Monday, April 30, 2012

Well-Written Novel Disappoints...

JosephWright-Alchemist-Cropped (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Taker

Alma Katsu

I had mixed feelings about this book from the beginning to end...

When I encountered the writing of Katsu, and found it very well done, I just kept on reading until I finished the book.

Perhaps it was the title and the cover that got me thinking...I now see that there have been a number of covers used for the book. I made an assumption that The Taker was the lead female--is she or isn't she? You won't really know from the first book, or at least I wasn't sure...

I prefer the cover that is now being used...

It's reminiscent of the location of much of the story but still gives the gothic, mysterious feel that is important.

The book begins in the present when a woman is brought into the emergency room and Luke Findley, who is one of the few doctors in St. Andrew, Maine, The woman immediately begins to talk to Luke, seeking his assistance in getting her out of the hospital!

Did I tell you she was wanted for murder?

And that ultimately Luke did help her, not only to escape but to then travel with her to Canada?

Again I formed an assumption that the woman, later called Lanny, had been able to mesmerize Luke...truthfully, I don't know for sure since he seemed to act correctly. Could he have fallen immediately in love?

Lanny certainly was not in love with him. In fact, she had just killed the only man she had ever loved... Jonathan had been her childhood friend and later lover. But he was also quite a handsome young man and had many of the young girls and sometimes wives, offering their affection.

Lanny was jealous of all others, but was able to remain aloof to his faults and remain his one close friend, no matter what...

The story of Lanny and Jonathan takes readers back to the early 1800s, where Jonathan gets one woman pregnant and then also Lanny. Her father quickly makes arrangements for Lanny to go away and give up the baby. However, she never makes it there. She is found on the street by a small group of people of about the same age and offered a place to stay for the night...

And there she meets Adair... Let me share a short excerpt:
"When I woke up, I was lying on a bed on my back, and I was nearly being suffocated by the man hovering over me. His face was unnaturally close to mine, his hot breath raking my face. I shuddered under his weight and the insistent slamming of his body against mine, and heard myself  moan and cry in pain, but the pain was detached, blunted for now by the drug. I knew, instinctively, that it would all come back to me later. I tried to call out for help and a sweaty hand covered my mouth, salty fingers pushed past my lips. "Quiet, pet," the man on top of me grunted, eyes half closed..."
Alma Katsu is a wonderful storyteller. And if you enjoy somebody telling a graphic sensuous, yet violent story, then you will undoubtedly find this tale of horror one that will fascinate you. Her writing is literary in nature and speaks of the past magic and alchemy that we have all enjoyed in other historically set books. I have to recognize that talent at the same time that, personally, I felt that there was too much telling and not enough action. Since Lanny is sharing her past with Luke, the first personal account is insufficiently relieved with actual dialogue. Though I don't profess to enjoy reading about violent actions, on the other hand, reading somebody telling us about that abuse, or even of having sex failed to pull me actively into the events. Some have said they were bored; I won't say that completely, but I did feel short-changed. The title, The Taker, implied to me much more action. I was disappointed that I never really got to "see" the action Adair supposedly did.

Perhaps because the violence would have been beyond our capabilities to accept? Yes, probably.  Still, I felt cheated. There were other minor characters that had undergone similar circumstances as Lanny but we never really learned about them; one, in particular, tries to help Lanny discover what is actually going to happen and help her to escape, only to be murdered. We learn of this from those who didn't see that killing...

Can we allude to actions so often that their impact loses any emotional commitment? Can we glamorize what was an undying love, supposedly, while the character admits to enjoying the sadistic side of the relationship she was involved in? I found too many questions unanswered in this first book. But I am not enticed to read further...


Alma Katsu was born in Alaska and raised near Concord, Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins writing program. The Taker, her debut novel, is first in a trilogy. The Reckoning, second in the series, is forthcoming in hardcover. She lives with her husband in Virginia. Visit her online at

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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Books of Julia Madeleine...


Scarlet Rose, the once remarkably beautiful, queen of the burlesque scene in 1960s Toronto, has aged into a decrepit bitter alcoholic, living on welfare and her daughter's handouts—a daughter she forced into the adult entertainment industry at the age of sixteen to support the family. Now in 1983, Scarlet's wealthy ex-husband has been found tortured and murdered in a hotel room, and her twenty-two-year-old daughter Fiona, must help the police find the killer.

While Fiona navigates her way through the dark recesses of her family's history, uncovering shocking secrets that threaten to destroy her, Scarlet Rose employs the skills she learns in Sun Tzu's The Art Of War, fixating on making a new life for herself using other people's money. But when she befriends a lonely American woman sitting on an inheritance, greed that knows no bounds, cold-blooded murder and identity theft, might just prove to be Scarlet's undoing.

Praise for Julia Madeleine's debut thriller, Scarlet Rose:s at times 

Julia Madeleine's debut book is at time disturbing and unforgiving and throughout un-put-downable. . . SCARLET ROSE shows a flair for the craft of mystery and an elegance in storytelling. I look forward to more.”- Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

“Never before have the dark corners of Canada's night life and welfare underbelly been spelled out with such enticing sensitivity. The addition of a character based on real life murderer Dennis Howe deepens the intrigue to a frightening level. Scarlet Rose is both a tantalizing tale and a dramatic heartbreaker.”- Alex Hutchinson author of "Virgin Gloves"

“Canadian author Julia Madeleine’s debut novel, Scarlet Rose, begins and ends in violence and lingers in between with all of the attributes of a classic noir novel . . . Scarlet Rose, is first-class in its genre. But be aware. As good as it is, it ain’t no cozy.”- M. Wayne Cunningham, Mysterious Reviews

“SCARLET ROSE is an absorbing, fast-paced read.”-Diane Fanning author of "OUT THERE" from St. Martin's Press

“Madeleine’s writing style is hypnotic and captures the reader from the very first page.”- Mary Menzel,

“Author Julia Madeleine has written an edgy debut that grips with compassion and greed. This book establishes her not only as a practitioner of the mystery genre but a storyteller of insight, a writer who can set out a life path and make the reader eager to follow it. . . A debut that is both raw and satisfying, with writing that compels the reader to want more."- Don Graves, Hamilton Spectator

“In her debut novel, Julia Madeleine has assembled an interesting cast of needy characters in a suitably dark setting. Enter the world of Fiona Dalton: where child becomes parent; where manipulation is currency; where nothing is quite what it seems and no-one is really who (or what) they appear to be...I kept turning the pages wondering exactly how this story would end. Well, the book came to an end but aspects of the story are still active in my imagination. I want more.”- Jennifer Cameron-Smith, Amazon Top 100 Reviewer

In the prequel to The Truth About Scarlet Rose, life for an unwed teenage mother in the 1960s can be a hard road. Sylvia knows all too well how limited her options are. At seventeen taking a job as a burlesque entertainer to support herself and her baby is her best hope. But choosing to marry an older man and have a family with a cheating, boozing, gambling husband who makes promises he can't keep, becomes her downfall. And for a woman with limited choices, her decision to commit murder is not one she makes lightly, but carefully plans and executes in cold blood.

Stick A Needle In My Eye is a collection of 17 short stories of mayhem that are not for the faint of heart. These stories, one of which was nominated for a Derringer Award in 2011, have been featured in a number of crime fiction magazines.Buckets of blood are spilt between these pages, and some nice (and some not so nice) people die horrible deaths. Here you will meet a pedophile who picks the wrong little girl to try and molest; a clown who gets bullied by his wife one time too many, a serial killer who likes to take postmortem photographs of his victims, more than one angry wife/girlfriend seeking revenge on the other woman, and more than one escaped mental patient with murder in her heart.

In upstate New York, Brett and Pamela Jameson find the house of their dreams on twenty acres of land. Bucolic and serene, it is the answer to all of their prayers. But their dream soon turns into a nightmare when violent ex-gang member Rory Madden, the property’s former owner returns, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the home he lost to foreclosure. Rory unearths the secrets hidden within the Jameson family, and begins to leverage his knowledge to slowly drive wedges between them. When their seventeen year-old daughter Justine falls prey to Rory’s advances, she becomes a co-conspirator, setting about a series of increasingly treacherous events that could forever tear the Jameson family apart.

A terrifying odyssey into the dark side of the American dream, No One to Hear You Scream captures the fear of the modern middle-class, the alienation of those left out, and the heart-stopping terror at the realization that it can all be taken away in an instant.

"With NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM, Julia Madeleine fashions a dark tale of suburbia gone wrong that plants her solidly in the company of such genre stalwarts as Lisa Gardner and Harlan Coben. An all-too-real, truly terrifying thriller that turns the American Dream into the ultimate nightmare. A major effort that will leave you screaming for more." - best selling author, Jon Land

"A scorching hot, gritty and remarkably tense thriller." - author Paul D. Brazill

"You may not get much sleep, but it will be well worth it, I promise you!" -

"Julia Madeleine is a name to watch, and NO ONE TO HEAR YOU SCREAM is a winner." - author Allan Leverone

"No One To Hear You Scream by Julia Madeleine is a fantastic thrill-ride of suspense and drama that will leave you breathless! ...I look forward to seeing what's next from this incredible author!" - M. Vasquez: Life In Review

"I definitely recommend this book with highest of 5 stars! You'll be amazed at the way this book leaves you feeling.....fearful, thrilling, heart pounding....and so much more. I love the writing style of this author, and I am hoping beyond hope, that she will have another thrilling novel just like this one soon!" - Reviews By Molly

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Susie Moloney's Creates Literary Horror Story!

Frankenstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Thirteen

Susie Moloney

"A Circle of friends can get you through anything.
A circle of witches will drag you through hell."

All you have to do is see the cover of this novel and the woman's face and you know it's going to have a sinister story for you...and, if you guessed further, you might think it's about witches. You'd be right... but, amazingly, when you start reading, you might think you've picked up a literary novel such as might have been provided in the first version of Frankenstein...

In fact, before long, I had dubbed the author as a "master of Innuendo..." The pace for reading will be slow and then, there in front of your eyes is a "zinger" thrown in. You may stop and say, "What?" because all of a sudden you begin to pick up clues of what is going on... But then you'll go back to enjoying the writing, learning about the characters...

Be prepared to delve into a story about a little town called Haven Woods. Don't let the name of the town fool you, is all I'm saying... Paula Wittmore had not been back home for a very long time, but a set of circumstances--getting word that her mother was in the hospital, together with trouble at work and at her daughter's school...

Neither want to go and stay for a longer than necessary time, although Paula realizes she has nowhere else to go; but there is a reason that she has been brought back home...

Paula goes immediately to the hospital to see her mother. There both she and her daughter begin to wonder... There is only one staff member there, a nurse who tells her little about what is wrong with her mother. When asked about talking to her mother's doctor, she is told again and again that he is not there right now.

And though the hospital is huge, there are no other patients to be found...

Paula moves into her former home, which, of course, brings back old memories. One that has stayed with her always was why her mother had sent her away from her home in the first place--the reasons she had given were never satisfactory!

Soon many of her mother's friends contact her and try to get her involved with their activities. Contradictions soon became puzzling for Paula as they all claimed to be happy and prosperous but then talked about some problem they were experiencing.

And they keep asking her what she would want if she could have anything she desired...

This was my first time reading Moloney. Her style is uniquely hers and you should plan on adapting your reading to that style. As mentioned earlier, the plot moves slowly while setting the stage, but then begins to speed up for a climatic ending that was totally unexpected for me. And totally satisfying, given the horror and creepiness of many of the characters!

If you are into paranormal and and witches casting spells, together with a writer who can truly make the story more meaningful through her writing...then, check out Susie Moloney's latest. Others have referred to other stories for comparison, but overall, I found it uniquely different for a number of of which is that even the bad have good in them...

Highly recommended...


Susie Moloney was born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada. It's fitting then that her first novel was about a very Canadian phenomenona, snowstorm that wouldn't quit.  Published in 1995 by Key Porter Books, Bastion Falls made Susie's first mark in the world of fiction.

Two years later her break out novel A Dry Spell was published all over the world, translated into multiple languages, and included a movie option with Cruise-Wagner Pictures, Tom Cruise's production company.

The Dwelling followed with critical acclaim and also became a best seller. In June 2011, Susie's highly anticipated The Thirteen will be released by Random House in Canada.

Susie has also written for television and film, including the screenplay adaptation of The Dwelling. Currently she is working on her latest book, tentatively titled, Three Days of Darkness. Susie currently splits her time between Canada and New York City.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spotlighted Author Julia Madeleine Shares Review...

Blencathra Shadows fall across the long grassy...
Blencathra Shadows fall across the long grassy slope of Blease Fell, leading the eye towards the ridge and summit of Blencathra, top centre. Looking from Castlerigg Stone Circle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let The Shadows
  Fall Behind You

By Kathy-Diane Leveille

Book Description: If someone you love disappeared, how far would you go to forget? When Brannagh's boyfriend, Nikki, disappears on a bird count in Northern Ontario, she reluctantly agrees to return to the east coast for a reunion of the childhood all-girls club Tuatha-de-Dananns. Brannagh hides out at her Grandmother's cottage which is far too close to the woods where her mother was murdered fifteen years ago. As Brannagh struggles to solve the mystery of Nikki's vanishing, she uncovers the secrets behind the most startling disappearance of all.

Brannagh Maloney is working in Northern Ontario with a crew of wilderness preservationists tracking birds, when her boyfriend Nikki goes missing. Heartbroken over his disappearance, Brannagh travels back to her childhood home in Saint John’s, New Brunswick, where she reconnects with her girlhood friends. There she begins to unravel a bigger mystery from her past: the murder of her mother and her best friend’s little brother.

Let The Shadows Fall Behind You is an interesting and complex exploration of loss and childhood trauma. The story of Nikki and Brannagh’s relationship runs parallel through the story, and the past is interwoven with the present search for the truth about Brannagh’s family. I did find the blur in the temporal lines a bit distracting, even jarring at times as there didn’t seem to be any distinct transition. In spite of this, the novel is worth the read. Kathy-Diane Leveille writes with a hypnotic eloquence; this is entirely captivating.

Reviewed by Julia Madeleine...

About the Author...

I truly have loved books forever. My best friends are books; the fascinating characters, exotic worlds and challenges they contain. When I was growing up, a Saturday wasn't complete without a trip to the library. I would sit at the back of the city bus, where there was plenty of room to spread the booty, and anticipate the worlds that lay between the covers.

It wasn't until after I'd been working as a broadcast journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for ten years, that I discovered the only thing more fulfilling than reading a wonderful story is trying to write one.

I became a transplanted Maritimer twenty years ago when I moved to the Kennebecasis River where most of my fiction is set. My first book "Roads Unravelling" was published a few years ago by Sumach Press. The novel Let the Shadows Fall Behind You was released in the spring of 2009 by Kunati books.

I live life in the slow lane next to a wild flower and herb garden visited by a colorful array of birds, one groundhog and four ravenous deer.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Linda Ballou Pens Fictional Tale of Important Woman in Hawaii History...

Queen Kaa'humanu, whom the church was named af...
Queen Kaa'humanu, whom the church was named after upon a personal request from her. Her request was made in 1832, and not honored until 1876, 44 years after said request. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)*See entire pic below.

High Chiefess of Hawaii
 Her Epic Journey

By Linda Ballou

Linda Ballou is a haole who asks those who might say she was not qualified to tell this story, "What qualities are required in an individual of one race to express love for another?" I thought this was both interesting and important. Having never been to Hawaii, although I would love to have gone, I found much to admire in the obvious research that Ballou has done to create a streaming flow of the story of Wai-nani that is seamless in reading, even though you can tell it includes in-depth knowledge about the early history of the islands.

Wai-nani is a "reflection" of the early life and personal story of the first Queen of Hawaii. I love to learn about women who, in their own time, were forerunners in initiating change for women, and in particular, in relation to their role in that society.This may be fictional, but the changes that were brought about at that time are true...

We meet Wai-nani when she is a young teen and already a woman who questioned her role...

She thought it nothing to wear her brother's clothes in order to enter a competition that was only open to boys. She also won... Readers will enjoy reading about how this contest went!

But that resulted in her father requiring that another competition be held--to find a suitable husband for his daughter who dressed as a boy...

What did she decide to do? Well, leave! And she sought the help of her friend Eku to travel far away. Eku by the way, was her water friend, a dolphin with whom she was "involved" under the watchful eye of Eku's mate and later son. Consider Eku one of the major characters as he both teaches her about living in the water and saves her...

Wai-Nini had called to Eku to help her seek Pele, Goddess of Fire, "Drifting in the cloud cradle that circles the smoking cone of the volcano above her billowy bed..." She could already feel that Pele would welcome her in shelter. Reaching the island that was Pele's home, she finally crawled naked into a sea cave. In the morning she saw a man walking in the water pulling weeds from his taro plants.

And so it was that Wai-nani met Makaha, who was destined to one day rule over all the islands. But at that time, he was alone, with just one friend, there on what he called his "thinking island." And as they talked, one day Wai-nini went to him and sought togetherness...

This is a beautiful love story, but one not easily lived at that time. Soon Makaha was required to marry the daughter of their Chief and later took many wives, all of which hurt Wai-nani greatly. And only Wai-nini was not able to bear him children. Readers learn how she came to become the mother of the people...and so much more. Truly a wonderfully conceived tale that brings the flavor of surfing, island beauty of Hawaii to us but entwined into the historical lives of the men and women who once lived, together but separately. We also watch as Makaha begins the wars to gain what he truly believed was to be his.

If you are into history, especially of women or terrotories, be sure to check this out. You can tell that, indeed, Linda Ballou shared her love for Hawaii in writing this story. Don't miss this one!


About the Author 
A love triangle of extremes has proven to be a solid base for my writing. From my roots in Alaska I receive strength, centeredness and respect for the awful power of nature. Numerous adventure articles, essays on my website are set in my homeland. In Hawaii I found a spiritual awakening, sensuality, peace and my heroine for my historical novel, Wai-nani--High Chiefess of Hawaii. In proud California I obtained a degree in English Literature from Northridge University and a doctorate in urban savvy. I continue to enjoy opportunities here for intellectual stimulation, exciting contacts and friends. My travel collection, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler's Tales, is filled with chills, spills, giggles and squeaks!
In my column on I share Great Outdoor Days in L.A.
I am also the Adventure Travel Expert at
Join me!

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Tesla Still Looking - Flash Fiction by Julia Madeleine...

Times Square
Times Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hotel

By Julia Madeleine

Room 3327. I knew something was wrong as soon as I stepped inside. It was in the very structure of the room. Something about it felt odd. A jagged sensation like a low volt of electricity passed through me for a brief moment. I hoisted my luggage onto the bed. I went to the window and pushed open the blinds. It had turned dark outside, ominous clouds swallowing the sun. Thirty-three floors below, yellow taxis crawled the streets like shiny beetles. I cracked open  the window, let some warmth into the air-conditioned chill, the sounds of New York city, and the smell of rain.

Behind me, someone cleared his throat. I spun around to see a tall man standing in front of the bed with a gaunt pasty face. Hair the colour of ashes. He gazed at me with wet eyes like an old dog. And yet there was a smile in them.

“You might enjoy feeding the pigeons while you’re here, Miss,” he said, his voice as dry as dead leaves blowing in the wind. “There’s plenty of them in the park.”

“Thanks,” I said. I hadn’t seen him when I checked in. He hadn’t helped me with my bags. He stood there expectantly in a black suit that hung limp on his spindly body, as if waiting for a tip. Who the hell was this guy?

“Have a pleasant stay.” He bowed, actually bowed. Then he turned and left. I crossed the room, locked the door behind him.

I was tired and had an early day in the morning with numerous homeland security officials. So I had a bath, watched some TV, read for a few minutes and then turned out the lights. I fell into a deep sleep only to be woken up shortly after by a dull thumping. Was someone at the door? I turned on the lamp and stepped out of bed. I looked through the peephole. The hall was empty. I went back to bed, turned out the light. Drifting on the edge of sleep, disconnected images and thoughts flashing in my mind. Then a voice. A man’s voice. Yelling from far away it seemed.

“My papers! I can’t find my papers! They’ve stolen them!”

Was I dreaming? I heard the door slam. My door. I turned on the light and stumbled out of bed, sleep pulling at my limbs. The deadbolt was locked. There was a strange ringing in my ears. My vision narrowed. A charged feeling cut through me. I turned the lock and swung open the door. There at the end of the hallway. The man in his black suit, turning around a corner. What the hell was happening?

The next day, I spent the afternoon in meetings, fighting jetlag, a migraine and a sense of foreboding that hovered over my shoulder like a shadow. I navigated my way around unfamiliar streets and made it back to the hotel by dusk. An old woman with black eyes, magnified by cat-eye glasses,  turned to gawk at me in the lobby. She sat in a chair, a wooden cane propped up next to her. The rest of the lobby seemed to be abandoned.

“Have a pleasant stay,” she said to me in a shaky voice as I passed, her words echoing across the lobby. That was the same thing the old man said to me yesterday. I thought of that voice, waking me from sleep, screaming at me.

“He check out in 1943, you know?” the old bat said.

“What? Who do you mean?” I asked, turning to her.

“The man who lived in your room,” she said, a lopsided grin stretching across her wrinkled face. Her eyes behind her glasses didn’t at look me. They looked in two different directions. I wonder how she could even see. She looked half mad. “He was here for ten years.”

“What are you talking about? What man?” I took a step toward her, studying those crazy eyes.

“He made a death ray machine.”

Now I knew she was loony tunes. She was probably some homeless crazy they let hang around once in a while out of pity. Maybe gave her the odd cup of coffee and a sandwich. She  looked harmless enough.

“They stole his papers. After he died. The plans for the death ray. They were stolen.”

I felt my jaw drop open as I gazed at her, the echo of the man’s voice waking me from sleep. “My papers! I can’t find my papers! They’ve stolen them!” It was then I noticed what was in her lap. A fat gray pigeon. She was stroking it like a cat.

“There’s a plaque right on the door. Did you not look at it?”

I sighed and scanned the lobby. Where the hell was everyone? Earlier the place was crackling with life, Ethel Merman playing from the speakers above. Now it was like a morgue. The hairs on my arms prickled. I turned and hurried toward the elevators. Static electricity zapped my finger as I hit the button.

I took deep breaths as the elevator lifted me, it’s mechanisms whirring and bumping inside the walls. It made a soft ding and the doors parted on the 33rd floor. I dragged myself down the carpeted hall, thinking a hot bath might take the tension out of my muscles. I took the key from my pocket and looked at the plaque on the door of room 3327 for the first time. There was a picture of him on the plaque. A younger picture. But it  was the same man. The same smile in his eyes. The man who’d yelled at me during the night about his stolen papers. Nikola Tesla.
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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Julia Madeleine's Concerns for Time Results in Dusting Off Copy of Covey's Guidance...

Stephen Covey at the FMI Show, Palestrante on ...
Stephen Covey at the FMI Show, Palestrante on June 22, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Since I started this blog just last month and signed up for Twitter, I'm amazed at how much I'm enjoying blogging and tweeting. I feel like a kid with a new toy. I'm a little late to the game I know, but I've always been the last one to jump on a bandwagon. Let all the guinea pigs go first and then I'll decide, that's my attitude. Same thing when it comes to upgrading my technology. If it wasn't for my husband I'd still be using a VCR. But, when it comes to all the social media I do notice one drawback. Between the blogging, tweeting, making new friends, interacting with other writers, bloggers, book reviewers, and book lovers, I notice how much it's cutting into my writing time. How is a writer suppose to balance it all?

I'm also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do book reviews for a local paper in Mississauga. This also just started last month, and I'm really excited about it. So with reading those books I'm reviewing, plus the ones I read just for myself, and all the social media vying for my time, I've only managed to write maybe three short stories. That's all the fiction  writing I've done. I haven't even looked at the new manuscipt that I'm working on (well, not working on is what it really is) nor have I done any rewrites for the sequel to my first novel,Scarlet Rose, that I've got coming out later this year. And then of course there's work. Don't forget work, making money to pay the electricity bill which fuels the laptop and the writing addiction. And there's the housework, the dust-bunnies that need sweeping before they grow teeth and eat the pets, the leaning towers of dishes and pots and pans filling the kitchen counter on any given day. The mountains of laundry waiting to be done, clogging the floorspace as if a stuff-bomb exploded. And there's exercise to think about too.

I wish I could hire somebody to take my body out jogging while I sit here and get some writing done. I really think the one thing that a writer needs to ensure that the writing gets done, is a maid. Yes, a maid. Not just any maid. Not just one of those maids that comes in once or twice a week for half an hour. Who writer's really need is Alice from the Brady Bunch, the live-in housekeeper. She cooks, she cleans, she takes care of the kids, she's always there to lend a hand. Okay...I'm dreaming. I know. So how does a writer balance it all? What are the tools for success?

In two words, I believe, it's time management.

Stephen Covey's book First Things First is the best book I ever read on time management. Not that I read a lot of books on the subject. But the information and skills he suggests are nothing short of miraculous. I'll have to dust off my copy.

The one thing I try to do is multi-task when I can. I listen to audiobooks when I work out. And recently I've started tweeting when I'm sitting on the excercise bike. I also listen to audiobooks when I grocery shop. I do my phone calling in the car (hands free ofcourse). I try to cook more casseroles and use my crock-pot for cooking dinner. It's always nice to come home to the smell of dinner cooking. I usually make a batch of soup on Sundays for lunch during the week as well as a pot of pasta sauce which I freeze in small portions. Fortunately my daughter is now a teenager and needs less of my time than when she was small. She does enjoy cooking so now and then she'll make dinner, however, cleaning up afterward is another story.

I wonder too, if men who write have an easier time of it. Typically, even though most women hold down full time jobs, they are the ones who do the majority of cooking and cleaning. That's how it is in my house. Although, my husband takes on all the traditional male jobs like taking out garbage, fixing stuff around the house, shoveling snow, cutting grass, etc. He does occasionally help with the dishes.

So, as a busy writer with a job, a family who needs attention, a house and pets to look after, as well as other obligations one has, how do you balance it all? Is there something you've discovered that works? That enables you to do everything you want, or at least have time for all the important things in your life? Do you get up an hour or two earlier in the mornings to get your writing fix? Have you given up a hobby you enjoy to have time for your writing? Or have you managed to find your own personal Alice? Please share your thoughts and ideas for any time management techniques you've learned. 

Would love to hear your thoughts while I'm visiting!


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

OMG - What a Book Cover!!!

If you saw this cover, would you pick it up or click to read the blurb? Which of the covers below do you prefer? Informal poll, comment if you prefer one over the other... Just my own curiosity!

Here's the Blurb:

In upstate New York, Brett and Pamela Jameson find the house of their dreams on twenty acres of land. Bucolic and serene, it is the answer to all of their prayers. But their dream soon turns into a nightmare when violent ex-gang member Rory Madden, the property’s former owner returns, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the home he lost to foreclosure. Rory unearths the secrets hidden within the Jameson family, and begins to leverage his knowledge to slowly drive wedges between them. When their seventeen year-old daughter Justine falls prey to Rory’s advances, she becomes a co-conspirator, setting about a series of increasingly treacherous events that could forever tear the Jameson family apart. A terrifying odyssey into the dark side of the American dream, No One to Hear You Scream captures the fear of the modern middle-class, the alienation of those left out, and the heart-stopping terror at the realization that it can all be taken away in an instant.

Does the Blurb affect how you consider the book cover? Does the book blurb interest you? If the author were around, what would you say to her or ask about the book?

Hey, the author, IS Here...and will be around for a month as spotlighted author!


Why don't you tell Julia Madeliene what you think? Or ask her a question via comments! She'll be around often during her blog tour...which is ongoing... so find her here or there...maybe everywhere!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dakota Banks Delivers Dark Danger in Deliverance!


Mortal Path Series
Third in Series

by Dakota Banks

Make Sure You Scroll Down to 2nd Article Celebrating Blog Tour and Participate in Discussion For Chance to Win!

There is soooo little time and so many books! It is rare for me to say that I look forward to the next novel in a series... In fact, there may be just two: J. D. Robb's Death Series and this one by Dakota Banks! It's not that I haven't loved other books/authors, it is just that there are just these two series that has given us, first, a female lead character that continues to blow my mind with her sass and substance, added to her dedication to what she has chosen to do...and then having the gutsy swagger to follow through with the action and adventure she continuously faces. I must admit that Maliha adds her vast collection of weapons and stunts to "maybe" have a slight edge over Eve Dallas...but, then again, Eve has Roarke and all those daily romps with her billionaire husband and all he presents to the series......

Oh, and Banks has it all over Robb for her book cover images of her heroine! Gee, I once had a black jump suit that looked like that...but...

Fortunately I don't have to choose between the two or any other book!

Of course, the Mortal Path Series is not as old as the Death Series. Can Banks keep up the pace and quality she has thus far presented? Well, I know I'm going to be right there to find out because Dakota has won my coveted "must-read" author ranking...

Let me tell you about her latest because it was meant to be a little different as she explains in the beginning author's note. In Deliverance, the author is telling us more about the personal life of Maliha. Hey, if you were once dead, made immortal, and then an assassin, killing upon command, and then through one event decided to not only defy a demon, but, go to the other side to save people, it takes some major changes. After all, Maliha is losing most of her supernatural attributes so that she must attempt to do the same type of work with only human power!

Thankfully along the way, Maliha has made a number of friends who then dedicated their lives to support her activities. But, women like Maliha (and me) find it hard not to stand on their own or depend upon anybody else... 

Yanmeng has center stage first when Maliha must fight his son to the death and later when his own life is threatened. He has been kidnapped purely for pressure against Maliha--she is to kill on demand again and "pieces" of Yanmeng are delivered to ensure Maliha's compliance. She has no choice but to do as requested, at least until a rescue of Yanmeng is made and the kidnappers...gone!

Of course, that leads to the ever-present death adventures for our heroine that keeps readers turning pages and following the unbelievable (but we still expect them!) stunts Maliha pulls to fulfill each mission. But, it was time for those of us who are series fans to learn more about the main team and how they interacted with both Maliha and among each other. I appreciated that opportunity and hope that Banks continues to be somewhat introspective with her main characters, sharing more about each of them and their backgrounds, as new thrillers come out...oh, and, by the way, Dakota, we'd appreciate it if you could writer faster...

Start with the first book and catch up...this is a series that thriller and action adventure fans will not want to miss! Follow Maliha's Mortal Path...


A Note About the Series...

The inspiration for the Mortal Path series came from the occupation of Baghdad by American troops in 2003. There was a brief period during which the Iraqi National Museum was left unguarded, resulting in vandalism and looting of items of worldwide renown. Iraq sits on the ancient land of Mesopotamia, home to the cradle of civilization that developed in Sumer. Sumerian artifacts are historic treasures of value not just to the nation of Iraq but to everyone in the world. Fortunately, many of the artifacts have been recovered in the years after the looting. But what was smashed is lost, after surviving 6,000 years to be crushed out of existence by an angry person. 

It made me think about what else could have survived from Sumeria, something more malevolent than a dusty vase, that wasn't going to be easy to crush out of existence. I turned to Sumerian mythology, a fascinating set of stories with intrinsic interest for readers. To mention just one example, consider that the Sumerians believed their gods were extraterrestrials who came to Earth to mine for gold, among other reasons. The mythology was so wonderful on its own that all I needed was a jumping-off point for the series. In the mythology, all of the gods left Earth to return to their home planet, so I just had to make sure a few demons were left behind on Earth and survived into the present. I love the characters, the world, and the moral dilemmas that resulted, and writing the Mortal Path series has been intensely satisfying. - DB

Biography (scroll down to read all...)

Dakota Banks has worn a number of hats, including those of corporate analyst, independent computer consultant, and pet store employee (the one who cleans the cages). When she tried on a writer's hat, something magical happened: It stuck to her head, no matter how hard she tried to shake it off and get back to something that paid the mortgage.

Growing up in a converted 1890s funeral home, complete with blood gutters in the basement floor, fueled Dakota's interest in the paranormal. Fascinated with archaeology since childhood, she found a way to blend her background with her passion in the story line for her Mortal Path series of urban fantasies.

Dark Time: Mortal Path Book 1 is a suspenseful paranormal thriller laced with ancient legends and a quest for redemption, a frightening scenario that could be tomorrow's headlines, and a heady dollop of romance. Maliha Crayne an action-oriented and sensual heroine. She walks among us, but lives a far different life as she risks her own in protection of the innocent. Sacrifice, book 2, and Deliverance, book 3 (March 2012), continue Maliha's adventures.

Dakota is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and lives in a St. Louis suburb with her husband, two sons adopted from Peru and Ethiopia, and two cats Snickers and Marble, who sometimes ghostwrite her books. Good stuff, too, if you speak Cat.

Visit her website at

Dakota Banks Visits During Blog Tour! Yahoo! She's Bearing A Prize for One Lucky Individual Who Joins Discussion!

The giveaway is a Mortal Path Swag Bag, consisting of a tote bag, 3 signed books, pens, bookmarks, magnets, and a calculator. I mail internationally. As a bonus, there is a $25 Amazon gift certificate that goes with the swag.  The Lucky Winner will be someone who "participates" in the discussion via comments section! Maliha will choose that winner - although she's not saying how and I hope it doesn't involve a knife... Please include a contact email address...! Thanks so much to Dakota for providing this coooooooollllll Giveaway! (BRH)

I’m pleased to visit the wonderful Book Reader’s Heaven! Thanks, Glenda, for this opportunity.

The first thing that readers encounter in any book is the opening lead. The lead has a heavy task—it must pull readers into the story and make them want to continue reading. Authors spend much effort, pulling out whatever hairs they have left, making sure the lead reflects the authors style and sets the stage for events to come.

It isn’t easy.

The lead can go through multiple revisions, more than twenty in my case, until I find one I’m satisfied with. Scratch that. I’m never satisfied with the lead, even by the time it appears in print. I always think that if I’d just revised it one more time, it would take on the magical quality that’s actually in my mind. I never get there; I just approach as closely as I can to some literary ideal that skitters away beneath my fingers on the keyboard.

I’d like to share some of that revision process today. I’m going to show the final lead, the one in print for Deliverance, the third book of the Mortal Path, first. But before that, I’m going to (eek!) show you what was never intended to be read by eyes other than mine: two previous versions of the lead, and what was wrong with them. It’s tough showing your unpolished work because the natural inclination is to bury it. Let’s get on with it before I change my mind!

Early Lead #1

Maliha ran at the brick wall, used her momentum to climb it in two big steps, and grasped the top with her fingertips. Pulling up, she cat-balanced on all fours across the narrow top, searching for her next quick move. With her short sword strapped securely to her back and wearing a t-shirt, loose shorts, and athletic shoes, she was chasing an expert at parkour(freerunning) across the slums and roofs of New York, and she’d fallen behind. It was a moonlit night, but she didn’t need light to follow him—she was tracking him by the throbbing, hateful red glow of his aura.

The man was Xietai, the grown son of her close friend Yanmeng. As a teenager, Xietai betrayed his parents to the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. Maliha rescued Yanmeng and his wife from the prison just before they were to be executed. Now, Xietai had surfaced as a man of nearly sixty, running a Chinese gang that specialized in human trafficking. This was the second time Xietai eluded her grasp when she broke up his operations. Maliha wasn’t sure if he was Ageless, but he moved like a man less than half his age and he’d had more practice with this form of urban rapid mobility than she had.

            She spotted him a couple of roofs ahead of her, and he wasn’t moving.

It’s some sort of trap, or he’s decided to stand his ground and fight.

Maliha approached cautiously. The fight began and raged across the rooftops. Xietai was not Ageless, but he was a martial arts master, using moves Maliha hadn’t encountered before. Even when she tried a burst of near-Ageless speed on him, he seemed to sense where she was. Soon her bare legs and arms ran with blood. He fought with a sword in one hand and a knife in the other.

Finally Maliha jabbed upwards from a kneeling position for a fatal blow. Simultaneously, Xietai brought his knife down, aiming to slip it between the vertebrae of her neck. If his knife hit its target, her spinal cord would be severed and she would die along with him. She felt the knife painfully ripping across the back of her neck and shoulder.

This lead is barely a sketch of the final action scene. It contains no sensory description, and although New York is mentioned, there is no clear sense of place. There is too much background information, and worst of all, the scene smacks of telling, not showing. A prime example is “The fight began and raged across the rooftops.” The fight is clearly going to be a centerpiece of the action here, but much action is expressed in a single sentence, spoon-feeding an entire portion of the scene to the reader until “Finally Maliha ...” Good thing this lead was thrown out!

Early Lead #2

            Maliha Crayne cat-crawled long the crest of a clay-tiled roof, sending crumbled shards down into the street four stories below. It was a moonless night, but she wasn’t tracking her target in the visible spectrum anyway. Relying on aura vision, she was following the footprints of a man who’d eluded her once before. His name was Xietai.

            Xietai’s aura reflected a lifetime of doing evil. His deep black aura would have made him difficult to follow at street level if it wasn’t for the wisps of angry red. He didn’t like being put through his paces to avoid being caught. Tendrils of red rose wherever his bare feet contacted a surface: roof or wall, staircase or pavement. In other circumstances, with a different meaning, she would appreciate the beauty of the scene playing out on the rooftops and streets. All she noticed now was that the tendrils were fading and she was losing ground on her opponent. 

            At the end of the crest of the roof, she swung lightly, hung briefly by one hand, and dropped down to an adjacent flat roof. Landing with a forward roll to break the momentum of the fall, she put out a hand to avoid sliding too near a large utility box.


            She’d scraped the side of her hand raw. The man ahead of her was a highly skilled practitioner of parkour, a method of crossing obstacles in the most efficient way and the shortest time.

            Maliha wasn’t. She also wasn’t fully prepared for this type of pursuit, but when Xietai crossed her path, she had to try it.

            Maliha jumped a gap to a building a dozen feet away and headed for the fire escape.

            Is he Ageless?

            Her bare feet landed on the fire escape’s stairs, and at each landing, she launched herself over the railing to the next run of stairs. She dropped the last ten feet to the ground. Thin red wisps spiraled eerily up from a puddle he’d passed through. She cleared the puddle in a small hop, then continued moving on the balls of her feet to save the time of heel strikes. It gave her an odd gait, like tiptoe running, but no one was grading her performance. Ahead a wall loomed. He’d taken her down a dead-end alley. Using the momentum of her run, she climbed up the wall to a balcony, jumped higher from the railing, and was able to pull herself up on the roof.

            No good. Blind corner…

            Anticipating a trap, Maliha threw one of her knives, then ducked and rolled. She lashed out with her second knife and was rewarded with a grunt.
            Xietai took off into the night. She considered leaving her thrown knife where it had landed, but decided that the advantage of being able to fight with both hands was worth the time lost from the chase. She was gratified to see a blood trail in the pale cone of light from a street lamp.

            He couldn’t be Ageless. He wouldn’t still be bleeding from my knife scratch.

A small group of men gathered near the street lamp, and she checked them to make sure her target hadn’t blended in with them. No, they were college kids doing risky things in a risky neighborhood. In other circumstances, she would have stopped and scared them off, back to their dorms and their big screen TVs. She reached into her belly bag and whirled a throwing star toward them, embedding it in the metal of the lamppost. The metallic clang! followed her out of the light. It was the most she could do for them in terms of a warning. She caught a glimpse of them scattering, but at the cost of one of her throwing stars.

Then she spotted Xietai on the roof of a run-down theater, standing next to the marquee with its hundreds of broken bulbs.

            He’s waiting for me. This is it.

Suddenly Maliha felt a touch on her shoulder, like someone had brushed her lightly with a feather duster. It was Xia Yanmeng, a remote viewer, contacting her to let her know he was present.

There was something personal about this chase to Yanmeng, too. Xietai was his son. Maliha had rescued Yanmeng and his wife Eliu from prison during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It was the lying testimony of their teenage son Xietai that had put them there, awaiting death.

She didn’t think it would be a good idea to have Yanmeng viewing when she caught up with his son. One of them was going to die, and since Xietai wasn’t Ageless, Maliha had a good chance against him.

This is an improvement in that there is more detail and less spoon-feeding. There are still problems here, though. Still no sensory description and no sense of place. The backstory about Yanmeng and his son, Cultural Revolution, etc. is awkwardly placed. Maliha said, “This is it,” implying action about to occur, and then the lead strayed off into backstory about Yanmeng. The mini-story about the college men gathered in the street is nothing but a distraction to the main action, since nothing comes of it. I’m starting to get the hang of writing the quick action of parkour, but haven’t gotten it down yet. The language to describe it should be a spare as the movements.

Current Lead

I cleaned up the language a bit. The idea here is to introduce the main character, Maliha, in action, with minimal background information, just enough to intrigue. Description that appeals to all senses draws the reader into the scene. The parkour language is more authentic. More use is made of Maliha’s thoughts, since there is no conversation in this scene. Backstory has been pared to a minimum and placed where it doesn’t stop the action.

Maliha Crayne placed her feet carefully on the old clay-tiled roof. Freezing rain made the passage treacherous. Xietai, the man she was chasing, seemed as sure-footed as a gazelle. She had already sent a tile sliding to the street three stories below.

It was three in the morning, and although New York never sleeps, the residents of this neighborhood did. Most of them, anyway. As another tile clattered to the sidewalk, a window was flung open and a woman’s head appeared, her neck twisted to look up at the roof.

“What’s goin’ on up there? Think yer Santa Claus or somethin’? Get off my roof!”

            With flat roofs all around, he has to choose one with tiles. Should have gone around and picked up his trail on the other side. Maliha 0, Xietai 1.

Xietai had been in her sights twice before, and he’d eluded her. He ran a human trafficking ring, bringing Asian girls to America, and then sending American girls to Asia. Round-trip profits. Complicating matters was that Xietai was the son of one of Maliha’s dearest friends, Xia Yanmeng. Maliha planned to bring Xietai to justice but with his record of confrontation, it was possible she’d have to kill him.

Kill Yanmeng’s son. Not sure how he’d feel about that, even though the two of them are estranged. If my daughter Constanta had survived her birth and grown up evil, would I be hunting her?

Maliha came to the end of the tiled roof and paused briefly. Xietai’s footprints led her on into the moonless night. Using her ability to view auras, she could see the outline of his footsteps and the tendrils of red and black twining together, rising from them. Normally she used her aura vision for a few seconds at a time, a quick check to see if someone was lying or to make sure she faced a truly evil person before plunging her sword into him. Constant viewing, as she was doing now to track Xietai, was draining. His aura footprints were clear, but her surroundings were a little out of focus. As long as Xietai kept out of her normal sight, he had an advantage.

Maliha felt a touch on her shoulder, as soft as if she’d been brushed by a bird’s wing. Yanmeng was a remote viewer, and he was signaling her that he was viewing her now. He’d been trying to increase his remote presence to the point that he could move objects. He’d made some progress but it was erratic. She could extend her arm and make an L-shape with her fingers, the sign they’d agreed upon for him to withdraw, and he would immediately stop remote viewing her. At least, she trusted that he would.

She didn’t make the withdrawal sign.

It’s his son. Yanmeng’s not going to like this, but it’s not right to hide it from him.

She swung over the edge of the roof, hung briefly by one hand, and dropped down to an adjacent flat roof. Landing with a forward roll to break the momentum of the fall, she put out a hand to avoid sliding on the patchy ice. She scraped the side of her hand raw on the rough roofing material. She wasn’t an accomplished traceuse—tracer—so her hands weren’t calloused. The man ahead of her was a highly skilled practitioner of parkour, a method of crossing obstacles in the most efficient way and the shortest time.

She ran barefoot, with loose black shorts, a black t-shirt, a belly bag with a few throwing stars secured inside so they couldn’t shift and hurt her, knives strapped to her thighs, with her thick black hair flowing behind her. It was late November, and an icy rain pelted her face and other exposed skin. Maliha wasn’t prepared for this pursuit, but when Xietai crossed her path, she had to try it.

Maliha jumped to a building a dozen feet away. She rolled, then ran and dropped to the fire escape.

Could he be Ageless?

Her bare feet landed lightly on the fire escape’s icy stairs, and at each landing, she vaulted the railing to the next run of stairs. She dropped the last ten feet to the ground. Thin red wisps spiraled eerily up from slushy puddle he’d passed through. She cleared the puddle in a small hop. Ahead a wall loomed. He’d taken her down a dead-end alley. Using the momentum of her run, she stepped up the brick wall to a balcony, used a spring from the rail to power another couple of steps, and then muscled up to the roof.

No good. Blind corner...

Anticipating a trap, Maliha threw one of her knives, then ducked and rolled as a sword swung powerfully where her neck should have been. She lashed out with her second knife, scored a deep gash in Xietai’s calf, and felt the splash of hot blood on her hand.

That should slow him down a little.

Xietai took off into the night, running away before she’d come fully out of her roll. She retrieved her thrown knife from where it had landed. Her opponent took them down to street level. She was gratified to see a blood trail in the pale cone of light from a street lamp.

He bleeds too much to be Ageless.

Then she spotted Xietai on the roof of a run-down theater, standing next to the marquee with its hundreds of broken bulbs. His aura was blacker than the night sky washed by city lights, and the spidery electric red web of his anger had intensified since she’d wounded him.

The scene continues into the physical confrontation that is obviously building in a real-time, “showing” manner between Maliha and Xietai. Considering that this book is urban fantasy, it’s a good way to begin.

Leads are supposed to encourage you to continue on into the book. Have you ever encountered one that turned you off and affected your feelings about a book right from the start?

 Dakota, I'm always happy to welcome you here (anytime!) and to start the discussion, I want to first answer your own question for myself...

When I read for pleasure, it is almost always action, adventure, mystery or suspense...and frankly if the opening didn't hook me, I hesitated to read further if I don't already know the author. But then as I began to review and was reading many different genres as well as nonfiction, I realized that I had to adjust my personal preferences. It is still difficult for me to read more than one of two pages, if nothing pulls me into the story. But I do it now and have found that it has allowed me to broaden my reading interests...

On the other hand, I still expect it for, in answer to your question...if Maliha doesn't hook me immediately, I'm disappointed!

I enjoyed this article and find that I have questions:

1. Your 3 leads shared - did YOU do the analysis of each or did you get feedback from others, such as your editor?

The two early leads were subject to my own analysis. No one saw them, until now, except me. The final lead had gone through the editorial process but I don’t think anything was changed in it. The way my editor, Emily Krump, works is that when I am satisfied with the manuscript, I send it to her, and the real fun begins! She reads it first for the story value and then carefully with an editor’s eyes, and sends me extensive notes, several pages’ worth, with her comments. These range from broad concepts to line edits about missing words. An example of a broad observation from her letter on Deliverance: “Maliha's thoughts throughout tend to be a little wordy and use too many pronouns.  Her inner monologue needs to be as believable as the dialogue between characters.” Another: “The interaction with Jill isn't working, yet, because she doesn't move the story forward.” Emily doesn’t tell me how to correct these things—that’s my job as the writer—but she has a great eye for spotting weaknesses in my supposedly “finished” manuscript. This is when it pays to have a great working relationship with your editor, because Emily makes me a better writer.

2.  Is your first lead more of a draft, to get your thoughts out, or do you write for "final" even though you may later revise?

My first lead was intended to be the final version when I wrote it, because I don’t create a quick first draft of the entire book first as many writers do. Instead, at the beginning of each writing session, I go back over what was written the day before, editing as I go along. This works very well for me, so that by the time I type “The End,” I have very little left to do before sending the manuscript to my editor. There are only two exceptions to this. The lead will get revised a number of times, at least ten. The other exception happens when something comes up during the book that I have to go back and set up a little bit at an earlier time in the story.

3. I notice you seem to refer to some set of rules against which you measure your work. Do you have one or more reference books for writers that you routinely use?

I used to have a whole shelf of reference books that I dipped into when I was having trouble with pacing, characterization, plotting, all the elements of writing a book. I finally found that books often had conflicting or vague advice, and the clearest guidance for me was studying both books I enjoyed and books I hated, and figuring out why. What made me feel bonded with this character and not with another? Why did this book keep me turning the pages and I fell asleep (literally) while reading what was supposed to be a suspenseful scene in another? Note that it wouldn’t be sufficient to read only books I liked—there has to be an analytical comparison. Do this enough and you begin to internalize the rules so that you don’t need a reference book. I still treasure my well-worn copy of Stephen King’s On Writing because so much of it deals with writing as a personal experience.  

4. Regarding the reference to the gang... In deleting it, you indicate that it doesn't lead anywhere. Would you say that this is a good sample of the writing phrase, "Delete anything that doesn't more your story further"?

Exactly. I thought it made a nice visual when I wrote it and helped to characterize the neighborhood. But it didn’t go anywhere. Maliha didn’t even have time to stop and break up the gathering—she was chasing someone. While the throwing star clanging into the metal light post sounded nice, it had no purpose unless there was time to develop it further and have some ramifications. This goes along with William Faulkner’s quote: “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” That means you can’t be so attached to a scene, a character, a description, a turn of phrase, that you’re unwilling to axe it from your manuscript if its only function is to please your writer’s ego.

5. I like your statement, "I’m starting to get the hang of writing the quick action of parkour, but haven’t gotten it down yet. The language to describe it should be a spare as the movements." If I understand it correctly, I totally agree... But, just to be sure, could you share a little more, defining parkour and talk about how you create that "spareness..."?

Parkour is a style of movement that focuses on the most efficient way to move through an environment, getting over or around obstacles, developed by a Frenchman, David Bell. It’s also called free running or urban running, because it is usually done in an urban environment where there are more obstacles to cross than in an open field. It is elegant and exciting to watch and requires great physical ability from its practitioners. The runners use vaults, rolls, jumps, rolls, and climbs to make their way around. The moves are defined and have charming French names like passement (to vault over using one hand), but it is up to the traceur, the runner, to select and combine moves to match the environment—and do it quickly, because everything happens at a full run. For many Americans, their first exposure to parkour was the brilliant sample near the opening of the movie Casino Royale, where Daniel Craig as James Bond is chasing a bomb maker through a jungle and a construction site. It took my breath away. There are no wasted movements, and the challenge to getting such a scene down on paper is immense. You have to picture the chase vividly in your mind and then find almost breathless language that conveys speed, grace, and economy of motion. A good example of that in the final lead is this: Using the momentum of her run, she stepped up the brick wall to a balcony, used a spring from the rail to power another couple of steps, and then muscled up to the roof. (The terminology is correct.) There are four moves here done in rapid succession, during which Maliha covered a lot of ground—from the street to the top of a building. Leaving out any of the words in this sentence breaks the continuity, and the beauty, of the motion.

6. I recently refused to read a book that, within 20 pages, was written in what I will call, hillbilly language...using a lot of bad language, as well as poor grammar...things like crick for creek... when I wrote to the publisher I explained that I was not willing to support such writing and that my understanding was that colloquial languages were generally only in dialogue, while the narrative should be proper English... Do you think I was right or wrong in refusing to read more than 20 pages and would you ever extend your writing so that much more of Maliha's story was based upon that in the various countries where she travels?

I wouldn’t have lasted 20 pages. My opinion is that good writing carries the reader along with minimal effort, so the reader can concentrate on the story and not on the way it’s written. Good writing disappears into the background of the reader’s mind, and writing that is colloquial for extended periods can’t do that. The reader is jarred from the events of the story to focus on the way it’s written and to deal with the unfamiliar words. In dialogue, colloquial writing might add to the personality definition of the speaker. Even then, I’d use it sparingly. There are other ways to do characterization, ways that make more of an impact on the reader. Characters can speak in different styles—abrupt, understanding, emotional, stressed—that can convey more meaning than just the fact of using local vocabulary. Even though Maliha is a word traveler and foreign locations are often used in the books, I don’t try for colloquial language even in dialogue. “Zee plane! Zee plane! Zee plane has arreev-ed, Mees Cray!” Nope. What does this add? That said, there is an instance in Deliverance where children are greeting Maliha and they come up with different versions of her name. I think that’s fun. It’s also brief, thank goodness.

Please join in via the comments!