Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Your book title - what's in a name?

Like most readers one of the key factors in capturing my interest is the book cover and the book title. Often as I'm sitting around a title will spring to mind and from that a story starts to develop. With current technology looking up books is easy. Yesterday the title "Darkest Hour" came to me. Immediately a story started to develop, but I wondered if there were other books out there titled Darkest Hour.

Amazon's database gives me instant access to researching titles so I went there and found that yes, there were actually several books with the title Darkest Hour.
This piqued my curiosity so I looked up my own books. With the exception of the addition of A Jacody Ives Mystery there were several books titled The Gifts and several titled or using the words Sacred Secrets in their title. I was a little disappointed. Not in my titles but in the fact that I had failed to do this research prior to naming my novels.

From there my curiosity led me to other research of famous authors and their book titles. I found that many of them had also used titles that were common in the book field and used by several other authors. All except one. Stephen King. I actually found that Mr. King had more unique titles than all the other authors I researched.
Why is this important? It may not be a matter of major importance. In fact, picking a book with a similar title may actually direct readers to your book when they're looking for one by another author. That could lead to sales. The piggyback effect.

For me though it was a matter of importance. I don't really want to piggyback on someone else's success. I want to develop my own. A unique set of books with unique titles and unique readers. With the vast amount of books being published daily is that possible? I doubt it, but with the vast databases at my fingertips I will definitely try to pick unique titles in the future. I can't guarantee that someone won't publish a book after mine with the same title, but hopefully I can assure that mine is the first. That too may be a difficult task as the book title depends on the book.

Is your book title unique?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A WIP - Sample Sunday

I love writing, and find myself constantly battling the voices in my head. Characters with stories to be told--voices to be heard. My first sample Sunday was the prologue to this book so I decided to post Chapter One this week. This is my first attempt at a legal thriller. Last week I posted Chapter One of Passing Judgment. I hope you enjoy the samples. If you love mysteries that keep you guessing all the way to the end, check out The Jacody Ives Mysteries - still available on Amazon Kindle to 99 cents. Happy Holidays.


Michael Elkins took his gaze from the jury for just a moment to admire the beautiful young woman delivering a scathing closing argument. His former client was referred to as an unholy animal who had butchered and reveled in the death of a homeless immigrant. Her blue eyes flashed, as condemning words were delivered with precision. She didn’t flutter or wave her hands at exhibits. Instead she gripped them as weapons, walking slowly in front of each juror as she met their eyes, dropped her voice, making it soft, senuous. “This was someone’s son. Someone’s father. Someone’s best friend.”

The jurors averted their eyes from the gory picture.

Michael drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he grinned, remembering how those same hands had earlier that morning roamed his body, finding places that delighted them both. There was nothing stiff about Cassie, in or out of the courtroom. She lived for passion whether it was prosecuting a scumbag like Mark Trevello, or making love. He didn’t need to stay to hear the jury’s verdict. Trevello had lost the second she dropped her voice, whispered those soft words “. . .someone’s son. . .someone’s father. . . someone’s best friend.”

Shrugging his shoulders he met the gaze of Scott Harman, the young attorney that had taken his place on the case when Cassie was assigned as prosecutor. Their relationship wasn’t exactly public knowledge, but there was no way he would risk her career or his own for a lowlife like Trevello. He’d known Trevello was guilty from the first time he talked to him. He hated the loss for Scott, but he would be hard pressed to conceal his pride in Cassie.

Rising he caught her eye as she returned to prosecutor’s table to wait for Judge Moyer to deliver the jury instructions, and then the wait for the verdict. He caught the subtle wink, slight lifting of the corner’s of her mouth as her tongue flicked out for less than a second, a promise of things to come.

Michael raised his hand, running his fingers through the thick blonde hair, a silent salute as he headed for the courtroom door to answer the cell phone that had been vibrating incessantly for more than five minutes.

He cleared security, heading for fresh air and a much needed cigarette before he returned the call. The Honorable William Jefferson Elkins had summoned—six times. He wasn’t going to be happy about Michael’s refusal to answer the phone, even if he had been in court. Lighting the cigarette he took a deep drag and scowled. His father hadn’t called him in over six months, and now he’d called six times in the space of a half hour. Hitting the redial button he threw the unfinished cigarette into the street.


“Maria, it’s Michael. My father has been trying to reach me.”

The silence on the phone was deafening. Michael felt the first tremors of foreboding.

“Hold please.” The words were whispered, an underlying note of compassion, pain.

“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling you for hours.” Judge Elkins bellowed into the receiver.

“I’ve been in court, dad.” Michael didn’t bother to correct him that it had only been a half hour. No one ever corrected Judge Elkins. At least no one that still had a bar license.

“There’s been an accident.” Anger still riddled the old man’s voice. “Your mother’s dead.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Passing Judgment

I truly enjoyed sample Sunday last week, and decided this week to choose something a little different. One of the things I love most about being an Indie is the lack of structured rules on genres and not being bound to one specific genre. Hope you enjoy the sample.


“Are you gonna shoot my papa?”
The course of life can be altered by many things. Lacey St. Clair knew that more than most. Her own life had been altered many times. Given new direction. Tragic events that shaped her, molded her, allowed her to survive. In the end, it all boiled down to choices.
Lacey stilled her auto reflexes, gently removing her finger from the trigger and staring at the small child less than five feet away.
Damn Chandler, he’d told her Domaslav had no family. Someone had made a mistake. A really big one.
Lacey could hear the sounds of movement overhead. A baby’s cry. The flick of a light switch, opening of the door. Light spilled down the stairway.
“Here, Papa.”
Lacey moved back into the shadows beneath the stairway. Seconds ticked by, the huge clock in the foyer the only sound in the small hallway. The child had not moved. Her eyes were huge, riveted to the gleam of cold steel. Her body trembled, but she made no sound. She’d seen guns before. Knew about death.
Lacey caught bits and pieces of whispered conversation above her. The mother’s anguished cry. Domaslav knew she was here. Knew why she was here. She could hear him hastily dressing, shushing the woman. Footsteps descended. The huge Russian stopped at the bottom of the stairs.
“I know you’re here.”
Lacey moved out of the shadows, gun held in front of her. “Keep your hands up.”
“I’m unarmed.”
Gun held firmly in her right hand, Lacey patted him down and stepped back.
“Anna, go to your mother.”
The child hesitated, but moved slowly toward the stairs, her bare feet soundless. She stopped at the bottom step, raised her head and stared into Lacey’s eyes. A single tear slid slowly down her cheek. “I love my papa.”
The words were a mere whisper, lost within the ticking clock, raspy breathing of Domaslav, but Lacey heard them. A shudder ran through her. A long forgotten memory. No sobs, no begging for her father’s life. Just a single tear from a powder blue eye. Lacey waited as the child ascended the steps. Waited for the sound of the door closing above.
“Please, do not hurt my family.”
“Turn around.”
The Russian turned slowly, hands held on top of his head. Lacey studied his face, just as she’d studied the photograph that had been given to her. She looked deep into his eyes. Faces could change. Hair. Even body shape. But the eyes were always a dead giveaway. There was no mistake. It was Domaslav. He had the same powder blue eyes as Anna. The same age-old acceptance that death was imminent. He showed no fear as he lowered himself to his knees. He obviously knew the drill. He wouldn’t beg for his life. But he would beg for the life of those he loved.
“You will not hurt my family?”
I love my papa. The words seemed to echo in the room, but Lacey knew it was all inside her head. She felt dizzy. She could still hear the baby crying, the sounds of quiet sobs above her. How long had they waited for this moment? Anna could be no more than five, and yet her eyes had reflected knowledge far beyond her years. Acceptance of this day. The death of her father neither surprised her, nor had she feared it. She had merely accepted it.
Lacey glanced around the small foyer, noting the sleeping bag just beneath the stairs. The child had not mysteriously appeared. She had been waiting for her, or someone like her. Kneeling there in the dark, watching the shadows. How many nights had Anna kept that vigil? How many morning suns had risen to find the child on her knees, murmuring a prayer of thanks for one more day.
“Please, you will not hurt my family?”
The words brought Lacey back to the present. Cleared her head. Her hands trembled slightly as she tightened the silencer into place. Dammit, she didn’t pass judgment. It wasn’t personal. Just names and faces. People who had to die. Choices. She hated choices.
“I will not hurt your family.”
Domaslav relaxed, his last words a knife that sliced into Lacey’s soul. A curse of things to come.
“Bless you.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Smashwords Freebie Today - The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery

As a thank you for those who love to read, and love mysteries - The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery is free today on Smashwords - Code EA26A. Happy Reading - and Happy Holidays.

I hope if you like The Gifts, you'll check out Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery - on sale at Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.

Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Want to try some other Indie Holiday Specials? Check out our:

Holiday Sale

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The True Spirit of Christmas

I remember what it was like growing up poor. Christmas wasn't always an exciting time. While others around us were excitedly talking about what wonderful presents they would be receiving, we were simply hoping for maybe a new outfit or new shoes. Maybe a new pair gloves and some candy and fruit.

Since growing up I have gone from what I would term poor to middle class. Definitely not rich, and at times a small struggle, but overall very blessed. In fact, every day of life has been a blessing, and I so thank God for our home, our children and beautiful grandchildren.

Today I had an opportunity to give back a little of what God has given me. Coby and I have sort of adopted a family in our neighborhood with three small children. We make sure they have what they need, and the kids stop in often just to talk. The parents are going through a divorce and times are really hard right now. Today I found out it was the youngest child's fourth birthday. I asked his older sister if they were having a party or anything later on. I found out that no, there was no party, no presents, and they didn't have milk or bread or a few other necessities. She normally wouldn't have told me all this, but it was her little brother's birthday and I think that opened the door.

My son and daughter-in-law where here, and we discussed this. Pooling resources we bought milk, bread, fruit, and a birthday cake and ice-cream and pizza for the family. Since I have a 3 year old grandson for whom I had already purchased Christmas, I simply wrapped those presents as birthday presents.

We stayed long enough to sing happy birthday, tears and hugs, and a small piece of cake. For just a few moments it was like the world was finally right in this house. The children were so happy. Even the older two were overjoyed at watching their little brother's smiles as he opened presents he wasn't expecting.

I know there are many others in world that have having problems as bad, or worse. And I know I can't take care of them all. I will, however, carry the memory of those joyous smiles tonight for a long time. It cost me very little, and yet gave so very much. Giving really is the true spirit of Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Effect of FTC Regulations on Review Bloggers and Social Media Promotion

If you grew up in a small town like I did, you probably heard the term "big brother is watching you" for just about everything you did. With the availability of mass social networks and blogging, you have to wonder just how much is big brother watching you? And who else is watching?

Even scarier is the fact that we live in a very litigious world. People are willing to sue for just about anything. And even though they may ultimately lose, just fighting the battle can be expensive financially, emotionally and socially.

Most of us live and work in a world where we don't believe we're doing anything wrong, so therefore we have no need to stay abreast of every little law change in every field. This morning a friend pointed me to the FTC changes in "truth in advertising" which now affects social media and bloggers. I very rarely do reviews by request, and I post no reviews on Amazon or other book related sites, so therefore this ruling doesn't currently have a drastic affect on me - except for people I may ask to review me. It does create a greater responsibility on me as an author to watch reviews written or tags added to my books. And it may increase responsibility on businesses such as Amazon, B & N and others who allow reviews and tagging on their sites.

A hypothetical would be someone adding a huge author's name to their tags in order to direct more traffic to their book through specific searches. You may at first think no harm no foul. The viewer will immediately see the book wasn't written by the author they were looking for. However, should the viewer buy your book thinking that you have some connection to this author, or that your writing will be like their beloved author only to find out it isn't, they may perhaps notify this famous author of your use of their name, whereas the famous author or their publisher may look up your book and decide you have indeed damaged them in some way. Could they sue you? Of course they could. Would they win? Based on a case by case study the FTC may decide that you are guilty of false advertising and perhaps award them a sum. Perhaps not. I guess the question you would have to ask yourself in this endeavor is if the possibility of a few sales is worth the risk.

Another hypothetical is a review blogger that forgets to state that they received a free copy of your book in exchange for the review, or forgets to say they know you personally or you're published by the same publisher or, blah, blah, blah. The list could go on forever of little things you might simply forget to add in your blog disclaimer. So how could this be used against you? Once again it boils down to someone who doesn't like what you had to say, or perhaps you gave one book a bad review and a similar book a good review and the first author finds out that you work with the second author and yet made no mention of that in your review. Once again, it's the little things and vindictive people that will have the most influence on enforcing the FTC's rules and regulations.

Honest reviews are already difficult to come by, and this ruling may make them even more difficult--or eventually reviews may lose all credibility in the eyes of the reading public. Reviews will no long be seen as simply the opinion of the reviewer unless the reviewer states in bold letters that the review is their opinion, and can prove, if necessary, that they were not unduly influenced by something other than the product they are reviewing.

In the future should I review books I will place a disclaimer on my review for self-protection. And just like my reviews, the disclaimer will be truthful. Will that totally protect me? Not really. Not if someone decides to take a dislike to something I've said or feels there was some unseen influence on what I wrote. And it will be interesting to see if book reviewers that post to Amazon will add the disclaimer that they received the book free in exchange for their review, or that they received some other compensation in exchange for their review. Will Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly also be held to these same standards? I believe they will, and they will have to disclose their association with the publishers for whom they review. That actually may be quite interesting.

Links to the FTC sites related to this article are listed below:




Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sample Sunday--A work in progress


"You look very beautiful today, Kamela."

Kamela Beaumont smiled at the woman seated across from her, studying the time-worn face, thick makeup that to all except the most perceptive eye disguised the green discoloration, subtle swelling. The son-of-a-bitch had beaten her again.

Kamela continued her assessment, the long sleeves of the Versace silk, even though the weather was blistering outside. The delicate scarf tied around her neck. Olivia Elkins was a beautiful woman, but the luster was gone from her eyes. The spark of life slowly fading.


Placing her napkin on the table, Kamela took the hands fluttering helplessly, and held them tight, her own hands trembling. Olivia had expected an answer, but perhaps not the one she was about to reveal.

"Women often look their most beautiful, Olivia, when they’re pregnant."

Kamela watched the color fade from the already pale face, the hazel eyes start, blink, and settle on her face questioning, seeking.

"Jordan and I are expecting a child."

Olivia pulled her hands away, shaking her head. “But that’s impossible. Jordan is in prison."

Kamela laughed, a soft tinkle, like delicate crystal. "Money buys many things, Olivia. It can buy private time. Even in prison."

Olivia continued to shake her head as realization slowly dawned on her. The hands stopped fluttering, but her mouth twitched, words forming slowly.

"Does he know?"


Olivia continued to nod slowly, her hands settling around the crystal water goblet, gently wiping away the condensation, like the tears on a child’s face. There had been so many tears. So much heartache.

Kamela waited until the hazel eyes met hers, clear, determined.

"What do you want me to do?"

Still she hesitated. There was just no other way. "We have to get him out, Olivia. I want my child to have a father."

"William will never allow it."

Kamela felt her anger rise, color flooding her face. "William would have no choice if you told the truth, Olivia."

Kamela immediately regretted her words as the hazel eyes misted, tears threatening to overflow.

"I tried to tell the truth."

"I know, you did, Olivia. We have to try again. Jordan only stole that gun to protect you. You know he would never hurt anyone." No one except his father, Kamela thought.

"Olivia, talk to Michael. Tell him the truth. Show him."

Olivia slowly shook her head. She had fought so hard to hide the truth from her beautiful boys. They were all that had sustained her. The only spark of joy in her world of hell. If only Jordan had not come home early that day. If only . . .

Rising slowly, Olivia wiped her hands on the napkin, folded it and placed it carefully on the table. Her lips trembled slightly as she smiled, but her hands were steady.

"I’ll talk to William."

"Olivia, no. You can’t. He’ll. . ." Kamela’s voice faltered as she watched in horrified silence as Olivia walked away from her, back straight, head held regally. ". . .kill you." She finished the sentence, her voice barely a whisper, as a cold chill enveloped her.


Michael Elkins took his gaze from the jury for just a moment to admire the beautiful young woman delivering a scathing closing argument. His former client was referred to as an unholy animal who had butchered and reveled in the death of a homeless immigrant. Her blue eyes flashed, as condemning words were delivered with precision. She didn’t flutter or wave her hands at exhibits. Instead she gripped them as weapons, walking slowly in front of each juror as she met their eyes, dropped her voice, making it soft, senuous. "This was someone’s son. Someone’s father. Someone’s best friend."

The jurors averted their eyes from the gory picture.

Michael drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he grinned, remembering how those same hands had earlier that morning roamed his body, finding places that delighted them both. There was nothing stiff about Cassie, in or out of the courtroom. She lived for passion whether it was prosecuting a scumbag like Mark Trevello, or making love. He didn’t need to stay to hear the jury’s verdict. Trevello had lost the second she dropped her voice, whispered those soft words ". . .someone’s son. . .someone’s father. . . someone’s best friend."

Shrugging his shoulders he met the gaze of Scott Harman, the young attorney that had taken his place on the case when Cassie was assigned as prosecutor. Their relationship wasn’t exactly public knowledge, but there was no way he would risk her career or his own for a lowlife like Trevello. He’d known Trevello was guilty from the first time he talked to him. He hated the loss for Scott, but he would be hard pressed to conceal his pride in Cassie.

Rising he caught her eye as she returned to prosecutor’s table to wait for Judge Moyer to deliver the jury instructions, and then the wait for the verdict. He caught the subtle wink, slight lifting of the corner’s of her mouth as her tongue flicked out for less than a second, a promise of things to come.

Michael raised his hand, running his fingers through the thick blonde hair, a silent salute as he headed for the courtroom door to answer the cell phone that had been vibrating incessantly for more than five minutes.

He cleared security, heading for fresh air and a much needed cigarette before he returned the call. The Honorable William Jefferson Elkins had summoned--six times. He wasn’t going to be happy about Michael’s refusal to answer the phone, even if he had been in court. Lighting the cigarette he took a deep drag and scowled. His father hadn’t called him in over six months, and now he’d called six times in the space of a half hour. Hitting the redial button he threw the unfinished cigarette into the street.


"Maria, it’s Michael. My father has been trying to reach me."

The silence on the phone was deafening. Michael felt the first tremors of foreboding.

"Hold please." The words were whispered, an underlying note of compassion, pain.

"Where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling you for hours." Judge Elkins bellowed into the receiver.

"I’ve been in court, dad." Michael didn’t bother to correct him that it had only been a half hour. No one ever corrected Judge Elkins. At least no one that still had a bar license.

"There’s been an accident." Anger still riddled the old man’s voice. "Your mother’s dead."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing--Are you ready to release your first book?

If you're getting ready to release your first book--first, I'll say congratulations. You've reached milestone that many before you have reached, and many after you desire to reach. I hope to share some things below that I wish someone had shared with me. Following just a few of these can give you a better chance of success.

1) Create your platform NOW. Get involved in social media. Learn to write short, interesting tweets. Set up a blog and WRITE. You don't have to blog every day. In fact, you're probably going to bore a lot of people if you do. I mean, seriously, do you have something truly worthwhile to say every day? Something significant to share? Get a facebook page and invite your friends, family and others that are interested in the genre you're writing.

2) Now, to the really hard soul searching issues. Ask yourself the following questions:
1) Have you written the very best story you can write?
2) Are your characters well defined and easily identifiable even if you don't use their name?
3) Are your descriptions overly wordy, or easy for the reader to use their own imagination along with well placed descriptive words?
4) Has your book been professionally edited?
5) Have you sent out review copies to major review sites and/or review bloggers?
6) If self-publishing, have you studied the formatting for properly formatted books so that your book is attractive and easy to follow?
7) Are you ready to commit at least one hour or more a day to doing something to promote yourself and your book?
8) Is your cover professional looking and complimentary to your book? Put it up for your social media contacts to review and comment on. Run two or three potential covers and let people choose the best. The benefit here is you'll get an eye-catching cover as well as pre-release publicity for your book.
9) Do you have a marketing budget?

I'm sure there are a lot of things I've missed, so if you're reading this and you can think of something to add, then please do. These are just a few of the ones I wish I had known about four years ago. I've always followed the professional editing route, but I was totally unaware of author platforms, and yes, there are times when I look back now that I wish I could start over. I think my books are the best story I could write, but perhaps I would written the series differently. I would have started at the beginning and plotted exactly where the series was going, and how long it would continue.

Reviews are essential to your success. Getting reviews can be difficult, and take weeks or months before they're posted, so it's important that you look for those most beneficial to your genre prior to publication. Seek out good reviewers or bloggers that have a consistent following in your genre. There are many out there just waiting for a book just like yours, however, they may have an overload and a good review takes time.

It's said only the strong survive. And that is essentially true if you're an author. You're going to come up against some rough winds and choppy waters. Unless you're extremely rich already, or win the lottery, odds are you're not going to be an overnight success. The competition is vast and getting your book into the hands of people wanting to read it isn't as easy as it sounds. And even bestselling authors occasionally get a bad review. So face it, you're probably going to get a bad review at some point during your career. It isn't necessarily the bad review that will hurt you--it's your response to it. If it's an honest review, then pay attention to what the reviewer is saying. Learn from it. Thank the person for taking the time to read and review your book. Bad reviews don't necessarily hurt you. In fact in some instances they actually increase sales. But you've got to be tough. And you have to above all believe in yourself and your product. It's impossible to sell something you wouldn't buy yourself. So ask yourself why would I buy this book? What's appealing to me about it? The answers to those questions are the basis for your promotional platform. Good luck.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Writing - Opening Lines

Writing - Opening Lines

I love opening lines of books. Sometimes it's difficult to have just one line that pulls a reader in so you have your opening paragraph. If you've followed me on Twitter lately you'll notice I've been posting one line opening lines. Most of these are things that would pull me into a book at least enough to read the rest of the page, or perhaps the first chapter. In today's fast paced world of writing and marketing, sometimes all you have is ONE WORD to catch the attention of potential readers and buyers. That word has to either invoke or evoke an emotion or enough curiosity to capture the imagination in a way that makes them want to read more. Professional marketing executives know that you have to use power words or a one-line powerful sentence to sell your product. Amazing, Attention, Authentic, Bargain, Cheap, Daring, Destiny, Excellent, Free, Huge, Hottest, Incredible, Limited, Magic, Monumental, Noted, Outstanding, Powerful, Quality, Rare, Shocking, Tremendous, Unbelievable, Unparalleled, Unusual, Unsurpassed - for just a few. We've all seen these words in advertising and, yes, they catch our attention.

I used the word Destiny as my one-word opening line for Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery. Hopefully that word implies to the reader that something major is going to happen somewhere along the line. Some of my one-liners from yesterday were:

They called us acceptable losses.

For me this opens the door to my imagination for a group of people that have been set up. It could be soldiers in the war sent on an impossible mission. It could a group of kids in high school singled out because they're different. It could be two lovers. It could be anything the imagination wants to conjure up. It could be much like the movie The Expendables. Same thing, different word - Expendable a one word line that says a lot or - They called us acceptable losses.

Today I killed a man.

Okay, that gets the imagination juices flowing. Why? Ooh, I have to know why. Was he a good man, a bad man, an accident?

A one-word line I truly love to play with is - Click.

Simple, right? Not really all that simple. Click could be a thriller as you hear the sound of the gun being cocked behind you. Click could be a horror story as the lights suddenly go out in the old house. Click could be a romance as the guy at the end of the bar lights a cigarette, his sultry brown eyes gazing into yours. Click could be a comedy as the camera snatches one of those pictures you just can't have up on facebook. One word, but a powerful word.

These are things I wished I'd known when I first started writing. The old KISS syndrome. And valuable tools for marketing. Alas, I wasted a lot of time writing long blogs, wimpy releases and wordy sales ads. It doesn't take a lot to tell your potential readers something fantastic about your books. Sometimes it takes only one short word. Let's take the Jacody Ives Mysteries - Chilling! Shocking! Cheap! (only .99 on Amazon Kindle and B & N).

And you can buy them with just one - CLICK!

The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery
Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Happy writing and happy reading.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Fake Book Reviews

Most authors have probably now read the article related to fake book reviews on Amazon. If not, the link is: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333885/Amazons-amateur-book-reviewing-vicious-free-readers-victims.html
As written you would assume this is something new, but those in the book industry have seen this going on for years. And it isn't the only problem facing authors and readers.

There's also fake promotion. I see this on forums as well where restrictions apply to self-promotion. Authors gang up to "you promote me, I'll promote you". I don't truly have a problem with that if the author doing the promotion has actually read the book and really likes it, but a trade off on promotion where the book hasn't been read looks bad on both authors. Especially if readers of your work buy that book based on your promotion and hate it, find it full of typos, formatting errors and basically a book just not yet ready for publication. What does that make the readers think of you?

I, as an author, and as a reader despise fake book reviews and fake promotion. Amazon's policy on reviews actually prohibits authors from reviewing each other's work, and I can live with that. If I've read a really good book and I want to review it then I do that on my blog site. I also try to provide an author interview at the same time, giving my readers a glimpse of the author as well as their work. And I never review or plug a book I haven't read myself, nor do I do 1 or 2 star reviews. Truthfully, if a book deserves 1 star or even 2 stars--I can assure you I didn't finish reading it. And if I didn't finish reading it, then I have no right to offer a review.

Fake tags are another problem occurring in the book industry. Readers searching for a Stephen King book may pull up several others also tagged as Stephen King. Believing the book is similar to Mr. King's work they may even buy the book, only to be extremely disappointed. Authors and readers add tags to books to help readers find a particular type of book. My tags for my book were simple: Mystery, murder mystery, kindle, kindle author, psychological suspense, thriller, 99 cents - etcetera. Other tags were added by other people that have absolutely NOTHING to do with my book. Are they bad tags, no, they're not bad tags, they just don't apply to my book and I HAVE NO WAY TO REMOVE THEM. Which is something readers really need to know--Authors on Amazon cannot remove reviews or tags placed on their books by anyone visiting their book site. We can email customer service and ask that it be removed, but we have no control over whether Amazon will remove it.

Tags, book reviews and promotional sites were put in place to help authors and readers find the types of books they would enjoy reading. The abuse and misuse of these areas creates a black mark on the industry, especially when publishers and/or authors become part of the abuse.

So what can we do to stop this:
1) Check reviewers and/or reviews. If you click on the reviewer it will take you to their profile showing how many reviews they've done and on what type of books. I personally don't trust a reviewer if they have only reviewed one book ever, or if their review is out of their genre. Except friends and family, which we naturally assume are somewhat prejudiced, but still may be true. Example: If a fiction writer suddenly reviews a non-fiction book, and yet has never reviewed a non-fiction book before--their review, at least to me, is highly suspicious. Technical writers reviewing ONE fiction book is also highly suspicious to me. Reviewers, like authors, have specific genres they read. When a reviewer steps outside of their genre to give a glowing review or bad review, that to me is suspicious.

Are reviews important? Yes, they are. Or at least they were. With the information leaking about "paid" reviews and "fake reviews" they are losing their credibility, and thus, losing their importance to authors and readers looking for a good book.

Are tags important? Yes, they are to help the reader find a specific type of book. But without some control by the author, and without honesty by the authors, searches for a particular genre or types of books are losing their credibility, and thus, losing their benefit to readers.

Now that publishing has been literally made available to anyone with computer savvy that can format an acceptable document for Amazon and Smash Words, or other upload sites, the competition in the book market has become vicious. More previously traditionally published authors are crossing the line and going Indie. I myself crossed that line for personal reasons. Still, authors and publishers, traditional and Indie have a responsibility to their readers to put out a good product, and to promote it fairly and honestly. A good book will stand the test of time. And honest promotion will build an author's readership one book sale at a time. Whereas, poorly formatted, horribly edited work will make the "word of mouth" rounds.

My final words--if you're reader and you've truly enjoyed a book do your best to give an honest review on any site you feel comfortable with. Your personal blog site is a good site. If you read a review that you don't believe is appropriate there is a "vote down" button, or disagree button. Of course, those are misused also. Unfortunately. If you see a tag that you believe is not appropriate (my own book has a tag of "animal abuse" - excuse me??) then you can also vote it down and that keeps the book from showing up on those searches. If you come across a review that you believe is a "fake review" report it to Amazon or the review site so that they can investigate. Hopefully they will, and if they find it was posted against their posting rules, once again, hopefully they will remove it and ban that particular account from reviewing.

If authors and readers work together we can bring creditability back to reviews, tags and promotions. Working together we can restore public trust in written reviews and tag searches.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Writing - Words as Visual Cues

Writing – Visual Cues

Every author loves words. And I love words as visual cues. It really takes very little to get my imagination provoked into opening lines and opening paragraphs. Your opening line may be the most important sentence you’ll write, and your opening paragraph has the tough job of pulling your reader into the story. They may read on to finish the first page, or even the first chapter, but only if they find those first lines and first paragraphs worthy of their time.

Today’s word for me was swirling. The dictionary describes this as: 1. To move with a twisting or whirling motion; eddy. Or 2. To be dizzy or disoriented.

For me it brings up the image of descending into darkness. But, of course, I write murder mysteries. So, swirling is the final mental descent into the dark regions of my mind.

He was quick. Veronica wanted to scream, lash out, but the cloth was pressed firmly over her mouth and nose. The smell was vile, and her mind was swirling with images and words, senseless trivia driving her mad as her limbs weakened, and the darkness pulled her closer.

Or perhaps a first kiss. The swirling sensation as passion wraps itself in and around you. (Sorry, I don’t really write romance); and your mind closes off everything except this moment when his lips close over yours for the first time.

Swirling is a beautiful word, and a wonderful visual cue to open the doors to imagination. Water swirls, as do emotions. The smoke from fires slowly rises, swirling toward the heavens.

I don’t truly believe in writer’s block. Perhaps writer’s frustration in not being able to convey with words the mental images and emotions you feel towards the scene you’re writing. Take a break. Chose a word and allow the visual cue to guide you wherever you need to go.

Happy Writing!

Take a chilling glimpse into the mind of evil. Justice comes with a price.

The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Holiday Season - When Things Change - and Turkey Recipe With a Bang (humor)

When Things Change

I remember the first year of my divorce and the holiday season. Everything had changed. Friends were gone, or at least felt as if they were gone. Family circumstances had changed. I felt alone in the world. The boys were young, and although they tried hard not to show it, I knew they were hurting too. The first holiday season after life changes is always the worst. But something made that a little better for me. On Christmas Day I received a call from my boss. He wanted me to know that he and his family were thinking of me and the boys. He talked to me about life changes, and how in time this too would pass. That call, that simple reaching out by someone who understood how lonely the holidays can seem when you’ve lost someone through divorce or death, or simply gone through life altering changes from the loss of a job changed my whole perspective on the holiday season.

Each year I try to reach out to someone who may have lost a loved one, gone through a divorce or lost their job. To let them know that I’m thinking about them. And that yes, life changes, but love is still around you. People who care are still around you. If you’re experiencing the loss of a loved one this year, or any type of loss, or if you know someone who is experiencing a loss, reach out, let others know how you feel and that you understand.

May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed with love, light and laughter.

Received this in my morning email from a neighbor down the street. Made me laugh, so thought I would share it.

I thought this sounded good! Here is a turkey recipe that also includes use of popcorn as a stuffing ingredient - imagine that. When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when the turkey is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out.
Give this a try.

1- 15 lb turkey
1 - cup melted butter
1 - cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is good)
1 - cup unpopped popcorn (Orville Redenbacher's low fat is best)
Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush turkey well with melted butter, salt and pepper. Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan making sure the neck end is toward the front of the oven, not the back. After about 4 hours, listen for the popping sounds. When the turkey's ass blows the oven door open and the bird flies across the room....it's done.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Writing - Eyes

If you’ve followed any of my previous blogs on writing, body movement and show don’t tell, you know by now that body language can be an excellent tool for conveying the internal emotions of your characters. Today I want to talk about eyes. Eyes are, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest tools an author has to convey emotion.

Every movement of the eyes says something about the emotions of the character. Sending a signal to your reader of what your character is feeling. Remember the old cowboy movies. In every gunfight they squared off and watched each other’s eyes. Why? Because the eyes would show an involuntary movement just seconds prior to the hands moving toward the guns.

The muscles of the irises are controlled by the nervous system. The pupils of the eyes dilate in response to emotional stimuli, especially excitement and sexual arousal. Keep that in mind if you’re admiring someone—they just may know what you’re thinking by the size of your pupils.

Eyes are more than just blue, green, grey, etcetera. Eyes speak in ways that our voices can’t. And unlike the spoken word which is often controlled by the speaker, eyes speak the truth.

And it isn’t always necessary to actually use a color. “Her eyes were the color of a deep pool of shimmering water.” Although the color is not used, the reader can use their imagination here. A deep pool of shimmering water could be green or blue bordering on black.

Eyes can set up a scene, but you have to extremely careful that the foundation is properly laid out. For instance, women’s eyes will get misty when they’re happy, sad, anxious or scared.

Accusing eyes: Your character has walked into a scene where you’re standing over the body, holding a bloody knife. You can see the accusation in his/her eyes. This perhaps might work better in a romantic setting where you walk in to find your lover embracing another man/woman.

Hungry eyes: A small waif on the street, standing outside a restaurant gazing longingly at the food.

Watchful eyes: Her eyes were watchful, searching his face for signs of betrayal.

The sultry look. A come hither look that says I’m ready, are you?

Lashes lowered over misty eyes. How could he have done this to her?

Downcast eyes. A possible signal of guilt, shame or sadness.

Fear normally causes the eyes to widen, but desire also causes the eyes to widen and the pupils to dilate. Angry eyes widen and are usually fixated on the object of their anger.

Beady squinted eyes: Could be a sign of interest as the character squints at something of interest. Normally a character with beady squinting eyes is distrusted.

Combine your character’s eye color/movement with eyebrow, mouth and nostril movements and you have an emotional picture painted with words. The color of eyes also changes with emotion. Darkening during angry or passionate moments and becoming lighter during happy or excited moments.

Remember – sometimes less is actually more. Too much description will bog down the reader and interrupt the flow of your story. Carefully placed tidbits create a mood the reader can not only see and feel, but empathize with.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Writing - Character Development - Body Language and Show Don't Tell - Part Three

One of the things I love about writing these blogs is that I learn as much as I share. My approach is rather simple at times, but developing real life characters is as simple as watching those around you or a good TV show or movie. Profiling – the physical looks of your character, as well as their little ticks and quirks, and then adding the internal mental/emotional baggage to their persona.

Kentucky has a comedian that has always used real life episodes for his comedy. He can truly entertain you for hours as real life is often funnier than fiction. Of course, if we’re lucky few of us know serial killers or the “bad” guys/gals we write about. Or perhaps we do, and once again if we’re lucky we don’t become a part of their agenda.

I was watching Criminal Minds last night. It was an old show, and one I’ve seen before. But truthfully I’ve never really seen the killer in the light I saw him last night. The show opens with him in his house and his actions clearly show you in the first few minutes that he’s obsessive compulsive. Perhaps someone unfamiliar with obsessive compulsive order at first glance in the apartment would merely sum him up as a neat freak. But closer examination of his movements, the three turns of the door handle before opening it, the measured number of brushes with the tooth brush, the fanatical placing of items exactly as they were before he picked them up all point to something more than just neatness.

As I’ve been blogging on facial expressions I watched his this time. He has a look of innocence, and possibly a little “book wormish”. Not unattractive, but what some of us older people would have labeled “geekish” in our day. Even though I’d seen this show before I at first saw him as the victim (which if I remember correctly, he was a victim as a child, so perhaps that image wasn’t totally off). He leaves the apartment walking down the street and an older woman drops something as she’s getting into her car. He picks it up and gives it to her. A nice, quiet, helpful young man. And so polite. As I stated, he has a look of innocence, and also a look of skittishness. Not someone you would expect as confrontational.

He approaches a house for sale where he’s greeted by the realtor. This throws me in his character just a little, for this action requires a certain boldness. It’s broad daylight, and anyone could walk into this house at any time. He allows her to see the knife for just a moment before he moves in close, shoving the knife underneath her heart. Here his facial expression is truly a work of art. He closes his eyes, his head tilts back just a fraction, and a look of total satisfaction crosses his face. Perhaps sexual satisfaction, but the one thing you know for sure is something about shoving the knife into this woman relieved some inner need. An inner need so strong it was impossible for him to overcome it.

The woman stumbles away and he asks her in a voice that has just the right amount of innocence and curiosity – “Where are you going?”

He follows her as she stumbles into the living room and sits down on the couch. He isn’t too close, not threatening nor helping. He leans over her and looks into her eyes watching her die. Here once again his face is a painting of curiosity, as if he has no understanding of what he’s done, or the consequences of his actions.

My first thoughts—wow, a perfect killer and one no one would see coming. And even though you fear the character you also have just a little sympathy for him because you realize immediately this isn’t who he wants to be—it simply is what life has made him.

Profiling – your characters must fit your story in age, physical looks and internal emotional/mental baggage and/or needs. Work with them by watching others who have similar “needs”. Start with people you know describing them in ways that would probably surprise them, as well as may surprise you as you look underneath the physical persona. Keep a note pad by your side as you’re watching your favorite movie and profile the characters. Play with it and have fun. The next time you sit down to write I believe you’ll find your characters taking on new life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Breathe into me,
The breath of life,
Once again, my love

For without you,
My soul has withered,
In the darkness,
Of my loneliness.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Writing - Character Development - Body Language and Show Don't Tell - Part Two

Having written yesterday's blog related to "anger" and using body language to show don't tell, I wanted to expound just a little more on facial expressions. Facial expressions, especially the eyes, create the most obvious and immediate cues to the formation of impressions related to that person's emotional feelings and/or mental thoughts.

And as stated earlier you have to give your readers some reason to care enough about your character to want to follow them all the way to the end of the book. Of course you need a good story as well as a great character. It isn't all about looks. Take a moment for introspection. Haven't you met a person that although physically attractive there was something about them that put you off? Something you just couldn't bring yourself to like? Perhaps it was their eyes, or a fake smile. Something about their general aura that made you want to put distance between yourself and them. And no matter how much you tried to like that person you just couldn't. You really just didn't care. In writing this isn't always a bad thing. If you create a character that readers dislike enough they may follow the story just in hopes this particular person gets what's coming to them.

On the opposite of that, haven't you met someone at some time that although perhaps not physically attractive you immediately felt drawn to them. Someone that you wanted to get closer to, get to know better?

It takes the whole package to create a believable, likeable or dislikeable character. I don't want to read a story about a handsome hulk with a wonderful physique. He has to have redeeming qualities also. Or vice versa, a beautiful woman who has no personality isn't going to interest me.

In the male category I often think of Jason Statham. He isn't the most handsome man I've seen in the movies, but he immediately drew me in. And it was his face that drew me in. That tinge of loneliness in his eyes. The tightened jaw that has a certain quality of gentleness to it. The desire to see him happy. Make him smile. I loved the first Transporter movie, although the others weren't that great in my opinion. What made me follow those movies was Jason Statham.

So what can faces tells us? We've already discussed anger, so let's discuss some other emotions.


Cold sweat; pale face; dry mouth; refusing to meet the other person's eyes; damp eyes and trembling lips. Voice tremors, rapid pulse and/or heartbeat; tension in muscles; holding breath or ragged breaths.


General drooping of the body, trembling lips, tears, eyelids droop and corners of lips generally pull down.


Raised eyebrows, widening of eyes, open mouth, the upper eyelids and brows rise and the jaw drops open.


The corners of the mouth life in a smile, eyelids tighten and the cheeks rise. A genuine smile goes all the way to the eyes causing a certain lighting up of the eyes or twinkle in the eyes.

As you can easily see some facial expressions can be attributed to more than one emotion, and that's why it's important to designate your character's reactions in ways that your reader knows your character as well as you do. For example trembling lips can be attributed to both fear and sadness.

Some great descriptive sentences that at least for me, give you much more than just words.

Dean Koontz in One Door Away From Heaven: Her aunt, from whom fate had stolen everything except a reliable sense of humor . . .

This is Micky thinking as she sunbathes. What we get from this is a general internal description of her aunt. A person that although life has been cruel enough to leave poor still has the ability to laugh at her own problems. We get an internal look at the aunt, and at least for me she was someone I wanted to meet. Someone I wanted to know more about. There's no physical description and yet in my mind I could see her as I imagined her to be. And I could relate her to my own aunt or grandmother.

She wore her beauty with humility, but more impressively she kept her pedigree in her purse and never flashed it. . . .

A description by Noah of the Congressman's wife in Chapter 6. With a very few words, Mr. Koontz, has given us a beautiful woman whom we know to be wealthy, and of some importance, and most likely born into that importance. However, we can forgive her all of that as it apparently means nothing to her. We're ready to give her a chance to see if we can like her.

Providing for Laura was the reason that he worked, the reason that he lived in a low-rent apartment, drove a rustbucket, never traveled, and bought his clothes at warehouse-clubs. Providing for Laura was, in fact, the reason that he lived at all.

Noah again on page 129. This passage truly gives you insight into Noah's character, his ability to love someone more than himself, and sacrifice his own life to provide a life for them. It also hints at perhaps something we don't quite know yet - why does he feel so guilty, and what happened to Laura. All answers that we can only get by continuing to read.

You may wonder why I chose Dean Koontz for the example. Well, the answer to that is quite simple--I find him the master of using words in ways that describe far more than just scenery and physical attributes. Even if you're not a Koontz fan, I would urge every writer to read his work at some point. You never want to plagiarize another writer's work, but you can learn. Learn to use to words not just as flat descriptions, but in ways to bring your characters to life. Make them real people with real emotional feelings. Turn them into someone your readers want to follow wherever they go and whatever they do.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writing - Character Development - Body Language and Show Don't Tell - Part One

Readers expect a great deal more than just words on a page. They want to become a part of the story. Be able to not only see the characters and the scenery, but also feel the love, hate, joy and emotional tension of every scene. Every character has a specific physical look, but they also have internal mechanisms that affect their physical appearance. For Part 1 we're going to take a look at Anger and the physical attributes that a character might express that will clue in the reader to the emotional status of the character. In other words, we're going to show the body language related to anger.

The word Anger is often used to describe a variety of emotions - resentment, wrath, rage, fury, passion, indignation, displeasure, vexation. Most of these are associated with a strong feeling of extreme displeasure accompanied by a desire to punish the object of your displeasure. Anger can be passive or aggressive. Today I'm going to focus on facial expression of anger.

Facial Expressions of Anger:

The face is a perfect indicator of human moods and emotions. And a perfect writing tool to emphasize the emotional turmoil or mood of your characters. Let's break it down.

Anger signs:

Eyebrows - Lowered eyebrows, pulled together to form wrinkles in the skin of the forehead

Eyelids - lower and upper eyelids tighten as brows knit together. Intense anger may cause the upper eyelids to raise

Eyes - eyes wide with fixed gaze or stare; squinted - a light tick at the corner of an eye usually following the tightening of the jaw muscles

Mouth - flattened or clenched; teeth bared

Jaw - tightened or jutting

Face color - red

Also keep in mind there are various degrees of anger. Your character may go from minor frustration to a slow boil, and then an all out fit of rage. Anger can also be evoked by other emotions such as fear, emotional pain and grief. Many times anger is expressed through words either screamed at the source of the anger, or soft-pitched words that are dangerous in their undertone.

Anger can be expressed and shown in many ways. It can be hot and explosive, or slow and seething. Anger can also be cold. A stiff and rigid back, a cold shoulder or soft words spoken in an icy manner. Ragged shallow breathing. Rapid heart beat. Anger can be shown through written passages, or heated dialogue.

So with this in mind, let's develop our character and his/her characteristic of anger. For the purpose of this demonstration I've chosen "Joe" a retired police officer now private investigator. Knowing this, we know that Joe most likely has dealt with angry people throughout his career and is an expert in recognizing the signs of anger, as well as an expert hopefully in controlling his own anger.


Marie handed Joe the current readout on Cosgrove. The report wasn't good, but she knew Joe would take it in stride. After all he wasn't a hotheaded teenager prone to fits of rage. A slight tremor of fear started in her stomach as his lips tightened and a dull red flush started at the base of his neck. She took a step backwards as the trembling hands holding the report slowly ripped it into tiny pieces.

Okay, now the scene above shows that Joe is getting angry. What appears to be a slow seething anger. We have the tightening of the lips and the dull red flush, and the slow ripping of the report. We then have Marie stepping backwards away from him. Of course, Marie stepping backwards could also be a sign that Joe at times has more of an explosive personality.

I personally see Joe as the slow, seething, soft icy word type.

Now you've developed your character's reactions to anger. You can change them throughout the story, however, you will need a clear explanation for you readers as to why his reactions change.

Check back tomorrow as we explore other emotions and body language.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Grandmother's Poem - In memory of Caleb Gavin Fuson


In just a short moment,
you became the softness
beneath my smile,

In just a short moment,
you became the twinkle
in my eyes,

In just a short moment,
you were my dreams
of the future,

The things we would do,
The things I would teach you,
The things you would teach me
In just a short moment we shared,
A lifetime of love,

And then you were gone,
To sleep with the angels.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Can Children See Ghosts/Spirits?

I’ve often found this an interesting question, as my only true experience of actually seeing what I knew had to be a ghost occurred at the age of five. Many times I’ve observed children with “imaginary” play friends, and now that I think back on it wonder just how imaginary those friends really were.

Coby and I occasionally experience what appears to be some type of paranormal activity in our home. Not often, and usually not anything drastic, just little things that truthfully could be explained as normal most of the time. Once or twice in the last month I’ve actually felt like there was someone here. One of those weird feelings that someone is standing in the dining room, or in my office.

Occasionally my computers will come on by themselves, or go off. Going off isn’t a problem, as all computers shut down at times, but the turning on or switching windows isn’t all that normal.

Night before last we were sitting out front with the neighbors. The front door was open and the kitchen light was on giving an inner view of the living room and kitchen beyond. Our neighbors’ three year old little boy came up and sat in her lap. He kept staring at our door, and finally piped up: “There’s someone in your house and it’s a ghost.” I looked at his mother and she tried to shush him, telling him there wasn’t a ghost in our house. I’ve never heard our neighbor discuss ghosts or spirits, and little Ben has been to my house many times and never have I heard him mention ghosts. But he insisted that there was one in my house that night, and he’d seen “him”.

I don’t really know what type of TV Ben watches, but his mother is a kindergarten teacher, and both parents are rather strict on the boys leading me to believe it’s very doubtful that they’re watching the type of television shows that would lead to them believing in ghosts.

That night I kept hearing things in the back room, and after I went to bed I kept hearing noises like someone was walking up and down the hall. At one point I “felt” that someone was standing in the bedroom door, but I, of course, could see no one.

If children actually do see ghosts/spirits it would be interesting to study that field of the paranormal as to why. Is there something different about our eyes as children that allows us to see things we don’t see as adults? Do ghosts/spirits reveal themselves to children because they have no fear of rejection from children?

Most adults who have paranormal experiences immediately doubt what they’ve seen, and start making excuses for it. And if ghosts/spirits do reveal themselves to children, then that would mean they have control of who sees them and who doesn’t. Interesting theory, but only theory, as we have no scientific proof that ghosts/spirits even exist.

I have a site I’ve been monitoring now for several years. I think I’m going to make some video tapes of children at play, old birthday parties, etcetera and play it there next time I go. See if the laughter of children and their chatter has any effect on the paranormal activity in this area. It may not help, but as I’ve learned in the past—it can’t hurt.

So, what do you believe? Can children see ghosts/spirits?

October Special - Jacody Ives Mystery Series 99 Cents each

Check out the lastest review:

By Jim Fay - See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery (Jacody Ives Mysteries) (Kindle Edition)
I really liked this book. But although this is the first one written about Jacody Ives, there is a recently released a prequel titled "Sacred Secrets." That's the book to start with.

"The Gifts" is a supernatural mystery thriller. I'd like to say I couldn't put it down, but honestly, I don't read that fast and I do need sleep at night and still have to go to work each day. So it took me a few days to read it. But it was a fun ride, and the suspense kept me wanting to know what happened next.

I hope it's not too long before Prather's next book. I'm hooked. Unless something unexpected happens, I will read anything she writes.

The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writing - Show Don't Tell

Sounds simple doesn’t it? After all it is one of the very first rules of writing. Every beginning author hears it countless times. “I like your idea, but you need to show not tell.” Okay, so you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, what the heck does that mean? I’m telling a story, so what do you want me to show you?

Unfortunately, critiques often offer this type of advice, with little input of what the critiquer (is that really a word?) wants you to do. They want you to do what every great author does—allows you to travel with the characters, see what they see, feel what they feel, and share the passion, the love, the fear, the majestic journey from page 1 all the way to the end of the book. It isn’t enough that you’ve written a great story, unless your readers can see, feel and live that story through your characters eyes.

Copyright laws will prohibit me from publishing some of what I truly felt was the most beautifully artistic showing/not telling writing that I have had the opportunity to read. Okay, I know, you read my earlier review of this book and you know I haven’t been able to really finish reading it. That has nothing to do with the fact that the author is a master at showing and not telling.

In Dean Koontz “One Door Away From Heaven” there’s a scene where young Curtis and his dog are fleeing from the people trying to kill them. In reading this chapter you’ll not only see what Curtis sees, you’ll feel his tension, his fear, his desperation and his tiredness as he runs further and further. You’ll basically have the opportunity to see the stars, feel the thudding of his feet, and truly become young Curtis in his flight. That’s mastery of showing/not telling. You want to create not just a scene, but a vivid visual mood with rhythm that propels the reader on to the next scene.

The majority of people experience some type of visual perception of thoughts, words and emotions. The books I enjoy the most are the ones that are almost movie-like in their approach to showing. I use my imagination to create the pictures, but the author has laid the groundwork for those images, moods and rhythm I’m going to follow.

My first draft is usually far from the standard of “show don’t tell”. It is a basic draft or outline of the complete story. Only when it’s finished do I go back in and see where I fell short.

Rhythm and mood can be accomplished not only through vivid scenery, and descriptive characters, but also punctuation. I look at each sentence from the standpoint of “am I really feeling this” or “how could I say it better?” And then I start my rewrite. My foundation is there – the complete story. I know that story by heart, but my readers won’t. I love my characters, but unless I give the reader a reason to love them they may find them somewhat lacking. So my rewrite is basically a spruce it up, musical exercise in rhythm. Do my words flow or does a reader have to stop and wonder why there’s a comma there?

Every author, especially beginning authors should spend as much time reading as you do writing. Read everything you can. Study the author’s style, their word expressions. Does it work for you? Can you feel it? If yes, then study their punctuation style, and notice the rhythm of the sentences. That doesn’t mean you want to adapt your style to the author’s style. If it isn’t truly “your” style it simply won’t work for you. And the best way to learn this lesson is to join a critique group. Not for your own work so much, but so that you read the work of other writers and try to help them make it better. By seeing the mistakes you feel they’re making, you’ll more easily recognize your own mistakes. Once again – every author should spend as much time reading as writing.

First, let me say up front I’m no Dean Koontz. I’m still learning, and will be learning I’m sure for years to come. But in expressing an example of show don’t tell I’m going to share an excerpt from Sacred Secrets. If I had the first draft available for this scene you would understand the rewrite. Basically the rough draft detailed her finding the article, a few tears, blah, blah, blah. That wasn’t what I wanted to convey. I wanted to convey the depth of her feelings. “. . .until she came to one that froze her fingers, stilled the beating of her heart.” Hopefully I accomplished just a little of that. All of us at one time have seen, heard, or experienced something that made us pause, only to find ourselves involuntarily moving toward that scene. Real life. And in showing real life experiences are the best.

Sitting forward again Katie altered her search, typing in Dr. James Arthur and Camp Hope. The page came up quickly, showing entries one through ten of 1,210,000. Okay, so it wasn’t going to be easy. Undaunted she scanned the first page, reading through the descriptions until she came to the one that froze her fingers, stilled the beating of her heart. Her finger moved involuntarily on the mouse, double clicking on the article. Warm brown eyes gazed out at her. Eyes she remembered.
The article was a beautiful memorial to the young man who had devoted his life to helping terminally ill children. His struggle to get other doctors involved, bring the children together to share their frustration, anger and hurt. A one-man crusade for organ donation.
Katie wiped the tears from her face as she continued to read. It was all there. The camp. Even the huge oak tree outside the main building. The house at Twelve-ten Chantilly Lane. The only difference--it was in Pendleton, Oregon, not Washington. And it had all been destroyed by fire twenty-five years ago.
Grief rippled through her as she read how Dr. Arthur had sacrificed his life in an effort to save a young woman trapped on the second floor of his home. A young woman in a wheelchair. A twelve-year-old heart patient named Clover Bottoms.
A smiling photo of Frank Davis flashed on the screen as the article detailed the bravery of the young camp volunteer that had followed Dr. Arthur into the fire with no thought for his own safety.
Katie heard the sobs, not realizing they were coming from her. Deep painful sobs that twisted her insides, exposing raw nerves, cramping her muscles. She bent forward, rocking back and forth as tortured moans escaped her lips.
“Follow your heart, Katie.”

If you’ve ever suffered true grief, the kind that cramps your muscles, and causes you to bend forward, rocking back and forth—you totally understand how Katie feels in this scene. And even if you haven’t suffered that type of grief, you may have seen it.

Showing and not telling isn’t as simple as it sounds. You need to use a combination of visual moods, emotions, body language and punctuation. However, the more you place your scene as a “real life” scene, visualize it in your mind, the easier the concept will be to you, and the easier it will be to make your characters and your story come to life.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Washington Mutual, J. P. Chase, FDIC and Providian - A consumer question

Since the failure of Washington Mutual and seizure by the FDIC on 8/25/08 consumers have asked questions to no avail. Now consumers are asking even more questions, and attempting to trace their assets. I have a legitimate question for all of them in that I'd love to know how J. P. Chase wound up with Providian Financial accounts in this matter, as according to records on file, Providian Financial ceased to exist in March of 2009 after merger into New American Capital, Inc.

New American Capital, Inc. was not part of Washington Mutual's direct or indirect subsidiaries in their SEC filings for early 2008. This led me to do some additional research into what actually happened to Providian Financial. New American Capital, Inc was a Delaware corporation, so I started my search there. On 11/1/07 - a little less than one year before the FDIC seizure, New American Capital, Inc. was merged into Mercer Acquisition, LLC a Nevada Corporation. Providian Financial accounts would have followed this merger. I contacted the Nevada Division of Corporations and Mercer Acquisition, LLC was dissolved immediately after the merger with New American Capital, Inc.

Dissolved. So what happened to the Providian Financial accounts? And why is J. P. Chase claiming ownership, and collecting on these accounts? Sure, Washington Mutual by merger received the Providian National Bank accounts, but my understanding of this corporate hierarchy was the Providian Financial also owned accounts, including credit card accounts.

I read another consumer question this morning related to another "subsidiary" that appears to have disappeared prior to the seizure also. Perhaps someone out there has answers, but the public is being kept in the dark by everyone concerned in this matter, and the citizens of the United States who had placed their trust and confidence in these organizations are the ones who have suffered losses related to the failure of Washington Mutual Bank, the Purchase and Assignment agreement between the FDIC and J. P. Chase (which as of August 30, 2010 was still not finalized)and the bankruptcy filing of Washington Mutual, Inc. It's definite to the American public, if not to regulators, that there indeed had to be some subterfuge and collusion between these organizations. Anyone with common sense would know a bank isn't seized on one day, sold on basically the same day, and bankruptcy filed the next day by a corporation as huge as Washington Mutual, Inc. without there having been some collusion between these organizations.

The American public wants answers, and I believe it's time for one or more of these companies to provide those answers.

I intend to spend some time in the near future researching all the subsidiaries of WAMU and WMI prior to their seizure. Wonder how many were actually merged out and dissolved, or sold? And wonder where the proceeds from those mergers, acquisitions or sales went? Bet all the misplaced workers who stand to lose their pensions, stock holders, investors and depositors would also like to know that information.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

There Was A Little Bird

There Was A Little Bird

If you’ve ever lived in the country, I’m pretty sure you can relate to this. Now that I live in the city it’s rare to see a yellow finch or even a humming bird. And I love those rare moments. Most of the time.

There was a little bird,
Sitting in a tree,
A beautiful yellow finch,
Singing just to me,

I quietly crept inside,
Then back outside to see,
The tiny bird was still right there,
Singing still to me,

I held my handy videocam,
And snuck beneath the tree,
And with a wonderful burst of song,
The birdie pooped on me.

Of course he then flew away, and not only did I not get the video I wanted, I had to take a shower.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dean Koontz - One Door Away From Heaven

Being a Dean Koontz fan since his Odd Thomas series, I have to admit that I’ve been trying to read this book for years now. I normally get so far in, and then stop. This is truly an unusual characteristic for me, as I love stories and books and especially page turners. I’ve tried to decipher my problem with this book, and it’s difficult as it truly is a masterpiece of beautiful artistic flowing words, and leads you down the path of three individual and yet titillating stories. If asked to rate the book I would have to give it five stars across the board for character development, story development and as I said, beautiful artistic flowing words.

I found myself following three distinct stories, each captivating in their own right and yet each time I was caught up in the story line I was immediately transferred to another captivating story with another character. I would at times have to go back and read the end of the chapter on the first story prior to going forward on that story as my mind was caught up in the story I’d just read.

Are the stories good? Yes. I found myself totally immersed in the problems of Michelina Bellsong and Leilani. And then totally immersed in young Curtis Hammond and his flight from killers, as well as his tagalong partner, Old Yeller. Anyone who knows me knows that the story of Old Yeller has always been my favorite, and the fact that young Curtis named his dog Old Yeller only endeared that story to me more. And then there’s Noah Farrell, a burned out former police officer now turned detective with his own deep, dark burdens of guilt. All three fascinating stories that up through Chapter 28 have absolutely nothing to tie them together. I know that’s coming, but I’m on page 214 of 606, and truthfully tired of trying to follow three distinct stories that I love individually and keep the pages turning and the story line flowing.

Can a book be too eloquent? Possibly. As I’m reading it’s almost as if each paragraph was written individually. Not that they don’t tie together in the individual stories, they do. But each paragraph offers its own descriptive eloquence that sometimes leaves you thinking too much about the words you’re reading, and then losing the story line. Once again, there have been many times I’ve had to back up and reread. And miss a day reading a chapter, well I’m totally lost on which story I’m following and where the character has been and where they’re going.

As I stated in the beginning, I’ve been a Dean Koontz fan for years, and I loved “False Memory”, “Fear Nothing”, “Hideaway”, “Midnight”, “Watchers”, “The Key to Midnight” and the “Odd Thomas” series. His style is truly unique, and his characters always masterpieces of literary genius. I did something today, though, that I rarely if ever do with a book. I went to the end and read the last page. Why? I guess I wanted to know if the stories ever truly came together. They do, and perhaps someday I’ll finish this book. I hope so, because I learn so much from Mr. Koontz’s writing. But life is simply too short, and I have so little time to read, that I feel I must once again move on to something else. I will miss my travels with Micky and Leilani and with Curtis and Old Yeller, and I’ll even miss Noah Farrell, but with almost 400 pages in front of me to finish, I think I’ll leave it for another time period in my life when I can snuggle up with a good cup of hot chocolate and hopefully make my way through to the very end.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sacred Secrets

Chapter Two

“Please . . .,” she whispered.

Gavin McAllister rolled over and flipped on the bedside lamp. Sitting up he ran a hand through his thick black hair and sighed heavily. He hated the nightmares. For the past three years he’d been forced to live with the Mother’s Day killer haunting his dreams. Now, if the dreams were right--and they were always right--evil had claimed another victim.

It was only four a.m., but the night was over for him. Rising he walked to the window, parted the drapes and stood looking out over the silent streets of Richmond. It was quiet now, but soon traffic would be moving. A cacophony of horns, voices mumbling platitudes or shouting curses would rise from the streets as thousands of people rushed frantically to get to the very last place they really wanted to be. Jobs they hated. Or perhaps returning to bleak, empty structures of houses that were no longer homes.

The girl was already dead. He knew that in his heart. Still, there was something she wanted. Something she needed from him. He closed his eyes, seeing her, hearing the whispered plea for life. The sound of prayer in the dark still night.

His fingers curled inward, tightening into fists. What good were his dreams if he couldn’t save her? Couldn’t save any of them. Occasionally he could find and put an end to the evil. But it never ended. For each one brought to justice something more vile took its place. Something bolder. Stronger.
Kahil Gibran had said, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

Gavin’s mirthless laugh broke the silence of the early morning hour. If that quote were true then Jacody Ives must be one of the most massive characters ever created.
Gavin turned to gaze at the finished manuscript, “Pool of Tears”. Not his best work, but the character, Jacody Ives, bore fresh scars. Constant reminders that justice came with a price.

Letting the drapes fall back into place Gavin turned on the light and headed for the kitchen. The thing he needed most was thick black coffee. The one thing he didn’t need was to dwell on Jacody Ives. That would only pull him into the shadows of his own fractured psyche. His own evil.

His readers believed that Jacody Ives was merely a fictional character. But Gavin and those closest to him knew that wasn’t true. Jacody was always close, vigilant for a sign of weakness. A moment when the darkness overcame Gavin. The pain cut to the core.

Rob had told him the differences were subtle. Evil was like that. It wasn’t something you could see. It was soulless. The greatest magician. True master of disguise. Lying hidden in the murky depths of secrets buried in the cavernous trenches of the psyche.

Silence. Secrets. Wasn’t that what had created Jacody in the first place? His silence. His secret.

“Please . . .,” she whispered.

Wounds opened. Gavin gripped the sink, struggling to control the memories as his body trembled with rage.


A ragged sound escaped his lips as his body jerked in spasms of emotional pain. He’d kept the memories buried. Caged. But now his tormentor stood outside that cage, laughing as Gavin twisted away from the jagged spears--only to find there was nowhere to go. No place he could escape the memories. The soft delicate sound of her laughter. The flashing beauty of her smile. The limpid pools of her deep green eyes, darkened in passion. The way light played on her auburn curls.

Her still lifeless body. Bloody, battered and broken.

The keening wail of a dying animal filled the room as the darkness won, pulling Gavin beneath the surface to the very pits of his own hell.

Jacody Ives smiled, flexed the fingers still gripping the sink. Evil attracts evil. He’d heard its call in the nightmare. He would answer. There’d never been any other choice for him. Evil knew his name.

Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Original Idea - Writing Your Novel

An Original Idea – Writing Your Novel

Every author wants to write from the angle of an Original Idea. A new book. Something that hasn’t been done before. In today’s world, with hundreds of thousands of new books coming out each year that is virtually impossible. If you took the time to read every book that had ever been written, you would probably find that someone, somewhere had the same idea as you.

Over time authors settled for a compromise. An original character. An original
setting. Perhaps even an original scene within the novel.

Develop your idea and write it down in one sentence. This is the basis for your novel. Everything else can change, but your original idea needs to be the foundation, and you must remember it as you write. Repeat it to yourself prior to beginning writing each day. The idea will keep you on track.

Still looking for that idea? Ask yourself what if? Ah, see the possibilities? What if you’re sitting on a plane and you notice the man across the aisle has a gun inside his jacket? What if you’re sitting in a restaurant and someone you’ve known all your life comes in but appears not to know who you are? What if you’re in a school room and suddenly a child disappears into thin air? What if you wake up one morning to find yourself in a strange bed, married to someone you don’t remember meeting?

What if opens the door for thoughts and ideas to roll across your imagination. And eventually you will find that one of those ideas is original. It may not be an original thought, and perhaps may have been written from one angle, but your way of seeing it is original, and your way of writing it will be original.

Before beginning you need to research your idea to see if is plausible. Let’s take the guy on the plane with a gun. With today’s security it would be almost impossible for that to happen unless the guy was security on the plane. Notice I said almost impossible. Perhaps one of the crew members placed the gun somewhere for this guy to pick up. Is that possible? Is a complete scan of the plane or search done prior to allowing passengers to board? I’m not sure, because I’ve never researched that particular scenario, but if you’re going to write from that angle you need to know if it’s possible. Once you’ve determined that your idea is plausible, you need to scope out your idea. Examine your thoughts and feelings about the idea. Does it excite you? Do main characters immediately start to develop in your mind? Can you see them? Feel them? Know what happens to them physically, mentally and emotionally? Are your characters someone you care about?

Readers want to care about what they read and especially the characters. Does your idea have a moral or emotional theme? You may not write the theme, but the theme should be present in your mind while you’re writing.

As an example, let’s take a look at my first book, The Gifts. What was my idea? Someone who hates secrets. From there I developed Gavin McAllister, a mystery writer who hates secrets and uses uncovered secrets to write his novels. So why does he hate secrets, and how does he have the authority to uncover these secrets?

From there I developed Jacody Ives, his alter ego and private investigator working with the FBI. Working on what? From there I developed the Mother’s Day killer, and Jacody/Gavin’s dreams of the murders. From the FBI I developed Carl and Rob. From the relationship between Rob and Gavin I developed Corrine, Gavin’s twin sister and her subsequent murder. From there I developed Glades Springs and Sarah McKnight, a small town Sheriff with a huge secret, and psychic abilities much like Jacody’s with dreams.

The remaining characters seemed to spring from a well that I had no thoughts about in my original idea. Gavin McAllister hated secrets. And each character had their own secrets to hide. And each character had their own “gifts” to deal with. This wasn’t a part of my original idea, but developed as I wrote. Realizing that my characters had psychic abilities a portion of my theme changed. I wanted to show that having psychic abilities didn’t necessarily make you a super hero. In fact, in most cases it left you feeling frustrated and confused. Never quite knowing when it’s real. And even if you know it’s real, not knowing how to stop it or change it.

Your idea is not your story. Your story will develop around your idea, one step at a time. And your original story, theme, characters may all change before you reach that final page, but the one thing that should remain constant is your idea. My second book actually came from reader requests related to my first book. They wanted to know Gavin’s secret. What created his alter ego, Jacody Ives. So my idea was already there. The story itself, the theme all developed from that one idea. What secret created Jacody Ives?

Ready to get started? Ask yourself what if?

Spoken Words

I shall speak softly
For my words may lie heavy
On the hearts of those
Who hear.

I shall speak truthfully
For my words may be chronicled
Through all eternity

I shall speak lovingly
For my words have no meaning
If spoken without heart

If I speak not softly
If I speak not truthfully
If I speak not lovingly
Let me not speak at all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Today's Featured Book - "Not What She Seems" by Victorine E. Lieske

Victorine E. Lieske
“Not What She Seems”
Available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback

About the Author:

Victorine and her husband live in Nebraska where they manufacture rubber stamps for the craft industry. They own and operate Victorine Originals Rubber Stamps from their home, where they raise their four children. Victorine has a degree in Art from BYU Idaho, and designs many of the rubber stamps they sell. She has always loved to read and in her spare time she writes.

Facebook Fan Page:

Since becoming an Indie author myself, I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to meet and develop on-line friendships with several other Indie authors. Does that mean I’ll read their book? For some, yes, and for others – well, if it’s not my type of book, but the writing is good, I will recommend them to other readers in their genre. I recently did this with David Dalglish and my son, Steven. Steven downloaded the samples and loved David’s work so much he bought all four of his books.

I recently had the pleasure, and yes, I will emphasize pleasure, of reading “Not What She Seems” by Victorine E. Lieske. I loved the cover, which immediately caught my eye. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but the cover is the first thing a buyer sees, and if it’s uninteresting I’m probably going to pass over the book no matter how good it is.

My major problem was—the book was romantic suspense. Anyone who knows me and knows my writing, knows that although there may be a little romance in my novels, I’m definitely not a romance reader. Haven’t been for years. And especially after all the graphic sex seemed to permeate every page.

Being a book addict, and not having read one for several months, I was becoming a little unglued at the seams. I needed a book a to read. Quickly. Still a little skeptical I downloaded the sample of Victorine’s book. Surprise upon surprise, I found myself enjoying it. Actually relishing it, and quickly turning pages on my Kindle PC to see what happens next. And of course, I soon came to the end of my free sample. Thank you Amazon for the Buy Now button. I quickly bought the book waiting impatiently the couple of seconds it took for it to download to my computer. I can’t wait until I get my new Kindle and can actually take it with me wherever I go.

“Not What She Seems” could easily be classified a mystery, as it is one of the few books that I’ve read that kept me guessing all the way to the end. And with all the hype I’d heard about how horribly written and formatted Indie books were, I found myself in for another surprise. With the exception of perhaps “flash backs” and “memories” not being set out from the other text, Victorine’s book was beautifully formatted and as a proofreader by profession, I didn’t find a typo in it. So if they’re there, they’re totally overshadowed by the complexity of a well written plot, fast paced story, and engrossing novel. I found myself watching that little percentage read at the bottom of my screen, and saying “oh, no” as I saw it quickly speeding toward 99 percent. I wanted more.


Plot – 5 Stars
As a debut novel, Victorine gives the reader everything they could possibly want in a complex plot with sufficient twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way to the end. Mix this with sub-plots, family secrets and an end of the book surprise, and you have a novel that will keep you engrossed to the very end. Plenty of suspects, all with motive and opportunity.

Characterization – 3 Stars
If there is a weakness in Victorine’s book, it is that I felt I needed more from her characters. Things seemed to take off a little unrealistic in their relationship, although having lived in a small community growing up, this is possible. Still, I felt that Steven and Emily needed more time, more interaction and more background information.

I found myself immediately drawn to Emily, a single mother on the run from her past, and the prime suspect in her husband’s murder. It was the time span here that truly created a problem for me, as I had problems believing that no one had looked for her in five years, and that she had never tried to get free of Richard in that amount of mine.

Steven was also hard for me to believe totally in his character. He’s very likable and truly fills the Prince Charming role in a masterful way, however, there just isn’t enough information or interaction to let me “feel” his character.

Connor is adorable, and every mother’s heart will go out to him.

Richard too, left me somewhat wanting as to his basic personality and what makes him tick, as well as what makes him stick with Emily. What created his obsession? It doesn’t appear to be love, or at least not the love a man has for a woman.

The great thing about this book is it’s a debut novel, and as you read you’ll find that Victorine’s style gets better and better with every chapter. What this means to me is that in the future we can expect great things from Victorine. Every first book is a learning experience and she definitely has what every author needs to succeed—A GREAT STORY.

This was my first romantic suspense. I realize now that I’ve been a genre snob for years. As a mystery author I tend to gravitate to mystery books. However, if all romantic suspense books are as good as this one, then I will definitely add romantic suspense books to my future TBR files. For $2.99 I spent one of the most enjoyable afternoons I’ve had in months. And I will definitely be on the lookout for her next book.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guest Blogger - Paranormal Research - Rick Hart with RCPSKC

Good morning. My guest today is Rick Hart from RCPSKC. I had the pleasure of meeting Rick, his lovely wife, Melissa, and several members of his team at a breast cancer fund raiser in Kentucky earlier this year. I then had the opportunity and honor of participating in a joint investigation with both RCPSKC and RCPSKY at the historic Lemp Mansion in St. Louis. A truly fascinating and educational experience.

LP: Good morning, Rick.

RH: Good morning, Linda.

LP: Tell us a little bit about your group, and your team members.

RH: RCPSKC is an RCPS Family member. Now, all that means is we collaborate with other RCPS Teams throughout the country on ideas, techniques, theories and we even do some evidence review for each other. We have skype meetings and talk about training, etcetera.
My own team is made up of a group of four core members. These are the members who go on every investigation, and they are the backbone of the RCPSKC organization.

Brian, my Co-Founder is IT educated and currently is employed in that field. He handles all important communications within the group. He is the go to person for our monthly radio show on a local FM station and he takes care of all aspects of that relationship. He handles any complaints from clients and has even handled a few internal problems between members. We spend a great deal of time together and personalities do clash from time to time. Brian is the mediator.

I am the other Co-Founder and I am educated in Computers, Sociology and have 17 years experience in the construction field. I work on the team as the tech manager, which basically means I’m responsible in making sure everything works, everything is charged and everything is packed up after an investigation. I also look at new technology and decide if it is something we can use. My knowledge of home construction lends some help in debunking activity as normal house sounds from mechanical sources.

Michelle is our Lead Investigator and works for a lab. She is our resident skeptic. She is scientifically minded and is well versed in the procedures for experiments and keeping tight control on our investigations and our environment. She also takes the reins in the absence of Brian or myself if we cannot attend an investigation.

Stacey is our case manager at present. She is a loan officer and is college educated in business. Stacey keeps us organized and running like a well oiled machine. Stacey’s husband is also a commercial licensed electrician and answers any questions we might have regarding EMF and electricity.

Melissa is our team treasurer and also my wife. She is very grounded in reality and helps everyone on the team keep our experiments and our evidence real. Melissa has a background in retail management and has an uncanny ability to read people. She can spot BS from a mile away.

The newest member of our team is actually an old member. Christina left due to a pregnancy and has now returned. Christina is the youngest member of our team at 21 and offers up new and young ideas on how to approach this field. Christina’s fearless nature, having grown up in a very active home allows her to immediately track down activity and determine its source. Christina is also very knowledgeable in computers and is my assistant in the tech department if I am not able to attend an investigation.

LP: Having participated in an investigation I’ve seen the benefits of these varied backgrounds, and how they work together to form a group dedicated to the field of paranormal research. For those of you who haven’t participated in an investigation, or even if you have, you might want to jump on over to MyPara - register and wait for the next streaming of a live investigation. It’s a lot more fun than watching TV as you can actually participate through the chat box allowing you to talk to the investigators as well as other members of the paranormal research community.
So, Rick, what was the motivation for you in forming a paranormal research team?

RH: Brian and I were on another team together and that team basically faded away. It was then that I had a talk with Brian and along with Jon’s invite to join the RCPS Family, it was decided to start a new team with Brian and I as the Co-Founders. We based the team on the scientific side, in as much as we will not introduce the metaphysical into our investigations, except, on an experimentation basis. I.e. recently we involved the use of a psychic in an investigation where we knew the complete history of the home. We plan to experiment with this psychic in an ongoing basis to gather evidence that there is something to the claim of psychic abilities. We only use her as we feel the situation is warranted and she is not privy to the location of the investigation prior to her arrival to the home. She is only told the date and time the investigation will take place. Once the day of the investigation arrives, she is either driven to the home, or she is met and led to the home by Brian or myself. Once inside the home, all members of the team are removed and either Brian or I give her a tour of the home and record any impressions she may have. We then match up her impressions with what we already know of the history, or research what she has told us afterward.

LP: Cool! I really look forward to your research in this area. You, of course, know that I have participated in some psychic experiments, and although my belief in that area is much different than your own, I do believe psychics can be beneficial on investigations under the circumstances you’ve set out above.
I spoke earlier a little about MyPara. Tell us your motivation in starting the MyPara community network.

RH: MyPara was created out of Jon’s banning from another paranormal social network for the simple act of expression another opinion, based on logic and science. In the early years of this recent paranormal fad, much of what was presented was of a metaphysical nature. Jon decided to open his own social network and go against the norm and make it as scientifically based as humanly possible in a metaphysical world. We restrict MyPara to the scientific endeavor, but we will not ban you for mentioning or debating the metaphysical. IF you debate it with evidence and not just feelings, assumptions and speculations. These are also the same criteria we require for any scientific debates, so it’s not one-sided. In our social network we require strict protocols for the presentation of evidence, whether it be photography, video or audio. I.e. you can’t just throw up one blurry photo of a mist and expect that we will validate it as paranormal. You would be required to also submit control shots and photos before and after the anomaly as well as a statement of weather conditions inside and outside of the location. Putting up a single pic and asking for a conclusion is the same as giving someone one sentence of a book and asking what the story is about. It can’t be done.

LP: (Laughing). Yeah, I’ve seen some of those blurry pictures with the little circles and arrows telling me exactly what I’m supposed to see and where, as well as the EVP’s which tell me exactly what the voice is allegedly saying. I hate that.
What’s your most “haunting experience”?

RH: I’ve experienced many things in the time before and since I started investigating. My own home is full of unexplainable activity and the reason why I entered the field, but the one experience that sticks out for me is the recent disembodied voice that Brian and myself heard and we were fortunate enough to record that voice. We went over the evidence with a fine tooth comb, reviewing video and audio from several sources and we can account for everyone present in the home and what they were doing and saying at that very moment. There is no way it was a member of the team or the homeowners. Outside contamination would be our next concern, but the audio in question was heard and recorded during the very early hours of the morning in a very small town. Also, if outside contamination were present other recorders, both audio and video would have captured a real time normal conversation occurring outside and this was not the case. Only Brian and I heard the voice and only one recorder recorded it.

LP: Wow. I love those moments too. Unfortunately, for me at least, they have been few and far between.
What advice would you give novices wanting to enter the field of paranormal research?

RH: That one is simple. LEARN YOUR EQUIPMENT! Research its limitations, what it was meant to do, and how it can aid in investigations. Knowing your equipment will greatly decrease the false positives presently making the rounds in the field because investigators did not take the time to, for example, learn basic photography. I’m not talking about reading the instructions that came with your camera. I’m talking about teaching yourself photography. Photography is the evidence. The camera is just the tool we use to gather the evidence. We can point and shoot our cameras all night long, but that doesn’t make it good photography or evidence.

Next, research what things are. Example: Ectoplasm has not ever, nor will it ever be, a mist. Ecto was a liquid, semi solid, gauze like substance exuded from the orifices of mediums and oddly enough disappeared when exposed to light. This very fact negates any possibility of capturing it with a flash camera or IR light. Ecto has also been debunked many years ago as nothing more than a parlor trick. You can’t change the definition of something to make it something else.

LP: Thank you, Rick, for being with me today and sharing your knowledge and experience with my readers.

RH: My pleasure.

The field of paranormal research and investigation has become, as Rick said, a fad for many. But for some, like RCPSKC and the RCPS Families it is not just a fad, but a legitimate field of research, and a passion for truth. Want to learn more? Hop on over to http://www.mypara.net and join the conversations, review evidence, and learn from those who believe this is a professional field that should be taken seriously by the investigators presenting evidence to the public.