Books

Not full book reviews, but recommendations, impressions and random thoughts.

“The Forever Door” Prologue Bonus

The Crux Anthology is about to eventuate! Here is a tantalizing taste by the energetic and talented Rachael Ritchey. I’ll be posting more about the anthology in the next few weeks.

Rachael Ritchey

This is a special preview prologue to my story “The Forever Door” in The Crux Anthology, a book of adventure science fiction and fantasy short stories by sixteen different authors.

Official Release Date: November 26th, 2018

TheCrux ebook

You can preorder your ebook copy November 19th, 2018

We’ve got our very own The Crux Crew FB Fan Page for you to get updates & news,

but in the meantime, enjoy this prologue to my entry!


History has seen its share of violence and the conquest of man. And now that same history has caught up with talented architect Owen McFadden when his archaeologic-expert sister’s passion for the unimaginable unknown leaves him no choice other than to join her on the quest of the millennium … a dangerous hunt for the forbidden … deep in the cloud forests of Peru.

“The Forever Door”

Prologue

TheForeverDoor.jpg

Owen unhooked the safety harness and stepped back…

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The Hundred Mile Reading Diet

An opportunity to browse and buy books in Victoria, BC!

My Writing Eden

November is Craft Fair month when you can buy your Christmas gifts, and Victoria Writers’ Society is renting a table at a different fair almost every weekend.

Members, many of whom are self-published, take full advantage of the opportunity to sell their books. You will see them flogging their “craft” — the craft of writing– at the following fairs:

November 3 — The Victorian on Feltham

November 9 & 10 — Vintage Holiday Fair at the Da Vinci Centre

November 24 — Cook Street Activity Centre

November 28 — the Wellesley on Blanshard

December 1 — Dickens Craft Fair at James Bay Community Centre

We have books of many different genres, including historical and fantasy novels, memoirs, poetry and a children’s book. So, come to one or more of these fairs and support your local writers.

Read locally!

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Constant Sister: a Sister Katherine medieval mystery by Gillian Bridge book cover

Local Author Book Review #14: Constant Sister: a Sister Katherine medieval mystery by Gillian Bridge

Despite the subtitle, this book is so much more than a whodunit in a medieval setting. Reading it is like watching the tiny, jewel-like pictures in an illuminated psalter come to life. It is a heartfelt story rooted in history, with a carefully structured plot and memorable characters. Readers familiar with London may recognize familiar place names with amazement at how different things were more than 800 years ago.

The story begins with the coronation of King Richard I (“the Lionheart”) and the riot and fire that followed attacks on Jewish people who attended the event. Sister Katherine nurses some of the victims of the fire in St. Bartholemew’s Hospital. Subsequent scenes introduce her brothers, Robert and William, and several other characters whose interactions create the central question of the story: who killed Master Simon?

As scenes unfold and interlock, leading to the answer to that question, the author’s knowledge of life in medieval England emerges and captivates. The characters represent a full range of social statuses and occupations, such as prosperous merchants, dutiful knights, busy clerks, dedicated religious, craftsmen, farmers and herders. Among them, Sister Katherine and her brothers (the elder a clerk, the younger a monk) play important roles in the final resolution. Women are not all subservient and uneducated, although their roles are more circumscribed than those of men. Details of architecture, clothing, food and drink, commerce, law, and agriculture are skillfully woven into the plot. A glossary at the end offers further information. I came away from the book with an increased knowledge of medieval life.

Parts of the book are set on the road between London and Colchester. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 8, in which one of the characters sets out on a ride to that town:

Robert rode carefully to avoid children who ran laughing after balls or willfully from the restraining arms of their mothers. As he entered the shadow of the ancient double gate with its raised portcullises, he was forced almost to a standstill by a flock of sheep on their last journey to the Shambles. Egged on by dogs and boys with sticks, they flowed around Sparrow’s legs, a moving sea of woolly foam. Then suddenly he was free. Ahead, crowded within the bars of Whitechapel were the workshops of glaziers and bell founders and, in the distance, the village of Whitechapel lay open to the fields. The rutted road was hard under Sparrow’s hooves; white clouds sailed overhead. He nodded to the gatekeeper as he passed the Bars and then smiled fiercely with pleasure as Sparrow tossed her head and snorted.

Aloud he remembered words from his childhood: “Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?” He shouted out his response, “Yes,” and Sparrow picked up speed.

By the end of the book, most of the human dramas are resolved in a plausible and satisfying way, although not without a few tantalizing loose ends which make me wonder if a sequel is to follow. I certainly hope so.

My rating: 9 out of 10 stars (in my own rating system: 1 = abysmal, 2 = barely readable, 3 = mediocre, 4 = not bad, 5 = OK but not great, 6 = good but unremarkable, 7 = pretty good, 8 = really good, 9 = remarkable, 10 = superlative).

Constant Sister is published by Quadra Books and available on Amazon.

She Who Comes Forth book spine

Printed Book DIY

Okay, authors are advised not to do this — design your own cover images, especially for the printed versions of your books. But I did it. Maybe it was the allure of the forbidden. Or maybe it was inevitable, because this whole writing and publishing adventure started with me telling myself, “Think of it as an exercise, not a commitment. Try it and see what happens.”

When I published my first ebooks, almost a decade ago, my home made cover images were indeed lame. After a couple of years I commissioned excellent professionally designed images, which still grace the four books of my Herbert West Series. They were not inexpensive. (“Good, fast, cheap — pick two!”)

A couple of years ago, I started using Canva, just to see whether it was as easy as some said. After some experimentation, I designed cover images for the four short spinoff stories from my main series, published in 2016. Since I intended to make them perma-free, it didn’t make any sense to pay for cover images, and I was happy with the results, although compared to the professional designs, their amateur origin is evident.

She Who Comes Forth print book front coverBy the time my latest novel, She Who Comes Forth, was ready to come forth, I had designed more than half a dozen images for it. Fooling around with Canva is fun, and was a great way to do something related to my (then) work in progress when I didn’t feel like actually writing. After I finalized my final design, part of me could hardly wait to start on the challenge of incorporating it into a cover for the print version of the novel. This was while I was still waffling about publishing in print at all, and a bit apprehensive at the prospect of formatting the Word doc for POD.

So here we are, a couple of months later, and the print version of SWCF exists. I have ten copies right here, nine of which are still in the box with the Amazon smile. And all in all, I’m pleased with it. (I still have all my hair, too.)

The print book may be purchased at your preferred Amazon outlet. This one, for example. The ebook version of She Who Comes Forth will be available on November 7th, and may be pre-ordered now at a special price.

For those who might be foolhardy bold enough to attempt a similar project, here are a few things I learned that others may find helpful. One thing I’ve noticed about documentation, instructions and “help” pages — sometimes they omit tiny but crucial details. I don’t pretend to be an expert, and many of you may know all that stuff already, or have no desire to get into this type of project, so this is for the rest of you. FYI on DYI.

Word Document Formatting:

Amazon KDP provides a pretty good basic formatting guide. And you can usually find good help pages on the internet for most Word issues. This one, for example, tells you how to set up different headers and footers on odd and even pages.

Here are a few of my own personal tips:

First, find a trad-pubbed (or for that matter, indie-pubbed) book you like the looks of and use it as a model for interior design, preliminary pages, presence/absence of headers and page numbers,  etc. Then all you have to do is figure out how to get those effects in your Word document.

Second, make sure your text is perfect (or as close as you can get) before you start formatting. Adding or deleting more than a character or two can mess things up once you’ve inserted Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers.

She Who Comes Forth book chapter heading with moon glyphThird, add your preliminary pages (half-title, title page, epigraph and or dedication pages) and any “extras,” such as the moon glyphs I added to every one of the chapter titles. (They actually represent the moon phases in Luxor, Egypt in 1962 as the story progresses.) Decide on the trim size for your book (6×9 inches, for example), specify the paper size and set the margins. KDP’s “Build Your Book” guide has instructions for these steps, and even little videos you can view as many times as you need to.

Now for the ultimate challenge — Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers. Use the magic of “Save As” before you start, so you have a pristine copy of your document up to that point. If things go wrong, you can scrap the mess and start again without having to go through the process of adding the preliminary pages, setting margins, etc.

Really, once you’ve set up the headers and footers for Chapter 1 (or Prologue, if you have one), it’s a matter of selecting the right type of Section Break between chapters and breaking the link with the Header in the previous section when you want to do something different, like omitting the odd page header from the first page of the new chapter. (See why this can involve hair-tearing and profuse cursing?)

Actually, it seemed to me that the latest version of Word makes the process easier than previous versions. Or maybe it was just because I’d struggled through all this stuff before. Whatever the reason, I found I could rely on a specific sequence of checks and choices as I paged through the document, like a little mental flow chart. It was encouraging to be able to reproduce the desired pattern reliably as I went along.

She Who Comes Forth book title page

The title page. I used Canva to create the picture in the middle (a separate little project). Then I inserted it into my Word doc.

Again, do NOT fiddle with anything that affects the space taken up by your text after you insert your Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers. That would be trim size, margins, font size, line spacing, adding or deleting more than a tiny amount of text. Get all that stuff finalized before you start on Section Breaks. If you really need to make any of those changes, return to your “before Section Breaks” document and make the changes there. Once you’re done, Save As, and start over. (Trust me, “Save As” is your friend.)

 

Finally, before you upload your document to KDP, save a copy in PDF form. That will show you exactly what your printed pages will look like. If there are problems (usually with headers and/or footers), you’ll spot them immediately and can return to your Word doc to fix them. Once everything looks good, you can actually upload your final, perfect PDF to KDP.

For a really thorough how-to guide on the entire print publishing process, I recommend How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing: a step-by-step guide for absolute beginners, by ACFlory. It takes you through the formatting process in detail, with screenshots. This ebook is available on Amazon.

Cover Design:

Anyone who’s comfortable with Canva (and designing images) can create a credible print book cover. You probably wouldn’t want to make this your first experience of Canva (unless you’re a really quick study). Experiment first, getting used to layering images, using transparency, adding text, and moving stuff around. Create some ebook cover images. If you don’t actually have an ebook that needs a cover image, make some for books you mean to write. (The exercise might inspire you.) Once you know you can construct attractive images with the degree of complexity you need, you’re ready to tackle a print book cover.

Before starting, you need an interior book file that’s complete, perfectly formatted, and ready to upload, so you know how many pages your book will have. That determines the width of the spine. Once you know that and have selected a trim size, download a print cover template from Amazon KDP. Go to Canva and start a new project, with customized dimensions exactly right for your cover.  I found these instructions by Katherine Roberts very helpful, especially the calculations to set the custom size for your Canva project.

One of the cool things about Canva is that you can upload your own images to use in your designs. This is also where you upload your print cover template from KDP. By incorporating it into your design (temporarily), you can make sure to adhere to KDP’s specs for bleed and barcode placement.

If you use free images from a site like Pixabay for your cover design, remember to download the highest resolution versions. Images that don’t meet Amazon KDP’s fabled 300 dpi standard may cause your cover to be rejected. (This didn’t happen to me, I’m happy to say).

Select a background, and then layer the cover template over it.  (My background is that textured ochre colour on the spine.) Then proceed as usual, adding whatever elements you need for your front and back covers. Set the transparency so you can see the cover template and its all-important red border lines. For my cover, the spine was the only place where the cover template was the topmost layer (well, just below the spine text). This was important, because after I was finished adding all the elements, including text, and was certain nothing important was on or outside the red lines, I easily deleted the template. Don’t forget to do that, and do NOT move any text or important image elements once the template is gone. You can change filters, transparency, or colours, but don’t change fonts at this point, because that might change the size of text areas. When you’re done, download the image as a printable PDF, and upload both it and your text PDF to Amazon KDP. And rejoice.

 

 

hot air balloons over Luxor Egypt

She Comes Forth!

Cover image for She Who Comes Forth created with Canva

The ebook version of my soon-to-be released novel She Who Comes Forth, is available at a special pre-order price of $2.99 from now until the release date, November 7th, 2018.

AMAZON:  US  UK  CA  AU

B&N  KOBO  APPLE

SMASHWORDS

This is the work in progress I’ve been blogging about for the past year or two. Finally, it exists as something more than a pile of paper and a bunch of Word docs.

The novel is a standalone sequel to the Herbert West Series. Readers who enjoy a combination of realistic adventure and supernatural elements in an exotic setting — Luxor, Egypt and the Theban Necropolis — may wish to have a look.

October 1962. The developing nuclear missile crisis in Cuba is of no concern to Francesca “France” Leighton. Recently turned 21, France travels from her home in Providence to a job at an archaeological dig in Luxor, Egypt. She takes with her two legacies—an emerald ring from the grandfather she never knew, and an antique cello from his friend, a man she loved like a grandfather.

The dig disappoints. France is relegated to sorting chunks of stone, the dig’s director makes unwanted advances; rivalries and mistrust are everywhere. And it’s too darn hot! Tasked with playing her cello at a gathering of archaeologists, France meets the enigmatic and fascinating nuclear physicist Adam Dexter. She’s smitten, especially when he promises to show her the secrets of Egypt, including a hitherto undiscovered tomb.

After a risky balloon cruise ends in a crash landing, France is forced to leave the dig. Despite warnings against solo explorations on the west bank, she finds herself with Adam Dexter in an eerie house near the Theban Necropolis. Adam’s promises are alluring, but he is both more and less than he seems and his motivations are disturbing. Fleeing his house, France makes a horrifying discovery.

Through an image of Osiris, France discovers the true reason for her presence in the Theban Necropolis. As the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war, she must call upon resources both within and beyond herself to meet the perils that await her in the world of the dead beneath the Western Peak.

 

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

Last Chance Summer Sale

August 15th through 22nd: Books 2, 3, and 4 of the Herbert West Series are on sale for .99 each.

The regular price is 2.99 or 3.99, so this is a bargoon.*

AMAZON USA

AMAZON UK

From ancient Arkham to the agony of the Great War, from Acadie to the islands of the West Coast, a brilliant but amoral physician is subjected to travails and entanglements, to become a source of healing — and of peril.

 

* “Noun, Canadian informal.  A product or service bought or offered for sale much more cheaply than is usual or expected; a bargain.” Oxford Dictionaries

 

Book Review: The Writer’s Pen by K. Morris

Kevin Morris’s latest collection of poems is now available on pre-order at Amazon UK.

Here is my review of an advance copy…

This latest collection by Kevin Morris consists of 44 pithy reflections on life, death, and passing time. Some of the subjects and themes are the same as in Morris’s earlier collection, My Old Clock I Wind – nature, the seasons, clocks, sex, and mortality. A group of longer poems explores what might be called current affairs.

The tone of these works is darker and more serious than the earlier collection. I recognized no humorous poems, although a wry humor is present in some of them, such as “Libidinous,” in which the poet wonders about the activities of nymphs in a budding wood. “Summer” contains the delightful lines “Now ’tis the fashion / For short frocks / And tiny socks.”

I especially appreciated a sequence of several poems in which the poet strolls through a churchyard under light and shade, contemplating mortality in an almost cheerful way. In “To and Fro,” he says “Why should I care? / For I will not be there / To know.”

Several poems explore the poet’s ambivalence about politics and political correctness. “Legacy (a poem on the late Enoch Powell)” is one such. Morris expresses mixed feelings about Powell, while acknowledging that “An intelligent man / Frequently can / Do more harm / Than a stupid one.” “When a Monster Dies” and “The Monster’s Son” are particularly intriguing, pointing out in a few brief lines that every person is multi-dimensional and complex.

Two poems – “Rhodes” and “I Shower” – contain the phrase “feet of clay.” In the first, it’s used as a caution against facile judgmentalism, and in the second as a reminder that “the beast in man” is ever-present and not easily expunged.

The Writer’s Pen and Other Poems is one poet’s way of dealing with life’s complications and contradictions. The poems display a resigned acceptance that doesn’t quite cross the line into pessimism. I’m guessing Morris appreciates conversations with friends, in pubs or over dinner and drinks. Reading this collection of short, accessible verses is like sitting down with a thoughtful friend to talk about life, death, and the ways of the world. The poems are brief, but Morris’s skilful use of words makes them worth reading more than once, and contemplating their meanings in moments of quiet.

 

 

New Moon Sale: THE HERBERT WEST SERIES COMPLETE

Crescent MoonYesterday was the July new moon, which is as good an excuse as any to offer The Herbert West Series Complete ebook box set at reduced prices until the first quarter moon appears.

July 13th through 19th

Amazon USA only

All four volumes at $1.99 to $5.99. Regular price is $7.99. Early birds get the best deals.

AMAZON USA

 

The Herbert West Series

Moon image from Pixabay

 

FREE ON KINDLE: HUNTING THE PHOENIX (BOOK 4 OF THE HERBERT WEST SERIES)

Hunting the Phoenix is available for free via a special promotion until end of day Sunday,  June 17th.

This is the final book of the Herbert West Series.

AMAZON:   USA   UK   CA   AU

Journalist Alma Halsey chases the story of a lifetime to Providence, Rhode Island and finds more than she expected – an old lover, Charles Milburn, and an old adversary, renegade physician Herbert West, living under the name Francis Dexter. Fire throws her into proximity with them both, rekindling romance and completing a great transformation.

Middle-aged and cynical, journalist Alma Halsey looks back on the missed chances in her life with bitterness and regret. Revisiting her home town of Arkham, she comes into possession of a letter that changes everything. So what if it’s not addressed to her, but to her old flame, librarian Charles Milburn? Suddenly she’s chasing down a big story, and maybe she’ll reconnect with Charles as well.

Giving up her New York City life, Alma moves to Providence to track down another man from her past – one she’s assumed to be dead for more than 15 years – renegade physician Herbert West. It seems he’s living in Providence under the name Francis Dexter, and is once more engaged in nefarious doings. Once she’s gathered enough information, Alma plans to write an expose.

Things get complicated when Alma discovers that Charles Milburn is also in Providence, working for “Dr. Dexter,” and English neurosurgeon Edward Clapham-Lee is also looking for Herbert West. Everything goes wrong when the house she is living in catches fire. Seriously injured and far from home, Alma is forced to accept the hospitality of the man she has made her quarry. In Dexter’s house she finds healing, strangeness and unexpected friendships, and realizes her real quarry is herself.

The three celebrate their renewed friendship with a summer vacation on Cape Cod, until the appearance of Edward Clapham-Lee – a man as amoral and dangerous as Dexter’s former self – demands a return to Arkham for a final reckoning.

open books, grass

Get Ready for Summer Reading

 

Anyone who doesn’t already have a tottering pile (actual or virtual) of books to be read may be looking for summertime reading recommendations. Here are some of my recent reads. Three of them are parts of series, any of which would provide worthwhile diversion for an entire summer (or winter, come to that). Genres represented are cozy mystery, science fiction, fantasy adventure, medical thriller, historical, and literary.

Two Needed KillingTwo Needed Killing is the sixth and latest book in the Needed Killing series by Bill Fitts.

Asked to help an old lady get her family home back from greedy developers, Crawford reluctantly agrees. Mrs. McGillicuddy is thrilled. “I can’t tell you how excited I was when Frank told me I’d get to meet a real detective. I just love murder mysteries.” When Ms. Mac convinces Crawford to pretend to solve a mystery, he finds himself caught up in the most perplexing case of his career.

I can heartily recommend the entire series. Set in a southern US college town and featuring a retired tech guy turned private eye, the books are leisurely and civilized excursions through murders that just had to be done, and just have to be solved. The stories are leavened with humour and flavoured with scenes of cooking and dining.

 

Man Who 4 thumbThe Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars, Part Four: Survivor by Lorinda J. Taylor

Capt. Nikalishin continues to struggle with loneliness, misunderstandings, and dissatisfaction in spite of his friends’ efforts to help him. He takes increasing refuge in alcohol. Meanwhile, the officials of the new interstellar program wait for him to prove himself still capable of commanding a starship. Will Robbin Nikalishin’s “core of character” save him. or is his life really at an end?

This book continues the fictional biography of 28th century spacefarer Capt. Robbin Nikalishin, focussing on a particularly dark period of his life. I have enjoyed the entire series immensely. It combines elements of science and human interest in a post-post-apocalyptic setting. After nearly destroying life on Earth, humans have learned some hard lessons and rebuilt civilization on principles intended to maintain world peace. This background provides opportunities for the reader to think about present day issues from a refreshingly different perspective.

 

Cliffington Book 1Cliffington. Book One, A Turn of the Tide by Stephen Wragge-Morley

Cliffington, on the remote north-eastern coast, looks like a rural idyll but is not immune to the events of the world. Distant wars bring distress and destruction. A story of trial and obsession, of love and hope, Cliffington reveals the strength and frailties of the people, and tests their community to the edge of failure. While always, close at hand, the sea rolls on relentless.

A deeply-felt, eloquently written novel featuring the interplay of several characters against a vividly depicted landscape. I was fascinated by the clever way the author fictionalizes historical events without naming them, so as to free himself from slavish adherence to facts. I do have some reservations about aspects of this book, which I’ve specified in my Goodreads review, but I recommend it to readers who appreciate literary fiction.

 

Marc Edwards MysteriesThe Marc Edwards Mystery Series Box Set by Don Gutteridge

In the 1830’s, British North America throbbed with rebellion. Factions in the Canadas wanted democratic reforms from British overlords. Bands of American gun runners south of the border wanted to annex the territory. In Upper and Lower Canada, English and French settlers were at odds. Enter dashing Marc Edwards, soldier, detective, and lawyer working to restore justice in the wild zone.

This set of six novels combines fictitious murder mysteries with real historical events in a way that informs and entertains. An interest in the pre-Confederation history of Canada isn’t absolutely necessary to enjoy these books, but would add to the reading experience.

 

The Bone CurseThe Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin

Ben Oris, a pragmatic med student from Philadelphia, gets cut by an old bone while touring the Paris catacombs. His companion Laurette, a public health student from Haiti, senses danger and worries an evil curse now runs through him.

Ben scoffs at the idea—he simply has a wound that won’t heal—and back home he returns to his stressful clerkship at the hospital. But when people close to him succumb to a grisly illness and a dark priest pursues him, his skepticism wavers. Could a bone from an 18th-century skeleton with a frightening history really cause modern-day disease?

This medical thriller starts out fast and accelerates to breakneck. It’s definitely a page-turner, with twists and turns on every page. Set in hot and humid Philadelphia in July, it will have readers turning up the AC while following Benjamin Oris as he deals with an astonishing variety of threats that test his physical and mental stamina to the utmost.

 

PatchworkOf Patchwork Warriors (Volume One of The Precipice Dominions) by R. J. Llewellyn

I wrote a review of this book some time ago. The author has issued a corrected second edition since then. I recommend this fantasy to readers who relish action and adventure backed up with thoughtful world-building. The characters are distinct and memorable, some with colourful turns of phrase that may creep into the reader’s vocabulary.

 

 

My reviews and ratings of these books may be found on Goodreads.

If you run out of summer reading, don’t forget the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale. It lasts for the entire month of July and is a great opportunity to really swell that TBR pile at low or no cost!