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The Guardian-SMAmazon Bestselling author Anna del Mar writes hot, smart romances that soothe the soul, challenge the mind, and satisfy the heart. Her stories focus on strong heroines struggling to find their place in the world and the brave, sexy, kickass heroes who defy their limits to protect the women they love. A Georgetown University graduate, Anna enjoys traveling, hiking, skiing, and the sea. Writing is her addiction, her drug of choice, and what she wants to do all the time. The extraordinary men and women she met during her years as a Navy wife inspire the fabulous heroes and heroines at the center of her stories. When she stays put—which doesn’t happen very often—she splits her time between Colorado and Florida, where she lives with her indulgent husband and a very opinionated cat.

Anna loves to hear from her readers. Connect with Anna at:

Annadelmar.com

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Anna@annadelmar.com

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INTERVIEW:

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

A: Sure! The Guardian is the story of Matthias Hawking, an ex-SEAL turned game warden, engaged in a fierce battle to end poaching in Africa. When Jade Romo, a beautiful, stubborn, fiery journalist defies the poachers, Matthias will do everything in his power to protect the woman who has captured his heart.

The Guardian was born during a holiday in Africa. It was supposed to be a no-laptop, no-writing vacation. But I get a lot of inspiration from my trips and this one was packed with inspiration. Tanzania is an amazing country. And who could resist the magnificent Serengeti as the backdrop for an epic love story?

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

A: I think a good romantic suspense novel has to have a strong, twisting plot, an awesome setting and smart, clever, conflicted characters who defy terrible odds and evolve to challenge and love each other throughout the story. The stakes must be high, that’s a big one for me, with issues that matter in and out of bed, to each person, but also to all of us, to the human race. Oh, and a sweet, happy ending. That’s key for me. That’s more than three things, isn’t it? I’m smiling.

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

A: This is one of those cases where reality laid out the storyline for me. There have been so many cases of major poaching documented in the press. When I was traveling in Africa, several of these cases were in the news. The threats that Matthias and Jade confronted in The Guardian are very real.

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: Matthias Hawking’s character is based on a number of real ex-special forces operators that have collaborated with the global fight against poaching. Matthias’s skill set as an ex-Seal fit neatly into the storyline. As to Jade Romo, in her own words, she’s what happens when you meld Anthony Bourdain with Nat Geo and add heaping spoon of attitude to the mix.

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: To create my villains, I read the African papers, scoured the news about the world of poaching’s principals, and talked to the people on the ground. My story is completely fictional and yet, regretfully, similar things happen all too often, for real.

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

A: I kept a quick pace and made sure the plot twisted in a few key places. I also peppered the story with clues and details that came together at the end. It helped that both Matthias and Jade were so action-oriented. Neither one was willing to take a backseat to the action. Both of them were in the middle of everything.

The conflict between them helped and so did their competitive natures. Some of the best, most exciting scenes in this novel are exactly that. In this case, creating an action-adventure male/female alpha pair was the perfect fit for the plot. Their romance fed on the action scenes in such a way that their respective skill sets came through. Jade learned to trust Matthias and respect his competencies and Matthias loved Jade as she was, a hurricane wearing boots.

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: Well, let’s face it. My setting was incredible and so well suited to showcase the characters in this story. Africa is an amazing continent. Tanzania blew me away. The Serengeti—come on!—the Serengeti is the third character in The Guardian. It offered infinite opportunities to the writer in me. The landscape, the wildlife, the people, I used it all to offer what I hope is a vivid, breathtaking background. In my mind, the Serengeti was an epic setting for an epic love story. In fact, if you’d like to see the images that inspired many of the pivotal scenes in The Guardian, click here to see my pictures of Africa.

Q: Did you know the themes of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Are these themes recurrent in your other work?

A: I’m very passionate about my heroes. I love to write about my amazing wounded warriors, who rise from the ashes like mythological Phoenixes. In The Guardian, I carried through the theme, which by the way, also implies that the experience of being wounded, challenged, and defied by life itself is something that we all share as human beings. It’s not about physical wounds. It’s about psychological wounds.

In that way, both Matthias and Jade are wounded warriors, even though neither one of them is likely to recognize themselves as such. The idea of sex and love as healing elements is pivotal as well. Most importantly is the recognition that we are all wounded beings in one way or another. My wounded warriors teach us about the courage of healing through taking on the ultimate risk: love.

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

A: Writing is a craft and an art. The story demands both. A technically proficient novel without art reads like an instruction manual without a soul. An artistic work of fiction is unreadable when the writer neglects the craft. The novelist must be an artist and a technician of the craft at the same time.

As to editing, I think it’s always meant to be a force of good to the story. The problem ensues when editing becomes a way of censorship to the author. Self-editing can be particularly murderous to the creative flow, especially to a new, inexperienced author. The obvious prescription to overcome that is writing. You write now, and you edit later.

I’m also a huge fan of professional editing. I think an experienced, capable, professional editor offers the best and fastest opportunity to polish a manuscript. Notice the adjectives here, experienced, capable, professional. I would add to that the right editor is also genre-specific, meaning that she or he is in touch with your market and readers. Unfortunately, there are some editors out there who do not meet those parameters. They can do some damage, especially to a new writer’s confidence. I know a good editor when I see one. She or he seeks to build, not to destroy.

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

A: Guts, insight, and perseverance. Guts, because you’ve got to be able to stand for yourself, advocate for your stories, and defy the odds. Insight because you must offer more to your readers than what’s already out there, which—by the way—it’s a lot! And perseverance because you’ve got to be able to stick with it for the long term if you’re going to succeed as a novelist.

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

A: I hated doing homework when I was in school. I love writing.

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

A: Writing is an act of love. I’ve been saying that for a while. Writing is also an act of faith, I’d like to add, because—well—it just is.

 

 

 

 

 

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Author Mark S. Bacon 5052 - smlrMark S. Bacon began his career as a southern California newspaper police reporter, one of his crime stories becoming key evidence in a murder case that spanned decades.

After working for two newspapers, he moved to advertising and marketing when he became a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the freeway from Disneyland, and later for a Los Angeles advertising agency.

Before turning to fiction, Bacon wrote business books including Do-It-yourself Direct Marketing, printed in four languages and three editions, named best business book of the year by Library Journal, and selected by the Book of the Month Club and two other book clubs.  His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express News, Denver Post, and many other publications.  Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Desert Kill Switch is the second book in the Nostalgia City mystery series that began with Death in Nostalgia City, an award winner at the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival.

Bacon is the author of flash fiction mystery books including, Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words.  He  taught journalism as a member of the adjunct faculty at Cal Poly University – Pomona, University of Redlands, and the University of Nevada – Reno.  He earned an MA in mass media from UNLV and a BA in journalism from Fresno State.

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

A:  On an empty desert road, stressed-out ex-cop Lyle Deming finds a bullet-riddled body next to a mint-condition 1970s Pontiac Firebird. When he returns to the scene with sheriff’s deputies: no car, no body.  Does the answer lie in Nostalgia City where Lyle works? The Arizona retro theme park re-creates—in every detail—an entire small town from the early 1970s.  It’s complete with period cars, clothes, music, hairstyles, food, shops, fads, restaurants—the works.

Lyle swapped his job as a Phoenix homicide detective for a cab in Nostalgia City when the anxieties and disappointments of police work nearly pushed him over the edge.

Nostalgia City VP Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is in Nevada on park business when she gets mixed up with a sleazy Las Vegas auto dealer who puts hidden “kill switches” and GPS trackers in cars he sells—mainly to low-income buyers.  Miss a payment—sometimes by as little as a few days—and your car is dead.  Maybe you are, too.

Front cover - Full Cover DKS v3 (1)When Kate’s accused of murder in Reno, Lyle arrives to help his blonde, not-quite-girlfriend and they plow through a deadly tangle of suspects and motives.  Kate and Lyle hit one dead end after another as they struggle to exonerate Kate, catch a blackmailer, save a witness’s life, and help find the missing corpse.

What compelled me to create Nostalgia City goes back to one of my early jobs as a writer.  I’ve always been a mystery fan and when I worked at Knott’s Berry Farm I thought a theme park would be a great setting for a murder mystery—especially at night.  While working at Knott’s I saw, from  behind the scenes, what it takes to make a large theme park work—and what could happen if things went wrong. Scary.

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: The answer to the first question depends on who you ask.  Raymond Chandler, creator of Philip Marlowe, thought that many British mysteries, such as those that take place at a manor  house in the country, lack interest.  You have to read to the end of a cozy mystery, he said, to find anything exciting.

I don’t completely agree, but here’s my take on mysteries. I love to read novels filled with a multiplicity of clues and puzzles to solve—stories that appeal to the head.  But I appreciate mysteries that move quickly, are filled with suspenseful action and keep you guessing about the safety of the protagonist—thus appealing to the heart.  To me, a good mystery must appeal to both the head and the heart.  That’s what I try to do with my novels.

That’s an outline view.  The guts of a good mystery must include believable characters—I prefer sympathetic protagonists—and a challenging story.  Add to that realistic, entertaining dialog.  Entertainment is a critical element, but it’s one of those eye-of-the-beholder concepts.  Some people get bored reading interviews with suspect after supect, others want the detective to move ahead ploddingly, examining every clue and every witness with a critical eye.

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

A:  I plot my books piece by piece and don’t start writing until I have many pages of notes including a plot outline and summary of each character’s personality, manner of speaking and goals in the story.  I know some writers just start somewhere and say their characters move the story along as they go.  My characters move the story along because I tell  them what they’re going to do ahead of time.

That said, many of what I think are the best plot twists or complications occur to me as I’m in the middle of writing.  If so, things change.  I may have to back up and rewrite, add a new character or whatever is necessary.  But I have the main story arch, and lots of details, written before I start chapter one.

This is the way I construct a complex mystery (or two) and have all the pieces fit together logically.  I think many readers analyze the plot along with my protagonists.  I want to play fair with them and not bring in some murderer or major clue toward the end, without giving clues or foreshadowing earlier.

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:  As I mentioned, I do various types of character profiles before I begin.  I did much more for my two protagonists when I wrote the first book.  Kate Sorensen, for example, is a combination of several people I’ve known.  She’s a former college basketball star, a six-foot-two-and-a-half- inch tall USC grad.  She’s also a corporate vice president of public relations.  My youngest daughter played college basketball for four years. She excelled at the game, played with passion and led her team to many last-second victories.  But she was a point guard and nearly a head shorter than Kate.  Some of Kate’s abilities to deal with pressure comes from my experience watching my daughter.  A little insight on being a six-foot-plus woman comes from listening to her teammates.

Some of the executive women I’ve worked with contributed to Kate’s personality.  Like Kate, they had to be the best at what they did in order to succeed in male-dominated fields.   Kate’s height poses another challenge, both personally and professionally and I explore that in this second book in the series, taking inspiration from a combination of sources.

I spent even more time on my other protagonist, Lyle Deming.  Anxious is his default setting.  He left the police department under a cloud of accusations of mental illness.  Actually, he’s not crazy, even though he talks to himself aloud and wears a rubber band on his wrist for stress.  I did lots research into anxiety-related disorders as I was creating Lyle.  I combined that with other experience early from in my career covering the police beat as a newspaper reporter.

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: You can’t tell much about the villain in a mystery without giving away the secret.  Let’s pick Al Busick as my example.  He’s an antagonist, but not really the main bad guy in the story.   He’s devious, self-centered and lacking in business ethics.  But he’s also a self-made man who started at the bottom in the car business and worked his way up.  I explore his personality not only through his actions and words, but in how others describe him.

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

A: I designed the point of view structure I use in each book with suspense and reader interest in mind.  Lyle and Kate are each POV characters and I alternate them. So in one chapter Lyle may be getting into trouble or about to uncover an important  clue, then I switch to a Kate chapter.  The reader has to wait to find out what happened to Lyle.  My chapters are also short, so the story moves apace.  My first book, Death in Nostalgia City, had 74 chapters in 300 pages.

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: Nostalgia City is a 1970s town.  Everything from the look of a J.J. Newberry store to the sound of a Linda Ronstadt rock song blaring out of a record store is designed to impart a retro feel.  The characters communicate without the use of cell phones—unheard of in the ’70s.  The cars cruising the streets include Oldsmobiles and Plymouths, marques that ended decades ago.

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:  The value of the past, the role it should play in the present and present-moment living are recurring themes.  The concept of nostalgia, while the main attraction for the Arizona theme park, can be a burden.  I will continue to examine this as the series progresses.

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

A: Of course editing can destroy creativity, but most professional editing is not designed to gut a story but to make it better.  Every good writer craves editing.  Every good writer can learn from editors.  I learn every time my work is edited.

In every job I’ve had, I worked with editors, whether they were called city editors, creative directors, or something else.  Writers need editors.  Period.

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

A:  The same things that make a successful novel make a successful novelist: characterization, plot and setting.

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: At first I thought this sounded screwy.  Seems to characterize the occupation as a life sentence. I suppose the homework could be the constant revision of a piece of writing until you’re absolutely satisfied it’s the best.  Or it could be homework when you read for pleasure but actually analyze the writing to see what you can learn from it.  Maybe there’s something to this.  But writing is about words, about passion for words and for communicating.  Could you turn it off?  Possibly, but why would you do that?

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

A:  I’ve read a lot of books on how to organize and write a novel.  Many are useful, particularly The Successful Novelist by mystery writer David Morrell.  The best book I’ve read on writing, one that shows simple yet effective techniques for telling a story, is The Art and Craft of Feature Writing by William E. Blundell.

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

A:  If you want to be a writer, you must be a reader.

 

 

 

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FHFrankie Hogan is an American writer, director, and filmmaker. He is a founder and principal partner of Corner Prophets Production Company, a film production company started in 2012, and the company controller for a Los Angeles-based international interior design firm.

Q: What’s inside the mind of a Travel author?

A: I want to bring you to these places. I want you to realize how accessible they are in today’s world and give a taste of what these lands have to offer. History, nature, and nightlife drive me. Livin’ includes a Thanksgiving dinner buffet’s worth of all three. Whether you dig on exploring a 4000-year-old pyramid of a pharaoh or hiking in the Amazon rain forest or stopping at an Amsterdam coffee shop, you’ll find all of these places in Livin’: From the Amsterdam Red Light to the African Bush.

Q: Tell us why readers should buy Livin’: From the Amsterdam Red Light to the African Bush.

A: If you are a vicarious traveler who dreams of far-off lands or someone waiting for a kick in the ass to stamp more countries on your passport, Livin’ is the book for you. I took some trips formed from childhood dreams and other trips formed from reading National Geographic. The book is the story of a globe-hop, not by a biologist or a mountain climber, but by an everyman. I stopped getting in my own way and went for it. Livin’ is the story of the ride, the road, and the reward.

Front ADN3395 Digest-Soft-Cover (1)Q: What makes a good Travel Book?

A: I think any vanilla travel book can give you a list of sites or places to eat. A good travel book takes you there and makes you feel the context. Livin’ includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. It doesn’t cherry-pick. It lays out the true, nonfiction experience. At least that’s what I shot for.

Q: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

A: The book website is www.livintravelbook.com. You can also follow the book on Instagram (@livinfh5) or on Facebook (Livin’ by Frankie Hogan).

Q: What has writing taught you?

A: Explore your passions. I write spec scripts in Hollywood, and Livin’ is my first crack at book-writing, but the two types of writing have one thing in common: The subject matter galvanizes and consumes me. I’ve been offered the opportunity to write for TV as part of a writers’ room, but ten writers arguing over character development within pre-designed plots, on a deadline, doesn’t jive with the reasons I write. That sounds like a job. Fuck that. I write to share the fire I have for a story.

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As the judge in a complicated case involving an oil-bunkering gang, Sir Carter Braxton finds himself totally under the security provided by a mysterious figure, Sidi el-Hassam, a wealthy Arab who commands a volunteer group that specializes in preventing crude oil theft. The isolation under which he now lives causes him to miss his best friend’s funeral in 1993 for reasons that must remain inexplicable to his friends, the Falconer family, who live in the Forest of Dean, where they grow restoration oak. Finding herself in London, the widow, Valerie Falconer, an American from Texas, slips into one of Carter’s trials as a spectator, after which she discovers the conditions under which her old friend has been living for over three years. However, a third element also mixes into the situation in that both Carter and the Sidi, separately, have volunteered to participate in the refining of the GSP satellite system now being tested by NASA. This tracking system allows Carter to move temporarily to Texas to draw one of his assassins out. Not only is this the story of a man under physical stress and emotional stress; it is also a record of his spiritual journey led by his friend and later wife, Valerie, as well as the spiritual journey of the Sidi, which has been generated by an apparition of Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt.

Lanayre Liggera holds an MA from Tufts University and another from Cambridge-Goddard Graduate School, where she became interested in the history of woman as portrayed by music, which led to the formation of the New Harmony Sisterhood Band, with Lanayre on banjo. The students’ research produced the book All Our Lives, which was used on college campuses until radicals blew up the publisher, Diana Press. Sometime later, she began to pursue a long-held interest in early aviation. Inevitably, this led studying World War I, spending several tours of the Western Front sponsored by our parent organization, the Western Front Association, US branch. Lanayre was named chairman of the New England–New York chapter, a post which she held for fourteen years, which held a yearly conference at a different location in our region. She and her husband were involved as volunteers in prison ministry for eighteen years as well as in nursing homes, soup kitchens, and the VA. They live in Hudson Valley, where they try to keep up with the comings and goings of their global grandchildren. She is the author of The Life of Robert Loraine: The Stage, the Sky, and George Bernard Shaw.

 

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Summer on EarthTitle: SUMMER ON EARTH
Author: Peter Thompson
Publisher: Persnickety Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Sci-fi / Middle Grade

BOOK BLURB:

The night that eleven-year-old Grady Johnson looked out his window and wished upon a shooting star, his life changed forever.

Grady, his Ma, and younger sister Luanne are having a hard summer. Dad has died and the family isn’t the same. Though Ma is trying her best, Grady knows they don’t have enough money to get by.

The shooting star he saw was a space craft plunging to Earth, and landing at the back of their farm. Extraterrestrial engineer Ralwil Turth has one goal, to fix his power drive and go back home. But things don’t go as planned. Stuck in human form, he gets to know Grady and his family as he works on their farm. He starts to learn about what it means to be human, and the exotic charms of this planet like the taste of potatoes, and how amazing bugs are.

Ralwil grows to care for Grady and his family. On a trip to town, he realizes that money is what matters to humans, and is the cause of the family’s trouble. That night, he uses his technology to combine a twenty-dollar bill with an oak twig. Over the next week this grows to a towering tree, every leaf a twenty-dollar bill. This, Ralwil is sure, will solve all the family’s problems.

But the family’s wealth raises suspicion in this small town, and this soon leads to more trouble. With the family’s fate, and Ralwil’s life, on the line, Grady has to find the courage to help his family and save his friend.

Summer on Earth blends humor, adventure and poignancy to create an unforgettable story about finding home.

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Chapter One

Ralwil Turth

Intergalactic Year 465009.2053

To anyone watching the Midwestern night sky, it looked like a meteor that arced across the sky in a flash of bright light, then disappeared as it fell to earth. But inside the pod, Ralwil Turth was gripped with fear as he tried to control the path of his ship. He had been on his way home from a routine mining expedition on the outskirts of the Andromeda system, when the lights on his control board flashed in the urgent warning pattern. This signaled a breakdown of his primary power plant. His major energy source was draining fast. Without hesitation he switched to the spare power source.

The spare would not take him far. He had to find a place to bring his craft down to make the repair, and he didn’t have any time to waste. Ralwil’s body shook as he brought his universal map up on the view-screen. He was on the far side of the charted universe, light-years away from any known civilization. The information about this sector was old, but it showed that the third planet out in the nearest solar system was water-based and had an atmosphere rich in oxygen. It was the kind of place capable of supporting life, though according to the maps, there was no record of intelligent life in this quadrant. With no time to spare, he made the decision and aimed for the planet.

He cut the engine back and slowed down as he approached. His pod shuddered when he hit the atmosphere. The friction was intense, and the heat sensors flashed a warning. His styrpump beat madly against his chest and his brain felt as if it was going to explode. The pod’s shields were designed to withstand tremendous heat, so if the systems worked properly he would be protected. But he had never had to test the systems. He hoped they worked better than the power source. The pod shook and screeched as if the ship was about to rip apart.

Ralwil tried to ignore his fear as he went through the emergency procedures. The vibrations increased and his whole body trembled. It felt as if his skelfones were going to shake right out of his body. He had never been this frightened before. It was hard to think, but he had to maintain control. He flipped on his personal force field. A cushion of cool air surrounded him and suddenly he was still again. He held his breath as he checked his view screen and searched for a safe place to land.

The image of the planet came up. He was above a large land mass. Scattered over the land were pockets of light, some small, others spread out in big clusters. Light meant energy, and concentrations like this didn’t appear naturally. These lights were almost surely cities of some kind.

More bad luck! The planet had intelligent life forms after all!

This complicated his plan. Now he would have to work around the occupants without interfering with them in any way—if he survived.

Ralwil had to somehow coax his crippled machine down to a safe landing. He concentrated on the screen in front of him, steering toward the center of the land mass. It would not do to come down in the middle of one of their cities. The smart thing would be to land on the outskirts, somewhere where he could get his bearings and find the materials he needed without causing any alarm. He steered away from the main concentration of lights to a dark area between two small clusters. Moving fast, he dropped closer to the ground.

As he neared land, he shifted the image on the view screen to show the area in heat-sensitive infrared. At night, the heat map picked up surface features and life forms better than a visual map. The area was flat and appeared to be covered with plant life. A narrow strip cut through, winding around in a series of smooth curves. The temperature there was much cooler than in the surrounding area. It had to be water. Suddenly a new alarm went off and the screen flashed a warning. The power was almost drained. He cursed the makers of spare power supplies as he dipped his pod down closer to the ground. He set the controls for an automatic landing near the water, held his breath, and prepared to touch down.

He expected to glide in for a soft landing, but without warning his power supply gave way completely. The pod dropped like a stone and bounced once before stopping.

He felt a big bump, and then a shudder as his ship came to a rest.

His styrpump pounding, he took in a deep breath and tried to focus. He had survived! Ralwil slowly let his breath out and silently gave thanks.

The pod lights were dim and the only sound was the hum of the ventilation system. The power plant was out so he couldn’t take off in his pod. His systems still worked off the reserve battery, but this would not last long. He would need to conserve his supply.

From now on, the ship’s power could only be used for emergencies.

Ralwil picked up his onmibelt and made sure it was fully operational. His life depended on this thin belt. It held an assortment of tools and instruments. With this belt, and a little luck, he had a chance to survive on this alien planet. No, he thought, make that a lot of luck.

Before opening the pod’s hatch, he took a reading of the outside air. It was a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and more than a touch of methane. Not exactly what he was used to at home, but still breathable without additional gear. He pushed a button and the pod doors slid open.

Stepping out, he heard a sharp metallic chirping sound, mixed with a deeper bass. His first thought was that he was near some kind of strange machine. He touched a button on his omnibelt and a holographic image appeared in front of him, showing the source of the noise. The chirping came from thousands of little six-legged, winged creatures spread across the field, all rubbing their legs together. The deeper sounds were from two small cold-blooded creatures on opposite sides of the water’s edge. He doubted that either of these species had the brain capacity to be intelligent, but their exotic nature was a marvel.

He touched another button as he shut the pod doors, and the pod disappeared from view. The invisi-shield would drain the batteries more than he would like, but it was a valuable protection from nosy natives. If a creature happened by and saw the ship, it would lead to problems. It was better not to be seen.

Ralwil sniffed the air around him. Its chemical makeup was safe to breathe, but the smell was atrocious. He wondered how these creatures could tolerate this noxious air, but he had no choice. If he didn’t get out and explore, he would never be able to fix his power source and go home.

He walked up a small incline and was immediately in a field of tall leafy vegetation. Each plant was spaced evenly apart. On his native planet, Ralwil was considered unnaturally tall. At nearly three fornos, he towered over all the brothers in his swarm. But these plants were taller. He tried to look through them, but all he saw were more plants. Even the stars above were hidden by the leaves.

The chirping sound of the tiny winged creatures was so loud here it was hard to think. He kept on walking. The vegetation was everywhere. The leaves above him formed a canopy, cutting off the moonlight. He could hardly see in front of him. The leaves scraped against his outer membrane and gave him a creepy ticklish sensation. His styrpump beat faster. He was afraid he would panic if he did not get out in the open soon. No—he had a mission to accomplish. He must not panic. He fumbled at his belt, found his sensomap and took a reading. From its holographic sensor, he saw that there was an opening to the field off to the right. With relief, he turned and headed toward it.

As he got closer, his sensomap showed a hot spot—something large and slow moving, just past the edge of the field. It was obviously a life form, and it was clearly large enough to be intelligent. He could not show himself in his present form without causing all sorts of problems. He switched the setting on his belt to rough duplication mode. The instrument could send a wave of energy over the being, then re-form the wearer’s molecular structure into a rough copy. Back home the tool was good for nothing much except practical jokes, but on expeditions it often came in handy. If he transformed himself into something like this native creature, it might be possible to get in close enough to do a synch-link.

He turned the duplicator on as he stepped out of the field. He felt a ticklish sensation as his molecules rearranged in the pattern of the being before him. It was a large quadrapodal creature with a long face and a huge swollen stomach. Its skin was thick, and, though light colored, there were big splotches of dark pigment throughout. It stood behind a barrier of some kind and stared at him with dull brown eyes.

Ralwil attempted a synch-link, but as he synched in with the creature’s brain, all he could think about was how hungry he was, and how tasty the ground-covering vegetation looked. He swatted at a small flying creature with his tail, and stepped back before the synch could progress any farther. He shivered. This creature was surely not intelligent. In fact it appeared to be as dumb as wyr-tack. He reversed the duplicator and returned to his normal appearance. The creature vocalized with a loud mooing sound, then bent down to eat the vegetation on the ground.

Ralwil walked away from the creature and continued his exploration. His fear began to fade. He felt calmer now, and almost excited about the adventure. The temperature was comfortable, the heat and humidity ratio nearly perfect. This was very pleasant. In a way, it reminded him of the equatorial regions on his home planet. The quality of light from the moon above was pleasing, and the stars shone brightly with a set of constellations he had never seen before. Even the noxious smell he had noticed before didn’t seem so bad now. He couldn’t believe he had adjusted to it so quickly. The life forms were exotic here too. Under different circumstances he would consider it interesting to spend some time here.

He came to a large structure made of organic material connected together in overlapping strips. The structure was easily twelve times as wide as his space pod, and twice as tall as it was wide. The two sides of its roof came together in a sharp peak.

Ralwil recognized this as a primitive way of dealing with rain water. With more efficient materials such architecture was not necessary, but it looked functional. Two large openings on the front came together to form an entrance. He walked over and looked up at the lock. It was a finely tooled metallic latch. The design was simple, but the detail required fine motor movement, or at least some kind of digital manipulation. This meant the creatures who built this must have hands. Based on the height of the lock, they walked upright, so most likely they were bipodal life forms, not so different from him, though obviously much larger.

He continued exploring and soon found more evidence of the native creatures. This was another structure, slightly smaller than the first but more ornate, with finer detail in the organic material, and openings covered with a transparent substance where the creatures could look out. This might be their living quarters, Ralwil thought. If so, he must be very careful that no one saw him. He skirted around the edge of the structure and checked his heat sensor. It picked up four heat sources that appeared to be living creatures. Two of them were on higher levels of the structure, one near its peak, another near its midpoint. The last two were down at the structure’s base, around the corner from where he stood. Of the two on the bottom, one was the largest, the other the smallest of the four.

Being so close was dangerous. The smart thing to do would be to back off and find a way to observe these creatures from a distance. Before approaching any unknown creatures, it was important to learn their habits and social functions, find out how they lived so he could determine if they were dangerous or not. Still, he had an overwhelming desire to get in close and see what these creatures looked like. What was the harm in that?

All he had to do was move in for a quick peek.

Ralwil kept close to the side of the structure and moved slowly around the corner, wondering what he would find next.

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Title: Sleep Like the Dead
Author: Alex Gray (A DCI Lorimer Novel)
Publisher: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Genres: Mystery/Suspense

Touring: September 4 – September 29

 

There’s a hitman in Glasgow: unpaid and angry, he’s decided to settle his own debts…

Marianne Brogan can’t sleep. She’s plagued by a nightmare: someone in the shadows, whispering threats, stalking her every move. To make matters worse, Marianne can’t get hold of her brother, Billy. Despite knowing some shady characters from Glasgow’s underworld, Billy’s always been there for her – until now.

Meanwhile, DCI Lorimer and his team are faced with a string of seemingly unconnected but professional killings. Without witnesses or much conclusive evidence to build a case, the officers are drawing a blank. Criminal psychologist Solly Brightman is off the case due to budget cuts. But Solly is more closely connected to the murders than he could possibly know . . . And as the hitman plans a bloody ransom to get his fee, the race is on to find out just who hired him – and who’s next on the hit list.

 

Detective Chief Inspector William Lorimer felt the swish of the plastic tape behind him as he entered the crime scene. He glanced at the house, one eyebrow raised in slight surprise. It was such an ordinary two-up, two-down mid-terrace, a modest suburban home, like thousands of others in and around this city in a district not particularly known for a high rate of crime. And certainly not for ones like this. But impressions could be deceptive, that was something he’d learned long ago, and as the Chief Inspector took another look around him his mouth became a hard thin line: scratch the surface of any neighbourhood and the veneer of respectability could expose all manner of human depravity.

The entire garden was cordoned off and a uniformed officer stood guard at the front gate, his eyes shifting only momentarily to the DCI. Lorimer turned to look behind him. Across the street a huddle of people stood, clearly undeterred by the driving rain, their curiosity or compassion binding them in a pool of silent anticipation. Three police vehicles lined the pavement, a clear sign of the gravity of the situation.

The incident had occurred sometime during the night yet the bright glare from a sun struggling to emerge from layers of cloud made a mockery of the situation. This was an ordinary Monday morning where nothing like this should be happening. He could hear the hum of motorway traffic several streets away as people headed to work, oblivious to the little drama that was about to unfold. A bit in tomorrow’s newspaper would command their attention for a few moments, perhaps, then they would dismiss it as someone else’s tragedy and continue about their business, glad that it didn’t impinge upon their own lives.

His business lay ahead, behind that white tent erected outside the doorway, keeping the scene free from prying eyes. Lorimer nodded, satisfied to see it in place. At least one journalist might be among that knot of watchers over the road, he thought wryly. Closing the gate behind him he ventured up the path then stopped. Someone had been violently sick out here, the traces of vomit splashed over a clump of foliage not yet washed away by earlier torrential rain. Whatever lay inside had been shocking enough to make one person’s stomach heave.

With a word to the duty officer the DCI let himself into the house, his gloved hands closing the door carefully behind him. The body lay spreadeagled on the hall carpet, the gunshot wound clearly visible in the artificial light. He was clad in thin summer pyjamas, the shirt open revealing his bare chest. Any traces in the immediate area would assist the scene of crime officers in learning a little more about the victim’s end, as would the bullet lodged within his head. For Lorimer, the story was one that seemed sadly familiar; a gangland shooting, maybe drug related. The single shot to the temple indicated a professional hit man at any rate, he thought, hunkering down beside the body.

‘What can you tell me?’ he asked, looking up at Detective Sergeant Ramsay, the crime scene manager, who hadarrived before him.

‘Well, so far as we can make out there was no call from neighbours about hearing a weapon being discharged.’ The officer shrugged as if to say that didn’t mean much at this stage. To many people, having a quiet life was preferable to giving evidence in a criminal trial.

‘The killer’s weapon may have been fitted with a silencer, of course,’ Ramsay continued, ‘or the neighbours on either side could just be heavy sleepers. We haven’t found a cartridge case, by the way,’ he added.

‘So who called it in?’ Lorimer wanted to know. ‘Colleague of the victim, sir. Was coming to give him a lift to work. Didn’t get an answer to the doorbell so he looked through the letterbox, saw the body . . . ’

‘ . . . And dialled 999,’ Lorimer finished for him.

‘Suppose that was the same person who was sick outside?’ Ramsay nodded. ‘Poor guy’s still shivering out there in the patrol car. Had to wrap a blanket around his shoulders. He’s been trying to give us what information he can.’

‘Okay. What do we know so far?’ Lorimer asked, looking at the dead man, wondering what his story had been, how he had been brought to this untimely end. The victim was a man about his own age, perhaps younger, he thought, noting the mid-brown hair devoid of any flecks of grey. For a moment Lorimer wanted to place his fingers upon the man’s head, stroke it gently as if to express the pity that he felt. No matter what his history, nobody deserved to die like this.

‘Kenneth Scott,’ the DS told him. ‘Thirty-seven. Lived alone. Divorced. No children. Parents both dead. We haven’t managed to get a lot else out of the colleague yet,’ he added, jerking his head in the direction of the street.

‘Too shocked to say much when we arrived. After he’d seen his pal.’ Lorimer continued to focus upon the dead man on the floor.

The victim’s eyes were still wide with surprise, the mouth open as if to register a sudden protest, but it was not an expression of terror.

‘It must have happened too quickly for him to have realised what was happening,’ Lorimer murmured almost to himself. ‘Or had he known his assailant?’

‘There was no forced entry, sir, but that might not mean all that much.’ The DCI nodded a brief agreement. Men were less likely to worry about opening their doors to strangers, if indeed this had been a stranger. And a strong-armed assassin would have been in and out of there in seconds, one quick shot and away. Lorimer sat back on his heels, thinking hard. They would have to find out about the man’s background as a priority, as well as notifying his next of kin. The pal outside had given some information. They’d be checking all that out, of course.

‘What about his work background?’ Lorimer asked.

‘They were in IT, the guy out there told us, shared lifts to a call centre on a regular basis.’ Lorimer stood up as the door opened again to admit a small figure dressed, like himself, in the regulation white boiler suit. His face creased into a grin as he recognized the consultant forensic pathologist. Despite her advanced state of pregnancy, Dr Rosie Fergusson was still attending crime scenes on a regular basis.

‘Still managing not to throw up?’ he asked mischievously.

‘Give over, Lorimer,’ the woman replied, elbowing her way past him, ‘I’m way past that stage now, you know,’ she protested, patting her burgeoning belly. ‘Into my third trimester.’

‘Right, what have we here?’ she asked, bending down slowly and opening her kitbag. Her tone, Lorimer noticed, was immediately softer as she regarded the victim. It was something they had in common, that unspoken compassion that made them accord a certain dignity towards a dead person. Lorimer heard

Rosie sigh as her glance fell on the victim’s bare feet; clad only in his nightwear that somehow made him seem all the more vulnerable.

‘Name’s Kenneth Scott. His mate came to collect him for work at seven this morning. Nobody heard anything last night as far as we know,’ he offered, making eye contact with Ramsay to include him in the discussion. This was a team effort and, though he was senior investigating officer, Lorimer was well aware of the value everyone placed on the scene of crime manager who would coordinate everyone’s part in the case.

‘Hm,’ Rosie murmured, her gloved hands already examining the body. ‘He’s been dead for several hours anyway,’ she said, more to herself than for Lorimer’s benefit.

‘Rigor’s just beginning to establish. May have died around two to four this morning.’ Rosie glanced up at the radiator next to the body. ‘I take it that’s been off?’

‘I suppose so,’ Lorimer answered, feeling the cold metal under the layers of surgical gloves. He shrugged. ‘It’s still officially summertime, you know.’

‘Could have fooled me,’ Rosie replied darkly, listening to the rain battering down once again on the canvas roof of the tent outside. ‘That’s two whole weeks since July the fifteenth and it’s never let up.’ Lorimer regarded her quizzically.

‘St Swithin’s day,’ she told him. ‘Tradition has it that whatever weather happens that particular day will last for forty days. Or else it’s more of that global warming the doom merchants have been threatening us with,’ she added under her breath.

‘But this fellow’s not been warmed up any, has he?’ Lorimer said. ‘Nothing to change the time of death?’ The pathologist shook her blonde curls under the white hood. ‘No. Normal temperature in here. Wasn’t cold last night either so we can probably assume it happened in the death hours.’ Lorimer nodded silently. Two until four a.m. were regarded as the optimum times for deaths to occur, not only those inflicted by other hands. He had read somewhere that the human spirit seemed to be at its most vulnerable then. And villains seeking to do away with another mortal tended to choose that time as well.

They’d find out more after Rosie and her team had performed the actual post-mortem and forensic toxicology tests had been carried out. Until then it was part of his own job to find out what he could about the late Kenneth Scott.

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. After studying English and Philosophy at the University of Strathclyde, she worked as a visiting officer for the DHSS, a time she looks upon as postgraduate education since it proved a rich source of character studies. She then trained as a secondary school teacher of English.
Alex began writing professionally in 1993 and had immediate success with short stories, articles and commissions for BBC radio programmes. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.
A regular on the Scottish bestseller lists, her previous novels include Five Ways to Kill a Man, Glasgow Kiss, Pitch Black, The Riverman, Never Somewhere Else, The Swedish Girl and Keep the Midnight Out. She is the co-founder of the international Scottish crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland, which had its inaugural year in 2012.
Connect with her at her website: http://www.alex-gray.com or on social media

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Dakota’s Delight: A SEALs of Honor Novel
Author: Dale Mayer
Publisher: Valley Publishing Limited
Publication Date: September, 2017
Genres: Military, Suspense, Romance

Welcome to Dakota’s Delight, book 9 in Heroes for Hire, reconnecting readers with the unforgettable men from SEALs of Honor in a new series of action packed, page turning romantic suspense that fans have come to expect from USA TODAY Bestselling author Dale Mayer.

When a young woman darts into traffic and into Dakota’s path, life takes a dark turn for both of them.

Bailey, recovering from the loss of her husband, retreated from life. Going to work and coming home was the extent of her days and weeks. Until she walks into work early one morning, witnesses a murder and flees into traffic, nearly getting killed.

The near death experience awakens the spark of life inside of her. So does the man in the car. A different kind of a spark.

For her safety, Dakota persuades her to move into the compound with him and the rest of the Legendary family while they track down the killers.

Bailey is forced to accept Dakota’s help. But can she stay safe long enough for the police to track down the killer? Or is the man who almost ran her over going to steal her heart?

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series). 

 She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres! 

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format. 

To find out more about Dale and her books, visit her at http://www.dalemayer.com. Or connect with her online with Twitter at www.twitter.com/dalemayer and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dalemayer.author. If you like Dale Mayer’s books and are interested in joining her street team, sign up here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/402384989872660/  

 

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