Archives for the month of: April, 2014

HoneyBeeRedFlower0044 copy-2Horse Hunts, A Smoke Tree Mystery Series Novella by Gary J. George is heavy on plot and details, many repetitive and extraneous, but very light on characterization.

The story starts off immediately with the initiating incident which is encouraging. A agricultural inspection officer is shot in Vidal Junction, near the California/Arizona state line, when he asks to inspect the contents of a driver’s trunk. The assailant then flees driving on Highway 95 until his car breaks down, which he abandons and walks into the desert.

The protagonist, Lieutenant Carlos Caballo, aka “Horse”, the commander of the Smoke Tree substation of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department, gets the call to investigate. In the trunk of the abandoned car he finds the body of a dead woman, who turns out to be the driver’s wife.

Good premise and established quickly.

The story is realistically portrayed and the police procedure credible. There are some nice descriptive passages about the desert landscape and interesting insights into “man tracking” as Horse leads his deputies into the wilderness after the suspect.

Tracking, however, is not very exciting action and a little goes a long way, and there’s a lot about tracking.

The novella really begins to unravel when it switches into the point of view of the suspect, Harvey Vickers. The character is clichéd and one-dimensional. He appears almost a to be a person of diminished mental capacity. Once in the desert though, Vickers becomes very astute in attempting to conceal his trail. The reader wonders where the moron learned this stuff.

There’s a huge chunk of unmotivated backstory about Vicker’s childhood (none about desert survival though), which again is clichéd and one-dimensional. A better writer could have used this info dump to develop the antagonist’s character, but as it is it just slows the narrative.

Despite the many hours together in the wilderness tracking a desperado, you never get a sense of a relationship between Horse and his younger deputies. The extent of the relationship with his wife is equally shallow, with Horse describing himself as “lucky to have the love of this good woman.” With his dead father he all he can remember is “how much he missed that good man, taken from his family so young.”

Half way through this story, the author introduces a new character, Joe Medrano. Joe is a recluse and one of the few surviving members of the Chemehuevi tribe. He really serves no other purpose than to allow the author to expound upon the wrongs perpetrated by the federal government against Indians, and this tribe specifically.

This is actually an interesting bit of history and could have been developed into subplot especially if it was subtly inserted by Joe, instead of pontificated by Horse.

Unfortunately, the way it is presented by George it appears only as author intrusion.

One of the problems throughout the story is over-explaining. It is really apparent near the end when Horse uses military tactic he describes as “fire and movement”. First he explains this tactic to his deputy in detail, than he carries out the tactic explaining again in detail what is transpiring. This need to make sure the reader “gets it” really detracts from the climax of the story.

Reading fiction is an emotional experience, or at least it should be. Emotion is best conveyed through the relationships between characters. George needs to develop his characters so they are three-dimensional and establish real, meaningful relationships between them for his future work to be a fulfilling and entertaining. Character always trumps plot.

This novella suffers from writer inexperience. It lacks depth and feeling. When the George tries for it he fails. For example, this is the passage as Horse and his deputy ride out into the desert after an armed murderer:

And like something created unintentionally, but created nonetheless, they beckoned Horse and Andy, as if there were anything anywhere out there that held the promise of something of use to the two men on horseback moving ahead of the sun.

Anything anywhere out there something?

There’s nothing wrong with this story that ten more years of writing experience won’t fix.

I received this book free from Story Cartel in exchange for a honest and impartial review.

~   ~   ~


I’m not a very friendly person.

If we attended the same party you’d see standing alone at the edge of an animated group, not contributing. If you thought I looked like I wished I could be someplace else, you’d probably be right.

But being a misanthrope doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and value comments and criticisms of my work. Insightful comments from strangers have taught me more about writing and photography than anything else.

So please comment and criticize if you wish.

Just don’t expect it to be the beginning of an online relationship.


Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.


I blog at


Read my current work(s) in progress at


Read ”Bubble” excerpts of my novels at


More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to:

View my flickr photostream at

Or, if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical musis

Flower with attitude at

Pacific Coast Sunsets at









BlueBells_0038 copy copySell More Books, 55 Free Promotions That Work, by Nancy Hendrickson and Michelle Campbell-Scott is sixty-two pages of promotional techniques designed to help you sell your book using social media and the internet.

Since the authors readily admit not all of the 55 promotions will work for every single book or every single author, they’ve divided their strategies into five major categories, “hopefully making it easier for you to find the promotional ideas that work for you and your book.”

The five categories are:

The Big Five – for social media junkies.

The Rock Star – for authors who love being in the limelight, includes YouTube and Podcasts.

The Emily Dickenson – for the shy who love writing more than anything else.

The Best Friend – putting the touch on family and friends

The Wizard – for those very up-to-date on the latest promotional strategies.

Depending on how savvy you are technologically you may find some of these programs complicated in the extreme. You could end up spending a lot of time, and I mean a considerable amount, for very limited results.

The obvious flaw with self-promotion, and this applies to a number of the authors’ suggestions, is most of these schemes lack credibility. Creating your own YouTube video talking about your book, arranging a friend to interview you with, no doubt, scripted questions, bogus author review swaps (you plug mine and I’ll plug yours), and begging family and friends to submit positive reviews, and let’s face it, how likely are they to post an objective one, do not advance your goal of being a better writer.

Oh, but that’s not your goal, you just want to sell 55 more books?

Well, then of course, you’ll want to spend all the time it takes to keep current with your new virtual friends, tribe members and online acquaintances instead of writing another, hopefully better, book.

Sell More Book, 55 Free Promotions That Work is certainly worth the price even if you get a couple of new, legitimate ideas. It’s apparent from the author’s bios that the focus of this book is mainly at writers of non-fiction where the strategies would likely work better than promoting works of fiction.

Regardless, you’ll be disappointed if you think taking the time to employ these techniques will make you significantly more successful.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but the question is, how long can you continue to keep fooling yourself?

I received this book free from Story Cartel in return for an honest, impartial review. More on Story Cartel in an upcoming blog. Check it out at


Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.


Read my current work(s) in progress at


More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to:

Visit my flickr photostream at








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