book · review

Shifting Sands: Tradecraft: Phase One

Shifting Sands: Tradecraft series

Shifting Sands: Tradecraft: Phase One
Author: Michael Shusko
Series: Tradecraft #2
Genre: Military, action, espionage

In every book about military, there is the bad guys who are aiming for world destruction, and there will be the good guys who usually go: why me? Sure, they take the orders, but a recon mission quickly escalates into a fight of survival situation. Sometimes, if you are (un)lucky enough, rescue a damsel in distress.

Unlike Matthew Reilly’s books, Michael Shusko delivers a more down to earth story. Don’t get me wrong, both feature military men, in different ways. These heroes never thought themselves to be heroes, just a man trying to do his best to protect people he loves. I am using he because both books features a man, though the female counterpart is equally impressive in a lot of ways.

There is no comparison, it will be like comparing apples and oranges. I like Shifting Sands because it is more realistic and is more into current events. Plus the action part is breath- holding suspense. The characters have a certain charm to them, flaws and all. Mainly, this one has a family theme to it, as it features a family of marines (if I remember correctly of course).

Trying to get into a restricted country is easy enough, getting out is the problem. As brother love compels Nick’s brother to come save him, Nick has to save himself and the beautiful Sara. She holds the key to salvation, literally, as the information she holds might stop nuclear World War III from happening.

If you are looking for sexual tension, you might be disappointed, the people in this book are far too busy trying to stay alive than to find a spot for some love. The stakes are high, but the rewards higher still. I have not read the first book Vector, so I cannot say if it would have been better to read this chronologically. If there is any consolation, it felt like a standalone.


Shifting Sands is the second book for Tradecraft, there is something big coming up, pretty sure I want to be a bystander rather than a part of it. The story is in third person POV, which works well as it offers a clear picture of who goes where. Definitely a book for the military buffs, or someone looking for some dangerous adventure.

book · interview

Interview with: Alretha Thomas (Author)

Interview with Author of Rachel Storme Series: Alretha Thomas

but first….reading should run in the family. If you noticed, the book title is Funky Facts

this is how princess reads

Was writing the book a fun experience for you?

Writing “A Penny For Her Heart,” the third book in the Detective Rachel Storme series, was immensely enjoyable. After I had completed book two, and several months had passed, I began missing Rachel, Herb and the gang, and I was chomping at the bit to get started with the third book. Just the thought of coming up with a new mind-numbing case for Rachel to solve was exciting. I also enjoyed creating the latest protagonist that would share in telling the story—Vanessa Johnson Rossi. Additionally, I always get a kick out of coming up with plot twists and red herrings that keep the readers on the edge of their seats.

After writing so many series, which is your favorite?

I have written two series. The first one is the Cass & Nick series, which could be classified as romantic suspense. This series was picked up and published by Soul Mate Publishing in 2014. There are four books in that series. “Married in the Nick of Nine,” “A Baby in the Window,” “One Harte, Two Loves,” and “Renee’s Return.” My second series is the Detective Rachel Storme series. There are three books in that series so far. “Justice for Jessica,” “Losing Lauren,” and “A Penny For Her Heart.” My books are my babies, so it would be very difficult to pick one over the other. LOL!

Do you have a day job aside from writing?

I was blessed to retire from my day job in February 2016. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is to be able to do what I love full-time.

Me: Oh. this is my dream.. see it can come true~

What inspired Rachel Storme to be a detective?

When Rachel was a child, her father abandoned her and her mother. Rachel longed to know her father and to grow up with the feeling of security and protection that a father offers. As a result, she had to fend for herself and her mother. This led to her developing a keen sense of awareness and grit. Although, enamored with plants and flowers, Rachel felt compelled to purse law enforcement, a desire borne out of her need to feel safe.

She had wanted to quit once, why did she remain on the force?

Solving the Jessica James case was so fulfilling for Rachel, she decided to postpone her retirement. And before she had a chance to move forward with retiring, she was presented with another challenging case. She did, however, start her floral business.

Can you see yourself in the characters that you created, who would you want to be?

Yes, I can see myself in my characters. I can really relate to Rachel. We’re around the same age, and at one point I grappled with the idea of leaving my full-time job to pursue writing full-time just like Rachel is struggling with leaving the force to immerse herself in her floral business. Rachel also has a big heart and a love for people despite being in a profession that can turn a person cynical and apathetic.

How did you celebrate the release of your first book?

My first book, “Daughter Denied,” is loosely based on my childhood. It was launched in 2008. However, I wrote it in 1999. I unsuccessfully tried to get an agent and a publishing deal for this book. Finally, in 2008, inspired by Barack announcing he would run for president, I decided to self-publish. The rest as they say is history. I had a huge party to launch the book. It was amazing.

Will there be a “deleted scenes” book one day?

I like the idea of that. Perhaps there will be.

What’s the deal with Rachel and Herb?

It’s funny you ask that. I’ve been invited to be the guest author at numerous book club meeting and people always ask will Rachel and Herb end up becoming a couple. Invariably, when asked, I fall into a fit of laughter. It’s a titillating thought, but at present, they’re just friends. Herb has been happily married to Clarice for over thirty years, and Storme is divorced from Pete who’s in the penitentiary. Herb and Clarice love and respect each other and neither of them ever cross the line. Herb isn’t blind. He acknowledges that Storme is an attractive woman and he’s even told Storme that she’s a pretty woman, and Storme has acknowledged Herb’s attributes. Do they flirt on rare occasions? “Yes.” I like the idea of their closeness and the possibility of something one day happening. Who knows, maybe in book four. Lol!

What do you most enjoy about being an author? The books, the fans or just writing?

I love it all.  I enjoy creating. I wasn’t able to have children, so writing books makes up for that. I love creating stories, characters and worlds. I get a thrill out of the readers and reading their reviews. I love when people are moved and inspired by my stories. It’s an amazing thing. I feel humbled and honored to be a storyteller.

What do you hate most when writing a book?

I hate incorporating edits. It’s very tedious and a necessary evil.

Me: looks like the devil is in the details (haha)

Do you use a special writing program, or are you a handwriter?

I used Microsoft Word. Thank God for word processing. I don’t know how any author wrote a book before the invention of word processing. I love being able to make global changes. I love gliding through my book, moving things around with just the tap of key!

Do you think people should join authors group, are you in one?

I think author groups are great. You can learn a great deal from other writers and yes, I am in a group. It’s called the Prize Writers.

Review For: A Penny for Her Heart

book · review

A Penny For Her Heart : Rachel Storme 3 Review

A Penny For Her Heart
Author: Alretha Thomas
Genre: murder mystery
Series: Rachel Storme 3

A Penny For Her Heart : Review

Rachel Storme is back in book 3, with a more complicated story and more exciting stage. When Vanessa Rossi found her best friend, Penelope “Penny” Newhouse dead at their work place. Worse of all, it is near the election time, and their boss the Mayor wanted to get everything solved before polls plummet.

Like the previous books, Rachel is a meticulous detective that inspects all leads. In Penny For Her Heart, there was one crucial clue that stopped Rachel from wrapping up the case when her boss said so. With the backing for her partner Herb, she digs deeper to find the real killer.

The author, Alretha throws in a lot of convincing red herrings. The skeletons that turned up from the investigation could have convinced a lot of people who were murderer was. If it were not for Rachel’s attention to detail, the real killer might have walked away free. Of course, in politics, things get murky. The setting was perfect, the mystery is a puzzle waiting to be solved.

Aside from the murder, Rachel has to deal with her family issues. Vanessa, the girl who found the body had to get on with life. But as clues keep popping up, Vanessa had to wonder if she is safe at all. With the killer at large, without a real motive, anyone could be next. That alone was enough to keep me reading until the end, because not only there were a lot of suspects, everyone seemed to have an alibi.


A Penny For Her Heart has what a murder mystery needs : no suspects! keep digging, Rachel... Click To Tweet

I like Rachel Storme series because the whole story just twists into something else by the end. Ever lousy at reading clues, this proves to me that I am a lousy detective, I got everything wrong.

Too bad there’s not butler in this one.


book · interview

Interview with : author Russ Colchamiro

Interview with: Author Russ Colchamiro

** all images are taken from his blog: or Amazon**

Russ Colchamiro from his Blog

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

Q: Was writing the books a fun experience for you?

A: I love to write … except when I hate it! Being a writer isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am. It’s a fundamental component of my personality. There’s an incredible rush when I’m clacking the keys and the ideas are flowing and I’m crafting my tales, reshaping, reforming, and chiseling away until the magic comes alive. But writing is also a solitary experience that requires untold hours—often late nights—grinding away, unclear if I’m on the right track. But ultimately I find it’s always worth it. The number one rule I apply to myself is that I’ll only put my name on a book if I’m proud of it. So far so good.

Q: After writing 5 books, which is your favorite?

A: Ha! Never ask a dad to pick their favorite children!
(Ailyn’s note: maybe they are all equally annoying? My kids are…)

Q: Do you have a day job aside from writing?

A: I’ve been a media specialist for more than 20 years. I started my career as a High School English teacher, but switched to journalism. For the first many years I was a healthcare journalist, and then commercial real estate. Now I provide strategic council and public relations services to various real estate companies. The biggest project I ever worked on was One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. I spent many years in that building while it was being built, and after it opened. I was up on the 90th floor one cold and blustery day … when there were no walls! Not a day I’ll ever forget.

Q: What inspired Jason Medley and Theo Barnes (from your Finders Keepers trilogy) to save the world?

A: These guys kinda just stumbled into it! Trust me … there was no grand design as far as they were concerned. Jason and Theo were just two guys from different parts of the world who connected in Europe on a crazy backpacking adventure, when fate decided they had a much larger role to play in the Universe than either one of them could have imagined! The discoveries they go through over the course of the three books was thrilling to write. I wasn’t so much the architect of the narrative as the conduit. The gods dictated the stories; I just clacked the keys.

Q: Can you see yourself in the characters that you created, who would you want to be?

A: There’s a part of me in every character. Jason Medley is very much my fictional alter ego. But if I had to choose who I’d like to be … hmm. Hank is probably more my speed. The older mystic who offers sage advice … while goofing off whenever he can.

(Ailyn’s note: that might be your high school teacher persona.. the mystic sage. Totally)

Q: How did you celebrate the release of your first book?

A: My kids were born just months before that—I have twins, a boy and girl; my little ninjas—so most of my celebrating at that time was spent changing diapers!

Q: Will there be a “deleted scenes” book one day?

A: Hmm. Interesting. There are deleted scenes—and one in particular from the Finders Keepers trilogy I’d like to find a place for someday. No plans for a deleted scenes book, but I’m thinking about taking some of the content in the three books and re-presenting it in a new way. Can’t talk about it yet, but stay tuned.

Q: Will you be venturing into other genres?

A: Definitely. I’m in the process of transitioning into mystery and crime fiction. I created a character—Angela Hardwicke—who’s a private eye. She makes a cameo in the second Finders Keepers book, Genius de Milo, and has a much larger role in the third one, Astropalooza. I always wanted to write a classic Sam Spade-type private eye, and she’s the one for me. Next week, as part of my team with Crazy 8 Press, we’ll be debuting our latest anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem. I’m the editor. The collection includes 15 stories. They all include at least one act of love or romance, and at least one murder, with mayhem welcome. We’ve got superhero and supervillain stories. AI, off-world, and space cruiser stories. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travel, an aliens/monsters mash-up and … one DuckBob!

Besides being the anthology’s editor, Love, Murder & Mayhem includes a short story I wrote, with Angela Hardwicke as the lead. It was a chance for me to experiment with tone, style, cadence, story structure, etc., to get a better feel for who she really is and how to write her. I’m also reading tons of crime and mystery fiction these days—Elmore Leonard, Sara Gran, Harlan Coben, and others. My next book will probably be a full-length Angela Hardwicke novel, or else a collection of Hardwicke stories. If things go as I hope, I’ll be writing her for a long, long time.

(Ailyn’s note: hopefully poor Angela has a better time and luck than Jason and Theo @_@)

Q: What do you most enjoyed being an author? The books, the fans or just writing?

A: A combination. Like I said, when the writing part is grooving, it’s the greatest rush. I’m also a convention warrior—meaning, I like to do a lot of conventions on book tour, mixing it up with new fans, existing fans, and other writers. I’ve been on book tour all spring, and have a big show next week—Shore Leave in Huntsville, MD—where me and my gang from Crazy 8 Press will be debuting Love, Murder & Mayhem.

(Ailyn’s note: with the kids? that would be a cool family outing)

Q: What do you hate most when writing a book?

A: There are times when I feel completely lost. When I’m at it for a while, I sometimes lose perspective, because as the manuscript grows, it becomes more difficult to get a sense of whether or not the narrative is working or if I’m going to pull it all together. But I’ve learned to trust my process. I do many rounds of revisions. Each one is stronger than the last. And inevitably it all clicks. Takes a while, but I get there. I’ve also found that the more work I do up front—storyboarding, outlines, research—the smoother things go.

Q: Do you use a special writing program, or are you a handwriter?

A: I clack the keys, in Microsoft Word. And I take notes wherever I am. On the back of napkins and receipts, scrap paper, or I’ll text or email myself ideas, pieces of dialogue, plots, etc., if I’m on the run and don’t want to forget. I can’t tell you how many ‘great ideas’ I had and thought, ‘oh, I’ll remember,’ and never did. So aggravating! So now I try to write EVERYTHING down.

Q: Do you think people should join authors group, are you in one?

A: Important topic for any writer. I do not belong to any writers groups, but I did. I joined one or two, and I formed one. But I found that they don’t work for me because they require reading other writers’ works, and giving notes, while only focusing on your own work in small doses, from time to time. I want more focused time. I’ve since narrowed my scope to 2 or 3 trusted readers (other writers I know) who can read my entire manuscript, and then give me detailed commentary.

I know lots of people who love writers groups, or have a large group of beta readers. There’s no right answer. It’s just whatever works for you. I like to keep the circle small. For anyone who wants to join a group, I’d suggest finding one where everyone is at least at their writing level, or better. You want to avoid being in a group (or share your work with a reader) with people who either tell you what you want to hear, or don’t know how to help you.

Asking someone to give you feedback is tricky, because giving feedback is a skill. There are technical aspects to writing, whether story structure, syntax, rhythm, pacing, tone, setting, and the various copy editing components. The best feedback you can get is the kind that makes you upset. It usually means that you’ve been confronted with a problem you had either overlooked or ignored. It’s painful, but it’s a key way to improve your story, and your writing overall. You need thick skin, but I also suggest that share your work only with people who genuinely have your best interests at heart. It may take some time to find those people, but if you stick with it, they’ll turn up.

Russ Colchamiro and Crazy 8 Press Proudly Presents

Published May 2017
Love, Murder & Mayhem: Cosmic Tales of the Heart Gone Deadly Wrong


The Crazy 8 Press and Russ Colchamiro releases a fifteen author anthology, featuring superheroes and… Click To Tweet
bloghop · book · review

Thirsty Thursday and Hungry Hearts Hop : Samantha Watkins #1 Review

(un)Conventional Bookviews hosts this weekly meme

Thirsty Thursday and Hungry Hearts

This time I found an interesting book that has food in it. It is

Samantha Watkins: Chronicles of an Extraordinary Ordinary Life
Author: Aurélie Venem with translator S.E. Battis
Series: Samantha Watkins Series Book 1
Genre: paranormal, mystery, vampire

A little blurry, so I had to write it down

Everything was delicious. The meat melted in my mouth, the vegetables were perfectly seasoned, the bread was crusty, the cheese soft, and the tart… to die for. I was so absorbed by my meal that I didn’t realize until my second slice of strawberry tart that Velvet Voice was staring at me

For a Thirsty Thursday, I hope that is enough?


I like the premise of the story, a good blend of real life and paranormal. It is as if vampire is real in this world, and Samantha is just caught up in it. The characters are solid, even though some are cliche. The story started like most vampire/ human combo stories, a girl who narrowly escapes death, ends up under the care of a vampire.

Thankfully, nothing romantic in this book yet. Samantha is a character who is apparently socially awkward, while Phoenix the Velvet Voice Vampire is too detached to have a normal relationship. It is interesting to note, that there is an underlying current with Phoenix, I think he has a secret but not really sure. Samantha is like an open book, and a lot of fun to read.

The mystery part is slightly lacking, if you are going after that plot you would be disappointed. Samantha Watkins is more a character based book. This book is perfect for Thirsty Thursday and Hungry Hearts, because it would be fun to show a passage that tells how Phoenix choked on human food. I settled for this one, so it does not giveaway too much.


Samantha Watkins 1 is a thrilling vampire/ human combo story that you will love to sink your teeth into. Click To Tweet

It is well translated, since I read it in English. But if you find it in its original, please tell me if it is any good?

Samantha Watkins: Chronicles of an Extraordinary Ordinary Life is interesting, however the second book has not been translated yet. I hope it does, because Samantha’s life is not going to be ordinary any longer.