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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Win during our 5th Anniversary Party!

We're celebrating our 5th Anniversary with a huge party -- where you can win $100 Amazon GC, $50 Amazon GC, and hundreds of smaller prizes:  books, $5 Amazon GCs and more!

Anniversary Blog Fest: Russell James


When I was a kid, summer vacation was a bit like being put in suspended animation. The wide circle of friends at school contracted to those in pedaling distance. The daily exercise of mental expansion paused, replaced by the holding pattern of summer day camp. By August, while I lamented the shortening of days, there was also a bit of excitement about the return to school. New classrooms, new books, new clothes and new adventures with old friends.

In my latest novel, Sacrifice, six friends go their separate ways after high school graduation. In the aftermath of battling the supernatural, their friendships enter summer suspended animation, like accident victims placed in voluntary comas. Each fears those bonds of friendship cannot bear the weight of the sacrifices made for the good of others.

It takes thirty years for that summer break to end, for the most outcast of the six to call the others home to face a task they all thought was long finished. But the excitement they used to feel reuniting in the fall has morphed into trepidation. After all this time, and all they had endured, had those bonds between them broken forever or just stretched? Would they be strong enough if they again faced the entity they called The Woodsman?

Don’t you wait for thirty years or the arrival of a vengeful spirit. Take this autumn to find someone you used to look forward to seeing in autumns past. Social media makes it easier than ever. And if you need something to read while you wait for their response, download Sacrifice as an ebook anywhere you buy ebooks. Available in paper in November.

Facebook fan page:
About the Author: Russell R. James was raised on Long Island, New York, and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Dark Shadows, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he became a technical writer by day and spins twisted tales by night.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”

He has published the paranormal thriller Dark Inspiration in 2011 and Sacrifice in 2012 with Samhain. His third novel Black Magic will be published in 2013. His short stories appeared at Tales of Old, Encounters and Dark Gothic Resurrected magazines. He is a founding member of the Minnows Literary Group.

He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Anniversary Blog Fest: Alison Stone


What I Did During My Summer Vacation

This summer marked my twenty-fifth high school reunion. When the invitation arrived, my mind immediately drifted back to the days I strolled the halls of good ol’ Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls high school. I was rather quiet in high school. I spent my nights and weekends babysitting and studying. I was voted “most studious” my senior year. One of the happiest days of my high school career was when I wore the traditional white gown and carried red roses down the aisle on graduation night. I moved onto college without a backward glance.

Flash forward twenty-five years and I decided to go to the reunion. The last time I went to a reunion, only ten years had passed and I don’t think I had enough distance yet from my teen years. At my twenty-five year reunion, I got reacquainted with women who were moms, pharmacists, professors, college department chairs, elementary principals, saleswomen, and physician assistants. I chatted with women who were funny, caring, interesting and a lot like me. Many of us laughed and wondered why we didn’t hang out in high school.

In high school, I was barely aware of who I was, yet I thought I knew who everyone else was. I imagine I wasn’t alone in my thinking considering all the teen-angst movies from Breakfast Club to Mean Girls. We pigeon-holed “the brains” and “the jocks” and “the popular girls” thinking the groups didn’t have anything in common. I know that’s what I thought. I rarely went outside my comfort zone to make friends with girls who had interests different than my own.

As we said our good-byes at the reunion, we promised not to wait five years to meet again. Maybe the passage of time or the maturity of being forty-something finally made us realize the labels we imposed on ourselves or others were completely one dimensional. Maturity allowed us to look beyond the differences to really get to know the person underneath.

I am so happy I attended my high school reunion this summer. Now, looking back, I can reframe my high school experience. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know more of these fantastic women twenty-five years ago.

About the Author:
After working in Corporate America for a number of years, Alison Stone retired to raise her young family. Soon the writing bug bit. After years of conferences, critique groups and writing, Alison achieved her dream of becoming a published author. Too Close to Home is her second novel. Her third romantic suspense will be released by Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense in 2013.

Find Alison online at

Twitter: @Alison_Stone

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Jennifer Brown, whose debut novel In Jen's Words: Facing the Issues has been released from No Boundaries Press. She will give away a download of it to one commenter on today's interview.

Jennifer has been writing since the third grade, when her reading teacher assigned the class to groups to write a short story. Before then, she wanted to be a secretary. She ended up hooked and entered the Young Author's competition a year later. All through middle school she wrote short storied that she stapled in between construction paper and even gave some away as Christmas gifts. The summer before she entered high school, she finished writing a whole "book" filling up an entire notebook.

As she was growing up, The Babysitter's Club, The Hollisters and Nancy Drew were big influences on her. The first thing she wrote was titled The Mystery Club where the characters were young kids based on her and her friends. She created a character in his twenties who was based on an actor she had a crush on them to guide them in solving cases. Now that she's older, a wider range of authors have inspired her from V.C. Andrews to Harlan Coben.

Jennifer is working on the next book in the In Jen's Words series, which will deal with a storyline just hinted at in Facing the Issues. The story picks up right where Facing the Issues left off and takes place around the holidays.

"What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing Facing the Issues?" I asked.

"I worked with the main characters, the Barnes, years ago and decided to bring them into another storyline a few years ago. As Jen’s mental illness was revealed, it was quite a shock to me. It was unexpected and at the same time very exciting. For research, I read up on the disorder Jen has. I got a book from the library on it, and did research online as well. It also helps when you have a friend who is a doctor in the psychology field who can answer questions."

Jennifer's favorite author is Linwood Barclay.

"He has very good engaging storylines and well-written twists," she explained. "His books are so addicting, I find myself taking my time reading them because I want to try to make it last."

She tries to come up with unique twists in her own books as well.

"I love the unexpected when it comes to writing," she said, "and I also love it while reading so I do try to incorporate that as much as possible while working on a novel."

I asked her to describe her writing space.

"My writing space varies, since I do most of the basic work in a composition book. But most of the final work starts and ends on my computer, so I will describe my desk. My computer sits on top of a cubby hole underneath my desk, where all my wip’s are neatly stacked. I have a shelf above, that holds an assortment of the penguins and squirrels I collect, as well as a mini lamp, and hideaway box that looks like a stack of books that conceals my back up flash drive."

When she's not writing, she loves to read. She also likes playing video games and experimenting with photos and graphics on the computer.

"I made the mistake of having Burger Time downloaded onto my flash drive I always carry with me that my writing is also stored on. But it makes for a lot of fun until my writer’s block disappears," she told me.

"What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?" I asked.

"Being told not to give up was the best advice ever given to me. As for the worst, I’d have to say being advised to make an outline before starting the novel. I hated doing outlines in school, and starting one for a novel to me just seems to be a waste of time. I have the plot already formulated in my mind, and I just let the characters carry me along as the story develops. For the most part, this process has rarely let me down, but even when you have an outline, things don’t always sail smoothly, things always change."

Her own advice for a new writer is very simple.

"If you are enjoying what you are doing and it makes you happy don’t stop, and don’t let someone else put you down for it. You will always have critics, but if you believe in what you’re doing there’s bound to be someone else who will as well."

I asked Jennifer her thoughts about ebooks vs. print.

"Nothing will ever compare to the feeling of holding a print book in your hand," she told me. "But the ebook is evolving, and does seem to be becoming a huge part of publishing. Sadly, it’s contributing to book stores going out of business but it is easier and less expensive to download a book. Both have their pros and cons, but ultimately I still have a very large shelf of paperbacks."

Jennifer has several favorite quotes, but one of her absolute favorites is from her favorite author, Ray Bradbury: You must stay drunk on writing or reality will destroy you.

" There have been so many times in my life, that if I didn’t have the ability to write, I really don’t know how I would have gotten through them," she confessed. "Writing is great therapy, and does serve as an excellent antidrug."

About the Author:
Jennifer Brown is from Springfield, Ohio and started writing in the third grade, the following year entering a Young Author's competition. Her passion led her throughout school, becoming a reporter for her high school newspaper and college newspaper where she served as entertainment editor for each one. She has always been driven to write fiction, and at 36, has published her first suspense novel with No Boundaries Press.

Find Jennifer online at

Jennifer and Justin Barnes have been raised by their older brother Jacob since they were teenagers…little did Jacob know, he was raising a third personality as well.

The Barnes have been through it all. The loss of their parents in a car crash, rape, and incarceration. But nothing could prepare them for what they are about to deal with.

When Jacob decides to run for mayor of Springwood, Ohio, someone else decides to haunt him and his family, using his younger sister’s alter personality as leverage in their game.

After Jen’s mental disorder is made public, the first of many shocking revelations are made, including who her biological father really is. She is ordered into custody in the mental health wing of Springwood Memorial as a case is built against her for the murder of Davis Cauley, a former local news anchor.

Jacob gets his sister released in time for the holidays, only for another murder to occur. The body of Brenda Sowers, Davis Cauley’s sister is found in Mercy Park, the same area where her brother was found—in a storage shed, with hedge clippers in his back, and Jen across from him with no memory of what happened.

More incriminating evidence links Jen to Brenda’s murder, as Black Friday looms. The big weekend draws Jacob to the mall, where he’s in for another surprise. A photo of his brother sent to his phone reveals another huge secret, involving all of Springwood.

As the Barnes recover from what has been a very turbulent Fall, other secrets are lurking and waiting to be revealed as a family faces a trial of issues to come.

Sunday, August 19, 2012



Congratulations to our big winners for this weekend's festivities:

Winner of $25 Amazon or Gift Certificate---Barbara E who commented on CH Admirand's post

Winner of $50 Amazon or Gift Certificate--Lisa who commented on Vala Kay's guest blog --

Remember that our scavenger hunt starts tomorrow (see our Anniversary Page for details on how you can win a $100 Amazon or GC!

Anniversary Blog Fest: Liese Sherwood-Fabre


A Few of My Favorite (Summer) Things

Growing up in Texas, summer was hot, hot, hot—but not in a good way like in the song. Despite the heat, summer’s unique features still made it special for me:

1) No homework! For three months (give or take), I didn’t have to worry about whether I got my report done or vocabulary words memorized. I could watch Walt Disney’s show without fretting about a Monday-morning deadline.

2) Sleeping late. This is a corollary to “no homework” and “no school.” Getting up when desired remains one of my greatest secret luxuries.

3) Summer camp. Starting in the seventh grade, I spent at least a week living in primitive conditions (i.e., no air conditioning!). Each year, I renewed acquaintances and enjoyed another of my secret loves--the yeast rolls served at lunch and dinner. I’ve never found their equal.

4) Choir trips. Our church had a very active hand-bell choir program and each year, we attended a regional or national festival. Before the national events, we toured between Dallas and the festival city, stopping at different churches to play a concert and then spend the night with a host family before heading to the next stop. I visited several sites I would’ve never seen otherwise—the Grand Canyon, the spring Ponce de Leon believed was the fountain of youth, and a replica of the first submarine developed during the Civil War.

5) Swimming. My mother never learned to swim and considered it imperative for her children to learn. Our local public pool offered lessons and while I’ll never be a gold-medalist, I can make to shore if the boat doesn’t sink too far away.

6) Cold watermelon. Is there anything sweeter or more refreshing when it’s 110° in the shade? (That is, besides air conditioning?)

7) Fresh peaches. We had peach trees in our backyard and summer meant having peaches on everything—your cereal in the morning, in homemade ice cream, in cobbler. To this day, I can’t eat the ones from the store because they don’t taste like the ripe ones picked straight off a tree.

8) Family vacations. My parents always struggled with money, but we could still pile in the car and drive north into Oklahoma or Kansas and visit relatives.

9) Daytime TV. In the days before cable, the shows were limited, but the afternoon included an old movie with “Dialing for Dollars” during the breaks. They never called our house, but I would have been ready with the amount if they had!

10) Six Flags over Texas. The original park was built outside Dallas, and we saved all year to buy tickets for the whole family. I can’t catch a whiff of creosote without being transported back to standing in line to ride the roller coaster.

Reviewing this list makes me realize how simple some of my memories of summer were—like peaches and watermelon—but how much they were a part of the simple joys I experienced each summer. What about you? What says “summer” to you?

In a desperate attempt to save her daughter's life, an unemployed microbiologist falls into the Russian underworld and a plan to export a deadly biological weapon.

"[A] tantalizing premise that toys with the most basic of emotions." --Steve Berry

A collection of three award-winning literary short stories exploring the impact of love.

"A fine and engaging story." --Phil Hey, editor, Briar Cliff Review

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Anniversary Blog Fest: Bev Irwin


How did I spend my summer vacation?

Well definitely not the way I had planned.

I had such great aspirations. I was going to write at least, at least 1,000 words a day. I had twelve days off from work. 1,000 words a day, well there’s at least 12,000 words. Right? That would be almost 1/4 of the way to getting a 50,000 word novel done. What a great start.

But did that happen?

No. Nor did get sorted all my stacks of papers from writing courses I have taken over the years, or articles I’ve saved, or the mass of pages I have written over the years.

Did I make a dent? Yes, I made a dent, but a very small one. Papers are still strewn all over my living room, on the backs of two chesterfields, and the cushions. I think the coffee table is still under the papers but it will be a while before I see the bright gleam of its oak surface.

Company coming. What do I do? Blindfold them at the door until they cross the threshold into the relatively clean kitchen, make them promise to keep their eyes closed while I lead them past the mess, (I know if I ask nicely they won’t peek), or do I stay up all night and get the damned pages sorted?

Well, I made a compromise. I stayed up very late and sorted some of the papers and put them in assorted binders or folders. But as my eyes couldn’t focus any more, and my bed was singing a soothing lullaby, I gave in and promised myself to just lie down and rest for a few minutes, just a few...My eyes were so heavy.

Then the sun rudely woke me. Surely the clock was lying. How much could I get done before my company arrived? Not near enough. Now half of the papers are in distinct piles that I’m sure I get done on my next vacation.
,br> So what was my excuse for not writing those 1000 words a day, not getting all of the papers sorted, not to mention the basement that was supposed to be cleaned?

My excuse?

A gorgeous little ball of blonde fluff. Her name is Shayla. At eight weeks of age my new four-legged forever friend is very demanding. She has to pee and poo and be feed. And doesn’t like to be left alone for one minute. So, what can I say. Is she not the cutest excuse ever!?

I can always get the pages sorted and the words written on my next vacation.

Bev Irwin

Anniversary Blogfest: Judy Alter


My mixed-blessing summer
All the long school year, I walked across the street at three in the afternoon to pick up my kindergartener grandson, Jacob. I loved the way he would hug his teacher and get a hug in return. Then he’d tuck his hand in mine, because we don’t cross the street without holding on—particularly with all the crazy parents driving and breaking all kinds of safety rules in their haste to get their darlings. On pleasant days, other children sometimes stopped for a few minutes of wild play with Jacob. While they chased and tackled each other, I visited with their parents. Then it was inside and the usual question, “What do you want for a snack?” Once beyond that, I’d announce it was time for homework, and Jacob would regularly say, “I want to do it at my house tonight.” I would explain that it was a big help to his parents if we did it before they left work, and I held firm. Only after homework could Jacob wander out to play with my dogs or turn on the TV until his mom arrived, usually by 4:30 but sometimes as late as eight.

My summer was a vacation from Jacob—a decidedly mixed blessing. I missed him terribly, and I had a cupboard full of uneaten granola bars and a fridge of fruit yogurt. But I had those lovely long afternoons all to myself. I wrote, committing 40,000 words to paper in July alone, although I’m a sporadic writer—I write in bursts, two hours at the most, sometimes twice a day but sometimes only once. I read mysteries, though not nearly as much as I would have liked; and I napped—those late afternoon naps that are my idea of luxury. I spent long days at home alone, another mixed blessing when I longed for a human to talk to in person—the telephone isn’t the same.

School starts in three weeks, and I’ll be walking across the street again. I’ll be glad to have Jacob back in my daily life, but oh, I’ll miss those naps. And if I don’t write in the morning, I may not get any writing done all day.

Yes, vacation was a mixed blessing.

Find Judy online at

Web page:
Facebook author page:!/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857

Wednesday, August 15, 2012



This post is part of a virtual book tour scheduled by Goddess Fish Promotions. Don will giving away reader's choice of a copy of one of his books on to one randomly chosen commenter. Click on the banner above to see the other stops on the tour.

Why You Shouldn’t Beat Up Your Critiquer

Will that next agent or editor buy your manuscript?

Will they even read it?

Well, probably not.

The fact is, they’ll usually reject your work after glancing at the first page. While some may hint at problems they see there, most will return your work with a well-worded form rejection letter. They don’t critique your work because of time constraints, but they also know that, in general, you’ll not like or believe what they have to say.

It’s an open secret in the writing industry. Most unpublished writers will never be published, because of their first paragraphs. Many send problem-riddled manuscripts to editor after editor, believing they are perfect. In the mean time they blithely build the same flaws into their next manuscript, not knowing they’re making those mistakes. Unless someone tells them what the problems are, their manuscripts will be rejected the rest of their lives. Telling them, of course, is what professional editors do.

Note, however, that while you may not recognize problems in your manuscript, someone does! Those editors! They quickly spot them in a manuscript’s first chapter—often on the first page—and reject the submission without further reading. They know the rest of the manuscript contains the same mistakes, just as we know an iceberg’s submerged part is made up of more of the same ice seen on top. But they simply don’t have the time or inclination to teach authors their writing skills, and certainly don’t want to get into conversations where they must defend their findings. So they send out “sorry, it’s not for us” letters and move on to the next manuscript in their bulging slush piles.

One reason editors won’t offer advice is, unfortunately, that many writers refuse to believe them when they do. It’s a problem I constantly run into as a professional fiction editor and online writing instructor. As an example, in a recent class I explained what an “opening hook” was, and asked students to develop one and send me their first few paragraphs for review. Then I made a mistake that sent a flash fire through the classroom.

I thought I’d do those students a favor and edit those paragraphs, not just comment on their hooks. I put my editing into a document and, realizing we all can learn from each other’s mistakes, suggested that students look at all the entries, not just their own.

I got a seething response from one student, and realized I’d made a tactical mistake. She told me her story really got going on the next page, and that I was wrong to tear it up the way I did. She defended her work with gusto. Hey, other people had seen the chapter, and said it was just fine! When I explained readers wouldn’t get past the first two paragraphs to see that great work, she said, “Well—some will!”

I’ve since resolved never to touch that hot stove again, and will only edit for writers who realize their work can be improved, and who give me explicit permission to do it.

I really should have learned this lesson from a prior experience. A few years ago I saw a dozen “first chapters” while serving as a romance writer contest judge, and edited the first two or three pages of each to show areas where the writers could improve their work. Remember, these writers had polished their work to within an inch if its death, so the work was as good as they could do. I got a scorching letter from one writer who flailed me heavily about the head and shoulders, pointing out that my editing would crush other writers’ egos (but not hers, she hastened to add). She accused me of editing the submissions as a way to get new clients.

I never did that again.

Another time I attended a local group’s critique session where six writers read their pages. When it came my time to offer my view on one submission I pointed out the writer’s dialog was much too long—some passages went for pages without a break—and suggested ways to cut it down and make it user-friendly. The attendees were silent for a moment, then the gentleman across from me said, “But that’s her voice!” He turned to her and said, “I wouldn’t change a thing,” to which she replied, “Oh, I won’t. I won’t!”

I saw her across the room as I left the meeting, and realized I was looking at a writer who probably would never be published.

The point of all this? When someone critiques or edits your work, thank them for their insight and move on. Just as you shouldn’t argue with a reviewer, you shouldn’t beat up your critiquer. And recognize that some of those critiquers may actually know what they’re doing.

The lesson I took home from those incidents is to keep my criticisms to myself, at least until I’m specifically asked to give them. I’ll join those editors and agents by smiling, commenting on the author’s sincerity and good ideas, and move on.

About the Author:
Don McNair, now a prolific fiction writer, spent most of his working life editing magazines (11 years), producing public relations materials for the Burson-Marsteller international PR firm (6 years), and heading his own marketing communications firm, McNair Marketing Communications (21 years). His creativity has won him three Golden Trumpets for best industrial relations programs from the Publicity Club of Chicago, a certificate of merit award for a quarterly magazine he wrote and produced, and the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries.

McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and three published non-fiction “how-to” books (Tab Books). He’s also written six novels; two young-adult novels (Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses and The Long Hunter), three romantic suspense novels Mystery on Firefly Knob, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, and co-authored Wait for Backup!), and a romantic comedy (BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck).

McNair now concentrates on editing novels for others, teaching two online editing classes (see, and writing his next romance novel. He is author of Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Agents and Publishers Crave, a self-editing book to be published by Quill Drivers Books on April 1, 2013.

Brenda Maxwell’s new interior design client tells her to “paint, wallpaper, whatever” his hundred-year-old landmark mansion, “but for God’s sake, don’t go overboard.” When she figures her grandiose plans will fit handily into his edict’s “whatever” section, they’re launched into a constant head-bumping mode.

Brenda’s poor money management skills (that’s his view, but what does he know?) and lawyer David Hasbrough’s ridiculous need to control her life (that’s her well-reasoned evaluation of the situation) combine to keep the battle going. Is this couple’s romantic goose cooked? Well, she can’t be near him without sparks flying and goose bumps popping out everywhere. But that mansion has to be done right!

NOTE: Don McNair actually lived in this house, and did the very things to it that he has heroine Brenda Maxwell do.

When Erica Phillips visits choice inherited property on a Cumberland Plateau knob overlooking a beautiful valley, she finds scientist Mike Callahan camped there to study unique fireflies. She needs to sell it fast to buy a new building for her antiques business, but he freaks out when a condo builder offers her a contract. Miffed, she tells him, “If I have my way, this place will be sold within the week. And, Mr. Callahan, I will have my way!”

Their budding romance plays out before a background of a murder mystery, distrust, and heart-racing hormones. Will it blossom into a lifetime relationship?

Monday, August 6, 2012



This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kalen will award a $25 Green Gift Card from -- redeemable for GCs from hundreds of your favorite merchants to one randomly drawn commenter.

Critique Groups Give Writers a Great Workout

While I’ve been known to joke about critique groups (I made a short animated video early in 2011 titled “Beta Readers’ Critique Session” - ), they’ve been pivotal for improving my writing Getting differing perspectives from others who understand the writing craft help stretch the writing muscles. I feel that critique groups are a worthy part of a writer’s routine.

Having other sets of eyes to review one’s work is great at catching inconsistencies. For example, critique members have pointed out when I had traffic lights working during a blackout. But, those critiquing can also catch nuances that aren’t errors of consistency. I’m grateful that other writers have helped me see when I admittedly overuse words or phrases. There can also be larger points bridged in critiques regarding plot pacing or setting descriptions, for example. A specific critique group will often have its own rhythm and kinds of advice given between members.

Incorporating others’ advice into one’s work is solely the writer’s responsibility, not those critiquing, so I find it best to think of critiques as suggestions. Since different members may give conflicting advice, it is impossible to make changes based on every point made. But, the decision over whether to make a change or not based on a critique is likely to strengthen one’s writing over time. I like to think of going to a critique group as analogous to a trip to the gym to lift weights. Gradually, a writer builds better muscle for writing through regular group attendance.

Just as gyms and health clubs vary given equipment and ambiance, so too do critique groups. Critique groups may be face-to-face or online. Some groups focus on specific genres. Some tend to be supportive and others more critical. As groups vary, I don’t believe there’s only one ideal type of critique group for every writer.

What is most important is a writer gets what he needs from a critique group to improve his own work. A given group may only build a writer’s capacity in limited ways. A writer can always belong to more than one. I find an online critique forum helps supplement what I get from the group I’ve attended face-to-face for several years. It may take more than one group for a full range writing workout.

During the critique group process, a writer observes as members critique other writers. I find watching how other writers respond to critiques gives me insight into my own patterns. When silently observing instead of participating while one member critiques another, I have emotional distance. Since critiques I’ve received are usually fresh in my mind at the time, that distance gives me more room for breakthroughs to occur – another unique benefit of the group dynamic.

So, I do suggest other writers join critique groups. While writing can often be a lonely activity, meeting regularly with other writers often forms great friendships. But, a writer may also get valuable advice from a member he otherwise doesn’t get along with well. The most important benefits of critique groups are making a writer’s prose stronger and leaner.

About the Author:
Kalen Cap is a writer living in Columbus, Ohio. Active in a variety of causes, particularly with regard to the environment, he often brings such concerns into his fiction writing.

Tangled Ties to a Manatee is his debut novel.

He has had poetry published and several plays, both one act and full-length, produced locally. Two short stories have been published as well. "Feral" is a short story published in Off the Rocks, v. 14, ed Allison Fradkin, NewTown Writers Chicago, 2010, pp. 119-126. "Transforming Oracle" is a self-published short story available at

Kalen’s website is

He can be readily connected with through the following social media profiles – Twitter: @kalencap Facebook:

Google+ :

A pregnant manatee is rare at any zoo, and a first for the Grove City Zoo in Ohio. Ankh is a delight to zoo patrons, a concern to its staff, and the unintentional victim of two con men. She has no idea how many human relationships, problems, and dreams tangle around her.

Jerry is a young developmentally disabled man who happily follows Ankh's pregnancy on the zoo's webcam. He has a shy crush on Janelle, a pretty college student who volunteers for his group home’s outings to the zoo.

Jerry's Aunt Vera also loves nature and runs an environmental retreat center. But all is not well, with Vera or the center. The center needs money and is under investigation as a cult.

Amid their college studies, Janelle and her friend Cecily try to help. Instead, Janelle re-awakens an old obsession in Vera when an innocent tarot reading hints at how the center might be saved.

Two bumbling con men are attempting to sabotage the region’s electrical grid as part of a lucrative scheme. But Jerry accidentally gets in their way and becomes their captive.

When the con men surprisingly succeed in bringing the grid down, it spells danger for Ankh, her unborn pup, and the many people tied to them both. With investigations of their own, Cecily and Janelle try to untangle it all to find Jerry, save a manatee’s life, and rescue Vera from herself.

Tangled Ties to a Manatee is a humorous crime thriller with environmental themes that is revealed through multiple points of view. The novel emphasizes college-aged characters, though not all, such as the developmentally disabled ones, are in college.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012



This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ian will award a $50 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner above to see the other stops in his tour--remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

My protagonist, Lee McCloud (Mac), starts off as a special operations soldier, whose best friend’s daughter has been kidnapped in Mexico. He feels not only loyalty to his friend, but also he recalls witnessing his own sister abducted when he was fourteen. Using his skills, he and several buddies attempt a rescue but it ends badly. He is forced to leave the army and work for a secret agency of government, partnered with an attractive computer genius.

But he doesn’t intend giving up the search for the kidnapped girl, Sophia.

So I guess the first thing that I had to bring to the table in terms of Mac’s character is a determination that goes beyond what any normal person might have. As you might suspect, the flip side of the determination coin is stubbornness, and Mac is stubborn enough to be labeled a “loose cannon” by his boss, Mike Wisebaum.

Many books featuring soldiers or cops make the hero too powerful, too smart, and don’t have him/her make the sort of mistakes people make in real life. I wanted my hero to be flawed enough to be out of his depth at times, to make the achievement of his goal that much more difficult.

One thing that many of us, I think, wonder is whether if we had made different decisions in the past would we have been happier. Obviously, in some cases, the answer is yes. On the other hand, the past is the past, and everyone makes mistakes. In Mac’s case, he feels a lack of trust towards attractive women, because his fiancĂ©e left him for his brother four weeks before their wedding. Will this make it difficult to work with Tally, the woman who is effectively his boss? Of course, and I deliberately tried to make the relationship between Mac and Tally a little like in the TV series Moonlighting, or in the film Mr & Mrs Smith. A love-hate thing.

In terms of character arc, Mac gradually realizes that he has to give up the chips on his shoulder that come from past failures and past problems with trust. But then, will someone stab him in the back at the end of the day? You’ll have to read No Remorse to find out. Writing Lee McCloud was great fun, because I enjoyed deciding how the flaws would impact upon the character’s behavior and performance. Like most men, Mac makes mistakes, errors of judgment, and at times is pig-headed. But he is also fundamentally kind, a protector, with a strong sense of justice. In that sense, an archetypal hero.

So, what I learned from Mac was how to write my first hero, to make him human, very human, while somehow managing to break through the immense challenges he faces. Will he succeed at the end? Well, perhaps I should leave you with one of the reviewer comments: “A roller-coaster ride of adventure, danger, international intrigue and conflict, then adds a surprising twist at the end.”

About the Author:
Ian Walkley has had a career in social and market research, and has been writing novels, short stories, travel articles and copywriting since 2008. He has co-authored two publications on small business and his first novel, No Remorse, was published in 2012. Ian's screenplay "Deniable Justice" placed fourth in the Writer’s Digest 2011 Competition for best screenplay. Ian has travelled extensively and researched his subject, and brings a knowledge of location and technical detail to the exotic settings and big screen thrills. Ian lives in Brisbane with his wife and three children.

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Two men, exiles from their respective societies, take conflicting approaches in the quest to regain their place and self-respect, and find themselves at war over a kidnapped girl.

Lee McCloud (“Mac”), a special forces soldier facing trumped-up charges of murder, is forced to work for a mysterious government outfit operating outside the law.

Khalid Yubani, cast out of Saudi Arabia for an offence against another member of the Royal family, seeks revenge through ruthless acts of evil. Engaged in the worst forms of human trafficking, Khalid buys Sophia, the daughter of Mac’s best friend, who has been kidnapped in Mexico. With time running out for Sophia, Mac enlists the help of a beautiful computer genius, a British SAS soldier and a Lebanese fixer to try to find Sophia and save her from the terrifying fate that Khalid has in store.

Although starting the quest as a man with no remorse, Mac gradually discovers a side of himself that he suppressed after witnessing the abduction of his own sister years before.

Dodging assassins, corrupt generals, evil medicos, Mossad agents, corrupt bureaucrats, and sharks, Mac ignores the order to stay out of trouble and follows Sophia’s trail from Mexico to Paris, London and Dubai, and the island of Andaran, where Khalid and his henchmen are waiting…