March 15, 2017

Three Simple Steps to Write a Book Review

I know I’ve asked my friends, colleagues, people on the street and people everywhere to write a book review after they read my book and others. Yes, I’ve asked and asked and still people don’t do it. That made me write a post some months back about how to write a book review. But, that didn’t take either. So, I thought I’d try again. This time I want to make it as simple a process as it gets. All you have to do is fill in the blanks. How’s that?

Step one:

I read Author X’s book and found it:

You found it enjoyable. A fun read. A page-turner. One you couldn’t put down

You found it boring, hard to get into, confusing.

Step two:

The story is a:

mystery, thriller, romance, mix of mystery with romance, cozy mystery, horror story, science-fiction, fantasy.

Step three:

I would (not) recommend this to my friends to read because:

It made me laugh, it made me cry, it held my attention, it didn’t hold my attention, it surprised me with its twists and turns, it didn’t surprise me. It was predictable.

Three easy steps.

Once you write the first review and then the second one, they become second nature. Remember all you need is enough information to help another reader decide to read the book or not. You don’t want to tell the full story and you don’t want to give away any spoilers. For example, don’t say something like, “I didn’t figure out that the husband was the killer till the end.” Instead say, “I didn’t figure out the killer until the end.” Easy? Of course.

Here are some simple, short examples of real book reviews:

“Great mystery!!!! This book is well written and I did not identify the killer until the end. I especially enjoyed the setting as I have lived in Athens, Georgia. I am looking forward to more mysteries with Jenna Scali.” –e-Murderer

“Although, not completly authentic, the book is well written, devastating to think our country could be so inhuman and ignorant. I was disappointed in the ending. The book just stopped. In all I very good book.” –Underground Railroad

“Great book. I loved the development of the story and the characters. Totally held my interest. I highly recommend it.”–All the Light We Cannot See.


My Interview with David Alan Binder–Full of Writing Tips

DSC_0003_4x6Joan Curtis interview with David Alan Binder

Joan’s Bio from her website (shortened):  Joan is an award-winning writer who has published 7 books and numerous stories. In her mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, we meet Janie Knox, a tormented young woman who escaped her home and family after a jury convicted her stepfather of killing her mother. Her second mystery e-Murderer is the first in a series, starring Jenna Scali, a fairly normal young woman who happens to run into dead bodies. Again, this book captures the imagination of readers with all its twists and turns. The second in the Jenna Scali mystery series, Murder on Moonshine Hill, features Jenna and her friends at a quiet wedding in the mountains of North Carolina. All goes well until everything turns deadly with the discovery of a corpse.

Joan’s books have won awards. The Clock Strikes Midnight won FIRST PLACE in Royal Palm Literary awards for Mainstream/Literary fiction and the Silver Medal in the Global eBooks Awards for 2015. The e-Murderer won FIRST PLACE in the Malice Domestic Grants Competition for new writers and the GOLD for mystery in the Global eBook Awards for 2016. (website) (blog)

Goodreads Author’s page

Amazon Author’s page

Twitter page

Facebook Author page

MuseItUp Publishing Author page

1.  Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside US then Country)?

I live in Athens Georgia—A university town.

2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

There is little that’s predictable. My stories unfold as I write them. The    publishing process changes daily. Writers must be flexible and persistent.

 3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk? 

My mind goes faster than my fingers on the keyboard. So, when I re-read what I’ve written, I’ve often left out words or written something that totally doesn’t make sense.

4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

[Tweet “I appreciate the support of a publisher #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] In my view if you’ve written a book     that is worth publishing, you can find a publisher. It’s not easy and the big name publishers are very hard to break into as a new writer, but the small   publishers offer a good alternative. I would only suggest self-publishing if the purpose of your book is marketing a business. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they? My fiction publisher is MuseItUp Publishing, Pierrefonds, Que. Canada. My nonfiction publisher is Praeger Press, Santa Barbara, California

5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? 

All my fiction books came out first as e-books and were later published in print. My publisher holds the rights to do that. The problem with having just e-books is that they cannot be signed. Often I want to do giveaways of signed copies or book signings. Clearly print books are necessary. The problem with just having a print book and no e-book is the cost. Most people do not want to pay print book prices for an unknown author. Some people only read on print and others only by e-book. It’s best to have both!

6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?   

The first bit of advice is something you’ll hear from many writers. [Tweet “Keep sending the book out even in the face of multiple rejections #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] That doesn’t mean writers do not pay attention to rejections and the comments made. Revising all the time is critical. But, we must continue to persevere in the face of rejection.

I also suggest going to the small publishers. Researching them and finding         one that fits your genre. Skip going to an agent. Agents are as difficult to     snare as the large publishing houses. And, in this day with the internet giving   writers access to so much information, agents are becoming less and less important.

7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

I don’t have an agent, and I really do not see the need for one. My publisher is very generous with her authors. I read the contract myself and understand the terms. Most intelligent writers can do that. If you happen to write a blockbuster, the agents will come looking for you.

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?  

. I give it away on my website for signing up. (

Generally, though, my first suggestion to new fiction writers is to finish the book. There is no use looking for publishers or agents until the book is finished. If you are writing a nonfiction book, you must write a very  complete book proposal before you explore publishers or agents. (Agents are really unnecessary for nonfiction writers).

My second suggestion is to spend a lot of time re-writing your book. Put together a group of Beta readers who can give you honest feedback (not your spouse or your kids). You may have to pay some of these readers. It’s worth it. Once you get the feedback, go back and re-write. The manuscript must be polished and honed as best you can get it before you send it out.

My third suggestion is once you get your book published, you must take responsibility for getting the word out. You cannot count on your agent or publisher to do that for you. If you can afford to hire a publicist, great, but most of us cannot. You must build a platform through blogging and tweeting   and then tell that platform about your books. I didn’t do that with my first          nonfiction book. I expected the publisher to market it for me. I needn’t tell you, it didn’t sell too many copies!

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

For nonfiction, I found the writing less inspiring. I wrote facts and conveyed information almost as if I were teaching a class. There was little opportunity for creativity—nonetheless I did create examples to spice up my books.

I’m what is called a pantser fiction writer. That means, I do not rely     heavily on an outline. I learned early on that if I let my mind go, almost in a trance-like state, characters will emerge, take on personalities and sometimes take over the story. This is quite surprising when it happens, but it’s also    wonderful. Writers cannot force this and some writers never experience this process. I am fortunate that I experienced it early in my writing.

10.  How many books have you written?

I have written and published 4 nonfiction books, all published by Praeger Press out of California. I have also written and published 3 mysteries. I have a new one that will go      to the publisher in January 2017. Each of these have been published by   MuseItUp Publishing.  I spend my time now writing fiction.

11.   Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)? 

Notice what you like to read and what works for you. The more you read the better writer you’ll become. But beyond this, writers must learn the craft of writing. Learn how to write dialogue. How to create scenes. How to develop a worldview. I have a number of tips and suggestions for writing suspense and mystery on my blog, But, I also suggest that writers find blogs that help them improve their skills. There is much more to writing than simply putting a pen to paper.

12.    Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story? 

This is a very tough question. All my books have unique twists and turns. My best response to this question is to let your imagination go. Because I don’t write from an outline (in fiction writing), my characters will come up with interesting twists that even I hadn’t thought about. But, I do know that for me, the best thing is to put the book aside and to do something else. For example, with The Clock Strikes Midnight, I had reached a place that felt like a wall. Something had to happen but I didn’t know what. I put the book aside and went for a swim. While swimming, the answer came to me. Many times the answer comes at night while sleeping or on a walk. Getting away from the work is the best way to allow your subconscious to play with ideas and come up with amazing twists.

Let me add one caution. Don’t write twists just to write twists. Your twists must feel natural to the reader. Otherwise the reader feels betrayed. I recently read a book where it became clear to me the author simply        wanted to surprise the reader. As a reader, it felt contrived.

13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd? 

In The Clock Strikes Midnight (a stand alone mystery/suspense), the main characters are two sisters. Their interaction as well as their bond is what make the story different. Furthermore, there is a southern charm to the book that many readers have enjoyed.

The mystery series (e-Murderer and Murder on Moonshine Hill) debut two characters—Jenna, the main amateur sleuth, and her sidekick, Quentin. The two play off each other in a unique and fun way. Readers not only enjoy the suspense and the inherent mystery, but they also enjoy the humor and the realistic portrayal of these characters.

All my books are set in the south with southern speaking characters. This isn’t necessarily unique, but it adds a certain charm to the pages.

14.  What are some ways in which you promote your work? 

I have promoted my work through the social media in the following ways: 1) Blog tours where reviews and excerpts appear on blogs for a period of time 2) Tweeting daily about my books and about other books of a similar genre 3) Facebook groups and a Facebook author’s page.

I’ve entered contests and gone to conferences to receive rewards for my books. The Clock Strikes Midnight has won three major awards    including First place Royal Palm Literary Award and e-Murderer won the GOLD for the global e-book awards.

In more traditional ways, I’ve appeared at book festivals for book signings. The Decatur Book Festival is one of the largest in the country. I appeared there last year. I’ve also appeared in small bookstores for book signings.

15.  What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why? 

I spent a lot of money on promoting my first fiction release. I regret two things I did: Join NetGalley and hire a publicist. Both of these things cost a lot of money and were not worth the expense. NetGalley produced some reviews, but not enough to justify the cost. The publicist did a lot for my book, but not enough to make up for the cost.

Another place where I spent too much on the first book was the creation of a book trailer. I made the mistake to contract with real actors. The cost was extremely high even though I produced a very professional book trailer. For the second book I created a book trailer more cheaply, using standard images off the Web. Overall, I’m not sure readers look at book trailers, nor if     they have any impact on sales. For my third book, I decided not to create a  trailer.

Be careful to pick and chose how you spend money on promoting your   book. You will have to spend some (blog tours), but I learned that the less    spent the better.

16. What saying or mantra do you live by? 

If you set your mind to something, give it all you’ve got, concentrate on it and you will succeed!

17. Anything else you would like to say? 

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions. I hope my answers help some writers, and I hope some of your readers will join me on my blog and become part of my community.

Books on Amazon:


Clock Strikes Midnight

e-Murderer: Jenna Scali Mystery Book 1

Murder on Moonshine Hill: Jenna Scali Mystery Book 2


Hire Smart and Keep ‘em

The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media

Managing Sticky Situations at Work

Strategic Interviewing: Skills and Tactics for Savvy Interviewers

Share here.

Free At Last–Flash Fiction

Perhaps it will touch your heart. Enjoy a taste of flash fiction.DSC02093


The face in the sun, which looks like the man in the moon, grins at me through the window. I burrow deeper under my covers so I won’t see him.

“It’s up time, Joanie,” Mama hollers from the staircase. I put the pillow over my head, hoping to disappear.

Hands lift the covers off me and rub my arms. “C’mon, Joanie, get up. You need to get dressed for school.”

“No, mama, please don’t make me go.”

“But you have to. You’ll have fun. Let’s get you dressed in something special. Let’s see…” She pulls out the crimson, taffeta dress, the one the other kids laugh at, the one she made for me. “You haven’t worn this in a while.”

She slips it over my head. It crinkles every time I move. I can’t tell her I don’t want to wear it. I used to like this dress. When Mama was making it, I begged and begged to try it on. The first time I wore it, I practically danced to school.

But then Herman pulled on my hem and said, “Sounds like a Christmas present.” The other boys started tugging at me. After a bit I got so upset, I peed in my panties. I have not done that since I was a real little kid.

Mama buckles my shoes over my socks. “We’ll braid your hair later. Get on downstairs and eat breakfast with your sisters.”

I trudge down the stairs, looking for a place to escape.

Grandma is at the table with my sisters. She gets up when I enter the kitchen.

I plop down next to Lottie who was eating a disgusting bowl of Graham crackers and milk. The smell makes my stomach turn.

“I don’t want that,” I say, pointing to the mush Lottie is putting in her mouth. Lottie grins at me with brown flakes in her teeth. Ellen is at the other end of the table with her elbows firmly in place and shoving cereal in her mouth. She barely looks up when I sit down.

Grandma puts a bowl in front of me. “How about some Rice Krispies?”

I eat as slowly as I can, counting to ten before I take a bite. Maybe I’ll miss school.

Mama comes in and braids my hair as I eat. She pulls it too hard and I whimper. “Sorry, sweetheart,” she says.

Ellen walks me to school even though I know the way. I memorized the path the first time so I could come home. I did that until Mama got real mad at me and told Ellen to make sure to hand me over to the teacher.

Ellen doesn’t take my hand but she pushes me as we make our way to the school. I want to run away, but she keeps giving me a nudge. Finally we are at the door to my classroom. She shoves me toward the teacher and says, “Get lost.” Then she disappears in the crowd of kids.

The one thing that keeps me coming back to school is Rosie. She’s my favorite doll. They keep her in a big chest with other toys. The second day of school I found her tossed in the box with big trucks and other heavy tractors on top of her. I pulled her out, rescuing her from that awful place.

As soon as I get in the classroom, I go to the chest and dig for Rosie. Someone shoved her way down in the dark. I twist her out. Her legs are bent. I can’t straighten them. Some of her hair is missing. I tip her back and one of the eyes closes, but the other stays open and stares at me.

The teacher calls us to our seats. I take Rosie. When it’s time to go home, I keep Rosie tucked under my arm. I don’t want to put her back in the box where it’s dark and where she’ll get hurt.

On the way out, the teacher says to me, “You need to return the doll to the toy chest. You can’t take her home. She belongs here.”

A tear rolls down my cheek, but the teacher grabs Rosie from my grasp. “The toys are for all the children. Not just for you.”

The rest of the school year drags like waiting for Daddy to come home or for Christmas to come. I ask the teacher to let me stay inside during play period. I don’t want to go out in the cold with the other kids. The boys hit me with a ball, and I don’t want to play with them. She makes me go until I pee on my dress.

“Why didn’t you say you needed to use the bathroom,” the teacher says. Her face is red with anger. I didn’t know I needed to use the bathroom until I got scared. I try to tell her, but she just thrusts me in the bathroom and closes the door. I cry for long enough to miss play period.

Finally when the last day of school comes, I tuck Rosie under my sweater. I can’t leave her here in this awful place, alone, cold, and with no one to love her. I hide her, and I walk slowly so no one will see.

We are nearly home when Ellen tugs on my arm and Rosie nearly falls out on the pavement, but I catch her. “What’s that?” she asks.

“The teacher said I could have her,” I lie. I don’t usually lie but this was a special situation. I had to save Rosie. Free her.

Ellen doesn’t care. She slams the backdoor entering the house. Grandma says, “What have you got there?”

Getting better at lying now, I tell her, “It was a prize. I won it for being good.”

“How nice. Let’s get her cleaned up.” My grandmother takes her and cleans her face and brushes her hair. Now I can see Rosie’s cheeks and her lips.

That night I take Rosie to bed. Just before Mama turns off the light, I look at Rosie. She’s lying next to me with one eye open and the other closed. It’s as if she’s winking at me. She knows my secret.

I freed her and she’ll never tell.


If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy my other writing. Check out the book trailer for e-Murderer.

Quentin talks about Murder on Moonshine Hill


Pre-Order by clicking here for just $2.99

The second book in the Jenna Scali series is now ready for Pre-Order. Let’s spend a little time with Jenna’s BFF Quentin Pearson to get the inside scoop about this new book.

A secluded mountain wedding turns deadly when murder interrupts the festivities.

JC: What made you decide to go to the wedding with Jenna?

Quentin: She didn’t fancy going. She and the bride go way back. They knew each other growing up. But some bad business happened back then and Jenna wasn’t keen to go. I suggested it might be good for her to get away. Then, I had this sudden idea, why don’t I go with her.

JC: How did she respond to that suggestion?

Quentin: At first she said no because she was determined not to go. But, later she decided it might be a lark. After everything that happened, I’m really glad I went.

JC: I know you can’t tell us about what happened, but how about telling us about the place, Moonshine Hill.

Quentin: It’s quite magical, like a movie set.

Charming. The guest rooms are small and the bathrooms smaller. I couldn’t go in mine and sit with the door open. But, the porches and views are amazing. And this place was surrounded by mountain trails around seven fresh water springs.

JC: How far from the nearest town were you?

Quentin: Moonshine Hill is in the mountains of North Carolina between Asheville and Waynesville. The closest town is a tiny mountain village called Sylva. Quite the charming place. Full of antique stores and quaint cafes. Moonshine Hill is also close to Western North Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.

JC: Y’all went there in the spring, right? What are the mountains like then?

Quentin: Green is the best word. Everything is greened out in such awesome shades. The woods around the inn were thick and shaded. There were also beautiful flowers, rhododendron, locust, wisteria and much more. Green mixed with the flowers made it a great time to be there. Not like the autumn, but special.

JC: And the weather was warm?

Quentin: Jenna complained about being cold most of the time. It was jumper weather, or as you Yanks say, sweater weather. Not as warm as we expected, but great for morning jogs. Jenna and I went out jogging a couple of times with several of the guests.

JC: Indeed it sounds idyllic. Why was Jenna so reluctant to go?

Click to order Book 1 in the Jenna Scali mystery series

Click to order Book 1 in the Jenna Scali mystery series

Quentin: I can’t tell you much without ruining the story. But what I can say is Jenna’s friend, Marcy Hawthorne, the bride-to-be, came loaded with secrets. None of us realized how much she was hiding until it was too late. Jenna suspected her friend was up to bad business because that was her style. After what Jenna went through last year, you know, with the e-Murderer, she was reluctant to get tangled up with Marcy.

JC: But, she went and she got good and tangled up, right?

Quentin: Good job I was there. I helped her stay out of danger. Well, I tried to anyway. I promised Detective Rich I’d watch out for her, but she’s a stubborn thing when she thinks a friend is in danger. That’s one thing I love about Jenna–her devotion to her friends.

JC: Tell us about some of the guests.

Quentin: Marcy, of course, the bride. Her mum and stepdad, the O’Conners. They were nice enough. The stepdad a bit obnoxious, but otherwise okay. Then there were Marcy’s dad and stepmum. I won’t go into much about them except to say the stepmum was quite a looker. Marcy’s ex-lover, Jimmy, showed up to cause trouble and that he did. Her Aunt Bertha came and stayed inebriated most of the time. Then there was the groom, Tom Slade–handsome and rich. His mother was there along with his cousin and fiancee. Finally, Jenna’s mum came because she’s a pal of Tom Slade’s mum.

JC: That’s quite a cast of characters.

Quentin: I left out the minister and his wife. The groom’s body guard. And, of course, we had the inn staff. That’s the lot of them, I believe.

JC: So, Quentin, if you could tell our readers why they might enjoy this book, what might you say?

Quentin: It’s your typical wedding with warring parents and stepparents. But, what makes the book a fun read is the place, Moonshine Hill, with all its beauty and intrigue as well as the unfolding secrets around those quirky characters. My role in the story added to the fun.

JC: I’m sure it did. Thanks for stopping by. We are all looking forward to reading the second Jenna Scali mystery when its released on August 23. Meantime, readers can pre-order the book today for just $2.99.

If you haven’t read book 1 in this series, check out the book trailer for the e-Murderer. Quentin appears with Jenna in both books.


Call to the Wild–Flash Fiction

In this story, they embark on a camping trip.

“C’mon, Jenna. It’s just for a bloody weekend.”

Trying to dissuade Quentin from doing anything was like trying to change myself into a frog. “Why won’t Alan go with you?”

He harrumphed. “Alan doesn’t like to get his feet wet. He’s fussier than your big ol’ white cat.”

“Churchill goes out in the rain—well, not that he likes it, but he does.” I took a deep breath. “Okay, I’ll go, but what do I need to take?”

“Bravo!” He nearly danced out my door. “Pack your sleeping bag and a bottle of insect repellant. I’ll fetch the rest.”

“Insect repellant,” I grumbled to myself as I moved back inside the house. What in the world had I gotten myself into? Being Quentin’s BFF had its drawbacks.

Saturday morning rolled around before I had a chance to back out. Quentin pulled up to my driveway and hopped out of his car like a boy on an adventure.

“This is going to be such a lark,” he said as he settled his long, lanky body in my small Honda for the ride to Cumberland Island. “I’ve been reading about this place forever. It’s absolutely natural. A beach with no hotels and tacky restaurants. Can you imagine it? Pristine. Like the beaches in Cornwall.”

“The beaches in Cornwall are not populated because it’s cold and wet there.”

“They’re promising sunshine here, love.” He’d begun fiddling with his laptop.

“Yeah, it’ll be hot as hell without air conditioning.”

He glared at me. “Don’t be such a sod. You’re gonna love this.”

Yeah like I love freezing on a snowy mountain in ski boots that pinch my feet, another of Quentin’s bright ideas.

“Hey, listen to what the website says. ‘Cumberland Island, Where Nature and History Meet. St Mary’s is the gateway to Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island.

He exhaled as if allowing his imagination to soak up the place.

“It sounds wonderful,” I acquiesced. I’d heard of this wilderness paradise ever since I’d moved to Georgia. What attracted me was not the wilderness so much as the horses that lived in the wild there. But, what had me a little nervous was what other kinds of wild critters might lurk in the underbrush.

We reached St. Mary’s, a small Georgia coastal town with clapboard houses and fishing boats, a perfect setting for an Agatha Christie mystery. My GPS took us to the dock where we were to meet the ferry to go over to Cumberland Island, the only way to get to that barrier wilderness surrounded by water.

Quentin placed his red Georgia Bulldog cap on his head and leapt from the car. “Hurry up, Jenna. We don’t want to miss the ferry.” He seized the two duffels and the sleeping bags from the backseat. I grabbed my purse full of sunscreen and perfume. Okay, I never wear perfume, but who knew when I’d be able to take a bath in this wasteland.

We joined a group people on the dock.

“They said the snakes are as large as trains over here,” a blond girl told her companion. She wore a low-cut tee and shorts that hugged her rather meaty thighs.

I tossed Quentin a look and mouthed, “Snakes?”Girl Sitting While Camping Near The Fire Heated And Drink Hot Te

He shrugged.

Oh my God. Wonder what else he forgot to tell me! 

“I’d be more fearful of the shooter,” the man, standing next to the girl responded through his snaggletooth. Apparently his parents didn’t believe in orthodontics.

Shooter? Did he say shooter or scooter? Geez. 

The girl snuggled close to the snaggletoothed man. “You think he’s here?” Her voice shook.

“C’mon, Stace, he won’t be on the Island. He’s probably done escaped to Cuba by now.”

“Sorry to intrude, but did you say shooter?” I asked.

“Yep. Y’all must be just now getting here?”

“Right-o. Five minutes ago from Athens,” Quentin popped in.

Both stared at Quentin as if he’d dropped from the sky.

“Are you a gen-u-ine Brit?” the girl asked. She moved a bit closer to Quentin and looked him up and down. Apparently snaggletooth wasn’t as interesting.

“That I am, straight off the boat from Manchester. Tell us about this shooter, won’t you?”

The man wrapped his arm around the girl to protect her from Quentin who didn’t have the least interest in the fairer sex. “Some lowlife shot a girl and her kid coupla nights ago. Lest ways that’s what the people in these parts are saying. He up and ran and the po-lice are still looking for ‘im. I was just joshing little Stacy here ‘bout him a being on the Island.”

The ferry pulled up. The people unloading looked as if they’d endured an episode of The Survivor, dirty, droopy-eyed, not a smile among them. They peeled off in twos or threes, dragging their dirty bags behind them.

Quentin moved from foot to foot, clearly anxious to get onboard.

“My name’s Billy Joe,” snaggletooth said. He held out a big hand to Quentin who took it with a quick shake and then wiped it on his jeans.

“Quentin Pearson and my friend, Jenna Scali.”

“Pleased to meet y’all,” Stacy said. “This y’all’s the first time to Cumberland too?”

“That it is.” Quentin said with a quick glance to make sure I was following along and had not escaped. He handed me one sleeping bag.

We’d made our way starboard, away from Billy Joe and Stacy who climbed to the top. The breeze nearly swiped Quentin’s hat off his head, but he grabbed it in the nick of time.

The island appeared over the horizon looking like something out of South Pacific. The sand almost white with nothing to mar the expansive shoreline. Not a soul in sight.

When the driver docked, he pointed us in the direction of the campgrounds. Most of the people onboard went that way. A few stayed on the boat, apparently going to the small inn somewhere on the other side.

Quentin tugged my arm. “Let’s get our feet wet before we head to the camp.”

I followed him. The sun penetrated my hair causing my scalp to tingle. Where was my hat? Probably tucked in the bag with the insect repellent. Pieces of driftwood littered the sand. But, unlike other beaches, there were no signs of civilization—like empty beer cans or even pieces of shells.

A figure moved way down the beach.

“Did you see that?”

Quentin had moved closer to the shore. “What, love?”

I headed in the direction of the shadow. “There, just beyond those dunes. I saw someone.”

Quentin followed. “Hold up!”

I reached the place where I’d seen the movement. Nothing. Birds chirped from the trees and several mosquitoes made a meal out of my bare arms and legs. I slapped them away.

“Did you see a wild horse?” Quentin asked. Hoof marks covered the sand.

“I saw a man on a horse.” I followed the hoof marks toward the dunes.

Quentin panted behind me. “Probably a ranger, patrolling the area.”

“What ranger? I didn’t hear anything about rangers and anyway why would he disappear like that?” I continued to trace the horse’s path.

“Jen, we don’t want to get too far from the camp.” He pulled on the back of my shirt.

Tent In Wilderness By The SeaThe beach was covered in low-lying trees, thick with green growth. A man on a horse could easily disappear among the underbrush.

“C’mon. We need to get ourselves settled at the site before all the good spots get taken,” Quentin said.

Reluctantly, I followed him back.

That night as I shivered around a ridiculous fire that barely kept a blaze, Billy Joe told Quentin all about his camping exploits. Bored, I wandered toward the latrines. Yes, latrines. Basically they were holes in the ground where we were expected to remove our panties and pee. Yuck. Maybe if I ate and drank nothing, I’d never have to use those facilities.

I walked back behind the trees that blocked off the camp and gazed at the moon on the water.

Someone grabbed me by the arm and knocked me down. “What—“ I yelped.

A deep voice said, “You saw me today, you nosey bitch…” Eyes glared from the darkness out of a hairy face. Had I been caught by Godzilla with an southern accent?

I caught sight of the gleam of a gun when the man grimaced, released my arm, and fell like a tree on my leg.

Billy Joe stood over him with a large club in his hand. “You okay?” he asked, helping me to my feet.

I brushed off my backside. “I think so. What or who was that?”

Billy Joe lifted the gun Godzilla had been holding and handcuffed him. “My guess he’s our shooter.”


He grinned, giving me a good look at his snaggletooth in the moonlight. “Stace and I are here undercover. We suspected this here fella was hiding on the island. So, we came a looking. Surenuf, you found him for us. Good job! Don’t know how you snuffed him out. My guess is he’d been deep in the bush on the island.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly mean to. But, so glad I could help.”

Quentin came running in our direction. “What the devil…” he said, seeing the shackled man on the ground.

“Your girl helped us nab this fugitive. Good thing I was here otherwise he might’ve blown her head off, too.”

Quentin gasped and scowled at me. “My lord. I can’t take you anywhere without you getting into some muddle.”

Billy Joe moved toward the shore and peered out. “The ferry is on the way back to take our prisoner. Stace and I will be off with him. Good to meet y’all.”

The goon moaned when Billy Joe turned him over.

“I’m not gonna miss that ferry,” I told Quentin on my way back to the site to gather my stuff. “I’ve had enough of this camping thing. I’m heading home to my cats and my warm bed.”

We found a cool little B&B in the town for the night. I settled into a warm bubbly bath and sighed. Now that’s my idea of camping.


If you enjoyed this introduction to Jenna and Quentin, you might enjoy the e-Murderer. Here’s a sneak preview.








Reviews Controversy–What’s an Author to Do?

After publishing my first mystery, I begged family and friends to write reviews. I didn’t ask them to write five-star reviews, just to share their thoughts on Amazon. Most didn’t do it. Those who did had their reviews removed from Amazon because they were in Amazon’s opinion, family and friends.

All the people I asked had purchased the book. They were not given free books. One friend objected to Amazon’s policy. I am a verified customer of Amazon. Why did they remove my review? One of my colleagues, who is a librarian, had her review removed three times. Finally we posted it under her husband’s account.

business hand clicking customer reviews on virtual screen interface

Recently, I heard about authors paying for reviews (like people paying to get followers on Twitter). When I noticed a book with over 16,000 reviews and 5 stars, I was amazed and immediately purchased the book. Later I asked a friend if she’d read it, I was shocked when she said, “It’s a glorified romance. Really thin and not worth my time.” How could she say that. Sixteen thousand people liked it. I began reading the book and guess what? My friend was right. The book was terrible. Well, not terrible, but extremely weak. Worth maybe 3 stars. I am now suspicious about that author and how she got so many reviews.

They came from people who bought it that I might know but I had no idea they bought the book, from review bloggers I contacted and begged to review the book, and from review blog tours. I have not purchased any reviews. But, I’m looking at a service whereby you pay a fee and you can get reviews, but they are honest reviews.

Sitting here now, I wonder what people who don’t have access to the New York Times reviewers do?

Why don’t more general readers review books? The estimated percentage of buyers who review books is something like .0001 percent. Even books that won awards, like The Clock Strikes Midnight, can’t seem to strike home with reviews.

Any suggestions? What have your experiences been? Help!!

If you want to check out the e-Murderer before you buy and and hopefully review it, take a look at this book trailer.

Love at First Sight


I swooned when I saw him gleaming and golden under the hot florescent lights.

“Come meet Luciano,” said the man in the striped tie.

I turned away, not wanting to appear too obvious.

“Get a closer look,” my friend said, clearly noting my reaction but pulling me away from the man in the striped tie.

“I don’t know. Let’s mingle a bit.”

“I’ve learned over the years, when you see what you want, you’ve got to go for it. You can’t hang back. Someone else will swoop in, and you’ll be left in the lurch.”

I edged closer. My breath quickened. Other people surrounded him, but the glow, the sleekness, the cool exterior radiated from him like the morning sun on the ocean. If he’s like this on the outside, wonder what the inside is like.

Moving within inches, I grazed his side. A tingle ran through my body.

“Go on,” my friend urged.

I greeted him with a soft caress. He welcomed me with warmth as if to smile and encourage me forward. The door opened, and I lunged in oblivious to the consequences. Within minutes he was taking me to places I’ve never been before nor could imagine.

We circled around like two lost souls. Words were unnecessary between us. Yet, I uttered, “You are amazing.” A strong smell of wood, leather, tobacco swirled around us, increasing my desire.

How could I have lived thirty-seven years and not experienced this thrill? Strong and yet tender movements left me breathless. Music played in my ears—real or imagined? I couldn’t say.

After an exotic ride that could only be described as ecstasy, I forced myself back to Earth and the world outside but never wanting this moment to end.

My friend waved at me. I tore myself away like a twin being separated from her mate.

“So how was it?” my friend asked with a big grin.

How could I tell someone I’ve been waiting all my life for this? How could I explain the feelings boiling inside me like a volcano about to erupt?

“I love him,” I said simply.

“Of course you do. Everyone does. It’s amazing isn’t it?”

I nodded and grabbed her by the wrist. “I must have him.”

“But you can’t.”

“I can and I will.” Sweat ran down my blouse signaling my tension and fear. “Otherwise I’ll die. Don’t you get it?”

“You’re being melodramatic, Melanie. All in good time. Everything comes with time. You aren’t ready. You’ve just seen him.“

I tore from her. “I’m getting him today! Now!”

“Wait! We can’t do it like that.” She ran behind me. “You must pretend you don’t want him. If you don’t, you’ll pay dearly.”

Ignoring her words, I walked up to the man in the striped tie. “How much for the Ferrari? The gold one you call Luciano?”

“So, you liked the ride?”

“I’ll pay whatever it costs. I want him now.”

The man laughed. “Love at first sight, eh?”

An hour later Luciano and I drove off the lot.


Joan Curtis is known for stories with a twist. Check out her latest mystery

Who Is Jenna Scali?

 She is a half-Italian, half-Irish young woman who finds herself in the middle of a bad crime spree. Let’s take a few moments and learn more about her. She’s agreed to join me today to answer some questions about herself.

JC: Hi Jenna and welcome to my blog. We know you’re going to have lots of fans after The e-Murderer comes out in May. We thought it might be a good time to talk to you so people can meet you.

Jenna: Thank you. I’m glad to be here and very excited about the release of The e-Murderer. It was quite an adventure that taught me a lot.

JC: We don’t want to give too much away about the book, but what would you say it is about.

Jenna: In my mind, it was about how a young, curious woman gets caught up in some terrible crimes because she receives mysterious emails. Most of us know not to open emails that are creepy. I usually do not do that and my BFF, Quentin (you’ll hear more about him later) yells at me all the time about not opening suspicious emails. But, you see, I work in a psychiatrist’s office. We have to open all the emails. When I got these, I knew they were strange. I couldn’t just trash them, though.

JC: So you opened these emails and then you started investigating, right?

Jenna: Naturally I told my boss, Dr. Niles Bingham, about them because we thought the sender might be a patient. Then when the emails kept coming and seemed to be coming to me specifically, that’s when I got scared.

JC: Okay, so as not to give too much away, let’s talk a bit about you. Tell us what you love to do when you’re not working.


Meet Jenna’s cat Stalin

 But, I love to spend time at home with a good book and one of my cats on my lap. Actually Churchill, my big white Persian mix, loves to sit on my lap whenever I sit down. He’s very affectionate. Stalin, my other cat, prefers to eat and for me to wait on him. I also love to travel. I’ve not been too far yet, but I have dreams of going to Italy where my father was born and to Ireland where my mom was born. Both countries have great appeal for me.

JC: You say you’re working on a doctorate. What are you studying?


 I became interested in what prompts people to criminal activity. And even more what makes people do bad things to one another. I’m not sure my studies have taught me much about those questions, but I’m still looking. My ex-husband really hurt me, drinking and having affairs. He seemed like such a normal person and yet he hurt me without a second thought. That led me to the question about why people hurt one another. Is there some quirk in us? Again, I haven’t gotten that far in finding answers, but that’s my goal. Someday I hope to be a consultant with the police to help them profile and better understand the criminal mind.

JC: So, your own experiences led you to majoring in criminal psychology. Tell us more about yourself. What do you dislike doing?

Jenna: (Laughing) I really don’t like exercising. Quentin is after me all the time to “Get my butt out the door.” I do it for him, but left on my own, I’d be home by the fire with some hot chocolate or a latte. I run with Quentin and I take belly dancing from him.

JC: Oh, yes, belly dancing. That plays a bit part in The e-Murderer. Let’s talk more about that later. Meantime, we are going to end this interview with one final question. How can readers find out more about you before the book comes out in May?

Jenna: First, thank you for this time on your blog. And, second, there are two ways they can find out more about me.

 Second, if they want more there will be a short story available.

 Readers who want more can read it as a taste of what’s to come. But, they must request it specifically by contacting Joan Curtis on her website. It’s free and a bonus to everyone who asks.

If you enjoyed this interview and want more, do what Jenna says, sign up and read a sample of The e-Murderer. And,

 You should also sign up for these blog posts. Soon, I will be interviewing Quentin and I’ll be talking to Jenna again right here on Joan Says, Writes and Reads.