Other indie early 2017, p.1
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       Other Indie - Early 2017, p.1

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Other Indie - Early 2017

  Other Indie

  Early 2017 Issue

  Any unmarked reviews written by Matthew LeDrew

  Reviews Copyright 2016 Engen Books

  Published by Engen Books

  Call of the Sea Copyright 2016 Amanda Labonte

  Carrots is © 2011 Colleen Helme

  Damnation Code is © 2015 William Massa

  A Daughter’s Gift is © 2010 Jacqui Tam.

  Flight or Fight is © 2016 Scott Bartlett

  Zombies on the Rock: Outbreak is © 2015 Paul Carberry

  Kowloon Walled City, 1984 is © 2016 Nicholas Morine

  15 Minutes is © 2013 Jill Cooper

  ISBN-13 : 978-1-926903-37-8

  Introduction Matthew LeDrew

  Review: Carrots by Colleen Helme

  The Interview: Colleen Helme

  Review: 15 Minutes by Jill Cooper

  Review: Kowloon Walled City, 1984 by Nicholas Morine

  Review: Zombies on the Rock: Outbreak by Paul Carberry

  Review: Flight or Fight by Scott Bartlett

  Review: Standing Tall: A Daughter’s Gift by Jaqui Tam

  Review: Damnation Code by William Massa

  Call of the Sea Amanda Labonté Chapter 1

  A Scene from: Carrots by Colleen Helme


  Matthew LeDrew

  Welcome to Other Indie #1!

  Other Indie is planned to be a twice-yearly eZine style publication that focuses on the best of independently-produced fiction in any genre: contemporary, thriller, science-fiction, fantasy... anything!

  In this issue we sit down with Colleen Helme, author of the Shelby Nichols novels and one of the driving forces behind the blossoming paperback-mystery genre of the Indie market right now. We have a full interview with her in which we learn about her upcoming projects, as well as get into the head of the author of over ten novels to see what makes her tick creatively!

  We also have a full review of the first novel in Helme’s Shelby Nichols series, Carrots, and reviews of six other great Indie titles by artists like Nicholas Morine, Paul Carberry, Scott Bartlett, and Jill Cooper.

  Next issue we’ll be doing an all Fantasy from the Rock edition, highlighting the best in Indie Fantasy works and those contributing to the upcoming blockbuster anthology Fantasy from the Rock. We hope to see you then.


  Review: Carrots by Colleen Helme

  Carrots is a 2011 mystery novel written by Colleen Helme and published through the Amazon CreateSpace platform, which allows original work to be published in a print-on-demand format. This is the first novel to feature the character of Shelby Nichols, who has since become a sort of avatar for Helme’s work. There are currently eight books in the Shelby Nichols adventure series, with a ninth available for pre-order now.

  This book is part Janet Evanovich (of the Stephanie Plum novels) and part Brian Michael Bendis (of Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers fame).

  I loved every moment of this instant classic by Helme. The book takes the “Mommy Mystery” (hate that term) format and spins it on its head by adding a touch of the super-powered and supernatural when the series’ titular hero, Shelby Nichols, is struck on the head and gains psychic powers: all because she stopped on the way home to get some carrots.

  On the subject of the adding of the ‘supernatural’ element to an otherwise ‘normal’ mystery novel, there’s always a temptation on the part of an author to take the “easy” way out and just offer the same formula as the mother genre (in this case a paperback mystery) with small element of the new genre for flavor. You’ll usually be able to recognize this sort of ploy by the sort of pitch-meeting dialog that happens in its presentation: “It’s Miami Vice… with a twist!” or “It’s a superhero story… with a twist!” Books that make this sort of change can too often fall victim to formulae and not take enough time to develop characters and tension, relying on the ‘twists’ that the imported element lend to the familiar genre’s subject matter to carry the book: and it rarely works. To put it another way: it’s like putting Dijon mustard on a Big Mac and then trying to sell it as a different burger. It won’t go over well.

  Carrots doesn’t do that in the slightest. The psychic / supernatural elements are not just added in artificially for flavor, they are the meat of the characterization of the story. As Shelby learns to develop her new-found powers she’s able to see into the passing thoughts of her husband, his attractive female co-worker, and everyone around her. The book takes great pains to explore the reality that people cannot control their thoughts and that what they think is not what defines them, but rather what they do. However… knowing that your husband and his co-worker have mutual attraction to each other, it’s hard not to act on that information. It tows a delicate line of right and wrong as Shelby balances making her choices based on what she should know and what she does know.

  We learn about our lead character and those around her via Shelby’s powers, which is an ingenious way of getting around clunky, expository dialog (people think in ways they don’t traditionally speak in). With the characterization handled by the powered portion of the novel, the plot is handled by the mystery portion that Shelby gets entangled in, which I will not spoil here. It involves a crime-syndicate and is handled masterfully by Helme.

  These two elements dovetail in a masterstroke of artistry and complement each other in a way that elevates both: the crime-plot increases the tension of the psychic plot, and the psychic plot ratchets up the stakes and tension of the crime-syndicate elements. I’ve preached this sort of unity and narrative cohesiveness in writing workshops for a decade now: having separate elements that meet at the end is the way to do plot-driven fiction. Bonus points if one of those elements is character-driven, for lit-wits like me.

  I love taking the Freudian method of dream analysis and applying it to literature. Quick/Dirty rundown: you take the part of the book that bothered you the most, then spin the analysis so that that is what the book is about. At least, what it’s about for you.

  The thing that ‘bothered’ me about Carrots was the dichotomy between what people said and what they really thought, once you could see into their minds. It plays on that fear and anxiety of not knowing if we’re loved, cared for, and respected. I could make a strong case that that is what Carrots is ‘about,’ the anxieties of finding out what people really think of you, in a sense destroying your own privately-held version of yourself. You can no longer tell yourself you were “the boss” at that last meeting, because you can read everyone’s mind and know they’re bored to tears. There’s also a strong sense of destruction of self being a prominent theme when viewed along these lines… if “you think therefore you are,” if other people’s thoughts intrude into yours, are they then affecting who you are? Can you be the same person you were without the thoughts, even if the thoughts stop? 

  These are big, complex themes, and Helme wisely doesn’t dwell on them too much lest they derail the plot of the novel… but they’re still there, pointed at a much more thought provoking and intellectually stimulating debate happening just between the lines of this supernatural thriller.

  Part satire, part mystery, and part supernatural thriller, this book is one of my top-reads so far in 2016 and a must read for anyone who thinks that independent authors don’t have anything to offer. One of the best and rarest gems of the indie book market.

  Carrots is available in print, eBook, and audiobook (jealous) formats. Check it out, a must-read for people interested in supporting good independent  fiction and those who like my work.

  The Interview: Colleen Helme

  As the author of the Shelby Nichols Adventure Series, Colleen is often asked if Shelby Nichols is her alter-ego.
Definitely,” she says. “Shelby is the epitome of everything I wish I dared to be.” Known for her laugh since she was a kid, Colleen has always tried to find the humor in every situation and continues to enjoy writing about Shelby’s adventures. “I love getting Shelby into trouble…I just don’t always know how to get her out of it!” Colleen lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family. Besides writing, she loves a good book, biking, hiking, and playing board and card games with family and friends. She loves to connect with readers and admits that fans of the series keep her writing.

  Helme was born and raised in Utah and has visited (and loved) all of the National parks therein -- Arches is her favorite, but she maintains that Zions is a “close second.” She loves hiking along the Wasatch mountains, and it’s easy to see that zest for adventure when she writes Shelby Nichols who, despite being a city dweller in her novels, it is not hard to envision scaling a mountain range.

  Other Indie caught up to Helme during one of her rare instances of downtime not involving mountains.

  Other Indie: Okay, let’s start this simple: what is your favorite word?

  Colleen Helme: That's a tough one... But I'd have to go with Relish... because when you

  say it out loud it sounds just like what it means!

  OI: What is your least favorite word?

  CH: NO - because who likes to be told no!

  OI: Do you have a favorite movie or book?

  CH: My favorite show of all time is an oldie but so hilarious: What's Up Doc? The question of a favorite book though is a tough one, because: one? Seriously? Okay - I'll say one of my favorites is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. There's just something magical about that book and it captures that time frame so incredibly -- it's a real treasure.

  OI: What was the last book you read for pleasure?

  CH: I just finished Book Nine of the Charlie Davidson series by Darynda Jones, and next up is Camp Alien, the thirteenth book in the Alien novels series by Gina Koch.

  OI: How did you get into publishing?

  CH: I wanted to write a story about a dream I had, so I started writing but got frustrated because I wasn't sure what I was doing. So I took a novel-writing class and it was the best thing I ever did. Taught me soooo much about point-of-view, showing vs. telling, etc. It gave me the confidence to begin, but it took a lot of practice to get it right. I wrote three fantasy novels which were published by a small press. That got me started, but it wasn't until I wrote Carrots, my first Shelby Nichols Adventure, that I hit my stride and really found my voice. I decided to try the indie route with Carrots, and I haven't looked back!

  OI: That’s funny, we’ve had similar stories here at Engen Books, and our motto is ‘Never Look Back’ partly for that exact reason. 

  OI: What are you currently working on?

  CH: Book #10 in my Shelby Nichols Adventure series – Laced in Lies.

  OI: In the spirit of Other Indie, what is your favorite Indie book besides your own?

  CH: Not sure about that one - there are so many good ones out there and I'm always reading... the last one I really liked was Cinder & Ella by Kelly Oram -- and I've liked her Jamie Baker series.

  OI: What (professionally) would you most like to accomplish?

  CH: A movie producer contacted me once about film rights for the series, but it didn't work out. But, I would love, love, love to see that happen!

  OI: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

  CH: Yikes! I've tried other things and found writing suits me best! But I love art and have decorated my house with my watercolor paintings - then I also love music and have written some of my own compositions - So I love being creative!

  OI: What profession would you not like to do?

  CH: Anything with numbers - I am horrible at math and that sort of thing, plus, it's very boring!

  OI: Ha ha, that’s awesome. So what’s next for you?

  CH: Well, since Shelby goes to New York in the book I'm currently working on - I've decided I need to visit the Big Apple! So I'm heading there in February. I'm even staying in the hotel where I've set the scene for Shelby to stay and I'm going to the same Broadway musical she is!! Woohoo!

  Other Indie would like to thank Colleen Helme for taking the time to speak with us, and encourages everyone to check out the Shelby Nichols series for fun, action, and adventure.

  Review: 15 Minutes by Jill Cooper

  15 Minutes is a 2013 science-fiction thriller by Jill Cooper and published through the Amazon CreateSpace platform, which allows original work to be published in a print-on-demand format. This is the first novel in the Rewind Agency series, of which there are currently four titles (three novels, one novella), and stars the character of Lara Crane.

  Right on the cover, this book promises that “Every time-travel law is about to be broken,” and this is both true in the sense that — within the context of the novel — there are set laws governing time travel that are broken during the course of the narrative, but also in the metatextual sense that there are unspoken rules to how an author tells a time-travel story, which Cooper gleefully breaks from page one, making for a dynamic and interesting read for anyone who has grown up on stories of chronological displacement that have followed the same stagnant formulae.

  15 Minutes doesn’t just experiment with the structure of telling a time-travel story, but with the traditional structure of stories in general, in that Cooper chooses to omit a first act entirely.

  In writing terms, one of the most popular storytelling techniques is the three-act structure. In the first act, we learn who the main character(s) are, we see them in their normal lives (usually at work and at home) and then we see the inciting incident: the inciting incident being the thing that sets them on their journey. In terms of a “road-trip” movie, the first act would be everything before they set out on the road. It’s usually just setting up the pieces you’ll need later in the narrative: the meat of the story — all the exciting bits — are in that second act, when you’re on the road.

  In a time-travel story, the first act typically  takes place in the present (or default) timeline, and we see the character as they presumably have been their entire lives. We see the “normal” timeline. Think of Back to the Future: in the first act we see Marty and all the principle characters — Mom, Dad, and Doc — as they are, and we establish that Marty doesn’t see his parents as “people.” This is around the line “I think the woman was born a nun.”  (People can quibble over where the inciting incident is, I’m just picking one for effect). The reason we see all this in the first act is to contrast how different it is in the second act when we see Lorraine in her youth, and then in the third act when we see her happy in the ‘new timeline.’

  In 15 Minutes, Cooper wisely omits this. We start right at the beginning of the second act, with Lara Crane traveling back in time to save her mother from being murdered. This sets up motivation instantly: we don’t need ten scenes with a character to know why they would want to save their mother, that’s obvious to all of us as humans: so why have them?

  We then jump to ‘the present’ where everything is different: Lara did what she did to save one parent, but has now damned the other, as her father ended up being implicated in the attempted murder. But how can we see how things are different if we didn’t get to see them as they were? Cooper makes the inspired choice of having the novel told from the first-person perspective of Lara Crane, meaning that we hear her thoughts as she notes the difference between the two realities. Again, this is a stroke of genius in storytelling and takes advantage of the medium: this is something easily done in print and hard to do in film, making it an ideal choice when a story takes place in the print medium.

  This book is part Frequency part Batman: Year One and part Memento, but I say that just as a log-line so you can gauge your own interest. It is its own dynamic, fun, action-packed story that will keep you interested. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable entry into the sci-fi thriller market that everyone who
s a fan of the genre should check out.

  I love taking the Freudian method of dream analysis and applying it to literature. Quick/Dirty rundown: you take the part of the book that bothered you the most, then spin the analysis so that that is what the book is about. At least, what it’s about for you.

  What bothered me about this story was the process of erasure that occurred once Lara had changed her own past, in which she slowly began to forget her memories and the world as it had been, and assimilate to the way the world as it now was. This “re-writing” was very akin to an illness, such as Alzheimer’s or a stroke, which erases memory and alters who you are as a person.

  This invokes a strong theme of identity, which is a powerful theme any time it crops up in fiction, as it’s something we all must wrestle with at some point in our lives. It is a “Universal Theme,” one that speaks to the human condition, and as such makes the novel instantly relate-able. There is strong evidence to support this analysis of the text, as each time a person acts in a way they would not have in the previous reality, Lara makes some variation on the statement: “Who is this person? They would never do this?”

  It also makes a strong case for the “Nurture over Nature” debate, as the novel implies that who we are is not set in stone, but rather that by changing the events that shaped us as a person we in fact change who the person is.

  There are in fact several strong themes in this work. ‘Free will’ is one I could point to, as well as the inherent flaw in our view of the ‘dead, who can do no wrong.’ Lara wants her Mother back in her life, but not all the choices her mother made. When she envisioned her mother back in her life she envisioned her as a snapshot of as she was when she was five years old, not as a different woman with 10+ years worth of choices and changes that Lara may not have agreed with.

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