Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wouldn't You Rather Be a Minion, Too?

Actually, you're not going to be a minion, but part of my Croo.
No, that's not spelled wrong. That's a revision and deliberate twisting to get your attention.

I need a CREW to help me promote my books. Because honestly, there's just too much to do, too many places to reach, and I have too many commitments to handle it myself.

So, would you join my CROO?
It's just in the planning stages, but here are some definites:
Inside news on upcoming books.
Sneak peeks at artwork
A chance to weigh in on works-in-progress
Goodies, like T-shirts, mousepads, and other fun stuff as I find it.
A chance to voice your opinion on stories and characters and offer suggestions/requests for future stories, and advice/volunteer to help me promote my books.
And .... FREE books. Actually, ARCs -- Advance Review Copies. You'll get the uncorrected ARCs for my books when I get them, when my publishers send them to me for last-chance-to-fix-that-really-STOOOOOOPID-glitch-before-you-embarrass-yourself-in-public.

Well, maybe the books won't be free, and not everyone in the CROO will get one -- just the people who are interested in that particular series -- because I will ask you to very kindly write and post REVIEWS of the books you get to read before everyone else. Yeah, places like Amazon and Goodreads and B&N and other review sites. Be honest, but be nice??? Okay???? If you don't like the book, if it let you down completely, hmmmm, maybe just don't say anything? I'm not asking you to lie through your teeth and be like the worst used car salesman in the world, but if you could convince other people to read the book, that would be splendiferous!

Here's how to join:
Go to Facebook, find either of my pages, either personal or writing -- they're both public. Send me a message saying you want to join the CROO, and then send me a friend request. When I approve the friend request, I'll send you the invite to join the CROO page -- because this is a private, closed group. Only people who join can see what everyone is saying, can join the fun, participate in our plotting for world domination. You know, like Pinkie and the Brain did every week for three seasons ...


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: THE SHEPHERD'S CROWN, by Terry Pratchett

The world of fantasy and humor and fantasy-humor books suffered a great loss last year when Sir Terry Pratchett died. He was an inspiration to me, and the Discworld books were a revelation that fantasy didn't have to be all angsty and doom-and-gloom-and-we-must-sacrifice-ourselves-to-save-the-world seriousness.

You know?

Discworld was a glorious romp of silliness and insight disguised as snark, and the giggling destruction of sacred cows. If you haven't seen any of the animated or live-action films of several of the Discworld books, DO. An especially wonderful version is "Hog Father," the Discworld take on Christmas, starring Michelle Dockery of Downton Abby fame -- in case you don't recognize her in her white wig, she plays Susan, Death's granddaughter.

THE SHEPHERD'S CROWN is the fourth Tiffany Aching YA fantasy adventure, the 41st Discworld book, and, alas, the final Discworld book.

The grand master of mythical humor and mayhem knew he was dying, and I believe that impacted the story, because it dealt with change and fighting catastrophe and loss -- and saying goodbye to Granny Weatherwax. And yet, like Sir Terry will be through his books, Granny Weatherwax is still there in spirit as Tiffany learns to stand up and lead in the defense of Discworld.

Tiffany is in many aspects still a girl, growing up, trying to find love, trying to figure out her own style, her destiny, her duties, and trying not to let other people shove her into predetermined molds and patterns. When the nasty elves who appeared in previous books find the barriers keeping them out of Discworld have weakened, they attack. They never learn their lessons, do they? Tiffany finds a way to defeat them once again -- and learns some valuable lessons for herself, as well.

I hate saying goodbye to Tiffany and Granny Weatherwax, Ankh Morpork, Nanny Ogg, Lancre, Queen Magret, and all the others ... but they live on in their books, and I can always go back and visit. Still, there's just something incredible about opening a NEW book about your favorite people and places.

Thank you so much, Sir Terry Pratchett. It was a wild and glorious ride.

{PS: The next book on my to-read list is RAISING STEAM, the 40th Discworld book, so technically it comes before SHEPHERD'S CROWN ... but I like Tiffany's stories so I read them out of order. So sue me!}

Saturday, April 16, 2016

In the Spotlight: NIKKI'S TEST, Quarry Hall Book 8

Nikki’s first courier job included picking up Brooklyn from vacation and bringing her home to Quarry Hall. Before she got there, Brooklyn called, speaking in code, hinting at mysteries and danger. When Nikki arrived in Harper’s Point, Brooklyn was nowhere to be found.

Staying in town to search for Brooklyn while pretending not to suspect anything was harder than it sounded. Her questions never got the same answer twice, and it wasn’t long before she decided people were lying to her, and then spying on her.

A letter from Brooklyn provided some answers and Quarry Hall got to work. Joan hurried to Harper’s Point, fearing for Nikki’s safety. Before she could arrive, the enemy struck. Now the question was if Nikki’s training would keep her and Brooklyn alive until rescue came.


Suddenly, the feeling of being in a revised Mayberry popped and shriveled up like a shredded balloon. If Chester, who looked so jolly and friendly, could be a liar and untrustworthy, what did that say about other people here? Who could she trust if Brooklyn and the sheriff could both vanish, especially when Brooklyn was expecting Nikki to come get her?

"I'll go check into the hotel and come back, check if there's any news," she said. "Thanks."

"No problem, darling." Chester winked at her and nodded like a genial old grandfather.

Nikki felt like his eyes were digging holes in her back until she had stepped outside and moved beyond the glass doors. She shuddered. Maybe Chester was mental, or just slow but functional? Shouldn't he have at least asked for her name, since she was looking for the sheriff and Brooklyn? Shouldn't he have figured that she would have a cell phone, so she wouldn't need a hotel room number where she could be reached? Besides, no matter how small this town was, Nikki seriously doubted anyone could check into a hotel room at barely nine in the morning.

Gray whined and leaped ahead of her, tugging her down the sidewalk. He led her to a telephone pole, where a man was using a manual staple gun to attach a legal-size sheet of neon pink paper to the pole. Nikki stayed a few steps back from him, waiting until he finished, glanced at her, then headed down the sidewalk. He had a sheaf of those pink sheets tucked under his arm. Nikki stepped up to the pole to see what was on the sheet. The color sparked a sense that she should know what was on the poster already.

The picture was of a little girl, with "Lost" in big letters that spanned the entire width of the paper, above and below the picture.

A chill washed over her, then her heart skipped a few beats and started racing.

That was the little girl she had seen just a few hours ago, wandering through the meadow by the side of the road. She was positive.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: THE DISCOVERY, by Dan Walsh

I've been hearing Dan Walsh's name mentioned around ACFW -- American Christian Fiction Writers -- and saw his titles mentioned in various places. Now, I can see why people refer to his books and recommend them.

THE DISCOVERY is, at its most basic, a story-within-a-story. The narrator, Michael, has dreams of becoming a writer like his famous, much-admired grandfather, and is pleased when he inherits his grandfather's home, including his office, and the old manual typewriter he used to produce so many popular books.

There is a mystery in his grandfather's life, starting with a hugely blank past. To all intents and purposes, Michael's grandparents were alone in the world, no relatives, and didn't talk about their lives before they married. Then Michael finds an unpublished manuscript in the typewriter box, and as he reads, he discovers this is the answer to the questions he has had. This is a story of love and sacrifice, fear overcome by courage, and faith, set against a background of WWII and attempted Nazi espionage.

I just wish I hadn't waited so many years, with this book on my to-be-read pile.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

In the Spotlight: ANNE'S OGRE, Quarry Hall Book 7

George, Quarry Hall's mechanic, is a broken man, haunted by dreams of a life he can't remember. Vincent fights to keep George from remembering the soulless killer he once was -- until a trip to distract George gets his picture in a magazine, and awakens the past.

Anne's past again haunts her and she struggles to regain her peace. The Ogre who molested her and killed her parents is gone -- isn't he? The Black Prince who rescued her returns, but her delight in seeing her hero is crushed when she learns the Ogre escaped and is closer than she could have guessed.

As Anne re-fights the battle of forgiveness and healing, Quarry Hall and Vincent's former commando team race to find the mystery man hunting George. Will his trail lead to an enemy from decades ago? At what point can a monster be considered truly dead and gone?


The big German Shepard performed with precision, ears and tail up, almost prancing as if he was in a dog show. He leaped from the back of the truck, then reared back on his hind legs, barked three times, dropped forward, and trotted halfway to her. Then, responding to more gestures, he turned around three times, sat down, got up again, ran to her and ran circles around her and Hal, weaving in and out between them twice. Hal's jaw was nearly dragging on the parking lot pavement by the time Argus finished his performance and sat down. Anne was grateful the parking lot had been scraped clean and was only a little slushy, as she bent down to hug and stroke Argus, praising him.

"How long did it take to teach him all that? What language were you using?"

"That's classified data. If I told you, I would have to kill you," Anne responded, keeping a perfectly deadpan expression.

Hal grinned, obviously thinking she was joking, but his smile faded after a few seconds when she didn't react. Then Anne laughed and he joined her, looking more than a little relieved. She answered some of his questions as they headed around the front of the building to go back inside.

"Our head of security trains our dogs. He also teaches us self-defense and gives us a refresher course every time we go home, beating us black and blue most of the time. Many of our dogs are born at Quarry Hall, our headquarters, but we get a good number from places like the DEA, ATF. We have a couple cadaver dogs, bomb dogs, border patrol dogs."

"I can't imagine road work for a philanthropic foundation can be that dangerous," Hal said as he pushed the door open for her.

"You'd be surprised how nasty some people can get when you come between them and the innocent and defenseless. It's like they think their rights are being violated."

"Uh huh. Not sure we want to put that in the story. If we run the story."

"We'd prefer the enemy not to know we're prepared for them," she offered with a half-smile, as she reached forward and pushed open the door into the front of the office suite. Her smile widened as she thought about the receptionist's reaction, wondering how she had gone into the back and then appeared at the front of the office without going past her.

Argus growled and pushed past her, sliding through the gap between door and frame before it was wide enough.

"What's--" Hal began.

A gun fired.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: BROTHERHOOD IN DEATH, by JD Robb

Ah, the glories of Overdrive -- the software that lets you borrow an e-book from the library.

This latest installment in the In Death series by JD Robb was a present to myself for finishing a few deadline-driven jobs. Even better when I didn't have to pay for it. I'm kind of trying to reduce my to-be-read bookshelves to a decent level, and I just can't justify buying new books, y'know?

BROTHERHOOD IN DEATH deals with ... well ... a brotherhood. A group of men are being hunted down and tortured and then killed in rather gruesome, painful fashion. Determining what these men have in common, other than their manner of death, and what they did to justify their murderers' actions, is Eve Dallas's task.

Sometimes it's really hard to stand for the dead victims when, the more you learn, the more sure you are that these particular people might just have deserved to die.

As always, the character interactions and the constantly growing personalities and relationships are the best part of the book. I love reading Peabody and McNab, Eve and Roarke, and all the side characters who just grow on you and become more real as time goes on. A guilty pleasure!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

In the Spotlight: CHARLI, Quarry Hall Book 6

Years ago, Charli Carson and her father surprised a thief searching his laboratory. She was crippled and he died.

Nightmares plague Charli, so a reclusive life is easy. Joan Archer comes to the Carsons’ hidden forest lab, seeking to save her father’s life and prompting Charli and her mother to reevaluate choices they have made.

When they shelter the children of friends in danger, a chain of events leads to the enemy striking once more. Charli must conquer her fears and nightmares to protect the children and find answers before it is too late.


“No, no, no,” Charli growled. Her hand shook, but she reached into the holster on her hip and pulled out the flare gun. “Please, God …” She only hesitated a second before pulling it out and pointing her arm straight up in the air.

The flare arched up high with a shriek like the cub’s, and for a moment vanished among the cloud cover before exploding in brilliant blue and gold.

“Rangers!” one of the poachers shouted. He dove into the back of the Jeep, over the buck’s carcass.

The others cursed and shouted and scrambled to get into the Jeep, nearly forgetting the guns and the flashlights. Charli stared, unable to believe their reaction. She leaned out further, watching them as the Jeep bounced and jolted out of the clearing. The grinding of gears nearly drowned out the thudding of her heart. She leaned out as far as she could, following the bouncing and sliding of the headlights until they vanished entirely.

Too far.

Charli let out a little shriek as she overbalanced and lost her grip and slid down the slope. She twisted, trying to miss that lump that was probably a boulder, then another, long dark shape that was definitely a tree knocked down during the winter storms and heavy ice load. She flipped over onto her side. Her good leg hit something hard and she pushed off, grunting at the impact.

Then suddenly she was down, rolling across the clearing, until she landed in a depression on her face. A wet depression. Charli lay still for a few seconds, catching her breath. A gasping chuckle escaped her. Then she struggled to her feet, pulled her backpack straight, brushed herself off and hobbled over to the cub. He whimpered when she bent down and touched the top of his head.

“It's okay,” she murmured. “Nobody's going to hurt you anymore.”