Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Latest Short Story is Online!

And now for your reading pleasure . . . My latest published short story, "The Right to Remain Silent," published in the latest issue of Back Alley Webzine.

It's sort of like L.A. REQUIEM, except shorter and it takes place in a law office. (At least, that's what the editor, Rick Helms, has to say about it.)

Last Minute Push . . .

Okay, this is very last minute, but I wanted to let you all know that the big promo on my mystery novel IDENTITY CRISIS (click on the link for the description) will expire by the end of the month. That's two days, people. (Well, less than two, really. Unless you're across the International Dateline. Then . . . well, I don't know. I suppose the publisher determines this based on Eastern Daylight Time. Anyway . . .)

You can order a copy (or copies) of IDENTITY CRISIS for 10% off the retail price, if you click on the publisher's order page and simply enter the code README at checkout. It's that simple.

Or, if you're electronically inclined, you can also purchase it as an e-book through Amazon, the Scribd Store or Smashwords. Much cheaper than print, even with the discount.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guest Blogging About E-Publishing and the Future of Print Books

Just wanted to say that I've made a guest appearance on the mystery writers' blog, Poe's Deadly Daughters, giving my take on the value of print books in the age of e-publishing. See what you think and feel free to comment either there or here on this blog.

I love e-publishing and have personally benefited from it, but I think there will always be a place for print books. What do you think?

'How I Became a Famous Novelist' (via Suite101)

Okay, I'm trying out something a bit different here. I've written a review of HOW I BECAME A FAMOUS NOVELIST by Steve Hely, but I've written it for Suite101, which means I can't reproduce it online (that would be competition I've agreed not to engage in, and promises is promises, right?). But I can promote my work online, which includes linking to the review in my own blogs, of which this is one.

So . . . I'll just say that the book is an almost agonizingly real depiction of the publishing game. A brilliant satire, I think I call it. Well, worth checking out. As is my review--so check them both out, okay? Thanks!

Oh, and just a footnote. Star Lawrence will continue to have guest reviews posted here. (Unless she also becomes a Suite101 writer. Who knows?) One way or other, I'll keep the reviews coming.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

'A Case Of Infatuation' Takes You to Unexpected Places

Review: A CASE OF INFATUATION (Oak Tree Press 2009)
Author: W.S. Gager

I'll admit I approached W.S. Gager's debut novel A CASE OF INFATUATION feeling hesitant.

The cover and title seemed to have "romance novel" written all over them. But I started reading and, while the book has romantic aspects to it (or at least a healthy dose of lust on the main character's part), I wouldn't describe this as a romance novel. It reads much more like a suspense-thriller with dashes of romance and police procedure folded in here and there.

The protagonist Mitch Malone is a crime reporter. I'll quote the back of the book here: "He never lets the blood and guts he covers bother him. He always works alone. And he hates kids."

Okay--I already like this guy. Loner reporter who hates kids. Yeah, but things get a bit screwed up for Mitch in that department with the grand entrance of Petrenka Peterson, who bowls Mitch over from the first chapter's opening line. Petrenka is so gorgeous and mysterious, that Mitch finds himself simply smitten with her despite all his loner bachelor instincts, which he often reminds readers about. (Quite a bit--perhaps trying real hard to convince himself?)

Petrenka has come to the paper to work as an intern. And she's assigned to work with Mitch. Which is fine with him, even though it's difficult for Mitch to keep from panting and stay focused on his job when she's near.

Mitch ends up covering a double murder. Petrenka tags along, showing fine investigative reporting instincts for an intern. (Hmm . . .) And, at the scene of the murders, they find (guess what?) a kid. The child is found sleeping in a cubbyhole. And Mitch ends up taking the kid and Petrenka under his wing to protect the child, who's a potential witness, and--well--to possibly score with Petrenka.

Things get very interesting when the local cops are taken off the case and the FBI steps in. This gets Mitch's radar buzzing. This double murder has much more to it than meets the eye. Something that could be said about almost every character in this story.

See, while Mitch is grappling with wrongful murder charges against him (because he snuck into the crime scene and carelessly left a fingerprint), he's also trying to figure Petrenka out. And deal with little Joey (the kid) who worms her way into his usually icy kid-hating heart.

And as each new character was introduced, they all seemed to have a secret agenda of some kind that kept me guessing.

By the time the book reached its climax, I wasn't even sure whether to trust Petrenka or her, um, associate.

I can't tell you much more than that without the risk of spoilers. Just know that the action builds (in great detail) to a big finish (cinematic big! with a car chase and a damsel in distress who Mitch needs to rescue) and the plot takes you through enough twists to make you dizzy. And Mitch has many questions going through his head. Who is Petrenka? Where is she? Why is she doing what she's doing? (So many questions, they made me a bit dizzy, too.)

But the plotlines are all neatly resolved in the end. And as for Mitch--well, he changes. Suffice it to say, he grows and matures into a character who I can easily see having further interesting adventures in a series. (And Petrenka? We'll see . . .)

And not only do the plot twists and character agendas surprise you, but the cover and title had me going, too. The infatuation Mitch feels isn't just for Petrenka, but for the little kid, Joey. And, as cynical and ironic as I tend to like my usual mystery reading, I'll admit, I was genuinely touched by the portrayal. The warmth in the relationship between Mitch and Joey is what gives this story its heart and makes you root for the main character. Watching Mitch change from hard-hearted loner to surrogate father figure was actually quite moving.

So, if you like suspense-thrillers with a dash of romance, a touch of gritty cop stuff and a tough-but-likable protagonist, give A CASE OF INFATUATION a try. It'll take you places you might not expect. I know I was fooled.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Will E-Books Ever Be Ready for Prime Time?

I ran across this little item that suggested e-books will never be embraced quite as fully as print books. The implicit assumption in this is that e-books will never replace print books, either.

For anyone trying to analogize the e-book to downloaded music, the author suggests there's a big difference. To quote the piece: "Books are not songs and the e-reader has a different function to [sic] a Walkman or iPod. For people who devour hundreds of books a year, they will be a boon. But the majority of book readers probably buy – what? – fewer than 25 titles a year: one a fortnight. And they do not need additional technology to enjoy their purchases. So the need to acquire an e-reader is correspondingly less urgent."

Yes, these things may be true, but . . . e-books are much cheaper to produce and, therefore, buy. So even if you're not a speed reader, it must be nice to have ready access to a whole library of books on your e-reader device (for the record, I don't own an e-reader, so I'm just imagining this). And if e-books cost less, then sales should rise--basic economics, yes? Plus it beats lugging all those books around when you're on vacation or going to school. (I believe the academic market is ripe for e-books these days.)

I know that as an author I see e-books as an amazing way to produce books at a low cost and distribute them with ease. And the potential for online marketing is awesome. Authors have little to lose from the success of e-books. (Of course, the specter of illegal downloads may make some authors nervous. But if you're trying for exposure, these considerations seem less important than simply getting your work out there.)

So, while I agree that e-books will never completely replace print books, I think there are reasons why they will succeed. The issue is how successful they'll be. Will e-books eventually become the norm? Or will they always be secondary to their print counterparts?

Good questions. Any thoughts?

Singleton Hippie Art, The Lonely Flower

The Lonely Flower (C) Singleton 2009With her sun~puckered lips,and weedy little legs,she teetered abovethe garden of little ones at her feet.And she cried.One by one,the others were whisked upby young lovers...."He loves me, he loves me not",bundled into little bouquets for Hallmark Holidays and after thoughts,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

They Speak German . . . They Carry Whips . . .

No, not dominatrices. Or sado-masochists. At least, not average-sized ones.

Apparently, there's an old novel out there about Nazi dwarves.

And, if it doesn't qualify for having the best book cover ever, it certainly comes close.

(Be sure and read the back cover story synopsis. Amazing.)

Now, where can I get a copy of this thing?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's This About Amazon Dying?

When you think about ginormous book retailers, one of the first that naturally comes to mind is Amazon. So the headline on this article in The Huffington Post sort of took me aback--like, what do you mean Amazon's dying?

The article was written by indie bookstore owner Alex Green. (So could this Amazon dying thing be wishful thinking?) He says Amazon's business model is too dependent on not paying sales tax. The problem is the law may be turning against the company on this issue.

Green argues that Amazon can't survive under its current business model, if forced to pay sales taxes. He claims: "If nationally enacted today, enforced tax legislation would put at least $1 billion of Amazon's yearly operational costs and profits into state coffers. Under such pressure, Amazon would briefly comply and then collapse. Three weeks later you would find them on the nightly news, appearing before Congress for a bailout, 'selling,' as the poet Franz Wright says, 'the emptiness of their own hands.'"

And Green says the trend toward states requiring online retailers to pay sales tax is increasing.

Hmm . . . could this really be? Could Amazon be brought to its knees by having to pay sales tax? Here's a question: Wouldn't Amazon get a grace period for compliance? And what about charging the consumer to make up the difference? And (when you come down to it) how can the state expect to get money that isn't there? I mean, it's one thing to have a judgment, a whole 'nuther to collect on it.

Plus you'll notice the qualifier "if nationally enacted"--big "if." Sales taxes are imposed state-by-state. Green does mention the Commerce Clause and suggests it may be violated by exempting online retailers from sales tax. But it's an arguable position, so it's not a given that Amazon will have to comply with a nationally-imposed sales tax requirement.

Okay, that was more than one question, plus a few opinions. In any case, it's an interesting article. And while I may have ambivalent feelings about Amazon, I wonder--could the sales tax issue really be its downfall?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The words keep coming....through the looking glass

Hmmmm. They didn’t start out prophetic. They started out as reflections. Little midnight doodlings. Obsessive Saturday night scribblings. To save my mind. To keep me breathing, in and out. Deep breaths. Manic pencil strokes that rescued me from the moment.I usually paint on the walls. The never ending, snaking ,growing taller walls that house my soul.And then, Joe died. And the clipboard with the

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Books and Technology

In the NY Times, David Pogue recently assessed the two heavyweight contenders in the e-book market: Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

And Sony has come out with a new e-book reader that costs only $199 (and one for $299, as well--cheaper than Kindle). Many of Sony's e-books will be competitively priced at $9.99--a figure that apparently represents the appropriate "market price" of e-books based on . . . whatever the powers that be based it on.

Finally, on a lower tech note, a book vending machine--or should I say a book lending machine?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

'Relentless' is Just That

Review of RELENTLESS (Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged 2009)
By guest blogger Star Lawrence

hor, Dean Koontz; read by Dan John Miller

Dean Koontz is not a poor man's Stephen King. He is his own kind of sweet, kind of overwritten, and kind of totally spellbinding self. Some people can get into that like a hot bath, others can't stand it. I am a bather . . .

RELENTLESS is one of his best yarns to date, in my humble. Yet, it is festooned with characteristic Koontz touches, which include a protag who is so grounded and loving he makes your eyelids slowly descend, only to snap open on such lines as, "We did not know then that by day's end, one of us would be shot dead."

Cubby is a novelist, a loving husband, the jokey father of a seriously smart kid (referred to by a bad guy as a "weird little Einstein"), and oh, yes, Cubby has a big secret in his past, the kind of horror you would never associate with anyone you would ever meet. You never would. Koontz would, though.

Don't laugh, but a famous book critic wants to wipe out Cubby, his wife, their weird little Einstein, and their little dog Lassie, too!

This may sound funny, but I assure you it's suspenseful and warped as hell.

Of course, I won't tell you what happens, but it involves a deus ex machina shaped like a crystal salt shaker. But you knew that, didn't you?

Anyhow, even hard-core thriller lovers will get into this one. John Dan Miller has a pleasing tenor, rendering even the most banal inter-familial banter interesting and believable.

You're just never ready for the odd line that jumps in. "I don’t think you're ready for this, Dad, it's not a salt shaker anymore."

Star Lawrence owns a recession-coping site called Do the Hopey Copey at She can be reached at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'Identity Crisis' is on Sale in August--10% Off!!

Hello, readers! Yes, Debbi the reviewer and blogger is speaking to you as Debbi the author now. My recently reissued novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, is available at 10% off the usual price until the end of August.

All you have to do to get your hands on a brand new copy (with an awesome new cover--the one you see to the left) is click here and enter the code README at checkout. It’s simple–and you get all the same great mystery reading at less cost.

Such a deal!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

'Gumbo Justice': Uneasy Times in the Big Easy

Review: GUMBO JUSTICE (Oak Tree Press 2009)
Author, Holli Castillo

Does it hurt yet?

Those are the opening words to GUMBO JUSTICE and they haunt the main character, Ryan Murphy, for reasons made clear much later in the story.

When we meet Ryan, she's being roused in the dead of night after drinking way too much tequila and falling off her bar stool into what she sincerely hopes is beer. The phone rings and Ryan is summoned to a crime scene. So she's a cop? No! She's a New Orleans assistant district attorney with a boss who's a bit overeager to impress voters during an election year by having his staff show up at crime scenes. But it is a police procedural, right? Not exactly.

GUMBO JUSTICE starts out as a legal drama-cum-police procedural, with the hint of something more creepy in store after we see a strange man named Jacob watching Ryan from his hiding place at what turns out to be the scene of several murders in the same housing project. And they all have one thing in common--which I won't go into for fear of spoiling any of the story. Let's just say there's a common thread and it leads to trouble for Ryan.

This all takes place during a too-hot spring in New Orleans, the Big Easy--you can really feel the steam heat, the sweaty brows and dampened shirts in Holli Castillo's description. And it's a city depicted (warts and all) as a bold clash of sweet-smelling narcissus and lavish mansions with shabby shacks and impoverished housing projects.

Ryan is a tough talking, hard-drinking gal who dresses down and flaunts her belly ring with impunity at the opening crime scene, not caring what the police captain (aka, her daddy) thinks. She puts on her game face around the cops--Sean, her brother; Shep, the cute one; Spence, the big strong guy. (So many "S" names!) One of whom she's secretly attracted to--leading to a hint of romance (at least, Ryan hopes so--even if she won't quite admit it to herself at first).

Castillo does a great job of weaving in all the cop procedural details, along with the legal stuff without getting too technical (being a criminal defense lawyer and former New Orleans prosecutor probably helps, huh?). And we get to see Ryan strut her stuff in court a bit. At times, she pulls a couple of TV lawyer maneuvers that had me shaking my head, but smiling at her antics (even Ryan admits she's going somewhat over-the-top). And since most of the story's told from her point of view, we get the benefit of her many sardonic remarks and snappy one-liners, like one in the first chapter, when she's hastily rolling on deodorant: "While people might call her a bitch, Ryan wasn't going to let anyone say she stunk." Got to admire a woman whose got her priorities straight, right?

But beneath that tough exterior, Ryan's a woman with ghosts in her past. Traumas from childhood and the more recent past come together to create a dark, disturbing situation for her.

The story builds in tension with each murder until the common thread emerges and Ryan must face the danger head on.

From that point, the story takes a turn into full-tilt suspense/thriller mode. The narrative shifts to the creepy Jacob more often and you hear more about how much he hates Ryan and ultimately wants to kill her. (And just so you know, that's not a spoiler. Jacob clearly despises Ryan when you first meet him and has some kind of dire plan for her.)

During the last third or so of the book, I could hardly read fast enough. I kept turning pages, anxious to see how things turned out.

And when all was revealed about Jacob, it left me with my jaw hanging in complete surprise. I'm usually pretty good at anticipating suspense/thriller revelations, but this one came at me from out of left field. And, looking back on it, the author played fair with the reader by providing clues hidden in plain sight.

Finally, the book ended with one of the most clever and astonishing twists I've seen in a while. Again, I was completely blindsided.

So if you like tough gal protagonists, particularly of the legal persuasion, I highly recommend GUMBO JUSTICE. It has a nice blend of police investigation, lawyering, suspense and even a little romance--sort of like Law and Order and suspense masters like Grisham and Patterson, all mixed up together (like gumbo?) in the Big Easy--with a big finish that I never saw coming.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Singleton Hippie Art, The Girl who had only been Kissed by the Sun

The Girl who had Only been Kissed by the Sun (c) Singleton 2009And there she wasall legs and sun freckled arms,Eyes heavy with Morning dreamsand 99 cent Mascara from the night before,whenShe met him.Not for the first time,or even the hundreth,but the only timethat shenoticed his smile...the way he looked at

Save Earth! Support Your Local Bookstore

I think I may have already posted this video on my eco-blog, Green Reality Check, but it's completely appropriate for this blog, too. Besides it's so funny that, if it was worth posting once, it's worth posting again. (I'm a "green" blogger. I'm all about recycling content.) So check it out--it made me snicker and even laugh out loud, while making a great point about the environmental benefits of buying from local booksellers.

So, go forth and do the "green" thing. Buy from your local bookstore.

Earth hangs in the balance, people!

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