Archive for September, 2011

Guest Post: Writing your surroundings – Ryan Collings

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

As writers, we constantly strive to bring our readers into our stories. For most of us, myself included, we do this by attempting to create characters that we hope the audience will connect with. We put our characters into situations that create emotional attachment for the reader.

As a fantasy writer and reader, one of the most important elements of a story for me is the environment in which the story takes place. If the reader can picture the surroundings of the character they are reading about, it will only add to their experience.  While creating vibrant landscapes and treacherous mountains are crucial in fantasy, it is equally important in all genres of writing. Give your setting as much time and effort as any other part of the story.

If your story takes place in Seattle, make sure Seattle is as important to the story as one of the main characters. Chances are many of your readers have been to Seattle, or perhaps even live there. Adding details about the city will bring life to your story.

The strange man in the blue sweater was still behind her. He had followed her up the waterfront of Elliott bay and through the Pike’s place market.

Even if your reader has never been to Seattle, adding details will in no way hinder your story. However, the lack of a good backdrop for your story will. Also, make sure you do not add details that are confusing to the reader. Continuing to use Seattle as an example, if your story has several scenes outside, make sure it is not always warm and sunny. If you have ever been to Seattle, and again many of your readers have, you know that more often than not clouds and rain are in the forecast.

Do your research. If your story takes place in real city or country, go pick up a book about that specific place. You will be amazed at the scenes you will create just by making yourself familiar with the setting for the great story you are about to write. Or have your story take place in a city that you have lived in or visited. Add detail about the local bar, a park, and use real street names. Anything you can do to make your setting real to the reader.

Be consistent; make sure you continue to paint the picture of your surroundings throughout the story. As writers we too get caught up in our own stories. Remember, that just because you have a vision in our head of what an area looks like, if you don’t put it into words the reader will be forced to create their own visuals for your story.

About the Author 

RYAN COLLINGS lives in Boise, Id. His debut Novel “Jack Ranis and the Book of the Labi” is available in paperback, kindle, and nook formats. Visit for more details.

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Interview – Stuart Gustafson – Missing in Mexico

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Today we are pleased to post an Interview with Stuart Gustafson.

About the Author

Author and million-mile flier Stuart Gustafson is really enjoying life now that he’s retired from the corporate world. As America’s International Travel Expert®, he travels to exciting places around the world, and he’s begun writing fictional mystery novels set in some of those places. The crashing waves in the photo above are from one of his favorite spots — Los Cabos, Mexico — the primary setting for his debut mystery novel Missing in Mexico. His second novel is set completely in Sydney, Australia, and the book introduces a new character who becomes a fixture in future books.

Stuart and his wife Darlene have been married for thirty-seven years, they have one daughter and one son, and  they live in Boise, Idaho. Stuart’s 94-year-old mother lives close by. Darlene likes to garden and grow vegetables, so they prefer to do most of their traveling in the winter months when the sprinklers are turned off, the lawn mower is covered, and all the garden implements are put away for the season.

1.       Which mystery writers do you feel have inspired your work?

I had never really thought about that before, but now that you ask, I can think of two in particular: Tom Clancy and John Grisham. My brother was working at the Pentagon and one year for Christmas he sent me a book that was inscribed by the author, “To Stuart Gustafson with Best Wishes, Tom Clancy.” That book is Hunt for Red October. The book was fast-paced, and after reading it, I told my wife, “That would make a good movie.” (You think?) I would then buy his next novels the first day they were available and read them page after page. I liked the character progression and the way several sub-plots were kept moving at the same time. Yes, I still have that autographed copy in my collection. 

What I liked about John Grisham’s novels was that he was able to write a story about “the little guy,” set it in a no-name location, and make it the most compelling story you could read. The setting wasn’t critical, although it played into the story, but it could have been set anywhere – small town, large town, any town USA, it didn’t matter. Even though his novels were about the legal system, each one was different, each one was gripping in its own way, and I enjoyed taking each one with me on the plane as I was always traveling from one place to another. But John Grisham was always traveling with me.

2.       What part of the writing process do you struggle the most with?

Time – don’t we all wish we had more of it? I’m constantly working on multiple projects at any given time, and so the actual amount that I’m able to focus on mystery writing always seems to get diluted. Plus, mystery writing is not the same as other forms of literary and other activities where you can just pick up where you last left them. You just can’t say, “Oh, I have forty-five minutes that I can sit down at the computer and write.” No, or at least it doesn’t work that way for me. I need the time to read the synopses of all the chapters, then read everything I’ve written so far for the book, then read the synopsis of the next chapter, and finally I’m ready to start writing. So depending on where I am in the novel, that could take up to an hour just to get ready to start writing.

3.       What is the highest honor you could receive for one of your books?

Wow, that’s something I don’t typically think about, getting an honor for my books. I write my books for the readers and for their enjoyment. But as I think about an “honor,” I do recall a non-fiction book I wrote that did strike a particular cord with one reader; he contacted me and asked me to personalize a full case of books for his family and friends and send that case to him so he could hand them out at a reunion. Now that’s an honor when someone finds a message in your book and wants to buy that book for dozens of his friends and family. That definitely touched me; that’s an honor.

4.       If you could collaborate on a book with anyone, who would it be?

That silver quill of a question certainly has plenty of barbs that can please or sting, depending on which way they’re rubbed. If you asked my accountant, the answer might include someone who’s typically on the Top Ten Lists, someone who sells lots of books, makes money from video rights, someone who knows how to completely market whatever product or service he or she is currently promoting. I’m sure that my banker would also like that choice.

I mean no disrespect to that person, but I think the most fun collaboration would be with someone who would challenge me intellectually. William F. Buckley, Jr., comes to mind; of course, he’s no longer alive. Can you imagine what it would be like working on a manuscript with someone possessing a vocabulary like that? What a challenge that would be. Yes, but what fun it would also be.

Alas, and although Mr. Buckley’s not around, I’d still love to work with someone who’s willing to challenge me and take me to some new places in the literary world. I know that author is out there (or maybe it’s a group of authors who are out there). Go ahead, you’re out there – contact me at

5.       What is the one thing you hope your readers take away from Missing in Mexico?

I’m going to beg for indulgence and sneak two in. The first is what every writer wants – that the readers truly think the story is an entertaining story. The second one is that the readers feel that San José del Cabo, Mexico, is a warm and enchanting place where they would feel welcome, and a place to put on their “Let’s go visit there in the next couple of years” list. We go there every year for several reasons: it’s convenient to get to from Boise, Idaho; the beaches are nice; the people are very nice; the food is great; the culture is charming; it is THE SAFEST PLACE to visit in Mexico. That’s not a plug from the Tourism Bureau – it is a fact that I can easily explain if people want to contact me privately. We love it there, which is one of the reasons I chose it as the primary setting for my debut mystery novel.

6.       Do you believe that other genres come into play in your writing?

Of course. One of the complexities in Missing in Mexico that has come out in some of the reviews is the relationships that occur. I’m guessing that some people could probably come up with a half dozen different genres for the book, all perfectly justified in one place or another in the book. What is it? Is it Travel, Mystery, Intrigue, Foreign, Romance, Suspense, Fiction/Non-Fiction. See what I mean? Actually, all of these genres come into play into the book, which makes it really hard to classify it into one particular heading. Which one would you choose?

7.       Have you ever second guessed yourself in the writing process?
Please introduce me to the writer who’s never second guessed himself, and I’ll show you a writer who’s not been willing to show his work to others. Writing is all about taking chances, and if you’re always second guessing what you’re doing – nothing will ever make it from the keyboard to the page to the reader. Maybe it’s because I’m not taking on risky subjects that I don’t worry about second guessing myself, but I think most authors also realize the requirement to put yourself “out there” unless you want to be just like others who sit inside a lonely cocoon.  

8. Imagine you are writing your obituary in the future. What would you hope it would contain?

Forget the long life stuff; everyone wants that. What’s the point of a long life if it’s not filled with meaning for others? I would want my obit to contain messages from friends who’ve said that my life has been meaningful to theirs. That’s all that matters to me.

9. Are you already at work on your next book?

Thank you for asking. The next mystery novel is underway, if you’ll pardon the pun. It’s set in Sydney, Australia, and I visited there 5 times last year conducting research on the general area as well as certain locations to ensure their descriptions are “spot on” as they say down there. The book introduces a new character that will be a featured character in future books as well, so it’s fun to bring him into the mix. I haven’t asked him where he wants to go next, but I think I know where it is, and it’s someplace that artists love. Hmmm, where could that be?

10. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Yes, my love of travel. I do love to travel, and I have the US Registered Trademarked of America’s International Travel Expert®. Give me a reason to jump on an airplane, and I’m on it. I love to fly, and I’ve flown over one million miles on a single airline. I believe in sharing information, and I send out a free e-newsletter about travel; signing up is quite easy on my website, and you even get a great travel bonus just for enrolling –

We’d like to thank Mr. Gustafson for his time, and you can read a review of his book Missing In Mexico by clicking here

Review: We’re Not Leaving – Benjamin J. Luft, M.D.

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Greenpoint Press (September 6, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0983237026
ISBN-13: 978-0983237020
Order book here:




I don’t think any of us over a certain age forget where we were or what we were doing on September, 11, 2001. I remember I’d just arrived at work and booted up my computer. A co-worker said some idiot flew a plane into a building in New York. Then the second plane hit. Then the Pentagon was hit. The towers came down in a cloud of dust. People were running. People were jumping from buildings. The whole day was a blur of emotions ranging from fear and anger to sadness. The book I’m reviewing is a collection of essays based on the experiences of the responders to 9/11. These people were the cops, firemen, doctors, priests. It covers a wide range of people and experiences, but all with a common theme.

Each essay is moving. Sometimes the writer is a little angry, angry at the government who lied to them. They were lied to about the air being safe to breath. They feel betrayed that the same America who loved them on 9/11 now doesn’t want to take care of them. They sacrificed their health and in some cases their lives to do what they felt were right.

Over 900 responders have died since 9/11 of medical complications related to working at Ground Zero. Many more suffer from PTSD. As one of the writers said, it’s normal for cops and firemen to suffer from PTSD. They witness one or two traumatic events and it sets them off. In the case of 9/11, a lot of the responders didn’t witness one or two traumatic events but hundreds.

One article details a program called POPPA that was created just for that purpose. Police especially, from what the various writers said, can’t go through their deparment for mental health. If their fellow officers found out they’d be ostracized and unable to do their job. So many just suffer through it. POPPA was created to offer them a program that was connected, but still had an agreement to privacy.

The one thing I took from the book is that all those who volunteered to help whether it was rescuing survivors, getting people out before the buildings fell, recovery, or cleanup are owed by us. They’ve given their all in some cases to their country, and deserve to get something back for that.

The essays themselves are beautifully written. You can almost hear each persons voice telling the story. You can pick up on their sadness, their anger, their frustration. The book is divided into four parts. The first part Caught in the Collapse details those who arrived first and some of who were caught when the building fell. The second part details various peoples experiences in looking for survivors. The third part deals with the recovery process, while the final section details the different areas of help that the responders need. The last section is about trying to start over after the tragedy. Each section begins with a series of pictures showing scenes from around Manhattan on 9/11.

It’s a deeply moving book, and while I know some will say they can’t read it, that it will hurt too much, I think they need to. I recommend this book to anyone old enough to understand. It wasn’t just those who died that day that we need to remember. We need to remember those who are still living that we can help. It’s hard to tell what the end death toll will be, but we can do what we need to in order to try to minimize it. We owe it to these people.

You can visit 911 responders remember to see some videos of those who submitted essays for the book, and read more from the different responders.

About the Author

Benjamin J. Luft, M.D., is the Edmund D. Pellegrino Professor of Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook and an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of Lyme disease and AIDS-related conditions. As a native New Yorker he was deeply impacted by the 9/11 attacks and was inspired to establish the Long Island World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, which provides care to more than 6,000 disaster responders and has become an incubator for several important research and treatment programs that emphasize both mental and physical well-being. Dr. Luft has also established several important projects commemorating 9/11, including the “Remembering 9/11 Responders” oral history program.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Rebecca at Cadence Marketing for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: Missing in Mexico – Stuart Gustafson

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Format: E-Book
File Size: 433 KB
Language: English
Order Ebook here:





Missing in Mexico is a mystery novel set in Los Cabos, Mexico. Sarah is a 19-year old who wasn’t on the return plane trip from a family vacation. Her parents hire Stan, a Private Investigator, to find her. Even with local help and some promising leads, Stan returns to Seattle to tell her parents that he can’t find her. Months later he receives a letter from someone who says she can help him find Sarah, and he jumps on the next plane to Los Cabos. Will this be the break that he needs to find her, or will she remain missing — Missing in Mexico?


Stan Walkorski – Private Investigator.


This was a very intriguing mystery in the cozy style of mysteries. The majority of the story takes place in Cabo San Lucas Mexico, and that’s where the strength of the whole story lies. Mr. Gustafson manages to bring Mexico to the reader. Through his detailed descriptions I could see the sites, and sometimes even smell the food he was describing.

The story takes Stan through the streets of Mexico, exposing him to the art and the culture. As it does so, it also exposes the reader to that culture. After finishing it, I felt like I’d been there. I hadn’t really read a “travel mystery” before, but now that I have, I think I’d probably look for more in that specific style.

Another strong feature of Mr. Gustafson’s writing is that he includes a lot of the Spanish language within the text. Each chapter starts with a word, shows how it’s used in a sentence, and it’s usually related to the focus of that chapter. I really enjoyed this added bonus to the book, and I hope he includes the same style when he writes further books such as this.

If there were one drawback, I think it would be due to the fact that this is Mr. Gustafson’s debut novel. Some of the scenes involving Stan talking on the phone were awkward to read. There’d be some scenes where we’d hear both sides of the conversation, and other times where we’d only hear Stan’s. The author lacked consistency in how he approached that. Hearing (or reading) only his half of the conversation seemed to bring me out of the story, and caused me to wonder who was actually on the other end, if anybody.

I would definitely recommend this book though. Outside the one small distraction, which could just be my own quirk, I really like the story. The characters were interesting, and you really wanted to determine what happened to Sarah. If you want to find out, grab a copy of his book. I think you’ll like it.

About the Author

Stuart Gustafson began writing in earnest after taking early retirement from the corporate world in 2007. His professional life involved travel and so it was natural for him to want to continue traveling once he didn’t have to travel as a job. Now when he travels, it’s for fun; it’s for pleasure; it’s to see new places in the world. The way he has chosen to combine his love of travel and writing is to write mystery novels set in exciting locations around the world where he likes to go.

His debut mystery novel Missing in Mexico is set in San Jose del Cabo at the tip of Mexico’s Bajadel Cabo and some of the residents told him that Missing in Mexico was indeed about their town and would he please consider writing another book about San Jose or at least about Cabo.

His second mystery novel, set in Sydney, NSW, Australia, is already underway, and Stuart took five trips to Sydney in 2010 to conduct research of the area to once again ensure that the book, even though it’s a fictional mystery novel, would still contain authentic details. Publication date for that book is set for early 2012.

Stuart has been married for thirty-seven years to Darlene and they have one daughter and one son. Stuart and Darlene live in Boise, Idaho.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Molly at Partners in Crime Tours for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Mr. Gustafson is currently on tour for Missing in Mexico. See his other tour stops here:

Tour Participants:
August 1-Review@Tammy’s Book Parlor
August 4-Review@A Good Day To Read
August 5-Spotlight@Suspense By Anne
August 8-Guest Post@Tribute Books Reviews
August 11-Interview@Chris Redding, Author
August 16-Guest Post@Words By Webb
August 17-Review@Oodles of Books
August 18-Review@Words by Webb
August 19-Guest Post&Review@The Book Shelf
August 22-Interview, Guest Post&Review@Joel M. Andre, Author
August 23-Review@Coffee and a Keyboard
August 24-Review@Let’s Book It
August 26-Review@From The TBR Pile
August 29-Review@Stuff&Nonsense
August 30-Interview@Beyond The Books
August 31-Review@Cami Checketts
September 1-Review@The Musings Of A Book Addict
September 2-Review@Gelati’s Scoop
September 5-Review@Kritters Ramblings
September 6-Review@Romancing The Book (Valerie)
September 7-Guest Post@The Top Shelf
September 8-Review@Rhode’s Review
September 9-Interview@Stuff@Nonsense
September 12-Review@Lady Lit Reviews
September 13-Review@The Top Shelf
September 14-Review@The World According to Dave
September 15-Review&Guest Post@ Legacy of a Writer
 September 16-Interview@Coffee and a Keyboard
September 19-Review@Reading, Reading, & Life
September 20-Review@Sweeping Me
September 21-Interview@Book Marketing Buzz
September 21-Review@GenreWench
September 22-Review@Terri Forehand
September 23-Guest Post@The Book Faery Reviews
September 26-Interview@Rhodes Review
September 27-Interview@CelticLady’s Reviews
September 28-Review@CelticLady’s Reviews
September 29-Review&Interview@Darlene’s Book Nook
September 30-Review@Books, Products & More
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