Blood on the Tracks & Dead Stop; Book Review

Dead Stop (Sydney Rose Parnell Series Book 2) by [Nickless, Barbara]       Blood on the Tracks (Sydney Rose Parnell Series Book 1) by [Nickless, Barbara]

I just finished the second of a three book series by award winning author Barbara Nickless. Blood on the Tracks and Dead Stop will set your heart pounding. Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell is a railroad cop facing grizzly crimes, while fighting an internal battle from her stint as a mortuary specialist in Iraq. With her K-9 partner, Clyde, she takes the reader on a wild ride solving gut wrenching crimes along the railroad lines in Colorado.

The Sydney Rose Parnell Series will put the taste of grit in your mouth, and the feel of grime on your palms. It will keep you guessing to the last pages. Nickless weaves a tight cloth that leaves no lose threads for the reader to reach any conclusions too soon.

Blood on the Tracks Awards:

  • The Colorado Book Award, presented by Colorado Humanities & the Center for the Book.
  • Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence for mainstream mystery.
  • Colorado Authors’ League Writing Award for genre fiction.
  • Suspense Magazine Best Book of 2016.

The third installment, Ambush, comes out late in 2018.

I am excited to get my hands on Ambush……….I pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Author Barbara Nickless with a proud furry friend.

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NaNoWriMo – 2017

It is that time of the month again where I join with other writers to discuss the “dark side” of being a writer. Actually, that might be a bit of a strong term, but it will do for now. On the first Wednesday of every month Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) posts one or two subject questions so we can talk about our doubts and the fears that we have conquered as writers. We can discuss our struggles and triumphs then offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling with their own writing.

This month’s question:

  • Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Let me explain NaNo for the readers who are not familiar. The full term is NaNoWriMo which is short for National Novel Writing Month. During November of every year, writers around the globe sit down to write a novel in thirty days. Sound easy? NOT! The goal is to crank out 50,000 words in a mere thirty days, and if you want one day a week off you have to manage 2,000 everyday of the month. It is, to say the least, an insane challenge.

On to the questions. Do I finish NaNo? I have only participated once before and it kicked my butt out the door by day 10. November is just plain HARD. It is a month when my job intensifies and life just pulls in too many directions. I am trying again this year so I’ll let you know the results. Needless to say, nothing has been published ——

YET.

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG, Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

Pop’s Story

I recently completed editing my great grandfather’s autobiographical manuscript about his life as a railroad man in the early 1900’s.  It was inspirational to read his words and be a part of something he started to write so long ago. He wrote everything in longhand and, in turn, my great aunt would put the words to the typewriter. Correspondence was by snail mail so each leg of the writing was done over weeks and months rather than the minutes we enjoy in today’s electronic world. There was no spell check, just a dictionary. Errors were erased and retyped, or the page was just pulled out of the typewriter and thrown away.

Research, and his manuscript, have taught me a lot about the railroad business of the early 1900’s. It was a mix of brutality and joy with a little despair mixed in. Grand-“Pop” was a civil engineer who found the lay of the land and supervised the workers to lay the track, and with this unique perspective he wrote about events that happened nearly a hundred twenty years ago. He loved this work that it took him through hostile lands both here and abroad.  He fought swamps and deserts, along with rebels and farmers.  He went so far as to be a founding father of a small town just so a railroad station could be built there. He had moxie.

I am working on my own novel based on some of his stories. I find it challenging to try and put words into his mouth for fear of painting him with the wrong palette. Even after reading and transcribing his memoir, I still worry. To put words in his mouth brings him back down to the human plane when, to me, he is larger than life. I ask myself if he would say something like what I’m writing? How would he look at his men after they berated a Chinese laborer? What did he actually say to them? What would he be thinking as he lay nearly frozen to death in the north woods? How did he get across the muskeg, on foot, so many times?

My great grandfather passed away in the late 40’s. To know him and what he might say is lost to time. I hope that the character I have created for him lives up to him at least a little bit. Only when I join him in the afterlife will I know who he really was. So, until then my imaginings will have to do.

#IWSG – A Writer’s Retreat

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. I just learned about this fun group from Shannon Lawrence, who is a fellow writer and blogger. Just the title of the group screamed that I needed to check it out. This group was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh so writers could virtually gather to express their thoughts about writing. It looks intriguing so I have joined in.

Our co-hosts today are Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

The question for this month is: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing? Let’s take a look at these one at a time because each one raises a different set of Pet Peeves for me.

READING: When I read a book that has gone through all of the gyrations to reach publication I have high expectations. My number one issue is misspelled words. I can accept a couple, especially in a manuscript of 100,000 words, but when I see multiple instances of spelling errors my hackles start to raise.

A manuscript goes through the mill before publication, and if an author has done due diligence it would have been seen by the author, spell check, critique groups, beta readers, editors (line and content), publishers, early prints, and then reprints. By the time a book is into the mainstream it should not have spelling errors.

Editing: When I’m editing my own work my pet peeve is that I’m too hard on myself. I do endless comparisons of my work to great writers I aspire to write as well as. I remind myself that they have their creative greatness and I have mine. If I find myself being too hard on me, I set it aside and come back later when I’m not thinking of a Jane Austin novel.

WRITING: In this area I tend to not be too hard on myself. The entire process of writing is, in of itself, a process. Like all writers, I start with an idea then progresses through a vast journey of discovery. When I first started to write I thought, “This will be easy. I just put words to paper and, voila, a book appears.” I laugh at myself. Just getting started was a huge learning curve, and today I continue to learn my craft. If I had to name one thing that is difficult for me it would be to write everyday. Getting in a few days a week is a thrill, and I hope one day life will allow me to write daily.

As a reader, what are your Pet Peeves?

#IWSG

@TheIWSG

Among the Lesser Gods, by Margo Catts

margo-lesser-gods Among the Lesser Gods by Margo Catts

Among the Lesser Gods explores the question, “If we make a decision in childhood how does that shape and mold our present?” This lovely story is set in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. A young woman, Elena Alvarez, has made many bad choices in her life beginning with a deadly fire at the age of five. She begrudgingly completes college and is in an unwanted pregnancy. Now, her grandmother invites her to stay with her for the summer and care for a family who has suffered their own losses.

Margo Catts’ debut novel is beautifully written. Catts shows how a young woman comes to terms with her past through living in the present. The story pulls the reader in, weaving a delicate tapestry of joy, sadness, elation, devastation, and fulfillment. A great read.

Star Struck

margo-lesser-gods

On May 15th, 2017, Margo Catts launched her debut novel, Among the Lesser Gods. Normally I would be writing a review of her book – which I will be doing soon – but today I am writing about my experience of being “Star Struck”.

I have always felt that every human is just a person no matter their social or economic status. As the old saying goes, we all put our pants on one leg at a time. Shirts only go on one arm at a time, and skivvies are in the same category. We all wear them (ok, some people feel skivvies are too binding) and we all put them on essentially the same way. Thus, Mark Zuckerberg and I are on the same playing field in the basics of life. I’m sure that if I met him on the street he may look familiar to me, but I would not really recognize him, much less be star struck for him.

But, on that evening in May, I was struck by Margo. Her book launch was at the Tattered Cover,  a bookshop where friends gather to sip tea and talk books. It is cozy. When I arrived, Margo had already started her presentation to a group of about 40 adoring fans. Up to this point I had only known Margo during our critique group and at her home for coffee. I met a new side of her.

Her presentation had everyone laughing and crying. Her slight nervousness gave her a down to earth eloquence. She spoke of her inspiration for the book and how her curious mind took a tiny article about a fire and turned it into a wonderfully moving novel.

After her presentation we all clutched our copies of her books to wait for a few moments with the author and have our copies signed. I ended up toward the end of the line, and was able to chat with several of our writing friends to pass the time. I watched as each new person smiled and had kind words for Margo, and in turn she generously shared hugs and laughter.

I wondered what they all were saying. “Great job Margo!” “Loved your book Margo.” “When will the next book come out?” “I couldn’t put it down.” The compliments just flowed and Margo beamed. My turn finally arrived and I walked up to the table grinning from ear to ear and my mind just went blank. I stood in front of Margo with this smile, and I couldn’t get any words to come out of my mouth. I really was star struck. I was (and still am) so proud to stand in front of this wonderful author. Margo Catts, my friend, was now a published author and I was beside myself with awe. I finally was able to push out a single word…WOW. That’s all I could say in that moment. I went around the table and gave her a hug and whispered, “I’m so happy for you.”

As soon as I got home, Margo’s book was put where all of my signed copies go – in a book cabinet that holds all of my closest friends (that is, book, friends). I never read the signed copy of a book. That one gets put away to be treasured and I purchase a second copy to dog ear and love. Thank you Margo, for making my first star stricken experience a great one! I can now go back to my regular life putting my pants on one leg at a time.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

I just purchased the new software called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I have been working with it for just a short while. Actually, only about an hour. This blog post is the first sizable bit of writing that I have done with it.

I decided to purchase the software mostly because I broke my arm last weekend. Typing with one hand is quite slow and rather annoying. I had been thinking about purchasing Dragon Naturally Speaking in order to increase my output as a writer because I felt like my hands kept getting in the way of my thought processes when I’m writing. Then I broke my arm.

It is quite awkward to talk and try to keep track of where my punctuation goes. I am getting the hang of it pretty quick and things seem to be slowly coming together. I will say that this program is quite accurate so far. I haven’t really come across anything that is not working very well. I do go back and double check spelling and punctuation, and things like that, just because I’m not saying them correctly yet. For the most part I’m pretty impressed.

I have the premium version that I purchased on Amazon for about $75. The only drawback was the headset that came with the software didn’t work, and I had to purchase a separate headset with a USB connection.

Since breaking my arm I have a whole new appreciation for anyone who has limited use of a hand. This limitation really brings challenges that you never would think about on a day-to-day basis. Things such as opening a bottle, or putting on your pants, or tying your shoes. I also found that typing is extremely challenging, and things that took me just a few minutes to type now take me twenty. Finding this software has made my life simpler. So, I’m looking forward to continuing the test on this software. I let you know how it all works out.