Monday, April 25, 2016

GUEST POST: Tales of Blood and Sulphur: Apocalypse Minor by J. G. Clay

Tales of Blood and Sulphur: Apocalypse Minor Volume 1 by J. G. Clay
Author: J. G. Clay
Genre: Horror
Length: 212
Release Date: July 20, 2015
ISBN: 978-1513701998
Synopsis: Eleven Tales steeped in Blood and reeking of Sulphur
J.G Clay takes you on a journey through the voids of Reality and into dark places where demons, mutants and inter-dimensional creatures taunt, taint and corrupt Humanity. Survival is not guaranteed, sanity is not assured and death lurks in every corner. These are the Tales of Blood and Sulphur: Apocalypse Minor; eleven twisted tales of terror and mayhem……
There are cracks in the skin of Reality. Some are microscopic, others are as wide as a four-lane motorway. As the fault lines increase and widen, the door to our world shines like a beacon in the darkness, a warm and inviting sight to others beyond our understanding. When They cross over into our realm, The Tales begin......
A gambler taking one last desperate throw of the dice. A struggling writer making an unholy alliance. An eternal being fighting to stay alive in the financial capital of India. A man burdened with a terrible town secret. The Law Enforcers who must never cry. The End of Days live and direct from the rural heartland of England.
The blood is warm, the sulphur is burning, the tales will be told, the Apocalypse Minor is imminent.

Bozo Nightmares? Get Real: A Very Short History of Tales of Blood and Sulphur: Apocalypse Minor
My name is J.G Clay. Rather, my pen name is J.G Clay. I like it. It’s snappy, stylish and a bit mysterious. I wrote and released a book called Tales of Blood And Sulphur: Apocalypse Minor. Again with the snappy stylish thing. It’s a great title. It could have been so different. Somewhere out there in an alternative Universe, it could have been ‘Bozo Nightmares’ by Steven Singh. I’m glad it wasn’t but this is one of those little stories woven into the backstory of ‘Tales of Blood and Sulphur
There are (probably) a hundred more anecdotes but to be honest, I can’t remember them all. Tracing the origins of a novel is pretty easy. Get an idea. Sketch out idea. Write idea. Rinse and repeat. Nice, neat and infinitely easier to write about when someone asks for a guest blog on the history of your book. A short story collection is a different matter altogether. For instance, I can tell you that ‘On The Beach’, the first of the Tales, was originally written in 1998, that ‘God Bless George A. Romero’ started life as the day to day blog of a zombie holocaust and that one of the stories I dropped for what would become my debut was a rather pleasantly titled piece called ‘F**k Art, Let’s Dance’. But the exact dates of what happened where and with who are a bit elusive. SO, a potted history is all I can manage.
Four of the original seven stories that made up Tales of Blood and Sulphur were pieces that had been hanging around in one form or another since my late twenties. I’ve been writing since I was about thirteen; not very well admittedly but writing nonetheless. The idea of dusting some ‘Golden Oldies’ and retooling for a forty year old had a lot of appeal (mainly because it didn’t involve having to think up new stuff). I got to work polishing and honing this old stuff around February 2015 with the vague idea of expanding on the sparse pieces I had. But, as ever with this writing thing, something happened. Not only did I enjoy what I was doing, but new ideas reared their head. The floodgates were opening. They haven’t stopped since. The newbies (as I like to call them) - ‘Legally Dead’, ‘LLTC (Lucifer Loves The Clash)’ and the aforementioned ‘The Writer’s Friend’ - were all finished in about two weeks. Some other stories also cropped up but they were put to one side for a rainy day, a decision which I’ve always been happy with. One of those bonus tracks eventually went on to become the Doctor Who-ish ‘The World Stops When The Smiling Men Cry’. ‘F*ck Art, Let’s Dance’ and a story exploring colonial mind-sets and racism called ‘Mizungo’ were also born during this time. At the time of writing, neither one had has appeared in print. I’m sure that one day they will.
Stories in hand, I put the book on Amazon and Createspace and released ‘Tales of Blood and Sulphur’ on 13th May, 2014. It sold a few copies, got some great reviews and also attracted the interest of a publishing company called Booktrope, the same publisher I am still with. Now the fun starts. Armed with an editor, proof-reader, cover designer and Dane Cobain, my book manager, ‘Tales’ was ready for a new lease of life. With two pairs of fresh eyes on the case, the original seven stories expanded to ten plus a ‘wraparound story’ to pin everything together. The ‘wraparound’ was suggested by my editor Christopher Nelson and it was a master stroke. Not only did it give the stories a framework to hang from but it also gave me a new character to play with in the form of Null, the mystic and not quite human storyteller. He’s my crypt-keeper, the man (ish) who will bring you a new ‘Tales’ every year as well as taking payment in souls.
With a stunning cover, fantastic editing and proofreading, work was completed in short order and ‘Tales of Blood And Sulphur: Apocalypse Minor’ was unleashed onto the public in July 2015. Sales have been moderate but the reaction has been fantastic. More importantly, that first release has given me back the passion and hunger for storytelling, something that I’d lost in the years previous.
I wonder whether the passion would have stayed the same if I had gone with the original title. Somehow I doubt it.
Author Information & Links
J.G Clay is definitely a Man of Horror. There can be no doubt. Putting aside the reverence he has for the horror greats, such as King, Barker, Herbert, Carpenter, Romero and Argento, there is another fact that defines his claim for the title of the 'Duke of Spook'. He was born on Halloween night. By a quirk fate, it was also a full moon that night. Co-incidence?
Here at Clay Towers, we don't believe in coincidences.
The 41 year old hails from the Midlands in the United Kingdom, is married with one step child and two dogs that bear a strong resemblance to Ewoks. Beyond the page and the written word, he is music mad and can hold down a tune on a bass guitar pretty well. He is an avid reader and also has an enduring love of British sci-fi, from the pages of the '2000A.D' comic to the televised wanderings of Gallifrey's most famous physician. Clay is also a long-time fan of the mighty Birmingham City Football Club and endures a lot of flak from his friends for it.
Connect with J. G. Clay
Purchase Tales of Blood and Sulphur Apocalypse Minor Vol. 1 

Friday, April 22, 2016

7 Mysteries/Series I Own But Haven’t Licked

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first: the mystery genre is king of the serializing format.  Book after book.  Release after release.  Year after year.  We follow the misjudgments, drawbacks, and achievements of whatever leading star protagonist we’ve grown attached to.  Attached enough to carry us through book one to book... [insert your number here]. 

Some series are short-lived, and some are decades long.  Some series entries are strong, and some are weak.  In many cases, the author runs out of ideas and begins phoning in his or her stories.  But a few has consistent, formula-driven quality.  Whereas others hit-or-miss after about the fifth or tenth book.  Then there’s cases where an author loses some of his or her audience completely.  Whether it’s by pulling the trigger on loaded opinions, expressed through characters.  Or increasing the vulgarity behind plotted sex and/or crime.  Or–the worse offense–implanting shock factor techniques instead of fleshing out a plausible story.  You refer whatever occasion you've left an author's work for.  
Whether you chose to keep reading a series depends on your level of commitment to author and star.  And “commitment” is the operative theme of this post.
Recently–with so many books coming in–I struggled with what to read.  (Don’t you hate when you have plenty at your fingertips, yet feel you can’t define your mood enough to find which book will serve?)  I scanned my shelves and new-books pile reasoning with myself why this title may work versus this one.  I knew one of them needed to quell my reading thirst, especially with a thunderstorm coming into town.  Candles, books, the pattering rain and roiling thunder; a cozy reading session in manifested!
While I eventually found a book to read (Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon #4, Firestorm), I gaped at the number of mystery/thriller series I’ve abandoned to the shelves over the years.  Some are seven years within their abandonment.  And a few of the unreads I’m a little ashamed–given my love of the genre–to admit I've left to collect dust.  But where did all these books come from?  Who recommended them?  How old was I when I bought them?  And why did I abandon them in the hopes of retreating to them later, at a more desperate date in the future?
That’s what I want to ask and explore in this post.  For those who’ve read any of these books/series, please provide me validity for my issues at hand.  Or express how important it is to keep going.

1.  Robert B. Parker’s Family Honor
First in Parker’s Sunny Randall private-eye series, Family Honor has all the ingredients of the genre I love.  You know, a female detective doing her thing piecing together a murder conspiracy.  Yet, the unfortunate draw is I never finished the book.  It’s been years since I picked it up, so I can’t pinpoint why I bailed on Sunny’s debut more than halfway through.  But I have an idea, stirred by how certain memory imprints emerges after visual cues.  See while Parker is one of the kings of this genre, he left me unfulfilled.  But why?  Parker's the master of dialogue, right?  Well, it's his tool to swiftly get his scenes, narrative, and plot points in motion.  But maybe it was too much for me, whisking through Family Honor at top speed.  So while I can’t really compare the two, Family Honor read like a better written and somber Stephanie Plumb novel.  So fast-paced I never anchored to Sunny Randall herself.  Still, I’ve held on to the book for another attempt.  Though years later at this point.

2.  Joanne Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Murder
This is an unread debut stuffed inside my shelf for years (I’m thinking 2009).  Chocolate Chip Murder is first in Fluke’s Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series.  An obvious cozy mystery series themed around sweets and baked goods.  Yet, no matter how insanely popular this series is, I’ve yet to crack open my copy of the first book.  I have no explanation why, but I think it has a lot to do with its formatting.  Silly, I know.  But the print is so small and the book is so thick, with the extra short story and recipes.  So every time I pick it up I feel like it’s a high fantasy novel-level read, camouflaged as a cozy.  Weird, I know.  I’m a walking contradiction sometimes.  Big book.  Little book.  Big words.  Little words.  More details.  Less details.  It goes on.  Or maybe I'm just never in the mood.
3.  Greg Iles’ The Quiet Game
Eh.  So we know I don’t really sprint for leading male protagonist to serve my crime fiction.  On the occasion, maybe.  The Quiet Game came into my possession through the influence of a volunteer working my public library’s used bookstore.  At first she pushed me a copy of Greg Iles’ book, 24 Hours.  You know, as she raved about how amazing it was.  Sold by her enthusiasm, I took 24 Hours as she slipped me a copy of The Quiet Game to boot.  They were a dollar, so I didn’t really fuss.  And, fact is, once I cracked open the copy of 24 Hours, I read it in one sitting.  That’s how glued I was.  The book was a thrill ride you’d hate to put down.  Unfortunately, the same uhmph hasn’t quite caught up with The Quiet Game.  I can blame the thickness of the book.  I could say those 400+ pages to wallow through with Penn Cage (I’m sure he’s a great protagonist) in lead holds me back.  A number of excuses will do.  Yet at the end of the day, I’ve held on to my copy all the same.  One day.  Just one day I’ll get to it.  Who knows.  Maybe I’ll get hooked and engorge myself on the entire series.
4.  Frankie Y. Bailey’s Death’s Favorite Child
I've got an idea why I haven’t read this book after five years.  Why?  Because it’s not first in the Lizzie Stuart series.  I later learned A Dead Man’s Honor is the proper debut of this sleuth’s adventures.  Naturally drawn to a series with an African American female lead and writer; Death's Favorite Child is an easy necessary regardless of its position.  It just sucks I haven’t went back to correct my mistake by ordering the first book in the series.  You know.  OCD fully functioning and all.

5.  Eleanor Tayler Bland’s Whispers in the Dark
My most pitiful and shameful confession arrives with my stalling Bland’s Marti MacAlister series with book nine.  I was on a roll with MacAlister through 2012-2013.  Then I got to the ninth book.  Here, Bland took my favorite black female cop through the city and into the islands for two different plot lines.  One plot focused on MacAlister's profession, the other on a friend’s personal life.  There was just something about this book that drought'ed my thirst.  Well, my thirst for this specific chapter in the series.  So my resounding solution is to forget about this entry and move on to the next.  There aren’t enough Marti MacAlisters or Eleanor Taylor Blands out there for either to be forgotten.  And I still got five more books in the series to go.  Count me in still!
6.  Patricia Cornwell’s Southern Cross
Cornwell started writing this new third-person series before she took her famed forensic pathologist, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, out of the first person narrative and into third.  The changes in POV were experimental you could say.  But when that switch reached Scarpetta, it brought a string of books most dedicated readers cringed over.  Well, the same cringe can kind of apply for Cornwell’s Andy Brazil series–the original guinea pig of her expanding her writing chops.  As show above, Southern Cross is second in the Andy Brazil series.  (Somehow I made it through the maze of the first book, Hornet’s Nest.)  There’s only so much I say about Southern Cross.  Besides how crazy and directionless it felt.  For whatever reason, I feel almost obligated to take all three of the Andy Brazil books down.  “Down” as in swallow, but not "eject."  Nonetheless, I only got a quarter through Southern Cross when I realized it was a going to be a difficult test of my patience.  Something about digital fish swimming over a computer monitor's screen froze me out of the game.  I haven’t been back since the summer of 2011.
7.  Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
No explanation needed.  Only bask in my shame as I unveil the biggest misstep in my crime fiction reading career.  That’s right.  The first Temperance Brennan novel has sat unread on my shelf for close to six years now.  A hot ass mess indeed.  I pick it up year after year, but can never seem to get pass the first chapter.  So I set it aside and save it for the following year.  It’s pitiful.  It’s a shame.  You’d think I'd glutton my way through a series revolving around a female forensics anthropologist.  But I haven’t.  Those are the sad facts.

Well that’s it, guys.  My list of shameful owned but unreads mysteries/series is complete.  Give a guy a round of applause for admitting some of these faults!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Girl Who Lime-Eyed

Cut.  Clipped.  Edged out of a piece of Bristol board to draw a smaller picture.  Or what initially was going to be a mini-comic that just wouldn’t… mini!  So instead, I sketched a quick drawing.  As always, I found conflict with what to do with her hands.  Nonetheless, I went for the simple and clean approach.
The inking followed.  With no specific character in mind, I tossed around her eye color until I just decided to make them a limey green.  And because she’s a person of color, I shadowed her a Copic Deep Orange.  At first I wanted to leave her lips without lipstick, to instead go for a Copic Flesh Pink tone.  But later, as you’ll see, that simpleness went out the window.  Fact is, I love my girls flashy when it comes to lipstick, nail polish, etc.  Anything outside of that seems… well… basic.

Now comes one of my favorite parts: scrapbook implementations.  I’ve had this slice of cherry-themed paper for a while.  It’s smaller than my usual pieces, so it’s hard to use on bigger projects.  But since this was a smaller drawing–on a smaller piece of Bristol board–it fit perfectly.  And because it’s been years since I use dollies, I thought adding the two would work this go-round.  As always, I X-Acto Knifed her from the negative space.  Which, thankfully, wasn’t much nor complicated.
Color.  Color.  Color.  Paint and pastels.  Layers on layers.  Where to start?  Okay.  Her eyes have my traditional gradient effect.  The theme–as mentioned–is lime.  Lips colored soft pink alongside a darker shade of pink for her nails.  Her skin tone has a soften blend of clay-colored chalk pastels mixed with a peach.  To be honest, I had these scrapings (I used my X-Acto Knife to scrap chalk pastels into a pallet before blending) left over from my last drawing HERE.  I saved them, and had just enough for this girl.  I water colored her hair purple, which is tradition for me when drawing characters with dark hair.  Following the watercolor, I spotted her hair with black chalk pastel.  It always looks a little rustic look until I blend.
More layers.  Gave ground to her pupils, and an iris effect where I black-dot around her full iris (not sure where I learned that from).  Also, and it’s been a while, but I added eye shadow using a soft rub of pink chalk pastels.  Too much?  Maybe.  I followed my tradition of using three colored pencils to streak and layer her hair.  But I felt like I missed the flow around the part where she tucked her hair behind her ear.  There needed to be some definition on where that piece of hair broke from the rest of the flow.  So you can see where I added a darker line to separate the two.  But from there, I got into this mood of using the black colored pencil to begin adding more fullness by shading her hair more with it.  Experimenting I guess.
So yeah.  Basically got to the final step, scanned, and realized she wasn’t complete.  Pulling the drawing out of the scanner, I add the stickers.  I’ve always wanted to use these–as the majority of them were featured my older project HERE.  The left overs made it to this girl in the form of a cherry earring and floating fruit.  In other words: CUTENESS IN EFFECT!  No, for real.  I love stuff like floating fruit.
But yes.  In its digital process I added:
1.  Revived her color for the digital look.
2.  Retracing and filling her outline and other dark areas outside of her hair.
3.  Filling her lips and nails with color before highlighting their shine with a touch of white.
I believe that’s just about it.  So what should her name be?
Also, you can buy a journal featuring this drawing at my Zazzle Store HERE!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Babysitter’s Club #1 | Why I Loved Kristy’s Great Idea

"Kristy thinks the Baby-sitters Club is a great idea.  She and her friends Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Ann all love taking care of kids.  A club will give them the chance to have lots of fun–and make tones of money.
But nobody counted on crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who don't always tell the truth.  And then there's Stacey, who's acting more and more mysterious.  Having a baby-sitters club isn't easy, but Kristy and her friends aren't giving up until they get it right!"
So let’s go ahead and get any “gender specific” matters straight.  Okay?  Great!  So as a pre-teen, I read the hell out of The Baby-Sitters Club series.  And, trust me, I could get away with it freely.  Nobody had any reason to think twice about me, as a guy, reading these books.  So from that small bit of perspective, I’ve always wanted to write posts on Ann M. Martin's series of pre-teen books.  Or, the years I discovered the joy of escapism through various book series during my own pre-teen years.  And just to push a little bit further into my reading past, I recently learned a kid in daycare bit me on the forehead over a book.  I'm sure it was a book I refused to give up, or the bite must have been worth it.  I also learned my daycare teacher used to report how I would always enter the room, grab a book, and settle in for the day.  At least on that count, nothing has changed.
Nice to know books have always been there for me.  Especially when all along I thought my reading bug struck around 6th grade.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Now I Know Where Kinsey GETS It | Marcia Muller Pushes Through! PART TWO

So let’s get into those quotes/passages I mentioned in my previous post on Marcia Muller’s Edwin of the Iron Shoes.  But if you haven’t followed me to this post, these are the stand-out lines I loved.  They're the lines where I received a flood of realization on how Muller’s protagonist, Sharon McCone, gave roots to women investigators in hard-boiled in crime fiction.  Particularly roots for Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski characters.  For more information, please refer to the previous post.  I’m going to have to try to reduce this down to a few, though.  If not, I’d probably serve up the entire book.
So let’s go!
“He was pushing too hard.  I kept my voice level.  ‘I’m not on my own; I’m an employee of All Souls.  I joined them after the detective agency fired me for refusing to jump at a special assignment that would have humiliated me and set up an innocent man for a very messy and expensive divorce.  And I don’t know about being what you call a “super-sleuth.”  I’m competent.  I’d say my strong point is knowing how to ask the right questions.  Without trying to cram my words into other people’s mouths.’”
Four chapters in and I already love McCone.  She has morals.  She has limits.  She has genuine concern for the individuals involved in her profession.  Most of all, she’s humble.  Yet brassy in a subtle way.
“On my way out of the kitchen, I grabbed a handful of cookies from the big jar that was always full of chocolate chips.  They would be my dinner.  Hank grinned and led me down the central hall to the second office on the right.”
This screamed Kinsey Millhone to me.  Anyone familiar with the character knows she’s obsessed with cheese/peanut butter and pickled sandwiches.  As well as Quarter Pounders.  (For a good while, I actually ate a few myself.  Didn't like them, but since Kinsey did....)  However, just the fluidity of McCone’s voice and actions in this scene stole me.  

I would say between the three, Warshawski has the best appetite.  Though she drinks too much.

Now I Know Where Kinsey GETS It | Marcia Muller Pushes Through! PART ONE

I would not have believed it until seen.  Actually, that’s not the case.  I believed it!  Intrigued it!  Embraced it!  Ran with it on my Amazon wishlist for about two and a half years (pitiful of me).  Put it on my Kindle for over a year (double pitiful of me).  And just this  past February finally received it!  You’re probably wondering what in the world am I talking about.  So let me just get to the point: I finally read the first book in Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone hard-boiled private-eye series, Edwin of the Iron Shoes.  I know.  I know.  Big deal, right?  Well for me–a female-controlled crime fiction junkie–it most certainly is a big deal!  Though I'm awfully late about it...

Most of you guys know I LIVE for Sue Grafton’s California private-eye, Kinsey Millhone.  ("LIVE" is an extreme, extreme understatement).  And you’re also familiar with my apathetic, strange off/on relationship with Sara Paretsky tough ‘n’ tumble Chicago-based woman of the same profession, V. I. Warshawski.  But here’s the thing.  The ticket.  The point of this erratic and fervent post–beginning with a little history lesson. 

In the early 80’s, Grafton and Paretsky transformed the voice of crime fiction.  Through, respectively, their characters Millhone and Warshawski; the authors released the female private-eye alone into the playgrounds of her male counterparts.  And their leading ladies came in just as hard-hitting, proficient, and uncompromising as the male investigators.  But, thankfully, their characteristics weren’t channeled through the virility associated with men.  

Millhone and Warshawski utilized a certain degree of wiles, ingenuity, and vocal consensus to turn a given case in her favor.  Though also dogged at times for answers, they would see cases to the end with just as much profession and dedication as men.  Yet, when push came to shove, they were sometimes afraid to shove back.  They had concerns about the use of violence, as it was first considered a defense and hardly a course of action.  So as level-headed and determined as they could be, force and violence always seemed a final recourse.  Neither were always necessary in the end–as the ladies were likely to have already outsmarted a criminal.  Nevertheless, what I described is precisely why I love the female detective.  She’s afforded an unassuming element that serves as a lethal surprise that never gets old when it's called upon.  Basically, I love a calculating bad-ass woman.

So the opportunities for the lone female private-eye to take stage arrived from Marcia Muller’s 1977 influential debut, Edwin of the Iron Shoes.  It's here Muller introduced the world to private detective Sharon McCone.  McCone was the first unshackled female detective to toss conventions previous held by women in her profession.  She wasn't a side-kick to the male private-eye.  She didn't use anything other than her brains and interrogating acrobatics to mine for information.  She had a voice–a retort–for societal affairs.  She had a heart, though took the zero nonsense approach.  She was brave.  She also meant business, needed to get paid with as little moral compromising, and was well-adjusted to standing alone.  And, well, she had a gun in her purse just in case.  You know, for those occasions she just may have to shoot somebody in the face for her own protection.  
So Muller opened the doors to this new field of detective fiction.  (I'll get into P. D. James' same decade debut of Cordelia Grey at another date.)  She employed a modern, realistic, and liberated woman to traverse the minefields of deception and murder.  All of which beamed on me as I finally read McCone’s first case.  

After the last page, I understood where Kinsey and Warshawski got her voice.  And Muller reminded me–so clearly–why it is that I love this genre when led by women.  Seriously, I highlighted a bucket of passages as I read the book.  Passages that screamed to me, “Kinsey would do/say this.”  Or, “This sounds like an argument Warshawski would find herself in.”  The revelation was too plain not to acknowledge and recognize.
So yes.  I’ve finally gotten down to the root of the modern, free-sprinting, hard-boiled female detective.  And clearly, I'm dedicated to moving forward with Muller and McCone.  I have a long way to go to catch up but, as of now, I’ve found myself a new place to find radiance for my passions.
Part of me wants to review the book, but the other half of me simply wants to share some of those passages I mentioned.  Only because they excited me, and I'm not to hard to please when I've found something special.  But just to be clear, I loved Edwin of the Iron Shoes once I got over having to read it on the Kindle (not good with e-readers).  It was watery in some areas.  Yet, McCone's voice was solid.  But what the hell can I say?  There's a certain respect and credit due to Muller's first book.  To me, that's good enough.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Kwan's Rich Girlfriend

"Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians, is back with a wickedly funny new novel of social climbing, secret e-mails, art-world scandal, lovesick billionaires, and the outrageous story of what happens when Rachel Chu, engaged to marry Asia’s most eligible bachelor, discovers her birthfather.

On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiancé willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined. Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father. Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband. A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich."

~ China Rich Girlfriend from Goodreads

Hear me out, folks.  On everything I love, I wish I had more to say about Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend.  I really, really do.  However, I don’t.  Or at least have much to expound on about my minuscule disappointment with the book.  A disappointment brewed by the contrived connectivity with each of his characters’ story threads.  Including threads developed completely from the core cast (Nick and Rachel).  So it's kind of strange when I think about how much I loved his previous book, Crazy Rich Asian.  I guess I assumed too much going into his second book.
Nevertheless, after reading China Rich Girlfriend in January, I couldn't find the right words on how I felt about the book.  Good or bad!  So months later, my resounding complaint is still that contrived connectivity issue.  It's like a wall I can't climb.  It's all I think when I recall my experience.  Which has lead me to this late post.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Brotherhood of J. D. Robb

(Disclaimer: This post may be meant for readers of the series.)
All right!  Let’s get into this one.  J. D. Robb’s In Death #42, Brotherhood in Death.  The book where we finally get into Dennis Mira's story–including more “cuddle” talk about him.  Which, to be frank, is annoying sometimes.  We get it.  Dennis Mira is a dreamy, gentle-hearted and harmless man of a certain age who wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Now with that said.  I do like how–after all these years–Robb gave us a book unwrapping pieces of his character's past.
But before I get into all that, let’s set the book up.

Like any J. D. Robb book, the premise is pretty simple.  In Brotherhood’s case, Dennis and his cousin, Edward, were meeting a real estate agent.  It's time to address and settle an agreement on their late grandfather’s West Village brownstone.  Having grew up in the home, Dennis wants to keep it.  Yet Edward is ready to sell–with his former position as a powerful senator apart of the negotiations.  This leaves Dennis preparing a defense.  

Edward is calculating and tactful, and it’s those characteristics that left him dead in the brownstone.  It may seem random, but the truth is Edward's past came back to snuff him out.  Unfortunate for Dennis, he discovers the body upon entering the brownstone.  And is swiftly hit over the head by Edward's killer, only to awake with the body of his cousin missing.  Lucky for him, in his back pocket resides New York homicide Lieutenant, Eve Dallas. 
Sweeping the brownstone leaves little forensic clues for Dallas and her team.  Yet, that’s where her billionaire husband Roarke comes in handy.  Though through an illegal search, Dallas uncovers some interesting details around Edward’s life.  Particularly around his years at Yale University.  A time where he formed a pact–a Brotherhood–with a string of other recently missing or murdered powerful men around New York.  Of course, this leaves Eve Dallas and her team to draw the connections.
Someone–or many–are knocking these men out one by one.  And leaving Dallas to clean up the mess.  Yet, what she discovers asks who are the true victims in this case?  Corrupt men like Edward Mira?  Or the vengeful souls plucking him and his Brotherhood down, spurred by vigilance?  Or is it justice?
And that’s how Brotherhood in Death is set up.  Now turn away if you haven’t read the book because I’m about to spoil the hell out of it.  It’s a blog post, not the New York Times review.  So those who’ve read or don’t care, let’s talk about Brotherhood in Death.  I only made this choice because writing my thoughts out were just too damn vague.  So I had to lay it all out to make sense.  It’s sort of like trying to ignore the elephant in the room.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

GUEST POST: No Rest for the Wicked by Dane Cobain

No Rest for the Wicked by Dane Cobain
Author: Dane Cobain
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Length: 127
Release Date: May 22, 2015
ISBN: 978-1620159026
Imprint: Forsaken
Synopsis: Father Montgomery, an elderly priest with a secret past, begins an investigation after his parishioners come under attack by Angels.  And with the help of Robert Jones, a young businessman with an estranged child, Montgomery begins to track down the origin of the Angels.  Naked and androgynous, the Angels speak in a dreadful harmony with no clear leader.  They aren't biblical cherubs, tasked with protecting the righteous person.  Instead, these are deadly creatures of light with the power to eradicate the living.  When Jones himself is attacked, Father Montgomery knows he has to act fast. He speaks to the Angels and organizes a final showdown where he’s asked to make the ultimate sacrifice.

A Brief History of No Rest for the Wicked

Hi, folks! My name’s Dane, and I’m the author of the supernatural thriller, No Rest for the Wicked. Today I’m stopping by to tell you a little bit more about my book–big thanks to Troi for having me here! Let’s get started.
No Rest for the Wicked grew out of a nightmare I had during my first year of university. I woke up in the middle of the night, climbed out of bed, and started to make notes about its key elements; the Angels, characters, and the fact that beings of light were wreaking havoc on the nation and the world.
A couple of months later, I revisited my notes and fleshed them out in more detail.  Adding details for each of the chapters and planning out the timeline. In each chapter I allotted a short paragraph of basic notes about what needed to happen.  I also worked on a short list of character bios.
Once that was in place, I was able to start writing the book.  It's the bit most people think of when they think of what a writer does. It’s also one of the most fun parts.  In the case of No Rest for the Wicked, it took me about three months to finish the first draft.
After that, I had to work on my edits.  I usually make two passes over my work, so I can give it a conceptual edit and then a copy edit. The difference between the two is a conceptual edit focuses on the actual story line.  Whilst a copy edit just ensures the spelling and grammar are correct. Both are necessary, to put out a good book.
And then, I left the book on the shelf for a while. I did actually get a limited run of copies printed for friends and family.  But it wasn’t released properly for another five years, when it was picked up by Booktrope Publishing’s Forsaken imprint. That’s another story entirely.  The short version is I reviewed some of Booktrope’s releases on my book blog.  So when I submitted No Rest for the Wicked for publication, they were already aware of me.
But the hard work didn’t end there.  Once accepted for publication, there was still a long road ahead of me. First the book had to be edited, which involved multiple rounds of amends by both myself and my editor, Laura Bartha. Then, it went through a couple of rounds of proofreading with Jennifer Farwell.
While all this was going on, I was working on getting the cover design just right with my designer, Ashley Ruggirello. Ashley did a great job, and really rounded things off.  Once the final round of proofing was out of the way, the layout team started building the actual book.  Before providing Ashley with the final dimensions of the book so she could finalize the covers.
Even then, the hard work wasn't over.  Once all that’s sorted, you need to fill out a form called a publication fact sheet.  This sheet provides all the information that retailers need to list the book. Fill that out and then it’s just a waiting game – you need to give it a week or so before the book’s finally online and for sale.
After that I had to start thinking about marketing, which involved an online and offline party; as well as a video teaser, a quiz, and some other promotional material. I could write a whole blog post just about that, but I’m not going to – unless you ask me nicely.
So there you have it – that’s a brief history of No Rest for the Wicked. Thanks a lot for reading, and be sure to check out No Rest for the Wicked on Amazon if you want to find out more. I’m also around on Facebook and Twitter! I’ll see you soon.
Author Information & Links
Dane Cobain is a writer, poet, and musician from a place you've probably never heard of somewhere in England. 
When he's not writing books, he's reading and reviewing them on his book blog–  Or working at his day job in social media marketing. 
Find him at or follow @DaneCobain on Twitter.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

#MarchMysteryMadness | Challenge #8: The Not-So Kid-Gloves Sleuth

March may be over, but not #MarchMysteryMadness.  I mean, if it still applies.  Anyway, I’m two challenges from completion, and with full intentions on finishing one more book.  Even if I have to spill over into April.  (Not much of a reading difference, though.  Considering I’m tackling my favorite genre in April as well.)  Which is why I’m moving forward with the final challenge.  

It's Challenge #8: The Not-So Kid-Gloves Sleuth.  This challenge aims for a classic mystery straight out of just about everyone’s childhood.  I chose Nancy Drew; arriving with the first book in her series, The Secret of the Old Clock.  I’ve had run-ins with Drew, mainly back in middle school.  I fulfilled several English projects on her books in 7th grade.  So it’s nice to go back and reacquaint myself with this classic, 1930’s iconic sleuth. 

Mystery Madness
Mystery Madness 2 members 2016 March Mystery Madness Challenge Group. More details to follow.

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