Review: Ghosting by Martyn V. Halm


The latest in the Amsterdam Assassin series is the best yet. Like the others, it strikes a balance between action thriller and psychological suspense. The immersion in Japanese culture as well as Amsterdam life is masterful. There are layers upon layers of complex manipulation, making the imagery of strategy games, both chess and the Japanese game of go, key elements in setting the tone. As always, Halm writes both love scenes and fight scenes with intimate realism and finesse. Neither the sex nor the violence is gratuitous. Both are part of the development of deep and intriguing characterization. Halm portrays the protagonists and antagonists in their full humanity, with no sense that one side of the law or the other is inhabited by morally superior people. It’s not even clear that there really are two sides to the law. The story reveals a multi-dimensional moral universe, nothing as simple as good vs. evil or cops vs. criminals, in a plot that flows from Jamaica to the Netherlands and back with unending suspense.

I’m reviewing early because I recommend reading this series from the beginning and reading the short fiction as well  All the prior works lead up to this one. Though each novel tells its own complete tale and reaches a resolution, reading the books in sequence lets the reader follow a unique and compelling set of characters through a larger—and habit-forming—story. Start now. Ghosting comes out December. 1


Additional sales links on the author’s web site:

Other books in the series:



How I Choose a Good #Indie Book

Never bought an indie book before? Try it. A lot of readers haven’t, but it’s a low-risk adventure. I’ve paid as much $14.99 for a traditionally published e-book that I didn’t like, and I just paid $8.49 for one that’s only 67 pages. (Fortunately, I like it so far.) The most I’ve ever paid for an indie e-book is $4.99 and I’ve liked almost all of them. The only way I take traditional or indie publishing into consideration as a factor in choosing a book is that I love indie prices. Of course, there are a lot of other factors that go into my choice of a book, and this may explain why I’ve had such a satisfying indie reading experience. The following criteria have helped me find some great writers.

  • Have people whose opinion I respect given it good reviews? These might be people I know well on Goodreads, reviewers I follow on Booklikes, or personal friends, but they are all people who care about quality. I found Martyn V. Halm’s compelling Amsterdam Assassin Series this way. I’ve reviewed on one of the short stories in this series on this site, and all the books and singles on both Goodreads and Booklikes.
  • Is the author a member of Sisters in Crime? This has been a 100% reliable way for me to find good mystery authors. (By the way, though Sisters in Crime started as an organization to support women writing in the mystery genre, we have male members.) The organization educates its members with classes and workshops and discussion groups, and local and national chapter meetings. SinC’s “Guppies” group—short for the Great Unpublished—has many published authors who continue their membership because of the support they get and can give to new Guppies. I’ve never read a SinC member’s book that let me down. SinC members whose books I’ve reviewed on this site include J.L. Simpson, DV Berkom, Anna Castle and Diane Vallere. I’m currently half-way through SinC member Lois Winston’s hilariously inventive cozy mystery, Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. Even the title made me laugh. Look for a favorable review coming soon.
  • Did the book earn a B.R.A.G. Medallion? This award for the best in indie writing isn’t a contest—it’s an ongoing process. Books submitted to the Book Readers’ Appreciation group are read and evaluated by numerous people, not just one or two judges or critics. I’ve never read a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree book that let me down. DV Berkom’s and Anna Castle’s books mentioned above earned B.R.A.G. medallions. (So did my murder-less mystery Shaman’s Blues, but of course I haven’t reviewed my own work.) If you’ve never read an indie book before and you like #mysteries and thrillers, you could start with one of these books. I think you’ll get your money’s worth—probably more.


To find the books not linked to reviews, Shaman’s Blues and Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun (and many more) go to

Review: The Body Market

Berkom_The Body MarketIt’s a cliché to say a book was hard to put down—but this one was really hard to put down. The story concept is original, and Berkom is a master of pacing. Every scene is crafted to move the plot and keep the reader wanting to know what happens next, with a balance between intense action scenes and suspenseful scenes of quiet tension that build to the next explosion.

Leine Basso, a former assassin, is now working to rescue victims of human trafficking. When she tangles with the traffickers, her skills from her old profession are needed. Leine is a kick-ass heroine, but not super-human. She networks with people who can help her accomplish a mission, and those networks are set up early in the plot so none of the events becomes a deus ex machina twist. With everything set up so precisely, the Body Market peaks with one of the best surprise endings I’ve read in a thriller—and yet another one, if you read the bonus short story at the end. (You should.)

The scenes in the point of view of Elise, the kidnapped teenager Leine is trying to rescue are even more gripping than those in Leine’s point of view, because this girl has no weapons, no training, no access to people who can help her, and no experience outside of her Beverly Hills rich kid world. I never knew if Elise would survive, or how, though I could see the roots of her strength beneath her spoiled-brat surface.

This book recently received a well-deserved B.R.A.G. Medallion, which is given in recognition for the best in indie writing. To learn more about the B.R.A.G. Medallion go to

Berkom has such an extensive list of publications I can’t fit them all on this site. You’ll find The Body Market on the mystery page—it’s both mystery and thriller—and can find sales links for Berkom’s other books on her web site. The newest in the Leine Basso series, Cargo, came out August 1.

The first Leine Basso thriller, Serial Date, is currently free, and when I went to Barnes and Noble to download it I was pleased to discover the Kate Jones series as well. I’m looking forward to reading more by Berkom.

Why Publish Everywhere?

All indie authors have this decision to make: either go into KDP Select, or publish everywhere. Obviously, as the curator of a web site called Indies Who Publish Everywhere, I chose the latter. If you’re an indie author debating which way to go, here’s my reasoning behind my choice.

My inner rebel has always distrusted Amazon’s exclusivity contract. Any time I feel as if someone is trying to talk me into something that seems to benefit them more than me, I get suspicious. Do I need a 70% royalty in countries where no one reads my books? No. But do I need to be able to sell to all readers, not just Kindle owners? Yes.

The other retailers let me sell a book at any price or offer it free, at any time, without having to give them a monopoly on my work, but Amazon only allows special promotions to authors who agree to a three-month contract of exclusivity. I can work around that. I don’t need to be in KDP Select to have free books or special sales. I just have to get Amazon to price-match the other stores.

An author must drop all the other retailers in be in Kindle Unlimited, where their books can be borrowed for lower royalties rather than sold, but Oyster and ScribD pay full royalties for books read through their unlimited subscriptions and don’t require exclusivity.

So far I’m happy with the choice to make my books widely available. Sometimes my Amazon sales exceed my sales on the other sites, but then I have months where most of my sales are elsewhere. As a reader I’m loyal to authors who choose to publish everywhere, and I suspect I’m not alone in this. I like my Nook and I like shopping through Barnes and Noble, and when indie authors make their books available on B&N I’m more likely to buy them.

Are you an indie author who publishes everywhere? I’m trying to grow this site to list more books. Go to and get in touch.

Are you a reader who’d rather buy directly for your e-pub e-reader than use a Kindle app? Browse the listings by genre. (You may find some free books and some bargains.) Read the reviews in the blog archives. Discover a new indie who publishes everywhere.

Why Review?

I review almost everything I read on Goodreads and Booklikes. If it’s an indie book available on all e-book retailers, I review it here as well. If it’s a mystery set in New Mexico, I feature it on my other blog, . The first reason is I do this because I like to read well-thought-out reviews before I shop and this is a way to pay it forward. Reviews by bloggers and regular readers persuade me more than professional reviewers writing for Kirkus or the New York Times. I prefer the quirky things that readers have to say that bring out the flavor of a book. These honest and highly individual responses help me consider my book choices. I’ve never been able to condense a review down to one line, but I’ve read some that do it well and I admire that skill.

Another reason I review is that when I like a book, I want to tell people about it. I may mention a few flaws in a three-star review, but by Goodreads standards, that’s still an “I liked it” review.” I’ve given a few two-stars to books that I thought were worth finishing in spite of flawed writing because of plots and characters I cared about. Talented authors with bad editors sometimes can still hold my attention. I take no pleasure in writing bad reviews, though, so I seldom post anything less than a three-star. This isn’t for the author’s sake, but for my own. I can’t sacrifice my time to books I don’t like. If it looks like a one-star in the making, I exit by page forty.

Maybe the most valuable aspect of reviewing for me is that it makes me think about a book. I might find myself exploring the deeper meaning of a book and its social implications, or I might notice the author’s technical skills in plot development, character creation, and language, even things like the way he or she executes transitions between scenes. This makes me a better book club member when we discuss a book, it makes me a better writer, and most of all a more appreciative reader when I start paying close attention to the next book.

Read a good indie book that’s available everywhere? (By that I mean it’s not exclusive to Amazon.) Interested in being a guest reviewer? Let me know.

July #Sale Children’s Books on #Smashwords

Jinx And The Faerie Dragons

Jinx’s little sister, Ayla, has warned him time and time again that one day his mischief making will get him in to serious trouble. But Jinx isn’t interested in his sister’s warnings; not even when the trouble she warns him about is a cave full of goblins.

Like most pixies, Jinx loves to play tricks and explore. But, unlike most pixies, Jinx takes his tricks too far on a regular basis, causing chaos and taking risks that no other pixie would even consider, much to the amusement of his faerie dragon friends, Caia and Draco, and the annoyance of just about everyone else; especially Ayla. Now Jinx and his faerie dragon friends are off on a treasure hunt, and not even the threat of being captured and eaten by goblins is enough to stop them answering the call of adventure.”

Sales link:

Sale price: $1.25

Coupon code: SSW75

Mr. Pumpkin-Head And Other Poems

A collection of poems – many with a hint of humour – about nature, magic, emotions, and the world around us.

Sales link:

Sale price: $1

Coupon code: SSW75

Sale ends July 31st 2015.

More books by Tory Zigler can be found on


Too Many Good Ones




Before I chose to go indie, I put a lot of thought into the decision, researching the pros and cons. Since my books exceeded the standard word count for popular fiction and blended genres rather than conforming to one, my research told me it could be hard to get an agent. So, after getting positive feedback in some contests, and spending years in the critique and revision process, I had my first book professionally edited and proofread, and I self-published. I figured other people self-published for similar reasons: writing off the beaten track, or coloring outside the genre lines–or wanting the 70% royalty and full creative control. It never occurred to me that some writers might self-publish because they didn’t want to go to the trouble of producing a professional product.

Then I joined Goodreads. On my first day as a participant, I read a forum post in which an author said she thought of bad reviews as free editing. What? Did she really sell books and expect readers to find the typos and plot holes? Free editing for her—but it cost the readers. Finding out that a number of writers published without the services of a qualified editor scared me off reading my fellow indies. Then I got involved in a short-lived but fascinating group, The Source, a project for screening and reviewing indie books. Through it, I discovered some great authors—and got hooked on good indie fiction. There are reviewers who seem to get a kick out reading a book they dislike and trashing it, but I’m not that kind. The “prematurely published” are easy to avoid with a quick perusal of the online preview. The more I buy and explore independent authors’ work, the more I realize, the problem isn’t that there are too many bad books out there; it’s that there are too many good ones, and I may never find time to read them all.

You can find some of the books I’m working my way through, and the ones I wrote, at

Keep Cracking Yourself Open

Smithsonian Magazine did an issue last November on American Ingenuity. (I’m just now getting that far along in my magazines. They tend to pile up while I’m reading books.) The issue examined education, science, and the arts. Singer and songwriter Roseanne Cash was the subject of one of the articles, an intriguing story on how she and her husband went about the creation of a concept album The River and the Thread by writing songs that tells stories.*  A couple of her observations resonated with me as a fiction writer and a reader.

One: “The more specific you are about places and characters the more universal the song becomes.”

Two: “You have to keep cracking yourself open or you become a parody of yourself.”

Cracking yourself open. It’s like the work an actor does to get into character—using memories, feelings and imagination to fully experience a role. That’s where the stories come from, the ones that mean something. This doesn’t mean necessarily that stories are autobiographical. One of Cash’s new songs is about two of her distant ancestors during the Civil War. The creative person cracks open her compassion for others and her capacity for invention and hard work, not just her own life story.

On the opposite end of the creative spectrum, there’s the formula-for-success approach. I got an advertisement last week offering a special price on software that supposedly could help an author become a bestseller by analyzing the data on current bestsellers. The advertisement claimed that by using this analysis, an author could target his or her next book to the right niche in the market, and even choose a title based on what’s selling as well as key words to use in marketing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to sell—no one writes a book with the hope of obscurity—but there were several things that bothered me about this ad.

One: Everyone can’t be a best-seller, although the developer of the software implied his product could get that result for his customers (I think he knew better than to guarantee it). Best implies exceptional sales, above average, and we can’t all be above average, though there are sub-categories so small that a book can be in the top one hundred, a best-seller within that category, without having significant sales. I have no idea if this software I chose to forego drills down into the sub-basement for narrower and narrower categories, small enough that everyone actually can claim to be a best-seller. It doesn’t matter—because of the second thing wrong with this picture: I can’t imagine writing a book quickly enough to tailor it to the current trends. They would change by the time I was done. And then, there’s the third problem: When a particular book is a big hit, it doesn’t mean that other books like it will be successful or that readers want more of the same. I haven’t read fifty shades of anything and don’t plan to. Reading books that reproduce what’s already popular has no appeal for me. With genre fiction, there are already so many conventions and expectations, an author’s challenge are how to innovate, not how to replicate.

I was talking with a friend about a best-selling series she follows, but which I quit reading half-way through the third book. She agreed with me that the books had become predictable, mechanized, and broadly caricatured, but she used them as audiobook background entertainment during exercise and housework, perfectly suited for that purpose. “It doesn’t matter if I miss part of it.” That particular author may not mind that her followers have such thoughts—she’s selling a lot of books—but I think even a popular writer could lose part of his or her fan base by losing originality.

One reason I enjoy indie books is that they often venture outside of the formulas or dare to bend them. And I think all authors, from little-known indie to traditionally published national best-seller, need to keep cracking ourselves open so we don’t become parodies of ourselves.

*Himes, Geoffrey, American Ingenuity: Performing Arts: Roseanne Cash: The Long Way Home, Smithsonian Magazine, Nov. 2014 pp 60-65