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What if… (Friday Fictioneers)

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

It is said angels walk among us.

What I don’t think they realize is that it’s not just angels. It’s demons too. And monsters and aliens and all sorts of critters that go bump in the night.

Haven’t you ever seen something odd? Heard of a miraculous escape or a criminal getting his comeuppance? What about music, design and technology? Something just a little bit unnatural, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, they would not announce their presence. Only in the death they leave behind. For what is a soul if not something mysterious?

Watch the shadows…

They’re coming for you.

This is a Friday Fictioneers prompt

You can read more of the FF prompt responses to this image here

Word Count: 100

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© solothefirst. All Rights to the works and publications on this blog are owned and copyrighted by Solothefirst. The Owner of this site reserves all permissions for access and use of all documents on this site.

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Review: State of Denial by Iain Kelly

About the book:

Election time in The State, the citizens prepare to vote. A journalist from the Capital City heads north to report on growing resistance to the powerful ruling Party. An ex-police detective returns to the City he once fled. Together they become entangled in a burgeoning opposition movement. Soon they learn the Party will do whatever it takes to remain in power, and one life is all it takes to spark a revolution.

My thoughts:

A very well done book two. State of Denial picks up a few years after A Justified State and is set in the same near future world. It introduces a new character, Maxine Aubert, to the familiar cast. Max is a journalist who becomes drawn into the impossible rebellion against the all powerful State. Our favorite character, Danny, is now living in the wilderness, having escaped the all controlling city after the events of Book One. He is forced back to the city and once there becomes entangled once again in city politics, the election and the machinations of an ex-spy he once thought of as a friend.

This is an easy series to get drawn into. Well written, the plot flows effortlessly through it like the river though the city. Danny is a well developed character and Max’s introduction is a joyful contribution to the story of intrigue and the makings of a civil war. The futuristic elements of the setting are cleverly thought through and easy to imagine. The concept of a government state doing everything in its power to keep control of its citizens is a frightful yet realistic theme.

A gripping sci fi that is a little bit horrifying and a lot entertaining.

I’m very much looking forward to book three.

You can read my review of Book one here

Unwanted (Friday Fictioneers)

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

I was not going to open it.

His passing was still a raw festering wound that tore my chest apart. The funeral held weeks ago did nothing to purge the bitterness from my soul. Then this morning, the trunk arrived.

Nope.

Not gonna touch it.

It sat, like an apple on my table. No doubt sent to torment, to tempt me into a single bite. I imagined I could smell the rot beginning and wondered how long it would take to destroy everything around it.

I should burn it. Or bury it.

I’ll post it to my sister. His favorite.

This is a Friday Fictioneers prompt

You can read more FF responses to this week’s image here

Word Count: 100

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© solothefirst. All Rights to the works and publications on this blog are owned and copyrighted by Solothefirst. The Owner of this site reserves all permissions for access and use of all documents on this site.

One who sees all (Friday Fictioneers)

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

The panicked note she’d left the night she died had faded now. From the sun, time, rain, and numerous children running over it… It was her last link to the world, her last link to reality.

She held up a hand seeing the ground through it. She was fading too.

The sound of running shoes pounded the path that ran alongside the court. She looked up, saw the fear on the other woman’s face, saw her glance back at the monster that chased her.

Another would fall tonight. She moaned at her amorphous shape knowing she could only bare witness.

This is a Friday Fictioneers Prompt

You can read more FF prompt pieces here

Word Count: 100

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© solothefirst. All Rights to the works and publications on this blog are owned and copyrighted by Solothefirst. The Owner of this site reserves all permissions for access and use of all documents on this site.

Review: The Little Minces by Lauren Lynne illustrations by Michael Hemmingsen

About the Book:

It is a time of kings and wizards. It is a time of pie… mincemeat pie, that is. This is the story of Scamper, the mince, and his adventures in a magical kingdom. It is a tale of fleeing and hiding and of solving your problems in a way that helps everyone. It is about making friends in places you don’t expect and sharing your ideas to make your corner of the world a better place.

My thoughts:

Awwww, I love this picture book. The Little Minces is a fabulous story about how a great grandfather Mince finds a way to protect his future offspring from being the prime ingredient in the King’s favorite pie. Mince Pies. Its a tale of searching for answers, looking after family, and of cleverly convincing an entire kingdom not to kill you for food! A cute tale with a nice message and an even nicer treat at the end.

The pictures are gloriously colorful and beautifully detailed.

It’s a lovely story to read to your children (or grandchildren).

Author Interview: James L. Weaver

Hey hey, it’s been a while since I’ve posted an Author Interview… So I’m excited to welcome James L. Weaver back to chat about his FOURTH installment of the Jake Caldwell series.

I’ve been out here before. Twigs snap beneath my boots as I creep along the well trodden path. Its just trees out here… trees and dirt and the scent of rotting leaf matter and possibly animal carcasses… at least I hope the smell is animal…

Hi James, good to chat to you again. I appreciate your time.

Jake is back! Asylum Road is the fourth of your Jake Caldwell series… Tell us a little about it without giving too much away?

Asylum Road is the first book of the series that picks up right where the previous one ended. I had every intention of making each of the books a stand-alone novel, but the little devil on my shoulder compelled me to drop a bomb at the end of Blackbird Road and then make readers wait seven months to find out what happened. Blame him, not me. (Grrrr! Oh, I hate waiting.) In a nutshell, Shane Langston, the psychopathic villain from Poor Boy Road (book #1 of the series), escapes from prison with a plan to exact revenge on Jake and Bear…along with everyone else who had a hand in putting him in the big house. In trying to hunt down Langston, Jake and Bear get mixed up with a bad ass biker gang called the Blood Devils, guns, drugs and sex-trafficking. The question becomes who is going to find who first. It was a ton of fun to write and I guarantee readers are going to enjoy the trip.

Jake is a flawed hero… he has a lot of internal battles to overcome. What do YOU like about him as a main character?

The thing I love about Jake is his wavering moral compass. What I mean by that is his compass is always pointed in the right direction – he’ll kill himself helping out someone in need and protecting those that can’t help themselves. We’ve seen him do it time and again in the series. The wavering part of the compass is he doesn’t mind taking some dubious steps or knocking the shit out of the bad guys to get it done. I like that he’s tough. I like that those on the wrong side of things fear him. I like that those on the right side of things love him.

Jake and Bear’s relationship is a great male friendship. One is a cop, the other was once a criminal. Why is their friendship so important to write?

It comes down to the ties that bind us together, ties that transcend time and past deeds. Jake and Bear went through a lot together in high school and it formed a bond that Jake’s sixteen year absence and dark years of working for the mob couldn’t wipe away. People who have read my books tell me they love the relationship and banter between Jake and Bear, (I do too.) two tough guys who love each other like brothers (but would never admit it) and who would crawl through a field of broken glass if it meant saving the other guy. My readers love their relationship and I do as well. Their scenes together are my favorite parts to write.

Asylum Road is a story of a hunter and the hunted, which is a little different from the first three. Why did you chose this direction for the fourth story?

I knew at some point that Shane Langston was going to pop his evil, little head to the surface and wreak havoc with Jake and his family. But, I wanted to wait until Jake was a little more settled. I needed Jake at the point where his moral compass still wavered, but it wasn’t swinging like a broken metronome. I needed him to have a bigger stake than just himself. By the time we hit Asylum Road, Jake has plenty to lose and that just ups the ante. Poor Boy Road was about Jake saving himself, Ares Road and Blackbird Road was about saving others. Asylum Road is about stopping a psycho and saving his family. 

It is also a story of people trafficking – in particular about the trafficking of young women. What did you do to research this element of the story?

I like to try to blend in real life agencies and give kudos to the work they do in my books. I’ve covered Hospice House and Newhouse, a domestic violence shelter for battered women, in previous books. I knew some basics about the trafficking of women having watched various news programs over the last several years and I needed something in Asylum Road to connect the Blood Devil biker gang with Shane beyond just guns and drugs. I found a Kansas City non-profit called Restoration House of Greater Kansas City which provides long-term, residential housing and support services for girls and women who are survivors of sex trafficking. I contacted them for information and arranged a meeting with one of their program managers named Christine. Christine is a survivor of human trafficking, homelessness and addiction and was a prostitute who worked the streets of Kansas City. She knew the trafficking trade from the inside – what these lowlifes do to lure the girls into the sex trade, what they do to keep them and what Restoration House has done to get them out of that life. It was an extremely eye-opening meeting that pretty much took place exactly as I related in Asylum Road. There’s some additional activities with the trafficked women that I took a bit of literary liberty with, but I’ll bet my commissions from the book that they happen in some circles of the world. Restoration House does some wonderful work and anyone wanting more information should check them out at www.restorationhousekc.com.

What, in your opinion, is the hardest part of writing a sequel?

Keeping the story line fresh, but familiar. I’m a huge fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series. The beauty of them is they are, for the most part, stand alone novels. You can drop Reacher or Davenport in any setting or circumstance you want and you’re going to get a great book with characters you love. Sandford’s Prey series is more linear than the Jack Reacher books, but the point is you don’t have to have read book #1 of either series to devour book #10. That said, it does help to read them in order because you get the fuller backstory rather than a couple of sentences in a later book. So, the struggle comes in coming up with a fresh story line with new circumstances, but keeping some of the recurring characters and diving deeper with them.

Please give us a hint about the next installment of Jake’s story?

For book five, we’re going to venture away from the beautiful Ozarks into the snow-swept cornfields and biting winter winds of Nebraska. Jake and Bear are taking their daughters on college visits and get themselves in the cross hairs of some unsavory people. The sparks are going to fly when Bear learns that the reason they are in those cross hairs is because of Jake’s side mission and who asked him to do it. There’s also going to be a familial tie that nobody saw coming, especially Jake. I’ve sketched the outline and written about ten chapters of it. It’s pretty rough at this point, but I think fans of the series are going to enjoy this new adventure.  OMG I can’t wait for that!

For your readers, what do you hope they will take away from this series?

I want readers to have fun, pure and simple. Life gets busy and hard sometimes between jobs, bills, kids and all the other stuff that taxes our psyches. I want to provide a means for them to just get away from it all for a few hours. I want them to turn that last page, nod their head and say “That was a damn good book.”


Okay – and now some wider questions about YOU

What achievement are you most proud of?

My kids. I have a daughter in college and a son in high school and they are both pretty awesome. I’m not sure how we did it, but my wife and I turned out two special people who are going to do great things in this world. A distant second is my books. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be releasing my fifth novel, I’d have told you that you were crazy.

What is something we don’t know about you?

I’ve run seven marathons and running my eighth in November. I’ve also applied to be on Survivor about ten times, but have yet to grab that ring. Maybe now that I’m over fifty and in the shape I’m in, I might be able to help them fill that older demographic!

What is something you are best known for?

My optimism. I’m a very upbeat, positive person who always sees the glass as half-full. Almost always…I’m not a robot. 

What is something that you love?

Movies. I love getting lost in a film, hunkered in a comfy chair in a darkened theater with blaring sound for a couple of hours with a big soda and box of Milk Duds. If I could go back in time and start over, I could very easily see myself in the film industry.

Thanks once again, James, for your time. I’m really excited about Asylum Road… It’s out tomorrow… so get yourself a copy ASAP!

The following link will take you the the promo for Asylum Road https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtepMkSLRT8

You can read my reviews of the series below.

Review Poor Boy Road

Review: Ares Road

Review: Blackbird Road

Review Asylum Road

Review: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

About the Book:

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution humanity has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and their message leads to the planet Gaia, a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an ancient alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Despite their opposing reasons for smuggling themselves onto the alien planet’s surface, they’re both desperate to uncover the riches hidden in the Undying temples. Beset by rival scavenger gangs, Jules and Mia form a fragile alliance… but both are keeping secrets that make trust nearly impossible.

As they race to decode the ancient messages, Jules and Mia must navigate the traps and trials within the Undying temples and stay one step ahead of the scavvers on their heels. They came to Gaia certain that they had far more to fear from their fellow humans than the ancient beings whose mysteries they’re trying to unravel. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more Jules and Mia start to feel like their presence in the temple is part of a grand design–one that could spell the end of the human race…

My thoughts:

Wow, this is a great YA science fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s set on another world and while there are alien temples and alien suns and not quite enough oxygen meaning characters are forced to use breathers to ensure they have enough oxygen to stay alive… it is also a story of very human issues… greed, criminal behavior and a fight for survival.

It is written with two very different Points Of View. Amelia’s POV and Jules’s POV alternate every chapter but continue the story along in a rapid pace of betrayal, puzzles to solve, lies and secrets exposed while they race to be the first to discover the treasures the “Unending” left behind.

But is it a trap or a test? What they find is completely unexpected. They are being hunted by soldiers and scavvers and only by working together will they survive the obstacle course/maze of bobby traps left behind. Its almost as if the Unending don’t want them to reach the end alive.

A fabulous, well written sci-fi story for young and old alike. It’s a little bit Indiana Jones in space. A fun, fast paced story. There is a book two and I’m gonna have to get it now to see how it ends. 🙂

Waiting? (Friday Fictioneers)

PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to glare at the man behind me, pointedly staring at his finger under he removed it.

“What are we lining up for?”

I faced front again. If he didn’t know, why was he lining up behind me? I focused on my cell phone, scrolling randomly through my feed, refreshing every now and then.

His throat cleared. “Excuse me. Why we are lining up?”

“Why are you? I mean, you must know. Why else would you be standing behind me?”

He didn’t have an answer to that.

The line shuffled forward. Finally.

This is a Friday Fictioneers Prompt

You can read other FF entries here

Word Count: 100

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© solothefirst. All Rights to the works and publications on this blog are owned and copyrighted by Solothefirst. The Owner of this site reserves all permissions for access and use of all documents on this site.

Review: The Truth Pixie goes to School by Matt Haig. Illustrations by Chris Mould

About the book:

New school. New friends. Same old pixie.

‘Aada started her new school,
And the pixie came too.
But this school was a place
Where it was hard to be true . . .’

An uplifting story that will delight younger readers and help them to be themselves in their school uniform. With words by the bestselling mastermind Matt Haig and pictures by the inky genius Chris Mould.

My thoughts:

Buy it now.

If you have kids, if you don’t… this is a fabulous book and one I wished I had as a kid. The Truth Pixie series is a fabulous rhyming story, and one that is wonderful to read aloud. I think this book is a winner for all little ones heading off to school for the first time. It’s about being true to yourself and making friends not by lying or pretending to someone different but by being true to you. And that there is power in the truth. And power in true friendship. I love this story and the series.

And the illustrations are simply divine.

If you hadn’t done it yet, get the first one too.

You can read my review of Book One here

Review: MISSING: Psychological revelation of family secrets by James McEwan

About the Book:

A subtle, psychological revelation of family secrets.

“Trust me it is better to accept a lie than invent the truth.”

Family history defines your identity but forgotten secrets may obscure the truth. Do you know who you are?

A mystery of family bonds, love, lies, deception, and jealousy.

The authorities place three-year-old Laura with a foster family. No one tells her why. Fifteen years later, Laura’s trauma of feeling abandoned erupts in violence during a family history project. She has no relatives, no past life – she is a nobody.

Laura returns to her birthplace to trace her parents and find out why they left her. In the Russet House attic, Laura finds old newspaper reports and reads of tragic events. Her mother is missing. Her father is dead.

She persuades a retired police detective to investigate the unsolved mystery and find her mother. This unsettles her newly found relatives who advise her to go home and let the past rest.

Through shocking turns, a fifteen-year-old secret unravels in a final twist.
Laura’s search for her family reveals her identity was a lie.

My thoughts:

There is a terrific creep factor in the writing with this novel.

James McEwan paints a compelling picture of small town life, of families closing ranks against an outsider, of secrets and lies and murder.

Laura return’s to the place of her birth to learn the truth about why she was fostered away. Why would her parents give her up? Through a series of detailed investigations involving genealogy searches, photos, old news papers and a trunk hidden in an attic, Laura starts to unravel the truth and exposes a terrible family secret putting her own life at risk in the process.

The pace of the unwinding plot is nicely balanced with the odd way family members can hold two conversations at once, lying and revealing the truth inside at times banal conversations. A clever tale of a family’s destruction.

Laura wants the truth, but finding it will hurt her more than she can ever know.

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