Contest #1 Winner!! Spotlight Interview with C. L. Swinney

Hi Friends! Thanks for stopping by. Well, I planned to have this posted over the weekend, but as the saying goes, life got in the way. This is the spotlight interview and review that I promised when I ran my first contest for 500 likes on my Facebook page. I will be running another contest when I reach 1,000 likes, so if you haven’t visited my page, don’t forget to go there now after you read this and let’s get it to 1,000! 🙂 You won’t want to miss this! So, let me introduce you to the winner of Contest #1–C. L. (Chris) Swinney!! I will let him tell you in his own words. Take it away, Chris!!

Tell us a little bit about yourself; where you grew up, your life, a typical day…anything that you would like to share with your readers.

I was born in 1975 in La Mesa, CA. I was an only child, which explains some of why I throw tantrums to this very day (because I was spoiled). My parents worked for the federal government and divorced when I was in high school. I went away to college in an effort to become a professional fisherman (bass tournament anglers often have fishery biology degrees). The math was too tough for me so I settled for Sociology. I met my wife in college and graduated. From there I worked as a probation officer, carrier, private investigator, and a fly fishing store. Fly fishing in one of my greatest passions, which is why I built it into my debut novel. I couldn’t pay the bills working in the fly fishing industry, so I moved on to become a court investigator. From there, I became a correctional officer, a deputy sheriff, and I’ve been a narcotics detective for almost five years. I work all sorts of cases, including undercover, and I’m a presenter to law enforcement groups at conferences around the United States.

A typical day for me is getting up (around 6 am) to get the kids ready for school, make their lunches, shower, and head out to the office. On the way in, I’ll get a call from the boss about a possible clandestine lab. I’ll swing by and take a look. If it’s a lab, I will call in the support units with the lab truck and my partners and I will process the lab. We’ll finish this, get something to eat and have a briefing for an undercover controlled purchase buy-bust (law enforcement controls the situation) of a kilo of cocaine. Once everyone knows their assignments, we head out to the area, set up surveillance, and wait. The bad guys talk to the good guys and they show up with narcotics. We jump out and arrest the bad guys. Bad guys go to jail and I get a call to be at court the following morning. I go by the office, grab my report for the case, and notice another team is gearing up for surveillance on a big case. They ask me for help and I don’t hesitate to say “yes.” It’s now 8 pm. I get home around midnight. I’ll write until 2 am, go to sleep, and repeat the same process the following day. It’s busy, that’s for sure.

Have any authors influenced your writing? If so, how?

I fell in love with Tony Hillerman’s ability to drop his readers right into a story in a desolate dessert. He was a fascinating storyteller. He influenced my writing because I read every single one of his books, several times over, to try to learn the craft. His ability to explain things clearly with fewer words was my main goal in my writing.

Understandably you write crime fiction. Is this also what you prefer to read or do you read different genres in your pleasure reading?

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction, but I also read police procedural, YA, non-fiction, and romance, basically most everything. I’m lucky to read very fast, so I squeeze a book in a week.

Have you ever considered mixing genres or are you a “purist?”

I’m not much of a purist. If authors mix genres, they need to be good in both; otherwise, I’d say it’s a mistake to do so. Romance and crime fiction seem like a good fit because law enforcement members always have relationship woes. I’m dabbling in a bit of romance in the second book of my Bill Dix series, but my characters are treading water very lightly.

What do you like best about being an author? Your least favorite part?

I truly enjoy being able to captivate people with my stories. That, and sharing what I know with up and coming authors really makes me happy. The least favorite? I’d say the constant need to promote my work to compete with millions of other books in the market. Working full time, writing, and promoting full time is a serious drain on my personal life.

If given the opportunity to sit down and chat with your favorite author, living or dead, what would you ask him/her? How would you answer that about your own writing?

I’d love to pick Tony Hillerman’s brain. Just a brilliant writer. I’d ask him if he visited the places he wrote about and if he enjoyed writing his stories as much as I did reading them. As for me, I’d answer the first question with a yes and the second question emphatically YES!!

I know that you have a very demanding full-time job. Is writing a sideline for you or do you intend to become a full-time author in the future? Please elaborate.

I don’t think I can afford to quit my “day job.” Raising two kids and all the other bills life throws at us is tough. I do write full-time, meaning I can get stuff done fairly quickly. But I take breaks, especially during the summer, to spend as much time as I can with my family.

At what age did you start writing and when did you decide to seriously pursue fiction writing as opposed to real crime?

I began writing in college, I was about 19. I wrote magazine articles and poetry. I decided to pursue fiction instead of real crime because I’ve written hundreds of police reports and I didn’t want to write another one. I love true crime books, but I wouldn’t like interviewing the bad guy. I treat people fairly, but some of these people would require a large amount of restraint on my behalf. I don’t know if I could do it.

Outside of your work, do you incorporate any of your favorite things, places or hobbies into your writing?

I scoured books in several genres making sure none was written quite like mine. I infused the outdoors (Bahamas and Miami) with fly fishing, narcotics, and suspense. These are all things I love and know about, so I figured I could write a pretty good story about them.

What movie do you refuse to watch no matter how good people say it is? What book do you refuse to read? Why?

I heard a ton of folks suggesting Django Unchained. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the plot, storyline, or characters that were casted. I didn’t go and refuse to watch it.

I will not read The Cuckoo’s Calling by she who shall not be named. I have so many issues with the author, from using another author’s name to “slipping” the real identity to promote a struggling book.
Hype doesn’t equate to superb writing. And before you ask, I absolutely love the Potter Series. I’m just not a fan of this latest attempt by a billionaire to “try it on her own.” Really??

Do you have a favorite character either from your own work or from another author?

Jim Chee, Hillerman’s books. Chee is a man with faults and short comings who’s working in law enforcement and trying to fall in love. He reminds me a lot of myself. He’s a believable character, a deep thinker, and witty. I love how his life unfolded in Hillerman books.

Tell us about your most recent protagonist. Is this from a current work in progress?

Bill Dix, a sergeant working in a narcotics task force based in Miami, has some gray hair and has been through quite a bit in his career and life. He’s happily married and generally makes sound decisions. His best trait is that he can interrogate the best crook and extract information. His worse trait, he’s stubborn as a mule. I let a few more of his interesting traits come through in the second of the series, The Collectors.

What is the setting of your current work in progress and when can we expect to see it?

The setting for The Collectors is San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. The group under investigation has ties to both areas. I’m hoping for a December-January release date.

Last question, we all know that reviews are important, both for the author and the reader. Speaking strictly from your point of view as a READER, how much importance do you place on the reviews as to whether or not you buy the book? Why?

So this is a weird one for me. I pay attention to reviews, but I read the one, two, and three star reviews first. I try to get a sense of what the issue is. I don’t think it’s realistic for a book to have all five star reviews either. If the book blurb catches my attention, I tend to look pass the reviews if there are a lot of poor ones. Basically, I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt. I will say this, with eight million books on Amazon alone; reviews are super helpful to the millions of readers out there trying to wade through all the books.

CLSwinneyProfile (2)
If you have any questions for Chris, here is his contact information and he would love to hear from his readers and answer any questions.

Twitter:http://www.twitter/clswinney (@clswinney)

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of Chris’s debut novel, Gray Ghost, for an honest review in exchange for winning the contest and being featured here. This in no way affected my opinion.

Gray Ghost

Grey Ghost, C. L. Swinney’s debut novel, is a crime thriller. It is a police procedural mystery and will attract lovers of crime from any sub-genre. While on a fly fishing vacation to Andros Island in the Bahamas, Miami Dade Police Department Narcotics detectives, Bill Dix and Steve Peterson, are thrust into a local mystery. Their guides, they discover, are suspected of being murdered while transporting a hundred million dollars worth of cocaine in a speed boat. They help local authorities, (some of whom are not good guys), apprehend the mastermind, known only as “The Caller.” It looks like fishing will have to wait!

That is all of the description I will give. There are plenty of blurbs that you can read if you so desire, but I am not giving any spoilers! 🙂 I’m just suspenseful that way..haha. You are just going to have to read the book. Ok, now for my opinion of Gray Ghost.

Description: I have never been out of the U.S. The Bahamas is painted like a portrait on a canvas! The area comes alive for me as a reader and I am plunged directly into the setting. It has been said that setting can be like a major character, and character is what makes the book, in my opinion. This is some of the best I’ve seen in a debut book.

Characterization: The main character, Bill Dix, I can see plainly. He is a “Dudley Do Right” and will not fail to lend a hand when injustice is afoot. He is a strong character and so is his sidekick, Steve Peterson. I would like to learn more about Steve. He is an enigma so far. The locals were very colorful and believable and enhanced the setting of Andros Island.

Pacing: The pacing was perfect for a thriller. It grips you from the first page to the last and it’s hard to put down.

Grammar and Typos: This is usually the biggest problem for any debut novel, whether self published or traditionally published. I can be a stickler for grammar if it is apparent that it is more than a typo. A typo here and there is normal and doesn’t distract me too much, but yes, sadly, I have been known to be a grammar Nazi. I am happy to report I noticed nothing. This was one of the most grammatically sound novels I have read in a long time–debut or not.

I don’t expect perfection in a debut novel, I really don’t. Like everything, there is a learning curve and we get better the more we write. A book has to really knock my socks off for me to give it a 5 star review. Well, Gray Ghost has gone and hit it out of the ballpark!!

I give Gray Ghost: *****

Gray Ghost will be on sale from Oct. 31-Nov. 4th for $.99!! But if you can’t wait to read it, it is worth every penny of the full price. You can get it here in both Kindle and paperback:

Advice From One Newbie To Another: Hang Onto Your Dream

Blossom I am just starting out in this wonderful world of writing. If you are reading my blog, then chances are so are you. I am an older writer, but what I would like to share with you is ageless. Have you ever been open and honest with someone about your dream? I am speaking of your love for writing. You want to write novels and hope that people buy them. You want to express yourself as nobody else can. You want to share that with them and hope that they support you. How did they react? Supportive or dismissive?

I’ll share a story with you to illustrate my point. I was an older student when I decided to go to college. I wasn’t sure then what I wanted to do. I went through several different courses to decide. One thing I did know. It had to challenge me and be interesting at the same time. Not an easy task. I honestly do not remember learning to read. I was the youngest in a very large family; 7 brothers and 2 sisters. It was a very convoluted family. A case of yours, mine and ours. My father was married once before, resulting in one sister. My mother was married twice, resulting in 7 brothers and one sister. We were so spread apart that there was only two brothers that I actually grew up with. My point here, yes I am getting to it.. 🙂 is that my brothers would read to me, and I suppose that is how I learned to read. The youngest next to me was my brother, Richard, and he was 9 years older than me. When I was 4 years old, my earliest memory, I was reading his textbooks, fluently. I have loved to read all my life. When I decided to take writing classes, that was it for me. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I loved it. Then I lost my funding and although I applied for scholarships I didn’t get them and had to quit college. I still wanted to write. Now you must realize, this was quite some time ago, in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s. This predates Facebook, Twitter, even the entire internet. Completely before digital. To be published you had to send your manuscript in, physically typed out, and it went to a slush pile. Getting an agent wasn’t encouraged until you were established. So–you sent it in and hoped that the first reader liked it enough to send it on. If not, it was tossed aside and rejected. So, can you guess what happened next?

When I told those that I’d hope would encourage me, they pretty much laughed at me! “Oh, come on, you have to be really lucky to get published and most writers are only successful after they are dead!” (Untrue then and now) “Get a real job that you can count on and don’t rely on a pipe dream!” They shook their heads and that was the end of the discussion. Then I made my biggest mistake and the point of this post–I listened to them!! I got a real job, in fact several of them. I was in customer service and sales and marketing for over 30 years. I still read, and wanted to write, but I didn’t think it was possible. It was too late. I didn’t know enough to write. I never finished my degree and felt inadequate. So I stayed away from what I really wanted to do–write!

Well, a couple of years ago, after being forced into an early retirement, I finally had a computer and time on my hands. I could get back into writing. I have a wonderful roommate. We are two 50-something ladies with a dog and we have been roommates since 2005. She said: “Go for it! Every since I’ve known you, you’ve always wanted to write!! I think you should, it is your time now!!” I finally got the encouragement I had been searching for for years! So I said, “Yes!! I’m going to do it!!” I started reading up on this new digital age and publishing. It is a whole new world! I can do it! The first thing I learned was it is important to have an author’s platform and it is never too early to start. I started this blog first. I will write more on platforms later. So–

My advice is this: No matter how old you are, very young or not so young or in between, NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!! Never let anyone tell you that you are too young to write. You have emotions, you study people and want to write about it. I say Go For It!! If you are an older adult like myself, don’t be intimitated by the digital world. Open yourself up for new experiences. You can do whatever you set your mind to. I am working on my debut novel, and I have the confidence that it is going to be good. I don’t expect miracles, because with everything you do, you have to start somewhere. Your first book will not be as good as your second and your third even better. We all improve with practice. You will never get to the second book until you write the first one! I know, that’s obvious, but needs to be said. Never, ever give up!! Keep writing! There is no one that can tell YOUR story, but you!!

Have you ever felt like this? Do you feel like this now? Please comment and tell me yours experience. This blog is for all of us “Newbies”. Have you read a good book that you would recommend to other readers? Please comment and leave a link. I welcome all comments and recommendations.

My next review will be the most awaited winner of my contest for the spotlight interview and review. I am still reading but hope to finish shortly, so stay tuned! I am going to try to be better about the frequency of the posts on here. I appreciate all who read. 🙂

Literary Agents: Beware!!

Let me first of all thank everyone for their patience! I finally have another review for you! Normally, I only review those that have 3 or less published books, but I spoke with the author of today’s review, Johnny Ray, several months ago about reviewing LITERARY AGENTS–BEWARE, AN INTENSE ROMANTIC THRILLER, and I thought it was so catchy and interesting for debut authors, that I said that I would be happy to review it anyway. Johnny Ray is the author of not 3, but 10, international romantic thrillers.

This is the story about an aspiring author who just happens to have bipolar disease. She meets and has a fling with a literary agent, hoping this will get her book read. When she is rejected, she is angry and vows revenge. In the meantime, there is a serial killer targeting literary agents. Is she guilty? What is the connection?

I do not like to give away any plot points or spoilers, so I will leave you to finish any descriptions of the book as mentioned on Amazon.

My Thoughts: This seemed a rather tongue in cheek slant towards literary agents, of course, but not in any derogatory way. The main character is bipolar, as I mentioned above, and it is a bit tough to follow their thought processes at times. I do understand this, I once had a roommate with bipolar disease, and it can be hard to deal with. The author did quite a good job at depicting this. Her building of hate and feeling of rejection was very accurate. Her later actions of falling for someone that she hated so intensely, not so much. Although the beginning was a bit slow, it was a good buildup. I was really enjoying the first part of the book because of that. About 2/3 into the book, the pace increased as you would expect it would, but in my opinion, maybe a bit too much. When she totally throws her hate away and starts behaving out of character, I kept reading, but I stopped caring. I kept hoping for a bit of slowing the pace down a bit, but that never happened. The ending felt rushed. I felt a bit let down. I honestly wanted to be able to recommend this book highly, but I just can’t do that. I know that he has many books out and I have purchased a few others, which I do intend to read. I truly think that he is a very great storyteller, but this one was really not for me.

My Star rating: ***

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my review in any way.

We Have a Winner!!!

Welcome to Las Vegas Sign Ok, forgive the Las Vegas sign, but it was the closest picture I had! This is just a small post to announce the winner of the Spotlight Interview/Review promotion!

I would like to officially congratulate the winner of the Spotlight Interview & Review promotion–C. L. Swinney! I look forward to reading his book and interviewing him here! I very much appreciate all who entered and wish I could read all of your books. I will be having another contest when I reach 1,000 Facebook likes, so keep trying! Click on my Facebook page, if you haven’t already~~

Thanks so much for following this blog! I will have another review for you soon, and when Mr. Swinney sends me his book, after reading it, he will be featured here. I promise it will be a great interview, so stay tuned!! 🙂

Do You Like Mysteries?

The Scent of Lies
Do you like trilogies or book series like I do? Sometimes a character will stick with you long after the story is over and you begin to feel about them as not only a living human being, but a friend. You don’t want to let them go. That is how The Scent of Lies makes the reader feel. I am adding a star rating system now for every review based on 1-5 stars:
*hated it; **I can’t recommend it; ***it’s mediocre and needs work; **** I really like it and recommend it: and *****a very high recommendation and will read more of this author.

The Scent of Lies is Book 1 of 4 in the Paradise Valley Mysteries series by Debra Burroughs. This is a romantic mystery, but unlike many of this genre, it is not heavy-handed romance with the mystery as a sideline. The emphasis is on the mystery, or mysteries in this instance. I find that very refreshing. There is nothing wrong with romance, but if you are going to call it a mystery, that should be the focal point. Ms. Burroughs has an excellent balance of both throughout the entire book.

Emily Parker is a young widow whose husband, Evan Parker, Private Investigator, was murdered in his own office 6 months ago. While looking for answers into his death, Emily discovers more questions. Was he really the man that she thought he was? When she is asked by a client of Evan’s, Delia, to investigate Delia’s husband, she is interested and encouraged by her close circle of friend’s to take over Evan’s P.I. business. Then Delia’s husband is murdered. To complicate matters, Emily is introduced to the sexy new police detective, who is convinced Emily’s first client is guilty of murdering her husband. Emily must fight for her client before Delia goes to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Or did she? Emily fights to prove Delia’s innocence as she also tries to fight the budding attraction to the new police detective; who is trying to keep Emily alive long enough to see if she could be the one to mend his heart.

Ms. Burroughs has the beginning to a winning series with The Scent of Lies. The reader is immediately rooting for Emily, for her to solve the case, get the answers about Evan’s murder, and for the new romance building for her. She has several strong female characters and men that support them rather than feel threatened by their resolve. Not all of the answers are given, it is the beginning of a series after all. The reader is given enough to pique the interest to continue reading the series, but not a gratuitous major cliffhanger that makes the reader feel cheated at the end. I highly recommend The Scent of Lies. I will be reading the entire series of Paradise Valley Mysteries. I hope you’ll join me.


If You Like To Be Scared…

Blacxkbrooke Happy New Year! Welcome to my first review for 2013! Do you like to be scared? Are you a mystery, suspense, thriller or horror lover? I know I am! This review is for Emma Silver’s debut Young Adult novel, Blackbrooke, Book 1 of a trilogy. Here is the synopisis of the story:

Blackbrooke is a tourist town that draws “Outsiders” in because their residents are not all human. Tourists are attracted to the other residents, the creatures that come out at night. These creatures, called “Crits”, are monsters that roam the streets at night searching for food. For their safety, the humans must follow the Rules. These Rules entail the human residents to deny certain basic desires that are forbidden for those under the age of 18. All residents must lock their doors at dusk and pull their shades, locking themselves in until daylight. The most important Rule is not to go out at night. This is considered a ‘walk out’ and is the same as committing suicide.

The protagionist of the story is Liberty Connor. She and her friends hate these Rules they are forced to live by and most of all Liberty hates the Crits. The only Rule she appreciates is the one that makes it possible to leave Blackbrooke. When she turns 18, she can leave and be free of Blackbrooke forever. She spends her time planning a new life on the Outside with her boyfriend, Gabriel. Then everything starts to go wrong. Her world falls apart as her friends start to walk out. She know something is off and is determined to find out what it is. Are the Crits what she really needs to fear or something else altogether?

I will start off by saying that this is not a genre that I normally read. Being far from being a young adult, I usually always read adult fiction. That being said, I was hopeful because I really liked the premise and, as I mentioned above, I like to be scared. This certainly fit the bill. It is quite scary and you are pulled in wanting to know what happens next. It starts off with a prologue. The first few lines were very catchy. “I was seven when I saw my first Crit.” The reader is intrigued. Ok, what is a Crit? Right away the reader understands that this is not the norm and is curious. The next line, “It was a balmy summer’s day in Blackbrooke.” Since balmy means soothing and mild, that seems to contradict the theme set by Crit and the town’s name, Blackbrooke. A foreboding premise that makes the reader pause, if just momentarily, with a shiver of anticipation. What is about to happen? Great opening! Then the author drops the ball.

Instead of a short prologue (they really should be short), it continues on with back-story. This detracts from the powerful opening. Although this is information the reader needs to know, it is given as one big chunk. It is all written in passive past tense. This being a Kindle version, did not have page numbers but location. The first page with the powerful opening was at location 92. The first dialogue that breaks up all this exposition is at location 154. That is roughly around 50-60 pages of exposition. Then it is broken up by some dialogue as Libby flashes back to her childhood and introduces her best friend, Cassius and their past. This prologue ends at location 280, with the ending of the prologue: “I was seventeen when I saw my next Crit.” Now Chapter One begins. It starts with dialogue and you are in Liberty’s present day. This is still in the passive voice but there is more action and it brings you up to date with the story.

So then, it is a problem of pacing. I am not saying the back-story wasn’t necessary or even interesting, but it was way too much! This is what is considered an information dump and it will cause many readers to stop reading. Without action, today’s reader especially, will give up. That would be a shame in this case. The part that kept pushing me forward was still there. I DID want to know what happened next. I kept reading. I am so glad I did too! Do you know why? Remember this is a trilogy..yes, you guessed it! The ending! The beginning was powerful but the ending leaves the reader with a shocking cliffhanger. It is really powerful and makes you want to get book 2 right now! You can’t though, it isn’t out yet. Drat!

Therefore, my conclusion is that even though the pacing was way off, it is a great story and I do recommend it. I know that I have to know what happens next so I will buy Book 2!

Have you read this book? If you have, let me know what you think. If not, don’t be put off by the pacing, keep reading, it is worth the $2.99 Amazon price.