Category Archives: commentary

15 Free Book Promo Sites

Author and EMSA Publishing founder Elise Abram writes about her experiences selling her latest novel, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice in a post sharing 15 promotional sites she’s found on which you can post your books for free. Check out the list at

                                        Image made on

I’m on the book promo path again. Newly edited, my last book, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice will be on sale for the month of January 2017 for only $0.99. I threw a lot of money behind it for advertising in the summer when it was released, so this time I’m reluctant to put any new money into the project. To that end, I went searching online and found 15 amazing and free book promo sites. I signed up at all of them, hoping it will help my prospects, and I want to share them all with you.

Without further ado, here are 15 free book promo sites (in no particular order) you can use to help promote your book. Note that I am writing this blog post in advance of seeing my book advertised and having any sales, so I cannot vouch for some of these sites except for the fact that they allow you to upload your book for free… [more]

Turning Tables, Fish-Out-Of-Water Style

girl-of-the-bookIn Princila Murrell’s Girl of the Book, Courtney’s life is uprooted when she moves from Johannesburg to Saudi Arabia with her family. In school, Courtney is the outsider because she is not Muslim, something which the other girls refuse to let her forget. Thank goodness she has  Lana as a friend. Life takes a turn for the worse when gossip about Courtney and her only male friend, Nizar, spreads, threatening to separate her from Lana, her only female friend.

I teach at a school that is largely Muslim. Every day I see young girls, some of whom are not much older than Courtney, juggle the culture of their family home with the culture of the microcosm of the school and within the macrocosm of the country. It’s not unusual to see grade nines arrive with their hijabs tightly wrapped in August only to have them slowly unwind through the semesters until they hang loosely around their necks by the end of the semester. Joining boys and girls in the same group for cooperative activities can sometimes prove problematic as well, due to strict rules for the mingling of the sexes (or rather, the lack thereof). Girl of the Book offers a similar story but from a different perspective. Rather than show a Muslim girl adjusting to the seemingly loose social values of North American society, Murrell depicts a European girl adjusting to the rather strict-by-comparison values of the Muslim world with a narrative that is at once, compassionate, inclusive, and compelling.

Courtney’s is a fish out of water story, and she doesn’t always understand the world into which she so desperately strives to fit. To her (and Murrell’s) credit, Courtney’s journey is told with respect, both for herself and for the people around her, making Girl of the Book a must read for today’s middle-grade and young adult crowd.

Mamabear gives this book:


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Doing Better for Women in Fiction

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming today’s Indie Lights Book Parade post, “Doing Better for Women in Fiction” by Rhyannon Yates, author of Catalyst.

In Catalyst, two thousand years after the Schism, the borders are beginning to weaken. Wraiths are turning to dust in the streets, people are dropping dead, the chests torn open and inner organs burned away, and all Levi Keats wants to do is deliver a disciplinary summons and go home to the safety of his University office. A simple administrative duty turns perilous with the addition of a suspected murderer, a rogue border patrol agent, and the increasing possibility that prophesies of the Great Cataclysm are slightly less fictitious than previously assumed.

Doing Better for Women in Fiction

About a year ago, I came out. Not as gay, much to my husbands relief, but as a feminist. Not an equalist, or a humanist, or any other watered down version of feminism that makes it more palatable to those who are too uncomfortable with a movement with a definitively defined oppressor and oppressee.

Don’t leave. This isn’t a feminist rant. I do those, too, but usually only at my friends and family, because they love me and have to listen.

When I fell into the amazing world that is feminism, it forced me to take a very hard look at the women I was writing into my novel. I was shocked when I realized that my only female characters were either matriarchs or classic damsels in distress. There was no strength, no dimension. I, a stalwart feminist who decries the fact that there is no movie forthcoming from Marvel with Black Widow as the protagonist, had allowed myself to fall victim to the most classic blunders of writing. I’d robbed my female characters of any depth, framed the men as almighty heroes, and fashioned my women into prizes.

Even as I worked to strengthen my women, I realized how easy it is to make a women exist solely for the sake of the hero, to identify her as the manic pixie dream girl whose sole purpose is to draw the repressed, cautious hero into a bigger, brighter world. Separating myself from the carefully crafted roles women in fiction tend to fill was challenging, and I’ll be the first to admit that my two women, Tessa and Freya…well, they aren’t quite there yet. Tessa started as a waif, a damsel captured by the bad guy, waiting to be rescued by her white night. Freya was little but a hand for Levi to hold as he conquered his anxieties and demons. Not good enough. Not by half.

So I handed Tessa two pistols and told her to rescue her own self. Her husband, Rhys, does his fair share of rescuing as well, but they save each other, and they respect each other. Freya ended up being no one’s love interest at all, but a woman hiding her own anxieties and traumas underneath a uniform.

It’s a popular theme that we need to do better by women in fiction. It just never occurred to me that the “we” meant “me” as well.

About Rhyannon Yates:

Rhyannon Yates began writing at the age of five with a charming story about a misunderstood girl and her pet hippo. She grew out of her pachyderm-peddling ways, and spends her time now trying to crank out the next great American fantasy novel while binge-watching Netflix.

Rhyannon lives in Florida with her husband, her cat, and her two offspring.

image011Indie Lights Book Parade

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You Are What You Eat

truth about caffeine bookI’ve been eating Paleo for about a year now, and the most astonishing thing I’ve learned is that you really are what you eat. This is not to be taken literally, of course, but what you eat and the way it metabolizes makes a huge difference when it comes to how your body reacts. After a few weeks of eating clean, all it takes is a few handfuls of potato chips to throw my body into a tizzy. The way the preservatives and salt work their way through my system produces a whole host of side-effects from pounding headaches to nausea and everything in between. It should be no surprise that other chemicals we consume in our food, especially when consumed in excess, can produce deadly side-effects, on par with other chemical dependencies such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

In The Truth About Caffeine, author Marina Kushner explains how a caffeine addiction can wreak havoc on our bodies. Caffeine is not a regulated substance in the same way as drugs, alcohol and tobacco. It is readily available at the supermarket for purchase and consumption by people of all ages, hidden in everything from soda pop to chocolate to coffee and tea. Chances are a single serving a day won’t hurt you (depending on the size of your serving, of course), but drink even 6 to 8 cups of coffee per day and you open yourself up to a whole host of chronic problems, from a case of the jitters to brain-fog, headaches, heart disease, ulcers, and even cancer.

And that’s not all. As with so many dietary concerns, women are more affected than men. Children, because of their lower body-weight and small stature, are further vulnerable. Even a single serving of caffeine daily, in a can of soda pop, say, can greatly affect a child’s learning and behaviour.

The solution is simple: kick the habit. Avoid caffeine in all forms at all costs. Though an unrealistic proposition in the 21st century, given that most of us are not the hunters and gatherers of old, cutting back to a single, 8 ounce serving a day or less, might be a more doable solution.

Kushner’s prose is awkward in places and mostly repetitive. She uses fear-mongering to get her point across, utilizing a series of dramatic–though incredibly interesting–case studies to illustrate the seriousness of the matter. Regardless, it got me thinking. The bottom line is caffeine is a chemical additive. Many of us try to avoid consuming dangerous chemicals like nicotine, artificial sweeteners and red dye #40. The Truth About Caffeine convinced me that there’s a much needed spot for caffeine on that list as well.

Mamabear gives this book


Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Real Cops vs. Hollywood – A guest post by author Wayne Zurl


Britbear’s Book Reviews is thrilled to present a guest post by fellow Black Rose author Wayne Zurl, author of A New Prospect, in today’s author spotlight. 

New Prospect cover..2 badgesRemember the TV series History versus Hollywood originally aired between 2001 and 2005 on the History Channel? Narrator Burt Reynolds helped you debunk many of the myths perpetuated by filmmakers. I’d like to produce a show called Real Cops versus Hollywood (and some fiction writers.)

I began my police career back on the tail end of the wild and wooly days of law enforcement. Ernesto Miranda wasn’t yet a household word among career felons and Joe Wambaugh (a real cop) had just published his first novel, The Blue Knight.

I remember the first burglary I worked with a veteran squad dick everyone called Mr. Ray, a guy willing to take the “new kid” under his wing.

Those were the days before the CSI shows (Las Vegas, Miami, or New York.) Unless we had a homicide, bank robbery, or serial rapist, we did our own forensic work at the crime scene. We took photographs, dusted for prints, and other almost pre-historic things available to an investigator at the time.

Okay, back to my house burglary. It took me only ten minutes to establish that the break-in had been staged for insurance purposes, I assumed. The pry marks on the sliding glass door matched exactly to a sixteen ounce straight claw hammer hanging above the homeowner’s workbench. The dresser drawers were searched from top to bottom—something a good burglar never does. And the broken glass had been scattered too much. I called Mr. Ray aside and told him what I thought. He asked only one question. “Are you sure?” I nodded. His next move: he tossed the homeowner out a second floor bedroom window. His next statement: “Okay, kid, go ask that son-of-a-bitch if he wants to reconsider his complaint.” Wild and wooly, not an investigative technique you should practice unless you want the Internal Affairs Bureau to have your desk phone on speed dial. So, what’s my point? Hell, I don’t know. I wanted to capture your attention.

But here’s a valid point regarding crime scene investigators—many of whom today are civilians. Now, read my lips. CSIs do not investigate crimes. They provide technical assistance to squad detectives who canvas neighborhoods looking for witnesses, check pawn shops, contact informants, interrogate suspects, and then (and only then) when they have reasonable cause to believe a certain someone committed a crime, they arrest the perpetrator—or poipuhtratah in Nu Yawk.

It’s just not logistically feasible for CSIs to “work” a case plus do all the horribly technical things they do at a crime scene and later at their office or lab and continue on until a case is cleared by arrest. Regardless of what TV tells us, it’s not possible.

I just mentioned reasonable cause to believe—sometimes called probable cause to believe—the standard of proof necessary to make a lawful arrest or obtain a search warrant.

When I worked as a cop, I rarely watched TV police shows because the technicalities were so wrong I thought my head would explode. After I retired, that changed. For old time’s sake, I watched Law & Order. I loved NYPD Blue. And I even gave a few private eyes house room.

Let’s analyze Law & Order for a few minutes. Quite often, to build tension, I suppose, or to create illegitimate conflict perhaps (things people think are necessary in fiction) the boys and girls of the 27th Squad would jump the gun and arrest their suspect before they had all their ducks in a row. D/Lt. Anita Van Buren would complain, “1 PP (#1 Police Plaza—the address of NYPD headquarters) is breathing down my neck. Go out and get a clearance.”  With that admonition, Detectives Lenny Briscoe and Ed Green would break into a board meeting or doctor’s office and lock up their prime suspect—perhaps with only a reasonable suspicion—close but no cigar in laws of arrest.

Later, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy would lose a crucial piece of evidence at a pre-trial hearing or fail to get an indictment at grand jury. He’d then send one of his lovely assistant’s out on the street to backtrack and build a case the squad dicks should have tightened up prior to slapping on the cuffs.

Law & Order was a great show that ran for twenty years, but if a real detective made that many mistakes, he/she would end up walking a foot post in a very quiet neighborhood.

Hollywood also seems bent on misleading the public on the process of obtaining search warrants. When you know a suspect won’t voluntarily allow you to peek into their dwelling, vehicle, or workplace to obtain evidence or lock down the possibility that the items you seize won’t be questioned at a hearing, you should go in armed with a warrant. To get one, you don’t simply call the boss and say, “Have the day man (whoever he or she may be) get us a warrant to search…(Where ever you want to look).”

The 4th Amendment grants an individual protection against unreasonable search and seizure. There are exceptions to the basic rule, but this isn’t a law class and to keep me from rambling on too long, let’s agree you have the time, and the best way to get a good search is to have a judge approve your warrant application by agreeing that you have good reason to believe you may find material evidence in the place you wish to look.

In my experience, the detective working the case applies for the warrant because he/she can best explain the reasonable cause to believe they have established.

One thing Hollywood gets right about search warrant applications—some judges are more pro-cop than others. Every detective has their favorite judge and may use them if they want a quick signature. But you don’t build a world-class conviction rate by using warrants that can be easily contested, resulting in lost evidence after a hearing. A good police supervisor should insure that warrant applications meet the burden of proof.

Another pet peeve of mine involves how Hollywood police supervisors never prep their cops before post-shooting press conferences. Invariably, some nitwit reporter will ask, “Did you shoot to kill or shoot to wound?”

If you want to add a tidbit of reality to your book or story, there is only one way for your sharp cop to respond. “I shot to prevent or terminate (strike out the time frame which does not apply) the suspect’s illegal conduct.” In the light of many use deadly force events which have occurred recently (Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, Cleveland, OH, and others) I should mention that it is not necessary for a subject to be armed for a police officer to be JUSTIFIED in the use deadly physical force. This is a very complicated subject.

As cops, we’re not gunslingers who don’t care if we bring’em back dead or alive and we’re not trained to shoot the gun out of a bad guy’s hand. Leave that to the heroes of those old B western movies. Police officers are trained to shoot for the largest target they can acquire—generally the criminal’s torso. Even with annual weapons qualification, many officers are not extremely good with a handgun much less distinguished experts. So, in the heat of a gunfight, all cops should make things as simple as possible and aim at the big picture.

But prior to taking that shot—using deadly physical force—the cop has to meet certain criteria. Hollywood sometimes fails to grasp this. I used to teach the law of justification in the use of force at the police academy and a junior college and I’d need lots more space to cover it adequately. If you plan on centering your fiction on a police shooting and you want to get the technicalities correct, some serious research is necessary to help you maintain credibility as a writer. Very basically, police officers may not use deadly physical force to prevent or terminate crimes against property. You can’t whack a kid to keep him from stealing hubcaps. If you, acting as a PO, reasonably believe it’s necessary to prevent or terminate crimes against a person, things like murder, a reckless manslaughter, robbery (that means forcible stealing,) forcible sex crimes (rape or sodomy) or assaults that may result in serious physical injury, Burglary of an occupied dwelling, arson of an occupied building, Kidnapping, and escape from police custody (1st degree) you may use deadly physical force—which is not limited to shooting. This is too a complicated topic where generally cops have more latitude than civilians.

When I began writing fiction, I wanted cops, ex-cops, and serious fans of a police procedural to say, “This guy has gotten the details right.” No one writes without, at sometime, tacitly asking his reader for a little suspension of disbelief. But if you get those all important technicalities correct you can, with good conscience, stretch a fan’s S.O.D at an important time and in the interest of a good story.

If you’re writing about a sharp cop, have him or her get the little things right. They can make mistakes to build tension and cause your readers to grit their teeth, but don’t let them put a bloody blouse in a sealed plastic bag unless you want them to botch up an investigation.

WZ  photo Deadwood, SDAbout the author:

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Twenty (20) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been published as eBooks and many produced as audio books. Ten (10) of these novelettes are available in print under the titles: A Murder in Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and Reenacting a Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl has won Eric Hoffer and Indie Book Awards, and was named a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His full-length novels are: A new Prospect, A Leprechaun’s Lament, Heroes & Lovers and Pigeon River Blues. They are available in print and various eBook formats.

Look for the all New from New York to the Smokies, an anthology of 5 never before published Sam Jenkins mysteries. Coming in April 2015.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You may read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.



Why We Fear Thing that go Bump in the Night

Britbear Books thanks author Elise Abram for penning today’s guest post. 

"Ready or Not" by Greg WestfallI never climbed into bed as a child without checking under it first. I’d kneel to the floor in the centre of the room to do it, making sure there was enough distance between the bed and me to have a head start in case I had to make a run for it. The closet door had to stay open, too, for fear something might materialize in it during the night and try to get out. I blame Scholastic’sReal Canadian Ghost Stories series. That and the nightmare I had about the ghost that lived in our basement. (Of course, the fact that there was a Hydro field in our backyard beaming EMFs into my brain might also have had something to do with it.)

As a teen, I played Ouija board with my friends until The Exorcist put a stop to it, read Stephen King, and Peter Straub and Dean Koontz, and relished each and every Freddie and Jason and Michael movie, but was never seriously freaked out until I saw Videodrome and An American Werewolf in London.

As an adult, my fears are of more realistic things–family members sick or dying, school shootings, planes going down (especially with me on them). At some point between hiding under my bedsheets, feeling safe only if all body parts were covered and now, I’ve become immune to the fear of the supernatural in popular culture. Even though I sort of believe in the reality of spirits due to personal experience, I am nevertheless able to watch Ghost Adventures into the wee hours of the morning unaffected.

Still, I wonder why so many people, including myself, are drawn to horror as a genre and the paranormal in general.

Allegra Ringo, in her article, Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear? explains that, when people experience fear, the body releases adrenaline, dopamine and endorphins, in a fight or flight response. It is how our bodies handle these chemicals that determines if we will enjoy a good scare.

In Why Some People Love Horror Movies While Others Hate Them, Margarita Tartakovsky says it’s because people know the threat isn’t real. People love horror “because they enjoy the adrenaline rush of of being scared while being safe.” She adds that horror, particularly stories involving the supernatural is what scares adults the most. Disease is also an adult fear, which may explain the recent upsurge in zombie fiction.

The Revenant was a first for me in the genres of young adult and paranormal fiction. In it I explore the horror of having lead life after death as a mindless,  zombie slave, as well as experiment with the blood and gore of a good Walking Dead episode, at the climax of the story. The scary elements serve as a backdrop to the central themes of good triumphing over evil and persevering in the face of adversity.

author photoElise Abram B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed.

Teacher of English and Computer Studies by day, wife and mother by night and author whenever she can steal some time, Elise is the proud author of Phase Shift, The Mummy Wore Combat Boots, andThrowaway Child, available on Amazon and KoboBooks. She pens a blog about literature, popular culture and the human condition whenever the muse moves her.

Contact Elise: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google+

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