Tag Archive | Indie Author

Coal House

by W.S. Barton

I’ve been a reader all my life and at 51 find myself mostly reading contemporary women’s fiction about mid-life set in the United States.  It’s comfortable, sometimes enlightening and, certainly, plentiful.

And then I discovered Coal House by W.S. Barton.  Set in post World War II Wales, the book doesn’t pigeon-hole itself into a time period.  If you didn’t pay attention to details, it would be hard to say if this was late 19th century or mid 20th.  To me, it was the language of the book which transports the reader into the past.  blog

As an adult I’m reading fiction set in my time period, but as a teen my favorite books in the world were Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.  A chapter or two into Coal House and I felt like I was visiting an old friend.  The prose captured my attention and drew me into the tale, keeping me up late quite a few nights – apropos for a ghost story.

The premise of the novel centers around a married couple undergoing typical marital strife who, while on holiday trying to get past said strife, get caught up in the possibility of new beginnings and purchase an unbelievably well priced house at an auction.  Here’s a little wisdom learned from my five decades – if something seems like too good a deal, it probably is and will end with you having to battle demons, ghosts and murderous intent.

Much time is spent learning about the house, grounds and community which surround Coal House.  I am just floored by Barton’s use of language to captivate the reader.  I could pull any quote to share because I adored the feeling crafted by the words.  So that you may understand Barton’s prose, here is one short paragraph:

A quite marvellous feature of the library was the huge coal fire and although I had seen it earlier it was only on truly embracing the cold that I observed the true functionality.  It was a centrepiece worthy of it’s eponymity.  It would have looked wonderfully majestic when used for purpose and with the proximity to the mines, at some point, coal would have been in plentiful supply. I considered the lunacy which must have possessed whoever decided to remove all the trees, precious fuel, and I couldn’t fathom it.  It couldn’t be helped.  I realized the the outhouse must have been used to store coal.

Barton managed to write a comfortable, flowery, good old fashioned ghost tale but one which kept me guessing as to the plot.  Each chapter built upon the last and I kept changing my guess as to what was to come.  When the book came to a close, I took several days to begin this review.  It was a journey and I need time to process what I’d experienced.  I would highly recommend Coal House and hope to see more of Barton’s writing in future.

 

 

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The Siege

By James Hanna

Part of the excitement of discovering new authors is appreciating the fact that each of us lives such disparate lives.  If I had to write my author bio on the back cover of my probably-never-will-be written book, it would be very boring.  52 year old woman, married to one man for almost 3 decades, homeschooled 2 sons, retired to West Virginia mountains = snooze fest.  New indie author James Hanna has led a life which looks anything but boring: wandered Australia for 7 years, employed in the world of criminal justice, counselor in the Indiana Department of Corrections and probation officer in the San Francisco domestic abuse and stalking unit.  Wow.  My trips to Safeway would not lead to a novel worth reading.  To me, understanding how Hanna lived his pre-author life is notable because he has penned a psychological thriller set in an Indiana correctional facility involving riotous prisoners holding guards hostage.  Clearly Hanna followed the age old advice to write what you know.  blog

Hanna creates a varied cast of characters including a charismatic pedophile, power hungry guards, rival gangs drawn together by shared ideology, employee unions exercising totalitarian control, and the central character, dorm counselor Tom Hemmings chosen by the prisoners to conduct negotiations during the siege. Hanna does an excellent job of providing the viewpoints of many in the story, never dwelling too long on one character.  Use of flashbacks move the story forward and keep the reader guessing as to the true motives of the individuals.

The book is well written, with dialogue far above what I would have anticipated from a novel set in a prison.  Hanna is a storyteller who demonstrates above average skill at painting a picture with words.  For example:

The light in the kitchen was still burning,  illuminating the crowded bookcase that supported the television set.  He stooped, searching compulsively for something to read, but was uninspired by the contents of the shelves: detective digests, more Harlequin romances, and two narrow hardbacks whose titles – The Land Fish and Father Flanagan, Friend to Youth – convinced him to leave them unopened.

“The Siege” is a complicated, character driven tale of a world most of us will never experience.  Hanna does such a stellar job of detailing this hostage situation, I actually googled to find out if this was based on a true story.  While I could not relate to many of these personalities on a personal level, for the several days I lived inside that prison setting in my head, and appreciated how human nature battles itself and institutional politics, Hanna successfully sold the story.

 

US State Map Challenge – set in Indiana

 

Do you Solemnly Swear?

by Lin Wilder

It’s always interesting to read sequels featuring characters you loved in previous novels.  Lin Wilder successfully follows up her first novel “The Fragrance Shed by a Violet” with this legal thriller “Do you Solemnly Swear.”  blog

Having recently completed book one, the returning cast was very familiar to me and I enjoyed the immediate jump in time detailing their growth and changes.  “Solemnly Swear” features: Dr. Lindsey McCall, newly VERY rich, who has graduated from prison inmate to medical director to the prison system; intrepid reporter Kate Townsend who has attained the highest praise of a writer and is now exploring developing her personal life and Lindsey’s new husband Rich Jansen who once again makes a career change from prison administrator back to attorney-at-law.

Wilder also smartly introduces new, intriguing characters in the form of private investigators, lawyers and, most compelling, a returning US soldier and current Texas State Trooper who becomes the catalyst for the plot.  Gabe McAllister battles the trauma of war and through a series of unfortunate events becomes involved with a dicey single mom.  His decision to leave this unstable woman prompts a charge of rape against McAllister; the victim being the 6-year old daughter of the ex-girlfriend.

The subject matter is uncomfortable, but Wilder is careful to not make the novel so graphic as to be unreadable.  As much as the author spent time in her “Fragrance” book educating the reader on the inner workings of drug development, this novel provides a great deal of information about the legal system and the incidences of false charges regarding sexual crimes.  Having no knowledge of these things, I found this background interesting. Wilder is proving herself quite deft at writing novels which serve both to entertain as well as educate.

Sometimes it is necessary to read all the books in a series in order to understand the long term developing plot, “Lord of the Rings” comes to mind.  Wilder’s books could stand alone, but if you’re like me and very orderly and systematic when it comes to character development, please do start with book one.  And, bonus! Book three is in the works so if you care to binge over a winter’s snowy evening……

I enjoyed the “Fragrance” novel (see my earlier review here: https://eyesandearsbooks.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/the-fragrance-shed-by-a-violet/ ) and I think this sequel is even better.  I imagine at this rate, the third book in the series is likely to be the best yet.

For the US State Challenge – Texas – fast becoming my biggest source of fiction.

 

 

The Fragrance Shed by a Violet

by Lin Wilder

If you follow my personal blog, https://newoldgirl.wordpress.com/ you are aware that I am NOT A FAN of the medical profession and feel great disdain for Big Pharma.  This attitude change occurred in the last 4 years and one additional side effect of the trauma of my iatrogenic illness was losing an entire genre of books.  I used to read every single medical thriller I could find, and laugh at the memory of my one overnight hospital stay where the book I was reading was by Robin Cook.  As a sort of exposure therapy, I decided to delve back into medical fiction and see if I could separate my own trauma from a fiction book.  I am so glad I discovered new indie author, Lin Wilder.  She was the perfect author to pull me back into my old stomping grounds.  blog

“The Fragrance Shed by a Violet” is not your typical medical thriller.  I would probably not even add “thriller” to the descriptor except that most books set in the medical industry do involve mayhem – murder, espionage, the evils of the industry, etc.  Wilder has written a book which involves the medical profession, but truly I felt this book was character driven.  Yes, Dr. Lindsey McCall is a brilliant researcher employed by a large Texas medical center, but there are so many pieces to this story, it felt more like contemporary fiction involving relationships rather than subterfuge.  This, I think, was key for me truly enjoying the work.  Wilder presents us strong, driven, intelligent female characters like McCall and investigative reporter Kate Townsend.  As the foil to those strong women, we also spend time with Lindsey’s sister, Paula a nurse with a troubled past who proves prominent in the direction Lindsey’s life takes.

As the sister of two alcoholic brothers who passed very early because of their disease, I felt a real connection to the siblings in this book.  As a reader, finding connections to characters brings the story to life and Wilder wrote a good story.  Wilder pulled me in not only with her writing but with the use of prophetic quotes at the start of each chapter, and the presence of spirituality in the story.  This did not read like smack-you-in-the-face Christian fiction, but as in many real lives, faith plays a role for some of her characters.  Reading this book was comfortable and enjoyable.

I did read the author bio prior to starting the book and I appreciated throughout my reading the fact that Wilder spent decades employed in the medical field.  Somehow, to me, knowing she had real life experience behind her gave a sense of legitimacy to her writing, especially during the parts where research and drug development was explored.  It was also quite clear that Lin Wilder is one smart cookie.  The novel is very well written, the characters are fleshed out and the story felt complete.  This was a great first medical book for me to start with and I highly recommend “The Fragrance Shed by a Violet.”

 

 

For the US Map Reading Challenge, this one is set in Texas.  Yes, I’ve read another Texas book this year, but it’s a big state so I’m recording this one as well.

The Bleeding Door

by Todd Cook

As a new resident to Appalachia, I was excited to read “The Bleeding Door” as it is set in the woods of Kentucky in the 19th century.  Todd Cook clearly spent a lot of time studying the culture and integrating it into the story.  In fact the author bio explains his passion for, and investigation of, the well known Hatfield-McCoy feud, and acquaintanceship with sources who live in the area in which he sets this historical fiction.  “The Bleeding Door” is a retelling of this feud with characters who are fleshed out and made real to the reader. blog

It took a while to become immersed in the story.  The first part of the book develops slowly and jumps among time and characters.  I am glad I stuck with it, though, because the author builds upon that early material in order to tell a good, old-fashioned tale.  By the time the story ended, I had favorite characters and connected to them and their ultimate fate.

“The Bleeding Door” is a novel which uses the setting as a main character.  The geography of Kentucky, the mystery of the dark woods, the isolation of those who reside there are all critical to exactly what happens in the hills.  The Civil War was very impactful for those states whose residents could go either way.  Face it, a Massachusetts neighborhood was more likely to be all pro-Union while the residents of Kentucky had decisions to make.  This resulted in in-fighting and danger for families and vengeance was a popular problem solver.

I hesitate to make this criticism because I never know if what I experience is as a result of the writing, or remnants of my brain injury with which I still deal.  Keep that in mind as this may not affect other readers in the same way.  Cook worked hard at incorporating the language of the hills from the 1800s.  While much of the story is written in our modern English, character dialogue is written in its original Appalachian speak.  For example:

“Whar are you fixin’ to take us?” demanded Melvin. “We hait done nothing’!” The captors did not answer.

Melvin grew more frantic.  “I hain’t never throwed off on Vance and Phillip! Them two never throwed off on me!”

“I sware t’warn’t me,” interjected Robert. “I was out fightin in Virginny when they was shot, I sware hit!”

From context I could understand the plot, but I did find myself having to read (and sometimes re-read) much more methodically.

“The Bleeding Door” is a nice tale and I will look for the next book Todd Cook pens.

 

 

US State Reading Challenge – Kentucky

 

 

Yukon Audit

by Ken Baird

Wow! Wow! Wow!

There is a real leap of faith when a reader invests their time in an unknown author. Sometimes that investment pays off hugely. It did for me when I discovered Ken Baird and his first novel “Yukon Audit.”

I did read the About the Author section of the book prior to beginning. I do this with new indie authors primarily because, in a perfect world, I would be a writer and I’m always in awe of those brave enough to pursue their dream. I’m glad I learned of Baird’s background prior to starting “Yukon Audit” because it lent a real authenticity to the story. He ran a gold mine and is a pilot. How cool is that? I may or may not have watched hundreds of hours of Discovery and History Channel programming about man vs nature in the pursuit of riches, but this is the first book I’ve read from anyone remotely connected to that lifestyle. blog

The book is a mystery/thriller/adventure novel set in the Yukon featuring C.E. Brody an independent guy who lives in a cabin by a lake with his dogs.  He has a minimalist lifestyle, runs a mechanic shop and also uses his private plane to make a living.  As a recent transplant to an isolated West Virginia mountain, I related to this character and culture.  The pace is slower, people know each others business, and everyone works multiple jobs to get by…but getting by is enough.

Life would have continued on uneventfully for Brody, except an extremely attractive female showed up at his shop in need of car repairs. Her beauty, a car far older and worn than matched her appearance, a warning to avoid her from the local police are all too intriguing for Brody who becomes embroiled in a mystery which spans the next 500 pages of writing.  Yes, you read that correctly – 500 pages.  I admit that knowing not all writers are created equally, I dreaded facing what could be 500 pages of blah blah blah.  What a relief I felt to discover Baird has a unique quality to tell a story with enough details that the reader becomes enthralled but not so bogged down that it’s burdensome.

I loved reading about Brody’s life.  Frequently I found myself smiling or laughing as this character shared his perspective.  Baird fleshed out a guy who anyone would gladly sit and have a beer with and feel better because of it.  He isn’t the typical tough guy hero; he is just a decent man caught up in a series of unfortunate events which leads to violence.  Brody has brains, enough brawn and decency.  The other thing I appreciated about the characters was the relationship between Brody and the female protagonist, Sarah.  Yes, she was drop dead gorgeous which is pretty typical with female leads – after all, appearance is primary for women (read that with snark), but Baird changed up roles.  There is less about her looks and the physical chemistry and more about her strength and personality.

I absolutely loved this book and felt sad when it was over.  Even at 500 pages, I wanted more.  I know I can’t legally demand Baird continue Brody’s story with a sequel, but I demand Baird continue and give us book 2.  Soon.

 

 

Author Interview – Kyle T. Cowan

 

Thank you so much to new author, Kyle T. Cowan, for discussing his first book “Sunshine is Forever” with me.  

 

“Sunshine is Forever” is your first novel. As a new author, getting readers to give you a try is probably hard. What would you say to a potential reader to entice them to pick up your book?

You should support my book because it is incredibly hard to make it as a new writer in today’s world. Sunshine is Forever is a completely original story. You can read the first ten chapters to see that it warrants a publisher. I worked tirelessly with a professional editor to get it polished, and I would never release content that I didn’t think was ready for the public’s eyes. It’s also a great, heartwarming story, with a lot of relevant messages.  

 

kylecover Given the serious nature of the topic, depression, did you do any research about the subject and how people deal with it?

I did a ton of research. A friend once told me that through his eyes everything is colorless, that getting out of bed felt like a chore. I think that was the first time I was inspired to write something about depression. My main goal in writing the book was to get a better understanding of the illness. I’ve always been driven and ambitious. When I get depressed, it’s usually career related. The way I push out of my depression is by working harder, but it doesn’t work that way for many people. Depression is a villain in my story, and in a lot of ways it is a villain in real life. It can constantly bring someone down and make him or her feel worthless. Depression is a huge obstacle for anyone to overcome, and it can’t be conquered alone. Hopefully Sunshine is Forever will help people feel less alone, and like they can talk about their depression without feeling guilty. The stigma that comes with any sort of mental illness needs to be lifted off our society so that people aren’t afraid to seek the help that they need.

 

People may not know you are also an actor. Your film, Camouflage, which you directed and starred in, also covers several serious topics, gun violence, homophobia and mental health. Why are you drawn to such difficult subjects? Do you think using popular culture to get a message out has an impact?

kylecamoCamouflage is an extremely serious movie with little to no humor. I decided to take the opposite approach with Sunshine is Forever by writing the book with a lighter humorous tone. Human nature fascinates me. I like stories with characters that are flawed, because humans are flawed in real life. Difficult subjects attract me because they are hard to talk about. 350 million people suffer from depression globally. I think 350 million people warrant a conversation, empathy, and understanding. One of the best ways to get a message out to the public is by using popular culture. I strive to tell stories that matter, and that will have an impact on humanity in some way.

 

 

Speaking of difficult, tell us about getting a novel into the hands of the public. How did you select Inkshares and how do you make sure “Sunshine is Forever” gets the attention it deserves?

I’ve been writing my own original stories since high school. I’ve never officially had a writing agent, but I have worked with a few under the table. Over the past two years I have been meeting with different production companies, and working with a professional editor to get my stories up to par. I kept getting rejected with blind queries, and honestly started to get to the point where I wanted to stop writing. Getting industry professionals to read your work is daunting because there are so many people in LA and New York who are trying to make it in this profession. One of my mentors is the vice president of a production company, and he is the one who pointed me to InkShares. I chose to launch with Sunshine is Forever first, because it is a story that can appeal to literally everyone. My hope is that I will reach the 750 preorders to gain mass publication with InkShares, and that people continue to spread the word after the book comes out. Maybe one day Sunshine is Forever will become a Bestseller, and a movie. The people who backed it at the very beginning will get to tell their friends that they discovered this piece of work.

 

With all the time you have invested in writing, how does that affect your acting career? Are there any projects in the works you can share with us?

It doesn’t affect my acting career at all. Honestly, most of acting is auditioning, and a lot of time on set is spent sitting around waiting in my trailer. I write every day when I wake up before I do anything else. I do have some projects coming up. I will be in an episode of the new season of Longmire and I am in the movie War on Everyone, which will be released in October.

 

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Kyle T. Cowan in WGN America’s “Manhattan”

I admit to being a fan of yours from your time on the too-short lived WGN America show, Manhattan. As young Frank you were critical to revealing the back-story of scientist Frank’s passion. And you really nailed it on the physicality making viewers SEE Frank as a youngster. How hard was it to replicate the mannerisms of John Benjamin Hickey? Are you finding writing easier or more difficult than acting?

 

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Kyle T. Cowan in WGN America’s “Manhattan”

John and I spent a lot of time together leading up to me going on camera. Right after I got cast, I went to set and got to know him in his trailer. Then I watched him acting as Frank Winter. He showed me how Frank smoked, and we talked about the mannerisms he had already given Frank as an adult. The rest was left up to me. Playing another actor’s version of a character is very technical. I really worked hard on my facial expressions in front of a mirror. John is such an incredible actor, and I wanted my version of Frank to be identical to his. I think both writing and acting are daunting in their own ways. I like writing a lot because I have complete control over the story from start to finish. With acting, almost everything is out of my control. I can control my character choices, and whether or not I am fully prepared for a job, but I can’t control whether or not the director agrees with my decisions. There are so many factors that go into getting cast in a movie, and there are so many obstacles to getting a piece of writing out to the public’s eyes. Both careers are very challenging in their own ways.

 

Do you still have contact with some of the cast and crew of Manhattan? Have you had any support or encouragement from them that you feel comfortable sharing?

I’m in contact with so many people from Manhattan. That was one of the coolest things about being a part of that show; a lot of us have stayed in touch. John Benjamin Hickey, and Jefferson White both bought copies of my book and sent me some words of encouragement. It really makes me feel good when my peers support my other ambitions.

 

If this was a job interview, I’d have to ask “where do you see yourself in 10 years.” So lets pretend it’s a job interview – where is Kyle 10 years from now?

HA! Who knows? Definitely not me. Ideally, I would love to continue to write. Hopefully in ten years I will have multiple published books, and some of those will have been made into movies. I want to act in my own original content, and I want to continue to act in TV and movies. Basically I hope that my career has come to full fruition, and that I’m not struggling so much anymore. I would like to feel a little bit more secure in what I am doing.

 

Finally, how can we buy “Sunshine is Forever”?

I really hope you will preorder my book! The sooner I make it to 750 preorders, the sooner the book will be released.

Readers can preorder my book here: https://www.inkshares.com/books/sunshine-is-forever

$10 for an E-book

$20 for a Signed Copy

The first 10 chapters are already posted online.

You can also listen to me read the first chapter here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCeu_He-fho

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me Sue!

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Kyle T. Cowan


To my readers – Kyle is sooooooo close to the magic pre-order number of 750 in order to take full advantage of all that Inkshares can do to help a new, indie author to the market for readers.  Please take a look at his site and pre-order to help make this happen. Thanks, Sue