Linda S. Browning—Rediscovering the Writer’s Life

Guest post by Linda S. Browning

[Linda S. Browning]I started writing fiction again following retirement. I wrote constantly as a teen. When life interfered and required I get a job to pay my own bills, I worked in office management and later in geriatric social work. In 2012 I discovered a writing contest sponsored by MaryChris Bradley at Buddhapuss Ink, a publishing company in New Jersey. I wrote a comedic mystery that runs two widowed heroines, Leslie and Belinda, triumphantly ragged. The short story was entitled “No Wake” and won first place in Mystery Times Ten 2013. Published in the book of the same name, “No Wake” was well received, and I signed with the publisher to write at least three eBooks for the Leslie & Belinda Mystery series.

The first book in the series is entitled Daredevil and is available at Amazon. The short story, “No Wake,” is reprinted as the lead-in for Daredevil. When asked about the characters and the stories, I often tell people they are like Murder She Wrote meets Laverne & Shirley, a cozy nonsense mystery action series. The second eBook in the series will be out by mid-summer. In Shanghaied the two friends and Riff-Raff become embroiled in another mystery seemingly connected by coincidental events; mystery + adventure = a Leslie & Belinda Mystery.

Do the author a favor and write a review following the read on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other reviewing site you may prefer. I will be so very grateful.

Book Blurb

[Daredevil Cover]

Move over, Miss Marple; step aside, Jessica Fletcher—there’s a new gal on the case, well, two gals, that is. This pair of sassy, senior sleuths, Leslie and Belinda, are on the hunt for a missing girl; and it leads them on a crazy chase through a dark graveyard with Leslie’s eight-pound-dog, Riff-Raff, right in the middle of all the action. Buckle up and keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times; it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

When the granddaughter of a deceased church member goes missing, the two best friends are determined to solve the mystery and rescue the young woman. It seems no one, including the girl’s father, is all that concerned by her vanishing act, but this pair just know something’s amiss. Throw in one wandering bear, a flirtatious undertaker, a dustup with a TBI agent, an overweight corpse, and a trip to the Dollar Store for stakeout supplies and you have all the ingredients for one wild adventure. Sticky situations and comedic antics abound when these meddling senior citizens let their curiosity get the better of them.

Where to Buy
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About the Author
Linda S. Browning was born in 1952 to a stay-at-home mom and a civil servant father. For twenty years she worked for the State of Michigan. Relocating to Tennessee in 1989, her career continued in the Social Work profession. She resides in a retirement community in Middle Tennessee with her husband of forty years, a thirty (plus)-year-old Amazon parrot and an eighteen-year-old Finch. You can find Linda on Twitter, on Facebook and at her website, lindabrowning.net.

Rebecca Scarberry—Where I Get My Storylines

Guest post by Rebecca Scarberry

[Rebecca Scarberry]In 2011, before I self-published any of my books, I struggled with the editing of my first novel. An editor told me I needed to practice writing. Author Seumas Gallacher told me about two short story contests I could enter. He said it would provide me with some good writing practice. This sounded like a great idea. I immediately went out on my front porch with a pad of paper and a pencil.

I sat there wondering what sort of short stories people might find interesting. According to the contest rules, the stories could only be 1,500 words long. I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Suddenly, a red-winged blackbird landed on my porch bannister and stared at me for the longest time. His beady black eyes made me think about my older cousin Johnny’s birds. When I was five years old he used to raise carrier pigeons, and showed me how well they could deliver messages. I immediately started writing Messages from Henry, a mystery for young adults. Henry is a carrier pigeon, trying to save his owner from death by the hands of her kidnapper.

After I wrote Messages from Henry, I started writing Rag Doll, a crime drama for adults. Ever since I moved to Arkansas in 2007, I’ve been eager to search for gems/diamonds in the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Therefore, I decided to write a twisted little mystery about a murder in the diamond park. There are many twists in the story, and readers are warned not to rush through this book. They need to pay attention for the ending has a huge twist.

After entering both of the short stories in two different contests, I posted the stories on my blog. So many authors suggested I lengthen the stories and publish them. They gave me many examples as to how I should do this. Therefore, I lengthened both of them and sent them to many beta readers. I also went to a local library with printed copies of Messages from Henry and asked many young adults to read it and tell me if they liked it. They loved it and this gave me the encouragement I needed to continue editing the book.

It took Seumas Gallacher months to talk me into self-publishing Messages from Henry, and I’m so glad he did. Six months later, I self-published Rag Doll. Both of these very short books are free samples of my writing capabilities, and continue to receive rave reviews.

In June 2013, while my husband was driving down a busy city street, I looked out the passenger side window and saw a big red beach ball rolling along the curb next to our vehicle. The wind had blown the ball out of a large wire container, in front of the general store. It continued rolling next to our vehicle for a quarter of a mile. When Rick saw the ball he told me I should write a story about the ball. When we got home, I quickly jotted down an outline. Weeks later, while I was writing Jumper, I decided to write the sequel to Messages from Henry since the book was so popular. I wanted the novel to be set in England. I’ve never been there, so I asked several British authors if they’d like to collaborate. Three of them wanted to do this. I chose author Francis Potts. He’s the author of the novel entitled Flying Lessons and five other books. We published Where Love Takes You on December 15, 2013. The novel has received all five star reviews so far.

After self-publishing four volumes of Jumper (illustrated children’s series in eBook and print), I wrote the script for one episode of Jumper. I wrote the script because many parents told me their children love Jumper and want him on television in an animated cartoon. I’m currently in touch with the Public Broadcasting Service’s producer of children’s programming in Virginia.

By the way, I never published the first novel I wrote in 2007.

Book Blurb

[Messages from Henry Cover]

Messages from Henry is a highly original young adult novella about a very unlikely hero, a homing pigeon. Henry is trying to save his owner from death by the hands of her kidnapper. It’s a mystery thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat, rooting Henry on, and praying for Evelyn’s safe return.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
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About the Author
Rebecca Scarberry was born and raised on the southern coast of California. She lives on a very secluded non-working farm in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas with her husband and four cats. She has devoted the last five years to her love of writing fiction.

She has published seven books in four different genres: mystery/suspense, romance, crime drama, and a series of children’s picture books. She has written the script for one episode of her Jumper series of children’s books. She will soon be sending the script to several television producers who’ve asked to read it. Writing for young children is her most current passion. You can find Rebecca on Twitter, at her publisher’s website, and at her Amazon author page.

FUTURE CRIMES—Buy This Book!

Okay, you can read a bunch of reviews about how scary and real this book is—about how it will open your eyes to what is really going on in cyber-hell, and how we’re probably all going to die, broke, exposed and asking for our mommies. But I decided to go in a different direction with this review. Yes, this book scared the crap out of me with its thorough exploration of the Dark Net and all of the sleazy characters who inhabit it. And yes, we do have a lot to fear regarding our computers, smart phones and wearables, which I am henceforth referring to as “hackables.”

But as an author who is interested in dark things, I found this book to be extremely valuable as a reference guide on how the bad guys—whether individuals or nation states—actually get away with so much. For me, that’s the real value of Future Crimes. So if you are an author who likes to write thrillers and who wants to accurately depict just how things work in the darkest regions of the Internet, then buy this book. Just do it.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Future Crimes Cover]

Technological advances have benefited our world in immeasurable ways, but there is an ominous flip side: our technology can be turned against us. Hackers can activate baby monitors to spy on families, thieves are analyzing social media posts to plot home invasions, and stalkers are exploiting the GPS on smart phones to track their victims’ every move. We all know today’s criminals can steal identities, drain online bank accounts, and wipe out computer servers, but that’s just the beginning. To date, no computer has been created that could not be hacked—a sobering fact given our radical dependence on these machines for everything from our nation’s power grid to air traffic control to financial services.

Yet, as ubiquitous as technology seems today, just over the horizon is a tidal wave of scientific progress that will leave our heads spinning. If today’s Internet is the size of a golf ball, tomorrow’s will be the size of the sun. Welcome to the Internet of Things, a living, breathing, global information grid where every physical object will be online. But with greater connections come greater risks. Implantable medical devices such as pacemakers can be hacked to deliver a lethal jolt of electricity and a car’s brakes can be disabled at high speed from miles away. Meanwhile, 3-D printers can produce AK-47s, bioterrorists can download the recipe for Spanish flu, and cartels are using fleets of drones to ferry drugs across borders.

With explosive insights based upon a career in law enforcement and counterterrorism, Marc Goodman takes readers on a vivid journey through the darkest recesses of the Internet. Reading like science fiction, but based in science fact, Future Crimes explores how bad actors are primed to hijack the technologies of tomorrow, including robotics, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. These fields hold the power to create a world of unprecedented abundance and prosperity. But the technological bedrock upon which we are building our common future is deeply unstable and, like a house of cards, can come crashing down at any moment.

Future Crimes provides a mind-blowing glimpse into the dark side of technological innovation and the unintended consequences of our connected world. Goodman offers a way out with clear steps we must take to survive the progress unfolding before us. Provocative, thrilling, and ultimately empowering, Future Crimes will serve as an urgent call to action that shows how we can take back control over our own devices and harness technology’s tremendous power for the betterment of humanity—before it’s too late.

Where to Buy
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Jessica Knauss—Turning Dreams Into Stories

[Jessica Knauss]Guest post by Jessica Knauss

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I have a little book of jagged pencil lines in which, at four or five, I imitated what I thought the printed page looked like because I was so frustrated with not having been taught to write yet. Nothing makes me happier than writing stories. I get inspiration from the most unexpected places, and maybe that’s what makes them so unpredictable and so hard to categorize.

I’ve discussed before the fruitfulness of staying in bed after the alarm to remember dreams and see if any scenes come out of them, but I’ve also made stories out of things I’ve overheard on the subway, that friends have told me, or that I’ve tasted at breakfast. I recently won a prize for a strangely dark story based on a photograph of a beach house. All these stories had to end up somewhere, and many have been published. I’ve now gathered all my published stories and the best of the ones that haven’t yet seen the light of day into Unpredictable Worlds.

Book Blurb

[Unpredictable Worlds Cover]

A teacher controls her students with an edible microchip. A reporter turns into a rhinoceros. A couple’s efforts to eat local go frighteningly awry. If you’re looking to be surprised, puzzled, or just plain entertained, pick up this omnibus. There’s something for everyone.

More than twenty years in the making, Unpredictable Worlds contains all of Jessica Knauss’s published and prize-winning short fiction as of March 2015 and a few of her best stories never before seen in print or eBook. Zany plots and outrageous characters will stretch your belief and tug at your heart.

WARNING: These stories contain exaggeration, elision, and disregard for “the real world.” Some even exhibit a tone of blatant optimism. However, they respect human speech patterns, admire good grammar, and hold proper punctuation in the highest regard.

“What She Lacked” Excerpt
Please enjoy an excerpt from “What She Lacked,” my favorite story that has never been published before.

After months of searching, I followed my instinct to Manhattan. I didn’t find my twin sister Dulcy so much by her presence as by the void she created in the commotion surrounding her. On my second morning there, she was standing in the middle of the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, surrounded by a wave of powerwalking natives and gawk-walking tourists and endless shouts to “Get out of the *ing way!” or to “Shove over!”

The cops in Boston had been singularly unhelpful and told me they were going to close the case. “It’s policy, ma’am. If we have no leads on a case for a certain amount of time, we have to move on,” said the stern leader.

One earnest officer took me into confidence and whispered, “Pretty girls have been disappearing lately and we haven’t found any of them.”

“Am I at risk?” I had asked, figuring that if my identical twin had disappeared, I, too, would be the kidnapper’s type.

“No,” he said, too quickly. “You graduated from Harvard.”

Like most twentysomethings in Boston, I had more university degrees than life experience. But I’d had to complete the last one, in Library Science, in order to get any job at all in that market choked with able young college grads. “So?”

“Only pretty girls without degrees have been disappearing.”

So now he thought he was a profiler. It was like something from a formulaic TV show. But he was right in that, although my sister had applied to all the good drama schools in the country, nothing had worked out for her in the end. She was living with our parents because the money a person can earn from acting in commercials and student films is small and unstable. But over the years, she put a lot of speaking roles under her belt and was sure this, unlike all the other years when she’d said the same thing, was her breakthrough year. I chalked up the cops’ surrender to the fact that none of them were twins and accessed my twinly intuition—or just some solid logic—and reasoned that she must have gone to New York to increase her chances. Rather than waiting for her to call me with the news that she had been cast as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, I asked for some time off work at the library and headed out in hopes of seeing her name on the marquee myself.

I swam against the current of foot traffic and finally stood before my sister, who made no sign that she saw me. One of her eyelids was relaxed over her eye while the other flickered nervously over an orb that seemed to see nothing. A trickle of sweat appeared at her brow, but it was no wonder because it was the middle of June and she was wearing what she had been when she’d disappeared: a long wool coat complete with a Burberry scarf. The coat displayed rips and tears at every angle and swaths of caked mud across the back. Her hair, usually coiffed to perfection and shellacked to a hard sheen, floated wildly in the gusts from passing cars, trucks, and people, each with their distinct noises. Perhaps most disturbing of all, she was showing roots. My hand went to my own straight, uncolored blonde locks in the inexorable act of comparison I’d made my whole life. This was the first time I had ever come out ahead, so the panic inside me grew. The rude shouting hadn’t stopped, occasionally punctuated with, “Is she okay?” I tried to break through the din, grabbing her by the shoulders and saying, calmly and slowly, “Dulcy. Dulcy, are you in there?”

Both of her eyelids snapped open. “Christabel.” The name of our favorite literary heroine as children flowed from her lips as if she were casually conversing at a dinner party.

“No, it’s Fran. I’m your sister Fran.” […]

About the Author
Born and raised in Northern California, Jessica Knauss is a New Englander by design. She has worked as a librarian and a Spanish teacher and earned a PhD in Medieval Spanish Literature before entering the publishing world as an editor. She has published fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in numerous venues. Her acclaimed novella about a woman’s awakening through sleeping in trees, Tree/House, is also currently available, and her contemporary paranormal Awash in Talent is coming soon. Bagwyn Books will publish her medieval epic Seven Noble Knights in late 2016. Get updates on her writing at her blog: jessicaknauss.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.

Unpredictable Worlds releases for Kindle on May 15 with a softcover edition available the same day. Unpredictable Worlds is already available for preorder for only 99 cents. Once it’s out there in the world, the price will go up, so save at least 66% now and have this strangely amazing book delivered to your device on release day.

Where to Buy
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“The Laptev Virus”—A Worthy Successor to “The Andromeda Strain”

Okay, let’s get to the point. I thought The Laptev Virus is a great read. For me, this is a solid sci-fi story rooted in actual science. As an author, I like to come up with some pretty bizarre situations myself. And usually I find myself making everything up—taking care to at least make the premise believable so as not to lose the reader. But it’s refreshing to read a story written by a scientist. This author not only has a wonderful imagination, but she has the scientific chops to back up what she’s selling. And trust me, when it comes to megaviruses, it ain’t pretty, folks.

Michael Crichton, an author who was also a physician and had a wicked imagination, was great at combining real-world science with entertaining fiction. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed The Andromeda Strain so much—both the book and the movie. To me, the key to any memorable story is that it must be plausible. And like Crichton’s work, The Laptev Virus challenges the reader. There’s a lot of technical jargon in the book, but it serves a purpose. As an example, I am now terrified of cats!

So if you like sci-fi backed by solid research, then I can heartily recommend this book.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[The Laptev Virus Cover]

In this hard sci-fi techno thriller, scientists have recently discovered the existence of megaviruses: viruses up to a thousand times larger than any viruses that we have known before. What if one of these newly found viruses was a human pathogen? Christy Esmahan’s fourth novel, THE LAPTEV VIRUS, begins with the discovery of just such a virus in the Laptev Sea basin by a company drilling for oil. Investigators in Houston race against the ticking clock of the short Arctic summer to discover a way to protect workers from the virus before competitors drain the basin of its rich resources…and before anyone else dies from the hemorrhagic fever that the Laptev virus causes.

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“Tales to Count On”—Subtle Humor Flavored with Dread

I love this collection of stories! And I especially appreciate that the author is as comfortable in the past as she is in the present. Two of my favorites are “Him” and “The Map Room.” The writing is precise and well researched—two qualities that as both a writer and reader I value tremendously. And the tone … What to say about that? For me, the best way to describe this author’s voice is, subtle humor flavored with dread—a little like some of the best ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes. Reading each story is like finishing a nice cup of tea, only to discover something unsettling at the bottom. If you are looking for the fun and the unusual, I recommend this collection. Oh, and don’t forget the tea.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Tales to Count On Cover]

Curl up and enter the eclectic world of S. R. Mallery, where sad meets bizarre and deception meets humor; where history meets revenge and magic meets gothic. Whether it’s 500 words or 5,000, these TALES TO COUNT ON, which include a battered women’s shelter, childhood memories, Venetian love, magic photographs, PTDS fallout, sisters’ tricks, WWII spies, the French Revolution, evil vaudevillians, and celebrity woes, will remind you that in the end, nothing is ever what it seems.

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