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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Release -- THE ART APPRAISER AND THE LAWMAN by Linda LaRoque

When Abby Devry, a Fort Worth art and antiques appraiser, meets a handsome Texas State Trooper, there is no way to ignore the instant attraction. Roark Espinoza has had his eye on Abby, and after one dance together, he knows she’s the one for him. But Abby hasn’t had much experience with men, and she’s worried about the dangers of Roark’s job. A lawman at heart, he plans to become a Texas Ranger as soon as he is able. Though Roark believes Abby is the woman for him, he’s haunted by wounds from a past relationship.
When Abby’s job assignment sends her to inventory and appraise items in a beautiful historical home in downtown Fort Worth, Fate throws Abby and Roark together once more. The owner of the home happens to be none other than Roark’s grandmother, and he shows up to help with the project. As Abby and Roark work together, their relationship blooms, but it isn't until they travel to the Espinoza family ranch that Abby learns to believe her heart.
When a murder takes place at the ranch, Abby’s faith and trust in Roark is tested. Is love in the cards for THE ART APPRAISER AND THE LAWMAN?

EXCERPT

     Abby Devry hugged the wall like a freshman at a high school dance. Oh well, this evening wasn't about her. It was to celebrate her mother's marriage. She leaned against the open barn door and watched as her mother, Lynn Devry, and her groom, Seth Williams, snuck out through one of the side doors. A grin tickled her lips, and she released a laugh at the happiness emanating from the couple. Both divorced, they'd waited a long time to find someone to complete their lives. Now, Abby not only had a stepfather, but three stepbrothers as well, one who was her current boyfriend.
     The dance floor, or she should say the barn floor, was filled with couples dancing, including her date, Brandon Williams. He'd danced the last two numbers with Riley Espinoza, his sweetheart from when they were teens. This one was a slow number, and from the clench they had on each other, the romance wasn't over. Abby turned and headed toward the corral. 
     "Abby, wait up."
     She stopped and turned at the deep baritone voice. With the light to his back she didn't at first recognize Roark Espinoza, Riley's brother. The tall, handsome man with dark hair and skin approached, his deep blue eyes shining like diamonds in the waning light. And when he smiled, showing off those beautiful white teeth, her stomach flipped.
     "Come back in and dance with me." He extended his hand.

     

Sunday, July 15, 2018

COZIES IN A DANGEROUS TIME, by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer


Cozy Night by Kim Parkhurst

I know of way too many people who are depressed, stressed, frightened, angry, or all of the above combined in one big ball of woe. Whether you look local— break-ins and vandalism—, national— political unrest—, or global— climate change and garbage in the ocean—, scary things abound, and unfortunately, there is only a limited amount we can do about them. This helplessness causes frustration and anxiety. Psychiatrists and therapists have seen an increase in their patients of late. Uncertainty abounds.

So what  do people do to relieve this angst? Some garden or work out. Some read. There has been a revival of the good old cozy mystery of late, and I believe our dangerous times are responsible for it.

Who wouldn’t want to immerse themselves in a small British town a la Miss Marple or hang out with a sleuthing cat such as Joe Gray? Suddenly, instead of the disturbing thriller, many readers are choosing books they know will give them a happy ending. That doesn’t mean there won’t be mystery and mayhem along the way, but in a cozy, we won’t be inundated with graphic violence, foul language, or riotous sex. And we can be assured it will all work out in the end.


I grew up with cozy mysteries, my favorite author being the underappreciated Mary Stewart. When I discovered Lillian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who series, and found that cats could play a part in mystery stories, I was overjoyed. Since then I’ve been elated to find an abundance of cozy themes such as cooking, baking, gardening, quilting, scrapbooking, knitting, and antiquing— just about anything people like to do in their spare time. There are also more cerebral themes such as science, archeology, forensics, or world travel, and we mustn’t forget the paranormal themes of vampires, witches, hauntings, and hexes. (My personal favorites of course are the cat mysteries, a popular genre unto itself, though you can find many dog and other animal mysteries to suit all tastes.) Most cozies engage an amateur sleuth, often a woman, but there are also cozies featuring police, detectives, and private investigators. Something for every taste.



Cozies vary in technique, intensity, and quality. I’ve read everything from inspired and intelligent writing to formula style that’s as dull as a post. (I’ve also learned that just because it has a cat on the cover doesn’t mean it’s a cat mystery.) Some cozies are referred to as “beach reads” because they are the easy-to-read escapist fare that’s perfect for a costal or other vacation.

I both read and write cozy mysteries, because I’m just plain too burnt out on bad stuff  to enjoy the violence of thrillers, the horror of horrors, or the fatalism of dystopian sci-fi. It’s not exclusive— there are lots of great books out there, and my to-be-read pile holds everything from memoir to Star Trek, but right now I tend to fall back on a gentler story, one that will paint a picture of green countrysides and pretty kitties while offering me a puzzle to solve, the mystery itself. Maybe if the real world becomes an easier place to live in, I’ll begin to long for the exhilaration of a more intense genre, but for now, it’s cozies all the way.




Do you read or write cozy mysteries?

Here are a very few of my favorites:

The Joe Grey series, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy  
Cat in the Stacks Mysteries, by Miranda James  
Bookmobile Cat Mysteries, by Laurie Cass   
The Kudzu Korners Vampire series, by Isabella Norse  
The Ivy Meadows Mysteries, by Cindy Brown  
The Phryne Fisher mysteries, by Kerry Greenwood  
The Hamish Macbeth series, by M.C. Beaton 
The Fethering Mystery series, by Simon Brett   

(I'd better quit, thought there are more!) 

I’m always looking for new cozies to read. Do you have any favorites to add?



Check out my own cozy mystery series, the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mysteries, or read more blogs by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer at:

Happy reading!





Tuesday, July 10, 2018

New Release -- Search for the Storm Maker (Polarity Book 2) by C. A. Jamison

As Rush James and his fiancée, Trulie Morgan, count down the days to their wedding, they keep their alien energy alive and their electric secret safe from the human world.

But when Trulie disappears and it becomes clear that she’s been kidnapped, Rush’s life is turned upside down. Without Trulie, his energy begins to deplete rapidly, and there’s no way to control it! As much as he wants to remain calm, he knows that Trulie is suffering the same energy drain as he is—and he knows she is in terrible danger at the hands of her abductor.

Grasping at straws, and with very few clues, the small band of plasmetric teens who rallies around Rush and Trulie head for a faraway mystery island where they hope to rescue Trulie. As a new and changing energy comes to life within them, they realize that only together can they face the demons of their past and take on an army to silence a mad man.

Will they find the reason for their existence on the island paradise—or will their journey end in death—as they race against the clock in the SEARCH FOR THE STORM MAKER?

EXCERPT

     The sun beamed on my back as a breeze lifted my hair, and I kept away from the cracks in the soil and stayed close to the brush. “I’ve got this.”
     To my right, I leaned to look into a hole. The bottom disappeared into the darkness, but the width—too small to fit a human. I eased forward. One foot at a time.
     A dark shadow on the ground ahead of me had a large opening. A cluster of overgrown weeds grew to the left of the hole. I stopped. “I think I found the spot!”
     “Be cautious,” Trulie yelled. The brush had me hidden from her sight, and she asked, “Did you tie the rope around your waist?”
     Cracks split the ground around most of the area. “Ah. Yeah.” I quickly wrapped the rope around my middle and tied a double knot. “I’m good,” I called.
     The birds, the road ahead, even the wind kept silent as though nature held a breath. I proceeded across the damp earth. A foot from the edge, I gradually leaned forward. The leaves rustled on a flowering bush. An animal darted past my foot. Startled, my instincts reacted with a hard step back, and the earth gave way below me.

     

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Amazon and the Great Big Mess



Last month I introduced you to #cockygate – the result of indie romance author Faleena Hopkins trademarking the word “cocky.” As of this writing, the situation is unchanged. An update on the status of the court case in the Southern District of New York is expected no later than Friday, July 6th. Retired lawyer turned author Kevin Kneupper’s petition to cancel the trademark is still working its way through the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO). If Kevin’s petition is denied, Romance Writers of America (RWA) is standing by to submit another. It could be months before this insanity ends. In the meantime, other authors are following in Faleena’s footsteps and applying for trademarks on common use words and phrases. Fortunately, an anonymous Good Samaritan created Cockybot which looks for new trademark submissions and tweets about them giving others a chance to challenge the submission before it gets approved. Intrigued? Follow Cockybot and search on the cockygate hashtag on Twitter for the latest information.

Another issue that came to the forefront during #cockygate is the issue of book stuffing, specifically as it impacts Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing marked the beginning of non-vanity self-publishing, now known as independent or “indie” publishing. For the first time, authors were able to take full control of the publishing process. Did this mean that crappy books were published? Absolutely. However, many (I believe most) indie authors take their writing seriously and produce the best books possible, paying out-of-pocket for editors and book covers. Best-selling novels such as The Martian, Wool, and Fifty Shades of Gray began life as self-published novels. Many authors unable to get a traditional publishing contract were soon able to make a living from their writing. Then, Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service for books, and everything changed. 

Initially, authors enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program received a flat royalty, based on the price of their book, each time ten percent of their book was read. Enter the scammers, those individuals more interested in gaming the system than putting in the effort to produce and publish quality work. The Kindle Unlimited market placed was flooded with short (and ultra short) stories priced at ninety-nine cents. The length of the stories ensured that readers hit the ten percent mark quickly and the author got their full royalty. (Now, I’m not saying that all short story writers are scammers. I myself have published several short stories and intend to publish more.) 

Amazon retaliated against the scammers by changing the program so that authors are paid per page read. The payment amount fluctuates month to month but averages less than half of one cent per page. (Yes, you read that right.) Authors decried the change, warning Amazon that the new system was even more fertile ground for scammers and their fears have been realized. Amazon has admitted it has no way to accurately determine the number of pages in a book. Say what? Authors who once made a decent living with their books watched their income dry up. Many removed their books from the program; they had to in order to survive. But not the scammers. They not only found a way to survive, they have thrived, many raking in an estimated six figure salary per month. How is this possible? Simple. Amazon hasn’t been enforcing its own Terms of Service (ToS).

Many authors put additional information in the back of their books; it’s a great way to give readers a sneak peek at an upcoming release. Amazon’s ToS has always stated that the bonus material shouldn’t be more than ten percent of the length of the book but, since they haven’t enforced it, the scammers have been book stuffing. Book stuffing consists of adding multiple full-length novels at the back of the book. Many of the most notorious scammers have active fan groups that they then encourage (or in some cases, bully) into flipping to the end of the book, often without reading, so the author gets paid for what may be a 2000-3000 page “book.” There’s even a term for the process, it’s called the Kindle Flip.

Amazon also rewards authors for producing quickly. The quicker an author releases new work, the more Amazon’s algorithms reward them by making their books more easily visible. So, many of the scammers produce new “books” every week or two. How is this possible? Many employee the services of ghost writers. The ghost writers are paid a pittance for their work which the scammer then uses to pad his/her books and bank account. So, what’s the big deal? The scammers gaming the system are basically pushing the honest authors out. The scammers pages read and books sold awards them Kindle Bestseller status which comes with its own monetary bonuses. In fact, many of Amazon’s bestseller lists, especially in romance, are populated almost exclusively by book stuffers. This makes the lists themselves basically useless. 
Image courtesy of Depositphotos.com

Amazon has created a monster that it seems unwilling to slay. But, why should it? Amazon is in the business of making money and the scammers bring in a lot. People have been reporting stuffers to Amazon for over three years to no avail. But, if Amazon doesn’t do something to fix this problem – and fast – the only authors left in the Kindle Unlimited program will be the scammers. And readers aren’t going to keep their Kindle Unlimited subscriptions if the only books available are stuffed books, many of which just recycle the same material in different order. Many honest authors, including me, are pulling their books from Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon has recently shut down a few stuffers but only time will tell if they are serious about fixing the program or if these scammers were just sacrificial lambs on the altar of author outcry. If you’d like to read more, I recommend the following articles:



David Gaughran has been a warrior on the forefront of book stuffing for years so you can find many posts on this topic on his site.

To see the latest, search for #getloud on Twitter.

Are you a member of Kindle Unlimited? Have you encountered any stuffed books?


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