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Title: Little Girls Sleeping: An Absolutely Gripping Crime Thriller (Detective Katie Scott Book 1)
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 377
Genre: Thriller/Crime

BOOK BLURB:

He looked down at the little girl, sleeping peacefully, her arms wrapped around a teddy bear. He knew he was the only one who could save her. He could let her sleep forever.

An eight-year-old girl, Chelsea Compton, is missing in Pine Valley, California and for Detective Katie Scott it’s a cruel reminder of the friend who disappeared from summer camp twenty years ago. Unable to shake the memories, Katie vows she won’t rest until she discovers what happened to Chelsea.

But as Katie starts to investigate, the case reveals itself to be much bigger and more shocking than she feared. Hidden deep in the forest she unearths a makeshift cemetery: a row of graves, each with a brightly coloured teddy bear.

Katie links the graves to a stack of missing-persons cases involving young girls—finding a pattern no one else has managed to see. Someone in Pine Valley has been taking the town’s daughters for years, and Katie is the only one who can stop them.

And then another little girl goes missing, snatched from the park near her home.

Katie’s still haunted by the friend she failed to protect, and she’ll do anything to stop the killer striking again—but can she find the little girl before it’s too late?

Compulsive and gripping crime fiction for fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh. Katie Scott’s first case will have you on the edge of your seat and gasping with shock.

Readers love Jennifer Chase!

‘WHAT A FANTASTIC READ! OMG! I just finished reading this book! It was an absolute thrilling, edge-of-your-seat read!… I couldn’t believe who the serial killer was; I thought I knew but was surprised! I could not put it down… BRAVO JENNIFER!!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘GREAT!!! Thoroughly enjoyed!!! Jennifer Chase has become one of my favorite crime thriller authors. She totally captures you from beginning to end!!!!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Fantastic read! The author kept me hooked from the first page till the last. I truly thought I knew the serial killer… Boy was I wrong. This is a fantastic read, it kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire time. Well done!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Wow!… Such a gripping tale… I couldn’t stop reading and found myself daydreaming about it while I was supposed to be working… A gripping thriller with multiple twists and turns. A must read!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Great book. I really liked it! Would like reading more of her books! This book keeps you involved and unable to put it down!! Great!!!!!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Action-packed… An adrenaline-packed book from start to finish. ’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Wow… This book will take you for a ride. Have you soaked right in till the end! Absolutely loved it and can’t wait to read another from this author!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘This is one of the best books I have read in a while.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘From beginning to end this is a non-stop thriller.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Real page turner. I read this book in two hours. I could not put it down. I never guessed who the killer was until he was revealed. Mind blowing.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘Captivating from beginning to the last page. A “who did it” crime mystery that keeps you guessing, and then changing your mind!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘I loved this book and cannot wait for the next one. I could not put this book down. A real page turner full of suspense!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

http://tinyurl.com/y582nct2

Book Excerpt:

Prologue

The oversized tires obliterated the rural roadway before the large truck came to an abrupt stop. The driver stalled the engine. Dust rose in a curious flowering cloud, swirling in front of the vehicle’s hood and creeping toward the back of the camper shell. When the surrounding vicinity finally cleared, a dense forest landscape emerged.

The truck overlooked the sheer cliff and rugged scenery that had become a permanent roadblock. The usual silence of the deserted region was interrupted by the incessant and rhythmic sound of a cooling engine.

Tick… Tick… Tick…

The vehicle remained parked. No one moved inside the cab or got out. The truck stayed immobile as if an unlikely statue in the vast wilderness—a distinct contrast between nature and manufactured steel.

The truck sat at the ideal vantage spot, which was both mesmerizing and terrifying for any spectator; but still the occupant chose to wait. The intense high beams pierced ahead into the picturesque hills, leaving a hazy view of the area above the massed trees.

When the driver’s door finally opened, a man stepped out, his steel-toed leather work boots hitting the dirt. They were well-worn, reflecting the many miles he had walked and the many hours he had labored. Swiftly the door shut as the man, medium build and wearing only a plain dark T-shirt, walked to the back of the truck and, with a loud bang, released the lift gate. He moved with purpose and with a calm assertiveness, as if he had performed this particular task many times before. His weathered hands, calloused from years of working with heavy tools and machinery without the protection of leather gloves, had a certain agility and speed.

He grasped two well-used shovels, a large arching pick, and a bulky utility garbage bag. As he tossed the bag onto the ground, the top burst open and several medium-sized teddy bears spilled out. Their smiling faces accentuated the brightly colored ribbons tied around their necks, contrasting with the muted shades of their surroundings.

The man pushed the floppy bag aside with the toe of his boot. He worked in quiet solitude, no humming, no whistling, and no talk.

He flipped on the flashlight fixed to his baseball cap. Straight ahead and slightly arced, the large beam illuminated his path while he strode steadily toward a particular wooded area.

The surrounding thickets and trees remained still without any wind to rustle the leaves. The only audible sound was the man’s quick footsteps—never with any hesitation. He walked with the gait of a young man, despite his stature of someone older.

He hesitated as if he had forgotten something, standing motionless with his arms down at his sides and his head hung forward as he shone the bright light at the ground and the tops of his boots. He still held firmly to the tools. He mumbled a few inaudible sentences of a memorized prayer, which sounded more like a warning than a passage from the Bible, then he raised his head and continued to walk into the dense forest.

Dropping his tools, he carefully pushed a pine branch aside and secured it with a worn piece of rope that had been left for the purpose. An opening was exposed—a tunnel barely large enough for a man to enter.

He grabbed his digging tools once again and proceeded. The flashlight on the front of his cap brightened the passageway as it veered to the right. He followed, only ducking his head twice before the path opened to an area with several boulders sticking out of the cliff. Clusters of unusual rock shapes, some sharp, some rounded, made the terrain appear more like a movie set or backdrop.

A narrow dirt path of crude, sloping man-made steps dropped fifteen feet to a landing jutting out from the rock formation. A small yellow flag was stuck into the earth, marking a spot. A slight evening breeze picked up, causing the flag to flutter.

The man balanced the shovels and pick against the hillside and pulled a hunting knife from a sheath attached to his belt. Pressing the bone handle tight against his palm, he drew the blade through the packed dirt to mark a rectangular pattern on the ground.

He stared intently at the soil, then retrieved the pick, gripping it tight, and swung it hard against the dry, heavily compacted earth. It dented the surface, spewing chips of dirt in every direction. A few small rocks buried in the soil since the beginning of time hampered his progress, but after several more arced swings, the ground began to crumble, exposing the fresh earth.

The heavy pick was exchanged for one of the shovels. Soon there was a small pile of California soil, comprised of sand, silt, clay, and small rock. The repeated movements of dig, scoop, and deposit continued for more than forty-five minutes at a brisk pace. The hard work of manual labor didn’t deter him. It only made him more determined to create a work of genius—his ultimate masterpiece.

At last he stepped back and admired his handiwork, perspiring heavily through his shirt from the effort. Exhilaration filled his body, keeping his muscles flexed and his heart pumping hard. He leaned against the shovel, a smile forming on his lips as he waited for his pulse to return to normal, and marveled at the unmistakable outline of a freshly dug grave.

About the Author

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

Her latest book is the thriller, Little Girls Sleeping: An Absolutely Gripping Crime Thriller (Detective Katie Scott Book 1).

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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 Author Blog: https://authorjenniferchase.com/

Book & Crime Talk:  http://blogtalkradio.com/jennifer-chase

Books: Compulsion   Dead Game   Dark Mind   Dead Burn   Dark Pursuit

Dead Cold  Scene of the Crime

Silent Partner   Body of the Crime   Screenwriting

 

Self-taught artist, writer and musician, Carol Es is known primarily for creating personal narratives within a wide spectrum of media. A native Los Angelina, she often uses past experience as fuel for her subject matter.  Writing on art, her articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Whitehot Magazine, and Coagula Art Journal; her prose published with small presses — Bottle of Smoke Press, Islands Fold, and Chance Press among them. Additionally, she makes handmade Artist’s books which have been acquired for such collections as the Getty and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Carol is a two-time recipient of the ARC Grant from the Durfee Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner, and a Wynn Newhouse Award for her art. She’s also earned grants from Asylum Arts and the National Arts and Disability Center/California Arts Council for writing. In 2019, she won the Bruce Geller Memorial Prize (WORD Grant) from the American Jewish University.

Website: www.ShrapnelInTheSanFernandoValley.com

Blog: www.esart.com/blog

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/esart

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolesart

BOOK BLURB:

Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is a guided tour through a Tilt-A-Whirl life that takes so many turns that you may find yourself looking up from the pages and wondering how the hell one person managed to fit them all into 40-odd years. And many of them are odd years indeed. From a rootless, abusive childhood and mental illness through serious and successful careers in music and art, much of which were achieved while being involved in a notoriously destructive mind-control cult. Carol Es presents her story straight up. No padding, no parachute, no dancing around the hard stuff. Through the darkness, she somehow finds a glimmer of light by looking the big bad wolf straight in the eye, and it is liberating. When you dare to deal with truth, you are free. Free to find the humor that is just underneath everything and the joy that comes with taking the bumpy ride.

Illustrated with original sketches throughout, Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley is not just another survivor’s tale, it’s a creative perspective through moments of vulnerability where the most raw and intimate revelations are laid bare. As an artist and a woman finding self-worth, it’s truly a courageous, relatable story that will keep you engaged to the very end.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

https://amzn.to/2uiryWN

Barnes & Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130641373?ean=9781733520881

Interview:

Would you call yourself a born writer?

Not really. But I was born to try to write.

What was your inspiration for Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley?

I had a horrific, yet an absurd and darkly humorous life with significant injustices and felt they needed to be heard.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Mental illness, dark comedy, dysfunctional relationships, surrealism, and art.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

About nine years in total.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Very much. Obsessed really. While working on the book, a typical day was waking up around 4:30 am and stopping at 6 or 7 to have dinner.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Focusing on my true feelings in my past when I’d been disassociating to get through traumatic experiences.

What do you love most about being an author?

Being able to express myself visually in words.

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

It was a long process of lots of rejections and finally starting my own indy. Then, lots of learning along the way. Yes, I’m happy with my decision because now it’s all within my control.

Where can we find you on the web?

esart.com, or

esart.com/blog

ShrapnelInTheSanFernandoValley.com

DesertDogBooks.com

Title: MOMENTS THAT MADE AMERICA: FROM THE ICE AGE TO THE ALAMO
Author: Geoff Armstrong
Publisher: History Publishing Company
Pages:
Genre: American History

BOOK BLURB:

From its geological birth during the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent millions of years ago, through the nation-shaping key events that led to its political independence from the British superpower, and other crucial, sometimes miraculous events that worked to create the nation, Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo explores those defining moments, both tragic and inspirational that profoundly shaped the nation and its people – crucial turning points that worked inexorably to mold and make America. These pivotal “tipping” events formed America’s geographical, sociological, political and historical landscape. Part 1 culminates with the discovery of gold in California and the role it played in fulfilling America’s dream of Manifest Destiny.

ORDER YOUR COPY AT AMAZON:

https://www.amazon.com/Moments-That-Made-America-Alamo/dp/1727864913/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1CS06XA8TTF0I&keywords=moment%27s+that+made+america&qid=1550640819&s=gateway&sprefix=Moments+That+Made+A%2Caps%2C212&sr=8-2

CHAPTER ONE

IN THE BEGINNING

Birth of a Continent

            There is something totally appropriate about the fact that North America, the continent that would someday contain the United States, was born in a cataclysm so violent it ripped apart a gigantic supercontinent.

A little more than two hundred million years ago, the continent we know as North America did not exist. From space, our planet looked nothing like earth of the 21st century. At that distant time in our planet’s history, all the continents that exist today were joined together into one giant landmass scientists call “Pangaea”.

Then, on the 4th of July, 200,000,000 BCE (Before the Common Era) an immense earthquake hammered Pangaea. From the extreme northernmost point to the southern end, a deep fault in the earth split open and a huge chunk of Pangaea began to separate from the rest of the supercontinent. At first, the separation was only a few inches, but North America was born at that moment. A small piece of the scar from that cataclysm can be seen in a 20-mile line of cliffs called the Hudson River Palisades that run along the west side of the lower Hudson River near New York City.

The date is highly imaginary of course. With no humans around to invent calendars, we can’t possibly know the exact date North America was born, but that date fits perfectly.

Scientists believe that Pangaea broke apart because the solid surface we live on isn’t actually solid. It is made up of continent-sized plates that float upon what geophysicists call the “mantle”, a hot, molten rocky layer, about 1,800 miles thick that lies deep beneath our feet. The movement of these plates is called “plate tectonics” and the different conditions and effects they generate are responsible for earthquakes, volcanoes and the creation of mountains.

Slowly, very slowly, through long eons, moving just centimeters per year, the gap between the newborn continent and what was left of old Pangaea widened as America moved west, the gap filling with salt water from the great ocean that covered most of the planet. That gap eventually become a sea, then an ocean more than two thousand miles wide we call the Atlantic.

That slow journey continues to this day and will it do so for millennia. Someday, eons from now, people sitting on a beach near Seattle will be able to wave greetings to folks in China.

In some places, that hot mantle pushes its way through cracks or fault lines, where it can show up as volcanoes and other features such as hot springs, geysers, steam vents and lava flows. They are called “hot spots”. One well-known hot spot lying out in the Pacific Ocean is the State of Hawaii, a volcanic chain of islands almost 4,000 miles long. Another is America’s first national park, Yellowstone, a hot spot that has been around for about 15,000,000 years. The entire Yellowstone system has been described as a super volcano with the potential to erupt with enough force to destroy much of the United States and Canada and significantly damage the entire planet. It last erupted 640,000 years ago and geophysicists enjoy informing anyone who will listen that we are long overdue for another deadly eruption.

It is from that westward movement of the North American plate that the continent gets its unique physical appearance. Where the North American and Pacific Plates meet, the Pacific Plate can be forced down into the mantle under North America, where it pushes up against the North American Plate, slowly bending parts of the plate upward. If the plates actually collide, large sections of the moving plates can be thrust upward or folded. These upward-thrust or folded masses of the crust aren’t minor ridges or tiny ripples in the earth’s surface. It took many millions of years, but it was the collision of those plates that built the system of mountain ranges called the American Cordillera that dominates western North America from Alaska to Mexico, branches of which include the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range.

This is the same process that formed the Appalachian Mountains and the Canadian Shield, many millions of years earlier than the North American Cordillera. Like the great mountains to the west, the Appalachians and the Canadian Shield were once towering peaks as high or even higher than the Rockies, but millions upon millions of years of erosion from rain, wind and the ice ages have worn them down to the relatively low mountains we see today.

From the moment America was born 200 million years ago to the present day, those two opposing forces have been competing with each other. As tectonic forces work to build mountains and volcanoes, the forces of erosion such as glaciers, wind and rain work to wear down what the tectonic forces are trying to build, each trying to put its own stamp on what America should look like. But it was that earthquake 200 million years ago and the movement of those continent-sized plates that wrote the first pages in the story of America.

An Ancient Gift for a Young Nation

As far back as 300 million years ago, in a geological period known as the Triassic, extensive swampy areas and a warm, moist climate fostered the growth of super-sized plants that spread across continent-sized regions. With the passage of time, great forests would rise and fall and rise again, laying down deep beds of dead vegetation that sank into the ancient swamps. High acid content in the water that covered the fallen plants, and the mud and silt washed into the swamps by storms or by tectonic events, buried the vegetation and cut off the oxygen. Slowly, the mixture of partly decayed vegetation turned to a peat. As the layers deepened, the weight and pressure on the peat increased. After millions of years, the pressure would change the peat into a soft coal called “lignite”. Often, heat from deep inside the earth, and the continuous buildup of additional layers of material on the surface would work together to compress the peat and lignite, causing both physical and chemical changes, which slowly turned the peat and lignite into bituminous or anthracite coal.

The same processes that transformed plant and sometimes animal matter into coal, also created stores of gas and petroleum. Over long ages, great stores of that dirty black rock packed with energy and vital chemical fuels would accumulate, so that millions of years in the future all that stored-up energy would be available to help a struggling young nation jump-start its economy, build its industrial strength and fuel America’s rise into a world power.

An End and a Beginning: The Last Days of the Dinosaurs

Down the long centuries and millennia and vast ages, North America continued its westward journey. On board the new continent and sailing slowly west with it, were the plants and animals of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods.

As the eons passed, the creatures of the Jurassic evolved into the remarkable creatures of the Cretaceous, but perhaps the most important biological development during the Cretaceous was the emergence of the flowering plants, without which, many, if not most of our food crops would not exist. At about the same time flowering plants were evolving, many insects were also beginning to change and evolve. Ants, termites, butterflies, aphids, grasshoppers and wasps began to appear and among them, perhaps the most important insect of them all made its first appearance: the highly social bee, a development that was vital to the evolution of the flowering plants and, in the far distant future, American farms and orchards.

But it is the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous that are among the most well-known and beloved of all the life forms that ever evolved in earth’s long history. Their names alone evoke wonder: Tyrannosaurs Rex, at 40 feet long, one of the largest land-based carnivores that ever lived; Triceratops a plant eating dinosaur, thirty feet long and weighing up to 12 tons with its unmistakable three-horned head that took up almost a third of its body length; Ankylosaurus, about the size of a modern elephant, but covered with large plates of bony armor; Pteranodon, a flying reptile with a 20 foot wingspan, and countless other giants. They were amazing creatures and if nature hadn’t created them, no human imagination could have done so. Had these wonderful creatures lived to the present day, the United States of America, as we know it, could not exist because the human beings who created it almost certainly could not have evolved. Our primate ancestors, if they had evolved at all, would have been little more than dinosaur snacks.

Living almost unnoticeable among the dinosaurs were a number of much lesser creatures – the mammals. They were tiny animals compared to the dinosaurs. They gave birth to live young, but they were insignificant, furry little things and had the dinosaurs survived, it is highly unlikely that mammals, including humans, would have risen to dominant the world. Then, about 65 million years ago, in what amounts to a geological instant that not only made America, but the entire world, the dinosaurs disappeared.

The theory as to what drove the dinosaurs to extinction was first proposed by a famous Nobel Prize physicist and amateur paleontologist, Luis Alvarez. His son Walter, a geologist, had been studying a strange layer of clay at the boundary between the Cretaceous and the Tertiary periods, also known as the K-T boundary, the layer that seemed to mark the moment in geological time when the dinosaurs went extinct. Paleontologists noticed that no dinosaur fossil has ever been found above that boundary.

Luis and Walter enlisted the aid of nuclear chemists Frank Asaro and Helen Michel from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The chemists discovered that the strange clay contained an extremely high level of a substance known as iridium, a mineral that is rare on the earth, but present in the countless micrometeorites that arrive from space and dust the planet’s surface. Eventually, they also determined that the same clay from other locations around the world contained the same high iridium levels. There could only be one explanation: that iridium did not originate on earth. It came from outer space!

In 1980, Luis and Walter Alvarez, and the two chemists published the paper proposing that the Cretaceous extinction was caused by an extraterrestrial impact. It was greeted with skepticism at first, but is now the most widely accepted explanation of what killed off the dinosaurs.

Although there is controversy as to whether or not a single event caused the extinction of as much as three quarters of the life on earth, most paleontologists agree that an extraterrestrial impact played a key role in their demise. A number also suggest that dinosaurs were already in trouble from disease, and from a series of volcanic eruptions called the Indian Deccan Trap that occurred at roughly the same time. Whether it was that singular deathblow from space or a final volcanic nail in the Cretaceous coffin, there is little question that 65 million years ago a mountain-sized asteroid smashed into the earth near what is now the town of Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The asteroid impact is believed to have set off widespread, major earthquakes, horrific storms, world wide volcanic eruptions and forest fires that sent ash and dust high into the atmosphere where it blocked the sun’s light for years, perhaps for centuries. The devastation plunged the entire world into what today would be described as “nuclear winter”. As the effects of that catastrophic collision erupted across the globe, those awe-inspiring creatures that would someday be loved by children everywhere, began to die. The irony is that had their beloved dinosaurs survived, it is almost certain that none of those children would have ever been born.

That anything was left alive anywhere was a miracle. As it was, the impact and its aftermath is believed to have wiped out up to seventy-five percent of all species on earth. Fortunately for humans, one class of animals that managed to survive was the one to which we humans belong: the mammals.

As time passed, the planet slowly recovered. Mammals began to thrive and to fill the niche left by the dinosaurs. They have since spread to nearly every environment on the planet. Had the asteroid not wiped out the dinosaurs, it is very likely that mammals would have been unable to compete with their oversized, hungry neighbors and we humans might never have evolved.  Without humans there would be no America. Unlikely as it may seem, a big chunk of rock from outer space helped make America.

Ages of Ice

If the view of our planet from space 200 million years ago was far different than it is today, the Earth as seen from space 12,000 years ago was just as surprising. Although North America would have been recognizable, its appearance would have been shocking. Stretching from the Arctic across all of what is now Canada and into the United States, lay a vast sheet of ice, as much as 4 kilometers thick, and as far south as 45 degrees north latitude. Scientists call this ice sheet the “Wisconsin Glaciation”. It was only the latest of several such periods that stretch back possibly as far as 2.4 billion years ago.

What causes them is open to speculation, but variations in the distance of the Earth from the sun, solar energy output, ocean current circulation, composition of the atmosphere are all candidates. What does seem clear is that at some point, one or more of those possibilities works to push the planet over some crucial threshold and at that moment, an ice age becomes inevitable.

When it arrived, the ice sheet didn’t just sit there. It began to move. Like a giant bulldozer, it was working, ripping away soil and topsoil from what would one day be Canada, depositing all that fertile soil onto what would later be the United States. Enormous amounts of valuable Canadian topsoil, rock and gravel rode with the ice sheets as they moved. Some of the richest farmland in the United States Midwest and Northeast arrived in this way. Windstorms helped move tremendous amounts of this soil far from where the glacier left it, to settle out of the sky as a layer of fertile soil in the Mississippi and Missouri valleys, Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The ice changed America. The Great Lakes were carved by ice gouging its way through existing valleys, carving them even deeper. Across most of the northern part of the continent, the glaciers gouged out depressions that filled with water as the glaciers melted. Many river systems were reshaped or created including the Mississippi River that formed when the water from the melting ice sheet collected in what is now Wisconsin and Minnesota, then carved its way to the Gulf of Mexico. And on the border between the Province of Ontario in Canada and the State of New York, the water from the melting ice ran into a 700 square mile limestone formation called the Niagara Escarpment and created Niagara Falls. The countless lakes in northern Canada can be attributed almost entirely to the action of the ice. And as the ice retreated, the land, once weighted down by the ice, rebounded and continues to reshape the Great Lakes and other areas formerly lying under the weight of the ice.

Highly significant in the making of America was the fact that from about 12,000 to 17,000 years ago, a land corridor linked Eurasia to Alaska across what is now the Bering Strait. During the last ice age, water from the oceans locked up in the ice sheets, helped lower the global sea level by about 100 meters, allowing land-bridges between land masses such as the one across the Bering Strait, thus providing an access route into North America for animals and for people. America was now open and ready for human occupation.

First Americans

According to archeologists, the first Americans arrived on the continent between 12,000 and 50,000 years ago. The figures represent a significant range, but both estimates are possibly correct in that the migration to the American continent probably went on, intermittently, for millennia. There is also controversy about the route some early Americans used. A few historians have suggested that stone age Europeans crossed the Atlantic by skirting the ice sheets during the last ice age, living off fish, seals and sea birds, or that Southeast Asians crossed the Pacific to get here, which means that America ten thousand years ago was almost as much of a “melting pot” as it is today. However, where they came from originally doesn’t change what those first pioneers contributed to the making of America.

The most likely route for the migrations was via the land bridge across the Bering Strait. There is no way of knowing why these Asian pilgrims made the move. Were there legends about a vast land to the east that inspired the more adventurous among them? Were there conflicts, famines or natural crises that spurred them to leave their homes and head east to an unknown destination? Or were they merely doing what nomadic peoples have always done: following the animals that were their food supply?

Did they have any inkling of the fact that they had arrived on an immense, rich, new continent, virtually empty of fellow humans? Perhaps none of these things mattered. It’s just as likely that the driving force was the compulsion that seems to be built into our human genetic code: the uncontrollable desire to see what lies over the next hill, beyond the next mountain. Whatever the reasons were that drove them to this continent, some long ago day, one of our human ancestors took a step out of Asia and became the first human being to set foot on the North American continent, thereby making that moment one of those that profoundly helped make America.

By the time Europeans arrived, the people they mistakenly called “Indians” occupied every region on the continent from tropical rainforests to the Arctic, and they thrived there.

Those earliest pioneers earned the epithet savage, largely because they weren’t Christian. Ironically, the name savage was given to them by people who, for centuries, had happily butchered countless thousands of their neighbors because they couldn’t agree on how religion should be practiced or how their deity should be worshipped.

The first census in the United States was conducted in 1790 and included only 12 states. America counted white men, women, and children, slaves, cattle and billiard tables, but makes little mention of Native Americans. Any population estimates prior to that date are even more suspect. Though the population figures are highly controversial, America was not an empty land when those first Europeans arrived. The Native American population estimates range from a low of about two million to more than twenty million. Sometimes those figures go even higher. Whatever the population was when Columbus made his first voyage, by the time European diseases, conflict with white Americans, internal conflict and ill treatment exemplified by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 had taken their toll, the Native American population had plummeted. The question as to the size of the population prior to the arrival of Columbus points to a more fundamental question: was the influx of Europeans in America a great advance in the history of civilization or was it a catastrophe? There is no good answer. One can only hope that the end result makes up, in some small way, for what it took to get there.

Despite the tribulations they suffered, the presence in America of those first Americans has added enormous depth to the nation’s history, culture, mindset, traditions and heritage. Without them, the nation we know today would be unrecognizable.

A Matter of Timing

Vital to the making of America was the timing of those early European arrivals. The Iroquois League, later the Iroquois Confederacy, was a union of five powerful Native American tribes: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca tribes. Their territory extended across what is today Ontario, Quebec, and upper New York state. In 1722 the Tuscarora joined the Confederacy making it a union of Six Nations that still exists today. Their name for themselves was “Haudenosaunee”, People of the Long House. The name “Iroquois” was given to them by the French who had been settling in many of the regions occupied by the Haudenosaunee.

A number of archeologist and anthropologists place the date of the league’s formation in the middle of the 1500’s, but some research hints at a much earlier date, even as far back as the middle of the 12th century. Although many historians credit the formation of the League as a response to the growing presence of Europeans, it is more likely that what really inspired the league was the desire on the part of the Iroquois to control and dominate the entire eastern region of the continent. Eventually, they managed to reach as far south as Kentucky and as far west as the Mississippi. More than one historian has described the Iroquois as an expansionist society, determined to unite tribes across much of North America. Those tribes they couldn’t persuade peacefully, they persuaded by force.

The Iroquois were a people bent on nationhood. Not nationhood in European terms, but nationhood in terms of power. Had Europeans arrived 100 years later, it is doubtful that the newcomers would have been strong enough to control the Iroquois Confederacy and their allies. A century later, Iroquois power might have extended as far South as Florida. With that extra century to develop their imperialist goals, Europeans might have been greeted by a large, politically sophisticated, united and powerful Iroquois nation connected with what might have been an overwhelming number of allies, making European encroachment and settlement in large regions of America impossible. Had even a portion of the Native American population been able to unite against the European invasion, American history would have been very different.

The only thing that stopped their expansionist agenda was the untimely arrival of Europeans, which created a new set of problems for all indigenous peoples. It should be noted, however, that it wasn’t superiority of European weapons, though that helped, nor was it European tactics and it certainly wasn’t superior intellect that devastated the native population. It was the diseases carried by Europeans, diseases from which the earliest Americans had little or no immunity. Smallpox, influenza, typhoid fever, even measles wiped out many thousand, possibly millions. Some estimates place the death toll from European diseases at 90 percent. Without a sufficiently large and organized force to oppose them, Europeans were able to establish those first crucial footholds and for better or for worse made America what it is today.

Contributions of the First Americans

The contribution of the original Americans to the world and especially to the making of America is profound. Indian guides made the exploration of America easier. Ancient Indian trails, often marked the routes used by white pioneers as they journeyed west. Eventually, these trails became roads and railroads. Indian villages, at the invitation of their occupants, were often used as trading posts, and some have grown into cities such as Albany, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.

The fact that the powerful Iroquois allied themselves with the English during the Seven Years War between England and France was decisive to the English victory in the struggle for supremacy in North America. The North American portion of this multi nation struggle was called the “French and Indian War”.

What we now call “American English” has adopted hundreds of Indian words and phrases making the American version of the language more colorful and uniquely American. Words such as canoe, caribou, chipmunk, mackinaw, maize, moccasin, moose, Klondike, opossum, powwow, toboggan, tomahawk, totem, wampum, wigwam, woodchuck, all entered the American English directly from various Indian languages. The word tobacco comes from the Caribbean. It is from an Arawak Indian word that essentially means “a roll of leaves”.

Countless North American place names are Native American in origin. From “Alaska”, (an Aleut word “alaxsxaq” – the place where the sea goes) to “Wyoming”, (“xwé:wamənk,” at the big river”) the names of more than half of the States are derived from Native American words or phrases. A favorite is the unchanged “Mississippi” – the great water or big river. New York State alone has more than a hundred place names taken directly from Native American languages. An exact tally of all place names of Native American origin in the United States is nearly impossible, but their existence has added wonderful poetry and color to American geography.

According to estimates from a variety of sources, more than half of the agricultural production of the United States comes from plants or animals domesticated by Native Americans. A short list includes corn, a dozen or more varieties of beans, cranberries, pumpkins and squash, maple syrup, potatoes, turkeys, peanuts, tomatoes and tobacco.

Native American art, music, games and sports, ideas about conservation and agriculture permeates American culture, even sign language, which was a system of hand signals used to assist trade and communicate between different tribal groups and later with traders and trappers, was developed by Native Americans. The same type of system is used today for communicating with the deaf. The very concept of government as practiced in the United States, in which certain powers are held by a central government, and all other powers reserved to the states, was borrowed from the system of government employed by the Iroquois League. In 1988 the United States Congress passed a resolution to recognize the influence of the Iroquois League upon the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Without these First Americans and their enormous contributions, the United States would be an unrecognizable and faded shadow of the nation it is today.

About the Author

Geoff Armstrong began his teaching career in 1965 after receiving a teaching diploma from McGill University’s Macdonald College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1967 where his major field of study was history. Armstrong credits writers such as Bruce Catton, and Thomas B. Costain, as well as the encouragement of his father who had little formal education, but a deep love of reading and of history, as the inspiration for his own life-long interest.

Throughout a 25-year teaching career he taught history at several grade levels and learned quickly that to reach the hearts of his students, history had to be made immediately and deeply relevant and accessible: that some event that took place centuries before those students were born had a direct and profound influence on every aspect their lives. He also learned that talking down or writing down to his students was a recipe for defeat. It is this awareness, shaped by a quarter century of teaching and countless questions by thousands of intelligent young people that has informed and shaped his writing.

His latest book is Moments That Made America: From the Ice Age to the Alamo.

You can visit his website at www.MomentsThatMadeAmerica.com.

Title: DARK SPIRAL DOWN
Author: Michael Houtz
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Pages: 377
Genre: Thriller/International/Action

BOOK BLURB:

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer.  Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.

Praise for Michael Houtz

“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”

~Lima Charlie Review

“…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.”

~Andrea Brunais, Author

“Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”

~Dan Grant, Author

Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz. This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot, memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!”

~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine

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Chapter 1

Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday night Main Event, April 21st

“Ten seconds!”

From his corner, Cole Haufner heard the cry all the way across the blood-smeared octagon. He held his opponent immobile, letting the clock run out on the second of three periods. He was well ahead in the fight, but a nasty gash over his left eye, one that opened in the late first round from a flying elbow, threatened the outcome due to the amount of blood pouring from the wound. The win was not his primary goal. A six-figure purse for a victory ensured his son’s life-saving surgery.

The referee separated both fighters while directing them to their respective corners.

Cole jumped up from the mat, fist-pumped the air for the crowd, and made his way to his corner where two men stood ready to attend to him. As he approached his team, Cole saw the fight doctor walk through the cage door opening with a look of concern. A sense of dread attacked Cole.

“Lemme take a look at that,” the physician ordered as he stepped forward to scan Cole’s injury.

“I’m good, Doc, I’m good.” Blood poured down his face, spreading across Cole’s sweat-covered chest and pooling onto the canvas mat.

The fighter’s corner coach, Barry Liggit, and cut-man, Scott “Stitch” Bell, leaned in close to see the wound.

“I’m fine. Just get me ready,” Cole snarled. He needed the fight doctor to give him a break on the injury.

Beyond the blinding lights shining on the fight ring, more than thirteen thousand fans chanted, “Gentleman, gentleman, gentleman…”

The spectacle of the crowd embarrassed Cole. This unwanted praise railed against everything he’d been taught at the Chinese Buddhist monastery where he lived and studied as a young boy.

“You hear that?” Barry shouted over the noise of the crowd. “They want you, Cole. They know you’re the next middle-weight champion.”

The doctor repeatedly held pressure over the cut and released to see how quickly the wound bled. Each time he let go, a fountain of red erupted.

Cole saw the concern in the physician’s eyes. “Doc, you know I need this one,” he pleaded. “You know my family story. I swear I’ll finish this quick.”

“I’m giving you one minute.” the doctor shouted to Barry. “I’m not losing my medical license because of his injury.” The ER physician turned and nodded to the fight officials outside the cage that Round 3 would start.

The crowd erupted in a roar.

Stitch jumped in front of Cole with packing cream and the frozen steel plate to stem the bleeding long enough to ready the fighter.

Barry leaned close to Cole’s face. “You’ve never had a fight last more than a minute. What’s the deal?

You don’t have a lot of time! You got me?”

Cole looked to his right. An empty seat remained at ringside. His older brother, Butch, promised to attend. Cole started the headline match with some concern, but now, he worried over his brother’s absence. They hadn’t spoken in the last twenty-four hours, even though Butch was supposed to have received a special furlough from his military unit to be here. For Butch to break a promise wasn’t unusual—it came with his job. Amid one of the most important moments of his life, Cole couldn’t help but worry.

A hand jerked his head. “Are you even hearing me?” Barry yelled.

Cole shifted his gaze back to the ring, catching Stitch looking in the same direction.

“Holy shit. Are you dragging out this fight waiting for Butch?” Stitch shouted.

Busted. Cole looked away from Barry, unable to hold his coach’s gaze.

Barry put his hands on his hips, lips smashed into a line. “You gotta be kidding me! Well, that would explain why we’re in round three. You’re one lucky punch away from losing this fight. Don’t you think your son needs this win?”

You know he’s off limits. For the first time in the match, rage filled his body. The immediate image of his son’s physical struggles with a failing heart sent a powerful surge through his nervous system. He glared at his trainer, blood running down his face as the cold plate slipped from the gash. “Shut your mouth,” Cole hissed.

Barry swallowed. The corner man quickly recovered “This is it, brother. The crowd wants ‘the

Gentleman,’ but give them the ‘Beast’. Let’s see some of that monk shit and finish this fight.”

Sorry, Butch, I can’t wait any longer. I know you’ll understand. Cole opened his mouth so Barry could slide the mouthpiece into place. “Don’t blink or you two are gonna miss an old move of mine.”

Barry and Stitch grinned.

Dragging out the fight was a stupid move. Even though he’d never met his match, not even close in the ring, Cole faced a professional fighter. Barry was right. Another lucky punch like the one that cut him in round one could lose him the one hundred- thousand-dollar bonus offered for a win. His son needed him.

Focus. Breathe. For Max.

The referee made his way to the center of the octagon and motioned for the fight corners to clear the ring.

Stitch held the cold plate to Cole’s forehead cut for three more seconds then followed everyone else out with the door clanging shut.

Vision in Cole’s left eye blurred—the blood was already seeping from around the edges of the packing cream.

The ref signaled to the ringside table he was ready then waved with both hands for the fighters to approach the center.

Cole stepped forward in his usual calm manner— the source of the nickname “the Gentleman.”

The other fighter bounced on the balls of his feet, just out of reach.

“Ready.” The referee continued with a slight pause in between. “Let’s bring it!” With that, he jumped back out of the way of the combatants.

Cole ducked as his opponent unleashed a flurry of combinations, trying to finish the fight almost as quickly as it had resumed. He parried the punches and kicks, toying with the other man, aware he had less than a minute before the doctor returned to the ring. Cole only needed a fraction of a second. He searched for an opening.

The onslaught carried on for a full ten seconds before the fighter dropped back, his nostrils flaring like a bull’s.

Blood flowed freely again, saturating Cole’s chest and shorts while clouding his vision.

The opposing corner yelled to their fighter to go to a defensive position.

“I’m sorry,” Cole shouted to his opponent.

The sweating mass of muscle furrowed his forehead. “The hell you say?”

“Sorry about this.” Cole stood from his crouch and lowered his fists.

“What are you doing?” Barry screamed from just outside of the cage. “Hands up. Hands up!”

In the blink of an eye, the other man slid forward and threw a powerful right hand.

This moment was Cole’s. Rather than defend, he leaped from the canvas, performed a front somersault in mid-air, and extended his right leg, bringing his heel crashing down on top of the man’s head. A sickening thud sounded upon contact, and the other fighter collapsed to the mat, unmoving.

Cole rolled forward after the strike, coming to rest in a crouch some five feet away. Though he suspected the instant he’d made contact he’d finished off his opponent, Cole took nothing for granted. He spun in case of a counterattack.

The ref, initially stunned, dove onto the unmoving man. The crowd’s collective gasp morphed into a deafening roar when the signal was given the fight was over.

Panting from the effort, Cole watched as the cage door opened, and medical personnel raced inside.

Barry and Stitch rushed through the portal and drew him into crushing hugs amid incredible noise. Literally lifted off his feet, Cole only felt relief in accomplishing what he’d set out to do; he’d likely saved his son’s life.

About the Author

After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.

Website: www.mikehoutz.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelhoutz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.mikehoutz/

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A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.

A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.

Multi-published in historical, paranormal, erotic and contemporary romance, A.S. is the author of The Forever Brides series, the Everton Domestic Society series, and more. With several books currently contracted, A.S. will be bringing you her brand of edgy romance for years to come.

Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the Southern Missouri with her real-life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, puttering in her garden and spoiling her fussy cat.

Website Link: http://asfenichel.com

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/asfenichel

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/A.S.Fenichel

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BOOK BLURB:

Can a broken engagement ignite the spark of true love?

Sylvia Dowder had almost made it to the altar when her fiancé unexpectedly became a viscount, and dropped her like a stale crumpet to make a more “suitable” match. Though Sylvia’s heart has been crushed, her spirit has not. She puts her wits and social savvy to use as a secret gossip columnist—and as the Everton Domestic Society’s party planner to the ton. Luckily, she’s not in danger of ever falling for an aristocrat again…

Especially not one like Anthony Braighton, Earl of Grafton. Raised in America, Anthony sees no reason to marry when he can enjoy all the perks of being an eligible earl. Determined to convince his family he doesn’t need a wife, he hires Sylvia to act as hostess and decorator for upcoming parties. Yet Sylvia is as adept at captivating his interest as she is at beautifying his home. And despite this Everton lady’s aversion to titled men, some attractions can’t be denied—and love rarely does go where it’s told . . .

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

No. I struggled through school, probably because I had very bad eyesight and no one realized until I was six. This left me pretty far behind other students. I was painfully shy, so that didn’t help.

What was your inspiration for A Lady’s Virtue?

Anthony Braighton and Sylvia Dowder first come to life in Tainted Bride. They have been after me for years to tell their story.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to write about empowered women regardless of the era. I also love men who aren’t threatened by a woman being smart, strong and wise.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

About three months from outline to ready for a beta reader.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I usually write for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon. There’s a lot of other business item that need doing in between. If I’m behind and have a deadline looming, I’ll write in the evening too. I’m pretty disciplined. In my opinion, writers write.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

I had to grow Anthony up. When we first meet him, he’s only twenty-two. He’s headstrong and carefree. So, like with children, it was hard for me to see him any other way. I had to allow him to mature and become a man. It was difficult but a great learning experience.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the moment before I put a single word on the page. That blank screen staring back at me is filled with endless possibilities. I know some authors find that moment daunting, but I love it.

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

I’m published with Kensington Publishing. I’ve been with them since 2014 and have been extremely happy. They treat me like family.

Where can we find you on the web?

Web Site- http://asfenichel.com/

Blog – http://asfenichel.com/blog/

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5154640.A_S_Fenichel

Twitter – https://twitter.com/asfenichel

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/A.S.Fenichel

Book Bub – https://www.bookbub.com/authors/a-s-fenichel

 

headshotDr. Randy Overbeck is a writer, educator, researcher and speaker in much demand. During his three plus decades of educational experience, he has performed many of the roles depicted in his writing with responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent. His new ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake, will be released on April 10, 2019 by The Wild Rose Press. As the title suggests, the novel is set on the famous Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, home to endless shorelines, incredible sunsets and some of the best sailing in the world. Blood is first in a new series of paranormal mysteries, The Haunted Shores Mysteries. Dr. Overbeck’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind, a thriller about the terrorist takeover of a Midwest high school and one teacher’s stand against the intruders, won the 2011 Silver Award for Thrillers from ReadersFavorite.com. Dr. Overbeck is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and an active member of the literary community. You can follow him on Twitter @OverbeckRandy, friend him on Facebook at Author Randy Overbeck or check out his webpage, www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Blood on the Chesapeake. When did you start writing and what got you into paranormal mystery?

I know this may not be true for all authors, but one thing that has surprised me about the entire writing and publishing process is just how long it takes to get my novel from idea and concept to finished, polished product. When I checked my records, the first drafts of Blood on the Chesapeake date back almost eight years. Of course, the story and the writing has gone through several revisions over that time, including changing the story from a simple cold case murder mystery to a ghost story/mystery. And how did that evolution develop? Like a lot of my “light bulb” ideas, it was inspired by a session at a great writing conference, this time, the Midwest Writers’ Conference.

BloodontheChesapeake_w12700_750What is your book about?

After being dumped by his fiancé, Darrell Henshaw, a young teacher and coach, decides to find new pastures and lands a job on the Chesapeake Bay. He cannot believe his good fortune as Wilshire, a quiet, scenic and charming resort town on the Eastern Shore offers him his dream job—teaching high school history and coaching football and basketball—and a second chance at love. Except no one told him that a student was murdered at the school and that the kid’s ghost haunts the hallways.

You see, Darrell sees ghosts, though he’s not happy about it. His first encounter with the spirit world did not go well and he has the OCD scars to prove it. But, after he’s hounded by the terrifying ghost, he decides to look into the murder, aided by his new love, Erin Caveny. Together, they follow a trail that leads back to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, after two locals who try to help are murdered and Erin’s life is threatened, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.

What was your inspiration for it?

Most of my stories have been inspired by the towns I’ve travelled to and the people and places I’ve encountered on my way. When visiting a new area, I’m always been intrigued by the possibilities of unfamiliar places, the “I wonder if” notion. The initial idea for Blood on the Chesapeake actually sprang from a visit to a coastal New England town. The town boasted an old high school with an unusual architectural feature, a faux widow’s walk atop the second floor of the school building—which readers will discover is a critical part of the setting and narrative of Blood on the Chesapeake. Then, when I later journeyed to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I was overwhelmed by the quiet, scenic beauty of the region, but also intrigued by the duality of the cultures there. Here was a region bearing the hallmarks of a proud New England tradition, but also with roots still very much in the South. (The area was home to famous slave plantations and was split in loyalties during the Civil War.) I thought it’d be interesting to explore that dichotomy in fiction. In this most peaceful and beautiful of settings on the Chesapeake Bay, what if something horrific happened in this small town and they tried to cover it up?

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

Any new narrative poses multiple challenges and this novel was no different, but I enjoy meeting challenges, especially the literary variety. One significant challenge was the setting of the story, the when. The tale actually covers two different time periods; most of the narrative occurs during fall, 1998, but the murder actually occurred more than thirty years before that, in the early sixties. To be certain to have the details accurate to each time period—clothes, hairstyles, slang, music, happenings, etc.—was a significant challenge, but one I had fun trying to master all these.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Without a doubt. Although the central focus of the story—high school teaching and coaching—was an area with which I have considerable familiarity, several other parts of the narrative required a good deal of learning and research. Good thing I enjoy that. Here are just a few examples. Since I’m not a native to the Eastern Shore—one reason I made my protagonist, Darrell Henshaw a fish out of water there—I made several trips to the region to make sure I could get the geography, culture, names and details right. Also, like Darrell, I was fairly new to the water, so I had to learn a great deal about sailing on the Bay (and still required help and research to correct some details in the writing there). I had to do considerable research about what happened in a small town after a lynching, so that this critical part of my novel would ring true to life. Finally, since the ghost story is an integral part of the tale—and I don’t pretend to have any particular expertise in the area—I had to learn from those that do, to ensure my “ghost whispering” was credible and fits what is known and accepted in this arena.

What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?

That’s not usually not a problem. In fact, what happens more often with me us that the muse throws too much at me. I might be trying to work on one part of the novel, looking for inspiration, and the muse will give me direction on a later part of the story. Or on another different narrative all together. I tend to go with the flow and move to where the muse wants to take me. Usually, it works out and by the time I’m able to get back to where I wanted to be, the muse is gracious enough to give me what I need.

Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?

Not really. Since I only have a limited amount of time when I’m actually at the keyboard, ready to advance the story, I almost always have anticipation, rather than anxiety when I’m writing. Usually I have a number of ideas swirling around in my head and I can’t wait to get them down “on paper.” Of course, some anxiety strikes me, like whether I’m getting it right or heading in the right direction, but by now I’ve done enough revising and editing to have faith that I’ll take the time (usually many times) to get it right later and I don’t focus on that concern then. The times I sit down to write for me are freeing, because I’m glad to get the character or the murder or the ghost out of my head and into the computer.

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?

Yes and no. When I’m in the groove, I will write pretty much every day, but I’m not a Prussian about it. Most days, I’ll write for two to three hours at a time, usually in the late morning or early afternoon. But some days you might find me at the keyboard for a couple hours in the evening or even in the middle of the night, if my characters won’t let me sleep. One thing I’ve learned is that for me, after a few hours, either my inspiration dries up (or maybe just takes a break) or my writing deteriorates. So I’ve learned to let it go and come back to it. I try to make the writing a regular habit, but I’m realistic about it. Sometimes life intrudes. For several months last year, we were designing and building a new house as well as selling our prior house. During that time, there was little time for writing. I didn’t stress over it, but simply returned to my writing commitment as soon as I could.

What was your publishing process like?

With my first novel, Leave No Child Behind, and with Blood on the Chesapeake, I worked with publishers, a small press with the first and a much larger house with Blood. I know other authors who have had good experience self-publishing, but I’ve chosen not to go that route, at least for these works. Originally, I was hoping to interest a strong agent and through him/her secure a book contract. Although I attracted the attention of a few agents, I was never able to close the deal. Dealing with the small press for the first book worked out quite well for me as they gave me some support and also considerable autonomy. And although my journey with the second publisher is still in its early stages, I had heard and read very good things about The Wild Rose Press and am looking for great things from them as the book moves forward.

How do you celebrate the completion of a book?

I’m not big into rituals, so I’m not sure how to answer this question. What is completion of a book? When the first draft is finished? When the tenth revision is done? When you’ve completed all the work from the feedback from the editor? When you get the contract for the book? When the first copy appears, on the iPad or in your hands? When the first thousand copies are sold? All of those are hallmarks of my journey of writing and I try to savor each one and learn from the experience.

How do you define success? For me, success is when I see my writing—years of imagination, creativity, perseverance, research and just plain hard work—come to fruition and become real, the novel published, the book in readers’ hands, great reviews coming in. And when readers, most of whom I’ve never met, write me to tell me how much they enjoyed my story. Rather than any financial measure, that for me defines success.

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

That’s easy. I write because I love writing, because I feel I have something to say. But nothing in my writing life has brought me more joy than seeing how much my readers LOVE my work. After my first book, Leave No Child Behind, was published, I received scores of emails from readers telling how much they enjoyed it and how it scared them to death. (It was supposed to scare them.) Several years later, I still keep and re-read those emails.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

Many writers say that writing is a solitary act, just you and the computer. While I can’t argue with that, I need to add that my writing would never have risen above the minimum without help from outside. I’ve participated in several really good writing conferences including Killer Nashville, Midwest Writers’ Conference, Sluethfest and have found these experiences invaluable for “priming the pump” and getting me to think beyond my boundaries. Not to mention all the connections I’ve made with fellow writers. But I have found the greatest asset to my writing has been my regular participation in a really great writing group. These fellow writers have been both kind and cruel to my words, and my writing has improved as a result. My advice to aspiring writers is always to find ways to prime the pump and get a support system. And of course, read. Read a lot.

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Thoughts?

I have to admit, in my darkest hours, I have shared George’s concern, but not often. I’ll acknowledge that at times my writing does take over and feels very much like an obsession—not unlike the OCD of my character, Darrell—but it’s a compulsion I welcome and relish. At least most of the time when my muse is speaking to me and the words flow.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m currently finishing the second installment in the Haunted Shore Mysteries series—tentatively titled Crimson at Cape May, another ghost story/mystery, this time set in the beautiful, historic resort town of Cape May, which also happens to be the most haunted seaport on the eastern coast. The Wild Rose Press already has first rights to the book and I expect this second novel in the series to be released sometime in 2020. Also, a third book in the series is in the planning, this time with nefarious happenings and another mysterious ghost at a sunny resort in the Bahamas. At the same time, I’m working on a standalone mystery about a drug dealer and murderer who preys on middle school students. You could probably say, I’m keeping busy.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

I’d like to think my new novel can and will appeal to a broad range of readers. One of the early reviewers for the book, best-selling and Edgar award-winning author, William Kent Krueger, made this exact point: “For those who enjoy a mixed bag in the books they read, Randy Overbeck has performed a nifty literary feat. Within a web woven of threads from a number of genres—a bit of romance, a lot of mystery, and a good deal of old-fashioned ghost whispering—he’s written a pretty solid social commentary.” So if you’re looking for a little romance or if you’re on the hunt for a good whodunit or if you’d like to curl up with an old-fashion ghost story or if you just want to be transported to a “setting to die for,” you’ll find all four in Blood on the Chesapeake. And, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

 

VickiSF15HeadshotVictoria Landis is a professional writer, editor, and artist. A 16-year member, and former board member, of Mystery Writers of America, she Co-Chaired the SleuthFest Writers Conference from 2015-2018.

She’s taught at SleuthFest, the Authors Academy at Murder on the Beach, and the Alvin Sherman Library at Nova Southeastern University.

Visit her at www.VictoriaLandis.com

Found out more: https://amzn.to/2HWMs5R

INTERVIEW:

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

A: Jordan is the story of a young woman from Boca Raton, Florida, who disappears for three years, then surfaces with the ability to heal people by simply touching them. As you can imagine, in today’s viral social media world, word gets out too fast, and an entire world of sick people—whoever can manage it—make their way to South Florida, in hopes of being cured. Is isn’t long before things get out of hand and chaos erupts.

As a little kid, I wanted to do two things. Fly and heal people by touch. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried to concentrate, neither of those ambitions came to fruition. A few years ago, the healing thing came to mind again—not sure what sparked it—and I wondered what would happen if? In today’s viral social media world? Wow.

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

A: Jordan is a bit of a hybrid. Part pure thriller and part magical realism. You need to believe that Jordan can heal people in order to go along with the rest of the story. I think there are two absolute basics. Thrillers are fast-paced. The stakes are high, whether for an individual, a community, or the world. They are not the place for flowery narrative.

JordanFrontCoverFeb12019Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I’m not a plotter or a pantser. I semi-plot out my stories. I know how I want it to begin, end, and usually something important in the middle. I keep a list of actions and scenes I want to include, but I’m not sure where they’ll wind up. The main thing is to make sure there is no ‘muddle in the middle.’

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

A: I have two protagonists. Jordan Crissman and Petra Simmons. I did a page on both of them before starting and decided I wanted to tell the entire story through Petra’s eyes, much like Nick, Daisy’s cousin, in The Great Gatsby. There’s only Petra’s POV. Jordan returned home apparently stripped of any sense of street smarts, and she needs Petra for that. Petra is wary of publicity and reporters because of the way they hounded her after the death of her child-actress mother. She hates being in the spotlight. She’s a bit jaded and weary at the young age of twenty-nine.

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: Huh. I don’t want to give away too much here, as it’s not clear who that person is until the end. I’ll say there are several people who are interested in controlling a miracle. I like making all my characters human, though, with good and bad traits. What helps is giving them a background story, too, even if it never makes it into the book. Understanding what makes them tick and what they want is the key to making them realistic. Then just put yourself into their heads, and you’ll very quickly figure out how to write them.

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

A: Get rid of extra, unnecessary words whenever you can, such as: that, had, had been, was, then, just, still, even, etc. The overall effect of them is they slow everything down.

Describe enough to enable a picture in the reader’s head, but don’t overdo it. We don’t need to know what every character is wearing in every scene. We don’t need to know how the woman’s hair is arranged every day, unless it’s key to the plot.

In the action scenes, keep the sentences short—staccato. Use as few dialogue tags as you can get away with.

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 know Boca Raton very well, as I lived there for nineteen years. So that helped, of course. I mention the basics when entering a place for the first time in a book. The overall layout, what style the architecture is, whether it’s pristine or a dump, that sort of thing. It also helps set the mood and adds to character building. A choice detail can paint an entire picture in the reader’s mind, so choose that detail wisely. The fictional multi-national conglomerate-owning Teigh brothers are important in Jordan, as is their fabulous estate. I had the characters visit it once and described the basic layout then. When they visited again, it was easy to add details. (Just for fun, there is a map of the estate on the Jordan page of my website.) You can also tuck in a detail or two in the narrative that accompanies a character’s dialogue.

Here’s an example from Jordan:

  “I was lucky enough to get an end unit,” Petra said while inserting her key. “Lots of windows.”

     “It’s beautiful.” The woman wandered around the combined living and dining space, stopping at the wide bay window facing the plaza and its fountain.

That is the first description of Petra’s apartment, where they spend a lot of time. Later, the choice details are added as needed.

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

A: I knew Jordan’s from the get-go. The theme is how humankind really hasn’t changed for thousands of years. I don’t always know in advance. My first novel, Blinke It Away, evolved as I wrote it, and the theme became the plight of the native Hawaiians and how they were shafted when the United States acquired the islands.

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

A: No. Editing is essential to making a story sing and stand out more. Otherwise you might have incoherent ‘brain droppings’ (credit to George Carlin there.) The craft and the art, once you learn to self-edit as you go, become one.

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

A: The ability to know what is or is not an interesting story before you start. The ability to listen to and seriously consider the feedback you ask for. And the ability to write in a way that makes the reader not want to put the book down.

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

A: If you’re studying a subject you love, then you don’t mind homework, right? If you think of your writing/research as drudgery homework, then why on earth are you doing it? Go do something you find engaging and interesting, for heaven’s sake.

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

A: Writers’ conferences with serious workshops are fantastic. IMHO, SleuthFest is the best for that. Spoiler alert—I did Co-Chair that one for four years. But it’s a small niche conference, meant for writers, not readers or fans. One attendee stopped me in the hall one year and told me he’d learned more about writing at SleuthFest than he had at an invitational course at Oxford.

Writing advice books by Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Hallie Ephron, David Morrell, & Carolyn Wheat.

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

A: I’ve learned that our egos are our worst enemy. Learn to put it aside. Stop being defensive and listen to those you ask for advice. Caveat: Take your time to learn just who you should ask for advice. This is not a fast business. It’s slow. Take your time. Do it right. You’ll thank yourself later.

Thank you so much for having me here!

 

 

 

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