Book Reviews, Cozy Mystery

BOOK REVIEW: Killer Cupcakes (Leighann Dobbs)

dobbs-killercupcakes

Lexy Baker’s muffin tops are truly scrumptious, but they’re landing her in trouble, and in love! She’s at the top of Detective Jack Perillo’s list, both as a murder suspect and potential girlfriend. Her passion for sexy designer stilettos isn’t helping either of them. Read on for a free excerpt from this first book in the Lexy Baker cozy mystery series by Leighann Dobbs.

EXCERPT

 

“How can I help yo…?” Lexy’s words were cut off, her mouth forming a surprised O when recognition dawned on her.  Standing on the other side of the case was Jack Perillo, her neighbor.  Somehow, he looked different.  It took her a minute to realize the difference was the official looking badge he was holding in front of her face.

 

“Oh…Hi.”  She said, her mind whirling.  Did he come just to visit her?  And what was flashing the badge all about?

 

“Hi, Lexy.”  Lexy saw a look of discomfort pass his face. He quickly added, “I’m a detective with the BRPD, and unfortunately, I need to ask you some questions.”

 

“Questions?” Lexy felt her face eyebrows knit together in confusion. “I don’t understand.  What’s this about? Did something happen to my grandmother?”  

 

“No, Mona is fine. It’s about your boyfriend Kevin.”

 

“Kevin?  He’s my ex-boyfriend. I haven’t seen him in almost two years.”  

 

“Well, I’m sorry to tell you he was found dead. Murdered.” 

 

The impact of the news hit Lexy like a ton of bricks.  Murdered? Kevin?  Even though they had broken up two years ago, and he had treated her badly, she still felt a pang of sympathy for him.  

 

“Murdered?  But what does that have to do with me?”  

 

“Well, that’s the thing,” Jack said, his face a mask of stone. “He was found face down in a box of your cupcake tops. They were poisoned”.

 

Lexy felt a jolt of shock, her head swam, her ankles starting to wobbled.  She grabbed the side of the display case to steady herself, wishing that just for once she had the good sense to wear shoes with a lower heel.

I love a good cozy mystery and this was a convenient quick read with a sweet theme, romance, a hot cop, gorgeous shoes, cute clue-finding dog and genuinely helpful grandma. Plus the decadent recipe at the end, which I hope to someday convert to a gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan recipe on my food blog, if that’s ok with Leighann.

Author Leighann Dobbs just updated the series with new cover art and Killer Cupcakes, the first in the Lexy Baker Cozy Mystery series, is currently FREE on Amazon Kindle!

Buy Killer Cupcakes at Amazon

Belinda Y. Hughes is a book reviewer, blogger and author of Blues in the Night, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2 and Living Proof. Her vegan jewelry designs are available on Etsy. She is currently working on the lesbian romance sequel to Blues in the Night.

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Guest Posts

Guest Post: Adventures in Indie Publishing (Dyane Ford)

DYANE FORD cover art

It’s been three years since I completed my book, The Purple Morrow, followed by a year spent looking for ways to get it published and distributed, followed by another seeing how things went from there. With how simple self-publishing has become over the last few years, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just skip all that and jump instead onto Create Space or Kindle and do it myself.

The truth is I did try. But years ago, when I was ready to get my book into the hands of readers, the self-publishing companies weren’t as user-friendly as they are now. I tinkered with various platforms: Blurb, Create Space, and Kindle and got the same problem every time: a major case of frustration. I had NO idea how to format. It became so irritating that I abandoned the whole thing and ran without passing go to a company who could do it for me. Now it’s years later and thankfully, times have changed. So has the ease with which one can format and upload their books to a variety of publishing/distribution platforms.

About a month ago, I ended the contract with the company that had published and distributed my book. We agreed on a month’s transition period, and in that time I got busy.  Below are some of the things I learned as well as some tips I thought worth sharing:

Step 1: About ending an existing contract

If you have an existing contract with a publisher, read it carefully to make sure you follow the terms for termination. In fact, make sure there is a clause that ensures you can terminate the contract, should the need ever arise. Try to be respectful. If you are breaking the contract, even if you have the right to, remember that the publisher might be on the losing end of their investment. How you deal with them might make or break a smooth termination: you want them to cooperate, so be nice.

Step 2: Finding a site to publish and distribute the book.

I started with Smashwords, and I’m so glad I did. After numerous failed attempts at formatting in the past, I was stressed about attempting this. But here’s what I did to ease the pain:

a) I asked for help.

I put out a general call on Google+ asking for tips and suggestions from other Smashwords (SW) users and luckily, a couple of friends responded. They shared some of their know-how and also made themselves available to help me if I needed more coaching. It’s good to have friends.

b) I read and reread and reread the SW Style Guide and Template. This might seem excessive, but having a good understanding of what SW expects and why makes the investment worthwhile (i.e., because they upload to various reader platforms, having a simple template that is compatible with all of them makes it easy to gain access to many distributors with one template). The Style Guide is great. There are step-by-step explanations, examples, screenshots, etc. to make things clear. Even when I had problems formatting my chapter headings, I applied the Style used in their Template to my document and poof! Working chapter heads! There are many ways to format your piece, but this one worked for me.

Note, however, the only thing I didn’t like about the SW experience is that they don’t have a Preview option, which means you have to upload the book and then download it on one of the various platform formats in order to see what the final product actually looks like. But that’s a small price to pay for an overall good experience.

Now, via SW, my book is available on Nook, Kobo, iBooks, SW, and for download in EPUB, mobi (Kindle), etc. That’s bang for your buck.  And, since the manuscript was already formatted for Kindle, to get it distributed on Amazon, all I had to do was upload the same formatted file and voilà! Done.

Step 3: Dealing with Create Space

Alright, this was a different beast. I felt a different sort of stress about this because people pay more for a print book, so I wanted to make sure that the end result looked as much as possible like something that came from a traditional publisher. Not knowing anything about typesetting, what was I going to do?

Create Space (CS) now has a formatted template. Essentially, you can copy and paste your document right into it, and your front and back matter are all laid out for you, only needing a few tweaks to personalize. This was a wonderful discovery!

Still, there were issues: the template only provided ten formatted chapters, and I learned the hard way that if you paste chapters into the wrong formatted section weird things happen. Entire sections appear halfway down the page, or page numbers stop suddenly or repeat, etc. And the chapter heads – ! I won’t go there.

I didn’t find a lot of help in the CS forums but Word’s ‘tell me more’ feature on the .docx version is wonderful. Again, I found screen shots and detailed step-by-step explanations that helped me figure out how to deal with messed-up headers and footers, and the other formatting problems I had. By the end, the final version looked just about as good as the version I’d paid for. And I’d done it myself.

Admittedly, this all requires time, patience, and a willingness to learn. It took about a week to wrestle the ebook version, and about as much to handle CS—probably because I had gained some basic formatting knowledge from having dealt with the ebook.

Oh, one more thing. I admit I had outside help with the images, both for the ebook and the print version. This was beyond me, especially the print version, so I asked my husband, a graphic designer, to handle it. That said, SW and Amazon offer templates authors can use, as well as design services, should you need help.

So, overall, preparing my book for both ebook and print formats was a lot less painful than expected, and it even left me with a huge sense of accomplishment. All it took was a willingness to try.

Thanks for reading! What have your self-publishing experiences been like? Do you have any tips or warnings to share? I’d love to hear them.

DYANE FORD author pic

Author Bio

Dyane Forde’s love of writing began with an early interest in reading and of words in general. These sparked a life-long desire to write all types of things, including short stories, novels, flash fiction, and poetry. To her, every story represents new challenges to tackle, as well as a means by which she can connect with people on a level deeper than intellect. Forde is the author of the adult fantasy novel, The Purple Morrow, and its upcoming sequel, Wolf’s Bane. Dyane also hosts a writing blog at www.droppedpebbles.wordpress.com where she welcomes chatting with readers and other writers. Stop by and drop her a line!

Links

Blog: Dropped Pebbles

Book: The Purple Morrow

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

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Cover Art, Free Books, Giveaways, Guest Posts, New Releases, Paranormal, Thriller, Uncategorized, Writing Technique

Guest Post: The Writing Life Broken Down (Rochelle Campbell)

Today’s guest blogger is Rochelle Campbell, author of Fury From Hell, a paranormal thriller about good versus evil. She’s worked for the New York Times and been published in Bartleby Snopes and Lit Art magazines. Rochelle is excited to reveal the cover of her upcoming third novel in this post, as well as sharing her personal insights on the writing process, mentoring writers and how to become a successful author. I have long admired Rochelle’s writing posts on Twitter, so if you want to see how irresistible, engaging tweets are done, be sure to follow her there, at her writing blog and at Goodreads. In addition, Rochelle is graciously doing a giveaway – 7 FREE copies of Fury From Hell, the first installment in the From Hell series! Be sure to enter and share this post with all your book friends. – Belinda

 

What’s your writing process?

My writing process leans towards the left brain once the idea for the story is formed.  However, the initial inspiration for a story is as it should be – very right-brained.

I tend to like a very detailed outline that uses six points.  They are:

            Beginning

            Introduction of Conflict

            Complication of Conflict

            Climax

            Resolution of Conflict

            Ending

 

I flesh out each of the six points with at least a paragraph, or two.  Then, I add a major dramatic question (MDQ) for the story and/or the main character.  This is what the book spins on.  In other words, the theme, or underlying current running beneath the story.  The MDQ addition was something I learned at the Gotham Writers Course I took this past spring.  My instructor, Michael Davis, eloquently taught us that we must give our characters strong enough reasons and inner conflicts to engage them and the reader.

After the crucial portion is written down I focus on the characters, their names and relations to each other within the story world.  This step will often dictate the setting and/or the environment that the story will take place in.

With all of this information, I then feel comfortable enough to begin writing.  With this method, even though I know a lot about the story going in, the story and the characters still move, ebb and flow all on their own, making the writing of the story fascinating.

Have you ever considered anyone a mentor?

My writing mentor is Jacqueline Lichtenberg a phenom in the world of scifi fan fiction.  Ms. Lichtenberg is a Hugo Award Winner for Best Fan Writer (1974), a Locus Award Winner for Best Science Fiction Novel (First Channel, 1981), she coined the term Intimate Adventure and is a Galaxy Award Winner Spirituality in Science Fiction for her second novel, Unto Zeor Forever.  I could go on and on including that Ms. Lichtenberg is the main author of Star Trek Lives! And she is the creator of the Sime~Gen Universe, a large vibrant fanfic community.

 

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

I just completed reading Deborah Harkness’ Book of Life, the 3rd book in the All Souls series.  It is a paranormal romantic thriller with aspects of horror.  To set the stage, imagine the world is inhabited by humans, of course, but in and among us are other creatures that blend in – or try to – witches, daemons and vampires.  There’s a Covenant the governs how these creatures can and should behave with humans and with human affairs.  This series explores what happens when the Covenant is disregarded because of greed, personal gain, jealousy and power.

Currently, I am reading a friend’s children’s chapter book called, “Grandma You’re Dead!”  It is the funniest premise – a 13-year-old girl is visited by her deceased grandmother who needs her grandaughter’s help to solve a 15-year-old mystery.  The catch?  The teenager cannot tell her mother anything, or ask anyone for help!  It is already shaping up to be a sweet read.

 

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

There are a myriad of tools, software, books, journals and periodicals for writers.  For me, one of the best software packages for the creation of stories, and for help in structuring the story is Literature and Latte’s Scrivener.  You can create a story from start to finish using this program and brainstorm ideas with it as well.

The other ‘tools’ I find most helpful are the writer’s chosen writing implements: iPad, computer, pen and paper, laptop, etc.  Yes, I’m being facetious but a writer…writes.  The truly important tool is to find a supportive group of writers who can provide feedback on your work during all stages.  This group can help the new writer develop his/her voice and writing style while allowing the writer to express him/herself without prejudice.

Some great sites for a community of writers who can offer critique of your work are:

Zoetrope.com

WritersCarnival.ca

Wattpad.com

A writer generally develops more quickly when s/he has direct communication and connection with people of like mind.

 

What do you believe contributes to making a writer successful?

A writer is successful because s/he does not stop writing.  It’s as simple as that.  If you love writing, the act of writing, the thought of writing and all of the editing, formatting, grammar rules, punctuation and style usage best practices are all you think about then you are a successful writer.  You cannot call yourself a writer if you do not write or, if you do not read.  I suppose that is the philosophical answer.

The practical answer of what it takes to become a successful writer, in terms of dollars and cents (not, sense J) is a lot of work to develop your social platform.  These days, if you seek literary representation, you will be asked if you have a social media platform and how large it is.  While this may not be  a deal-breaker for most agents, it is a major factor.

On another note, if you are an indie writer and then decide to try to publish the traditional route, your indie book sales will be reviewed and taken into consideration of whether the agent, or the publishing company will want to take you on as a client.  If you book did not sell well, they know they have an uphill battle of creating a platform for you so you can sell books for them.

You can see ‘success’ can mean different things as a writer.  Ultimately, you have to define what you want, set your goals and then judge your success for yourself based upon what you wanted not what someone else wanted for you.

 

What do you love about independent publishing?

As an independent (Indie) author I have the freedom to tell the story I want to tell without having to worry overly much about fitting into a genre, or category.  I also get to choose which book covers will grace the front of my books.  For me, this alone is worth the extra work of creating a book worth reading!   (I hope! J)

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only advice I can share would be to write the things that bubble out of you and slide through your fingers onto the page, or the screen.

 

Do not second-guess yourself.  Get that first-draft pulled together without any editing from your mind.  Once you have a full first draft, put it away and let it ‘rest’ for about 3 – 4 weeks.  Read other books, watch movies, go on vacation; do whatever but don’t look at your manuscript.

 

Once you’ve let the book rest, read through it with a red pen (or whatever color you’d like).  Adjust the story as you see fit and hen begin working on editing and revising.  Give to your writing group, or writing partner for critique before sending to an agent, or publisher.

 

FFH Author Pic2_Aug 2014

 

You’ve told us about your writing process, we touched on indie publishing and resources for writers but we don’t know who you are as a writer.  Can you tell us a bit about you?

 

I have been writing on and off for over 20 years.  To date, the off-writing portion seems to have provided fodder for the writing phase of my career as I currently have, five novel-length works in progress.  Early in my career, I did legwork for The New York Times and freelanced for a number of local and regional newspapers and magazines.  However, my calling – fiction writing – became apparent after my two-year writers’ mentoring course with Jacqueline Lichtenberg in the early 2000’s.  From that course, several short stories emerged that readers and fellow writers urged me to develop into longer works.

After a quiescent decade, story ideas abounded and are being developed and scheduled for bringing into fully fleshed out written form.

Along the way, two short stories have been published by literary journals.  They are

 

Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind

[http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/chambraycurtains.htm] and,

 

How Charlie Ray Saved My Life

[http://litartmag.com/issue2/story2.php].

 

Fury From Hell is technically my third full-length novel.  I have read that a writer’s first novel (the very very very first one written on parchment paper because you were in the kitchen cooking when the idea struck…) is rarely ever publishable.  You generally catch on by the 3/4/5th book!  That is, unless you have help.

 

 

Book Blurb:

Fury From Hell is a paranormal thriller about good vs. evil.  Here, the good is in the form of Detective Jennifer Holden, a homicide cop that is haunted by her own personal demons of a murder she committed when she was just a teenager.  The trauma she suffered at the hands of social agency after agency hardened Jennifer into a staunch atheist making her gun and her bank account the only things she truly believes in.

We meet Detective Holden, shortly before she begins working on her first solo murder case.  The victim is Kyma Barnes who was brutally raped and killed. As Kyma’s soul leaves her body, a demon being called by a coven of dark witches at nearby Prospect Park, is drawn to the dying woman by her death throes.  Fury Abatu offers to avenge Kyma’s death.  The price?  The dying woman’s soul.  Kyma gives it gladly to ensure the man who killed her pays dearly.

At the crime scene, Jennifer becomes possessed by Fury Abatu.  Hosts usually die a violent death within weeks of the initial possession.  Detective Holden does not know she is possessed…

With her own demise on the line, Jennifer must fight for her life and her very soul – something she’s not sure she even believes in – to rid herself of the dark force surrounding her and her friends.

Can Jennifer be saved from the demon?  Will she be able to find the faith to believe in something greater than herself and her material things?

Read this first installment of the From Hell series to find out!

 

Where can readers find you?

 

Blog:

http://thenotebookblogairy.wordpress.com/

 

GoodReads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3434531.Rochelle_Campbell

 

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/NotebkBlogairy

 

Where can readers purchase Fury From Hell?

 

US: http://www.amazon.com/Fury-Hell-Rochelle-Campbell-ebook/dp/B00NE24S2W

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fury-Hell-Rochelle-Campbell-ebook/dp/B00NE24S2W

 

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Dream Warriors (D. Robert Pease)

DreamWarriors-Cover563x900

 

As an Egyptology fan since childhood and an eternal Piscean dreamer, Dream Warriors thrilled me to my bones! A field trip to an Egyptian exhibit at the Met, combined with a forced tour of a New York City sewer, open 15-year-old Joey Cola’s eyes to a world beyond his upcoming entry to MIT. His dreams of making a difference increasingly turn into a full-time job of saving the world. Along the way, Joey picks up a few new skills and learns some fascinating, fun and difficult truths. He is forced to re-examine everything he believes about identity, relationships, trust, reality and dreams.

In this colorful, urban fantasy YA novel, D. Robert Pease breathes new life into the immortal words of Walt Disney, “If you dream it, you can achieve it.” If you like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Mummy and DERELICT, you’ll love Dream Warriors.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of this book for editorial review purposes. The opinions above are my own.

Read More Reviews & Buy Dream Warriors:

Amazon

Goodreads

Evolved Publishing

 

Belinda Y. Hughes is a cookbook author, blogger, freelance content writer, poet and artist. She enjoys gardening, cooking and meditating in the country with her labradachs and wildlife friends. Having given up clocks and watches, she now relies on an alarm cardinal and the sun.

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Yellow Ribbon (Unknown Poetry)

Seniors Don’t Sit Well (PenPaperPad)

Bringing Food to Life (Writing in the Modern Age)

 

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Writing in the Modern Age

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