Friday, December 30, 2016

Reader's Review: "Blood Ties" by J. D. Cunegan

Synopsis from Amazon:

For as long as Jill Andersen could remember, her father was a hero.

But heroes don’t commit murder, do they? The state of Maryland said Paul Andersen did just that, three times over, and was set to execute him for it. But Jill and the rest of her colleagues at the Baltimore Police Department come across the murder of a law student that leaves her hopeful that she can clear her father’s name.

While Jill and her colleagues work against the clock to clear her father’s name, new players emerge, hinting to a deeper, darker conspiracy than what was previously known. An enigmatic faction known as The Order reveals itself, and the mystery surrounding Paul’s alleged duplicity leaves more questions than answers.

Along the way, Jill must not only face the possibility that her father was not who she thought he was, but she must also face the prospect of her secret being revealed. The stakes are higher than ever in Blood Ties, the intense follow-up to J.D. Cunegan’s debut mystery Bounty.

Can Jill save her father before it’s too late? Will she even want to?


My Review:

What's better than really good fanfiction written for a favorite show that is no longer on the air?

Try a whole series of original crime novels inspired by the show! This fangirl could NOT be happier!

Cunegan builds on the excellent foundation laid in the first novel, Bounty, with Blood Ties, a sequel that does its due diligence in supplying outcomes for the issues in the first book, as well as setting up further complications and consequences with implications lasting beyond the confines of this installment. Jill's father is on death row, a string of homicides are discovered with hallmarks of the murders alleged to his name—so is it a copycat, or will an innocent man pay for the crimes of another? 

My favorite part of this whole mystery, though, has to be the part that Cunegan accomplishes, setting him apart from the "canned crime genre" novelists like James Patterson, Brad Thor, and, dare I say, the "Richard Castle" ghostwriters themselves (BAD move on that last one, guys! Way to blow it... as if that finale wasn't awful enough...), and putting him solidly in Camp Baldacci (far and away my ALL TIME FOREVER favorite!) along with the greats like Anthony Horowitz, Agatha Christie, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—

Cunegan keeps the focus on relationships. Other authors get carried away with sensational scenarios or making blatant social and political statements with their characters (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) but not him. In fact, (minor spoilers) the investigations are almost sideshows to the vast importance placed on developing Jill as a sympathetic character, and her quest—since she voluntarily takes herself off the investigation because of the resemblance to her father's case—to come to terms with her only remaining family, her father and her brother. Namely, the repercussions for hiding her vigilante identity from everyone for so long—such secrets inevitably come to light, and what if she can't control the circumstances of yet revelation? How will the distance affect them? It's beautiful and I would definitely follow the series clear on through JUST for those touching and beautifully-wrought scenes! Not just Jill, though—the precinct is jam-packed with worthy characters and entertaining relationships! Ramon, Jorge, Juanita, Watson and Blankenship, Captain Richards--the list goes on! The fantastic mystery and investigations that are sure to accompany are icing on the cake that is a SOLID ensemble full of all the heart and driving soul to carry a story through the most generic arcs! 

As a sequel, BLOOD TIES accomplished everything a sequel should do, joining the main storyline and building on what the first book introduced, without slacking the pace any. It's a superb consolation for any fan of the show Castle! I give BLOOD TIES a full *****5 STAR***** rating, and I am excited to see what is in store for the rest of the series!
Further Reading (Paranormal/Sci-fi/Crime/Mystery Thriller/Awesome Series)
The Jill Andersen Series--J. D. Cunegan
       -Blood Ties *(This book) 
       -Behind the Badge 
       -Behind The Mask
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey
       -The Way 
       -The Truth 
       -The Lie 
  The Red Dog Conspiracy--Patricia Loofbourrow
       -The Alcatraz Coup 
       -Jacq of Spades Rating: *****
       -Ace of Clubs 
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
     -Escape From Neverland 
     -Dance Into The Wyrd 
Stories of Togas, Daggers And Magic--Assaph Mehr
       -Murder in Absentia 
       -In Numina 
The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings 
        -Grave Measures 
        -Grave Tidings (novella) 
        -Grave Dealings 
Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden--James Osiris Baldwin
        -Burn Artist 
        -Blood Hound 
The PSS Chronicles--Ripley Patton
       -Ghost Hand 
       -Ghost Hold 
       -Ghost Heart 
       -Ghost Hope 
Judah Black Series--E. A. Copen
       -Fortunate Son (prequel novella) 
       -Guilty By Association 
       -Blood Debt

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reading Lists 2016: Best Reads of 2016!

Whoo-wee! Is it the end of the year already? Okay, folks! You know what that means--a look back at all of the reading I did over the last year, and what I would recommend as the Best Books of the year! I will say that I did enjoy reading in batches of ten, and doing the Ranked Reading Lists--and it was rather fortunate that I only did manage to complete 5 lists (50 books total--not my best record, but decent!) because now, for my final Top 10 Reads, here are the Top 2 from each list that I enjoyed most of all! (Accompanied by a pertinent quote from the review)

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer--"The most perfect adaptation, and excellent closure I could have wished upon star for!"
Liar's Key (Red Queen's War #2) by Mark Lawrence--"How do I love a Mark Lawrence novel? Let me count the ways!"
Dream Thieves (Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater--"Once again, every time I sat down to read it (usually before bed) I could not tear myself away."
Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher--"Lovely and wonderful and thrilling and spectacular!"
Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson--"I have been pining for this book for just about a full year, and it did NOT disappoint!"
Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles #4.5) by Marissa Meyer--"OH THE FEELS THIS WAS EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED IN THE LUNAR CHRONICLES!!"
Wheel of Osheim (Red Queen's War #3) by Mark Lawrence--"Superbly satisfying ending to a spectacular series!"
Queen of the Tearling (Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen--"I am completely smitten with this book and all the promises contained therein."
The Last Mile (Amos Decker #2) by David Baldacci--"This one definitely takes the cake! I really love Amos Decker as a character."
The Last Dragonslayer (Chronicles of Kazam #1) by Jasper Fforde--"It’s fun, it’s hilarious, it’s British, there’s dragons… I loved it!"

Next up, I wanted to recognize all the indie books I've read this year! I managed to tuck away no less than 30 titles, once again SMASHING the total from last year... and from the looks of my TBR list of books I own but have yet to read... I look forward to once again exceeding that record in 2017!

Be that as it may, choosing a "Best of Selection" proved considerably more difficult than just choosing from an already-ranked list. Eventually, I had to do it by review stars—which, really, hardly reduced it at all. So here are ALL of the 5-Star reviews from 2016—do enjoy these titles, and don't forget to pick up copies for yourself!
The Truth and The Lie (Volumes of the Vemreaux #2 and #3) by Mary E. Twomey--
"If THE WAY was a bare first, clenched for a fight, THE TRUTH was the first round of that fight."
"In a word, THE LIE was PERFECTION. Twomey is an absolute wizard with words."
Street Fair and A Fair Fight (Fair Folk Chronicles #2 and #3) by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins--
"Once again, Cook and Perkins delivered on every level!"
"Every time I open a Jeffrey Cook novel, I am blown away by the magnitude of the fantasy—and characters so impossibly real that it HURTS." 

Escape From Neverland and Dance Into The Wyrd by Nils Visser--
"All urban/contemporary fantasy enthusiasts would do well to purchase a copy for themselves at once! It does not disappoint!"
"Highly recommended for teens and adult readers who grew up on fairy stories and are looking for urban fantasy of considerable depth and substance."

Dissolution by Lee S. Hawke-- "It's poignant, it's relevant, it's thrilling, and it's thoughtful."
Road Brothers by Mark Lawrence--"The same visceral, compelling prose that so drew me to devouring any story with his name attached still shines beautifully here."

Someday I'll Be Redeemed and I Still Have A Soul (Chronicles of Lorrek #1 and #2) by Kelly Blanchard--
"It's an exciting book that had my imagination firing on all cylinders the whole time!" 
"It's complex and relentless and broad and explosive all at once." 

Grave Measures (Grave Reports #2) by R. R. Virdi--"Virdi delivers on every level--and then some!"
Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr--"It's a paranormal investigator... In a toga? Yes, it is. And it couldn't be more brilliant."
Untamed (Untamed Series #1) by Madeline Dyer--"This book just about destroyed any semblance of productivity in me every time I picked it up.... That's how compelling it is." *(Plus, check out that SNAZZY new cover!)

Ghost Hold, Ghost Heart, and Ghost Hope (PSS Chronicles #2-#4) by Ripley Patton--
"I ran out of feelings by the end of it."
"It's intense, it's striking, it's maddening and awesome by turns, and it absolutely gets the job done."
"The story grows and barrels forward at a breakneck pace, but not a single character is abandoned in the wings." 
Bounty and Blood Ties by J. D. Cunegan
"I fell in love with the characters, intrigued by the mystery, entertained all the way through, and by the end, I wanted more."
"This fangirl could not be happier!"
Girls Can't Be Knights (Spirit Knights #1) by Lee French--"I am intrigued by the concept ... and I would love to read more of the exploits of a crew I have steadily fallen in love with."
A Wolf's Path (Therian Way #2) by Kimberly Rogers--"A stellar piece of urban fantasy sure to excite fans of shows like Grimm and high fantasy like Lord of the Rings, as well as those who enjoy a good mystery and vivid characters in an urban setting."
Dream Stalker (Talented Series #1) by Amy Hopkins--"Beautiful, enchanting, and wonderful from start to finish."
Skeins Unfurled (Breadth Key Cycle #0.5) by K. M. Vanderbilt--"The plot is complex and yet the Norns themselves could not have woven it better."
Angel in Training (Louisiangel Series #1) by C. L. Coffey--"Looking for something really good to read that's a little urban fantasy, a little 'buddy cop', with a great heroine and supporting characters to get obsessed over? This series is a definite win on all fronts."

How about you? What was/were the best book(s) you read in 2016? What do you recommend for me in 2017? I am always open to suggestions!
As always...
Catch You Further Upstream!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: "The Prince and The Rose", Part 3

"The Prince and The Rose": >>Part 1<< >>Part 2<<

Part 3

Charmaine alighted at the gate in front of the towering Haunted Castle. All the stories she had heard about this place leaped to the forefront of her mind and swirled there, like the fog around her ankles and leaching from the windows—or were those ghosts?

Charmaine shook her head and fixed her gaze squarely on the doors of the castle. She willed herself to think of only getting inside the castle. The breeze whipping past her increased, bringing a chill to whatever exposed skin it touched. She pushed on the heavy door, and it creaked open. 

"Hello?" She called into the stillness. Somehow the sound of her own voice in the dead quiet brought comfort, because it meant that she wasn't dreaming. "Beas—I mean, Prince Raul?" She spoke, traveling deeper still. "It is I, Charmaine—daughter of Marius." She made it through the dark, damp entryway, and into the massive ballroom that took up half the palace. Streamers hung like spectral shrouds from the ceiling, and the furniture lay cast about, many pieces raked and rent as if by massive claws.

Charmaine stopped in awe. So this was where it all began; the party she didn't get invited to—the one that had ended so badly for everyone.

A golden flicker caught her eye. In the black shadows of evening, the flame of a candle stood out like an inviting beacon. Charmaine scurried toward it.

A candle indeed burned in the hallway outside—a whole candelabra full, but who had lit them? Alcoves punctuated the long stone wall, and in each, a gilded stand of candles lit the way. Charmaine shivered at an errant gust, but followed the candles to a massive parlor, where a fire burned in the hearth, and a warm blanket draped over a soft couch. Beside the couch, there stood a table laden with a warm meal: a tureen of soup and a crusty loaf of bread, with a steaming pot of tea besides. Charmaine immediately sat on the couch and spread the blanket over her shoulders. The soup was delicious, and warmed her all over—but where had it come from? Charmaine set down her bowl and reached for the teakettle.

A flurry of movement caught the corner of her eye. She whirled to face it, almost knocking the teapot off its stand—but all she saw next to the hearth rug were a pair of slippers that had certainly not been there moments before. Intrigued, Charmaine kept the blankets wrapped around her as she padded over to trade her tired, pinching shoes for the soft, cozy slippers. Her feet fit perfectly into them. She stared in amazement at the ornate stitching, till the clink of dishes distracted her. She looked up at the table.

The magical meal, with its tasty food and pristine dishes, had vanished. Not even the crumbs are left. Charmaine blinked hard and rubbed her eyes, only realizing in that moment just how tired she was. She gave a loud, noisy yawn and stretched. Still, the only thing that moved in the room were the dancing flames in the hearth and on the candles.

"I suppose I ought to have a bed to sleep in!" She announced to her unseen host.
With a series of soft "poofs", the candles down another hallway illuminated. Charmaine held the blanket close and shuffled in the slippers. Once again, following the candles she made her way through the dark castle. 

Up a curving flight of stairs to a tower, and through a doorway, she arrived in a spacious room. There again was a roaring fire, and lavish bedclothes—but not another soul to be found.
Char dropped the blanket and changed out of her dress, slipping on the nightgown instead.
"Why," she gasped aloud. "Maybe this castle isn't haunted—maybe it's enchanted!"
It certainly seemed that way. Perhaps, if the enchanted castle favored her well enough, she would not have to so much as glimpse the Beast Prince before the spell ended. Charmaine settled into the soft bed and snuggled under the covers. She would be doing a lot of exploring the next day.

That night, Charmaine dreamed that she was home. She woke in her own bed to find her father standing next to her, apologizing profusely for the whole thing. Felice came in shortly after that, bringing with her a tall man whose face remained indistinguishable, no matter how hard she tried to see it. Charmaine felt excitement; this had to be the prince! She had never seen what he looked like as a man—now she would get her chance! She could hear him talking, but his face seemed always just out of view. Suddenly, he stopped talking and walked out of the room.
"No, wait!" Char cried, leaping after him—

Then the dream ended and she sat up in bed, wearing unfamiliar clothes—in the Beast Prince's castle. Charmaine huffed. Not even the small plate of cookies and milk on her bedside table could cheer her up after that disappointing vision.
"You had better help me be able to find a way to break the spell without seeing the Beast!" She announced to the whole castle.

Once out of bed, she glanced at her old dress. There would be no wearing it without her corset, and she could not get her corset on by herself. 
Charmaine sighed as her eyes slid to the wardrobe in the corner. Perhaps...

She strode to the wardrobe and flung open the doors. Such a fount of bright, rich fabrics graced her eyes! She even found several styles with front-lacing bodices—a bit out-of-date, but definitely nothing she would be ashamed to wear! 
"Now this is the sort of thing I like!" She cried happily, slipping on one of the dresses. 

Suitably attired, she left the room and went back down the stairs. This time, she noticed a few doors open. One led to the library, a spacious room lined with books of every sort, and high windows letting in brilliant sunshine. A pianoforte graced the dais at one end of the room.

Charmaine sniffed and closed the door. "None of that boring stuff, thank you! Stupid stories full of sloppy romance or dull histories—most definitely not for me!" She announced to the castle.

The next door led to the sun parlor, where a delicious breakfast awaited her on a small table. Charmaine sat down and helped herself, remarking to the empty room how delicious everything was. Once she finished, the young woman set about seeing what else she could find in the castle. 

Down another hall and up a flight of stairs, Charmaine discovered a sight that made her squeal with joy: an entire room of dresses and accessories, hats and boots of all sorts. 
"Now this will keep me happy, even if I have to stay here forever!" She cried. She spent hours trying on the dresses, parading in front of the mirrored wall where she could admire herself from every angle. At last, she tired of changing dresses and decided to see what else she could find. It pleased her to live so much like a princess, without having to deal with the monstrous occupant. 

"I'm lucky this castle's enchanted!" She mused, as she meandered across the great hall to another tower. "Father really has no idea what an opportunity he passed up! He must feel awful by now, thinking I am up here in terror, absolutely miserable!" She laughed. "Serves him right!"

She found a door slightly open down the hallway. Peeking inside, she saw no fire, no finery; it was altogether a miserable space. She almost closed the door again and moved on—but a rosy glimmer caught her eye. Charmaine stopped and peeked in a second time. On a lonely table sat a solitary rose, standing in a vase under a glass cover. It was so beautiful, Charmaine had to get a closer look. She glided forward, mesmerized by the glorious sight. When she was close enough to touch the table, she noticed something.

"That's odd!" She remarked, merely because she had developed the habit of doing so, "There's no water in the vase! No, it's silly, really," she snorted. "It's probably why it's wilting. The stupid beast has no idea—"

Just when she was in the act of taking the cover off, a ferocious growl issued right behind her.
Charmaine felt her heart seize in her throat—and it made her angry to be so terrified of something that she hoped would not dare risk hurting her.

"Stop right there, Beast!" She said, not daring to turn her head and look at him. "Yes, it's me, the girl who's been handed to you as a sacrifice—so if you hurt me, you'll never get another chance to break the spell! Now BACK. AWAY!"

The growl came, low and sustained, but it faded as he did what she asked. Charmaine felt the thrill of power coursing through her as she released the cover and let her hands drop to her sides.

"I'm guessing that's the rose the fairy gave you, isn't it?" Charmaine continued, waiting till she heard him grunt in confirmation. "We've all heard the story—goodness knows the poor provincial town hasn't had anything else happen worth talking about in the last year! I'll make you a deal: you don't bother me, and I don't touch your rose. If you get anywhere close to me, I will take this rose and run far away to watch it die, knowing that you'll never get what you want—But," she went on, as the growling behind her intensified, "if you do stay out of my way, and if I feel like it, maybe at some point I will decide to help you break the spell. Do we have a deal?" 

The beast stopped growling and grunted once.

Charmaine felt the flush of pride—tempered somewhat when she realized that, with the beast standing behind her, there was no way to leave the room without seeing him. 

"I'm going to leave now," she said. "I am going to close my eyes and walk out of here. Remember our deal!"

She heard his heavy panting, but he made no move. Her nerves were strung just about to their breaking point as she closed her eyes and slowly turned. Placing one foot in front of the other, Charmaine edged toward where she remembered seeing the door.

Behind her, the beast grunted and growled at her, but Charmaine fought to ignore the unsettling noise as she concentrated on getting out of the room. 

A heavy object landed on her shoulder, and she felt a sharp pain as she wrenched away. Her eyes flew open—it was the Beast, reaching out his claws toward her!

Charmaine nearly tripped over the squat statue right in front of her, but she threw her arms over her head. 

"Get away!" She whined, flailing and charging. One of his claws connected with her face and arm, a stinging slash in her terrified retreat. "Ugh! You're so ugly!" Shrieked Charmaine, nearly tripping over her billowing skirts to get away from him. Once safely out of the room, Charmaine didn't stop running till she returned to her room. In the tall mirror, she surveyed the damage: blood dripped down her cheek and arm. The dress she wore had ripped in a few places, more from her terrified struggle than the Beast himself. The pain finally registered, and she burst into tears. "YOU HURT ME!" She shouted for him to hear. "THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT! YOU MONSTER! I WILL NEVER LOOK AT YOU AGAIN!"

She heard something scrape against the stone floor outside the door. Opening it, Charmaine found a bowl of water and clean bandages. She cleaned her face and wrapped her arm, but the damage was done. There was no hope of returning to her beautiful self now. 

Charmaine spent a miserable night dreaming of her encounter with the beast, and when she awoke in the morning and checked the mirror, there it was: a wide pink scar on her perfect face. 
This was completely not what she planned. Deal or none, curse or none, she was going home. "And none of you better stop me!" She shouted to the enchanted room as she wrapped her cloak around her shoulders and swept down the stairs.

At the bottom of the tower, she emerged into the great hall—and nearly collided with the Beast. 
"Oh!" She gasped, jumping back as if he would reach out and scratch her again.

But how could he? At the moment, his huge paws with their vicious claws were full of a tray set with the same breakfast she had eaten the previous morning. Charmaine's mouth and eyes jerked wide open as she realized what this meant.

"YOU?" she gasped. "This whole time—the castle... it can't be!" She felt the sobs rising in her thrust again as her emotions spiraled out of control. "NO!" She slumped to the floor, weeping. "There... there is no enchanted castle, is there?" She glanced around. "I'm alone here... with you."

The Beast bobbed his shaggy head as if nodding. He held out the tray to her, but Charmaine scrambled to her feet. "Absolutely not!" She said. "I will never accept anything from you! Stay away from me, you monster!" She ran toward the outer courtyard, headed for the gate that led to freedom—

But the gate was nowhere to be found.
Charmaine stopped and looked from one corner to the other. She ran to every corner and searched the entire perimeter, but all she could see was one continuous wall. 
"NO!" She screamed. "NO! NO! NO!"

Charmaine ran back inside, back to her tower. The Beast had left the tray of breakfast outside her room. Charmaine ran inside and threw herself at the window, but it was no use. She could still see the unbroken wall, so high she could barely see the woods on one side, and the impossible precipice on the other. She was trapped with the Beast, in a castle not enchanted, but abandoned. There was no way out. She couldn't be sure if she would ever see her father or the rest of the town ever again. 

Charmaine crumpled to the floor and sobbed.

Further Reading:
-"Heartsong" (A 7-Part Story)
-"Arthur and The Egg"
-"The Glow" (A 3-Part Story)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reader's Review: "I Still Have A Soul" by Kelly Blanchard

Synopsis from Amazon:

What if humanity was a classification given to some but not others?

Vixen, a former assassin, becomes entangled in an elaborate game of war, broadcasted to the masses as entertainment. While fighting for the freedom of the Guardians, soldiers classified as non-human, she is hunted by a Guardian she considered a friend—Prince Lorrek.

With an order to kill Vixen, the sorcerer Lorrek enters a battle pitting magic and medieval weapons against highly advanced technology. If only he realized what Vixen meant to him.

Will Lorrek remember before it is too late?

Will the Guardians ever be considered human?

My Review:

She did it again! Holy smokes, she did it again! 
Sometimes it happens when the first book in a series is so wide and sweeping, the second must dither about the slow, building and maneuvering that goes on so that the third book can be a sweeping finish.
Blanchard doesn't mess around with all that. Things are happening now, almost too quickly for the heroes to keep up! Lorrek is mostly incorporeal—enough to keep him alive, but occasionally he becomes solid again. Roskelem's wanton and uncontrolled magic has robbed him of his memories. Verddra has stolen a kingdom for herself and has set her sights on that of Lorrek's brother, turning everyone against Jechorm to distract them from her maneuvering. 
Jechorm itself is in a state of high agitation, as they are preparing for the gladiator-style slaughter of many Guardians—particularly those deemed a threat to the Senate. Of course, since Vixen happens to be in Jechorm at the time anyway, this leads to her convincing the other Houses of thieves and assassins to side with the rebel Guardians and fight with them instead of joining the Hunters who are allowed to kill them. Little does she know, someone is intent on tracking her down, someone who is known as one of the most powerful magic-users in the world; someone who has been convinced that killing her would return his stolen memories: Lorrek.

I love everything about this book, including the pervading theme of family throughout. There is nothing siblings and parents alike will not do for their families. The lengths these brothers go to defend and save each other is a glorious thing. Also the definite moral stance that marks the difference between the heroes and the villains: the heroes use their powers and abilities to preserve people, while the villains invariably choose to use people to preserve their powers and abilities. It's an important lesson, and played out very well!

It's complex and relentless and broad and explosive all at once. I thought it was beautiful in the first book when Kelly brought the book's title, "Someday I'll Be Redeemed," to bear on the plot in a massively powerful way. She does it again here, because what do the heroes intend to prove to the ones who seek to control and oppress them? The Guardians, the thieves and assassins, and even Lorrek himself, all vying to prove that they "Still Have A Soul." Conversely, what do the villains like Roskelem and Verddra have in common? They have traded their souls, it seems, in the pursuit of more power.

I am an ardent fan of this series! I STILL HAVE A SOUL gets *****5 STARS***** all the way, and once again achieved an Upstream Writer Certified HEARTILY RECOMMENDED endorsement. For intricate plots full of characters you will adore, set in a world that is breathtaking in its scope and wonderful in its conception and development, and a plot that carries you high in energy clear to the last page—The Chronicles of Lorrek wins all the way!

Further Reading: (Also By The Author/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Excellent World-building/Driving Plot)
The Chronicles of Lorrek--Kelly Blanchard
        -Someday I'll Be Redeemed 
        -I Still Have A Soul (*This book)
        -I'm Still Alive 
        -Do You Trust Me? 
        -You Left Me No Choice 
Dawn of Steam Trilogy--Jeffrey Cook
      -First Light
      -Gods of The Sun
      -Rising Suns   
Punk Anthologies--Writerpunk Press Group
      -Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 1 
      -Once More Unto The Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk, Vol. 2 
      -What We've Unlearned: Classic Literature Goes Punk 

The Grave Reports--R. R. Virdi
        -Grave Beginnings
        -Grave Measures
        -Grave Tidings (novella)
        -Grave Dealings 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Official Book Launch Announcement: "Princess of Undersea" Now Available For Purchase!

It's been a heck of a weekend!

Honestly, it's been quite the year for me. I've spent about five years telling myself, "Okay, THIS year I will actually buckle down and decide which self-publishing platform to use and which book to publish and I'll actually do it!" Whereupon I immediately second-guess EVERYTHING and chicken out and it doesn't happen.

That all changed in the summer of 2014, when the Facebook authors' group I was in put forth the idea that, as a group, we would compile and self-publish an anthology of re-told fairy tales (something I had just begun to adore, from authors like Marissa Meyer, Cameron Dokey, and Regina Doman) and--since I really enjoyed the group and there were a few unpublished members like me, so I knew I would be in good company as we all explored this opportunity together--I immediately agreed and resolved that I would meet all deadlines, I would do my best to follow the guidelines, and most of all, I would not back out, no matter what.

Which is how I ended up the "Last Author Standing" about a year later, when the whole anthology idea went to pot without even getting very far off the ground, according to the expectations of some. 

But during that year, from the initial agreement, to the abrupt and unforeseen change of plans, I learned a whole lot.
I learned that re-telling a fairy tale was a lot like the way I wrote fanfiction. (In fact, I revealed in my launch party on Facebook this weekend that, at the beginning, when the anthology of re-told fairy tales was proposed, my response was, "Well... I have this Once Upon A Time fanfiction I wrote, based on the Little Mermaid...")
I learned that, while I had basically half a plot from the fanfiction, it was going to need a lot more detail to be my own re-telling, starting with the characters.
I learned that, even when writing a fairy tale, there are some things you do not take for granted, that the reader won't assume everything, and that writing a story requires a lot more thought than just putting words together to amuse oneself.
I learned that there is a lot of freedom in not having to research--but even then, the fabricated circumstances need to follow a logical pattern.
I learned that even when you read something 50,000,000 times... you still miss that dropped "the" or the misplaced comma.
I learned that there are more important things than a princess getting her prince that make a "happily ever after."
I learned that there are ways of saying what needs to be said, without spending a whole lot of words to do it.
I learned that sometimes you have to let go of "really funny" scenes when they don't actually help the story.
I learned a lot about character motivations, and how important it was for them to be understood in the heroes as well as the villains.
I learned quite a bit about what all goes in to a Kickstarter campaign, and how important it is to do your marketing well. (Even if the bulk of one's "marketing" is Hey I am writing a story and it's going to be in an anthology with a bunch of other stories from authors I don't really know but I've read stories by a couple of them and they are really good!)
I learned that self-publishing is a really huge undertaking, and should be regarded with all seriousness and it really helps when the one desiring to self-publish can devote all their energies to it.

By the end of 2015, it was pretty clear that perhaps we as a group had been a little too unprepared and had underestimated the logistical nightmare that is publishing as a group with too many discrepancies as to who precisely is in charge, and what the project would entail. It boiled down to one of the members who offered the services of his own publishing business, but by then, even those of us that remained committed could not withstand the curveballs of life cast at everyone, it seemed, but me. It came down to the realization that the anthology wouldn't happen... Then I get an email from Bill of Endless Press, the small-press publisher who would have produced the anthology.

Him: (paraphrased) I know you were really excited about the anthology, and I'm sorry that it won't happen--but I would like to offer you the option of publishing your novella by itself. Interested?

I signed the contract in December of last year, and so began a flurry of back-and-forth over GoogleDocs and email, asking all the questions that had bugged me so much and scared me so bad about the publishing process, of defending my thought processes and discovering that maybe the parts that seemed so "clear" to me weren't actually defined very well at all, of discovering even more about the dimensions of my characters, and of being driven nearly to distraction by worrying and wracking my brain over those parts that needed to be changed--but it took almost the entire year to figure out just what needed to change and how I was going to bring it about! Through it all, Bill conducted himself very professionally, and answered all of my questions, waiting patiently as I hemmed and hawed and procrastinated.

And here at last is the fruit of our joint effort. I am so proud, I could cry.

Princess of Undersea is available on Amazon >HERE<
If you use Goodreads, you can also add it to your reading list >HERE<

Lastly, please enjoy this "sneak preview" I put together myself!

Intrigued? I certainly hope so!

Stay tuned for more to come: a BONUS SCENE epilogue, information on what I'll be working on next--there's definitely more to come!

As always, 
Catch You Further Upstream!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Reader's Review: "Angel in Training" by C. L. Coffey

Synopsis from Amazon:

After a night out turns fatal, a misunderstanding with the Archangel Michael presents Angel with a chance at Eternal Life: the opportunity to earn her wings and one day become an archangel herself.

Angel is given the task of protecting her charge, trainee detective, Joshua Walsh. There's no denying the attraction between Angel and Joshua, only Michael has pretty strict rules: no drinking, no drugs, and certainly no relationships with humans. Thankfully, she's got other things to deal with, like trying to convince Joshua that New Orleans has a serial killer who is preying on other angel potentials like herself.

Angel must quickly learn that when keeping someone safe, doing the right thing is not always the easiest, especially when you've got an archangel looking over your shoulder.


My Review:

At first glance, it seems like your typical supernatural romance. I confess, going into it, that was what I feared might come of it. I won the whole series (thus far) in a giveaway, and a little part of me worried that I might be in for something typical: bad girl becomes guardian angel, falls in love with her super-hot charge, and sticks it to the man—er, archangel—when she defies the rules in the name of love.

What I got was so much more.
Coffey is now among my favorite authors. Angelina is not your typical "Skanky Sue" (like a Mary Sue, except the "perfect bad girl" instead of the "perfect good girl"); actually, she comes off as your typical, everyday agnostic: she doesn't go for "that religious stuff" and she lives for herself, for the moment, without paying much attention to her surroundings—which is exactly what gets her killed. And she proceeds to respond time and again in exactly the way "we" the readers would respond: she has all kinds of questions, no context for her new life, she's confused, sarcastic, and completely lost in all of this, thrust where she really has no business being. And there is a war coming. And people and angels alike are depending on her. And she is more conscientious of the rules now than she ever had been in life. She's not a "bad girl"; she really does want to get it right... It's just that somehow she missed "Step 1" of the whole "How To Transition From Mortality To Angelhood" so she has to get caught up somehow in any way she can. 

I loved every part of this book. The premise came off really well, without a huge info-dump except the one scene that actually knows it's an info-dump, and Angel is suitably confused by it. The characters—not just Michael, Angel, and Josh, but a whole host of side characters: Cupid (also called Kurt), Veronica the cherub (cherubim in this book are not what you're thinking...), Mama Laveau, Aunt Sarah, Leon, Maggie—each one completely unique from the rest, and all of them relevant enough to be compared to somebody we all know in our lives. These characters are realistic, vivid, and they leapt off the page in full color as I read.
The plot hustles forward at a steady pace, not too slow, but not too convoluted and bogged down by too much minutiae to justify, discredit, or re-explain, and entirely without a painfully obvious disdain for religion, or one in particular—which I definitely appreciated because then I could actually enjoy the story without feeling like I was reading a monkey trial.
The conflict itself is bigger than just Angel versus Michael (which, though it's hinted in the blurb is **SPOILER ALERT** actually not really the central head-to-head conflict of the plot, and they do actually work it out like the adults they're supposed to be; GOOD FOR THEM!) and the mystery of the enemy going around killing Angel Potentials like Angelina (trying to avoid the "Angel the angel" jokes, here!) is teased out nicely, just like in the crime novels and cop shows I like so much. Throw in a backdrop of another hurricane coming so close on the heels of the last one (it being Louisiana, they're still recovering from Katrina when another blows in) and a whole mess of Fallen angels trying to wage war against heaven itself—and this series is a definite win on all fronts.

Pretty much I am going to to give ANGEL IN TRAINING a full-blown *****5 STAR***** rating, and add to it a Upstream Writer Certified Totally Recommended endorsement. Looking for something really good to read that's a little urban fantasy, a little "buddy cop", with a great heroine and supporting characters to get obsessed over? Then don't miss ANGEL IN TRAINING and the rest of the Louisiangel series!
Further Reading: (Supernatural/Urban Fantasy/Excellent Female Lead/Irresistible Plot)
-Bounty--J. D. Cunegan
The Vemreaux Trilogy--Mary E. Twomey
-The Way
       -The Truth
       -The Lie  
Lord of the Wyrde Woods--Nils Visser
-Escape From Neverland
     -Dance Into The Wyrd  
The PSS Chronicles--Ripley Patton
  -Ghost Hand
       -Ghost Hold
       -Ghost Heart
       -Ghost Hope 
-Dream Stalker--Amy Hopkins