Monday, May 15, 2017

Ordinary or Extraordinary by Carl Brookins

Do you ever feel as though you are being watched? We’ll get to that later.

We lead wildly varied, compelling, interesting, fascinating weird and frustrating lives. We are authors.

We meet and talk with top law enforcement people, hobnob with some of the worst criminals of the era and we are privy to many government secrets. We are authors.
We spend our lives in mean garrets, chewing beef jerky strips and slurping weak tea, or sitting pool-side with slippered feet, being served mimosas and crumpets by a bevy of nearly dressed models. Yes, we are authors.

None of these scenarios are, in my experience, wholly accurate. Neither are they entirely incorrect. In my admittedly limited experience, authors are likely to be a broad mix of life’s experiences. Indeed so, and I’m limiting my remarks here to my personal life and observations of authors of crime fiction. Your experience may vary.

A friend who has achieved broad success as an author has a fairly precise routine. In the morning, he repairs to a nearby coffee shop to write, often long-hand, for a few hours. Every day. Even when he travels, he tries to find the time, in the morning, to write. I have a similar routine. Because I started my fiction writing while I was employed full time, and because I wanted access to most of my psychic energy, I established a routine of rising early in the morning and writing for at least two hours before leaving for the college. Now retired, I still spend at least a couple of hours in the early morning, at my computer, writing a story or working on my current novel. Or, like this particular morning, working on the draft of this article.

So, here’s my typical scenario. I consider myself a typical (hah) author of crime fiction. I’m also a small-time publisher and I review crime fiction for several sites.

Mornings, because my energy levels are higher, I write. Most mornings I’ll work at any of several writing projects that are current. I have no specific goals—number of words, number of pages—so I accomplish whatever I accomplish.

Afternoons I read, do research, write reviews or short pieces, address a variety of tasks associated with being a writer and publisher. The telephone, rings, the carpet needs vacuuming or dishes must be washed. Yes, it may surprise some, but most of the working authors I know, those who try to publish a new book every year, also have ordinary or routine lives. And they travel to make presentations to groups, appear at conventions, answer fan mail and attend to family life.

Readers of this piece should not be surprised to learn that most active authors of crime fiction lead fairly ordinary lives, although we may sometimes experience a heightened level of frustration at our experiences with the publishing world. Be that as it may, among the joys of being an author, is our opportunity to do research. We develop access to experienced members of the legal, law enforcement and business communities that many citizens may never experience. Such contacts are not always in the most pleasant circumstances, visits to autopsy labs, for example. But in general, most of the successful authors I know like to learn things and we are always watching and listening. Waiting at the airport to board an airplane, I overheard a six-word jargon-laced phrase from a passing vendor. That phrase triggered an explanation of important actions in a story I was working on at the time.

Yes, when you are around authors, if you get the feeling you are being carefully watched, it is probably true.

Brief bio and links for Carl Brookins:
Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

Buy links:

Come and enjoy a time of conversation with author Carl Brookins as he talks about translating his sailing adventures to fiction and creating fictional characters that feel like old friends. Brookins is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Redemption Lake by Susan Clayton-Gardner

Genre: Adult, Mystery
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
This is an awesome book. The main character is Matt, and 18-year-old boy  who finds himself in a serious situation.  While his best friend Travis is at a dance he goes to talk with  Travis’s mother and ends up drunk. When he awakes in her bed he gets up only to  find her dead in the bathtub.  Matt’s father is arrested for the murder.  Detective Radhauser is not satisfied that he has the right man. Things just don’t add up to Matt’s dad being the murderer.  This book is full of twists and turns. It was like putting a puzzle together piece by piece. About the time I thought I knew who committed the murder I realized I was as wrong as the detective.  This author did a great job fleshing out the characters. The setting made me feel like I’d been out west. I’ve never been in or seen a desert, but I was there in this book. This is the second book I’ve read this week that took me on an emotional ride. This is a fabulous author and this is another must read book.

Susan Clayton-Goldner

Beneath the Skin by Kyla Stone

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Sometimes you read a book and must really process it before you can write the review. This book was one of those for me.  From the minute I met Sydney I knew she was so much more than what we saw on the outside.  I hated the girls who tormented her. I hated the life that she was forced to live. At the same time I admired her ability to not only survive her life, but make sure her brothers survived. She was a hero in my book. This is a book I will put on my shelves. It is an important book if it helps just one child. If this is the quality of this author's work then I owe it to myself and others to read everything she has written. Not too many people can write about this topic that takes you on an emotional ride and yet leaves you feeling good at the end.  I will not write about the plot to this book.  That is for you the reader to do.  I will recommend it along with a box of tissues.  It is probably in the top five favorite books I've read this year.  I will say this is a must read.
I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.