Monday, November 24, 2014

Dickens Meets Sherlock Holmes

What do you get when you mix a shade of the darker side of Regency London with a quick-witted lawman? Nicholas Brentwood—a hero who’s a little rough around the edges, colorful as a Dickens character, and observant enough to be a forerunner of Sherlock. But he’s not just any lawman.

He’s a Bow Street Runner.

Traditionally, male householders in London were expected to police the streets in their neighborhood, and every citizen was to report anyone they witnessed committing a crime. This changed in the eighteenth century because of increasing concerns about the threat of dangerous criminals who were attracted by the growing wealth of London’s middle class.

Prompted by a post-war crime wave in 1749, Magistrate Henry Fielding hired a small group of men to locate and arrest serious offenders. He operated out of No. 4 Bow Street, hence the name “Bow Street Runners.”

Fielding petitioned the government and received funding, but even so, he soon ran out of money to pay these men a worthy salary. Still, the runners were committed to justice, so they took on odd jobs such as watchmen or detectives for hire or even—as in the case of Nicholas Brentwood—guarding people or treasures.

What attracted my interest as an author was an old newspaper advertisement put out by Fielding. It encouraged the public to send a note to Bow Street as soon as any serious crime occurred so that “a set of brave fellows could immediately be dispatched in pursuit of the villains.” I wondered about those “brave fellows” and what kind of villains they might come up against, and thus was born Nicholas Brentwood.

Despite Bow Street’s efforts, most Londoners were opposed to the development of an organized police force. The English tradition of local government was ingrained deep, and they feared the loss of individual liberty. So, as gallant as the Runners were in tracking down criminals, the general public did not always view them in a positive light. Even the nickname given them by the public—Bow Street Runners—was considered derogatory and was a title the officers never used to refer to themselves.

Bow Street eventually gave way to the Metropolitan Police, and by 1839, the Runners were completely disbanded. But that doesn’t mean they don’t live on in the fictional realm. See if you can match wits with an experienced lawman as he tracks down a dangerous criminal in BRENTWOOD’S WARD.

There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

Available now as a pre-order in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Aliens, Winter, and An Old Coaching Road

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stump the Chump: Book Reviews From Hell


"What should be avoided when writing a book review?"

Every author's had at least one . . . a kidney-punch of a review that sucks the creative juices from his body and leaves him whimpering in the corner for his mommy. Those are the absolute worst. But what exactly is it that makes for a bad review?

Expecting more than what the story promises.

Before you haul off and whack an author over the head for handing you a plate of literary lasagne when you wanted a steak and potato novel, how about this: read the freaking back cover copy. If the blurb gives off a dark tone, don't expect bunnies and lollipops. Or if it reads lightheartedly, then the novel is probably not going to delve into deep topics. Be realistic.

The spelling and grammar of a three-year-old.

Really? Do I have to mention this. Yep, I do. Bad reviews almost always include typos and grammar that's worthy of a felony. If you're going to rag on an author's writing then yours better be impeccable.

Dishing out judgment as if you're God.

I understand that everyone has different worldviews and morals. Newsflash: books do too, because they're written by humans. So if sex outside of marriage pushes your buttons, don't buy 50 Shades of Grey and go on a rant about promiscuity. Instead of writing a review condemning the author to hell, I suggest that your time would be better spent praying for the poor slob.

Spewing pride poison.

Oh, so you think you can write a better book? Go for it. Writing a novel is stinking hard work, I don't care how bad you think the writing is. Because of that, do not -- read my lips here -- do NOT attack the author's work ethic. The novel may not be Steinbeck quality but I guarantee you the writer put in as much effort as Steinbeck would have.

Those are my top 4. What else do you think should be left out of a book review? Leave your ideas in the comment section and your name will be tossed in the Tupperware for tomorrow's big drawing. You could win the Gannah book of your choice!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Stump the Chump: What An Author Likes to See in a Review


"As an author, what are things you wish your reviewers would pick out from your books and mention in their reviews? Or, in short, how does one review a book in a way that will be helpful to others?"

A clear statement of what the reader liked about the book.
Characters? Plot twists? Skill with sewing words together into a stunning literary quilt? As an author, it's helpful for me to know exactly what it is that connects with a reader so that I can continue to do that in the future.

Honesty. . . always has been and always will be the best policy.
Above all, be honest. If you hate something particular in a story, name it. An author needs to know when they've crossed the line with their writing. Disclaimer: Don't beat the pathetic author into a bloody pulp. That's what sales numbers are for. 

Share your gut feelings.
Avoid a lengthy summarization of the story because guess what little ninja . . . you're not writing a junior high book report. Instead, tell others what caused you to weep, laugh, or shout. What was it about the story that connected with you on an emotional level?

What's the tone?
As a reader, what did you think the overall feel to the book was? Lighthearted? Fast-paced action? Gut-wrenching or gut-splitting?

And lastly, this isn't a must-have, but it's nice to know who the reader would recommend the book to (examples: middle-aged women, teen moms, diabetic warthogs, whatever).

And don't forget that anyone leaving a comment this week will get entered into the grand prize Gannah drawing this Friday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stump the Chump: What I Look For in a Review

I'm asked questions all the time. . . 
  • "What's your next book going to be about?"
  • "How much money do you make?"
  • "Can you get me an autograph of Ted Dekker?"
  • "How come we're all out of Pop Tarts?"
I think I've pretty much covered the answers to those perennial favorites in past posts, but guess what? I've got a new batch of questions recently emailed to me that are all about book reviews. 


"When you're checking out reviews of a new book and trying to decide whether to invest money, and more importantly, your time, into it, what are the most useful tidbits *you* find in those reviews that help you make your decision?"

Great question! And no, I don't say that about every question because I'm of the firm belief that there are stupid questions. 

Before I go forking over cash on Amazon, I always check out the reviews. Sometimes I even pop over to Goodreads and read a few dozen more just because I have a handy-dandy button in my tool bar and it's easy to punch it.

The most important piece of information I'm looking for in a review is what struck a nerve in people. To find that out, I gravitate toward the 1 star and 5 star reviews. Those tend to be the most passionate. If I'm going to read a book, I want it to make me think or connect at a deep emotional or spiritual level. 3 star reviews scream milquetoast. Ain't nobody got time for that.

I want to know why people loved or hated the book. Were the characters flat? The plot implausible? The writing so beautiful it made the reader weep for three days straight?

I also like it if there's a quote or two taken from the book so I can get a feel for the writing. But if there are spoilers, grrr! Especially if I'm not warned ahead of time with a **spoiler alert** and a plot twist is revealed.

It's nice to know if there are any overarching themes such as justice or forgiveness or whatever that's carried out through the story. This kind of information is usually hard to come by, though.

That's what I look for in a review. What about you? Leave your answer in the comment section and I'll enter you in Friday's drawing for your choice of one of Yvonne Anderson's Gannah books.

Oh yeah, and you might want to check out her reviews here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stop it! You're Killing Me!

Yes, this IS her happy face.
Today I'm handing the leash over to my BF (yeah, I know, there's an F missing but you'll have to read on to find out why), Yvonne Anderson. Don't worry. You'll like her. She's a snarkmeister.

First off, I’d like to thank Michelle for inviting me to stop by. It makes me a little nervous that someone let her off the leash, but as long as I keep her in sight, she won’t be able to slip around and bite me in the behind. So, with one eye on her as she sniffs around the yard, I’ll begin.

I’ve been thinking about killing people.

More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how frequently we writers kill people in stories.

You’ve probably seen the statistics collected over the decades concerning TV and movie violence. One study estimates that by the time a person is 18 years old, he or she will have viewed 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders. (And that’s not counting video games.) If that’s the estimate for a teenager, how many grisly deaths will have played across a person’s vision by the time he’s old and gray?

Even those who avoid the graphic, gory stuff often find death to be entertaining. For instance, have you ever read a mystery, even a cozy one, that didn’t involve murder?

Count me among those who don’t like gore. I’m not a fan of shoot-em-ups with crazy-high body counts. I don’t care for stories in which characters pick people off with no more concern than they have for the lint they pick off their clothes. But the fact is, sometimes a novel needs a well-placed death to give it depth and dimension.

Since the Fall, death has been an inescapable fact of life. We all experience the pain of it in our lifetimes, and when it touches us personally, death matters a great deal. Fear of death—our own, or that of loved ones—provides the motive for much of what we do.

Despite our casual attitude about killing on-screen, the death of someone we care about, even a fictional character, packs an emotional wallop.

Some years back, when Michelle was writing her second novel, Undercurrent, I helped a little with critiquing her chapters. When I got to Chapter 28, where Alarik died (and I hope you’ve already read the book so I’m not spoiling anything for you), I was enthralled. It takes guts to kill off a main character—and it was for such a good purpose! The story sang as a result of it. Yes, Alarik died a worthy death.

I was going to say I don’t kill a lot of people in my novels, but I guess that’s not true. In The Story in the Stars, the first in the Gateway to Gannah series, a whole planet dies (though off-screen, so to speak), along with a few miscellaneous others. Including two that the protagonist kills with her bare hands, with the reader a ringside spectator. So yeah, I guess it’s true: I killed a lot of people in that one.

In the second title in the series, though, Words in the Wind, that’s not the case. Wait a minute… I didn’t kill a whole planet, so I definitely did better with that one. But, okay, there were several people who died at my hands.

How about Book #3, Ransom in the Rock? Well… ah…. Let’s move on.

Book 4, The Last Toqeph. Not bloody at all. The only person who died in that one (that I recall, at least) was… um… Michelle’s favorite character. After reading that fateful chapter, she rescinded my longstanding BFF privileges. (I thought that second “F” was supposed to stand for “Forever,” eh?)

So, all right: I kill people. But that last death wasn’t premeditated. In fact, it surprised even me. The story reached a point where there was no getting around it; it simply had to happen. After all, how could I deny the character the right to go out the way he’d chosen from the time he first entered the series?

I’m curious what you readers think. Why does death play such a prominent role in fiction? Do writers (novelists, screenwriters, or all such scribes) kill too many people? In stories, can death sometimes serve a good purpose?

Oh, dear, I lost sight of Michelle. Where’d she go? Michelle? Yoo hoo, Mich— OUCH! Ow, oh, drat it! I knew I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off her. I need that leash. Where’s the leash? Somebody, get this writer chained up before she kills someone!

**spits out bite of heinie and marks another notch in her belt** See what I mean about Yvonne? Snappy little gal. And her novels will hold your attention every bit as much. Here's her latest and greatest  . . .


While traveling through desolate terrain, Adam stumbles upon an impossibility: a village of Old Gannahan survivors. Hard to believe. Harder yet, it seems one of them is the true heir to the throne.

Will Adam right an ancient wrong and lose his inheritance? Or ignore the truth and lose his integrity?


Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.

The Story in the Stars, the first in the Gateway to Gannah series as well as her debut novel, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2012. The adventure continues with Words in the Wind and Ransom in the Rock and concludes with The Last Toqeph, released in October of 2014.

She lives in Western Maryland with her husband of almost forty years and shares the occasional wise word on her personal site, YsWords. She’s been with The Borrowed Book blog for a year or two now and has coordinated Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest for unpublished novelists since the beginning of time. (Or at least, since the contest’s inception.)

Oh, yeah: she also does freelance editing.


Who wouldn't? Yvonne's graciously asked me to reinstate her F in BFF if she sucks up and offers a free giveaway here on Writer Off the Leash. Never one to turn down a bribe and/or freebie, I said sure. So, simply do one of the following and let me know in the comment section what you did. I'll enter your name in a hat (or more likely a piece of Tupperware) and draw a lucky winner on my Friday vlog. You'll win the book of your choice from Yvonne's collection (and they're all great - I've read every one of them).

Choose one of these:

  • Like Yvonne on Facebook
  • Tweet this blog entry
  • If you've already read one of her books, post a review on Amazon or Goodreads
  • Tell one other person about Yvonne Anderson (anyone, even the mailman, but maybe not the dog)
  • Visit her personal site: Ys Words (yes, I just broke every rule of blogging by directing you to someone else's blog . . . deal with it)
And anytime you comment on any of my posts this week, I'll toss your name in the Tupperware just because I'm awesome. I mean Yvonne's awesome.

Gotta run. I'm feeling kind of bitey again.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Jane Austen Festival 2014