Review: “Her Next Door” by T.R. Robinson

“Her Next Door” by T.R. Robinson is a short story that can be classified as both thriller and drama. Within these pages, Ms. Robinson creates an in-depth main character, Tara, with a backstory that makes the reader concerned for her well-being. Of course, in the scope of a short story, that is a rather difficult task, but Ms. Robinson pulls it off with great success.

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The quality of the writing is neat and clean. No glaring errors in punctuation, spelling, or gaping plot holes. Also, the copy editing was well done, with no repeated words, amateur body language, or dialog flubs.

The protagonist is affable. Despite her horrific backstory, Tara gives other people a clean slate, unless they do or say something to warrant an apprehension. Here’s where T.R. Robinson’s writing skills shine. At first, we’re not sure if Tara’s mental “red flags” are real or if she’s merely hyper-sensitive on account of her past. You’ll have to read it to find out.

The use of setting for thematic purposes is also well done. Tara’s new home serves as a metaphor for her life. The run-down condition of the house represents her former existence. As the story moves forward, now she’s forging ahead, reconstructing her surroundings as she also reconstructs her life. However, houses exist within a community of other dwellings, and those homes have people, too. Will “Her Next Door” neighbors live up to her suspicions? Or will she open and proceed through “Her Next Door” to a new and better life?

 

I highly recommend this little gem. “Her Next Door” is the first in T.R. Robinson’s series called “Bitches.” The series has progressed from an initial short story into a series of six. If this story is anything to go by, all of them should be great reads. You can readily find all of them on T.R. Robinson’s Amazon Author Page.

T.R. Robinson has a rather in-depth author blog among other social media locations.

Connect with T.R. Robinson on Twitter and FaceBook.

Swiggers by Joey Pinkney

In the brevity of a short story, Swiggers by Joey Pinkney manages to give us some great insight into a subtle aspect of the African-American community. Also, Joey’s Author Notes at the end give us more to ponder as he discusses the inspiration and life experiences that he called upon to create this little gem.

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Within these pages, we’re given a glimpse into the “theater of reality.” Except, within this particular theater, it is the Greek Chorus which serves as the main character. The theater is a shady park bench near a corner liquor store and the play is the daily habits of the townsfolk. A group of older men meet at the park bench, drink, tell stories, relate jokes, and offer commentary on the people who frequent the store.

Remember, in the play “As You Like It,” Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances…” However, what can a humble Greek Chorus commenting on the theater of the real do when their little piece of the world stage begins to change? I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so you’ll have to read it to find out.


The jokes are rather funny too. I think my favorite was the one about the Pussy Willow.


About the Writing

PinkneyI did not come across any oddly constructed sentences or glaring errors. With Swiggers, Joey Pinkney has produced a clean product. There are some word repetitions here and there, but not enough to destroy the reading experience. The dialog is quite natural and flows well despite that it is written with something of a U.S. Southern accent.

FaceBook Page  https://www.facebook.com/joeypinkney

Twitter @JoeyPinkney

Blog  https://joeyspen.com/

 

Overall, this was an enjoyable, easy-to-read little story that kept me engrossed all the way to the end.  Highly recommend!

 

 

Indie Review: “Something Wicker This Way Comes” by Colin Garrow

Check all your previous Sherlock Holmes assumptions at the door –  or book cover, in this case. The story within these pages does not simply consist of “fanfic” new cases added to the canon of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Rather, Indie Author Colin Garrow has re-invented the characters and taken them in a new direction. Imagine if you will, Sherlock and Dr. Watson solving cases in an alternate steampunk universe.

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Something Wicker This Way Comes” is the first in a series dubbed “The Watson Letters,” since it is written as a bulk of correspondence between Watson and Holmes. In it we find Dr. Watson as the intrepid gumshoe and Sherlock adding in his bit with rare appearances, and sometimes creating havoc by picking fights over minutiae. I cannot discuss the specific subjects of the letters without dropping spoilers, but I will mention what I can.

There are numerous shout-outs to famous true crime cases, movies, and other things in pop culture. And in the course of these comes a good deal of tongue-in-cheek humor. Let me say that this series, in its steampunk setting, is first and foremost a satirical parody of the crime-solving duo. Colin Garrow dispenses his barbed humor with skill. Yes, I almost spit out my tea on several occasions.

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The quality of the writing is first class. At no point did I have to stumble over an oddly constructed sentence or back track. Colin Garrow’s masterful style gives us a sense of a whirlwind life and friendship. However, the best part is, Colin achieved this while maintaining a sense of a 19th Century steampunk world. Watson’s “voice” comes across as a living member of this alternate universe.

Whether you’re a fan of Sherlock or simply an armchair historian with some pop cultural knowledge, you will enjoy Colin Garrow’s creative innovation as much as I did.

Twitter: @ColinGarrow

Indie Review: “Shadows in the Stone” by Diane Lynn McGyver

In her book, “Shadows in the Stone,” Diane transports us into a fantasy world that she describes with enough expertise to fully immerse a reader. There are some overlaps into our own world, but they do not shake a reader out of the fantasy. Now, you may be thinking, “All fantasy does that.” Yes, you’re correct, in the sense that the moment an author mentions a sword, a shield, or a horse, they’re pointing to the real world. However, Diane brought in the concept of canned foods, and described a diligent accounting / government system within Aruam Castle, complete with pre-made forms, records, and bureaucratic filing. Yet she incorporated it so well into her world-building that any reader will seamlessly accept.

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Love is the fine lace woven through the main plot. We see familial love, the love of friendship, and romantic love all growing from the main story. It is the driving force behind the actions and determination of the characters.

Besides love, during our time within Diane’s world, there is murder, mayhem, magic, sword-play and a long, gritty pursuit. From these struggles and hardships, much is revealed about the characters’ pasts, loves, and fears. These aspects of the characters are revealed as a consequence of the main plot, rather than being conveniently parachuted in as filler material.

On Writing Quality: Diane Lynn McGyver stands head and shoulders above other indie authors. Her dialog flows well, as does her setting and internal descriptions. She knows how to show and not tell better than most. There is also a skillful knowledge of writing at work. Diane knows how not to overuse ‘to be’, adverbs, and a throng of other useless crutch or weasel words.

Word Creation: One item in the skill set of any fantasy / sci-fi author is creating new words and terms, either for things out of this world or renaming the mundane. I’ve seen other books where this practice is performed ad nauseam, to the point where a lengthy glossary is needed. But Diane managed it flawlessly. I especially liked her creations of sumortide, springan, yesternight, and Hauflin. These words helped me to immerse and stay there (very crafty, Diane). DLM


 F.Y.I  –  Diane maintains a spiffy blog as well


Characters:  “Shadows in the Stone” is a deep look into the heart and soul of the Dwarf Bronwyn Darrow. Now, I simply ask you to drop all of your Tolkien Dwarven standards. Diane has beautifully tweaked and redefined the notion of Dwarf, both in the physical and cultural sense.

Bronwyn Darrow stands as one of my favorite characters ever created within the sci-fi / fantasy genre. The other is Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Let that sink in about the company Bronwyn Darrow keeps.

Parting Thoughts: I enjoyed every page of “Shadows in the Stone” as you will too. This is the first in the Castle Keepers series, which is available on Amazon.

 

 

 

Dark Visions: A Horror Anthology You Won’t Want to Miss

Writing to be Read

Dark Visions

October is the month for scary things, and a horror anthology filled with spine chilling short stories from over thirty authors is the perfect read for the season. The release of Dan Alatorre’s compilation of Dark Visions anthology is October 15th, and you won’t want to miss it. In addition to a wonderfully original and entertaining  prologue, and his own story, “The Corner Shop”, Dan has lined up a slew of writing talent to include in this tomb of short horror tales.

Not only does this anthology have a very cool cover, (Check it out above), but it also has some very well crafted short fiction, some that will stay with you in times to come. These shorts cover a wide spectrum of horrors; nightmares, voodoo, vampires, apparitions and spirits, and even demons. The stories found here prey upon your inner fears, making brief little ditties from the stuff of…

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Indie Book Review: The Seventh Seed by Allison Maruska

Put on your seatbelts for this roller-coaster-rocket-ride dystopian thriller.

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Within the pages of The Seventh Seed we meet Javier, a prodigy of the scientific community. He has accidentally stumbled onto a horrid truth concerning a corporation called LifeFarm. For the most part, LifeFarm is almighty and all-powerful. The tentacles of this mega-corporation control science, government, media, and therefore the minds of most people. Through the course of the book, Javier meets other like-minded individuals who work together to pull the proverbial rug out from under LifeFarm.

There’s an extensive cast of important characters, and to Allison Maruska’s credit, they are quite distinct. Let’s just say they each have a unique reason for their involvement.

Plot: Everything seems plausible and believable. Things happen quickly; Allison obviously had many threads to juggle and yet managed to stay on track. Also, I was quite impressed by some of the science. Just enough was presented to make everything believable without getting too geeky. Several subplots were smoothly weaved into the story. I especially liked the tête-a-tête exchanges between Charlie and Mattson, and the romance angles (sorry, no spoilers) weren’t overdone.

Writing Quality: Allison has an easy, readable style. I did not have to backtrack or stumble over oddly constructed sentences. Obviously, she and Editor Dan Alatorre revised and smoothed things out most assiduously.

The dialog was short and snappy without long-winded speeches or info-dumps.

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Allison Maruska has displayed an adept hand when it comes to mixing in beats, interior thoughts, body language and descriptions. I didn’t notice any show/tell problems, distancing words, or echoing headwords. She squarely put the reader into the head of the current P.O.V. character. The same goes for settings.

In the end, you’ll find an enjoyable read within the pages of The Seventh Seed. It is quite action-packed and fast-paced, and therefore something of a page-turner.

Twitter: @AllisonMaruska

Website: https://allisonmaruska.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Allison-Maruska/e/B00RAS3NFE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allisonmaruskaauthor/

Soul Breaker: City of Crows Book One by Clara Coulson

Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson, a.k.a. Therin Knite, is not only an Urban Fantasy, but also a fast-paced police procedural, only the police are a special division of paranormal detectives called DSI (Department of Supernatural Investigation). The expression “page-turner” comes to mind. Clara Coulson has a style and pacing which make for a quick read.

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In the magic users’ underworld of Aurora, DSI agents are referred to as Crows; hence the name of the series, City of Crows. Within the pages of this somewhat campy-supernatural-Urban Fantasy-whodunit, we meet Cal Kinsey, an entry-level investigator with the DSI. The man is rather cocky but not too sure of himself at the same time. He wears a confident face for the sake of other DSI agents. However, self-doubt, botched moments during an investigation and a haunting prologue experience make for a well-rounded character.

All in all, the main character’s inner thoughts, personality, et al are positives. The only “con” would be a bombshell about Cal Kinsey dropped into chapter 24. There was no previous reference or hints about a peculiar aspect of his personality. This information has no bearing on the rest of the book, either. Don’t fret, though, this little surprise quirk doesn’t take anything away from the overall entertaining aspects of Soul Breaker or its main character.

Although written in the first person, Soul Breaker doesn’t suffer from overusing “I.” In fact, Ms. Coulson seems quite adept at using beats and other body language to prevent large blocks of talking-head or speaker-tag-laden dialog. Except for two lesser characters, Riker and Delarosa, most of the DSI agents tend to speak in millennial voices. I would’ve preferred more professionalism in their speech. Perhaps it is my middle-aged eyes. Of course, the mannerisms of the agents do lend to the campy quality.

The complicated plot is properly paced and I didn’t spot any holes. Clara Coulson has created and delivered a story which could’ve gotten out of hand and drifted quite easily. There could’ve been a lot of info dumping concerning magic and the Eververse. However, the world-building information is properly presented in dribs and drabs, and woven into the text quite well.

Soul Breaker is the first in a trilogy. The good news is you won’t have to wait for the rest. The second book, Wraith Hunter, the third, Shade Chaser, and a novella, Dream Snatcher, are ready for purchase. I’m looking forward to another adventure with Cal Kinsey, the DSI, and interesting Eververse creatures invading our realm.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Review: Emotional Beats by Nicholas C. Rossis

I am not one of those authors with a veritable library of craft books, because I tend to be quite selective in my choices. However, Emotional Beats: How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings by Nicholas C. Rossis is a writing resource that I can heartily recommend.

First, there is the opening five-page essay on beats, how to use them, why they are necessary, etc.. I especially enjoyed Nick’s analogy of comparing writing to painting. Although short, the introduction should leave no doubt as to the importance of giving your characters a proper beating. 🙂

EBEatsThe rest of the book is divided into four parts, Feelings and Emotions, Body Parts, Other Beats, and Extras.

Part I: Feelings and Emotions

For me, this section comprises the genius of this book. The different beats used to convey emotions are fleshed out. However, unlike the famous emotion thesaurus, each emotion is sub-divided into the separate body parts.

For example, the first emotion is Anger. The many ways to describe Anger are broken down by eyes, face and head, hands, and voice. To make things even better, all emotions are presented as different from each other. The different ways to express Joy are feet, hands, laughter, and smile.  Joy is explored through a completely different subset of body language from Anger.

Part II: Body Parts

In this section you’ll find clever ways to describe the motion of body parts and facial expressions. There’s even a section on breath and the different ways to express hearing. The largest sub-section is dedicated to eyes, because so many different emotions can be conveyed. For me, the most interesting list concerns head motions for a nod. Whether the nod is emphatic or subtle, they also can be used to prevent repetitive wording.

Part III: Other Beats

Here is where one gains an appreciation for Nick Rossis’ attention to painstaking details. Besides using a beat to portray emotion, Mr. Rossis has delved through many other aspects of physical movement that occur while a character is interacting with the world around them.

Think about how many times a character walks, sits, stands, or fights. Even the act of opening doors, eating, drinking, and driving are explored. For fantasy or western authors, there’s a section for the movements of horses as well.

Part IV: Extras

As the name of the section implies, the final part is a hodgepodge of techniques to fine tune your writing. The main body of “Extras” contains a list of strong verbs options, aiding and advising humble authors. Picking through this list should add some extra polish to your manuscript. There’s also a section for Describing Death, Synonyms, Sensory Words (remember to let your character experience their five senses), Crying, Snoring, and Writing. Nick Rossis doesn’t take credit for everything. He acknowledges other authors who have contributed.

So far, I’ve referred to Emotional Beats several times in the course of editing my novels and short stories. However, at times, I’ve made changes to an existing manuscript simply because this book has sharpened my eyes. I was able to spot something dull and augment the quality without referring back to any lists.

Emotional Beats: How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings is a must have craft book for indie authors who have to do a lot of self-editing. I have to congratulate Nick Rossis. He has thrown down the gauntlet in the war against indie-author stigma by giving us this valuable tool.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry 🙂francesco25

REVIEW: Death on a Dirty Afternoon by Colin Garrow

I love a good detective story, and Colin Garrow delivers beautifully within the pages of Death on a Dirty Afternoon (The Terry Bell Mysteries Book 1).

The most interesting detective / thrillers always have an ordinary John Q. Public thrust into a mystery that needs to be solved for self-preservation (for example, The Thirty-Nine Steps, North by Northwest, or The Man Who Knew Too Much, all directed by Alfred Hitchcock). This wry whodunit follows that tradition, telling the tale of a cab driver named Terry Bell who becomes a suspect in a series of murders. The cabbie must conduct his own investigation in order to prove his innocence.

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In the Author’s Notes, Colin Garrow states that he did spend some time as a cab driver in a seaside English town. The otherwise quaint setting for tourists is a veil for a seedy underworld culture lurking in the city. Naturally, a cab driver would get familiar with the locations of brothels, and at least be acquainted with certain “less than savory” residents. He worked this aspect of a cab driver’s life into the story, and it lends credence to the overall plot.

Author Colin Garrow has a flowing style which never comes across as heavy-handed. I did not have to backtrack at any point. I am in disagreement with some reviewers at Amazon who stated that the author should’ve Americanized some of the dialog instead of delving too deeply in local slang and accents in the UK. An author must be honest and try to present a true representation of the setting. Good show, Colin.

Also, Mr. Garrow daringly wrote this clever story in the first person. I usually shy away from that narrative perspective. My ears screech too often in critique sessions when someone makes an attempt at writing in the first person. Normally, the word “I” is used 45-60 times per page. Therefore, I usually beg them to stop and try it from a different angle. However, Colin Garrow handles this problem quite deftly without over-using the dreaded pronoun.

Mr. Garrow has created a rather complicated plot with all of the investigative dead ends, discoveries, and twists which are indicative of the genre. Yet I did not get lost or confused at any time. Also, when our hero Terry Bell uses his ingenuity to get out of tight scrapes, it always seems plausible.

At only $2.99 (USD) on Amazon, this little gem is a bargain and comes highly recommended. You can also pay a visit Colin Garrow’s website here.

Fowl Summer Nights by Diane Lynn McGyver

See what happens when empty nest syndrome and retirement are taken to their “Nth degree.” The exchanges between the main character and her neighbors make this work into a light-hearted romp. Diane spins a great humorous tale filled with comic believability laced with a healthy dose of outlandish circumstances.

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Click the cover photo to link to Amazon

Despite the humorous, I think McGyver is also giving us a lesson about aging, family, and society in general without a heavy hand. These more serious matters are delivered via subtext.

McGyver’s professional prose style makes for an easy and enjoyable read. Especially when she uses her language skills to deliver clever wordplay quips. The novella is free of typographical and formatting errors, and is well edited, which is quite a relief in today’s indie market.

A perfect quick read! I’m giving this one five stars *****