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.”

 

 

Thank You, Jay!

I’d like to once again thank author (Watching Glass Shatter, Father Figure) and blogger James J. Cudney—Jay—for the review of The Connecticut Corpse Caper.  The first in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, it was originally written as a stand-alone cozy.  But the gals—JJ, Rey, and Linda—decided they wanted P.I. careers (in Hawaii, no less) and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Please check out This is My Truth Now, his awesome blog.  You’ll find insightful posts, book reviews, personal adventures and bucket lists, among other things.  And if you’re looking for some good reads, I wholeheartedly suggest Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure.  You won’t be disappointed.

As stated in my FB post, he’s personable and sweet, and incredibly approachable.  I’m very thankful our paths crossed.

https://thisismytruthnow.com/2018/06/16/book-review-the-connecticut-corpse-caper-by-tyler-colins/#like-29614

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Who Doesn’t Lieb, uh, Love an Unexpected Surprise!?

I was just nominated By James J. Cudney IV (Jay) for the Liebster Award.  I’m a little stunned, but happily so.  I’ll have to confess that I’ve never tagged anyone or done this before, but there’s a first time for everything.  Hopefully, I’ll follow the rules correctly (feel free to send a comment/email if I’ve erred in any way or omitted something).

By the by, if you’re not familiar with Jay’s awesome blog, here’s a little background.  He’s an author/blogger living in NYC, with a great debut novel entitled Watching Glass Shatter.  I’ve had the opportunity to follow most of his “365 Daily Challenge”—daily posts revolving around a key word of the day.  He’s shared much over the last few months—happy times, sad events, insights and knowledge—and I’m glad for having received the opportunity to be a follower.  liebster2

Please check out his website and This is My Truth Now blog at:

https://jamesjcudney.com

https://thisismytruthnow.com

Now, let’s take a gander at the rules and the must-dos, shall we?

The Rules:

Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.   

Provide 11 facts about yourself.    

Answer the 11 question the person asked you.    

Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know).   

Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions.    

11 Facts About Me

  1. I’m Canadian, but prefer to write American.  <LOL>
  2. And speaking of American, becoming one has been a dream since the age of 5 (that, my friends, has been a long, long time, and I’ve never ever had a change of heart).
  3. I was one of a few teachers of Simplified English in the aviation world (back when).
  4. Hawaii and the concept of “aloha” are also close to my heart (hence, the setting for my Triple Threat Investigation Agency books).
  5. Favorite things?  The color blue (cyan, to be exact).  Pizza (funghi’s the best).  Red wine (South African and Australian).  Red-velvet cake (nummmmmmmmmmmmmm and screw the calories).  Walking for miles (and miles).  Writing and editing (with no timelines/deadlines).  Perry Mason (from the beginning days to the end).
  6. I adore animals and honor my medicine / animal totems.
  7. Though I often write and say “keep the faith”, I do struggle with it now and again.  (I readily admit that I can be a [maddening] whiner—just ask the Big Guy.  But that’s a secret between you and me and Him.)
  8. I’ve evolved into a sugar junkie over the last year (always enjoyed sweets, but it’s gotten a bit out of hand, er, mouth, er . . . ).
  9. I’m terrible with budgeting and suck at math.  On the flip side, I’m not bad with spending money (check the negative bank account) and do pretty well with anything creative, save for knitting or crocheting.  <LOL>
  10. Being on the ocean is something I adore (though I can’t swim to save my life; fortunately, I can do a mean dog-paddle).
  11. I’ve recently discovered the world of K-Pop.  (Who’d have guessed it would be so good!?  Not this ol’ gal.)

 Questions to You

  1. Which body part would you exchange if you could?
  • My brain/head – like my car, it needs some realignment/tuning (or is that tune-uping?).
  1. What do you like least about blogging?
  • Having to stay on top of all the marketing/promotion and technical/artistic components; that’s a full-time job in itself!
  1. If you could inhabit someone else’s body for a day, who would it be?
  • Today: a world leader or someone in the monarchy—to see what the world of politics and responsibility, or wealth and responsibility entail. If I had to pick someone specific, it would be either President Trump or Queen Elizabeth.
  • Yesteryear: Shakespeare.
  1. If you could have someone else’s personality and intelligence, who would it be?
  • Ayn Rand.
  1. Where are you taking me to dinner tomorrow night? Or if that’s not gonna work for you, what gift are you sending in lieu of canceling last minute on me? Seems appropriate.
  • I’d be taking you for a grand home-cooked meal, but time being what it is, I’d have to give you . . . a dozen calla lilies, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and a box of dark-chocolate Godiva truffles.  Am I forgiven?
  1. Have you ever tried to count the licks to get to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop?
  • Hate Tootsie Roll Pops (sorry).
  1. Did I share too much above? If yes, which item. If not, you’re my new best friend.
  • Not at all; there’s nothing wrong with sharing.  In fact, it’s a very “healthy” thing to do.
  1. If you could hide in someone’s pocket for a day just to see what they really do when you’re not around, who would it be?
  • That would have to be in the pocket of my favorite character: Rey (from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency). In the real world: I’m a trusting soul, so I wouldn’t have to “see” what anyone’s up to.
  1. If you have an entire cake to yourself, and you know for certain that no one else will eat it nor see you eat it, would you still cut it up and serve it on a plate? Or would you dig in with a shovel? (Assume nothing bad happens to your body as a result of consuming said cake)
  • If it’s red-velvet cake, I’d dig in like a bulldozer!
  1. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “bite me”? Good or bad, let it rip.
  • How hard?  <LOL> 
  1. Have you met Liebster? If Yes, please describe. If No, please contribute $25 to the charity of your choice in order to successfully have completed this easy and fun quiz. Failure to do so results in an automatic replication of 10 more quizzes a day from me to you as a loving gesture of support.
  • Love it.  I promise—a $25 donation will go to an animal charity this week (in fact, I’ll up it to $35)! 

Nominees

https://yeahanotherblogger.com

https://valeriesmusings.com

http://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com.au

https://insomniagirl.net

https://ireadwhatyouwrite.wordpress.com

http://storeybookreviews.com

https://booksandopinions.com

https://cozyupwithkathy.blogspot.com

https://www.myrandommusings.co.uk

http://lisaksbookthoughts.blogspot.com

http://bloggernicole.com

Questions to You

  1. If you could go back in time and be present at one major world event, what would that be?
  2. Will you share one of your secrets for success?
  3. What food (dessert, entrée, appetizer) best describes you?
  4. What’s your best “me time” endeavor/pleasure?
  5. If you were a color, which one would you be and why?
  6. Who most influenced you in terms of your writing/blogging career?
  7. If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
  8. What’s your current pet peeve?
  9. If you could do one thing differently, what would that be?
  10. Do you have a personal proverb, maxim, or motto?
  11. If you could go anywhere in the world or universe, where would that be?

And that, my friends, is that.   . . . Happy Easter everyone!

The Catharsis of Writing

cathartic =psychotherapeutic = emotional = healthful = releasing artistic creation

We all need to purge now and again—be it cleaning out closets, flushing out bottled emotions, or clearing negativities.  It can be done mentally, emotionally, and physically—through writing and posting, as examples.  Purging is a good thing; it eliminates excess and the unneeded.

I’m borrowing from James J. Cudney IV’s This is my Truth Now blog**.  The 365 Day Challenge involves daily posts dedicated to specific words.  (Hope you don’t mind, Jay.)

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The idea came about courtesy of my Wattpad weekly installment “novel” Odd Woman Out.  Left in a storage box for two decades, I yanked it out during a let’s-get-rid-of-crap spring-cleaning blitz.  Back then, I’d believed it was my pièce de résistance.  <LOL>  But as I started to read it, I saw some merit in it and thus, the weekly Wattpad installments came into being.

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Where does “cathartic” come in?  The events/scenes are more non-fiction than fiction.  A lot of things really did happen—to myself or individuals close to me.  The emotions and feelings, thoughts and reflections of Alex (the main character) have provoked chuckles and cringes, and “whoaaaaaa” and “ohhhhhh” moments.

“Whoa” because it prompts the [wincing] question: did I [he/she] really do that?  “Oh” because it triggers the [energizing] revelation: wow, I actually once thought that way?

The proofing/editing process is a bit unique this round: I’m only reviewing maybe six pages at a time, breaking long chapters into several small ones.  Every reading/edit is eye- and soul-opening.  So yes, writing/posting can indeed prove very cathartic.

You don’t have to make it public if it’s too intense or personal and you’re not comfortable sharing.  (Maybe that’s why Odd Woman Out remained in a box for years?)  But you know, sharing does enable you to purge—which, I humbly admit, is very freeing (and exhilarating).

Catharsis: letting go.

. . . Damn it feels really good.

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 ** This is My Truth Now reveals“365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.  I will post a characteristic about myself and reflect on it in a blog post for the next 365 days: a full year of discovery into directing the course of my future.”   Visit Jay’s blog at:  https://thisismytruthnow.com

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Here a Blog, There a Blog . . . but Who Has a G-R-E-A-T Blog?

Jay (James J. Cudney IV) that’s who.

If you’re thinking of starting a blog or have one going and are wondering how to make it more effective and successful, check out Jay’s 365 Daily Challenge / This is my Truth Now.

https://thisismytruthnow.com     https://jamesjcudney.com

Every day, he writes a post based upon a word.  Since March 2017, he’s posted “a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future.  365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life”.  Love it!  Talk about focus (I yearn for the day I’m free of the 9-to-5 and can apply the same commitment).

I’ve been following Jay for a wee while and admire the energy and output.  (I have to ask: do you sleep, my friend?)  Not only does Jay have a cool and very well organized blog—clean and crisp, and easy to navigate—he has a debut novel (look for it on Amazon).

Watching Glass Shatter, which is a well-crafted, character-driven family saga, has been receiving a whack-load of fantastic reviews (I’m envious).  If you’re writing a book or plan to, check out his book/blog tour; this is the way to go.  Interviews, reviews, and giveaways are a definite must nowadays; he has these covered and then some.

Here’s to a successful tour, Jay . . . and to providing inspiration to fellow aspiring and established bloggers and writers.

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