Friday, December 18, 2015

Call me when the force really awakens. Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Sorry, that’s the best I can muster. Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t an awful movie, but it’s not a great one either.  Read on, and I promise no spoilers.

Haven’t I seen this somewhere before?
A teenager on a desert world with a hard life who doesn’t fit in. An robot with a secret agenda. A reluctant hero. A masked villain with a mysterious past. A super weapon. No I’m not describing the original Star Wars. All those same elements are in this movie along with many other similarities. Star Wars was an iconic moment in cinematic history. Any new movie in the genre should be a homage to the original, not slavishly derivative.

The surprises are disappointments. Kylo Ren’s real identity is revealed halfway through the movie. Enough hints were dropped so that if you had been paying attention, his relationship to other characters was obvious. The news arrives not with a gasp, but with a yawn. While we’re on the subject of Kylo Ren, there hasn’t been a more irritating villain since Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker.  Whiny and grating, there is nothing scary about him. Darth Vader was chilling from the first moment he appeared on screen. He never told you what he was going to do to you. He simply snapped your neck like a dry twig when you didn’t answer his questions. The worst thing he said? “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” It’s still creepy.

Kylo Ren stomps around the movie like a petulant schoolchild. Why aren’t I popular? Why don’t the cool kids like me? The rebellion has nothing to fear from him. Every time he throws another hissy fit (and he throws several) I imagine the storm troopers rolling their eyes beneath the masks and thinking, Oh crap, not again. Doesn’t he ever zip it? Eventually, they’ll rise up and kill him. Not because they fear for their lives, but simply because they’ve grown tired of his whimpering petulance. Ah well, what can one expect when Kylo Ren’s master, Supreme Leader Snoke, isn’t any more threatening? He comes across as a cranky CEO rather than an archetype of evil.

BB-8 was supposed to be the new R2-D2. Not even close. A good part of R2-D2’s charm was his relationship with C3PO.  He nagged, C3PO protested. They argued, they made up. They were a metallic odd couple. The range of whistles and clicks had a funny, weird friendship dynamic missing from the movie. BB-8 is a cute little robot, but has no one to talk to except the occasional human. There’s nothing memorable about him.

Apparently, love doesn’t conquer all
The end of the first trilogy left you with warm feelings about Han and Leia. Two people who needed each other found each other.  Sure, the road ahead wasn’t easy. There were still dangers lurking, remnants of the Empire who wouldn’t play nice, but they had each other. They would face the trials together and triumph.

Nice to know we were all wrong. Han and Leia are now grumpy Grammy and Gramps. There is no passion. This is no romance. They seem more like brother and sister. Kirk and Spock had more sexual chemistry in Abrams’ Star Trek movies than these two. Ford and Fisher are actors. Couldn’t they at least have acted as if they once had a spark?

How to improve the series
I’m so tired of all the heroes with daddy issues. This film, like so many other blockbusters, embraces father/son conflict, hoping to pull on the heartstrings. It doesn’t. All it gets from me is a Not again. Don’t they have any new ideas? The mantra in bloated budget movies seems to be if it worked the first five hundred times, it’s good enough. The big boys in Hollywood need to cut back on their cappuccino budget and find money to add a few female screenwriters.  Women would nip that daddy issue nonsense in the bud and come up with something more creative to add drama and engage an audience. Better yet, use women writers who have children. They know a thing or two about dealing with whiny toddlers and they most certainly would never write one as a villain.

Why are the powers-that-be in Hollywood so afraid of a little warmth and romance? It won’t turn an action film into a bodice-ripping chick flick, but rather humanizes the characters. There can and should be a happily ever after for well-loved heroes and heroines in movies that are meant to be fun. It makes us all feel a little better knowing that love can conquer all—even if it’s only on the movie screen. Don’t take that away from us.

Pluses. Really?
Yes there were a few. In particular, the new cast additions were excellent. Rey made a plucky heroine. Finn’s transition from storm trooper to reluctant hero added a nicely done twist. Poe Dameron’s pilot had a gritty appeal as a seasoned warrior. The story should have focused completely on them and their fight against the First Order. Dump Kylo Ren and Snoke. Add a new villain, and the movie would have been ten times better.

More to come. 
Maybe the second movie will improve. With a young cast this good there’s hope, but I won’t hold my breath. The first time I saw Star Wars, I was left with a triumphant feeling, and a desire to immediately watch the movie again. Not this time, I’m afraid.  It was an okay movie with an okay plot that generated nothing more than a vaguely dissatisfied feeling. With all the money thrown into this project, the end result really should have been memorable. It's not.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney

In the long twisted course of human history it’s rare to come across a woman yielding true power. Even highborn females were generally under the thumb of male relatives and relegated to serve as either prizes of war or political pawns. Cooney has written a fascinating history of the only known female pharaoh, Hatshepset.

Little is known about Hatshepset’s life. Egyptians didn’t record individual thoughts and motives, to them they didn’t matter. Because they “enacted their politics through the rituals of religion, we cannot know exactly where the affairs of government ended and the ideology started.”  Cooney circumvented the lack of information by imbuing the book with a quasi-biographic tone. Historical purists may turn up their noses since the author had no firsthand knowledge of Hatshepset’s beliefs and feelings, but the book doesn’t suffer from the speculation. This is less history than story. Attempting to explain Hatshepset’s motivation and sentiments gives a voice to a fascinating woman long dead who succeeded in a culture and time far different from our own and climbed to a position of power few ever achieved.    

As a teenager Hatshepset’s husband/brother died. With no son to succeed to the throne, she became the regent to the new pharaoh, Thutmose III, infant son of a lesser wife. She was both his stepmother and his aunt. Retaining her role as Egypt’s High Priestess, God’s Wife of Amen, Hatshepset built her political career supported by the Amen priesthood. By the age of twenty she claimed her divine right and formed a co-regency with Thutmose III. A shrewd politician, she eventually used her insights into the political and spiritual life of Egypt to redefine the nature of kingship.  

After Hatshepset’s death, Thutmose III began the long process of asserting his own power and erasing her contributions and even her name from the historical record. Poor Hatshepset. Early Egyptologists took the misogynistic stance that she was “a woman who took what was not hers and got what was coming to her.” In the end, Cooney writes “Hatshepset’s greatest contribution and most daring innovation was her methodical and calculated creation of the only truly successful female kingship in the ancient world.” She managed her rise to power without assassination or a bloody coup and ruled peacefully for many years. That there is so little known of her is more the shame, but in The Woman Who Would Be King, Cooney manages to imbue her story with the dignity it deserves.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Monday, November 16, 2015

99 Cent Sale for The Naughty List

L. A. Kelley

99 Cents November 13-27

This is not your typical yuletide tale.

Murder, mystical artifacts, an invisible demon with anger management issues, and an overbearing cupid—not what Rosalie Thatcher wished for on her Christmas list.

The holidays had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. Stephanie, her new manager at Penrose’s Department Store, is determined to make this season the most profitable in the store’s history, even if it sucks the life out of every employee. Introducing arbitrary rules and stealing the affections of the cute temp Santa were bad enough, but forcing Rosalie into the stupid elf hat was the worst. The worst, that is, until she meets a real E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form) named David and gets lassoed into a desperate hunt for the stolen Naughty and Nice List. Now all Rosalie and David must do is dodge a murderous invisible demon and recover the missing artifact before hellhounds track them down.  The couple race against time for without the magical guidance of the Naughty and Nice List, the world will tumble toward eternal chaos. 

Stephanie rounded the corner. She plopped a large cardboard box down on the counter. “I’ve decided on more festive attire for the staff to increase holiday spirit and, thereby, increase customer spending.” She pulled off the cover. Rosalie’s mouth dropped open. “What the hell is that?”
“An elf hat, of course. It’s festive.”
“It’s butt ugly.”
Stephanie glowered. “No one asked your opinion, Rosalie. No one cares about your opinion. Attitudes such as yours prove me right. You need more holiday spirit.” She shoved the hat in her face. “Everyone wears one. Put it on.”
Fashioned out of bright green felt, the cone-shaped hat had Penrose’s written in glittery gold paint smack dab in the middle. On the pointy top dangled a pompom the size of her fist that jingled annoyingly with the slightest movement. The rim, trimmed with bushy fake white fur, did nothing to offset the huge elf ears stitched in as giant flaps on either side. Rosalie begrudgingly slipped on the hat. Immediately, her head began to sweat. The ears itched like crazy.
Stephanie beamed. “Perfect. I told all the assistant managers to stop by Customer Service and pick up hats for their departments.” She turned on her heel.
“You forgot yours,” Rosalie snidely called out. Of course, Stephanie ignored her.
David sunk wearily into a chair in the break room, cradling a disposable cup in his hands. He appropriated the stale coffee from the pot someone forgot to empty out and clean. He barely noticed the bitter taste. Ten minute break…ten minutes was all he needed. The caffeine would keep him on his feet another couple of hours. He rubbed his eyes, willing away the crushing fatigue. Night after night David wandered Penrose’s four floors in a fruitless search, pulling open boxes, checking under counters. Although the nagging pull continued to graze his senses, The Book was nowhere to be found. He’d come no closer to pinning down the location than when he arrived. The mystical connection now appreciably slackened under his mental touch. David’s stomach knotted up in fear. Soon the link would disappear forever. Something alluded him—some special storage area, some door he hadn’t opened. Why couldn’t he find The Book?
In frustration, David drained the last of the coffee. He flung the cup to the wastebasket, overshot, and hit the corkboard on the wall. A clipboard crashed to the floor. He stifled a curse. Bending down to pick it up, his eyes strayed over the top sheet. “Motivation Memo from Stephanie Crowder to all Employees,” he read. “Below are daily reports from Sneaky Shoppers.” Oh brother, Stephanie is a real piece of work. She has her own secret police. He snorted in amusement scanning the list of ridiculous infractions.
“Now, now, Rosalie Thatcher of Customer Service,” he muttered. “Two transgressions—you’ll never get off the Naughty List with that attitude. Imagine, not remembering to say have a special holly jolly holly-day at Penrose’s. I see you were also caught without an elf hat.”
Elf hat?
His lips twitched in an involuntary grin. His dad would appreciate the joke. As David replaced the clipboard, he suddenly remembered Rosalie. She was the girl he followed to the security office. The picture of the young brunette with a friendly natural smile popped into his mind. A smile like that couldn’t be faked. She liked people. She liked her job. He wondered how she felt about Penrose’s now.
David experienced a rush of guilt. All around the atmosphere had changed. He was super-sensitive to the yuletide. Magic in the air, holiday spirit, whatever—there was always something indefinably optimistic about this time of year. Even as a kid, before he understood family responsibilities, he sensed the truth. As easily as he now sensed the diminished effect of The Book. Whatever goodwill the season stirred up rapidly faded. Hard-working people like Rosalie paid the price of his stupid mistake.
The young man slipped out of the break room. He had enough time left to make one quick circuit of the first floor before staff trickled in. He worked from the front of Penrose’s to the back corner, ending up at Customer Service. For an instant, his spirits rose. A large box stashed underneath the counter wasn’t there the last time he checked. He ripped off the top, pawing through the contents. Fingering the garish green material, David didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The oversize ears stuck out like a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong. The lining felt like steel wool. Had the holiday spirit been reduced to this?
A wave of despair enveloped him. “I’m so sorry, Rosalie.”On impulse, David reached into his pocket. He pulled out a gold-wrapped chocolate bar saved for later, swiped from a stash hidden in the store manager’s office. David scribbled on a sticky pad and pressed the note to the wrapper. He slipped the candy under the counter just before a sudden murmur of voices broke the silence. The staff had arrived. He ducked behind a rack of clothing in the back as a girl walked up to the counter, an elf hat tucked under her arm.
“Ears, Rosalie.”
She halted in mid-stride. A sharply dressed twentysomething in a skin tight pencil skirt swooped down on her. To get a better view, David carefully eased back the clothes hanging in front of his face. He saw Rosalie’s fingers clenched around the hat. He chuckled to himself. She’s pissed, but hides her aggravation well. Sadhri would definitely approve of her self-control.
“Stephanie,” Rosalie stated calmly, “the hats are extremely uncomfortable. Everyone hates them.”
“Nonsense, they’re fine.”
“If you simply try one on you’ll see—”
“I don’t have to. I know they’re fine. The hats put people in the holiday spirit and cheerful people spend more money.” Stephanie examined her perfect French manicure. “So close to Christmas is an awful time to be out of work.” Rosalie jammed the hat on her head without another word. “Excellent,” cooed Stephanie. “Keep that attitude up and your name will stop appearing on the Motivation Memo.” Without another word, she flounced off.
David knew he should dash-away. Every moment in the open was risky, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Rosalie in the idiotic hat. What would she do?
The young woman leaned against the counter glaring after Stephanie. She bobbled her head back and forth and spouted in a falsetto sing-song:
“I’m a special elf from Penrose’s
I wear the special hat
You are not a special elf
You’re a dirty rat
You don’t belong at Penrose’s
You don’t know how to play
Wiggle your tight ass out of here
Damn you, go away.”
David snorted. Rosalie stiffened and turned around.
“Who’s there?” she called

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Today is Cliché Day. Let's Celebrate!

Today is Cliché Day!

A Haiku for Clichés

Now you’ve gone too far

Your clichés will drive me nuts.

Go jump in the lake.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review of Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio by Jessica Abel

Books in graphic form are not just filled with superheroes, Japanese manga, or women in push-up spandex bustiers. Occasionally, you can actually learn something.  Writer/Cartoonist Jessica Abel’s new book describes the ins and outs of producing radio shows at NPR. The oral medium of storytelling is well suited to graphics, especially in Abel’s creative hands.

Although the book focuses on NPR, the information applies to writing in general. Whether producing a podcast or novel, the creative processes overlap in several ways. Oral and written storytelling requires solid ideas and finding the right voice. Each needs a logical structure and a way to make audience care. As with fiction, the best stories come from “following some itch.” Catherine Burns, artistic director of the program, The Moth, makes a comment any writer can relate to. “The simplest way to say it is...who are you at the beginning and who are you at the end.” That’s Storytelling 101 for any writer.

In both podcasting and radio much time is spent determining structure, and Abel makes some interesting observations. Scenes in chronological order is the default, but not always necessary. Some stories start at the end in order to grab listeners. Screenwriters use a common hook. When a hero faces impossible odds, the screen goes black, and words such as Twenty-four Hours Before appear before the story takes a backward leap. Radio can do the same thing. Or as one producer notes, the structure is less important than what catches the audience and makes the story sexy.

Abel also includes practical advice for those wishing to attempt their own podcast. Getting started is surprisingly easy. A person needs a digital recorder, a set of headphones, a good microphone, and quiet. And no—the built-in mic on an iPhone won’t cut it if you want the interview to sound professional. More important is a little gumption. Mic placement is key. You have to shove that mic in a wazoo for an interview that’s up close and personal.

The function of sound and music also get noted. Music can highlight a story. Obvious spots for music cues are introduction of a new character or description of a feeling. As one producer says, music can be used to “shine a light” and be a “dousing rod” for hidden moments. Just as important is to note when sound or music are distracting. “You always take the music out when there’s a big idea that you want people to pay attention to. You lose the music so it stands out.” 

This is good book for anyone with curiosity about the work behind radio broadcasts or has an itch to create a podcast of their own. The simple graphic layout makes the explanations of the different facets of story construction easily understandable to the layman, and the cheery rah-rah, you-can-do-it attitude will encourage the beginner to take the first step.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book Spotlight: Silverhawk by Barbara Bettis

He’s everything a proper lady should never want; she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Sir Giles has come to England to kill his father, who seduced and betrayed his mother. First, however, he’ll seek sweet revenge—kidnap the old lord’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.

Lady Emelin has had enough. Abandoned in a convent by her brother, she finally has a chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape

Rescuing the intrepid lady—while hunting traitors—is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate.  But the greatest challenge to Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

The Lady’s Garden. Such a grand name for the stick and weed enclosure beside the keep. Giles eased open the weathered door, the faded wood rough against his fingers. He tipped his shoulder to slip through the narrow opening. The musty smell of plants gone to seed hung in the air, and he inhaled the odor. Strange, the comfort he felt, like a flash of memory.

He glanced around. Where was his quarry? Moonlight 
flooded the enclosure, and several bonfires in the bailey sent wavering light bobbing over the fence top. She knelt at a patch of what looked like dead grass, undoubtedly remnants of flowers. Perhaps they’d resembled the colorful blossoms that once dotted his mother’s palm-sized yard. How she’d loved the sparse but fragrant blooms that escaped their one hen’s search for food. His head jerked. God’s blood! Why had those thoughts surfaced just now, of a nearly forgotten long ago? This was neither time nor place for childish reminiscence.

Intent once more on the graceful figure before him, he picked his way through the tangle of growth. She wore the same green gown as when he arrived, some kind of embroidered figures at the neck and wrist. The color suited her vibrant auburn hair, draped now with a flimsy square of fine white linen. He should have known the color would be fiery to match her spirit.

As he advanced, the bright moonlight cast his shoulders as a darker shadow on the ground ahead. By the rigid set of her back, he knew she heard him. He couldn’t explain what prompted him to veer off course, to seek her out.

Lord Osbert had been the object when he started across the crowded, dusty bailey. Yet the moment he saw her disappear behind the weathered door, a voice in his mind whispered, “Follow.” It didn’t tell him why.

Now he stood in the midst of a dead garden, unsure of his intent. Emelin sat back on her heels with an exaggerated sigh. “Would you move your shoulders, Sir Knight? They block what meager light I’ve found.”

If a tone could cross its arms and tap its toe, hers did. A lightness inside him felt shockingly like a smile. That’s why he was here. She amused him.

“Where would you like me to move them, my lady?”

“London, I should think.”

Award winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she briefly considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.

She now lives in Missouri, where by day she’s a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she’s an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tech Hint: Stop looking at me, Facebook. You’re weirding me out.

I’m not the most tech savvy person, and I came across something new to me on tech-maven Kim Komando’s site the other day. Ever wonder how those ads got into your Facebook news feed? Targeted ads on the internet are a nuisance and creepy when you realized how sites spy on your activities in order to sell you things. Facebook is part of the Digital Advertising Alliance. This means it shares information about you with many other advertisers so they can tie ads to specific interests. Every ‘like’ that you click on any Facebook page sends another little bit of information about yourself to a raft of internet marketers.

It’s easy to opt out of Facebook’s target ad feed. This won’t stop Facebook from showing its own ads to you based on the data it collected. It will stop Facebook from collecting more from its advertising partners, or sending more information on you to them. According to Kim, you won’t see ads anymore in Facebook for merchandise looked at on Amazon and Ebay, and opting out will also keep Facebook from building up a detailed file on your personal likes. Remember, this won’t prevent any other company from collecting your information.

Follow these steps:
  1. Sign into Facebook
  2. In the upper right click on Settings
  3. In the left hand column click on Ads
  4. Under ‘Ads based on my use of websites and apps’ click Edit and then No
  5. Under ‘Ads with my social actions’ click Edit and then No one

Don’t forget to do this with both personal and professional pages. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Book Review of Your Daily Brain by Marbles: The Brain Store and Garth Sundem

I generally think of my brain as a blobby organ that causes me to spout random nonsense on a regular basis, and chugs steadily along on doses of caffeine, but according to the authors of Your Daily Brain, there’s more to it than that.  During the course of twenty-four hours, your brain will be called upon to prioritize, decide, categorize, and evaluate—sometimes all at once. That’s a lot of stress for a couple of pounds of gray cells. Your Daily Brain attempts to explain the why and where of the decision making process and how best to maximize your brain’s potential.  

The book is organized into sections according to ten or fifteen minute periods throughout the typical day. Each time period has snippets on what a brain may be doing, and advice on how to help it function better. It starts with waking up at 6:00 am (don’t use the snooze alarm) and ends at 9:00 pm (forgive yourself for a good night’s sleep). Want to jump-start your brain power at 7:15 in the morning? Leave the Sugar Frosted Flakes in the pantry and eat a breakfast with a low glycemic index like steel cut oatmeal. Shopping for groceries in the afternoon? Favor your amygdala over the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala wants the Snickers, the cortex screams you’re a lard butt and makes you put it back. The book deals with such far-flung topics as how best to use your brain to search the internet to why you should fine an exercise routine (the chemicals secreted are the same ones oozed out when you’re in love.) My favorite was the 6:15 pm, love in the evening, section. Apparently, the following three questions are all you need to determine a mate’s compatibility. Do you like horror movies? Have you ever traveled around the country alone? Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and live on a sailboat? 

I'd recommend this book for anyone who likes odd facts and interesting science tidbits. All the articles are short and easy to read for the non-sciency type. Since they are keyed to a particular time, you can finish this book in a day in short bursts, or skip from one article to another. The latter is actually a better idea. According to Your Daily Brain, creativity comes from shaking things up.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Journey to 'The Other Side' with author Starr Smith

The Other Side: Melinda's Story

by Starr Smith

Melinda's family is dead, killed for information that is hidden deep within her mind. Her father tries to warn her from the 'Other Side' that she is in danger from the killers who want what only she can give them.

Committed to Skyview Haven, she must determine if the 'Other Side' truly exists or if it is a trick of her heart and mind. With time running out Melinda must determine who she can trust. Is it the ghosts of her family, a boy who may not be who he appears to be, or the doctor who is determined to cure her? Can she figure out the truth before it is too late?

It was all I could do not to shake her from her insanity. Melinda is a nice girl, one who can possibly have a future. However, she’s stuck in the past no matter how much she thinks she’s living in the future.

And it’s the past I’m interested in. She talks constantly about this paranormal subject. Her father’s dead. Then he isn’t. Then Beth is. I shake my head in confusion. It’s all so strange and not what I expected to run into when I took this assignment. But there’s no way I can stop now. Not yet.

Melinda also said she told her aunt and uncle everything and they insisted she needed help. Just what did she tell them? If it’s the same from the police report, it’s nothing that’s going to aid in getting Melinda to recall everything. But maybe they know more than everyone thinks.

When speaking to Dr. Allcott about her aunt and uncle, he indicated they won’t come back to California to see Melinda until she’s completely healed.

And healing begins with remembering everything.

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About the Author:
As a paralegal by day and author by night, Starr is an award winning author for her short story “Cut,” and made her mark on the literary world with the Ivanovich series and now her Other Side series. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature/Creative Writing, she’s known for her distinctive voice, and making every character stand out.

Starr is the founder and owner of Editing by Starr and the former executive editor for Suspense Magazine. She’s a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) and of Sisters in Crime, and has won three Best Speaker awards as well as Best Evaluator at the Voice Ambassadors chapter of Toastmasters. As co-chair and main coordinator for the West Coast Author Premiere, she arranged weekend-long events to help authors from all over network, learn, and share their work with the public.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Release: Asylum Harbor by Isla Grey

“Still Waters Run Deep”

Trouble is the last thing Devon Brown needs when she leaves the painful memories of her past behind and heads to Shell Island.  As the Salty Dog’s new bartender, she finds herself drawn to Kerr, the Shell Island harbormaster.  But finding her happily-ever-after is difficult when dealing with an obnoxious bootlegger who supplies the bar with illegal liquor and a jealous coworker.

A standoffish loner with damaged emotions, Kerr avoids relationships like the plague.  Things change when Devon catches his eye.  As a simple flirtation grows serious, the coworker and bootlegger quickly become obstacles to any future Kerr and Devon may have together.  As the situation worsens, Devon realizes that even the still waters of Asylum Harbor are no refuge during a storm.

Asylum Harbor. The Salty Dog Series, Book One
Contemporary, Suspense
Spicy (PG-13)

“You already got dibs on this one Kerr?”

Porter shot an evil glare at the opposite end of the bar and looked back toward her.  “I’ll see you tonight.”  He flicked his tongue.  “After work.”  He raised his glass in a mock toast and chugged it in one gulp.

The lights dimmed for Victoria’s dance of the night.  Devon watched Kerr, who was usually headed for the exit by now, and breathed a sigh of relief when he remained glued to his seat with his back to the stage.  He wasn’t staying for Victoria’s peep show.  There must have been something about this Porter character that got under his skin in a bad way.

Devon was eager for the quick break.  She hustled to the back as the chords to “Simply Irresistible” began to pelt over the speakers and ran some cold water over her forearm.  A red welt was beginning to show where Porter had held onto it.  She hoped he would be gone by the time she got back.
 Making it out before mid-song, Devon rounded the bar when someone snagged her wrist and thrust her hard against the bar, knocking the wind out of her.  She could smell Porter’s alcohol-laced breath as his weight pinned her under him.  One of his grubby hands shot under her shirt while the other wrestled with the button on her pants.  “Let’s give them a real show.”

She struggled to reach the Equalizer, but it remained hidden, out of her grasp.  Devon hoisted her knee toward his crotch, but Porter lost his balance and fell backward before she could make contact.

Kerr towered over him. “Get your hands off her.”

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Author Bio
Isla Grey is from Central Virginia and still lives in the same small town she grew up in. She developed a love of writing at an early age and over the years has tried her hand at penning poetry (some good, some not so good), screenwriting, newspaper articles and historical stories. She’s “old school” when it comes to writing and is a hoarder of more pens, post-it notes and writing journals than she’ll ever need. Isla likes to write different types of stories from romance to mystery and anything in between and loves a “happy for now but there could be some bad things coming” feel.

When Isla’s not writing, she spends her time being called “Mom, Mama, Mommy” (well, you get the picture) by her daughter who is forever active, even in her sleep. She considers herself an unofficial “cat whisperer” and is a pet human to a plethora of cats that have taken up residence at her home over the years. Isla also enjoys reading a good biography or ghost story, traveling even though “there’s no place like home”, good music played loud and walking.

Isla loves movies and is the movie mistakes editor at where she talks about…well…movies.  Her novella, “A Voice in the Dark”, is available now and her book, “Asylum Harbor”, will be released September 16th, 2015 through Wild Rose Press.

You can connect with Isla at:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Review of Doctor Who: The Drosten's Curse by A. L. Kennedy

The Drosten’s Curse is one of a series of books written about the Doctor Who British television series. The Doctor has been entertaining audiences on both sides of the pond for a long time. For those who don’t know, the show revolves around the adventures of a Time Lord only referred to as The Doctor. He travels the universe in his space ship/time machine called the Tardis that looks like an old fashioned police call box. He tends to like company and picks up plucky female human platonic companions along the way to share his adventures. (No sex please, we’re British.)

Early on, to solve the problem of an actor playing Doctor Who leaving the show, the writers devised a creative solution. The Doctor became a kind of immortal. If mortally wounded, he doesn’t actually die, but instead conveniently transforms his old body into the new actor. I know, it’s dumb, but it’s science fiction, so just go with it. This book details a new adventure of one of The Doctor’s from the 1970’s played by Tom Baker. There are generally two types of Doctor’s; grumpy and slightly mad. Tom Baker was one of the best of the slightly mad.

The Drosten’s Curse attempts to recreate the feel of a Baker episode, and to a large extent it succeeds. The action takes place in the British countryside in 1978 at the Fetch Brothers Golf Resort and Spa. People are mysteriously disappearing. The owner, an old woman named Julia Fetch, has an unnatural obsession with octopi and two unusual grandchildren who may not be as human as they seem. Why, what this story needs is a plucky heroine. Fortunately, she comes along in the form of Bryony Mailer, just the sort of person to help The Doctor discover what horror hides under the links.

Books like these are really no more than elevated fan fiction. As such, they should be as well-written as the original with an engaging story and interesting characters. The author does well with that. Her recreation of the Tom Baker Doctor Who captures much of the appealing lunacy of the original and the plucky heroine is, well, suitably plucky. The story has a nice couple of twists and fits The Doctor Who mold well.

The major problem with the book is dithering. Doctor Who television episodes are about an hour long and proceed at a brisk pace. The action is naturally condensed, but is usually meant to span less than a day. The TV writing is brisk, intelligent, with a certain amount of cheek. Much of that is seen in The Drosten’s Curse, but the dithering gets in the way. Yow, it drips from every page and every character. On television, you only have an hour to get your point across. Dithering is kept to a necessary minimum. Here, paragraphs are spent in characters wondering if they should do this, or that, or the other, or maybe something entirely different. Sheesh. Just get a move on, already.  Dithering constantly interrupts the flow of the plot and is a major annoyance. The book is 361 pages long. Take out the dithering and you’d have a tightly written 200 page story more reminiscent of the fun of the TV show.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Facebook Party Today Only! Chat with Authors and Enter to Win Prizes

Tuesday, August 25
11 am to 9 pm Eastern Time Only!

An all-day Facebook Party to celebrate twelve novels being re-released under the Amazon Encore online with the authors, learn about their books, and win loads of prizes!

Join the Party! Encore Facebook Party

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What did you miss at Pensacola's Comic Con?

Security was excellent. 

Dress was business casual.

No racism. All colors are accepted. Even blue.

Robot dogs are allowed to bring their human.

You may wear your squirrel as a hat.