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     Other Indie - Early 2017, p.1

       Matthew LeDrew
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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.

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