Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review: "Legacy: An Anthology"

What does it mean to leave a legacy? Is it something over which a person has control, like his or her proverbial destiny? Is it something done to a person, over which he or she has no control at all?

What do you think?

These are the questions explored in Legacy: An Anthology, a collection of fictional short stories and nonfiction essays by various authors, released from Velvet Morning Press.

Readers will enjoy these shorts from authors like Adria J. Cimino, who writes about what loved ones leave behind when they go in her piece, "Hope," and Didier Quemener, whose contribution takes an epistolary form of exchanged letters between would-be lovers in the translation "Letters of the Night" (as well as the original, written in French and also included in the anthology).

There will be something to which every reader can relate to, as well. Who doesn't remember the feeling of not belonging among a group of once-close grade school comrades ("Two Kinds of Legacy" by Jenny Milchman) or the transformation from disappointment in a loved one to admiration for their strength ("Gracie's Gift" by Piper Punches)?

Part of the mystique of the collection, for me, was the subtle ambiguity I felt as I read each piece. It's unclear from one inclusion to the next which are fiction and which are nonfiction entries, which effectively blurred what might otherwise have been harsh lines in trying to find a straightforward workable definition of the term legacy. I appreciated those blurred lines.

You'll find Legacy another thought-provoking and compelling offering from this publisher.

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Author: Various
Title: Legacy: An Anthology
Publisher: Velvet Morning Press
ISBN: 978-0-69234-695-2
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the editor in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: "Book 3: Murder" (Mike Wells)

Author Mike Wells presents Book 3: Murder, the third novel in his international crime thriller series Lust, Money & Murder, in which Elaine finds herself between the proverbial rock and a hard place, working to stay alive no matter what. The previous betrayal against her only worsens, its evil tentacles determined to pursue her and crush her to death in their far-reaching grasp. 

Part of what drives a thriller forward, at a carefully and deliberately controlled mach speed, are added complications. Book three of Wells's series does nothing if not add new complications to the overall arc of the series. Just when I thought I had things figured out to my satisfaction, there's another component for which I neither planned nor accounted.

If you like your fiction to keep you guessing, you'll appreciate this thriller and the series of which it is a part.

Ever-present themes in the series include life and death, the value of life, the real definitions of right and wrong and that grey area in between, love and lust and loss and more. The complexities that surround Elaine and her various relationships --- whether with colleagues, friends, or antagonists --- remain the greatest lure through the story.

Of note in this third offering is the fact that much of the content is actually backstory rather than anything new about the current cast of characters in the "present" time. Granted, the backstory pertains to one of the main characters in the series and is fascinating to read, but readers who expect the constant forward movement they experienced in the first two books may well be surprised.

Stay tuned for my review of the fourth book!

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Author: Mike Wells
Title: Book 3: Murder
Series: Lust, Money, & Murder (#3)
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Book Review: "Master Lists for Writers" (Bryn Donovan)

Many writers are list makers.

We like things neat and orderly and organized whenever possible. We start researching a concept or story idea weeks before we set pen to paper to write about it. We'll draft outline after outline, or start with an elevator pitch and a main character sketch and work from there.

You know who you are.

But maybe you're not really a list maker. You run to the grocery once or twice a week to snag items you've discovered you really do need. You research whatever catches your eye, start writing with no particular direction in mind, and let the characters and plot take you wherever they may.

Nothing wrong with that either.

Those two (really, really broad ... granted) categories of writers may seem whole continents or planets apart when it comes to styles and genres and formats ... and yet.

Sometimes it's really nice, for either type of writer, for any kind of writer, to have a place to turn for a quick spurt of inspiration, an infusion of imagination. Whether you plot your novels meticulously beforehand or blow with the prevailing wind, sometimes it's nice to be able to open a comprehensive reference book, run your finger down the page, and land on a name to give your main character's best friend, without a lot of fuss and panic about it.

Let me, with great pleasure, introduce you to just such a book: Master Lists for Writers: Thesauruses, Plots, Character Traits, Names, and More, by Bryn Donovan.

Being an author herself, Donovan no doubt knows the value of the kind of resource she's offering writers. Here's just a sneak peek at what you'll find in her work.

Need a quick character name, male or female? Look here.

Want to try your hand at a romance trope? You'll find it.

Your character needs an identifiable quirk? There are dozens of options.

Why do surnames have to be so hard to come up with? They don't, with this book.

Part thesaurus for emotions and character traits, part baby names book, part plot tool, all reference work, Master Lists for Writers is the kind of book I want on my writing shelf ... preferably, between you and me, in a hard copy, and really, I'd like one copy for each new project I begin, just so I can go through during the process and highlight ideas, names, and other things that spark my imagination.

I can't encourage you highly enough to get your hands on a copy (to start) of Donovan's work. Her intensive research will amaze you; her friendly style welcome you; and all the resources she provides will win you over immediately.

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Author: Bryn Donovan
Title: Master Lists for Writers: Thesauruses, Plots, Character Traits, Names, and More
ASIN: B016U2K20O
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from October 19-23

5. "How Being Crazy Productive Can Make Your Blog Go From Meh to Noticeable" on Sylviane Nuccio (Tor Refsland, guest blogger)


If gaining a following or building a platform or reaching an audience is important to you, then your blog should reflect those priorities. This post, with in-depth questions, strategies, and actionable steps, is designed to help you improve your blog's purpose and reach.

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4. "How Professional Readers Read for Pleasure" on Literary Hub (Jessica Ferri)


Ever wondered how people who make their living reading --- literary magazine editors, for instance --- maintain their enjoyment of the hobby in their down time? Here's a unique, eye-opening survey of dozens of professional readers and what (or how) they read to refresh their outlook on literature.

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3. "My Top 33 Digital Marketing Blogs" on Listly (Jay Baer)


Who doesn't love an insightful list, especially when it's chock full of timely, applicable information on an up-and-coming topic? Digital marketing is such a popular buzz phrase these days that if you (a) don't know what it is and/or (b) aren't actively participating, you're behind the times. Bring yourself up to date with this article!

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2. "39 Thriller and Suspense Writers Share Writing Advice and Their Favorite Tools and Tips for Writing and Editing" on DIY Author (Chris Well)


Another list ... a banner week! If you write fiction, and especially if you write thrillers, mysteries, or in the action, adventure, or suspense genres, you'll want to check out this article. It comprises a detailed survey of spectacular tips, tricks, and tools for the writing practice and the writing life. Don't miss this one!

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1. "Writing for the Web: 4 Ways to Step Up Your Game as a New Blogger" on The Write Life (Brittni Brown)


Maybe you're new to the blogging scene. You've written some fiction, a few short stories, or for a newspaper or journal. Trust me when I tell you that blogging isn't the same. Some of the rules apply across the board, of course --- grammar and punctuation still matter, for instance --- but not in every case. If you're just starting out, I encourage you to start here to find out how blogging is different.

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What have you learned since you started blogging? Which writing tip from the thriller authors did you really need to hear this week? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2015? With what project?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review: "Book 2: Money" (Mike Wells)

In this, book two of prolific author Mike Wells's Lust, Money & Murder series, heroine Elaine abandons Nick, with whom she fell in love in the first book in the series, and returns to Washington, D.C., to help perfect the technology necessary to pick out counterfeit bills.

A sudden betrayal by someone close to her, however, leaves her on the run and then, with time, at the mercy of Giorgio Cattoretti, whose entrepreneurial ventures include mass-manufacturing knock-off clothing and counterfeiting the most perfect phony U.S. money that Elaine has ever seen.

Wells maintains the requisite suspense and tension in this international crime thriller through quick, incisive pacing and the kind of minimalist diction for which Ernest Hemingway is truly famous. There are no unnecessary words here to slow down the forward momentum.

Readers will learn more about Elaine and her uncanny abilities and talents, as well as the lengths to which she's willing to go to keep herself alive in the face of terrible danger and insidious manipulation. While Nick doesn't feature as prominently in this story as he did in the first one, his absence leaves Elaine all the more to achieve her own ends, not only in actuality but also psychologically and emotionally.

A truly worthy sequel to the first book in the series, and a more than effective bridge to entice readers to keep on in the series even after they close the cover of Book 2: Money.

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Author: Mike Wells
Title: Book 2: Money
Series: Lust, Money & Murder (#2)
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book Review: "The Second Son" (Paul W. Nielsen)

Dr. Jason Corey is an emergency room physician in Seattle with the drive and passion to succeed at any case that walks through the ER doors ... until an unexpected loss on the table leaves him reeling. When bizarre things start to happen to some of his patients, he can't even explain them to himself, much less anyone with whom he works.

Meanwhile, his girlfriend Jesse is struggling herself ... a battle that Jason can sense but not define or solve. The not knowing drives him outside himself for comfort and relief, into coping mechanisms that morph into addictions seemingly overnight. What he doesn't know is that the only person who can explain what's happening to him is one he's trusted his entire life, and might never be able to trust again ...

Author Paul W. Nielsen presents his medical thriller, The Second Son, rife with suspense, romance, climactic tension, and even an unexpected dose of the supernatural (or paranormal, depending on your view).

In keeping with the genre, the work features numerous ER scenes, closely written, seat-of-your-pants suspenseful, and above all, well-researched, thanks to Nielsen's own experience as an ER physician. The scenes flow and provide much-needed plot-furthering insight into the characters, and despite the liberal use of medical terminology, I was neither distracted nor bored nor weighed down (and didn't feel that I needed a medical dictionary beside me).

Each of the characters in the thriller is much more than meets the eye. In fact, initial impressions, as I discovered myself with some delight, are often entirely false. I urge readers to keep their eyes peeled for more unique plot twists and unexpected circumstances than I ever anticipated.

A future edition of the work, if re-released, would benefit from a proofread to catch the occasional error in grammar and punctuation. My only other difficulty with the story lay in the liberal presence of head-hopping, in which a scene is related from Character A's point of view and then skips into Character B's head and sometimes into Character C's head or even back to Character A's view. It was often confusing to keep track of the point-of-view character in each scene, as a result.

Nonetheless, here is a medical thriller that proves to be nothing less than truly different (in every positive sense of the word) from the rest on the market today.

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Author: Paul W. Nielsen
Title: The Second Son
ISBN: 978-0-99038-453-3
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from October 12-16

5. "Planning a Novel: Character Arc in a Nutshell" on Writers Helping Writers (Angela Ackerman)


Some writers outline a novel with plot points. Others build their work around character arc, which is the subject of this excellent how-to post. With NaNoWriMo looming on the horizon, many writers will want at least a basic idea about their novel before diving in to write 50,000 words of it in November. Starting with a character arc can do that for you.

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4. "21 Quotes to Reignite Your Passion for Writing!" on Positive Writer (Bryan Hutchinson)


Nothing gets me more motivated to write like an inspirational quote from an expert in the industry. Check out this great list of comments on subjects ranging from fear and motivation to creativity and potential. Maybe post your favorite above your desk to keep you on track.

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3. "Writing Fiction: 6 Lessons I Learned from Freelance Writing" on Write to Done (Allison Tait)


Writing fiction and writing nonfiction may not be as far apart as some of us think. Don't let yourself get locked in to the assumption that if you're a blogger, you can't learn anything from a novelist, and vice versa. There's always something to learn. Here, find out how freelancing led to great improvement in fiction writing for one woman.

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2. "7 Things to Do After Finishing Your Book" on Guide to Literary Agents Blog at Writer's Digest (Pat DiCesare, guest columnist)


You've finished your first book, written the words "The End," saved and re-saved the document so many times you've lost count. It's time to celebrate, yes, and to get started on the next phase of work. Now's the time to market, network, communicate, edit, reach out to your contacts ... and get the next writing project underway.

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1. "How to Stand Out as a Freelance Writer: 5 Ways to Find Your USP" on The Write Life (Johnson Kee)


A "USP" is your "unique selling point." What makes you the best freelancer for a particular job or niche in your industry? That's what you need to find out so you can build your brand and your business. Here's an excellent, in-depth post on how to figure out what you've got or can offer that no one else has.

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And that's the lineup for last week, ladies and gentlemen. What are you working on these days? Are you planning to join NaNoWriMo? What's the first thing you do when you finish a project?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: "Soundings: Water Elemental" (Janine Donoho)

Maggie Updike, an eco-psychologist, lives in a small, close-knit community along the Puget Sound, divorced and childless since her young daughter's death some years before. When she discovers a strange young girl washed up on the beach near her home, she finds herself strangely drawn to the child and to the man who eventually arrives and claims to be the girl's father.

Meanwhile, not everyone in the small town is happy about the developments, especially Jax Smith, the sheriff and a close friend of Maggie's ... with hopes to be more than that. The girl's odd behavior and bizarre tendencies defy easy explanation, and it will take trust and a belief in something greater than what can easily be seen to fully understand the reality the townspeople are facing.

Author Janine Donoho presents the contemporary fantasy novel Soundings: Water Elemental

Donoho writes with precision in a style not unlike that of an older generation. In fact, the lush descriptions and close character development in Soundings reminded me of a less dense, more "user-friendly" (if you will) work of literary fiction.

The work, while officially classified as contemporary fantasy, contains elements of many other genres, from light suspense and mystery to small-town romance. Themes explored include loss, grief, love, lust, what is versus what could be, memory, bereavement, psychology, and more.

Maggie is a particularly complex and compelling heroine. Haunted by a slew of demons, some of whom even she can't quite quantify, and driven by not only her professional commitment to her clients but also her compassion and fierce loyalty to the friends she sees as her family, she withstands --- and causes --- some of the most unexpected plot twists in the novel.

Readers used to the very traditional happy ending in a romance novel (although it should be noted that with an ongoing murder investigation underway, this hardly qualifies as "just" a romance novel) may be caught off-guard by the way Soundings concludes. Though surprising and, perhaps, against the usual grain, however, the ending is true to the deep tone and characters throughout.

A beautifully written, marvelously imagined contemporary fantasy for modern readers!

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Author: Janine Donoho
Title: Soundings: Water Elemental
Series: Elementals
ISBN: 978-1-62015-733-6
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: "Now You're Speaking My Language" (Gary Chapman)

You've always wondered what it takes to understand the opposite gender. What on earth is that person you married thinking? What does a woman mean when she says one thing, while a man means something entirely different by saying the same thing?

And how can you learn the communication techniques necessary to hear your significant other and be heard by that person, too?

Renowned Christian author Gary Chapman (of The Five Love Languages) offers insightful, Biblically based answers in his nonfiction work Now You're Speaking My Language.

Chapman contends that success in marriage means communication combined with intimacy, and that four principles will provide that foundation so that neither spouse feels ignored, unappreciated, or overlooked. Those four principles are underscored by his belief that the Bible is the final word on marriage according to God's design and that a close, personal, and growing relationship with God is vital to the stability of a marriage.

This work is eminently readable, well-researched, and approachable, like all of Chapman's books that I've had the privilege of reading. Its explanation of the five levels of communication, from surface-level talk to the deepest and most intimate conversations possible, left me openly pondering my own current relationships, whether romantic or platonic, to learn whether I could find ways to improve my communication and listening skills with others.

Chapman speaks with authority, patience, and compassion, having "been there" himself with his wife in their marriage. His anecdotes and personal stories are heartening and refreshing reminders that we all have room to work on ourselves and our relationships with God and others, whether we've been married for one day, one year, fifty years, or are yet single.

Thought-provoking and closely written, Now You're Speaking My Language is a read I can highly recommend.

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Author: Gary Chapman
Title: Now You're Speaking My Language
Publisher: B&H Group
ISBN: 978-1-43368-301-8
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from October 5-9

5. "Successful Freelance Writing and Confidence for Writers with Carol Tice" on The Creative Penn (Joanna Penn)


An in-depth interview with a renowned figure in the writing world is always a great way to gain insights into the writing life, inspiration, motivation, and more. Freelance writer Carol Tice has a lot of guidance for those who would follow in her footsteps.

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4. "13 Web Tools to Help Improve Your Blog" on Business 2 Community (Luana Spinetti)


A lot of tools and add-ons for blogs and websites are costly. Worthwhile, perhaps, but nevertheless, it's always nice to find a lengthy, well-researched list of resources that happen to be free in addition to helpful. That's what you'll find here to make your blog the best it can be.

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3. "3-Step Action Plan With Worksheets for 2 Months of Blog Posts" on Content Marketing Institute (Roger C. Parker)


I don't know about you, but as a visual person, I really appreciate it when articles about blogging and writing include printable resources like worksheets. To some, the word might hearken back to grade school when you had to finish filling out thirty multiplication problems before you got to go play, but if you can manage to move beyond the bad memories, I guarantee you'll almost always find something helpful in a worksheet that you can apply today. For help with your blog, start here.

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2. "From Books to eBooks and Back: The Future of Literary Consumption Is Unwritten" on (Jonathan Sturgeon)


Actual paper pages or electronic ones? Kindle, Nook, or a book in your hand? Wherever you fall in the lineup, consider the fact (as a writer) that your readers may have different preferences, and think about catering accordingly ... especially with the surprising news that e-books aren't necessarily the most popular medium anymore. Learn more here.

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1. "NaNoWriMo Prep: 30 Tips for Writing a Book in 30 Days" on The Writer's Dig at (Jessica Strawser, guest post)


October is the month to prepare for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. If you think you've got a book in you, then I urge you to join the online community and make the commitment. Fifty thousand words in thirty days is possible ... the thousands of winners who've competed since the organization's inception attest to that fact. For expert advice as you walk up to the starting line in the next few weeks, check out this article from Writer's Digest.

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Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What are you committing to write? Are you an e-book person or a real book person, or some of both? (No judgment here!) Let us know!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Posts

As I work to get a number of elements in my life under control for the next few months, I've chosen to take a hiatus from Friday blog posts here on Engraved.

You'll still find writing tips and resources for blogging, freelancing, marketing, and more in "The Top Five" on Mondays, and my book reviews on Wednesdays and Thursdays, material and time permitting.

I thank my readers for their patience and understanding in advance, and wish everyone a beautiful autumn.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Review: "Our Frozen Wings" (Becky Wicks)

Skagway, Alaska, natives Ella and Oscar are teenagers, very much in love. Their date-night destination this evening: to see the town psychic, Damien, and find out why Ella keeps hearing strange music in her family's house at night, where she lives with just her mother.

The meeting with Damien, and a number of other townspeople, some known and some unknown to the teenagers, turns up more questions than answers ... at first. But as the evening unfolds, it becomes clear that neither Oscar nor Ella really have a grasp of the situation as it stands, until the final shocking revelation.

Author Becky Wicks presents her short story, "Our Frozen Wings," which is a sweet, small-town romance with a wholly unexpected twist at the end ... precisely what you want to see in a short story.

The short story genre in general tends to be characterized by much less character development, far fewer subplots (or none at all), and very little description or backstory when compared to a full-length novel, simply because the length requirements of the genre demand less of everything. For that reason, some readers aren't as enthusiastic about short stories as they are about other types.

Wicks's short story features three main characters, aforementioned, in a straightforward situation whose forward momentum doesn't span any length of time beyond a single evening outing. Ella and Oscar take turns as the focal characters, sometimes within the same chapter, a phenomenon that some readers will call "head-hopping" and be less than pleased about, but assorted romance novels have that kind of back-and-forth between the hero and heroine's perspectives, respectively.

From the first chapter, Wicks achieves sympathy for her likable protagonists: their infatuation and intimacy with one another will make even the most cynical or hardened smile in recognition and empathy. Who, after all, hasn't been head-over-heels in love before?

And the climactic sequence will catch every reader off-guard, guaranteed ... I never saw the pivotal plot twist coming, which is as high a compliment as I can give an author, especially in a genre (romance) that tends to so often encompass predictable cliches. No cliches here!

The weakest part of the work is the amount of backstory and the flashbacks that make up a vast majority of the plot. While perhaps necessary for this particular story situation and these specific characters, backstory and flashbacks stop the forward momentum of the plot in its tracks, and whenever that happened, I lost interest in what was going on. Perhaps the work could be reformatted in vignettes so that the important scenes of the characters' lives could be shown (instead of "told") in "real time" sections, one after another, up to the present evening, so that the "current day" story wouldn't be jeopardized by skipping back so often.

That said, for a quick, sweet read with a sensational ending, cozy up with "Our Frozen Wings."

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Author: Becky Wicks
Title: "Our Frozen Wings"
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review: "The Secret Invasion" (Jon D. Zimmer)

Rarely do we expect or anticipate the people or circumstances who change our lives, sometimes dramatically and always forever.

Michael Williams, struggling to understand the death of his neighbors' young son, is ripe for something to change. When an ethereally beautiful woman claiming to be an angel arrives in his home, she brings him a proposal: to join her in her quest to stop a terrible being who has an even worse agenda against humanity than anyone could imagine.

With, really, no other option, Michael agrees, and finds himself swept into an otherworldly experience that will change him and his life entirely.

Author Jon D. Zimmer presents the first novel in "The God Chronicles Trilogy," titled The Secret Invasion, which is a complicated, intense work combining elements of science fiction, suspense, romance, and spirituality.

Themes explored include life and death, life after death, other worlds and dimensions, the limitations of existence, immortality, betrayal, deception, love, and more, through a tremendous cast of characters whose sheer numbers require admiration and close attention to keep delineated.

The premise of the work is intriguing and holds a great deal of potential to be explored and expanded. It would benefit very much from a close edit and proofread, upon a future re-release, to eliminate a number of errors in grammar and punctuation and inconsistencies.

The characters tended to fall flat and be less than believable in their created world, and were given to long, technical explanations and other "telling" devices that science fiction readers may find fascinating but that didn't hold my attention, personally, because there didn't seem to be enough forward momentum.

For the novel to have been more fulfilling for me as a reader, I'd have enjoyed more three-dimensional characterization given to fewer long, drawn-out monologues, and more action that resonated believably than it did.

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Author: Jon D. Zimmer
TItle: The Secret Invasion
Series: The God Chronicles Trilogy (#1)
ISBN: 978-0-74432-168-5
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from September 28 - October 2

5. "How to Create a Winning Blog Content Strategy" on (Gary Smith)


If you've got a business but you don't have a blog, you may be in jeopardy. So many people are online nowadays that if you don't have a presence there, you could be overlooked. Check out this insightful post to find out more about how to develop a plan of attack for your online presence.

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4. "5 Ways to Stop Consuming and Start Producing" on Addicted 2 Success (Melissa Chu)


We live in a society of consumerism --- few of us would dispute that point. What needs to become obvious to us, though, is that a lot of fields require production instead of consumption. Think creativity, which demands production, or blogging, marketing, artistry: all fields that need to move away from consumerism. Find out how to do that here.

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3. "Why Women Love to Read About Crime" on (Megan Abbott)


Think Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, both major recent successes in the literary world of crime and thriller fiction. What makes those books so appealing ... and mostly, to women? It can't just be that the works are incisively entertaining, for many books in other genres are. What's the difference? Abbott discusses that topic here. Perhaps you should try your hand at crime fiction!

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2. "On Writing and Breakthroughs: 5 Tips to Achieve Your Goals" on Love Life Surf


Sometimes all it takes to achieve success yourself is taking time to read how others came about theirs. There's something eye-opening about the processes and steps others have taken to achieve their goals. This excellent post not only provides applicable tips on how to do just that, whether it be writing your novel or seeing it published or picking up another freelance client, but also includes first-hand experience from someone who's been there.

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1. "Elizabeth Gilbert on the Link Between Creativity and Curiosity" on (Melissa Dahl)


What makes you creative? Is it something you're passionate about, as the saying goes? Or is it something more than that, maybe something often overlooked but no less elemental than, say, life itself? Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the famed Eat, Pray, Love, has a new book out, and it will certainly set you thinking about where your creativity comes from. Visit the link to read an in-depth interview with the author herself.

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You've had the lineup for last week. What did you learn? What did you already know? What are you sick of hearing about? What incites you to creativity? 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Book Review: "Devil's Moon" (Matthew Marine)

Imagine a dark night, clouds obscuring the moon. You're plunging through a sinister landscape made that much worse by the person you know is pursuing you, and has only violence and devastation in mind for you.

Such is the experience of one of the victims --- young, female, lovely --- of a hideous serial killer who has been credited with half a dozen murders. FBI Agent Stuart Ransom arrives in a small, tourist-driven town in Arizona to investigate one such murder at the request of the murder suspect's sister, who is as lovely and full of secrets as the girls who keep vanishing.

Before the case is over, Ransom will need more than his years of experience and his well-honed intuition and investigative skills to catch the murderer as they engage in a game of cat-and-mouse under the devil's moon.

Devil's Moon is an intriguing thriller by up-and-coming Arizona author Matthew Marine, released from Open Books Press.

The phrase "fast-paced" doesn't begin to describe the way the work flows from one shocking revelation and dangerous development to the next in its tumbling plot. The very first page, even the first line, is fraught with the kind of tension found in thrillers by expert, long-time authors like James Patterson or John Grisham.

Nothing tame about this novel, including the characters, who are as diverse and engaging as the plot points. From FBI Agent Ransom and his dragging emotional demons and regrets to Laura Adams, whose supernatural (paranormal?) ability to hear from angels will be instrumental in solving the case, there are no dull or two-dimensional people here.

A quick proofread on a future edition would catch the occasional error in punctuation, some of which had a tendency to distract me from the forward momentum of the story. When a work is so packed with uneasy tension and so many questions, I prefer everything to be streamlined and nothing to throw me out of the experience.

And if you're looking for an experience in a well-drawn and -researched setting, with a unique and unexpected cast of characters, then Devil's Moon is your novel.

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Author: Matthew Marine
Title: Devil's Moon
Publisher: Open Books Press
ISBN: 978-0-98527-375-0
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: "Liberation Song" (Raelee May Carpenter)

Alexandra Adelaide lives with her daughter Aggie on a quiet street in a well-behaved neighborhood in a suburb of Los Angeles. The lie that their life together really is might have gone on being a lie forever ... until Alex and Aggie encounter Matt Gold, who lives and works nearby.

With that meeting, something begins between Alex and Matt that is beyond either of their control. Dangerous secrets rise to the fore, threatening to tear apart their growing love for one another.

For neither Alex nor Aggie is who they seem, and the people they're running from have just resurfaced on the grid after years of smoldering silence.

Author Raelee May Carpenter presents her Christian romantic suspense Liberation Song, a sweet yet unexpected work founded on her obvious faith that will leave you facing soul-deep questions of your own.

Alex, as a character, seems to represent fear personified if I ever saw it in fiction. She's spent most of her life running in some way, and her current state in L.A. is no different. She works to control all the possible variables that might rise up and cause a crisis in her life, and regret it though she might, she's raised Aggie in the same spirit of fear.

Somehow, though, the little girl manages (with poignant childlike faith) to outstrip her mother in trust and hope, things that Alex never really understood or thought she'd ever be able to feel herself.

For his part, Matt represents grace, which is almost as much a character in the story as the actual "people" characters are. His patience, compassion, depth of insight and wisdom keep Alex off-balance as she struggles to navigate the new foreign emotions and relationship that his presence has caused.

Themes explored, aside from the faith-based ones already mentioned, include betrayal, loss, regret, love, second chances, and family, among others.

The work would benefit from a close edit and proofread to catch inconsistencies and to eliminate the occasional typos and errors in punctuation, which tended to toss my attention out of the story. Further, much of the inner thoughts of the characters, and dialogue between them, tends toward long, drawn-out explanations of Christian concepts that people who aren't Christians may find tiresome at the least or "preachy" at worst.

The timeline of the story is also occasionally difficult to follow, as it skips between the current "present" and the past, represented in flashbacks from other characters' viewpoints (whereas Alex is the only one whose viewpoint represents the "present"). I had a difficult time putting the flashbacks in some kind of chronological order, since they are presented out of order and lack a consistent timeline.

Additionally, while suspense certainly runs through the story with admirable consistency, I was unable to suspend my disbelief at some of the content, such as interactions with law enforcement and the standard operating procedures (SOPs, for the technically minded) for witness protection. Someone actually in law enforcement might be inclined to put the book down, even if reading for pleasure, due to what I'm relatively sure are professional inaccuracies.

Finally, before the story was over, my head was reeling with characters whose names begin with the letter A ... Alexandra and Aggie Adelaide just three of the many. I suppose I question whether it was necessary to use so many names that start with the same letter when, in fact, it caused me to have to skip back in the book and reread sections to remember who was who.

Nonetheless, if you're looking for a sweet-minded Christian romance with a dash of intrigue and no objectionable content, Liberation Song will suit just fine.

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Author: Raelee May Carpenter
Title: Liberation Song
ISBN: 978-1-63213-100-3
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.