Sleuth on Safari

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author A.R. Kennedy and her cozy mystery novel, Sleuth on Safari.

Author’s description:

Naomi and her estranged sister are off on a trip of a lifetime—an African safari, a bucket list trip for Naomi on which she got a last-minute deal. Naomi thinks traveling with her sister will be the worst part of her African safari until she finds one of their fellow travelers, the unlikable Dr. Higgins, dead. She gets more adventure than she bargained for when she starts investigating what she thinks is murder but the luxury lodge says was a tragic accident. She only has a few vacation days, and a few game drives, to find the killer.

My Review:

In, Sleuth on Safari A.R. Kennedy has written a fun and easy-to-read amateur sleuth novel that will have you turning the pages to cheer on its rookie crime solver, all while enjoying the excitement of a safari.

I’ve been lucky enough to go on a trip similar to the one in the book* (without the murder, of course) and I can assure you Kennedy does a fine job of capturing the wild beauty of nature in sub-Sahara Africa as well as some of the less story-book aspects of such a trip.

She does it while presenting a likable sleuth, an adequately complex cast of suspects, and a satisfying ending.

My most significant complaints all occurred early on, when the two sisters in questions seemed more like they were squabbling preteens, not young women in their twenties. As other characters were introduced they came across as stereotypes. However, Kennedy was just getting started. Most of the safari guests became more complex as the trip went on, and the protagonist Naomi and her sister began to act their age after the first few chapters.

One the things I enjoyed most was the ongoing humor regarding the lack of internet access. Her description of other little things like the ubiquitous safari-themed decor, lavish meals and five a.m. game rides were all right on the mark, too. And anyone who has ever spent a night alone in the wilderness (yes, I have) will love reading about Naomi’s night alone in the tree house.

I recommend this book to those who like cozy mysteries, and to all who enjoy travel, whether they’ve been to Africa or not. This novel is a fine way to take a memorable armchair trip.

About the Author:

A R Kennedy lives in Long Beach, New York, with her two pups. She works hard to put food on the floor for them. As her favorite T-shirt says, ‘I work so my dog can have a better life’. She’s an avid traveler. But don’t worry. While she’s away, her parents dote on their grand-puppies even more than she does. Her writing is a combination of her love of travel, animals, and the journey we all take to find ourselves.

Find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Bookbub or on Twitter. 

Buy Sleuth on Safari on Amazon.

Yes, there is a giveaway.

A. R. Kennedy will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

I returned my attention to our current view. The lush green landscape in front of us. For over a mile, the varying shades of green spanned in front of us. Nothing man-made in sight. Even if you looked to your right or left, you couldn’t see the other lodgings. All you saw was nature.

Some of the greens started to sway. Initially, I thought it was the wind, but the movement was just in a small area. I pulled my binoculars out of my backpack for a closer look and gaped at what I saw.

Our phone rang and Charlotte ran to get it.

Now in full view, I watched a herd of elephants appear in the field. The twenty-plus elephants varied in age and sizes. The wrinkled gray bodies, with white curved tusks, marched along the land, spread out from each other. Their tails gently swung back and forth. Some stopped to graze. Their elongated trunks reached into the trees for leaves.

“It was Geri, from next door,” Charlotte told me as she returned. I pointed to the field. “Wow,” she gasped.

In silence, we watched the herd traverse the field. I snapped a few photos but spent most of the time just watching them. They walked slowly across the land. I smiled as a calf—that’s what Sonny told me a baby elephant was—trotted to keep up with his mother after he had fallen behind. The elephants’ trunks swung slowly back and forth as they plodded along. Occasionally, they stopped to graze a few leaves from the trees before resuming their journey together.

The herd now gone, I asked, “Why’d Geri call?”

“Wanted to let us know about the herd of elephants.”

I rested my head on the lounge chair. “That’s nice.”

“Ulterior motive, I’m sure.”

* A Personal Note:

I do love cozy mysteries but I picked this book primarily for its connection to travel in Africa. It did not disappoint. You can read about and see photos from my own safari at Happy Peace Day, Chinese Person in Tent Number 59 and Smiling my way across Kenya.

 

I Know When You’re Going To Die

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Michael J Bowler and his Mystery/Thriller novel, I Know When You’re Going To Die.

Author’s description:

Leonardo Cantrell is a painfully shy sixteen-year-old who cannot look people in the eye. One night while he’s volunteering at a homeless shelter, an old man forces eye contact and gives Leo the power to see Death.

 

His best, and only, friend—J.C. Rivera—thinks this new power is cool until Leo accidentally looks into J.C.’s eyes and “sees” his murder, a murder that will occur in less than two weeks. Stunned and shaken, the two boys sift through clues in Leo’s “vision” in a desperate effort to find the killer and stop him before he can strike.

 

Aided by feisty new-girl-at-school, Laura, the boys uncover evidence suggesting the identity of the murderer. However, their plan to trap the would-be killer goes horribly awry and reveals a truth that could kill them all.

My Review:

In the cleverly titled I know When You’re Going to Die, Michael J Bowler begins with a fascinating premise and delivers a taut and unpredictable tale. I raced through it.

What I liked best:

  1. The concept of needing to solve a murder before it happens is an interesting one. I’ve seen it elsewhere in science fiction, but the idea of having a “superpower” to know when others will die is unique, as far as I know, and the whole idea of solving a crime to prevent it is well executed here.
  2. The pacing is perfect. The suspense builds throughout the story and Bowler keeps the reader turning the pages without overloading or exhausting them.
  3. Leo, Bowler’s clinically shy good-guy protagonist, is a hero for all. Seriously, if you can’t cheer this guy on, consider seeking professional help.
  4. It’s a genre crime novel, so the reader knows the mystery will be solved just in time, but the ending is sufficiently convoluted and unexpected. It feels worth the wait.
  5. The underlying messages of friendship, tolerance and kindness are a refreshing bonus.

What I liked least:

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I think my minor issues with it stem from it being a young adult novel, one in which all of the protagonists are high school students. So, my recommendation comes with the caveat that the reader should not expect the story to go outside the scope of a young adult novel.

  1. I felt too many of the adult characters were not well-fleshed out. For example, the story included not one, but three moms who cared little about their teenage children. Hard for me to believe, but maybe not so hard for a teen-aged reader.
  2. The complicated relationship between close same-gender friends during the teen years and early sexual attraction and exploration is central to the story, and yet the author shies away from resolving issues. Again, I suspect the young age of the intended audience is the reason, so I gave him a pass on this one.
  3. The premise behind the plot brings up major philosophical questions about predetermination, death and even cause and effect. I’d have loved to see some of this stuff tackled … but again…..

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime story, or a good superhero story. You absolutely have to read it if you enjoy both.

About the Author:

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in Northern California. He majored in English/Theatre at Santa Clara University, earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and a master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Michael taught high school in Hawthorne, California, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities.

When Michael is not writing, you can find him volunteering as a youth mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and raising his newly adopted son. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, and hopes his books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles.

Find Michael J Bowler on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram or on Twitter. 

Visit Michael J Bowler on his website.

 Buy I Know When You’re Going To Die on Amazon

Yes, there is a giveaway.

Michael J Bowler will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN gift certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

I’m not sure how long I lay curled up on that beach before I hear someone huffing and puffing above me.

J.C.

I crack open my eyes. He’s doubled over, clutching at his sides and fighting for breath. Sweat streams from his wavy black hair down onto his face. “What…” he wheezes, struggling to breathe, “did… you… see?”

I unravel myself and sit up, pulling my knees in and clutching my legs tightly. I don’t look at him, instead scanning the surrounding beach. It’s a weekday and there’s nobody around except the lifeguard in his station, and he isn’t very close.

“Leo!”

I look up as he collapses to the sand and gazes at me with wide, terrified eyes.

Still, I can’t bring myself to say it.

He grabs me by both shoulders. His grip feels like iron. His panting has lessened, but not the fear on his face. “Tell me. Please.”

I lower my eyes again. “You’re…” I force myself to breathe. “You’re going to be…” I can’t say it.

“What?”

“Murdered!” I blurt, glancing at the stunned look on his face.

His mouth opens, but nothing comes out for a long moment. “When?” His voice is a choked whisper.

I don’t want to say it, but I have to. “A week from Friday.”

He gags, like he’s gonna throw up all over me. I’ve never seen him so vulnerable, so small and afraid, and that scares me more than what I saw in his eyes. He collapses onto the sand and cries.

 

How does he really look?

The human chameleon Zane can look like anyone, but when I first wrote Shape of Secrets (called y1 at the time) I was obsessed with how Zane really looked. My first cover included Zane as a child, and that guided my vision.

When I decided to rename my books, I needed new covers. Current fashion is to show the characters, so it looked like I had to find someone who could show the world what the adult Zane really looked like. I found a group called Deranged Doctor Design.

The first head DDD proposed for Zane was great, but he had too much facial hair. (My realistic shape shifter is unable to alter the dead hair cells on his head and on his face.)

DDD came back with a second option and it just wasn’t right. I didn’t know what Zane looked like, but it wasn’t this. I could tell.

The third attempt looked right as soon as I saw it. He became Zane without modification.

When it came time to create the last cover, we needed Zane to make a second appearance, but not with an identical face. This particular model did have many options to choose from, but unfortunately most of them weren’t so appropriate for the sort of book I was writing.

Zanes

 

PROPOSAL 2018-0814 S R Cronin b06 v4But among all the sexy options, there was another version of Zane that would work,  particularly when paired a body that fit well with my family friendly story.

It’s funny how this model now is Zane in my head.  I guess this is what he really looks like.

Learning to Juggle

I came home from a month long trip last fall, on fire. I knew what I was going to spend the next eight months doing. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.

I knew I wanted to rewrite/heavily edit all six of my books to fit a grand vision. I wanted better titles, more marketable covers, less typos, more action and more sensitivity. Chapters had to be shorter, dialog snappier, and everything more pithy. Less Michener. More poet. Where to start?

I drew on my experiences in management in a former life to chart a course, knowing I would have to motivate and direct the most challenging human I’ve ever had to deal with — me.

I do like to make color-coded spreadsheets, so I let myself go wild. It didn’t look too bad. I can do this.

Now that I’m about half-way through this, it’s time to ask. How’s it going?

Well….. Book one is out there and I’m happy with it, but I don’t have nearly enough time to advertise or promote it.  It has a review tour going which I should be putting more energy into, and I just printed out a large-type copy for my narrator who has finished a chapter of my first ever audio book and is ready for more. The sound guy will have that chapter back to us for review this week. Yikes.

Book two is out there and I’m happy with it, but I’m struggling to even get basics done like make request reviews and order hard copies for myself.

Book three comes out in two weeks. It’s still with my final proofreader and that’s making me nervous. I don’t have the paperback cover yet because I ran so late in getting the text for the back cover to my designers.  Argghhh.

Book four is on hold, having been edited. It’s ready for my final read through which I was supposed to be starting next week but there is just no way.

Book five is being edited now, and the new cover is in progress. Been through two iterations on the cover and it’s looking good. Will get what is hopefully the final version on Wednesday.

I’m not even thinking about book six.

Honestly, this is all too much to hold in my head at once. I keep checking my spreadsheet thinking I’m forgetting some essential component somewhere. There’s got to be something I’m forgetting.

Sleep? Food? Wait. In the process of trying to juggle everything, I think I’m forgetting to enjoy this.

 

90001 words and ready

Last month I held my breath and input the information to change the name of my first novel. I was changing a few other things at the same time, like of the cover (of course) and how I present my name. For all my worry, the experience went remarkably well.

Now, I’m ready to do it again. Shape of Secrets is as done, double checked, and triple checked as it is going to get. I’m into formatting and prepping mode, with the hope of submitting all formats on Sunday the 17th, getting approval Monday the 18th.

The initial word count was 125,665. This new slim version comes it at exactly 90,001 words. I think that’s really cool for a book that used to be called y1.

Almost my new cover

I love where Deranged Doctor Design is going with this cover. What do you think? I’m having such fun re-birthing my second novel. The newly named and highly edited new version will be out in mid-February and I can’t wait.

Curious to see the first two versions? Here’s the first proposal.

I liked it, but wanted more orange, and more of a sense of the tropics. Also, Zane’s shape-altering abilities force him to forego facial hair in the book, so Zane had to change. Finally, much as I like the lasso of fire, as I called it, on the first book, I didn’t want to commit to having it on all six covers. So here is the second version.

I liked everything about this one but Zane, or more specifically Zane’s head. I could tell we were getting close, though, and we were.

y1 will die

What prompts an author to kill her own book?

On January 1, 2019 my second novel is scheduled to die. I admit the prospect makes me sad. This book, with its fiery sunset-themed cover, has been part of my life for a while.

I finished it in early 2012, and released it on Kindle September 2012. Shape shifter Zane and his unique crime solving skills were a source of pride and joy.

As with my first book, x0, I’ve never totaled up the exact sales, because it’s not easy to separate a sale from a give-away. I’m pretty sure I’ve been paid for at least three hundred copies, and have gifted at least as many more. I’d hoped for more sales, of course, but every time a stranger liked my book and let me know, it delighted me. No regrets.

Times change. Sales of y1 have gone from small to nearly zero.

A few months ago, I attended a conference of science fiction writers, and signed up for a mentor. It may have been one of my more useful decisions. This guy pointed out that I could still have a marketable product in this particular story, but I needed a more genre-appropriate cover, a much better title, and an updated and aggressive marketing plan.

I can change the title of my book? Apparently I can. I do need a new ISBN number (no problem). I also need to acknowledge to the new reader what has been done (just in case he or she is one of the 600 humans who already read this story.)

And …. I need to kill y1. That is, I must take it off the market completely. No electronic versions for sale, although those who have it obviously always will. No new paperbacks printed and sold, although nothing can prevent current owners from reselling their copies on Amazon and elsewhere.

Over the years, I’ve eliminated all the hyperlinks in the book, and the text that went with them. I’ve made corrections and done minor clean-up. Why not. But I’ve refrained from doing anything major.

Because this will be a new book, I have the chance to do some serious editing. So I have. The original y1 came in at just under 125,000 words. The leaner new version is under 103,000. I’ve broken the chapters into smaller chunks. I’ve given more attention to point of view. I’ve taken the techniques I’ve learned over the past six years, at conferences, from other writers, and simply from practicing my craft for hours every week, and I’ve done my best to fold those learnings into telling my story better.

I’m pleased with the result.

So while y1 will soon cease to exist, it will give birth to a new and better novel. I’ll be blogging all about it soon