Friday, November 30, 2012

Melissa McPhail

I would like to thank Chris for generously hosting me on his blog.
“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m fascinated by the concept of honor. One of the reasons I love writing fantasy is the prevalence of themes like honor and nobility and the myriad ways in which different authors explore these ideals.

In Cephrael’s Hand, my character Trell remembers nothing of his previous life prior to waking in the Emir’s palace in Duan’Bai five years ago. Honor is the only thing Trell has had to hold onto in the intervening years, and this shield of honor has become a reflection of his sense of self. His greatest fear is that he once led a dishonorable life, and he suffers beneath this dread because his sense of honor is all he has left.

Trell’s character offers me a chance to explore honor in many forms, yet it’s not only through Trell that we touch upon this theme in Cephrael’s Hand. Indeed, every character faces some test of their integrity—or many of them—as the story unfolds, even as we do in our daily lives.

Honor is a word people often have difficulty defining except by giving examples. As a fantasy author, this fact intrigues me. It makes me wonder if indeed the word can’t be adequately defined without applying it toward an action.

Like good and evil, honor is a word best understood through exploration of our choices and viewpoints. Is it possible that what seems honorable to one man might appear treacherous to another? Or is honor an absolute, looking the same from all sides? Can honor be a curse and dishonorable acts open us to salvation? Or does the violation of one’s honor inevitably turn a twisted path to our own eventual ruin? How do we determine what's honorable when even the noblest of intentions can lead us astray? Good and evil, right and wrong, honor and dishonor…these concepts reflect iridescent shades of gray. How do we define them in an absolute, black and white sense when they depend so heavily on the mores of the group involved to delineate them?

These are the kinds of questions I ask myself, and they're the types of issues my characters also face. I see fantasy as a metaphor for life in this world, and I seek with my novels to create a reality where realistic characters struggle with real problems—problems that anyone might face at some point (though perhaps without such potential life or death outcomes). Honor requires exploration—even in our own lives, it can be a difficult mountain to summit. Tackling such subjects in a fantasy setting allows us to look at difficult concepts far removed from our own daily struggles, giving them a new cast, a different perspective. It allows us to view the world from a distance and learn from (or pass judgment) with impunity. And if we take some lesson from a character’s struggles and apply it to our own lives, all the better.

Being able to explore the many facets of honor as it plays out against a fantastical backdrop is just one of a host of joys in writing (and reading) fantasy.


"All things are composed of patterns..." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:

In Alorin...three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him...

In the kingdom of Dannym...the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord...

In the Nadori desert...tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.


Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations."

Ms. McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Cephrael's Hand is the multiple award-winning first novel in her series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.





Twitter @melissagmcphail


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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Authorsday: James R. Callan

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I had planned to be a writer when I was in college, and I took a degree in English. But after graduation and marriage, I found I could not support a family writing. So, I went back to graduate school in the field of mathematics. That led to a thirty year detour, until one day I said, “All the kids are out of school and self-supporting.” And I returned to my first love, writing.

2. How did you pick the genre you write in?

I read in a lot of areas, but my favorite is mystery / suspense. So, that’s mostly what I write in. I wrote some non-fiction books at first because that’s what I knew, what I’d been doing for thirty years. But now, I pretty well stick to mystery / suspense.

3. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?

I plot. I am not tied to the plot, but I need a structure to really get started. Of course, once into the book, it often takes turns that were not in the original plot. It may end differently – a different solution, different bad guy. And that’s okay with me. But, I start with a plot.

4. How many rejections have you received?

I can’t count that high. But not so many lately.

5. Describe Cleansed by Fire?

Churches are burning and a man is murdered, plunging a small Texas town into a state of fear. Father Frank DeLuca, pastor of Prince of Peace Church, is thrust into an impossible dilemma when he hears that another church will be burned. But the disturbing information comes to him via the confessional, and church law forbids him from telling anyone—even the police.

He doesn’t know which church, when, or by whom. Still, he can’t sit idly by, and no law prevents him from looking into the matter himself. The crimes have set the town’s residents on edge, fraying the bonds of trust. Is the mysterious newcomer with ties to the drug scene involved? What about the man who says maybe the churches deserved to burn? Or the school drop-out into alcohol and drugs who attacks the priest with a knife?

Countering this are a young widow whose mission is to make others shine, and a youth choir determined to help those whose churches have been destroyed by the arsonist.

Father Frank’s investigation leads him dangerously close to the local drug scene and he soon discovers the danger has come to him. Can he save his own church? Can he save his own life?

6. What was your favorite scene to write in Cleansed by Fire?

There have been a couple of encounters between Fr. Frank and a big, burley man named Harley who has said that maybe the churches deserved to be burned. Finally, Harley catches Fr. Frank as a gas station and challenges him to “fight like a man.” While Fr. Frank is tempted, he knows fighting would send the wrong message to the teenagers watching. So, he suggested an arm wrestling match. Harley takes him up, sure of a quick victory. But Fr. Frank played college basketball and has stayed in good shape. The match stretches out with neither man able to gain the advantage for quite some time. It was a fun scene to write.

Of course, the one, short scene written from the point of view of the arsonist was satisfying to write, and I think I caught the mind-set of the arsonist.

7. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read, work around our property, and travel. Oops, most important, I spend time with my wife.

8. What is your favorite quote?

“The fault … is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” From Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

9. What is your favorite food?

Ice cream, of most any variety.

10. What is your favorite writing reference book?

A good thesaurus. In a ninety or ninety-five thousand word book, it’s easy to use certain words over and over. And while I have a good vocabulary, sometimes it helps to have my memory jogged for a different word. I keep a large thesaurus within arm’s reach of my computer keyboard.

James R. Callan’s books can be found on Amazon at:
His website is href="1.
His blog is at href=""> and he blogs each Friday, often interviewing an author.


After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing. He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books. He now concentrates on his favorite area, mysteries, with his sixth set to be released in 2013.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Authorsday: Jonnie Jacobs

1. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and even sent a short story to Seventeen Magazine when I was in 8th grade. (It was rejected.) But I didn’t start writing seriously until I was on maternity leave twenty plus years ago. The first book I wrote garnered lots of rejections and has never been published. The next book was Murder Among Neighbors, the first in my Kate Austen suburban mystery series and was published in 1994. Since then I’ve published thirteen mystery novels and multiple short stories.

2. How did you pick the genre you write in?

I write mystery novels — the Kate Austen suburban series, the Kali O’Brien legal thrillers, and two non-series books. As an attorney, I’m intrigued by the way that a given set of facts can support two or more plausible scenarios about what happened. Mystery novels are like that. We read to get to the bottom of the puzzle, to past the misdirection and learn the truth about what actually happened. And I like the fact that in fiction, we actually do get to the truth. Real life is sadly less precise. I think of the mystery as the bones on which to hang the human drama that’s key to all storytelling. So character, relationships, past secrets and such are as important to me as plot.

3. What drew you to the subject of your most recent book, Paradise Falls?

Paradise Falls is the story of a woman whose teenage daughter disappears, and what it does to her family when she suspects her seventeen year old stepson of being responsible. It is also the story of the female detective whose own daughter was murdered some years earlier. The starting point for this book was the notion of divided loyalties in blended families, and I tried to come up with a situation that would pose a major challenge to the various relationships. I was also drawn to the idea of missing and murdered children. As a parent, I can think of nothing worse, and I’ve often found myself working through my own fears in my books.

4. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I am definitely in the “seat of your pants” camp, although not by choice. I would love to be able to plot it all out ahead of time but find that I can’t. Until I’m into the story, living what’s happening alongside the characters, I can’t imagine what will happen next or how they will react. I did once manage to plot a book, and while it was actually a pretty clever plot, by the time I’d finished the outline I’d lost all interest in the story. Writing it felt like connecting the dots in one of those children’s games. That book never got written.

I don’t think there’s just one way to work. Authors need to find what works for them. And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. While I don’t plot, I do usually have some vague notion of the direction of the story when I start and it becomes more refined the further along I go. I can usually plot out a chapter or two ahead of myself so I’m not working totally in the dark.

5. What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

There are actually two pieces of advice that have helped me. The first is to read widely (especially in your given genre) and to read critically. Note how successful authors handle plotting, transitions, dialogue etc. And note what doesn’t work for you, as well. The other piece of advice was to write a first draft without worrying too much about word choice or even the fleshing out of a difficult scene. Once you have a book down on the page, you can (you must) go back and revise, rewrite, edit etc.

6. What do you do when you are not writing?

When I started out, my non-writing time was devoted to family (my children and husband, and of course, errands and housework.) Now that my kids are grown and my husband is retired I have a much more flexible schedule, which is both good and bad (bad because we travel often and it’s harder to find time to write.) I love the out of doors – hiking and skiing in particular. I’m also a quilter and novice knitter. And a big, big reader.

7. Have you experienced writer's block? If so, how did you work through it?

Some days I am really into the story and the words come easily. Other days, I have trouble getting words on the page. If I’m having trouble with a scene I will sometimes just start typing, a sort of stream of consciousness to myself. Why am I having trouble here? What is the character feeling and why? What’s the worst thing that could happen to her? Another trick is that I’ll put two (or more) characters on the page and let them start talking. This isn’t generally dialogue I’ll end up using, but it helps me get back in touch with the characters, which for me are what drive the story. The key is to get the words and thoughts flowing and re-connect with my characters.

8. What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?

I struggle with plot, but dialogue comes more easily. In fact, my first draft of a scene is often nothing but dialogue. I have trouble thinking in the abstract, but once my characters are interacting with each other and whatever is happening, I begin to flesh out how the action with proceed. Some authors are visual. They say they see their book almost as if it’s unfolding like a movie. I tend to hear my book. I hear the characters talking and then I build in the setting.

9. What do you consider your weakness and what strategies do you use to overcome it?

As I noted before, plotting does not come easily to me in the sense that I can’t work a plot out in my head until I’m moving through it. This means I do a lot of rewriting and tweaking. I also have trouble with “little” things, like moving a character from one place to another. If it’s a big move, I’ve learned to just make a scene break and move to the new scene. But getting a character out the front door or from bedroom to the kitchen is sometimes a real challenge!

Another difficulty is that I’m a wimp at heart. I have a hard time with anger and I hate putting my characters in danger, even when I know they will be okay in the end. And it’s almost impossible for me to write a truly evil character. I know such people exist, but try as I might, I end up “humanizing” my bad guy (or gal).

10. What do you enjoy most about writing?

When I was young I enjoyed playing with dolls and making up stories about them. When I was in high school I sometimes made up books to write book reports about (even though I was an avid reader). Now I get to make up stories for real. The characters do what I want them to (nobody else does), they say what I want them to say, and I get to work things out the way I want (not always true in the real world.)

Paradise Falls

Caitlin Whittington is the second girl in the town of Paradise Falls to disappear. With her daughter's disappearance, Grace Whittington makes some unsettling discoveries about her stepson, Adam. When she uncovers information that implicates him, the fault lines of a happily blended family crack.

Detective Rayna Godwin, hampered by memories of her own murdered daughter, suspects that there is more to the string of unsolved disappearances than meets the eye.

Paradise Falls is the story of a family torn apart by divided loyalties and a dedicated detective who meets her worst fears head on.


Jonnie Jacobs is the author of thirteen novels, including the newly released, Paradise Falls. She is an active member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and has served on the Edgar awards committee. She is a frequent lecturer on both the craft of writing and the world of mystery fiction. A former practicing attorney and the mother of two grown sons, she lives near San Francisco with her husband and now writes full time. You can visit her on the web at

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ExcerpTuesday:Gerrie Finger Ferris

The Last Temptation

Bradley Dewart Whitney strode into the small room adjoining the judge's chamber like he'd come through the curtain on a catwalk to model his expensive summer suit. I expected him to swirl, he had that kind of narrow-eyed smirk. If it wasn't for his tanned forehead being too high, he would have been GQ perfect. He hadn't spared his bucks on hairdressers, either. He was layered and highlighted, blond and artfully tousled. I resisted the impulse to brush back my own brown strands which hadn't seen scissors in six months.

A gleam grew in his gray eyes. I'd given him the once-over, and, evidently, he thought I liked what I saw.

I got to my feet and stuck out a hand. "Good afternoon, Mr. Whitney." I'm nearly six feet tall and he was a little shorter.

His fingers brushed my palm. "Good afternoon to you, Moriah Dru." He pursed his lips and laid a forefinger in the cleft of his chin. "Dru is an abbreviated form of Druaidh – the ancient Druid priesthood – the guardians of the old faith."

Did he have this knowledge filed in his brain, or had he done research on me? I said, "Daddy never told me that."

He pointed the forefinger toward the ceiling. "Ah, but you're a descendant, Miss Dru – it's apparent in your fair skin and shining blue eyes."

Usually, I tell anxious new clients to call me Dru, but I didn't see much anxiety in him. "Have a seat, Mr. Whitney."

Before he sat, he looked at the chair as if it had cooties on it. Why the word cooties came to mind is a mystery because I don't deal much with children. I work with parents or guardians because their kids are long gone.

He sat and folded one knee over the other, then plucked at the crease of his pants to make sure it hung freely down his leg. He shot his shirt cuffs and adjusted his collar. I waited. He could begin whenever he finished his grooming. He flicked at hair falling on his forehead, then leaned forward as if he remembered why he was here. "We are being confidential, are we not?"

"Of course."

"No reporters, no other snoops?"

"Not unless you call the judge a snoop."

His mouth twitched. "We must have her, I suppose."

I picked up the first item in the file, a photograph of a beautiful blonde woman and her look-a-like daughter. "I'd like to go over the basics with you." His eyes didn't blink when he nodded. I continued, "Kinley's eight years old. You're her custodial parent. She was visiting her mother, Eileen Cameron, in Palm Springs, California. She was scheduled to come home Sunday afternoon."

The Last Temptation

Kinley Whitney and her mother, Eileen Cameron, have vanished from Eileen's Palm Springs home. Kinley's custodial father, Bradley Whitney, lives in Atlanta, and through the court, hires Moriah Dru to find and bring his daughter home. He's a rich academic and right away, Dru senses something amiss with him. Where did his money come from? Dru's lover and partner, police Detective Lieutenant Richard Lake looks into his records.

The investigation takes Dru to Palm Springs where she meets a host of glitzy suspects, including Dartagnan LeRoi, a cop; Arlo Cameron, a Hollywood B-movie director, married to Eileen; Heidi, Arlo's widowed next door neighbor; Eileen's hairdresser, a cross-dresser named Theodosia; a donut-maker named Zing; an Indian princess Contessa (Tess) Rosovo, who befriends then betrays Dru; and Phillippe, a self-styled Phony Frenchman who claims he's a Cardon Bleu chef. Phillippe says everyone in "The Springs" is an actor. He certainly is.

So is Tess. She makes a mistake when she takes Dru to a moon lodge for a ceremony. Dru sees a young girl in a wig. Tess notices Dru's attention to the girl and poisons Dru with datura. Dru wakes up on the high desert floor during a monsoon and nearly dies.

Bradley fires Dru, who goes back to Atlanta. A PI named Bellan Thomas comes to her office. He's looking for Eileen, who'd hired him to dig up dirt on Whitney so she could gain custody of Kinley. Bellan wants to team up with Dru if she'll pay him for his information. Dru pays and learns how corrupt Whitney is

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Authorsday: Elaine Orr

How long have you been writing? I wrote simply for pleasure for years, and in the mid-1980s I started taking classes, initially in play and screen writing. I wrote with the intention of selling at some point, but didn't have a timeframe. I wish I had set one earlier.

What was the best writing advice someone gave you? The late Davey Marlin Jones was director/movie critic for decades. I took some classes from him at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD. It's pretty basic, but one evening when we were peppering him with questions he just looked around the room and said, "You know they call them shows, not tells." Anytime I get too wordy I think about that.
What was the worst? Did you know it at the time? The 'write what you know' business. What I know is boring. Half the fun of writing is picking a setting or subject that you can learn something about as you write, or prepare to write. I didn't know squat for years, so I didn't know it was not the best advice for me.
How did you pick the genre you write in? I think cozy mysteries picked me - though that's not all I do. My mother read all the women mystery writers of her day -- Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, some Agatha Christie. Then she'd see an article about how no one had eggs delivered to their door anymore and she'd say something like, "That's too bad. If you were writing a mystery you could deliver messages in the egg cartons." So I guess I was introduced to the genre early.
How many rejections have you received? I could paper a bedroom, or a New York efficiency. These are largely books prior to the Jolie Gentil series. For a long time I kept the rejections, especially any that offered encouragement. At some point I decided that there was something to learn from the process, but it dealt more with publishing than writing. About six years ago I stopped sending anything out, and just wrote what I wanted.
Why did you decide to self-publish some of your fiction? I've published nonfiction with a traditional publisher, and it's neat to work with industry professionals and have someone besides me market my book. Mostly I picked a setting (New Jersey beaches) and developed characters I wanted to work with over time, and I let some of my characters have a sense of humor similar to mine. This is what I'm going to write for now, and I knew the Jolie Gentil series probably would not sell millions of copies, so why might a publisher buy it? If I were 30 I might be willing to shop it around for a good while, but I'm 60, and I didn't feel like waiting. I realize that sounds a bit arrogant, as if I assume a publisher would want the books if I just pushed hard enough. I enjoy what I write, and people do buy the books. Of course, all of this is possible because of e-books and print on demand. I would never have considered loading up my garage with 50 boxes of books and driving across country to sell them.
Do you inject any real-world events in your books? Interesting question, especially now. I had a low-grade hurricane in Any Port in a Storm, and I'm considering using the aftermath of Sandy in a future book. It is a life-changing event for the Jersey shore, and my early thinking is that I would trivialize it by ignoring it.
Who is your greatest cheerleader? Hands down, my sister, Diane. But I'm still mom's favorite daughter. My husband's supportive too, but I've known her longer.
What three things would you want with you on a desert island? Ice cream, ice cream, and chocolate ice cream.

Bio and blurb stuff

Elaine L. Orr has written fiction and nonfiction for many years and introduced the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series in 2011. Her fiction varies from cozy mysteries to coming-of-age stories to plays. Her nonfiction includes material on caring for aging parents and carefully researched family history books. Elaine grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994. Any Port in a Storm is the fourth in the Jolie Gentil series.

Any Port in a Storm

Jolie Gentil heads the Talk Like a Pirate Day fundraiser for the food pantry and tries to learn who's breaking into the houses she appraises. A newcomer to Ocean Alley is leading high school kids into trouble in those houses. Jolie's mad and lets folks know it. When a corpse turn up under the makeshift pirate ship, Jolie's looking like a suspect. And who wants a murder suspect appraising their house?

Jolie and reporter George Winters try to solve the murder and learn who wants to frame Jolie. Plus, Jolie has to put up with Scoobie's pirate limericks and Aunt Madge's blossoming love life. And what about her own?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Bridge to Treachery

From Chapter 23 A Bridge to Treachery - Larry Crane

Lou got to his knees and scrambled under the trailer toward Frawley’s body. He reached across him, for his carbine. Immediately, the police threw another fusillade of fire. Lou was caught in the middle of the searchlight beam. He scrambled back to safety behind the tire as bullets screeched around him, careening off the concrete in a shower of sparks, miraculously failing to ignite the gasoline. By the weight of it, he judged the magazine of the carbine to be almost full. Back toward the center of the bridge, the police cars were creeping forward. Lou crouched behind the front tire of Mack West, gathering his strength for a sprint. He got to his feet and plunged out into the darkness adjacent to the bridge railing. He pumped his legs with all of his strength. He saw the dark form of his drenched jacket in the roadway ahead.

The headlights of the approaching squad cars created angular shafts of light through the wheels, undercarriage, and stanchions of Mack East and the three-quarter ton full of napalm drums. He dove for his jacket, grasping the machine beneath it in both hands. He whirled the handle once; nothing. Then again, harder. Again. On the third twist, the center of the bridge seemed to heave up in a ball of yellow and crimson flame. A thunderous roar enveloped the bridge and sent shocks through the girders and the concrete surface, throwing Lou to his back.

Globs of thickened aviation gasoline arched through the night--clearing the overhead cables—and then plunged to the inky river below. The massive ball of flame slowly rose off the surface of the roadway and engulfed the cables and lights above.

Lou got to his feet and turned back toward the western end of the bridge, racing back toward Mack West. For nearly a full minute, the center of the bridge was aglow with intense seething light; yet no one fired at him. He went right to the truck, hugging the side of the roadway and the railing. The air in his lungs seemed to swell in his chest until he couldn’t catch his breath. And still no one fired.

Back in the shelter of Mack West, Lou sank to his knees behind the front tire. The entire bridge and the mountains on either side of the Hudson were lit by flaming napalm that now stuck to the overhead cables and slowly dripped in globs of orange flame to the roadway. He’d stopped them. He became aware of the pulsing, rug-beating throb of helicopter blades. He looked out to the north of the bridge and saw a military HU-1B hovering at the level of the roadway, its landing lights gleaming. Red lights flashed on the tail boom. He was receiving no fire. The cops must have been holding off to keep from accidently hitting the chopper or firing into their comrades closing in from the east side.

Slowly the craft moved forward, dipping its nose and gaining altitude. It ascended above the bridge, swinging back to the eastern side. Thirty seconds later, Lou heard throbbing directly overhead. The chopper hovered out in front of him, by the traffic circle, and descended to the ground. There was no firing. It was the perfect time to go.

He reached the end of the railing. Instinctively, he veered to the right, across the narrow strip of grass. He dove headlong into the underbrush, still holding the carbine. He crawled on all fours over roots and rocks and under bushes and low hanging branches that grabbed at his weapon and held him back. He reached the cut.

It was steeper than he thought. He started down the embankment on his rump, warding off boulders and stumps on his way down with his feet, but soon he began tumbling and sliding in a cascade of rocks and water. The pool at the bottom was not deep and it was no colder than the rain.

At first, it was absolutely black in the cut. Gradually his eyes adjusted, but there was no moon and no reflective surfaces to magnify what little light existed. He was shielded from the open ground a hundred and forty feet above him at the level of the bridge. He heard no sound except the splashing of water at his feet and his own deep breathing. The rain still came down steadily, unrelenting. For that he was thankful. It would mask all of his movements. There wasn’t much time. He didn’t know if they’d seen him dart off under the cover and confusion of the helicopter landing. The only thing to do was to strike out west, shielded from view until he was far from this place.

“Hello...” he heard from the other side of the stream. It was a half whisper. “Is it you?”

“Come over here,” he said softly. “Over here. I’m holding out my hand.”

He heard her stumble into the water and stifle a screech. Then his hand was holding hers; pulling her across. She rushed to him, clutched at his shirt, and wrapped her arms around him.

“You don’t look dead,” she said.


Former Colonel Lou Christopher is an ex-Army Ranger retired from the military and contentedly working as a New York investment broker. After being assigned a number of lucrative accounts and becoming accustomed to living the good life, he discovers there is a pay back. His former military skills are requested under a threat of losing everything he has.

Handed a group of misfits to assemble into a military strike team, he is coerced into leading the team on a mission of domestic terrorism. At the center of a bridge outside of Manhattan, his strike team is caught in the act and unexpectedly becomes engaged in a deadly firefight. It's then that he learns the mission was a political maneuver from the highest levels of the U.S. Government-and ultimately realizes he has been betrayed by his superiors. Learning his team was considered nothing more than collateral damage and intended to be killed and left as scapegoats, he uses his unique military expertise and engages in a fight for his life.

As the strike team is decimated, he and a female teammate elude the opposition forces to survive and escape, turning the tables on his superiors. Using his distinctive set of military skills, he now becomes the hunter and vows to extract his revenge and bring them all down.


Transplanted to Maine mid-westerner Larry Crane brings an Illinois sensibility to his writing. Larry graduated from West Point and served in the Army before starting a business career on Wall Street. His writing includes articles for outdoor magazines, plays, short fiction, and his most recent thriller novel, A Bridge to Treachery. In his spare time, Crane is a hobbyist videographer for his local Public Access Television Station and is a volunteer at his local historical society. Larry and wife Jan live in splendid isolation on the coast of Maine.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Authorsday: William Shepard

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

This was an early realization, and had to do with storytelling. Around a campfire, I was always engrossed in what a storyteller had to say. It almost seemed like magic. I had an uncle who was a gifted storyteller. He and my aunt had foster children, and when anyone misbehaved, the worst punishment was that the child was sent to bed, after dinner but with no story! That led to a fascination with storytelling, which only grew when I eventually realized that a writer could actually invent the stories being told! It was a new world.

How did you pick the genre you write in?

The genre I write in, diplomatic mysteries, didn’t exist, so I invented it! The best advice that writers are often given is to write about what they know. I was a career diplomat for twenty-five years, and it struck me that a diplomat with a talent for sleuthing could span two cultures, solving crimes while his day job is at an American Embassy. It seemed crucial to write about places I had actually served in, for authenticity of background. That is why I have written about Bordeaux, Budapest, and now about a trip by the Secretary of State to six European capitals aboard Air Force Two. The genre grows and becomes more familiar with each book, and of course, continuing characters help weave the overall story together.

Describe your book.

The first book in the series, “Vintage Murder,” is set in Bordeaux, Paris and Washington. Robbie Cutler, my protagonist, is assigned to the American Consulate General in Bordeaux, where I served as Consul General. The Basque terrorist ETA organization is beginning to terrorize the great vineyard owners of Bordeaux, and Robbie Cutler helps solve the puzzle of who is behind the killings that ensue. For readers who like a sophisticated mystery with more than a touch of old fashioned romance, this is an inviting beginning to the diplomatic mystery series.

What’s your writing schedule?

I write in the weekday mornings, Monday to Friday, and often use the weekends to polish or expand what I have written during the week. My goal is one chapter per week. But to get that far, I first plot the entire book, in very general terms. That gives an idea where we are headed, and keeps the overall plot on track. After the first draft I polish the book, chapter by chapter, at least once, probably twice, or more for more compelling chapters. All of this takes perhaps 6-9 months. My wife then reads the book and gives an overall reaction, with particular attention to matters of continuity. It’s better to find out right then, that the store owner I had in chapter 4 aged 40 has mysteriously become 65 in the next chapter, which takes place the following week!

What authors do you admire?

Balzac is a great author who pushes emotions and events to their logical conclusion, which is often to extremes, and he is a master storyteller. He lived at a time when society was collapsing and reinventing himself. That may be why his plotlines are so contemporary, and why his characters are strangers to compromise. He would have been very comfortable, I think, with the plotlines of the television series “Dallas.” And Charles Dickens had a far ranging imagination. In “Nicholas Nickleby,” for example, he surfaces and leaves more plotlines than the average gifted writer could use in a lifetime! When, 150 years or so later, a poor person has the temerity to ask for “More, please,” everyone who is literate recognizes the reference. That is immortality for a writer.

What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?

Tudor England, particularly under Elizabeth I, must have been a fascinating place, and terribly dangerous. It was a great age of discovery and travel, as England struggled to join Spain as a great power. I refer to this period several times, in the back story of the fourth diplomatic mystery, “The Saladin Affair.” The established religion in a generation became almost a badge of treason! The Tower was always ready to welcome those who weighed the shifting currents of power incorrectly. Yes, it would be fascinating to experience that age of adventure – but I wouldn’t want to have been a permanent resident there!

What do you do when you are not writing?

We live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and I greatly enjoy crabbing. As a dinner treat with a chilled glass of good white wine, that’s a gourmet treat! We like to attend summer theater and concerts, and are regulars at the twice a year dinners of our local Sherlock Holmes Society. That’s probably where I got the idea to write some new Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty adventures in my Ebook, “More Coffee Break Mysteries: The Sherlock Holmes Edition.”

What is the one thing your hero would do that you wouldn’t?

In the fifth book of the Robbie Cutler Diplomatic Mystery series, now being written, Robbie volunteers for a TDY assignment in Afghanistan, tracking the Taliban. It’s uncertain at this point how he emerges safely, if he does. I had two assignments in wartime Saigon, but I doubt very much that I would have volunteered for Kabul (which I have visited, incidentally).

What was the hardest scene to write?

In the second book of the diplomatic mystery series, “Murder On The Danube,” a wounded freedom fighter is packed off in a train towards Russia with other freedom fighters (this actually happened). Since he is in a surreal atmosphere, and sliding in and out of consciousness, I decided to write this chapter in stream of consciousness. It fit perfectly, the mood and perception of what such a person would have been going through.

What was your favorite scene to write?

In the third book, “Murder In Dordogne,” Robbie is confronted with a former French Nazi named Dorlot, and must find out what he knows in order to advance his investigation. Dorlot keeps trying to drag Cutler into his perverse world, and Robbie must resist, while mining Dorlot’s memories to solve an actual crime. It was an enjoyable chess game, which advanced the plot colorfully and realistically.

William S. Shepard’s Series of Diplomatic Mysteries

Now residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Shepards enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, fine and moderate weather, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

His diplomatic mystery books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. His main character is a young career diplomat, Robbie Cutler. The first four books in the series are available as Ebooks. Shepard evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of four “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler and his bride Sylvie are just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders.

The most recent of the series, The Saladin Affair, has just been released as an Ebook. Robbie Cutler has been transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author once did, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State, as they travel to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Riga and Moscow!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Not Handy Morgan Mandel

I’m Not Very Handy, But I Try

There are some who can do anything they try to do. They sit in front of a piano, know exactly which keys to press, and magnificent melodies emote. I took lessons for about three years, and decided my talent consisted of repeating the same mistakes. I still put the piano to good use, as a place to store things.

What about painting rooms? Well I tried doing the hallway, got the paint mottled up and stopped before I could do more damage.

I try hard to be handy, and sometimes succeed, but at a price. One time, I managed to put a computer desk together at home. It’s still sitting in the spare bedroom, a little wobbly in one of the drawers, but all-in-all it looks pretty decent. Unfortunately, the instructions said not to use an electric screwdriver, since that would be bad for the fake wood. So, I painstakingly used a manual screwdriver. My palm got pretty sore and red, but I figured the effects would eventually go away. Wrong. It took surgery to remove a ganglion cyst, my souvenir of that do-it-yourself venture. If only I’d known ahead of time, I’d have hired someone to assemble it, saving myself medical costs and pain. It didn’t take long before I bequeathed that desk to the DH and bought myself a new one, already put together, which I put in the dining room, which we never use as a dining room.

Then there’s my iPhone. I successfully managed to install the first few updates, with trepidation, but they went okay. Then, on a certain loop I’d heard about dire results with IOS 5. That’s all I needed to hear. I put off installation as long as I could. When my extended warranty amost ran out, I bit the bullet, called technical support, got instructions, and lo and behold, I did it right! That was a relief. Well, now there’s an IOS 6 to install, and I have no extended warranty left. Maybe I should just buy a new phone and solve the problem. I’m deathly afraid of screwing it up and losing my photos and other stuff I can’t live without.

Now there’s the running toilet at our cottage. No, it doesn’t have legs, though it may as well have them. Despite replacing the inner workings in the tank, which we hired a friend to do, the water still runs after we flush. The DH and I are tired of turning the shutoff valve every time we use water in the bathroom. Did I mention he’s not very handy either? Next trip to the cottage we’re hiring a plumber.

You might say our running toilet is the inspiration for Her Handyman, my new romantic comedy release on Kindle at At least in fiction, if not real life, someone’s handy!

What about you? Are you handy? Do you have any good or bad experiences you’d like to share?

About Her Handyman:

It's Jake, the handyman, who needs rescuing when he comes to the aid of the rich, quirky artist, Zoe, and her overflowing toilet and crazy canine, FuFu. Watch out, Jake! You’re in for a fall in more ways than one!

About Morgan:

Morgan Mandel lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband, commonly known as Good Paul, and their loveable pit bull, Rascal. She’s not ashamed to admit her vices: chocolate, ice cream, pizza and a great love of slot machines. Her favorite pastimes are reading, writing, going to garage and rummage sales, attending festivals and watching romances and mysteryies on TV and DVDs.

Her Handyman is Morgan’s fifth book. She’s also a contributor to a short story collection. For Excerpts & Links to Morgan’s Books, check and her Amazon Author Central Page at:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

ExcerpTuesday: William Doonan


Archaeologists Jila Wells and Ben Juarez are not thrilled at the prospect of returning to Peru; the ambush that nearly cost Jila her life still haunts her. But the ruined pyramids at Santiago de Paz hide an important document that would shock the Islamic world. Professor Sandy Beckham is assembling a distinguished team to dig quickly through the pyramid complex, following clues found in the diary of a wealthy Muslim woman who lived in Spain five centuries ago.

In the diary are details of an illegal expedition to Spanish Peru in three well-armed ships. Convinced that Spain was forever lost to Islam, Diego Ibanez intended to bring the word of Allah to the pagan Americans. Landing on Peru’s north coast, he learned that the fires of the Inquisition burned even hotter there than they did in Spain. As the archaeologists brace for the ravaging storms of El NiƱo, Jila and Ben hurry to complete their excavations. But they’re not the only ones interested in this project. Other forces are determined that the document remain hidden. Should it be discovered, a challenge could be made under Islamic testamentary law to the throne of Saudi Arabia. And the House of Saud has no interest in sharing power with an American caliphate that might now awaken from a five hundred year slumber.


William Doonan is an archaeologist and mystery writer living in Sacramento, CA. His archaeological mystery American Caliphate was published in April by Oak Tree Press.

Doonan also writes a mystery series featuring an octogenarian detective who investigates crimes on cruise ships. Grave Passage was published in 2009, Mediterranean Grave in 2011, and Grave Indulgence in 2012. Currently, I’m halfway through the first draft of Aleutian Grave.

12 million people take a cruise each year.
Most have fun.
Some die.
Henry Grave investigates.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Free Books

FATAL ERROR ~ Eileen Schuh
Free for 2 days only: Saturday 10 November 2012, Sunday 11 November 2012
Amazon in the UK

Whispers in the Dark Kris Bock
free November 9-10

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dangerous Affairs by Diana Miller

Dangerous Affairs

by Diana Miller

When soap opera star Abby Langford leaves Los Angeles for her Minnesota hometown, she’s hoping to give her nine-year-old daughter the peaceful childhood she never knew. But instead of tranquility, Abby finds an old knife hidden between the walls of her new house. Then the nightmares start: a blood-soaked victim and a killer’s arm slicing through the air, again and again.

Abby wonders if she’s having the nervous breakdown the tabloids claim she already had, especially when sexy, skeptical police chief Josh Kincaid questions her story. When menacing hate mail arrives, Josh’s professional concern for Abby soon evolves into an intense attraction, and the feeling is mutual. And now Josh wonders if her psychic visions are of crimes past—or a premonition of terrors to come.

To survive, Abby and Josh must uncover the truth and stop a killer . . . before Abby’s worst nightmares come true.



The doorbell rang, shooting a fresh blast of cold panic through Abby. She opened her mouth, but swallowed her scream—it had to be the police. Bad guys didn’t use doorbells. She unlocked and opened the front door with frozen fingers.

Josh was standing on the front porch, dressed in black jeans and a burgundy polo shirt, his hand on the doorjamb and his eyes narrowed. “What’s such a damn emergency?”

“I got another message. From the person who hates me.”

Josh expelled a clearly exasperated breath, running his fingers through his dark hair. “Look, I know I told you to take the letters seriously, but since the mail carrier delivered it hours ago, this isn’t exactly an emergency. Bring it to the station tomorrow. I’d like to get back to my date.”

“It didn’t come in the mail this time.” Abby’s voice rose an octave, her words tripping over each other. “It’s on my bathroom mirror, written in lipstick. Someone got into my house, and they could get in again.” She sounded half hysterical, but she couldn’t help it. This was in a different category from her normal hate mail.

Josh stepped into the house, closing the door behind him. “You were gone tonight?”

She slumped against one wall of the foyer, hugging herself and struggling to regain her control.

“Maddie and I were at a birthday party for Laura’s youngest son. At Pizzaville. We got home around nine thirty, and I put Maddie to bed. I read in the family room for a while, then went back upstairs. And found it.”

“Show me.” Josh grabbed her forearm and directed her up the stairs.

The message was short and to the point, capital letters written in red lipstick on the wall-size mirror:


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

When she was eight, Diana Miller decided she wanted to be Nancy Drew. But no matter how many garbage cans she dug through, conversations she “accidentally” overheard, and attics she searched, she never found a single cryptic letter, hidden staircase, or anything else even remotely mysterious. She worked as a lawyer, a soda jerk, a stay-at-home mom, a hospital admitting clerk, and a conference host before deciding that the best way to inject suspense into her otherwise satisfying life was by writing about it.

Diana is a five-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award and winner of a Golden Heart for Dangerous Affairs—a romantic suspense novel that shows not everyone in her home state is Minnesota Nice. She lives in the Twin Cities with her family.

My website link is I have buy buttons for both Amazon and Kindle on my website, but have no idea what you have to do to insert them since my web designer did it.

The URL for my Amazon page is: