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Beware the Sophomore Jinx by Dianne Emley

February 9, 2012 by  •
I’m pleased to welcome back LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley for a continuing look at her Iris Thorne series. I’ll be reviewing the series’s second entry, Slow Squeeze, tomorrow. Originally published in the early 90s, it’s been an interesting experience for Dianne to revisit books she hadn’t looked at in nearly a decade.

Dianne EmleyThank you, Elizabeth, for allowing me to participate again in your blog. Last December, I wrote about revisiting my first book, Cold Call, (the first Iris Thorne mystery) and the debut author I was in 1993. This post focuses on my second book (and the second in the series), Slow Squeeze, published in 1994.

I’ve gently edited and am republishing the five Iris Thorne mysteries as e-books and trade paperbacks. The third, Fast Friends, will be re-released soon. Books four and five—Foolproof and Pushover—will be out later this year.

When I landed a two-book deal with Simon and Schuster for Cold Call and a second, unnamed, Iris Thorne mystery, my elation soon turned to terror. Writing Cold Call was a hobby, a lark. I took all the time I wanted to polish it in blissful privacy. Now, I reported to an editor and had a deadline for the second book, all while holding down a full-time day job. Like my mother is fond of saying, don’t wish too hard for what you want because you might get it.

The title of this post is only somewhat tongue-in-cheek. When I exceeded my wildest dreams by landing that book contract, my early morning writing hobby suddenly became public. The warning about the sophomore jinx was delivered by a childhood friend, also an avid scribbler, who was perhaps a wee bit jealous. I asked him, “What do you mean?” I honestly had never heard that phrase before. Oh, to be young and naïve. I was soon to have the scales yanked from my eyes.

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Slaying Dragons by Mariam Kobras

February 7, 2012 by  •
I’ll be reviewing The Distant Shore by Mariam Kobras in the not too distant future, but wanted to go ahead and welcome her for a guest post during her “Love is in the Air” Blog Hop & Giveaway.

Mariam KobrasMy son is slaying dragons.

Not real dragons, of course, they are just evil critters in a video game. He battles them with virtual swords and words of power that pluck the beasts from the sky and make them vulnerable. He needs to kill them before he can go on winning the world of Skyrim and be a hero.

I enjoy watching him play these games, it’s a bit like watching a very long, interactive movie. I know the characters, feel for them, wishing they will win their battles for freedom and get a piece of happiness in that cold, rocky land of theirs. Skyrim is not a game for the faint of heart, and it’s definitely not for those who are afraid of dragons.

Here I am watching my teenage son play, when I’m supposed to be writing this guest post for the blog hop.
Last night, sitting in this same spot on the Chesterfield couch my sister gave me when she moved to Scotland (different story; I’m only bragging about the Chesterfield.) I was whining at my dear publisher about this blog hop and how I hated to be torn away from my “real” writing for so long to do all these posts, and how I was scared that I’d lost it and would never be able to write another word or a book again.

Of course, being a good publisher, MaryChris kicked my butt and told me to just get moving, she was quite sure I had lost nothing, and would be just fine, and there were a lot of novels in me yet. There was only this one post left for me to write just now, and then I’d be free to return to Jon and Naomi and their story.

Here’s the thing.

Even while we were talking about this, I had this epiphany, this moment of enlightenment, when, for an instant, I understood the meaning of “Writer’s Block”. Writer’s Block, this much discussed, famed, feared state of mind when a writer thinks she has nothing more to say, when she believes the well has dried up. When she thinks there will never be another word, chapter, let alone another book, and this career is over before it even really started.

I felt that way last night. I felt as if I’d never be able to return to my novel, never be able to pick up the thread and find the story again. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to write.

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Taken by Robert Crais

February 3, 2012 by  •
Taken by Robert Crais“Got you.” – Joe Pike

Two words. Two very simple, straightforward words. And yet they may well mark the most important moment in the entirety of the fifteen books that comprise author Robert Crais’s bestselling Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series.

Taken, the most recent entry, finds private investigator Elvis hired by Nita Morales, a local businesswoman whose daughter has gone missing. Convinced her daughter has merely taken a break from college and run off with her boyfriend, Morales would still like Elvis to track her down.

Elvis’s investigation quickly uncovers disturbing evidence suggesting the young couple was actually abducted by bajadores, modern day highwaymen who target both those trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the coyotes (guides) who transport them. Known to be especially ruthless, bajadores won’t hesitate to kill people they’ve abducted if they’re unable to get their families to pay a ransom.

Enlisting the help of his (very) silent partner Joe Pike, Elvis devises a plan to go undercover and locate not just the missing couple, but a group of over 30 other people who were abducted at the same time. Unfortunately the plan goes sideways and Elvis himself is abducted by the bajadores. But if the bajadores think they’re ruthless, they’ve got another thing coming… Joe Pike. Along with the charismatic and equally deadly Jon Stone (about whom readers are treated to more details than in any of his previous appearances), Pike begins systematically working his way through the bajadores in his quest to rescue Elvis, a man who is not only his friend, but who is arguably his only friend.

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Killer Tease is a Killer Read by Jason Duke

February 3, 2012 by  •
In somewhat of a departure, today I am welcoming a guest reviewer. Jason Duke is not just any old reviewer, however, he is himself a crime fiction author. Even more noteworthy and deserving of respect, he is also a U.S. Army and Iraqi war veteran. Please welcome Jason for the first of what will be semi-regular guest reviews.

Killer Tease by Danny HoganPulp Press boasts a line of pocket-sized crime novellas, whose gritty fast-paced revenge plots, pulp cover art, and fabricated torn edges, are designed with a worthwhile goal in mind towards recapturing the nostalgia for the dime novel and pulp’s golden-era. Their motto: “Turn off your T.V. and discover fiction like it used to be…”

One such novella, Danny Hogan’s “Killer Tease”, sets the standard for the kind of reputation Pulp Press seeks. A bare bones revenge story about an aging burlesque dancer named Eloise Murphy, the title lives up to what the Pulp Press line is about. Initially the target of a diabolical revenge scheme, she manages to turn the tables instead. In her long career as a dancer (which, apparently, is not the same as stripping!), Murphy has earned a tough-as-nails reputation and as many enemies.

The story is fast in the very beginning when Murphy loses yet another dancing gig, then kind of plods along as she tries to figure out her next move, then quickly picks back up again when she is offered to work for a shady, unscrupulous character named Napoleon Hammerstein. In fact, outside of her mate Hunter and her cat Sinatra, there is (literally) no-one that can be trusted in this story. The best part of the book is when it is revealed to Murphy on entering the dance stage that she has been tricked by Hammerstein to in fact perform for all the men she has ever beaten over the years. That aha moment when the men begin clamoring on stage to exact their revenge is truly exceptional.

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Faint of Heart by Jeff Strand

January 31, 2012 by  •
Faint of Heart by Jeff Strand“I’d like to let you two die together, but I’m not a fan of romantic endings. This isn’t tragedy. This is horror.” – Stephen

Author Jeff Strand is best known for his comedy infused horror, such as the Andrew Mayhem series, The Severed Nose, and Benjamin’s Parasite just to name a few. And though I do love me some seriously irreverent Strand, I also admit that my two favorite Strand books to date, Pressure and Dweller, are the ones in which he included the least amount of humor, instead focusing on character development and building tension.

Strand’s newest release, the novella Faint of Heart, is nothing but wall-to-wall tension. Rebecca Harpster isn’t wild about the idea of spending a weekend alone at a cabin in Alaska, but she also isn’t selfish enough to stop her husband, Gary, from going on a camping trip with his two best friends. And though she’s still adjusting to their new life in Alaska, Rebecca knows the house is safe and that Gary’s the one more likely to have an unpleasant weekend camping outside in temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.

As the weekend passes with no word from Gary, however, Rebecca becomes increasingly concerned something awful has happened. Her worst nightmare seems to have come true when a State Trooper shows up on the doorstep late Sunday evening with news there’s been a dire accident. Despite her panic, Rebecca is aware enough to realize there is something off about the Trooper. Instead of letting him in, she demands his name and badge number, intending to call and confirm his identity. And that’s when her nightmare really begins.

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Why would you want to make an author cry? by Jeff Strand

January 30, 2012 by  •
Frequent visitor – hell, he has his own archive section! – Jeff Strand is back. This time he wants to talk a little about his new novella, Faint of Heart, which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow, as well as share his thoughts on the different types of reviews authors get. Please, don’t make him cry.

Jeff StrandThe digital edition of my new novella, Faint of Heart, is now available. Some early readers, including Ms. Elizabeth A. White, think it’s one of my best books. I’m hoping the rest of the world will like it, too, but whenever you publish a book, some people are going to think it suuuuuucks!

I’m okay with bad reviews. I mean, I feel kinda sick to my stomach when I read them, but it’s part of the business. A book that gets nothing but glowing reviews is a book that has only found a very small audience. If you check Rotten Tomatoes, some people didn’t even like The Muppets. How can anybody be so dead inside that they didn’t like The Muppets?

As a rule, one of the dumbest things you can do as an author is respond defensively to negative reviews. You look like a whiny jerk. Especially the “Let’s see YOU write a book!” response. You don’t need to be a published novelist to have an informed opinion about books any more than I need to know how to properly slaughter a cow to say that the beef shish kabobs I had this weekend were total garbage.

That said, here are some reviews that annoy me…

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Boca Daze by Steven M. Forman

January 27, 2012 by  •

Boca Mournings by Steven M. FormanI always was a sucker for a good cause. – Eddie Perlmutter

Eddie Perlmutter is not your typical Boca Raton retiree. While most of Boca’s citizens find themselves preoccupied with things like golf, bridge tournaments, doctors appointments, and early-bird specials, former Boston detective turned private investigator Eddie tends to find himself caught up in slightly more serious matters.

During his brief time in Boca, Eddie has taken on the Russian mafia and run a group of neo-Nazis out of town on a rail (the cases that earned him the nickname “The Boca Knight”), solved the mystery of a haunted elevator, shut down a cyber-criminal (who’s since become Eddie’s partner), busted up a kidnapping/identity theft ring, and parlayed the financial results of one investigation into a health care clinic for a low income community (Boca Mournings).

Not bad for a sexagenarian with arthritic knuckles, two bum knees, and a pesky prostate.

Boca Daze finds Eddie dealing with a blast from his Boston past when old school criminal Doc Hurwitz, also now retired to Boca, reaches out to Eddie for help. Doc’s granddaughter, Shoshanna, recently overdosed on OxyContin pills she obtained from one of Florida’s infamous “pill mills,” places that churn out thousands of prescriptions for painkillers under questionable – but legal – circumstances. Doc wants Eddie to get the evidence needed to prove the clinic where Shoshanna got her pills is dirty and shut the place down.

» Read the rest of this entry

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Exit 9 by Brett Battles

January 25, 2012 by  •
Exit 9 by Brett BattlesJust let me wake up. Let this be a nightmare. – Josie Ash

At the end of Project Eden series opener Sick, Daniel Ash knew the nightmare that had been dodged by the resistance’s victory in preventing a global pandemic was only temporary. After all, the virulent Sage Flu was not a natural phenomenon, but rather a genetically engineered virus produced by a group known as Project Eden, whose mission is to bring about a “reboot” of the human race by killing 99% of the population and starting over with a select group of the best and brightest the world has to offer.

As Exit 9 opens, Ash and his two kids have assumed new identities and are doing their best to have as normal a life as possible given their knowledge that Project Eden still exists. It’s a difficult situation, one which is not made easier when members of the resistance show up on Ash’s doorstep, once again calling upon him for help. The countdown to the day they’ve all been fearing, Implementation Day, has begun.

Now Ash and his team must race against the clock to discover Project Eden’s secret base of operations Bluebird, believed to be located in the extreme northern reaches of Canada inside the Arctic Circle, before the group can unleash its “final solution” on the world.

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The Killing League by Dani Amore

January 23, 2012 by  •
Dead Wood by Dani Amore…the killing is easy. It’s the getting away with it that’s a bit more problematic. – The Commissioner

The job of a sports league’s commissioner, while not easy, is relatively straightforward. Generally speaking, they oversee the teams and competition, deal with administrative details and rules governing league play, and generally seek to ensure the health and success of their league. The commissioner in author Dani Amore’s newest book is no different. Well, except that he’s not in charge of the NBA, NFL or some other league you’re familiar with; no, he’s commissioner of The Killing League.

Like any other professional sports league, The Commissioner has recruited only the best of the best to participate. It just so happens that all the players in The Killing League are active serial killers, and The Commissioner has devised a single elimination style tournament for them to test their skills. Each person will be assigned a specific target to kill per round of play, with the targets’ level of difficulty increasing the deeper into the tournament the players get. If you don’t get your target – or they get you – you’re eliminated.

And so, players with monikers like Blue Blood, The Messiah, Florence Nightmare, and The Butcher, among others, are turned loose across the country, each determined to win the grand prize: a shot at renowned FBI profiler Wallace Mack, and a woman named Nicole, who escaped from and killed the serial killer who abducted her three years ago. Of course, Mack didn’t get to be renowned based on his good looks, and Nicole has dedicated her life to two things since her ordeal: becoming a chef and martial arts. Mack quickly realizes what’s going on, and the only place Nicole’s better with a knife than in the kitchen is in the dojo. Game on.

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City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore

January 20, 2012 by  •
Stephen BlackmooreIt’s almost midnight. I’ve been dead almost twenty-four hours. I’m not sure how I feel about that. – Joe Sunday

Joe Sunday always figured his life would end violently. After all, when your occupation is thug for hire to a mid-level mafioso things tend to get pretty nasty at times, even if you are working the glamour filled streets of L.A., not the mean streets of New York or Chicago.

What he couldn’t possibly have realized, however, was that when he finally was killed, well, that he wouldn’t stay dead.

Sunday does realize something is very wrong with his latest assignment, especially when the guys his boss previously sent out on the job either turned up dead or not at all. So when he and his partner, Julio, fail in their attempt to obtain the specific item they were sent to retrieve – a gemstone of indeterminate origin – he figures at least they’re ahead of the game by still being alive. That is until Julio unexpectedly, and quite violently, kills himself in front of Sunday.

When Sunday seeks answers from his boss, he’s informed that the man they tried to steal the stone from has been alive for far longer than should be possible, especially since Sunday’s boss claims to have personally killed him decades ago. The stone isn’t a jewel, he tells Sunday, but an ancient object that has the power to grant immortality. Riiight. Just as Sunday’s about to write off his boss as a couple of fries short of a Happy Meal, he gets a frantic call from Julio’s widow asking for Joe’s help. Seems Julio is home and acting odd. Considering Sunday just watched Julio kill himself only hours ago, he finds that quite odd indeed.

Welcome to author Stephen Blackmoore’s L.A., the City of the Lost, a place where the magic that occurs isn’t accomplished by computer geeks in the offices of Industrial Light & Magic or Pixar.

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This Is Life / Czechmate by Seth Harwood

January 19, 2012 by  •
This Is Life by Seth Harwood“It doesn’t matter how you got here, because you in it.” – Freeman

Ex-action movie star Jack Palms seems to find himself “in it” quite a bit. When we last saw Jack in series opener Jack Wakes Up, he had barely managed to extricate himself from between a rock and a hard place in the middle of a Bay Area drug war.

As we catch up with Jack in This Is Life, he has just returned home after a long cross country motorcycle trip he used to clear his head and get back on track. Unfortunately for Jack, his attempt to pursue a low key life is about to be derailed once again. While standing in his living room on the night of his homecoming contemplating the charred remains of his bed that awaited him upon his return, someone takes a shot at Jack through his patio door. He gives chase, but is only able to catch a glimpse of the shooter’s car as it speeds away.

Jack heads to SFPD headquarters the following morning to report the incident to his frenemy Sergeant Mills Hopkins, but instead of taking his report Hopkins recruits Jack to look into the killing of an SFPD officer. Turns out the officer was involved in questionable activity, and someone high up in SFPD bureaucracy doesn’t seem to want the crime solved and is hampering the investigation. How other than a cover-up to explain an official report of “suicide” for a corpse whose head was nearly obliterated by what was obviously a .50 caliber anti-tank gun based on the other holes that riddle the vehicle? This doesn’t sit well with Hopkins, who wants Jack to use his hard earned recent experience of how to work the angles between warring factions to get to the bottom of things.