Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Minute Orgasm / La Marchesa

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Erotica

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


The author has written several other works in the same genre.


“Answering a bizarre newspaper ad at a research clinic, Janine Taylor’s life is turned topsy-turvy when she agrees to be a test subject for a study on extending the length of orgasms for women.

Caught in a debauched world of sexual nirvana, Janine soon becomes their star pupil. Can she go back to her old life? Given the choice, would she even want to?”


Every genre has its own set of (often) unwritten expectations and conventions. For example, a storyline that would stretch the ability to suspend disbelief to the breaking point in some genres may hit the bullseye in erotica. While erotica may not need the same character and plot development as other genres, ignoring the basics of storytelling won’t work either. Two Minute Orgasm hits the sweet spot, with enough in the way of plot and character development to draw the reader in and give the sex scenes some context and credibility. With the exception of a poor job of proofing and copyediting, which left much to be desired, Two Minute Orgasm is a solid effort.


Given the genre, it should go without saying that if you don’t like explicit sex in your books, this isn’t for you. If you’re bothered by bondage, multiple simultaneous partners, or girl on girl action, the same caveat applies.

Format/Typo Issues:

A large number of typos and copy editing misses. The most common issues are missing words (‘the’ and ‘a’) and verb tense errors.

Rating: *** Three stars

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seaview Terrace / Kate Rigby

Reviewed by: SingleEyePhotos

Genre: Literary Fiction

Approximate word count: 50-55,000

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Kate Rigby has been writing for over 30 years and has several traditionally published books to her credit. She studied psychology at the University of Southampton, although Rigby no longer works in that field. R currently lives in Devon. Details on her work can be found on Rigby’s website or on her blog.


Seaview Terrace is a cul-de-sac of twelve multi-family houses. The apartments are inhabited by a random assortment of people – old and young; happy and sad; comfortably off and just making ends meet; British and foreign. The inhabitants of this little world go through their lives affecting, and being affected by, their neighbors, for better and for worse.


The basic premise of this book is quite good – it’s what I like to refer to as a ‘fly on the wall’ view of ordinary people going about their lives. Like lives everywhere, these have their share of positives and negatives and surprising moments as the various players interact. As a fly’s-eye view of modern (lower) middle-class British society, it is most likely very true to life. The main characters run the gamut from perpetually out-of-work misanthrope Warren and his downtrodden girlfriend Maxine, genteel Joan and snobbish Cynthia; workaholic Trish and gypsies Iz and Oz; gay partners Guy and Mark; wealthy real estate mogul Hassan and his family… all walks of life and personalities end up in Seaview Terrace.

This is not a story with a defined beginning, a linear plot, and a nicely wrapped-up ending. It’s just the story of these people’s lives and how they interact and react. It covers approximately 9 months of a year – from spring through the beginning of winter. At the end, everyone living in Seaview Terrace has been touched by change – some for the better, some for the worse.

I personally found this to be a very negative book – none of the characters were portrayed as likeable people, and I felt that their attitudes and opinions were very shallow and petty, as well as prejudiced. There wasn’t a single character that I’d like to know, nor could I sympathize with them, although I do feel that the representation was very true-to-life. This most likely just underscores the cultural differences, and if anything, shows us the author’s ability to create believable (albeit unlikable) characters.


There are a couple of things that should be noted. First, this book is written in the third person present tense, which I personally find very difficult to read, though tastes may vary, of course. Second, there is a great deal of prejudice shown throughout the book – mostly racial/ethnic, but also homophobic – by various characters. None of it actually crosses the line to being totally inappropriate, but it does play a large part in storyline.

Uses UK spelling conventions and slang.

Format/Typo Issues:

None noted except for the fact that new chapters did not start on a new page. At the end of the last paragraph of a chapter, there would be several spaces, then the next chapter heading.

Rating: *** Three stars

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tashtego / David Elder

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Approximate word count: 205-210,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


An Ohio native, David Elder is an attorney in Northern Michigan. In addition to this book, he has one other, The Gingerbread Man, currently available and another, The Will of the Wisp, poised for publication, with a fourth in progress. For more, visit Elder’s website.


“Daggoo, Queequeg and Tashtego. The three harpooners from Melville's classic Moby Dick. It is 1984 and Royal St.Vincent, a muscle car engineer from General Motors in Detroit, hits the bottle after a bitter divorce. When the bottle is finally empty, he wakes up in Islemorada Florida and ready to start a new life. He buys the sixty foot sports fishing boat, the Makaira, and settles into his new career as a happy deep sea sports fishing captain surrounded by his colorful friends in the Florida Keys.

One day the unthinkable happens. He is approached by the more than beautiful girl Scotty from Miami who wants to charter a trip. Suspicious of her and her mysterious friends, and against his better judgment, he takes the trip 
and his life is never the same again.”


In the description of this novel, Elder mentions Scarface as a touchstone, which was a connection I’d made as well, in that it takes place in mid-80s Florida and has plenty of bad guys, guns, and cocaine. He also mentions Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick, saying it is “loosely based” on this. Somehow, I’ve missed actually reading this book (I probably volunteered for a couple extra helpings of Hemingway to dodge that one), but know enough to say that I can at least spot the loose connections. Much of the book centers around the sea. There is a big fish that makes a few appearances. It is long (over 200,000 words and very close to the length of Melville’s fish story). A few characters are named after Melville’s, and most importantly, the story is about a man who becomes obsessed.

There is much to like about this story. Some of the characters are larger than life and the major characters are easy to relate to, in spite of, or maybe partially due to, their flaws. For those who like vicarious adventure, you’ll find plenty.

There were some minor proofing issues and two relatively trivial issues I found. The first problem was with a minor character. When we first meet him, he “talks” in a kind of Pidgin English. He does this a lot the first couple paragraphs of dialogue, and then his “accent” completely disappears. A little accent goes a long way with most readers and it is tough to pull off for many authors. If your character needs an accent, don’t overdo it, and keep it reasonably consistent throughout his or her dialogue. The other issue I had was the use of the phrase “but yet” when either “but” or “yet” would have served the same purpose. While it may not break any grammatical rules (I honestly don’t know), it doesn’t read very smoothly, at least not to me.


Adult language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos and proofing errors. Additionally, although I didn’t count them in determining this, the author under uses commas. There were many places where I thought a comma should be that it wasn’t, and others where I was sure a comma was missing.

Rating: **** Four stars

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Author Interview: Melinda Clayton

"I hate saying that because it sounds so artsy and pretentious, but in all honesty, I felt as if she haunted me until she got her story told ..."

It seems like in most of these interviews I don’t get around to talking about the author’s books until somewhere in the middle. When I started thinking about the questions I had for you I realized that people have to know about your books to understand the questions, so let’s start with you telling us about your books, Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain.

Thanks, Al. Appalachian Justice is set in the tiny mining town of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, and tells the story of a woman, Billy May Platte, who was brutally attacked as a young girl in the 1940s due to suspicions regarding her sexuality. The horrific attack led Billy May to live a life of seclusion in a small hunting cabin on top of Crutcher Mountain for many years, until she realized another young girl was in need of her help. 

Return to Crutcher Mountain is the story of that young girl, Jessie McIntosh, in her adult life as she finds her path to healing. I realize my topics can be controversial, but they’re also topics I take very seriously. I spent roughly fifteen years as a psychotherapist in some very rural areas before taking time off to raise my own children. Although the books are fiction, the people and places I write about are true to life. It can be uncomfortable to recognize the struggling and hurting people in our society, but they’re there, whether we want to recognize it or not.   

Return to Crutcher Mountain is a sequel to Appalachian Justice. In your opinion, could it be read as a stand-alone, or would you advise reading Appalachian Justice first?

I wrote it so that it could be read as a stand-alone, but I think it’s probably best read after reading Appalachian Justice. I think it might be hard to understand Jessie, the protagonist, and her struggles without reading some of what she went through as a child.

The first paragraph of your bio on Amazon says:

Melinda is odd mix of psychotherapist and writer who has always loved to read, and who loves to explore the motivations behind difficult choices and decisions. She likes to give her characters depth, and to demonstrate the thought processes behind the decisions they make.

For anyone who has read either of your books, this should be obvious, and it appears that you’ve drawn from your experiences, not just from your job, but also from your personal life, in creating your characters. Billy May Platte, the main character in Appalachian Justice is lesbian. In 1940s West Virginia, this was a sure way to draw unwanted attention. Where do you stand on the question of how someone “becomes” gay? Is someone born gay, become gay due to life experiences, or is it a lifestyle choice? Did Billy May have a choice?

I absolutely believe it’s a genetic/biological reality. One of my best friends is lesbian, and she’s not only hurt, but deeply frustrated with the debate on this topic. As she says, “Why in hell would I choose to be something that caused me to hide my true self when younger, led to me being discriminated against in my mature years, and ultimately made my family disown me?” How can anyone argue with that? I think we’re born the way we are:  green eyes, brown eyes, blonde hair, black hair, gay, straight, etc.

Tell us about the inspiration for the Billy May character. In putting together your story, did Billy May come first or did you start with the story and at some point realize Billy May was gay?

I’m an incredibly down to earth person, so I really hate clichés or other artistic over-used expressions. Having said that, Billy May presented to me before I even started writing. I hate saying that because it sounds so artsy and pretentious, but in all honesty, I felt as if she haunted me until she got her story told, and she made sure I told it the way she needed it told. She came first, and her story came as she revealed it. I’m on my third novel now, and although all of the characters have felt real to me in some way as I wrote about them, Billy May is the only one who literally haunted me and kept me awake at night.

One of the biggest political controversies in the US the last several years, which is becoming an even hotter topic as we go into this election cycle is that of gay marriage. President Obama had remained quiet on the issue until recently when he came out in favor of allowing it. What are your thoughts on this?

I’m thrilled he finally came out and gave his thoughts on the topic, and bothered by the idea that the timing seems to be more than a little political.  As for my own personal beliefs, I think a strong, supportive, stable, loving home is the foundation for a strong, supportive, stable, loving kid. And that’s what makes for a strong, healthy society. I don’t think the gender or sexual orientation of the parent(s) matters in the least.

Although Billy May is the main character in Appalachian Justice, another major character is Jessie, who is the main character in Return to Crutcher Mountain. Can you tell us about the inspiration for Jessie?

Billy May needed to heal, and the only way she could do that was by coming out of her own pain and realizing the pain of someone else. Someone once remarked to me that Billy May saved Jessie’s life, but I really think Jessie also saved Billy May, in a very real sense. Jessie gave Billy May a purpose, and Billy May gave Jessie a future.

The last character I want to talk about is Robby. A large part of Return to Crutcher Mountain revolves around a wilderness retreat for children with developmental disabilities and Robby is one of the children at the retreat. What was your inspiration for Robby and for using this setting?

This question makes me smile, because my first obvious inspiration is my younger brother, Sam, who has Down Syndrome. Sam is now thirty-one years old, and at some point I will be blessed to have him live with me. Sam has inspired all of us siblings (there are five of us, altogether). My specialty area in my career has been working with people who have a developmental disability in conjunction with a mental health issue. I’m a fierce advocate for people with developmental disabilities. On a funny note, when my parents first read Return to Crutcher Mountain they called me on a nearly daily basis, with, “That sounds so much like Sam! I can hear Sam saying that!” I had to laugh. You think? 

Your books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing, a small press. Tell us about your route to publication and your decision to publish through Vanilla Heart.

A few years ago my husband and I went through a down-sizing period. I had a baby and a toddler, and just couldn’t be on call twenty-four hours a day (at least, not while maintaining my sanity). So, we moved to Florida and I became a stay-at-home mom, which seemed the perfect opportunity for me to pursue career goal number two:  writing. I started out writing for several online writing sites, first for pennies-per-click, then eventually selling short stories and mental health-related articles to ezines and magazines such as, Successful Living Magazine, etc. 

When I got comfortable with that, I branched out and queried book publishers who had active calls for submissions for anthologies. I landed a couple, and that’s how I came in contact with Vanilla Heart Publishing.

When I completed the manuscript for Appalachian Justice, Vanilla Heart seemed the perfect choice. I queried, and was thrilled when, within a week, they requested the entire manuscript.     

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Always. I never envisioned it as a career, but always knew I wanted to write. My job included a lot of professional writing – reports, assessments, grant proposals, that sort of thing. Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed that type of writing, too, but branching out into fiction has been incredibly fun and rewarding.

Who are your favorite authors?

Steinbeck, first and foremost, and also Hemingway. I love Richard Bach, for my hippy side. As for contemporary, I like Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Berg, Jodi Picoult, Anne Tyler, and a recent favorite is Lionel Shriver. I also enjoy Nora Roberts, Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I have pretty eclectic tastes.

What are your future writing plans?

That’s a great question, and I’m not sure I have an answer. I’m finishing up my third novel, which is the goal for now. I have an idea for a fourth, and I’ve also considered self-publishing a book of short stories, but who knows?

What do you like to do in your leisure time?

Cheer at my boys’ football and soccer games, find shells and shark’s teeth at the beach, browse flea markets, plant flowers, ’tube in Blue Springs with the manatees, read books. Most of all I love being with my family.

Tell us one thing about yourself that you think would come as a surprise to most people?

I’m very stubborn. I think that may come as a surprise because I’m also quiet and somewhat introverted. But once I’ve decided to do something, or take a stand on a particular issue, that’s it. I’m committed.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing an author in today’s publishing landscape?

That’s a tough one, but I think in some ways the best thing for publishing is also the biggest challenge. Self-publishing has exploded with the introduction of ebooks on Amazon, Smashwords, and other platforms. While that offers a lot of opportunities, I think the major drawback for small press as well as self-pubbed authors is that there are so many manuscripts flooding the market, without a marketing team it can be really hard to stand out in the crowd.

For More Melinda:

 Although she says she blogs too rarely, she does have two blogs, her main blog and another connected to her author page at Goodreads.


Appalachian Justice               Review Amazon US UK B&N Smashwords Paper

Return to Crutcher Mountain  Review Amazon US UK B&N Smashwords Paper


Passionate Hearts Anthology       Amazon US UK B&N Smashwords Paper

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dastardly Bastard / Edward Lorn

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Horror

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“Edward Lorn is an American horror author presently residing somewhere in the southeast United States. He enjoys storytelling, reading, and writing biographies in the third person.”

Lorn has two other books available for your eReader: Bay’s End, a novel, and Three After, a collection of three short stories. For more, read the author’s blog.


“When war photographer Mark Simmons is sent to do a promo on Waverly Chasm, he assumes it’s a puff piece, a waste of his talents.

Widow Marsha Lake brings her son, Lyle, to help him heal after his father’s death.

Donald Adams, aka H.R. Chatmon, joins the tour to get away from a sticky situation.

Justine McCarthy consents to the hike to placate her boyfriend, Trevor.
For Jaleel Warner, the tour guide, walking the chasm is just part of his job.
Each of these people must face their darkest memories in order to discover and defeat the secret buried in Waverly Chasm.”

Note: There is still a lot of time left to enter Lorn's giveaway, where you could win a $50 Amazon gift certificate or other prizes. To enter, visit the guest post Lorn did last week at this link.


Is it real or is it a nightmare? I know, asking if fiction is real seems like a silly question. I’ll explain. While I’m reading a book, what is happening feels real, to some degree. The more engrossed I am in the story, the more real it seems. Whether a book was realistic (it could have happened to me or someone else), or not very (unless you truly believe in vampires, or the paranormal creatures and supernatural happenings found in some fiction), when I’m reading, it is real.

When I’m having a nightmare, it also feels real, but in not quite the same way. It’s more surreal. The things happening in the nightmare seem strange, as if they can’t be happening, yet I’m “seeing” them happen and don’t question it. The terror I’m feeling seems real. In a nightmare, I might move from one scene to another and not be quite sure how I moved from there to here, yet in my mind it makes sense.

The more I read of Dastardly Bastard, the more it felt like a nightmare. Full of terror and surreal happenings. When I “woke up,” I was sweating and my heart pounding. No way I was going back to sleep.


Adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Undertaker / William Brown

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Thriller

Approximate word count: 120-125,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


The author of six mystery and suspense novels, a combination of traditionally and indie published, William Brown has also written four award-winning screenplays. Brown lives in Chicago when he’s not traveling the world with his wife. For more, visit his blog.


Pete Talbott was a California native and harried Boston computer wonk still grieving over the death of his wife Terri, when he found himself at the wrong end of Gino Parini's .45 reading his own obituary torn from that morning's newspaper.


It isn’t often I’ll give a four star review to a book with this many copyediting misses. If your internal editor is relentless and unforgiving, you’ll spot a problem every few pages. The errors, although covering the full gambit of homonym errors, typos, and misspellings, are mostly not those, but minor issues. Things like missing little words that many people will blow past without noticing (although I did wonder what was going on when I read about “homeless guys laying a bench”) or an occasional extra or out of order word (“When they finally put the out flames …”).

If you ignore the frequent little issues, you’ll be left with a good book. There are some great characters in the protagonist, Pete, and his eventual love interest, who are likeable, sympathetic, and very funny. I thought I’d figured out the plot early on, but still wanted to see where it went. I discovered that what I thought was obvious, was, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re a fan of thrillers, The Undertaker would be a good choice for your next read.


Adult language and some mild adult situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

A large number of proofing and copyediting errors.

Rating: **** Four stars

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Love and Money / Ruth Harris

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

Approximate word count: 125-130,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“New York Times bestselling author Ruth Harris has sold many millions of copies around the world in hardcover and paperback editions. Her fiction has been translated into 19 languages, published in 25 countries and selected by the Literary Guild and Book-of-the-Month Club. Ms. Harris worked in traditional print publishing as a copywriter, editor and publisher before turning to the exciting new opportunities in electronic publishing. She lives in New York City with her husband, writer Michael Harris”

In addition to this one, Harris has three other books available for your favorite eReader, plus two thrillers, co-written with her husband. For more, visit Anne Allen’s blog, where Ms. Harris contributes monthly.


“Deedee Dahlen and Lana Bantry share a father but not an inheritance, a lover but not a commitment. Deedee, born with a silver spoon, is adored and indulged--until her world turns upside down.  Lana, the child of a brief encounter, is humiliated and rejected--until she forces the world to pay attention.

Rich girl, poor girl, Deedee and Lana do not know of each other's existence and might never have met until their worlds collide when fate--and murder--bring them face to face.”

This book was traditionally published about twenty years ago. The author is now republishing it as an indie.


Two words that come to mind to describe Love and Money are archetypical and epic. The story of a child born to privilege who ends up raised by poor parents is as old as Oedipus. I have vague memories, although I haven’t been able to dredge the details from the recesses of my memory, of a kid’s folk tale with two sons of a king, one raised in the castle and the other by peasants. These character types can be the basis of a great story, comparing the differences in the lives and personalities of the two characters.

It is epic, in that it follows the story of the sisters from birth until well into adulthood. The story covers a lot of ground, both in time and experience of the main characters. Think of something by Alex Hailey and the like. At more than 125,000 words, Love and Honor isn’t a quick read.

Although I largely enjoyed the book, I did a double take when a new product took poor-girl Lana’s company from “a regional business” to a player nationally or internationally three different times, with no indication the company had fallen on hard times in between. And the two sisters were described as step-sisters in at least one spot, which wasn’t technically true (they’re half-sisters). But these are just nitpicking. Overall Love and Honor was a fun, entertaining, and at times, thought provoking read.


Some mild adult content.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gone Bad / Julie Morrigan

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Noir/Short Story

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


“Variously described as a crime author, Brit Grit writer -- and even 'the new queen of urban noir' -- Julie's short stories have been printed in respected publications such as Bullet, Out of the Gutter and Blink Ink, and online at such venues as A Twist of Noir, Thrillers Killers & Chillers, Powder Burn Flash, Pulp Metal, At the Bijou and Darkest Before the Dawn.”

Morrigan also has two novels available, Convictions and Heartbreaker, as well as a novella, The Writing on the Wall. For more, visit her website.


“Tales about bad people doing bad things.”


Described by some as “Brit Grit Noir,” a description I love, Gone Bad is a collection of eighteen short stories. The stories are dark and gritty, some with ending twists that might make you laugh (Pick a Pig Night and It Could Be You both did that for me). Other stories, like The Sins of the Father (which is probably not what you’d guess), have characters doing bad things where you can almost sympathize. Clever and well written, if you’re a fan of Noir, Gone Bad is definitely a keeper.


Some adult language and situations. Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Author Interview: Helen Hanson

We danced. He said he loved me. I swooned. He left me at the altar. I pined. Then I self-published.

You’re a native of the Midwest who went to college in Northern California, majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Computer Science, and worked in the area for several years after graduation. Tell us about the kinds of jobs you did.

I’m not from anywhere. I was conceived in Bordeaux, and my parents berthed in the Midwest long enough for my hair to dry. I spent my formative years on the East Coast and later landed in a different heartland zip code before heading west.
Prior to college, my jobs were numerous. I was an apprentice machinist, sold cars, worked at a race track, coordinated services for the disabled, and posed as an artist’s model. After college, I poured my energy into Silicon Valley. I managed operations in companies that manufactured semiconductors, motherboards, daughterboards, software, and coin-operated video games.

Your education and work have impacted your novels, which both have at least one major character who is heavily involved in technology. Besides this obvious influence, how has your work experience influenced or helped you as a writer?

I’m naturally a bit of a geek, and I appreciate the ooh-ahh factor of high-tech. If my last name were Wallenda, I might write about the circus, and my protagonist could swing from a backyard trapeze.  As writers, we start from where we are and what we know and research fuels the questions that intrigue us.

But my characters aren’t Supers whose abilities surpass those of their mortal brethren because I don’t know anyone like that in real life. I write about people from various strata who are my contemporaries. As such, their world offers them technological tools accessible by anyone with wi-fi and a laptop. In some cases, it may be their only weapon.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been a writer–a communicator of ideas and plans and stories. In the past ten plus years, I’ve gotten serious about the medium of novels. I don’t see writing as an exclusive track because otherwise, what would there be to write about? If I were to have chosen the starving artist path earlier in life, I would have been an actor. ~waves hand~ Former theater major here. Writing dovetails with any other pursuit.

As a reader, who are your favorite authors?

John le Carré gave us the greatest spy of all time in George Smiley. Neither flashy nor dapper, frumpy George fought in the trenches of the Cold War. Len Deighton offered us more realistic alternatives to James Bond with Harry Palmer and Bernard Sampson. Though, I still like gadgets.

John Grisham made me want to write a novel. He made it seem easy.
I spend the majority of my reading time on Indie works and in beta reads of my inner circle.
In the bio section of my review of 3 Lies I commented on being jealous when I read that you’d seen The Clash at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium in the eighties. You responded in an email with a story about Michael Stipe of R.E.M. Can you repeat that here?

Perhaps not all of it . . . Michael was a friendly, nerdy kid who lived down the street. Black horn-rims, gym socks perpetually on display, and a white-boy afro, like most of us, he had a few awkward years. His about-face happened in high school when he started dressing up weekly for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not the same guy. Years later, I saw his picture in the newspaper with some group named R.E.M. I knew he was in a band but hadn’t heard of them–too busy listening to The Clash. I thought I’d stop by the venue and say hello. Turns out it was the Oakland Coliseum. I didn’t go.

For me, that Clash concert was more notably the first time I saw The English Beat who opened the show. Their live performance was amazing–no flames, no snakes, no trapeze–just a tight, talented group of musicians enjoying their craft, especially Ranking Roger.

Now that I’ve done an awkward segue away from books into music I’ve got another music question. You grew up near St. Louis, which is a great music town. Then lived near San Francisco, which is another. Now you live in Texas, which has a music culture that is second to none, not only in the cities, but also in many of the smaller towns. Since you’ve moved to Texas have you had a chance to see many local musical acts and if so, who are some of your favorites?

My mosh pit days are mostly over, but the local music scene is rich. While the alternative scene is alive and stompin’ in Deep Ellum, lately my tastes lean more towards jazz. I’ve seen some great combos, but most of them assembled just for that night. Often they have sit-ins from the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Norah Jones and Erykah Badu, among others, graduated from this school. I enjoy the music of a local artist named Freddie Jones who plays some mean horns–yes, two at the same time–and a versatile pianist named Ken Boome. These guys are indie artists, so of course I bought their CDs.
The music program at the University of North Texas in Denton is highly respected. Over the years, they’ve turned out some notable musicians including Roy Orbison and Don Henley.
Sadly, venues for local, live music seem to be shrinking. No, I don’t count DJs and Karaoke. I can always hang out at Fry’s or Nordstrom and applaud the piano player who is universally underappreciated.

What are your hobbies and favorite leisure time activities?

I’m a dabbler when it comes to hobbies, and I go through phases. I recently learned to identify meteorites, in case I come across any in my travels. Or one comes through my roof. I’m a celebrated special-events cook, but reheat things during the week. I love water activities–boats of any kind, water-skiing, and plan to learn how to kite board.

Airplanes. Anything airworthy.

Even though I’m gardening-challenged, I still subject vegetable seeds to my cruel experiments from time to time. But there have been murmurs of an uprising.
I suppose I should get back to the subject of books since that’s why we’re here. Can you tell us about your two novels, what they’re about and what inspired them?

The origin of an idea is quite different from the flashes of inspiration that propel you through ninety thousand words. The idea for 3 LIES developed when I started to resent my constant tether to the digital world. While I like gadgets, I don’t want to be ruled by one. Gotta cut the cord sometimes. Here’s the e-flap copy:


At CIA headquarters, a young officer discovers that terrorists may have commandeered their computer systems to launch an unauthorized mission. Elsewhere, conspirators abduct nine people to manipulate the rules of their game. Two disparate ambitions — Clint Masters becomes the reluctant link in the chain of danger.

Ever since Clint’s almost ex-wife dumped him, he bobs along the Massachusetts coast in a sailboat with his black lab for company. He avoids all forms of technology, a counterintuitive effort for the burned-out founder of CatSat Laboratories. Tired of clutching the brass ring, he needed to untether, step off the corporate treadmill, and smell a flower. Fortunately, he met one, a beautiful, unspoiled woman who doesn’t treat him like a commodity. His relationship with Beth offers more promise than his marriage ever did, even if she is on dialysis for her recovering kidneys, until she disappears.

In spite of the evidence, her family refuses to admit she’s in danger. Without routine dialysis, she won’t survive. As Clint realizes that he loves Beth, damn-near ex-wife Paige sashays back into his life with disturbing news.

While the CIA young gun tracks his quarry, Clint enlists the help of two men to find Beth, a blithe Brit named Merlin, and Todd, his playboy partner-in-tech. But Clint must find Beth before her kidneys fail. And before someone unloads a bullet in his head.

The Bernie Madoff case provided the flint for DARK POOL. While he swindled many fabulously wealthy people, some of his victims were financially ruined. Also, I lost my father to Alzheimer’s. It’s a dreadful disease. From the back cover:


By this time in her life, Maggie Fender expected to be on her way to law school. Instead she’s far from any degree, waiting tables to support her teenage half-brother and their ailing father. With early onset Alzheimer’s, her father’s lucid moments are few and unpredictable.

Her brother’s legal defense for felony hacking charges strained their finances to a snap. In spite of the conviction, he claims he was framed. But now that he’s on parole, he also claims their father is sending them messages.

Maggie’s tired of the struggle, but she’s everybody’s legal guardian. Slowing down will lead to disaster. She can hustle. Or face financial ruin.

This isn’t the life she envisioned.

In the news, disgraced hedge fund manager Patty O’Mara awaits trial for bilking investors out of forty billion dollars. The legendary dark pool wizard offered phenomenal profits until the SEC examined his books. Then they discovered O’Mara didn’t make any legitimate trades on the market.

O’Mara ran his hedge fund the way Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff ran theirs. It was all a fraud.

One wealthy investor rallies the troop of irate victims by hiring a noted private investigator to find the missing pot of gold. A Russian mobster, out thirty million in cash, prefers to search for the money alone and without witnesses. Their competing efforts sift the same set of facts.

So why are they both interested in Maggie Fender’s incoherent father?

While SEC officials try to rebuild credibility for allowing the financial scandal to rage unchecked, the private investigator and the Russian mobster vie to answer a solitary question:

What happened to all that money?
Tell us about your route to publication. Did you attempt the agent query gauntlet?

We danced. He said he loved me. I swooned. He left me at the altar. I pined. Then I self-published. I’m praying for divine favor.

Publication is a hard road any way you travel. Few gain an audience right away. Some never do. Some are overnight sensations after several books and many years. I’m confident. And patient. Not everyone has to love me. No one has a right to success.

What are your future writing plans?

My current novel is about an unlovable sort. He’s the young man in the back booth at the coffee shop hunched over his laptop. Your email in-box chokes on his offers for virtual casinos, replica watches, and virility in a bottle.

Meet Baxter Cruise: spammer for hire. His cozy world of lattes and free wi-fi is about to explode.

For More Helen:

For more, visit Helen's website.


3 Lies       Review Amazon US UK B&N Paper

Dark Pool             Amazon US UK B&N Paper