Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Mental Can Openers and Writer's Hash ~ I'm Not Clowning Around Here

Another great post from Brad. And as usual, he ties it all together in the most entertaining way. Why else call the blog what I call it :)

Writers share something with those traveling circuses and carnivals of yesteryear. Then you paid for a ticket and were promised a memorable experience. Whether it was a Tunnel of Love, the dizzy action of the Octopus ride, or the drama and tension of the high wire act, traveling circuses tried to provide something for everyone. Clowns, magicians, the bizarre, the impossible; all were part of the sawdust-and-popcorn entertainment a century ago.
Writers charge for a book and promise an experience.  We simply call the rides and acts, genres. Romance comes in books, not boats. Tension from a thriller’s high-stakes, not high wires; humor from characters, not clowns.  Like circus acts, genres must deliver.  If you read thrillers, you want to be thrilled. Mysteries should offer a perplexing puzzle. Romances should render that back-and-forth relationship tango.  Readers choose the genre for its specifics.

This expectation presents a challenge. Solomon pointed out that there was nothing new under the sun. Every genre has its clichés. It was a dark and stormy night; the butler did it; they all lived happily ever after.  How do we offer something new?

Details, my friends.  The devil may be in them, but so is our answer. We know in a romance the boy and girl will find each other after various trials. So what if they find each other via letters on a pen-pal site?  And what if, while “graphically” attracted to each other, they physically work in the same shop, constantly rubbing each other the wrong way? Voilá, a couple of changed details and you got, “The Shop Around the Corner.” 

Or take a murder mystery.  A victim is killed and the detective must solve the crime. But what if the victim is forced to become his own detective?  A slow poison given to an accountant that can’t be stopped gives him 24 hours to solve his own progressing murder?  Change this one detail regarding the detective and presto, the movie “D.O.A.”

With my own genre, fantasy, castles are an oft-used setting.  They are known to be winter cold. The kitchens could get hot when the ovens were going.  I have a castle.  I could use fireplaces in most rooms and the kitchen staff could carry hand fans. But why not have some fun with magic?  It’s a fantasy, people want the unusual.  I put my palace over caves and fault lines.  Why not stick a couple of cranky frost giants in a room under the castle and have them blow their frosty breath up various shafts to cool the castle?
Winter heat is provided by flame sprites who spit their little fireballs up the same shafts. The castle mages make their living producing magic candles. So let’s have one large candle, cut it in half, and when the upper portion is lit, the lower portion’s wick catches fire as well, no matter the halves’ distance.  Need heat? Cold?  Light your candle and down below the corresponding half ignites near the shaft. telling the occupants to send up fireballs or frost.

Of course, when our castle friends switch over from cooling to heating, there's always difficulty. Cold versus hot, giants versus sprites; more trouble than any HVAC man has ever had to deal with. But to find out about that you will have to read my upcoming book, “Riddley Bundleforth and the Banshee's Bell.”

As authors, we should find details to change, creating more experiences for our readers.  Boy meets girl? Why not girl accidentally purchases boy when she mixes an Uber ride for Uber date?  The butler did do it, but the butler is an interplanetary alien doing a sociological study on why murder disturbs humans.  Instead of a fantastic sword that can defeat all enemies, how about a bewitched sword that takes every shield as a personal insult, attacking it mercilessly, while the hero is dragged by the hilt?  As authors, let’s steal a page from P.T. Barnum and fill our pages with “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

~ Brad

Friday, February 23, 2018

Author Spotlight Featuring Dena Netherton's Latest Release ~ Haven's Hope

Please welcome Dena Netherton and her latest book in The Hunted series. 
Take it away Dena.

 Thanks for hosting me, L.A. 

Why does a man (or woman) stalk another person? Almost every week I read about another person who had to flee a stalker. I see true life programs on TV about the tragic consequences of stalking, and shake my head in perplexity.

Why would a man persist in following and harassing a woman who has unequivocally said, “Leave me alone!” Is the stalker crazy? Evil? Obsessed?

Often the stalking victim is ashamed to admit what they’re going through. Or too frightened or intimidated. Sometimes a stalker has been known to threaten the victim’s loved ones, too.

If you were being stalked, would you go to the police, or would you keep quiet to protect your family?

In Haven’s Hope, Haven has escaped her stalker, has reunited with her widowed father, but has not told him about being kidnapped and held prisoner by Dade Colton in his wilderness cabin. Dade has threatened to hurt or kill anyone she tells about him, and she wants to shield her father from danger. Haven returns to college to finish her music degree. But then she learns that Dade is still trying to find her.

Dade has convinced Fiona, a lonely waitress that he loves her and wants to marry her. If only she’ll help him with his ‘problem.’  He tells Fiona that Haven took something of value from him and he wants to get it back. Fiona is desperate for love and is willing to believe anything Dade says. She has no idea Haven is Dade’s past victim. Dade plans to have Fiona gather information about Haven so he can ambush and re-capture her.

“Dade laid a three by five photo on the table. “See this girl?”

Fiona wanted to snort. Yes, she could clearly see her. The champagne she’d just sipped burned her stomach. The woman in the photo was blonde and pretty. Why would Dade carry around a picture of another woman? She’d better be his sister or first cousin.

“She’s my problem. She took something from me, and I want it back. Then everything will be perfect and I can get on with my big plans.”

Leaning over, he shoved the photo closer so Fiona could get a better view. “Memorize that face, Fiona. It’s the face of an evil woman, a thief.”

Fiona tried to pull the photo over to her side of the table. She hadn’t worn her glasses today, and the photo looked a little blurry. But he wouldn’t let go. His knuckles turned white where his fingers pressed the photo against the table. Dade’s eyes held a look that made her shiver.

“Man, if you hate this girl, there must be a good reason.” Fiona hated her already. Had she taken money, property? Humiliated him in some way? Beautiful women were the worst. “She must be a real piece of work.”

“You could say that.” He downed his glass of champagne in one big swallow. “And I thought, since you’ll have some free time on your hands once you move in here with me, maybe you could do me a favor.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Go to the School of Music and park in the front. It’s where the girl—Haven parks. She’s a student there. She comes and goes through the lounge entrance. Hang out there and wait for her. Then, when she leaves, follow her, see where she goes.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes. All I want is information. Don’t try to talk to her yet. Don’t mess this up. I need you to do this perfectly.”

“So things will be perfect in Issaquah again?” She sneered at the beautiful girl in the photo.


Beautiful and talented Haven Ellingsen is about to discover that evil doesn’t take a holiday. 

Haven Ellingsen has escaped the man who relentlessly hunted her in the Cascade Mountains. But when an old friend from her dangerous past shows up unexpectedly to warn her that Dade Colton is determined to recapture her, Haven makes the only safe decision: to go into hiding once more. But where? Whom can she trust? If only she could tell someone about her tragic secret. But Dade’s threat to kill anyone who helps her would put that person’s life in jeopardy, too.

Dr. Petter Eriksen saves lives every day at Mercy Hospital Emergency Department. Driven by guilt after the accidental death of his little sister, he can’t believe in a good God. But when a beautiful and mysterious young woman moves into the cabin on his uncle’s Christian Retreat, Petter wonders if her love and simple faith have the power to shatter the barrier he has erected around his heart? And can he save her from a madman?

Sometimes you hide; sometimes you stand and fight.

To Buy: 

Dena Netherton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied music and theater in the Midwest and in Colorado and taught music for thirty-five years. As well as her love of good books, hiking, playing the piano, road trips, and people-watching, she is passionate about story-telling as a means to share her faith while entertaining her readers or listeners. Book one of The Hunted Series, Haven’s Flight, released in April of 2017. Haven’s Hope (book two) continues Haven’s exciting, suspenseful story, adding romance and more fascinating characters.

Find Dena:

Friday, February 16, 2018

Author Spotlight Featuring Candee Fick's New Release ~ Focus On Love

It's always a treat to have Candee here to introduce her latest book. 
Take it away, Ms. Fick :)

Thanks for hosting me L.A.

What if you had to choose between two career paths?

Elizabeth (Liz) Foster grew up loving photography and dance lessons. When circumstances at home fell apart, she set aside one dream to pursue musical theater. But now she’s met a handsome photographer and things are changing. Can she have both dreams again or will she need to choose?

I had a lot of fun getting to know Liz during the brainstorming process for Focus On Love. At first, I thought she was a free-spirit who felt stifled by the rules and expectations of her family and left them behind. So, I paired her with a freelancer who cut back on his travel in order to fit into his family’s routine, hoping that together they would learn to find balance. What I found instead was a greater metaphor about life and the multiple facets of love.

About a hundred feet from the front doors, she spotted the tall cowboy exiting a large truck parked nearby, and her stomach whirred like her fast-action shutter.
Of course, it had to be nerves about showing her pictures to the Sheridans in front of the professional photographer—nothing to do with how handsome he was.
Ryan grinned as his long stride brought him quickly to her side. “Fancy meeting you here this morning. Liz, right?”
Liz tipped her head in a semi-curtsy. “I’m looking forward to seeing your pictures.”
His eyebrows rose. “Pictures? Does that mean you’re the other photographer?”
Uh-oh. “I thought you knew that.” Liz slapped a hand against her forehead. “Of course not. Mr. Sheridan didn’t mention my name.”
“Well, if you’re as talented with a camera as you are on the stage, then this might be a wasted trip.” The laugh lines around his eyes deepened along with his smile, stirring her heart in unexpectedly delicious ways until heat rose in her face.
Perfect. Now her complexion might match her hair color.
“Don’t make me wonder whether you need your eyes examined. I’m not star material.” Liz shook her head. “Not to mention, I’ve seen your website.”
“Really? Checking me out?” He reached the front door and held it open for her.
“Curiosity.” She cleared her throat and gestured toward the area where they were to meet. “But I’m still not sure why you would give up professional gigs for this.”
Mr. Sheridan appeared in the doorway of his office. “You’re right on time.” He stepped forward to shake Ryan’s hand. “I can’t wait to see what the two of you have come up with.”
Liz preceded Ryan into the office and felt the warmth of his large hand on her back as he guided her to the closest chair. Such a gentleman. His mother must be so proud of him.
“So who’s going to go first?” Mr. Sheridan swiveled his office chair as he looked from one to the other.
Her stomach clenched with a sudden wave of nerves. “The professional.”
“No, ladies first.” Ryan settled back in his chair with folded arms.
“Okay.” She took a deep breath for courage before handing over her flash drive. As Mr. Sheridan plugged it into his computer, she whispered a prayer of sorts that God would help her boss to like the pictures ... or at least not hate them. That would be humiliating.
Mr. Sheridan turned the monitor so all three could see the screen, and once the program loaded, he began to scroll. A few moments later, he whistled. “Dani was right.”
“Dani?” Ryan leaned forward and propped his chin on a hand as he studied the screen.
“My roommate is the one who told him I—”
“These are amazing pictures.” Mr. Sheridan clicked the mouse to enlarge one shot of several laughing actors gathered around the onstage piano.
Mrs. Sheridan entered and stopped just inside the door. “Wow. Mr. Callahan, you really are a professional.”
Ryan chuckled. “Thank you, ma’am, but Liz took these.” He winked in her direction. “She certainly has talent.”

To Buy: 

The Blurb:
Free-spirited Elizabeth Foster turned her back on her father’s photography business to pursue musical theater, but with a one-show contract, she’s a few weeks from unemployment forcing her home. Meanwhile sought-after photographer Ryan Callahan has put his career on hold to help his sister’s family while her husband is deployed, but the promise of a bigger assignment could lure him away from building a family of his own. If given the choice, what dreams would develop? Or will they learn to focus on love instead?

Candee Fick is a multi-published author in both fiction and non-fiction. She is also the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job, writing, or coaching other authors, she can be found cheering on the home team at sporting events, exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Find Candee: 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Author Spotlight Featuring M.S. Spencer's New Release ~ The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel

Don't you love the title of M.S. Spencer's new release? I do. It creates all sorts of "wants-to-know." 

Thanks so much, L.A., for letting me talk to your readers about my new cozy mystery The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel. Set on Longboat Key, Florida, it takes place on the spot where John Ringling began building a luxurious hotel in the 1920s. Left to slowly disintegrate over the decades, it inevitably came to be called the Ghost Hotel.

At midnight, in the darkness of a deserted hotel, comes a scream and a splash. Eighty-five years later, workmen uncover a skeleton in an old elevator shaft. Who is it, and how did it get there? To find out, Charity Snow, ace reporter for the Longboat Key Planet, teams up with Rancor Bass, best-selling author. A college ring they find at the dig site may prove to be their best clue.

Although his arrogance nearly exceeds his talent, Charity soon discovers a warm heart beating under Rancor’s handsome exterior. While dealing with a drop-dead gorgeous editor who may or may not be a villain, a publisher with a dark secret, and an irascible forensic specialist, Charity and Rancor unearth an unexpected link to the most famous circus family in the world.

Paris is featured in many of my books because I have a soft spot for it. In The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel, I contrive to send my hero Rancor Bass off to Paris in pursuit of his editor. He lands himself in jail, which gives our heroine Charity Snow a chance to see Paris for the first time. In fact, due to his misadventures, Charity—who’s never been out of Florida—gets to travel a LOT.

Excerpt: April in a Paris Jail
Charity dropped the phone. After picking it up and waiting for the panicky breaths to slow, she said as calmly as she could, “Before I shell out any more money, you need to answer a few questions, mister.”
“Fire away. It’s funny—here in France I’m allowed not one but two phone calls.”
“I presume your first one was to the American embassy.”
“That’s next on my list. This may come as a surprise to you, but I so longed to hear your voice that I decided to check in with you first. Get the money ball rolling, as it were.”
“It’s always about money, isn’t it?”

“Well, in this case, it’s pretty crucial. The French police may be enlightened as to telephone communications, but not so much about accommodations. So what do you say?”
“I say, get on the horn to the embassy without ado.”
He was silent for a minute. Finally, he said gently, “Don’t you want to hear what happened?”
“Let me guess. You were caught in flagrante delicto with a beautiful fugitive from justice.”
“Not at all. My heart is true. I’ve been faithful to you even if you don’t deserve it.”
Charity decided to let that pass—and maybe revisit it later at her leisure. “Tell me then.”
“Well, said beautiful fugitive managed to turn the tables on me. I found her, but instead of consenting to come along quietly, she screamed bloody murder. In a performance worthy of Sarah Bernhardt—you know who she was, don’t you? The greatest actress of her age. The Divine Sarah. Why, her Tosca was emulated by thousands of would-be swans. I—”
“What did she claim?”

“Who? Oh, Isabella? That I—Rancor Bass, author of eleven wildly acclaimed books—had stolen her manuscript! The gall of the woman.” He subsided into incoherent rumblings.

“And since this is France, the gendarmes refrained from asking any searing questions for fear of injuring the nymphette’s fragile sensibilities. They swallowed her line without so much as a tittle of qualm and arrested me. It’s appalling, really. These chaps are totally sexist. Chauvinist dinosaurs…”
“What do you want me to do?”

“Well, I’d love the money as soon as you can send it. How’s that done nowadays? They used to say ‘I’ll wire it,’ but I’m pretty sure technology has moved on. No matter, that was five hundred if you recall. I guess I can exchange it here—ooh, I just thought of something. It’s euros, isn’t it? Not francs. What a shame…this Eurozone crap has got to stop. It’s ruining all the color and spice of Europe. Did you know French farmers can’t sell cheese that isn’t pasteurized? Criminal.”
“Rancor? Have you by any chance not eaten in a while?”
“What? No, la bonne femme—that’s ‘wife’ to you Yankees—of Monsieur le Brigadier Dumont provided me with a cheese omelet and a Picardie glass of a refreshing Sancerre. Her name is Antoinette. A very warmhearted woman.”
I’ll bet she is. “All right, then why are you babbling?”
“I think it’s the cell walls—so close, so confining. They’re beginning to get to me. Did I ever mention I have claustrophobia? I’m trying to fend it off with logorrhea.”
“Logorrhea. It’s like diarrhea except with words rather than…well, you know.”
Let’s just skip on ahead. “All right, I’ll see about the money. Who do I send it to?”
“My lawyer—a Monsieur Carotte. Hang on, let me find his email address…here it is. CarotteatAubergineCarotteAsperge-dot-com. That’s all one word. Do you want me to spell it?”
“No, I’ve got it. Wait—you have a lawyer? Why do you need me?”
“He was assigned by the judge. He doesn’t care about me the way you do, Charity. In fact, he actually hooted when I suggested he bail me out. Like a hyena, not like an owl. Most unsettling.”
“How do you know he won’t keep the money?”

“Oh dear, I hadn’t thought of that. Just a minute.” From a distance, she heard a dialogue in rapid French. Rancor came back on the line. “The officer has kindly offered to take custody of the funds. Send it to Brigadier Raoul Dumont, in care of the Commissariat de Police, eighth arrondissement, one Avenue du General Eisenhower, Paris, 75008. Got it?”
“All right. I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow! Can’t you do it tonight? It’s not exactly Shangri-La here.”
What time is it there?”

More French. “Dumont informs me it is three o’clock in the morning. So it’s tomorrow.”
“Well, it isn’t tomorrow here. You’ll get the money when you get it.” When he didn’t answer, she said sweetly, “Do call me when you get out.”
“Will do,” he whispered his voice tight. “You’re a saint. I’ll be at l’Hôtel Paris, 13 rue des Beaux Arts, Paris 75006. Number is 33-1-44-41-99-55.”
“Hotel Paris? Where’s that? By the train station?”

“No, dear. That’s Hôtel de la Gare. It’s always Hôtel de la Gare. L’Hôtel Paris is one of the most famous of all French hostelries. I’m shocked you don’t know this.”
“Rancor, I’ve never been to France. I’ve never even been to New York.”
“Why, you sad, pathetic creature. While I still have you on the line, I shall tell you more. All kinds of famous people have rested their weary heads on the silken sheets of l’Hôtel, the most eminent being Oscar Wilde. I believe he breathed his last bon mot there. So naturally, it’s the most suitable hotel for a wielder of clever phrases such as I, don’t you think? Plus, it’s a five-star and really rather special. Did you know its rooms are classified Mignon and Bijou? That tells you how precious it is.”
Not having any response to this little speech, she said goodbye and hung up.
An hour later, money having been sent and receipt confirmed, she went to bed, resolved to force the little reptile to confess just how he managed to bunk in a five-star hotel and yet still had to borrow bail money.


Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents, the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent.

After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

Ms. Spencer has published eleven romantic suspense novels, and has two more in utero. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.

Find M.S.: