mystery

Starving Review: Novelty by Shann Hurst

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Novelty by Shann Hurst (Amazon, Goodreads)

There are times when a dish comes into the pantry that dances around conventional cuisine classifications. They aren’t quite what has been termed ‘fusion’ dishes, but they certainly don’t conform to simple genre conventions. Novelty certainly fits this nebulous category of not really having a category and that, on the surface, certainly intrigued me with the potential of originality. Did Novelty live up that potential and, more importantly, was it tasty?

Before the taste test is finished, let us recite the Starving Review Creed:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible’

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Monday Musings: You Deserve a Sneak Peek Today!

Yes, things have been rough lately.  Holidays, work, more work, large objects to my face (glasses go boom!), and more!

Still, though, the words have continued to pour from my pen.  My latest novel WiP,  the fantasy mystery romance post-magical-apocalypse film noire tale with some cyberpunk influences that I did a first sneak peek of HERE, is rapidly winding to the conclusion of the first draft.  I’ve had some wonderful alpha readers urging me on and calling me out when they need to, and I feel really good about this.  So, with that said, how about we get a little bit more, something to wet your appetite for what’s to come.  Remember, this is still the rough first draft with only minimal editing.  Still, I think you might enjoy it!

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Monday, err, Tuesday Musings: A Taste of What’s to Come

So the things we have learned this past day are obvious, mainly to always ensure one’s alarm is set when living a new, non-standard sleep schedule.  I did warn that some posts might be coming later, but I don’t think a whole day later is covered by that.  For this, I apologize profusely.

To make up for that, let’s do something a bit more substantial than the usual weekly ramble.  How about we put up a little smidge of my next novel (still untitled, yo!), a fantasy mystery romance post-magical-apocalypse film noire tale with some cyberpunk influences.  Remember, this is still first draft stuff but I hope you enjoy all the same!

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Monday Musings: New Book Series, New Readers a.k.a. Beta Readers Needed!

Okay, literary foodies, I need to call upon some assistance!  You see, I think I’ve hit critical mass to start getting a proper group of alpha/beta readers together.  It is something completely different than the other novel series I have written and I’m looking for as much input as possible.

The book itself is a fantasy mystery romance LGBT drama set in a post-magical-apocalypse world with film noire and cyberpunk influences.  I don’t want to delve much into it as there is still fluidity in the course of the plot (I’m about a third of the way through the book).  If what you have seen here interests you so far, then contact me at jbgarner58@gmail.com and I will tell you more!

Sorry for the brevity today, but I am starting to work a few overnight shifts each week so, yeah, time to shift my sleep schedule.  Expect more later this week!

Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

Book News: New Projects and A Strange Plea a.k.a. My Apology, No Comedy Title Today

No alumni Starving Interview today, folks, though I hope to rectify this next week!  Instead, we present an offer of new things in the future, followed by yours truly begging at your feet like a kicked puppy.  AWESOME!

Right, let’s start with the less embarrassing part.  My latest writing project, the start of a brand new series, has actually begun.  There is a lot about this new book that stray away from the works I’ve done in the past, but I think that will give this series a unique place in my portfolio.  I think it’s too early yet to start dropping teasers and such, but if you’re a fan of fantasy mystery romance post-magical-apocalypse LGBT dramas with film noire and cyberpunk influences, you’ll want to read this one.  If that giant pile of mish-mash appeals to you, then feel free to contact me directly via e-mail (jbgarner58@gmail.com) or through any social media and we’ll see if you want to take the plunge to be an alpha/beta reader!  Otherwise, expect the first full blown teasers, as well as the rough drafts of the first few ‘chapters’, next month.

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Starving Review: The Collector (A Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Book) by Steven M. Moore

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The Collector (A Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Book) by Steven M. Moore (Amazon, Goodreads)

I certainly hope I don’t start a riot in the crowd once more, because we have another dish from the pantry that is not technically the first volume in a series.  However, once again, I have been assured by the chef that this is a solo dish, one that doesn’t need to be served in the proper order of courses in the larger meal.  After my last experience, I was a bit more dubious.  However, recalling the time I had spent with many of the classic pulps of years past, I decided to crack open the box and see if this modern-day mystery/thriller didn’t leave me wanting.

Before we delve into the depths of this mystery, let us recite the Starving Review pledge:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible

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Starving Interview: Steven M. Moore, Author of The Collector

It’s Friday, my foodies, which means it’s time to bring a new chef into our kitchen!  Welcome Steven M. Moore, author of The Collector, part of the Detectives Chen and Castilblanco series!  A veteran chef, let’s see what insights he can provide for us!

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Starving Review: Storm Front (The Dresden Files Book 1) by Jim Butcher

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Storm Front (The Dresden Files Book 1) by Jim Butcher (Amazon, Goodreads)

WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?!  Why is the Starving Reviewer, literary foodie and beggar at the indie author table, giving time to *haughty sniff* mainstream published faire?  Because it’s a travesty not to read all kinds of fiction, mainstream or indie, and if I am going to eat the food, I’m damn sure going to review it!  Expect the occasional mainstream review to crop up alongside the weekly indie reviews in the weeks to come.

Right, so, with that out of the way, Storm Front was dropped on my plate by a friend.  “You love film noir stuff and Dashiell Hammett novels!” he said.  “You love urban fantasy stuff!  This is a great fusion of all that!  You’ll love it!”

As my stomach was growling and I hadn’t found breakfast in the dumpster I was picking through yet, I made a surly grunt and took the proffered book to chew on.  I was being promised a lot and I was skeptical if Mr. Butcher could deliver on the hype train barreling at me.

Before we find out if I was satisfied or was about to riot, let us never forget the Starving Review creed:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible

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Writing Is A Bad Habit: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of a.k.a. The MacGuffin

It’s that time again, folks, for your weekly Writing Is A Bad Habit article.  This week, let us tackle that mysterious source of plot generation, the mighty MacGuffin.  Be it a mysterious briefcase that glows, a lost statue, or the lost manuscript of Shakespeare, MacGuffins are those objects that everyone in a plot seems to want, yet are themselves often unseen or unknown.  It might be considered a bit of a hackneyed plot point, but many great books have been based on the premise of a hunt for a MacGuffin, like it or not.

Why is it that some MacGuffins put us off the books they are in, while others draw us in with their mystery?  There are quite a few reasons behind both of those, many of which are not related to the MacGuffin itself.  See, there’s nothing inherently wrong about using a MacGuffin, just as with many other tropes and plot devices.  It is rarely the plot device itself that makes for a bad bit of writing, but everything else around it.

That being said, I think there are a few important do’s and don’t’s about using a MacGuffin that center on the device itself.  It really centers on what makes a MacGuffin a compelling object to the reader, not necessarily the characters (though that is important as well).  Thinking about it, the two kinds of MacGuffins I have found the most compelling in fiction are the complete mysteries and the intimately understood ones.  It is when the narrative around the object hangs in some vague middle ground that things go wonky.

How does that make any sense, with total opposite approaches being compelling ones?  Well, to me, it comes down to the allure of mystery and the draw of intimacy.  Let’s take MacGuffin A, the mystery briefcase that only is described by the glow that comes from the interior when it is opened.  We are told nothing else about this case save for the mysterious events that happen around it and the fact that so many people want it.  Our protagonists and the readers are kept in the dark, never knowing what it is or why exactly everyone is willing to die (or kill) over it.  That cloak of mystery is seductive.  We read on to find those hints as to the MacGuffin’s true nature and it spurs our imagination as we come up with our own theories and deductions.  That mystery is what draws our interest and keeps us solidly glued to the tale and, as the MacGuffin doesn’t need to be minutely described, the author can concentrate on the characterization and plot, knowing he has your attention.

What about the other factor, that draw of intimacy?  Let’s look at MacGuffin B, the ancient statue.  Though a mystery at first to the readers and protagonists outside of the fact everyone wants it, the statue’s history is laid out for both of us in intimate detail.  We know not just what it is, but why exactly everyone wants it.  Though deprived of its cloak of mystery, that is replaced by the true understanding of WHY this hunk of statuary is so vitally important.  We are pulled in because we so completely know the stakes, so the dramatic tension is set at a suitably high bar.  As with the cloak of mystery, the draw of intimacy again focuses the readers’ attention and, once established, leaves the author free to focus on the characters and plot.

Both of these approaches do have pitfalls.  A mystery MacGuffin can be foreshadowed shabbily, with no real indications given as to its importance.  That glowing suitcase is obviously SOMETHING special, even if we don’t know WHAT it is.  If the MacGuffin is left too plain and a total unknown, with no hints to its nature at all, you don’t generate that interest or spark your readers’ imaginations.

As for the intimate MacGuffin, the risk comes in not making the object compelling enough once you reveal it.  If the rationale for the desire for the object is poorly laid out, if the object simply is uninteresting once unveiled, or if the characterization of those wanting it don’t match what it actually is … there are all potential pitfalls.  In a way, it’s like revealing any other mystery in a book.  If it doesn’t hold together, you exchange the dramatic tension of the stakes for a breach of suspension of disbelief as the readers shake their collective heads.

Those are my thoughts on the venerable MacGuffin.  Do you use this particular plot device and do you have any advice to others about it?  Feel free to drop a line in the comments below!

Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

Starving Review: There’s Always Love by Joycie Russ

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There’s Always Love (The Jade Mysteries Book 1) by Joycie Russ (Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads)

The romantic mystery is a well-loved recipe for exciting literary meals.  The zing of romance, the tension of a good mystery, mixed with liberal portions of interesting characters, topped up with a dash of thrilling action … it’s a taste sensation that can’t be beat.  Having just finished The Thin Man in my off-time, I was certain thrilled by the prospect of digging into something that could be in the same vein (at least by the book blurb) in There’s Always Love.

Before we look at this particular recipe, let us recite the Starving Review creed:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.

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