The Stand-Alone Sequel—A Review of Hiding Cracked Glass

I’ve never been one to read a sequel without having read the prequel.  Not my preferred reading tactic.  So, when I volunteered to read/review Hiding Cracked Glass by fellow blogger and writer (and wearer of numerous hats) James J. Cudney IV, I’d decided to read both—decided, but then didn’t.  I was curious to see if a sequel could stand on its own.  You know what?  It can. 

Something I should share—I loathe tales/books that:

  • stay within a tight timeframe (an afternoon, a day)
  • provide an overabundance of different characters’ stories or perspectives.

Oddly enough, while Hiding Cracked Glass does both, I didn’t mind either, not one bit.  In fact, the way the accounts intertwine and the events flow, it worked very well.  There are a also few flashbacks that provide insight into what makes who tick: relationships (affairs, divorces, marriages), vices and illegalities.

A brief summary per our esteemed author:

An ominous blackmail letter appears at an inopportune moment. The recipient’s name is accidentally blurred out upon arrival. Which member of the Glass family is the ruthless missive meant for? In the powerful sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is the first to read the nasty threat and assumes it’s meant for her. When the mysterious letter falls into the wrong hands and is read aloud, it throws the entire Glass family into an inescapable trajectory of self-question. Across the span of eight hours, Olivia and her sons contemplate whether to confess their hidden secrets or find a way to bury them forever. Some failed to learn an important lesson last time. Will they determine how to save themselves before it’s too late?

Will they indeed?  I won’t provide clues as to the outcome <he, he> but I’m sure, like me, you’ll find yourself riveted as the plot twists and turns through and around the intriguing characters.  Olivia Glass is the matriarch, a strong woman, who knows that one son, now deceased, was switched at birth.  Now, on the day of her birthday celebration, it appears someone has sent a menacing letter that speaks to revenge . . . a devastating letter that soon becomes known to all.

I rather enjoyed following Olivia’s attempt to unravel the mystery.  Who sent the letter?  Who might have shared the information re the son’s true lineage?  What will transpire as a result?  How will the family be impacted?  I also liked the afternoon soap opera feel: every character has a story, history, a setback or dilemma.  Life is not always designer champagne and long-stemmed roses, no matter how wealthy you are.  There are cracks—imperfections—in these “Glasses”.

Jay’s come a long way.  He’s always been dedicated and diligent—this is his ninth book in three years!—but he’s also someone who absorbs and applies what he’s learned.  He’s always been a good writer, but with Cracked, he’s become a great one.

What can I say but a 5/5.  Well done, my friend!

Rating:savesavesavesavesave 

Please check out Jay at:

♦ Website:  https://jamesjcudney.com/  ♦ Blog:  https://thisismytruthnow.com  ♦ Amazon:  http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks  ♦ Next Chapter:  https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney  ♦ BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

WP1jaytourlogo. . . And a quick thank you to Shalini of digitalreadsblogtours.wordpress.com for organizing the blog-book tour.  She’s done an amazing job.

Please enter the raffle to obtain a copy of this suspenseful sequel (that can . . . stand alone):

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e5ee1a9220/?

Review: James J. Cudney IV & Frozen Stiff Drink

Frozen Stiff Drink marks Book #6 in James J. Cudney’s Braxton Campus Mysteries—a series I (and many others) are quite fond of.

Before providing a taste of this delightful whodunit page-turner, I feel compelled to compliment Jay on his progression as an author.  His writing style—first-rate to begin with—keeps improving with every book.  The wry humor is wonderful.  Descriptions/details are enough not to overwhelm (or bore) and enable readers to vividly visualize persons and places.  And the repartee between characters is also deserving of praise.

In Frozen, Kellan Ayrwick, the protagonist, deals with a newcomer on the security scene, an arrogant fellow—the not-yet-ex of April, the woman he’s dating—named “Fox” (and he certainly seems as wily as one).  Meanwhile, the not-too-well-liked Hiram Grey is murdered.  Once again, there’s an assortment of suspects and, to complicate things, Grey’s murder is but the first.  Hampton, Kellan’s brother, falls under suspicion when his father-in-law (and founder of the firm where he works) also enters the realm of the deceased.  The intriguing plot has numerous [fun] twists and turns that has us surmising throughout.

Oh, let’s not forget our favorite granny, the sometimes biting but lovable Nana D, who also happens to be mayor of Wharton County.  She goes missing during a fierce snowstorm and Kellan, understandably frantic, attempts to find her.  Does he?  You’ll have to pick up Frozen Stiff Drink to find out.

Kellan’s adorable eight-year-old daughter, Emma, and his ward, Ulan, travel to Disney Land with Kellan’s parents.  Enter ex-wife Francesca, a woman with ties to the mob (you’ll have to read the other Braxton Campus mysteries to learn more), wants her daughter back.  So not good.

If you’ve been following the series, you’ll find several familiar characters—some likable, some not.  Hey, that’s life.  And if you’ve not yet had an opportunity to read any of Jay’s books, I recommend starting from the beginning, because it’s always nice to see how characters, and writers, develop.

The entertaining, keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat Frozen Stiff Drink deserves a five out of five.  Park up your feet, grab a beverage of choice (a glass of a lush, full-bodied rioja would be an ideal choice), sit back . . . and savor!

Rating: savesavesavesavesave

For those who don’t yet know Jay, he is a truly amazing and industrious soul (who also happens to be an awesome, supportive person).  With a technology and business ops background under his belt, Jay not only serves as author, but blogger, reader and reviewer, and genealogist and researcher.  Impressive, to say the least.

Please check him out at:

https://jamesjcudney.com/

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What’s in a Whisper?

A lot.

For some time, I’ve been wanting to read and review Owen Clough’s first book, Whispers of the Past.  Finally, thankfully, the opportunity presented itself.  And what a treat.  Like the title, the turned pages whispered a fascinating tale.

Set in New Zealand, Whispers incorporates historical fiction, time travel, a little fantasy and a lot of adventure with stupendous results.  The exciting story begins with three young mates—Bob (Brill), Shane (Grunt), and Samuel (Sam)—engaging in a “tramp” into Tongariro National Park to cull feral pigs, not the easiest [or most pleasant] of tasks.

An odd bout of weather propels the trio to the Waikato War of 1863, including the Battle of Rangiriri, a major engagement in the invasion of Waikato.  Skirmishes occur, as do trials and tribulations, which add to the action and emotion.  Along the path to finding a way back . . . without altering history . . . the threesome encounter intriguing individuals, some who turn out to be ancestors.

The narration sounds everyday, natural with local vernacular, which makes for a fairly smooth read.  The characters are strong, believable, and very likable.  Physical descriptions and historical details enhance the read even more.  Owen has a knack for providing particulars—with enthralling twists and turns—that make you want to continue flipping pages: you just have to know what happens next.  And while you’re following the exciting adventures of Brill, Grunt and Sam, you learn a few things about New Zealand and the Māori.

The New Zealand War, by the by, was a succession of armed struggles that occurred from 1845 through 1872; on one side were the Colonial government and the allied Māori, and on the other side were the Māori and Māori-allied settlers.  And for those unfamiliar with the Māori, they’re indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand who arrived from eastern Polynesia in several waves of waka (a Māori canoe made of tree trunk) voyages in the early 14th century.

Entertainment and knowledge do make for great bedfellows.

I’d love to tell you that all ends well for Brill, Grunt and Sam, that they get back to present day . . . but I can’t.  You’ll have to read this engaging book to find out.

The editor in me can only give this a 4.5 due to typos and punctuation flaws.  Without those, it’s an easy 5 out of 5.

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And what about the author, Owen Clough?  His bio lists him as a keen genealogist, motor caravanner, and rugby fanatic with a love of history.   You can check him out at: https://www.owencloughbooks.com.

WPowen3booksHaving always wondered what it would be like to live back in the turbulent times of New Zealand’s history, Owen wrote Whispers of the Past with this in mind. The second book is Shadows of the Mind . . . the third, Clearing of the Mist.

Kia ora (be safe).

 

Review: With Her Fists by Henry Roi

Is it [exceptional] bad luck or being in the wrong place at the [dreadfully] wrong time?  Or a question of both?  One fateful day, Clarice Carter and her hubby, Ace, are conducting business as usual at their shop, Custom Ace, and the next they’re both in correctional facilities—for the long haul.  Who do they have to thank?  A couple of nasty, dirty cops with ties to The Teacher and a no-holds-barred cartel.

Speaking of holds, Clarice “Shocker the Fighter” Carter is a bantam-weight pugilist with numerous wins under her belt.  Being a skilled boxer comes in handy when you’re behind bars, living under conditions that go beyond trying.  But this gal’s strong and determined, and she’ll do what’s necessary to survive—and escape.

WPbookRoiABCWhen you have cellmates with names like Death Punch, Boogerilla and Tattoo Face, you know trouble can’t be far off.  With Her Fists, Henry Roi’s gritty and raw debut novel surges like a whitewater river.  The action is intense, and the details and descriptions are so thorough that you can effortlessly visualize settings and characters (some in all their scary, unsavory splendor).

The facts re boxing and tattooing create an additional layer of realness, and there’s humor, too, which helps alleviate the ugliness of correctional life (and death).

“So peanut butter and jelly with sweat pants and a side order of hand towelettes,” Eddy said.  “Thank you for choosing Fugitive King.  Please drive around to the window.”

“I want fries and a divorce with that,” Ace added.  “I’m citing ‘irreconcilable driving differences’.”

“He screamed like a girl,” Clarice informed them.  Eddy merely chuckled.  Bobby sounded like he was choking to death.

While they waited on delivery service from Fugitive King, Ace and Clarice walked down to the water.  Held hands and sat on the sand bar, fully exposed in all its smelly glory, low tide waters lapping gently against the small beach and bank connected to it.  An early morning fisherman motored his skiff out around the marsh islands a couple hundred yards in the distance, sea gulls hovering over him, man and boat silhouetted from the rising sun 93,000,000 miles behind him. 

Ace gripped her hand.  “Should I moon that guy?” he said.

Clarice looked at him, shocked, and gasped, “No!  What’s wrong with you?  Act your age, dude.”

He just smirked.  Stood and offered her his hand.  Clarice took it and gained her feet.  He bowed and kissed her fingers.

Then they turned around and exposed their glowing rear-ends to the fisherman.

With Her Fists receives a 4.5 rating (the editor in me has to deduct ½ point because of typos and inconsistencies like italics usage).

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The author, Henry Roi, was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and finds inspiration in its places and people.  As a GED tutor and fitness instructor, and advocate of adult education in all forms, he works one-on-one as well as on-line.  Personal interests, not surprisingly, include: tattoo art, prison reform, and auto mechanics.

This talented writer also focuses on promoting indie writers by arranging reviews, delivering media campaigns, and running blog tours.

You can find Henry on Twitter and Facebook @HenryRoiPR.

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No Blues for the Bottle-Born

Lanken’s Tears but this is an intriguing read.  <LOL>  The expression is one you’ll find in Conor Carton’s entertaining genetic-engineering sci-fi novel, Bottle Born Blues.

Shakbout “Screw-Top” Mansard, a guide at the Mengchi Centre for the Promotion of Historical Knowledge, knows his history inside-out.  Soon, we too, are enlightened, learning much about how things came to be—such as the Shoshone Circlet, which “was wrapped up in so much history and extended meaning that a serious attempt to steal it by a bottle-born lifeform would be the contemporary equivalent of the Empress Ingea splitting the leader of the Wrexen Federation into two with an axe”.

Mengchi is a fascinating albeit dark world, where breeding stations and blood lakes exist, and a sundry of beings coexist: the Bottle-Born, Ornamentals, Harvesters (the most mean-spirited lifeforms in the systems), and Involuntary Public Servants (reanimated corpses).  Homes seem more like pods, sterile dwellings, with residence numbers so long, you’d better have an amazing memory.  You follow laws and clauses—don’t question, don’t step out of line, or else.  You’re protected if you’re employed and living by the rules.  You’re on your own if you don’t, which could prove very scary if not fatal.

Mansard has a comic side; he’s also somewhat ingenuous but by no means gullible or overly trusting.  He goes with the flow because he’s sucked into it by external forces, having no option but to ride the rollercoaster he’s been strapped into.  Remember: you follow the rules, as dictated by the powers—and villains—that be.  Fortunately, our hapless hero receives assistance now and again.  Blue-skinned Lincoln, an Aquatic Ornamental, excels at security (she’s a dynamo with a heavy-pulse weapon).  With her at his side, Mansard can complete the designated mission: stealing the Shoshone Circlet.

The action-filled plot has some interesting, intertwining subplots.  To provide them here might give away too much.  Suffice it to say, Bottle Born Blues is an engaging twisting/turning ride to a fascinating far-off realm.

Conor H. Carton, by the by, is an aspiring space-pirate-cowboy-outlaw-wizard—when he’s not an Irish suburbanite.  He’s also an avid reader, loving husband and father . . . and a pretty gosh-darn-good storyteller.

Rating:  savesavesavesavesave

(Pssst . . . The Thousand Year Fall will be the second in the trilogy.  Keep an eye and ear open!)

https://www.amazon.com/Conor-HCarton/

https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/conor-h-carton

 

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Review: The Golden Viper by Sean Robins

Your favorite heroes and villains are back!  In The Golden Viper, Sean Robins’ fun sci-fi sequel to The Crimson Deathbringer, the odious Xortaags return—to conquer Earth.  Their ultimate plan, however, is to use advanced technology discovered on Kanoor to rule the universe.  How dastardly can one alien race be!?

Major Jim Harrison (the protagonist), Venom (his alter-ego, in a manner of speaking), and Kurt (Jim’s best friend), likewise return.  If you’ve read Deathbringer, you’ll be happy to hear that four-footed Akakie jokester Tarq—Jim’s “alien brother”—and egocentric General Maada (yes, that win-at-all-odds commander) are also back.  Inserting a few new intriguing characters into the equation equates to an awesome follow-up.

You’ll also find those stories within stories and different POVs that worked so well in Deathbringer.  How will Jim deal with a significant past loss?  Will the Xortaags succeed in their heinous quest(s)?  Does Tarq carry on pulling outlandish pranks?  Who’s more ruthless: Maada or his conniving brothers?  Are new team members to be trusted?  Can Earth be saved?  Will Jim et al cease/continue making eye-rolling film and television references?

When a book begins with, “The deafening Death Siren cried out like the wail of a thousand animals being slaughtered”, you know you’re in for a thrilling storybook ride.  Action and excitement reign—and not just during exhilerating spaceship battles!

Is The Golden Viper as good as The Crimson Deathbringer?  Judge for yourself (I promise, you won’t be disappointed).

And what of the author? In addition to being a huge fan of Marvel, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Star Trek, Sean Robins is also a university/college level English teacher, who has lived and worked in five different countries( like Canada, eh?).  He’s met people from all around the world, and his parents and wife are from different backgrounds—hence, diversity as a major theme in his novels.

Please check out Sean at:

https://seanrobins73.wixsite.com/website

https://mybook.to/goldenviper

https://thecrimsondeathbringer.home.blog

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Rating:  save savesave savesave

 

Jumping on the Blog Tour Bandwagon

The Writer’s Grab-Bag isn’t a stop on the book tour, and the original plan was to wait until the end  . . .  but what the heck?  Let’s aim for sooner than later.

James J. Cudney IV—Jay—has a fourth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries called Mistaken Identity Crisis.  I had an opportunity to read it a wee while back and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I did the others.  It has all the elements of a cozy— an affable protagonist [with adorable young daughter], likable regulars, a host of suspects, and the putting-together-the-pieces-of-the-puzzle mystery. WPJay3

Kellan is a Braxton professor and amateur sleuth.  He has a supportive family, love interest, and eccentric in-your-face grandmother you gotta love. The case officially begins when a missing ruby is found near an electrified dead body during the campus cable-car redesign project.  Not only must Kellan must locate the real killer to protect his brother, he has a delicate if not dangerous personal family matter to resolve.  Add a sundry of jewel thefts to the murder, feuding mobsters, and you have a thrilling, fun whodunit.

Come visit Wharton County.  Get to know the townspeople.  Learn how Nana D does as the new mayor.  Follow Kellan as he sorts through the suspect list . . . and solves the case.

A worthwhile read, my friends.  Enjoy!

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Learn more about Jay’s books at https://jamesjcudney.com.

Review: The Crimson Deathbringer by Sean Robins

The Crimson Deathbringer is the first novel from Sean Robins—and a great debut it is.  It’s chockablock full of action.  You have dramatic alien-versus-human-versus alien encounters, exciting space battles, an insane race to save the world, some warm-hearted romance, and a lot of waggish humor (reminiscent of Douglas Adams).  If you can get this granite face to break a smile, you’ve accomplished something major and Sean has done just that—by infusing campy fun at the right times, in the right places.

I was a Trekkie—and once a Trekkie, always a Trekkie, because I could still [effortlessly, happily] watch episode after episode after episode.  That said, though, I’m not a fan of science fiction.  I’d agreed to review the book, but not checked the genre, so when it arrived, it was a woe-is-me, “Tyler, what’d you get yourself into?”  Then, I read the first chapter and the characters and storyline yanked me in!

Not only do you have protagonist Major Jim Harrison, an Air Force fighter pilot, relaying action through his eyes, you view it through others.  It’s not simple to balance—juggle—different POVs, or stories within stories, but Sean makes it work exceptionally well.

His characters are carefully crafted and his descriptions of future Earth and alternative planets and life forms are well detailed.  It’s easy to visualize all that is transpiring—from perilous shootouts and intense combat, to silly pranks and friendly banter.  There is an emotional level, too—sadness when someone dies, dismay when all seems futile, and encouragement when something heartening happens.

Without giving too much away, the storyline is this: Jim Harrison and his lovely partner, Liz Lopez, are part of a troupe that intend to save United Earth from the dastardly clutches of the egocentric, win-at-all-costs General Maada.  Hailing from a far-off galaxy, his goal is to make the Xortaags’ kingdom the most powerful, most feared entity in the universe.  Fortunately for Jim et al, they have Tarq, who also hails from a distant star system.  His objective is to save his entire species, the Akakies, via Operation KGAFUP (which we’ll leave as an acronym for the sake of a “wholesome” review).  Throw in a corrupt world leader, determined Resistance members and tough Russian mafia sorts, and Bob’s your uncle (always wanted to say that).  The Crimson Deathbringer will take you on an enthralling ride as it swoops through Sean Robins’ cosmos.

And just who is our budding author?  A big fan of Marvel, Game of Thrones, Star Trek and Star Wars . . . and author Jim Butcher.  He’s also an English teacher who has resided in various countries, including Canada; hence those Canadian references, eh.

This novel would be a five out of five, but the editor in me has to give it a 4.5 for those items that need, hmm, a wee bit of editing.  Still, a stellar story.  Looking [most] forward to the sequel.

Rating:  savesavesavesavesave

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Please check Sean Robins out at:

https://thecrimsondeathbringer.home.blog

https://seanrobins73.wixsite.com/website

Amazon:  Mybook.to/crimsondeath

 

 

 

Who Doesn’t Like a Little Inspiration?

A wee while back I posted about Nancy Drew, the amateur sleuth who inspired me to write mysteries.

Feeling nostalgic, I ordered a few of the many I’d read as a kid (gotta love Amazon).  Written in the 50s and 60s by Carolyn Keene, a pseudonym of the various authors that wrote both Nancy Drew mysteries and The Dana Girls mysteries, they were “frolicsome” adventures for the young [aspiring] Sherlock within.

Having read three so far, the ones I recall having been my favorites back then, I thought I’d provide then-and-now reviews.

The Haunted Showboat

The first Nancy Drew read by yours truly had me so riveted, I spent the entire weekend in my bedroom with it.  It took me to New Orleans, which sounded so exotic to a kid living in cold, gray Toronto.  It provided action and excitement, a world where a “girl” could lead an exciting adventurous life, have (and easily make) friends.  She was pretty, smart, and oh so [enviably] likable; with two affable sidekicks, Bess and George, a darling dad and kind housekeeper, life seemed more than perfect.  While solving the mystery with them, I learned a few facts, too.  It was a 5/5.

I have to admit—YA writing style aside—it was still an enjoyable read, save for some politically incorrect words/terms/portrayals.  During the period, using them in books or on TV seemed the norm; today, whoa, not at all acceptable.  Ignorance of the times?  A topic for another post.  A 3/5 (for taking me back to the bayou).

The Clue in the Old Stagecoach

Nancy, Bess and George attend Camp Merriweather where the trio attempt to locate—yup—a clue in an old stagecoach.  In fact, finding it might just help save a town.  They detect while pursuing camp fun and encountering requisite villains—which is somewhat reminiscent of those 60s beach flicks with cute crooning Frankie and perfectly-coiffed Annette.  Must be nice to have moneyed parents that can send you to fun/faraway places.  <LOL>  The trio—with the assistance of their ever-faithful beaus—solve the case with stellar results, natch.  I’d probably have given it a 4/5 back then.

Stagecoach wasn’t quite what I remembered.  Flat and not overly eventful (with some annoying characters), a 1/5 would be about the best I could offer today.

The Moonstone Castle Mystery

This one accompanied me to Germany when my mother and I flew over to attend her mom’s funeral.  It had the same drawing power as Haunted Showboat and I was captivated as the three young women traveled to Deep River to locate a girl missing since childhood.  Yes, there was a moonstone (a gift sent to Nancy by someone unknown) and a mysterious, rundown castle reputed to be haunted.  A sundry of exciting events occurred, including the stealing of our titian-haired detective’s car, a chase or two, and some questionable characters.  Oh, of course, the aforementioned beaus made an appearance again—for that “romantic” component I suppose (but, quite frankly, unnecessary).  It was a 5/5 then and is a 4/5 now.

As an only child with few friends and parents who didn’t much know what to do with a child they’d not planned for (a fact and not stated with malice or regret) the stories provided pure escapism—distant and intriguing places, and opportunities to allow [a burgeoning] imagination to develop.

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What a pleasant diversion these last two weeks have been, an entertaining [if not enlightening] jaunt back in time.  There are a few additional Nancy Drew mysteries to read.  As time permits.  Perhaps there’ll be more reviews, too.  <LOL>

For those penning and/or reading mysteries, happy sleuthing.

Review & Interview: James J. Cudney and Academic Curveball

Academic Curveball: A Braxton Campus Mystery is the first cozy from James J. Cudney IV (Jay) . . . a big winding curve from suspenseful family dramas Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure.  While Glass and Father lean toward the poignant and WPJayUseAenthralling, and occasionally dark, Academic successfully captures the feel of a cozy— with subtle humor and the requisite amateur sleuth, quaint settings, curious characters, clues and red herrings.

Jay’s graphic descriptions of Wharton County and Braxton pull us into various locales; we can clearly envision the picturesque campus and dwellings, feel the chilly November air dance across our skin, and experience the ouch-y smack upon accidentally hitting our head on a wooden bedroom beam.  This author has a gift for creating vivid images.

Thirty-something protagonist/narrator Kellan Ayrwick returns to Pennsylvania from California for his crusty father’s retirement from Braxton College.  Leaving his five-year-old daughter Emma with in-laws, he demonstrates the care and concerns of a loving single parent.  It’s easy to like calm and affable Kellan and want to follow his “inadvertent adventures” when a murder occurs.  When his boss requests he remain and cover the dastardly deed for their TV show, he soon discovers that anyone—family and friends included—is a viable suspect.

Before we know it, we’re eagerly ambling along the sleuthing trail with Kellan, attempting to figure out “whodunit” . . . and hoping the one person who didn’t “dunit” is Nana, his wonderfully [hysterically] eccentric grandmother.  This woman is a dynamo, reminiscent of Stephanie Plum’s Grandma Mazur.  (I could see this quirky gal carrying her own cozy series.)

The book leaves a few openings and storyline possibilities for future Braxton mysteries, which we know are [happily] coming.  I’m looking forward to pursuing Kellan’s next “case”.

   Rating: save save save save save

Intrigued by our author’s prolific blogging and writing projects, I felt compelled to conduct a mini—most interesting—interview.

What served as the inspiration for Academic Curveball?

I love cozy mysteries and book series. I’ve been reading them for ~25 years now and find myself always looking for the latest edition or drama in recurring characters’ lives. I think it’s because I am an only child that I love seeing the continuous bond within families and friends in small towns. I’ve always wanted to be a professor, but I waited too long to go to graduate school. I don’t have the energy or time to go back for advanced degrees now, so I wanted a way to feel like I was back on campus. When I combined all of this together, I thought… maybe that should be my new book series! The first plot evolved out of another dream where I pictured the killer and his/her reason for committing murder, then I built an entire story around it.

Did you envision yourself as Kellan during the writing of Academic Curveball—i.e. are you the protagonist putting the pieces of a puzzle together or are you the creator/author providing twists and turns for your main character? 

It’s a combination of both. There are tons of things about Kellan that are 100% me, both in how I speak, my level of sarcasm, and how I analyze situations. I’m not nosy by nature, so I had to push those elements. Someone could say “I think X is so angry with Y, they’ll kill her.” I’d ignore it and not want to get involved in someone else’s drama. Kellan is different. He’d have 100 questions and never stop trying to guess what could happen. Since I draft an outline with scenes described chapter by chapter before I begin writing, I’m definitely creating the twists/turns, but Kellan’s voice surprises me. Sometimes he says things which make me as the author realize I have to alter a scene because he’s smarter than me.

Do characters/characterization come naturally (instinctively) as you write, or do you spend time developing and crafting them?

Both. Each character has 3 or 4 traits (physical and personality) before I write a scene. When they begin to act in the scene, their individual personalities also emerge, then I go back and update prior chapters so it’s consistent. Minor characters never have a look and feel during the outline stage unless I see them as long-term. After the first draft, I read slowly and keep a list of all things I’ve said about a character, then I apply a ratio-formula depending on their number of scenes or future longevity. I want everyone to have enough traits that readers get a good picture but have room to fill in the blanks, too.

Some authors simply go with the flow; their fingers fly furiously across a keyboard.   What’s your writing style?  Do you let the story and characters tell the tale or do you give considerable thought to scenes/scenarios and how they’ll play out?

After writing a one-page summary of the plot and characters, then I write a ~25 page overview outline. It has details about the murders, the suspects, and the cliffhangers. I also have a chapter by chapter and scene by scene bullet list of what needs to happen. Sometimes it only lists one character and then I decide who (s)he interacts with in the scene in order to build the drama or cover the cozy aspects of the town’s life. In this book, I deleted two chapters by merging their content in with others, then I also added six scenes to help with transitions between chapters. It becomes a puzzle trying to figure out what order to make things happen to keep up the mystery.

On a non-professional note, what inspires you, James J. Cudney?

Outside of reading and writing, I love genealogy, cooking, and history. I am an expert in nothing, nor a jack-of-all-trades. I know a lot about a bunch of things, but I still sometimes need the basics to round out what I am interested in. Inspiration usually comes in the form of seeing a beautiful picture, thinking about where I am and where I want to be… generally analyzing people, places, and things. I am very much in trapped my head and often forget to be a social person. Autumn is my favorite season, so I’m thrilled to enter it these days… I hope it sticks around for a few months.

For those unfamiliar with Jay, he’s an amazing—inexhaustible (!)—author and blogger residing in NYC.  The short link for Academic Curveball on Amazon is http://mybook.to/ACurveball while Goodreads’ link is https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41564460-academic-curveballWPJayUseB

The new book Broken Heart Attack will be available December 2018 and is also on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/series/242493-braxton-campus-mysteries (but the cover won’t be added for approximately four weeks).  Last but by no means least, his stand-alone novels, the aforementioned Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can also be purchased on Amazon.

Jay’s what I (and many bloggers/authors) aspire to be.  He’s also a kind and encouraging individual who selflessly offers constructive advice and [much] appreciated support.

Visit his blog (https://thisismytruthnow.com) to find—among other things—reviews and read-a-thons, and the introspective 365 Daily Challenge: “365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.”