Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review: Rise from the Ashes - Lena's Story by Laura Franklin

Several explosions have detonated along the eastern seaboard. News comes of similar attacks all over the country. As confused citizens and officials attempt to fathom what caused the calamity, a strange sickness overtakes a large chunk of the population. Like a plague, the sickness sweeps the country quickly killing a large chunk of the populace. Those left behind soon determine that they are immune to the sickness, but it’s too late to restore order. Gangs of opportunistic thugs have begun staking claim to territories. Meanwhile warlords and drug families in neighboring nations unaffected by the bombings begin mobilizing to breech the US to capitalize on the destruction of our infrastructure. At the same time, armed and haphazardly trained Taliban militia (who have taken claim for the explosions) have also begun entering as an invasion force.
Several distinct groups begin a slow march north in late autumn, compelled by peculiar dreams that several who have assumed leadership roles have been experiencing. All of the various groups are being led to Lake Champlain at the Canadian border, but each must contend with the risks of freezing, starvation, exhaustion and run-ins with the various marauders they could encounter along the way.
Rise from the Ashes – Lena’s Story by Laura Franklin is the first book in a series intended for a young adult audience. The story telling is at its strongest when it is told directly through the POV of the young heroine, who in the first chapter locates a blank journal so she can write down her experiences before she forgets them. Several of the subsequent chapters – though strong in character development and narrative flow – falter a little in descriptive clarity, and there are stylistic continuity issues. It could have been well served to remain in beta a little longer perhaps. Although I doubt that the target audience would have as big an issue with this as I.
Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who didn’t read a lot of YA even when I was a YA. I read classics and detective fiction skipping right over the Hardy Boys and straight into Ellery Queen and Raymond Chandler. The first YA novel I ever read was The Outsiders, which I read for a girl when I was in my late twenties. So with SE Hinton as my only real guidepost, I’d have to say that teenage girls (fans of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter) would probably enjoy this story. Adult fans of more dystopian tales such as Mad Max or A Clockwork Orange will be disappointed by the lack of strong sensuality and violence. Also some more mature action readers may find some of the politics to be under-developed and pie-eyed; but it wasn’t written for those readers, so keep that in mind.
Overall, the novel reads like Stephen King’s The Stand meets NBC’s Revolution. It includes a few very nice manga-style illustrations, and a beautiful photographic vista is incorporated in the electronic version which is apparently the image from the back cover of the hard copy version. The story ends in a way that is satisfactory as a standalone episode, but it also is a clear set up for successive volumes. Buy it as an inclusion on the new Kindle you’re giving your teenage daughter this holiday.

Miss Franklin invites you to like her Facebook page, or to follow her on Twitter. You can also keep track on the progress of her next writing project at her blogor contact her directly through her email address,

   Mick had his pistol out and dropped the first two bikes. The third spun around flinging gravel and dirt and took off. Loved the loyalty. One driver was dead and his girl started to scream and cradle his head. The other driver was shot somewhere and his girl was scrambling and patting the ground around her. It dawned on me she was trying to find her gun! What f-ing nerve. She was going to try to kill Mick. I was swinging Clint around to go help when another shot rang out. 
   I saw Mick with his arms out to his side, his right hand still holding his gun. 
   Then I saw the girl slump. 
   Mick just stood there. 
   It was like an eternity. Then he lifted his gun and shot the other girl and then the wounded driver. I watched his pale face. I knew he was wracked with remorse. I felt sick to my stomach. It was different finding my dad dead. Helping the neighbors bury the ones who died. Those people had died a sort of normal death, as if they all got really sick at once.
   I watched these guys get shot down. Like mad dogs. Suddenly I had no strength and I slipped off Clint and crumpled on the ground sobbing.
   Mick was there in a second.
   “Did you get shot?”
   I could only shake my head no.
   “Oh. I see.”
   Ed reached us then. He had been nicked by a bullet along his upper arm.
   “Cry if you need to. But when you think about tonight, think about how they started firing on us the second they could. They didn’t even know we had guns to fight back. They were fixin’ to take us all down with no questions and no mercy. Your man did right. If we let ‘em live they would have killed other people along the road. That’s a fact.”
   Later I was to realize that was about a month’s work of talking out of Ed.
   I remember how quiet we all were that whole night around the campfire. 
   I didn’t blame Mick. He knows that now. Back then I was in such shock I couldn’t talk to him. I was shocked because I had never seen a violent death before. I had thought my whole world had been turned upside down by the flash/bangs. 
   No, this is when it really started to sink in.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Evolution of a book cover

My work in progress (or WIP as they are known in the biz) is a humor piece about a fly that follows a trio of bumbling friends on their misadventures while clubbing. The story is a humor piece, so I wanted a cover that was not too serious, yet was still evocative of the concept I’m trying to get across. The title of the story is a whimsical play on the pick-up artist term “wingman.” Whimsical in that the story is told through the eye of a fly.

My first cover idea was simply to put a close up of a hairy disgusting insect on the cover with the title whimsically displayed in cartoonish lettering. When I asked the denizens of kboards for their feedback they said it was off-putting. This had been my concern all along, so I quickly fashioned another cover using free images available through Wikicommons. I felt I was on to something with the first image, but I didn’t like the way the reflection trailed out of the cover frame. Also the fly was impossibly large, but if I had made it to scale it would have been entirely lost in the thumbnail. So I made a second attempt focusing closer in on just the top of the glass.

This allowed me to scale down the size of the fly (although in reality the fly is exactly the same size on each cover,) but something still seemed lacking. Another commenter on kboards suggested that my idea would be well served by adding a background, so I created yet another layer and added a background image which is also freely available on Wikicommons. I now felt I was on to something, but was not happy with the placement of the people or how dominant they looked in the image. So I shifted the image around until I found a placement that showed what was happening behind the Martini glass without distracting from the focus on the fly. I then added yet another layer, a gray fog, which gave a smoky feel and softened the impact of the cluttered background.

Final version
The story and blurb are a work in progress, but I’m fully satisfied with the cover. I’ll be sending copies out to a few beta readers for now, then sending the story to any reviewers I can wrangle. Look for Wingman to be released sometime in October.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Blurb and Cover: Confessions of the Cuckold

“He destroyed everything of mine.” Eric said as tears filled his sunken eyes. “He destroyed my life. He broke my future, so I broke his windshield. I shouldn’t have to pay for that.”

The last person Eric Dadjov would have expected to confide in was the bounty hunter sent to take him to court, but his wife has betrayed him leaving his life in shambles. A careless moment purging his anger has led to formal charges. When he learns that he might have more in common with the forlorn bounty hunter than he thinks, a frustrated Eric just begins venting.

Gradually, the details of Dadjov’s story begin to suggest that he has a sinister plan for revenge brewing. Is the bounty hunter complicit, a dupe, or is he the next victim of the cuckold?

Tentative Kindle release date: September 2, 2013.

UPDATE: Confessions of the Cuckold is available NOW for the Kindle!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Book Review: Move by Sherri Fulmer Moorer

Sherri Fulmer Moorer
Ruby Josen is a meek woman. She’s passive, she’s uninteresting, and she’s unadventurous, but mostly she’s just complacent. She recently applied for and was rejected for a promotion at the graphics company where she works in a small Tennessee town. To add insult to this injury, Millie, the woman given the job, is an angry, pushy, demanding person who seems to have it out for Ruby. To then heap even more insult onto the injury and the first insult, Ruby learns that her friend, Simone, who had promised to recommend her for the promotion, reneged and actually helped Millie to get the job.

The insults keep coming, but not before Ruby meets Bryce, a mysterious and seemingly prescient stranger, at a local festival. He promises to remove the obstacles which have been keeping Ruby back. It’s this apparently random happenstance encounter that sets the action into play. People begin turning up bludgeoned to death in this small mountain town – people who have been making life hard for Ruby.
Book cover by Tatiana Villa
Move by Sherri Fulmer Moorer is a paranormal thriller that explores the philosophical issues of free will, fatalism and why-are-women-so-mean-to-each-other? With a strong focus on the minutia of office politics, Move is a meticulously plotted examination of the butterfly effect. Each action results in – not a snowball, but an avalanche of cause-and-effect chaos.
Move fits nicely into the milieu of tales throughout history that have examined the idea that the fates which control our lives are an amalgam of malevolent and benevolent sprites with their own agendas and rules which bind them. From the Morai through Job to Daniel Webster and Robert Johnson, every culture has a story like Move. The author seems to understand this, and she judiciously picks a little from this legend and a little from that one to create her own unique template on which to build.
Yet this is not a novel without problems. Much of the dialogue is repetitive. The characters rehash the same discussions multiple times. This gives the story a realistic conversational feel, but unfortunately slows down the narrative in several places. Much of this is due to the personality of the main protagonist, Ruby. Has she been treated unfairly? Yes. Do we care? Not really? She’s a woman who has given up on life, and it makes us wonder why so many of the supporting characters are still in her corner when she’s off sitting in the bleachers.
What the story has in its favor though is a clever twist on the paranormal character, Bryce. Is he psychic? A ghost? A dybbuk? An angel? Also, until we learn for certain who the killer is, suspicion is genuinely fluid. Is Bryce the killer? Is Ruby? Maybe it was Simone or Ruby’s strongest friend and advocate, Denise.
One thing that is clear, Ms Fulmer Moorer is well versed in the inner-workings of freelance art companies. She has clearly embraced the SOP writerly advice to write-what-one-knows. If we remove the metaphysical aspects and the murder plot, I’m pretty sure we’re left with a look into the author’s personal journal with the names changed to protect the innocent.
Sherri can be found at her personal website and her stories can all be found at her author page on Amazon.


      Ruby stood at the top of the Tanger Falls Pass, watching the sun descend behind the mountains in the distance. This hiking trail was the best one in town, and she was glad to be alone at the peak to take in the view and collect her thoughts. She often hiked the trails on their end of the National Forest on Friday’s after work to avoid the crowds. Fortunately, her hopes came to pass and she was the only one on the trail, leaving her free to move at her own pace and enjoy nature without the disruption of tourists and amateurs stomping along the path and squawking about how hard it was to walk uphill.
   The past two days had been tense, but not as hard as the rest of the week. She hadn’t spoken to Simone unless it was absolutely necessary, and the detectives hadn’t been back. Mr. Goodard came by the office that morning for the difficult client meeting and was obviously in a mindset to get things settled. He got the client agreeable to a new timetable, and then surprised the office staff with a pizza lunch. They took a longer than usual break to sit around the conference room table and chat over breadsticks, various styles of pizza, and enough soft drinks to fill a fountain. Mr. Goodard said it was to thank the staff for “hanging in there” through a tough time and that he hoped they could return to normal soon. It was a good day because they were productive, but not so busy that they couldn’t enjoy some down time. Days like this used to be normal, and it was a shame that she couldn’t remember the last time she actually enjoyed a work day.
   Ruby wished the detectives would be as appreciative of their efforts to help find Millie’s murderer. Detective Barnes seemed content to investigate other leads, but Detective Wesson wasn’t letting go. He called Ruby the previous evening to ask follow up questions, and she took a lead from Denise and told him she wasn’t speaking to him again without an attorney. It worked for Denise and she hoped it worked for her. She just hoped that knife didn’t force them to call her bluff. The vision of that knife in the bag on the table in front of her woke her up in a short winded, sweaty panic several times over the past two nights.
   Ruby glanced at her watch and discovered it was seven fifteen. She didn’t want to leave the peaceful scene six thousand feet above the cares of the world, but knew she must. The trail would close when dusk set in, and she needed to get moving. She took in one last gaze of the clear blue sky and was turning back toward the trail when she bumped into someone. “Oh, excuse me,” she mumbled, looking up at the person that appeared behind her. She was surprised to see Bryce smiling down at her.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My First Author Event

Yesterday my girlfriend and I drove to Zanesville, Ohio for my first ever writer’s appearance to promote my novel, Extreme Unction. It was a beautiful, early August day; not too hot, a nice occasional breeze stirring in the air, no sign of rain – the perfect day for an indoor event. Unfortunately, it was also the perfect day for a motorcycle poker run and a civil war reenactment, both of which were also going on in Zanesville that same day.

Just down the road from Shanachie Books (pronunciation key – bũkz) is an outdoor bar that on this particular day looked like everyone from east of the Ohio River who couldn’t afford gas for the trip to Sturgis decided –this is far enough, we’ll all just hang here. Simultaneously, everyone from north of the Ohio River (it bends – look at a map) who couldn’t get a GPS to direct them to Gettysburg because they don’t trust those devil devices had gathered on a hilltop with bayonets fixed and cannons gathered.  
For the majority of our visit, not a single visitor dropped in to ask Nick Malone, the owner of Shanachie Books (pronunciation key – nik) if he had a copy of Fahrenheit 451 so their kid could finish his/her summer reading assignment before school starts next week. Nick assured me that this was unusual. Saturdays were usually a busy day, and the weather being so nice should have assured a regular stream of folk. My guess was that either everyone in town is either a biker, a Civil War re-enactor, or conversely were too afraid of bikers and/or irregularly spaced cannon booms to venture out of their house.
The author (in lavender) and the store
owner (in lime green) discuss such
manly topics as first editions of
Hemingway and Steinbeck
For over two and a half hours, Nick, Nick’s cat, myself and my girlfriend Cheryl sat about discussing books and the fact that Nick had turned his house into a bookstore so packed with literary tonnage that we were afraid that the “foom” sounds coming from over the hill every few minutes were going to collapse the floorboards. (Side observation about the sound of a cannon being fired sans projectile – it sounds a heck of a lot like a car door closing when you’re over a mile away and hoping for visitors.)

I had just about given up, and had signed a copy of the book to give Nick gratis with his promise to loan it about so that when I release my next novel there might be some interest generated. Then just a few minutes shy of the three hour mark, as we had begun gathering our promotion kit (some easels, a box of books, a large poster-board, some business cards, and the left-over brownies,) a father and his adult daughter on an outing dropped by to peruse the store. As they looked about, the group of us discussed the merits of reading vs performing Shakespeare, why Tom Cruise was a poor choice for Jack Reacher despite his having made a very entertaining movie, and how a used book store owner can answer whether he has a book or not without checking a computer database. Finally the father asked me what my book was about. (I’d been playing it cool and not doing a hard sale.) I gave him the blurb description and explained the fact that it was pastiche of Nero Wolfe which had itself been pastiche of Sherlock Holmes. He said it sounded interesting, and Nick loaned him the signed copy I’d given him after eliciting his promise to read and return it for the next reader.
Shanachie Books in Zanesville, Ohio (pronunciation key -
I’m calling that a successful first outing. I got to spend four hours alone with the woman I love enjoying a scenic drive; I got to spend two and a half hours being entertained by an Irish story-teller; I got to eat brownies; and I established a relationship that will give me almost certain future sales.

And if you’re ever in Zanesville, Ohio, be sure to drop by Shanachie Books on Linden Avenue (pronunciation key – Lyn’-dƏn) and tell Nick I sent ya.