Archive for September, 2018


Jennifer Chase

“The darkness still loomed around him, but there was a quietness that overcame him.

A brief hundredth of a second, a peculiar whizzing noise filled Roger’s ears and then a brutal blow struck his head and knocked him off his feet. With a ringing in his head and a groggy consciousness, he tried to sit up but more savage blows pummeled his body. It sounded as if a tree splintered just before it fell in the forest. His breath caught in his lungs. Everything went dark.

The anonymous whispers stopped.

All buzzing in his ears stopped.

Roger Case’s heart stopped too.”

–From Scene of the Crime by Jennifer Chase

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and best-selling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent sociopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers. Her latest book is Scene of the Crime, Book 2 in the Palmer Forensic Mystery series.


Book Description:

A calculating cold-blooded predator closes in…

When a community has barely recovered from a ruthless serial killer six months earlier; now two more horrifying murders hit the radar again. It leaves police burdened with two of the most shockingly contaminated crime scenes ever documented in California’s law enforcement history. The Slayer works behind the scenes as a sinister puppet master, precisely pulling the strings, taunting the police without leaving any viable evidence, and orchestrating his killer hit squads.

The sheriff and district attorney bring in the best investigators. Reunited again, Dr. Chip Palmer, a reclusive forensic expert, joins DA Inspector Kate Rawlins to sort through the crime scene aftermath in search of the truth—all without a probable suspect or a solid motive. Complicating the investigation—sparks reignite between the two.

Ratcheting up the suspense, Chip suffers a nasty fall hitting his head, impairing his perception and giving him a mind-blowing ability for specific detailed recall. Palmer and Rawlins assemble an unusual team including a rookie detective, a forensic supervisor, and an ex-military operative turned bodyguard. After one of their own is kidnapped and the investigation is taken over by the FBI, the now rogue team must pull together their own resources—alone—with a killer waiting to take each one of them out. Scene of the Crime takes no prisoners and leaves everyone fighting to stay alive.


Welcome Jennifer! Can we begin by having you tell us how you got started writing mysteries? Did the movies influence you? Books?

Jennifer: Books, movies, news headlines, true crime stories have all inspired my writing. I’ve loved books ever since I was old enough to appreciate the amazing stories at the library. Mysteries have a special place for me. I love puzzles, forensic evidence, and the delicate balance of the human psyche of what makes a person do the things they do. I’ve always written stories and screenplays, but it was not until 2008 did I chose to write novels professionally and I have not looked back.

Do you find writing mysteries comes natural to you or did you struggle sometimes?

Jennifer: I think when you love something, it comes a bit more easily and you don’t have to fight as hard. I have more ideas than I could ever write in a lifetime. It’s difficult to turn off the writer’s brain sometimes. These ideas come to me when I’m basically anywhere, running errands, exercising, driving, and even in the shower.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Jennifer: Anyone can write. You have to sit down with something to say and convey it to the reader. But, I do feel that you have to understand emotions, not necessarily feel all of them in order to express emotions in your characters that readers will respond to. It helps, for example, that if you’ve felt great loss or extreme fear at some time in your life to write those strong emotions with conviction.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Jennifer: That’s a very interesting question. The way I see it, at least for me, is that it’s the ultimate expression to tell a story and have your readers experience an incredible journey understanding what you’re trying to express. My first novel, Compulsion, was actually similar to therapy for me as I wrote it. I had experienced a violent psychopath neighbor, so being able to write through my stress and experiences was very liberating.

How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?

Jennifer: It’s a difficult balancing act. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but it is challenging field because there’s no sure thing in this career. There are definite successful levels that you can achieve, such as a best seller and award winner, but that doesn’t mean you’ve now have it made. Every book you write there is always some type challenge you must meet and overcome.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book, Scene of the Crime?

Jennifer: Taunting the police and orchestrating killer hit squads, The Slayer is the ultimate puppet master. He believes that he has discovered the recipe for the perfect murder.

Dr. Chip Palmer, a reclusive forensic expert, joins DA Inspector Kate Rawlins, together they are reunited as a team to sort through the crime scene aftermath in search of the truth—leaving them vulnerable and fighting to stay alive. But that still doesn’t stop the sparks to ignite between them.

What was the hardest scene to write?

Jennifer: With my background in criminology and profiling, most would think that writing from the mind of a serial killer would be easy. To some degree it is for me, but it takes the most energy and effort to create the killer in a way that doesn’t seem contrived and superficial. I make sure that I put aside enough time with breaks to complete this part of the book.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point when the reader just can’t put the book down. Can you give us one of those pivotal points in your book?

Jennifer: Without giving anything away, there will be someone within the underdog team that will be kidnapped and you’re not going to see it coming. Everything changes from that point on for the characters.

Will there be a follow up book to Scene of the Crime or other books in the near future?

Jennifer: Absolutely. I love creating mysteries for Dr. Chip Palmer to solve. Evidence of the Crime will be out early 2019. In addition, Dark Lies from the Emily Stone Thriller Series will be out this fall.

Thank you so much for the interview!

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DSCF4389_pp copyMargaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Burning Ridge. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Burning Ridge is the fourth book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, and it’s an action-packed adventure featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and local veterinarian Cole Walker. When Cole and his two daughters find partial human remains up on Redstone Ridge, a beautiful place in the Colorado mountain wilderness, Mattie and Robo are called to investigate. After Robo finds a man’s burned body, Mattie soon realizes that she has close personal ties to the victim and she is determined to learn the truth behind his death. But the perpetrator has other plans, and Mattie finds herself the target of a sadistic killer. Cole and Robo search for the missing Mattie while a blazing forest fire threatens them all.

The plot for Burning Ridge came to me while I was writing Hunting Hour, the episode that comes before this one in the series. This villain sprang from Mattie’s past to destroy everything she once believed to be true about herself, and I couldn’t wait to finish book three so that I could get started on book four.

Q: What do you think makes a good mystery? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

Burning Ridge cover

A: I’ll list what I believe to be the top three elements from the ones I enjoy in a good mystery. First of all, you must have likeable and compelling characters. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good people, though most of my favorite characters have depth and goodness at their core, but the reader needs to be able to relate to and root for the protagonists in the story. Second, you need a good puzzle. It helps if the plot has twists that the reader didn’t see coming, but it’s even more important that clues are laid down that the reader can follow along with the investigator. And third, you should have an interesting setting that can be shaped to set tone and sometimes act as a barrier or even an antagonist to help develop you protagonist’s character arc. Setting itself can aid or impede a character’s progress in solving the mystery. I’m sure others might think differently to answer this question, but this is the way I see it.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I like to start with a lacey outline, one that has plenty of holes in it. As I write, these holes need to get filled in, but at least the outline gives me a sense of where I’m going. Sometimes I write out the outline, and sometimes I simply use a plotting board broken up into a grid that represents chapters. I can then post sticky notes on each space to tag what’s going to happen and what clues I want to plant. I’m trying this last method with book five, and so far I really like it.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: I have two main protagonists, Deputy Mattie Cobb and veterinarian Cole Walker. And I shouldn’t forget Mattie’s K-9 partner; he’s important too, but I would call him a strong secondary character. Mattie is a tough woman who grew up in foster homes after her mother abandoned her and her brother when she was six, while Cole is recently divorced after his wife left and he’s in the throes of learning how to be a single parent and still handle his busy veterinary practice. I use a written character profile to first develop my protagonists, and then I flesh out their personalities by assigning each one a type on the Enneagram, an ancient system that reflects how different people view their worlds. This way I can identify exactly which character traits I want to bring out in scene and I can predict how my characters will react under different circumstances. This is the first time I’ve used the system, and it’s given me lovely results. (For more information, you can go to an online bookseller and search for books on The Enneagram.)

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: I like to set up my villain’s goals and motivations from the beginning. Sometimes I like to make it so that Mattie shares similar goals, so that she can relate to the villain, which is what sparked the creation of the bad guy in Burning Ridge. But by the time the story evolved, he morphed into someone so twisted that there was no way Mattie could relate to him.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Bestselling author Jeffery Deaver says to eliminate all the parts in your novel that a reader might want to skip. I like that, although it’s not necessarily specific. On my plotting board, I try to keep the action going by moving through a variety of dog-action scenes, veterinary work, and interviews with lots of dialogue. I like to keep my chapters short (about 10 pages) and use that white space (shorter paragraphs sprinkled with dialogue). I also use beta readers who give me feedback regarding scenes that move too slowly or provide unnecessary information.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Ah…seems we might agree on setting being an important element! I chose an outdoor setting in the Rocky Mountains because of the challenges it brings to the story. The setting also reflects on the people who populate the book: rugged folks who love nature, animals, and are open toward others. In Burning Ridge, a charred body is found in a beautiful spot in the wilderness area where they have to pack in on horseback or hike to investigate the crime. And in fact, Mattie’s fear of horses plays into the mystery as well. And of course, the forest fire that builds toward the book’s climax creates physical and emotional challenges for the characters as well as tension for the reader.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I almost always know the themes for each book before I begin. Burning Ridge is about family and all the forms that might take, including those members who don’t share your bloodline. It’s a theme that is woven into all of the series episodes in various forms, because finding her family and having her own family are two of Mattie’s heart’s desires. And since Cole’s wife has withdrawn from him and his two daughters, he’s working hard to reshape his family and give his children a loving home. Now…wouldn’t it be great if these two could get together?

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: This is a good question. Craft and art intermingle during the writing of a manuscript’s rough draft. Art can continue to flourish during the editing process, too, if you have the right editor. A professional editor who is experienced with the development of mysteries can be worth his/her weight in gold. Working with the right critique group can also help, but I’ve found that it’s important to work with others who are writing within the mystery genre when creating that initial draft. Otherwise, it’s very easy to take a wrong turn.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: The ability to sit in isolation for hours at the keyboard is a must. Yes, it’s possible to write at a coffee shop or other social venue, but in the end, a writer must go inside her own head to get those words onto the page. Persistence is a second quality that a writer needs to have in order to achieve publication. You must persist in finishing what you start, and you must be able to persist during countless revisions in order to elevate your work to the best it can be. And finally, you need to have a thick skin. This applies to the critique process, the editorial process, and the review process after publication, that time when “Aunt Rosie” tells everyone that she doesn’t like your work.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I agree to a certain extent. When writing a first draft, I write just about every day. I’m a fairly slow writer, so I shoot for 1000 words in my manuscript each morning in order to finish a draft and still have time to revise and polish before meeting my deadline. I save my day job and other writing duties for the afternoon. During the writing process it is like having homework, but I expect I will actually retire someday and I won’t be writing novels for the rest of my life. Then again, I might be surprised.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: The annual Colorado Gold writing conference in Denver and the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs have been extremely helpful in terms of writing workshops, networking with other writers, and meeting my agent and publisher. I have two shelves of resource books in my office and too many to list here, but I’ve used repeatedly the Donald Maass books for Writing the Breakout Novel, and the Debra Dixon book GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: In the beginning, tapping into the flow of writing can be a heady experience. Enjoy it, but also remember that you must finish what you start, even if that means plodding along at times. You can always revise bad writing, but you can’t revise a blank page.

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Nancy Gray has published a number of works including her middle grade series Spine Chillers. She also published her YA fantasy series Blood Rain. Her short story “Chosen” appeared in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Author Quest: a Penguin Special from Grosset & Dunlap. Her work also appears in various anthologies.

Nancy Gray has been writing for over ten years. Gray lives in South Carolina with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys books, video games, anime, manga, and horror.

Her latest book is the mid-grade horror, Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf.



About the Book:

Jane is ecstatic when she gets the role of Red Riding Hood in her school play, but she didn’t realize that they’d be using the stuffed wolf prop as the Big Bad Wolf. That tattered old prop has always scared her and, lately, she has been having strange dreams about it that make it seem like it’s something more.

Jane will have to get help to save herself from the hungry spirit that has haunted her people and her nightmares before it consumes her, or worse, escapes the prison of the last creature it took to sate its horrible appetite.



Would you call yourself a born writer?

I wouldn’t call myself a born writer, though ever since I was a child I’ve always had a vivid imagination. I made up stories to tell my older sister to make her laugh. For a long time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an artist or a marine biologist, basically one of those other dreams that you think you want as a child and then realize you don’t really want when you’re older. When I was older I enjoyed reading and writing. I began trying my hand at writing short stories and eventually novels. I found that I really loved it. So I guess you could say that it was really when I was a lot older that I realized my dream job was writing.

In my experience I’ve found that most people don’t start out being a “born writer.” People can have a talent for writing, but it takes a lot of hard work to hone it as a skill. I have many early manuscripts that will hopefully never be seen by anyone. At the time I thought they were good, but now I realize they were not. I think that one of the marks of knowing you are a better writer is being able to look at your first work and realize that you weren’t born a natural, but you’ve improved since then.

What was your inspiration for Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf?

I had a lot of inspiration for this particular story. Some of my inspiration comes from Native American legends about the hunting grounds and stories about the legend of the wendigo. Even though the wendigo is typically portrayed as a werewolf, the essence of the legend is actually about the spirit of one who commits the taboo of cannibalism. While my story might not be entirely true to the legend, I combined many Native American themes. In this way I try to honor them and to make them all true in the context of the book. Being quarter Cherokee, I tried to do it in the best way that I possibly could.

I also had inspiration in some odd places. For one thing, the inspiration for the prop room and even the stuffed wolf came from the movie The Neverending Story. In the movie, the main character finds himself hiding in a room full of old science equipment and of all things, there’s a stuffed wolf head on a broom handle that falls down and scares him. Quite honestly, being young when I watched this movie, it scared me too. I try to evoke that feeling in the description of the taxidermy wolf. Something about it is off, and it definitely shouldn’t be there.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to explore the themes of good and evil and the battle within oneself to do the right thing. I try to show that everyone, especially a child, has the capacity to be courageous and powerful even when facing their fears. Many of the creatures in the stories reflect a primal fear in the form of a monster. Many times the child is forced overcome it by themselves because the adults don’t see what they do or refuse to believe it. I feel that in life, there are times when children must face things by themselves. When they do it can be scary, but gaining the ability to stand up to adversity by oneself is a stepping stone to growing up. A child forced to make an adult decision in a sort of “bird out of the nest” moment is also a recurring theme in the stories.

In Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf, the battle mostly takes place in the character’s mind. She is being chased by something horrible that wants to devour her spiritually as well as physically. It takes a great deal of strength for her not to give up when she feels physically and mentally weak from its attack.  Some of the themes I think that are recurring in this story are that you are more powerful than you think, you are not alone, and there is no shame in seeking the help of others to help you with your problems.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

This one took about a month and a half to complete. It was the third book that I wrote, though technically it’s the second in the series. Since I already had extensive notes about the character background, setting, and managed to write a rough outline, writing it didn’t take very long. Writing up specific notes for this story was a work in progress. I did a little research and was inspired by various things and jotted new notes down over the course of about two weeks.

Completing the notes on the entire series of books took longer than I would’ve liked. When I got the idea for this series I was working on my young adult fantasy series, Blood Rain. I intended to work on Spine Chillers, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to be an adult story or a story with child characters. It went through a few different versions before it became what it is today.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

When I’m inspired I’m fairly disciplined but I have a lot of responsibilities that have to come first. I have a few cups of coffee with breakfast so that I feel alert. A good rule to follow is never write anything when you’re still groggy in the morning! I also have to do a few things around the house before I can begin writing. I write in the living room on my laptop, but if my house is cluttered I can’t concentrate. So I do some cleaning up before I get started. Also I have two daughters, so I have to write at odd times during the day. When they take their naps, or when they are at school are the best times for me to write.

On a good day I usually can write over two thousand words. On days where I’m not feeling as inspired, I try to at least write something. Sometimes I write up character backgrounds for a role playing game, or I start writing a new short story. If I really can’t think of what to write, then I take a break from it for a few days to a week. One of the things I try not to do is to write on a story that I’m enjoying on a day that I don’t feel like it. Doing that tends to produce something that is at best mediocre, and I strive to make my work as good as it can be. Basically I try not to force it, but on an average day I write for at least two to three hours without a break. If for some reason I have a day where I have no other responsibilities, such as if someone is watching my kids and I’m caught up with my chores, I can write all day long.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

I think the most challenging thing about writing this book was balancing the scenes in the real world with the scenes in the dream world. In most stories you are supposed to avoid very detailed dream sequences because it takes away from the action of the story. In this case the action of the story takes place partially in main character’s dream world. This also made many of the scenes a bit abstract. It was a challenge to balance making the scene frightening but also to convey elements of fantasy, all the while allowing  a character to have a bit of control over her dream.

Another challenge was making the story fitting for my intended audience. There are some adult themes in this story, specifically the concept of cannibalism. There is often a fine line that has to be drawn between the grotesque and what is appropriate. Through most of the story Jane is fighting for her life while the cannibal spirit chases her in her dreams. To make this concept creative and different each time was also somewhat difficult. I think in the end I managed to balance things well, but only my readers can tell me for sure.

What do you love most about being an author?

I think what I love most about being an author is being able to exercise my creativity in a way that is meant to be enjoyed by others. I like the fact that I can paint a picture in another person’s mind. Each individual that reads my work will have a similar experience but one that is unique to them personally.

I also like to entertain people. Even though I made these stories as a way for children to cope with a fear in a dangerous world, I like the fact that I can do it in a way they will enjoy. Reading is a great way to escape and to experience something that you’ve never experienced before. I think everyone occasionally wants to experience something supernatural, something amazing but terrifying and to be able to come back to the real world in the end. Sometimes that makes the real world seem a little better.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

While I have had some correspondence with a traditional publisher, I am happy with my decision to self-publish. By self publishing I have a great deal of freedom over the process. For one thing, I was able to pick out my artists and have some say in the cover art. When you go through a traditional publisher you usually don’t handle that sort of thing.

Also I have been able to be as creative with my writing as I would like. Sometimes people write better stories when they aren’t told what they “can” and “can’t” do. There are many books now that blur genre lines and the lines of what is acceptable for a certain audience. In my books I try to treat my audience with respect. For the most part I write my stories as though I am writing to adults because I believe children are more capable than we tend to give them credit for. Even though I might tone down the violence and the gore, I don’t sugarcoat the darker elements of the story. I like to think these books would appeal to more than just one age group.

Where can we find you on the web?

I have a facebook page under WriterNancyGray. I also have a website nancygray.net. I have a blog on nancygray.blogspot.com. If anyone would like to contact me the best way is though facebook or through my website. I have plenty of room for comments and I would love to hear from you. If you like the books please leave a review on the store page, and you can expect more Spine Chillers from me in the future.

Thank you so much for having me here today to talk to you about my books! I really appreciate the opportunity.

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Author: Morgan Malone
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 170
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Summer on the Jersey Shore and all Rick Sheridan wants is some
solitude at his beach house. Then he spots a lean, leggy blonde coming
out of the surf and his plans are shot to hell. And the dangerous
looking knife strapped to her arm tells him this is no damsel in
distress. As a not-so retired Marine, at 51, Rick’s learned that nothing
is for certain, plans can spin out of control and shit happens.Wounded and weary from one too many wars, Britt Capshaw thought a summer
at the Shore, hanging out in her family’s beach cottage, would help her
heal. And figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Out of the
military, disillusioned and distrustful of any two-legged male, Britt’s
one love is Alex, the yellow Labrador retriever she rescued from

Rick and Britt are immediately attracted to one another, but after years
in combat, they are wary of letting down their guard, of giving up
control. The summer heats up and fireworks are flying between them even
after the Fourth of July. But, ghosts from their pasts haunt them and
finally bring them face to face with some dark secrets that may destroy
the fragile trust they’ve built.

Can Britt trust Rick with her dangerous past? Will Rick be able to let
go of the rigid control he needs to keep Britt and himself safe from
more heartbreak? These two brave souls fight against surrendering their
hearts and finally finding love. Who will win?



Chapter One

The tang of the salt air hit Rick before he saw or even heard the Atlantic Ocean. He rolled down the window of his battered green Jeep and took a deep, cleansing breath. A calm he hadn’t felt in months began to spread through him—almost, but not quite, reaching his troubled soul. Nine months since he had been down the Shore. Nine months of running away, nine months of searching.

Springsteen was singing about glory days on the radio. Rick sang along for a few bars then abruptly switched off the radio. His glory days were long behind him. Not that any of my days were glory days. Hard to glorify any of the campaigns, missions and damn stupid forays the government had sent him on over the last twenty-five years. Mud, dust, dirt and blood comprised most of his memories. The silence in the Jeep was filled by the crashing of waves and the ocean breeze. Cool air flowed through the window, blowing away the heat and humidity of the July evening, washing some of the bitter regret from Rick’s face. He glanced in the rearview mirror before he put on his turn signal to leave the highway and cut toward the shore. The man who stared back at him looked weary and old. The highlights in his strawberry blond hair appeared golden in the light but he guessed it was probably just more gray hair. His dark tan seemed to emphasize the wrinkles that creased his forehead and fanned out from the corners of his eyes. Years of facing bright sun and fierce winds were embedded in those lines.

Zipping down Long Beach Boulevard, Rick caught a few glimpses of the water between the houses. The moon hung low in the summer sky, casting a glittering path across the waves and brightening the road ahead of him. With a great sigh of relief, Rick turned down First Street, then pulled the dusty Jeep into the sand-covered drive of a three-story house facing the Atlantic. Built into the dune, the garage faced the street; access to the front of the house was up a flight of wooden stairs. Rick swung his long, jean-clad legs out of the Jeep. With dusty cowboy boots planted in the drifting beach sand, he paused for a moment. Home. Reaching into the back seat, he pulled a worn green canvas bag out and slung a leather computer case over his shoulder. Traveling light meant only one trip up the long flight of stairs to the ocean-facing deck. He paused by a loose brick to feel around under it for his spare key. Hmmm, not precisely where I left it the last time. What’s up?

Easing his gun from the small of his back, he climbed the deck stairs swiftly and silently. Rick left the duffel and briefcase on the edge of the deck, glanced briefly out at the beach before moving quickly to the French doors to his right. He tried the handle, but the door was locked. Shifting the gun to his left hand, he quietly unlocked the door. Nothing in the open-plan living and dining area, or in the kitchen appeared to be out of place. The space was neat and dust-free because he had called ahead so his cleaning service would prepare the cottage for him—including stocking the fridge and pantry. And wine rack, he noted, as he slipped silently through the room and up the stairs to the second floor. A quick search of the two bedrooms and bathrooms on the upper level revealed nothing and no one.

Still puzzled, with the pistol still in his hand, Rick went back down to the main floor. As he stepped into the living room, he saw a small mahogany box on the couch, weighing down a sheet of folded grey paper. He recognized the box. He had sent enough of them to grieving parents and spouses. Purple Heart. Kat.

A wave of regret swept through him, tugging at a heart he frequently maintained had lost any ability to feel. But, he had come close almost a year ago and his brush with the beautiful and brilliant redhead had sent him running away from the inevitable pain and disappointment he knew he would cause her.

I guess she took me up on my offer. His last gift to her had been flowers and a note telling her to use the cottage while he was away, advising he probably would not return until the Fourth of July. The Fourth was hours away, but for a moment he was transported back to the autumn when he had almost fallen in love with the gutsy widow of a JAG soldier who had died in Iraq ten years earlier. A lawyer who had been blown apart by an IED—like so many men Rick had known in the past decade. A fate Rick had narrowly escaped on too many occasions. I’ve dodged the bullet so many times. My luck must be damn close to running out. Or it should be.

He stared at the medal receptacle and message for several minutes. Then, sighing and squaring his shoulders, he sat down on the sofa and eased the short letter out from under the gift Kat had left him. His hands were shaking as he unfolded the heavy grey stationery. The unshed tears in his eyes blurred the bold handwriting.


To Rick. For gallant service above and beyond the call of duty, in honor of all your scars—seen and unseen—this medal is yours. You are an officer and a gentleman—and I will never forget you. Kat


Rick opened the box. Damn it, Kat. You still know how to get to me. Inside, resting on velvet, as he knew it would be, was a Purple Heart. Awarded to Kat’s late husband posthumously, delivered to Kat by some unremembered officer, accepted with tears and a tremulous smile. And a vacant, sad face that said without words, “What good is this? How will I live without him? I don’t want a medal, I want my husband back. But I will take this in his honor and I will hate it and the war that did this to us. And you for being the bearer of this final reminder of how much I have lost.” Rick knew. He had delivered such medals to grieving widows, sorrow-stricken mothers, and bereft fathers. Until the day, long ago, when he had gone silent, had disappeared into the secret society of warriors who went unmentioned, unnoticed and with nothing but a helmet sitting on a pile of stones to mark their passing.

For the first time in many years, Rick hung his head and wept.





Morgan Malone is the pen name of a retired lawyer who turned in her
judicial robes to write romantic memoir and sexy contemporary romance,
which always features silver foxes and the independent women who tame
them.Morgan fell in love with romantic heroes after reading her mother’s
first edition of “Gone with the Wind” when she was 12 years old. Rhett
Butler became the standard by which she measured all men. Some have met
the mark, most have failed to even come close and one or two surpassed
even Rhett’s dark and dangerous allure.

Morgan lives near Saratoga Springs, NY with her beloved chocolate Lab.
She can be found on occasion drinking margaritas and dancing at local
hostelries, but look for her most often in independent book stores and
the library, searching for her next great love in tales of romance,
history, adventure and lust. When she can’t find the perfect man, she
retreats to her upstairs office and creates him, body and soul, for her
pleasure and for yours. Remember: love, like wine, gets better with age.

Her recent novel is the contemporary romance, Taking Control: Rick’s Story.



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Photograph by Naomi Joy Photography

M.T. Ellis is a Brisbane/ Lockyer Valley-based author. Her debut crime thriller, Azrael, won Bronze in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Suspense/Thriller Catagory. Her short story, The Ballerina in the Box, was short-listed in the Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction Competition. Two of M.T. Ellis’s stories made it onto a billboard during the Queensland Writers Centre’s 8 Word Story competition.

Her dogs, Opal, Zeus and Matilda, occupy a lot of her time. She would write books about their adventures if she thought people were even half as interested in them as she is.

M.T. Ellis is an Australian Writers’ Centre graduate, freelance writer and journalist. The second novel in her Detective Allira Rose Series will be out on October 1, 2018.

Her latest book is the crime thriller, Azrael.



About the Book:

Emily thought her ordeal was over after she escaped a brutal kidnapping. She’s wrong. He’s coming for her again.

The body Detective Rose is looking at bears a striking resemblance to Emily, a woman who survived a horrific, sexually motivated abduction five years ago. Her fear is confirmed when Emily goes missing again.

When another woman, Grace, is abducted, Detective Rose finds herself doubting the instincts that tell her the disappearance is the result of intimate partner violence. She connects the cases and recruits Grace’s partner, Ethan, to help in the search. Together they must find Grace and Emily before it’s too late.


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Would you call yourself a born writer?

I would say that I was a born reader. I remember going to the library a lot as a child and participating in the MS Readathon at school. We’d read a certain number of books to raise money to help people living with Multiple Sclerosis. It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 when I thought about writing a book and I didn’t end up doing it until I was about 31.

What was your inspiration for Azrael?

I had a nightmare that I was being held captive in an old house by a sexual predator. I had been looking for a story idea for a while and that dream turned out to be a big enough story to fill a book.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to try and understand why people do the things that they do. Whether it be serial killers or normal people who make a terrible mistake.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

The whole book took a few years. I started it and then took a break for about 18 months and then I finished the rest in about 6 months. The editing and printing took another few months.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

If I have a deadline I’m very disciplined. If I don’t have a deadline I waste a lot of time thinking about writing and not actually doing anything about it! I write better in the morning so I will check my emails and then start writing. I don’t usually aim for a certain number of words per day because if it’s not flowing and I force the words out, I usually end up deleting them later because they are terrible. I basically write until it’s not working and then I take a break and come back to it later.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Researching killers and rapists can take you to some pretty dark places. Sometimes it’s hard to see that there is still good in the world after being immersed in the horror of true crime all day.

What do you love most about being an author?

I find it quite thrilling when the words are flowing and the story is spilling out. I sometimes find that writing a novel is more fun than reading one.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self-publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I self-published. I wasn’t sure that I had made the right decision until my novel, Azrael, won Bronze in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards in New York. I’ve found people are more upbeat after I tell them I have won an award than when they first hear I’m a self-published author.

Where can we find you on the web?

You can find me on social media @mtellisAuthor or my website is http://www.mtellis.com.au.

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Title: The Failed Experiment
Author: Mart Grams
Publisher: XLibrisUS
Genre: Social Science/Ethnic Studies
Format: Ebook



When the American government was founded, the Founders and Framers assumed a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” That government is dying. It is under the authority of not “we, the people” but rather a small elite that is trying to snuff out the great experiment of man ruling himself, the common man, the man that within the right system of government can attain his purpose to achieve happiness. Were the Framers wrong? Were the ideas of Alexander Hamilton right? Is man incapable of self-rule? Does he need to be taken care of, watched, manipulated? No! It is not a failed experiment! It is time to retake that government.


Married, two sons, had to endure sons to get granddaughters, 30 years of teaching in northern Wisconsin. Written three previous books: The Great Experiment, Economics for the Remnant, Words My Grandfather Gave Me, a fanatic of the American Dream, lives in small town with his wife Linda and their two cats, Miss Bailey and Stumpy.


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“KEEPING SECRETS from her husband, Bourke Cockran, Jr., was nothing new for Mattie McGary as she gently kissed her sleeping husband goodbye before she left for her office where she had to prepare two pieces of correspondence. One was an ‘eyes only’ letter to her godfather, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, telling him everything about her new mission, one he never would have approved had he known beforehand. The other was a letter to her husband on the same subject where she most definitely would not tell him ‘everything’. The second letter would be much more difficult to write than the first.”

–From Appointment in Prague by Michael & Kathleen McMenamin

Book Description:

In the novella, Appointment in Prague, one woman, a British secret agent, sets out in May 1942 to single-handedly send to hell the most evil Nazi alive—SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the SD, the domestic and foreign counter-intelligence wing of the SS; second in rank only to the head of the SS himself, Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler; and the architect of  “The Final Solution” that will send millions of European Jews to their doom.

When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill authorizes the SOE—the ‘Special Operations Executive’— in October 1941 to assassinate Heydrich, he is unaware that the entire operation has been conceived and is being run by his Scottish goddaughter, the former Pulitzer Prize-winning Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary. The SOE is Churchill’s own creation, one he informally describes as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare and, at his suggestion, Mattie becomes one of its Deputy Directors.

Mattie has a history with Heydrich dating back to 1933 and a personal score to settle. In September 1941, when the man known variously as ‘The Blond Beast’ and ‘The Man With the Iron Heart’—that last coming from Adolf Hitler himself—is appointed Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, the remnants left of Czechoslovakia after the Germans had dismembered it in 1939, Mattie is determined—now that he is no longer safely within Germany’s borders—to have him killed. She recruits and trains several Czech partisans for the task and has them parachuted into Czechoslovakia in December 1941.

An increasingly impatient Mattie waits in London for word that her agents have killed the Blond Beast. By May 1942, Heydrich still lives and Mattie is furious.  The mother of six-year-old twins, Mattie decides—without telling her godfather or her American husband, the #2 man in the London office of the OSS—to parachute into Czechoslovakia herself and  “light a fire under their timid Czech bums”. Which she does, but her agents botch the job and Heydrich is only wounded in the attempt. The doctors sent from Berlin to care for him believe he will recover.

On the fly, Mattie conceives a new plan to kill Heydrich herself. With forged papers and other help from the highest-placed SOE asset in Nazi Germany—a former lover—Mattie determines to covertly enter Prague’s Bulovka Hospital and finish the job. After that, all she has to do is flee Prague into Germany and from there to neutral Switzerland. What Mattie doesn’t know is that Walter Schellenberg, Heydrich’s protégé and the head of Foreign Intelligence for the SD, is watching her every move.


Welcome Michael! Can we begin by having you tell us how you and Kathleen got started writing your historical fiction, Appointment in Prague? Did the movies influence you? Books?

Michael: Well, the book began life as the Epilogue (set in 1942 Prague) to our novel The Berghof Betrayal where my son Patrick was a co-author. The novel was set in 1933 Germany where the evil Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich, gives our heroine Mattie McGary more than enough reason to want him dead. We eventually cut the Epilogue and found a more immediate way for Mattie to put the fear of God into Heydrich.

I hate to waste good writing, however, so I was inspired to expand it into its present novella form to provide a platform for a six chapter preview of our next Mattie McGary + Winston Churchill 1930s Adventure, The Liebold Protocol, a full length novel that will be published in October 2018 where my new co-author will be my daughter Kathleen McMenamin, who has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from NYU. I did so by adding additional scenes after Heydrich dies focused on Mattie’s capture by SS Counterintelligence as she attempts to flee to Switzerland

My initial inspiration for the Epilogue that became a novella occurred on a trip to Prague for a legal conference where I noticed a sign on the street pointing to the ‘Reinhard Heydrich Museum’. I was taken aback. A museum to Heydrich?? In Prague?? Czechs hate Heydrich!! So I had to visit the museum, which was located in the basement of a church where Czech partisans had hidden after the murder and where the Gestapo found and killed them all. So the museum is more a shrine to them than homage to Heydrich. I knew the general details of Heydrich’s assassination by agents of Britain’s Special Operations Executive [SOE] but at the museum, I learned three new things. First, the SOE agents had been in country for nearly 6 months before they finally did the deed. Second, doctors from Berlin thought Heydrich was going to survive [and he would have except for the fact that the Germans didn’t have access to penicillin]. Third, he lived for a full week after he was wounded and finally died from septicemia.

That extra week in Heydrich’s life was all I needed. Mattie McGary may have put the fear of God into Heydrich in 1933 in The Berghof Betrayal, but given what Heydrich had done to her, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to let her take her revenge as well by personally killing Heydrich in 1942.  So, I envisioned what Mattie would be doing in 1942. Then I put her in the SOE, the personal creation of her godfather Winston Churchill; made her the SOE control officer over the Heydrich assassination mission; parachuted her into Czechoslovakia to find out from her agents why, after six months, Heydrich was still alive; and, when Heydrich initially survived the assassination attempt, I had her come up with a new scenario on the fly where she would gain access to the hospital and poison the bastard herself. Then, when she successfully escaped from Czechoslovakia into Germany on her way to Switzerland, I had SS Counterintelligence capture her before she reached the German-Swiss border. To go further would be a spoiler. Read the book! It’s not that long.

Did you find writing this book came natural or did you struggle sometimes?

Michael: There are always times when you struggle, but writing the 6th book in a series is always easier than the first one, especially if you are expanding something you have already written.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book?

Michael: There are three main characters in Appointment in Prague which take place in 1942: Prime Minister Winston Churchill; his fictional Scottish goddaughter, Mattie McGary, Deputy Director of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) and formerly an intrepid, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for the Hearst media empire; and her husband, Bourke Cockran, Jr., #2 in the London Station of the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

All the previous five historical thrillers featuring Mattie and Winston’s adventures, however, take place during the 1930s. Some may question casting Winston Churchill as a key character in a series of historical thrillers set during 1929-1939, his “Wilderness Years” when he was out of power, out of favor and a lone voice warning against the rising danger posed by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. They shouldn’t. Saving Western Civilization in 1940 when England stood alone as a beacon of liberty in a sea of tyranny tends to overshadow Churchill’s earlier accomplishments.

Churchill is, in many ways, the ideal historical figure around which to craft a period thriller. He was an adventure-seeking young man, a fencing champion in prep school, a championship polo player in the army and a seaplane pilot in the early, peril-filled days of aviation in 1910. In between, he was a much-decorated war hero in bloody battles on the Afghan-Indian border, in the Sudan, and in South Africa where his commanding officer nominated him for the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honor, and where he escaped from a prisoner of war camp and made his way to freedom over hundreds of miles of enemy territory. In World War I, while other politicians, safely abed, sent millions of young men to their death, Winston was with his troops in the trenches of the bloody Ypres salient daily risking death himself.

More importantly for the series, Churchill maintained a private intelligence network in Britain and Europe during the 1930s, which often left him better informed than his own government. This fact is a catalyst for our Mattie + Winston adventures. With Churchill at the center spinning his own web, he lures both Mattie and her future husband, the American lawyer, Bourke Cockran, Jr., a former U.S. Army counter-intelligence agent into many adventures.

Winston, a romantic at heart, brought the two young people together in 1929. Romance bloomed but it was not a match made in heaven. Both characters are strong-willed individuals and their Celtic tempers frequently clashed. They met in the 1st book in 1929 where she seduced him; Mattie was seduced by a Nazi villain in the 2nd book in 1931; they became engaged in the 3rd book in 1932; and were finally married at the end of the 5th book in 1933.

Here’s how one Goodreads reviewer accurately characterized Mattie: “Mattie McGary is what every woman wants to be: strong-willed, the ability to take care of herself, and who doesn’t take crap from anyone.”

What was the hardest scene to write?

Michael: I’m not sure it was the hardest, but I had to revise it more than any other scene. It’s where the OSS Station Chief in Switzerland, the very married and notorious philanderer Allen Dulles, sneaks into Mattie’s bedroom and unsuccessfully attempts to seduce her. Mattie, whose SOE training has taught her how to kill or disable an opponent in a variety of ways, stops him cold with only two words.

“Yes, Allen? What do you want?”

“I’ve come to ask permission or forgiveness, whichever you prefer.”

“Neither, Allen, dear, and if you advance even one inch closer, you will greatly regret it. I have but two words to bring both your big head and your little head to their senses.” Mattie said and paused for a beat …

You’ll have to read the book to find out those two words.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point when the reader just can’t put the book down. Can you give us one of those pivotal points in your book?

Michael: Sure. Mattie has just poisoned the evil villain Reinhard Heydrich in Bulovka Hospital in Prague and is trying to get the hell out of Dodge when she runs into an overly arrogant SS officer who has other ideas. The hospital is in lockdown until they find who set off a fire alarm. By that time, Mattie fears, they will have found Heydrich’s dead body. Mattie blames the fire alarm on one of the nurses on Heydrich’s floor.

“Sascha, of course. No glass of schnapps has yet to survive an encounter with Sascha Besch. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes when our Nurse Supervisor learns of this.”

Both of the SS guards at the door laughed, but quickly stopped when the SS officer gave them a cold glance. “So why are you in such a rush to leave and where are you going?” he asked in a cold voice.


“Answer my question, Nurse Muller.”

“Back to the Hotel Steiner, of course. My fiancé Paul in the WaffenSS is there on his last night of leave from the Eastern front as I told you earlier.”

“Well, Fraulein, I fear both you and your dear Paul will have to control your, uh, passions until we ascertain who was responsible for the false fire alarm. If it was Nurse Besch, as you say, then you won’t have long to wait.”


“Well, ‘Paul’—that’s Obergruppenfuhrer Paul Hausser to you—who commands the II SS Panzer Corps, is not accustomed to receiving advice on romantic matters from a mere,” Mattie paused as she leaned in and looked closely at the tabs on the young officer’s tunic, “Obersturmfuhrer, but when I eventually see him tonight, I hope he will see the humor in the situation. For your sake. Anyway, once I pass on to him what a zealous officer you have been, I’m certain he will want you by his side when he returns to the Eastern front tomorrow.”


“Well…” the young officer began, but Mattie cut him off.

“Come with me, Obersturmfuhrer. What is your name please? I must find a telephone and call Paul at the Hotel Steiner and explain to him why I am delayed. He may well wish to speak with you. If he does, don’t hesitate to dispense the same romantic advice to him that you did to me.” Mattie smiled sweetly.


“Hotel Steiner? This is SS-Obersturmfuhrer Ludwig Kleist. I wish to speak with SS-General Paul Hausser.” A pause followed. “Yes, I know what time it is! This is urgent! Put me through to his room now!” A pause followed.

Herr General,” Kleist said and repeated his title. “I am in charge of the third shift security detail for General Heydrich at the Bulovka Hospital. I have in custody a nurse named Marta Muller who claims to be your fiancée.”

Those were the last words Kleist spoke for the next two minutes, other than an occasional “Jawohl, Herr General!” as the young SS officer’s face grew progressively more flushed until Mattie feared he would have a stroke. With a final “Jawohl!” Kleist placed the receiver on the hook and turned to Mattie.

The SS officer’s face began to regain its normal color as he handed the slip of paper back to Mattie. “Fraulein, you are free to leave. I apologize for my ungentlemanly remarks a moment ago. I did not mean to offend. We are all on edge here because of our concern for the well-being of General Heydrich.”

Mattie smiled as she took the paper back. “I take it Paul was not in the best of humor? Well, it’s probably just as well that you didn’t offer him the same romantic advice you did to me. I accept your apology and your advice will remain our little secret.”

Danke, Fraulein,” Kleist said, bowed and clicked his heels.

Will there be a follow up book to Appointment in Prague or other books in the near future?

Michael: You bet.

The Liebold Protocol, a Mattie McGary + Winston Churchill 1930s Adventure will be published in October 2018. It is set mainly in Nazi Germany in the days leading up to the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ on 30 June 1934 where the SS murdered most of Hitler’s political enemies. It was written with my daughter Kathleen McMenamin.  She and I are currently at work on The Prussian Memorandum, another Mattie + Winston adventure that will be published in 2019. It’s set in 1934 and tells the true story about the legislative process in Germany that led to the 1935 Nuremberg laws making German Jews second-class citizens and forbidding their marriage to Aryans. The Nazis used American state legislation and case law re racial miscegenation and second-class citizenship in the U.S.—what the Germans called ‘The Prussian Memorandum’—as models to do the same to Germany’s Jews. Neither the Americans nor the Nazis want this made public. Any journalist—like Mattie McGary—who attempts to do so will be placed in peril. But Mattie—who senses another Pulitzer Prize—is “strong-willed, [has] the ability to take care of herself, and … doesn’t take crap from anyone.” We’re not there yet, but my money is on Mattie.

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Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College or creating her own fiction.  Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels for Avalon Books, Kensington Books, Thomas & Mercer—and, now, Severn House.

Christmas, 2017 068Two years ago, Marty had the opportunity to apply for a grant that took her to Geneva and Florence to research a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets:  historical fiction.  Her new book, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth—the “almost famous” member of the group.  The novel spans two eras played out against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Italy and is the first of a trilogy.

Marty lives on an island in Southwest Florida with her husband, former news-anchor, Jim McLaughlin.  They are planning a three-week trip to Italy this fall to attend a book festival and research the second book, A Shadowed Fate.  Luckily, Jim is fluent in Italian and shares her love of history and literature.  Their German shepherd, Mango, has to stay home.


Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Claire’s Last Secret. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A:  This historical fiction is a new twist on a famous event (the “haunted summer” of 1816 when the Bryon/Shelley circle lived in Geneva and Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, was conceived).  I have always been interested in the “unknown voice” of women in historical fiction.  We see so many great literary figures through the lens of history and fame, but their contemporaries often saw them very differently.  When I wrote Claire’s Last Secret, I chose to narrate it from the perspective of Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont.  She outlived the other members of the group by many decades and had the perspective of age and experience when she later recalled the events of her youth.  I found her an incredibly intriguing person in her own right and was inspired to write the book because I felt like her “voice” hadn’t been heard yet.

Claire Last Secret Cover

Q: What do you think makes a good historical fiction? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A:  First of all, I think my book is a little difficult to narrow because it’s a bit of a genre-bending novel—partly memoir, partly historical fiction, partly women’s fiction.  I wanted to bring in all of these elements.  But if I had to narrow it, I would say it’s historical fiction.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I had most of the plot in my head before I started, but I always write the first hundred pages, then go back, revise, and re-work the plot.  This process gives me both structure and creative freedom when I write.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A:  My protagonist is Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley’s step-sister.  What I find interesting about her is that we see her at two stages in her life: when she’s seventeen during the summer of 1816 and when she’s 75, living in Florence, Italy, during 1873 as a somewhat impoverished ex-patriot.  This was quite a challenge for me as a writer because her “young” voice is very different from her “mature” voice; she’s an older and wiser woman in much of the book, but still so influenced by what happened to her in her younger days.  I’ve always been keenly interested in the Byron/Shelley circle, but I had to complete a lot more research on Claire.  She was a remarkable but rather elusive person to develop as a character.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A:  I have an antagonist and a villain; the former was part of the Byron/Shelley circle—John Polidori who wrote The Vampire.  Without giving away too much, he appears to be the villain for much of the novel but, in fact, the villain is a fictional character whom I added to Claire’s life.  Again, I did quite a bit of research on Polidori, including a study of his journal and novel.  It was quite a challenge to “tweak” these real-life characters in a work of fiction!

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A:  I decided to use a dual narrative structure in this novel (Claire at two stages in her life), but the narrative threads connect to each other.  The mystery of one time can be solved only in another time, which I hope keeps the reader moving along.  One practical tip:  I always end each chapter with some unresolved tension that keeps the reader flipping the pages; it could be an appearance of a new character, a sudden realization, or some sense of danger.  Don’t “tidy-up” chapters or finish the narrative thread until the actual end of the story!

Q: Setting is also quite important and, in many cases, it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A:  I adore setting, but I struggle with descriptive language, so I know I always have to work on this aspect.  In Claire’s Last Secret, the settings are Geneva in 1816 and Florence in 1873.  I had to visit (such a trial!) both of these magnificent cities, and scout out specific places that would serve as backdrop for my novel.  For example, Byron and Shelley sailed around Lake Geneva in 1816 and stopped at Castle Chillon, which is woven into a scene in my book, with an added fictional element.  I visited the site and was able to (hopefully) make it come alive in terms of sensory descriptions.  I think the little details make it come to life, such as the sound of waves lapping against the walls at Chillon, the dampness of the dungeon, and the expansiveness of the courtyard.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I knew the theme would be about the interconnectedness of life and how one person can risk everything for the truth.  I’ve never really covered these themes before, but they have been on my mind for some time as I’ve reflected on how our world seems to be unfolding and how we have to cultivate our own personal bravery.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A:  I think craft and art are intermingled in writing.  As I write, I need to be in the creative flow, but I must also be ruthless in editing my own work.  As T.S. Eliot said, “There is no good writing, only good revision.”  I truly believe that.  I just wait to be ruthless on my own writing until I have a hundred pages on paper.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A:  First of all, a writer has to simply write.  I often hear people say that they would love to write a book, but they never seem to get started.  You just have to sit down and work at the keyboard!  Secondly, a writer has to understand that publishing is a business.  You must use every tool that you would use as an employee in a contemporary workplace:  Be professional, disciplined, and digitally-savvy.  Those qualities will always reflect positively on you as a writer.  Lastly, you must learn to accept criticism from editors, critics, and readers.  You work in a creative field and it has a strong subjective element.  More specifically, some people will like your work, others not so much.  It’s okay if you’re writing what you love!

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. Thoughts?

A: This is so true.  As a write, you are always researching, writing, or editing.  It never stops—just like when you were in school.  You have to love it.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A:  My advice that I give to new writers is to attend conferences that cover the type of writing that you want to do.  I always learn something new, and I have met some amazing people who later became friends and/or part of my publishing journey.  I attend Sleuthfest every year, and I’m a member of several organizations, such as The Historical Novel Society and Novelists’ Inc., that provide such helpful resources.  Attend every workshop that you can!

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Enjoy the magic!  You need to learn about the craft to structure a chapter or develop a character, but then you must write the book that comes from deep inside.  It’s your story and your dream.  Let that part of you as a writer shine through.  And keep writing!

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Traci Highland

“Dear Miss Behave,

Last weekend I was at the pool with the children, and there was a woman naked and walking around the locker room.

I hate to be prissy, but to be naked around young children like that just isn’t right. She comes to the pool regularly and I am not the only one who has happened upon her strolling around the locker room without clothes. Now I know there are showers and that people change in locker rooms, but showers should be taken while wearing bathing suits and there are private changing rooms that are clearly marked.

How can I convey to her the accepted rules of decency before any of our children become hopelessly corrupted?


-Agape at the AquaPark”


–From Traci Highland’s Miss Behave

Traci Highland writes funny books for sassy ladies. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Master’s from Quinnipiac University. She uses this education to write books, bake cakes, garden and make homemade jams. Her children say she’s bossy, her husband says she’s high-maintenance, but the dog thinks she’s perfect.

Miss Behave

Book Description:

She’s great at giving advice, too bad she never takes it…

Piper Anderson wants to be a serious journalist at a serious paper covering serious news. Instead, she’s stuck at the Pendleton Falls Herald, where her massive investigative skills are wasted penning the paper’s advice column, Miss Behave.

Her shot at a meaty story comes when she’s assigned to write up a profile of a local business, Brookes Jewelers. She is determined to write the piece so she can use the article to impress a real paper.

Unfortunately Hunter Brookes, co-owner of Brookes Jewelers and the Pendleton Falls Herald, is rather persistent, in his own hot little way, that the piece should be nothing more than a glorified sales pitch.

But when diamonds disappear, Piper may get the chance to do a real investigation, leading her to confront family secrets and worst of all, turn to her mother for help.

Piper soon realizes that there is more to Mr. Brookes than a tight ass and a ridiculous fascination with name tags. Together they deal with roasted pigs, crazy cat ladies, and gun-toting fashionistas.

In all the chaos, they just might find the one thing that neither one was looking for: true love.


Hi Traci! Romantic Comedy has to be at the top of my must read list and your new book, Miss Behave (The Anderson Family Series Book 1), sounds exciting! What was it while writing this book that set your fingers on fire?

Traci: Oh darling! Romantic Comedy is absolutely my favorite as well! I think the part of this book that really got my fingers flying has to be the Miss Behave columns. I just adored Dear Abbey as a kid and wondered what would happen if her column was taken over by some snarky body-double that said horrible, terrible, no-good things in that column.

Can you tell us a little about your main character, Piper Anderson? She sounds like a fun character!

Traci: She is a rather delightful, if somewhat cheeky, young lady. She is a journalist that wants more than her small town assignment and her task as the local advice columnist, so she is desperately trying to write the worst advice column ever so that she gets taken off the assignment. But in Piper’s world, things never go as planned.

What about the rest of the Anderson family to which you base your new series? Who are they?

Traci: It starts with Ann, Piper’s mother, who is a bit too proper for Piper’s tastes, and Piper’s Aunt Elise, a gun-toting, hard-stomping, wrestling obsessed family matriarch. Then there are the four Anderson sisters, Mags, who has a terrible temper and somewhat unhealthy habit of speaking her mind, Betty, the beautiful, career-obsessed producer, and Stacy, the artist.

There is a love interest for Piper. Can you give us a little glimpse of who that might be?

Traci: He is everything that Piper is not. He is always put-together and a tad bit uptight. Hating disorder, he and Piper are on something of a collision course.

Where does your book take place and why did you choose that location?

Traci: It takes place in the fictional town of Pendelton Falls, CT. Small, in the quiet corner of the state, the central focus of the town is on the lovely lake at the center and the charming local shops that attract weekending New Yorkers.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Traci: The scene in the hotel at the end. You will see!!

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. What is one of the pivotal points in your book?

Traci: The scene with the scarf. Scarves can cause a surprising amount of trouble, darling.

Have you started on book 2 yet?

Traci: Book two, Mags’ book, is completely written and will be released very soon! Here is a wee bit of a blurb:

Mags has gotten herself in a ton of trouble: she’s lost her job, any hope for references, and she’s going to run out of money…. fast.

Yeah, sure, it may be her fault for punching her boss, but the jerk totally had it coming.

Nobody listens to her until she reaches her boiling point, and by then, well, she’ll admit that there’s no stopping Mr. Fist To The Face.

Now her years of hard work as a speech therapist are about to go down the drain unless she can find some way to salvage her career. So when her Aunt Elise calls to say that she has a job for her, it’s not like she can say no, even if the job is up in the wilds of Vermont.

Between stuffed moose, sloppy dogs and sexy men, Vermont proves to be a lot more interesting than she expected. But when she uncovers a scheme that would put her new employers’ livelihood in jeopardy, more than just hydrangea bushes are about to get squashed.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Traci: So many favorites! I think the scene towards the end with the she-cult, or maybe the scene with the gun-happy fashionista. Both were incredibly fun to write. (My dog prefers the scene with the hero’s dog, but she’s completely biased).

Is there a genre you haven’t written but would love to?

Traci: I have not yet written a true cozy mystery, and I think I would enjoy it!

What’s next for you?

Traci: Well, this interview wore me out, so I think a margarita is in order. After that, I’m writing Betty’s book. I’m having so much fun with this series and the Anderson girls!

I hope you enjoy the reads and thank you so much for having me on your site!

Love and Margaritas,


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Darkest Before the Dawn by Mike Martin, Mystery, 280 pp.


Author: Mike Martin

Publisher: Ottawa Press and Publishing

Pages: 280

Genre: Mystery
Darkest Before the Dawn is the latest adventure of Sgt. Winston
Windflower, a Mountie who finds himself surrounded by a new family and a
new life in tiny Grand Bank, Newfoundland. There are signs of trouble
that may disturb his pleasant life, including a series of unsolved
break-ins and the lack of supports for young people in the most trying
time of their lives. But there are always good friends, good food and
the sense that if we all pull together, we can find a way to get through
even the darkest days.Ghosts, mysterious deaths, and a new character enliven the pages as
Windflower and Tizzard and the other police officers awaken the secrets
that have been lying dormant in this sleepy little town. The deeper they
dig the more they find as the criminals they seek dive deeper behind
the curtains of anonymity and technology. But more than anything, this
is a story of love and loss, of growing up and learning how to grow old
gracefully. It is also about family and community and looking after each
other. Of not giving up hope just before the dawn.



Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and
now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance
writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers,
magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and
New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home, which was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web was released in 2017 and the newest book in the series.is Darkest Before the Dawn.








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