Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Book Review: How to Survive a Killer Seance

Try a book review from Carl Brookins. I've got to read this one!
How to Survive A Killer Séance

By Penny Warner
Mass Market release in 2011
by Obsidian, 290 pages.


Party planner Presley Parker is back. In another delightfully cozy murder mystery, she’s got herself enmeshed with some high-roller, high energy, digital silicon-valley types who are nothing if not focused. The problem is they seem to have left everything resembling human values back at the starting gate. Compassion? Nowhere to be found. Fidelity? It is to laugh.

The women are sexy and high energy, the guys are bright and energetic, if often ill-tempered, and poor Presley is caught between some over-stressed corporate types, her own urges and career needs, and her flakey mother. It’s easy to see where Penny gets some of her idiosyncrasies.

A wide range of characters? You bet. Unusual ideas and offbeat characters? Absolutely. This author fully understands what her readers are looking for and in spite of having already produced a huge number of enjoyable books, she continues to plumb her creative muse to write stories that satisfy a certain risibility and belief in the quirkiness of human nature.
A fast read, well-plotted, with a setting to die for, and characters that are distinct. This is yet another of Penny Warner’s diverting, novels. Here there is no gloom or doom, just a murder or two in dark rooms, secret passageways, unreal emanations and a fast romp to a perfectly designed conclusion.

Carl Brookins
http://www.carlbrookins.com/, www.agora2.blogspot.com
Devils Island, Bloody Halls, Reunion, Red Sky
more at Kindle, Smashwords & OmniLit!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Short Story for you: Ruff Love

This one is pretty different from the last one. Hope you like it!


   Jenna lowered her grocery bags to the kitchen counter and closed her eyes. As she counted to ten mentally, she gritted her teeth and watched her five year-old son toss a candy wrapper in the direction of the trashcan.

She forced her mouth into a smile. “Hey, Sport, how about you and me take the dogs for a walk?”

He shook his head. “Nah, you do it. I’m going to watch television.”

“Well, only for a minute. I’ll get these groceries put away and then we’ll go out.”

Reaching into a bag for the milk, Jenna sighed. She knew Justin would make a fuss if he didn’t get to watch his show, just as he had done at the grocery store over the candy bar. Every time she denied him anything, he fought harder. He would hate her if they continued to butt heads like this, and more than anything she feared losing his love.

While she moved around the kitchen putting things away, she pondered the three weeks since Justin had been out of kindergarten. She had known, of course, about his teachers’ problems with him. At home, however, Justin had seemed agreeable enough. Having him at home with her all day for the summer showed her a different side of him. Justin was pleasant enough when he got his way, but defiant when he didn’t. She and Steve, her husband had talked, begged, lectured, and offered rewards for better behavior. They had tried it all.

Only last weekend, Justin crossed his arms over his chest and stated he did not want the ham sandwich his grandmother made for him. While her sister’s kids munched happily, Jenna heated a can of ravioli for her son, hoping to avoid a scene. When he wouldn’t eat that either, she caught the raised eyebrows of her sister and the answering shake of her mother’s head. Meanwhile, Justin rolled his eyes at her, reached for the rejected sandwich, and took a bite. Maybe she just wasn’t cut out to be a mother.

The family’s Sheltie whined and pawed at the doggy door, reminding her mistress that she and the puppy had been cooped up in the small yard all day. When their entry door was unlatched, the four year-old mother, Maggie, and the three month-old, Hamlet, bounced into the kitchen, tails swishing with joy. Jenna’s mood slid from behind the dark cloud as she crooned their names and rubbed them both from one end to the other. She laughed when Hamlet lay down and turned his pink belly up for a tummy rub.

As she sat back in her chair, Jenna watched Maggie lick Hamlet’s ears and settle down beside him. The puppy pulled himself over a few inches, pawed through the long fur, and nestled on Maggie’s tail for a nap. Maggie turned to sniff him and looked up expectantly.

“You’re a good mother, Maggie girl,” Jenna said. “Not every dog would put up with him the way you do.”

Crrack! came a loud popping noise. Jenna bolted down the hall to the family room where the television blared.

She rushed into the room. “Justin? Are you okay?”

Justin sat in the floor holding a toy screwdriver, fascinated, watching a DVD Tray slide with in and out over and over, something inside scraping with each ejection. She pressed the power button, but the machine continued to spit the DVD halfway out then pull it back it. Jenna hurried to the far wall and pulled the plug from the electrical outlet, halting the barrage.

“Justin, what were you doing?”

His brows lowered and lips shoved out. “Just playing! Put it back on.”

“Give me the screwdriver.” Jenna extended her hand.


“Justin. I’m going to count to ten. One, two, three…”

Instead of handing her the toy, he reached over to DVD player and jammed it into the slot, peering up at his mother with narrowed eyes and a smug smile.

She felt her mouth drop open and tried to think what to do next. After a moment, Jenna knelt on the carpet and reached around to unhook the wires that connected it to the television. Standing, she lifted the DVD player above Justin’s head, forcing him to let go of his toy. He screamed and pounded his other fist on the door of the entertainment center.

“Give that to me!” He swung his arms above his head, trying to catch a cord dangling over her arm.

“Stop it, Justin.” Jenna recognized the same whine in her voice she heard in his. “You’ve already torn it up.”

“Then it don’t matter, does it?”

“Yes, it matters. What did you think you were doing anyway?”

“I wanted to see what was in there.”


“Yeah, what makes it so special anyway? You and Daddy make such a big deal about touching it.”

She stared at him. “Oh, Justin, which one is it? Not our wedding tape!” she said.

“Yeah, that one. Give me it.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

“No. Now turn off that television and go to your room. I’ll come get you when I’m ready to take Maggie out.” She padded from the room. Behind her she heard a loud thud and knew that her son had thrown something at the door. She wondered if it was aimed at her.

Back in the kitchen, Jenna cried silently and ran her thumb over the deep scratches on the disk. She could get another copy, but she couldn’t get another little boy. She wanted him to be happy, but it seemed like the only thing he liked was aggravating her and his father. The proof lay in her hands.

She glanced up as Maggie skulked, heads down, toward the door with Hamlet behind her. Any kind of conflict upset Maggie and she, no doubt, thought she was in trouble. Jenna spoke quietly to let her know things were calm. “It’s okay, darling. You’re a good girl. Nobody’s mad at you.” She gave her a pat on the head, looking into soft brown eyes. Maggie nuzzled her hand and the gentleness of her touch felt like sympathy, which caused another tear to slide down her face. “Oh, Maggie, what am I doing wrong? Taking care of Justin is my main job and I’m so bad at it.”

Frustrated with the lack of attention, Hamlet pushed between them and jumped on Maggie’s face, biting her on the ear. His mother’s reaction was immediate. She shook him off, her face twisted into a snarl, and nipped at his rump as he tucked his tail and ran. And then it was over. Maggie turned a placid face to Jenna, barely glancing at Hamlet when he crept around the other side and leaned into her.

Jenna blinked. Then, she stroked Maggie, gave Hamlet at tickle, and stood. “Thank you, Maggie. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some snapping of my own to do.”


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A book review: Tomb With A View

While I work on a new short story and a bit of editing, I am posting a  book review for you from my colleague, Carl Brookins. Looks like a good one!

Tomb With A View

By Casey Daniels

ISBN: 9780425235515
2010 mass market release from Berkley Prime Crime

Pair one of our less interesting presidents, James A. Garfield, with a cute slender, sexually aware private detective, cum medium, and what do you get? You get this delightful cozy mystery, one of several in Casey Daniel’s series of Pepper Martin adventures.

But be warned. If you don’t like a bad pun or two, several tongue-in-cheek jokes and a huge riff on one of the presidents of these United States, this delightful novel isn’t your cup of tea.

On the other hand, if your humor runs to the mildly risqué, you don’t mind a self-aware sexy cemetery tour guide(!) who happens to be reluctantly channeling the dead President, and you enjoy fast-paced well-conceived criminally artful plots, this latest adventure of Pepper Martin is definitely a winner.

Around every prominent figure in history there swirls scandal and scandal attracts the greedy. If this author is to be believed, an incredibly audacious land swap plan was under way when anarchist Charles Guiteau fired the bullet that cut short what might have been a sterling presidential career.

That’s all in the past. What’s here and now, is a well-managed funny, and twisty story peopled with interesting characters, not the least of whom is one well-named, Pepper Martin.

Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.
Devils Island, Bloody Halls, Reunion, Red Sky
more at Kindle, Smashwords & OmniLit!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To Be a Writer - I'm already there!

Today is March 1st, which means it's 30 days until my novel comes out as an e-book. Snowstorm is my first novel, and it seems like I've been working on it forever. Now, as the release date gets close, I'm happy and excited, but also slightly terrified.

What if, after all the work and anticipation, it isn't well-received? Argh! It's a hard thought to take.

On the other hand, it's another in a long, long series of what ifs. When I started writing, it was "what if" I really could  pull together a novel. Now that would be an accomplishment, I thought, even if nobody else ever looked at it. Then it was, what if it gets good feedback at the writer's conference. When that happened, it was what if an editor asked for it, and liked it, and made a contract offer, and on and on.

So now, here I am thinking what if it sells? What if it doesn't? If it does:: hallelujah! If it doesn't,  I will keep at it, because by now I really am a writer. I will keep writing, that much I know.  I spent too long doing other things and found writing too late to give it up now.

Over the past several years, writing and the challenges of the field have taught me things about myself I never knew. Abilities, values,  faults, and weaknesses have shown themselves to me. Whatever happens with the book and my success, writing teaches the writer to examine things in new ways. And that, I can never give up.