Category Archives: Novels

Progress!

See the right sidebar? Those are my new covers for the first three Howard County Mysteries. The new editions, published by Red Tales, are now on sale all over the place. You should be able to find them at your favorite online store. Brick-and-mortar stores can order them for you, too. If you don’t mind the original covers, you can still get them at clearance prices at Serpent Cliff.

So that’s one big job for 2019 crossed of my list. Next up: Space Operatic! If you’ve been following me, you’ll have heard me mention it here and there. We’re starting the book design now. The novel will be released sometime later this year (release date to be determined). To whet your appetite, here’s a possible blurb for the back cover:

Curse be damned!

Roberto Maccarone has taken his company, Space Operatic, to the fringes of the solar system in pursuit of artistic acclaim. But in the cold dark of the Oort Territories where the culture scene is lower than that found in most petri dishes, Lady Luck plays hard-to-get. Maccarone’s theater blows up, a power-mad businessman tricks him into spying on a gang of malcontent miners, and a horde of ruthless mercenaries descend, guns blazing. Really, now, how hard can it be to stage a performance?

Some say a curse has followed the company ever since that incident on Titan, but Maccarone will never lose faith, especially since he’s discovered that the most fabulous theater in the solar system lies just next door, cosmically speaking. If only he could play that theater, Maccarone’s success would be assured! But the keys are held in the icy grip of the local Culture Minister, and nothing–not Maccarone, not obscene amounts of money, not even that guy who juggles flaming kabobs while singing an ancient song about how great America was–can pry them loose. Will it be fame for Maccarone and his troupe? Or unemployment in Beelzebub’s outhouse?

Let me know what you think!


Stevie Turner: Addictive Personalities

Frances and Martin Andrews have a serious problem: he’s addicted to pornography, and she’s addicted to spying on him to secure evidence of his transgressions. The lack of trust between them has shattered their marriage, and even counseling doesn’t offer much hope. Martin’s repeated lies render impotent his protestations that he’s changed. He desperately wants her back, but she desperately wants to be free of him.

That’s the set-up. What follows in this fast-paced and relatively short novel spans a few emotionally-charged years in which husband and wife must face their own flaws as well as each other’s. It’s a compelling read about a life-destroying indulgence that has ensnared all too many people, particularly in the Internet age. Turner does a creditable job of portraying the addiction and its effects, although I suspect she’s captured the wife’s trauma better than the husband’s. Frances grows considerably through the story, while Martin’s journey through hell ultimately seems fruitless. I’ll grant that’s one plausible outcome, but I found it disheartening. Maybe that’s the point? I at least would have liked a bit deeper glimpse into Martin’s psyche at the end to understand better how he ends up where he does.

The writing is good enough, although I thought phrases containing the word “porn” occurred a bit too often, and some of the dialogue, particularly with the counselor, seemed a bit stilted. (However, I’ve never been in a counseling session, so maybe that’s how it really is.) I also think the author missed some opportunities to delve deeper into the characters through the action. This is a complex situation that could easily support another fifty pages of development without feeling stretched.

A word of caution: Although this work is neither romance nor erotica, there are a few explicit passages, not excessively graphic but very direct.

The strengths and weaknesses of “Mind Games” had me hemming and hawing over a rating. I’ve settled on 4.5 stars for story and a bit better than 3.5 for the writing, yielding 4 stars overall.

 I recently asked Stevie Turner about the novel and her writing. Here’s what she said:

It looks like you’ve written a number of books. What subjects have you addressed, and where does “Mind Games” fit in?

Yes I have written a number of books over a 5 year period.  I always try to tackle subjects that haven’t been written about too many times before.  I am more interested in writing about relationships between middle-aged couples, as I find their problems and issues more interesting. With young people there is always the sexual chemistry and the bed-hopping which has been covered countless times in many different ways, but what happens to a couple when they age and passion dies away?  I prefer to write of problems that can occur in fifty-somethings, as they are more likely to face this scenario.

Addiction has become a major social issue. Readers might see aspects of their own lives mirrored in your  fiction and wonder if they could help someone who has an addiction. What has your research suggested?

No, it is not possible to change somebody who has an addictive nature. The change and motivation to stop needs to come from the person themselves.  Usually they would have to hit rock bottom before they decide to stop.

Which at one point in Mind Games seems to be where Martin ends up. But did he learn anything through his experience, or as the title suggests, has it indeed all been a game to him?

Martin is the kind of man that will not be told what to do by a woman, as he feels this will emasculate him.  However, he still loves Frances and wants her to return to the marital home.  If there is any chance that this might happen he would be prepared to do and say anything, but just as long as he can remain true to his own beliefs.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel-length version of one of my short stories which is in my published book Life: 18 Short Stories about Significant Life Events.  I think it might be ready later this year, because at the moment the words are tumbling out!

What advice to you have for readers or writers?

I would say for a start that unless writers read a lot, then they won’t learn to hone their craft.  It’s no good saying “I don’t get time to read because I’m too busy writing.”  If nobody is reading, then what’s the point of writing?  Also it’s best to have another source of income rather than rely on book royalties!  Beaver away and don’t give up writing just because somebody thinks your book sucks; sooner or later somebody will like it, it’s all a matter of opinion.

Where can readers find you? (You can just give me the links. I’ll format them for you.)

K. A. Hitchins: Life, Death, and Faith

Recently I’ve been reading novels by newer, largely unknown indie writers. By way of helping them along, I’ll be introducing some of them here. These authors are up-and-coming, at varying stages in their development as writers. They may not all have the polish of traditionally published authors, but I think they all have potential and deserve encouragement.


Dr. Matilda Moss is moving toward a bright future. A top British stem cell researcher, she’s on the verge of a breakthrough that promises cures for a variety of ailments. But then a fall from a balcony leaves her brilliant mind trapped in a useless body slipping inexorably toward death. Unable to move or speak or even blink her eyes, she is powerless to explain what happened to her. Was it a failed suicide? Attempted murder? She can only listen to the speculations swirling about her, collect hints from those who visit her hospital room, and sift through her own memories in an effort to find the meaning behind her life and impending death.

The Key of All Unknown floored me. Told in first person through Matilda’s eyes and mind, it is full of heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching twists and turns. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the tale rounds a new bend and everything changes, not just once, not just twice, but time after time. Beneath it all runs a current of philosophical and moral questing touching on the deepest questions of life and death, and critiquing society’s mad rush to devalue its own humanity. Emotional, topical, and beautifully told, this novel is among the best I’ve read in recent times. I can’t find a thing to complain about, except a very occasional quibble over an excessively ornate description, and that may just be a matter of taste. The ending is so unequivocal that you’ll either be deeply moved by it or you’ll hate it, but either way it’s worth the reading. Five stars for story, five stars for the writing, five stars hands down. Brava, Ms. Hitchins!

I recently asked K. A. Hitchins about the novel and her writing. Here’s what she said:

As you can tell from my review, I think this is a brilliant novel. Is it a first novel, and what if anything had you written before?

The Key of All Unknown is my second novel. My first novel, The Girl at the End of the Road was published in March 2016, and is the story of a shallow, materialistic young man whose life is transformed when he falls in love with a woman on the autistic spectrum.

I have to admit that at first I wondered how you could possibly pull off an entire novel written first person from the point of view of a woman who had no use of her body. Did you find the prospect daunting or worrisome when you began writing?

When I originally started planning the novel, I wanted to set it inside the coffin of a woman who’d been erroneously buried alive. I’d read in the newspaper of a sixteen-year-old pregnant girl in South America who had “died” and been buried, only for relatives to hear knocking and screaming from the family crypt the following day. But by the time they released her, she’d sadly died of a heart attack.

I started writing but fairly quickly decided it was too difficult to have the entire novel set in a coffin, with all the action taking place through flashbacks. Once I’d moved the story into a hospital, the options opened up considerably. My main character, Tilda, wrongly diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, is able to hear everything that goes on in her room – conversations between her family, the police, doctors, nurses, cleaners and the local radio news reports. Because I began with such a limited stage, placing Tilda in a coma in hospital was actually a liberation!

In addition to the mystery and suspense elements, The Key of All Unknown deals with a number of topical issues including the artificial extension of life, how we decide when to withhold medical care, abortion, euthanasia, and more. Did you set out to write a social commentary, or did it evolve on its own from the story?

I had a very clear idea of the areas I wanted to cover, because they’re the issues in the media at the moment and they raise serious moral questions. Medical science is advancing at a far quicker rate than medical ethics and there are things to consider today that would have never troubled our forebears. I wanted to clarify my own thoughts, and the best way of doing that was to write about them.

I also wanted to examine more closely the case for atheism. I read and researched quite widely before I began. Even though I’m a Christian, I wanted to challenge my beliefs on the basis that any worldview worth following should be able to withstand intellectual scrutiny.

I’d seen my own father die from cancer and I’d often wondered if he’d been able to hear me from inside his coma, and whether he was afraid or peaceful as he faced that greatest of all unknowns. He was a man of faith, so it was logical to wonder if he had doubts, but I also wondered whether those without faith – materialistic atheists who believe dying is simply a matter of returning to the oblivion from which they came prior to birth – might also have doubts at the end.

Despite my father’s suffering over many months, each day was precious to us as a family, and we were able to say everything we needed to before he passed. It made me realise that a “good death” is not necessarily a pain free death, and certainly not one where difficult questions are swept under the carpet. That’s why I have strong reservations about euthanasia. Humans are not just physical beings. They are intellectual and spiritual creatures, too. The very first thing we experience each day is our inner world – our consciousness – and it’s from that base that we move outwards and experience the physical world through our senses. Even if the body is useless, it doesn’t invalidate the intellectual and spiritual aspects of our humanity.

Ironically, when I was half way through writing The Key of All Unknown, I unexpectedly developed Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia , a condition where the immune system destroys the blood platelets, preventing the blood from clotting. I was taken into the Critical Dependency Unit of my local hospital, covered in a non-blanching rash and bruises, and observed overnight in case I was bleeding internally. I was told I probably wouldn’t sleep because of the drugs I’d been given. Suddenly, I was lying in my own hospital bed thinking about the meaning and purpose of my own life. It confirmed to me again that it’s not the strength of my faith that counts, but the strength of the One in whom I put my faith.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment, I’m preparing to launch my third novel, The Gardener’s Daughter on 15 March. It’s a Young Adult thriller exploring the theme of fatherhood: good fathers, bad fathers and absent fathers. The main character is a motherless nineteen-year-old girl who accidentally discovers she’s adopted. Penniless and cut-off from everything she’s ever known , and trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a ruthless criminal gang, her journey of discovery unravels the shocking truth behind her mother’s death and the identity of her real father – with a sprinkling of romance along the way.

I have another completed manuscript called Love in the Village of Drought which requires some editing before I submit it to a publisher, and I’m in the very early stages of writing my fifth novel, provisionally entitled, The Shortness of Life.

What advice to you have for readers or writers?

My advice to everyone is to read widely and step outside of your comfort zone every now and then. It’s all too easy to get into a rut with a favourite genre, but mixing it up a little and picking up a book you wouldn’t usually choose, particularly one which stretches your heart, mind and soul, is a great way to broaden your reading experience and improve your writing.

Where can readers find you?

On my website , on Facebook, and on Twitter.