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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Love on Longboat Key Author's Notes

I've heard countless novelists claim that place is just as important as character. I learned that lesson firsthand when I began writing my debut romance, Love on Longboat Key, a novel in which the unusual landscape becomes a character unto itself.

My heroine Julie Joseph has come to Florida not for pleasure, but from a sense of duty. Because she is the only single child left in her family, her aging parents expect her to spend Christmas holidays with them on Longboat Key. Although Julie is thrilled to have escaped the frigid climate of Connecticut and the threat of a blizzard that meteorologist have dubbed "snowmaggedon," she's still disappointed to spend another holiday season with her quarreling, pinochle-playing parents. She wonders if she'll ever find a man to marry and have a family of her own.

Less than twenty-four hours after arriving, however, she meets Thomas Briggs, whose circumstances are similar to her own, underneath a sprawling Bodhi tree in the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Both Julie and Thomas adore this tropical paradise, which looks out over the Sarasota Bay. The heat of the afternoon, the lushness of the plant life, and the warm bay breeze helps them to let down their reserve and get to know one another.

Their relationship is further fueled by the beauty of the Floridian landscape. Julie and Thomas walk on the white sands of Longboat Key, explore restaurants and shops on nearby Saint Armand's Circle, and begin to consider visiting Florida not as a temporary escape from New England's notoriously chilly weather, but as a test for taking up permanent residence in the Sunshine State.

In Love on Longboat Key, I got a chance to describe a place I know and love well--the barrier islands off Sarasota--and also to describe their extreme weather (the blistering noontime heat, the inevitable afternoon torrential rain). Writing about Florida also gave me a chance to explore my not-so-secret vice: a love of clothing and fashion. I adore dressing my characters as much as I once loved dressing my dolls as a child.

In the opening scene of Love on Longboat Key, Julie reflects on how she has traded in her down coat and knit hat and scarf for a simple T-shirt and lightweight pants. But it's kicking off her weatherproof boots--and donning a pair of red rubber flip-flops (which also adorn the cover of my novel)--that gives her permission to feel free, unencumbered, and open to the possibility of love. Likewise, Thomas sheds his inhibitions when he arrives in Florida and--to his mother's dismay--wears a simple pair of dock shoes without socks.

Julie and Thomas both long to live in a climate that is hospitable to bare feet. Their love for one another takes root in a landscape that blooms year round and on beaches known for their spectacular sunsets. The next two novels in my romance series The Keys to His Heart will continue to pay homage to the beauty of the barrier islands on the west coast of Florida. Readers not lucky enough to have yet visited these enchanting islands hopefully will find vicarious pleasure reading about them and dreaming about visiting someday on their own.

You can find Love on Longboat Key on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review of A Page From the Past by Kelli Keith

Book Review

Name:
Kelli Keith

Book Title:
A Page From The Past

Book Author:
Cindy Davis

Date of Publication:
December 2008

Number of Pages:
275

Main Characters:
Lindsay and Glenn Reade are the owners of a successful bookshop in a small New England town. Married for 31 years, they enjoy the mundane life associated with empty-nesters. Their ever-present red Dachshund, Heather, is a source of companionship and comfort. Surrounded by quirky townspeople, they are thrust into a mystery.

Other Important Characters:
Yolanda “Bobo” (nay) Reade- Glenn’s sister, four time divorcee, and employee of the bookshop.
Les “Brownie” Brown- Local law enforcement officer with an eye on a position as a state cop.
Faith MacDonald- The new girl in town.

Setting:
Paris, Massachusetts in the early 2000’s.

Synopsis:
Over the course of four weeks, Lindsay and Glenn’s lives are turned completely upside down. What began as a typical Monday, traveling their pick-up route, the two booksellers are thrust into the epicenter of a 40-year old murder-mystery. One brush with death after another turns everyone into a suspect, assuring their lives will never be the same.

Key Points/Conflict:
The story is developed around the discovery of a 40-year old diary, written by a teenager named Aura Lee. Her diary outlines her life, family, and her rape by a boy name Jimmy. Jimmy is found dead, days later and Aura Lee is convinced she is responsible. The entries end days after Aura Lee has an abortion, leaving us to wonder what her fate may have been.

Flash forward 40 years: Lindsay and Glenn Reade travel the same circuit to collect used books every Monday for their bookstore in Paris, Massachusetts. Their lives are a series of routines, honed over 31-years of marriage. We meet them moments after they are run off the road in what seemed to be an accident at the hands of careless teenagers. In these first few pages, we are given a glimpse into the love that Lindsay and Glenn share for each other. Each character is strong, intelligent, and capable of standing on their own but, possess the wisdom to know they are better together.

Quickly, we are introduced to the sub-characters which help shape the story: Les “Brownie” Brown, is a local law enforcement officer who arrives on the scene of the accident. He is depicted as a young, loveable character that loves his job and the people of his town; “Bobo” (aka, Yolanda,) is Glenn’s sister, a four-time-divorcee the customers actively avoid. The relationship between Lindsay and Bobo is filled with tension that boils just beneath the surface; a powder keg waiting to explode; Then there is Faith, a new girl in town, she hails from New Hampshire seeking a job and a new life. Her charisma, love of books, and overflowing personality are irresistible to the Reades.

As Lindsay sorts through the carnage of the accident, she discovers a little blue diary among the books they gathered that morning. Being a lover of lost diaries, she reads the words Aura Lee wrote some 40-years before. She is heartbroken by the words and feels compelled to find the author. From that moment, their lives would never be the same. Lindsay and Glenn are run through a gauntlet of death, near misses, and broken trust. Discovering the truth may cost them everything they hold dear.

Analysis/Evaluation:

The realistic nature of the main characters made the story feel plausible and I found myself wanting more. I could not wait to discover the identity of the diary author! My main issue is the timeline of the book, it felt unrealistic, forced in some areas, and completely adjusted in others.

The main characters were in an accident after making their “Monday pick-ups” but have their van, hired a new employee, sorted the wreckage of books, and have appointments to interview people about their find—all by midday or early afternoon. This is just the beginning of the continuity problems. The scene where Lindsay is in the hospital (I’m assuming a day or two after the first accident,) the timeline becomes very muddy. She says “the nurse never answered me” and Glenn replies, “That was yesterday.” Later, Glenn says Lindsay was asleep for a day and a half—after she awoke asking about the nurse’s answer. The way it is written it seems like she was in and out for nearly a week but, it comes out, it was only two days. A few pages later, we are led to believe it has been seven days. I quit trying to figure it out and kept on reading.

In chapter 22, the continuity interferes with the reader’s ability to keep the story straight. We are introduced to “Daniel”, a special needs child who loves to play with Heather. (I was taken aback that the author used the word “retarded” as a descriptor.) In the final paragraph of this chapter, the name of the child suddenly changes to “Tommy”. Throughout the next chapter (23), the author continues the use of the incorrect name and in chapter 24, reverts back to “Daniel”. (I had to read those three chapters several times to make sure I didn’t miss something!)

In Chapter 30, Brownie brings background information on “Jimmy”. He says that the boy was a criminal know for “Breaking & Entering”. In the beginning of the next chapter, Glenn says, “I wonder if she knows the private verdict was that Jimmy was probably killed during a drug deal gone bad”. Again, I went back and re-read the previous two chapters to check if I missed something; I didn’t. This information was introduced out of the blue with no logical support but it was continued throughout the remainder of the story.

Lindsay sneaks into the hospital room of Anne Richardson in chapter 42. Anne says she gave the perpetrator the issues from May 1964—it should be 1963. Lindsay and Glenn discovered the box (in chapter 41) that was labeled “May 1963” and the week of Jimmy’s death was missing.

A few questions were left unanswered: How did Janine know about the diary? Who is Ivy? Why did Bobo keep Thomasina from Glenn?

Despite the issues outlined above, I loved the story and read it in one sitting. It was a nice escape into someone else’s world where the mundane quickly turned to intrigue.

A Page From the Past is available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review of Smile and Walk Away by Linda Workman-Crider

Book Review: Smile and Walk Away, written by Danielle Riedel
Review by: Linda Workman-Crider


What do you do if you’re tired of living the life that was entirely planned by your parents? You just smile and walk away.

What do you do if you’re a new detective assigned to a missing person’s case? You search, even when you know you shouldn’t.

Tired of hiding her secret and wishing to make her own way in the world, Velma Bloom blows her entire trust fund on the car of her dreams instead of attending graduate school. Much to her parents’ chagrin, she drives off to start a new life in Yonkers, New York. She quickly settles into a comforting routine working at Lonnie’s Pub as a waitress and spending time with her cat, Carrot, and her not-boyfriend, Brett. She is happy in her new life with no plans to upgrade her future. A single phone call forces Velma into action, trying to discover her father’s past and to come to terms with parts of herself that she has had to keep hidden all these years. Her sudden disappearance effects everyone and, with a possible link to a double homicide, is a case that Detective Jackson Duran is quickly consumed with solving.

We enter the story on April 23, 2008, the day Velma goes missing, and then almost immediately flash back to June 2, 2005, the day Velma returns home from college. From there, we follow Velma’s life in one time-line and Detective Duran, trying to find her, in another time-line. This chronological mix works perfectly in moving our knowledge of side-characters, events, and the circumstances happening in both time-lines, and finally to an understanding of the prologue where we meet an Agent Majors undergoing intensive psychological testing. If you are a plot driven reader, I can tell you that the storyline has a solid plot with a few sub-plots. It is good. I am reluctant to give any of the unique details because I fear it would be misleading regarding an expectation toward a faster pace.

~*~

Velma Bloom is a red-head with the attitude to match. Her confidence is backed by being raised in a well-off family, having a college education, and an ample bosom perched upon an attractive slender body. She is not a fan of wine, but enjoys her booze and lots of it. She is the type of person to call her parents by their first names, a person who seems to care, and yet remains emotionally aloof; she can afford to because she is emotionally strong and determined to take care of herself. Her one major weakness is also her superpower.

While likeable, Velma’s character is difficult to feel truly close to because she never needs us or anyone else. By the time we start thinking she might really be in trouble, she has already solved the situation. In real life, she would be the type of person you would admire from afar, but that you couldn’t get close to without fear of assuming the role being of the needy one. In the book, Brett, the not-boyfriend, clings to the hope that at some point Velma will allow their relationship to deepen. I was left feeling the same way as Brett. I really do like her character, otherwise the distance would never have been noticed.

~*~

Jackson Duran is a newly made detective with a personal code of ethics: no bribes, only booze; no broads, just books; and his own interpretation of the law. He worked seven years as a beat cop to finally get his dream promotion. He’ll do just about anything to crack the case and find the missing Velma.

We meet Duran in Chapter two with no actual physical description, a fact that is easily overlooked. Riedel delivers Duran’s background and then smoothly glides through the scenes that sink us further into the storyline. I didn’t notice the absence until I began writing this review that my original mental image of Durham was built from my own concept of what his personality traits and unique quirks would look like bundled up in a single character.

~*~

Danielle Riedel is, to me, a master of the descriptive sentence and giving key details to visualize every scene. She uses setting, body language, dialogue, and the timing of information, mentioned above, to the greatest overall effect of building a believable world in which she has granted every character their own unique feature. Where a character speaks in Spanish, we get the dialogue in Spanish (with the inclusion of smoothly worked in translation, thankfully).

Danielle Riedel spent time as a bartender and as a police cadet in real life, so she was able to pull from her real-world knowledge when writing this novel. And, since I have already dropped the pacing bomb, I might as well give away that she builds a very believable world of espionage filled with intrigue and the paranoia of discovery. Maybe she picked up this skill while she was studying psychology.

~*~

Overall, Smile and Walk Away by Danielle Riedel is a recommended read. While I was initially a bit disappointed with the slow pace, I had simply began reading this book while in the mood for something a bit more fast-paced. I was still caught up in the unique storyline and the interesting characters. There are even plenty of action scenes, just none ranging over several pages. This ties into my only other complaint that Velma solves her dilemma’s a bit too quickly for closeness to be developed by the reader, only admiration. Neither of these is enough of an issue to overshadow the amount of talent that Riedel displays in this novel or the amount of enjoyment I gained while reading it. This is a book to be read on a quiet rainy day when feeling a bit too lazy for anything containing extensive adrenaline, or for those times when you want to read but can’t allow yourself to get too caught up. There is a need for a book like this in everyone’s life and Danielle Riedel has written it.

Smile and Walk Away is available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Commentary on a Scene from The Fortune Teller's Secret with Ron D. Voigts

This is from a larger scene in The Fortune Teller’s Secret, just before a body is discovered aboard the Ferris wheel at the county carnival. Cavendish, Alex, and Jane are eyeing the games on the midway, and Jane wants Cavendish to win her a large stuffed animal. Important to note, Alex keeps her witch identity a secret from most including Cavendish.

~*~

I sized up the game. Rows of fuzzy knock-down dolls with crazy expressions painted on their faces lined shelves about fifteen feet away. I played some baseball back in high school and once pitched a shutout. Jane gazed wide-eyed at me, and I gave in. “Maybe I could try one time.” I fished three dollars from my pocket.

“Easy win, captain.” The barker took my money and laid three baseballs in front of me on the shelf, which also served as the pitching line. “Three down gets you a big one of your choice, two a medium, and one a small prize.”

I took the first ball and wrapped my fingers around it. My palm molded to the leather. The stitches pressed against my fingertips. Some things are never forgotten, like riding a bike, shuffling a deck of cards, and throwing a baseball.

Alex flashed a smile. “Go get ’em, slugger.”

“Isn’t that what you tell a batter?”

She mouthed something that I don’t think was you’re right.

I stretched my arm back and threw. The ball missed, sailing over the tops of the dolls.

“Tough one there. Still you get two down and win a medium prize.” The barker handed me another ball.

Another wind up, and I let go. The ball soared between two dolls. The fuzzy hair around the edges barely moved.

“Wow, you almost had that one.” He took the last ball and tossed it to me.

I took a breath. I was seventeen again and my macho reputation was on the line. Get at least one down I told myself. This can’t be too hard.

Again I pitched, letting the ball snap from my fingertips. Like a bullet, it sailed for a doll. Adrenaline surged through my veins. My heart pounded. The ball caught the edge of the doll, making it rock, but it stayed standing on the shelf. “Not fair. I hit it. This thing is rigged.”

The barker snatched a ball from a large basket behind the counter and threw. The ball struck the doll squarely between the eyes, and it fell with a thud. He swung a triumphant fist overhead and roared, “That’s how it’s done.”

“I still say it’s fixed.” I gave Jane an apologetic shrug.

Alex came forward and tossed three bills on the shelf. “I’ll give it a shot.”

“You?” My voice perhaps sounded a bit too surprised.

She flashed me a defiant scowl. “You don’t think I can get three down?”

“They have to fall completely over,” I explained. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

“Wanna bet on it?” When I didn’t answer, she pointed at the Galaxy Smasher. “I knock three down, and you ride with me.”

This was a sucker’s bet, and I was taking advantage of her. “What if you don’t?”

She tilted her head and studied me briefly then said, “I’ll take you home.”

“You’re on.”

We shook hands. She sidled up to the pitch line, seized a ball, and eyed the row of dolls.

“The lucky lady is going to show us how to do it.” The barker flashed a cocky grin and gave me a wink.

Alex’s eyes focused on the target for a moment. A gentle breeze passed over us. Tightening her fingers on the ball, she stretched her arm back and threw. Not impressive by any means, but the ball stayed straight as if it traveled inside an invisible tube. It smacked a doll squarely in the face with a plunk and knocked it off the shelf.

“Holy cow! She got one. Let’s give her a big hand.” The barker applauded madly. Some of the other game operators joined in. A few patrons smiled and shook their heads.

She didn’t seem too pleased with his patronizing. Her eyes narrowed, and she glowered at him. I figured the barker’s plan was to shake her up and get her to throw off.

The next ball left her fingertips, heading straight at a doll. Again it found the sweet spot. With a solid thud, another one toppled from the ledge.

The energy in the barker’s banter waned. “Not bad, sweetheart. Two in a row. Gonna make it three?” The corner of his mouth curled up, and he handed her another ball. Something told me he’d slipped her a ringer.

She threw with the confidence of a seasoned major league pitcher. The ball wobbled and twisted as it sailed. The barker grinned as I was going to protest when the ball clipped a doll, catching it near the edge of its head. The furry figurine wobbled on the shelf.

“Aw, too bad,” he shouted.

But it did fall, tumbling backward and vanishing from the shelf.

A brief glimmer faded from Alex’s eyes, something I’d seen before. Like two red embers, but in a moment, the glow was gone. I figured perhaps it was a reflection of the lights from a nearby ride.

“Too bad for you.” She flashed a crooked grin at the barker, whose mouth hung slightly open. She pointed to the black and white panda hanging overhead. “I want that.”

He hesitated and finally tugged the stuffed animal down. She snatched it and passed it to Jane. “Now you have to name it.” Alex turned to me. “Ready?”

“For what?”

She stared at the Galaxy Smasher and grinned.

~*~

I loved writing this scene on many levels.

The games at the carnival are mostly crooked. I recall going to carnivals in my youth and watching people dump tons of money on chances to win stuffed animals. In this particular game, the dolls are weighted and require hitting them in a sweet spot. Anywhere else will merely rock or move them, not knocking them over.

Cavendish is being typical male here thinking macho that he can knock them down. Of course, the odds are against him. Instead of impressing Alex and Jane, he is donating three bucks to the carnival. He even admits the game is fixed.

When Alex says she’ll play, Cavendish is amazed because of her lack of baseball knowledge, having never played. When she says, go get ‘em slugger, he corrects her with “Isn’t that what you tell a batter,” not the pitcher. Also, since he did not win, surely no one else can.

The game operator is just plain sexist, figuring a woman can’t win the game. His comments are to taunt Alex. She shows him and wins in the end.

This scene subtly shows Alex’s witch power, controlling physical elements. In The Witch’s Daughter, she demonstrates her ability to open mechanical locks.

Alex wins the prize and the privilege of taking Cavendish on the Galaxy Smasher, the wildest ride at the carnival. He had wanted to go home earlier, but now was committed to staying.

This scene cut shows the special dynamic between Cavendish and Alex. Being a murder mystery, this makes Cavendish the sleuth and Alex his side-kick, but actually they work more like partners, complimenting each other. And Alex lends her special talent in solving the crime.

Before closing, I wanted to express special thanks to Cassie Knight for her assistance and insights with the edits for The Fortune Teller’s Secret. We had a few discussions and changes to this scene, and I think it worked out quite well.

For now Alex and Cavendish are working on their next mystery, tentatively titled The Thief’s Return.

You can find both The Witch's Daughter and The Fortune Teller’s Secret on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Sheila Stewart's Favorite Scene


This excerpt from Penetrating the Darkness, is one of my favorites. I tend to write about some pretty dark stuff so I like to thread some comedy into the story to break things up. I’m a sarcastic person and I like to use that in my stories. When I wrote this scene, I decided that my characters, Jonah and Dante needed to have a discussion about the future. With the Darkness engulfing the city, everyone is starting to feel it. They miss the simple things in life like grass, flowers, life. Dante and Jonah were human before the Darkness fell and the vampires took over, so they’re still getting used to it. Jonah is a nerd, as Dante likes to refer to him. He’s brilliant and has created some fierce and helpful gadgets to help take out the vamps. In this scene, I showcase two of them.

Jonah and Dante couldn’t be more opposite. Dante is a Private Detective and used to seeing and dealing with some pretty tough stuff. Jonah is used to being behind a computer. I put these two together to learn from each other.

I like to write with music going. Dance music is usually the play list I choose because it pumps me up. I feel energized. I usually don’t plot out how my story will go. I just let it flow. When I’m in the zone, I can write for hours. I remember this scene taking over. I don’t remember what song was playing, what was going on around me. I found myself in the dark, sitting on a car with two men who like to jab at each other and have fun while they wait for the vampires to find them. I was there, chuckling at their humor. It wasn’t just words I wrote, it was life taking place in front of me.

I hope when you read this you can picture yourself sitting on a car, in the darkness, waiting for the vampires to come and get you.

Penetrating the Darkness: Book 6 in the Darkness series.

“What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the sun comes back?” Dante asked as he picked up a small rock and began tossing it in the air.

“Hide.”

“Seriously.”

“Seriously. I hear getting scorched by the sun hurts like hell. I have no desire to have that happen any time soon,” Jonah responded. He hadn’t been a vampire before the sun was blocked out and truthfully, it kind of scared him to think of life with the sun shining.

“Me either. Still…it would be nice to see the sun shine again.”

“Yeah. Green grass—hell green anything would be nice. All this brown is boring the hell out of me.” Jonah realized that if any vamps came out of the warehouse, or Chaos, for that matter, the two of them didn’t stand a chance.

“I would love to give Gyspy a bouquet of flowers.”

Jonah pulled the net out of the trunk. “Yeah, Raven would love that too.”

“If things go back to normal after this is all over, what are you going to do? Still gonna work with computers?”

“I’ve been considering contacting the military about my inventions. I think I could be of use to them.”

“That would be perfect for you. You’re really getting good at making devices to help us nab the bad guys.”

“It keeps me busy. What about you? Are you going to go back to detective work?”

“I was thinking of going back to being a cop. Pays better than my investigation agency. You think we’re ever going to get Chaos?”

“I try to stay positive.”

Dante sat on the hood of the car. “I do too. Still….”

“Yeah. Here.”

He handed Dante the electro net, wrapped in a thin plastic and the trigger box.

“What is this for?”

“Protection. You up for taking on a bunch of vamps? Just the two of us?”

“This thing better not zap me again.”

“As long as you don’t switch the trigger on before you release it, you’ll be fine.” Jonah pulled the Flash device he’d made a few days ago, and slipped it into his pocket. It was the size of a small flashlight, but it packed a hell of a punch. One flash of it and it rendered the person blind for several moments. Just enough time to take them out.

“You better pray to God that it doesn’t. Can I still do that now that I’m a vamp? Pray to God?”

“Hell if I know.” He took a seat beside Dante on the hood. “What do you think about Felicity being back, and being a child instead of a baby?”

“It's weird. It was one thing to know Trinity was preggers, but a kid is different than a baby. I didn’t know vamps could have kids.”

“Basil said that only pure vamps can do it. I wonder if the kid has powers like Basil and Trinity?”

“That kinda scares me. Basil and Trinity are adults and can make the right judgement calls. A kid doesn’t always know that. She could go off with her powers if she’s pissed or upset or anything for that matter.”

“We have visitors.” Dante slid off the hood.

Jonah joined him and pulled out his light.

“How come I have to take the scary ass Electronet and you get a lame flashlight?”

“Just watch and learn young grasshopper.”

“Careful, my hand might slip on the trigger.” Dante aimed the Electronet at Jonah.

“Don’t be a spoilsport.”

“I don’t know. It might feel satisfying to zap you for a change.”

Using the back of his hand, Jonah pushed the devise aside, aiming it forward. “You could, but, then you’d have no Electronet , and I’d be incapable of helping when those three vamps come at us ready for a fight.”

“Shit, you have a point.”

“That’s why I’m the smart one. Here, put these on.” Jonah handed Dante a pair of dark glasses that sat on the nose and covered the eyes.

“What the hell is this?”

“It's something to prevent you from going blind when I use my flashlight,” he added sarcastically.

“Don’t be a bitch.” With his finger on the trigger, Dante readied himself for the fight. “There are four of them. No way we can take all four. The net only holds two.”

“I said, watch and learn—”

“You say young grasshopper and I will walk to the car and get the hell out of here, leaving you to fight them off.”

“Pussy. Get the two on the right, I’ll get the other two.”

“Pussy. Who is carrying a lame flashlight.”

As the two marched toward Dante, he pressed the trigger and the net shot out like a bullet, covering the two vamps. They dropped to the ground, flopping about like fish out of water. Jonah never tired of seeing that. He flicked the switch to give it a charge, then pressed the button. Light shot out brighter than a flash of lightning, blinding the two vamps. They stumbled back, then dropped to the ground, wailing like babies that they were blind.

“Damn, dog. That is one kick ass flashlight.” He took the glasses off and set them on the hood.

“Did you just call me dog.” Jonah set his beside Dante’s.

“Sorry. Saw it on TV. I guess it stuck with me. I’ll deal with the whining babies.” Dante handed Jonah the Electronet remote, then grabbed his blade from the car and stabbed them both in the heart. “Want me to take care of them too?”

“I’ve got it.” He took Dante’s knife and killed one vamp. “This one we take back to Basil and he can torture some answers out of him.”

“Good idea, dog.” Dante laughed as he headed to the remaining vamp. “I couldn’t resist. Is this turned off?” He pointed at the net.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you touch it and find out?”

“You’d like that. It's all yours.”

He so enjoyed his banter with Dante. He pressed the button and the wire attached to the net sucked back into the compartment, neatly bringing the net with it and sealing it in the remote. It was a pretty damn good device if he may say so himself.

Dante lifted the vamp and slung him over his shoulder. “Trunk.”

Jonah nodded. “Let’s hope the guy talks.

About the Author
Shiela Stewart has been writing for the better part of her life, pouring her heart out in words, living a fantasy through the characters she creates. It has always been a dream of her to have her work published, a dream she has finally seen come to life.

When not writing, Shiela likes to spend time with her husband, best friend and love of her life. Together they have three grown children and one granddaughter.

Shiela has a deep affection for animals which is evident in the seven cats, one dog, fourteen fish and one turtle.


Books available at 
Shiela’s website

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Behind the Scenes Look at Unscripted by J.S. Marlo


~ * ~
His chair tipped back against the wall and his feet up on the top of his desk, Blythe stared out the window on his left while contemplating the last scene of the script in his head.
“Hello, honey.” Sweeter than liquid sugar, the sound of Isabella Neuville’s voice interrupted his reflections and made Blythe’s stomach churn. Without waiting for an invitation that would never have materialized, the stunning actress who played Vivian entered his cubicle. “You look lonely tonight.”
He was lonely, but that wasn’t something he wanted to remedy with her. “You should go home, Bella, before your skirt shrinks up to your cheeks.” And he didn’t mean the ones above her neck.
“Miniskirts are back in fashion, honey.” Like a cougar on the prowl, the blonde actress sat on the corner of his desk and leaned sideways across the top. “This little black leather skirt cost me a fortune. Don’t you like it?”
“No.” Overpriced and distasteful. “Get off my desk, Bella.”
Unlike many of his colleagues, Blythe liked having a big desk with large drawers. It gave him ample space to store memos, receipts, schedules, and his briefcase, and as an added bonus, it created a physical barrier between him and the unwanted guests entering his cubicle. Tonight, however, the obstacle hadn’t deterred Bella.
Propped on an elbow near his feet with her head cupped in the palm of her hand, she crossed one leg over her knee as if she intended to crawl toward him. Her long, toned legs showed off more skin than a beach volleyball player on a hot summer day, but he wasn’t interested in her fine attributes.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m busy.” He didn’t bother to conceal the aggravation in his voice. The script on his lap should have been a clue not to disturb him. “I’m reviewing the scene for the retake tomorrow morning.”
Her dark eyelashes fluttering like the wings of a hornet, she inched her free hand toward his knee and clawed at his pants.
“We could review together.” Whispered huskily, the words rustled with sultry overtone.
Disgusted by her shameless attempts to flirt, he grabbed his script, straightened his chair, and lowered his feet to the floor. “For the second time, Bella. Get off my desk.”
“It’s late.” Apparently oblivious to his request, she maintained her pose and tucked a lock of blonde hair behind her ear, showing off a pearl earring. “Would you like to join me for dinner?”
Her interest in him confounded him. For as long as he’d known her, she’d lived up to her reputation of only dating men that were at least a decade younger than she was. Surely she’d noticed his age. “I’m going to the hospital.”
She nibbled on her bottom lip, looking deceptively innocent. “Wouldn’t you prefer to eat first? I’m sure you’re tired of hospital food.”
Hunger—or desperation—wasn’t enough to make him seek her company. “Don’t you have some poor college boys to chase?”
“Not tonight, honey. How’s Claire? Any news on then shooter?”
The private inquiry jabbed an invisible knife through his chest. Bella didn’t care about Claire’s condition any more than she cared about the baby-faced lovers she seduced then dumped. Her morbid curiosity didn’t deserve to be satisfied.
“Good night, Bella.” He spoke firmly without trying to keep the impatience out of his words. To his relief, she withdrew from his desk.
“One day you’ll need me.” Those lines might as well be written on her forehead. She repeated them every time she caught him alone.
“Don’t hold your breath.”
An exaggerated sigh preceded her dramatic exit.
Outside the window, the sun had set over the park across the road. In the maze of streets beyond his sight was the hospital where his happy past and empty future collided.
Blythe glanced at his watch. Already seven thirty? It’d been a long day on the set, and after six retakes, Martin still wasn’t happy with the last scene they shot. When the producer called it quits, Blythe had retreated into his cubicle to unwind and ponder the parts he could improve upon in the morning. Unfortunately for him, staring outside the window for an hour hadn’t provided any feedback, so he retrieved his briefcase from the lower drawer and stowed the script inside.
Silence filled the office he shared on the seventh floor with five other actors, not all from Wild Rescue. He stood and looked above the partitions. No sign of life.
He left the light on for the cleaning crew and exited into the corridor. The elevator was down the hall to the right, and past it was the Pencil Wing, the name given to the opposite end of the seventh floor where the writers’ offices were clustered.
He veered left and walked to the stairwell connecting with the parking garage. When he opened the door, he came face to face with a maintenance guy.
“Sorry, Mr. Huxley, but someone spilled gallons of purple paint on the stairs. It’ll be a couple hours before we’re done cleaning. You should take the elevator or the emergency exit in Pencil Wing.”
Unless he carried something heavy, Blythe preferred going up and down a flight of stairs to riding an elevator. It kept his legs moving and his heart pumping, the only exercise he had time for lately.
To access the emergency exit, he backtracked, passed the elevator, and ventured into a sideways corridor where he came to an abrupt halt near Andy’s office. The door was ajar. And a woman sat on her knees in the doorway.
“Riley?” She had no business being alone in the Pencil Wing tinkering with the lock of Andy’s door.
Her head snapped up, and a pocketknife clanked on the floor. “Hux? What—I mean Blythe—Mr. Huxley—” A rosy blush spread over her face. “How should I address you?”
It occurred to him he’d never properly introduced himself. “I’d prefer Blythe, but Hux is fine.” Bemused by her actions, he crossed his arms over his chest and stared. “What are you doing posing as a locksmith?”
Rumors had circulated all afternoon about a new female writer joining the writing team for the rest of the season. Blythe never paid much attention to the grapevine, but he made an exception for the woman he’d abandoned in the lion’s den. When Martin had a bad day, he acted like an insufferable bastard, and today had been one of those days.
“I was locked inside and couldn’t get out, so I had to improvise.” The doorknob lay in detached parts near her knees. “But now I have to fix the mess I made.”
Unsure of her explanation, he squatted by her side to examine her handiwork. “Why didn’t you call for help?”
“The recorded message on the phone gave me five options, none very useful.” As she spoke, she inserted the square peg into the pawl and aligned the screws with the hole.
“So you took the doorknob apart?” He was impressed. “Where did you find the knife?”
“I always carry it with me.”
The pocketknife lay on the floor near his foot. He picked it up. “How did you smuggle it on the plane?”
“It was in my checked suitcase. Are you always this nosy?”
“Yes.” Her no-nonsense attitude reminded him of Claire. “Where did you learn to reassemble a doorknob?”
“I live on an old ranch that needs constant repairs. If I waited for my husband to fix things, we’d still be pumping water and using an outhouse.”
With those few words, she’d unleashed his curiosity. “You’re an interesting character.”
“Really?” Soft laughter trickled through the word. “Somehow, that doesn’t sound like a compliment.” She extended her hand. “Knife, please.”
“Why don’t you let me finish?” When she declined his help, he surrendered the knife. “How did you end up trapped inside?”
“I’m not sure.” She used the blade as a screwdriver. “Do either Andy or Paul play practical jokes?”
“Not Andy.” The senior writer had showed up on the set around six. After Martin wrapped up the scene, he’d requested Andy’s presence in his office. “If I’m not mistaken, he’s still in a meeting with Martin.”
“I see.” She secured the last screw and smiled. “All done.”
The chrome plate was in place, and it didn’t look like anyone had tampered with it.
“Great job.” It was late, and like him, he suspected she hadn’t eaten yet. He stood, and she did the same. “Would you have dinner with me?”
“Me?” A look of surprise registered on her face. “I appreciate the offer, but don’t you have a wife or a girlfriend waiting for you?”
The reference to Claire soured his disposition, and he took a step back. He didn’t need to be reminded of his obligations toward his wife, not when his latest altercation with Bella was still fresh in his memory. To blurt out an invitation had been a mistake. She was a married woman he’d met hours earlier, not a longtime friend.
“I’m not sure what I said to upset you.” Chewing on her upper lip, she turned her attention back to her pocketknife. “Maybe I should leave now.”
Riley hadn’t known about his wife. That much was obvious. And since his character wasn’t married, Blythe didn’t wear his wedding ring at the studio. “Riley...” The last thing he wanted was to hurt her feelings over a misunderstanding. “I’m the one who should apologize. I’m married, but my wife is in a coma.”
Her mouth opened and then closed without saying any of the platitudes he’d come to loathe, and it encouraged him to continue. “Most nights, I eat at the hospital, alone. Not sure I recall the last real meal I had. I thought...” Maybe loneliness had prompted him to send the invitation. He shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Not sure what I thought, but I didn’t mean to offend you or make it sound like a date.”
“I understand.” A richer shade of green clouded her eyes. “If the offer is still good, I’d be happy to have dinner with you.”
~ * ~

This is a scene taken from Unscripted – Duty Bound #1. It takes place inside a production studio. One of the many reasons I love that scene is that I get to introduce three amazing characters—Blythe, Isabella, and Riley—while showing two sides of Blythe’s personality.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the scene, shall we? For easier reference, I divided it in five colorful parts: blue, orange, purple, green, and red.

Let’s look at the blue section first: Isabella’s failed seduction attempt.

Isabella is a talented actress, so I figured if I exaggerated her shameless behavior, she would manage to make it ring true. She was my first “cougar”, so I had lots of fun writing that part, from miniskirt to college boy, but then she crawled on Blythe’s desk. Both my editor and I could see her on that desk, but I couldn’t give justice to her description. I must have written that scene a dozen times while my editor tore her hair out. Come to think of it, Blythe probably wanted to pull his hair—or Isabelle’s hair—out too LOL

Now that I look back at the entire scene, I realize I could have cut it into two or three different scenes.

Next stop, the orange section: after six retake, the producer wasn’t happy with the shot.

While I wrote Unscripted, a colleague at work asked me about the storyline. I told her it took place into a movie studio, and the two protagonists were a male actor whose wife was shot and a new female writer who joined the show. Well, my colleague knew a producer who was coming into town to shoot a documentary on emergency services. She introduced me to the producer and he allowed me to shadow him for two days while he filmed on location at the fire station. I sat on the production meetings, I met the actors, I held the script, I watched while they set the scenes and shot them, I talked to real firefighters, and got a tour of the fire station. It was an amazing experience and it provided me with so much inside information. One of the things that stuck me was the number of “retakes” the produced took. He did a retake even if the first scene was good, but he always stopped at six even if all the scenes were bad, because in his experience, it only went from bad to worse after six retakes. He preferred to restart fresh in the morning. I can honestly say, there was nothing glamorous about being on location for two long days. It was hard work and exhausting.

Now, let’s move to the purple section: Blythe’s face-to-face with the maintenance guy.

I needed an excuse for Blythe to take the stairs at the other end of the corridor instead of the ones near his office. I racked my brain to come up with something believable, but harmless, that could put a staircase out of commission for a few hours. Since it’s a production studio and there are indoor sets on the premises, I figured paint. I was painting at the time (I’m always painting something in the house), so I could see myself dropping a gallon while I rushed up or down the stairs. It would make a terrible mess in a staircase (and on my antique rose carpet), take a while to clean, and force Blythe to use the other exit. You may wonder why the paint is purple? Don’t worry, I wasn’t painting anything purple in the house. I just love purple.

And this was the reason the previous post was purple.

Here’s the green section: Riley fixing a doorknob.

One cold winter morning, not long after I started writing Unscripted, I went out to check my mail. It was -30C outside, so I pulled the door shut behind me. Well, the doorknob stayed in my glove. I wasn’t crazy about changing it when it was that cold. I could have asked my hubby to come back from work and do it, but he kind of resembles Riley’s husband, and I didn’t want to wait till spring for a new doorknob. Besides, there was a gaping hole in the door that let the frigid air in. It couldn’t wait. I also stuffed a rag in the hole before I drove to the hardware store, but that’s another story. Anyway, while I froze my fingers changing it, I swore I’d put a doorknob in pieces somewhere in my story. So, here it is. When my editor reviewed that part, she asked if I checked the name of all the knob parts. I’d kept the instruction sheet from the doorknob kit I bought, so it gave me the correct terms. My editor also asked where Riley found the knife since she flew in that day, and it couldn’t have been in her carry-on. See, that’s the reason Blythe is so nosy about the knife. My editor wanted to know.

Now let’s look at the final part of that scene, the red section: Blythe invites Riley for supper.

On set, Blythe projects a formidable and intimidating persona, but in reality, he’s a very private actor agonizing over his personal life. On the spur of the moment, he invites Ryley for supper, a friendly supper, not a romantic supper. Well, my editor sent me back that section many times for rewrite. She’d be like “Blythe is too pushy”, “Blythe is too creepy”, ”His motives are not clear”, “Why would Riley accept?” You know, it’s hard to explain why Blythe threw the invitation out when he doesn’t know why he did it either, but for me it was important to portray the real Blythe, not the actor. And Riley isn’t lying when she says she understands. Trust me. She truly does.

So, did I pique your curiosity yet? How about a nice blue blurb?

After a bullet shatters his world, actor Blythe Huxley befriends Riley Kendrick, a new writer on the television show Wild Rescue, never expecting to discover a kindred spirit.

No stranger to tragedy, Riley lends a compassionate ear to Blythe's difficulties and soon becomes entangled in a web of illicit affairs and deadly intrigue.

When an arsonist and a killer both strike, Riley's fate intertwines with Blythe's, and her life and her heart hang in the balance. Will they be able to protect their past? And save their future?

“Unscripted – Duty Bound #1” is available at


I am J. S. Marlo

J.S.%20Marlo/J.%20S.%20Marlo%20Author.jpeg

You can visit my website at https://sites.google.com/site/jsmarloauthor, email me at JSMarlo@shaw.ca, follow me on twitter @JSMarloAuthor, or friend me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005715001393


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Monday, September 4, 2017

Print Release of Sugar Babies


Sugar Babies
Thriller/Mystery
$14.95 Print
$3.95 eBook
Buy on:

A sugar daddy can make your money woes disappear, but for sugar babies, life is like a chocolate-covered time bomb: sweet on the outside, deadly on the inside.


Young, beautiful, and hungry, Esme, Maire, and Niki want what every woman wants: love, work, safe shelter, the bills paid off, a diamond-studded Rolex and a two-bedroom condo with an ocean view. Working as sugar babies seems to be the only way to make this happen. But the sugar life is more dangerous than they thought.

Red hot Maire O’Rourke has landed one of the richest sugar daddies in Coconut City, a tropical paradise full of lonely multimillionaires. Now Maire has bigger plans: an international dating service for those seeking to trade sex for funding during difficult economic times.

Sweet Esme Grant, a breathtaking blonde, comes to Coconut City for a sugar daddy to fund her boyfriend's Mayberry-gone-bad dreams. Once she lands a hot playboy sponsor, Esme works for Maire as spokesperson for a new generation of professional girlfriends.

Niki Stephanopoulos, a student at Coconut College, has money problems. She sleeps with her sexy landlord when she’s short the rent. Maire shows her another option.

Then Niki goes missing.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Siren's Song Scene Breakdown with K.M. Tolan

One of my favorite scenes to write came from my last SF novel Siren’s Song. The scene isn’t particularly long, nor pivotal. Instead, it delights in incongruity – namely having a monster in your kitchen making breakfast. My main character, Scott Rellant, is in his father and mother’s house for the first time in many decades. So is a rather startling guest – Water. She is a crystalline creature who normally would’ve been quite happy fricasseeing the entire neighborhood. Aquatic with twin dorsal fins that sort of look like wings, one would be excused for thinking her a bioluminescent glass angel. At least until she goes to work on you with her cutting fins or worse. We call her kind “sirens”, because their singing can kill you, too. Until yesterday, Scott’s parents had thought her a figment of Scott’s fractured psyche. Well, she’s not inside him now. She’s making breakfast using Scott’s memories.

So, here is Scott and Water, both of them glancing at Scott’s father as he stares at them like they were a nightmare come true. Welcome to breakfast with the Rellants!

~*~

“Jesus.”

They both looked to where his father stood in the living room hall wearing a brown robe. Muttering, the man walked back into his bedroom.

Water straightened. “I will not kill him, today.”

Scott shot her a wry grin. “How charitable of you. Try and be a bit more polite, okay?”

“No.”

“Try, damn it. He’s putting his neck on the line to help us.”

She smiled. “No.”

Throwing his hands up, Scott headed for the kitchen. He’d better warn his parents about what had happened in Jeremiah’s Canyon before they jumped to awful conclusions. “I’ll fix up some breakfast with a side order of bright lights for you.”

Odd how his selective memory worked. The fridge and oven didn’t jog any recollections, but he vaguely recalled the copper skillets hanging neatly over the island. He picked a pan, watching with amusement as Water pulled open the fridge door. “Easy with the claws, okay? She’s already pissed about the table.”

“Four eggs,” Water hummed, deftly using two talons to scoop up the shells from their cups along the door.

He slid the pan toward her. “Triple it. Got two extra to feed. No, idiot, don’t try and cut the damn things…”

“They cut,” she announced, dropping the contents of a neatly halved egg in the pan. She fixed him with an accusatory expression. “You did not grease the pan, first.”

“You want to cook?”

“Yes. I will make everyone too afraid to eat anything.”

The smirk on her lips told him the Rellant family siren was working herself into a good mood. He allowed Water to finish with the eggs. At least until his mother walked in.

Maiko tightened the cloth belt around a brown robe similar to her husband’s and eased the pan out from beneath the siren’s hands. “We do not stir with our claws.”

“I no longer have his fingers,” Water pointed out, inclining her head toward Scott.

His mother set the pan on the stove. “And thank God for that. Sink’s behind you. Clean up and go back into the living room before you scratch something else. Scott, there’s fresh clothes in the bathroom for you.”

“I do not obey thieves,” Water crisply sang back in Air.

“She says good morning,” Scott hurriedly interpreted, grateful Water had the sense to be snarky in a language his mother wouldn’t understand. He shepherded his siren back into the living room.

“She was not polite,” Water huffed.

“Just have patience,” he sang in turn.

~*~

So, what was it about this scene for me that made it among my favorites? First, there was a lot of drama piled on before this scene. Especially at Water’s introduction when Scott pulled her out of a lake much to his mother’s horror. More shock and awe when his father, who had fought her kind with disastrous consequences, sees what’s curled up in back of the golf cart they’d brought her back in. I felt the readers needed a lighter moment. So this was my “writer’s reason”.

My personal reason? I mean, come on. Aquatic killing machine running around the house the next morning? Fertile ground for my particular sense of humor. Water has all of Scott’s memories due to how the two grew up together, and here we get to see the results in a way I felt would not only be a hoot, but say something about the characters. Especially Maiko, Scott’s Japanese-born mother. Like her husband, she’s a pretty tough cookie.

You would think writing this scene would be a lark, but no. By this time, I’ve established all four characters, their fears, motivations, and everything else I could toss in to make them believable independent entities. Everything you see in this short scene was a “What would <insert character> do?” There is a dance of personalities here. This is what I had to start with:

Water, our siren (she prefers “Song Guard”), is still getting used to having her own body again (long story), and her instinctual combative nature is in constant struggle with having been raised with Scott and learning human ways. She’s out to save her people, putting aside her antipathy with these “thieves” in order to gain their help. She also likes Scott a lot more now that he’s starting to see things her way for once. She wants to show herself as being “normal”, but of course that’s a really tall order.

Scott, on the other hand, has to face parents whom he hasn’t met since they had him committed for his own good. He’s more than a tad bit estranged from his parents, and has the kind of displacement one gets on going home and finding everything changed, and yet familiar. He really doesn’t know his parents now.

We only meet Scott’s father, Harry, briefly in this scene. He’s avoiding the moment for good reason. He has nightmares about his merc squad getting butchered by sirens, and now there’s one of these hideously lethal creatures in his house. Oh, and here’s his son whom he had put away for thirteen years. Guilt from both incidents puts a lot of distance between him and the rest. Yeah, he’s going to head back to the bedroom. Probably for a drink from that bottle in the closet.

Maiko hates Water. Seriously. She’s never forgotten how tortured her son was by the monster inside him. One that apparently was real. The only thing keeping the woman from trying to shoot Water is that she doesn’t have a gun, and fully understands that this…thing could wipe out everyone in the house at a whim. So Maiko, who hasn’t resolved any issues with her son, either, has armored herself with a stern politeness born out of necessity. Not that she will stand for that monstrosity trying to take over any aspect of her household routine. Being an ex-merc herself, she’s got all the nerve necessary to get in Water’s shiny little face just the same.

So, with all of these personalities and mind sets, I proceeded into this scene. Sure, it could’ve turned both dark and awful at any point, but the balancing act between entertaining readers and staying true to each character was achieved. Which makes this one of my favorite pieces of work.

KM Tolan

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