Saturday, January 24, 2009

Psst---Want To Win?

Located in Transylvania is a castle with a dark history. Once ruled by Lord John Erdely the castle is now a haven for tourists.

Or is it?

His dark powers were legendary and continue to exert their influence today. Other forces are at work as well in a place where servants were once silenced with a curse and the land was ruled with an iron fist. Join authors Carol A. Cole, Kristin Johnson, Kevin R. Tipple, Christina Barber, Seana Graham and Donna Amato as they weave their tales under the editorial direction of Lea Schizas. What began in the first anthology, "The Carpathian Shadows Volume 1" were just a few of the possibilities…..

I am thrilled to be a part of the anthology and the reviews and comments from readers have been positive and gratifying. Like the previous book in the anthology series, recently the anthology was added to the Fictionwise catalog where you can also read a very brief excerpt:

To celebrate the addition at Fictionwise, our publisher, Rob Preece, has graciously offered a Fictionwise gift certificate as a give away on my blog. To enter, all you have to do is send me an e-mail with "Anthology" in the subject line to me at All entries must be in by midnight central time January 31, 2009.

That's it!

Then sit back and see if you won. And of course, if you can't wait to read the book, buy it at Fictionwise or direct from Rob at

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reviewing: "Walks, Walls, & Patio Floors"

Okay, so somebody decided that the existing patio needs work. Or that a sidewalk has to be built. Or that a wall has to be built because what would make this yard really standout would be a conversation pit with a fireplace right over there. And because somebody doesn't want to hire it out, for whatever reason, you get to do it yourself. If you find yourself in that predicament this book just might be the one for you.

Written by Jeanne Huber and the editors of Sunset Books, this 194 page gem released last January aims to help you create the best patio, walk, and or garden wall you can. It opens with a chapter stressing having a good design, choosing the right materials, and exploring different types of materials whether it is stone, brick, poured concrete, lava, or something else. Planning is the key and that point is driven home repeatedly. Suggestions are also made concerning moving the materials (most are heavy) and getting and storing the materials using text and color photographs.

Chapter two is on "Building Paths and Patios" and goes from the simple to the complex. Material lists, techniques, plans, etc. are used to illustrate various options to change from what you have now to what you want to achieve long term. Drainage is of major importance and that issue is covered well with several different drainage possibilities thoroughly explored.

Concrete come in many different ways and can do many different design things as outlined in chapter three. Different types of concrete are explained, options, how to determine what to use and how much, along with how to make various designs are in this chapter.

"Garden Walls" is the theme of the fourth and final chapter. Different walls of types/styles are depicted along with explanations of them, plenty of pictures, plans and building techniques.

Credits, a short list of resources and a three page index brings this 194 page book to a close. Aimed primarily at those seeking to create within a lush and thickly covered landscape, those with a preference for low water use plants or settings get a very brief mention. Despite that fact, those in interested in such landscaping can still use much of the book while discounting the pictures of the finished product.

It might be a good idea to stock up on some pain reliever as well because nothing in this book is that easy to build. This type of work is easily back breaking no matter how easy it looks on the home improvement shows or how easy it seems in this book. So, you back will hurt and you will need the pain reliever if you do it yourself. Or better yet, hire that neighbor who always is offering advice on what you should do in your yard to build.

Walks, Walls, & Patio Floors
by Jeanne Huber and the editors of Sunset Books
Sunset Books
January 2008
Paperback—Soft Cover
144 Pages

Review copy provided by the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barry's Reviews: "Small Game" by John Blades

By John Blades

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Scott Ryan is a man besieged. His opponents include coworkers, fellow commuters, neighbors, and—above all—his house. Oh yes, and squirrels. Living in an area the police sometimes treat as if it’s under martial law, having to duck below window level when his commuter train passes through a Red Zone to avoid being shot, his urban dream has become an urban nightmare.

He and his wife Kathy have purchased a fixer-upper in a becoming-gentrified section of their unnamed city. With three small children and the burdens their new home has imposed, and despite Scott’s ascendancy in the market research company he works for, they’re in over their heads. Working on the house consumes the bulk of Scott’s time when he isn’t working. He still manages to fit in some tennis now and then, but reluctantly because the house has become his Circe, luring him inexorably back to it and demanding that he cater to its every need and want.

When he isn’t cheating on Kathy with several different partners, that is.

Scott’s first-person recounting of events seems at first reasonable, if sometimes edged with desperation. But the reader soon realizes that something is wrong, that he’s an utterly unreliable narrator, that he may or may not be seeing things that aren’t there, claiming to do things he really doesn’t.

Some of the neighborhood squirrels have invaded the house and taken up residence in the walls and attic crawl space. They become Scott’s obsession, and his attempts to eradicate them become steadily more frantic—and sometimes dangerous.

John Blades’ short serio-comic novel might well be described as Kafkaesque in its depiction of a man driven to fulfill but overwhelmed by the popular notion of the “American dream.” Crisply written, and peppered with evocative turns of phrase, its episodic structure builds to a memorable finish.

Barry Ergang © 2009

Formerly the Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2007 Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available online, see Barry’s webpages.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reviewing: "Maui" from the Lonely Planet

As a native Texan on a fixed income with steadily increasing bills, the idea of going to Hawaii has been a tantalizing dream but far from reality. This year, with the Left Coast Mystery Convention scheduled in Hawaii, the impossibility of going has been more obvious than ever. I suspect the issue has become even more pronounced for many possible attendees.

But, the dream lives on. Hence, the travel guides are always fun to look at while hoping for the lottery numbers to finally pay off. This one, released by "Lonely Planet" last September is another good one from the publisher full of lots of information and stunning color photographs.

The book opens with a short chapter on the "Best Maui Experiences." Suggestions for things such as the best location to luau "Old Lahaina Luau" or the best treats "Komoda Store & Bakery" and the best beach "Big Beach" along with the best hike "Sliding Sands Trail" and numerous other best things and best places are listed. In each case there is a color photo, a very short description and a page number that will take readers to the longer listing and explanation found elsewhere in the book.

"Island Itineraries" begins on page eighteen with suggestions for various mileage lengths or days available for exploration. Color maps are included and there are references to the additional itineraries at the start of each regional section that are in more depth.

The third chapter is on "Outdoor Activities & Adventures." It covers where you can do what in alphabetical format. From "at sea" to "ziplining" the book has got you covered with locations, types of activities, plenty of information and as always plenty of color photographs.

This leads to a ten page chapter on "Green Maui." Environmental issues are important on the islands and this is where readers learn about steps being taken, options available, and what can be done by tourists and others to protect the fragile environment of the islands.

Beginning with page fifty-one, the book is divided into regional sections. "Lahaina" begins this part of the guide book with a brief history on the culture, some maps, and suggested tours and things to do. This same format is used throughout the regional parts which are labeled as "West Maui, Central Maui, South Maui, North Shore & Upcountry, East Maui, The Road To Hana" and "Haleakala National Park." The park section includes many pictures of fascinating Sliding Sands Trail and the Volcano Crater.

The regional section concludes with a nearly thirty page chapter on "side trips" covering "Lana'i & Moloka'i." Lana'i is covered again as it was in the beginning of the regional section before moving on to location such as the "Polihua Road," the "Munro Trail," and "Kalaupapa National Historical Park" among others.

Short chapters on the "History & Culture" of the area, foods, "Festivals & Events" and planning your trip are near the end of the book. A directory of resources and general information along with an eight page index close out the travel guide.

Comprehensive and flashy, this book certainly creates the impression that it is outlining all the usual places and things and not covering real hidden gems that many tourists don't know about. Additionally, the type face is extremely small and as such is very hard to read. Both could be addressed simply by expanding the book somewhat.

Despite those concerns, this is a good book. Written by Glenda Bendure and Ned Friary, this travel guide is a colorful and highly informative book sure to help you plan and enjoy your trip. It may not be the only book you want for the trip but it certainly is a strong start.

Maui: Includes Moloka'i and Lana'i
by Glenda Bendure and Ned Friary
Lonely Planet
September 2008
ISBN# 1741047145
304 Pages

As a member of the Amazon Vine Program this material was provided to me in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reviewing: "The Work From Home Handbook: Flex Your Time, Improve Your Life"

Maybe you want to work from home or maybe you need to work from home? Maybe your job has evaporated as have many others thanks to the current economy? Are you looking for a change? If so, working from home or "telework" as it is referred to in this book might be just the thing for you and your family.

Released last February by NOLO in partnership with USA TODAY this very simple and easy to read short handbook details the ins and outs of working from home. Both as an employee of a company where you can do your job from home or as a freelance consultant. Both types are considered in each chapter despite the fact that the two concepts are often very different.

After a very short opening chapter touting the advantages for you as well as any possible employer, the discussion moves onto whether or not you, the reader is a good candidate for working from home. Simply loving the idea of avoiding the commute isn’t enough. In the second chapter, planning such a move regarding child care, where the desk will go, how such a deal will change everyone's lives is considered among other ideas.

Chapters three and four address the questions of whether you can do your job at home and how to make your case to your boss and the corporate bureaucracy. Freelancing is again briefly mentioned, but the primary focus is on whether you can take the job you currently have and do it at home.

Chapter five addresses how to find a job that you can do from home as well as the many pitfalls and scams to avoid. The very common "medical claims processing" scam is mentioned along with the classic "product assembly" deal and the always popular "envelope stuffing" and quite a few others. This information, as well as much in the book, is also helpful to those seeking to have a second income while keeping day job.

Freelancing is covered in chapter six. Much of the information involves creating contracts, setting rates, and dealing with taxes as opposed to suggestions regarding what to freelance.

Chapter seven deals with taxes for your online job and defines deductions, working for an employer in another state, filling taxes, etc. Both of the authors are residents of California and have written this chapter with Federal Taxes in mind. State tax considerations and local tax issues aren't covered. As in any in any guide book, information is subject to change and one should always consult with your Tax Specialist or preparer for information.

Chapter eight covers how to succeed at working from home. Not only how to keep you involved in the workplace from home, but also how to stay motivated and making sure the work gets done. Not only do you have to make sure the boss sees your productivity you also have to make sure your friends and family know the limits and abide by them.

Setting limits on others was never an issue for me. My issue was setting my own limits. Whether it was some daytime talk show train wreck (is he the father of these six kids by five different women? They are all here today to prove he is the father) or important news, congressional hearings, sports stuff, etc. the television is a huge distracter. It has to stay off, for me to get any work done.

An index and catalog listing of titles available from NOLO along with numerous ads bring this small 160 page book to a close.

For those readers who know nothing about telecommuting this short easy to read book full of very general information and tips is a real good deal. It outlines the concepts and possibilities, various scenarios, and possible strategies to make the transition. For those freelance writers such as myself and others who have experience doing telework, this small handbook won't shed any new light on the subject and is of little help.

The Work From Home Handbook: Flex Your Time, Improve Your Life
By Diana Fitzpatrick & Stephen Fishman
ISBN # 1-4133-0701-9
160 Pages

As a member of the Amazon Vine Program this material was provided to me in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Edgar Nominations


Missing by Karin Alvtegen (Felony & Mayhem Press)
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Night Following by Morag Joss (Random House – Delacorte Press)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)


The Prince of Bagram by Alex Carr (Random House Trade)
Money Shot by Christa Faust (Hard Case Crime)
Enemy Combatant by Ed Gaffney (Random House - Dell)
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library – Obsidian Mysteries)
The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli (Random House - Bantam)

Just two of several catagories. Every year the list of nominees is a good reference point of what to read in the genre. For more info, surf to

Friday, January 02, 2009

Mystery Scene--Free Issue!

"For a limited time, US residents can receive a free issue of Mystery Scene!"

So stated on the website. The offer is limited to US subscribers only. I happen to be one of those for several issues now and I can attest to the fact that it is a mighty good magazine.

Even if they don't want any of my reviews or me.

So, take a look at the homepage found at and do what you need to do to get your free issue.

With the money you have left over, you could buy a book. Maybe an anthology? Hey, I know this guy who wrote something for this anthology and yes, he is weird, but the story is pretty good and......

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"Death Song" for a series?

This eleventh novel in the series opens with the son of Kevin Kerney. Sergeant Clayton Istee is part of the Lincoln county sheriff's office these days and likes it much better than when he worked as a patrol officer for the Mescalero Apache Tribal police. Not only does he have plenty of interesting work, he also is the training officer for a newly hired deputy. Not that Tim Riley needed much training. Riley has been a police officer for a number of years so he passed his tests, checked out well, and is out on his first solo patrol. Unfortunately all that training didn't save his life.

The Santa Fe Police Chief, Kevin Kerney, is unaware that Tim Riley is dead. He knows that Tim is working over in Lincoln County and that his wife, Denise, has been reported missing. A report that he takes seriously since the reporting party is the sister and his long time assistant, Helen. The search of the home and surrounding landscape takes time, but, eventually Denise is found with her throat slashed. Clearly, somebody targeted the husband and wife for death.

The question is why?

Since the cases are linked, law enforcement in both jurisdictions join forces. Chief Kerney is due to retire soon and isn't about to back off until he helps solve this last major case. Sergeant Clayton Istee is just as determined especially since he believes he has a spiritual connection to the slain man.

Billed as a Kevin Kerney novel, this isn't one by any stretch of the imagination. Kerney makes a few appearances throughout the novel along with obligatory appearances by his war traumatized wife, Sarah and his precious son, Patrick. Instead, it is primarily a novel of Clayton Ishtee and of the many people who populate both their worlds.

As such, Kerney is frequently used to serve as introduction to people who Clayton would do well to know. Themes of his own, such as the pending loss of his job, the politics within his own department, the politics regarding the task force, and numerous other issues aren't explored to any depth.

One would think that if he would ignore such issues and primary use Kerney as a way to introduce Clayton Istee to folks, that would mean that author Michael McGarrity would go into depth regarding the Clayton character. That would be mistaken because the author chooses not to go into any depth in this case either. Here, there is another rich minefield of emotion waiting for work and it is, for the most part, ignored totally or only given superficial consideration. Not only does he not explore the fact that, for all intents and purposes, Clayton is losing his father again after only recently finding out about him, he gives lip service to the politics of the task force or the fact that Clayton is having dream visions of the dead. These issues and numerous others are ignored.

Instead, this novel slowly meanders through the point of view of numerous secondary characters and suspects. The constant pov shifts have little depth to them, add little to the story and further slow down a work that already moves very slowly.

The result is not one of the Kevin Kerney novels we know and love. Instead, this is a novel of little style or substance, superficial characters and a distance that is off putting to the reader. A novel that may mark the passing of the New Mexico baton to Clayton Ishtee and a different and far less enjoyable style of writing.

Death Song: A Kevin Kerney Novel
Michael McGarrity
Dutton (Penguin Group)
January 2008
ISBN# 978-0-525-95036-3
293 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

"By The Light Of The Moon"
The Carpathian Shadows
Volume 2
Print or E-book