Book Review: Into the Dark (2021)

As reviews continue to soar in for Into The Dark, I fond myself humbled and most of all, inspired to do better the next time around.

Check out Rebecca Crunden’s review of my debut work of fiction and let us both know what you think.

Thanks!

a writer's blog.

Into The Dark: Book One of the Infinite Crossover Crisis by Robert Hookey

Despite what you are about to read, I am not the hero of this tale.

Into the Darkis like if you mixedSuicide SquadwithGood Omens, and added a dash ofThe Boys. And it’s so. freaking. funny.

Luckily, my best friends included Taurus the vampire, Scorpio the master strategist, a rock ’n roll apparition known to everyone (but Mama Shaw), as Rockin’, and a cast of characters that make the Suicide Squad look like almost angelic.

This is a very witty novel by Robert Hookey! So many one-liners left me giggling and I kept being reminded of the humour ofGood Omens. Looking forward to more by this author!

FYI: There is a very handy glossary at the back that I didn’t realise was there, which I definitely should have checked…

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Posted in Hotel Life | 5 Comments

Free Stuff! (The #FindNewHeroes Contest.)

(Sure, it’s pretty simple, but it was either that or “SEX!”. You gotta hit people where you know they’ll feel it, kids.)

As I write this I’ve already been awake since 5 am with unbelievably painful cramps; IBS is a delightful condition, if anyone’s interested in signing up for a dose.

Yes, I may be oversharing, but this reminder of my mortality has stirred something in me – besides the contents of my stomach, that is.

I’ve started working on the next chapter of the Infinite Crossover Crisis, and while the work is progressing as quickly as a snail with arthritis, it is progressing and that’s all that matters. I’ve introduced all new characters like Godfree, the man with an uncanny “sense of things’, and Zeus Howlett, media mogul and wielder of indoor lightning (it’ll make sense eventually). Several public domain heroes and villains have already begun to crop up as well. There are dozens of amazing characters languishing in fictional limbo that deserve a better fate and I aim to give it to them.

I’ve also rebranded the original Blue Beetle Dan Garret (he remains in the public domain if I only use one “t” and don’t call him the Blue Beetle) as the Blue Atom. Here’s his all new logo:

My original gang of unconventional heroes, and there a lot of them, admittedly, are all arriving in Vegas as Into The Grey begins and yes, I have a plan to deal with the fact I have a cast of characters as long as Plastic Man’s arms. What I didn’t have a plan for, until recently, was how my main character was going to confront his fallen best friend and brother-in-arms, Rockin’.

Yes, the lines between fact and fiction are unmistakably blurred in my world, but it’s all in the name of a higher purpose. And if I can work through some deep-rooted issues in the process, what’s the harm? I’m happy to report the healing has already begun; I’ve worked out a motivation behind the fictional Rockin’s suicide (oh, how I hate that word), that makes sense in terms of the story and will even help resolve at least one of the many subplots I’ve laid down in Into The Dark.

This may sound inappropriate to some, but I know wherever he is, Ronnie’s happy to be included in this journey. He may not have made the mark he wanted with his music, though many would disagree, but I’m determined to ensure the world never forgets the man he was.

And now onto the first book in the franchise. All of you know how difficult it can be to draw attention to one’s work in this horribly overcrowded social media landscape – especially since I won’t let you forget it, right? Well, my buddy Austin Hodgens had an idea to help me connect with my target audience, and I’m hoping it can strike a nerve with “non-nerds” as well.

Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

Okay, so I’m not asking you to don a spandex outfit and go out and hunt down bad guys.(Especially since these days you’d have to go after the men and women in blue and in office in order to really take down the villains terrorizing our society these days.)

No, this is about searching the depths of your creative wells and pulling out a superpowered champion – or even a villain if you prefer. After all, we measure the hero by the scale of the obstacle he has to overcome. Would Batman be as revered if the Joker wasn’t so terrifying? I think not.

You can come up with a codename and powers and leave it at that or you can take it further and engage in some cosplay and bring your creation to three dimensional life.

If ever there was an age in desperate need of heroes, this is certainly it, kids.

Heroes inspire us to dig deep and find courage we never suspected we had.

Heroes help us find the spark of imagination necessary to build our own worlds and hopefully inspire others to follow suit.

Heroes, quite frankly, are just cool.

So why not channel that feeling you get when watching Avengers: Endgame (or when reading Into The Dark) and create your own paragons of heroism? Share your specifications and possibly photos/videos here where the world can marvel at your brilliance. Flesh out your character as little or as much as you like. Go wild!

The winner will receive an autographed copy of Into The Dark and if they’re agreeable to the idea, their character will appear in the next two installments of my epic superhero crossover trilogy, Into The Grey and Into The Light. I’ll leave the next thirty days open and hopefully a few of you will take part. So have your heroes or villains show up for roll call by July 24, 2021.

What do you think, folks? Is this a brilliant marketing move? Or the biggest PR debacle since WKRP dropped live turkeys over Cincinnati? Let me know if I’m going way off course here or if I’ve struck marketing gold.

And here’s the latest review of Into The Dark from GoodReads.

See you in the costume aisle of Wal-Mart or the virtual bookstores, friends…

Here’s the Amazon link for Into The Dark if you want to learn more about my new world.

Posted in Hotel Life | 19 Comments

Boomers On Hooks.

Yeah, the title is a little weird (and slightly pornographic), but it’ll all make sense soon, trust me.

In my ongoing push to become the true master of all media – and sell more than ten books in the process – I’m pulling a Frozen and jumping headfirst into the unknown.

What? You got it, don’t pretend you didn’t.

I’m still new to the livestream interview thing, but I’ll be a guest on Boomers On Books on July 15th at 8pm UK, 3pm EST and 10am Pacific – or anytime you like if you have a time machine. If you’re not familiar with this magnificent YouTube program, don’t be too hard on yourself, you’ve had a lot on your mind lately. Boomers on Books, hosted by the well-read Vince Stevenson and Mark Schultz, provides a vital service to indie authors like me who could use more than a little help in the self-promotion game.

I’ll be burning through an hour with my patented blend of snark, unique insight and all those other qualities that make me The Hook.

And this is where you come in, friends.

If you have any questions about Into The Dark I’d love you to share them here and I’ll happily pass them along to Vince and Mark. Maybe you’ve always been curious about my process, or just why I’ve put so much of myself and the people around me (like Rockin’ Ronnie) in the Infinite Crossover Crisis? Maybe you’re wondering just why I suck so epically at self-promotion so far? (I’m pondering that one myself, truth be told.) Whatever your query, I’d love to answer it online on the 15th.

A writer is nothing without an audience, so all of you have been and will always be an integral part of my journey as an author. Which brings me to my next point…

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and I’ve come to an inescapable, irrefutable conclusion about my writing.

I’m not a writer at all.

A writer uses their skill with the language of their choice to draw you into a world of their creation. A writer is a master of creation, a god really, who forms entire worlds from nothingness and brings them to  life in the reader’s mind. I admire writers like John W. Howell and so many others, but I don’t feel I belong in the same category as them. I’m just not good enough.

I’m not a writer… I’m a storyteller.

I’m the guy at the party everyone gathers around as he spins a mesmerizing tale that will resonate long after the last drop of booze is gone and all the cheese doodles disappear. People have commenting that Into The Dark has a very conversational tone rather than the usual literary delivery method. And that makes me very happy.

Nothing against actual writers; I envy the hell out of these folks. I admire their skill and their gift. My literary voice is my actual voice, complete with my “unique” sense of humor, my jaded-yet-still-slightly-optimistic view on world events and  of course, my innate love of comic books and pop culture. Figuring just how to categorize my “gift” is a milestone.

Now I have to keep plugging away. I still need a ton of reviews to qualify for Amazon’s “Customers Also Bought” feature, but I’ll get there. Additionally, I’d love my Twitter pals to use the hashtag #BookTheHook to help me land a spot on local TV station CHCH’s Morning Live program. I’ve been chipping away at their resistance for months but could use some back-up.

That’s all I’m going to ask of you today, my friends. I’m back at the hotel this weekend in the morning delivering bills. Management is going to start offering optional bell service starting Saturday. I’m optimistic but realistic; the clientele we’re getting in right now isn’t likely to take help over doing it themselves for free – even if the bellman in question is devilishly handsome and equally charming.

See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, folks…

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Posted in Hotel Life | 24 Comments

The Hook Reads: John W. Howell

Some writers tell stories and some build worlds.

John W. Howell is a writer’s writer; he truly plays God and infuses life into his characters and gives them entire realities to inhabit, rather than just going through the same motions we’ve all read a mllion times before. He’s so dedicated to his craft that John even trained with Seals to add a layer of authenticity to his espionage thrillers. Of course, it was at Sea World with actual seals – but it still counts.

Some authors worry about living up to the standards set by their idols, and so they’re constantly asking thmselves, “What would Stephen King do with this chapter?”

I often think, “What would John Howell do with these characters?” or “I wonder what John will think of this direction I’m taking my characters in?”, and of course, “I wonder if John will ever pay me back for that 50k I loaned him for that grey market kidney?” (Incidentally, the grey market is the Canadian version of the black market, where the participants are geniuinely sorry about their participation.)

Here’s John bio in his own brilliant words:

John is an award-winning author who, after an extensive business career, began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written five other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. The paperback versions are also available in the Indie Lector store.

John lives in Lakeway, Texas, with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Told you he was cool. Let’s get on with this show, shall we? Take it away, John.

It is so great to be here with you today, Robert. I certainly appreciate you having me here to talk about the writing life. I must say it is a tad chilly for a Texan up here.

True, but it’s a dry cold, John. Let’s proceed while I fetch you a sweater.

ONE)  You’re a master of your chosen literary field, but is there any genre you’d like to tackle but have always been hesitant to explore?

 I have been slowly exercising my genres. (notice the development) I started as a pure thriller writer for the first three books. Then I decided I needed to throw a little paranormal. Why? Well, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. After doing the supernatural, a dear friend (Gwen Plano) and I took a swing at a thriller that also had some spiritual and romantic elements. My last book Eternal Road – The Final Stop, is a multi-genre work covering several, including thriller, paranormal, religious, and historical fiction.

As you can see, I’ve been playing with genres almost since I started writing. Oh, what? Yeah, I guess I didn’t answer the question. I think I would like to do a science fiction book but have been hesitant due to the conventions involved in that genre. I would not want to make a glaring mistake. I did put a little Sci-fi into my last but not enough to be nailed for inaccuracies.

TWO)  If you could hang out with any of your characters, John, who would you choose and why?

I have two that I would love to be able to spend some time. The first is Stephanie Savard. She is now John Cannon’s (My protagonist in the John Cannon trilogy.) wife and a person I came to respect. She is a Navy pilot and no-nonsense woman. She has no fear, and even when shot as a warning to John, she showed true grit.

The other is Samantha Tourneau, who is one of the main characters in Eternal Road – The last Stop. She was murdered as a child and waited seventeen years for her childhood friend to join her in the eternal phase of life. She spent the time learning and studying and then became the guide to her friend’s eternal home. She has a great sense of humor and seems comfortable in any situation.

(That premise sounds awesome, doesn’t it?)

THREE) I’ve always admired your commitment to forging relationships with our fellow authors; what have you learned about our craft from these interactions?

The biggest thing I’ve learned in these interactions is those fellow authors are the people to turn to if you need help. I’m not talking about craft help because that is available everywhere on the internet. I’m talking about those times when an author reaches the limit of endurance and is ready to kick it in. Most writers have reached that critical point in their writing lives, and it is excellent hearing shared experiences from others. Also, I find the more support I give to other writers, the more I return.

(John really is the biggest suporter of fellow authors I’ve met yet, though the entire community is amazing.)

FOUR)  In your opinion, what is the most important element in creating a gripping, intriguing work of fiction? Well-developed characters? A strong plot? Plenty of technical knowledge of the subject matter? Gobs of sex?

All of the things you mentioned go a long way to form a gripping, intriguing work of fiction. I believe, though, that the writer’s voice goes furthest with the reader in making a piece of fiction unforgettable. So, what do I mean by voice? I’m talking about that easily recognizable narration that the reader immediately falls into a state of trust. It could well be the point of view of the story.

Let’s just say the author takes the first-person approach to the point of view. The story becomes an intimate relationship between the character and the reader. The reader is drawn into the story as if they are on the stage with the other players. Once the reader is part of the ensemble, none of the action can occur off stage. Every little surprise or twist the reader experiences along with the main character. It makes for a thrilling ride. Not to blow smoke, but I think your conversational method of telling a story as you do in Into The Dark goes a long way in creating the environment for a gripping tale.

(Aw, shucks.)


FIVE)  Did you ever have one of those lightning bolt moments when you knew being a writer was your destiny?

I never had a lightning bolt moment but knew I wanted to write for a long time. I started writing my first novel while working and spent ten years trying to make something compelling. I finally finished the 121,000-word manuscript and decided to print it off so that I could edit it while traveling. I got 50 pages into it and had to make a note in the margin. This is the worst crap I have ever read.

The manuscript is now at the ready in the garage to hold the back door open in case of wind.

I realized that I needed to devote myself full-time to writing. When I turned 70, I decided to retire and have been writing ever since. That was ten years ago, and I have six books published and a nine-year-old blog with a new post every day.



SIX)  When should a fledgling writer like myself consider themselves successful? To that point: Are you at all concerned with achieving “fame and fortune” as a writer, or are you in it for the sheer joy of playing God and creating new worlds?

“What is success?” is a question which every new writer asks. I try to answer it this way. If you care about your writing and create stories that you find satisfactory, you are a success. If you think your success is measured by how many books you sell or how well known you become, then you are in for a rude slap of failure.

Writing is a lonely job.

If a writer not happy writing for its own sake, then the writer has to hope to score a big contract to offset the misery. If there is no big contract and just misery, then it is time to quit. So how much time should go by before a writer decided to call it quits? Until a writer has written one million words, there is no need to worry about success.

Thank you again for having me and I wish you all the best on Into the Dark.

John is a true gentleman, isn’t he?

Here is where you can fmake contact with John W. Howell if you don’t have telepathic abilities like Professor Charles Xavier.

Blog Fiction Favorites – http://johnwhowell.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241

Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Amazon Author’s page – https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

I want to thank John for providing some insight into his process, his thoughts of the writing game and for just beng himself.

John’s someone I’ve turned to many times over the past few years as I’ve struggled with my always waning self-confidence. There have been days I want to chuck my new book into the virtual trash and just give up on writing completely. And there have been days I want to just give up and let my grief over the losses I’ve experienced wash me away.

But John and so many others have always been there to lift me back up.

Lose yourself in John’s work, you won’t be disappointed.

See you in the lobby and the virtual bookstores, friends…

Posted in Hotel Life | 47 Comments

The Hook Reads: Frank Thomas Croisdale.

There’s the family you’re born to and then there’s the one you that finds you, the one you were meant to be a part of all along.

My familial journey has been a long, complicated, and often painful one – and I’m vastly underselling it here, trust me – but now that I’m in my Fifties (man, it’s painful to type that), I’ve found the people I was destined to be linked to all my life.

Frank T. Croisdale, author of Niagara Falls Into Darkness, is one of those people. Here’s why:

  • We’ve been in the hospitality trenches together for over twenty years and let me tell you, we’ve seen stuff.
  • We’re both hardcore nerds, specifically, comic books.
  • Both our moms were named Karin. (If you’re a Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fan, you’re losing it right now.)
  • Rockin’ Ronnie was one of our people and so we share the weight of his loss with a select group of others. Pain shared really is pain reduced.
  • He’s a gifted writer who channels his ucanny ability to sell anything (watcing him pitch tours as the director of tours at our mutual home-away-from-home is a master’s class in salesmanship) to tell stories that will resonate with you forever.
  • He knows how to cast; there’s a certain bellman who appears in this book that you’ll find very familiar – because he’s me.

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Frank is also the person I bounce ideas of off whenever I find myself wrestling with conundrums involving superheroes or anything comic related for my own work. He’s like a girl I knew in high school; always availiable and open to anything. Of course, the circumstances are vastly different – but I stand by the analogy.

But enough of this bromance stuff. The best way to get to know someone is by peeling back the layers of their consciousness and seeing what oozes out, so here’s the blurb for Niagara Falls Into Darkness, followed by Frank’s A’s to my brilliant Q’s.

A madman serial killer is on the loose taking lives on both sides of the border at Niagara Falls. Newspaper Editor Mick O’Malley and Detective Sally Wendt are the only two with a chance of catching him before he kills again. Will they succeed or will Niagara fall into darkness forever?“

Dean Koontz, John Grisham, James Patterson – make way for the next great American crime thriller author, Frank Thomas Croisdale. Not only is Niagara Falls Into Darkness a page-turning masterpiece, it features one of the greatest protagonists ever created for the written page.”

ONE) 417HJ91svcL Any thriller/action adventure worth it’s salt lives and dies (pardon the pun) by its villain. What makes your antagonist, Law, so compelling?

With Law I wanted to create an antagonist who was not only unhinged, but had a greater purpose. Law is driven to his heinous acts by his distain for what he perceives as neglect to protect the beauty of Niagara Falls. Because of that he feels very righteous in the murders that he commits. That, combined with his intelligence and sociopathic nature, provide him with a gravitas that one will not soon forget.

TWO)  You have decades of experience as a tour director/master salesman. (Honestly, I’ve seen you metaphorically sell ice to Eskimos and convivne them it’d increase their body temperature.) Do you think that helped you bring a wholly-unique persepctive to the world of Niagara Falls Into Darkness?

There is no doubt that my 25+ years of work in the Niagara Falls tourism industry on both sides of the border had a great influence on Niagara Falls Into Darkness. One of the things that I love most about my work in tourism is that we service the entire globe. People come from everywhere to get an up-close view of our waterfalls. And there is a commonality that runs within them: they want to absorb as much knowledge and information as they can and they want to bask in the beauty of one of God’s truly great creations.

I sort of resonated with Law’s desire to always protect the beauty of the falls as a pertains to tourism. Obviously, he took it to a bit of an extreme.😀

THREE)  This book is screaming to be adapted into a film or better yet, a Netflix mini-series, so let’s talk dream casting. Who would star in the filmed version of Niagara Falls Into Darkness?

I am surprised at the number of people that say that they envision it as a film or a Netflix series. One person has even offered to act as my agent in that regard. As for casting, I see Law being played by Anthony Hopkins. He might be a bit old for the role at this point, but I think he would bring just the right panache to Law’s demented character.

I envision John Krasinski as Mick O’ Malley. I think he would be able to get the nuances of Mick’s character growth throughout the story just right.

For Sally Wendt, ideally a young Ann Margaret (circa The Cincinnati Kid) would be ideal. Because that’s not possible Amy Adams will have to be the choice. And how about Anthony Mackie to round out the cast as Darnell Morgan?

I’d watch that. Twice.

FOUR)  The hardest thing about writing for most new authors is maintaining a regiment (I’ve been clicking away to work on my new book and check various comic book sites this whole time). Do you have a strict writing schedule you stick to or do you write whenever the diving hand of inspiration you? 

Once I commit to writing a novel I keep a pretty strict regimen. I use the 3 x 5 index card method. I sketch out each scene from beginning to end with one on each card. Only then do I begin the actual writing of the book. Each day I pick up the next card and commit to finishing the chapter. I find that pretty much eliminates writer’s block and helps everything move along smoothly.

FIVE)  Not to get too spoilerish, but the exploitation of Niagara Falls, specifically the Falls themselves, is touched upon heavily in this book; is this an issue near and dear to your heart?

Yes, absolutely. I am very fond of a saying that I put into the mouth of Law in the book. “We do not own Niagara Falls. We have simply borrowed them from our children. We are honor bound to turn them over to the next generation in better shape than they were handed to us.”

There is a fine line that needs to be adhered to. Obviously, I make my living in tourism and I believe it to be both the present and the future of both cities named Niagara Falls. However, we must remember that the falls are a 12,000 year-old living organism and they have many thousands of years left. No generation should be the one to spoil that amazing legacy for those yet to come.

SIX)  I’ve heard a rumor that some of the characters in Niagara Falls Into Darkness wil be appearing in your next book, The Benefactor. You know I’m a huge fan of this practise based on my love of comics; does this decision spring from your love of comic books as well?

Absolutely. You and I both cut our literary teeth on the offerings of the DC and Marvel companies. Having characters crossover and make cameos in other works is a staple of the comic book industry and one that I love. So you will see Mick O’Malley and Sally Wendt making an appearance in The Benefactor even though the larger story will center on a new cast of characters.

SEVEN)  Self-promotion has proven to be a major challenge for me and I know I’m not alone. Any advice in that regard for you fellow indoie writers?

I think that’s the best advice that I can give is to think long and hard about who the readership is for your work. Once you have a good handle on that think about where you might find that group of people in social media outlets? Then you need to continue to promote your work on every platform where you find them as often as you can.

The executives at Coca-Cola one stated that it took 100 impressions for a person to instinctively reach for a can of Coke over other pop brands when they were standing in front of a cooler in a convenient store. So that means that someone needs to hear of your book 100 times before they might actually pull the trigger and make the purchase. Perseverance is the key. As Winston Churchill so famously said “never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never.”

EIGHT)  Buffalo Soul Lifters was your first book and it proved to be a major success because, as promised, the stories lifted people up. You’re one of the most upbeat souls I’ve ever known; where does this eternal optimism come from?

I was a philosophy major in school and one of the things that I loved most about that discipline is that it teaches you that everything in life is a choice. Is the glass half full or half empty? Am I half done or half just begun? Does this bag contain 12 donuts or 12 holes?

At the end of the day the choice is yours. I choose to always bet on myself. I choose to believe that happiness is a better state of being then sadness. I choose to believe in God despite there being no empirical evidence of his or her existence. I do so because it’s too romantic of a notion to discard.

So, that is why I am an optimist. That and the fact that I have the great fortune of having an amazing wife who picks me up on the rare occasions that I find myself down.

My favorite band ever is the Beatles. So, I’ll finish this question and the interview by quoting the final line from their final song, “The End.” Truer words have never been sung and I try to make it my manta.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Gosh, I hope that’s true.

The Bio Thing: 

Frank Thomas Croisdale was born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York. In 2000, he began writing for the Niagara Falls Reporter. He soon became a featured columnist and contributing editor. He wrote for the paper for 13 years and produced hundreds of feature articles.

In 2004, his book Buffalo Soul Lifters was published. It quickly became a best-seller as people connected with his stories of hope and perseverance that define the great people of Western New York.

In 2020, his novel Niagara Falls Into Darkness was released to great fanfare. The crime thriller not only kept readers on the edges of their seats, it also captured the many nuances of the twin cities that flank either side of the world’s most famous waterfalls.

The Linky Thing:

Before I release you back into the wilds of the interweb I’d just like to say that Niagara Falls Into Darkness is a brilliant book with a smart, unique premsie (something most books cannot claim these days) and it’s part history lesson, part thriller, part page-turnng mystery and all fun.

I can never thank Frank enough for all he’s done for me, the least of which is being here today, but I hope this virtual offering has done some justice to this cool author and human being.

See you in the lobby and virtual bookshelves, friends…

Posted in Hotel Life | 7 Comments

The Hook Reads: Lisa Orchard.

Welcome to my new series, The Hook Reads, where I list items I have read today. That’s right, you are about to be regaled with thrilling tales of everything from what’s on my grocery list to online instructions of what to do when someone accidentally drinks his wife’s paint brush dipping jug. (That’s the jug filled with water and oil paint residue that my wife uses to clean her paint brushes in.)

Strap in, kids!

All right fine, so this is actually a series of posts featuring fellow authors and like-minded individuals who have answered their brain’s call to share their creative bursts with the world. So let’s welcome todays victim guest, Lisa Orchard, everyone!

(That applause was pretty weak, I know we’re still in a pandemic and you people are tired, but come on!)

As a father to a daughter who recognizes and acknowledges the the world’s inequities (the kid is truly “woke” as her fellow kids say), it bothers me that there aren’t enough fictional female heroes that have achieved pop culture fame.

So thank God for small-town-gal-turned-best-selling author Lisa Orchard. Her Super Spies series does its best to bring balance back to the world of literature, giving us heroines people of both genders can relate to. Check out the synopsis for Lisa’s first foray into the world of the Super Spies:

In a small town in Michigan, fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie.

The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman and what’s worse? One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own investigation.

The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the investigation. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free.

Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer. Or die trying…

Now it’s time to administer some anesthesia and pick Lisa’s brain. (Incidentally, anesthesia is Greek for “without sensation”. It is a state of controlled, temporary loss of sensation or awareness. I can’t think of a better way of describing what it’s like to read this blog.)

ONE)  What is your writing process like? Some authors have a dedicated workspace set up that guarantees solitude (sadly, I do not) while others can literally write anywhere. (Lucky buggers.) Do you have a Fortress of Lisa’s Solitude?

My writing process? I find that I write whenever I can. My most productive time is in the morning. I get up before everyone else and try to get in a good solid hour or two before I start my day.

(I do the same thing. Solitude can be essential to a writer’s success.)

I write curled up in my blanket with my caffeinated beverage and my laptop on my lap. I have a desk, but I rarely use it. 😊  I find that I can write in the evening, but it’s not as productive and I do get interrupted quite a bit.

TWO)  I wrote my first novel to help channel some of the anxiety I was feeling at the start of this crisis – the same one the world is still going through. You’ve said the voices in your head are what inspired you to start writing, but how much of Lisa Orchard is in her books?

There is a lot of Lisa Orchard in my books. The Super Spies series was inspired by my desire as a teen to be a detective. I wanted to be like Nancy Drew. (LOL!) So, the characters are combinations of myself and my friends from that time.

THREE)  I love the idea of creating my own fictional universe and I’m not alone; my daughter loves the One Chicago television universe. Have you ever considered spinning characters from The Super Spies series off into their own adventures that would feature “guest appearances” from Sarah Cole and her allies?

Oh sure, I plan on writing more in that series. However, I’ve got a couple stand alone novels that are taking up my time at the moment. I have a lot of time invested in them and I want to get them off the ground before I work on something new.

FOUR)  Writing can be an incredibly-freeing, fulfilling process, but having to market the finished product on your own can be soul-crushing. You seem to be a perpetually-upbeat soul. What’s your secret?

I try to be upbeat, but to be honest, I’ve had moments where I’ve felt overwhelmed by the marketing of my work. It is hard work and I’ve found that I spent more time on the marketing of my books than actually doing the writing itself. Since, it’s the writing that I enjoy the most, I’ve decided to focus on that and not worry about the marketing so much.

That being said, it’s good to have a marketing plan where you can do author visits at schools and various conferences. Those kinds of appearances do help. I’ve also done writing workshops for various youth organizations and conferences. Anything like that will help get your name out there. For you, since you’re writing for adults, you might want to see if there are any writing conferences in your area where you can give a presentation on writing science fiction stories. Or maybe create a book club where the members read and review science fiction books.  

As far as being upbeat, I find that if I focus on enjoying the process and not becoming too attached to a specific outcome, I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I don’t worry so much about becoming a New York Times bestselling author and focus more on improving my craft. That’s where I get my greatest satisfaction because my writing is improving, and I can see it. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t notice because I do. Sorry. This ended up being a long-winded answer. LOL!

FIVE)  A writer is always “on”, and so inspiration can strike anywhere, at any time. What’s the oddest time or place you had a creative burst?

Probably when I was on vacation.  We were going for a boat ride and I didn’t have anything with me to jot down my idea. Luckily, I remembered and was able to write it down when we returned home.

SIX)  This pandemic has wreaked havoc on much more than our bodies. Has your outlook or writing been effected by the events of the last fourteen months?

Surprisingly, no. The pandemic has made it easier for me to write because we aren’t hauling our kids to social events like we were in the past, and we haven’t had as many obligations either.  The pandemic has forced us to slow down and stay home and that’s only helped my writing.  One positive thing out of a very dark time, that’s for sure.

I want to thank Lisa for agreeing to this interview after I promised to destroy the negatives. I had a lot of fun learning from a more experiencd writer and hope you did as well.

Now here’s an excerpt from Lisa’s debut Supr Spies adventure, the buy links for her work and Lisa’s contact information including her pin code. (By the way, “1234” is just lazy, girl.)

What You Need To Know About Lisa:


Lisa Orchard grew up loving to read. She was “hooked on books” by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. After deciding to put her communication skills to the test, she graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Marketing, but the voices in her head wouldn’t leave her alone so she began chasing her life-long dream of writing stories. A love of suspense and the drama of all things human inspired the Super Spies series and later, the Starlight Chronicles.
 
 Lisa reached the bestselling author status in 2013 with her Super Spies series and has been writing ever since. This also led to her entering the amazing Author Mentor Match program where she found her tribe. Currently she’s working on a couple
stand-alone novels that will “leave your jaw on the floor.” When she’s not writing,
Lisa likes to spend time with her family, reading, hiking, and running from the voices nobody else hears — her characters never stopped talking, after all.

How To Contact Lisa Since She Doesn’t Have A Bat-Sginal:

Twitter: Lisa Orchard (@lisaorchard1) / Twitter

Blog: Home (lisaorchard.com)

Amazon Buy Link: Amazon.com : lisa orchard

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer excerpt:

Chapter One

 “Do you know who that was?”

Sarah Cole whirled around and spied a tall, skinny girl standing a few feet behind her. “Are you talking to me?” Shading her eyes, Sarah cocked her head to get a better look at her.

The skinny girl nodded, her mop of wild curls dancing with her movements. “Yeah, do you know who she is?”

Sarah gazed down the street at the wizened old woman shuffling away. She wore a faded housedress, which appeared to have been slept in for at least a couple of nights. It looked like the wrinkles had wrinkles.

The woman’s hair was a listless gray, trapped in a feeble bun at the nape of her neck. Some of it had escaped and trailed behind her as she walked, the limp strands swaying with the old woman’s faltering steps. Minutes ago, Sarah had helped her with her cart—it had gotten stuck on the doorjamb as she left the corner drug store.

Pulling her honey-colored hair out of her eyes, Sarah spun and studied the skinny girl, not quite sure what to make of her. “No, I don’t.”

Sarah continued her scrutiny and noticed the skinny girl stood at least five inches taller than she did. Her curly hair burst from her scalp in a frantic frenzy. She looks like an exploded cotton swab. Pursing her lips, Sarah suppressed a bubble of laughter.

“She’s the Cat Lady,” the bony girl said, an expression of guarded curiosity mixed with fear on her face.

“Who’s the Cat Lady?”

The skinny girl pointed at the old woman shuffling away. “She’s a crazy lady. A witch.”

“A witch?” Sarah scoffed. “I don’t believe in witches.”

“It’s true,” the skinny girl whispered emphatically. She stared at Sarah, her dark eyes reflecting the conviction behind her words.

“I don’t believe you.”

“No one has seen her in years. She never leaves her home.” The skinny girl glanced toward the Cat Lady again, and then walked closer to Sarah.

Realizing the skinny girl was scared, Sarah glanced down the street a second time. She watched the hunched, old woman make her painful shuffle down the sidewalk. The Cat Lady didn’t look dangerous to Sarah. She appeared to be a weary old lady making her way home.

“There’s no such thing as witches,” Sarah said.

“She’s a witch, an evil witch,” the scrawny girl insisted. She nodded her head again, sending her dark curls into another wild dance.

Sarah glanced down the street a third time and watched the old woman limp away. She didn’t look like she had the strength to pull her cart, let alone perform black magic. “How do you know? Does she practice voodoo or something?” Sarah smirked at the skinny girl, realizing she had a flair for the theatrical. “And if she never leaves her home…why is she out on the street now?”

The girl opened her mouth to speak, and then shut it again as if she realized Sarah had a point. “Well…the delivery boy must have quit.” She pulled on a wayward curl and frowned. “Because there’s no way she leaves her home. I haven’t seen her in years.”

“Uh huh,” Sarah said, raising her eyebrows and pursing her lips.

 The skinny girl must have seen the doubt in Sarah’s expression, because she crossed her arms over her bony chest and moved another step closer. “Just let me tell you the whole story; I’m sure you’ll change your mind. My name’s Jacqueline Jenkins.” She drew out the syllables emphasizing her name like a movie star or the Queen of England, JAAAQUELEENE JEEENKIINS. Jutting out her hip, she faced Sarah as if she were posing for a magazine. “What’s yours?”

“Sarah Cole.” Speaking through tight lips, Sarah was able to stifle another bubble of laughter.

“You can call me Jackie, though. That’s what my friends call me.” She studied Sarah for a moment. “You’re new in town, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. We’re staying with my aunt and uncle while my parents are on vacation.”

“We?”

“Me and my sister, Lacey.” Sarah scrutinized her surroundings. “Is this the whole town of Harrisburg?”

“Yep, this is it.” Jackie opened her arms wide as if she were presenting the town to her.

Sarah stifled another giggle. She looks like Vanna White on the Wheel of Fortune.

 “Where are you from?”

Sarah cleared her throat and sighed. She wasn’t looking forward to being stuck in this podunk town for the summer. Looking down the street, she realized there were only two traffic lights in the tiny burg.

“We’re from Walker, you know, the big city.” Sarah held up her hands and formed quotes with her fingers when she said the words ‘big city’. “Do you guys have a bookstore?”

“Nope, but we do have a library.” Jackie pointed to a weathered old building standing on the corner. “But no on33e goes there this time of year.”

“Why not?” Sarah’s spirits sank even lower as she realized she wouldn’t be able to buy her true crime novels.

“Because, it’s summer, silly.”

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Oh, I thought you were going to say it was haunted by the Cat Lady.”

Jackie cracked a wide grin. “Nope, she never comes out of her house.”

“Except for today.” Sarah shot Jackie a skeptical look.

“Once I tell you the whole story, you’ll be a believer.” Jackie hooked her arm through Sarah’s. “Good thing you ran into me, otherwise you would have gone the whole summer without this knowledge. Come on, let’s follow her home.”

Sarah chewed on her thumbnail. “I don’t know—”

Jackie pulled on her arm. “Come on…she’s a legend in this town. Don’t you want to see her house? People have gone in…and never come out.” Jackie’s eyes darkened with the mystery and her voice dropped for emphasis.

Sarah continued chewing on her nail; she thought about her options and realized she didn’t have many. She could go home and hang out with her younger sister (yuck) or check out the supposedly crazy Cat Lady’s house.

Sarah’s inquisitive nature got the better of her and she pulled her thumb out of her mouth. “Okay, let’s go.”

Jackie beamed and pulled Sarah down the sidewalk. “So, what grade are you in?”

“Ninth.”

“Hey, me too.” Jackie put her arm around Sarah.

The girls trailed the crazy lady, staying a good block behind her. As they walked Jackie filled her in on the Cat Lady legend. According to Jackie, at least three people had mysteriously disappeared from the town of Harrisburg, all of them victims of the Cat Lady curse. Sarah couldn’t help but be drawn in by the stories. There was the former grocery delivery boy, Gus, who delivered her groceries and never returned to the store. The next victim was the good doctor, who used to do house calls until he disappeared inside her house, and then last but not least, old lady Farnsworth, who was discovered dead after a dispute with the Cat Lady.

Listening to her new friend drone on, Sarah watched the infamous woman wind her way home. She couldn’t help but notice how frail she appeared as she shuffled down the street. The poor woman didn’t look strong enough to make anyone disappear, let alone cause the death of a grouchy old lady.

The air was thick with humidity. Sweat formed on Sarah’s brow as she rounded the corner toward the Cat Lady’s place. Sighing, she wiped it away. How much farther do we have to go? Glancing at the huge oak trees lining the sidewalk, Sarah realized this was an old part of town just because the trees were so big. Sunlight dappled the walkway, leaving dark shadows as it forced its light between the leaves. No one roamed the streets; Sarah thought this was odd and her heart picked up its pace. Jackie’s stories are getting to me.

“Okay,” Jackie whispered, clutching Sarah’s arm. “We’re almost there.” Jackie stopped and cast a skittish glance around her. “Let’s cross the street.”

Strolling across the street, Jackie tried to appear casual by swinging her arms and whistling, but Sarah knew she was faking it.

Sarah stopped her when they reached the opposite sidewalk. “Okay, what are we going to do?”

“We’re going to watch her.”

“Watch her?”

Jackie pulled on one of her curls. “Yeah, see if she does anything…you know…witchy.”

Sarah furrowed her brow. “Won’t she see us?”

“Trust me.” Jackie winked.

Sarah followed her new friend to an old church, reaching it just after the Cat Lady disappeared inside her home. They scurried behind an old oak tree growing on the church’s lawn. With a thudding heart, Sarah hugged the tree. These stories are definitely getting to me. Feeling the rough bark of the tree calmed her. She felt safe hidden behind the solid oak. After all, what could happen in broad daylight?

Peeking out from behind the tree, Sarah stared at the house. It sat in the middle of the block on Jefferson Street in a state of disrepair. Ancient gutters sagged at one end, and it needed a fresh coat of paint. The front porch ran the full length of the structure, settling on the south side. It reminded Sarah of a drooping smile, the kind of smile she’d give if she’d just received a shot of Novocain. Dirty windows, which resembled sinister eyes, peered at the girls with their unblinking stare. A chill ran down Sarah’s spine. It’s like the house knows we’re here. She noticed the grass hadn’t been mowed in weeks and the house appeared abandoned. Cats dawdled on the stoop, the only signs of life around the place.

“Go up on the porch,” Jackie urged.

Sarah raised her eyebrow and smirked. “You go up on the porch.”

Jackie shook her head. “No way.”

“Are you scared?” Sarah teased, grinning at her.

“Absolutely. I could go up on her porch and never be seen again.” Jackie’s solemn expression told Sarah she believed her own words.

The girls watched the house, waiting for a glimpse of the infamous witch. After what seemed like hours, there was still no sign of her.

Sighing, Sarah fidgeted. She was antsy, her legs cramping from staying in one position for so long. “Let’s go,” she said, doing a deep knee bend. “I’ve got to get home. My aunt and uncle will wonder where I am.”

“Okay, we can come back tomorrow.”

Just as the girls were about to leave, three rough looking boys swooped down the street on their bikes. Jackie grabbed Sarah’s arm and pulled her back behind the oak.

“It’s the Wykowski boys.”

Sarah didn’t move. She had no idea who the boys were, but from Jackie’s reaction, she figured they were trouble.

“These guys are total creeps,” Jackie whispered as she peered out from behind the tree.

Sarah hoped they would ride past them and be on their way. Much to her dismay, they slowed and began circling in front of the Cat Lady’s house. She groaned. We’re never getting out of here. The three boys stopped circling and Sarah poked her head out to see what was happening. They were in the middle of the street whispering to each other.

Jackie pointed at a tall boy with dark, shaggy hair. “That’s Tim. He’s like the leader.”

Suddenly, Tim yelled at the house. “Hey! Cat Lady! Do you eat cat food with all your cats?”

The boys hooted with wicked laughter and then grew quiet. Sarah could tell they were waiting for a reaction from the withered old woman. When one didn’t come, they took up their screams once again, yelling for the Cat Lady to come out on her porch.

After several minutes of ranting and getting no response, the boys produced three huge, overripe tomatoes. They glanced up and down the street, and then hurled the tomatoes at the house. A couple hit with a loud splat, smearing red pulp all over the dingy siding. Sarah’s heart skipped a beat. This will definitely get the Cat Lady out of her house.

The rowdy boys took off on their bikes, laughing at their prank. Tim, the shaggy haired boy, rode ahead of the other two and jumped the curb, as if by coming closer to the house he dared the Cat Lady to come out. Glancing back, he laughed, and the two other boys joined in. He didn’t pay attention to where he was going, and Sarah watched as he smacked right into a stop sign. Yelping, he fell in a heap and his brothers stopped to help him. They weren’t laughing now. Climbing back on their bikes, the boys took off down the road. Sarah noticed Tim glanced back at the house, his expression filled with a mixture of fear and bewilderment.

“See, I told you she was a witch,” Jackie whispered.

Another gem worth your time.

Books really are magical, aren’t they? I want to thank Lisa, not only for the interlude from reality, but for being here in the virtual flesh. Check out her links, work, and her home with Google Earth. (That’s still a thing, right?)

See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, kids…

Posted in Hotel Life | 11 Comments

Interview with Author Robert Hookey

Lisa Orchard is a best-selling author, and an exceptional human being, so it is an honor to be featured on her slice of the interweb.

Do the clicky thing and prepare for both shock and awe.

Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. Today I have a special treat for you! I’ve interviewed my great friend Robert Hookey. He’s the author of “Into the Dark.” A Sci-Fi story that’s on my TBR pile! So read on and learn about the author and check out his book!

  • What inspired you to write your story?

My lovely bride could see I was bored and frustrated (brustrated) almost immediately after being laid off from my job as a Niagara Falls bellman (thanks for that, Covid-19) and she asked, “Why don’t you get off Twitter and go back and write another book before you drive me totally insane?

And so I finally indulged my lifelong dream of creating my own superhero universe while simultaneously working through some personal trauma that has been haunting me for years. Writing is wonderfully affordable therapy.

  • What is your writing process like? Do…

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Into the Dark by Robert Hookey Book Review

Shelley, a.k.a, Girl In Niagara, is a wonderful writer, an amazing advocate for our home, the Niagara region, and she writes one heckuva review.

I’m deeply grateful for her honesty, her support, and her really cool pic of Into The Dark!

Enjoy her review and stick around her ultra-chic blog; you won’t be disappointed.

Girl in Niagara

If you follow Robert Hookey’s blog, You’ve Been Hooked, then you are already captivated by this author’s writing.  So, when I heard that The Hook had written a book during the pandemic lockdowns, I had to grab it.

As a genre I would not have picked up this book, but then I would have missed out on a fantastic story and Robert’s exceptional writing. Thank goodness for open-mindedness.

To specify the genre isn’t easy. Into the Dark can be placed in many sections of a bookstore including, Fantasy, Mystery, Action and Adventure and even comedy. Is there a section for No Picture Comic Books that are really well written? Or, even better, a section called, Get Hooked.

The Hook pulled me in with his cast of characters that can sometimes be confusing and most often enthrall to keep you reading way past your bedtime.  There is a glossary at…

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Into The Dark by Robert Hookey #newbook

It is with extreme pleasure and undying gratitude (seriously, I’m going to owe this guy long after we’ve both shuffled off this mortal coil, and I have no idea how one repays a favor beyond the Pearly Gates) that I share my first author interview with John W. Howell.

John’s been there for me from the beginning and I can’t thank him enough for being a mentor, a guide through the darkness of my literary and real-world soul, and most of all, for being a brother-in-arms.

Take it away, John…

Fiction Favorites

Today I am delighted to welcome Robert Hookey (known in some circles as The Hook) to Fiction Favorites. I am happy for a couple of reasons. The first is I’ve been following Robert on his blog, and he has given me many hours of enjoyment with his humor. Second, Robert has a new book, and I’m excited to have him here to talk about it.

So, with that, welcome Robert. I hope you are comfortable. I would offer you a margarita, but I know that drinking alcohol is not one of your vices. I don’t do virgin drinks very well either. How about a cup of tea, eh?

First off, thank you for making this Canadian boy feel at home with the “eh?”, John. I’m currently enjoying some milk from a bag that I‘m using to wash down my Canadian back bacon. (It’s tastier than it sounds.)

Thank you, Robert…

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Happy Fri-meh, Everyone!

What?

A “Frimeh” isn’t quite a “Fri-yay!”, but it isn’t a “Fri-disaster, either.

Which brings me to my point. I had my first shot of the Moderna vaccine this week and three things happened the following day:

  1. My arm felt like it was Mike Tyson’s workout bag.
  2. The rest of my body was hit by the Number Five bus to Vaccine Town.
  3. I received a critical and brutally honest review of my book’s Amazon blurb and all my self-confidence evaporated like tears in the rain.

I understand how constructive criticism can be – but when combined with the fact my book sales have slowed right down to nothing at the moment, I was crushed by this assessment. Fortunately, the next day I began to feel more like my lovable, nerdy self again and I started to rewrite my blurb with some coaching from said assessor. Check out what we came up with.

In an all-too-familiar world controlled by ancient beings known as The Dark, heroes of every origin must assemble (yeah, I said it, sue me) to pull humanity back from the edge of annihilation – if they don’t kill each other first.

They may not be the Avengers, the Suicide Squad, hell, they may not even be the Great Lakes Avengers… but they’ve been brought together by a hero in a Green Hornet mask and leather jacket to match named Nemesis to face every form of evil imaginable. From seemingly-invincible masked killers who stalk teen camp counselors to clones of Nazi super soldiers to monsters of the human variety, Nemesis and his team of unlikely heroes will traverse the globe to dismantle The Dark’s vast power structure once and for all.

If you took The Umbrella Academy, The Boys and The Cabin In The Woods and gave them a hearty stir you’d get Into The Dark: Book One of the Infinite Crossover Crisis, a clever, electrifying, genre-busting adventure that pits the most unconventional superheroes in the Multiverse against the embodiment of evil itself.

Into The Dark is the inaugural novel by indie author The Hook. He hopes you like it. (But if you don’t, feel free to keep it to yourself.)

There you have it. Personally, I like my original blurb. It’s written in the main character’s snarky tone. (Sound like anyone you know?) But after reading what other writers are putting out there I can see that some readers want the story laid out in a more straightforward manner before they hit “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now”. So any feedback you can provide, my friends, would be greatly appreciated.

I’m learning just how cutthroat and soulless the book biz can be; indie authors like myself support each other, but publishers and agents seem to get off on ignoring and rejecting writers. I’m pleased with the reviews I’ve gotten so far, but I need to draw in more feedback and get my name out there. I’ve had some great success with the media so far, but keeping the momentum going is proving impossible.

Nevertheless, I’m pleased as punch (whatever the hell that actually means) that Into The Dark is finally out in the world and I think I’m ready to start on Into The Grey. Dialogue and plot points keep appearing in my consciousness so my brain is trying to tell me something.

So don’t worry that I’m giving up already. I’m in this for the long haul. I’m even trying to ignore all the changes WordPress has made to this platform while forging ahead. (Like charging users to insert video clips, which I’ll never be doing again.)

At any rate, enjoy this wonderfully upbeat (!) post and provide any feedback – good or bad – you can. Like I tell my wife, “I won’t get any better if you don’t tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

Have a great Friday and I’ll see you in the lobby and virtual book aisles, friends…

Posted in Hotel Life | 22 Comments