Friday, June 21, 2019

Review: Blood Shadow: A Vera Shadow Mystery by Enkelli Arn Robertson

This is a novel in by Enkelli Arn Robertson and published by Kyanite Publishing.

Once again, this is a novel that I received as an advanced reader copy. So, my version may vary slightly from yours.

Do you ever long for the days of those hard-boiled detective stories? Those wonderful pulp style stories that dived right into things and barely gave you a chance to breathe because you had to know what was happening next?

That is the very base of this novel. A hard-boiled detective story that is reminiscent of the days of pulp-style fiction with a modern flare and set in a world of paranormal fantasy.

Vera Shadow, our main character is in many ways the epitome of the stereotypical detective from many of those old detective stories. She drinks, she smokes, she has a soft spot for a long pair of legs and a pretty face. That fact that she has horns and a tail and is... well a SHE, really makes this tale a fun and interesting read. As the story unfolds, Enkelli shows you exactly what makes her stand apart from the expected tropes.

One thing that Enkelli did do, was keep the atmosphere of the 1920-1930 era feel of the environment. From nightclubs to the attitudes of cops to even the colourful descriptive language that one would expect in this style of novel that often had me grinning. And of course, a nice smattering of terrible weather that sets the mood.

As for the plot itself, I loved it. This is a story that accomplishes what it sets out to do with style and flare. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guess. And, not to spoil thins, but that ending! Dang.

Although I have heard nothing of the sort, from the title and that ending I can only hope that there will be more Vera Shadow Mysteries in the future.


This novel is available direct from the publisher as well as through most major retailers. You can find out more at https://kyanitepublishing.com/product/blood-shadow/

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Write Publish Profit 2.0


Write Publish Profit 2.0 image
On June 18, 2019, I decided to spend money that I couldn't really afford on what looked like an amazing deal from Infostack which offers bundled digital resources. This one was for writers in general and included information and resources that covered everything from the planning to the marketing stages.

Since I am about to start the major marketing campaign for my upcoming novel, Feathers and Fae, I was mostly in it for the marking aspect. Everything else was just a bonus for me.

I can honestly say that the amount of stuff I have is impressive. I started with the downloadable material since I was at the office and didn't have the time or energy to begin signing up for e-courses. Those could wait until I had the time for them.
List of ebooks and audiobooks only

It is also nice to note that I received a secondary email saying that most of the stuff I had access to was available until June 2020 unless the stated otherwise. I didn't particularly note anything that said otherwise under my list of items, but I didn't look for specifically.

 There are some things even in the downloadable items that were not of much interest to me, but since I had access I figured I should download them anyway. So I did.

I should mention that a few downloads annoyingly came with having to sign up for newsletters. Not something I would normally do because I don't like a lot of random emails. Okay, a tiny annoyance because I can always unsubscribe if I don't find it interesting.

For the amount of stuff, I would like to say this is worth it. I haven't even begun the e-courses yet, but I know that many of those cost a lot of money if I had to pay for them.

Over the next year or so, you might see me post about one of these courses or ebooks that I received in this bundle.

Although first up, if you did download this and were hoping that the "Master Twitter in Two Hours" (powerpoint or pdf available) might be useful for you - I have some news. It's fairly basic and doesn't go into as much detail as I would have liked from something telling me how to "master Twitter". While there are some good notes and advice to be found, it is targeted more towards the new Twitter user instead of the experienced.

I won't say don't read it, but if you know what you're doing and understand analytics and lists, you won't get much out of this simple compilation of information.

Which makes me think that perhaps a post on Twitter for writers in the near future or do you think that's been overdone?

Friday, June 7, 2019

Review: Inn Spirits by C.M. Harris

This is a collection of short stories by C.M. Harris and is published by Kyanite Publishing. I had the privilege of being able to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book that is available now. 

Find out more about this story and where to purchase this novel here: https://kyanitepublishing.com/product/inn-spirits-tales-of-the-folsom/

I'm a bit behind on my reading schedule and only finally managed to get some reading time in to finish this delightful collection of stories. I'm glad I managed to get some reading time in because these tales were well worth it.

I am going to be honest with you. I am a hard scare. Even as a teenager I read horror novels when I was home alone in the dark. So, I can't speak on scare factor because even when I write horror I have to ask others if what I've written is scary. However, I think that your average reader will find this collection delightfully terrifying.

As one would expect with the subtitle on this collection, all the stories are related, but more than that, they are weaved together within the narrative of yet another story. This is an aspect of that a highly enjoyed because as much as I love a collection of short stories, I love when there is a sense of connection between them all.

In regards to the individual stories in this collection, I found them all very well written and highly enjoyable. Each story had great characterization, wonderful structure and beautiful detail to it. There was not a single story that I read that was less than fully enjoyable.

I highly recommend that if you like tales of horror that do not skimp on the details and imagery then this is a collection for you. C.M. Harris is a gem of a writer and I am so glad I got a chance to read his work for the first time. I only wish I had gotten to read it sooner.

You can follow C.M. Harris on Twitter under the delightful handle of "Ned the Zombie" (https://twitter.com/Ned_the_zombie). I've been following him since long before this book came across my radar simply because he is a delight follow. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Twenty Years

Twenty Years. That is the time difference between those two photos. 

On the left, you have a happy 18-year-old who is about to graduate high school

On the right, you have me from a couple of weeks ago.


The years have flown by so fast that I'm not even sure they really all happened. When I realized this morning that it had been twenty years since I graduated from high school, it surprised me. I'd have thought that it would have been something more significant - that twenty year mark.

But it's not. 

Here I am, at the office, doing a day job that I would have never seen myself in. Thinking about the edits on my next novel even though I was told writing wasn't a viable career. I have a mortgage, a car payment, I live in a place that past me thought was a horrible place to live - and I mostly love it here. 

Life has veered me on to a far different path than I had dreamt of back then. Unexpected paths. So, I wanted to do a little Then/Now comparison. 

Then - Lived near Vancouver, British Columbia
Now  - Living near Red Deer, Alberta

Then - Didn't have a driver's license
Now  - Has a license and a car payment.

Then - Wanted to work in biotech research
Now  - Working in the oilfield and as a published author
(Hey, younger me, how could you ignore how much you hated lab work???)

Then - Single
Now  - Single
(I guess some things never change!)

It's not much of a comparison. A few basic things. A lot of which are things that I would expect to change. I'm certainly not anywhere that I would have thought I'd be back then. Not physically or professionally. I'm okay with that.

There are a few things that I would have liked to have done differently, but then I might not be where I am today. I like where I am today. It's not perfect. Some days are a struggle, but I'm happy.

And when it comes down to it, happy is the most important thing that I could ever possibly be. Past me didn't know that. I'm glad I know it now. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

ARC Review: The Magician's Sin by Alexander Thomas

This is a novel by Alexander Thomas and published by Kyanite Publishing. I had the privilege of being able to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this engaging story. This title will be available on April 4, 2019, and is currently available for pre-order.
Find out more about this story and where to purchase this it here: https://kyanitepublishing.com/product/the-magicians-sin/
To be honest, I don't think the blurb does this book justice. It certainly sounded interesting to me which was enough to make we want to read it. I suppose that is the goal of the blurb, and, while there's nothing misleading in the back cover, this book is so much more than that. It only takes a few pages for me to realize that and I was quickly hooked.
That first chapter drags you into the world that Alexander created without overwhelming you. A world of magic and mythology in the 1930s. The author weaves in hints of the backstory of our main character, Anson Walker, expertly and, as you read on, more of the world is revealed not only through the eyes of this character but of the other characters as well. It's enough to keep you from getting lost as to what's going on and it's never too much info to bore you.

And in regards to our main character? Well, when it comes to antiheroes, I find some authors miss the mark. Alexander Thomas didn't miss it. This is an antihero that I feel for, that I want to see succeed. Even when his actions and motivations are less than pure, I can understand why he's acting the way he is. And this brings me back to the point above. Alexander does a brilliant job of weaving in that backstory with the right amount of detail at the right time so you are never left thinking that Anson isn't worth cheering for.

With such a wonderful world building and unexpected twists to this tale, The Magician's Sin keeps you engaged and you are left wondering, 'What's going to happen next?' with each chapter that pulls you deeper into the engaging, magical world. Alexander takes you on a wonderful and sometimes frightening, journey with this story that is written with beautiful detail and relatably flawed characters.

Find out more about Alexander Thomas and his work on his website at https://www.alexanderwrites.com/or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Alexanderwrite3.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Art of Brevity in Brief

One of the things that I've been working on lately is becoming better at short stories. Since January I've been attempting to do microfiction on a near daily schedule, I've added short stories to my website (http://www.crystallkirkham.com/blog), and, as of today, have submitted some flash fiction stories to an anthology.

A lot of writers I know are intimidated by the short story, flash fiction and microfiction format. I used to be too.

Trying to condense a story into a few brief lines can be challenging. There is an art to this kind of brevity. Taking what could easily be a much longer story and punching through right to the heart of it.

Short stories truly show the evidence of editing. Because that is where the true art lies. Well, editing is really what makes most stories in general, but short stories need it the most. Each word must be chosen with care and impact. Then edited to make sure that it moves the story forward and impacts the reader as intended.

Who knew that the art of brevity lay in the editing?

Let's say I wanted to write a microfiction based on a prompt "Life as an Author"

First, let's figure out what I want to say about this? Shall I talk about insanity? Endless cups of coffee? Words that taunt me in my sleep?

So, here is what my brain came up with...

I stare intently at my screen.
Words on words, oh how they taunt me.
I have a deadline hanging over my head.
All but ignored.
I hit like. I hit reply.
Twitter distracts me every time.
36 words. 182 characters. Okay. Not bad. That's pretty short and sounds a lot like my daily life. This is what I want to say in this short tale of a writers life, but how do I say it better than I have?

Editing, of course. Everything here is more or less literal. Not much art to this, but a lot of truth. One thing I want to do is combine some of these lines, possibly even rearrange them to create more impact in the reader.

Words on words staring back at me.
I never let my eyes leave the screen
Deadline hanging over my head
Ignored. Not forgotten.
I hit like then reply instead
Twitter – it distracts me every time.
35 words. 192 characters. Well, if word count matters then this is an improvement. If you're looking at character count, it's a failure. Sometimes this happens. Do I think this one has a better impact than the first? I do. However, I want it shorter. It's time to see if there are cuttable words that aren't needed.

Words stare at me from the screen.
I stare back.
Deadline hanging over my head, ignored.
Not forgotten.
Like and reply, instead of writing.
Twitter distracts me every time.
 29 words. 171 characters. SUCCESS. Succinct. Impactful. And a story. It tells the tale of the writer who is always on Twitter, ignoring the deadlines and having fun instead of writing.

I mean, I have NO idea what that's like. Not me. Never.

That's all there is to it. I know, it seems like it could be hard to do - and it will be the first few times you try - but the more you try these things and practice them, the better you will get. Even get the help of someone else's eyes the first few times.

And this, my friends, is your brief introduction to the art of brevity.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Writing Without a Net


It sounds like a silly phrase, but this is something I say often.

There are many different ways to go about writing a story. You can outline in a million different way from a basic idea to a scene by scene guide. I’ve done it all. One thing I come back to often, especially in my shorter work, is what I like to call writing without a net.

I’m doing it right now with a story called Gateway. It was a story sparked by a misread phrase. It was an idea that worked for an anthology I wanted to submit to and I had a few spare minutes. So, I sat down and I started writing. Until I wrote it, I didn’t know the character’s name or where it took place or what was going to happen. I’m almost 14K words into this short story and I still have no clue what I am writing until I write it.

This is a style of writing that is as mesmerizing to me as it is frustrating. I don’t know how long the story will be. I don’t know what my character is going to say or do until I write it. I am constantly being surprised by unseen plot twists.

I’m blind. I’m flying high. Things are happening. And if I fall, there is no net to catch me. This story could very well crash and burn. All this effort might possibly be for naught.

And I love it.

It’s a very intuitive style of writing that allows me to step out of my head. To stop thinking about what might happen next and just let the story flow out of me.

It’s a hard thing to do, to get out of my own head. It’s hard to not think about how all the elements might fit together or how this scene will make the story progress. I try not to think about anything at all while I am writing other than putting one word after the other.

I hope this story works for the anthology I have in mind, but if it doesn’t, I hope it still works as a story. As something I can submit to a publisher or publish myself or, maybe even, put up for free on my website. 

Who knows?

I certainly don’t. And I’m okay with that.