Should we Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

SunriseTwice a year it happens, and throws off my day–no, several, if not a whole week–every time. My friend Jim Winter complains about it at least once, usually twice a year. This year, he calls it “Winter’s Final Screw You,” and has at other times referred to it as the “crappiest time of the year” and his “least favorite time of year.”

I have to admit, I agree. It’s basically jet-lag without going anywhere, and the older I get, the more it throws me off. Some people think it’s cool to get that extra hour in the fall (usually when they are at a bar at a Halloween party), but for me, it usually is just taken up in adjustment time. Or at the very least, an extra hour to sleep in without feeling like so much of a slug. But then the days that are already getting short seem that much shorter when sunset comes an hour earlier.

The springtime spring forward is even worse. I have enough trouble getting to sleep at night that I can’t just go to bed an hour earlier and get anything out of it. But I still have to get up an hour earlier the next day.

Of the two, I hate the switch to Standard Time in the winter more, because of that whole short day getting shorter thing. Even the government has figured out that it’s not such a good thing–we use more energy when daylight fades sooner, which is why we fall back later now than we did a few years ago, and spring forward sooner. Daylight Savings Time really does save.

OTOH, it is that much harder to get up early when it’s still dark, and the switch to Standard Time means I have to do that for only about a month. Also, I don’t like the idea of kids having to walk to school or wait for the bus in the dark any more than most parents do, so minimizing that is a good thing.

Jim’s post says there’s a movement afoot to abolish time change. I can’t say I’d be sad if that happened. Given the above, I’m not sure if that’s a solution. Neither way gives me any extra hours in the day–which is what I’d really like.

ROW80Logo175Which brings me around to my ROW80 update. I don’t know where the week went, but not much of it went to writing. I only got about 1500 words written, when I wanted to get 3500. I did get the website done, which was partially spurred by the fact that last week, I said, “this time for sure!” So that’s a win. Fitness was again, halfway there. But with the website done, I do get to move on to something else this week, which is a good thing. 🙂 Also, because my friend has been more than patient with me and I’m glad to finally have it taken care of for her. I might have a few more tweaks to do after she looks it over, but otherwise, I’m moving on to the next thing on the list. Here goes for this week:

  • 3500 new words
  • Tie up any loose ends on website and format print book for friend
  • Fitness 3-4x

What about you–do you like time change, or do you think we should just abolish it altogether? Which one do you find harder to deal with, fall back or spring forward? And whether or not you’re a writer or participating in ROW80, how did you do on whatever goals you had this week? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Jim Winter and the Power of Bartering

Yes, it’s ROW80 check in day, but first, . I have a special treat for my blog readers. My friend Jim Winter is here today to share one way an indie writer can put out a professional product in today’s publishing world without breaking the bank–something I was glad to help him with! And now, heeeeerrrreee’s Jim….


Compleat Winter

Jim’s newest release, in which he’s taken a stab at doing his own cover art

With publishing changing around us, authors are learning they have to do more for themselves. But covers are expensive and not easily done. Editing moreso. The average editor will charge around $900 for a 90,000-word manuscript. What’s the broke author to do?

Barter is your friend. You likely have skills another writer needs. They have skills you need. For instance, many of us are not artists. I know I’m trying. I’m getting better at using GIMP, an open-source alternative to Photoshop. But until I can do more than one cover, I need to have someone else do our covers.

That is where our lovely hostess Jennette has stepped in. Jennette needs something every writer needs: Editing. Never edit yourself. (That’s not to say don’t do revisions. You should do some clean-up before letting anyone see your work.) At the very least, a beta. If you understand story structure, genre, and, most importantly, grammar, you can do this for other writers. It’s a skill every writer should learn anyway if they want to improve their craft.

Jen needs a beta read for her current works in progress. I needed to replace the covers I made for my Nick Kepler series. They were… okay. Unfortunately, when I decided to release them in print, the city skyline pixilated. Jennette and I went back and forth on cover ideas for Bad Religion and came up with something that changed the entire branding of the series. Now all the covers have a similar look and feel. What did I pay her?

Compleat KeplerI’m to take a red pen to some of her work. The only money exchanged was for licensing fees on the cover photos.

Barter is not perfect, though. You have to have something to trade the other writer. You need to pick someone who can do what you need them to do, and vice versa. Not everyone can edit or format a book or make impressive covers. Choose carefully. This is your business, whether you think of it that way or not.

One benefit of barter is that, if you do something enough for other people and get really good at it, you have a new line of business. Many editors and cover artists I know started out this way.

Embrace barter. It’s an important tool for the independent writer.

Northcoast Shakedown    Secondhand Goods    Bad Religion

About Jim: Born near Cleveland in 1966, Jim Winter had a vivid imagination – maybe too vivid for his own good – that he spun into a career as a writer. He is the author of Northcoast Shakedown, a tale of sex, lies, and insurance fraud – and Road Rules, an absurd heist story involving a stolen holy relic. Jim now lives in Cincinnati with his wife Nita and stepson AJ. To keep the lights on, he is a web developer and network administrator by day. Visit him at http://www.jamesrwinter.net, like Jim Winter Fiction on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter @authorjimwinter.


Jennette says: The original covers on Jim’s Nick Kepler books were not serving his books well. Covers need to not only draw attention in a crowded marketplace, they also need to communicate genre and the overall tone of the book, which the original covers did not do. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design and worked in that field for over ten years before transitioning into software, but even someone without that kind of experience can pick up some design skills with practice, some trial and error, and possibly some training. I’ve heard good things about Dean Wesley Smith‘s online workshop on cover design from authors who’ve taken it. Jim is definitely getting better with practice, as The Compleat Winter cover shows, and I’ve no doubt he’ll continue to improve.

On the other hand, not everyone has the inclination or the interest to take on the learning curve that designing a good book cover entails, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Much better to pay someone–or barter!–and give your book the best chance possible in an increasingly difficult market.

Jim has a new release out–The Compleat Winter, a collection of crime fiction short stories, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble and other online retailers in both ebook and print. His Nick Kepler series and short story collection, and other works are available there as well. His books are action-packed and entertaining with a good dash of humor, so if you like crime fiction, check them out.

ROW80Logo175As for my ROW80 update, I wrote 4000 words on the WIP this week, so that’s a win! Didn’t hit the fitness or the website project, but I made good progress on the latter.

What about you–if you’re an indie author, do you design your own covers? I do my own–for my publisher. 🙂 Whether or not you’re a writer, have you ever bartered skills you’re good at for ones you’re not? Got questions about Jim and my bartering process? (Just an FYI–I’m booked for at least the next year). If you’re participating in ROW80, we’re about halfway through the round–how are you doing? Please share–I’d love to hear from you! And if you have questions for Jim, I’m sure he’ll be happy to pop in and answer.

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Some Weeks are Just a Bust

I did not make any of my goals this week. I could blame it on a lot of things–unexpected happenings, more commitments than usual, poor planning, not feeling well, but despite all of that I could have still met the goals. But still, it wasn’t a bad week.

I knew I had things going on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, which are a couple of my prime times for writing. But my husband was also out of town this week, so I’d expected to be able to make up for those earlier in the week.

That just didn’t happen. It started out being another tired week (and also headachey). Not whining, just sayin’. Thursday was a lot of fun–I participated on a panel at the library about romance novels, with writing friends Stacy McKitrick, Athena Grayson, Catherine Castle, CD Hersh, and Jessica Lemmon, which was a lot of fun. Several of us went to dinner afterward, where I met a new writing friend from my community, and that was great fun too, as hanging out with other writers always is.

ROW80Logo175I did some of the same Saturday, when I went to Cincinnati and met up with Jim Winter for a beer and a bite to eat, and more writing talk. Always a good time.

I’d still hoped to catch up on my writing after I got back, but that didn’t happen. Not sure why, just couldn’t get into it. I think I just need to skip some boring and unnecessary details and get to the next part where the bad guys come in. I have some friends from Columbus visiting today, but am off work tomorrow, so I’m going to push on that then.

Of course, due to the same things, not much got done on the website project, nor did my fitness get done. I did get some work done on the website last Sunday, and got 2700 words total on my writing throughout the week, so it wasn’t a total bust–just didn’t meet any of my goals all the way. This is one of those times where I have to remind myself that it’s a new week, and a new chance to meet your goals. Don’t try to catch up, just jump in where you are.

So next week’s goals will be the same: 3500 words on the WIP, 3-4x fitness, and finish that website project.

On another note, Love’s a Beach is now out in print! It’s available in both print and ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in ebook at iTunes and Smashwords.

What about you–do you have weeks where you just can’t get it all done, for whatever reason? What do you do to get back in the groove? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Sometimes Thinking is Work, and Antagonists

Northcoast Shakedown

My latest book cover design!

I don’t feel like I did a lot this week, but when I look back, I actually did. I knocked out my book cover goal quickly–on Sunday, in fact–to make sure it didn’t slip this week. My friend Jim Winter loved it, approved it, and is now in the process of updating his retail listings!

But what really doesn’t feel like I did much was the rest of the week. The plan was to continue working on my outline. I did get some more done on this, but my ideas seemed to stall out midway through the week. I guess this is what happens to non-plotting writers (aka “pantsers”) when they are writing the draft and hit the sagging middle. But I couldn’t figure out why it was happening to me, and why now. Then I read this blog post by Kristen Lamb on Friday, and it hit me. The post was appropriately called “The Single Largest Cause of Writer’s Block–Might Not Be What You Believe.”

So true! And it was exactly what she said: I hadn’t figured out my story’s antagonist. Oh, I had minions – secondary bad guys left over from the previous books in the series, but who was (to use Kristen’s term) the “Big Boss Troublemaker?” I had no idea. So I had to figure out who he or she is, what s/he is doing, and perhaps most importantly, why.

I’ve done a lot of sitting and thinking these past couple of days, and have figured out a lot. But I still have more work to do in that area, so on to the goals.

ROW80Logo175Last week’s goals went well:

  • Continue brainstorming/outlining for SS Book 3 – Not as much as I wanted, but I’ll count this as a yes!
  • Initial cover art for friend who’s going to beta read – yes!

For this week, I want to:

  • Do the Character Pre-plan Exercise from Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways workshop. This walks the writer through some basic questions and helps us to figure out who the character is, his/her goals, motivations, background, etc., and can be used for any major characters.
  • Work on outline–create 25 cards to add to my virtual bulletin board. It sounds easy, but I have a feeling it won’t be–or maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised!

So, let’s talk about antagonists, books, TV, movies, whatever. Probably the best bad guy I’ve read is the Del-a-Shar from Sheri McGathy’s epic fantasy Elfen Gold. He destroyed his entire race, yet when we find out why, he’s chillingly relateable and understandable! Antagonists need not be villains, but this one certainly is. Who are some of your favorites, villainous or not? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

WANA Wednesday: Mystery, History and Romance!

My writing friends have been busy these past couple of weeks! Like most writers, my To-Be-Read pile (or list on my Kindle, rather) runneth over, yet I had to snag these.

Bad ReligionFirst up, we have crime fiction from my IRL friend Jim Winter, the latest in his Nick Kepler P.I. series. This is one of the covers I designed a couple of weeks ago, and I had tons of fun with it! In Bad Religion, Nick and Elaine are shadowing the pastor of a suburban church. So far, they’ve found nothing on him, but one of Nick’s operatives comes across something that tells them they’ve been on the wrong track. But a collision on a lonely rural road keeps Nick from finding out what. It also forces Nick to look more closely at the church itself. Who’s really skimming the money? Is it Calvin Leach, the church leader who wants to be the next great televangelist? Is it Alex Pullman, whose real estate fortune was made paving over perfectly good neighborhoods to build upscale shopping malls? Is it one of the church board? Or is there more going on here, a religious schism that’s closer to Nick’s past than he imagined?

In the background is Nikolai Karpov, the Russian mobster who seemingly likes Nick enough to want to bring him into his organization. Meanwhile, Elaine is dealing with the disintegration of her marriage and what her budding partnership with Nick means, both personally and professionally.

It’s not obvious from Jim’s description, but there’s some great humor in here, too – enough that, when I was beta reading this at work several years ago (I had nothing to do), my coworkers kept giving me weird looks because I kept trying to stifle laughter. More info and buy links on Jim’s blog.


COLLATERAL CASUALTIES_BarnesNoble1-662x1024Want some more mystery and suspense? Kassandra Lamb has released Collateral Casualties, the fifth in her Kate Huntington mystery series. When a former client reaches out to psychotherapist Kate Huntington and reveals a foreign diplomat’s dark secret, then dies of ‘natural causes’ just days later, Kate isn’t sure what to think. Was the man delusional or is she now privy to dangerous information?

Soon she discovers her client was totally sane… and he was murdered. Someone is now trying to eliminate her, and anyone and everyone she might have told. Forced into hiding, she and her husband, Skip, along with the operatives of his private investigating agency, struggle to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer. Skip and his P.I. partner are good investigators, but this time they may be in over their heads… and they could all end up drowning in a sea of international intrigue. More info and buy links on Kassandra’s website.


MASQUERADEHow about some history with a little romance? New out from Maria McKenzie is Masquerade, the second in her Escape Trilogy.

Celebrated actress Lavinia Hargraves performs her most challenging role offstage. Although born in 1872 to Daniel Taylor, a white man and wealthy landowner in southern California, Lavinia’s mother, Lori, is a Negro and former slave. Lavinia, who appears white, is desperate to hide her Negro ancestry, as well as pursue her dream of becoming the world’s greatest actress. After eloping with the much older Vernon Hargraves, owner of New York’s premier theater company, Lavinia is provided with all she could ever want: a new life as white, stardom on the stage, and an abundant supply of money. Soon Lavinia’s seduction by a young and handsome actor sets in motion a devastating turn of events. Dashing millionaire contractor Andrew Standish comes into Lavinia’s life at a time when she needs him most. However, the secret of Lori’s existence could demolish her daughter’s carefully constructed facade. To what lengths will Andrew go to uncover Lavinia’s past? More info and buy links on Maria’s blog.


Conquest-of-the-HeartIf you prefer your history with a lot of romance, Michele Stegman never disappoints (at least me!). Conquest of the Heart is “a lighthearted romp through the dark ages,” in which Madeline wants a big, brash, never-defeated-in-battle, Norman knight. What she gets, by order of the king, is a wiry Saxon who once studied for the priesthood instead of warfare. But is this gentle man she has fallen in love with entangled in the rebellion now sweeping the land?Ranulf wants to marry the girl next door. What he gets, by order of the king , is a lush, strong Norman woman who just might be a spy reporting his every move. He wants her in every way a man can possibly want a woman. But can he trust his heart to a woman who might have been sent to root out the struggle for freedom his people are engaged in? More info and buy links on Michele’s website.


ROW80Logo175Quick ROW80 update: This is it for Round 2! Or rather, Thursday is, I believe. I’ve made a good dent in re-reading Holly Lisle’s How to Write a Series, and the ideas for my next Saturn Society book keep coming, so I consider that a win! Next round, the words!

How about you? Think you might just have to add to your overflowing TBR list or pile? If you’re doing ROW80 – or even if you’re not – how did you do on your goals this spring? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

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Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

ROW80: Why do I do this to myself?

ROW80Logo175I’ve missed a few ROW80 check-ins this round, and while I don’t believe in excuses, I do have a couple of reasons.

One is “Life: the Good Stuff.” This includes my daughter’s graduation, various end-of -year programs leading up to that (and after), and a subsequent graduation party which went very well. Yesterday and the day before, we had college orientation.

In  the middle of that, I managed to get my short story revised, so my other reason was “hiding out in the revision cave.” Sometimes, writing a blog post is just one thing too many. It’s like during the holidays, when we have too many things to do, and we need to evaluate what we can drop from the list, and avoid getting stressed out.

The revisions wouldn’t have been a big deal–after all, it’s just a short story–but they turned out to be somewhat extensive. You see, after writing the first draft, I realized I’d set my story in the wrong place. And after beginning revisions, I realized I’d also set it in the wrong time.

I knew I had to make these changes, but at the same time, I asked myself, “Why do I do this to myself?”

I’d initially set the story at a fictitious beach resort in order to be able to just get something written. This is a Saturn Society story, and so far, those have all taken place primarily in real locales (barring Hollowville, Tennessee in Time’s Fugitive, which is fictitious). It was missing something, that little dose of real history that is one of the things in my books my readers have told me they love. And therein was the answer to my question: I do it for my readers. It’s also for me: once I’d made the decision to change time and place, I was a lot more excited about the story, and found some way fun history to work in, which I will share here when the story is released.

And that makes it all worthwhile.

As for this week’s ROW80 goals stated on Wednesday, I did complete the three book cover designs. One of the authors is out of town, so I haven’t heard back on that one, and another is for the anthology that “Time’s Tempest” will appear in. I haven’t sent it to anyone yet, but I’m publishing it, and I’m happy with it. 😀 I sent out, got approval, and finalized one for my friend Jim Winter, and he and I are both very happy with it! I’ll be giving all three some cover lovin’ here soon. So a successful week to be sure!

This week, I need to figure out what my next project will be, and if my other friend gets back to me on her cover, I’ll finalize that as well.

What about you–knocked out any goals lately? Have you had any change, and needed to ask yourself why? And if so, did you find the answers? 🙂 Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Behind the Book: the guy behind that Kepler guy, Jim Winter

I have a special treat for WANA/Writer Wednesday! Jim Winter, author of the Nick Kepler crime fiction series, has stopped by to answer a few questions, and give us some insight into the books, and what makes him (and P.I. Nick Kepler) tick.

JJim WinterMP: How long have you been writing? How many books did you write before publishing?

JW: I’ve been writing for myself since I was a kid. I did a novel-length story back in 1990 just to see if I could handle the form, but I didn’t attempt a “serious” novel until about 2001.

JMP: Sounds familiar, at least the beginning! I did the same thing, but didn’t do much with shorts after school. Have you been published by a big publisher? Small press/epub? Independently? Please share your publishing experience.

JW: Northcoast Shakedown was originally published by a small press in the Baltimore area. Long on good intentions, short on resources, they folded just as Second Hand Goods was going to be published. The sad thing is if I’d waited just another week, I could have been with an agent shopping those books to the Big Six.

JMP: Then again, with some of the horror stories I’ve read about agents, maybe you dodged a bullet! What made you decide to take this publishing path?

Compleat KeplerJW: I didn’t want to bury the Kepler books. I knew a publisher would not really want something someone else had already published unless I had a track record. So I decided to release them myself when ebooks made that feasible.

JMP: Totally makes sense, and I’m glad you did! What do you do for a day job? Has this informed or inspired your writing in any way?

JW: I do web programming for a living. Originally, I was an IT drone at an insurance company. Some of that job provided background for Nick Kepler, namely how he got his office, the type of work he does, etc.

JMP: Hehe, great how that works, isn’t it? How does you day job and other responsibilities, like family or school, impede your writing progress?

JW: The biggest impediment to writing for me is my education. I’m currently working on a dual major (because I was too lazy to do it in my late teens and early twenties), and the work involved sometimes takes time away from writing time.

JMP: I hear that! But as noted above, those day jobs can inspire us too (says the author who works at Hangar 18 🙂 ). So tell us about your upcoming release, Jim.

JW: Bad Religion is the third Kepler novel. Nick is hired to look into possible skimming by a young, popular minister only to discover it’s a ruse to hide someone else’s wrong-doing. We also find out what happens to Nick and Elaine after the events of Second Hand Goods.

JMP: I’m so glad you’re releasing this one! I remember reading it during a slow time at work, and my coworkers kept giving me weird looks because I kept laughing! Bad Religion is definitely the best Kepler yet. In the meantime, what’s on your nightstand or up next in your e-reader queue?

JW: Well, I’m getting ready to read John Rickards’ Winter’s End, which I’ve had for a long time, but never got around to it. I also have this novel about a mysterious hangar at Wright-Patt AFB that a very familiar author has just released.

JMP: 😀 I hope you like it – and thanks for reading! What’s the most recent nonfiction book you’ve read? What did you get out of it?

JW: I just finished Truman by David McCulloch. I’m a big history buff, and this was a fascinating look at the beginning of the Cold War and the Red Scare.

JMP: I may not comment on them often, but I’ve really enjoyed your posts about these books. For those who don’t (yet!) follow Jim’s blog, he’s been reading a biography of every U.S. president, in order, for about the past year and a half, then posts on his blog what he’s learned as well as what he thought of the particular book he read. In addition, he reviews fiction every now and then, and blogs about all kinds of other things in addition to his own books and short stories.

Jim, thanks for being with us! I’m looking forward to seeing the finalized Bad Religion, as well as digging into his newest release, The Compleat Kepler!



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Quick ROW80 upate:
I’ve spent a little time brainstorming my next book, but nothing concrete. I’m re-reading Holly Lisle’s Create a Plot Clinic to see if that shakes some more ideas loose. I’ve done only one workout so far, but did get around to visiting some other ROW80 blogs. And finally, I’m changing one of this week’s goals: instead of doing a chapter in the estate planning book, I need to collect all of our tax stuff for the accountant.

Does anyone have any questions or comments for Jim? Questions about his books, writing in general, Cincinnati or Cleveland, or whatever! Jim and I would love to hear from you!

Murder and Magic Plus ROW80 Check-in

We have murder and magic for WANA Wednesday this week! Check out these exciting new releases from two of my In Real Life friends:

Compleat KeplerMy friend Jim Winter has just released The Compleat Kepler, a boxed set of crime fiction featuring Cleveland P.I. Nick Kepler. From a sheriff’s deputy harassed by an insane stalker to a fugitive trying to escape on 9/11 to an interrupted tryst with a newly divorced lady friend, life is never boring for Nick Kepler. The star of Northcoast Shakedown and Second Hand Goods returns in 13 tales of crime on America’s Northcoast. The collection includes thirteen short stories, including “Walk in the Rain”. All of these works have been published in respected e-zines, and some have appeared in paper magazines. I have read a few of these stories, but not all, so this one’s on my Kindle now! More info at: http://eviljwinter.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/the-compleat-kepler-arrives/


robin_in_the_hood

Perhaps a different kind of mayhem is more to your taste? Writing buddy Diane J.  Reed sneaked a new release into the world last month, that I just found last week: Robin in the Hood. This YA romance is the story of Robin McArthur, a sophomore at the prestigious Pinnacle Boarding School for Girls, who thinks she has it all figured out when it comes to bilking her wealthy dad for guilt money as a substitute for his genuine affection. Until one day he suffers a stroke, and she learns the brutal truth:  they’re broke. And everyone from bankers to bookies has lined up in her dad’s hospital room to collect on the millions he’s racked up in debt.

His only saving grace is what he reveals to Robin in between drools—he truly does love her, in spite of all his mistakes. Panicked and desperate, Robin figures she has two choices: either surrender to the pestering caseworker and live in a skanky foster home, or take a chance and sneak her dad out of the hospital to make a run for it. Little does she know that stealing a car and hitting the road means that before the day is through, she will rob her first bank.

Now an outlaw, Robin finds a backwoods trailer park to hide her dad from authorities. There, she encounters Creek, a local bad boy who also commits crimes to provide for their motley neighbors. Realizing she could use Creek’s help, Robin proposes an ingenious plan—they should team up to rob banks together. But when their partnership leads to a romance that turns Robin’s whole world upside down, she soon begins to discover that people are more precious than pocketbooks, and real love means opening your heart to the kinds of treasures money can’t buy…

If this is anything like Diane’s debut novel, Twixt, it’s sure to be a lovely tale of magic and beauty found in places we wouldn’t expect. This one too, is on my Kindle in my TBR list! For more info: http://www.banditsranch.com/p/twixt.html


ROW80Logo175And now, a brief ROW80 upate: I’ve looked over the digital proof of Hangar 18: Legacy and I’m now waiting for a hardcopy proof! I’m doing the print book first this time, as I see more mistakes in that form. I have also kept up with my fitness so far, working out both days. I’m still looking for review readers for Hangar 18, so if that sounds like something you’d enjoy, let me know and I’ll be happy to send you a free review copy. You can read a description of it on my Other Books page.

What about you? Do you like to read about murder, or is magic (and thievery  more to your taste? Have you read any good books lately, or know of any exciting new releases? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

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Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

 

Gritty in the City with Jim Winter

My friend Jim Winter is back, with a fantastic new release in his Nick Kepler crime fiction series. He agreed to do an interview here, where we discuss the book. In Second Hand Goods, Cleveland PI Nick Kepler returns, but he’s trying to leave. A routine skip trace entangles Kepler in a stolen car ring and attracts the attention of a beautiful Russian woman, who may or may not be the mistress of one or more Russian crime lords. And all Nick wants to do is go on vacation.

Now, heeeeere’s Jim!

Jennette: Jim, it’s great to have you back on Making the Mundane Magical! Tell us a little about your new release, Second Hand Goods.

Jim: Second Hand Goods takes place the summer following the events of Northcoast Shakedown. It’s the July 4 weekend, and Nick is looking to blow town for a long-overdue vacation. However, at an engagement party for a friend, he hooks up with a beautiful Russian woman who seduces him into looking for a stolen limo. When the car turns up at an informant’s chop shop, he realizes he’s in the middle of a war between two Russian mobsters.

Jennette: Ah yes, Nick’s always a sucker for a hot chick! LOL – it’s gotten my main characters in a bit of trouble on more than one occasion, too. One of the challenges of writing a series based on a single character is deciding how or if to age the character, and how he/she changes, learns and grows. Can you share some of what Nick Kepler learned in Northcoast Shakedown that influences what he does in SHG without giving away spoilers? Or if you prefer, does Nick age? And if so, how much between books? Why did you choose this?

Jim: In Northcoast, Nick was basically working a case. He gets a little battered, but he comes out on top. In Second Hand, he’s about a year older, and the consequences to what happens to him can only force some lasting changes. He’s a bit tired of doing business with the seedier side of the city, and in the beginning, actually cuts loose Lenny Slansky (“A Walk in the Rain”) when Lenny stupidly rents him a stolen van for a fugitive grab.

Jennette: LOL I remember Lenny! One of my writing friends blogged about “stale” books not long ago – books with outdated technology or cultural references that in her opinion, pull her out of a story. You wrote both NCS and SHG in the early-to-mid 2000s, and you note this fact in your Author’s Note as an explanation for these elements. Can you tell us why you chose this route, as opposed to updating the books?

Jim: I left Northcoast as is since it was already released in paperback in 2005. Second Hand was six weeks from release when the publisher went out of business. Since they were essentially done, I decided to leave them as-is. As for future efforts, I haven’t decided yet. Nick will age, but whether his birth year remains 1968 or if it slides forward to accommodate when the books and stories are written hasn’t been decided yet.

I think if I keep him on the calendar, I’m going to have to be a bit more subtle about depicting the time. Technology inevitably goes stale. In five years, people might snicker at the idea of laptops, and few Mac users actually have a tower anymore. They’re mostly iMacs and laptops. Usually, the Windows world follows suit, and we’ll probably all be working off of pads before long.

Jennette: I’m so with you. That was a challenge with my books as well. On another note, both Nick Kepler books are set in Cleveland. Aside from the fact that you lived there for much of your life and are familiar with the area, what made Cleveland your choice for a crime fiction series, as opposed to your current hometown, Cincinnati? Are there any bits of setting in SHG that you love, that would give readers a good feel for the place, and would like to share?

Jim: Cleveland, I think, has more in common with larger cities like Chicago and Philadelphia than the river towns like Cincinnati. The language is coarser, the people more mixed, and there’s a certain energy you get in Chicago and the Northeast that you don’t see further south. I don’t think Nick would thrive very well in a southern city, and Cincinnati, being a somewhat southern-leaning, white collar town, probably wouldn’t appeal to him.

There is, of course, the appeal of having a large inland sea someone mistakenly dubbed a lake nearby. And Cleveland has that gritty post-industrial vibe to it.

Jennette: Having read the books, that totally makes sense–in fact, now that I think about it, it’s hard to picture Kepler anywhere else, and I’ve only been to Cleveland twice, a long time ago. So what’s next for Nick Kepler – are you planning to release the fantastic, LOL third book in the series that I had the privilege to read several years ago?

Jim: Bad Religion will get another pass before I release it. It was in mid-revision when my publisher shut down, so I’m probably going to have to work a little harder on this one. This one, like the first two, will be “on the calendar” so to speak, taking place in 2004. After that, I’ll decide if Nick is going to live on a floating timeline or just move on to 2005.

Jennette: Cool! I think of the three, Bad Religion was my favorite. I made the mistake of reading it at work when there was nothing to do, and was getting weird looks from my coworkers because I kept laughing! So what’s next for Jim – or for his alter-ego?

Jim: Next up is a short story collection. I’m going to put all the Kepler shorts together in chronological order, including a new short where a call girl Nick once got off of heroin decides whom she wants for her final client before retiring. Bad Religion will follow after that.

The alter-ego is working on a science fiction novel and a handful of short stories. Beyond that, who knows?

Jennette: It sounds like you’ll be busy for a while! I know I’m looking forward to re-reading Second Hand Goods–and to your short story collections–both of them!

What about you, readers? Do you like series characters who age, or do you think it takes away from the story? What about outdated technology–does it bother you, or are you okay with it as long as you know what to expect?

Reading Outside Our Usual Genres: Northcoast Shakedown by Jim Winter

I first read Northcoast Shakedown by my friend Jim Winter, back in 2005, when it was first released in print by a small press. It’s a fast-paced, engaging story with a quirky main character who’s so real, it’s hard to believe he’s fictional. Upon the re-read, my original opinion stands: P.I. Nick Kepler’s a piece of work (in a good way!) and never fails to entertain.

The majority of my reading consists of romance, suspense, fantasy and science fiction; preferably a combination of two or more of these. However, it’s good to take a departure from the usual every now and then and try something different. For me, the occasional “different” is usually a cozy mystery or straight fantasy, or perhaps something more mainstream. Occasionally, I pick up something more straight-suspense, usually upon the recommendation of a friend, or in this case, something written by a friend.

Northcoast Shakedown is crime fiction, a P.I. story with a bit of noir that doesn’t cross the line into too dark and dreary. Main character Nick Kepler is a P.I. with the perfect, cushy gig of tracking down workers’ comp fraud and the occasional cheating spouse. When the book opens, he’s investigating just that, plus a questionnable life insurance claim that’s more a matter of saving an underwriter’s job than saving the company money. But the more he digs in, the more questionable the life insurance claim appears, and not for the reasons the company thinks. Before Nick knows it, he’s in over his head in a world of swingers’ clubs, political cover-ups, and murder, and finds himself next on a killer’s hit list.

What made this book really enjoyable was Keper himself. He’s a very relatable character, a regular guy who just wants to get his job done and kick back with a beer and watch baseball afterward. His quirky dislike of SUVs and ability to be distracted by an attractive female are among the little details that make him real and fun. He has certain principles that he refuses to compromise, and others that aren’t so rigid, and reading him wrestling with these choices is what really made me want to root for him, especially when he deals with the aftermath of a choice between shitty and shittier. While totally a man’s-man, his emotions are 100% real and believable, and Winter didn’t pull any punches getting them on the page.

I had a few nits with the book, although they may be more genre conventions than anything else. One thing I’ve noticed is that mystery writers sometimes spend a lot of words getting a character from one place to another, nothing street names, traffic patterns, and scenery along the way. For the most part, that stuff works in Northcoast Shakedown, as Nick’s often being tailed (or fears he is). I’ve read other books where the driving becomes a travelogue (and a place to skim).

Another genre thing is the need for suspects and red herrings in a mystery often results in a large cast of characters. Northcoast Shakedown is no exception. However, there are so many minor/extra characters in this book, I found it hard to keep track of them. In this case, I’m not talking about the long list of persons of interest – the book does very well there. But Kepler is a former cop, and has associates in several different departments in addition to other government types and colleages/customers at the insurance company – enough that they eventually ran together in my mind.

Finally, I’ve talked about dated books before here. In his author’s note, Winter mentions that the book was written in 2002. There’s definitely the occasional reference to outdated technology (Windows 2000? Firewire?). Kepler also doesn’t appear to have a smartphone, GPS, or even an MP3 player – and while I can see Kepler as a guy who refuses to use a smartphone, I can’t imagine him not owning an mp3 player these days (or at least using his computer as a stereo while he works). Knowing that the book was written ten years ago, I could deal, but stuff like this did momentarily take me out of the story. Still, these things are minor, and Northcoast Shakedown was as enjoyable a read now as it was when initially published. So if you’re looking for an entertaining, fast-paced suspense, check out Northcoast Shakedown at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Do you stick to mostly one genre when you read fiction? If so, do you occasionally step outside? Do you notice things that you think are probably genre conventions, but clash with what you’re used to?