Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS: A Novel Review


I firmly believe that authors have to play to their strengths and even though How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers might be a niche novel, it showcases the author's uncanny ability to spin a ridiculous, engaging yarn about the inner workings and struggles of small press publishing.

FIVE STARS because this novel is like nothing I've ever read.

HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS is an irreverent, hilarious joyride into the bowels of small press hell. I’m not small press published but as someone who mostly self-publishes, I face many of the same problems including douche reviewers like Harlan Anderson (a once rejected, scorned wanna-be author who writes scathing reviews for all of BILF Publishing’s titles).

Coincidentally, Harlan lands in the hands of the BILF Publishing crew when Billy—a not-so-talented drug-addicted writer—ends up kidnapping him due to a lapse in judgment. Unsure what to do next, Billy head’s to Nick’s (BILF’s editor-in-chief) apartment for help. Not only has Billy kidnapped Harlan, but also a man who ended up in the fray when Billy and Harlan were beating the crap out of each other before the abduction. Who is this guy? Lewis *spoiler alert*, the serial killer. What are the chances? The day goes from bad to worse as the small press people try to hatch an escape plan that includes their star author, Sergio, the brains behind The Cumming of Christ. Only in this world can religious porn seem like a thing.

If you’re sensitive about religion, easily offended, or have issues with vulgarity, you’re going to want to take a hard pass on this one. If you’re a fan of dark humor ala EULOGY and VERY BAD THINGS, you’re in for a treat. Max Booth does a great job handling the story from multiple points of view--eventually. I considered giving the book four stars because there are minor timeline shifts, a big cast that is initially tough to keep track of, and a few editorial grammatical misses but really, I loved this book and I don’t want to end up in anyone’s trunk thank you very much. I’m not sure that anyone who isn’t on the inside, in writing or publishing, will quite get how hilarious this book is, but fellow authors are sure to find at least something in here that ring too true. The chapter titles alone are worth the cost of the book. What did I learn? Well, if times get tough and book sales are down (and let’s face it, they’re always down), I could always lug a crate of books to the street corner and flash people. Thanks, Max, for writing such a fun book.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How About We Get Out of the Three Ring Circus?

No good deed goes unpunished. Cliche, I know, and I'm not usually that, gal but this has been my life since the puppy rescue mission.


Puppy Poe is harboring a case of likely stress and dietary-induced colitis since Bailey's departure and has visited the vet twice in the past week. He took the saying goodbye hard and while he started gradually improving the past few days, something set it off again as I was trying to reintroduce food. Part of me believes he's had a longstanding intolerance of Authority dog food. He has had hints of issues over the past couple of months he's been home. The stress threw him over. Today I've been up since two AM dealing with health issues. Wasn't getting a puppy supposed to be fun?

Needless to say, I love him and will continue to nurse him back to health as I try to strike the balance that gets me back to editing this final draft of Fatal Intention.

How's that going you ask? Slow and steady. I'm about a third of the way through and hitting my stride as long as I can stay relatively distraction-free. I think part of the reason it's taken me as long as it has (other than doggy drama) has been a lack of motivation. Writing is one of those professions that, while you're in the early stages, you're really doing because you love it. The pay is terrible and at any point a mediocre, or worse, bad review can play havoc with your emotions. I had a run of the mediocre variety and it made me question myself. Foolish, I know, but there it is.

I had started the first few chapters of Departure but as I reevaluate things I think I'll probably stick with the thriller genre a while. Departure will be self-published as a niche novel to complete the Strandville trilogy sometime in the nearish future. I wish I wrote faster. I'm not sure how I'll handle writing two novels at once. The story is sort of there, though, so I may as well run with it as I outline the thriller that has been nagging me the better part of the last couple of years.

First, I have to get out of this funk. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

I Didn't Mean to Support a Puppy Mill


...but I might have.

Lately my life has been all dogs all the time. We purchased a new little pup named Poe who is my beloved companion, but this post isn't about him. That little guy in the chocolate milk-looking tub is Bailey, a dog who I believe crossed our paths to be saved.

We had been wondering if Poe needed a companion since our senior Sheltie, Dakota, doesn't have the energy to keep up with his puppy ways. We vacillated on having two or three dogs, knowing Dakota's time with us is unfortunately short. I can tell you that after only two days with two puppies, we are a two dog household for sure. This is where I think the universe had big plans for us.

We saw an ad in the Want Ad Digest for a "mini Aussie" that was anything but purebred. He had Aussie traits and a sweet face, but what you see in pictures is so often not the case in real life.

The woman selling him claimed to be a pet dealer sanctioned by the Dept of Agriculture and Markets. I talked to her about the pup and it was his story that had us driving almost two hours each way to save him. She said she doesn't socialize pets, that they live in her garage or turned out outside when she's home (even though the dogs don't like that, she said--black flies and heat and all). She said he was with his parents, but his vet paperwork was signed off by a vet in the (315) area code (known to be a puppy mill area). I don't know why she'd have taken a dog there to get it checked. She also insisted on meeting me somewhere rather than letting me see the dog's habitat (which would make it very difficult to file a report against her since I only have her name and a PO Box address). It was a ninety degree day that this little three month old was holed up in a garage. I talked to my husband and we went to see him.

When we arrived, the pup was in a hot car--so hot in fact that his feet felt like they were burning my arms when he was handed to me. His tummy was bloated. He was filthy and stunk. He put one paw on either side of my neck and literally held onto me. I needed to make sure he wasn't infested before causing myself a major problem, but it was clear this sweet little boy wasn't getting handed back over to squalor. I gave him to my husband to hold while I performed a cursory health check (eyes, ears, fur for mites, ticks, fleas, discharge) and ended up purchasing him for a hefty sum. Minute one we knew he wasn't an Aussie. He is (by mine and our vet's estimation) an Aussie-Sheltie mix. He is the sweetest natured dog I've ever met. 


We brought him home, gave him a good bath, some actual puppy food (he had been eating communally and had scratches on his face indicative of fighting for food that, from the sample of it I was given, was not age-appropriate), lot of treats, and love.

This pup stuck to us like glue--both me and my husband--and in the two days we had him learned his name, to sit for treats, he didn't have a single accident in the house with careful monitoring, and he thrived. I took him to our vet even though we suspected we were going to re-home him to make sure he was healthy for his forever family and that my dogs weren't exposed to anything that might cause them to be ill or need treatment.

The vet gave him a clean bill of health and a de-wormer because of his bloat, though the next day his fecal test came back negative. Knowing he was healthy, I posted a re-homing ad. I recouped only a portion of my expenses, but this wasn't about money. It was about saving a life. A sweet, smart, wonderful life who is going to be an incredible addition to his new family.

I had a ton of interest in this fella, and rightly so. I can't say enough good about him or his disposition. For a pup who came out of bad circumstances, he was amazingly adaptive. I made up my mind that if I didn't have one hundred percent faith he was going to a good home, I wouldn't let him go. I had a good feeling about the woman who responded--a mom with two young (but not too young) children who had been wanting a pup for some time.

I met her at a local pet store and thought, there's something awesome about a new home whose first inclination is a shopping spree for their new pal. The children--especially the little girl--was clearly in love at first sight. Mom asked all the right questions and I knew that Bailey had found his forever family. The girl even said she'd like to keep Bailey as his name.



I cried terribly having to let him go. I grew attached to him in a couple of days, but I knew that we couldn't give him the dedicated training and attention he needed while Poe was still in training himself. Poe demands time and attention. I only have so much to give. We took a week off and did a karmically awesome deed. I didn't mean to support a puppy mill, but my heart couldn't handle handing this puppy back. Bailey, you deserve every bit of love you're getting, kiddo! We'll think of you often.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fatal Intention: Combat Ready--Killing Whole Chapters


4.4 stars
52 Amazon reviews

During a slow night on duty, paramedic Ana Ashmore drives past a crime scene at the Aquarian Motel—a scene that, strangely, wasn’t broadcast on her first-responder’s radio. Curious, she stops to help and quickly realizes why she’d been excluded from the call. Her sister, Sydney, has been found dead of an apparent suicide. But why would Sydney take her own life right after fighting to survive cancer?
As the police get to work, Ana launches an investigation of her own. Sydney’s soon-to-be ex-husband certainly had a motive to murder, and while the police focus on him, Ana makes a startling discovery: a chain of e-mails between Sydney and her surgeon that brings into question Sydney’s diagnosis and the life-altering treatment that followed. With the help of Dr. Jared Monroe, who has his own troubling connection to the surgeon in question, Ana uncovers a ring of corruption and greed. As the two dig deeper, they develop a complicated attraction. Can they survive their attempt to expose a dangerous deception and avenge Sydney’s murder? Those trained to save lives might be the most skilled at taking them.

Stay tuned for publishing news about Fatal Intention, the sequel to Fatal Reaction coming later this year.


First drafts are exploratory. You think of a concept, add some characters, and try to get from point A to B with enough action, tension, and credibility to leave a reader satisfied.

Second draft, you start to get a handle on what is and is not working. It's a kind of deciding phase and heavy revising happens throughout.

Third draft is when you're making the tough calls, fine, tuning so to speak. You know what is and isn't going to make it to the final draft. You clean up the prose but you also have to clean up the plot. That's where I am now. Finalizing the story, strengthening motivations, reactions, and checking every detail twice.

In the earliest iteration of Fatal Intention I prepared Ana for a fight that no one saw coming. I wanted to show that she had overcome what had happened to her and was strong in the face of adversity. Of course, when I realized who she'd be up against, I knew she couldn't do what needed to be done. A new dilemma formed--how would Ana handle being in the crosshairs of someone she cared about or even loved? 

A whole chapter hit the cutting room floor with a thud.


Since it was written anyway, I thought I'd share it here for the Fatal fans.



©2015 Belinda Frisch All Rights Reserved

The Marion police department fitness facility smelled like a combination of moth balls and gym socks, the former, Mike said, was an attempt at mitigating the chipmunk problem that had developed over the prolonged winter. Situated in the oldest section of the precinct, the gym had a welcoming worn-in feeling that made Ana nostalgic for the times her late father took her there as a child.

Sweat beaded along Ana’s forehead and rolled into her eyes. She wiped it away with her t-shirt, discarding the shirt onto the floor. Her sports bra clung to her damp skin and her auburn hair was soaked through, barely able to stay back in the short ponytail that had her wishing she hadn’t cut it into layers. Her body ached from the non-stop training she knew would leave her with bruises. She didn’t care. Heavy training ought to hurt.

Ana focused on Louis Cross who had worked with the force for the better part of a decade. Six-feet-two, over two hundred pounds of solid muscle, Louis as a makeshift attacker was nothing short of worst case scenario. The sweat glistening on his olive skin said she had given him a run for his money. An hour of self-defense training extended to almost two, every part of her aching except for her confidence which swelled with pride.

“Ready to go again?” Louis said.

Ana nodded, exhausted, but invigorated. “One more time.” She positioned herself in front of him and waited for an attack. Louis had stopped telling her which direction he was coming from months ago, teaching her to think on her feet.

Louis grabbed her firmly, holding her with one hand behind her wrist. Ana drew her elbow in, and snaked her pointed hand around his arm in a corkscrew motion and broke his grip.

“Good,” he said. “Very good.”

He shook out his arm and put his hand on her left shoulder, moving stealthily into a new position and shouting to break her concentration. She wouldn’t be swayed. She yelled back, held his hand in position, and twisted his arm away from her so that his elbow was exposed. She delivered a fake hit that in real life would have forced his elbow the wrong way.

Seven months ago, when they had started training Louis had taken it easy on her. Now he came after her with all he had, saying an attacker wouldn’t take it easy on her because she was a woman.

Ironically, it had been a woman who had attacked her.

“Last one.” Louis moved around Ana and grabbed her from behind, pinning her arms against her chest. She could feel his heart pounding and his breath hot on her neck. She stepped out to the side, planting one foot on the ground and locking his knee from behind with the other. She twisted her body until her elbows pointed at his face, and stepped back to get distance between them.

“Perfect,” Louis said breathlessly. “How did that feel?”

“Good. Real good.” Ana wiped down with her drenched shirt, wishing she had remembered a towel. “But it’s easy to get out of a hold when we’re both soaked with sweat.”

Louis sipped from his water bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hands. “Don’t do that. Don’t belittle what you’re doing here. You’re really getting the hang of this.”

Ana smiled. “Thank you for keeping this between us. The last thing I want is more attention. I keep going back to how I felt when Noreen had me tied up to that chair. I kept thinking what I could’ve done differently …”

“You’re only a victim if you let yourself to be.” Louis set his hand on her shoulder, not to test her, but to comfort her. “There are two types of people in this world: people who run from what happened and people who prepare in case it happens again. You didn’t let Noreen take anything from you.”

Ana nodded, her thoughts in the basement of Dorian’s cabin where she had been set up to die. “You’re right about that.”

She had replayed the kitchen struggle between herself and Noreen more times than she could count. She saw the ways out now, ways that didn’t involve someone else having to rescue her. Mike and Jared had saved her life. She didn’t want anyone to have to do that for her ever again.

“Same time next week?” Louis asked.

Ana heart was still racing from exertion. “If you’re up to it.”

Friday, July 3, 2015

I Can't Read This Book Again, or Can I?




Yesterday was one of those, "I can't do it!" days. I posted this on my FB author page:

"There comes a time when you either humor the shiny new idea or force yourself to fine tune the work you've been reading for months.

The latter is difficult. Forcing anything when you're writing is akin to creative suicide.

One of the perks of self-publishing is the lack of deadlines. I can juggle whichever projects suit me rather than procrastinating.

Whenever I'm not in the mood to edit, my house is spotless, my dogs look fresh from the groomers, and I cook with reckless abandon. I'll do anything I can to avoid writing (or I'll force myself to sit and rather than producing I'll socially network).

This isn't the best course of action for someone working on building a career. To that end I'm going to shifting gears, letting FATAL INTENTION marinate while I get back to Strandville. I have all the time in the world to turn this book in. Why not follow my gut? Speaking of guts, DEPARTURE promises to be full of them! In the meantime, CURE is permafree on all e-reader platforms. If you haven't read books one and two, now's your chance to catch up. Reviews are always appreciated."


...and I meant it yesterday.

I have had it with the same story. Entering the third draft of FATAL INTENTION, it's hard to be objective or even interested in writing it anymore--like that piece of gum you chew until it's flavorless. This is all I've been working on for something like six months and I need a break.

Some would argue that it's time to step away (a day ago I would've been in that camp), but now's the perfect time for me to be critical. Any lags in the narrative are as visible as they'll ever be. While I am plagued by the urge to work on DEPARTURE, it's time to finish FI, to get it out for editing, and to submit it to my publisher. 

There will always be a shiny new idea. An author friend of mine asked me the other day my opinion on him starting a new project or continuing a sequel he's already tens of thousands of words into. I think the answer is to stay the course otherwise nothing will ever get finished. It's time for me to take my own advice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

50 Shades of Roasted: EL James Gets Burned


EL James is probably fifty shades of mortified following the roast that stemmed from the Twitter hashtag #AskELJames.

Among my personal faves are tweets like: " Can you confirm that you will be writing the story of Ramsay Bolton from his perspective, showing he is just misunderstood?"

and

"Did you see the abusive relationship of Bella and Edward and think "hmm needs more abuse" "



No matter where you stand on the 50 Shades phenom (and I'm firmly in the just say no camp), EL James is laughing all the way to the bank. Folks have taken to the Internet to either pile on the insults or to support the author's right to speak freely. I'm not here to do either, really. I'm a realist and realistically, the PR people should've seen this coming a mile away. When you give someone as polarizing as EL James a platform it's like Twitterviewing Hitler. Sure a few Nazis might turn up to support him, but mostly you're asking for trouble. James's supporters must've all been reading GREY while this interview was happening because one look at the hashtag shows nothing but poo flinging, torches, and pitchforks.

I could take this opportunity to speak out as so many have against the bullies, but this is the Internet age and there are bound to be keyboard vigilantes. Like EL James's moronic protagonist, it is our job as authors big and small to take abuse. I know, they didn't tell you than when you spilled your heart and soul out in your magnum opus. Either that, or you didn't read the fine print.

Instead of climbing on my soapbox, I decided to have a laugh and meme the hell out of some of my absolute favorite negative reviews of my work. All quotes are taken from Amazon reviews. 

EL James, I doubt you're reading this, but if you vanity search yourself and have landed here by some miracle, know you're not alone. We all get burned sometimes.

Please note: I did not correct reviewer grammar.






What's your favorite burn of your work? I might be inclined to offer up a prize for the best one in comments.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Fatal Intention" Update


Great news if you enjoyed Fatal Reaction

Fatal Intention is about to enter third draft. What does this mean as far as release date? Probably not much but the third draft is my last before the  novel goes to my first reader, the talented Matt Schiariti. The fourth draft (after he critiques) will be the one that gets sent to Thomas & Mercer with fingers crossed.



What can I tell you about it? First, it's always great to get back to favorite characters. Ana is at the center of a series of medical murders that has some of Fatal Reaction's cast in hot water. When a connection to the Sydney Dowling case is discovered, everyone is either a victim or a suspect. There is a bit of tension between Ana and Ethan now that she's chosen to be with Jared and Colby's not giving up without a fight.

One of the things that I struggle with when writing medical murders is coming up with a new twist or squashing some misconception. In Fatal Reaction the centerpiece of the drama was an experimental uterine transplant program. I won't reveal the secret of Fatal Intention, but it deals with something I have seen done wrong in movies and on television. Can someone really be killed this way? Sure, but it's not as easy as you think.

I have a few new chapters to write next week to finish this off. Some of you might remember the April Fool's joke my thumb drive played on me where my entire book file corrupted (along with all of my backups). For someone whose backups have backup, this was a startling catastrophe and nearly the end of this novel. 

Fortunately, I was able to salvage all but the last few thousand words, giving way to a substantially changed ending. I toiled over whether or not to make this the beginning of a spin-off series. Do the characters end here? Maybe. Maybe not. No, that's not a tease. I'm finishing this story, Sydney's story, and if the characters do come back it will be a different venue. Most likely the future of the series will be up to (at least in part) the publisher.

What's next? Well, I'm self-publishing Departure later this year (early next year if I decide to multitask this and a thriller I have in mind). I've already written the first several chapters and look forward to spending some time in post-apocalyptic Strandville. It's been a tough month full of distractions, there's been a lot of back and forth with Fatal Intention,  but I'm finally seeing the proverbial light in the tunnel. Thankfully, it's not a train.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Poe-gress: A Month of Training a Stubborn Mini Aussie


Almost exactly a month ago we brought home Poe, a tenacious eight-week-old miniature Australian Shepherd who turned out to be nothing like the puppy we had met four weeks earlier in a crowded whelping box. 

We thought he was quiet, subdued, and unlikely to be much trouble. Boy were we fooled. He is (as the breed is touted to be) high energy in spurts. He's Velociraptor clever and hardheaded. He knows my buttons and pushes them whenever he thinks he's not getting his share of attention. I wanted a smart dog, but there's such a thing as too smart.

Training this guy has been an exercise in trickery and a battle of wills. First, let me say that if you get a dog known to be a "Velcro" dog and you work from home, expect it to be challenging to ever leave said dog without hysterics. I've never had one who didn't come to love its kennel. Dakota, my ten-year-old Sheltie tries to kennel herself every time I tell Poe it's "box time."


Don't tell her I said so, but she really doesn't fit.

If you've landed here because you, too, have a brilliant mini Aussie, here are a few things I've learned with my thirteen-week-old that might help, especially if you have a crate hater.

First, we were fortunate enough to have multiple kennels from our two previous dogs--a medium and a large. I bought a small for the living room which he seems to be taking to. We set up a long-term confinement area for him in the basement that we call Poe-land for when we ever have to be out more than an hour or two.


This has food, a bed, toys, and a grass potty box in it now that it's complete. There's cable television, too, so he doesn't get bored. Yes, he seems to watch TV. We rarely use this because he's not a fan but it's nice to know we have it in case. He'd rather be in the living room kennel where he's used to hanging out. Don't get me wrong, he still barks when I leave, but he barks less and eventually settles down. I'm able to monitor him on the home security cameras--a big perk because I was able to ascertain that he likes it better upstairs than down even though there are fewer amenities.

Poe Rule #1: He'll crate where he wants, and just because a pup hates the crate in one location doesn't mean they'll hate it in all locations. Mix it up and see if that helps. Poe has a medium kennel outside our second floor bedroom that we use exclusively for sleeping (to avoid any bad feelings about it) and a small one in the living room that I use sometimes when I'm just sitting here so he doesn't always equate crating with me leaving. He will now (after a month) follow us upstairs and go into the sleeping crate willingly, for a treat. I feed Gerber baby treats to my sugar gliders and the dogs love them, too. 

Poe ONLY gets one when he goes into his crate on his own. NEVER otherwise. He's learned to go inside, sit, and enjoy his treat, making kennelling far less dramatic. If you force a puppy in and close the door behind them, they will come to hate their crate. Sometimes you have to do this (I sure did), but it's better if you can reach middle ground. We have bedtime licked. Hallelujah!

His hours are suspect at best, but we went from getting up every couple of hours to getting up at 4:30 AM after going to bed around 10:00. This is an improvement, I guess, but I'd like to be able to go back to bed after the 4:30 potty break. I'm working on this. The kennel treat helps and the last two nights I've been able to get him to go back into his crate until 5:30 and 5:45. Progress. If you rush things, you'll be disappointed and frustrated. Sometimes I am going to have to get up and stay up from 4:30. I know that, but we'll work on him occupying himself with toys until 6 if we can get there.

Boundaries have been set with the old dog. Dakota has gone from terrified to I'm old, but I'm not taking your crap. The first three weeks were challenging, but she eventually stood up for herself. This has to happen under a watchful eye, but it's inevitable. Now the two dogs are friends and can co-exist. We try to give our old gal a break from time to time without her feeling slighted.

Poe Tip #1: I find distraction is the best form of behavior correction. I keep a pocket of small treats (or a bag nearby because he has come to know the sound) and he'll come or sit for food even when he's doing bad things. I often trade a treat for my house slipper. This was tough four weeks ago because his stomach wasn't used to treats. We had some bathroom issues, but when his tummy acted up we'd revert to dry food only. At this age, I'm careful to keep his food and treats consistent. Also, wet food tends not to agree with him. He gets it sparingly--the brand the breeder had him on since weaning.

Most folks don't know this about me, but I battle with anxiety. For someone with difficulty adjusting, it's hard to accept a new family member (aka something new to worry about). I over-analyze everything because I just don't know Poe yet, but I'm learning. Every puppy is different and he's had his days where I thought I had to race him to the vet. Damn Internet. I find Googling new symptoms is the absolute worst thing to do. In general (applies to humans, too). Puppies fluctuate in energy and in bathroom habits. Truth. Hard for them not to when they eat everything. If they're fine otherwise, they're probably good. That's unscientific, but a mantra for those who get paranoid at little new thing.

Still, the crate has been our biggest hurdle (a close second to getting him and Dakota to make peace). 

Poe hasn't learned how to pacify himself yet, and I'm hoping he grows out of that. He doesn't like being alone, but he's getting better. He's gone from following me from room to room every time I move to following me just most of the time. 

It's easy if you're anxious to worry about the pup and check on him so often that he feels he's supposed to be with you. Combine that with "Velcro" dog and you get the superglue upgrade. This isn't good for anyone. Sometimes I just tell myself he knows the dog door, and if he pees it cleans up easily enough (yay, hardwood floors and baby gates to protect the carpet). Me taking some time away on a regular basis (crating during showers or floor cleaning) is easing him into being less psycho when I have to go out. Chalk it up to a work-in-progress. Fortunately, as always, my husband is excellent support.

As for the basics, we've mastered sit, lay down, and paw. Come is at-will (his not mine), but if he thinks I have a treat in my pocket, hes much more likely to respond.

Short spurts, treats, and definitely safe toys to keep him company helps with this crate problem. Also, crate when he's tired. If you crate a pup full of piss and vinegar and they hate the crate, this will not help. Speaking of, the little sprout is looking sleepy so that's my cue to shower. If I come up with anything else, I'll let you know.

Happy training!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sharp Objects: A Novel Review

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**MINOR Spoiler ALERT**

Fresh off a Gillian Flynn bender, the last of her books that I’ve read is her debut, Sharp Objects—a novel with a somewhat misleading blurb.

It starts with “Fresh from a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital” with regards to the main character, Chicago transplanted newspaper reporter Camille Preaker. This might be one of the least important points of the book. More importantly, Camille is a serial cutter with a troubled childhood that on the surface appears storybook.

Returning home to Wind Gap, MO to write a story about the deaths of two young girls, Camille must reconcile her feelings about her young sister’s death with the murders happening in present day—two classmates of her thirteen-year-old half-sister who have been murdered and their teeth removed. The complicated and manipulative Amma, the half-sister Camille barely knows, quickly comes to the forefront as a person of interest.

I expected a procedural or at the very least crime drama, but what I got instead was a family drama about a privileged mother who resents her children and whose passive-aggressive behavior had ruined the lives of those closest to her. I figured the twist midway and when the killer is revealed, the motive falls flat.

That being said, Camille is a compelling character—her propensity for self-destruction and recklessness pulled me through the pages. She’s not likable, but she’s interesting. She makes all the wrong decisions (including sex with an 18-year-old who has recently lost his sister and doing hard drugs with Amma, only thirteen), but I got the sense that Camille was too damaged to know better.

Flynn writes in her usual concise but descriptive prose. Pacing is good, plot is decent, characters are interesting, but the ending didn’t quite do it for me. There was a “Free Adora” project mentioned in the afterword that is evocative of her next novel, Dark Places, which had a “Free Ben Day” project. In fact, the books are strikingly similar making Gone Girl the far and away standout. While I didn’t think I loved that one, in hindsight, the book is probably my favorite of the three.

A good read—twisted in the way I’ve come to expect. If you’ve read Flynn’s work before and liked it, you won’t be disappointed. You might, however, think it’s a bit too familiar.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Most Common Question: How to Make Your Indie Novel a Success


If you're here that means my blog title probably got your attention. You're looking for the secret, and I'm afraid dear traveler that I just don't have a good answer to the most commonly asked question: How do I make my novel successful? 

There are variations on the question, like how do I get more exposure, better social media reach, and more reviews, but the bottom line is that authors seek out tips on how to make their book sell.

Are there things you can do? Sure. Guest author AJ Powers highlights some of the more common ways to reach an audience here.

Some other things that may or may not work are:

  • Paid ads. Most often my ads break even. This isn't a windfall by any means, but the increase in Amazon sales rank influences visibility (and on rare occasion I may actually get a new review).
  • Memes and quotes. I pick quotes or passages and turn them into memes that are a great way around the dreaded Twitter character limit. They look cool and quotes are shared more often and with broader reach (Hello, Pinterest). Quozio and other online quote and meme makers are available and this literally takes no time at all to generate.



  • G+ has some great groups. Readers, writers, and marketing gurus gather to chat all things books. I know, I know. You're rolling your eyes right now because it's a special breed of person who has enough time for Facebook, Twitter, and G+ but check it out.
There are other things to try for sure and there is a whole generation of SEO masters that can hashtag with the best of them and climb the Amazon charts, but I'm not one of them. That doesn't stop me from getting the questions from other authors and doing my best to answer. 

I've been fortunate enough to have a novel with some traction so I get asked. How did I do it? I wrote a book (and luck, mostly). Fatal Reaction released in November 2013. It charted within a couple of months after modest paid promotion on affordable sites (not BookBub who perpetually rejects me) and was picked up in October 2014 by Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's mystery and thriller imprint. Peels back the curtain. I didn't do anything for this book that I didn't do for my other marginal sellers.

I know that doesn't help you, but there is evidence to support that no one knows why a book sells or doesn't. Fatal Reaction struck a chord with readers and reached a broader market than anything I've written. I had no expectation of that when I released it. Market saturation and background noise being what they are, it's a miracle anything sells. Sometimes its just that simple.