“Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces”: A short fiction collection that’s full of surprises

Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces

This week I’m pleased to review Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces – the latest collection of short fiction by my friend and colleague, Jeff Bowles. Since I know Jeff personally, I do admit to a certain amount of bias, but only because I truly admire the way this man crafts a story, so I went at this reading with a certain amount of anticipation. With Jeff, I never really know what to expect, but I always expect to be pleasantly surprised.

And, I was not disappointed. The stories found in this collection are original and unique, and the artwork is awesome.

The first story, Will of the West, has a good western flavor with a surprise ending.  I truly enjoyed the vivid imagery of the lightning dance is Blue Dancing With Yellow, and Jeff’s story telling voice in Tumbleweeds and Little Girls nails the young girl’s POV. Four Heads, Two Hearts is a unique romance with its own unusual set of obstacles and a very interesting solution. The Fall and Rise of Max Ziggy is a reincarnation story of the feline kind.

Two of the stories deal with the topic of mid-life crisis, a topic that the author seems too young to know a lot about, but when you read these stories, us old foggies may find, or at least I did, that his interpretations are pretty spot on. Mid-Life Crisis: The Video Game defines the age of technology in a way the older generations can relate to, right down to the frustrations of dealing with voice activated responders which never seem to get our answers right. And,  Jack Hammer’s Online Identity Crisis provides an online view of the mid-life crisis of a hit man that is sure to make you chuckle.

The collection also offers two ghost stories: Falcon Highway is a good, old fashioned ghost story running along the lines of an urban legend. And, Deadman’s Hand is a ghostly tale of being ‘spirited’ away.

All of the stories contained in Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces are well crafted and quite entertaining, and they all contain unexpected elements that Jeff Bowles makes to work in short story form. Each and every one carries the uniqueness that is Jeff Bowles style, making for an overall enjoyable read. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Bailin'”: A Comedic Crime Romance Indeed

Bailin'

Bailin’  breaks every writing rule there is, but somehow, Linton Robinson makes it work. Labeled a “Comedic Crime Romance” on the cover, this book is a fast paced crime story, filled with a cast of bungling criminals, who somehow always manage to come out  ahead, in spite of the precarious situations they end up in.

Bunny and Cole are a daring crime duo looking for the one big heist that will set them up for life. The two pull several heists, but never seem to come away with any money. Bogart and Flathead, two bikers, who try to make a business out of transporting certain things across the border, and who fail repeatedly as smugglers. Add in an embezzling treasurer, who gets caught and jumps bail, a determined bounty hunter, and a sadistic hit man, and you’ve got the proper ingredients for comedic antics as all of their paths cross.

I read it twice, the second time, aloud. It is filled with big words, lots of adverbs and adjectives, alliteration and empurpled prose, but the story line is so much fun, all of that can be forgiven. In fact, Robinson’s style helps to set the tone in this comedic caper and make the whole thing work.

I really enjoyed this read. I give Bailin’ four quills.Four Quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Tangled Web” May Be Just the Beginning

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Tangled Web is the first book in a new rock star romance series by Jade C. Jamison. I picked up this book because I was so impressed with another book I reviewed by the same author, Bulletand this book did have the same power to draw me into the story. However, this story is much shorter and left me feeling like there should be more.

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Two old friends discover that they each had hidden feelings for the other. In Tangled Web, we watch as this discovery emerges, but the story ends as they realize their feelings for one another. While it is the moment the story has been leading up to, it feels more like a climax than an ending. It is the moment when everything changes, but I felt short changed because the reader isn’t allowed the opportunity to learn the outcome of the grand event. We don’t get to see the “Happily Ever After”. I guess it is assumed, but it would be more satisfying to see it unfold.

The story is good, the erotic scenes tastefully written, and I quite enjoyed this read. Tangled Web has the potential to be a really good romance, but it left me wanting more. I give it three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Ethereal Lives”: A Science Fiction Romance

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Ethereal Lives by Gem Stone is a refreshing story about a woman, Ariane, abducted by interstellar hijackers moments before Earth’s destruction. Being the only existing human makes our heroine a valuable commodity on the cosmic market. Somehow, on the way to their destination, where her captors can sell their cargo, Ariane falls in love with the ship’s captain, Ax. When the tables are turned, and Ax is captured by another ship, Ariane will stop at nothing to save him, even though he still intends to sell her.

The story is entertaining, but there are several plot points that make the suspension of disbelief very thin and the characters could be better developed. If you can get past that, it is an endearing tale and quite enjoyable. I give Ethereal Lives three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Monthly Memo: Playing Cupid

Since this month’s memo date falls near Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write about how to pick your protagonist’s love interest for a story. I find you can’t always decide on the dynamic between a couple until you write out their first meeting. So with that in mind, here is how I go about doing that.

To start, we need to first pick your core protagonist. If you have one in mind, that’s great, skip to Step Two below. If not, begin at Step One.

Step One: Pick your protagonist.

An easy way I find to create a core protagonist when I’m really struggling is to think of three people I know. Then I think of a prominent personality trait for each of them.

For example:

Person 1: Talks too much, and rambles.

Person 2: Is obsessed with dogs.

Person 3: Is always negative.

Try to pick traits that don’t overshadow each other. So don’t pick traits like one loves cats and the other loves dogs. Once you have the three traits, combine them to create the partial personality for your new protagonist. Using those traits as a jumping point, come up with other details about the character you are creating. Male or female? Age range? Occupation?

For mine, we’ll say it’s a female, who is a vet, and who is in her late 20s.

Keep expanding the details of your protagonist until you feel like you have a good general idea of who they are.

Step Two: Find the love interest.

If you already have a protagonist in mind, make sure you can describe them as if they were one of your friends you’ve known for years. What’s their hobby, what’s their job, what’s their secret wish, what’s their favorite thing in the world, and what’s their biggest pet peeve? You should be able to at least answer the above questions, but preferably much, much more.

Once you have the general idea of the protagonist, it’s time to find their love interest. Whenever I have to find a love interest, I always make a list of the places my character is most likely to be because these are the places the love interest is most likely to be found.

For my example: My character is most likely to be in her vet’s office, at home, or maybe volunteering at an animal shelter. So the place she’s most likely to meet her future love interest is in one of those places. Let’s go with at the Vet’s office.

Once you choose where they may meet, then it’s time to choose who the love interest is. What kind of person would go to that place? For mine, it’s clearly going to be a pet owner, or maybe a vendor selling vet supplies, or even a coworker. I chose the easy one, pet owner.

Now go through the character building questions again – what does this love interest look like? What do the like to do? Why are they at this place interacting with your protagonist? Do they share any of the same personality traits as your protagonist? Do they starkly contrast to any traits? I usually like to have one strong thing that the two characters connect with (for mine, a love of animals), and then I have two or three things they can disagree on and fight over (for mine, attitude and the proper treatment for the pet).

Step Three: The first interaction.

The key to every love story, in my opinion, is the first interaction. In general, I find that love story first meetings go one of three ways: either the couple feels an instant spark, they instantly hate each other, or they barely notice each other at all except mild acknowledgment. So decide which of the three ways your meeting is going to go.

If they’re going to get along, decide what they instantly connect on and go with it. Write the scene and let try to make it last a few pages in the first draft. Show the strength of their immediate connection. Is it just physical, or is it mental, or both? Do they plan to meet again? Or never again? Explore the scene and free write a bit, you can cut it down later.

If they’re going to fight, then what is it that’s going to make them hate each other? Since my protagonist is always negative, I think it would work best if she and the pet owner get in a fight initially. She wants him to treat his dog with a specific medicine, but he’s adamant that he wants to treat the dog naturally. Whatever your characters are fighting about, write the scene.

It’s generally works better if they can both be somewhat right, because you want them both to be likable. So for mine, I wouldn’t make the illness for the dog anything serious, maybe something minor like fleas, and then the fight isn’t something that would make the owner, or the vet, unlikable.

If they’re barely going to notice each other, they still have to connect on some small scale so there is something to build their relationship on as the story progresses. So what is the small detail they’re each going to remember about each other? Do they both buy the same item in a store? Do they both do something kind for the same stranger without knowing it? Does something one does have a positive impact on the other somehow?

Write the scene and see what transpires between your protagonist and new love interest. Remember, you aren’t writing the entire relationship, you’re writing the first meeting. You want to leave room for their relationship to grow and develop. So make sure when the pair parts, there’s room for things to continue changing between them.

I really think the first meeting is the key to developing any relationship because it sets the tone for everything to come in the story for that couple. Once you have that first meeting right on paper, then you can build the rest of the relationship from there.

If you want another way to start the story for your love interest, you can also try my “Meet Cute” writing prompt on Author the World.

Until next month, happy writing!


It’s All About Love

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I recently attended a fiftieth anniversary party for a couple that I know. Their son and daughter-in-law put it all together for them, and it was a really nice affair. It was quite touching to see the loving care that went into all the preparations and listen as several people rose to tell stories about the celebrated couple, some examples of their kind hearts or their love for one another. Many of the stories drew quite a few chuckles from the guests.

It is not surprising that their marriage had lasted fifty years, for anyone who has ever seen them together can see that they not only love each other, but that they are still in love with one another. Theirs is a true life love story.

As a writer, of course, my observations about people often find their way into my stories. While I don’t turn my family and friends into characters, I do give my characters traits from real people at times. So, as I listened to the stories being told about them, I thought about all the ways my friends’ actions make their love for one another obvious, and how I might use some of them to create a heart warming love story with characters that are convincing.

It’s the little things, such as how she looks her husband in the eyes, and says, “I love you”, several times each day. To the observer, the expression of love on her face leaves little doubt that she means those words with all her heart. And to see the look of adoration in his eyes as he gazes into hers, it is obvious that love is reciprocated. That’s the kind of thing that I need to portray on the page to show depth of the love of my characters.

Their love shows in the courtesy and respect they give one another. She never fails to ask whay he’d like to eat before she begins the preparation of each meal. Although at 75, he now requires a caregiver to assist him with his daily needs, he stillmanages to surprise her with the perfect gift on special occasions. It shows in the tenderness of her voice when she speaks to him and the adoration in his reply. These all could be used by a skilled hand to show readers that your character couple loves one another deeply.

Now that I think about it, their relationship might make a story in and of itself, of the nonfiction variety. For many couples, the stroke he suffered two years ago would mean separation, with him going into a nursing facility, where he could receive the proper care, but not this couple. No. There was never any thought of separating from one another. Instead, my friends left their beautiful tri-level home for a year and a half to live in a single level duplex during his recovery. They adapted the tri-level to accommodate his needs and they sleep next to one another in their own bed today. They did what they had to do to remain together.that

Now, if you ask me, that’s love. If I can portray just a little bit of that kind of love in my writing, I would consider it a great accomplishment. Think about it. Love is a great motivator for your characters, can pose obstacles which are rough to overcome, and can give your characters an unbreakable bond offering strength to beat all the odds. When you get right down to it, the cornerstone of most stories is love.


“Bullet”: The Story of a Toxic Romance

bullet

Bullet is the first book in Jade C. Jamison’s Rock Star Romance series. This book was presented as an erotic romance, so I approached it with expectations of one big non-stop sex scene that would make me blush just reading it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although there were explicit sex scenes, they were sprinkled in like a good seasoning, used to enhance the romance story, enhancing rather than overwhelming the main course.

Jamison takes readers on a journey into the world of heavy metal rock, where the music is loud, the partying hard, and sex is abundantly available. Valerie is young and a little naive, but she loves metal and the long-haired, pierced and tatooed bad boys that go with it. In college, she meets Ethan, who fits the profile, and she falls for him hard, so hard that her love for him brings her running back to him again and again, no matter how bad he mistreats her.

Bullet is the story of her relationship with Ethan and his band mate, Brad. It’s the story of drugs, sex and rock and roll. I give Bullet four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth gives honest reviews and never charges. If you have a book you would like reviewed you can contact Kaye at kayebooth[at]yahoo[dot]com