Archive for the ‘Crime/Detective’ Category

101044HarleyinTuscanyHarley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, and majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay U. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government as a computer programmer and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Harley’s other passions are reading, his wife Anastasia, their two children, peace, running, Italian cars, and California wine.

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

A: White with Fish, Red with Murder is the story of private eye Frank Swiver, who accepts an invitation to a wine tasting on a private rail car, and brings along his secretary and lover, Vera Peregrino. They’re two thirds of a love triangle. The host, Frank’s client, General Thursby, wants him to find proof that a friend whose death was ruled accidental was in fact murdered. Thursby suspects Cicilia O’Callaghan, widow of his late friend, an old flame of Frank’s, and the third leg of that triangle. But Thursby takes two slugs through the pump, and the cops arrest Vera for his killing. Frank spends his nights with Cici, and his days trying to find Thursby’s killer and spring Vera. But soon he realizes he must change his way of thinking, or risk losing both women . . . and maybe his life.

I felt compelled to write this story because I had read all of Raymond Chandler’s fiction, and most of Dashiell Hammett’s. I loved it, and I wanted more, even if I had to write it myself. I tried to reproduce the feel of their stories in characters, atmosphere, dialogue, and plot so that readers who liked Hammett and Chandler will feel as much at home with Frank Swiver as they would with Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe.

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?

A: Character, plot, and pace. A good private eye story is not about the eye, but about the characters –the client, the femme fatale, the villain or antagonist. The characters must be believable, well-rounded, and distinct from one another. They must be driven by desires they are powerless to resist. Character is revealed in action. The plot must be credible; it has to be of a certain magnitude to hang a novel on it. And it’s good to have a couple different things going on in the plot. The best way for a writer to conceal a mystery is by interesting the reader in solving some other mystery. Finally, pace. You don’t necessarily have to write a thriller, but it needs to be a page turner. You want the reader to wonder, what happens next. A fourth element, close behind these three, is setting, environment, or a sense of place.

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

A: I’m certainly in favor of knowing where you’re going when you set out. I was working towards a certain ending that I had in mind, but in this novel, the characters revealed to me how to get there and what to do along the way as the book progressed. For example, no one saw the murder, but private eye Frank Swiver questioned the seven suspects present, each of whom had a story, a version of the truth. By studying everyone’s comings and goings, their desires, and their versions of the truth, Frank gathered the clues he needed to put the whole mystery together. By following along with Frank, I learned what I needed to know to write my way to the ending.

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: Because of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, Frank Swiver is a pacifist, unusual in the tough, fists and blackjacks world of private eyes. He was a conscientious objector during WW II. As it happens, I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, so I didn’t need to interview Frank. We shared the same values.

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: The villain goes back to some of the most basic ideas I learned reading Edgar Allan Poe’s first detective story, and to the idea of the duality of human nature. In some ways the antagonist is the opposite of the protagonist, Frank. He’s the animalistic side of Frank’s nature, and the dark side.

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

A: Well, Raymond Chandler says, “When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns.” I didn’t do that, but I kept the spirit of this excellent advice in mind. Consider variations on that theme—even a car chase, for instance. Also, I try to think of my book as a series of dramatic scenes that will tell the story. A novel’s a big piece of work, so it helps me to get my arms around it by breaking it down into scenes. I think, how will I move the plot along in this scene? How will I reveal character?

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: What I tried to do in White with Fish was create a story world–a noir-ish version of 1948 San Francisco. I used descriptions of specific locations and objects, details, and stylized dialogue to give the novel verisimilitude, and try to give the book the feel of a more human, less technological world than the one we live in.

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: Themes! Ah! I think I have a sense of the themes of my work inside my subconscious when I start writing. But I can only articulate the themes after the first draft is complete. Some of the themes in my writing have been recurring—non-violence, the duality of human nature, the breakdown of civil order, and classic noir themes, like love, lust, greed, lying dames, violence, double-crosses, and murder.

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

A: I for one, can’t imagine always hitting the mark on the first or only creative thrust. I believe editing and revision are a part of art, maybe 60 percent or more. Just don’t throw out what is good and true and right about that initial draft when you’re editing. Fix the structure to support the plot and the theme; develop and strengthen what is good and what could be better, and cut what doesn’t work so well.

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

A: Perseverance is necessary. This is especially true in marketing your manuscripts—pitching your novel to an agent or a publisher, or submitting shorter fiction to the right journal or magazine. Nearly 35 publishers declined my novelette, “Pearl’s Valley.” But it will be released as a standalone book in April by Dark Passages [ https://darkpassagespublishing.com/ ]

Discipline—To me, discipline means to write every day. The surest way to improve your skills and grow as a writer is to write. Write every day. If you write 500 words a day—a page and a half—you’ll have a first draft of a novel faster than you ever expected.

Creativity—Creativity is the fun part of making a successful novelist. You can start with the tropes of your subgenre—like I use tropes from hard-boiled fiction and from noir fiction. But you take them and make them your own—that’s the creativity part.

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 don’t know. As another person (who should be famous), said, “If you’re doing what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Though I may have dreaded homework when I was in school, I love my writing, now, and I think I will for the rest of my life.

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

A: You should keep a handful of reference books, such as Strunk and White and a dictionary on hand. Stephen King On Writing tells you everything else you need to know to write good narrative prose, and it’s a good example of the craft, presented in a fun, entertaining style. I also use Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, and Ursula LeGuin’s Steering the Craft when I need examples of different techniques, such as third person limited omniscience point of view. I’ve taken online writing classes from Stanford that have been excellent, and I’ve participated in classroom workshops at a place in Bethesda, Maryland called the Writer’s Center. If you’re a genre writer, like me, consider joining a group of like-minded writers for different kinds of support. For example, I’m in Private Eye Writers of America, and in the local chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

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

A: Well, classes and workshops can be great and can give you a good foundation in the craft. But I truly believe there are two keys to being a writer. 1.) Read good writing. Reading is learning to write by osmosis. See how the great writers tackled a particular problem, or learn how contemporary writers in your genre handle a specific sort of scene. And 2.) write. Everything you write is practice and experience. There will be good stuff even in your earliest writing that you can build upon.

I’m always happy to help if I can, and I’d enjoy hearing from other writers, and my readers. Harley.c.mazuk@gmail.com


Harley Mazuk [http://www.harleymazuk.com/] is a mystery writer living in Maryland. His first novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder [http://www.drivenpress.net/white-with-fish-red-with-murder] is out now, from Driven Press. [http://www.drivenpress.net/]

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JBAHeadshot B-RT-DIMENSIONSJoseph B. Atkins is a native North Carolinian who worked on tobacco farms and in textile mills in his youth, served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and studied philosophy in Munich, Germany. A veteran journalist, he worked at several newspapers in the South and as a congressional correspondent in Washington, D.C., before becoming a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi. Atkins is author of Covering for the Bosses, a book about the Southern labor movement and journalists’ failure to tell its story. His fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Hardboiled, and his novella, Crossed Roads, was a finalist in the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Awards in New Orleans.

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

A: It’s 1960 in the South, when the region is about to bust wide open with the struggle over civil rights. Casey Eubanks is a small-time hustler in North Carolina on the run after a fight with his girlfriend Orella leaves his cousin dead. A crony sets him up with a big operator in Memphis, Max Duren, a well-heeled, politically connected former Nazi who needs a hit done on labor organizer Ala Gadomska for stirring up workers at a Duren garment factory in Mississippi. Casey’s hired, but things go wrong, and he’s on the run again—from Duren’s goons as well as the cops. Enter Martin Wolfe, an alcoholic journalist who tries to recruit Casey to join him and rogue FBI agent Hardy Beecher in a plan to bring Duren down. Casey steals Wolfe’s car and returns home to Orella, where a bloody shootout with a Duren goon convinces him to join Wolfe and Beecher. It’s Casey’s last chance, a wild plan that might work but could also blow up in their faces.

Several of the major characters in Casey’s Last Chance also appeared in an earlier, unpublished novel of mine, and I wanted to see what the future had in store for them. Also, on a trip to North Carolina a few years ago, a 90-year-old cousin of mine told me a story about the black sheep of the Atkins family, a man who’d been in and out of trouble and prison most of his life. After many dissolute years, the black sheep tried to return home but was turned out by relatives, who bought him a bus ticket to Charlotte and told him not to come back. Soon afterward, he’s walking down a city street, has a heart attack, and dies. The relatives pooled resources to pay for a headstone and grave. This inverse version of the prodigal son’s story helped inspire Casey’s journey.

casey'slastchance800pxQ: What do you think makes a good hardboiled crime novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: It’s tempting to resist labeling, but it is what it is. I wrote for many years in a kind of Southern gothic mode, still do, but then I discovered Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, Cornel Woolrich, that rich and very American school of hardboiled crime writing, where the writer, as Chandler once said, gives “murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons.” I thought to myself about these writers, “These are my people!” Much maligned by the literati in their day, they’re viewed as classics today. Lots of imitators are around, but the real deal can be found in the following: (1) A lean, honest, cut-to-the-chase writing style; (2) A storyline that deals with real people in real situations, even though it’s fiction, and written with authenticity; (3) A sense of the bigger picture, that underlying the actions and behavior of the characters are things in American society that help prompt them. I think my writing today is a combination of Southern gothic and hardboiled. I believe the South is every bit as noir as San Francisco or New York.

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

A: A writer friend of mine gave me great advice along the way. In an earlier version of my book, I ended the story long before the final end that was published. “You’re just half way there,” he told me. “Now take it all the way.” And I did. That same writer gave me good advice again as I neared the final version of my novel. This time, he said, you’re taking too long to get to what this story’s about. I sliced the first three chapters to start where the published version now starts. That was hard! I had then to go back and work key elements from those three chapters back into the book in ways that would fit and be natural, but I did it. Keep the reader in mind as you work your way through the story. You want to keep that reader hanging on to the strap, gasping for air half the time and not daring to let go! End each chapter on a note of suspense so that reader just absolutely has to go to the next page, the next chapter.

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: Casey Eubanks is a guy haunted by his late mother’s sexual promiscuity, his family’s rejection of him, the lack of respect he gets from others. His girlfriend Orella is the only one who ever gave him that respect, but he has a hard time taking a chance on a woman, and he’s quick to see betrayal in them. He’s an angry man who blames others for his problems but deep down knows he’s at the bottom of most of them.

I have a book of extensive notes and character bios, clipped photographs (of real people past and present who I think looked like my characters), hand-drawn maps of rooms, buildings, and alleyways, pages of historical facts and other jottings, all of which helped me keep track of the tiniest details. If a character has dark brown eyes on page 30, he better still have dark brown eyes on page 230! Casey is loosely based on the earlier mentioned black sheep of the Atkins family, something that I’m sure has my father turning over in his grave! Still, I never got to know that black sheep like I know Casey.

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’ve always been fascinated by old Nazis who escaped the hangman and are living out their lives in some remote backwater. I’ll never forget the great Jewish actor Nehemiah Persoff’s brilliant performance of one once on Twilight Zone. My German mother actually spent months in a Gestapo prison for a minor offense during World War II. A bit of anger can be a great motivator in writing. Don’t ever let it blind you, but I tell my students anger and especially righteous indignation helped spur a lot of the great writing and reporting in our country. My villain, Max Duren, is not only an old Nazi but he also looks suspiciously like a really bad boss I once had! Of course, that boss didn’t commit murder and mayhem, but I sometimes evoked him in the wee hours as I imagined Max the Big Mahah moving about his suite in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

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

A: Yes, as I said earlier, end each chapter on a note of suspense. Write in a fluid way that also makes that happen from sentence to sentence. Don’t get bogged down trying to tell too much at one time. Learn to sprinkle telling details and important information through your novel like so much stardust. Tantalize the reader, give him or her just enough to make them want to know more, and be cruel enough to make them wait a bit. Writing is an amazing exercise in honesty, truth, integrity. Keeping that reader in mind helps keep your ego at bay. You’re not writing to impress your readers with how smart and clever you are. You’re writing because you have a great story to tell. George Orwell said, “Be a windowpane.” He means don’t stand between your reader and the story. Make the reader even forget he’s reading a story. Make him live it!

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 made the South my “beat”—both as a journalist and fiction writer—a long time ago. It was my great dream once to leave this damned frustrating region, and I did. A year in Vietnam, four in Germany, and eight in D.C. made me see the South in a whole different way. I returned a student wanting desperately to understand the forces that have made it what it is. Casey goes from one end of the South to the other, and this setting is a character in the book, just as Balzac’s Paris or Algren’s Chicago are to their books. Yet the setting ultimately is a metaphor. What you’re really probing is the human condition, yes, in a particular place and time, but still the human condition that transcends place and time.

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 see a consistency in my work as a journalist and as a fiction writer. I may be a professor and writer today but I’m also still a working-class guy. My father was a tool & die maker, my mother a seamstress for many years, and I did blue-collar work into my late 20s. Most of the people who populate this novel are working-class folks, doing what they can to survive. Big forces are at play that affect their lives in significant ways and make it hard for them to see their way out. Not letting them off the hook, but it’s true. That was a theme of my book on the Southern labor movement, Covering for the Bosses, and it underlies the predicaments my characters in the novel find themselves in. The people running the South in both books have certain fascist characteristics that cannot be denied. It’s no accident Max Duren got himself a nice little setup down in Dixie.

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

A: Over-editing can definitely drain the juice out of a piece of writing. The writer can do this himself, and I may have done this with my first and still-unpublished novel. I kept taking it out of the oven and tampering with it, adding a bit of spice here, a squeeze of lemon there, then putting it back in till I burned the damned thing! Know when to let go. Eudora Welty once said a writer should quit on the third draft. Hemingway used to tease F. Scott Fitzgerald about excessive rewriting, yet Hemingway could be guilty of this too. It’s like everything. Every writer needs an editor, and it’s the rare early draft that doesn’t require a bucket-full of red ink, yet that can be overdone, too. Both the writer and the editor have to know when things are just right. I’m not sure there’s a demarcation line between craft and art, but you’ve reached the summit when you’ve created something that somehow just needed to be created. Writer-artist Chuck Trapkus told me that once, and he was quoting stonecutter Eric Gill.

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

A: You’ve got to strive for honesty in your writing. It takes a certain amount of integrity to avoid the shortcuts–the tired cliché, the borrowed phrase, the hackneyed description–and carve out a language that’s uniquely your own. Of course, we all start out borrowing, like I did in the 8th grade when I fell in love with Edgar Allan Poe and began churning out imitations so poor that Poe turned over in his Baltimore grave. You’ve got to work hard to find your own voice, of course, and not let every gust of wind throw you off course. If it knocks you down, pick yourself back up, and go at it again! Finally, you’ve got to define what success means to you. If it means a mansion on the hill and late-model sports car with a buxom blonde in the front seat, then you’re shooting for a different kind of success than I am. Not that I’m eschewing the fun money brings! Success for me is connecting with readers in a real and important way, where something I’ve written affected them and maybe, just maybe enriched or simply made their lives better in some way. The writer who achieves this has a deep empathy for people and the human condition. The ancient philosopher Philo of Alexandria once said, “Be kind to others for everyone is fighting a great battle.” The writer who’s successful in my book is the one who has a real and motivating sense of the truth of those words.

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: You can say the same thing about a reporter, a journalist. You’re always taking notes of observations you make going through life. You never know when you might need them. I’ve kept a journal since I was maybe 14 years old, and I’ve gone back to them many times to refresh my memory about certain experiences or events. The writer of fiction should do this as well. Here I go quoting other people again, but a late good friend of mine, Marty Fishgold, once told me, you spend the first half of your life going to the carnival, and the last half telling people what the carnival was like. Well, I would amend that to say, you’re still going to the carnival the last half of your life, too!

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

A: I got inspired early in life reading great writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Later I discovered Dorothy Day, Raymond Chandler, and modern writers like William Kennedy and Andre Dubus. Reading about their lives as well as reading their work inspired and encouraged me. Books and essays on writing like Nelson Algren’s Conformity, Hemingway’s On Writing, and Jon Winokur’s compendium, Advice to Writers are rich in wisdom about this craft. Get to know some writers. I treasure the many hours I’ve spent with my good friends, novelists Ace Atkins (no relation) and Jere Hoar, talking about not only writing but also horses, dogs, guns, crime, film noir, women, and bourbon while we shared a few glasses of the latter!

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

A: Only to say that beginning or struggling writers should go about discovering the passions that drive or motivate them, the ur-sources of what fire may be in their bellies. Maybe it’s an anger or righteous indignation about certain injustices out there. Maybe it’s an intense desire to understand why people are the way they are, what connects them or separates them. Maybe it’s a desire to come to terms with certain unresolved things within one’s own life, a desperate need for answers that may or may not exist. Find those driving forces, set out to get to the truth that underlies them, and do it in a way that’s honest and not afraid of hard work. If you do this, I know I’d like to read your book when you’re finished!





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arnaldo 3I enjoy a good murder. Oh, not necessarily an actual murder, but the kind of murders that occur between the pages of a good book. People ask me all the time, “What made you write about such gruesome stuff?”  I rarely have a good enough answer for them and the person asking usually leaves somewhat disappointed. How do you explain to the casual observer, reader, or even fan that you are possessed of a mind filled with all sorts of criminality?

Writers of thrillers, crime fiction, mysteries, etc. dwell in worlds bathed in foggy nights and overcast days. Peaceful ponds and lakes are actually places where bodies rise to the surface, pristine winter snows hide the corpses of hitch-hikers, runaways, or promising college students. We who write about crime must lurk in these dark places, it is who we are. And as a consequence we must also rise squinting into the sun and seek justice for those who have been so wronged. We create doctors, lawyers, detectives, housewives, writers, and even vampires who are willing to use their knowledge, skills, instinct and need to bring the bad guy to justice; to solve the very crime or crimes that we previously have so painstakingly committed on paper. It’s like knitting a wonderfully intricate afghan and then carefully pulling it apart as soon as it’s done.

But, alas, it’s what we do. Oh, and don’t get it wrong. Sure we create great antagonists. Some are evil geniuses, some are sociopaths and some are complete pychopaths! We use words like unsub, perp, the suspect, and so on to describe them, but isn’t the blood actually dripping from our hands?

It takes a very special mindset to just be a writer in the first place: to tackle

head on that blank page and build a world in which you hope to immerse your reader. And it’s even more special when it’s a criminal mind.


Title: Chickenhawk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Publisher: Koehler Books/Café Con Leche books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Chickenhawk is an urban crime fiction novel that showcases New York City’s diversity, as well as the dark side of race relations, politics, sexuality, illness, madness, and infidelity. Eddie Ramos and Tommy Cucitti are Manhattan North Homicide detectives after a serial killer that manages to stay below their radar while the body count keeps climbing in a city that’s turning into a powder keg.


About the Author:

Arnaldo Lopez Jr. has been employed by New York City Transit for twenty-eight years and was formerly employed as a dispatcher with the NYPD.  Mr. Lopez is also a speaker and trainer, speaking on subjects as diverse as terrorism and customer service.  He created the civilian counter-terrorism training program currently in use by New York City Transit and many other major public transportation agencies around the country.

As well as writing, Mr. Lopez is an artist and photographer, having sold several of his works over the years.  As a writer he’s sold articles to Railway Age magazine, The Daily News magazine, Homeland Defense Journal, and Reptile & Amphibian magazine; scripts to Little Archie and Personality Comics; and short stories to Neo-Opsis magazine, Lost Souls e-zine, Nth Online magazine, Blood Moon magazine, and various other Sci-Fi and/or horror newsletters and fanzines.  He was also editor of Offworld, a small science fiction magazine that was once chosen as a “Best Bet” by Sci-Fi television.  Chickenhawk is his first novel.

Connect with Arnaldo Lopez Jr. on Facebook and Twitter.

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corneredNew Release – A gripping crime thriller written by award winning Author Alan Brenham.
In Temple, Texas, Police Detective Matt Brady, assisted by FBI Special Agent Steve Casani, is investigating the disappearances of five beautiful women. Desperate, with no leads and the number of missing women growing at an alarming pace, Matt is desperate for answers.
Everyone knows that the person we become in life can be affected in a moment, by a word, or circumstance. The paths we take as a result and their consequences are sometimes, only discovered after the passing of time. These life-changing moments or words, for some people are stamped in their mind forever, silently festering and waiting to emerge, bringing back memories, which cloud the present.
This book is even more enjoyable because, whilst writing it, the author has been able to draw from his wealth and variety of personal experience in police and law, among which is his time as a Temple patrol officer and, Assistant General Counsel for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
A brilliantly written compelling thriller, action packed, clever and with twists and turns which are guaranteed to keep the reader guessing until the very end.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe – http://www.susan-keefe.com
Available from Amazon.

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StolenDreams_med-193x300I can’t believe this is the last book in the Cassie Scot new adult paranormal mystery series! I really have enjoyed this series a lot.

If you’re new to the series, I advise you to pick up the books in order:

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective  
Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2) 
Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)

In this the final installment, talented author Christine Amsden brings the infamous Scot vs. Blackwood family feud to a close, but not without filling her story with enough intrigue, mystery, twists and surprises to keep you thinking about the characters for a long time.

And this is, really, the biggest draw in these stories, the characters, especially Cassie and Evan. Cassie has been such a likable protagonist throughout the series, smart and strong and opinionated, yet caring and warm-hearted. Evan –yes, arrogant, condescending and overprotective Evan — has also been the perfect hero. They were school sweethearts…until Evan’s father stole her powers from her and gave them to Evan, thus starting a conflict between them that brought them to the depths of despair, especially for Cassie.

There are many subplots in this book, but the main problem happens when Cassie’s father is killed and she and her family think that Evan’s dad is the one responsible. The primary storyline has to do with finding out if this is true or not and, if not, then who, in fact, is responsible.

There are many surprises in Stolen Dreams, and I enjoyed all of them. Fans of romance will especially enjoy the focus on Cassie and Evan’s relationship. I loved the ending. In sum, this was a wonderful series, and the author delivered a satisfying closure. I wonder what she will come up next? I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for her future books.

My review was previously published in Blogcritics Magazine. 

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Identity CrisisTitle:
 Identity Crisis
Genre: Detective
Author: Jean Hackensmith
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Language: English
Pages: 260

When rumors of how Dan Hamilton actually died reach the Cheyenne Chief of Police, Brian Koski is forced to resign his position as captain of the Sixth Precinct and go into business for himself as a private detective. His partner? A mahogany colored Belgian Malinois named Sinbad. A former NYPD police dog, Sinbad is vicious when need be and reliable to a fault–unless a train goes by or there’s a thunderstorm, then chances are he will turn tail and run.

Brian’s first clients are Jeff and Melody Patten. He’s an explosives expert for a local demolitions company, she’s a stay-at-home Mom. Both are devoted parents to their young daughter, Angela. The problem comes in the form of one Collin Lanaski, an unstable ex-Air Force lieutenant and Angela’s second grade teacher, who suddenly starts insisting that Angela is his daughter—the same daughter who died in a tragic car accident four years earlier.  What does Collin base this incredible revelation on?  Dog tags and car seats.  Brian is convinced the man has suffered a psychotic break.  He’s delusional and dangerous, and it becomes the P.I.’s job to protect Angela from a madman.




I have been writing since the age of twenty.  (That’s 37 years and, yes, I’m disclosing my age.)  I am the proud mother of three, stepmother of two, and grandmother to twelve wonderful children.  I lost the love of my life, my husband Ron, in November of 2011 when he died in an accident at work.  He took my heart with him and, for a time, my desire to write.  Time, as they say, heals all wounds, and I have again discovered my passion for the written word.  In fact, I find it strangely comforting to delve into the intricate webs that are my character’s lives and immerse myself in their existence instead of dwelling on my own.

Next to writing, my second passion is live theater.  I founded a local community theater group back in 1992 and directed upwards of 40 shows, including three that I authored.  I also appeared on stage a few times, portraying Anna in The King and I and Miss Hannigan in Annie.  I am sad to say that the theater group closed its final curtain in 2008, but those 16 years will always hold some of my fondest memories.

My husband and I moved from Superior five years ago, seeking the serenity of country living.  We also wanted to get away from the natural air conditioning provided by Lake Superior.  We moved only 50 miles south, but the temperature can vary by 20-30 degrees.  I guess I’m a country girl at heart.  I simply love this area, even though I must now enjoy its beauty alone.  I love the solitude, the picturesque beauty of the sun rising over the water, the strangely calming effect of watching a deer graze outside your kitchen window.  Never again, will I live in the city.  I am an author, after all, and what better place to be inspired than in God’s own back yard.


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Mind Games
 is the much awaited third installment in the new adult mystery series, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Talented author Christine Amsden keeps delivering a great story filled with interesting characters, romance, mystery, and the paranormal, lots of it.

In this episode, Cassie still doesn’t know why Evan broke her heart two months ago, and the mystery gnaws at her big time. She decides to keep busy and make herself useful at the sheriff’s department. She also meets charismatic mind mage Matthew Blair…much to Evan’s distaste. At the same time, Eagle Rock is teeming with hate from the religious community, a reaction to the recent murder of a much-esteemed pastor’s wife by what the people believe was a sorcerer. The town is about to snap, with tensions between the magical and non-magical communities.

And in the center of all this, is Matthew, whom Cassie finds irresistible. But can she trust him? According to Evan, no way. But then, Evan isn’t the most objective person when it comes to Cassie. Evan and Cassie have a history, as well as a secret connection, that keeps them bound in spite of themselves.

Will Cassie discover the real culprit or culprits behind the pastor’s wife’s murder, as well as the real face behind the anti-magical propaganda and demonstrations? Most importantly, will she wake up and see Matthew for who he really is…and find the courage to face Evan for what he did to her—when she finds out?

I love this series and thoroughly enjoyed this instalment! There’s something about Cassie’s voice that makes her really likable. She has a good heart and is witty, too. But best of all, she is just an ordinary girl next door trying to do her best in spite of everything that happens around her—which is usually pretty remarkable, as is often the case in paranormal stories.

Her relationship with Evan keeps evolving organically and there’s a major revelation in this book about their connection and the secret behind their rival families. Matthew is a great addition to this episode, adding tension with his charismatic personality and inciting sparks of jealousy from Evan. The conflict between the religious and the magical communities is also well done.

Mind Games kept me reading late into the night, wondering what would happen next. If you haven’t read any books in this series before, I urge you to pick up book one first, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. The books are best read in order. You won’t be disappointed.

Purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Connect with the author on the web: 

Website / Newsletter / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Google+

My review was originally published on Blogcritics



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MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA real-life, true crime, memoir about the incredible story of a poor teenage Oklahoma farm boy who was charged with murdering his mother and sister in cold blood and then burning down the family home in a supposed attempt to cover up his crimes and his ten-year court battle to clear his name.

In the early morning hours of June 19, 1963, just four days before he was to leave for basic training, Bobby Wilson was awakened by his mother.

She held a loaded gun to his head and had a crazy, yet familiar, look in her eyes. Alongside his sister, Bobby had suffered her rants for years, but tonight was different. Bobby knew without a doubt that the demons that his mother had struggled with for years had their sights on him.

trialsHe realizes he has nowhere to turn and nowhere to run, but he has no idea that the nightmare has just begun. It is a nightmare that changes the course of his life. It is a nightmare that will ultimately take Bobby ten years to wake up from.


Apache Publishing:  http://www.apachepublishingcompany.com/buy.php

Amazon Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/BOBBYS-TRIALS-ebook/dp/B005DFC1NG/

Paperback:  http://www.amazon.com/Bobbys-Trials-Bobby-Wilson-JD/dp/1450739512/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bobbys-trials-bobby-wilson/1103089418?ean=9781617929168

Kobo:  http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/bobby-s-trials-1


Butch was barking like crazy and trying to lick my face. Every dog within a mile was barking. I looked around and could see dawn was breaking and our house was blazing, totally in flames, and so was my pickup parked nearby. It was a surreal scene.

Suddenly with a loud crash, our brick chimney collapsed onto the top of the burning house, causing the entire structure to become a roaring fire pit.

The neighbor helped me to my feet, and I leaned on a fence post for support. I was shaking badly and confused about everything. I was not sure if I was just having a terrible nightmare and I would soon wake up. I don’t remember how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I was here.

Fire trucks and ambulances arrived, and I was taken away to the hospital where I was treated for smoke inhalation, cuts, and burns on my face and back. The doctor told the deputy sheriff that I was in shock and very confused. The deputy offered to drive me back home, and he questioned me about what happened.

I told him I really did not know what had happened. He told me matter-of-factly that my mother and sister were dead and their bodies had been removed from the fire debris and were being taken to Oklahoma City for autopsies. He watched me closely for a reaction. There was none. The deputy could have just as well told me it was Thursday morning, June 19, 1963, and my response would have been the same: nothing. I was totally numb and confused. One thing I did remember that would bother me for years was a very strange odor in my nostrils that I could not identify, and my clothes still reeked of that unknown odor.


bobbyBobby was born in San Francisco, CA, on September 3, 1944, to a waitress mother and mysterious father.  His younger years were years of endless relocations until his mother and younger sister, Judy, ended their sojourn in Hugo, Oklahoma, the area of his mother’s upbringing, Indian country in Southeastern Oklahoma.

Intent on a military career, Bobby enlisted in the National Guard while beginning his high school senior year.  His plans for the future were suddenly cut short when he was jailed and criminally charged with his family’s deaths.

After his release from jail, Bobby had to rebuild his life from scratch and worked his way through the University of Texas and Texas Tech School of Law, all the while supporting a wife and daughter.

Bobby graduated from Law School in 1973 having already passed the State Bar exam.  He was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980.

He soon established himself as a fearless trial lawyer in the State of Texas, unafraid to take on the establishment or its leaders in civil and criminal litigation.  He made enemies in the legal profession, but his clients worshipped him.

In the early 1990’s Bobby quit the law business to become a professor of law.  He moved to Arizona and became certified to teach law and political science and was named Outstanding Business Faculty Instructor at Rio Salado College in 1999.

In 2001 he was retained by the disgraced Arthur Anderson and Company to write an Ethics guide for their employees in Arizona.

Bobby continues to write and teach law and paralegal courses for colleges in Arizona. Currently, Bobby is busy writing a series of books under his “Bobby Trials” banner as well as Murder Mysteries/Legal Thrillers. Bobby is married and currently living in Arizona.

This tour was sponsored by Worldwind Virtual Book Tours

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Spirit Shapes CoverQuestion: Deputy, what can you tell me about the murder in the so-called haunted house?

Deputy Crabtree: Not a whole lot at this point. A murder victim, a male in his late teens, was discovered in the upstairs of an abandoned house.

Question: Who made the discovery?

Deputy Crabtree: Ghost hunters.

Question: That leads me to the question, did you find any ghosts?

Deputy Crabtree: The house is full of ghosts and evil spirits. Whether you believe in such things or not, in this case I can assure you they are very real.

Question: Fascinating, so how can you be so sure? Does the ability come with being a Native American?

Deputy Crabtree: Not necessarily, but since I once successfully called back the dead in order to find out the truth about a murder and suicide, I’ve been extremely sensitive to the presence of spiritual beings. 

Question: What about your husband? I know he is a preacher, does he share this ability?

Deputy Crabtree: No, and for his sake, I’m glad. It’s not a pleasant experience, and in the case of this particular haunted house, it is almost painful.

Question: Goodness, I certainly didn’t expect that answer. In what way is it painful?

Deputy Crabtree: The house is not only inhabited by ghosts, but also evil spirits. I’m afraid it’s hard to explain and I hope you never have to experience it. 

Question: Are you on your way to solving the case?

Deputy Crabtree: I certainly hope so, though at this point there is nothing more I can tell you except that I have been doing all the things the detectives in charge of the case have asked me. 

Question: One more thing, please. Will you be able to rid the house of whatever is haunting it?

Deputy Crabtree: That is not my job, however, if I can find out anything about the ghosts that might help them move on, I will.

Question: Thank you for your time, Deputy, and good luck.

Deputy Crabtree: I’ll need something much stronger than luck.

About Spirit Shapes:

Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

Marilyn at MayhemBio:

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/ 


The person who comments on the most blogs on this blog tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting here: http://marywelk.com/





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Blood Moon.jpg 250 x 375

Book Description

Book II of the Huntress/FBI Thrillers

Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace.

The haunted child who was the only surviving victim of his rampage is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own, and Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt for her, despite his conflicted sympathies for her history and motives.

But when his search for her unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman Roarke seeks – and wants – may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath.


Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon DE

My thoughts…

This novel was a hell of a ride. Sokoloff has a gift for creating engrossing plots and heart-racing thrillers. I read the first book in the series, Huntress Moon, and although I loved that first instalment, this second one was even better.

First of all, the whole thing about the female serial killer–actually, a vigilante–is quite compelling, especially because our protagonist, Roarke, develops torn, conflicting feelings toward her. And we can’t help but do the same! Sokoloff has done her research well and she incorporates lots of information about the mind of the serial killer. She does this skillfully, however, without including long information dumps like some other authors do. Roarke is a sympathetic hero with a high sense of honor and justice. There are lots of twists and turns, yet the story evolves organically, with the right balance of quiet moments between the thrills. Lots of atmosphere, lots of interesting setups.

If you haven’t read Sokoloff’s novels yet, I highly recommend you do. She’s one of my favorite authors these days and her stories never disappoint. One more thing, although Moon Blood is the 2nd one in the series, it holds well as a stand-alone book, as the author incorporates bits of backstory here and there to quickly draw readers right into the central plot of the series. In sum, if you’re a fan of suspense and thrillers, I strongly recommend you pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

Read my interview with Alexandra Sokoloff HERE.

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