Welcome Guest Author, Winona Kent

I’m delighted to host Canadian crime-writing friend and colleague Winona Kent today. She’s just released a new mystery that music fans will especially love, called Lost Time, which you can learn more about on her website at  http://www.winonakent.com/losttime.html

Also, the first two chapters are available at http://www.winonakent.com/losttime-chapters.html

Winona’s prepared a fascinating piece for this blog about an intriguing connection between her life and that of her fictional character, Jason Davey. Now, in Winona’s words:

I’m terrified of lightning – and so is Jason Davey, the main character in my new mystery Lost Time.

Jason has good reason to be afraid – his father was killed on a golf course by a rogue lightning strike. There are a couple of thunderstorms in Lost Time and I have no trouble at all describing Jason’s terror when they happen – one jolts him out of his sleep, and the other strikes when he’s sheltering in the back of a police car. Here’s a spoiler: the police car gets a direct hit.

My fear of lightning comes from growing up in Saskatchewan, which has some of the most spectacular thunderstorms in the world. Our back yard was home to the biggest tree in the neighbourhood, an 80-foot-high balsam poplar. When the storms blew over (usually in the middle of the night) I’d bury myself under the sheets and blankets and, nearly-suffocating, I’d count the seconds between the immense flashes of white light and the inevitable crashes of thunder. My biggest fear was that our tree would be struck and that the electricity would travel through its massive root system and come up into our house and kill me. Or the charge would jump from the tree to my bedroom window and explode through the glass and kill me. Or the lightning would splinter the tree and it would crash down on our roof and onto my bed and kill me.

I have actually been in a building that got a direct hit and I noted two interesting things. One, there was absolutely no thunder. Just an immense flash. People across the street heard the deafening boom. But not us. And two, at the moment the lightning struck, I was sitting at my computer and the computer blinked off and I felt like I’d been punched hard in the chest.

Jason experiences much the same phenomena in Lost Time. And the result has an incredibly profound effect on him.

In all the years I lived in Saskatchewan, our tree was never hit. It was a majestic specimen – a bit messy, with its sticky buds and its red hanging catkin flowers – but we loved it. It survived the storms and lived on after my dad died and my mum moved away to Vancouver to be with us. Its end came when the new owners of our house decided the back yard would look better without a big messy tree blocking their view of the sky. But then again…who knows…perhaps they, too, were terrified of lightning strikes in the middle of the night…

Winona Kent

Amazon Links: (this is Canadian but the ebook and paperback is available on all Amazon sites)

Winona’s website: http://www.winonakent.com
Social media:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/winonakentauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/winonakent
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/winonakent

Welcome Children’s Author, Eileen Holland

Today, I’m delighted to host children’s author Eileen Holland. As members of the same critique group, Eileen and I have known each other for years, and I was thrilled when her publisher launched Eileen’s first Sophie Trophy novel last year. The second in her series, Sophie Trophy Too, was released this spring. Eileen’s written a piece that I think many authors can relate to. Enjoy!

Sophie Trophy Too

Writing Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too: Cultivating Scenes While Drifting Off to Sleep                                                                                                                

As the author of Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too, I’m often asked how I came up with my story ideas.

I was teaching in Coquitlam, B.C. one day when two girls cried out, “Mrs. Holland, a spider is lowering itself into your hair!” I stepped away just in time, and the class roared with laughter.

Nights later, I was in the transitional phase between wakefulness and sleep when I realized that a funny book could be built around that spidery moment. This time, the spider could actually land in the teacher’s hair. And it could be Sophie’s friend’s Show-and-Tell spider terrorizing the teacher. Sophie could fixate on things, like saving teachers in peril—and spiders in peril, too. Sophie could struggle at school, her imagination and good intentions misunderstood. Young readers would recognize her. There are students like her in every class. Her foibles would help them realize that everyone has issues. Her big heart, humour, and honesty would help them warm to her.

Resisting the urge to succumb to sleep’s call, I flicked on the light and searched the drawer of my bedside table for paper. Unearthing a ratty NHL calendar page, I scribbled down several scenes. It’s lucky I did, or Sophie Trophy would never have been written.

There’s a reason the daily writing we do resurfaces in our thoughts as we drift off to sleep. Most of our daytime distractions take a back seat at bedtime: texts, emails, appointments, dislodged buttons, meal planning—the list is lengthy. Scene directions considered earlier in the day—the very design of sentences, paragraphs, and dialogue in order to build tension in our stories—sally forth from our subconscious as our waking moments dwindle. Barry Gordon, John Hopkins University professor of neurology and cognitive science explained what happens in Scientific American:

“The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously…. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time…. Although thoughts appear to ‘pop’ into awareness before bedtime, their cognitive precursors have probably been simmering for a while.”

When my search for a theme for Sophie Trophy Too started, I realized falling asleep one night, that there was a way Sophie could get into mischief in every corner of the school. I envisioned a flashlight-crazed Sophie making shadow puppets … in the staffroom closet! The next morning, minutes prior to awakening, I imagined the principal, Mr. Homework, discovering Sophie’s flashlight antics … in the medical room. Both times, I groggily jotted down the scenes before they faded from memory. The storyline about a new student in Sophie’s grade three class came later. Sophie is certain they should be friends. But every time she tries to get to know her, disaster strikes in hilarious ways.

Due to my sleep-aided writing skills, I had two precious book-starter scenes anchored as I faced the morning. The day’s writing hours beckoned.

Eileen HollandEileen Holland is the author of Sophie Trophy (Crwth Press, 2019, ages 7-9, short-listed for the 2020/2021 Chocolate Lily Book Award), and Sophie Trophy Too (Crwth Press, 2020, ages 7-9).  

Sample Chapter of Sophie Trophy Too: https://www.crwth.ca/product/sophie-trophy-too-by-eileen-holland/

Amazon.ca: Sophie Trophy Too:   https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Sophie+Trophy+Too&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Sophie-Trophy-Eileen-Holland-ebook/dp/B089G8WZHW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Sophie+Trophy+Too&qid=1595883305&s=books&sr=1-1

Sophie TrophyAmazon.ca: Sophie Trophy:   https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Sophie+Trophy&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Kobo Kobo: Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too both available at: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/search?query=Sophie+Trophy

BC bookstores with copies of Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too on their shelves:

Western Sky Books (Port Coquitlam) https://www.westernskybooks.com

Kinder Books (Coquitlam) https://kinderbooks.ca;

Vancouver Kidsbooks https://www.kidsbooks.ca;

Welcome Guest Author, Jacqui Murray

Jacqui, 2020I’m delighted to host Jacqui Murray whose prehistoric fiction sounds absolutely fascinating. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jacqui in person, but we’ve become friends thanks to WordPress and a mutual love of reading and writing. Jacqui has just released Book 3, Against All Odds, in the Crossroads trilogy, but Jacqui will tell you all about it!

The Universe That Connects My Novels

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

CrossRoads chartThis book is part of the trilogy Crossroads which is itself part of a bigger Universe called Man vs. Nature. It is a collection of trilogies, each dealing with a seminal point in man’s evolution as we grew from helpless prey to dominant Alpha. The first trilogy, Dawn of Humanity, is set 1.8 million years ago and features Lucy, a Homo habilis. She and her kind were the first creatures to create tools, routinely walk upright, and solve problems they’d never before encountered. But Lucy had thin skin, no claws, and tiny teeth–pretty defenseless in a world of sabertooth cats and thick-hided mammoth. There was no reason to believe she’d survive much less thrive. In Dawn of Humanity, I show you how she took control of her world. Book 1, Born in a Treacherous Time, is already published. I’ll start Book 2 and 3 soon.

The second trilogy is Crossroads featuring Xhosa, a Homo erectus. Xhosa and her kind were tough, resilient, brilliant for their time, and the inventor of many of man’s greatest creations–fire, clothing for warmth, and sophisticated tools. This also was the first of our genus to leave Africa and spread throughout Eurasia. The trilogy title, Crossroads, comes from that concept, following groups of Homo erectus from five different parts of Eurasia (and Africa) who come together in the Levant about 850,000 years ago.

The next trilogy with the working title of Savage Land will be Cro Magnon man. He had a bigger brain than even modern man, sophisticated tools, and advanced weapons. Unlike any before him, he buried his dead, had forms of art, decorated his body, and is considered by some to be a sub-species of modern man. I can’t wait to start this trilogy. Their development and advancements promise an exciting story!

All of these trilogies together make up the Universe of Man vs. Nature. As a group, they deal with man’s evolving ability to solve problems, think critically, defeat enemies, pursue actions that are apart from instinct, and in general, facilitate our rise to dominance in the animal kingdom.

OK, I know that’s a lot. Any questions?

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears! 

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Against All Odds

Excerpt: Chapter 1 

The foothills of the Pyrenees 

They came out of the mountains, hair frozen in sparkling strands, hands and feet wrapped in shredded pelts, ribs etched against their skin under ragged hides white with snow, faces haggard with fatigue. Blood crusted scrapes and gashes, many recent, others almost healed, reminders of the violent struggles endured on their journey.

Though their steps flagged, not one of these upright creatures exhibited a hint of defeat. All males and a few females carried at least one spear, some two, many with warclubs strapped to their backs. Despite the anxiety and fear of entering this foreign land, hope energized them today, that their migration might be at an end.

All of them—Xhosa and her tribe, Pan-do and his, Wind, Zvi, and Seeker—had been chased from their homes by enemies. In their flight, they found each other. It took time to work through their differences but now they traveled side by side, respected ideas not theirs, and called themselves the People.

Their charismatic Leaders—Xhosa, Wind, and Pan-do—were known as reliable friends to those who earned their trust and dangerous enemies to those who opposed them. Two wolves—Spirit and Black Wolf—journeyed with them. Though the People lacked the animals’ sharp claws, dense fur, and piercing teeth, each considered the other “pack” and would defend them to death.

The exhausted group straggled down the gently sloping flank, feet shuffling carefully over the slippery scree. The ground changed from talus to stunted tufts of grass, sparse and brown which made walking easier. Optimism shone from their faces even as their tired eyes flicked side to side in search of unexpected movement, ears strained for out-of-place noises, and noses sniffed.

 Rather than continue across the meadow, Xhosa led the People into the shade of the edging forest.

“Do you smell it, Wind?” Anticipation filled her gestures.

She and Wind, pairmates as well as Co-Leaders, stood quietly, absorbing their surroundings. Light filtered lazily through the canopy, the shadowed ground dappled with patches of warmth. She sniffed in the essence of wet earth and rotting leaves, the mustiness of moss, and something else much more enticing.

“It’s there.” She pointed and strode forward, lengthening her stride.

An icy gust whipped down the hillside through the shadows and raised bumps on her arms but she ignored it. The forest gave way to open sky and searing heat. It was too hot for her thin pelt but she didn’t stop to remove it. Green stalks swayed as far as she could see, edged on one side by more mountains and the other by some sort of leaves and branches. Sunlight glinted off the rippled surface of a distant river as it curled over the terrain.

“Dung!” The scent overpowered every other odor.

Wind huffed to her side. “It’s been a long time since we smelled dung that wasn’t frozen.”

“We did it, Wind.” Her eyes glistened with relief.

For most of a Moon, dread gnawed at her courage and left her wondering if following the guidance of Seeker—a boy barely a man—was a mistake. But Seeker assured her in his ebullient way that once out of the hills, their new homebase would welcome them. Xhosa wanted to believe him because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Nor did she know what to do if it didn’t work.

Wind motioned, arms inclusive, “It’s beautiful, Xhosa.”

Siri, Pan-do, Ngili, the wolves Spirit and Black Wolf, and the rest of the People gathered around Xhosa and Wind, eyes locked on what lay in front of them.

Pan-do whispered, “We made it.” His eyes were moist, mouth open.

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, hands close to his body. “With all this grass, Gazelle or Mammoth must be nearby.”

Dust, the Lead Scout, trotted up, coming from a tall cliff far ahead on their forward path. “I think there are caves there.”

The People hadn’t slept in a cave since leaving Viper and the Mountain Dwellers. It would be a treat if true.

Xhosa looked behind. Shadows already stretched as far from the bottom of the rocky slopes as sunlight to the top. Daylight would soon end.

“We don’t have much time. Let’s rest and then see if those are caves.”

Ngili, the People’s Lead Hunter, motioned, fingers spaced out, palms up, “I’ll go with Dust to check.” He added a swift spread-fingered swipe with first one hand and then the other, followed by a quick bob of his head and a puff.

Xhosa brushed both hands down her sides. Go.

The People spoke with a complex combination of hand motions, facial expressions, body movements, and sounds augmented with chirrups, snaps, hisses, and whistles. By the time Ngili finished talking, Xhosa knew how many would join him, where they would go, and how long they’d be away. The People’s communication was sophisticated but quiet, a precaution especially in unfamiliar areas. Unusual sounds—voices, for example—stood out. All animals made noises but few as varied as the People’s. Why alert Others who lived here to their presence? Xhosa would do that in her own time, in her own way.

Dust, Ngili, and two scouts soon receded into the landscape, the only evidence of their passage a slight disturbance in the slender waving stalks. Despite the dung scents, the abundant plant food, and the glisten of a faraway river, Xhosa crossed her arms over her chest and paced.

Something is wrong.

She searched the forests and the rippling field that had swallowed up Dust and Ngili . Xhosa possessed the ability to see great distances in sufficient detail to find trails, footprints, movement, or the glitter of sun off eyes.

She saw none of those and that made her more uncomfortable.

With this wealth of food and water, Others should be here.

Wind motioned, palms flattened against his chest, “The mountains we crossed touched Sun. They’re cold and barren. Few can do what we did to get here, Xhosa. We are safe.”

Xhosa could hear in his voice, see in his gestures, that despite his bravado, Wind too felt uneasy about what they didn’t see and hear.

But she grinned. “I don’t know how I survived without someone being able to read my thoughts.”

She trotted over to a stream that fed into the river she had noticed. She stretched out on her belly, flat on the soft grass at the water’s edge, and took a long, satisfying drink of the sweet liquid. Thirst quenched, she collected handfuls of the tender shoots of new plants growing along the shore, ate what she wanted and tossed the rest into a communal food pile that would be shared with all the People. It was already filling up with fat fish speared from the slow-moving pools beside the river, tasty reeds and cattails, and even a handful of eggs plucked from nests not hidden well enough along the shore and in the roots of trees. The wolves snapped birds from the air and swallowed them almost whole, coughing up feathers.

Xhosa leaned back on her hands, sniffing the unique fragrance of each group member. Zvi was sweaty from wrestling with Spirit. Siri smelled sourly of hunger but she wouldn’t eat until Honey’s bleeding foot was wrapped in mulch and leaves. The females with new babies exuded the pleasant aroma of milk. Some scents jumbled together making them impossible to identify. When Xhosa became Leader of the People, before it merged with Pan-do’s and Hawk’s, the People had been small enough that she could recognize everyone by their odor. Now, she kept track of her tribe while Pan-do did the same with his. Wind helped everyone.

Done eating, the People sprawled on the warm ground, soaking up Sun’s remaining rays, chatting contentedly with gestures and the occasional sigh. Water dripped from their thawing bodies, soaking into the thirsty ground, as the remaining ice and snow on their pelts and in their hair melted away.

Xhosa and Wind sat apart from the others, on a log long ago softened by rot. She uprooted handfuls of grass and wiped the sweat from Wind’s body, as he did hers. The soft scratch felt good and the earthy fragrance reminded her of times long gone. When he finished, she harvested chunks of green moss from the log’s decaying bark and stuffed them into her neck sack. All the People wore one of these around their necks. Even the wolves did when they were migrating.

Finished, she leaned against Wind and closed her eyes. In a group of Others, her pairmate stood out. A Big Head, the People’s traditional enemy, the ones who drove Xhosa and her tribe from their long-established home, Wind had earned Xhosa’s trust by saving her life more than once and then, as a member of her People, sharing Big Head spear tricks and warrior skills with her Leads. Before long, each of them individually told her that thanks to Wind they could now defeat an attack which they couldn’t have done in the past. Whatever distrust her People harbored toward him faded away.

“Xhosa!” Dust panted up to her. “I found a cave. And we found trace of a herd. Ngili is tracking it.”

 

By the time Sun settled into its night nest, the People were ensconced in the cave Dust found. They had to squeeze together to fit but all were thrilled to sleep without waking to frozen toes and numb fingers. Stone and Zvi—the burliest of the People—lugged rocks in and Siri built a fire that quickly warmed the interior. The subadults gathered kindling to feed it and arranged who would be responsible throughout the night for keeping it lit.

Usually, the wolves slept scattered among the People but with Black Wolf close to delivering her pups, she dug out an opening in the back and claimed it as her den. Then she settled to her belly, one leg forward, the other bent back, eyebrows twitching.

Xhosa strode toward the nest she would share with Wind but stopped at the sight of Seeker, weight on his bottom, legs crossed in front of his body in the uncomfortable position he preferred. His pairmate Lyta curled next to him with their best friend, Zvi.

Xhosa approached Seeker. “You are not outside.”

Every night as long as Xhosa could remember, the enigmatic male lay on his back, gaze fixed steadily on the star-dotted sky, spouting what to Xhosa sounded like gibberish to whoever listened. Intermittently, he leapt to his feet and spun dizzying circles or bounced from one foot to the other, huffing and chirping. Lyta and Zvi would either join him or watch. He once explained to Xhosa that this was how he studied the changes in the night sky—the appearance and disappearance of particular stars or their movement in relation to each other—so he could guide the People accurately. This nightly process was how they had moved from the distant start of Endless Pond to this cave where Endless Pond seemed to end.

He didn’t respond to her statement, didn’t even acknowledge her. That worried Xhosa. She hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that danger lurked around them, somewhere. Seeker’s anxious look didn’t help.

She squatted at his side and added a question to her declaration. “The stars aren’t talking to you?”

To the side, Lyta wriggled, not comfortable in the seated position Seeker preferred but determined to try because Seeker liked it so much. Zvi crouched on the balls of her feet, the more traditional pose. She’d tried to sit on her bottom, legs crossed in front, but kept falling backward. Besides, it took her too long to rise from that position which meant if Lyta needed help, she couldn’t respond quickly. Squatting, for her, made more sense. Seeker didn’t care. He expected all to do what worked for them. Both his best friend and his future pairmate were long accustomed to his eccentricities.

Finally, Seeker offered Xhosa only a confused frown.

That’s not a “Yes they are,” and that raised the hair on her neck. Before she could ask more, Ngili scrambled through the thistle barrier the youngsters had placed around the cave’s mouth to prevent the entrance of intruders and hurried toward Xhosa.

He motioned, “I lost the herd’s trace in the dark. I’ll try again tomorrow,” and then raced toward where the hunters had gathered. They were all tired. Some would mate before sleeping but not Ngili. He hadn’t given up hope that his pairmate, Hecate, would come back.

After a final glance at Seeker, Xhosa joined Wind in their nest. She squatted behind him and teased the dirt and debris from his long head hair, occasionally focusing on a difficult tangle until her fingers could move easily through his hair. When she finished, he did the same for her.

As he groomed, he said, “I’ll join Ngili tomorrow. If there are herds, we will find them.”

“Pan-do and I will continue with the People.”

They said nothing more, both enjoying the calming feel of nails scratching on their skin and the intimacy of someone they trusted implicitly. Done, both fell asleep.

 

The first rays of daylight filtered into the cave. Black Wolf was already outside, padding back and forth restlessly, huffing uncomfortably. Wind left with Ngili and a handful of scouts, knowing Xhosa would leave a trail to wherever they settled when Sun’s light ran out. Though Spirit usually went with the hunters, today he stayed with Black Wolf.

Xhosa and Pan-do led. Dust copied their pace and direction but a distance away. With Ngili and Wind searching for meat, Xhosa focused on finding a cave large enough for the People. They strode onward, gaze sweeping the landscape, everyone grazing on berries, roots, and worms as they walked. Sporadically, Xhosa heard a faraway squawk or glimpsed a covey of birds as they exploded into flight, fleeing an unknown threat. It was the direction Ngili and Wind had gone, and told her how far they’d gotten.

The People rested by a waterhole. They searched its shoreline for prints but found none. Wherever the herds lived, they didn’t drink here so the People moved on, through copses of young saplings and around a bed of haphazardly-strewn boulders. The air tasted of flowers, warm earth, and the mild tang of salt, but the dung they found was hard and old.

Xhosa touched Pan-do’s hand and both stopped, eyes forward. “Do you smell that? It reminds me of Endless Pond.”

He pointed to his strong side and the direction they were walking. “From there and there. How can it be on two sides?”

Xhosa tingled. One of her People—Rainbow—had abandoned them long ago, taking many males and females with him. Others she and her People ran into while migrating here told her Rainbow traveled the same route she did but along the opposite shore of Endless Pond. For him, as for her, this was as far as he could go without folding back on himself.

If they got this far. If any survived.

She pushed aside those thoughts. Before searching for whatever remnants remained of Rainbow’s group, the People must find a homebase. All they suffered to get here—the interminable walking, the loss of Hawk, the death of groupmembers, Nightshade’s treachery—was for naught if they didn’t establish a home.

Spirit bumped her leg. Black Wolf panted at her mate’s side, her belly almost touching the ground.

Xhosa motioned, “Your mate’s pups won’t wait much longer. We will find a den for her.”

Spirit took off, his movements graceful and fluid with Black Wolf lumbering after him.

Not much later, Pan-do squinted ahead. “I think Spirit found a cave.”

Xhosa leaned forward, narrowing her gaze, and finally saw where Spirit stopped. He sat on his haunches at the base of a cliff, facing her, nose twitching, tail swishing the dirt behind him.

It took the rest of the day to cross over the craggy scrubland, up and down the deep ravines, and around the occasional spot of slippery ice. The cave proved too small for the People but not for Black Wolf’s needs. With much scuffling and panting, she created a nest for her pups and disappeared into the cool dark hole. The People settled outside, under an overhang that would protect them from rain and predators, and far enough away to not bother the new mother. As soon as Ngili and Wind arrived, shaking their heads that they hadn’t found a herd, they left again to search for signs of a trail left by former inhabitants of this cave.

Xhosa’s chest squeezed and her stomach knotted. Spirit padded up to her side, hackles puffed, nostrils flaring. He agreed. Something about this area made her tingle but for now, until Black Wolf finished, they must stay.

Jacqui's Header

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears! 

Available digitally (print soon) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

Social Media contacts:

 Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimur ray.net

 

The Fun and Challenges of Guest Blogging

KEEP-CALM-BLOG-ON[1]After releasing a new novel, one of my ongoing promotion tasks is to write guest blogs and find bloggers who are willing to host me. I remember asking you all for advice about whether to try a blog tour and the majority of responses advised against it. The reasoning was that the amount of time it takes to write twenty to thirty blogs doesn’t pay off in subsequent sales, especially when you factor in the cost of hiring someone to arrange a tour. Sure, you could organize a big tour yourself, but it takes a great deal of effort to find willing hosts, keep track of posting deadlines, and stay engaged in the process.

So, I’m preparing just a few blogs, at my own pace. I thought it would be challenging, but once I started thinking about topics, ideas began to flow. Some of the blogs are specific to The Blade Man and others are about writing in general. It’s actually been fun to reflect back on my career, the things I’ve learned, and acknowledging the people who inspired me.

To date I have three lined up for June, which I’ll repost when the time comes, and I’ll be searching for more opportunities as we move into July. I’m not planning to appear more than once a week, which is plenty for me.

All in all, I’m off to a good start, but I’m looking for more hosts, so if you’re interesting in hosting me, please let me know at debra_kong@telus.net.

And I’m always open to hosting authors in all genres, as we can all learn something from one another.

Welcome Guest Author, A.J. Devlin

This week, I’m delighted to host Canadian mystery author, A.J. Devlin. A.J.’s second mystery, Rolling Thunder, will be released by NeWest Press on May 15th. You’re going to love this book, but here’s A.J. tell you why:

Rolling Thunder“Why roller derby?”

That’s the first question I’m asked when I tell people about Rolling Thunder, the sequel to my debut mystery-comedy novel Cobra Clutch.

The follow up to ex-professional wrestler turned private investigator “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead’s first case definitely stands apart – but there are also significant similarities between both books.

In Cobra Clutch “Hammerhead” Jed reluctantly re-enters the world of independent pro wrestling after his friend and former tag-team partner has his precious pet python and ringside gimmick kidnapped and held for ransom. Indy wrestling seemed like the perfect backdrop to introduce a first-time sleuth whose intimate knowledge of the wrestling biz actually gives him a leg up on the police from time-to-time, and that advantage plays a key role in Jed’s investigation.

Cobra Clutch audiobook coverRolling Thunder picks up just under a year after the events of the first book, and the connective tissue between the two stories is that a lady wrestler Jed encountered during his search for the missing snake has since left the squared circle and joined the hard-hitting, badass, anti-establishment world of women’s flat track roller derby. When the team’s coach goes missing before playoffs and the derby girls decide to hire a PI, Jed’s old acquaintance tells them she knows just the guy for the job.

Both independent wrestling and roller derby might be considered fringe sports by some, but to the grapplers, skaters, and fans nothing could be further from the truth. Both subcultures are rich with intense passion, incredible athleticism, and an absolute love and devotion to their respective, counterculture crafts.

So while “Hammerhead” Jed encounters some familiarities as he delves into the derby world, it was also fun to have him navigate unfamiliar terrain, which in many ways, makes his sophomore sleuthing adventure his most challenging – and dangerous – case yet.

*** Thank you to Debra Purdy Kong for giving me the opportunity to promote Rolling Thunder on her Mystery Deb crime fiction blog. 

You’re very welcome, A.J. Your type of book is exactly what readers need right now. Here’s a little more info about A.J. and his books: 

AJ Devlin author pic final image copyA.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California for six years where he earned a B.F.A. in Screenwriting from Chapman University and a M.F.A. in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. COBRA CLUTCH, the first entry in the “Hammerhead” Jed ex-pro wrestler turned PI mystery-comedy series, was nominated for a 2019 Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel. For more information on A.J. and his books, please visit ajdevlin.com.

ROLLING THUNDER will be released by NeWest Press on May 15th and will be available in both print and e-reader formats on Amazon, Indigo, Kobo, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Nook Books, other online retailers, as well as local Greater Vancouver independent bookstores Massy Books, Macleod’s Books, The Paper Hound, and Pulp Fiction — who all offer deliveries and curb side drop-off.

As of April 21st the audiobook for COBRA CLUTCH can be found at the following locations: Audible, Kobo, Google, Findaway, Bibliotecha, Hibooks, Scribd, Playster, Downpour, ABC (not connected to the TV channel), Libro FM, Recorded Audio, Hoopla, OverDrive, and Storytel.

ROLLING THUNDER LINKS:

https://www.amazon.ca/Rolling-Thunder-J-Devlin/dp/1988732867

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/rolling-thunder/9781988732862-item.html?ikwid=rolling+thunder&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=5d973bf158e99be062e1cc3beac6a52c

COBRA CLUTCH AUDIOBOOK LINK

https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/audiobook/cobra-clutch-1

https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/A_J_Devlin_Cobra_Clutch?id=AQAAAEDsYEAgvM&hl=en

 

Welcome Guest Blogger, Darlene Foster

Amanda in Holland.jpgMy guest today is author Darlene Foster, the creator of the popular Amanda Travels series featuring Amanda Ross, a twelve-year-old Canadian girl who loves to travel to interesting places. The seventh book in the series, Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, has just been released by Central Avenue Publishing and is available through most bookstores.

In this book, intrepid traveller, Amanda Ross, is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah. They travel the canals of Amsterdam, visit Anne Frank House, check out windmills, tour a wooden shoe factory, and take pictures of the amazing flowers of Keukenhof Gardens.  But, things are missing in Holland – rare tulip bulbs, a gardener, a home for an abandoned puppy and Amanda’s great-uncle who didn’t return from the war. Is Amanda capable of finding these missing things without putting herself in danger?

Darlene Foster photo.jpgDarlene bases her novels on her own travels. Ever since she was a little girl living a ranch in southern Alberta, she dreamt of travelling the world, meeting interesting people and writing stories. It’s no surprise that she’s now an award-winning author of the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky twelve-year-old Amanda Ross, who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she encounters the unknown and unravels one mystery after another. When not travelling herself, Darlene divides her time between Canada and Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot. She is proof that dreams can come true.

A recent five-star review for Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action

This book was quite a bit of fun. Foster combines a middle-grade fiction plot with a colourful tour of Holland, including its famous sites, snippets of history, and its wonderful flowers and food. I had the great fortune of visiting my grandparents in Holland when I was Amanda’s age, and her experiences in the book mirror my memories in great detail. It was a blast to traipse along beside Amanda and enjoy the country once again.

The main plot focuses on the recovery of a lost puppy, but secondary plots weave through the story, and all come together nicely at the end. There’s a bit of mystery and some danger to keep the tension up. There are also some very moving scenes when Amanda visits Anne Frank’s home and a war memorial dedicated to the Canadians who helped liberate Holland during WWII. A lovely book for young readers and absolutely perfect for readers who plan to travel the world.

  1. W. Peach https://dwallacepeachbooks.com/

amandapostcardsallfront.jpgThe Amanda Travels series introduces readers to new cultures and countries by weaving mystery and adventure into the stories. They are perfect for tweens or reluctant older readers and appeal to teachers and librarians looking for new material for their classroom. Adults enjoy the adventures as well.

Darlene will be in the Vancouver area reading from and signing her books at these locations:

Albany Books, 123 – 1315 56th Street, Tsawwassen on Saturday, October 19th from 1:00 – 3:00 PM

Chapters, Pine Tree Village, 2991 Lougheed Hwy, Coquitlam on Sunday, October 20th from 1:00 to 4:00 PM

Social media links

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

Blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/DarleneFoster/e/B003XGQPHA/

Meet Guest Author, Jacqui Murray

Blog Post Image of The Quest For Home

One of the best things about being on WordPress is in meeting other authors. One of these great people is author Jacqui Murray, who has recently released her second prehistoric fiction novel, The Quest For Home, in the Crossroad series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga.

A short summary of the book:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind her African homeland, leading her People on a grueling journey through unknown and perilous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with her life. 

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, the one destined to obliterate any who came before.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life, prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

Jacqui’s on a blog tour and today she’s going to answer one key question about her work, which is: Convince me they can communicate as well as it sounds like they do with just gestures, hands, and facial movements. 

I get this a lot. Let me give you two examples. First, have you ever been around someone who doesn’t speak your language and still, the two of you communicate by pointing, hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions? Second, think of sign language. Very sophisticated ideas are communicated with just hands and facial expressions. That’s how Xhosa and her kind did it. 

Find Jacqui and her Books at Any of These Sites:

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                 https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                       https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                          http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                           http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                               http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                              https://jacquimurray.net

Jacqui MurrayJacqui’s bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.

Excerpt from Chapter One, The Quest For Home

Northern shore of what we now call the Mediterranean Sea 

Pain came first, pulsing through her body like cactus spines. When she moved her head, it exploded. Flat on her back and lying as still as possible, Xhosa blindly clawed for her neck sack with the healing plants. Her shoulder screamed and she froze, gasping.

How can anything hurt that much?

She cracked one eye, slowly. The bright sun filled the sky, almost straight over her head.

And how did I sleep so long?

Fractured memories hit her—the raging storm, death, and helplessness, unconnected pieces that made no sense. Overshadowing it was a visceral sense of tragedy that made her shake so violently she hugged her chest despite the searing pain. After it passed, she pushed up on her arms and shook her head to shed the twigs and grit that clung to her long hair. Fire burned through her shoulders, up her neck and down her arms, but less than before. She ignored it.

A shadow blocked Sun’s glare replaced by dark worried eyes that relaxed when hers caught his.

“Nightshade.” Relief washed over her and she tried to smile. Somehow, with him here, everything would work out.

Her Lead Warrior leaned forward. Dripping water pooled at her side, smelling of salt, rotten vegetation, mud, and blood.

“You are alright, Leader Xhosa,” he motioned, hands erratic. Her People communicated with a rich collection of grunts, sounds, gestures, facial expressions, and arm movements, all augmented with whistles, hoots, howls, and chirps.

“Yes,” but her answer came out low and scratchy, the beat inside her chest noisy as it tried to burst through her skin. Tears filled her eyes, not from pain but happiness that Nightshade was here, exactly where she needed him. His face, the one that brought fear to those who might attack the People and devastation to those who did, projected fear.

She cocked her head and motioned, “You?”

Deep bruises marred swaths of Nightshade’s handsome physique, as though he had been pummeled by rocks.  An angry gash pulsed at the top of his leg. His strong upper arm wept from a fresh wound, its raw redness extending up his stout neck, over his stubbled cheek, and into his thick hair. Cuts and tears shredded his hands.

“I am fine,” and he fell silent. Why would he say more? He protected the People, not whined about injuries.

When she fumbled again for her neck sack, he reached in and handed her the plant she needed, a root tipped with white bulbs. She chewed as Nightshade scanned the surroundings, never pausing anywhere long, always coming back to her.

The sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky. Sweltering heat hammered down, sucking up the last of the rain that had collected in puddles on the shore. Xhosa’s protective animal skin was torn into shreds but what bothered her was she couldn’t remember how she got here.

“Nightshade, what happened?”

 

Meet Guest Author, Alison Bruce

2013-Bruce-BW-200I’m delighted to host author Alison Bruce today. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Alison when I was on the Crime Writers of Canada Board a few years back. Alison writes history, mystery and suspense. Her books combine “clever mysteries, well-researched backgrounds and a touch of romance.” Her protagonists are marked by their strength of character, sense of humor and the ability to adapt to new situations. Four of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.

Check out this fascinating piece on Ghost Stories:

When I was six years old, I woke to find my grandmother standing at the bottom of my bed. She wore her habitual expression of worry blended with faint disapproval. Her eyes narrowed and I waited to find out what I had done this time to annoy her. Then she nodded and disappeared.

In the morning, my mother came to tell me that Grandma Allard had died. She had a heart attack in the evening and my father had been called to the hospital shortly after my bedtime. I could stay off school if I wanted, which of course I did. It wasn’t that I was shocked or particularly grieved to learn my grandmother was dead, but a day off school was not something you turned down. I wasn’t even worried that I had apparently seen a ghost.

This is the opening of Ghost Writer. Except for changing the name Bruce to Allard, it is autobiographical. Although I haven’t seen nearly as many ghosts as my character Jen Kirby, this story was inspired by the ghosts I have experienced.

I’m willing to accept that I was dreaming that night. If that’s the case, my dream was prophetic because, in the case of Grandma Bruce, her death came as a shock to everyone else. She had a sudden heart attack. I didn’t know anything about it until after the fact. I didn’t even know my parents had left the house. No doubt my Nana Nash was asked to watch us while they were gone. But I slept through it.

I used to have horrible nightmares when I was a child. None of them were about ghosts. The idea of ghosts has never been particularly scary for me. That may be the reason I underestimated how much I could scare other kids with ghosts stories. There’s another bit in Ghost Writer where Jen talks about getting into trouble because of her stories. That is also autobiographical.

Did I sense my friend Allan at his funeral? Did my mother-in-law, who died before I met her son, really check me out to make sure I was taking good care of her only child? Maybe it was all in my head. As Dumbledore said, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

In any case, it’s all grist for the mill.

She has to deal with two kinds of spooks: spies and ghosts.But which one is trying to kill her?

Jen Kirby has seen ghosts since she was a teen, but she can’t talk to them or help them cross over. And, after a violent death in the family, she doesn’t want to see them anymore.

In her role as ghostwriter, Jen joins a Canadian Arctic expedition to document and help solve a forty-year-old mystery involving an American submarine station lost during the Cold War. The trouble is, there are people—living and dead—who don’t want the story told, and they’ll do anything to stop her.

Now Jen is haunted by ghosts she can’t avoid or handle alone. That means confiding in the one man she doesn’t want to dismiss her as “crazy.” But can he help? Or is he part of the problem?

Bruce-GhostWriter-400Buy Link for Ghost Writer: http://getbook.at/GhostWriterAB

ADVANCE REVIEWS

A compelling mystery with a unique setting and skillfully handled supernatural twist.

Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times Bestselling  Author

A maritime mystery full of twists and turns, heart-pounding suspense, and ghosts!

Ghost Writer plunges you into the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean with breath-stealing twists and turns, maritime adventures, page-turning suspense … and ghosts. A great read!

Ann Charles, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Deadwood Mystery Series

Alison Bruce weaves a masterful mystery set in the Arctic that will have you reaching for a hot cup of coffee and a blanket as you feel the cold water splash up off the pages and into your face. With equal parts of paranormal and practicality, Ghost Writer will keep you up all night as you work your way through this addictive page-turner.

Sheryl Nantus, award winning author of HARD RUN

GHOST WRITER is a must-read for fans of Barbara Michaels, AKA Elizabeth Peters. In GHOST WRITER, Alison Bruce provides it all—sly humour, a feisty yet vulnerable heroine, hunky romantic interests, believable characters, a carefully researched and unusual setting, and page-turning suspense.

Janet Bolin, author of the Threadville Mysteries

Links

Website: www.alisonbruce.ca

Blog: alisonebruce.blogspot.ca

Twitter: @alisonebruce

Facebook: www.facebook.com/alisonbruce.books

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/alisonbruce

 Professional Affiliations

Crime Writers of Canada – www.crimewriterscanada.com

Meet Guest Blogger, Donna Galanti

GalantiDonnaI’m delighted to present my first guest blogger on WordPress, Donna Galanti! She’s the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com. She also loves building writer community. See how at www.yourawesomeauthorlife.com

Check out what she has to say about The Monster Inside Us: 

In some movies and books, the monsters are obvious. But are the monsters inside us?

In my paranormal suspense, A Human Element, X-10 is obviously monstrous. He kills. He seeks blood and revenge. He has no remorse. Yet as we come to discover it’s a combination of his genes and environment, can we blame him?

And sometimes we create the very monsters we fear who are really to be pitied, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. We can identify with him as we have all felt like an outcast, rejected and unloved at times. Is Frankenstein truly the monster or is it the human who created him?

I believe the true monsters in my book lie beneath the surface of characters that are not so obviously monstrous.

The abusive foster father.
The scientist who tortures his experiment.
The doctor who sells a baby.
The men who kidnap and torture a sailor.

Do they get what they deserve in the end? You’ll have to read to find out…

I created new scenes of the monster, X-10, for the re-release of A Human Element that blur the boundaries of good and evil further for him. We see him now once loved and desired, and in return he shines kindness on the only soul that ever touched him with tenderness. While genes and environment have made X-10 what he is, should he be feared or pitied? Or both? In an interview here with X-10 awhile back, you may fear him more than pity.

New scene with X-10. A true monster or not?:

As X-10 ran under the full moon, leaping over rocks and roots, darting around boulders he could see her in his mind.

Laura. You are mine.

Then he saw her with her man. Water coursed all around them. Her hair hung wet about her shoulders. X-10 closed off his mind’s eye to the scene. It made him feel strange. And in that strange feeling he couldn’t define, X-10 hated her even more.

Rage surged through him and his blood pulsed fast, throbbing under his white skin in blue rivers. Why did she get to have her man when he couldn’t have his woman? Why was she worthy and he wasn’t? But Sabrina’s touches had made him feel worthy. Even if they were paid. And she had smelled and looked so good.

The night flashed through him again and he moaned with agony over the loss of the girl who left a hole in his heart. The girl who called him Charlie and loved him for just one night.

After Sabrina’s fear of him had left her, she’d sat down on his bed then. “Why don’t we just lie here for now? We can talk, you know. Like real…people.”

He stood over her, considering. What would he talk about with a human girl?

She lay down on her side and he did too, facing her. Her blonde hair curved along her breasts like silky strands of sparkly cotton candy. He’d seen a picture of it once being swirled on a stick at a fair. He wondered what it would taste like. What she would taste like.

She touched his face then pulled her fingers away. “When you look at all your parts, you’re not so bad.”

“A monster.”

“No. I’ve been with monsters.”

“Like me?”

She shook her head. “Monsters on the inside.”

Even in the garish light she was the loveliest thing he had ever seen. He wanted to touch her, but was afraid of his urges. To hurt and maim and kill. Good guys don’t do those things. And she had called him by his name. As if he was a good guy.

No! No good guy!

He was evil to the core.

And hate spurred him on now. Hate would help him survive. He forced himself to run faster through the night. Why did Laura get to live a normal life? He vowed to make her end not normal. And in that end, she would wish she had never been born.

A lonesome dog bayed in the hills above X-10 as if approving his plan. Streaks of moonlight and shadows fell across his face like whip lashes over and over, creating a living painting from darkness and light. He would show Laura darkness like she never experienced, and pain. There would be so much pain. He howled back at the creature that rode alone through the woods as he did. Perhaps they would meet along their journeys.

He hoped so. He was getting hungry again.

Who are some of your favorite monsters? And did they get what they deserved in the end or were they to be pitied and redeemed?

P.S. I’m also giving away a $25 Amazon gift card below! 

Element Triliogy twitter2About A Human Element:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Praise for A Human Element:
“A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.  Highly recommended.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author

Praise for A Hidden Element:
“Fascinating…a haunting story about just how far parents will go to protect, or destroy, their children in the name of love.”—Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times best-selling author

Purchase A Human Element here: On sale for just $0.99 10/27 – 11/2! http://mybook.to/AHumanElement

Purchase A Hidden Element here: On sale for FREE 10/27 – 10/31!
http://myBook.to/AHiddenElement

Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card HERE:

Connect with Donna:
Twitter  https://twitter.com/DonnaGalanti
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5767306.Donna_Galanti