I have found that this complaint is universal among police officers all over the country. I have heard this PPP (Police Pet Peeve) from California to Chicago to Virginia.
How come in books, the best cops get promoted?
While it may be true in books that the best cops get promoted, its definitely not the rule in real life police departments. In the majority of departments, officers take extremely difficult written exams in order to promote to the next rank. For my lieutenant’s promotional exam, we had to study two large textbooks on police administration plus we had a lengthy handout we had to memorize. Luckily for me, I’m good at studying and taking tests. But what about the stellar officer who simply cannot take tests?
One of the best detectives I know, bar none, had to take the detectives test three times before she finally scored high enough to make the detectives list. Her problem? Dyslexia. Another excellent patrol officer I know took the sergeant’s test four times and never scored high enough to make the list. He just never learned how to take tests.
Now let’s look at the other side. I can’t count how many times an officer with absolutely no common sense or people skills got promoted simply because they were good at taking tests. They were known by the rank and file for being a so so officer, and yet now the rank and file have to answer to the dufus simply because he or she was a good test taker.
As a writer, use this phenomenon to create interesting characters or commander to officer interactions. You’d be amazed at how many scenarios something like this will give you if you just let your imagination fly.
I’d like to welcome guest author, Jennifer Fulford, to my blog today. Her interview with Brian Felson, president of BookBaby, has some great insights concerning the self-pubishing business.
This post evolves from my curiosity about ebook self-publishing and how the trend can help or hurt the unsigned, unpublished author.
Very organically, meaning by a natural outgrowth, the ebook self-publishing business has gained legitimacy with writers who feel the need to take their work to the streets themselves in an increasingly dismal marketplace. Writers are faced with many options and some tough decisions nowadays. Slug out the traditional route, clawing for an ever-shrinking publishing hole, or hold your breath and jump with two feet into self-publishing?
I do believe the stigma associated with self-publishing is as distasteful as you want to make it. If you take yourself seriously as a writer, you logically will also take a serious look at your publishing options. For me, it’s been an evolution. First and foremost, there is the act of writing. There’s the self-education to get better. Then, there’s the coming to terms with feedback and criticism. Somewhere along the way, there is commitment. The last hurdle is the push for publication. For many writers, traditional publication basically means that their work is worthy. They’ve made it. The writing is obviously good. We think getting a book accepted by an agent or a publisher will validate our talent. I’m not so sure anymore about that last statement.
Brian Felsen, BookBaby President
My doubt increased after I spoke to Brian Felsen, the president of an e-publishing startup called BookBaby. Felsen let me hang out with him recently at the Portland, Ore., headquarters of BookBaby, CDBaby and HostBaby and unequivocally made the case for what he calls self-release. (Of course, we want release, in more ways than one!). In terms of economics and marketing, he sees self-publishing as the hands-down winner.
Granted, this is the nice man with the gun who suggested the bus to Cartagena. Disclosure statement: I took no gifts or gratuities to speak with him or to publish this post and the transcript of our interview. I’ll still have to pay the $99 to e-publish my book via BookBaby, if in fact I chose to do so. I simply went on a fact-finding trip, and he was nice enough to cooperate. Laid-back, no question. A man not afraid to use the word poopy in an interview. Sure, he’s running a multi-million dollar company that is breaking into a competitive market, but he was still a nice guy.
BookBaby is new among the electronic book publishers, competing with the likes of Smashwords and CreateSpace. It has released only about 4,000 titles in the last year of doing business. Its competitors have somewhat different models, though I won’t outline the pros and cons here. At BookBaby, you pay an upfront fee, a real person processes your manuscript by hand, and it gets distributed to all the major retailers. The writer keeps 100 percent of the profits after the retailers take their cut. BookBaby has the benefit of being a spinoff of the highly successful CDBaby, a 13-year-old company that is the largest distributor of independent music.
Felsen is an artist and businessman. He writes poetry (no kidding), composes music and used to play rock ‘n’ roll. The way he sees it, self-publishing cuts out a lot of headaches. “It doesn’t hurt you if you release your work now by e,” he said. “Either you can get it pulled down and then get traditional distribution later or still give up the e-rights to it later, if you want to. Or, it’s the calling card for you to get future works noticed, but you shouldn’t put your career on hold and spend tons of money trying to go traditional with awork that’s completed and drive yourself crazy if it’s not imminently happening.”
For e-rights, he says it’s silly to let a publisher take them from you, especially when so little of the revenue from ebooks goes back to the writer. “There’s no warehousing or distribution, there’s really nothing. It’s not rocket science. There’s nothing to it. The sort-of dirty little secret of publishing is that publishers don’t add a ton of value in terms of marketing your work to the readers. They market your work to book sellers. But so many famous authors still have to go to book conventions themselves. They still have to manage their social networking presence themselves, have a website and Twitter accounts and reach out to fans and have contests and do all this stuff that they do, but you’d have to that as an independent author anyway, so you might as well keep the money.”
His logic is this: The publishers and agents are already looking for plug-n-play writers. Why play their game? Do it yourself. “Now, will traditional publishers look at you different? Well, traditional publishers are going to tell you they’re going to look at you differently because you are out there eating their lunch. So, you know, I talk to people, to traditional publishers, many of whom I’ve interviewed on camera for the BookBaby blog, and they would, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, there’s a stigma to self-publishing.’ Well, of course, ‘cause they’re taking an unreasonable cut with unreasonable overhead, and they’re going out of business, so of course they’re going to say that. But if you’re self-released, and you’re one of the top sellers, or if you win awards, they’re gonna want to sign you so badly and so fast, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s just writing, a family memoirist.’ No, not at all.”
I still believe publishers are looking for high quality. But I also agree that their model of selling to book sellers is dying. They already know that. Where does that leave us whimpering newbies? The outlook, according to Felsen, isn’t all that rosy in traditional publishing. “As bookstores are going away, as the publishing houses are consolidating, the mid-tail author is becoming more and more abandoned. It’s like the shrinking middle class. The mid-tier author is not getting the advances that they were. They’re not getting the publicity that they were; there’s not the outlets that there used to be; advances that are doled out are doled out over three years in quarterly installments, and it’s still not really—the pot at the end of the rainbow is a very small one nowadays, and it’s not for everybody.”
The interview with Felsen is more indepth and worth a read. For every new author (and some of the old ones), every option is on the table. It may mean I’ll need an attitude adjustment to worry less about how my work ends up with readers and to focus more on the real goal: satisfied readers. And those readers will let me know whether or not they’re satisfied, regardless of how I publish.
Female detectives wearing revealing shirts and high heels
Well, this one’s pretty self-explanatory. Can’t run, fight, or in my case, walk in high heels, not to mention the scuff and yuck factor of bloody crime scenes. And trying to walk through a muddy field without the heels sinking all the way down and getting stuck in the muck? Forget it.
Revealing shirts? Hah! I once had a Sergeant tell me to button up the second button on my uniform shirt because he thought two undone buttons were unprofessional. And really, if you have any size up there, try running after a bad guy with a low-cut bra on. Talk about bruised chins… And the lewd comments the women would get from the bad guys defies description. Nope, female detectives have to dress professionally if they want to be treated like a professional, so if you want the female cops in your murder mystery to be taken seriously, dress them accordingly.
What do Mystery, Psychological Thriller and Fantasy Fiction have in common? Not a whole heck of a lot. Not a lot except for the fact that each category of fiction is populated with characters who just can’t wait to begin living life. Writing in three different genres can be quite an adventure at times. As a retired police lieutenant, writing murder mysteries is obviously the easiest for me. The character’s personalities practically write themselves, and I always know exactly what they’re going to do to get their jobs done.
I don’t outline my work before I begin a book. I let the story unfold as the characters work their cases or live their lives. I’ve found this approach to be comfortable since that’s exactly what happens in police work. That being said, I have to admit that when I write murder mysteries, I follow an unwritten script because I know how cops and victims and criminals act. My psychological fiction, The Door at the Top of the Stairs, is based on a woman who worked as an undercover narcotics officer, so her personality and life flowed easily for me. Even though her experiences as an officer differ from mine, her reactions to those experiences were second nature.
Now, imagine switching genres from mystery and psychological suspense to fantasy fiction. My latest book, The Spirit Child, completely took everything I knew and threw it out the window. I created the characters and hung on for the ride! Holy Spirit Guides became sarcastic or witty instead of the honored wise beings I’d intended. Instead of a minor character staying minor, she took over the whole book! How dare she? Well she did. There were times when I would sit back and laugh at the antics being played out on my computer screen.
Writing a book or a short story is a fantastic adventure where characters have the breath of life breathed into them. People have written to me saying they love my characters and wish they could be their friends and live in their worlds. I believe a person can write in any genre, any time, as long as the people who populate those stories are true to life, un-stereotypical and interesting in their own right.
Police Pet Peeve #3
Most detectives in cop shows lead the way on a high risk house entry.
While it does make it more exciting for your main character to lead the way on a high risk building entry, the truth of the matter is, if they work for a large enough department, SWAT will usually make the high risk entries. If time is of the essence, or if the entry is in the jurisdiction of a small town cop, then patrol officers will make the entry.
Sure, sometimes, if the detective gets to the scene in time, and if he/she can find their vest, and if they can locate their gun in the trunk, they might be on the entry team. ( Just kidding guys, I used to be a detective myself…and I love to jerk their chains)
Here’s an excellent contest for those of you who enjoy writing fantasy and Science Fiction.
StoneThread Fantasy & Science Fiction Short Story Contest
The result of this contest will be an anthology to honor Ray Bradbury. Seeking fantasy and sociological science fiction short stories. We want stories in which science or magic plays a role but is not the main ingredient. The focus should be on the effect of science or magic on the characters or their reaction to it.No reading fee or entry fee
Entry deadline, 31 July 2012
1500 to 15,000 wordsFor more information, please see http://stonethreadpublishing.com/contests
StoneThread Publishing is an excellent resource for writers of any genre. General submissions to StoneThread are closed for the present, but will reopen soon. To be notified when submissions reopen, interested writers should send the publisher, Harvey Stanbrough, an email to Publisher@stonethreadpublishing.com with WTW in the subject line.
As I said in yesterday’s post, all of these pet peeves come from real cops, most of them friends of mine. I realized the other day though that there has to be one caveat as you read this. Some of these pet peeves have to be used in fiction simply because real life police work can be pretty darn boring at times. That said, at least you will be a better educated writer if you know the “real” way police work is done.
Okay, Police Pet Peeve #2 TV cops always get the bad guy to confess
While it does allow television cop shows to wrap up the case in an hour and it helps writers “prove” their bad guy did the crime, confessions happen in real life only part of the time. As a writer, our job is to write so well that the detective can prove their case without having to rely on a confession, just like a real live cop has to do.
Try this for an exercise: If you have wrapped up your mystery by having the bad guy confess, get rid of the confession and see if your detective would have solved the crime without it. If he can’t, then you haven’t done your job as a story teller. Prove the guilt without the confession, and you’ve done some real police work.
Review of Credo’s Legacy on Novel Addiction – Amanda Togh
Type: Series, Fiction, Mystery, Police Fiction, Procedural Fiction, Long Hours, Fighting the good fight
About the book: Alex Wolfe returns in Book 2 of the Alex Wolfe mysteries. Set in the lush deserts and barrios of Tucson, Az, Credo’s Legacy delivers an intricate, interwoven story of deception, hidden agendas, and the occasional murder, punctuated with episodes of laughter and humanity. A sexy Mafia boss and a brassy eleven year old accused of murdering her foster father help turn Alex’s life upside down.
Occasionally, the second book in a series doesn’t even come close to the first – this is definitely not one of those books. “Credo’s Legacy” packs just as much punch as “Credo’s Hope,” maybe even more so! I’m not much of a suspense junkie, but I decided to give this series a chance because hey, we all need something different now and again, and I have never regretted picking up this book. Alex is still the tough chick, passionate about her work and finding the truth in every situation, no matter how much trouble she gets into because of it. And boy does she get into a lot of trouble.
While it is the story that keeps me reading, it’s the characters that draw me in, in the first place. And the Alex Wolfe series boasts a menagerie of excellent characters, and equally wonderful character interaction. There are no extra, useless scenes. Even in the moments when it seems like Alex is just having fun with her friends, she’s using them to help sort through a few extra details in the case, or they’re helping her solve a problem in her life. Alex’s friends and coworkers help with the pacing of the book, as well as add in a light element. Alex Wolfe’s life can be dark and gritty, especially working on the cases she does, but time spent with her friends gives the reader a few bright moments in the dark.
This story had me hooked from page one. And even better than that, it had me guessing until the very last page. The mystery played its part, I didn’t know why the villain characters did what they did, and I had to keep reading to find out. I cared about Alex, Shelley, Gia, and more. The ending was definitely a good one, I felt like I needed so much more. I had to know Alex and the crew would get their happy endings, that even though some of these characters suffered so badly, things would be all sunshine and puppy dogs. I guess I’ll just have to tune in for the next book – I hope there will be a next book! Cover Loving: Good cover. The fiery-ness of it really suits Alex’s personality and drive in this novel. And the vague heart shape is perfect, considering Alex’s huge heart. Gruff personality sometimes, but huge heart.
Recommendation: Definitely check out “Credo’s Legacy,” and it’s predecessor, “Credo’s Hope.” I loved both of these, and they really are excellent mystery/suspense novels. There is just so much I love about these books.
Final Rating: FIVE out of FIVE (5/5). Another excellent Alex Wolfe book by Alison Holt. I really love this series, be sure to pick up your copy of “Credo’s Hope” and “Credo’s Legacy!”
I would like to welcome guest blogger Andrea Danforth. Andrea is a small business owner, a mother of four, a lifelong learner and an observer of life. She has lived all across the country, from Maine to Hawaii and believes the United States is one of the greatest countries on earth. We had a very enlightening conversation on her observation of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I asked her to write a blog discussing the variety of issues affecting the United States today.
The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement believes that corporations place their interests above all else and have taken over our government and political process. This has been proven by the corporate-owned media’s coverage of the Occupy protests. The top 1% owns the corporate media and it is in their best interest to slant their reporting in order to maintain the status quo. The strategically different viewpoints reported from the corporate news media and the alternate independent media both showcase how much influence and control the largest corporations wield over this country and pinpoint how democratic discourse in the media is limited by those same self serving corporate interests.
Corporate media’s response to the threat of OWS’ message mirrored Gandhi’s Law-“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Even though the issues that the Occupy movement is protesting have existed for a good while, they haven’t been in the news as a part of public discourse. This is one of the reasons OWS took to the streets.
First they ignore you. There were no early reports of the movement’s protests. “Waiting for two weeks to begin reporting on these protests was all out censorship and it was inexcusable.” (Los Angeles Times) As people started talking and word got out on social media sites, this changed. The reporting moved into the then they laugh at you phase of Gandhi’s winning strategy of non-violent activism. The LA Times reported on the movement by quoting the Wall Street Journal, “The pundit class has largely ignored, dismissed or mocked the Occupy Wall Street protest.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page calls the protesters “a collection of ne’er-do-wells raging against Wall Street, or something.” (Los Angeles Times) They went on to say “We too find it hard to get especially worked up over a series of small demonstrations in a handful of cities, including Los Angeles, involving mostly disaffected people who have trouble expressing what it is they’re against.”
(Los Angeles Times) MSNBC headlines read, “Wall Street Protesters Spread Murky Message”.
For the first month and a half, thousands of protesters, attempting to organize and spread the word about the occupation, found that Yahoo blocked hundreds of thousands of emails. Hundreds received emails from Yahoo claiming “Suspicious Activity suspected. Email not sent. To protect account please contact Customer Care.” Twitter hash-tag trend maps have until recently shown that Occupy Wall Street tweets have been surging everywhere in the world except within the United States, meaning a corporate media block out. (Flores)
The alternative media, however, had no trouble reporting on the Occupy movement—who they were, what they were protesting, and why. Their view of the “disaffected” was entirely different. “It’s not just Johnny, unemployed college grad who is out there occupying Wall Street, it’s his dad who was laid off, and his grandmother, who knows the difference between right and wrong, and she’s fed up with it too”. The alternative media actually reported on the movement’s message as well, “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” (Payne)
I went to the OWS march on Times Square on October 15, 2011. I saw clear messages on the signs the protestors were carrying. “Big Money Out Of Politics”, “Wall Street Should Buy Stocks Not Politicians”, “I’ll Believe That Corporations Are People When Texas Executes One”, “New York Teacher, We Are the 99%” and “End The Fed”. One sign said, “We have clear goals” and then listed 7 of them. The National Nurses Association had signs saying “Tax Wall Street Transactions Heal America”. Many people, young and old, held signs saying, “Dissent is Patriotic”. The OWS message was clear to me. I also saw a wide variety of people there; teachers, nurses, students, young, old, black, white and in between, lesbians and straights. They were clean and well kept as well as polite and friendly. After my experience at the protest in New York, I decided to dig a little further into corporate media ownership.
What I found was an interconnected web of corporate ownership and directorship across many types of corporations. Three media giants own all of the cable news networks. Comcast and AOL Time Warner serve 40 percent of cable households. (Common Cause) Disney owns 10 television stations, 50 radio stations, ESPN, A&E, the History Channel, Discover magazine, Hyperion publishing, Touchstone Pictures, and Miramax Film Corp. Viacom owns 39 television stations, 184 radio stations, The Movie Channel, BET, Nickelodeon, TV Land, MTV, VH1, Simon & Schuster publishing, Scribner, and Paramount Pictures. General Electric owns 13 television stations, CNBC, MSNBC, and Bravo. News Corp. owns 26 television stations, FX, Fox News Channel, TV Guide, the Weekly Standard, New York Post, DirecTV, the publisher HarperCollins, film production company Twentieth Century Fox and the social networking website MySpace (Common Cause)
I recognized why the corporations would be threatened by OWS’ message and why they felt they needed to move into Gandhi’s 3rd stage: Then they fight you. Corporate media fought by complaining, focusing and reporting mostly on troubles at the Occupy sites: drug use, assaults, homelessness, cleanliness and infighting between protesters. They are effectively able to control the type of news focused on and therefore reported to the public. While it is true that sometimes the news media attacks corporations, they never mention, let alone advocate, the bottom line issues and reforms that could bring about positive change for the majority of the United States population. Some issues, such as meaningful penalties for white-collar crime, revocation of corporate charters and public, instead of corporate, financing of elections, have never seen the light of day. Election reform is probably one of the top concerns for the average American because all of us are aware of the massive amounts of money that it takes to get involved in national politics.
These are the issues that the Occupy movement is bringing to light. With corporate media’s enormous profit from paid political advertisements and the corporate owner’s interests in opposition to what is fair for the 99%, these issues have not gotten the public coverage and discourse that is wanted and needed by the majority of the people. Until the corporations no longer control the major news outlets, movements like Occupy Wall Street will never receive accurate representation in the mainstream media. As more and more of society becomes aware of the degree to which our news and information is controlled by corporate interests, I believe they will stand up with Occupy Wall Street against this control and its resultant takeover of our government and political process.
After all, our government is supposed to be “Of the people, by the people, for the people.”
This is what needs to happen before the fourth stage of Gandhi’s Law- then you win.
Common Cause. “Facts on Media in America: Did You Know?” 01 01 2010. commoncause.org. 22 02 2012.
Flores, Whidden. “Fight Against Media Censorship of Occupy Wall Street.” 03 11 2011. Force Change. 21 02 2012.
Los Angeles Times. “Occupy Wall Street: The left’s answer to the ‘tea party’?-Los Angeges Times.” 04 10 2011. The Los Angeles Times. 22 02 2012.
Payne, Ed. “Wall Street protests enter 11th day.” 27 09 2011. cnn.com. 21 02 2011.
Report, Chase Kyla Hunter and Alternative News. “Early Web Censorship of Occupy Wall Street.” 30 11 2011. Alternative News Report. 23 02 2012.
Schoen, John W. “Familiar refrain: Wall Street protest lacks leaders, clear message.” 27 09 2011. The Bottom Line on MSNBC.com. 23 02 2012.
I have asked a lot of cops over the years to tell me what bothers them the most about fictional cops portrayed either on television or within the pages of a book. I’ve managed to gather a list of quite a few complaints and I thought it would be fun to address them in my blog. So, today kicks off the Cops and Writers blog posts. Each day’s post will be short and sweet…so here goes:
Police Pet Peeve (PPV) #1
A bad guy misses his target when shooting with a shotgun from six feet away.
While it’s always wonderful to see a bad guy miss by miles when they’re shooting at a cop, the sad truth of the matter is, if you aim in the general direction of your target with a shotgun, you’re gonna hit your target and it’s not going to be pretty.
The moral of the story…If your character needs to miss what he’s shooting at, give him/her something besides a shotgun.
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
— Stephen Biko
Let’s spend a few minutes discussing the terrible little topic of “torture”, which, not so surprisingly, comes from the Latin torquere, to twist. When you think of it like that, it doesn’t sound quite so bad. However, if you consider it as an ideophone, you start to pick up on its dark, insidious, evil nature.
Torture has been the go-to weapon for physical and psychological punishment and duress as long as mankind has walked the earth. It’s also been long abused as a tool for sick and sadistic gratification. Nation states, religious institutions, organized crime, law enforcement, paramilitary organizations, serial killers, kidnappers, and the truly demented have used it for re-education, coercion, punishment, intimidation, sexual indulgence and pure barbarism.
On rare occasions, seemingly normal people have been pushed too far, had too many switches flipped, or been inundated with unwanted improvements to Facebook, and have inexplicably taken to torture with gusto and relish.
Literature and film have been exploring various aspects of torture and the nature of the torturer and tortured for centuries. Consider this impressive list and the depravity within it:
Room 101 and Winston’s torture by O’Brien and the intellectuals of The Party in the Ministry of Love in Orwell’s 1984
Regan and the Duke of Cornwall’s gruesome torture of the Earl of Gloucester at the end of Act III of Shakespeare’s King Lear
Nurse Ratched using electro-shock and lobotomy on McMurphy in Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Patrick Bateman’s horrifying decompensation in Ellis’ American Psycho
Jack Merridew Lord’s torture of Sam and Eric in Golding’s Lord of the Flies
The sinners being tortured in the Nine Circles of Hell in Dante’sInferno
Asami’s torture of Aoyama and his dog in Audition by Ruy Murakami
The prisoner’s torture by the Spanish Inquisition in Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum
The numerous and brutal instances of torture in Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians
I’m sure if you ask any survivor of torture to discuss the various forms of torment inflicted upon them, they would lump it all into one big category – probably called something pithy like “It Sucks”.
However the “experts” generally lump the events [now there’s a clinical term for you] into several broad categories: (1) sexual torture; (2) physical torture; (3) psychological manipulations, such as threats of rape or witnessing the torture of others; (4) humiliating treatment, including mockery and verbal abuse; (5) exposure to forced stress positions, such as bondage or other restrictions of movement; (6) loud music, cold showers and other sensory discomforts; and (7) deprivation of food, water or other basic needs.
The Door at the Top of the Stairs is the 2010 debut from up and coming author, Alison Holt.
Morgan Davis is a farmer, horse and dog trainer, and Master of the Myrina Hunt Club. She’s used to doing things her way, especially on her farm. Against her better judgment, she hires the ill-tempered and insolent Jesse Shaunessy to work her horses. After several near disastrous run-ins, Morgan and her partner, the lovely Dr. Ryland Caldwell, a retired psychologist, begin to realize that Jesse has a past that is hidden deep inside her subconscious.
Working closely with the often-times unwilling Jesse, Ryland and Morgan learn that the young woman was an undercover narcotics officer that had been kidnapped and brutally tortured, then dismissed as an officer because she was too emotionally damaged to function professionally. The thing is, Jesse has no memory of the events that happened to her, but day-by-day seemingly random events chink away at her carefully constructed emotional walls.
Morgan and Jesse have a troubled relationship, but Ryland realizes that the younger woman sees Morgan as a strong, centering force. Together, Ryland and Morgan begin to slowly work with Jesse to return her to the torture room, address each of the events that happened there, and take away their power, one at a time. Jesse isn’t always willing, the older women often feel overwhelmed, and a handful of mean-spirited locals try to teach any number of lessons to the damaged young woman. But, Morgan and Ryland are in it for keeps – they know that once they took the top off the bottle that is Jesse, there is only success or failure. And, for Jesse, failure will mean the end.
When I first picked up this book last fall, I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. From the blurb on Amazon, it sounded a bit like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma on top of a bed of tough and chewy lesbians. While that vibe wasn’t too far from the truth, it only captures part of what makes The Door at the Top of the Stairs fresh, powerful, and defiant.
For my money, strong, balanced, multi-dimensional characters are key to any successful story. If you think carefully, few good books in the “by/for/about” Lesfic genre have more than two truly main characters. This is usually a product of character detailing and plot complexity.
I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just that it happens that way more often than not.
If I were forced to eeny, meeny, miny, moe only two main characters in The Door at the Top of the Stairs, I’d be inclined to point at Morgan, the tough and chewy farmer with a leather whip, and Jesse the tough and chewy horse wrangler with a twitch. These two women have striking similarities and glaring differences, but as a reader, their interactions and the battles of will are moments of true character artistry.
However, Ryland is beautifully intellectual, emotionally present, and aware of her limitations – she also steps up as a major character. There is magnificence in her softer approach and loving relationship with Morgan that makes each woman stronger. Similarly, there is a layered intricacy to her relationship with Jesse that goes beyond doctor/patient. And, while so much of the story is focused on the “sessions” the three women endure on an almost daily basis, the richest parts of the story and the characters are centered on the day-to-day conversations among and between Morgan, Ryland, and Jesse.
As a reader and reviewer, plausibility of the plot and its content are non-negotiable requirements. There’s often a bit of wiggle room in stories – this tricky little tool is called artistic license.
Some stories lend themselves to it and some veer off into the land of Are You Kidding Me!
In a complex and disturbing story like The Door at the Top of the Stairs, it would be easy for the author to find the most troubling, sadistic, and grotesque elements of human nature and thrust each and every one of them into the story for maximum soul-sucking dramatic effect. The thing is, these elements are all naturally occurring in this story and aren’t given embellishment – that is a testament to Ms. Holt’s vision as a storyteller, patience as a writer, and filter as an author.
Ultimately, the story is tight and each of the elements has a realistic edge. I believe the love/hate relationship between Morgan and Jesse, the homophobic dog handler with a sad excuse for an enabling mother, Pete’s betrayal, the lusty socialite, the sadism, the fear, the anger, and last second Hail Mary for redemption.
A few months ago I contacted Alison Holt to let her know that I write The Rainbow Reader blog, and told her that I’d like to do a review on her next book whenever that might be. We had an interesting little conversation related to the fact that she doesn’t write “lesbian books” just books that have lesbians in them. While not all readers will agree, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter because they still fit the “by/for/about” criteria. Regardless of the label, I believe she’s one of the best writers emerging onto the overall literary scene, and I love that she has the guts and grit to write the stories she has to tell.
If you’re looking for a classic Lesfic romance or mystery, you’re not going to find it in The Door at the Top of the Stairs. What you will find is a fresh approach, great characters, strong plots, a slip of humor, and one of the most beautiful writing styles in the game.
The Door at the Top of the Stairs was great when I read it last year, and it was even better the second time through. It’s artistic, edgy, and will haunt you for weeks to come. I’m giving this powerhouse story a 5.3 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!
It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?
Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?
Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.
Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.
Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?
Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.
My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.
OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.
Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.
Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.
You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.
Today I’d like to welcome fellow author Heidi Noroozy who has written a wonderful blog post describing how she chooses names for the Iranian characters who populate her mystery novels which are set in Iran and the Persian diaspora.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
First, let me thank you, Alison, for inviting me to be part of your wonderful blog today. I’m delighted to be here!
Several months ago, I received a tweet from a follower on Twitter with an intriguing proposition. He asked that, should I consider putting him in one of my mystery novels, would I please not make him the villain? He bravely offered to die in the first pages if I found it necessary.
I was enchanted.
Usually, I try to avoid using the names of family, friends, and acquaintances in my books for fear that these people will think I am plunking them down in my books, personality quirks intact. And here was someone who actually wanted his name in my book!
Picking the right name for a character is not a decision authors make lightly. Think of the memorable characters in fiction whose names seem to reflect and support the character. For me, Atticus Finch, the hero of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a name perfectly suited to the character. What could be more inspired than to take the name of an ancient Greek philosopher and apply it to a man who would sacrifice everything for his convictions? Atticus is a noble name for a man with noble aspirations.
My stories are set in Iran and the Persian diaspora, a culture that is not my own, yet I have come to know it well through my Iranian-born husband, his family, and Persian friends. But because I write for an English-speaking readership and cannot assume that my readers will be able to get their tongues around the foreign names populating my books, I put a lot of thought into picking names that not only fit the character but are not too difficult to pronounce or remember.
Take the protagonist of my Persian P.I. series: I named her Leila because it would be somewhat familiar to English speakers. Arabic in origin, the name may not be the most common one in the West, but it’s short and clearly feminine (gender is not always obvious in foreign names).
For her last name, I chose Shirazi because I liked the rhythm it created when paired with Leila. And it’s derived from one of Iran’s loveliest cities—Shiraz—a place famed for its hospitality, beautiful gardens, and famous poets.
In Leila’s case the name came first, and the character grew to embrace it. Leila is a private investigator, who can be tough and driven when the situation calls for it. But she has a softer side as well and can stop and smell the roses of Shiraz, as it were.
Iranian names are fun to play with when it comes to pairing them with characters, since many of them have very specific (and sometimes quite ordinary) meanings. This goes for both female first names—Mozhgan (eyelashes), Arezou (wish), Roya (dream)—and for male ones: Atash (fire), Omid (hope), Kamyar (success).
In my novel, Bad Hejab, I have a character who comes across as arrogant, always acting in his own interest and sparing little thought to others. I named him Amir (prince). Over the course of several drafts, I realized this man’s arrogance was a cover for a sense of inadequacy. His family never expected him to amount to much, and as a man operating mainly on the wrong side of the law, he knows he has fully lived up to their expectations. I began to appreciate the irony of the name for a man whose actions were often self-serving yet who felt less than noble in his heart. This dichotomy seemed very Iranian to me, for Persian culture is one where appearances can be deceiving and a person’s true nature or purpose is not easily discerned.
Iranian last names pose a different problem. They are usually less difficult to remember or pronounce, but most end in the letter “i”: Molavi, Tavakoli, Esfandiari. Such names can get repetitive in a novel that has many characters. This tendency has historical reasons. Until the early 20th century, Iranians did not have last names, but were often referred to by their place of origin: Tehrani, Gilani (Gilan is a province in northern Iran), or Shirazi. Consequently, I am always on the lookout for names that end in a consonant: Amanpour, Daneshvar, Zand.
So where do I find names, seeing how reluctant I am to plunder the names of family and friends? (And I can’t always rely on Twitter buddies to volunteer theirs.) By necessity, I have become a collector of names.
I read a lot—memoirs, books on Iranian history and contemporary society, news reports, blogs. And fiction, of course. I maintain three lists: for female, male and last names. When I come across an unusual name, it goes into my list. If I can find the meaning associated with the name, that goes in the list as well.
Iran has a great deal of ethnic diversity. While Persians make up the dominant culture, many Iranians are Kurdish, Turkish-speaking Azeris, Christian Armenians, or members of nomadic tribes (Bakhtiaris, Qashqais, Lurs). Some names reflect these ethnicities. Naghshbandi is a typical Kurdish last name. A name ending in “ian” is usually Armenian.
In Bad Hejab, I have an Armenian policeman and when I needed a name for him, I turned to Google and searched for Armenian baby names – and ended up with 2 million hits! I chose Krikor from one of these lists and paired it with Goryan, a name the Armenian-American author, William Saroyan, once used as a pseudonym, although the famous author chose a different first name (Sirak). My reasons for picking Krikor Goryan as my detective’s name were not particularly profound. I liked the sound of Krikor and was intrigued by the fact that Saroyan had once used a pen name.
What about you? How do you feel about character names? If you are a reader, do you appreciate a good pairing between a name and its character? What are some of the most memorable fictional names you can think of? And if you are a writer, how do you go about picking names for your characters?
Heidi Noroozy writes multicultural fiction set in the Persian-American subculture and regularly travels to Iran for research and inspiration. In the Islamic Republic, she has pondered the ancient past amid the ruins of Persepolis, baked translucent flat bread with Kurdish women in the Zagros Mountains, dipped her toes in the azure waters of the Caspian Sea, and observed the dichotomy of a publicly religious yet privately modern society. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, and she is seeking publication for her suspense novel, Bad Hejab, in which an Iranian-American P.I. pursues justice for the murder of her journalist cousin while navigating the bewildering, male-dominated society of Tehran. Heidi can be found at http://noveladventurers.blogspot.com/, where she writes about Persian culture on Mondays.
“I release the novel today to celebrate and honor the end of the discriminatory and humiliating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.” Kurt Brindley
I’d like to welcome guest author, Kurt Brindley. I struck up a friendship with Kurt through Twitter, and in him I discovered a man who is passionate about the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. His book, THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR, debuts today and I’m proud to host him on this auspicious day when the repeal of DADT officially goes into effect!
As a special bonus to one lucky reader, Kurt is giving away a signed copy of THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR. To enter the give away, simply leave a comment at the end of this post and your name will be entered in the drawing which will be held on September 27th, 2011. Good Luck!
WRITE TO PURGE by Kurt Brindley
To me, writing is hard.
And it sometimes hurts.
And rarely does it ever come easy.
But still, I cannot stop myself from writing.
I’m not exactly sure why.
I am sure that I am not one of those writers who passionately declare such things like, “I write to live,” or, “If I didn’t write, I would die.”
While I understand the reason for these types of sentiments from those types of passionate writers, I hardly believe them to be completely sincere.
Well, based upon my own sentiments toward writing, I find them hard to believe, anyway
But who am I to judge, right?
Who am I?
Why I’m the one doing the writing, that’s who. And since I’m the one doing the writing (and since Alison so kindly (foolishly?) posted my writing on her blog), it means that I am also the one who gets to do the judging around here for now.
Yeah…(sinister laugh)…here comes the judge.
There’s nothing quite like the rush I get from the mighty, nearly invincible, power of the pen/laptop, that’s for sure.
You should try it (“It” referring to both writing and judging. (A pretty versatile “it,” wouldn’t you agree?)) sometime.
But back to my point (Which, let’s face it, really isn’t the real point of this post. To give you a heads up, the real point of this post comes shortly after this somewhat pointless point that I am presently in the middle of pointing out.).
Anyway, we all know that these passionate writers who declare such things like they will die if they don’t write will not die if they don’t write. If they don’t write they’ll just continue on slugging it out with their sluggish day jobs and their sluggish lives just like the rest of us slugs.
See, my sentiments toward writing are more along the lines of if it were possible I would leave it rather than take it.
I would gladly leave it because, like I all ready said, to me, writing is hard.
And it sometimes hurts.
And rarely does it ever come easy.
I would leave it (“It” referring to my relationship with writing.) but, alas, it (“It” referring to my ability to leave my relationship with writing.) is not possible.
Though I’m not exactly sure why I cannot stop writing, I do know why I write.
I write, not to live, or, to keep from dying,
I write to purge.
I write to purge demons…
I write to purge depression…
I write to purge sorrow…
and hap– Yeah, yeah. Whatever.
You get my pathetic point (Which, still, is not the real point of this post.), I’m sure.
But mostly (And here we now have arrived at the real point of this post.) I write to try to purge my own ignorance.
And based upon the ignorant things I have written thus far in this pointy post, I bet you’re thinking that I have a lot of purging to do.
That I do, my friend. I certainly do.
I began writing a novel almost a decade ago in an effort to purge my own ignorance of the impact that the misguided Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was having on the United States’ military.
What I found was that it was a rather extensive and harmful impact, one which required a considerable amount of purging on my part.
The nearly decade-long writing purge of mine culminates today, September 20, 2011, with the publication and release, or shall I say, the Coming Out!, of my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR. (Okay. I confess. Informing you that my novel is now available for you to purchase is the for real point of this post.)
I release the novel today to celebrate and honor the end of the discriminatory and humiliating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
While today is a very proud day for me, in my view (remember, I’m the one with the judging power of the almighty pen/laptop), today is an even prouder day for the United States of America.
Today, the United States of America has purged itself of some seriously malignant and damaging ignorance.
And with this purging, today, the United States of America has been cleansed and shines anew.
Today, I congratulate all Americans for finally doing what is right and just.
Today, I especially congratulate those patriots who courageously sacrificed their identities, and in some cases, their lives, in order to proudly and honorably serve their nation while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was national policy.
Thank you Patriots. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Kurt Brindley is a novelist, poet, and blogger who dreams of being a rock star. A retired sailor, he enjoyably spent a portion of his navy career as an Equal Opportunity Advisor. It was during his time as an EOA that the impetus behind THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR began gathering. Kurt is a graduate from the United States Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. He holds an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Human Relations.
I’m very pleased to welcome Brett Battles to my blog as a fellow writer and blogger. In this guest post, Brett discusses some of the background research for his book, Little Girl Gone.
rett was born and raised in southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on.
Though he still makes California his home, he has traveled extensively to such destinations as Ho Chi Minh City, Berlin, Singapore, London, Paris, and Bangkok, all of which play parts in his current and upcoming Jonathan Quinn thrillers.
THE SOUND OF THE DISTANT WHISTLE
The train pulls out of the station just as dusk settles over Bangkok. I sit on my bench seat, gazing out the window, and watching the city roll by. As always when I travel, I’m fascinated with everything—the little roadside restaurants, no more than carts and some plastic chairs; the motorcycles used like pickup trucks, piled high with God knows what; and the kids playing in the clearing between the tracks and the city, barely even acknowledging us as we pass.
I’m told the trip will last between twelve and fourteen hours, an overnighter from the Thai capital in the south to Chiang Mai in the northwest, near the border with Burma. I had initially hoped to get a first class cabin, which would have meant a private room, but I was too late in purchasing my ticket, so I have settled for second class.
Now, I’m glad it has worked out that way.
The second class cars are set up with set after set of two high back benches facing each other. There are rows of these on either side of the cabin. They create an aisle down the middle that is probably four feet across at best. Though every bench can comfortably fit two people, no more than one traveler is assigned to each.
Night takes over for day as we finally leave the city for the countryside. The only things cutting through the darkness are the lights of homes and cars and motorbikes.
I am never bored when I travel. I can sit at a sidewalk café watching the world go by for hours and I never be happier. I have a deep wonder and excitement for places I’ve never lived and cultures that are not my own, so I’m always taking everything in—listening and observing and learning. Though I know I can never be a native, I love to try to figure out how those that are making their way through and relate to the world. I like to watch how they interact, and try to understand their motivations for doing this or that or the other thing.
I think even if I weren’t a writer, I’d be doing this. But I am a writer, so everything I see is story.
At some point I wander down to the café car. It’s more than serviceable, with tables and a waitress and a snack bar if someone just wants to grab a bite and go. After grabbing a beer, I’m invited to join a group of other travelers. Saoirse, Barry and Brian are from Ireland, and on a month long trip of exploration before moving permanently to Australia for work, and Bernard, a German, is traveling the countryside alone, splitting time between beaches and temples—of course the ocean is its own kind of temple, I guess. For the next few hours, we laugh as we drink Thai beer (Singha for Bernard and I, Chang for our Irish friends), and tell stories of our travels.
“You have to put us in one of your books,” Saoirse says at one point. We’ve already discussed professions an hour ago.
“Absolutely,” I tell her. I pulled out my back moleskin notebook. “Write your names in here so I don’t forget them.” She does.
In many ways, I feel like I am a character in a 1940s movie—maybe Cary Grant or Joseph Cotton, in a suspense story that takes place entirely on a train traveling across the county. This feeling is reinforced when I returned to my assigned seat to find that the porter has turned all the benches into upper and lower sleeping berths. My cabin now truly looks like something out of one of those movies. Each bed even has baby blue curtains that pull across the aisle side for privacy.
As I finally lay down in my upper berth, the thoughts of this fictional 1940s film begin to change into ideas for a decidedly 21st century story. That is, after all, the main reason I am here—to look for story, to search for locations to help tell the tale I know I will eventually write. And as I fall asleep, scenes start to come to me. Nothing complete, just flashes—the kitchen car, the all but abandoned platforms we stop at late at night, the aisles, the porters, where best to hide a body, how a chase would look. I know these flashes will continue to develop and sharpen in my mind. I am never so at peace as I am when this is going on.
Ka-kunk-tcuk-tcuk. Ka-kunk-tcuk-tcuk. Ka-kunk-tcuk-tcuk.. This is the rhythm of my sleep. It is reassuring, peaceful, and satisfying.
Then again, when I’m out in the world exploring new places and new stories, everything is satisfying.
Find out how the night train to Chiang Mai worked into my fictional world in my novel LITTLE GIRL GONE. Saoirse, Barry and Brian make an appearance or two, also. Bernard hasn’t yet, but his day is coming. He and I do still connect often on Facebook.
For a limited time only, LITTLE GIRL GONE is available for Kindle or Nook for only 99¢! Kindle . Nook
Holy Cow! Alison Holt ROCKS! This novel, the first in her Alex Wolfe Mystery series is FANTASTIC!
Holt’s writing style is both intriguing and gripping, and leaves the reader with a great sense of satisfaction after finishing this book.
Alex Wolfe. Now THAT is a character, if ever there was one. She is one cop you won’t want to miss! I loved the way she handle her situations, especially once she was kidnapped. Yep. She was kidnapped. And, well, let’s just say that conducting an investigation isn’t always the best thing to do. You can tend to make someone mad….VERY mad. To the point of kidnapping.
Anyway, I loved all the secondary characters as well. Mostly all women, you will fall in love with all the characters as you laugh til you cry at their way of life. Oh, and let’s not forget Alex’s new nurse friend…..one hunky nurse……who’s bisexual. Yea. Okay. Well, you’ll have to read it for you self to see just how good this bi nurse fits into the story. You’ll be surprised.
So, I highly recommend this novel as 4 Books worthy. You’ll laugh til you cry (just a precaution…do NOT drink anything while reading this novel!), you’ll turn page after page, ready for each new character, each new twist and each new piece to the puzzle. Alex Wolfe is a character to enjoy, and one who I can’t wait to read more about! Fantastic work, Ms. Holt!
I loved this book! I can identify with the heart and the highjinks that befall Alex and I hope to follow her exploits through numerous books in the future. I’m in love with the supporting case of characters. If you want some laughs, and a decent mystery that never leaves you feeling like “No way, that can’t be what happened!” and group of women you’d want to call your friends, then this book is totally for you.
-by GirlRMusic on Amazon
Thank you! I’m in love with the characters too and hope to have the third in the Alex Wolfe Mysteries out in a few months.
Introducing Detective ALEXANDRA WOLFE, a fresh, funny, tough cop who skates on the edge of the law in her quest for justice. A Mafia boss, a hunky bi-sexual nurse, Alex’s rescued mutt, Tessa, and her exuberant best friend, Megan, help Alex turn her everyday life as a detective upside down.
Six years ago, Brian McClelland was murdered, and his brother was convicted of killing him. When Megan bullies Alex into reviewing the case, Alex discovers that her Captain was the chief investigator who overlooked evidence that might have proved the brother’s innocence. Against the Captain’s orders and Alex’s better judgment, she unofficially re-opens the case and finds herself
following a twisted investigative trail left by the murder victim himself. The problem is, she has no idea what he was investigating or whether his investigation ultimately led to his death.
As she digs into clues from the past, she finds herself at the doorstep of the beautiful and daunting Gianina Angelino, who just happens to be the head of the Angelino Crime Family. Thing
s really heat up for Alex when she starts to receive unsolicited help from the mafia, and the police department, once again, orders her to stay away from the murder investigation and from any connections with organized crime. This in itself proves difficult since Gianina doesn’t answer to Alex’s chain of command and continues to help wherever and whenever she sees fit.
Alex’s unorthodox methods blur her personal and professional lives and when her two worlds collide, keeping her day job becomes the least of her worries as Alex struggles to keep from following the dead man’s trail straight to her own demise.
Set in the lush deserts and barrios of Tucson, Arizona, Detective ALEXANDRA WOLFE returns in this intricate, interwoven story of deception, hidden agendas, and the occasional murder, punctuated with episodes of laughter and humanity. A sexy Mafia boss, a brassy eleven-year-old accused of murdering her foster father, and of course, Alex’s best friend Megan unite to make sure chaos still reigns supreme in Alex’s life.
Alex has kept herself out of trouble for a record three months when her friend, Gianina Angelino, the head of the Angelino Mafia Family, asks her to do a favor. The favor centers around a life-changing event that happened when Gia was nineteen. A rival mafia family had kidnapped her twin brother, Credo, and then had him executed as she watched in helpless horror. Unbeknownst to the Angelino family, Credo had fathered an illegitimate child shortly before he was murdered.
Now eleven-year-old Shelley Greer has murdered her foster father, whom she alleges tried to rape her. Child Protective Services has located some papers naming Credo as the girl’s grandfather, which makes Gia her great aunt. Gia has ordered DNA testing on the girl to prove paternity, but meanwhile, she has asked Alex to discreetly monitor the homicide investigation to make sure everything is done correctly.
Correctly? Hardly. And now Alex has to sort out the truth from the fiction before several lives, including her own, are lost in the balance.
UNDERCOVER NARCOTICS OFFICER, Jesse Shaunessy, is kidnapped and tortured, then thrown away by her department as damaged goods. The mind is a powerful ally, and 26-year-old Jesse has no memory of the abduction or the subsequent torture. Inevitably, as Jesse drifts from one itinerant job to another, the protective walls carefully constructed by her subconscious are beginning to crumble.
Fate lands her on a farm owned by Dr. Ryland Caldwell, a retired psychologist and her partner, Morgan Davis, the master of the Myrena Fox Hunt club. Ryland suspects there is more to Jesse’s foul temper than meets the eye. When Morgan and Ryland accidentally discover vicious scars on Jesse’s back, Ryland knows that without their help, Jesse’s descent into insanity will rapidly overwhelm them all.
Credo’s Hope is the first in an entertaining series featuring police detective Alexandra Wolfe. Part police procedural, part mystery with deft touches of comedy, this is a well written novel with an interesting story and likeable characters.
Alex, and her partner Casey, are called to a case where a prostitute has been shot, a young girl injured and the suspect is in the wind. It’s going to take hard work and a bit of luck to track him down, but Alex can’t resist her best friends plea to take on a cold case involving a death row inmate. Investigating on her own time, Alex manages put her boss offside and to step on a few toes, including those of the Prada shod mafia boss, Giannina Angelino. Despite being assaulted, shot at, kidnapped and harassed, Alex is determined to follow every lead and see justice done.
I enjoyed the multi layered plot spear headed by Alex’s official and unofficial investigation. Holt’s own experience as a police officer is evident in the details, from the investigative process to the physical confrontations. There are also some interesting subplots, such as Casey’s ongoing argument with another detective, Mrs Highland and Alex’s accidental involvement with the local mafia. There is no sense of crowding despite all the action and the pacing is well handled. The dialogue is well written, snappy and realistic and generally the standard of writing is high. There were a few occasions where I thought the writing could be a little tighter, I think it would benefit from an experienced editor just to provide a final gloss of professionalism to the manuscript.
Holt displays real strength in developing a cast of realistic, dynamic characters all of which are appealing. Alex is smart and grounded with enough attitude to make hard choices for the right reasons. Her phone calls with her mother give us some idea of where she has come from but it is her interaction with her friends, colleagues and dog, Tessa, that tell us who she is. Alex believes in her job, evidenced by her determination to follow her cases wherever they may lead, despite any threats to herself. It’s a mix of stubborn bravery and dogged resolve that makes Alex an admirable detective and loyalty and sass that makes her an appealing protagonist.
As Alex’s best friend, Megan provides a lot of the laughs but also reveals Alex lighter side. She is a wonderful foil to the more serious aspects of the story, and provides a believable impetus for Alex to involve herself in the Brian McClelland case. I also enjoyed many of the supporting characters including Alex’s beleaguered boss, Kate, and nurses Maddy and Carlo.
Credo’s Hope is a great read and an impressive start to this self published series. I’m really glad I took a chance on it and recommend it unreservedly to fans of the genre. I’m hoping to read the second installment Credo’s Legacy as soon as I have the opportunity.
This was definitely an engaging and well thought-out story. The characters (Morgan, Ryland and Jesse) were believable and felt real.
There was a part of the story that I wasn’t expecting and that was the lesbianism. I hesitate to mention this because a lot of people will not read a book if same-sex couples are depicted. While I may not agree with the same-sex couple lifestyle, I am in no place to judge anyone. I say that so I can mention that while this story has a same-sex couple as two of the main characters, that does not take away from the effectiveness of this story.
As a matter of fact, I applaud Alison for writing a non-erotic book that includes a same-sex couple. While there are those of us that may not agree with this lifestyle, I believe that more and more genres of books will include same-sex couples. This is just the beginning. I encourage you to not let that cause you to pre-judge a book before you read it. Main Characters
Morgan – Owner of a farm with horses and hounds. She is well-respected in the community and is adamant about her employees using respect and manners in every aspect of their life, since they are a representation of her.
Ryland – A former psychologist who lives at the farm with Morgan. She is also well-respected in the community and is Morgan’s softer side and, sometimes, her sense of reason.
Jesse – A former cop with anger issues that are a result of a traumatic event that she has amnesia about. She has gotten fired from every farm but Morgan’s.
This book has a few romantic scenes, but is mostly a suspenseful story about a traumatic event in a former cop’s life who receives emotional help from the last two people she ever expected would help her. It is a touching story about friendship and being able to let go and trust those who really want the best for you.
Greetings. I’m glad you decided to join me as I set out on my journey as a published author. My first book, The Door at the Top of the Stairs is at the printers as we speak. I loved writing The Door, which tells the story of JESSE SHAUNESSY, an undercover narcotics officer who is kidnapped and tortured, then thrown away by her department as damaged goods. The mind is a powerful ally, and 26-year-old Jesse has no memory of the abduction or the subsequent torture. Inevitably, the protective walls carefully constructed by her subconscious are beginning to crumble. Insanity, friendship, and redemption are all possibilities dependent upon one choice, one gamble, and two determined women who must risk everything to save one lost soul.
I am also busy formatting my second book, Credo’s Hope, which introduces Detective ALEXANDRA WOLFE, a fresh, funny, tough cop who skates on the edge of the law in her quest for justice. A Mafia boss, a hunky bi-sexual nurse, Alex’s rescued mutt, Tessa, and her exuberant best friend, MEGAN, help Alex turn her everyday life as a detective upside down.
Well, onward and upward as they say!
Having specialized in Psychiatry as a doctor, I was unbelievably drawn to the plot of this book. Too many times the themes of this genre of books leaves me bored with the predictability of the plot and often the ending. Holt kept me gripped to the very last word. Her sense of humor throughout the book made me giggle outwardly at times, some of those not appropriate for the surroundings I was in — hehehehe.
My recommendation gives this book 10 stars out of 5. Do yourself a favor and indulge in this book, but don’t blame me if you miss sleep finishing the book in one sitting. Thanks Alison for a great book. one could say a block buster if it were a film. I hate to sound greedy but I purchased the next 2 books by her on Amazon. When I am done reading them I will enlighten you on my feelings of each of those books…..
have fun reading………yours in friendship…….Tenpercent
Book Review: Alison Naomi Holt, The Door At The Top Of The Stairs
03-25-2011 by L. S. Carbonell
There are forty yards of fiction on my bookshelves. Yeah, you read that right – yards. Thirty yards of it are mysteries. I love a good mystery – police procedurals, English country houses, classic who-done-its, everything from Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelmas to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. The challenge is to find one I can’t figure out before the last chapter.
Alison Holt blew me away.
While there are a couple of criminal subplots to this book, the real mystery lies inside a mind. Fair warning, if you are not a fan of shows like Criminal Minds, the journey through this mind can easily become too much to read. This book requires a strong ability to take a step back from the horrors inside that mind.
I found myself grateful for the parts of the book that stepped away from the mystery, because it gave me a chance to put it down. Otherwise, I would have read straight through the night, and that’s something I only do if I’m dumb enough to get caught two-thirds of the way through a Dick Francis around 11 p.m. The breaks work well, primarily dealing with the operations of a farm that trains horses and hounds for American fox hunting – no foxes are killed. Holt finds that balance between explaining something most of us have no clue about and over-explaining it. Nothing about the farm operation gets so detailed that you want to skip a few paragraphs.
I was initially surprised that Holt never pegs this farm to a state or region. That’s rare. Authors go to great lengths to establish their characters within the framework of a real location, even though a street or estate or town may be fictional. The closest one comes with this book is a sense that they don’t ever have to dig out from under three feet of snow. The town is like small towns in every state. The people could be anywhere, just supply the accent. By the end, I realized that the lack of specific location had allowed me to imagine a place where I felt safe to return to after delving into the terrifying terrain within that damaged mind. I appreciated the freedom from being in California or Virginia or anywhere I wasn’t at home.
Anyone who reads our blog regularly knows that I’m the straight gal on this staff, so the only part of this book I can’t comment on with any authority is the relationships of the five female characters. On the other hand, none of the, shall we say, romantic scenes were graphic or embarrassing for a middle-aged straight woman, so you can safely recommend this book to your auntie if she’s cool with your lifestyle. I was particularly comfortable with the relationship of the older, committed couple. Morgan and Ryland felt right. That’s the only way I can explain it. They just felt right. All the relationships felt right. I cared about these people, and isn’t that the most important part of any book?
Let’s put it this way, in the last three days, I recommended it to my younger daughter. She bought it for her Nook and has already recommended it to her mystery book club. It’s that good.
I am pleased to welcome Guest Blogger Jude Johnson. Jude, the granddaughter of a curandera, a Mexican healer who uses herbs, psychology and a little bit of mysticism, incorporates a bit of family legend into her Dragon & Hawk series. Currently, Book One, Dragon & Hawk, is scheduled for ebook release by Champagne Books in April 2011, with print publication following. Rest assured, Books Two and Three are already written.
Today, Jude asks and answers the question: What Now, Brown Cow ~OR~ Where the &#$* Am I Gonna Sell My Books
Borders Books has declared bankruptcy and is closing more than 200 stores. Barnes & Noble is in such dire financial straits that they are not paying shareholder dividends and are actively seeking a corporate buyer. (Ref: TIPS for WRITERS by Jerry D. Simmons, February 24, 2011, www.WritersReaders.com.)
The publishing business is about as stable as the Middle East at the moment.
The accessibility window for small publishers and indy authors to chain bookstores is now as big as the wee door to Wonderland when Alice is ten feet tall. But we are talking print books here. A revolution has been slowly gathering momentum over the past five years, and it’s called ebook publishing. It has exploded online these past two years, and with the demise of Big Box Bookstores such as Borders and B&N, online publishing will accelerate to Mach Four. As with all revolutions, there will be convolutions, protests, and wailing at the winds of change. And as with many revolutions, there will be grievous loss. Remember Wherehouse and Sam Goody record stores? Remember Blockbuster video? Well, you’ll be remembering Borders and B&N in that category too, and within five years.
So where the &^*% are you going to sell your books? Amazon, of course, though they’re quite akin to doing business with Louie the Loan Shark. The saavy author is going to make sure they have an online presence and a local connection with independent bookstores. Yes, you read that right—indy bookstores have survived and will continue to as long as there are people who love the printed word. Go buy books there. Get to know the manager and workers, send friends there to shop. It’s a mutual relationship: the more business you send their way, the more reason they’ll have to carry your books.
Speaking of your book, make sure it is the best product you can put out there, whether you’re dealing with an established publisher or doing it yourself. ESPECIALLY if you’re doing it yourself. The easier it is to publish a book, the more crap is going to be out there. Don’t allow sloppy, shoddy work to be “good enough.” It isn’t, and it will brand your work as bad like a full-color tattoo—and be harder to erase. Hire an editor, and if you’re working with a publisher of any sort, go over your manuscript with a super-fine toothed comb for every typo, slipped comma, or missed quotation mark.
Be the cream of the crop, not common crud, and your reputation will slowly build into a fanbase.
This is how authors will survive the revolution. Quality rises, consistency builds, and consideration wins respect. Be kind to your local indy bookstore. Be positive and consistent with your online presence. If you have a blog, post regularly. If you’re on Facebook, have a fan page and let people know you’re alive and working on things. If you have local events, announce them and invite everyone to drop in, and if they don’t want to buy your book encourage them to buy something. Yes, it’s going to take a while, but isn’t staying power the point?
There’s more to life than big chains. Enjoy the local flavor and support your independents. We can all keep books flourishing if we work together.
Author of DRAGON & HAWK
due April 2011 from Champagne Books: www.champagnebooks.com
“Afast moving and is a very interesting read. I started reading this yesterday with no intention of reading it all right away because I had things to do but I ended up losing track of time and read the entire book in one afternoon. I just couldn’t put it down.
If you are into psychological suspense novels then I suggest you read this book.You will not be disappointed and will not want to put it down.”