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Chance of a GhostChance of a Ghost is the fourth installment in the Haunted Guesthouse series and the first that I’ve had the pleasure to read.  While this is not how I would usually describe my reaction to a mystery novel, there’s really no other way to say it:  I was charmed.

The story picks up where (I assume), the last book, Old Haunts, left off.  Alison Kerby, a single mother and guesthouse owner, is just trying to get by and give her precocious ten year-old daughter, Melissa, a good life.  Now that right there could be the start of a romance or a drama, except for one thing:  Alison Kerby sees ghosts.  And so does her widowed mother.  And her daughter.  It’s like a genetic disease.  Alison is especially sensitive to the presence of two specific ghosts – a muscular Canadian P.I. named Paul, and the tech-savvy former owner of the guesthouse – an acid-tongued woman named Maxie.  While still amongst the living, Maxie had hired Paul to uncover who was threatening her and lo and behold, they both ended up dead.  In previous books, Alison had helped uncover their killers and subsequently got her P.I.’s license.  Needless to say, life hasn’t quite been the same since.

But Chance of a Ghost takes a far more personal turn for its freshly minted private eye.  When Alison’s deceased father stands up her very living mother for their regular Tuesday date, things start to get very suspicious.  A new ghost with a theatrical flair and a murder to solve (his own) suggests that Alison’s father may have met with other-worldly foul play.  Faced with painful memories of her father’s arduous death from cancer, Alison must determine whether her father has finally gone to the other-other side, or if something more sinister is at work.

In Alison Kerby, we readers get a wise-cracking, foot-in-mouth would-be gumshoe.   And one who has managed to crawl into that little space in my reader’s heart and set up camp.  Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a good laugh and a great ghost story, and Chance of a Ghost delivers both.  It’s not the knee-slapping, comedy club at two in the morning kind of laugh, but it is the sort that keeps an unshakable smile on your face – at least until the suspense gets dialed up.  And fear not, it does.

And there’s a sweetness to EJ Copperman’s writing, too.  He brings you into a family – a quirky, but loving family – without sacrificing what often makes a mystery most delicious, which is an off-kilter, unlucky at love protagonist with a dry wit and stubborn moral compass.

In short, Night of the Living Deed – the first in the series – is next up on my reading list.

Reviewed by Victoria Dougherty

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Born in Barnet, Hertfordshire, England, Barry left his beloved England in 2000, moving to the USA. Under the name “Storyheart,” Barry is better known for his short romance stories on the net and in his book “Stories from the Heart“. His first YA novel “Across the Pond” proved extremely popular with over 120 reviews on Amazon.  Now he is going back to his romantic roots with the first of a series of books “The Bathroom Book of Romance”.

Barry’s whit, oratory, and old-fashioned English charm make him a popular interviewee. He is also host of the popular radio show “A Book and a Chat” with over 450 shows under his belt.

 

Web Site: http://romance2read.com

About the Book:

The Bathroom Book of Romance – Book 1 “ is the first in a series of books with short stories, is short enough to read over a cup of tea or coffee, or whenever you have some time to yourself, yet long enough to bring a tear to your eye or a smile to your face. In fact some people call them “bathroom stories” as that might be the only place you get five minutes peace and quiet to yourself.

Thanks for this interview, Barry! What was your inspiration for The Bathroom Book of Romance ?

The title of the book comes from when I first started writing these short stories many years ago, originally is was that  you could read the stories whenever you had five minutes peace and quiet. One reader (the stories used to be produced online) that with three young children the only time she got peace and quiet was if she locker herself away in the bathroom, so the stories became “bathroom stories”.

Tell us something about your hero and/or heroine that my readers won’t be able to resist.

Being numerous short stories there are many different types of characters, hero’s, ages and relationships. Over this book and the next two I have tried to cover every form of romance I can think of. There are always twists and turns and I try to fool the reader whenever I can, in fact I actually take great pleasure in being told… “You did it to me again, I thought it was such and such an ending…”

What is your favorite story in the book?

This is the first of a series of books with the stories written for not only book two but a Christmas Special. I have many stories I really like, I used to have my own local TV station where I used to come on like Mr Rogers, and narrate a story or two to the camera. Hardest part of that is looking up at the camra and then down at the story I was reading without losing my place. But you asked about my favorite stories. The first four in the book “The Radio Show”, Love of an Angel”, Emerald Eyes” and “Why?” are ones I like though there are many more that have their own special spots.

What do you love most about being an author?

I always bulk at being called an author, though with my YA book “Across the Pond” having over 120 reviews on Amazon I guess I can call myself that, though I prefer to be called a “story teller”. My English is not brilliant; I do not have authors names dropping from my tongue like so many authors, and as for my spelling… thank goodness for spell-check. I love chatting to authors though which can be seen from the popularity of my radio show “A Book and a Chat” which now numbers around 470 shows, and not just authors I am a huge fan of bloggers and try to get them on the show when possible.

A Short story from book two… “The Rose”

Night stirred its inky finger at the ending of the day, the office lights breaking through the windows into the dark night. Desks emptied as people sort to get an early start to the weekend.

She completed the last letter she had to send that day, filled in the final figures on the day’s spreadsheet, and was just about to close down her PC when a message popped up saying she had a new email. She was going to open the email to check what it was when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning round, she looked into the sparkling eyes that belonged to Andy, her boss, which as normal, set her heart racing.

“Still here?” he said with a smile. “Nothing to go home too?”

She smiled back.  “Nothing much.”

Not as if you were there she thought, then scolded herself in case she let her secret feeling for Andy show.

Andy smiled once more. “Well, see you on Monday” And with that, left her to her thoughts.

He was so good looking, she thought to herself, as she watched his rear disappearing out the door.

With a sigh, she shut of her computer, letting the email wait until Monday, and slowly made her way to the lift. She had nothing to go home to except an empty and lonely house. Her husband was a long gone, and good riddance. Her son was at college far away, and all that was there for her, was another lonely night.

She reached the exit of the building. There, waiting for her was Mike, the security guard. Mike always there with a smile that seemed just for her, understanding her moods and problems sometimes before she herself knew them. Mike, whom she could tell anything to, knowing it would go no further and that he would never judge her. As normal, he held open the door, his arm almost but not quite touching her as she went by.

“Night Mable, have a good one,” he said to her with a smile.

“Night Mike.” she answered back over her shoulder as she walked to where she had parked her car. “And thank you.” She blew him a kiss as normal.

She walked down the now empty parking spaces to where hers was parked, and opened to door to get in the car, when she noticed something on the front window. Moving round, she realized it was a rose, a single red rose placed under one of her wiper blades. Taking it carefully in her hands, she looked for a note or something to say whom the rose had been from, but there was nothing.

She drove home trying to work out in her mind that might have left her the flower. Could it have been Andy, guessing her feeling for him, and letting her know that he felt the same? Perhaps it was Mike, just showing her that he cared?

Her mind went through all the other possible people, but kept coming back to Andy and Mike. The weekend seemed to fly by, with her thoughts always turning to the rose that took pride of place on her table in the small glass vase. Was it Andy, or was it Mike? She had to wait until Monday to find out.

At last Monday came, she parked her car as normal and found Mike waiting for her with an open door. She flashed a special smile his way eager to thank him if indeed the rose had been from him.

“Thank you so much,” she said, lingering for a few moments before walking through the door, as if waiting for him to reply. But Mike did not say anything about flowers or her, so she hurriedly made her way to her desk.

Andy. Andy. It had to be Andy. After all this time at last he was showing her that he felt the same way as she did.

She waited for Andy to come in, her heart racing at the thought of him leaving a rose for her.

While she waited, she checked her mail, the first message being the one that she left on Friday, it was from her son.

“Hi Mum.” it read “I was just passing through on my way to a friend’s house, from where I am sending you this email. I did not really have time to stop, just thought I’d let you know how much I love you. I hope you enjoy the rose. Love, Don

With a sigh, the dream bubble burst. Oh well, she thought, at least her son loved her.

*****

Author’s twitter: storyheart52

Author’s facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/storyheart 

Link to purchase page: http://romance2read.com

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There are things in this world that can’t just be explained away, happenings that occur and evil that dwells in the darkest recesses of the Earth. Have you ever wondered what causes a darkness to settle over you, that eerie feeling that something just isn’t right? I know I have, and so has Detective Nikki Adams.

Nikki is a homicide detective for the Boston Police Department and she quickly discovers that there may be more to the Boston nightlife than good music and the corner bar. I’ve always admired women who stand up for what they believe in, no matter the circumstances. Nikki is bombarded with vampires, werewolves, and a dark secret her family has kept for generations, but she is still determined to do her job and keep Boston safe from the killer that is wreaking havoc on the city.

Snow Beast, the first in my new Dark Warrior series, delves into the world of the paranormal while inter-mingling my love for criminal justice. As a paranormal writer, I get to explore history, crime, and all the fascinating aspects of the unexplained. Setting the Dark Warrior series in Boston allows for a rich setting of history. My fascination with criminal justice is explored through the eyes of Nikki as she solves each case. Just to twist things around, Nikki discovers vampires are real.

Detective Stephanie Wills already knows this in The Christmas Present. Her family has been hunting vampires for years. She just doesn’t believe they are all bad. Stephanie’s life gets turned upside down Christmas Day when she is called in to her job with the Seattle Homicide Division, and there is a body drained of blood hanging suspended from the ceiling at the downtown art gallery.

Stephanie has to face her worst fears, and go vampire-hunting with her family before vampires drain the good citizens of Seattle. I live in the Northwest with my husband and son, and the area lends itself to mystery and suspense. With the sky darkened by rain clouds for most of the year, it’s easy to imagine the place infested by vampires. The Christmas Present is the first in a series called The Hunter Diaries, I look forward to releasing the next book Bite Me soon.

Taking these two brave women on a harrowing journey both dangerous, and full of possibilities, I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Excerpt The Christmas Present

Preview

Chapter 1

Large white flakes of snow floated down. Stephanie Wills stood on her back porch. Her finger trailed a path along the cold metal of the old wrought iron railing. It was Christmas Eve, and she was alone. The spot where her engagement ring had rested was bare.

Who needs men anyway? Stephanie raised the champagne glass to her lips. Not me. Nope. It had been the same all her life. One guy after another had left. Her damn family always chased them off, and Daniel was no different. She had waited this time, until she had a ring on her finger, and a wedding date set. It hadn’t done any good.

Stephanie’s brother had let the cat out of the bag, crashing in on their nice family dinner, looking like he’d been beaten and dragged through the dirt for a few hundred yards. She guessed that wasn’t far from the truth. Daniel had been fine with that part. It was when her brother yelled to secure the house, and her mother handed him a stake that things really started to turn.

The night ended with Daniel walking stunned from her parents home, after an all-out battle against a group of vampires. He’d asked for his ring back, and Stephanie was too proud to deny him. After all, who wanted to have a family of vampire hunters as their in-laws? A tear slipped down her cheek. She sniffed and wiped angrily at the tear, taking a gulp of champagne. Stephanie was giving up on men.

Christmas lights twinkled at her merrily. Perhaps she shouldn’t give up on men entirely, after all. They were so much fun to have around, most of the time. Maybe she could make a list; a New Year’s Resolution list. The New Year was just around the corner. People came up with lists all the time. Why not one for relationships? Knowing just what she would put at the top of her list, she wanted to get started.

Stephanie stumbled back into the house, glared at the Christmas tree in the corner of her living room, and made her way to the desk. Placing her glass on the desktop, she yanked open a drawer, pulled out a notepad, and rummaged around for a pen that would write. After several unsuccessful tries, she growled and marched over to her police jacket hanging from her coat rack. Stephanie pulled out the pen she knew worked, smiled at it, and sat down to write her list.

At the top, she scrawled Resolutions.

1) No settling for less, go only for eternal bliss – no more losers

2) Stay away from my family and all things supernatural

3) Lose 10 pounds

There. Stephanie racked her brain. She couldn’t come up with anything else right now, and her head was spinning. Glaring at her champagne glass, she pushed it back on her desk and stood up.

Maybe a good movie would take her mind off things? Wondering what was on the television she wandered over and pushed the power button on the remote. It’s A Wonderful Life flared on the screen and Stephanie grimaced. It was going to be all Christmas movies tonight. She flipped through the channels rapidly, and decided there wasn’t anything on that was going to make her feel any better. Powering off the TV, she leaned her head back on the arm of the couch. Perhaps she should just go to sleep.

Stephanie closed her eyes, and tried not to think of her fiancé, well, ex-fiancé. It didn’t help. Her head started to spin more. Restless, she popped her eyes open, and got up. Perhaps a good book would help. Her bookshelf called to her, and Stephanie pulled out her favorite. If she couldn’t find a man in real life then Nicholas would just have to do. Opening the first page, she began to read about the exploits of her favorite character, Nicholas Garreth.


About the Author

Serena Zane currently lives with her husband and her son in the Northwest. Working full-time at a day job, she also plays hard, and spends her free time studying the Middle Ages in a re-creationist organization called the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc (SCA). Much of her time is spent between training for heavy armored combat, learning about music in the 16th Century, and writing her novels.

Serena started writing at an early age with short stories, and poetry inspired by her mother, a strong independent woman who loves to help others, and wrote her own stories. Dark Hope was picked up and published by Southwest Publications in 2008.

In 2009 Serena became a member of Romance Writer’s of America, and has been working on her craft with the wonderful members of the Olympia Chapter. Though she does love the Middle Ages, and will most likely write a historical romance in the near future, she fell in love with the idea of writing a contemporary action/adventure romance while she was attending college to study Criminal Justice.

After months of working on homework assignments late at night that made her want to turn on every light in the house, she decided it would be a great idea to take some of the ideas running through her head and commit them to paper.

Serena has recently stared exploring the world of Short Story writing and will soon be releasing her first Short through Books To Go Now.

Link to author’s website or blog: http://www.serenazane.com

The Christmas Present

Books to go Now: http://www.bookstogonow.com/thechristmaspresent.html

Amazon Ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006ASJQKQ

Amazon UK Ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B006ASJQKQ

Barnes&Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1036585889?ean=2940013502369

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lolaYou may want to hold this book with gloves, because it is caliente!

Lola Cruz is a young and feisty private detective working for Camacho and Associates. Her quirky co-workers include an overbearing boss and a blue-haired secretary who thinks she looks like Jennifer Lopez. Of course, these aren’t the only people driving her crazy: there’s also her meddling, over-protective mom, playboy brother and a young cousin who wants her help for an upcoming quinceanera party.

Then one day Lola is put in charge of a high-profile case. A woman has disappeared, and Lola must find out what happened to her. Her investigation once again puts her in contact with Jack Callaghan, a journalist she’s had a crush on since high school and who happens to be her brother’s good friend. Just as in the old times, sparks go off as soon as they meet. Though Lola doesn’t exactly want his help, he somehow finds a way to show up in the most unusual–and dangerous–situations. As the investigation progresses, takes a bad turn, and the list of suspects keeps growing, it becomes evident that the case isn’t a simple ‘disappearance’ and that some important people are involved. Will Lola bring her relationship with Jack to another level, solve the case, and live to tell about it?

Living the Vida Loca is a fun, entertaining novel. Lola is a sympathetic, good-hearted, spunky protagonist who gives a new meaning to the words ‘private investigator’. For one thing, she refuses to carry a gun! The story combines romance, mystery and humor and moves at a fast pace that will keep you turning those pages. There’s a great array of secondary characters that add color to the story. I found there was a good balance between the romance and the mystery, without one getting in the way of the other. There’s also a lot of romantic tension between the hero and heroine. This is the first book in the Lola Cruz mystery series and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the next book. Be sure to add this title to your summer reading list!

Visit the author’s website: http://misaramirez.com/

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Available on Amazon

If you like mystery novels with rich plots that dig into the past, then you’ll enjoy Silenced Cry by Marta Stephens.

During a routine pick-up for questioning, Detective Sam Harper loses his partner and friend, Gillies. Harper is confused and distraught by the event, which happens under suspicious circumstances. Soon afterwards he’s called to solve a murder case like none he’s been involved before: the homicide of an infant. In a rundown building that’s about to be demolished, trapped behind a wall, they find the skeletal remains of an newborn baby. To make matters worse, the murder seems to have taken place not recently but over a decade ago, making the investigation a lot harder.

As Detective Harper begins to investigate, a line of suspects slowly emerges. The detective must moved back in time in order to uncover the terrible events which let to the infant’s demise. Soon he’s pulled into a vortex of drugs, corruption, rape and murder as other members of the police force become suspects. At the same time, someone wants the case close and the building demolished as soon as possible, someone who doesn’t want Harper opening the door to the past.

Who murdered the infant? Is the murder only a small part of a much larger set of crimes which have been kept secret all these years? Is Harper ready to face the truth and come to terms with the results of his own investigation?

Silenced Cry is deftly crafted and an impressive first novel. The pace moves steadily without being too quick nor too slow, allowing the reader to savor each stage of the investigation. The dialogue is sharp and natural and the prose focuses on the action without letting unnecessary details and description get in the way. The police procedurals read realistically, giving the impression that the author either knows well about the subject or did a fair amount of research. For me, this was not a thriller that read at a fast pace, but a ‘gourmet’ mystery that I enjoyed at every stage of the story. Sam Harper is a likable character, but I would say that this is a plot-driven novel more than a character-driven one. Our detective protagonist is sympathetic, but there were times when, for me, he got lost in the midst of the plot. I feel he would have stood out more given stronger, more sharply defined characteristics or quirks. This is an observation more than a criticism, as it didn’t lessen by desire to keep on reading. The secondary characters are quite realistic as well, especially some of the suspects–though I don’t dare say more for fear of giving away spoilers.

Marta Stephens is a mystery author to watch out for. I will be soon reviewing the second book in the series, The Devil Can Wait, and I have to say I’m very much looking forward to it. If you enjoy an intelligently crafted detective story, I recommend you give this one a try.

I should point out that Detective Sam Harper has his own character blog a Sam Harper Crime Scene.

–Mayra Calvani

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thechosend184Today my guest is author C. A. Milson, whose book, The Chosen, was recently released by Amira Press and will soon be translated into Russian. Milson has traveled extensively all over the world. His expeditions have taken him to such places as Australia, New Zealand, Russian, China, Japan and Canada. His second novel, Bloodline Of Darkness will be available in mid 2009. The Chosen and Bloodline of Darkness are the first two novels in his horror/supernatural trilogy.

1. What inspired me to write this book? The first inspiration for writing this particular story came to me in 1989, when I was living inMelbourne, Australia. The original story was titled “Shack of Evil”, a 9-page story based on the character of Jamiesonn. The story idea came from a Hobby tex picture my mother had on the wall of her apartment. After writing “Shack of Evil”, I went on to write an additional 25 short stories, all of different genres, including a children’s story. “Shack of Evil” would later become the base for what is now the trilogy of The Chosen, Bloodline of Darkness, and Prophecy’s End.

2. What was the hardest part of writing this? The hardest part is the re-writing of chapters and scenarios. No part of writing is perfect from the first sentence, as I will have an idea for a chapter, then when I have reviewed it I am likely to scratch that whole scene and go in a completely different direction. The other hard part is coming up with new ideas and concepts. There are times when I can sit in front of the computer for hours with no inspiration at all.

3. What’s your favorite scene? One of my favorite scenes in The Chosen is when Alex faces his nemesis for the last time. Alex has been annointed with supernatural power that even the forces of darkness sit back in awe. There is this one scene where he is thrown into the sea of fire, and.. well, I won’t say too much as that will give the plot away 🙂

4. What do you hope readers will say about your book? I hope my readers will say that they loved my novel and await for the second one to come out.

5. What’s next for you? Next for me is writing Bloodline of Darkness,which is the second in the trilogy in the life of Alex Manning – A man who is put in the middle of a spiritual conflict he otherwise wants no part of. Bloodline of Darkness is set seven years after The Chosen. Alex has forsaken his powers to live a “normal” life, and the forces of Tartarus have arisen to harvest the souls of humans and plunge the world into darkness. Alex once again must stand and save humanity but can he overcome the ever present darkness that also reigns in his own heart?

The Chosen is available through my website: http://authorcamilson.blogspot.com, as well as many other online retailers.

Thanks for visiting the Dark Phantom, C.A., and good luck with your books!

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A native of Washington D.C., Ed Lynskey is the author of the crime fiction novels The Dirt-Brown Derby, The Blue Cheer, and Pelham Fell Here, all three featuring private investigator Frank Johnson. His work has appeared on major publications such as The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle. In this interview, Lynskey talks about his crime novels, and writing and inspiration.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, Pelham Fell Here. What inspired you to write it?

Pelham Fell Here is a prequel written later, in this case as the third book, of my P.I. Frank Johnson mystery series. In other words, Pelham is the first book but has been published as my third. This came about due to two different publishers and slipping release dates.

Actually I believe it has worked out better in some ways. I had the advantage of knowing the character when I wrote the back story, sort of reverse engineering. Anyway reviewers and readers have written and told me Pelham Fell Here is the most complex and fulfilling title to date in the series. That’s gratifying to hear, but I probably like it the least. So go figure.

The premise behind Pelham Fell Here is to relate just how Frank Johnson falls into the crazy private detective trade. I’ve read a number of P.I. series by vintage and contemporary authors, and I don’t know of one where that’s been previously done. Pelham is a story of self-discovery, too.

Frank returns home from his Army M.P. service, and his old assumptions of the place and the people he thought he knew are jarred. Frank prefers to view his native town its old cozy way. But all that goes out the window when his cousin Cody Chapman is found murdered.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

Avid is the perfect adjective, too. When I was four, my family migrated from the Virginia suburbs in Washington, D.C. to the sticks near a small town. Back then I was bummed, but I’m nothing but glad these days. We lived on the corner lot carved off what was once a giant plantation (growing corn and wheat, I was told) and no other kids lived near us.

So, I sought alternative forms of entertainment. Reading supplied one big solution. First-rate genre stuff: mysteries, westerns, espionage, adventure, YA, and anything that told a good yarn. For instance, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators was a gas. Now I’ve find myself like when I was a kid and reading just for the fun of it.

Who is your target audience?

I’ve mulled over this question throughout my writing the P.I. Frank Johnson mystery series. My target audience, I believe, has widened as the series has progressed. The Dirt-Brown Derby was a straight male detective story. There’s a murder and Frank is sent to solve it. No larger concerns really emerge from the narrative. Frank carries the burden of the dramatic role without even a sidekick. The back story is kept to a minimum.

Then The Blue Cheer came. Frank moves to West Virginia and is forced to rely on his friends. More back story is introduced. So, I hope Blue Cheer will appeal to a wider spectrum of readers.

In Pelham Fell Here, my current book, Frank involves his pals again, but he also finds himself entangled in a couple romances, including a dark and sinister one. Reviewers have written Pelham is the best of the series titles, it being more “complex” and “intriguing”. So, I see Pelham as appealing even more to readers. For instance, YA libraries are now buying my P.I. Frank Johnson mysteries.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

My life is pretty dull fare, so I definitely fall in the latter camp. Pelham was inspired by my sense of a place, the rough equivalent of the small town where I grew up. The mental snapshots I had weren’t manufactured in a fantasy or daydream but from distant memories. I guess in that way the plot does spring from my life experiences. Then I embellished and dovetailed the setting to suit the storyline.

The climax occurring on Uncle Sam’s satellite farm also derives from an actual place. Our egg lady (yes, we bought our eggs from an old lady who raised hens and sold eggs) lived next to a sprawling complex surrounded by a chain link fence. These different sizes and shapes of satellite dishes and towers filled the field. The vista I gawked at was something out of a pulp science fiction. What all went on there I don’t know. Something to do with the Cold War or UFOs, I suppose. Anyway, I knew the satellite farm was a ripe place to stage a noir’s mayhem and nastiness.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

When does the Muse bite? What a great question. You know, I’m about halfway through the first draft of my W-I-P. I can see there are plot holes in the narrative arc. I can see I have several options to go with creating the bad guy. But right this instance I don’t know which way to go. So all I can do is trust the creative process and keep the faith that ideas will come tomorrow, or the next day. So, it’s the daily process.

My analog brain doesn’t experience too many Eureka moments. My solutions come when I’m sitting and working on the current project. Daydreaming is bad for me. I might fall off the roof while cleaning the gutters. Or I’ll mow off my toes while mowing the lawn. Or I’ll rear end another motorist while I’m out driving. My thinking process, I’ve come to see, requires the discipline and focus to work on the task at hand which for me is writing and editing my long fiction.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

I guess critique groups and partners are useful for starting out of the gate. After that, I don’t know. Larry Block in his fiction-writing primer Telling Lies for Fun & Profit includes a semi-prayer. He basically gives thanks for his talent and asks for guidance in doing his own work and not to be concerned with what and how other writers are doing. I like that. Look, this is a solitary gig. You’ve got to be cool in your own skin. You’ve got to be content with your output. That means forgetting all the blogs, twitters, agents, MFAs, coaches, editors, and the all the rest of the hue. You just do it.

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

I think today’s readers want to learn about stuff. I mean look at the avalanche of self-help books and huge nonfiction market. Readers want to feel like it’s worth their time to invest in your book. Telling a good story makes for a distraction and entertainment for some readers. But other readers want more than that. Dan Brown writing about The Da Vinci Code makes that point.

My work is rich in historical details such as the title to Pelham Fell Here suggests. Pelham was a famed Southern artillerist from the American Civil War. Since Frank is an ex-MP and a detective, I use investigative techniques and police work. Frank Johnson is a gunsmith by trade, so I include details about firearms, not so much about calibers and ballistics, but how they’re made. Years ago I worked for the late Sam Cummings, the international arms merchant.

What type of scenes gives you the most trouble to write?

For a time, I had difficulty writing the scenes set in large cities. To me, cities all look alike. You’ve got the same streets, shopping malls, and Starbucks. What else is there to see? But I’ve lived just outside of Washington, D.C. for the past ten years, and I go downtown frequently to catch sporting events and to see shows and exhibits. Ten years is a long time for residing in a transient city like D.C. Life experience, then, has taught me what makes a city — at least this one — really tick.

Writing love and romance scenes that ring true are tough for me. I just wrote and rewrote the scenes, striving to make them sound natural and credible. I’ve gotten better at it. But relationships are the glue to fiction so I want to write them well.

Thanks for stopping, Ed, and good luck with your book.

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