Shadow Eyes by Dusty Crabtree

Shadow Eyes (Shadow Eyes Series 1) by Dusty Crabtree, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2nd Edition, 328 pages, June 27th, 2016, Genre: Paranormal and Urban, Young Adult. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“Shadow Eyes” is a story about good versus evil. It’s also a story about feeling imprisoned by false feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, feelings each of us has had at some point in our lives, particularly during our teenage years. It has been said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In “Shadow Eyes”, this lesson is learned through a series of struggles by Iris Kohl.

Iris Kohl is a seventeen-year-old girl whose life seems typical: she has divorced parents, two older sisters, a couple of close friends at school, and a favorite teacher. But there’s nothing typical about Iris herself. After a traumatic event on her fourteenth birthday, Iris gained the ability to see “shadows”. These shadows are really more like demons, invisible, but influencing them subliminally, hanging on their shoulders. These shadows don’t appear to have the ability to force people to behave a certain way; rather, they wait until the person is in a difficult situation fraught with negative emotions. This is their opportunity to pounce, to subtly influence a person to step over the line and commit an immoral act they were already tempted to commit in a moment of weakness. The shadows terrify Iris and she pretends not to see them most of the time. She learns to stay away from people who are surrounded and infested with them, for her own safety. The more she observes the shadows, the more Iris comes to believe people are truly wicked, and that she’s powerless to do anything to change it. Iris makes friends with some new students at school, Patrick and Kyra. Kyra sets an example for Iris to follow by helping those in the grips of the shadows and works to build up Iris’ self-esteem. Patrick, meanwhile, is crying out for help, filled with guilt over things he has done. As Iris sees her own family being pounced on and influenced by the shadows, she knows she can no longer sit by the sidelines. She has to gain enough confidence to make a difference. She has to act.

My favorite character, hands down, was Kyra. Filled with security, peace, confidence, and concern for others, Kyra is a role model for the others to follow. She allows her friends to make their own choices, but is always only a moment away in their time of need. Iris makes a good choice when she befriends and looks up to Kyra.

The story was well-written and centered more on characters and their challenges than on plot twists. I enjoyed watching Iris learn and grow as a character and I’m curious where her newfound purpose and sense of confidence will take her. I’d recommend this book to anyone- but especially to young adults- who likes paranormal stories of good versus evil.

This book is available on Amazon at Shadow Eyes.

Interview with Maria Mayer, author of “Crone”

Eerie, Ominous!

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Maria Mayer

Today I’m delighted to have Maria Mayer, author of “Crone”, here on my blog. Thanks for agreeing to be on the author spotlight!

I’m so excited to be a guest on your author spotlight. Thank you so much for having me.

Leigh: Your bio says you’re a Michigan native. Tell us a little about yourself and about Michigan.

I grew up in a suburb just north of Detroit. We witnessed the Big D’s rapid deterioration after two of the three automakers pulled out. That was the beginning of the end, but I do have fond memories of concerts, festivals, incredible fireworks displays, and outdoor ice skating at Hart Plaza, with my mother constantly reminding us ‘not to make eye contact’, ‘don’t open your purse’, ‘put toilet paper on the seat’, you get the idea. When it was still called the Detroit Zoo, we used to go with regularity. Me being an animal lover, I stooped to pet the cute little chipmunk sitting near one of the animal enclosures. My father grabbed my hand just as I was about to pet a giant rat! Hey, I was only 5.

The neighborhood was reminiscent of the burg Janet Evanovich describes in the Stephanie Plum novels – everybody knew everybody, and it was a gossip-cigarette-bourbon fest at the Bingo fundraisers instead of the beauty salons. We lived in a typical middle class, brick, ranch style home complete with creepy basement….where it all began, muhahaha!

Leigh: “Crone” is based on an urban legend in Michigan. What do the legends say about her? Have there been any sightings?

My sister and I always had pajama parties, and part of the festivities in addition to junk food and giggling all night were the story circles. We couldn’t wait to jump into the latest rumors, sightings and shrill screams heard coming from the uninhabitable stretch of woods behind the local elementary school. That despicable hag is real. I’m here to tell you there is something to the legend!

Yes! There have been evil faces in bonfires, but that was before the advent of cell phones. Still, some faces have been captured and can probably even be Googled. There were ominous black shadows and people gone missing after sitting in the cemetery calling to her. The UL goes back more than 6 decades. I referenced true-to-life events and embellished them like any imaginative writer would, lol, but I swear to you I heard the sinister laughing. My whole body went primal and I felt like a small rodent being stalked by a predator. It’s a feeling I can’t shake to this day when I’m alone in the dark.

Leigh: How has your professional and educational background helped you write?

Funny you should ask. I started out like any other aspiring pre-med student, but jumped ship to Pathology, earning a BS degree in Mortuary Science. Freaky me, I soon realized I was more interested in the science and technical end of things. Before long I was assisting then Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Werner Spitz, who was an expert witness in the OJ Simpson trial! Guess who was privy to all the evidence, documentation and court testimony…that’s right! I did a post-secondary training circuit at a huge medical facility in Oakland County, Michigan, where I learned how to perform autopsies. No! Bodies do not sit up randomly or move involuntarily, just in case you wondered. The rest is just my obsession with all things paranormal and a lot of humor to get through life.

Leigh: “Crone:” is the first in the Scarlet St. James series. What do readers have to look forward to as the series continues? Anything you can tell us without giving too much away?

I love the recurring characters in the Scarlet St. James series. Everybody knows that two Seers can’t co-exist for any length of time, right? Dum dum duuum, one of the Seers must go! Since both Scarlet and her 7-year-old niece Olivia have the gift, I had to come up with a solution. I love Scarlet and Crone because both antagonist and protagonist are formidable and fierce in their own right. The next novel has an equally strong female antagonist the readers will not soon forget.

Because Scarlet is a paranormal PI called in on special cases, there is a wealth of eerie, haunting, evil supernatural events ordinary people have experienced that can lead to inexplicable deaths to choose from. Rest assured Scarlet’s support systems, both dead and alive, will not abandon her on her next case. I scanned some of the newspaper obits and wrongful deaths reported in Michigan, where I will base the majority of my stories out of, and let my wild imagination do the rest.

Leigh: Which authors have influenced your writing the most? Do you have a favorite author?

At some point I started following Ken Follett, Robert Ludlum and Patricia Cornwell, back when “following” meant something different. I love the diversity. To be honest, The Thornbirds was my childhood favorite, then I grew up and discovered Michael Slade – by far my biggest influence. The novels had all the elements a horror fan could want, and all were based on actual cases in Canada.

Leigh: Zak, Nick, or Aaron?

Zak man, hands down. All 3 are amazing, but I’ve always had a secret thing for ZB. Too bad he won’t give me the time of day. I gave him a shout out on the Acknowledgements page in my book, offered to send him a free signed author’s copy, reached out to him on Twitter and nothing, lol. Crickets chirping.

Leigh: What TV shows and films do you enjoy?

Of course, I loved Bates Motel and am so disappointed the last season was on Netflix, boo! I’m an avid Columbo fan, and watch Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Lockdown pretty much every weekend. I love Shark Week, am addicted to the Planet Earth series, and don’t laugh – Finding Bigfoot! There are so many undiscovered species, who are we to think we know of every living creature out there? That’s my justification and I’m sticking to it.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Come to Florida and hang out with me is one option. I’m a pretty private person and lie about my age, height and weight every chance I get, but I do have a Twitter address, FB page, Google profile. I’d stay away from trying to connect with former teachers and bosses, they all hate me, lol. JK not sure if they do or not.

Website: Novels by Maria Mayer

Facebook: CRONE, Book Series

Twitter: @realMariaMayer

Lnkedin: Maria Mayer

Amazon Author Page: Maria Mayer, author of Crone

Maria Mayer (fyi, there are 2 authors with the same name)

Goodreads: Mayer, Maria

Thank you, Maria, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

It was my pleasure and a true honor. Thank you for the opportunity to connect with your fan base. You have changed my life.

Blessedly Bound (An Elemental Witch Trials Novel Book One) by Lucretia Stanhope

Blessedly Bound (An Elemental Witch Trials Novel Book One) by Lucretia Stanhope, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, February 6th, 2017, 218 pages, Genre: Paranormal. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Blessedly Bound features a female witch as the main protagonist, depicting magic as a blend of shamanistic abilities and energy manipulation. After hundreds of years in Western culture of witches being depicted in an incredibly negative light, it’s refreshing to read a story in which they’re presented in a more positive manner. Although the genre is listed as paranormal, I’d also ascribe elements of romance and mystery to the work.

Gwen Hensley is a witch, a woman born with innate potential to tap into the natural elements and thereby use power for either good or evil as each witch sees fit. Gwen comes from a long line of witches. Raised in an orphanage since an infant, after the death of her mother, Gwen has never known her family but has always dreamed of finding a place and people to belong with. Gwen has a familiar, Lewis, who takes the shape of a raven or a man as needed and has been Gwen’s best friend and closest companion most of her life. Bonded to her, his job is to teach Gwen magic and boost her power. When her grandmother, Lizzy, is murdered, Gwen and Lewis arrive on the scene to solve the murder and inherit her sizeable estate. Traipsing about town, Gwen gets to know Lizzy’s friends and joins her knitting circle as she prepares for a memorial for her grandmother. Among Lizzy’s friends is the attractive, suave Sebastian. Sparks fly between them as Lewis grows envious over time.

Lewis is quite possibly the worst familiar ever. He teaches Gwen nothing, yet teaching her magic is his job. Lewis broke her heart when he rejected her romantic advances prior to the onset of the book. Apparently, if a familiar and his witch become romantically involved, the bond between them is broken, weakening them both magically. He treats her as a child, making choices that affect her future without her consent. Gwen, for her part, is a very young and inexperienced lady and witch, struggling to discover her family’s past and forge her own identity. Lewis makes mistakes, resenting his witch for his own romantic and magical frustrations. I was rooting for Lewis and Gwen to find a way to end up together, but by the end of the book, I decided Lewis needed to do some serious soul searching and maturing before he’d be the right fit for Gwen, as either a familiar or a lover. Gwen needs to grow and come into her own before she will be ready to commit to someone with all her heart, so I was satisfied that no permanent commitments were made. Sebastian is an intriguing character with a past still not fully revealed. The most mature of the trio, he serves as a balancing force and mentor for Lewis and Gwen.

There were two themes in the work that stood out to me. From the romantic aspect, this was about longing, reaching out for the fruits of love but never quite touching them. Every interaction seems to be permeated with this longing. I’ll never look at knitting the same way again. The second theme is about unpleasant truths. We like to think that honesty is always the best policy and truth is a goodness. But things aren’t always so clear cut. “Sometimes the illumination of truth makes things darker.”

The book was well written, but the mystery’s solution was predictable. I wish the mystery had been more difficult to solve as I relish an element of mystery in any genre. Overall, I enjoyed reading Blessedly Bound. I’d recommend this to those who enjoy a paranormal series featuring a non-traditional magical female protagonist, particularly if the reader enjoys romance and the interplay between male rivals.

This book is available at Amazon at “Blessedly Bound”.

Interview With Sojourner McConnell

KentuckyAuthors!Banner

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Sojourner McConnell

Today I’m delighted to host the author of “Who’s That in The Cat Pajamas?”, Sojourner McConnell, at my author spotlight. Thanks for being here!

Leigh: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am delighted to talk to you and share about myself and my work. I am a writer, and I am also a mother of 3 grown children and grandmother of 13 ranging in age from 16 to one year.  I am also the dog mom to Beau. He is my Australian Shepherd and my little time keeper. He keeps me on schedule.  When I am not writing, I am enjoying a good book, writing reviews on them, or blogging.  It is a favorite pastime to find fun things to blog about, funny moments, exciting events, favorite memories, and cute dog and kid pictures.

Leigh: Why did you decide to write children’s books? What attracts you to this genre?

I love children’s books. If you look on my Goodreads pages, you will see I love children’s books and always have. I still love a good Nancy Drew, The Secret Garden, and new releases. They make me happy and I do not have to write in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I am not a romance writer, or a mystery writer.  I write about hope and fixing problems basically.  I am now very happy to call myself a children’s writer.

Leigh: Where did the inspiration for the story behind “Who’s That in The Cat Pajamas?” come from?

I was requested by one of my granddaughters to write a book she could read. I took that request to heart and started writing a book about a fairy. A fairy that helps children with problems and troubles. When two of these grandchildren had to leave Kentucky and move to Michigan, it was hard on us all. This book is how I would have liked to help them adjust to the idea if they had been older, and I had been a fairy.  Many parts of the story are true in the adjustment period they went  through and Dolcey was able to help them see how fortunate they are to be living in this modern age.

Leigh: What is the first book you remember reading as a child? How do you feel about that book now?

I remember my very first book that I fell in love with was Mike Mulligan and The Steam Shovel. It was in a weekly reader pamphlet and my Grandparents bought it for me. I cherished that book and the illustrations. My sister and I still talk about Mike and his steam shovel.

Leigh: How is writing a book for children different from writing a book for adults?

My first book was a bit of a Young Adult book and I wrote about more mature subjects.  Sadness was more emotional and the storyline was a little darker.  Still with hope and difficult choices. Writing a children’s book gave me the opportunity to embrace the innocence of childhood. The problems are just as real for children, but they see things in a more black and white sense. The solutions need to come from their own decisions with prompting and guidance. I believe Melanie in The Path of the Child would have loved a fairy to help her see the light at the end of the tunnel. Both age brackets have a power and a beauty to me.  It is just the characters that are allowed to join in the telling of the story.

Leigh: Has being a Kentuckian shaped your writing? If so, in what ways?

I enjoy giving hints about Kentucky. I am from Alabama originally so I have used both places as the background for books and stories. It allows me to write in a southern accent so to speak. With southern rather old-fashioned ways. I find it is a gentle way to view life. I have been asked if I really say things like by George, dad gum it, and dog gone. I do, and my characters do.  My children talk like that too. I didn’t realize no one else was saying it.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

 Website: Http://sojournermcconnell.blogspot.com

Blog: https://vickgoodwin.wordpress.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThePageTurner1

Lnkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/vickigoodwin/

Pinterest: Pinterest Link

Amazon Author Page: Amazon Author Page for Sojourner McConnell

Smashwords: Smashwords Profile

Book Links:   http://tinyurl.com/mdw5q7m

Amazon -Sojourner McConnell

Goodreads: Sojourner McConnell at Goodreads

Thank you, Sojourner, very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Crone: A Scarlet St. James Novel by Maria Mayer

Eerie, Ominous!

Crone: A Scarlet St. James Novel by Maria Mayer, 478 pages, Archway Publishing, December 15th, 2015, Format: Kindle, Genre: Horror. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Those who go looking for trouble will most likely find it. In Crone, those who’ve gone looking for trouble reap what they’ve sown. The story deals with a recurring set of crimes in Michigan, a serial killer who returns every thirty years to murder several men, then disappear. So far, nobody has connected the crimes, much less discovered any clues as to the true nature of the killer. Over the course of the book, the slayings and events leading up to them are recounted in horrifying, spine-chilling detail.

The murders take place in 1954, 1984, and 2014, respectively. Although events from the 1954 killings are mentioned, the main focus flips between the events in 1984 and 2014. Men are toyed with, psychologically tormented, ripped apart slowly, and devoured; pawns in a deadly cosmic battle between an immortal, evil witch and her demonic lover and master. While the police have tried to solve the crimes in prior years, forensics was unheard of in the 1950’s and barely used in 1984. However, this time they have forensic evidence to help them solve the crimes. As the mortifying evidence develops, clue by clue, they can’t believe what it suggests. Enter Scarlet St. James- a Private Detective, contractor for the cops, devoted sister and aunt, and an intuitive warrior against unseen evil forces.

Eerie and ominous, I felt there was a good balance between frightening, creepy material and grim, graphic descriptions. The primary theme was good versus evil. Evil can never be truly defeated by good; but the reverse is also true. There is a cosmic interplay between forces that at times produces horrific events, at other times, the very things that make life worth living as a simple mortal being. We can’t completely defeat evil, but we can drive it back and shine the light. The plot gets right into the characters and action but doesn’t provide a hook. I felt the intention was to slowly build anticipation and a sense of horror.

The Unholy 5 were bad boys who became obsessed with the occult. Biting off more than they could chew, they met what they’d been seeking, realizing too late what they’d done. It was gratifying to see them get what they deserved. I identified most strongly with the title character. While not perfect, Scarlet has many admirable qualities. Devoted to her family, fiercely protective of her loved ones, and dedicated to doing the right thing regardless of how terrifying it would be, Scarlet St. James was a likeable and relatable character.

I liked reading Crone. I’m interested to see where Mayer takes this character and the series. As a lifelong fan of Stephen King, I could feel his influence in sections of Mayer’s writing. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series. I’d recommend this book to fans of the horror genre.

Find this book on Amazon at Crone.

Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas by Sojourner McConnell

KentuckyAuthors!BannerWho’s That in the Cat Pajamas? (The Dolcey Series Book 1) By Sojourner McConnell, Illustrated by Ellie Barrett, 40 pages, June 2nd 2017, ISBN: 978-1545150269, Genre: Multigenerational, Children’s Books, Family Life. Format: Kindle. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

The age range for this book is listed as 5-12 years of age. I confess that I’m way older than 12, but I adored this cute children’s tale. Nobody likes dealing with change, particularly when you’re a child with no control over where you live. Change is difficult for everyone, but sometimes all that’s needed to embrace it is viewing it with a new set of eyes and a new attitude.

The fairy Dolcey has a special ability she learned from her mother. With this skill, she can find and help children who are sad or have a big problem. Dolcey finds Emily Patton, a little girl who is scared of moving to a new place. Dolcey befriends Emily in the form of a cat by wearing cat pajamas. By day, Dolcey is a lovable, cold, hungry stray whom the family decides to take in. By night, she is a fairy, helping Emily come to terms with the changes approaching in her life.

The book slowly provides children with the lesson that while change is hard and even scary, change can also be a wondrous adventure; an opportunity of a lifetime. Parents love their kids and make decisions they feel are best for them and the entire family as a whole. Trusting your parents can make change less difficult. Just as the kitty cat came into a new environment not knowing what to expect and found a loving home with new people, so too will Emily be able to make a new and happy life in her new town.

The illustrations in the book were cute, colorful, and fit the story perfectly. The writing was on par with the reading level for the target age range and evoked magical images to captivate the reader. I’d recommend this book to parents with kids between 5 and 12 years of age- not just for the kids to enjoy, but also the parents.

It’s available at Amazon at Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas?

About the Author:

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. Sojourner McConnell lives in Winchester, Kentucky with one of her daughters and three of her thirteen grandchildren. She has six grandchildren in Alabama and four that live in Michigan. Sojourner’s new book is a children’s chapter book, Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas which will release June 2, 2017. Her next book, Blip, is a sci-fi book with humor and intrigue and is due out by December 2017. The Path of the Child, The Power of Forgiveness, and 31 Days of October are available in paperback and in eBook format on Amazon and other retailers. Sojourner brings a taste of strong personalities with a healthy dose of southern charm to her characters. As co-founder and part of the organizing team of Mystery Thriller Week, she has become fascinated with writing a mystery of her own. In fact, there might be a little mystery woven into one of the two books she is writing at present. When not writing, she is busy entertaining her Australian Shepherd, Beau. Unfortunately, Beau tends to get jealous when she spends too much time working on the computer.

Monarchy by Laura Pritchard

A Dystopian Nightmare

Monarchy by Laura Pritchard, 233 pages, April 26th 2017, Genre: Dystopian. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Monarchy is a futuristic dystopian novel reminiscent of “The Hunger Games”. What will a person do to survive? Will they betray their morals? How far will they go? How will the bitter trials one must endure for survival in a threatening world change those who go through them?

In humanity’s past, we became divided into the extremely wealthy and the horrifyingly impoverished. With wealth unequally distributed, the poor turned to crime to survive. Disease, famine, and misery ruled mankind, with the exception of a wealthy few. A revolution changed the social order, as it always seems to in such circumstances. A new, perfected social order was established under the elusive “Monarchy”; a world where nobody goes hungry or lacks for basic needs such as clothing, shelter, medicine, or food. The cost of this perfection is the loss of privacy and a controlled society in which young adults are taken, trained, and assigned roles in the society. Most of those taken from the various sectors are thrilled to be part of the society and to serve. However, some are not- such as Constance, the heroine, and a few of the other recent recruits she’s training alongside. Constance manages to create loyalty among her group for each other rather than the Monarchy. This is forbidden. The only loyalty can be to the Monarchy. The trainers torture them through a series of brutal tests, culminating with one that breaks their loyalty to one another. Finally, they are ready for their assignments. Constance is assigned as a tower guard, a prestigious position for a new recruit. However, Constance learns about the horrible events happening around the various sectors and her doubts about the efficacy and goodwill of the Monarchy continue to grow. She wonders if she will ever see home and her father again.

Written in the first person, the reader identifies easily with Constance and her love of home and family, her uncertainty about the future. The plot was straightforward, the book well-written, and the main character well-developed. This book leaves off on a cliffhanger and is part of an upcoming trilogy of works. I enjoyed reading Monarchy. I’d recommend this book to readers who like dystopian novels similar to The Hunger Games.

This book is available at Amazon at Monarchy.

The Amplified by Lauren M. Flauding

Don't Give In!

The Amplified by Lauren M. Flauding, 204 pages, Blurtery Publishing, March 15th 2016, Genre: Dystopian/Young Adult. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

The Amplified is a young adult, dystopian novel set in a world where physical prowess is what determines social status. It explores themes such as peer pressure, societal conditioning, choice and freedom versus security, and forsaking ethics for status. It draws a parallel between our world of image over substance and this fictional world of status based strictly on physical condition. This theme is starkly evident when one of the Amplified characters, Liam, saves Mari’s life, only to have everyone laugh at him for being overweight. Liam is willing to risk death in order to transform his body into one more accepted by others.

Mari Quillen is a fifteen year old girl, living in a society divided into three groups: the Regulars, the Amplified, and the Restrainers. Everyone is born into the Regulars, although the children of the Amplified are of higher status than those born to other Regulars. Mari’s parents were Regulars; in school Mari was bullied for being of lesser birth. She has an older brother and a younger brother. Her father passed away because of a virus and her mother is blind. Her mother picks beans, which are sent away for processing by the government. Nobody eats food anymore; everyone eats capsules which have varying effects. Regulars get only the regular capsules; but Amplified get a variety. Mari’s older brother returns home after four years’ service as an Amplified, fighting against their enemies, the Dissenters, who are made out to be nothing more than savages with pitchforks. Mari doesn’t like how different her brother has become.

Mari decides to go through Amplification regardless, since this is the way to succeed in their society. An amplifier is surgically placed inside her head. Whenever an Amplified issues commands to their amplifier, they are able to perform at superhuman levels in order to achieve the command. As she continues in her training, Mari discovers that not only can they not resist a command they’ve issued to their amplifier once it has been made, but that their are ways for their handlers to override their Amplification units. Indeed, the Override command is used to control them on the battlefield. They kill whether they like it or not. As she uncovers more sinister machinations of the governor, Mari begins to regret ever having chosen to become Amplified.

My favorite character was Mari. She was the only one to see that something was wrong and resist the temptation to forsake her personal values for the sake of societal status. Despite this, Mari, like all of us, is flawed. When her friend clearly was in need, she failed to notice and only managed to be there for her after the crisis had passed. I also liked Liam; I’m holding out hope we’ll see Talina rebel against the governor once and for all in future installments.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading The Amplified. The first chapter started off a bit slow, but once past it, I couldn’t put the book down. The plot was original and the characters were developed; the writing was engaging. Flauding does a masterful job of subtly weaving this dystopian tapestry, crafting a compelling tale and fascinating world. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian or young adult novels.

This book is the first in a series. It can be found at Amazon at The Amplified.

Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon by E.A. Minin

Metaphysical, Philosophical

Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon by E. A. Minin, 223 pages, February 6th, 2017, Genre: Metaphysical Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

What is death? In this new book by E. A. Minin, we follow a young recently deceased soul named Owen through his lessons in Purgatory, the Gray Horizon, where things are neither colorful as in life, nor light or dark as in what’s above and below. The best, most vibrant souls who lived life to the fullest go up when they die, while the ones who’ve been dead shells walking and caused others to have less joy fall below. Everyone else ends up in the Gray Horizon.

Minin does an amazing job of expressing his immersive world of the dead. The world is shown to us through the lessons Owen must learn as he follows his ‘curator’ Dizz. We learn the Gray Horizon is a place where you take on tasks given to you by a colorless bureaucracy in order to ‘level up’. It’s particularly sad seeing Owen have to help his mother let go of him once he’s died. Afterwards, Owen gets a stamp on his ‘passport’ and more areas of the afterlife open up to him and he moves to level two. Owen learns about the various jobs and abilities that members of Purgatory have. Owen has a difficult time navigating relationships and understanding the motivations of the souls he encounters. In many ways, the land of the Gray Horizon isn’t much different from our own.

Owen makes various pronouncements throughout the book, such as “Death is Absurd”, “Death is frank”, “Death is bureaucratic”, all the way to the final one: Death is the boss. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to those who enjoy metaphysical and philosophical questions about death and the afterlife.

This book can be found on Amazon at Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon.

Blood Moon by John David Bethel

Horrifying Suspense!

Blood Moon by John David Bethel, 451 pages, Tell-Tale Publishing Group LLC, December 4th 2016, Genre: Thriller and Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

This horrifying, violent, gritty thriller isn’t for the faint of heart. This gripping, suspenseful novel terrifies, reminding us of how fragile life is. Blood Moon is about justice delayed and justice denied; based on a real crime that happened in the 1990’s in Miami, Florida. The foreword was written by the survivor of these events and the investigator who helped him, driving home how easy it would be for others to do us harm. Justice does finally come- but not with any help from the Miami police.

Recidio Suarez is a good man, a good husband and father, and a hard-working example of the American Dream. He has survived the trials of life, some of them high risk situations, and has worked hard to build an affluent, comfortable life for his wife and kids. Imperfect as we all are, he nevertheless has always striven to do right by others and treat them fairly. That’s one of the reasons it’s so horrifying when his former protege Dario Pedrajo, a man he trusted, trained, and helped succeed in life, turns on him, getting involved in a plot to kidnap, torture, and extort everything the Suarez family has built. Pedrajo falls in with a bad crowd of criminals, headed by a strip club owner named Blaine Nesbit. With the aid of allies Bob Camarillo and Rector, they kidnap Suarez, holding him at a warehouse for weeks where they torture and maim him. They threaten to rape his wife Lina and torture his kids if he doesn’t sign over his bank accounts, businesses, house, and retirement funds to them. The torture he is subjected to is truly gruesome and a sign of how deeply wicked his kidnappers are. Suarez narrowly survives their clumsy attempt to murder him once they’d acquired his assets. The police chief dislikes Suarez’s attorney due to a past grudge and refuses to allow the case to be pursued. It’s only after the murderous crooks bite off more than they can chew and it can no longer be avoided that the police get involved.

The plot is straightforward with justice eventually dispensed in an unconventional but thoroughly satisfying manner. John David Bethel’s writing is excellent. The characters are relatable and believable. The lack of action and the blaming of the victim on the part of the police burns the reader with anger. The intense and at times unnecessary violence perpetrated by the criminals on their helpless prey horrifies and saddens. How can human beings commit such terrible acts against their fellow men? How can the forces we empower to protect us and obtain justice for us turn a blind eye?

I enjoyed Blood Moon and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys true crime stories, suspenseful thrillers, and gritty, hard-hitting tales.

This book is available at Blood Moon at Amazon.

J.K Rowling’s 5 Writing Tips

Photo: Daniel Ogren

J. K. Rowling’s Top 5 Writing Tips

Joanne Rowling was born July 31st, 1965, in Yate, Gloucestershire, England to Peter James Rowling, an aircraft engineer, and Anne Volant, a science technician. She was born with no legal middle name but adopted Kathleen as her middle name for her pen name’s initial. Her parents met while waiting for a train to depart from King’s Cross Station, which is featured prominently in the Harry Potter book series and is now a tourist attraction. She has a younger sister named Dianne. She described her teen years as unhappy due to her mother’s illness and disputes with her father, with whom she is not on speaking terms.

She came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a four-hour delayed train trip from Manchester to London in 1990. It would be several years before the first book would be published. J.K. Rowling’s life is seen as a rags-to-riches story, of a determined author who’d lost her job, living on state welfare benefits while writing Harry Potter, to becoming a billionaire whose books are loved around the world.

J. K. Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter book series and also writes the Cormoran Strike series under the name Robert Galbraith.

Here are her 5 tips:

  1. Write in whatever time you have.
  2. Planning is essential.
  3. Rewriting is just as essential.
  4. Be aware of plot and pacing.
  5. Write your passion.
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“2042” by Leigh Holland released in Hardcover and Large Print editions

“2042: An American 1984” by Leigh Holland has been released in Hardcover and Large Print editions at Leigh’s Lulu Page.

 

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This dystopian novel is the first in a series. It is available in Kindle e-book and paperback formats at 2042 at Amazon.

This book is currently in the top 100 books in its category (Politics and Government Ideologies).

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Leigh Holland’s Interview with Laura Pritchard

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Laura Pritchard

I’m delighted today to be able to host Laura Pritchard, author of “Monarchy”, on my author spotlight! Thanks for being here, Laura!

Thanks so much for having me Leigh!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Laura Pritchard and I am from a small town in the South Wales Valleys in the United Kingdom. I am a teacher by day and an author by night! I currently teach music to children who have been expelled from school. I have written for as long as I can remember! I have distinct memories of filling notebooks with stories from a very young age.

Leigh: “Monarchy” seems to me to be similar in some ways to other YA Dystopian fiction, such as “The Hunger Games”. How much have other Dystopian writers influenced your work? What are your favorite novels in this genre?

I have always read young adult fiction as I found myself unable to move on from that genre. My favorite authors like John Marsden and JK Rowling are still firm additions to my bookshelves. Reading so much YA meant that my novels naturally fell into that genre and dystopia is one of my favorite YA adult settings. I think that my favorite modern dystopia is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as it has all of the elements of a classic dystopia and her world building skills are first class. I came up with the initial story for my novel about 2 years ago and have put all of my time and effort into perfecting it since then. Being a mum to 2 young children and a secondary school Music teacher alongside means I have become a professional life juggler and I try to fit as much writing time as I can!

Leigh: What draws you to the Dystopian genre?

One of the first dystopian novels I ever read was The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Attwood. I was assigned this book for the reading section of my English Literature A Level and read it so many times during that time but always managed to find something different after each read. It is what introduced me to the idea of dystopia and how worlds can be controlled in so many ways and also taught me about the theme of rebellion. It is definitely something that has featured as a huge inspiration for Monarchy, my first novel.

Leigh: Which actors would you like to see playing the major characters in “Monarchy” if there were a movie made of it?

What an amazing question! I can imagine Constance being played by a soft, willowy actress but with a firm mind. Someone like Emma Watson or Amanda Seyfried. For Calloway, someone quite self-assured who would be able to throw some power into the role. If we are talking ideal world then it would have to Ryan Gosling!

Leigh: What are some of your favorite films and tv shows?

I love to watch (and read!) gritty crime dramas. My partner and I have recently finished watching Designated Survivor starring Keifer Sutherland. Similarly, I’m have just finished the second book in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Steig Larrson. I love complex crime plots that keep you guessing until the very end. Similarly, I hope that my books take on that characteristic. I love cliff hangers and have ended Monarchy on a huge cliff hanger. I want the audience to be thinking about what happens after the novel has ended.

Leigh: What’s your favorite motivational quote?

Tying into my earlier answers, it has to be “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” which is taken from The Handmaids Tale. It has resurfaced recently due to the novel being made into a TV drama in the US. It is definitely a motto for my life and for writing in particular. Stay positive no matter what. This is such a tough industry to break into and you will be knocked down time and time again. The main thing is to have belief in what you are doing and to keep going as there will be so many points when everything seems worthless. Have passion in what you write and use that passion to drive you onward with your ideas.

Leigh: Why did you choose the Indie route over traditional publishing? What advantages did you find in this publishing route?

I self-published simply for the fact that I wanted people to have access to my novel. I have so much love for it and wanted to be able to share that with people. To me, having my work read is much more important than having my work sold and having reviews showing people sharing that love for my writing makes me feel like I have succeeded.

Leigh: If you could meet one famous person from history, who would it be and why?

Again, another good question! I’d love to meet Anne Frank. I recently holidayed in Budapest and spent a lot of time visiting WW2 sites. In particular, something that struck me was the Jewish graveyard which was the burial place of so many young children who were killed in the Holocaust. The fact that Anne Frank wrote about her experiences during such an awful time is heroic and I find her novel fascinating.

Leigh: What are your hobbies?

In my spare time, I run a children’s choir and an adult’s choir. I love singing and arranging music so it’s one of my favorite things to do. We sing in the local community in churches, schools and private venues. We’ve also ventured into weddings this year! I also read as much as I can. Books are an evening pastime for me and I prefer a good book than sitting down to watch TV!

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

My novel is available on Amazon and Smashwords. I am in the process of building my social media platform so keep an eye out for my Facebook and Twitter pages soon!

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Monarchy-Trilogy-Book-1-ebook/dp/B071NH99VQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497862077&sr=8-1&keywords=laura+pritchard

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/723257

Goodreads: Laura Pritchard on Goodreads

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview, Laura!

4 Perspectives For Writing: Which Works Best For You?

There are three traditional perspectives, or “point of view”, a writer can write from.

These are:

  1. FIRST PERSON

When writing in first person, the pronoun used is “I”. Example:

“Running at top speed, I turned the corner into the alley, hoping to lose the hired competition trailing me. Never glance behind you, because it means you’re not looking in front of you. I glanced back as I made the turn, and felt a hard arm slam into my chest, knocking me off my feet to the ground. I sprang to my feet instantly despite gasping for air, but two more “Mils” came at me. One grabbed the package, the other punched me in the chest so I’d let go of it.

I doubled over in pain and started to catch my breath. Damn, my chest ached. “That’s no way-” I panted, “to treat a lady.””

First Person is usually used when incorporating personal examples into an essay, in autobiographies, and in hard-boiled detective fiction. The advantage of writing in this perspective is the reader knows your character inside out. A connection is made and maintained with ease. The downside is that as a writer, you can only tell the story from one character’s point of view. We can only show what he or she knows and experiences. Roughly 10% of fiction is written in this perspective.

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2. SECOND PERSON

When writing in second person, the pronoun used is “you”. Example:

“Running at top speed, you turned the corner into the alley, hoping to lose the hired competition trailing you. Never glance behind you, because it means you’re not looking in front of you. You glanced back as you made the turn, and felt a hard arm slam into your chest, knocking you off your feet to the ground. You sprang to your feet instantly despite gasping for air, but two more “Mils” came at you. One grabbed the package, the other punched you in the chest so you’d let go of it.

You doubled over in pain and started to catch your breath. Damn, your chest ached. “That’s no way-” you panted, “to treat a lady.””

Second Person is usually found in niche works such as “Choose Your Own Adventure” style series books. Readers consider second person to be highly annoying, which is why writers rarely use it.

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3. THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT

When writing in this perspective, the writer has the advantage of using multiple characters to tell the story through. The author is a deity-like narrator, relaying events to the reader as an all-knowing, nameless observer. A word of caution- limit the frequency with which the characters are switched back and forth to tell the story and make it CLEAR when the switch has occurred. Readers won’t appreciate thinking it’s Betty May in the scene only to discover at the end it was being told from the perspective of Sylvester all along.

This is the most popular point of view for fiction writers, making up almost 90% of all fiction written. The pronouns used are “she”, “he”, “it”.

“Running at top speed, Marie turned the corner into the alley, hoping to lose the hired competition trailing her. She knew to never glance behind her, because it means she’s not looking ahead. Marie glanced back as she made the turn, and felt a hard arm slam into her chest, knocking her off her feet to the ground. She sprang to her feet instantly despite gasping for air, but two more “Mils” came at her. One grabbed the package, the other punched her in the chest so she’d let go of it.

She doubled over in pain and started to catch her breath. Damn, her chest ached. “That’s no way-” Marie panted, “to treat a lady.””

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4. THIRD PERSON: DEEP POINT OF VIEW

This perspective combines elements of first person and third person. While using third person pronouns, the perspective is limited to that of one character. The main character’s knowledge must remain limited to what he or she can reasonably be expected to know or experience.

In this style of writing, we will want to cut out filter words, avoid passive voice, and limit dialogue tags such as “said” and “asked”. The simplest way to limit dialogue tags is to describe the action the character speaking is taking, or their body language as it shifts when they speak. This illustrates who is talking without using tags. We want to show the reader the story rather than tell the reader the story. The goal of this style of third person perspective is to immerse the reader in the experience of one character as if they were there with that character the entire time. You can create a more vivid picture of a scene since you’re already inside the character’s head.

“Running at top speed, Marie turned the corner into the alley. Would she be able to lose the hired competition chasing her? Focus mattered; Marie wasted no time looking behind her. Marie glanced back as she made the turn. A hard arm slammed into her chest. Thud! Marie’s rear end met the ground. Springing to her feet, Marie struggled against the pain as two more “Mils” rushed at her. One grabbed the package, the other punched her in the chest. Oomph! The package hit the ground and rolled a couple of times.

Damn, her chest ached. Marie drew in sharp, panting breaths between her words. “That’s no way to treat a lady.””

There are three things that are easier to do in Third Person Omniscient than in Deep POV. These are:

  1. Relate relationships between characters. In Deep POV, you have to get more creative. No longer can you say, “Eric, Marie’s brother, was racing towards her.” Why? Because Marie already knows Eric is her brother. Instead, find another way to relay this to the reader. Example: “Eric rubbed the scar between his eyes, a permanent trophy from deciding at age six to jump from their favorite climbing tree as if he was Superman.”
  2. Exposition for backstory. Some readers actually dislike backstory exposition. That’s good news! In Deep POV, you can readily slip into memories of the main character and give it an authentic feel.
  3. Create Mental Distance. It’s easy during horrifying scenes to add filter words and create mental distance so as not to overwhelm the reader. In Deep POV, take the main character to a special place, or narrow their focus. Think about how you personally mentally handled such a situation and use that to make that mental distance without pulling out of Deep POV.

Remember, although Deep POV is new and gaining popularity among readers and authors alike, there’s nothing wrong with writing in another POV. Write in the POV you are both comfortable with and that suits your type of story the best. Don’t let worrying about POV choice keep you from writing. There’s no “best” POV to write in. If there were, 100% of all fiction would be written in that POV all the time.