Three Book reviews: Deadly Spirits, Year of No Clutter and Rosie’s Little Café on the Riviera.

Great New Review of DEADLY SPIRITS!

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Deadly Spirits by E.Michael Helms. Book 4 in the Mac McClellan Series, ISBN: 978-1603813495, Out now to buy.

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Taken from E.Michael Helm’s Website: When PI Mac McClellan’s girlfriend convinces him to join the Palmetto Paranormal Society, he becomes embroiled in a case of whodunit. The society president, while investigating an old hotel, is found dead at the foot of the stairwell, his neck broken. The man’s secretary and current squeeze stands horrified beside his body. Authorities rule the death an accident. Mac has doubts–no one heard the man tumbling down the stairs. Then the secretary dies in an apparent suicide. Two deaths in two paranormal investigations, and not a peep out of either victim. Mac suspects there’s more going on than a vengeful spirit. Book 4 in the Mac McClellan Mystery series, which began with Deadly Catch.

My Review:

Deadly Spirits is book four from the Mac McClellan Mystery series, however it…

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Author Interview with Lyrical Pens

e. michael helms

LYRICAL PENS Spotlights author E. Michael Helms Today!

cj Sez: Lyrical Pens’ guest today is Mystery Thriller Week author E. Michael Helms, who writes the popular Mac McClellan mystery series. The latest in the series from Coffeetown/Camel Press is the brand-new deadly spirits, which launched on Jan 15, 2017. (Congratulations, Michael.)

This busy author graciously stopped by for a few minutes and answered some questions for us. Let’s get right to it…

Lyrical Pens: Where did you get the inspiration for your Mac McClellan series?

hardy-boys-1E. Michael Helms: My previous books had all dealt with war, mostly drawn from my own experiences. It was draining and I knew I needed a change. I grew up reading and loving the Hardy Boys books, and had recently renewed my interest in mysteries. One day I thought: Why not try my hand at writing a mystery? It took off from there.

LP: What…

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And so We Bid a Fond Farewell

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Saying goodby is always tough. On behalf of Kait I’d like to express our thanks to each of you for making Motive Means Opportunity a success during its brief existence. Over the course of a year we’ve gathered over 2500 followers. Not bad at all, in my humble opinion. Alas, nothing on this mortal plane lasts forever. Kait and I are both behind on deadlines for our respective publishers. My work-in-progress beckons (as does my editor!). It’s been a good ride, but the old gray mare (meant as non-gender specific) is winded, sore, and tired. In short this humble blog has become too much for us to handle and still give our writing the time and respect it deserves.

But wait–nothing is forever–who said that? fond-farewell-1Maybe circumstances will, in the not-too-distant future, allow us to reopen MMO after deadlines and rest and a hundred other things right now beyond our control…

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The Two-Headed Killer   By Sarah E. Glenn

Today, at #MotiveMeansOpportunity —-

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When Gwen and I show our book to other authors, the first questions we are usually asked are: “You wrote a book together? How did you plot it?”mmexcoverfront

Creative types often have problems working together. It’s like another cook in your kitchen or, worse, a boss that tries to micromanage you. You have your creative process, and they have theirs. This is true for even authors who married other authors; sometimes the choice comes down to writing separately vs. divorce.

Yet it does happen. Richard Levinson and William Link created great television together: Columbo, Ellery Queen, Murder, She Wrote, and many other popular shows. Sometimes they devised plots together (often under the pen name ‘Ted Leighton’) which scriptwriters would turn into a television episode. James Patterson is also known for co-writing, but he takes a top-down approach: he creates the characters and a detailed plot, which is then taken over…

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DOGMA FOR WRITERS: Unleash the Author in You, by Sue Owens Wright

Today at #MotiveMeansOpportunity — Doggone Writers!

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Gustav Flaubert said, “A writer’s life is a dog’s life, but it’s the only life worth living.”  If you write about dogs, as I do, this statement is especially true. My books feature a canine companion or two, including my latest stand-alone novel, “The Secret of Bramble Hill.” I don’t know whether Monsieur Flaubert had dogs of his own. If so, he must have known that they have much to teach us about the writing life if we observe their behavior. In my experience, there’s no breed better suited to be a writer’s role model than the persistent,determined basset hound, which is as French as Flaubert. 

thesecretofbramblehillI’ve been owned by eight bassets, which inspired me to create the long-eared sleuths in my Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series for dog lovers (book #5, “Ears for Murder” will be released in 2017 from Black Opal Books). Knowing these dogs as well…

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Author Interview with Lyrical Pens

LYRICAL PENS Spotlights author E. Michael Helms Today!

cj Sez: Lyrical Pens’ guest today is Mystery Thriller Week author E. Michael Helms, who writes the popular Mac McClellan mystery series. The latest in the series from Coffeetown/Camel Press is the brand-new deadly spirits, which launched on Jan 15, 2017. (Congratulations, Michael.)

This busy author graciously stopped by for a few minutes and answered some questions for us. Let’s get right to it…

Lyrical Pens: Where did you get the inspiration for your Mac McClellan series?

hardy-boys-1E. Michael Helms: My previous books had all dealt with war, mostly drawn from my own experiences. It was draining and I knew I needed a change. I grew up reading and loving the Hardy Boys books, and had recently renewed my interest in mysteries. One day I thought: Why not try my hand at writing a mystery? It took off from there.

LP: What kind of research did you have to do to make the character authentic?

EMH: In order to get inside my protagonist’s head and know what made him tick, I knew I would have to closely identify with him. Having served in combat as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War, I decided that Mac McClellan would be a recently retired Marine with extensive combat service in Iraq. With that connection, we “clicked” right away. I grew up in the Florida panhandle on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Knowing the area, its history, culture, and people, made the setting of the series a logical choice.

LP: Tell us a bit about Mac. Any part of him resemble you?

EMH: Mac and I share a lot in common; athletics, our military backgrounds, morals, likes and dislikes, sense of humor, and loyalty to others. A handshake should be as binding as a signed contract. Physically, we have similar traits. Mac’s a couple inches taller and a few pounds lighter, but when I was his age we were pretty darn close. We can both be pushed, but only so far.

LP: What are your protagonist’s strengths and flaws?

semper-fi-1EMH: First and foremost, Mac lives by the code of the Marine Corps motto:
Semper Fidelis—Always Faithful. His word is his bond. Loyalty and trust are everything to him. He can be your greatest friend, or your worst enemy. He’s kind and gentle, yet isn’t afraid to get down and dirty if the situation calls for it. He fancies himself a “Southern gentleman,” and has an eye for the ladies. Yet he’s trustworthy, so his girlfriend Kate Bell has nothing to worry about. He can be impulsive and sometimes his mouth jumps ahead of his mind. Mac has a tendency to drink too much, and though he doesn’t yet realize it, it’s his way of coping with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). When he takes on a case he’s tenacious in searching out the truth. He also has a short fuse and has come close to “losing it” at times when push comes to shove. If you prove yourself a friend, Mac will always have your back. He’d rather die in place than desert or betray a friend.

LP: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or like me, a pathfinder? (I have an idea of where I’m going but kind of bounce off the walls getting there.)

EMH: I’m definitely a pantser. I come up with an idea for a book, an opening scene, and usually have an ending in mind. But when I sit down to write, the characters take over. I know to some that’s hard to believe, but it’s what works for me. I’ve tried outlining, but the results have been dismal. I’m a very unorganized person. The characters must be free to “do their thing.” I’ll jot down ideas when they come to me, and I keep a calendar of the daily action of the storyline from beginning to end. That helps, but it’s usually after the fact. But it does enable me to see where I’ve been, and the ideas (almost always character-inspired) show me where I’m going.

LP: Keeping your daily action storyline is a neat way to move right into a synopsis. Great idea. How do you determine that all-important first sentence of your novels? And how often does it change before you’re ready to send it off?

firstsentencecartoonEMH: I believe the opening is very important, although I don’t hold hard and fast that it has to be the very first sentence of the book. As long as you grab the reader’s attention and hold her/him with anticipation for the first two or three pages, you’ll be okay. Boring narrative won’t cut it. A writer has to hook the reader through lively dialogue or narrative that causes her/him to read on. Ideally, that can be accomplished with a “wowing” first sentence. But as long as you can hold the reader for a couple of pages and then drop the hammer, that’s fine. I strive for a strong opening before I move on with the story. It might take several days of trial and error, but until I get it “right” I don’t advance the plot.

LP: What do you consider the most important element of any story?

EMH: Strong, believable characters. If you can succeed in making the reader identify with and care about your characters, good and bad, you’ve got ’em hooked. And there is no “cardboard” allowed, except for book covers. It’s vital that your main characters are well-rounded, with good and bad traits. No one wants a “goody-two shoes.” Even secondary characters should have appeal, whether positive or negative. If a character is worthy of a name, that character had better be fleshed out at least minimally. Ideally, stereotypical and one-dimensional characters have no place in good writing.

LP: Everyone’s road to publication is different—traditional, indie, a bit of both. Take us down yours.

proud-bastards-hc-1EMH: My combat experiences during the Vietnam War had a profound impact on my becoming a writer, although it was a long, drawn-out journey. I returned home wounded in body and mind. For several years I lived in a “fog” of sorts due to PTSD, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Someone finally steered me to group counseling and it was a tremendous help. One of our assignments was to begin a journal of our wartime experiences. Mine began to take the form of a book. I had done some freelance writing for various magazines, and sent a couple of chapters as standalones to an editor who had published my work in “Vietnam Combat” magazine. He liked what I sent, but told me to wait and send the entire manuscript when completed. I didn’t know it at the time, but he also moonlighted as a literary agent for a few clients. I sent the manuscript to him and he made a quick sale to a New York publisher. The Proud Bastards became my first published book; I’m happy to say it’s still in print after twenty-six years (currently with Simon & Schuster/Pocket). So far all my books have been traditionally published, but I’m not averse to trying the self-publishing route.

LP: Marketing a book takes an enormous amount of an author’s time and energy. What kind of marketing plan works for you?

book-review-clipart-best-ggsghy-clipartEMH: In this day and age, that’s almost an understatement. Unless you’re a “name” author or celebrity, a writer has to bust her/his butt getting the word out. While most reputable mid-sized or small publishers will send review copies to the “big” reviewers (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, etc.), it’s mainly up to the author to contact book blogs and other review venues. Like most authors, I depend mainly on social media to promote my work. I’ve worked hard to compile a list of trustworthy reviewers who will give their honest opinion on any book that comes their way. No sugar-coating allowed. I’ve also attended book conventions in the past. Those can also be good opportunities to garner attention, but social media remains at the top of my marketing list.

LP: In the midst of all this scrambling to market Deadly Spirits, are you working on anything new?

EMH: I’m currently working on my fifth Mac McClellan Mystery, Deadly Verse. It is tentatively scheduled for a November 2017 release. In addition, I’ve also been working on a series of short stories featuring “Dinger, P.I.” Dinger is a private eye who saw extensive combat experience during World War Two with the Marines. After the war he found himself in Las Vegas and set up shop. My publisher has expressed interest in a novella-sized collection of the stories. Someday I hope to give Dinger his own full-length novel, and possibly a series.

LP: Where can readers find out about you and your events online?

Website: www.emichaelhelms.com
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2jgoaoc
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EMichaelHelms/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/183472.E_Michael_Helms
Twitter: https://twitter.com/emichaelhelms

e-michael-helms-headshotA native of Georgia, Michael Helms grew up in Panama City, FL, home of “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches.” His tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War led to his first book, The Proud Bastards: One Marine’s Journey from Parris Island through the Hell of Vietnam. He has since written novels in various genres, and currently writes the Mac McClellan Mystery series for Coffeetown/Camel Press. With his wife Karen, Helms now resides in the Upstate region of South Carolina in the shadows of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. He enjoys fishing, camping, bird watching, and playing guitar. He continues to be harassed by Mac, Kate, and other recurring characters in his mystery series.

cj Sez: Michael provided Lyrical Pens with a great book cover blurb, but you can read that when you buy the book. I think the 5-star review that follows is the perfect invitation into the world of private investigator Mac McClellan:

“Deadly Spirits is a haunting mystery with an ingenious plot, vivid setting and memorable characters, chief among them the incomparable Mac McClellan, who is easily one of my favorite PIs out there. This latest installment will satisfy fans of the series while sending newcomers scrambling to catch up. If you like Robert Crais and Harlan Coben, you’ll surely dig Deadly Spirits. I know I did. Highly recommended.”
–Max Everhart, author of the Eli Sharpe Mystery series; SHAMUS Award finalist, Split to Splinters

marilyn-johnsoncj Sez: Thanks, Michael, for stopping by. I have to say Mac McClellan sounds like a character I’d like to meet in real life. At five books into the series, I think you have a winner. Best wishes for great successes with your writing.

Visit Cj Petterson at her blog: http://www.lyricalpens.com/

John Beyer on Motivation for Writing

Today at #MotiveMeansOpportunity — Motivation for Writing, by John Beyer

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Motivation for writing should be the writing itself. But that is not always the case – theoperationscorpion true motivator for this Wordsmith, is to be read.

I’m not a diarist, keeping my inner thoughts inside the covers of a notebook not to be seen by the outside world. No, to be read by complete strangers is the motivation which prompts one to spend hours upon hours in the make believe world of fiction (or nonfiction for that matter).

Then again, why write? Why not paint? Construct beautiful pieces of sculpture? All are worthy for the creative mind but why do so many of us put pen to paper or fingers to keypads?

Seems simple enough – to tell a story. Be that a short story or a novel – a story needs to be told and the one with the imagination to express the prose must be the one to…

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Don’t Push Me Too Far*

“Don’t Push Me Too Far” — by Margot Kinberg

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

pressureMost of us learn that we can only push people so far before they push back. Everyone has a different limit, but we all have one. Crime writers know this, and sometimes use it to real advantage in their novels.

That pressure, as someone pushes too hard, and someone else nears the breaking point, can add real suspense to a story. And it can serve as a credible motive for murder, at least in the mind of the killer.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Appointment With Death, we meet the Boyntons, an American family on a sightseeing visit to the Middle East. Matriarch Mrs. Boynton is malicious, vindictive, and tyrannical. She has her family so browbeaten that no-one dares go against her wishes. But that doesn’t mean they don’t resent her. A few of the members have been pushed so far for so long that they are at the…

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Review Madness! by E. Michael Helms

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My latest Mac McClellan Mystery (#4) was launched January 15 by Camel Press (as most of you followers of MMO already know). With this book, I dared to do things a little differently than I’ve done with the previous books in the series. Namely, I purposely didn’t seek out as many pre-pub reviews as I’ve done for the previous three books. Results? I’m so glad you asked! 

Although Deadly Spirits is (in my honest, humble opinion) the most complex and interesting mystery thus far in the series, it has garnered the LEAST  reviews (so far) of all previous books thus far in its brief release history. I probably sent under 50% ARCs to reviewers than I’ve done in the past. The results speak for themselves.

The few reviews I’ve received from reviewers (fellow writers & review blogs) have been very encouraging. To whit:

Deadly Spirits is a haunting mystery…

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