All posts by laelbr5_wp

And Then You Were Gone by RJ Jacobs

Paolo takes Emily, who has finally managed to get her bi-polar under control, out on his boat for a romantic date. After a wine-filled evening, Emily awakens to find herself alone on the boat. A roller coaster ride through the police investigation reveals a different Paolo, and Emily must work to prove herself innocent in this missing man mystery. Jacobs does a great job of eliciting sympathy for his unreliable narrator, and the twists and turns are credible and gasp-worthy. Fans of Catherine Steadman’s Something in the Water and / or Kelly Simmon’s Where She Went will appreciate Jacobs’ style of storytelling. I received a digital copy of this fantastic thriller from the publisher through NetGalley.

Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

I lay across my bed reading a book laid on the floor next to the bed. Hearing a harrumphy throat clearing, I sat up and tilted my head questioningly at my father in the doorway. He walked in and sat next to me on the bed, clasping his hands together, staring at the floor. I copied his body language without thinking, dreading what my mother had sent him to tell me. Well—he began—I know you’re a teenager now. Yeah—I responded. Shifting, adjusting his pants, rubbing his beard, he tried again—I just want you to know what’s going on, you know, with boys and all. I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes before assuring him—Daddy, it’s not like I’m dating anyone; the boys in this town don’t like me. He looked at me funny and said—I betcha some boy does like you, but he’s just shy, cuz you know, you’re a pretty girl. My laughter surprised him, and I shook my head as though he was clueless. Boys in my school saw me only as a target. Well, in any case—he told me as he again stared at the floor—one day you’ll like a boy, and then things will happen. What things, Daddy—I asked, appreciating the realization—things like threesomes and fetishes and maybe adult toys. Good lord—he hollered as he jumped halfway to the door and inquired loudly—where the hell did you learn that shit. I couldn’t help grinning as I answered—Daddy, we have cable; you don’t need to tell me about sex.

G. Allen Wilbanks – Horror/Fantasy/Sci-fi Author

G. Allen Wilbanks is a retired police officer living in Northern California. For twenty-five years he wrote collision and crime reports during the day to pay the bills, and short fiction during his off-time to stay sane. In 2016, he retired from real life to devote his full attention to fantasy. He has published two short story collections, and the novel, When Darkness Comes. His short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Deep Magic, The Talisman and dozens of other magazines and anthologies all over the world.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, black magick spells, etc.

I live on five acres of property in a rural neighborhood, so I spend most of my day isolated from other people. I’m okay with that, though, because it gives me time to write with minimum distractions. I’m also a bit of a hermit if I’m being honest. I like the isolation. Most of my days look pretty similar. I wake up in the morning about 7 AM to say goodbye to my wife as she heads out the door to go to work. I start my morning with a four or five mile walk through the pastures and farmlands surrounding my home while I listen to audiobooks (since I rarely have to time to sit and read a book anymore). Back home, I work in my yard tending the garden and fruit trees for a couple hours (still listening to a book), and then about 11 o’clock I settle into my den to write. My wife gets home about 6 PM each day and usually finds me at my desk still working on whatever WIP I’ve chosen for that day.

Walk me through your publishing process, from “final” draft to final product, and marketing strategies.

I have published three books: two collections of short stories and one novel. I published each of them through CreateSpace (which has since been bought out by KDP Select). The software was very user-friendly and made the process as simple as possible for a newbie like myself. There is software for making your own cover and creating your own layout for the cover of the book, but I would actually recommend reaching out to a professional cover artist or designer. It makes a world of difference and your book will look much more appealing to a potential reading audience.

Marketing is the hard part. I am a bit of an introvert and am much more comfortable writing stories than trying to convince others to buy them. This is still an area I am working on improving. If you are publishing traditionally, there are usually people working for the publishers who are responsible for marketing, but if you are an indie writer like me, you need to get the word out on your own. Social media is the key to attracting readers. It is more than just telling people you have a book for sale; you need to get people interested in you personally first—then they might get curious enough to purchase what you have written. Building a following is a slow, gradual process. I wish I could give you some secret or tip to sell a million books, but I haven’t figured it out myself just yet.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My biggest supporter in my writing is my best friend and fellow writer, Wes Blalock. Our paths have paralleled each other’s in many ways. We both had careers in law enforcement before focusing on writing full time. Although we tend to write in different genres, we beta read much of each other’s manuscripts, offer editing advice, and encourage one another with our projects. We have even attended writing events together.

Online, I have joined several writing groups on Facebook and have connected with writers all over the world on Twitter. I find I get to know people a little better and interact more with them on Facebook, but the groups you join are important. Many of them are looking for people to sell books and writing services to rather than provide support and help. Choose carefully. Look for the groups that support one another, share publishing opportunities, and offer advice when you have serious questions about the process of writing or publishing.

How does life, and career in law enforcement, influence your writing and vice versa?

While I was working in law enforcement, much of my writing was very dark. It focused on human cruelty and personal suffering. My ideas frequently came from real life incidents I had investigated, then I would twist the tale to give it a more suspenseful feel or add supernatural elements. Writing was cathartic for me then, it helped me process all the ugliness and violence I dealt with in my job. Now that I’m retired, I still love writing horror stories, but I have found myself moving more into the realms of dark fantasy and surrealism. I guess as my life has become less chaotic, so has my storytelling.

What do you love most about your creativity?

When I was working as a police officer, writing was one of the ways that I dealt with stress. Writing (and reading) short stories helped me deal with some of the harder emotional aspects of my job in a healthier way than drinking or trying to ignore them. Creating a story allowed me to decompress and to process my feelings.

Although I am no longer dealing with the same level of stress in my life, writing is still a great outlet. I take pieces of dreams, ideas, and feelings and try to create something complete and wonderful out of them. I keep notebooks all around the house because I never know when a thought or somebody’s comment might trigger a new story idea. I absolutely love seeing a published final version of a story that started out as just a bunch of fragments of ideas and emotions. It is even more rewarding when I hear from someone who enjoyed reading something I created, but that is not the main reason I write. I think even if I never published another piece, I would continue to write just for the peace and enjoyment it brings me.

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The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

Eva meets Lt. Spencer on the SS Lurline on her way to Hawaii, where her fiance and a nursing position await her in Pearl Harbor. Their story incorporates the real history of a mysterious message and government coverup exposing Pearl Harbor to attack. This is a good story even if you’re not a huge fan of WWII novels. There’s espionage, danger, injustice, and romance. The only niggle is the anachronistically feminist Lt. Spencer. The characters are complex, with multiple storylines blending seamlessly toward the inevitable end. I was graciously provided a copy through a Goodreads giveaway.

Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

From the living room floor, I watched the roaches crawl across the ceiling. When they began to fall, I hurriedly wrapped the blanket around me and tucked it in as best I could. Uncle J’s death was unexpected and Aunt D came unglued, dragging my cousins from sibling to sibling. I crossed my fingers they’d be moving on soon. Alas, they enrolled in the local school, the meanest two in my grade…not twins, just one dumb one. They tormented me daily, on top of the usual bullying I received from my classmates, so that in the evenings I would ride my bike around town until dark, hoping dinner would distract them. I was ordered to come home straight after school and stay there by my mother, adamant that I show compassion. The night I took to the streets on my bike, sobbing, I returned long after sunset to find my father waiting for me in his garage. I homed in on the light as a beacon of refuge. He was fiddling around, doing a little of nothing, as he liked to say, when I entered. Without turning around, he told me—Your mother’s angry with you. He looked at me, one eyebrow raised. There was nothing to say. Facing the counter again, he said—I got you something—and brought a little box to me. We sat on his workbench so I could open it. My gift was an itty bitty radio with a pullout antenna. He took it from me, placed it on a little table next to an overstuffed chair he’d dragged down from the attic, and plugged it in. Next to the chair, he’d put a small bookshelf and filled it with some of the books from my room. He hugged me and said—You can come read in here after school; I’ll let your mother know where you are.

Rivals Break by Carla Neggers

Guests at a dinner party on a yacht in Maine end up in the hospital with food poisoning. The chef blames her carelessness in mushroom scavenging, but then discovers one of the guests was an MI5 agent and a friend of her father, who is a toxicologist in hospital in Britain dying of mushroom poisoning, blamed on his carelessness. Local FBI agents and MI5 colleagues, suspecting foul play, parse their communication, with intermittent inexplicable forthrightness. The constant repetition of characters’ main traits of being government agents blends them together in a brothy soup of spyness. Suddenly, there’s a culprit, with no previous hints or any indication of involvement, so that backstory must be thrust in awkwardly. I received a digital copy through NetGalley, where the synopsis provided no clue that it was 9th in the series, information only to be found at the end of the book. Perhaps if Dear Reader is already invested in these spy characters, this particular story would hold more credibility.


Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sharpe & Donovan series featuring Boston-based FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, the Swift River Valley series set in small-town New England and many other novels of romance, mystery and suspense. With dozens of bestsellers to her credit, Carla and her husband divide their time between their hilltop home in Vermont, a pull-out sofa at their kids’ places in Boston and various spots on their travels, frequently to Ireland. Learn more at


Undercover FBI agent Colin Donovan joins his wife, Emma Sharpe, an FBI art crimes expert, for his brother’s wedding in their fishing village on the southern Maine coast. When Kevin Donovan, a marine patrol officer, receives a call to check on suspected food-poisoning at a party aboard a yacht Colin, a former marine patrol officer, tags along.

It’s quickly evident this is no ordinary case of food poisoning. They’re dealing with a deliberate attack. Most of the victims are one-time associates of an imprisoned arms trafficker—a Russian national whose arrest the previous year was made possible by Colin’s undercover work and Emma’s art crimes expertise.

A rare, boutique deadly poison is responsible for the deaths and near-deaths aboard the yacht. From his federal prison, the trafficker claims to know nothing of the attack but he believes one of his rivals is responsible or at least involved. Whoever distributed the poison had to be on the yacht at some point and therefore was either a passenger or a guest. Given the nature of the weapon used, the attacker also would have to be highly skilled in handling its volatile, deadly components. Who made the poison? What was the purpose of the attack—revenge, greed, a message, ideological?

With more questions than answers, Emma and Colin enter the shadowy world of the victims of the attack. They discover someone is out to sell extremely dangerous poisons to organized crime networks. The trail takes them to an unlikely source.

Emma, Colin, HIT and their family and friends must stop the poisoner before he facilitates his next attack.


“Well-plotted, intriguing and set mostly in the lushly described Irish countryside, the novel is smart and satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews on Declan’s Cross

“Saint’s Gate…is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of romantic suspense that will appeal to fans of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner.” —Library Journal

An “intense, edge-of-your-seat whirlwind.” —Booklist on Liar’s Key

“Insanely sensational….engaging, complex, unforgettable.”
—RT Book Reviews, a September Top Pick!, on Liar’s Key

A “suspenseful, fast-moving thriller with plot twists and excitement to the delightful conclusion.”
—Reader to Reader, on Liar’s Key

“A richly atmospheric, beautifully drawn tale with echoes of Daniel Silva and even Dan Brown.” —Providence Journal on Liar’s Key

“Carla Neggers has long excelled at forging neo-gothic, brooding tales rich in setting and atmosphere. With Thief’s Mark, though, she ups the ante in fashioning a crime thriller of rare depth and complexity.” —Providence Journal

Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

He came in quietly and stood just inside the doorway. I continued perusing my bookshelf, waiting for him to announce his reason to enter my bedroom, a rare occurrence. After a couple of throat clearings, he walked over and sat on the edge of my bed, patting the space next to him. The hair on my arms prickled my skin, a vague unease settling in my stomach as I sat next to him. My father then asked me—You know your mother and I love you, right? I jumped up to face him, asking too loudly—Are you getting a divorce? He blinked and shook his head before smiling and assuring me—No, no, nothing like that…sit, sit—patting the bed again. I sat up straight and stared at the wall through a few more throat clearing harrumphs. When he finally spoke again, he told me softly—Should you ever need any surgeries…—and I again took to my feet to search his face for answers. Am I sick—I asked him—I don’t remember the doctor saying anything. Shaking his head frantically, he implored—Please sit down and stop looking at me. I complied, and he continued—If you have back pain, or shoulder pain, or need any kind of surgery…—I burst out laughing. Daddy, look—I said—I know I’m only 15, but I will never, ever want breast-reduction surgery, and you can take that to mother. He nodded, hugged me, and walked out as quietly as he came in, leaving me rolling around on my bed giggling.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Grace Kelly brought British journalist James Henderson into French parfumeur Sophie Duval’s life when she hid in Sophie’s shop to avoid another paparazzi, setting in motion the tale of the star-crossed lovers, resurrecting the Duval family business, and laying the foundation for the parallel story of Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gaynor and Webb paint a lush, yet pragmatic picture of Monaco, the Monegasques, and the Princess, with foremost the blossoming emotions of Sophie and James, characters clearly not products of their time, but who stand out from the crowd. Francophiles, parfum lovers, and Grace Kelly fans will love this novel, though other readers will appreciate the descriptive details of the setting and the intriguing characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Flash Fiction Friday: Danger

Karen swore the susurration followed her as she walked along the cornfield. It seemed to come only from the section right next to her, as though her energy were bouncing off the stalks. She thought she could actually feel the energy hitting her, but maybe it was just her imagination. When such things happened to her, no one else felt it, and everyone so far in her life blamed it on her imagination, ergo her conclusion here. Karen walked on, a bit jittery until the land opened up onto a meadow.

Deep inside the cornstalks, warnings leapt out as the human passed, with the universal understanding of plants that when their buds came to fruition, they would be raped and pillaged, often by the big monsters the humans employed. For now, they could only deflect the human energy, whispering to each other—a human is near; our time is coming.

Brittany Ramsey—Digital and Graphic Artist

Brittany started exploring digital illustration at age 13, experimenting with Photoshop at home for a few hours a day. She completed a multimedia program in high school (10th grade) for 3D Modeling and Animation, attended Johnson County Community College for Animation in Overland Park, Kansas, earning her degree in 2013. She moved to Colorado in 2014 to finish her degree at The Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Game Art in Lakewood, Colorado, graduating in 2018. She has been doing freelance digital illustration, 3D art, and graphic design since 2005.

Acacia Twitch banner
Architectural sketch

Tell me about your artistic process: schedule, environment, materials / tools / programs, inspirations, styles, etc.

A lot of my process depends on the project; typically, I like to brainstorm with thumbnail sketches of illustrations and designs first to give me an idea of direction. I also like to at that time come up with a couple different color palettes and collect reference images. The programs that I utilize most often are Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Maya (for 3D work). My style ranges from photorealism to portraiture to more folksy-stylized work for illustrations.

Bear Necessities
Boo Cappy

Walk me through your commission, sales, and marketing strategies.

For commissions, a lot of the time I do not have a per hour structure. I tend to commission per the job while factoring in cost of time, materials (if traditional media), and of course the complexity of the project commissioned. A lot of my business is word of mouth and through social media.

Cardinal watercolor
Dark Knight

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My biggest cheerleaders have been my friends. Initially my family didn’t think that going into art as a career would be a good field to jump into, but over time digital art has only blown up! Especially in the entertainment and animation fields of work, technical artists are always needed. My mother was always a champion of the arts, and strongly encouraged me to do what I wanted and chase my dreams of working in game development despite what anyone else said.

Devon Disney style
Lavender Twilight

How does life influence your art and vice versa?

Life has strongly influenced my art, mostly through flora and fauna. I have always been an avid fan of realism, but fantasy has been my biggest influence. There are so many strange plants, animals and environments on the Earth to reference from that all of it has been a big inspiration for me to create “new” types of them that would exist in fantasy.

Prairie fire
Saleen S73D model

What do you love most about your creativity?

What I love most about my creativity is the way it lets me put a bit of “me” out there in the world. I don’t aim to be a super famous artist but its more than worth it to have just one single person tell me that my work inspired them in any way. Most artists, myself included, tend to be more solitary, so it’s a good format to “speak” to your audience without actually speaking. It gives me a way to communicate visually and express myself in a language that everyone can understand, with colors, shapes, and lines.

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