New Year, New Resolutions, New Projects!

I love a new year. It’s like being reborn. I can fool myself that all past misdeeds and errors have been forgiven, and I am a new person. Almost. This year I’ve made a resolution not to have any new resolutions. Does that make sense? It does to me. I am thankful to be alive, that my family is well, and that the island is coming back to normal faster than any of us expected.

It has been  over three months since hurricane Maria disrupted all our lives. For me, at least, most things are back to their usual state. I have electricity, running water, cell phone service, and Internet. My neighborhood looks pretty much recovered. The greenery has come back with surprising vigor. This, of course, is not the case everywhere else; there are still towns where the destruction was more severe and things are still being repaired and worked.

I now have the time to return to my writing. My next installment of the Angel’s Guardian series has begun. The working title is Heart of Stone. I’ve included here the cover for you to see. The image depicts Ivanna, sister of the evil Toma. Ivanna is a main character in the new novel. Let me know what you think of the cover.

I try for my covers not to be blatantly erotic although there is strongly erotic content in all my novels. Amazon will not approve even mildly erotic covers for their Amazon promotions. Recently, I had to change the cover of Strongheart’s Woman because Amazon Marketing Services kept rejecting it. Apparently, the long, side view of the female image was unacceptable regardless of the fact that all her “assets” were covered. As soon as I changed it, the Amazon Ad was approved.

I intend for Heart of Stone to be darker, more intense, and definitely character based. While Max and Angel are still at the crux of the series, this story will have Ivanna and Devian as the main focus. Devian, with his ugly face, coldly professional exterior, and ultra-macho demeanor, is a favorite of readers. I have no idea yet what havoc Ivanna, the beautiful, willful vampiress will wreak on the self-assured Devian, but I promise it will be delicious reading!

What to Read? Part 7

Finally, back to normalcy. First thing I did was check the Amazon Top 100 Free. After all, I need to put some meat on the brand-new Kindle Fire my son gave me for Christmas. Here are some promising reads that you can download for free today and possibly the next few days.

https://www.amazon.com/Follow-Me-Down-Gordon-MacKinney-ebook/dp/B077YZMFBK/

This book has 11 reviews but all are 5 stars.

https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Blade-Soul-Eater-Book-ebook/dp/B01I4YBIQS/

This book has 132 reviews, 4.3 stars average.

https://www.amazon.com/Touched-Marnie-Baranuik-Files-Book-ebook/dp/B01GGVL5HS/

This book has 640 reviews! Not bad. Its has 4.3 stars average.

https://www.amazon.com/Justice-Corrie-Badge-Honor-Heroes-ebook/dp/B0193Z89B4

This book has 247 reviews with a 4.7 stars average. That’s a great score.

https://www.amazon.com/Silver-Storm-Rakes-Rebels-Raveneau-ebook/dp/B005DJ93EW/

This book has 766 reviews with a 4.3 stars average. Impressive!

I have read none of these books. I chose them because their blurbs seemed interesting, and the reviews were good.

The Top 100 Free is full of many books in all genres, but I tend to stay away from the “Billionaire’s Baby” and “Taken-by-the-Bear” type books.


I’m also not big on “End-of-the-World” books. If you like them, there are plenty of those in the list. You can check out Until the end of the World.





It has 813 reviews with a 4.6 stars average.

I noticed also that lately, Amazon is including Free classics in the list. For example, a few days ago I was able to download The Call of the Wild, Great Expectations,  The Time Machine, and War of the Worlds.

Here is the link to Amazon’s 100 Top Free Books.

Took or Baggins? Part 4

Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms

-In the morning, the friends awaken to find the elves have gone.

-Frodo, Sam, and Pippin leave the main road and cut through the wilderness  just in time before a Black Rider appears. 

-The group ends up in Farmer Maggot’s house. He tells them that a dark stranger on a black horse is searching for Frodo. 

-Farmer Maggot gets them to the ferry crossing in secret.

Wonderful Quote:

Short cuts make long delays.

My thoughts:

There is beautiful imagery and great reading for those readers who actually love the process of reading: the enjoyment of mood, atmosphere, subtle creation of suspense, beautiful and poetic wording. Those looking for action-based, fast reading may be bored.

 

Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked 

-A short history of Buckland is given. 

-A glimpse of a Black Rider happens as they disembark from the ferry. 

-At Crickhollow, Merry and Pippin disclose that they know all about the Ring.

It’s decided that Merry and Pippin will join the quest. They all break into song for the third time.

Frodo has a disturbing dream that night.

 


My thoughts: 

 

This chapter reminds me much of The Hobbit:  when the friends break into song unexpectedly during the bath and later after they decide to go together on the quest. 

 

It furthers the characterization of  Hobbits as childlike, innocent, natural creatures who are truly out of their depths in adventures. Only Frodo, in his dark and prophetic dream, seems to have a clearer understanding. It seems that maybe the possession of the ring has already affected him in ways that make him different, less childlike.

Chapter 6: The Old Forest 

-The Hobbits enter the forest and find it a hostile, cunning place. 

– The trees seem to watch the group and paths move or disappear, herding the little group away from their destination. 

-They reach the Withywindle, a river edged and surrounded by willows. 

-A spell renders the friends asleep. 

-Merry and Pippin are swallowed by a crack  in a willow.  Frodo is dumped in the river by the tree he fell asleep on. 

-Enter (singing) the ridiculously cheerful and colorful character  Tom Bombadil, who saves the friends! 

-They arrive as guests at Tom Bombadil’s house.

 

My thoughts:

 

Once again, this chapter is also reminiscent of a children’s tale. The dangers and evil encountered are more like those found in the telling of a fairy tale. The forest shows malice, but it does little harm to the friends. Old Man Willow tries to eat Merry and Pippin, but he is easily derailed by Tom Bombadil’s spell singing. It is almost as if the Black Riders and the Ring have been left behind. The appearance of Tom Bombadil itself is rather comic and unexpected.

What to Read? Part 4

When trying to choose a variety of genres from the Top 100 Free list, a problem soon emerges: there is little variety. A careful examination of the list shows that the majority of titles are in the romance genre. On the first page (#1-#20) there are 12 romances out of 20 offerings.

Top Free aug 8 2017

As the reader moves up the list, the proportion of romances to other genres increases. On Aug 8th, 2017,  items 41-60 are as follows. Reminder: this list changes as the day wears on. 

41- Lucky in Love- Romance>Sports

42- A Real cowboy Never Says No- Romance>Westerns

43- Accounting for Love- Romance>Westerns

44- The Red Door Inn- Romance>Inspirational

45- Married This Year 2 -Romance>Contemporary

46- The Chocolate Garden- New Adult>College

47- Damnation- Romance>Paranormal

48- Uncommon- Woman’s>Christian

49- Ella Wood- Romance>Historical

50- Tougher Than The Rest- Romance>Western

51- Haunted by Love- Romance Paranormal

52- Hawaiian Hangover- Cozy Mystery

53- The Yakuza Path-Blood Stained Tea- Crime Fiction> Gay Fiction

54- Escape From Oz- Sci Fi>Space Opera

55- Summer on the Lake- Romance Contemporary

56- In Love With the Alpha- Romance>Paranormal

57- Tank- New Adult>Romance

58- The Sekhmet Bed- Historical>Biographical

59- The Way Back- Romance>Inspirational

60- The Lone Survivor- Paranormal>Urban Fantasy

Of the above titles, only six are not romance. 

#48- Uncommon– is Woman’s Christian Living 

#52- Hawaiian Hangover is a Cozy Mystery 

#58- The Sekhmet Bed is also a woman’s read, telling the story of an Egyptian princess and her arranged marriage. 

Only two books: Escape from Oz and Lone Survivor fall into genres that may appeal across the board. It’s interesting to note that as the list gets past the first forty, the number of covers showing sculpted male chests and low-hanging jeans increases. These reflect the more erotic content of the romance.

MY OPINION, and once again I must emphasize that it’s an opinion and everyone is entitled to one, is that if you want to read genres other than spicy romance, your pickings in the Top 100 Free are slim. 

Today, you could have chosen The Game You Played, a suspenseful mystery thriller with 4.4 stars average in 1298 reviews. It sits at #1 and you have to grab it now because it will go off promo quickly. Hard Fall by P.T. Reade sits at #3, and it’s crime fiction with 4.4 stars average from 176 reviews.

 

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The Game You Played at Amazon.

 

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Hard Fall at Amazon.

 

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The Old Man and the Tea at Amazon.

I chose The Old Man and the Tea, described as “Another fun-filled adventure” in the Reverend Elmo Jenkins series. It has an average of 4.4 stars from 385 reviews. The genre is Religious>Inspirational, but I’m always open to new genres. I expect it to be funny, not preachy. Let’s see what happens.

Be aware, these books are usually offered for FREE for just one or two days. The Top 100 Free list changes constantly because it’s affected strongly by daily promos. The Top 100 Paid list is more stable because it reflects the steady daily paid sales of the books. It can also be influenced by strong promo sales, especially those $0.99 sales on BookBub.

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angelsguardianforbanner

Do you like Paranormal Urban Fantasy? Want to try a new genre and a story full of suspense, action, humor, and romance? Try Zeece Lugo’s Angel’s Guardian series, now available on Amazon.

Took or Baggins? Part 3

Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party. (Tolkien titled each chapter.)

   -Preparations begin for Bilbo’s 111th birthday and Frodo’s 33,rd as they both share the same birthday, September 22nd. A party like no other is planned. Rich Bilbo spares no expense.

   -Gandalf arrives with fireworks. He and Bilbo discuss the Hobbit’s plan to leave the Shire and bequeath all he owns to his nephew Frodo, including The Ring.

   -The party goes off as planned. At the end, Bilbo makes a farewell speech and secretly dons the ring. He disappears in a poof, to the consternation of all his guests.

   -At the last minute, Bilbo experiences an inner struggle; he yearns to keep The Ring. The Ring clearly owns a piece of his soul and works its evil, but with Gandalf’s help, he is able to walk away from it and leave it to Frodo. 

   -Before leaving, Gandalf warns Frodo that The Ring may be dangerous and not to use it.

Wonderful Quote:

 I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

My Thoughts: 

Chapter 1 serves primarily to paint the image of the Hobbit and the Shire in the eye of the reader. It’s one thing to be told that Hobbits love to eat and have hairy feet. It’s another to see them as a people interacting, gossiping, drinking, blowing smoke rings, living with round doors painted in bright greens and yellows, time marked only by the gentle passing of the seasons. Their idyllic simplicity and lack of concern with the outside world makes them both admirable and vulnerable. I want to both join them and shake them up. But more than anything, I want to protect their world and keep them safe and innocent.

Chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past.

   -Frodo becomes his own master. The years pass and he grows more like Bilbo. Rumors of evil and darkness seep into the Shire, but no one pays any mind. Strangers are seen crossing through the Shire.

   -After a long absence, Gandalf reappears. He tells Frodo all he has learned of The Ring, and tests the ring in fire. He tells Frodo of the making and losing of The Ring, of how Gollum found it and was changed by it, and how Bilbo truly got The Ring. He tells that the Dark Lord seeks it because it is the one master ring that rules all the other rings.

   -Gandalf warns Frodo that the enemy finally is aware of the Shire and the name Baggins. 

   -Frodo accepts that to save all he loves, he must leave and take The Ring away from the Shire. Gandalf tells him he need not go alone. Caught eavesdropping on the conversation, Samwise Gangee is chosen to go with Frodo.

 

My Thoughts:

This chapter is all about The Ring. Most of it is narrative in Gandalf’s words. Here we finally get the true picture of The Ring’s nature and its ability to influence and possess its bearer. Frodo struggles with the decision of being the one who has to take The Ring away and his fear of  being insufficient to the task.  

The temptation of Gandalf is quite interesting too. As powerful and central a character as he is, he’s always steady and unchanging at his core. He’s not  the dynamic character in this tale. We also get a compelling  image of Smeagol/Gollum. He has always, in my opinion, been the most deeply moving and disturbing character in the series. 

  

Chapter 3: Three is Company.

   -Gandalf presses Frodo to leave soon. Frodo promises to leave on his 50th birthday.

   -Frodo sells Bag End to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and buys a small house at Crickhollow, near Buckleberry. He tells everyone that he is retiring there.

   -Gandalf warns Frodo never to use The Ring and leaves for the southern borders to search for news. He promises to be back before Frodo’s departure.

   -On the evening of Frodo’s departure, a stranger shows up at the village asking about Frodo. 

   -Gandalf fails to return. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin leave quietly. Merry left earlier in the morning with the moving cart.

   -The traveling party walks, talks, sings, eats, rests. The first encounter with the Dark  Rider happens. Frodo feels a strong urge to wear the ring.

   -The second appearance of a sniffing, tracking Dark Rider is interrupted by the appearance of a band of traveling elves. Upon hearing about the Black Riders, their leader, Gildor Inglorion, invites the Hobbits to go along with the elves. Sam is delighted with the elves!

   -They reach a grassy clearing surrounded by woods under the starlit night. The elves play the gracious hosts to the Hobbits. Later, Frodo and Gildor hold a long conversation. The elf advices Frodo to go quickly toward Rivendell, to take companions, and to evade the Black Riders, for they serve the enemy.

Wonderful quotes:

 -The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.

-Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

– …advice is a dangerous gift.

– Courage is found in unlikely places.

My Thoughts:

If Chapter 1 was about Hobbits, this one is about elves! I cannot but share Sam’s delight and awe of the beautiful, wise, glowing, merry but mysterious creatures.   

What to Read? Part 3

Rogue Wave was #3 on the Top 100 Free on July 27th. Today it sits at #15. 

I chose it because it’s not a romance, but a book that anyone, female or male, young or old, might enjoy. It’s by author Christopher Cartwright, book #4 of his Sam Reilly series, which I have never read or even knew existed until I saw the book on the Top Free list. I noted that this is the only free book he offers, but it’s not first in a series. 

The book starts with a prologue. The prologue is quite effective at creating suspense and mystery. Five days before the main story starts, a wealthy, handsome, thirty-eight-year-old engineer Luke Eldridge gets ready to compete in a regatta. He has been threatened by a mysterious conglomerate not to sail until he has made a decision on a billion-dollar offer for a scientific discovery he and colleagues have made. The scientific discovery will change the world, and this evil conglomerate wants it. 

The writing is concise; the short, clear sentences will appeal to those looking for action-clad, to-the-point reading. The writing moves quickly and is mostly dialogue based. The setting is present-day, starting out in Colorado, moving out to a research vessel in the Caribbean Sea. The main character is Sam Reilly, a billionaire oceanographer hired to look into death of an old-school-friend: Luke Eldridge was killed by a strange rogue wave that hit only his racing yacht during the previously mentioned regatta! 

On to the rest of the book! 

Well, I finished reading Rogue Wave in record time. My opinion: this is a fast, shallow read with a great deal of pseudo-science built from a few scientific facts. Every character is either a billionaire, a genius, stunningly beautiful, or all of these. There are no love or sex scenes, no deep characters, and by the end of the book, I still had no idea what the main protagonist looks like. 

Is the book worth reading? IN MY OPINION, if it’s free and you’re looking for a quick read to see you through a few hours on a plane or a book that will not tax your emotional state much, you might give this book a go. It’s the equivalent of an Indiana Jones movie without the adorable Indiana Jones. There are tantalizing glimpses of the previous adventures of Sam Reilly such as the finding of Atlantis, proving the existence of “The Master Builders,” and saving the world from a deadly virus. You might be better off trying the first book in the series.

What to Read?

How do we choose what to read?

It depends on the reader and the reason he or she reads. In this post, I will limit my scope to those of us who read for pleasure, specifically fiction.

As an author, I put great stock by word-of-mouth publicity. I remember vividly how a few years back, my students kept telling me about a series of books they loved and how I needed to try them. I did. That’s how I discovered the Twilight series. I also found out that YA books can be for adults too!

Another way I choose books to read is by how often I see them on display and how attracted I am by their covers. Harry Potter got me that way. After months of seeing stacks of it on display and hearing the hype on TV, I decided to give it a try. It worked for me.

A lot has changed since the early days of Twilight and Harry Potter. How I shop for books has changed dramatically. With the closing of most major bookstores, my book shopping has become primarily online shopping. Amazon has become my primary source for books.

I still go on my semi-annual pilgrimage to Barnes & Noble each time I fly into Miami to visit my family, but Amazon is at my fingertips no matter where in the world I am and UPS delivers.

In shopping at Amazon, there are problems. There are over one million titles available, but only the ones the Amazon logarithms consider worthy are up front. You might not have a problem with that. You probably think that any book worth reading will be among the top sellers and vice versa.

I usually head for the top titles in the categories I like. There will be a top-sellers list in each cat. I will click on the ones that catch my eye, and I’ll read the blurb. I’ll gloss over the reviews, paying attention to the average for all. If a book attracts my attention, I always download the sample. It’s free and in the two or three chapters involved, I can always decide if I want to read more.

Do I rely on book promos that come to my mailbox from sites such as BookBub, ENT, Read Cheaply, and such? Not recently. I get overwhelmed by the promo sites. They send constant lists of FREE and discounted books. Often, these books seem to be carbon copies of the same: bear shifter romances interspersed with the billionaire’s baby romance, and the ever-present YA fantasy or the end-of-the-world newest.

Most of the sites have little appreciation for cross-genre titles. The ones that claim to be more exclusive, base their exclusivity on the number of reviews a book has and its selling rank on Amazon or the name of the author. Which brings me to the question: Is a book worth reading because it’s visible on Amazon?

The obvious answer to that is that “worth reading” is a concept totally determined by the individual reader. I will qualify my criteria for a book I consider worth reading.

First, it must be grammatically acceptable. It need not be perfect, as many reviewers expect a book to be. J.R. Ward’s books are not perfect, but millions of fans, including me, love them. I can deal with missing commas but not with overwhelmingly bad grammar.

It must have a storyline that grabs me. It can’t be a rehash of the same old theme. If you’re writing YA, and you’re doing fantasy, it must be somehow different and original. The kids with super powers or the quest for the stone have been done to death.

It must have more than just speed, action, and short sentences. There must be good dialogue, compelling characters, and a sense of place and time.

It must hold my attention! That is the most important mark of a book I find worth reading. It pulls me in and makes me want to live in it. Last evening I sat at my favorite restaurant, all alone, twirling Fetuccini Alfredo with one hand while holding Tara Janzen’s Loose Ends with the other.  I’ve read both her Crazy series and her Loose series many times, and they never fail to grab me. I’d rather stop eating before I stop reading.

Now, back to the original idea in my lengthy speech. Is a book worth reading because it makes Amazon’s best-sellers list?  The only way I could determine that is by reading those books. This would be beyond my scope because I can’t afford to buy them all. However, I can try the same experiment on the Top FREE Kindle downloads.

Free books are suspect because they are free. If an author is eager to give away a book for free, then it must not be a very good book. If it were good, it would be selling like hotcakes and have a placement in the paid best sellers. Doesn’t that make sense?

This is faulty logic. Many authors today are giving away first books in a series as a way of hooking readers into the series. That being said, some books are being driven to the top of the charts through “Click Farm” scams, as David Gaughran recently reported in his post Scammers Break the Kindle Store. This is true for PAID as well as FREE books, but it’s not a common practice.

I intend to pick out books from Amazon’s Top Free rankings and let you know if, IN MY OPINION, they’re worth reading. Remember: my opinion! Everyone has one, and mine is no more important than yours. Be warned, I’ll not trudge through a book that doesn’t grab me early on!

Book for July 18thLove on a Spring Morning. This book is #2 on today’s Top 100 Free at Amazon. It’s part of a series, but not the first. The author is tagged as a “New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.” The series is described as a “small town military romance.” This means that the setting is a small town, and the main character (male) is a soldier or prior soldier. This is in the major contemporary romance genre.

Here is the link to the book

I also included the screenshot below. Interestingly, both #1 and #2 are non-fiction books. Love on a Spring Morning has 157 Reviews with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars. I expect this book to be good!

This is my opinion: for whatever it’s worth.

Just finished Chapter 1. I had a really hard time staying with it. Main character Ryan Howard is having difficulties dealing with being a single parent after the death of his wife. The names of all the different children, the depressing topic, and the slow going are throwing me off. This read will be a good fit for readers who love extended pain. I don’t. I love suspenseful starts and beginnings that just grab me. Still, it does not mean the book is not worth reading.

Just finished chapter 2. This one introduces the female main character, Holly. She’s as tired and depressed as the male one, and she’s a movie star looking for something not Hollywood. I’m in pain, but it’s probably my fault.

Just finished chapter 3. Ryan visits his family and has a long talk with his brother. We find out that Ryan’s marriage was not happy. His wife was addicted to pot, and she was killed. He hasn’t had sex in a long time, and he’s not interested enough to make an effort.

All right. I’m drowning here. Lack-luster writing, slow pace, uninteresting characters, and after three chapters, not a really clear sense of place. Too much minutiae and tired, unattractive personalities. We can find that in everyday life. Why look for it in books? I have to wonder how one makes it through the next chapter.

Chapter 4. Ryan sees Holly (the actress) in a sports bra and tiny shorts. His reaction? This is a direct quote: “And her breasts. Holy shit, he could see her breasts, and they were like an oasis in the desert.”  (He could see her breasts through the sports bra, of course.)

No more for me. The first four chapters were a struggle to read. It failed the biggest test: it failed to grab me and keep my attention. I am a fan of Debbie Macomber, whose small-town romances have never lost me.  Until the next book, guys!

Reminder: All my own novels, including the latest release, Thicker Than Blood, are on Kindle Unlimited. If you have a KU membership, you can read them for FREE!

If you’ve read Vampire, Not Monsterwould you kindly log into Amazon and leave a review? I’d truly appreciate your effort. If you’ve not read it, you might give it a go! It’s a free download and only about a 45-minute read.