Critique Groups by Terry Korth Fischer – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Critique Groups

A good critique is invaluable. While practice may be the best way to improve your writing skills, you don’t know whether you’re doing it right and what you’re doing wrong unless you get feedback. Likewise, the right critique partner or group will help make you a better writer.

I joined my first critique group as an act of self-defense. After writing for years, but only sharing those words with family members, I signed up to attend a writers conference that included three professional critiques. I panicked. What if I wasn’t any good? Family and friends are kind, encouraging but in no way qualified to evaluate my skill. I sought outside help.

My local library had a writing group. I went to my first meeting without taking anything to read. The second time, I read a 500 word piece. I joined a dozen writers, some accomplished, others not so much, but all with a genuine love for writing and a willingness to help each other. They turned into better friends than mentors. I admit it took a while, but what I gained in that critique group was the confidence to stand before my peers and offer a piece of myself without feeling vulnerable.

Over the years, I have belonged to in-person, online exchanges, and Zoom critique groups. Each has its unique benefits. Today, I actively belong to two groups—the first consists of four fiction writers who write in differing genres. We meet twice a month via the internet. We post chapters, read aloud, follow along, and receive verbal feedback. Rather than single bodies of work, we often post bits from various works in progress. The second group consists of three author friends; we also meet online. However, we meet ad hoc, usually when one of us has a finished or near the finished project and desires immediate feedback. I’m afraid Covid-19 has curtailed social critique meetings. And I miss that.

Some things to consider when choosing a critique group to join.

• What are the demographics? Ideally, a good critique group is a mix of skill levels. You can always benefit from the advice of someone with more experience than you, and there will be opportunities for you to help someone with less experience.

• Is the group limited to a specific genre or open to all genres? If you write genre fiction, you may want a group specializing in writing that genre. Each genre has certain conventions that are unfamiliar to those writing in another. On the other hand, good writing is good writing. And the craft of good storytelling is universal. I find exposure to multiple genres a plus—reading in a variety of genres, a bonus.

• How does the group operate? Depending on the group, you may find a heavy workload preparing critiques in return for little feedback of your work, and only every once in a while. You may also find the schedule too frequent for you to keep up. The frequency for both critiques and submissions ranges widely from group to group. I suggest you check out the group before joining.

When I look back at my early writing attempts, I realize “I like it” was never a constructive critique, no matter how well-intentioned my mother’s encouragement was offered. On the other hand, belonging to critique groups has made me a better writer. I benefited from opinions pointing out good and bad elements in my stories. And I also had the opportunity to recognize mistakes made by others, which helped me identify the same errors in my work. I wish I would have sought quality feed-back when my writing journey began.

Do you have a particular writing partner or unique critique group? I’d love to hear about it.

Small-town detective, Rory Naysmith, thought he’d seen it all, but a young woman’s brutal murder is especially hard to stomach. Doubly so, when he recognizes the murder’s MO is identical to that of Tobias Snearl—the killer he put behind bars a decade before. His frustration grows after a series of senseless accidents plague those dearest to him, and a second woman dies—this one too close to home. Searching for answers, Rory races against time, plunging deep into the murder investigations, drawing ever closer to becoming a casualty of the dark, angry deeds himself, until he finds no one is who they pretend to be—and none are beyond evil’s reach.

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In the distance, the railroad bridge stretched from Nebraska over the Missouri River and touched the Iowa shore. Someone had mounded boulders farther down. Perhaps they’d been removed from the grounds and left there for a retaining wall. More likely, they were hidden from view, too heavy to move elsewhere. They were an eyesore, starting at the tree line, topping three feet, and spreading down to the water’s edge. Rory scrambled up the stack, intent on gaining the elevated advantage, the moss-covered boulders felt slippery under the smooth leather soles of his shoes.

When he reached the top, he caught a whiff of cigarette smoke—or was it marijuana?

He pivoted quickly and lost purchase. To break the fall, he instinctively put out his hands, and his foot slid into a crevice between two large stones. His forearms smashed against the hard surface. The force of his body slam moved the boulders which then interlocked around his foot.

From behind, he heard someone run off through the trees. He cursed, pushed up, ignored the complaints from his knees, and hand-walked his upper body back to his feet. With one foot captive, and kneeling over the other, he awkwardly righted himself. Then gave a tug. The vise-grip held tight. His palms felt razor-scraped. He reached for the phone, but it wasn’t there.

It took a moment to spot his lifeline, five feet away and out of reach.

About the Author:Terry Korth Fischer writes mystery and memoir. Her memoir, Omaha to Ogallala, was released in 2019. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies in print and online. Terry is a member of Sisters in Crime, Pennwriters, Inc, and Clear Lake Area Writers. Transplanted from the Midwest, Terry lives in Houston with her husband and their two guard cats. She enjoys a good mystery, heat and humidity, and long summer days.

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The Royal Fifth by James Peyton – Spotlight and Giveaway

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The Royal Fifth: The amount of stolen treasure Conquistadors were supposed to give to the Spanish Crown.

In a world corrupted by its past, what could turn a sensitive artist into a killer?

Young Santa Fe artist, Martín Cortés, is devastated by the deaths of family members and the loss of a huge emerald that once belonged to Hernán Cortés.

Colin Glendaring, a disgraced archeologist with an insatiable passion for pre-Columbian artifacts, is responsible. Martín learns that another family descended from the Spanish Conqueror lives in Oaxaca. Rather than kill Glendaring, he heads south. He discovers an unconventional household that includes Ilhui, a beautiful young woman with a dangerous political agenda.

Martín is stunned when he learns how the family manages to live so well…then alarmed when he discovers that Glendaring is on his way to Oaxaca. Martín and Ilhui are soon accused of murder. On the run, they are betrayed, and Ilhui is kidnapped by a guerilla leader known for recreating grisly Aztec rituals.

With time running out, Martín makes a pact with a ruthless army officer and a crooked federal policeman. Will it be a deal with the devil, or can he do what has to be done to save his new family and love?

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Martín Cortés stood on the pedestrian approach to the international bridge that would take him into Mexico. Through the pollution that daily turned the high-desert air of Ciudad Juárez into a toxic haze, he focused on the nearby vehicle traffic. The U.S.-bound lanes were choked with line after line of barely moving cars and trucks. Turning to the southbound lanes, he watched the sparse traffic moving fast and free.

He looked back at the new-old skyline of downtown El Paso and dwelled for a moment on the tragic events of the last few months. He knew what had happened. Why they’d happened still eluded him. The inner voice that brought him to this place told him all would soon be revealed. And then he wondered: Is that destiny or some karmic trickster? He shook his head. Only time would tell.

Turning again, he raised his eyes to the smog-shrouded sprawl beyond the border where his trip would begin. He had no idea where it would end. He took a deep breath, fished in his pocket for the bridge toll, and resumed his southbound journey.

About the Author: Award-winning Author James Peyton infuses his novels with stranger-than-fiction encounters and true-to-life characters based on his extensive travel and research. Realism in his plots and action comes from that background and his experience in martial arts and tactical firearms.
The Royal Fifth is based loosely on historical events surrounding the Conqueror, Hernán Cortés, brought into the present time. It will be followed by a mystery-thriller series featuring federal policeman, Artemas Salcido. Artemas is the illegitimate son of a Mexican governor and his Yaqui servant. Following his mother’s suspicious death, he was sent to be raised by the village priest. He attended Harvard on a scholarship and returned to Mexico vowing to fight corruption—only to receive his real education, where the grade is often life or death.

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Late for the Wedding by MK Scott – Spotlight and Giveaway

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The Senior Sleuths don’t mind a little peace now and then, but after a long bout of nothing out of the ordinary, they’re eager for some excitement.

No one could’ve imagined it would arrive with such a bang.

A mysterious explosion has rocked the assisted living community, disrupting life for everyone.

Despite the stern warnings from authorities, one of the Senior Sleuths can’t help but get involved. This is their home, after all.
Herman, always eager to root out the truth, ignores the warnings and hunts for answers. He’s convinced the explosion was a rouse to cover up something far more sinister. But the other seniors aren’t as eager to get involved. They’re focused on Marcy and Lance’s upcoming wedding.

Without his usual sidekicks, can Herman track down the bomber and a missing veteran who no one else remembers?

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A loud boom erupted behind Herman, resulting in him jumping to his feet, placing a hand on his racing heart, then turning toward the center as bits of wood, shingles, and drywall showered him and the lawn. Gus lay prone on the ground with his hands covering his head. Not thinking twice about the noise and its origin, Herman dashed as much as his stiff knees would allow to his friend’s side. “Are you okay?” He gasped the words as he lowered himself beside his friend.

Gus lifted his head, shaking off a shingle particle, and asked. “Are we being bombed?”

Using his flattened hand as a sun-shield, Herman peered up at the sky. “No planes in sight.”

No word of reproach for his friend who automatically assumed enemy fire. Complacency delivered many a soldier to an early grave. The words uttered years ago by his drill sergeant returned. Observe the area and check for the slightest thing awry. Herman stared at the single-story rambling building with the gabled roof.

Herman offered his hand to help up Gus, who took it. They both stood, hugged tightly, patting each other on the back. After a few seconds, they separated then delivered half-hearted shoulder punches to each other.

“I don’t know what got into me,” Herman muttered, running a hand over his face. “I saw you on the ground, then I thought…” He paused and shook his head. “Oh, never mind.”

Gus inhaled deeply, then said, “Me, too.”

About the Authors M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind the cozy mystery series, The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries, The Talking Dog Detective Agency, The Way Over the Hill Gang, and Cupid’s Catering Company.

Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities.

The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands on approach. Morgan’s daughter, who manages a hotel, provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Jane, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog.

All the series are full of quirky characters, humorous shenanigans, along with the occasional murder.

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The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur by Charlene Bell Dietz

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A workaholic bio-medical scientist, Beth Armstrong, is torn between saving her sabotaged ground-breaking multiple sclerosis research or honoring an obligation to care for her chain-smoking, Cuba Libre drinking, ex-flapper aunt. Nursemaid ranks just above catching the plague on Beth’s scale, yet her ex-flapper aunt would prefer anything deadly to losing her independence under the hands of her obsessive compulsive niece. While a murderous culprit runs loose in the science institute, the raucous aunt entertains Beth’s neglected husband with nightly cocktails and stories form the Roaring twenties. The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur intertwines a corporate espionage mystery with a generational battle-of-wills story between a dedicated professional intent on fighting chaos to restore order and a free-spirited aunt who needs her niece to live in the moment.

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Beth lunged to the bed, snatched the cigarettes out of Kathleen’s hands, crushed them, then flung the pack into the waste basket. She bent close to her aunt and inhaled deeply.

“Beth, what in the world—”

“I don’t know you, but I know people like you. You seriously need help.”

“What on earth are you fretting about?”

“Fretting? Not me, I’m happy as a loon.” Beth’s lungs needed more air.

“Beth, I didn’t start that fire.”

“Now you’re going to say it was Mrs. Harrison?” Beth’s words filled the room. Until today, she never yelled.

“It wasn’t her.” Kathleen said.

The room felt small, dark, smoky—no air. She heard her breath coming in short little bursts.

“Dear, you didn’t mean to, but you started the fire.”

Something snapped in Beth’s brain. She shook her head. But Kathleen, with innocence etched in her wrinkled face, kept looking at her.

About the Author Charlene Bell Dietz writes science and historical-suspense, award-winning mystery novels and short stories. Her award-winning short stories have been published in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2016 Anthology and SouthWest Writers 2019 Anthology. The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur combines family saga with corporate espionage. The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker propels readers back into 1923 frenetic Chicago during the Roaring Twenties. Both these novels were named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2018, and each won the coveted Kirkus Starred Review. Her latest novel, The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut, gives readers a frightening Caribbean vacation. Her current work in progress, a biographical historical novel, starts in England in 1638 and ends in precolonial Maryland. Charlene, a retired educator, traveled the United States as a consultant for Houghton Mifflin Publishers after a career of teaching little ones, older ones, and college graduates. Surrounded by forests and meadows, she currently lives in the foothills of the mountains in central NM several miles from the small village of Torreon. Charlene is the current president of Croak & Dagger, New Mexico Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She belongs to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and SouthWest Writers.

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The Fall of Jake Hennessey by P.J. MacLayne – Spotlight and Giveaway

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Jake Hennessey deals in selling fine jewelry of an illegal nature. The thrill of getting away with it is his addiction. When he hears a rumor about a rare old book in the personal collection of a small-town librarian, he gets the urge to try a new game.

After all, even jewel thieves get bored.

But the librarian, Harmony Duprie, isn’t what he expected and the challenge becomes serious business.

In order to win, Jake’s going to have to play by a new set of rules—and make them up as he goes along—because this time, he’s playing for the rest of his life.

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Getting in had been easy. The owners had an overly-friendly dog and they’d left the doggy-door in the back entrance unfastened. Their weekly housekeeper, a heavy-set older woman who he’d spent several hours plying with alcohol and attention, had given him the basic details of the layout. He’d lured the cocker spaniel outside with bacon-flavored treats, then picked the lock on the back door.

The housekeeper hadn’t mentioned the motion-detection system in the living room. It hadn’t triggered when he went upstairs to the second floor but sounded as he came back down with the topaz and gold jewelry in a small bag tucked inside his shirt. He must have brushed through a stray beam.

Jake had covered his tracks by locking the back door on the way out. An expert could spot the scratch marks left behind by his tools, but first, they needed to look for them.

He made it outside before the cops arrived, and almost to the neighbor’s yard. Now, covered by the darkness of night, he crouched behind a bush, hoping the spaniel didn’t want his attention. Luckily, the pooch was busy trying to get the cop to play fetch with a rubber squeaky toy.

The cop’s radio squawked. He held a quick conversation, then was joined by a second officer. With the dog at their heels, they rattled the knob on the back door. It held firm. But the dog dashed inside through the doggy door and emerged with a different toy in its jaws.

About the Author:

: Born and raised among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, P.J. MacLayne still finds inspiration for her books in that landscape. She is a computer geek by day and a writer by night who currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not in front of a computer screen, she might be found exploring the back roads of the nearby national forests and parks. In addition to the Harmony Duprie Mysteries, she is also the author of the Free Wolves adventures.

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The Hardest Part About Writing and the Ideal Writing Space by Pat Duggan – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Pat Duggan will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The Hardest Part About Writing and the Ideal Writing Space

I guess the hardest part I found about writing was getting started. Unfortunately for me at least, this happens multiple times in the course of writing a book. Let me try to explain! I do not plan out my book in advance. When I sit down in front of my laptop, I have only a basic idea about the content of my book – I know someone will die; some idea of how; not sure why; but usually I know who. Based on this sketchy information, I have to decide where to start. When the introduction forms in my mind, the writing begins to flow. In time, I reach a sticking point and have to stop and determine the next step. If I find that I am missing something, I have to go back and insert or reorganize the story to make it fit correctly. This process continues throughout my book and this is what I mean by ‘the hardest part is getting started and it happens multiple times throughout the book.’

The ideal working space was a different challenge. For several years while I was writing, we were on the road, living in a motorhome. I was fortunate that I could choose when to write and I did not have a daily work schedule. During our travels, we had several places where we chose to stay for several months and that is when I could turn my attention to writing. At these times, I would usually write for several hours a day over a period of weeks or months. A motorhome does not have space for a cozy exclusive office with a desk, chair, filing cabinet, and bookcase, cut off from the outside world.

My ideal working space was simple and unsophisticated. Most important was quiet and my partner respected that fact. I always sat in the front passenger seat of the motorhome. It provided a comfortable seat, and I could rest the computer on my lap. The dashboard in front of me provided space to spread out any documents I was using, and provide a place to put my feet up. The windshield in front of me was a window to look out on the world when I needed a momentary distraction. I am sure this is not what most people would consider ideal but most of the time when I write, I am lost in the world I have created, so my physical location is not relevant.

Murder at Serengeti Plains is the third mystery novel in the series, featuring amateur sleuths Hazel Davies and Anna Kohl. The earlier novels are Murder at Eagles Nest and Could They Be Twins?

The book is set in a new residential subdivision, Serengeti Plains, built by the renowned local builder, Zebra Homes. It is located in the peaceful, historic town of Centerville, Ohio. However, peace is shattered when the new residents are awakened one morning by the sound of police sirens. The procession of police cars, come to rest in their own neighborhood. A body has been discovered! Was it an accident or was it murder?
Hazel Davies and Anna Kohl have recently moved into this new subdivision. They have previously helped the police to solve murders in both Florida and Ohio, but they did not expect to find one on their own doorstep. When the police begin to look at their friend as the perpetrator, they find themselves drawn into yet another murder investigation.

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The National News on television led off with a headline about house prices and the shortage of homes for sale throughout the country. In Centerville, Ohio there was a growing, new sub-division, Serengeti Plains, being built by Zebra Homes. The builder named the development after a district in Africa where zebras roam wild. His company was well respected and recognized for building beautiful single-family homes, laid out to form desirable neighborhoods and the Serengeti Community was fast becoming a gem amongst their many projects in the area.

The construction site was a hive of activity, with multiple homes in various stages of completion as demand for new homes pressured the builder to construct his properties as quickly as possible. There were contractors of various disciplines swarming all over the building site, working feverishly to complete each unit while maintaining the builder’s required quality and standards.

All of this activity invariably led to disagreements and friction amongst the workers. One man in particular, Larry Cox, who worked for the excavation company and held an inflated opinion of himself always seemed to be at the center of much of the unrest. He liked to ‘throw his weight around,’ and talked down to the other workers on the site. He continually bragged about his thirty years’ experience and seemed to think this cemented his superiority over anyone and everyone on the building site, including buyers who frequently visited the site to watch the progress of their ‘soon to be’ new home.

About the Author Originally from Manchester, England, Pat Duggan moved to the U.S. in 1985. After a career in finance, which included running her own book-keeping and tax business, in the Cincinnati area, Pat and her partner retired and moved to Oregon. Years later, they embarked on a five-year journey, traveling across the country in a motorhome.
Writing was a whole new direction for Pat, which began with two non-fiction books – The Power Within and Finding God in an RV. Then she branched into writing fiction as she turned to her love for solving murder mysteries and the challenge to figure out ‘whodunit!’
Sadly, their traveling days are over, but settling down has brought its own reward as it inspired this latest novel.

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How It All Started by Larissa Soehn – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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How It All Started

Writing a book was never a life goal of mine, and it wasn’t something I stayed awake at night wishing I could/would do. It happened accidentally.

I was off work at the time for mental health reasons, and I found myself in need of a new project, so I started writing a new mystery game for our little home business. It was just supposed to be something fun. It was an alien-based game that took our players to a new world and had them work through a series of puzzles.

I started typing out the storyline with the intent of building puzzles along the way, but before I knew it, I was 10,000 words deep into a complex-looking game. At that point, I had to take a step back and question if this was more than a game. It was certainly too long to be a game, and it wasn’t even close to being finished.

I remember my husband walking into my little craft room and asking what I was working on. I looked at him and said, “I think I’m writing a book.”

He barely even batted an eye before responding, “Cool!” That was all the encouragement I needed to keep going. He didn’t tell me that was crazy, that it would be hard, or that I shouldn’t take on something so significant. He supported me right from the get-go.

So I abandoned the idea of a mystery game, which meant I had to go back through the book and change the point of view from ‘I’ to ‘she’ and rework some of the details to make it less of a puzzle to more of a story. But that only took me an hour. From there, it was off to the races.
In summary, the novel didn’t start as a novel. It began as a game. Who knows, maybe one day it will be transposed into a mystery game, but for now, it’s the story of Alexia Harmon and her fight for survival in an alien galaxy.

A woman battling depression and anxiety finds herself trapped in her own life, but when an alien device rips her away from Earth, she is forced to fulfill an impossible role and save the galaxies from destruction.

On Earth, Alexia Harmon is a mother and wife, but in a foreign galaxy, she is so much more. Torn away from her family, Alex is in an epic battle to escape from Gatlin and return to Earth. But little does Alex know, Gatlin is on the verge of destruction. The galaxy faces annihilation; a prophetic doom that was set in motion thousands of years ago.

Alex struggles to stay alive as she fights against an alien government that is trying to kill her, a species of genetically engineered creatures that are hell bent on her destruction, and the demons of her own mind that threaten to overthrow her. Join Alexia Harmon as she works to fulfill her role as THE DEFENDER.

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His hands drip with thick green blood. His fingers slide around inside the creature’s body, pulling, pushing, prodding. Finally, he finds what he is looking for, and with a sharp pull, he takes out the small object. He stares down at the tiny orb and marvels at it.

This will be the thing that ends them, rendering them powerless. The thought is vicious, but he has no time for kindness. Not now.

Quickly he turns and gently places the soft ball under a microscope. Staring into the lens, and using advanced medical tools, he prods at the centre of the ball, peeling away the outer shell. Inside is a thick, hard stone-like substance. Carefully he pulls it out. Cold radiates from it as if it could snatch all of the heat out of the room.

Careful to not drop or touch the substance, he swivels around and walks past the dead creature while moving to the second table.

Strapped here is a creature of nightmares. A long, lean body that will tower over all that it meets. Pincers adorn each appendage that will cut through anything it desires, and a face to leave the beings of the societies wetting themselves in fear.

He laughs lightly, looking over his creation with manic fondness. Carefully, he inserts the rocky substance into the cavity that has been carved open to receive the powerful object. The creature’s chest rises and falls lightly, supported by the machines that whir next to the table.

Stitching up the creature, he flicks a switch that pumps adrenalin into its massive system. It takes a few seconds, but the creature’s eyes fly open and look around aggressively.
The eyes looking back are human, but everything else is alien. The strongest parts of many species, all stitched together into one beautiful destroyer.

With one wild whoop, the creature activates its newest power, sucking all the heat from the room. The creator shivers and lunges for the control button. As the room starts to frost over and the air freezes, he presses the button, his fingers creaking as they bend against the cold that suddenly engulfs him.

With a violent spasm, the creature jerks madly on the table and is rendered temporarily useless. He smiles grimly. This is it; this will kill them all.

About the Author:Larissa Soehn is a budding new author from the cozy city of Red Deer, Alberta, where she lives with her husband, daughter, two cats and a dog. She started this journey as a recovery method for severe depression. She found that creative writing helped her process her emotions and work through the struggles of depression. As a child, Larissa enjoyed writing and telling stories, a passion that has recently reignited inside of her. Currently she is working to finalize the Gatlin Series, as well as publish a series of children’s books to help families discuss the importance of mental health, amongst other social issues facing children today. Larissa is an advocate for mental health and uses her personal experiences to help others work through their struggles. She uses social media platforms to help spread her message and give people permission to speak up and speak out.

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Writing Tips by HS Burney – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. HS Burney will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


It took me years from the time I decided to start writing to get to the point of finishing a book. Here is what I’ve learned along the way.

Plotting helps

I know some writers prefer to wing it, but a murder mystery is as technical as it is creative. The story has to follow a logical flow and the clues need to link together and make sense. The timeline has to be meticulously planned out. I plotted out my book in detail before I started writing it, chapter by chapter. Although I didn’t quite get into the minutiae of plotting it scene by scene.

But the story often takes on a life of its own

Despite my ironclad plot, once I started writing the story, it flew in directions I wasn’t expecting. And here I faced a conundrum – do I roughly steer the story back to where I intend it to go or do I let it fly me into kingdoms unknown? I tried to steer it back to shore – but found that the words started to choke off and the writing became stilted. Once I let the story take shape on its own, the writing flowed a lot more smoothly. Words came easily and a new life was breathed into the book.

Be entertaining but don’t stretch the bounds of credulity

To have an engaging story, you need to create entertaining and colorful characters, situations, and worlds. But, unless you’re writing fantasy, they still need to have a connection to reality. The actions of your characters need to make sense. They need to be consistent with the character traits you’ve painted. Don’t make your police force out to be idiots. Police today have access to all kinds of technology – phone tracing, DNA identification, facial recognition. I recently read a story where the police assumed a burned dead body was a certain victim just because of gender and height. No attempt was made to run DNA or dental records. The story was set in 2020. It left me feeling angry and cheated. Don’t do that to your reader. Don’t take the easy way out.

Be prepared to edit extensively

Editing is my least favorite part of the writing process. But without it, you have no story. I found endless fallacies, mistakes, inconsistencies, and even grammatical errors in my work through my several rounds of editing. Don’t rely solely on your editor. You need to feel comfortable that you’ve put your best work forward before you engage a professional editor. Don’t skip this step.

But most importantly, have fun! Writers write because we derive deep inner satisfaction from creating stories. Don’t lose sight of that through the process.

A body washes up on the shores of Lake Templeton, a small town on the coast of Vancouver Island. Sharon Reese, the victim, was a dedicated government employee. Everyone liked her, but no one knew much about her. Was she hiding something? Maybe a questionable past riddled with scandal. And did it lead to her plunge to death, in a drunken stupor, off the dock outside her secluded lakefront lodge?

Was it an accident? A suicide? Or cold-blooded murder? Private Investigator, Fati Rizvi, is determined to find out.

Fati arrives in Lake Templeton to find secrets that run as deep as the City’s sewers. Everyone is hiding something and nothing is as it seems. A cult escapee. A corrupt politician. A struggling airline. A multi-million dollar public-private project to revitalize the Lake Templeton waterfront. How are they all connected?

As Fati valiantly unravels the knots, another body is found on the shore. Is it the same killer? And can Fati stop them before they strike again?

Enjoy an Excerpt

It was these waves that carried Sharon once the water besieged her lungs and she stopped breathing. Maybe her killer was hoping that the body would descend to the depths of the ocean, swallowing its secrets. It must have been a rude shock to see the evidence of their crime splashed across the morning papers.

Sharon’s body was half-reposed face-down on the wet sand, deposited on the shore like plastic waste. Clumps of hair were caught in the jagged rocks that edge the receding land, one bloated arm flung over a large boulder, as if trying to find a grip. Her legs floated behind her like windsocks. Silk shirt ballooned over the surface of the water like a parachute.

The crime scene has been cleared up. Culver Beach sparkles in the vestiges of the sinking sunlight, sand glinting like diamond dust. The only remnants of the morning’s tragic discovery – dried boot prints in the grassy sand, left behind by the police.

The nearest house is walled off by a thicket of trees and is currently empty, owned by a businessman who only spends a few months here in the summers. The beach is quiet, with not even a dog walker in sight. I walk on the sand for a few minutes, shoes in hand, reveling in the quietude. I breathe in the fresh air, slightly briny, and crisp enough to open up my nasal pathways.

No answers will be found here. Not for me.

Sergio’s house hibernates, squeezed in the warm hug of the thicket of trees that surround it. They’re evergreens so they hold on to their leaves, even in winter, until the whistling wind snatches them away and showers them on the lawn. Despite Sergio’s gallant efforts with the rake, his driveway is again covered in shrubs and branches.

I pull up behind Sergio’s car, parked in its usual spot in the driveway, the mud cracked and crusting on its back tires, windows streaked with messy wet tracks made when rain intermingled with dust. The killer must have picked him up and driven him to Pebble Beach.

Detective Singh’s police cruiser is parked neatly angled to the side of the road. As I approach the house, I see a shattered window in the front.

I haven’t seen young children living in the neighbourhood. Most houses in Sergio’s vicinity belong to empty-nester retirees and snowbirds. Was this an accident or something more sinister? Did someone smash Sergio’s window?

At the foot of Sergio’s porch stands his city recycling box. It’s filled to the brim with plastic containers and folded up cardboard boxes, as if Sergio had just finished cleaning and decluttering. I move closer for a better look. An empty bottle of Tito’s vodka, several Amazon boxes, soup cans, and yogurt containers. A box for a Blackmagic Design pro camera that costs almost thirteen thousand dollars. A black rectangular tube that housed a Chanel snowboard.

How much was the City paying Sergio?

Zed and I arrive after ten p.m. We park in an underground lot a few blocks away. Granville Street at night is a cornucopia of debauchery. Drunk girls totter on heels and too-tight skirts, giggling and holding each other. The heavy smell of sweat mixed with marijuana mixed with alcohol hangs in the air like a toxic thundercloud. The sidewalk is sticky with spilled drinks and other substances you don’t want to think about. Bedraggled bums cluster in dark corners, their life’s possessions gathered at their feet in duffel bags. They panhandle, lighting their pipes, smoking their cigarettes, and shooting their heroin without apology.

The street is dotted with black-doored establishments that advertise their presence with glowing signs and glowering bouncers. At the most popular clubs, lines of partygoers stretch, smoking cigarettes while waiting for entry. Zed and I blend into the shadows, two travelers that don’t quite belong but don’t stick out either.

This is Caleb’s world. In contrast, the clean-cut Sergio snowboarded on weekends and went running every morning. They had nothing in common besides their desire to sing. And it was this commonality that led their worlds to collide so painfully.

At Legends, the thrum of the music wafting from behind heavy curtain and chain gives away the mayhem brewing inside. The roasting interior is awash in flashing lights. The smell of stale beer and rank sweat overpowers me. I choke back my gag reflex.

Caleb is not hard to find. He is huddled with other youth, all misty eyes and lost faces, in a chemical-induced otherworld.

About the Author: HS Burney writes fast-moving, action-packed mysteries set against the backdrop of majestic mountains and crystalline ocean in West Coast Canada. She loves creating characters that keep you on your toes. A corporate executive by day and a novelist by night, HS Burney received her Bachelors’ in Creative Writing from Lafayette College. A proud Canadian immigrant, she takes her readers into worlds populated by diverse characters with unique cultural backgrounds. When not writing, she is out hiking, waiting for the next story idea to strike, and pull her into a new world.

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Saving La Familia by Donna Del Oro – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What is something you’ve lied about?


Who is the last person you hugged?

–My husband.

What are you reading now?

–Ken Follett’s WW II spy novel ,The Key to Rebecca.

How do you come up with the titles to your books?

–I don’t know but it’s linked to the whole creative process. My FBI series had the word “Lies” in each of the three titles (A Bodyguard of Lies, Lies in Wait, Where Danger Lies) but the word carries a double meaning, which I liked.

Share your dream cast for your book.

–Dina Salazar would be played by a young Hispanic actress, probably Jessica Alba or Selena Gomez; the same for Rick Ramos, maybe Wilmer Valderrama or Michael Trevino. Or a young Benjamin Bratt!

A romantic suspense comedy set in Silicon Valley, a young Latina teacher, Dina Salazar, is asked by her Mexican-born grandmother to rescue her cousins from a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. After all, her stern grandmother tells her, she is the “smart one” in the family. To do so, she has to recruit help from her hated ex-fiance. What’s a girl to do when “la familia” calls?

SAVING LA FAMILIA by Donna Del Oro, about a latina teacher who’s recruited by her Mexican-born grandmother to save her cousins from a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. It’s a romantic-suspense comedy with many “buen dichos”!

Enjoy an Excerpt

Grandma Gómez—”Life is like an artichoke. It takes a lot of peeling to get to the heart of things.”

How did I, in three short months, get to the heart of my Mexican-American family? It wasn’t easy, believe me. Especially since I was the family’s desgraciada. The disgraced one. Ever since I turned eighteen and had my legal name changed from Dolores—which means aches and pains in Spanish—to Dina. My namesake, Grandma Dolores Gómez, refused to speak to me or acknowledge my existence for about a year after the name change. Before that, I was simply the family brat and rebel. The know-it-all.

But you see, Grandma was the heart of the matter. And the big, dark secrets she kept closed up in her heart all got ex- posed in those tumultuous months. And before I could blink and realize what was happening, I was roped into a scheme to rescue cousins I never knew I had out of the deadly clutches of a Mexican drug cartel. Why was I chosen, you ask? Me, Dina Salazar, the desgraciada? A single schoolteacher with a long line of loser-boyfriends? How did I end up looking up the barrel of a cartel commando’s automatic weapon? Come along with me and I’ll tell you.

About the Author: Donna Del Oro lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats. She taught high school and community college English classes for 30+ years and is now happily retired. When not doing research, writing novels, or reading voraciously, she travels and sings with the medal winning Sacramento Valley Chorus.

Donna is a member of Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime in addition to the Valleyrose chapter of the RWA. She has judged RITA entries and does developmental editing on the side. Two of her novels, Operation Familia and Born To Sing, have won national and international awards.

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The Background of The Abdication by Justin Newland – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish promotions. Justin Newland will be awarding a Paperback copy of the book (International giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


The Abdication is a novel than spans several genres – crime, thriller, speculative, and fantasy. Like my other novels, this one explores the human condition, and the fundamental questions of our existence. As a species, as Homo Sapiens Sapiens – that’s man the twice-wise – how are we doing so far? Where is mankind’s spiritual home? What does it look or feel like? Would we recognize it if we saw it?

To answer such questions, or even to begin to answer such questions, I needed to find a back story that allowed the characters, and particularly the main character, to explore and engage with them.

The town of Unity sits perched on the edge of a yawning ravine where, long ago, a charisma of angels provided spiritual succour to a fledgeling human race. Then mankind was granted the gift of free will and had to find its own way, albeit with the guidance of the angels. The people’s first conscious act was to make an exodus from Unity – they built a rope bridge across the ravine and founded the town of Topeth. For a time, the union between the people of Topeth and the angels of Unity was one of mutual benefit. After that early spring advance, there had been a torrid decline in which mankind’s development resembled a crumpled, fading autumnal leaf.

Following the promptings of an inner voice, Tula, a young woman from the city, trudges into Topeth. Her quest is to abide with the angels and thereby discover the right and proper exercise of free will. To do that, she has to cross the bridge – and overcome her vertigo.
Topeth is in upheaval; the townsfolk blame the death of a child on dust from the nearby copper mines. The priests have convinced them that a horde of devils have thrown the angels out of Unity and now occupy the bridge, possessing anyone who trespasses on it. Then there’s the heinous Temple of Moloch!

The Abdication is the story of Tula’s endeavour to step upon the path of a destiny far greater than she could ever have imagined.

Enjoy an Excerpt

A narrow path snaking down the steep slope linked the town to the bridge. Fearing the guards’ return, she hurried along the winding, uneven path. It was fine for mountain goats, but with her bad ankle and her walking stick, she was nowhere near as fleet of foot as they.

The bridge had a quietening effect, like a warm homecoming after a long absence. Ever since she had heard about the abandoned town of Unity, she had wanted to visit the place for herself. Within touching distance, she felt a keen sense of belonging, even though she had never been near it – until now.

A solitary wicker lantern sat in a cradle, shedding a pale light over a crescent-shaped area covered in flagstones that had been carved out of the side of the mountain. In the middle of it were the bridge pillars and a small wooden shack.

The bridge itself was a slender rope structure slung across the open chasm. Narrow matting formed the bridge deck wide enough for one person to cross. At least there were hand ropes. At the Topeth end, it was attached to two thick, green-coloured pillars. Fingers of mist rose out of the ravine, obscuring the Unity end of the bridge. The structure reminded her of a long, thin hammock tied between two pairs of massive tree trunks.

By the bridge entrance was a large sign:

It was true. She had heard rumours about the bridge, about how predatory devils prowled the dip in the centre of the rope bridge. It was forbidden to cross it.

About the Author Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

His Books
The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind. ISBN 9781789014860.

“The novel is creative, sophisticated, and downright brilliant! I couldn’t ask more of an Egyptian-esque book!” – Lauren, Books Beyond the Story.

The Old Dragon’s Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times. ISBN 9781789015829.

‘The author is an excellent storyteller.” – British Fantasy Society.

Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781838591885.

“The novel explores the themes of belonging, outsiders… religion and war… filtered through the lens of the other-worldly.” – A. Deane, Page Farer Book Blog.

His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery. ISBN 9781800463950.

“In Topeth, Tula confronts the truth, her faith in herself, faith in a higher purpose, and ultimately, what it means to abdicate that faith.”
V. Triola, Coast to Coast.

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