Book Sale!

Social distancing, businesses closing down, etc., isn’t affecting me as much as it is others. I already work from home, homeschool, and am an introvert. Though I will admit that being told I can’t go out and do things makes me want to all the more. But still not much. But for those who are already going stir-crazy, or just for those who happily find themselves with more time to read than normal, I’m offering discounts on digital versions of both of my published books. My full-length novel Pithea will be more than half off for the next 2 weeks, and my novelette The Triangle is free now through Monday! See below for links and a little more information.

Pithea cover, Kindle

Pithea is the first book in a series of speculative, futuristic fiction. Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon.

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The Triangle is a stand-alone novelette of Christian fiction. Check it out on Goodreads, and go here to get your free copy!

As many who will read this already know, authors, especially self-published or indie authors, need reviews to allow more readers to find their books. If you take advantage of either, or both, of the deals on my books, please make sure to leave me a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or preferably, both!
*Both of these books are also available through Kindle Unlimited.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bargains of Unknown Value

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is “Books I Bought/Borrowed Because…” Last July, recent changes in my life had left me with more time than I’d had for the past few years. I realized then how much I really wanted to get back to reading regularly, which had dropped off some time after my first child was born, 18 years ago. As tends to be the way with me, once I decided to do this, I dove headlong into it, adding book reviews to my blog, building a to-be-read on Goodreads, and of course keeping my eye out for books to add to that list.

Suddenly I had a new purpose when I went with my husband to thrift stores, garage sales, and bargain stores. Even my husband started bringing home books for me that he thought I might be interested in, when he went to these kinds of places without me. I’ve since had to slow way down on buying physical books that I know nothing about, no matter the deal. But for today, my list will include books that I (or my husband) bought simply because they were super cheap (anywhere from $0.25 to $2, or even free), without really knowing much, if anything, about them.

At the time of making this list, I have not read any of these books except the first one, so the value of the bargain I got on each of them is still completely a mystery to me. Some I plan to read soon, others will likely take a while to get to.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
This was the very first book I bought with no knowledge of it but the blurb on the jacket. But it was a good deal at a bargain store, so I had to get it! After reading reviews for it later, I was concerned I wouldn’t like it, but I just finished it recently and felt it was worth the buy. See my review here.

Mrs. Murphy series books by Rita Mae Brown
At a local thrift store which tragically has very few books, I found 2 books from this series for 25¢ each. All I really know about these books is that they’re cozy mysteries and involve a cat. And my parents named their dog after the cat. I now own books #2 & #8 in the series, but will start at #1 if I can.
Shown here: Rest in Pieces

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
This is one my husband picked up at a thrift store for maybe $1 when I wasn’t with him. We’re big fans of Jim Gaffigan, ever since seeing him on That ’70s Show years ago. Plus, he’s from Indiana, where we live. And he’s hilarious.

I, Q series by Roland Smith
My husband came home with the first 3 books in this 6-book series at the same time as he bought the previous book. It’s a YA spy series that I’d never heard of, but does sound interesting.
Shown here: Independence Hall

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I actually got this book completely free when buying books for my sister on eBay. I took advantage of a buy 2, get 1 free offer from one seller, buying 2 for her, and when I didn’t see anything else in the eligible books list that she’d like, I grabbed this for myself. I watched some of the 1st (or maybe the 2nd?) movie at a hotel once years ago, and since then have been curious to read the series.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
This was already on my TBR list, as my husband had strongly recommended it, and then he shared with me an offer he found to get the e-book for free. As a Star Trek-franchise fan, I’m looking forward to reading this.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
This is another one my husband brought home from a thrift store recently (he tends to stop by Good Will and other local used stores when he’s out by himself to look for the odd board game gem, and now he looks for books he thinks I might like too ❤️). I don’t know anything about it except what the blurb on the back says.

Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn
Another of my husband’s suggestions, though at least I was present for this one. We found this in our library’s used book sale section, and my husband figured at least this way I’d read a book by the author of some Star Wars books my husband likes (I have no desire to read Star Wars books). I’m starting to amass too many books that start a series in the middle grade or YA age groups. There are 3 just on this list!

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Great Illustrated Classics books by various authors
A few months ago, I read the GIC version of Little Women to my 9-year-old daughter, and then not long after that, the version for Anne of Green Gables. We both agreed that it was a nice way to read old classics. And we both quickly agreed we really wanted to read Pride and Prejudice next. But our library only had a few of these, and not that one. After searching for it to buy and not really wanting to spend upwards of $7, I found this lot of 40 GIC books on eBay for what came out to about $3.50 per book. I took a few days to think about it, and then my husband pulled the trigger. My daughter has already started reading one on her own, and after we finish the book we’re currently reading together (Anne of Avonlea), we’ll start on Pride and Prejudice.

Scores of free Kindle books by various authors!
Thanks to this blog (check out her Friday Reads posts) and daily emails from this site, just in the last couple of weeks I’ve acquired 9+ free Kindle books. I’m not going to list them all here by name, but below (and above) are the covers (some of them are probably still free on Amazon if you’re interested). For these, I do actually do a little research before I acquire them, even though they’re free, and only pick ones that seem interesting and don’t have reviews that scare me off.

Have you read any of these, or are any on your own TBR? Link your TTT post so I can see what you did with today’s topic!

Weekly Writing Update: April 1

Camp NaNoWriMo started this last week, which was perfect for getting me out of my recent laziness and back to work on the revision of “Outcast” (book #2). I’ve set my goal for an hour of work per day–I started with 45 minutes, but today raised it to an hour, because I know I can do it, and I want to get a lot done this month.

And in 5 days, and about 6 hours of work total, I am already through 16 chapters of the 31 chapters in the book. This makes me incredibly happy. What concerns me, though, is that I might still be failing to spot the areas where I need to add emotion, which is a large part of the purpose of this particular revision. Apparently I’m a fairly unemotional person myself, because I see a lot of emotion in my writing, but I’ve been told that others don’t connect with the characters as much as I’d like, due to a lack of emotions.

I do have someone who has agreed to give me some suggestions and insight into how I might infuse more of this into the writing, and I had anticipated getting some of that feedback alongside my own revision in this draft. However, this person has been very busy recently and hasn’t sent me any notes yet. So I push on alone.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is currently discounted on Amazon.

Reminder: Book Sale!

Don’t forget, Pithea on Kindle is currently discounted to $2.99, more than half off its normal price of $7.49. This price will be good through this weekend, so get your discounted copy while you can! And along with that, my novelette The Triangle is free today and tomorrow! See below for links and a little more information.

Hopefully these books can provide a little distraction from your isolation.

Pithea cover, Kindle

Pithea is the first book in a series of speculative, futuristic fiction. Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon.

1
The Triangle is a stand-alone novelette of Christian fiction. Check it out on Goodreads, and go here to get your free copy!

As many who will read this already know, authors, especially self-published or indie authors, need reviews to allow more readers to find their books. If you take advantage of either, or both, of the deals on my books, please make sure to leave me a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or preferably, both!
*Both of these books are also available through Kindle Unlimited.

Self-Publishing Spotlight: Hope Is a Dangerous Place

Do you like…

  • …small towns with dark secrets?
  • …mysteries about missing people from 75 years ago?
  • …teenage sleuths?
  • …stories where the setting is as much a character as the people?
  • …seeing revival?
  • …tornadoes?

If you answered yes to 1 or more of these questions, consider checking out Hope is a Dangerous Place.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Award-winning author Jim Baton believes revival is coming to America. This is what it might look like–

Seventy-five years ago, fifteen-year-old Hope McCormick disappeared. To remember her, the newly incorporated town was named “Hope.” When high school friends Kelsey and Harmonie begin looking into this unsolved mystery, they discover that someone will do anything to make sure the town’s secrets never come to light. Which neighbors are allies, and which face masks a violent enemy? And what will it take for their struggling town to fulfill its original destiny of hope?

About Jim Baton: Jim Baton (pen name) has spent the last 20 years living in the Muslim world, where he’s been involved in a variety of peace and reconciliation activities including interfaith dialogue, training elementary through university students in peace principles, and bringing Christians and Muslims together to pray.

Jim also speaks internationally on the peacemaking themes he’s presenting through the thrillers he writes. These books contain a depth of understanding regarding the roots of the Christian and Muslim conflict, how to bring healing to Abraham’s broken family, how to combat terrorism with non-violence and love, and how to become a true peacemaker.

Hope Is a Dangerous Place was self-published by Jim Baton in February of 2020. It’s available on Kindle, where the price has been discounted for the month of April, and as a paperback. You can read reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. Or see my review here.

Book Review: Landry Park

Landry Park
by Bethany Hagen

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Dystopian romance

Landry

Two hundred years in the future, various factors have left most of the United States in a dystopian state that is reminiscent of Victorian times–right down to the fancy dresses and the imperative for wealthy young women to marry eligible, and wealthy, bachelors. Madeline Landry is sole heir to the Landry estate and fortune, but unhappy with her lot in life. What starts as an attempt to have some control over her life turns into a growing desire to see the lower income classes treated better, even as her father tries to head off a rebellion by the lowest caste. Meanwhile, a new bachelor comes to town and turns every head, including Madeline’s, which distracts her from everything else…sometimes.

In a rare twist for me, I enjoyed this book more than many other reviewers. Some of what I noticed complained about most in other reviews didn’t really bother me, for which I am thankful. Though there was plenty that brought the book down for me, the main character included, I found myself caught up in the mysteries presented and really wanting to know what on earth was going on, and what would happen.

Madeline is a fairly shallow character. And I don’t mean her personality is shallow, I mean there’s not a lot of depth given to her character. It doesn’t really bother me that she seemed to want to help the Rootless, while living her opulent life and struggling to actually act on behalf of the eternally dying lowest of society. It might seem like a huge character flaw that many of us would say we’d never do, but the truth is that it’s actually very human.

I should have put more emphasis on the romance in my synopsis, because make no mistake, it was a huge part of the story. With everything going on, the fact that Madeline’s thoughts are so wrapped up in what’s going on with David Dana, who is so incredibly hot and cold, often feel like they get in the way. However, even that developing non-relationship is part of the mystery of the book. In the end, after thinking that an assault that occurred near the beginning was the driving plot, I think this very relationship felt more like the story goal by the end. Whether that was on purpose or not, I can’t say. Besides the over-prominence of the romance, though, it irked me so much for reasons I won’t get into to avoid spoilers. It worked out like I expected, but was still really unpleasant along the way.

There were a few reveals near the end that I really didn’t see coming, even though the clues were there. The book turned out to be a bit deeper than it seems upon first glance. There were also a few things left unexplained that really niggled at me. I’m not saying that’s a fault on the author’s part, because in this type of series, having a few lingering questions makes sense. I can only hope they’re revealed in the sequel.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. I picked it up without any knowledge of it whatsoever at a bargain store months ago, and almost let its low rating on Goodreads keep me from reading it. Instead of disliking it like I was worried I would, I’m looking forward to see what the sequel holds. It has a good chance of having a lot less of the things that I disliked the most about this book. I think fans of romance and dystopian worlds, especially those who also like books set in the Victorian era, or other similar-ish eras of that time.

Find out more about The Dandelion Killer

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

March in Review

I read 11 books last month, which is a tie for the most books I’ve read in a month since I started reading regularly back in July. The other time I read that many was August, so before homeschool started back up. I honestly don’t know how I did it this month. Well, maybe I do. I’ve been staying up way too late a lot lately. Thanks to Goodreads tracking my books per month & pages per month, I can see that I read over 400 pages more this last month than I did back in August. That has a lot to do with reading the longest Harry Potter book in March…stupid bulky book… Overall, I’m pretty impressed by my reading volume last month.

Here are the books I read in March:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows (5 / 5)
Home Song by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer (4 / 5)
Stealth Retribution by Vikki Kestell (3.5 / 5)
North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (5 / 5)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (3 / 5)
Hope Is a Dangerous Place by Jim Baton (3.5 / 5)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (4 / 5)
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun (4 / 5)
The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep (3 / 5)
The Dandelion Killer by Wanda Luttrell (4 / 5)
The Treasure Map by Tyler Scott Hess (4 / 5)

This list includes 2 ARCs and 1 re-read. My favorite book from March was North! or Be Eaten (by a slim margin). I finished 0 series, continued 4 series, and started 2 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: The Treasure Map

The Treasure Map
by Tyler Scott Hess

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian fantasy

Treasure

When a bad report card leads to Jack spending Christmas vacation cleaning out the attic, the last thing he expected to find was a map and letters that magically whisked him away to another place and time. Suddenly he’s seeing events through the eyes of Niko, a young man who lives in a time when the Faithful are persecuted and even publicly executed in an annual celebration. Niko miraculously escapes this execution and then joins a group of rebels who are determined to expose the evils of the State.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this novella and found that I quite enjoyed it. By the time Jack had visited the other world twice, I was hooked and really wanted to know what would happen. I can’t say the characters were all that engaging, but to be honest, I didn’t really notice while I was reading it. It was a quick, enjoyable read.

By comparison, the “real world” became a bit dull and monotonous. Jack’s plight to clean out the attic was only made slightly more interesting by his inventiveness as he tried to get through it more quickly. But even that didn’t bother me too much, so it must have been less dull than reading about cleaning an attic sounds like it would be. I think the shorter length of the story might have helped with that.

On the other hand, the story in the other world became a bit rushed and muddled in the last quarter or so, so I think in that area, more pages would have helped. It lost a bit of its excitement for me because of this. And the ending was a little confusing.

I’ll just say a few things about the style and editing, which I don’t generally let affect my rating with a self-published book. I’m not saying that there is no burden of responsibility here, but it’s harder for self-published authors. There were some grammar issues, but for me, this area really came down to narration and tense. The first chapter reads like standard fiction–3rd person, past tense, seemingly limited to Jack. Then at the end, it becomes more omniscient, conversational. This crops up again one other place, but I think it would have been better if it had been more consistent. And in the other world, the writing is 1st person and present tense. But at some point in the second half of the book, I began to notice areas where it slipped into past tense. All of these things, and some of what I mentioned above, tell me that the book could have used a bit more editing.

None of that detracted enough from the book for me to not enjoy it overall, though. It was a real adventure and a cautionary tale. My guess is that the “Faithful” are meant to be Christians, but to be honest, the Christianity in the book is incredibly light. You could almost insert any real or fictional religion. And one more thing–before Jack even went to the other world for the first time, I noticed a couple of references to Calvin & Hobbes, in that Jack’s little brother’s name was Calvin, and there was a girl Jack’s age named Susie that was only really in the story to be the Susie Derkins of this book. I made a note to watch out for any hint of a tiger, to verify that it wasn’t a coincidence, and then it turned out there was a character later named Hobbes! (I thought it was great, by the way.) I would recommend this for fans of Christian fantasy & adventure books.

Find out more about The Treasure Map

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Writing Wednesday: IWSG Apr 2020

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Today’s question for Insecure Writer’s Support Group was crafted for the circumstances we find ourselves in right now: …in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world? What follows is my response, mostly unfiltered (and eventually related to writing). Hopefully it makes sense.

Up until a few days ago, my life hadn’t been affected much by social distancing standards. I have been primarily working from home since October, I already home school my daughter, and my husband and son both work at a restaurant that hasn’t shut down yet. The uncertainty was there, and I spent a lot more time paying attention to current affairs and planning for the future than normal. Watching the dominoes fall so quickly as large events were cancelled or postponed (my husband and I had tickets for 2 different concerts this spring, and when the first one was postponed a few weeks back, that’s when this started to get a lot more real to me), then schools closed down, then smaller events were cancelled was all very distracting. But my daily routine, at least, was largely unaffected. (Though my son’s 18th birthday was yesterday, so it was sad knowing we couldn’t do that much for him right now. We have future plans, but not knowing when those future plans can actually happen doesn’t help a lot.)

Just two days ago, the person I work for told me to shut down the work I was doing for now. I’d been expecting it to happen eventually, but that didn’t make it any less jarring when it did happen. It was a nice job–fun and paid very well. And I was a sub-contractor, not an employee, so I’m not even sure if I can get unemployment. But that’s not the point. Not only do I now no longer have that income, I also have more time on my hands.

What this should mean is that I have more time for my writing. Fundamentally, I know that’s true. But I have already found it more difficult to spend time on it during the last few weeks, when I wasn’t even as directly affected, because of everything that’s been happening. And now? I haven’t touched it since Sunday. I just want to spend my evenings (the time I normally am able to devote to writing) reading and playing video games. Shutting down the creative part of my mind.

Today is a good day for this, though. The first session of Camp NaNoWriMo for the year starts today (the 2nd session is in July). It’s just what I need to get back on track. Unlike NaNoWriMo proper, where I stick to the traditional 50k words of writing a new piece, I allow myself to rebel during Camp (and usually do). I’ll just continue on with the revision I’m doing for the 2nd book in my new series, with a daily goal of 45 minutes per day spent working on it. Compared to the amount of time I’ve been working on it lately, it’s a very lofty goal, but if I can do it, it will bring me miles toward being ready to publish this 2nd book. And if anything can put me back into place, it’s NaNoWriMo.

Before I sign off for this post, I just want to add that if anything I said in this post sounds like I’m complaining, it’s not intended that way. I have nothing to complain about. My family still has some income right now, we have plenty of food (we tend to stock ahead anyway, so already had a lot) and even some toilet paper, and no one close to me has gotten sick from this virus. I have many books on my shelves that I haven’t read and access to digital books (and games) with the click of a button or two. And if the worst happens, I know where my home is. I won’t pretend that this isn’t a scary situation, but I have a lot more peace than what makes sense, because I know that whatever happens, God is in control.

For my fellow writers, and anyone else reading this blog–how are things in your world?

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Book Review: The Dandelion Killer

The Dandelion Killer
by Wanda Luttrell

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian mystery

Dandelion

When a town socialite is murdered and a 55-year-old mentally handicapped man is found with her dandelion pin, the police take him in for questioning, only for him to escape their grasp. It’s up to his best friend and sister-in-law of the victim, Elayna Evans, to try to prove his innocence before the police re-capture him. She has problems of her own, though, as someone seems to think the victim left something with Elayna before she died. Maybe she’d be wise to stay away from the investigation, but Elayna can’t leave her friend’s fate in the hands of the police…or the real killer.

I enjoyed this book overall. I think my favorite thing was the characterization of Jayboy, the mentally handicapped man. The mystery took some interesting turns, though there was a good deal of predictability in it too. I liked the added pressure of the rising river that threatened to flood the town.

The chapters generally alternated between Elayna’s POV and Jayboy’s POV (always 3rd-person though). Watching Jayboy’s progression through being suspected of murder, then escaping, and then where he goes from there, which I won’t say, was one of the more engaging things about the book. The repetition that I noticed in the author’s style was was prevalent throughout these parts too, but seemed a lot more natural.

Elayna herself was all right as a main character, but she began to grate on me a little. For one thing, there was the repetition I mentioned, which came out a lot in her thoughts about the murder and about her absentee husband (had taken off one day and was gone for 10 years, but she refused to move on). She also was a bit too wishy-washy for my taste.

There’s a character introduced part way through the book who was another favorite of mine. His story has a unique angle to it, if not a little awkward and coincidental. He’s the main place that the Christianity comes into this book, though to be honest, I don’t know why he had to be a pastor. It seems pretty common in these kinds of books, but it’s not like everyone who has a strong faith has to be a pastor. I did find it weird that his full name was pretty much always used, both in narration and in dialog.

As for the mystery itself, I don’t want to be too specific about the ways that it was predictable, because that would give away a lot of the ending from early on. But it was almost like the author tried to make it less predictable by setting up the narration in a way that we get used to, and then changing it on us without us realizing it. However, I don’t know if that was intentional, or just something I read into it. And there’s a New Age angle that feels so against the tone of the book, and I think it’s mostly there as a vehicle for the Christianity.

One of my favorite things about the book was this one scene in a restaurant that was newly opened by the pastor mentioned above, where there was a guy singing a song that was described but not named. From the description, I knew the song was “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Wayne Watson, which is a favorite of mine. So that was pretty cool. Overall, I’m glad I read it (though it wasn’t the first time–I was given this book by a sibling and read it a few times after I got it, but that was at least 15 years ago), and would recommend it to people who enjoy Christian mystery books.

Find out more about The Dandelion Killer

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Weekly Writing Update: March 5

I was a lot more productive this week than I had been the few weeks before. I finished the draft of “Outcast” (book #2) that I was working on and even managed to get the scenes all sorted into chapters and ordered how I think they will work the best. Except for one chapter that I don’t know for sure if it’ll stay where it’s at or get moved 2 chapters later.

All of this I got done by Thursday, though, and then proceeded to spend Friday & Saturday nights ignoring the next step. Now I need to start reading at the beginning of the book, fixing up scenes, adding description and emotion, and adding transitions between scenes, since some have been written as if in a bubble, and many of them have been moved around.

I will plan to start fresh with that today, but my husband is hoping to play a board game that I anticipate taking…all day. So who knows if I’ll get to start on it today. Tomorrow for sure though!

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is currently discounted on Amazon.