MojoFiction is really just a strange pen name (though there's method to it...) for a native from the state of Colorado. Unfortunately, I currently live in Illinois, which is hardly mountainous, which leads to a lot of travel to less geographically-challenged places. I am an avid lover of the outdoors, believe in the importance of family, sometime watch cartoons, and spare no expense in an effort to be funny (no matter how many times I might crash and burn).
When I'm not writing or hiking or being lazy, I have a day job in the city of Chicago, though I call in sick to attend Cubs games as often as possible. Mostly because tickets are quite affordable when your team su- ... isn't as good as the other teams.
Where to find MojoFiction online
Where to buy in print
Erotica for Sports Fans
A collection of comedic stories from the everyday life of a man who, despite being a responsible adult male (probably) and an even more responsible dad, hasn't forgotten what it means to be a guy.
The Girl from I.T.
Alice Morgan is different, a fact she’s reminded of every time she loses yet another job or another boyfriend. Her problem? When something good happens she always finds an interesting way to talk her way out of it. Well, at least things can't get any worse...
Untitled: A Fairy Tale
When Princess Amber disappears suddenly while playing in the Forbidden Garden, it's up to Prince Andrew to rescue her ... ten years later. Okay, so he's a little slow. Surely the princess won't hold it against him. Right?
The Legend of Gerald Arthur McGuinness
The Legend of Gerald Arthur McGuinness follows the title character from birth to high school and beyond, as he tries to figure out how life can be so funny, confusing, and heartbreaking, all at the same time.
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Smashwords book reviews by MojoFiction
- Virginia's Ghost
on Oct. 22, 2014
Author Caroline Kaiser is a freelance editor, but before she that she worked for almost 14 years at an auction house. She uses her first-hand experience to give readers a behind-the-scenes look at what turns out to be a rather dysfunctional world. It’s a great idea, a great setting, ripe with possibilities for interesting characters, soap-opera drama, and foul play. She sets up the scene and creates the atmosphere in a realistic and inviting manner that gives the reader the "fly on the wall" feeling.
Reading this book reminded me in some ways of Steve Martin’s "An Object of Beauty," which followed a young girl working her way up in the New York art-dealing scene of the late 1990’s and 2000’s. It gives an insider-type look at the world of art auctions and gallery shows. But where that book is more of a character study, tracking a character arc over a long period of time, "Virginia’s Ghost" instead offers up an immediate tale that is part ghost story, part mystery.
At the auction house, very few employees seem to like each other, but they hide their true feelings under a veil of smiles and courtesy. Dialogue often reveals people who may have spent too much time together and not enough time having a life outside the unforgiving auction house. Virginia herself is a solitary person who seems to have trouble trusting anyone. Especially after pieces under her supervision go missing. She’s a rich character and a good centerpiece for the story. The author handles her well. She’s a sympathetic protagonist that comes with her own set of flaws.
That said, a few of the other characters ran together for me. They became clearer as the story progressed, but I would have liked to have seen the dynamics of some of the relationships established a little stronger earlier on. This would have helped build up the drama surrounding the murder-mystery. I think the author could have taken additional time to develop them before she got into the ghost story without sacrificing pace. The ghost story seems to run parallel to the present-day mystery and does not intertwine as much as I would have liked to see. There is a point to it, a reason the ghost gave Virginia the diary, and it comes together right at the end, providing a nice character development for Virginia, but I thought that part was slightly anti-climactic.
All that taken together, I really enjoyed this read. It’s brisk at just over 71,000 words, but doesn’t feel short at all. It’s written in the first person and the main character is well-drawn. The auction house is a world of its own that plays perfectly with the characters. And the authors enjoyment of history (or at least the history of “old things,” as her bio says) shines through.
- Blue Ridge, Black Heart
on Sep. 08, 2015
I have to confess a weakness for the mystery genre told from the first-person. When done right, nothing much beats it, but you need a solid narrator. Characters like Elvis Cole (Robert Crais), and Penn Cage (Greg Iles) have consistently entertained me over the years, so consider that a bias.
As a point of comparison, while reading this, I was actually reminded a little bit of a female police detective created by author J.A. Konrath. That was a fantastic narrator, with depth and about 30 neuroses. Unfortunately, the author surrounded that character with cardboard secondary characters and often stomach-churning, outlandish plots. In Blue Ridge, Black Heart, author Geraldine Powell's lead character lacks some of the depth, but makes up for it with a solid supporting cast, a fluid narration, and a plot that unfolds naturally and never feels forced. In other words, I think she gets it right. Her prose is almost conversational, without being breezy or lazy. I hope that makes sense. It's enjoyable to read the narration, even when the plot isn't barreling forward.
There are a couple of miss-steps along the way, like a trip to New Orleans that fails to build suspense or really move the plot along. Some character building saves it, but just barely. There is also a relatively narrow list of suspects that's paired down almost immediately, leaving little room for the reader's mind to wander or for the author to play. I'm nit-picking, though. I usually find at least one thing to nit-pick in a novel, and there it is.
From the beginning, I felt the author was right at home in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the surrounding areas of Tennessee and Georgia. She knows the region and uses it to her advantage, while supplying an intriguing backdrop with a lot more dimension than the constant stream of meth dealers in, say, the Tennessee-centric television show Justified. Her knowledge helps her easily build each scene and draw the reader into the world of Morgan Pike. Morgan is a tough gal without being a caricature, she's humorous without being a clown, she's an everyday hero with everyday flaws who frequently gets it wrong. That makes her both likable and relatable, which is incredibly important in this type of story.
Could Morgan Pike novels become a series? I hope so. She got the name for it. It depends on what the author wants to write about. A quick scan of Geraldine Powell's bio indicates her interests and experience are pretty much everywhere. That means she has a lot of material she can mine if she wants to keep the character going.
Blue Ridge, Black Heart is a fun and absorbing read. If the author can keep this up (and if she wants to), it could be a great series.
- Never Go Back
on Sep. 13, 2016
Never Go Back, by Marla Bradeen is a murder mystery set in the quiet little town of Las Vegas, Nevada. (It's quiet if you don't go into the casinos or don't stay out after 7pm. Right?)
I have to admit that I have a soft spot for detective novels, so keep that in mind. I read a lot of different genres, but I always come back to the whodunit. As long as someone did something bad and someone is trying to figure it out, I'll probably like it. There's a pact between writer and reader in the mystery category. The writer will keep the reader in the dark, doling just enough to get their brain thinking they can figure it out, but keeping just enough hidden to make the reader turn the pages. The reader's part? They keep turning the pages.
I think Marla Bradeen keeps up her end of the bargain here. By throwing the crime in right at the beginning, she sweeps you up in events before you can even think "Hey, wait, who are these people?" Then she doles out pieces at a time over the course of the fluid narrative.
When I say fluid narrative, I mean that, to me, everything flowed naturally. I didn't get the idea that there was a master plot she was holding on to and forcing characters into. It felt like the story moved organically from one scene to another based on character choices. The story alternates between Alison and the lead detective, as each goes about their business of solving the case. It actually works well because it provides a bridge of suspense between each chapter without stringing you out for long. And, of course, there's a lot of dialogue, which I live for.
On the other hand, the narrative left some room for additional character building. I wasn't sure the stakes were high enough for Alison to make some of the choices she did early on. Her husband turns on her rather quickly and I couldn't help but think maybe there should have been an underlying problem there already, or some other obstacle or character flaw that would guide some of her decisions. This would have lent more drama to her part. The mystery was satisfying, but it could have been more so if there were deeper character goals to resolve. It's harder to do than it sounds, but it's there nonetheless.
The same with the lead detective. He has issues with his new, wet-behind-the-ears partner. I would have liked to have seen the tensions externalized in how the characters interacted with each other (again, creates more drama). But most of the troubles in that relationship existed in internal monologues.
That said, several minor characters shined in their limited page-time. The victim's sort-of grieving wife and the girl who goes by the name Candy in particular felt alive as soon as they hit the page. Maybe it was my own imagination adding things, but I really liked those characters and the way they were written.
So, there's a little push and pull here and, of course, it's all subjective.
Never Go Back is an enjoyable, light-reading mystery that could have used a little more drama, but the organic storytelling and interesting mystery kept me turning the pages.
- Ransom for the Stars
on April 30, 2017
Ransom for the Stars is sub-titled “The Adventures of Bonnie Day.” And if that tells you anything, it’s that author Jim Bray is a little cheeky. Bonnie Day doesn’t even remotely have a good day.
Set somewhere in the far future (I don’t know when), ex-secret agent Bonnie Day is trying to enjoy her new retirement from The Club in the popular casinos on the planet Gault. Naturally, across the galaxy, someone has kidnapped two ambassadors from two warring planets on the eve of an important peace summit. The Club would like to investigate, but, wouldn’t you know it, they’ve come under attack and there’s no one left to help but Bonnie Day. Not that she’ll come along willingly. She’s retired, darn it!
So begins that crackling inter-planetary spy novel that is Ransom for the Stars. Calling it a spy novel is about as fair as I can be, I think. It’s similar to a James Bond novel, but without the focus on seductive, but generally pointless, beautiful women. Instead, Ransom for the Stars focuses on one kick-ass woman. She’s a little violent and a little remorseless, but, in her defense, everyone is trying to kill her.
This book generates a lot of charm and wit. I think cheeky was the right word. I’m not sure how the author does it, because it feels effortless. It needs to be this way, too, because the majority of the story is from Bonnie Day’s perspective, so she better be interesting. Thankfully, the author is inside her head in the best way. She feels alive from her first entrance, almost as if the book was in first person, but it isn’t. the prose is lean and sharp, never really letting up, which is exactly how Bonnie is. The supporting characters all feel unique as well, though without a lot of depth. In this type of story, that’s okay, though. Or at least it worked for me.
The other reason the book needs that fun and fast feel, is that, for what is essentially a science fiction story, there isn’t a lot of world building. The reader’s imagination has to fill in a lot of pieces. Again, I think it works because the author isn’t writing hard science fiction. He’s writing a fast-paced thriller with a little space opera thrown in. However, I do think the story could have used some world-building, even a little. There’s room for it, as it clocks in at under 60,000 words. All we get for the setting is, there is some kind of collection of developed planets called the Co-operative, but not all planets are part of it. The Club is a contractor, running agents on all sorts of different missions. Is the Club part of the Co-operative government (assuming there is a centralized government)? I’m not sure. Does it matter? Probably not. But you know when you like something and you want to know more about it? That’s this.
What else? The pace is just right, with enough mystery, action, and humor doled out to keep the reader happily moving along. It all works really well. I just wish is was longer. I didn’t feel cheated, though. It’s well worth the read.
SOME INFORMATION ON THE PUBLICATION DATE: I found this book on Smashwords with a 2017 copyright. A little research shows it was first published in 2005, so it looks like a new edition. However, I read this story without knowing about the previous publication date, so I am not sure if any content changed since the 2005 version. This review refers to this 2017 e-book version, which is excellent.