Final Hours–the Second Time Around (and Free E-Books!)

I knew from the start that Final Hours was going to be a hard sell.

Who would cheer for an adulterous husband, in love with one woman but married to another til the end of the world (literally) because he didn’t have the backbone to end his marriage? I certainly wouldn’t, had anyone else written this book…so why did I write it?

I‘ve always loved disaster movies, especially end-of-the-world films like When Worlds Collide, Armageddon and Deep Impact, and I found myself wanting to write a novel that would not be about heroic men and women rising to the challenge of saving the planet, but about flawed, frightened people who would be faced with one last chance to set right the mistakes of a lifetime. The game plan was to write four stories taking place in different parts of the world with four very different people and situations.
It was a good plan, except for one thing: three of the stories didn’t work.

So I ended up writing a short novel (too long to qualify as a novella) about a man who had been having an affair for the past fifteen years and, facing the planet’s final hours, finally makes the decision he should have made years ago.

The reviews were mixed. Some people loved it, others thought it was awful. As writers, we all know (or should know) that we can’t please everyone. Still, I wondered if there were something missing, my failure to convey to those readers what I’d been trying to say with Jamie Randall’s story. Maybe, instead of just telling the story from his point of view, I should have told it from three points of view: his, his wife’s, and that of his conflicted mistress.

I am now working on an expanded version of Final Hours to incorporate the viewpoints of the two women in Jamie’s life. Will it work? Time–and readers–will tell!

PS — To celebrate the addition of Japan into the Amazon KDP market, all of my e-books will be free for one day only–Wednesday, October 31st. Trick or Treat, everyone! Find them via my Amazon Author Central page.

* Also posted at Beishir Books


For Those Who Don’t Mind Sacrificing Trees….

Just kidding!

For those of you who still prefer a bound book, The Unicorn’s Daughter is now available in a paperback edition through Create Space. I’m not quite sure why it’s not up on Amazon yet, but….

Be Careful of the Words You Say….

I used to have a little sign posted above my desk, during that brief period of foolishness in which I believed I could discipline myself to actually work at a desk. The little sign read Be careful of the words you say; keep them soft and sweet. You’ll never know from day to day which ones you’ll have to eat.

Epic fail…I never adapted to writing in traditional writer fashion (computer on desk, butt planted firmly in chair) and I never learned to censor myself. But that’s not where this post is going.

This morning, I discovered just how accurate the speech recognition of the Voice Search app on my Android really is. I activated it by mistake and it went into action when I said, “This sucks.” I got this response….

Sorry about the blurred image. I was laughing when I took the photo. A comment of “that’s funny” got this in response….

And so my love-hate relationship with technology rages on. I shudder to think how I’d get by without it. I can barely remember the years of writing everything in longhand on yellow legal pads, print and bound books, CDs, VHS tapes and DVDs, snail mail and using a phone to make phone calls. And it wasn’t all that long ago!

My dad used to say the thing he hated about helping me move was all those heavy cases of books. I told Collin I would love to see the look on his face if I were to ask him to carry my books–and give him my Kindle Fire! I’ve finally done it–all of my books (except for a few special coffee table books) and music are now digitized. I gave away all of the print books–including print copies of my own books!

Now that Collin’s begun digitizing our DVD collection, I’ll soon be able to access everything online. I might have eventually reached my goal of being able to put all of my personal possessions in my backpack…if it weren’t for the 200-plus stuffed animals I still can’t part with….

Secondhand Shoes Cover Reveal and Giveaway!

Today, it’s my pleasure to introduce a new author (sure to be a bestseller!) and a personal friend of mine, whose first novel will be available soon. It’s also a pleasure to participate in the cover reveal because the cover was designed  by my favorite cover artist–my son Collin at Beishir Media!


Secondhand Shoes Cover Reveal and Something Borrowed Giveaway

Today, Shelly Arkon is doing another cover reveal to Secondhand Shoes. She’s also giving away three books from the Twilight series and eight books from the House of Night series. In order for your name to be put in the drawing you must promise to Tweet, Facebook, and Google +1 this and leave a comment in the box that you did so along with your email, which series you would like, and what you borrowed on your wedding day to wear down the aisle. And I hope they weren’t secondhand bridal shoes that didn’t fit like my MC, Lila.

There will be no rafflecoptors or anything like that. She’s pretty much a self-admitted-techno-moron. Next Friday, October 19th, she will reveal two winners over at Secondhand Shoes.







The Blurb

The shoes didn’t fit. It was an omen.

Eighteen year old psychic-medium-germ-a-phobe Lila should have listened to ghostly Gram’s advice the morning of her wedding, “Take off that dress and those shoes. And run.”

En route to the honeymoon, she decides to listen after too many disagreements with her groom. It doesn’t pay to go along to make everyone happy.

Still in her wedding dress and shoes, she escapes out a diner’s bathroom window into the Florida woods despite her fear of snakes and germs with her dead Gram’s direction.

So she begins a journey of finding her inner strength that puts her on a deadly run from her psychotic groom and his deranged friends.

Will she ever get past her fear of germs and snakes? Will she survive her honeymoon?


An Excerpt

A screen stood between me and my freedom. I pushed it. Nothing. I pushed it again. It was one stubborn screen. I took off a shoe, scraping a blister. “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow,” I muttered.

I held my spiked heel like an ice-pick and punched a hole in the screen, ripping the rest with my other hand.

I didn’t want to, but I had to put my shoe back on and get it over with. I jammed my foot into it and stepped. “Ouch, ooh, ooh, ouch.”

The ledge was tummy high. I slung one leg over it, held onto the bottom of the window, got my other leg up and over and shimmied my way out.

There were woods beyond the alley holding the diner’s dumpsters, trees all the way to the interstate’s on-ramp to my right and on down behind the gas station to my left and beyond.

A light wind blew my hair across my face. I looked at the sky. Dark clouds coming up I-75. I looked at the woods.Probably a million snakes in there,I thought.

Don’t be afraid, Lila,” Gram said.

A half-dozen sparrows flew from around the front of the diner, low to the ground, and into the woods. I followed them in through the ferns bordering the pavement and into the trees. My lacey arm caught on a cypress branch ripping a portion of my sleeve from me.

I walked for at least a half hour. When Max and I left the wedding, it must’ve been mid-eighty degrees. It warmed up since then like twenty more. That was a Florida July for you. The humidity made it almost unbearable. I was sweating, my bodice soaked. The money inside my bra stuck to my skin. It itched. The lace on my one arm and back itched more. I smelled no better than Max did when he got home from work and every winged insect buzzed around me. I smacked at them. A big, black horsefly really liked me. It wouldn’t go away. I thought of Max.

My blisters and toes screamed pre-, mid-, and post-step. The balls of my feet, too. The three inchers got caught in vines, branches, and mole holes. It took a lot to stay upright in the deep leaves. I considered taking my shoes off, but there might be hook worms or some jungle ameoba waiting to feast on my leg muscles, and I needed my legs to get me out of this mess. Mom scared me out of going shoeless when I was little, and I’d never gone barefoot except on Mom’s clean carpets and disinfected floors. I wore shoes or slippers at Cynthia’s. Her mother didn’t vacuum every day. Nor did I taste Pine Sol in the back of my throat at her house.

A hawk flew down out of nowhere and landed on the ground in front of me, tilted its head, and blinked its eyes at me.

The hawk jumped up and down, flitting its wings. He turned and squawked.

You want me to follow you?”

It hopped onward, looking back at me every third or fourth bounce.

From not too far behind me a male voice bellowed, “Lila!”





Would You Buy a Book Based on This Review?

As an author, I pay attention to reviews—to an extent. A review in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and other professional publications is one thing—but the customer reviews on Amazon and other sites are quite another. Which ones are valid and which should be ignored? I have a few suggestions.

Be wary of any book that gets only five-star reviews. They were likely all written by friends and/or relatives. Watch out for the “sock puppets”—reviews written under fake names, usually by authors attacking other authors. It’s easier than one might think to set up bogus accounts just to take a shot at another author’s work without, as one author suggested in her blog, the risk of retaliation. And definitely be on the lookout for reviews, positive or negative, that are poorly-written. These reviewers are not the best judge of a book’s literary merit.

Here’s an example of one from a reviewer who appears to be barely able to write a grocery list. Would you buy a book on her recommendation? (I’ve omitted book titles and author and reviewer names in all examples.)

For a first novel that (author) wrote I think it was a great novel. It showed romance between two strangers that then learned to love each other deeply (main characters). To me (author) gave great description of each character and helped me get a perfect picture of how they looked. I enjoyed this novel very much because each chapter that I read was interesting and entertaining that helped me imagine everything that was happening like if i was there. The fact that it was double spaced made it easier for me to read and I liked that. Also even though it was short chapters it made me want to read more because (author) knows how to keep the reader hanging wanting to know what’s going to happen next.I am now waiting for the second sequel of this amazing novel that I hope it is soon to come out. (Author) did an amazing job writing this book for a beginner. I hope she goes really far with her novel to show her fans the amazing author she is becoming as she goes on with her talent as a writer.

It was followed by this review. The reviewer in this instance was understandably unhappy that he’d been misled by the previous rave review….

I have been trying to find out more about the author after receiving the book yesterday. Haven’t had much luck…is this a young author?? Middle school, high school?? If a young girl wrote the book, then I understand the double spaced copy, numerous grammatical errors, misspellings, omissions, poor word usage. The dialogue and repetitive word choice leads me to believe a young person wrote the book, and if this is the case I would have had different expectations and perhaps my review would have a more positive tone. If this is the work of an adult, I am at a loss. The reviews listed were all very positive which is why I purchased the book. I can’t bring myself to continue reading it and am quite disappointed. If you are looking for a mature novel, this isn’t it. I have learned to be a little more skeptical of the reviews in the future when looking for my next great read.

The following review was written by someone claiming to be an English teacher. The review is for one of my all-time favorite novels, which was an international bestseller. It was so long-winded, I had to condense it to a few of the reviewer’s more glaring mistakes….

(The author) writes in a flat, unentertaining way… as though he expects his readers to be struggling with English, like an 8 year old forced to read this at school…characters are as flat, unlikeable and unbelievable as a 4 year old’s superhero comic book, used as toilet paper and then unfolded to be read again. Imagine that twin daughters are *polite coughing* evil and good, in the extreme…yet their family is completely unaware of this, for decades. Imagine a wealthy playboy who goes around raping, beating, and sodomizing wealthy women… but goes unjailed, unnoticed, and undisciplined. Having difficulty imagining this? Blame (the author), who thinks you’ve got the intelligence of the average preschooler.

(The author’s) plots are as unbelievable as a 1950s cigarette ad claiming “not a cough in a carload”. In this particular book (small spoiler alert), imagine how you’d feel after reading near the beginning that a white man and a black man in 1800s South Africa could be fairly good friends, without a hint of racism. Now break with reality again, and imagine that two people without tools could pick up enough diamonds on a beach (yep…diamons, lying around on a beach?!) in a few hours could collect enough wealth to compete against–and topple– a millionaire who has 40 guys searching that SAME beach every day, all day, for years.

Notice that above and below this book review are 11 pages of shills and clacquers, using !!!exclamation points!!!, CAPITAL LETTERS, catchy lines…and all giving this crappity book 10/10 stars. Clearly, Amazon has not done enough to keep out the marketing weenies who are posing as real, unbiased readers as they try to sell this steaming heap of rotting firewood to an unsuspecting audience.

And then there’s my very own sock puppet! In spite of the reviewer’s unimaginative alias, it wasn’t too hard to figure out who had written it. From the nonexistent profile to the lack of any other reviews to the brilliant writing (double commas, inappropriate caps and lack of analytical observations), it has “bogus” stamped all over it!

And for the record, the photographer is not a hippie.

Self-made billionaire meets hippie photographer in Earthquake; falls ridiculously in love, never gets the guts to tell his wife,, etc.. Oh, and the Earth is going to be destroyed by a returning asteroid,,etc..A little lame.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe every reader has the right to express his or her opinion of any book, movie, etc. But I also believe some reviews should not be My question to you is this: have you ever received bad reviews written by someone who seems barely literate? Have you ever bought a book based on customer reviews? If so, do you give any credence to reviews that are full of spelling and grammatical errors?

Between the Sheets with Scarlett Martin and James Morgan

I have a special place in my heart for today’s guest bloggers—one of them is my alter ego, after all. Their first novel, Same Time Tomorrow, will be published early next year, and they can be found at their adults-only blog, Basking in the Afterglow. I give you Scarlett Martin and James Morgan!

Try to behave, you two.


Literature is all, or mostly, about sex.” ~ Anthony Burgess

If the sex scene doesn’t want to make you do it–whatever it is they’re doing–it hasn’t been written right.” ~ Sloan Wilson

When in doubt, add in sex. And then some more sex. Mix in a pinch of sex. Add on a dash of oral pleasuring, followed by strenuous intercourse. Follow up with post coital cuddling.” ~ Julia Child’s Kama Sutra Recipes


James: We’d like to thank Norma for letting us play in her blog today. We’ll try not to get too out of control, and we swear, we’ll make the bed afterwards. Though we might have a problem finding all of the pillows. They tend to get scattered a lot when we get, well, frisky.

Scarlett: A lot of things get scattered. Starting with clothing! When we’re ready, we’re ready.

And we’re always ready. Aren’t we, darling?

James: Anytime, anywhere, goddess. Anyway, Scarlett and I are here to write about writing sex scenes in a novel. We’ve been busy writing Same Time Tomorrow, which is a romance-erotica hybrid. The book concerns itself with a woman and a man as they get to know each other, as their attraction gets slightly out of control (and by slightly we mean a lot). As you can imagine, there’s a whole lot of sex involved. They don’t even have to be in each other’s company for adult situations to ensue; we run the gauntlet early on from very pleasant dreams to phone sex. And when they’re around each other, Chloe and Gabriel just can’t resist each other.

Scarlett: And cybersex. Don’t forget the cybersex!

Actually, they meet online. They get into a bit of a debate over Barry Manilow on an entertainment site’s message boards. Chloe loves Manilow—Gabriel, not so much. So they start out having a friendly debate about the musical merits of Barry, and end up falling in love. The turning point, to me, is when Chloe faces a personal tragedy and Gabriel flies to Missouri to be with her. This is when they meet face-to-face for the first time.

James: I think that part of what makes these two characters work so well is the sense of humanity to them–they’re not perfect, but they come off as real to us. They’re both smart, a bit acerbic at times. Their issues and problems are grounded in things that can be related to by people in general; hope, loss, and finding the strength to let go, and to find someone to trust and be open with. Writing erotica does require you to write characters that the reader will care about–otherwise you’re just writing porn. And even before these two end up doing, well, the horizontal tango (look it up), even before Chloe and Gabriel have fallen in love, one of the things that makes them sexy is how much they like each other.

Scarlett: Unlike the characters in some erotic novels. (coughs) Fifty Shades of Grey (coughs). And no, we’re not jealous. Bestseller or not, that book is repulsive. If James did the things to me that Christian—isn’t that his name—does to Anastasia, I would have to castrate him!

Gabriel and Chloe aren’t perfect—they would be painfully boring if they were—but they aren’t mean. And I don’t find anything sexy about sadomasochism.

James: Neither do I… and that whole 50 Shades wave is a mystery to me. Come on, it’s a Twilight fanfic glossed over. That should tell you a lot!

As we went along, developing this relationship and bringing them to a point where Chloe and Gabriel would act on those feelings, we prepared ourselves for what was to come. Some extensive research, plotting out positions, and such other related matters were handled in between the sheets, by the fireplace, during a press conference by the Governor, out on the deck, on stage at the Met, behind home plate at a Yankees game. We might have tried doing so at a Cubs game, but we like an audience, and Cubs games don’t draw much of an audience.

Scarlett: Now, now, darling—we shouldn’t be dissing the Cubs. Some of our readers might turn out to be Cubs fans. A few, anyway.

Though if we were to make out behind home plate at Wrigley Field, then at least someone would be scoring!

James: If they’re Cubs fans, the poor souls must be delusional, or gluttons for punishment.

Actually getting to that point where our characters are engaged in very hands-on and amorous grappling between the sheets is, to put it mildly, an experience. Writing it out, sorting out what body part is going where at any given time (Chloe and Gabriel tend to like to outdo themselves)… well, it leads to getting aroused. For a guy like me, let’s just say that if you’re writing that in a public place, you do want to wait awhile before you… happen to stand up. Give yourself a chance to calm down, so to speak. At the very least, have something along that you can use for concealing. Know what I mean?

Scarlett:(winks) He has a very large backpack. And then there’s his coat.

I don’t have to worry about the visual aspects…but I do tend to make a bit of noise when I’m really getting into a sex scene. Remember that infamous scene in When Harry Met Sally? I’m not faking an orgasm. I actually have orgasms while writing these scenes. After all, the brain is an erogenous zone….

James: Especially your brain! One of the things in this genre that we’ve had to keep in mind has been variety. Sex scenes shouldn’t be like the last one. We’ve made use of numerous positions, locations, and techniques. We’ve had our characters getting off just by the sound of their voices. And we’ve even made use of having one of our pair getting tied up (Gabriel has problems following orders, just so you know).

Scarlett: He can be a very naughty boy sometimes! And occasionally, so can Gabriel!

James: Well, seeing as how he’s our creation, of course he’d be naughty at times!

And in the end, one of the elements we’ve brought into the mix, even during a sex scene, is a sense of humour about it. Our characters have a real playfulness about them when they’re together; they can laugh even during their most intimate moments– or when wildlife interrupts them during some up close and personal time.

Scarlett: I think a sense of humour is important, no matter what genre one is writing. Think about it. In real life, some people will react with humour, even in the most tense situations. It adds depth to our characters and we hope that makes them interesting to readers.

James: At the very least we should be turning our readers on.

Scarlett: I do hope so. And now, if you’ll excuse us, we have some research to do….

Now Appearing….

I’m guest blogging at William’s blog, Speak of the Devil…and he’s currently guest blogger at my book blog, Beishir Books.

Nest up, I’ll be hosting our alter egos, Scarlett Martin and James Morgan. That will most certainly be an adults-only discussion! Hope you’ll join us…them….