News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #141…

Book reviews anyone? I’ll post two mini-reviews this Friday. They were on my TBRoR (“to be read or reviewed”) list. When authors query me for reviews, their books often go on this list, which is more a list I maintain for possible incidental reading. When I get around to them, I’ll review the book if I liked it enough to recommend to other readers. Note that these reviews ONLY appear on this blog—I no longer post reviews for TBRoR-books to Amazon for many reasons.

My formal reviewing activity is still done under the auspices of Bookpleasures.com. Authors might want to query there. First, there are many reviewers associated with that review site who might like to review your opus, not just me. Second, the reviews tend to be more extensive and therefore more useful for readers and the author. Third, reviews are reposted to Amazon if the author so desires—that means that your Bookpleasures reviewer reserves the right to point out negatives as well as positives. (Of course, I’ll do that even in my mini-reviews.)

Readers might excuse over-exuberance in a review that neglects the negatives, but such reviews don’t help them make informed book purchases. Neither does the Amazon ranking. A reader should always read the blurb for the book carefully and use the “peek inside” feature on Amazon before buying. Any author submitting a book for review should ask for an honest one and NEVER, NEVER pay for a review—paid reviews are inherently dishonest.

Genres. We love to categorize things and people. From “household appliance” to “environmental activist,” labels have pros and cons. They fill a need for order that many of us have. On the other hand, they’re often limiting or just plain wrong. Book genres are like that. Do you pay attention to them? They’re no doubt a convenience for bookstores, including Amazon, but in the online versions they tend to be used just as keywords. In a big book barn like B&N, though, you can often scratch your head about how they’ve shelved a particular book.

I tend to use a book’s genre as the selection criteria of least importance. For fiction, I just wish to be entertained and hopefully learn something in the process. There are more important selection criteria. Can an author spin a good yarn without being overly verbose? Has s/he mastered the skills of good storytelling? Can s/he create interesting characters? These and other questions (see the last paragraph in the previous subsection) are far more important than genre to me.

What is a mystery? At the end of this newsletter, you will find three of my books that fit into this genre. They could also be considered suspense novels or thrillers. What are the distinctions? Conventional wisdom says a mystery is a story about a crime that has been committed where the reader follows a cop, PI, or reporter as s/he uncovers the clues to find out who perpetrated the crime. A thriller is a story where the reader knows something bad is about to happen, maybe even some of the details and back story, and learns how the main character puts a stop to it. Both can be suspenseful, and there can be overlap between mystery and thriller. The latter is not new. I watched an episode of that old TV show Colombo the other night. Up front I saw the efforts a criminal made to perpetrate and then cover up his crime. and then how Colombo nabbed him. (That can also be called a police procedural, by the way.) Should the reader care about any of this? Probably not. If you’re like me, you’re just looking for some mind-bending entertainment!

Sci-fi. Of course, I write more than mysteries and thrillers. I write sci-fi too, and sometimes I even combine the sci-fi and mystery and thriller genres. There are many subgenres to sci-fi. Most of my stories are what is called hard sci-fi—consider More than Human: The Mensa Contagion. When there are some thriller aspects, I suppose it might border on space opera, one of the subgenres. Rogue Planet even has some fantasy elements within the hard sci-fi story, and the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy” is equally sci-fi and thriller. All mind-bending entertainment written for my readers, and all great spring and summer reading. Speaking of the latter, please consider:

Gaia and the Goliaths. Did you miss it? #6 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” has the detectives in NYC, but their case becomes international. An environmental activist is killed in Manhattan, but her boyfriend is being pursued in Europe. The two were about to blow the whistle on a multinational conspiracy. Available in all ebook formats on Smashwords and its affiliates and in Kindle format on Amazon.

Teeter-Totter between Lust and Murder. Detective Chen is framed for the murder of a U.S. senator. As her partner Castilblanco moves to prove her innocence, they uncover a complex plot involving the underbelly of NYC as well as the overbelly corresponding to the rich and powerful. #3 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” this book is now on sale at Smashwords and is available in all ebook formats. Use coupon code XW55G.

Rembrandt’s Angel. Coming soon this spring from Penmore Press! An international tour de force involving a Scotland Yard expert on art heists and an Interpol agent. Chasing down some dealers in stolen artworks suddenly becomes very dangerous! (This story, with many scenes from England and Scotland, is my homage to the great Agatha Christie and her wonderful characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.)

In libris libertas!

 

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