m not.  If anyone gave Seth too much of a hard time, I’d be right there plotting revenge.
“You shouldn’t bother yourself too much over this comment,” I said lightly.  “This person’s suggestions, while intriguing, would involve violating several known laws of physics.”
I could have deleted the comment.  I’d been tempted to go that route on multiple occasions, but I kept deciding against it.  If the nasty comments were going to keep coming anyway, I’d rather wear them as a badge of honor.  The fact that someone took the time to write such vile drivel meant that I had a growing audience with which I’d struck a chord.  That couldn’t be all bad.

Title: Self-Help 101 or: How to Select a Costume to Help You Deal With People
Author: L.G. Keltner
Genre: holiday/humor
Length: 29,000 words
Cover Art:  L.G. Keltner and Jamon Walker
Release Date: September 27, 2016


Book 3 in the Self-Help 101 series.

Dani Finklemeier is adjusting to life in college and the realities of living away from home for the first time.  She’s also learning to deal with the criticism that stems from sharing her writing with the world.  Some of the online criticism is even spelled correctly, which somehow makes it worse.

Fortunately, she has a Halloween party, a group of friends, and a supportive boyfriend to distract her from the things that are bothering her.  Of course, a holiday celebration wouldn’t be complete without something going wrong.  Between an unpleasant confrontation with an infuriating classmate, some shocking costume choices, and a bizarre fraternity stunt, the evening will be anything but dull.

Dani’s detractors may not like it, but she’ll definitely have enough material for another book.


L.G. Keltner spends most of her time trying to write while also cleaning up after her crazy but wonderful kids and hanging out with her husband.  Her favorite genre of all time is science fiction, and she’s been trying to write novels since the age of six.  Needless to say, those earliest attempts weren’t all that good. 

Her non-writing hobbies include astronomy and playing Trivial Pursuit.

You can typically find L.G. lurking around her blog, on Twitter, or on her Facebook page.

Purchase Links:



Add it on Goodreads.


How do you handle writing and/or receiving critiques? 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things

Another good Friday morning to one and all. It's a sunny, sunny day here. Hope you are well and Hurricane Matthew is not banging down your door. It's time to celebrate the things that made us chipper this week with our host, AUTHOR OF BLOODWALKER!, otherwise known as Lexa Cain, and her awesome co-hosts: L.G. Keltner (also celebrating a new release) and Tonya Drecker (yep, also an author).

Here's what's cool:

1. I wrestled my short story for the IWSG contest down to 6K. They have lowered the word count requirement to 3K from the original lower limit, 5K. Dude, they should just give their unused word count to me!

2. We have an outside cat, Mr. Mistoffelees. Even though we're right smack dab in the middle of suburbia, all sorts of visitors come to partake of his food bowl including: other stray cats, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, raccoons, and a little fellow that looked like this:

I love the tiny toes!

3. My daughter has entered an Instagram contest for the best picture featuring the cover of Joey Graceffa's new YA novel, Children of Eden. This morning she was thrilled to pieces to find her entry among the most popular. If you are part of the Instagram thang, you can go here to like it and keep her dreams of winning alive. The prize?  A Skype chat with the author.

What's new with you this week?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Insecure Writers Support Group - October 2016

It's time to lift the shades on our shacks (or mansions) of writerly insecurities and invite the IWSG over for tea and crumpets. Raise your pinkies to our illustrious host, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his fan-tabulous co-hosts: Beverly Stowe McClure, Megan Morgan, Viola Fury, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Angela Wooldridge, and Susan Gourley!

When do you know your story is ready? That's this month's question. Hmm. Kind of open ended there. Ready for what?

Ready for editing? That's easy. I haven't written anything without knowing how it ends, so once that first draft is done, it's done.

Ready for a beta reader? A tougher call. I'd say however many drafts it takes to get the characters and plot in primo shape, but maybe before the final polish.

Ready for submission? Here's when you have to get out all the typos and awkward sentences. Give the plot and subplots another hard look. Does everything make sense? Are there major plot holes? Find lazy words that escaped earlier edits.

Ready to publish? You want it as perfect as possible, but you can't spend your whole life on one project. (Well, you can, but that would drive most people mad.) Deadlines can help, whether imposed by yourself or other parties. At some point, you let it loose into the world.

Ready for the fabled trunk? If you've reached your limit on sending queries, the requests for fulls are coming up empty, and you refuse to self-publish for whatever reason, then there is this option.

Is your story ready?

Next month's question: Earl Grey or Lemon Zinger?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Question of the Month with Michael G. D'Agostino

On the first Monday of the month, Michael from A Life Examined poses a question. Here 'tis:

“What’s a decision you’ve made in the past that you know, logically, was the right decision to make, but which you still feel guilty or regretful about?”

In 2004, I quit my job as an assistant math professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a career I'd spent many years in school to acquire. Yet, I had just given birth to my daughter (a day after turning in my final grades for that spring quarter). Everyone assumed that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. While that was true, I also wanted to write fiction. Teaching math at that level was a prestigious, well-paid, secure position, but...

I do feel guilty sometimes. As a writer, I've made less money in the past 12 years than I would have picking up change in parking lots. Yet, I have been there for my daughters. Whenever they got sick, whenever they needed to be picked up from school, whenever they needed my help for homework, projects, games, whatever, I am there. That's a luxury.

But it's not perfect. My kids are exceptional students and polite out in the world, but they are incredibly lazy at home. I've spoiled them. When I compare my independence at their age to what they do (or don't do) it's sobering. My mother worked. I did not resent it. In fact, I loved being home alone after school, ruining my appetite with all sorts of junk food.

If I could go back in time, I would not choose differently. How about you? Any past decisions you feel guilty about?