Review: Box of Rocks by Karla Telega

WARNING: Do not read this book while eating. To do so may cause you to choke to death on your own laughter.

Box of Rocks Cover

eBook is $2.99, Paperback is $9.95

I’ll start by paying new author Karla Telega the highest form of compliment I can give: in many ways, her writing reminds me of that of bestselling author Janet Evanovich. Another reviewer has compared Maggie and Cher to Thelma and Louise, and I can see that…but to me, they’re more like Stephanie Plum and Lula for the AARP crowd

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Telega’s blog for some time now. If you haven’t yet had the privilege, check it out–you’re in for a real treat. Telega has her liver-spotted finger on the weak pulse of over-50 women everywhere.

But getting back to BOX OF ROCKS–Karla Telega has created characters that are outrageously funny but at the same time people readers can relate to–even Bear (admit it–who hasn’t had a Wile E. Coyote moment in their lives?).

As author and co-founder of upstart publisher Adoro Books, Karla Telega has published a book that’s been handled with pure professionalism, start to finish–from Karla’s exceptional writing to the fine editing skills of Martin Rus and Rosanne Dingli to the brilliant cover art of El Kartun, which would stand out anywhere. I am so pleased to see that this is just the beginning of a series!  

New from Mari Collier ~ Before We Leave

A new e-book release from Mari Collier!

MacDonald, a Thalian-Justine mutant from the planet Thalia has means to return to his planet and complete his mother’s revenge on the Justines.  He needs to gather a force to leave with him, but first he must raise his daughter and convince others to go with him.  Before they leave the Earth mutant offspring experience elopements, Comanche and outlaw raids, hangings, blizzards, madness, quarrels within the family, and a FBI investigation.  The remaining family mutants will be trained to staff the MacDonald Corporation and carry on their family traditions.  The other MacDonald descendants are not mutants, but all carry the recessive mutant genes.

To order, go to Mari’s website:


Preplanning your novel

Okay, so you’re ready to start your novel …

Aren’t you?

I started one on January 2nd, with the goal of writing around 5,000 words a week and having the first draft finished by spring. But I’ve been planning that start for weeks. Let’s take a look at planning that might – or might not – work for you.

Which comes first, character or the plot? Well, you can’t go far without figuring that out, but the answer is a matter of opinion. I start with a plot idea:

“What would happen if a photographer from California arrived in rural Indiana predicting an oncoming storm, only to lock horns with a cop who hates photographers – and Californians?”

That one sentence began a yearlong project that eventually turned into my first published novel, Storm Chaser. For the sequel, I started out with another basic question:

“What if the photographer’s infamous ne’er-do-well brother heard about his sister’s new relationship and determined to be her wedding planner as a way of making up with her, despite having absolutely no experience in wedding planning?”

(Oh, come on – Storm Chaser is a romantic comedy: Surely it’s not a spoiler to say the story ended with a new relationship?)

In the end, plot based stories often begin with “What if?” followed by “What then?”

Character based stories, on the other hand, often begin – wait for it – with a strong character:

“Fran Mendoza-Vargas is a no-nonsense cop who worked her way past sexism and racism to become a young Indiana State Police detective. A third generation Mexican-American, she’s become popular around town for her cheeriness and optimism, but has sacrificed her personal life in favor of her job.”

Okay, we have the basics of our character. What then? Maybe the next step will be to ask, “What would happen if the straitlaced Fran encountered legendary bad boy Ian Grant, who seems determined to screw up the life of her new friend, the photographer?”

There, in two sentences, you have the base of my entire Storm Chaser sequel, despite the fact that I then fill it out with a three page long (single spaced) outline.

Oh, yeah … the outline.

To outline or not to outline? There’s a question that could cause fist fights at writer’s conferences. “Pantsers” are loud and clear: Outlines constrict them. These writers simple start out, and see where the path leads them.

I tried that approach. If you want proof, I give you an entire box full of half-completed manuscripts.

However, for some people it does work, and more power to them. If you decide to outline, how should you do it?

Any way you want. I don’t have roman numerals, capital letters, and so on. I just jot down the events of the story in order, sometimes throwing in specific scenes and even quotes, sometimes leaving it very spare and basic. You don’t have to use some specific format; this isn’t going to be turned in to your English teacher – it’s just for you. If a page of scribbling works, fine. If you like a detailed, numbered, scene by scene breakdown, that’s fine too.

It’s just a guideline, and my stories frequently stray from it as the characters come alive and new ideas pop up. (Where the heck did that horse come from, anyway? No idea.) But even if I decide to choose a different path entirely, the finish line is there to guide me on my way.

Speaking of characters coming alive, I like to fully create my characters before I start on the outline, in case they grab me by the short hairs and tell me they’re not going the direction I planned. Some writers say they have complete control over their characters at all time; but if I do my job right they come alive for me, and sometimes they’ll tell me they just wouldn’t do what was in my original plan. Thus the fight at the end of chapter one, which surprised me as much as them.

What do I know about my characters before I start? Their looks, all their family and friend relationships, their job, past jobs, past loves, pets, desires, dreams, fears, favorite and least favorite seasons, foods, cars, books, TV shows, movies, hobbies …

Well, the list goes on and on. Do a search for “creating characters”, or get a good book on characterization, and you’ll find all sorts of good lists. By the time you’re done, you should know not only what they look like and how they’d react in any situation, but every little thing about them, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Most of which your reader will never learn about. Research should be like an iceberg, with most of it never seen. Just the same, research the heck out of each and every person in your story unless they’re a very minor character, and sometimes even then.

So, you’ve got your plot idea, your characters, and your outline. What else? That’s the big stuff, other than stocking up on caffeinated drinks. For Storm Damage most of my characters were already created, but I went back and looked through their files. I also had to keep a timeline and a separate page of clues, because there’s a bit of a mystery involved in this one.

Since it’s set in my home area I don’t have to do a lot of location research, but be prepared to have a file (computer, print, or both) to keep any information you need to have on hand. When I set my novel Radio Red in northern lower Michigan – a six hour drive away – I collected all the information I could on the area, up to and including maps, tourist flyers, photos, and even video, as well as making several trips up there.

Research has to include your characters’ jobs too, of course. I immersed myself in studying weather for Storm Chaser, and used my experience as a part time radio personality to create a main character in Radio Red.

This is far from a complete list. There are issues of naming your characters, for instance – that could make for a whole piece by itself. But planning ahead a little, even if you don’t want a complete outline, can make the writing itself go a lot faster.

Remember, though: Your rough draft is allowed to stink. If you miss something along the way, or decide you’re writing in the wrong tense, or the story goes off the rails, just take a step back (or go for a long walk, or scream into a pillow), then come back and fix things. That’s what rough drafts are for.

Advance Review: Heaven & Hell by William Kendall

Heaven and Hell Front Cover

Recently, I interviewed my good friend and fellow author William Kendall on this blog. Now, I’m honored to be the first to review his wonderful first novel Heaven & Hell. The following review was originally posted at Goodreads….

I have to confess here…I’ve read it prior to publication. I’ve been impressed by William’s writing from the start. His narrative and dialogue are strong, his pacing impressive, and his characterization as good as any author currently occupying the New York Times bestseller list. William is a very visual writer–when he describes a setting, a character, or an emotion, the reader will be able to imagine it all quite clearly.

Heaven & Hell is a thriller, to be sure…but it’s also a tale of damaged people, people who come together out of deep emotional suffering, of profound personal loss. His villains aren’t one-dimensional baddies, but individuals who have made some serious wrong turns out of pain. I’m so tempted to go into detail about some of these things, but I know he’d have to kill me if I did. And even though I know what the Very Bad Thing is that he alludes to in some of his blogs, I’ve been sworn to secrecy. Nuts!

Be forewarned–there are scenes involving acts of terrorism that are difficult to read; that’s how realistic they are! I’ve been brought to tears more than once. William says he found himself often apologizing to some of his characters–and with good reason.

His protagonist, Tom Stryker, is no James Bond. But that’s a good thing. Bond, to me, has always been just a bit too perfect. Stryker–he does not like to be called Tom–is human. He’s flawed. And unlike Bond, he does not jump into the sack with every female he encounters. Personally, I would like to see him get a little action. He’s quite a man. Seems to me women should be lined up to provide him with a bit of TLC!

I cannot recommend this novel or its author strongly enough. As soon as Heaven & Hell is available, buy it. You won’t be disappointed! 

(And for those of you who don’t already know and love our William, you can get to know him and his writing at his always-entertaining blog, Speak of the Devil!)

Reviews Of Norma Beishir’s “Final Hours” and “Chasing The Wind”

An excerpt from Chasing the Wind

Connor~ ”There’s something else I’ve never told you about. I’ve had a nightmare–the same one–since I was fifteen. It’s always the same, it never changes. There’s a violent storm. I’m in the water, and it’s very cold. The current is overwhelming me. I’m struggling to stay affloat. I see a light, a boat, and try to swim toward it. There’s someone on the deck, calling to me, reaching for me, but I can’t quite make it. I see your face, just once, before I’m pulled under.”

Lynne~ “Mine?” Lynne asked.

Connor~ “You,” Connor said. “The woman on the boat is you. I saw your face for the first time over twenty years ago. That’s why you seemed so familiar to me the night we met.”

Lynne~ ”What do you think it means?” Lynne asked. She didn’t laugh, didn’t question his honesty or his sanity. She believed him. “God gives us visions sometimes to lead us where we have to go.”

What an adventure! This very exciting book is filled with love, heartbreak, danger and a lot of very interesting characters.

Lynne is a religious archeologist who wants to work on a dig in Egypt, but she isn’t able to start the dig due to lack of funding. In comes Connor Mackenzie. He asks his stepfather, Edward, to fund the project. He does, and Connor goes off on his own adventure with Lynne.

But, there’s something mysterious about Connor. He has never been able to love anyone before. Any women he had before, he treated them like objects. He was afraid to love them in case they abandoned him like his mother did.

But, when he meets Lynne, he realizes that she is different, and he does everything to get her to love him. And, she does. With everything that she is, she loves him.

Connor is mysterious in other ways. He’s able to heal others with a single touch. He healed the baby bird that Lynne found, allowing it to be set free when he touched it. He healed the bruise she received when a rock fell on her shoulder during an earthquake, and the woman with cancer that he met when he was a young boy.

    “Go. The angels will guide you.”

Connor and Lynne, married now and pregnant with a baby, are forced to run for their lives. Their love is tested in many ways when truths are brought to the forefront of their relationship.

This is an excellent read. It will keep you on the edge of your seat as Connor and Lynne face danger after danger as they try to keep themselves, and their baby, alive.

It isn’t a book that you will likely be able to read in an afternoon, but I highly recommend this book. The love story is beautiful and the story compelling. I give this novel a 5 star rating.

Norma is currently re-writing this book so that it is in multiple first person point of view. I look forward to reading her new version of Chasing The Wind.


     Final Hours is about what you would do if you only had a few hours to live. How, and with whom, would you spend that time?

     Jamie Randall, a young, early thirties successful business man has been living a lie. A lie he thought he could have been out of by now. He’s living a life as a husband to a woman that he doesn’t love, having been trapped in the loveless marriage by her getting pregnant. His motivation for marrying her was for business purposes only. But, when she had the twin boys, he knew he couldn’t leave her. He loved his boys.

On a business trip to Rome, an earthquake occurs, causing the underground parking lot of the hotel that he owns, to collapse. With a broken leg, crushed by a piece of concrete, he yells for help. That’s when he meets nature photographer, Kate.

Maybe it was her beauty, or maybe it was his pain, but he instantly falls in love with her. He’s never cheated on his wife before, but suddenly, he wants to be with this woman. She is beautiful and kind, helping him stay alive. But, it’s more than that.

And, so begins a love affair that spans 14 years, and from the beginning of the book to the end, their love grows.

This is a book that will make you smile, laugh and cry. There is even one shocking element you find out at the end of the book. I wrote in my review on Amazon, that you know when a book is good when you can’t put it down. This was that book.

I loved both books, but this one was my very favourite. It allows you the chance to figure out on your own what you would do if you only had hours to live, and the author also gives you a chance to make your own ending. Not many author’s or stories are able to say that. That’s what makes this book so wonderful, in my opinion.