Today I have the pleasure to present an author who pens her stories from Florida, where she lives with her husband and pets, a golden cocker spaniel named Sunflower, a golden retriever named Honi, a husky named Cherokee, and a shelter cat named Frankie. B. J. Robinson is blessed with three girls and two boys who have made her a grandmother thirteen times. Jesus is her best friend, and God’s creativity and handiwork inspires her when she is working outdoors, listening to birds sing, and reflecting upon the waters of life.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, Barbara Robinson and use B. J. Robinson when writing. When writing historical romance, I research and make notes, but I don’t outline. In the third grade, my teacher sent a story I wrote about a pet dog to the local newspaper, and it was published. In college, I won first prize for a short story in fiction-writing competition, and it was published in the university’s literary magazine. I had four books traditionally published with a small publisher as ebooks and paperbacks, but since then, I have received my rights back on those novels, and I am an indie published author and love it.
I’m the author of over twenty books, novellas, and short stories, many of which have made Amazon bestsellers. If you check out my Amazon author page, you will find that I write contemporary, historical, and romantic suspense to provide reader choice. Inspiration comes from my family and pets as well as the great outdoors, travel, news, and other authors.
Provide us with an excerpt from your latest historical romance.
Excerpt from Chapter 10 of The Belle and the Officer:
A tall, slim officer with dark hair and brooding blue eyes barreled in the front door followed by his raging sea of men in blue. She stood to the side and looked on as the kindly old doctor tried to speak on the wounded soldier’s behalf. “Please don’t cause any problems here. We have sick, wounded, and dying men.”
“No, I don’t mean it’s good that you have sick and dying men. I mean I’m glad I’ve discovered a nearby hospital for my own injured men. As we speak Brookhaven is being captured. I’m Colonel Edbert Russell, and I’m confiscating this hospital for the Union.”
“You can’t do that. What about our soldiers?”
“I won’t turn them out. They can all heal together.” He turned and noticed her. “Nurse?”
“I assist the doctor.”
“Then please help me by preparing beds for about fifty more soldiers. I have men by the wagonload, but sadly some are beyond our help.”
Alice gasped. “I don’t know if we have fifty beds. The hospital is nearly filled with so many nearby battles surrounding us.”
“Make room. My men need and deserve help just as much as yours.”
“I’ll do what I can.” Alice strode off to see how many beds were available and wondered what he’d do if she had to report there weren’t enough. Russell. His last name is Russell. There are Russells in Mississippi, but he’s dressed in Union blue, and he’s on the wrong side. Must not be any relation to our Russells. She gave his name no more thought as she found bedding for the beds they had available and made them. She sighed. Now, she’d have to inform Colonel Russell that the hospital lacked at least twenty beds. Alice didn’t look forward to how he’d receive the information.
As blue-coated soldiers toted others into the hospital and asked where to place them, she sought out Mr. Russell. He stood in the hall speaking with the doctor and turned when he saw her approach. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry, but we don’t have fifty beds.”
“How many do you have?”
“What do you propose I do with the other twenty or so men? They all need help.” He sighed and rubbed a hand along his jawline as if in deep thought. “Is there another place that can serve as a makeshift hospital?”
“Not that I know of.” Alice twisted her hands in front of her and noticed the fire in his cobalt blue eyes and the way his blue uniform brought them out and made them an even deeper blue. She shook her head. What was she doing thinking about a pair of blue eyes? She loved a man with hazel ones. At a time like this with so many men desperately needing her help, she shouldn’t be thinking about anyone’s.
Colonel Russell stepped to the window and gazed across the street. “What’s that looming white building?”
Alice’s heart turned cold with fear. “That’s someone’s home.”
What is the latest book or novella you’ve published?
Free for Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Ashley doesn't have much to look forward to over winter break except not having to trudge to work in the freezing cold until she receives an invitation to spend the Christmas holidays with a peer and his family. She's been dreaming of a Christmas spent in a cabin in the woods. Now, she has an invitation. At least one Christmas wish is coming true.
Of all the characters you've created, who is your favorite and why? Yes, we know you aren't supposed to have favorite children, but it's okay to have a favorite character. Be sure to tell us what book they are in.
In Mysterious Ways, Myrtle is in essence the guiding spirit of my mother. Mom read the book before it was ever submitted for publication and loved it, but she never lived to see it published. Some readers see her as a cranky, nosy old lady, but she was really sweet though she was set in her ways. If you read between the lines, you can’t help but see the love that shines through.
Why do you write?
I write because it’s part of living for me. Just as a passionate reader, I read because it’s part of life for me. Writing is a passion, and I love it. As a child, I loved and devoured books because they took me to other words. As an adult, I love creating those other worlds with fiction and traveling through them. My family could never afford vacations when I was growing up, but that didn’t stop me from taking my own through a good book. I traveled to Grand Isle, Louisiana, in a book about a young girl who had an imaginary friend on the beach there many years before I visited the place as an adult. Books open your life to places, people, and adventures you may never have in real life and allow you to live so many lives in various places. For instance, I travel back in time to antebellum days and the Civil War era when I write historical romance. Writing is a part of me, and I love being able to escape to other worlds through the pages of a great novel.
Angela B. Mortimer
Today I have the pleasure to present an author who loves sci-fi, fantasy, genetics, planet sciences, philosophy, history - especially ancient, and of course space. Angela B. Mortimer was born in the UK, married a gorgeous Aussie and has been living happily here ever since. She attended West of England college of art and dreamt of being an astronaut. She loves the outdoors and gazing at the stars and wondering what might be out there.
Why did you write Flawed Gods?
I'd been starting writing a novel and getting no further than a few chapters for a very long time as life, school and work kept getting in the way. It was a lovely sunny Sunday in the garden and I decided to take an exercise book and try again.
This time inspiration came very quickly, a young woman working in an office in London had just lost her boyfriend in unusual circumstances, I wondered where it was going when in jumped an alien, Doella, not what I'd planned at all and from then on it was l had to write this book. I knew from the start I'd finish this attempt, this character was too strong to ignore or forget. She followed me everywhere, every spare moment the exercise book came out and without needing to read what I'd written previously it would carry on. I found it disturbing as all my other attempts at writing were quite different.
Worse we fought tooth and nail and she always won. Frankly I didn't like her; she was so different than I. She was overtly sexy and she hurt those who loved her by her amorous inclinations. I wanted a less selfish protagonist, kinder and caring. By the second book Hyclos I was warming a little to her, I could see her kind heart. But it wasn't until the third book Incandescence that I felt deeply sorry for my creation. She had an awful responsibility to all creation and all those character flaws I'd hated in the first book now became strengths. She grew up as we all must hope we can. I saw when she became The Mother of All why she behaved as she did.
What was the inspiration for the Book?
I knew it was buried in my head. As a child I'd loved Marvel and DC comics and I'm sure that had sparked a young brain into looking at the ancient Gods. For decades I've been interested in evolution of our species, not just physically but emotionally too, and I was fascinated by our belief systems and their evolution. We don’t have a continuous record before writing, so I looked in African myth as well as the Rim people and the Indian's of the Americas who had been telling stories a long time. As well as the beliefs of my ancient European ancestors, all very different from current systems. And yet somehow more familiar than any others, as if deep within they are carried as racial memories? So many questions and so few scientific answers.
Asian belief is different again. Egypt might be fascinating and yet it was so different than similar stories from Mesopotamia not that far away. Yet Mesopotamia is the basis of our bible and more modern religions.
Being familiar with Christianity I then researched its evolution and was less than impressed. It could have been far greater without man sticking his greedy, controlling finger in, and without interference might have done more good than evil. Christianity is fairly recent and yet its history has been covered up to keep the truth buried deep until it has little truth left. I also looked at alternative, modern belief systems, many based on old ideas as far as we know them. I don't dismiss any idea out of hand. In spite of all those ideas trying to teach man to be a better person, most ideas dissolved into what man does best; take from everyone to line his own pockets and war to control more land more people. And what interested me is we were not getting greater in spite of our improving technology but worse. We should now know we all need to work together to continue our race but we were not changing. Why? Are we deliberately wired to fail? And that led to other questions such as have we failed previously?
Interestingly the only common, constant myth in all areas of the world are Dragons. I could see where Flawed Gods had originated, deep in my mind, but who was Doella?
Eventually, and not that long ago, I found her. Knowing my past research, I had just probably forgotten her. Her name amongst many others was Mari, my heart thudded. She wore a necklace of blue stones and was married to her snake son. That was Doella. Perhaps even if I didn't remember her, she was still there deep in my memories. She'd had so many different names, and yet was a Goddess, in so many guises. Probably reviled by the male as she was female; but obviously not forgotten. If that made me feel better or worse I'm not sure, but at least I could stop looking.
Present feeling about the book?
I'm happy it's all done, I can't say finished because there will always be another story as her journey is as long as we can or can’t imagine. I found favourites in her children and lovers and in other's we find like her, all very different; all flawed. Perhaps in this writing exercise I found we are not perfect. If we were we would still be living as our ancestors did in the Old Stone Age. I am proud of what we have achieved and long for us to travel the stars. And yet somewhere deep in my psyche I still ask why we can’t evolve into the sensible, thinking race I crave before we cause our own destruction. And perhaps I wanted to answer that in Flawed Gods, mainly for myself, but also for the like-minded who wonder about everything as I do.
Please share an excerpt from Flawed Gods.
Doella knew what had happened as soon as the darkness engulfed her. She had half expected it; perhaps hoped it would happen. The only way they could resolve the excessive aggression factor was with Carnos’ help. She felt no fear; that was something that might happen later. Feeling unstable in the dark, she called on her long unused, natural powers to help her find a focal point. Slowly and carefully, she regained control over her body and then her surroundings. The darkness slowly diminished, and she could make out walls on either side; thick looking, stone walls that ran parallel, to what? No end could be seen. Her feet pressed against smooth stone. Looking down she saw that her feet were bare. Her constricting London clothes had been replaced by something more in keeping with her Varan heritage. Carnos had planned this down to the last detail. She hoped he could hear her thoughts. She looked her true Varan self, her beauty no longer hidden in a human shell. She gleamed and glistened with an almost golden hue. Her hair streamed down her back like a pale gold waterfall, and her startling eyes were now the colour of deep green emeralds. Her body was sensuously clothed in a transparent material that glittered blue on silver as it sometimes covered, sometimes exposed, the lovely shape beneath. She sighed and stretched, feeling stronger in her true form. Not having to disguise her appearance refuelled her energy. She walked slowly along the corridor. It seemed to stretch forever. Perhaps it did, she reasoned. She stopped and looked about her again. Gathering her thoughts, she shifted her perspective, deciding it was time she took a different route – and then she found herself in a large medieval-style room. It had the same stone walls as the endless corridor, and a few high arched windows through which she could see a dark, starlit sky that appeared to be real, but wasn’t. A large fire burned without heat in the middle of the room. To one side of the fire a table was set with food and drink, with two chairs beside it. A large canopied bed took up most of the other side of the room. Large tapestries covered the bare stones of the walls. Doella studied them, observing the typical medieval scenes of battles and peasants working in fields. ‘Strange subjects for Carnos,’ she mused aloud. She felt him enter the room and turned to see him standing behind her.
But not for you, Doella. He didn’t speak aloud. They stood looking at each other for a few moments. It felt like an eternity. He looked just as she remembered – his handsome face with that stubborn chin that summed up his personality so well. It was Doella who broke the silence. ‘Well Carnos?’ His name sounded strange on her lips. No matter how hard she tried to appear disinterested, her voice shook a little. It was strange, but not exactly unpleasant to see him again. ‘You haven’t changed a bit on the outside; and there was I thinking you might have grown horns and hooves like one of the human’s devil creatures.’
The laugh that answered her forced humour was brittle. ‘And you are as beautiful as ever; but perhaps your eyes are a little sadder.’ He stepped closer as if to embrace her, but she moved back. His hands dropped to his sides.
Silence again. Doella moved toward one of the windows and pretended to gaze at the fixed sky. Carnos walked across to the table and poured them both a glass of wine. She accepted hers without comment, and took a sip. ‘Why have you brought me here, Carnos?’ ‘You wanted to come.’
She turned to face him. His eyes were the only part of him that had changed. They were cold and empty, not the deep, sparkling blue she remembered ‘I wanted to come? You arrogant fool.’ She turned away again, too quickly, the wine spilling onto her dress. ‘Why would I ever want to see you again?’
‘Isn’t this your plan? – or was it someone else’s?’ His voice was tight. ‘Isn’t this what you had in mind when you excluded me from the project, and the light … and from you?’ He threw the nearly full glass against the wall. The wall rippled, and the glass disappeared. He walked back to the table to fill another one.
Doella turned to face his back. ‘I excluded you? You were the one who left us. You changed the programs, altered the evolution phases, not us.’
He stopped her shouting by walking over and holding her shoulders tightly. He looked into her face with eyes that had come alive. ‘Are you sure? You planned it all didn’t you? Science is more important to you than love. We are all just an experiment to you. Not just the humans, but Takos, Simune… Isn’t that why you were left in control? A fine example of a Varan female, learned, powerful and ruthless.’
Amazon (ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook)
Barnes and Noble ebook and hardcover
Diane Merrill Wigginton
Book 1 of the Award-Winning Jeweled Dagger Series.
Today I have the pleasure of presenting the author of the Jewel Dagger Series. Diane Merrill Wigginton was born in Riverside, California in 1963. Her family moved to San Diego when she was 7. She had a very rich life growing up with her brother, David, and best friend Gigi. She married her husband, David in 1998.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I always had an active imagination and wondered if I had the writing chops to actually write a full length novel. So, shortly after my 50th birthday, I simply sat down at the dining room table and began to write. I had this idea in my head to write a grand love story where an unbreakable bond between the two characters was the main theme and no matter what else happened, their love would win out. Then I filled it in with action, suspense, and romance. The entire story played out in my head like a movie. I just had to translate the entire thing into words.
How did you come up with the title?
The title, “Angelina’s Secret,” came from the fact that the main character named Angelina, had a secret that she was forced to keep throughout the entire plot of the story. Then each subsequent book in the series was named after the main character, Angelina's Secret, Isabella's Heart and Olivia's Promise.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I try to add some sort of message in all of my novels. A little tidbit from everyday life and show the character growing and progressing down life's path. It just makes the story mean more to me and hopefully my readers as well. In Angelina's Secret, Angelina is strong willed and stubborn and this causes her some difficulties that she later laments over being so pig- headed but in the end love wins out. Each character has their bridge to cross, so to speak and each one of them is different. Hopefully, the reader will “glean” a message about life from the story.
From the book blurb, the hero of Angelina’s Secret is a Historical Romance ‘bad boy’. What is the recipe you use for a good rebel with a cause?
Jude Deveraux is the Duke of Bayonne, AKA -A French Pirate Captain and a man who had his heart broken. He takes what he wants without impunity or remorse until he runs into the feisty, strong willed Lady Angelina Stewart. She is spit and vinegar all wrapped up in a pretty package. Intelligent, opinionated, independent and loyal. He decides that he is willing to take any risk to make her his own, even if that means putting himself in danger by trusting her with his secret. Basically, he puts himself in a vulnerable position. After all isn’t that what we all dream of? A man who loves us unconditionally and is willing to be vulnerable for us.
Author of Closure
“To open your heart to someone means exposing the scars of the past.”
Today I have the pleasure to present an author inspired by sunsets, the ocean, her family, and books! Angela Ford is never without a book, whether she's reading or writing. Angela is a bestselling and award-winning author who has been in the Amazon top fifty, Readers' Choice Awards and ScreenCraft. She has over 50 published works in paperback, eBook, audiobook, and foreign translation.
Tell us about your FBI series.
My cyber-crime series is about an FBI team of profilers that work endlessly to keep teens safe from online predators. I created a special FBI task force called the ISTF (Internet Security Task Force). My main character, Agent Jessica Resario, is compelled to protect teenagers from Internet Predators…sometimes by not following protocol which puts her in the hands of a serial killer…and usually a suspension.
Jess escapes the danger of a serial killer and retreats to her family beach home in Vineyard Haven; where her parents were murdered ten years before. Only to discover old ghosts, secrets from the past, and postcards marked “I Crave You”. As if she didn’t have enough to deal with, she opens the door to a man she believed to be dead. Now she is on the hunt for a serial killer while she unravels a secret of her past. Orphaned as a teenager, she has protected her heart to love again in fear of losing. Yet, an undeniable attraction to her team lead, Tom, and a close call with death leaves her open to the possibility to love again.
Forbidden, the sequel to Closure, continues with Supervisory Special Agent Jessica Resario delivering spine-chilling seminars to educate parents of lurking internet predators. A seminar one night introduces her to Mr. & Mrs. Bennett who are deeply concerned of their daughter Tiffany’s safety. Jess did not expect to feel Déjà vu when she unraveled the forbidding prospect that she has another Trevor Marshall on her hands.
Kyle Davidson’s personality fits a stalker through obsessive and addictive traits. A close call one night makes Tiffany realize he is a threat. Jess takes the law into her own hands to protect Tiffany and enters Kyle’s house illegally. He can’t be held with Jess’s illegal entry and without Tiffany pressing charges. Tiffany decides to accept her father’s offer to a private school in England. But the news of her parents’ murders brings her back. Jess races to save her, only to put her own life into the hands of a killer. Kyle now has both Jess and Tiffany. As the team searches for them, they find the past begins to creep up on them.
My FBI cyber-crime series will continue in 2015 with Obsessed. SSA Jessica Resario thought her life had settled but now there’s more at stake.
What inspires you when you write? Is there a specific setting you need to be in to write? Mood?
I’m always inspired to write…it’s just finding more time to write. I always think about my characters…Where are they? What are they saying or doing? What will they do next? Sometimes I find myself taking ten minutes here and there throughout the day and jotting down notes on my phone or a piece of paper. I usually sit down to write in the evenings or in the mornings on the weekend. I write every day. Sometimes I find myself awake at 1am writing until 3am…it’s so quiet and peaceful then. Within minutes I’m lost in the story and with the characters. Music also inspires my writing whether I’m listening to it in my car or while I’m cleaning. And of course, I’m an avid reader and the more I read…the more I want to write. Writing has always been on my mind and in my heart.
What message do you hope that your novels convey to the readers? How do you feel when readers approach you to tell you that your novel changed their life?
I hope my readers enjoy my novels and they escape into a great read…that’s what I want to feel when I read. My first novel ‘Closure’ is based on an FBI Internet Security Team tracking online Predators. The idea for this novel came from my many years volunteering in schools and my involvement in cyber safety seminars. I hope this story helps convey a message of the importance of communication and education on cyber safety. I also help it conveys that there are many professionals who work endlessly to help protect our children.
Besides the suspense and crime fiction aspects involved in my writing, there are the emotional ups and downs of relationships. Despite these and sometimes the fear to love again, I hope my novels bring hope and strength to never give up on love. It can happen at any moment.
There are many different organizations for causes. What specific ones do you feel the strongest about and why?
Of course with my first published book and many years of involvement within the schools, I would have to say cyber safety and those who continuously work so hard to protect our children. Another important organization that I feel strongly for is Mental Health, especially for our youth. Communication and education of the stigma associated with mental health issues in our children is vital to their well-being to be happy, healthy and successful. It’s time to ‘Let’s Talk’.
Do you feel that your work is targeted at a specific audience? If so, who and why?
My work is targeted to romance readers who enjoy a love story, a suspense and a happy ending. As with Closure being a sweet romance happily-ever-after and it’s message of internet safety, it can be targeted toward young adult as well.
Please share an excerpt with us.
Jessica Resario held her finger firmly on the trigger and waited in the dark, listening to the echo of footsteps on the stairs.
“Remain focused Agent Resario,” she reminded herself.
When the bedroom door flew open, she sucked in her breath.
A dark figure appeared. He wore a balaclava, so the only part of his face she could see was his eyes, but she could tell by the surprised look in them that he didn’t expect to see her. “Jessica!” he exclaimed.
She needed to remain professional, although she wanted to ask him how the hell he knew her.
He gave her a cocky smile and lunged forward. She went down hard. The gun flew across the room. She jumped up and ran to the top of the staircase. Only inches behind her, he grabbed her arm. His fingers twisted so powerfully she felt a fierce burn on her skin. With only seconds to act, fear-driven strength crafted the thrust of her raised knee. She stunned him long enough to shake free of his hold and sprint down the stairs. She reached for the front door and swung it hard enough to make it slam against the wall. She hoped the loud bang and the open door would lead him outside. She ran into the living room.
He reached the bottom of the stairs with only the open door in sight. She breathed in relief; the open door led him outside into the darkened night.
Today I have the pleasure to present an author whose childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.. T.K. Thorne explores murder, mayhem, and magic when a police officer discovers she's a witch in her newest novel, House of Rose, the first of the Magic City stories.
You’ve written two award-winning historical novels set in the Middle East and a non-fiction book on the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case. How in the world did witches and police get combined for your new novel, House of Rose?
It started with a toothbrush. Actually, it started with the fact that I was, many years ago, a police officer, though I’ve never written fiction in the crime genre. Maybe because it felt more like “work” than entertainment.
But back to the toothbrush.
I was standing at the sink, brushing my teeth, wondering what my next writing project would be, when three little words appeared in my head, along with the keen sensation that my fingers needed to be on a keyboard because a story of some sort was lurking about.
So, I quickly spit [toothpaste] and raced to my laptop where I typed those three words—“You’re a hero.” Then I stared at them, bewildered, until the fingers started typing again. Turns out those words were directed to a young policewoman named Rose who had chased a suspect down a dark alley and found herself in the middle of every police officer's nightmare—a life-death situation where she was forced to fatally shoot a suspect . . . in the back.
I was intrigued. Why did she do it? How was she going to put her life back together and figure out what happened and who she really was? The mystery of the three words has turned into three Magic City books—House of Rose, House of Stone, and House of Iron. The witches and warlocks of those Houses need three elements for their magics—coal, iron-ore, and limestone. Those ores are, in reality, used to make steel and uniquely found in proximity in Birmingham, Alabama, the reason the city catapulted from a cornfield into an industrial mining town in the late 1800s so fast it was nicknamed “The Magic City.” As Rose’s Great Aunt Alice says, “Normal people have no idea of the irony.”
How did your experiences as a police officer in Birmingham reflect the story?
The first thing most people say to me when they learn I was a career cop is, “Oh? You don’t look like a policeman.”
This is a good thing because I’m a woman.
Perhaps at 5’3”, I don’t fit the stereotype in their minds. That’s not worrisome to my self-image because during my 20+ years in the Birmingham Police Department, it never occurred to me that I was too small.
Even though I don’t claim to be a witch—at least on my good days—I did pull on my law enforcement background to give authenticity to the story. Challenges lurked, even so. It’s been a while since I wore blue, so I had to update department polices and equipment to those of current day, such as putting a body camera on my patrol officers and computers in the cars, but these were minor items. The most critical element was attitude, knowing how people in law enforcement who risk their lives on a daily basis think and react. That said, I certainly don’t espouse writing only “what you know” in that sense. If I did, I’d have a problem dabbling magic with murder and mayhem!
What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
My character, Rose, is a rookie police officer, drawn to Birmingham after college—she thinks—because she was born there. I truly love having a strong character who takes the reins and speaks and acts on his/her own, which Rose certainly did. It’s a joyful experience to have figments of my imagination spring to life in a way that feels independent of me. Of course, I know that’s not what is really happening, that I’m in the grove of allowing things to flow from my subconscious, but it is still magic and what drives me to create.
I also enjoy what I call “brain #2,” where the craft of writing comes in, and I can take the raw stuff and shape it into something effective. It gives me satisfaction to use my skills to make the story experience something seamless and engaging for a reader.
So what’s next?
The drafts of the next two books in this series are written. But, as you know well, getting the words down is only the first part of a process that includes several rounds of story editing, then proofing, cover design, back cover material, and we won’t even go into marketing. House of Stone should be out by spring of 2020 and House of Iron in 2021. Meanwhile, I’m working on a nonfiction civil rights book and two other projects, one sci-fi and one suspense. It’s a good thing I’m “retired.”
Can you give us a taste of House of Rose?
Setting two to-go cups of coffee on the table, our waitress beams at me. “Just the way you like it, Rose.”
I pry off the lid to check anyway. In my world—the world of a patrol officer—a peaceful moment can flip into crazy without notice, so I always order the coffee to-go in case we get a call. I learned this from my partner, who is also my training officer, Paul Nix, only he doesn’t drink coffee. He drinks milk.
I can’t go there. And besides, by 10 p.m. I need the caffeine to make it through the remaining hour in the shift.
. . . The dispatcher gives out a residential burglary-in-progress call less than a block away with a description—short, white male wearing a dark ball cap. Adrenaline jazzes my pulse. There is nothing routine about an “in-progress” felony call, and it’s on our beat, close.
In the car, I glance at Paul’s grim profile, ghostly in the glow of the patrol car’s dashboard lights and computer screen. He doesn’t look at me, just guns the accelerator. I snatch the mike from its hook on the dashboard.
“Three-two-four, we’re close.”
At the alley’s end, Paul slams on the brakes and jerks his head. My gaze follows. A man barrels out of the night, pelting toward us on the narrow sidewalk. A short white man, he’s wearing a navy ball cap pulled low and running from the direction of the burglary. No time to tell more.
“Stay with him!” Paul says. “I’ll cut him off.”
Without questioning, I jump from the car. Tires squeal behind me.
I draw my gun and plunge forward.
Along the alley’s opposite side, thick bushes form a barrier. A heavy tree canopy patterns the pavement with intermittent patches of darkness. At the far end, the single working streetlight dimly exposes the suspect needling through broken shadows.
I hang back, hugging the house on the opposite side from the bushes, my shoulder brushing a wall that smells of old cedar. Neither side of the street offers cover, but the shadows pool deeper here. If Paul can get to the end of the alley fast enough, he will trap the suspect between us.
Using the shingle-wood siding to steady my body, I bring up my gun, cupping it with both hands and locking my right shoulder with pressure from my left hand and arm, as I’ve done in training. My heart pumps harder than the short run demanded.
Closing my right eye, I focus down the clean line along the top of the gun barrel, lining up the stubby front sight between the two back ones and leveling them all square in the guy’s back. The dispatcher didn’t say anything about him being armed, but I’ve only seen one hand. If he does turn with a gun, a split second will matter. The voice of the Academy firearms’ instructor echoes in my ear—“Forget all the TV cowboy fast-draw stuff; the person who decides first has the advantage.”
Wrapped around the cold metal grip, my fingers feel . . . odd. I try to focus, but a weird warmth gushes from my feet to my head. What the—?
What happens next has never happened to me before and challenges everything I thought I knew about reality.
Eric J. Gates
Today I have the pleasure to present an award-winning author who has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers, cracking cryptographic codes under extreme pressure using only paper and pen, and teaching Cyberwarfare to spies, are just a few of the moments Eric J.Gates is willing to recall. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public. He now writes thriller novels, drawing on his experiences with the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.
Your thrillers are known for being fast-paced, complex, and usually with strong female protagonists. Is it hard for you, as a male writer, to create believable action, reactions and thoughts of the women who populate your novels?
All writers, whether they admit to it or not, use their personal experiences in life to colour their characters, and I’m no exception to this. Over the course of many years, in my pre-author existence, I have worked for and with many females, and have always found them to be as capable, if not more so, than their male counterparts when involved with, shall we say, ‘tense’ situations. The rest is down to observation. When conjuring up Bridget Mason, the Defense Intelligence Agency officer who is one of the three protagonists of the ‘Outsourced’ series, for example, I drew up characteristics of women I had encountered who fit the profile of ambitious, strong-willed, independently minded fighters who were battling the prejudices of the males with whom they worked. Mason is in the Army, a Major with six overseas deployments under her belt, when we first meet her in ‘Outsourced’. She has her own way of doing thing, something that does exasperate her superiors, to varying degrees, but she usually gets results. She’s a very direct, goal-oriented person who often chooses the straight line between A and B, rather than any other route. For example, in ‘Outsourced’ she is faced with a situation where a professional assassin is hiding in the apartment of an innocent civilian she is charged with investigating. The only thing blocking her access to the building where the killer and his next potential victim are located, is the reinforced glass street door. Rather than checking if it might be unlocked, as she runs up, she draws her pistol and fires a number of armor piercing bullets to shatter the glass. That’s how she thinks.
Now many readers who loved her character in ‘Outsourced’ and its sequel, ‘Primed’, have written to me wondering how she grew into the person she is today. I did provide a small episode in ‘Primed’ where she was seen in action in Afghanistan, but I decided more was needed to add to her background. ‘Pride and Extreme Prejudice’, my latest thriller, is a prequel both to ‘Outsourced’ and another book of mine, ‘Full Disclosure’, where we see how her world view is changed by a case she investigates some eight years before the events in ‘Outsourced’. I also wanted to contrast her way of doing things against another strong female character. I took a short story I had written for an anthology a couple of years back, featuring a mysterious assassin for hire called ‘the Lion’, and expanded it into Bridget Mason’s universe by having the CIA contract ‘the Lion’ to kill Mason in order to halt her investigation. This also sets up the next book in the ‘Outsourced’ series, due at the end of the year, when three of the characters from ‘Pride and Extreme Prejudice’ are involved in the situation Bridget encounters. Mason has changed over the years, and so have they, so it is going to be an interesting encounter.
Your bio hints at a past that sounds like the plot of one of your thrillers. Does this help you develop the plots of your novels?
Most definitely. I used to be a consultant, working internationally, and have participated in very many confidential and secret endeavours for ‘clients’. This has provided me with, to quote a certain movie character, ‘a special set of skills’ and a knowledge base which I draw from when writing a novel. Moreover, before you ask, yes, some of the individuals I came across do appear, heavily disguised, in my books, as do some of the situations I have experienced. All this allows me to maintain a solid grounding in real life in stories which often have a touch of the ‘unusual’, and thus gives depth to them such that readers don’t question if devices such as the one featured in ‘Outsourced’ could really exist.
In reading reviews for ‘Pride and Extreme Prejudice’, I saw one reader comment “The terrifying thought that these characters may exist somewhere lends a powerful blow to my belief in good government and honorable exchange. I just hope they work for our side”. This brings up another characteristic of your writing style: your characters are not black and white, but move through tones of gray.
That’s true, and particularly notable for the villains in my books. My philosophy is that the Big Bad doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking how they can do evil in the world, just as the ‘heroes’ don’t plan on being excruciatingly noble. Realistically, everyone has their own agenda, their own objectives and ways of going about reaching them. Their actions are dictated by this, rather than a subconscious choice to be good or bad. This is also fun for me as a writer because I can keep the readers guessing how the characters will interact as the story moves on; almost nothing is predictable. In ‘Pride and Extreme Prejudice’, both the connected short stories have twists based on exactly this.
That brings up another question. Do you plan your stories thoroughly before you start writing, a Plotter, or are you more of a Pantser, allowing things to happen by themselves?
I would describe myself as a ‘Plantser’, a sort of hybrid. My way of approaching a new thriller has evolved over the years but basically, it’s this: a) research an idea just enough to see if it has different angles from which I can do something original; b) decide on the underlying themes I want to explore; c) research in depth; d) let the whole mess of information soak in the soup of personal experience in the ‘little gray cells’ until I could sit down and write the ending. The latter is key for me. If I know where I’m going with the tale (though this could change as the book develops), then I have a goal which helps me avoid the infamous ‘writer’s block’. Then I figure out how I’m going to start the tale, usually plunging the reader into events that were already happening before the first paragraph. The rest is easy, he said; start at the beginning, continue onto the end, then stop, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll’s King of Hearts.
Today I have the pleasure of presenting an author who by profession is a psychotherapist who long had a desire to write. Anne Allen talks about her first novel, Dangerous Waters It was awarded Silver (Adult Fiction) in TheWishingShelfAwards.
Tell us about your character, Jeanne Le Page, and the ways she is forced to face her demons and relive her past tragedy.
Jeanne was only 16 when she was involved in a fatal boating accident in Guernsey and promptly fled to England to live with her maternal aunt. She is forced to return to the island 15 years later after the death of paternal grandmother, who has left Jeanne her old cottage and where she had spent many happy hours as a child. Her grandmother’s death had occurred shortly before Jeanne’s boyfriend ended their long-term relationship, leaving her doubly devastated. Guernsey brings back old, painful memories as well as the joy of her childhood and Jeanne finds it difficult to face these alone. She now realises it was cowardly to leave Guernsey and her beloved grandmother and feels guilt and remorse.
The mystery in your book has to do with lost memory. Why is Jeanne Le Page afraid to recover it? How will she make an effort to overcome her fears and find out the truth?
Jeanne suffered post traumatic amnesia after the accident and was hospitalised with her injuries. Over the years she has had recurring dreams, almost nightmares, which could be flashbacks to the accident but she isn’t sure. There is a sense of something unexplained – after all, her father was an experienced sailor and knew the waters well, so why did the boat end up on the rocks? Back in Guernsey Jeanne is offered help by an old family friend, Molly, an experienced psychotherapist who offers to use hypnotherapy in order to recover the lost memories. Jeanne is unsure – would it make her feel worse to re-live that awful night?
The Island of Guernsey, situated in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy, is a special place in your novel. How did you describe it to evoke an atmosphere of mystery?
I think islands generally have an air of mystery, of isolation, of apartness and Guernsey is no exception. Having lived there for nearly fourteen years, I knew the island well. Sea mists creep up the coast and it’s hard to see anything, creating a feeling of greater isolation. And the German Occupation of WWII has left its mark, both physically and emotionally on the island and its people. Secrets abound from that time and some will never be revealed. In spite of this, it’s a beautiful, friendly island and I wanted this aspect to be juxtaposed with anything darker that may have happened.
Even though this is a contemporary romance novel, did you have to do a lot of research, especially to evoke memories dating back to WWII?
I only needed to research the Occupation and was fortunate to speak to people who had lived through that time as well as having access to numerous books on the subject.
By profession you are a psychotherapist. How did you use your expertise to enrich our understanding of your characters in this story?
Many of my clients had experienced tragic loss in their lives and working with them gave me invaluable insight into how people cope with such events. Relationship problems also figured highly, enabling me to feel confident in depicting these issues. Working one-to-one with hundreds of people over many years offers a fascinating study of the human psyche.
Please give us an excerpt from Dangerous Waters.
Jeanne stepped out on deck just as the sun broke through the clouds. A warm glow spread across green and gold jewel-like Herm and its big sister, Guernsey, patch-worked with fields and granite buildings.
The salt-laden air enveloped her like a trusty old coat. Breathing it in, she closed her eyes and was a child again, playing on the beach with her parents. The memory was so powerful that tears came and she stumbled towards the railings.
She found herself staring at Herm and was overwhelmed by such a strong feeling of fear that she had to hold onto the rail. Jeanne’s heart began to race, blood pounded in her ears and her breaths came in short, painful gasps. Oh my God, what’s happening to me? After all this time, please, not again! Struggling to breathe she was on the verge of passing out. Letting go of the rail she staggered, crashing into a man walking past.
‘Hey, steady on! Look where you’re going!’ he said, grabbing hold of her to stop them both falling. ‘Overdid the duty-frees, did you?’
Stung by his accusation, she took a deep breath before replying. ‘I’m sorry, I just lost my balance.’ His hands held her arms so hard she imagined the bruises and tried to shake free.
His grip loosened and he guided her back to the rail. She clung on, filling her lungs with sea air.
Jeanne nodded. As the man stepped back she took in, through a still blurred gaze, dark brown hair, deep blue eyes and the muscled arms of a man unlikely to be a pen-pusher. Responding to his warmer tone, she managed a tight smile before straightening up and walking, unsteadily, to the starboard side.
What on earth was that? Is this what I can expect now? Perhaps I shouldn’t have come back. Not that I had a choice…She shuddered as Guernsey came into full view. While the ferry headed towards St Peter Port harbour, it felt as though she was approaching a strange, unknown country rather than the land of her birth. The whole of the northern sea front, from Les Banques into St Peter Port, had been transformed. Towering edifices of granite and glass replaced the old, tired mishmash of warehouses, scruffy hotels and shops. With a gasp, she realised that even the elegant landmark of the Royal Hotel had gone.
It was as if a natural disaster had occurred, flattening the old front and replacing it by buildings more reminiscent of London than of the parochial island of old. She’d never have thought that Guernsey would move into the twenty-first century with such a bang.
The dramatic transformation which lay before her seemed to Jeanne to be an echo of the change in her own life and she felt a stranger here. For a moment the urge to remain on the ferry and return to England, without setting foot on the island, was overwhelming.
Today I have the pleasure to present the author who spent four years of his life in Iran and England, and has traveled and worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Allen Kent wrote the popular Unit 1 thriller series, the Whitlock Trilogy of historical fiction, and a number of other mysteries and thrillers.
You have described The Shield of Darius as the novel that launched your popular “Unit 1” series of international thrillers. Can you explain what you mean by that?
The Shield of Darius was initially written to be a stand-alone novel. But I immediately began to get questions from readers about what happened to the Unit 1 people, members of a deep cover group of maverick agents within the US intelligence community that essentially “cleans up” messes that are too sensitive for the more visible agencies to deal with. Readers enjoyed Fisher and Nita and wanted to know about their next adventure. So I felt compelled to write The Weavers of Meanchey, then the other three Unit 1 thrillers that now make up the series.
One of the reviewers of “Darius” wrote “this may be the ideal Allen Kent starter book. Be prepared for a powerful story with scenarios almost too realistic. You know the kind of things Mr Kent writes about could happen (and maybe already have?) but the situations can be shocking. Also be forewarned good guys do not always finish first or even survive!” Can you comment on the “good guys do not always finish first or even survive” observation?
There are really two parts to this answer. First, I see every character as having both admirable attributes and flaws. so sometimes it's hard to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys. In this novel, it’s difficult not to have something of a “love-hate” relationship with a couple of the characters. Secondly, as the reviewer said, I try to write about security situations or threats that are potentially very real. And in reality, everyone involved in addressing these crises faces real danger. Some survive. Some are destroyed by them. Whether they make it is mainly a reflection of what they are doing and when.
Several earlier readers of “Darius” noted that it seems to have a more intimate, personal character to it than some of the later Unit 1 novels. Is there any basis for that observation?
That’s a pretty astute observation. Although I always write about places I know reasonably well, there are some semi-biographical segments of this novel that must show through. I lived in the Middle East during my high school years and served as a pilot in the Air Force during the Vietnam conflict. Some of the episodes in Darius were written looking through the eyes of those experiences. I also spent a few years living in the northeast part of England and can very easily get lost in writing description of the English countryside, one of the most picturesque places in the world.
You make a point of emphasizing that, as a former educator, you always want your novel—even the thrillers—to teach. How does that show up in “The Shield of Darius?”
There’s a great quote from Emily Dickenson that says, “There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away." When people finish one of my books, I want them to know more about the world and its people, better understand some of the complex issues that face our time, and have a sense that they could visit one of the places I describe and think, “I believe I’ve been here before.” That doesn’t always work. I have a zinger of a review from a reader of Darius, a close friend in fact, who thought I was unfair to a group described in the novel. I think I simply described them as fairly as I could, and believe she wasn’t interested in an objective description.
I believe you have two other books featured this month via free, one-day promotions. What are they and when can readers expect to see free offers?
On the 19th of June, a favorite domestic mystery, “Backwater,” will have a one-day free promo. It involves a kidnapping in which a young girl’s father with mob connections tells the kidnappers he will put out a contract on them for the requested ransom amount if the girl isn’t back within 24 hours. It has remained one of my top-ranked sellers. The second, promoted for free on the 20th will appeal to Dan Brown fans. It’s a thriller based on discovery of an ancient letter that gives credibility to the Christian Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. While religious scholars try to obtain and publish the letter, the "Guardians of the Second Son" work to keep it secret. I think readers who enjoy page-turning action and unexpected twists of plot will find both exciting reads. They can find summaries and links to the books at my website.
Please share an excerpt from “Darius” with us.
Ben’s mind awoke before his body. He felt only pain. Sharp explosions bursting between his temples. He cracked open his eyes and squinted dizzily at the white, mildew-spotted ceiling above him. With each throb, the ceiling seemed to sag downward, then retreat. Sag. Retreat. His gut twisted into a cramped spasm and he swallowed hard to keep from retching, gagging on his thick, pasty tongue. The room was musty. Smothering. He closed his eyes again and struggled to capture a complete thought, but found only images. The castle ruin above him on the hill. PJ on the tumbled stone wall.
Feeling a swollen tenderness behind his left ear, Ben wondered fleetingly if he had fallen from the wall himself, and was in one of those colorless London hospitals he had seen in the city. The pain forced life into his other senses and he focused on sounds, finding the irregular drone of distant traffic. This must be London. He struggled again for images, piecing them together until they suddenly coalesced into a memory, capturing the frantic woman in the woods and the race to the van.
As the memory developed, a pressure in Ben’s chest grew with it, crushing him downward until he could barely suck in a breath. He wanted to groan but as the sound formed, he choked it back, realizing he may not be alone. Letting his lids droop shut, he concentrated again on sounds, straining to discriminate voices from the general din beyond the room. More honking than usual in the grumble of distant traffic. Rush hour. In another direction, the faint clatter of metal against metal. Pans or garbage cans.
Suddenly Ben’s nose intervened, sending a jolt of olfactory electricity to his brain that caromed wildly about, searching for meaning, then shot to his heart with a surge that charged it into furious pounding. It was not a solitary smell that sparked Ben’s memory, but a mixture of odors that were more vivid than sight or sound. Not the sour-sharp blend of sickness and antiseptic that meant hospital, but a faint acrid odor of fetid water mixed with raw sewage. Strong spices favoring garlic that lingered in the air after a meal was cleared. Earthen buildings that smelled of damp clay, even when dry, and the sour tang of sweat from men and animals. And diesel fumes. A sky full of diesel fumes spewed from the tail pipes of a thousand Mercedes taxis and red double-decked buses. The smell was as distinctive as a signature. Ben Sager was back in the Middle East.
Books links (in the same series):
Today I have the pleasure to present the award-winning and bestselling author of eleven novels. Danielle Girard writes gripping medical thrillers. Her books have won the Barry Award and the RT Reviewers' Choice Award, and two of her titles have been optioned for movies.
Why did you choose the crime thriller genre?
I’ve always loved the life and death stakes of the suspense genre; you can’t have more on the line than you do facing a killer. That makes the stories naturally engaging and fast-paced, my favorite kind. I have a VERY worst-case scenario imagination. If there's something terrible that could happen, I've already worked out how. I find that writing about those fears is cathartic. I'm also drawn to the darkness of the genre. People are sometimes surprised by the darkness in the books because I'm definitely not a dark person. Don't judge a book by its cover. J
The other piece of the genre that appeals to me is police and investigators. I have tremendous respect for law enforcement. They literally have the toughest job. Well, maybe the president. That would be impossible, too. But to go out every day and know you might get shot and to have to react in a split second and not make a mistake—because an error means a life… Wow. That's so intense.
There's so much controversy today over how the police manage things, and there’s no question that the mistakes and abuse in the system need to be addressed. At the same time, it's such a demanding, stressful job. I feel like when you get down to why someone would choose police work as a career—in the vast majority of cases—it's got to be to help people.
How would you describe your writing process?
The first hundred pages are the hardest. Everything is set up in those chapters—the protagonist, the supporting cast, the mystery, the dynamics. These first pages take the majority of my time. I do a lot of staring out the window. And I'm always writing down little nuggets. I keep notebooks everywhere!! And I encourage other writers to do the same. In particular, keep a pen and paper by your bed, since the best ideas always seem to come as you’re falling asleep. Your mind relaxes and that in-between stage can be magical for brainstorming.
In the beginning, I compile those ideas, create some spreadsheets because I'm weird that way, AND, most importantly, I stumble through a thousand words of writing each day. Many of those might get cut, but even if I'm writing backstory or character information, it's still worthwhile.
Sound painful? It can be. Like moving one inch forward then two feet backward. But, if you can get those first hundred pages right, it’s all there. After that, it comes to writing every day, since it can be hard to get back into the flow if I let the story sit, even for a day.
Do you ever base characters on real people?
I've never based a character on someone specific, but I think the characters are probably a collage of people I know or have met. It would be hard to create characters without stealing traits from real people as a guide—how else would I know where to start? Beyond that, many—if not all—of my characters also include a sliver of my own personality, or someone I would like to be.
Which of your books is your favorite, or the one that you’re most proud of?
The most recent book is always my favorite. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something. I’ve reached the 10,000 hour-mark in my writing career and I think that shows with each new book.
In this case, that is book 4 of the Dr. Schwartzman Series, EXPIRE. If readers are unfamiliar with the series, they might want to start with book 1, EXHUME. I’m extremely proud of the whole series and I loved the process of getting to research the life of a medical examiner. I was fortunate enough to have access to a real-life ME who answered all my strange and bizarre questions.
So, the latest book is my best work. Well, my best work so far, but I am working on a new one due out July of 2020…
Do you read reviews of your books? Do they affect you?
Yes, I read them and I hate them. The fact is that the most successful books in the marketplace, the ones that people are drawn to, receive the strongest reactions, and they’re not all positive. If you’re writing material that some people really love, the chances are that someone else is going to really hate it. The truth is you just can’t let those reviews affect how you write. Constructive reviews can be helpful on a purely mechanical level, but stylistic ones are so subjective that you can’t let them bother you.
That said, the bad ones still sting. They always will.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Despite what people think, there’s nothing sexy or romantic about being a writer. Writing a book is like exercising—everyone wants to do it once and see the result but it's really about consistency and making it a habit. If you do put in the work, eventually you’ll get the reward, but it’s a long slog. No one starts off knowing how to write well.
At the beginning of my career, when I was still working in finance, I wrote three suspense novels, which I sent to agents and editors. This was back when we mailed query letters at the post office. I got a lot of rejections.
One rejection on the first book, “Murders and Acquisitions,” said something along the lines of, "The title is great. The rest is not." I probably don't need to tell you that none of those books sold. They're permanently "buried in the backyard," as I like to put it. That's okay. Whether it was stubbornness or sheer stupidity, I kept writing. Sent a book out, collected rejection letters while I was starting the next one. Rinse and repeat.
The only way to get better is to write. Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers suggests that gaining expertise takes 10,000 hours. I think he's right. I've spent that much time writing now. So, you want to be a writer? Get your 10,000 hours.
The other thing about this business is that you’re going to have to deal with rejection. From the industry, from fans, and occasionally from a less-than-tactful friend. You can’t stop for any of that. Your job is to write. When you’re done with book one, write another book. Worst case scenario (or best-case scenario, depending on how you look at it) you’ll have 3 or 4 books ready to sell when you land that perfect agent. But you can’t give up. The only way to guarantee you’ll never make it is to quit.
It helps to have people in your life who help you keep going. I’ve had the good fortune of being with my husband for 25 years, and he’s been an incredible and encouraging foundation. Being a writer involves a lot of jumping and trusting you’ll land somewhere safe, so it is important to surround yourself with people who will support the process, even if they don’t understand it.
Bestselling Author of
And other books
Today I have the pleasure of presenting a new friend and the author of psychological thrillers. Jenifer Ruff is an avid fitness enthusiast and hiker. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her family and a pack of greyhounds.
Tell us a little about your books.
My primary genre is thriller—psychological and medical. My books deal with contemporary issues—ISIS, human trafficking, social media—and all are dark and twisty. My books contain no sex and no swearing, but a variety of disturbed characters stay quite busy plotting sinister activities as they go about otherwise normal routines.
What is your latest thriller about?
I have a new thriller series featuring FBI Agent Victoria Heslin. The Numbers Killer just came out this week and will appeal to fans of the Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn as well as serial killer favorites like The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and The Bone Collector by Jeffrey Deaver. And you’ll never view odd numbers the same way again. Here’s a taste of what’s inside:
When a key witness in an organized crime trial turns up dead in his kitchen with liar and the number two scrawled on his forehead, the FBI assumes the murder was a hit to silence him. Then the calls start coming in—more victims with similar markings and no connection to the mob.
As agents Victoria Heslin and Dante Rivera struggle to catch a break in the case, they receive a series of cryptic, personal messages from the killer, complicating the investigation. Something disturbing and frightening is underway, and anyone might be next, including the agents, unless they uncover the common denominator.
Book two in the series, Pretty Little Girls, will be published in the fall of 2019.
Readers have commented that your books have strong but flawed female characters. Can you talk about that?
When my main character, Victoria Heslin, was younger, her mother was kidnapped for ransom and died in the hands of her captors. After a stretch of feeling afraid and powerless, Victoria became an FBI agent. She now has the training and confidence to take care of herself as well as others. Victoria has an easier time relating to and having compassion for her animals than she does with people, but she’s working on that.
The Brooke Walton series features a brilliant, confident, and disciplined medical student, but there’s so much more to her than what meets the eye. I don’t want to spoil the twists for future readers, but she has a very dark side.
My goal with every book is to create fascinating characters that readers don’t want to look away from. I strive to make the psychopathic, delusional, and brainwashed captivating, but also as real and as relatable as possible. I give them admirable traits and strong motivating factors. They might be psychologically disturbed, but most of them are also strong, independent, and have a slew of skills and accomplishments. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want any of them in my real world, but I hope readers enjoy having a glimpse into their lives as much as I’ve enjoyed creating them.
Tell us a little about yourself. What parts of your life make it into your books?
When I’m not writing, I like to be at the gym or hiking with my dogs. I’m an animal lover and dog adopter and rescuer, a mother of three sons, a volunteer in the community and school system, an expert at yard work and cleaning house, and a national debate and speech judge. Dogs and workouts have made it into my books, but not much else in them resembles my everyday life.
You do a lot of book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances. How can readers find out about your events and new releases?
I have done a lot of interviews and book club appearances in the past, but only when I’m invited. Book clubs are the best. Everyone has already read the book and they have interesting questions. I love hearing my characters discussed as if they were real people. But the vast majority of my sales are from ebooks and audio books and that’s where I focus most of my time and marketing efforts, which is nice because I can do it all without having to get dressed up. To find out about my events, new books, and exciting giveaways, readers can follow me using the links below or on my website: Jenruff.com
Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center (Alexandra Destephano Medical Thriller)
The Case of Dr. Dude (The Michaela McPherson Crime series)
Today I have the pleasure of presenting a great friend and the author of numerous medical thrillers. Dr. Judith Lucci has spent her life saving lives and taking care of people, most of them strangers. She's a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia. She's a doctorally prepared nurse who has practiced clinically for years. She's worked as a bedside nurse, a clinical nurse specialist, a hospital educator, a hospital administrator and college professor. Judith has run hospitals and consulted to them. She's even been around to figure out the best way to build hospitals for maximum efficiency for caregivers and patients. She is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Amazon best-selling author, and the award-winning author of the Alexandra Destephano Medical Thriller and the Michaela McPherson Crime series.
Judith, you’ve written leadership and medical-surgical textbooks, done tons of research and had over a hundred academic publications in your name. Please tell us about the joy of writing suspense thrillers.
In my years of clinical practice, I’ve learned that there's never "one best way" to do anything.
So now, in my semi-retirement, I contemplate how to kill as many people as I can in a single book and leave as little evidence as possible. I'm not a big believer in bullets... then I have to check blood splatter, and bullet trajectory. Rather, I like killing people in much more creative ways. I rely on her medical background to plan my murders.
You have so many literary achievements, Tell us about your series.
My newest medical thriller series, Sonia Amon MD is featured in the book Do No Harm, a collection of seventeen medical thrillers. I hope to release three Sonia Amon MD books this fall.
Alexandra Destephano Novels include Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center, The Imposter, Viral Intent: Terror in New Orleans, and Toxic New Year: The Day that Would Never End, and Evil: Finding St. Germaine
Michaela McPherson Novels include The Case of Dr. Dude, The Case of the Dead Dowager, The Case of the Man Overboard, and The Case of the Very Dead Lawyer.
My Artzy Chicks Cozy Mysteries feature a group of eccentric, talented but zany artists in their Art Gallery at a Mountain Resort in Virginia. The series includes The Most Wonderful Crime of the Year and The Most Awfullest Crime of the Year.
My books have won multiple Gold and Silver medals and many amazing Indie book awards. Each of my current books has been #1 in their genre in the Amazon Kindle Book store. My advice to new authors is to build their backlist and learn to understand Amazon.
Tell us about your favorite things.
My favorite things are reading, writing, art and animals. In my spare time I teach painting, love animals and raise money for needy causes. I live with my family and my four dogs and one cat in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
I love to connect with my readers on Facebook and am available at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check our my website and sign-up for a free copy of Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center.
Please give us a taste of your upcoming thriller.
Three stun grenades were simultaneously tossed through bunkhouse windows. The flashbangs temporarily disoriented the terrorists sleeping in the building and allowed the Delta Force operators considerable advantage. The operatives aggressively entered through two doors and shot through several windows. Most of the sleeping terrorists were immediately killed. A firefight broke out, but within minutes, Delta Force exited the building. Not one terrorist remained alive.
Five American operators entered the Emir’s residence. Using hand signals, they cleared the first floor and quickly climbed to the second floor where, once again, they used a flashbang grenade to stun and neutralize Faisal’s bodyguards. Several minutes later, they were on the third floor of the residence where Faisal slept. The operators neutralized three additional bodyguards. They searched for the Emir. His bed, though slept in, was empty. Emir Faisal Muhammed wasn’t there.
Two operators raced to the roof and saw Faisal at the far edge. Their plan to take the man alive was going south. The operatives sprinted toward him just as he jumped off the three-story roof. The two Americans stared at the ground. “His neck is broken,” the first man said. “He’s dead.” The men quickly exited as the sound of nearby gunfire directed their attention to their comrades. They could see automatic weapons flare from the woods behind the Emir’s house.
The first operator cursed under his breath. “What the hell is going on? Where’s the gunfire coming from? We only know about three buildings.”
The second operator shrugged. “Yeah. I don’t know. Let’s get the hell out of here. We need to recon with the others.”
Judith Lucci, PhD., RN
WSJ Best Selling Author
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Susan Mills Wilson
Today I have the pleasure of presenting an author of suspense novels and short stories, who is also an avid blogger on a wide range of topics. Susan Mills Wilson is the leader of the Charlotte Writers Club Mystery Critique Group and a board member of Charlotte Writers Club. Much of her research on law enforcement for her suspense novels is derived from her participation in three citizen police academies where she was given a certificate of completion, but thankfully no gun or shield.
What inspired you to write Twisted Fate?
I wanted a story about a person wrongly accused of a crime who finds a way to seek justice. I use a tornado to help artist Brody Trent escape house arrest and go on the hunt for the real suspect. And because I am a romantic at heart, it was only natural to put a beautiful woman in his path. She turns her initial distrust into empathy.
What was your biggest challenge in writing this story?
The character of Sarah is an insecure, woman-child, desperately seeking love and approval. My biggest challenge was showing her so vulnerable, readers would care deeply when she is manipulated and abused by others.
You write in detail about the tornado which Brody experienced. Is this from personal experience?
No, although I have made it through two hurricanes without injury or serious loss. For this story, I read numerous articles, watched videos of tornados, and listened to first-hand accounts by survivors.
Is there anything in Twisted Fate drawn from your personal life or experience?
The setting of the low country, around Charleston, South Carolina, is very familiar to me. I love the area and visit it often since I have family there. Another thing dear to my heart is the dogs mentioned in the story. Brody’s love interest is a veterinarian with a passion for animals. I am a big dog lover and suffered the loss of my golden retriever a short time before writing this story. In the book, the dog named Daisy is a tribute to my beloved pet.
Despite the serious nature of your stories, you include minor characters for comedy relief. Is that true of this book?
Yes, I have two unique characters. One is Brody Trent’s friend, nicknamed Marley for his similarity to the famous reggae singer. His spirited interactions with Brody in a Jamaican dialect lighten the serious mood. There is another character called Fuzzy, an older man who resembles Santa in a Hawaiian shirt and sandals.
Linda Lee Greene
Today I have the pleasure of presenting a multi-award-winning author and artist, Linda Lee Greene. Her writing style is influenced by her artistic background: “…each well-chosen word is a masterful brushstroke in her rich and expressive novels…,” states a reviewer, incorporating “characters that literally jump off the page.” Drawn from her extensive research into the topics relevant to her multi-layered stories, she blends fact and fiction seamlessly in her cross-genre novels. Greene is the mother of two adult children and the grandmother of two grandsons. She lives and works in the Central Ohio area of the United States.
What was your inspiration for writing Cradle of the Serpent, which a reviewer describes as “told from varying viewpoints in varying states of existence and so becomes quite unique and utterly fascinating?”
Cradle of the Serpent is the story of a woman’s search for the truth behind her husband’s infidelity, a pursuit that unearths dark secrets and monstrous circumstances, but in the end illuminates her path to a new and better life.
I didn’t realize it until I was well into the story, but in important ways it is an exploration of my own marriage, or at least, of lingering issues that haunted me, and for which I needed to find—no—for which I needed to author their closures. While the particulars of the marriage in the novel are different than that of my own, the act of writing it was healing for me in a way nothing else has been. Your readers might appreciate knowing that in 2018 it won the position as a Finalist in the American Fiction Awards cross-genre category.
I am intrigued by the “monstrous circumstances.” I don’t want you to give the story away, but do you mind sharing a little bit of that aspect of it with us?
The husband and his mistress in the novel are victims of gunshots—I won’t reveal the circumstances here—which leaves him paralyzed permanently from his shoulders down, and her dead. My secondary motivation for writing the story, Uvi, is my admiration for the deceased actor, Christopher Reeve, our truly enduring Superman on screen and in real life. Your readers will remember that he was left a quadriplegic after having been thrown from a horse. The marriage between Christopher and his wife, Dana is one of the great love stories of all time, and I wanted to put my female protagonist (Lily) to some of the same tests I imagine Dana faced as a result of Christopher’s incapacity for the rest of his life. I didn’t know whether or not my Lily would meet Dana’s standard. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know the answer until I wrote the last chapter of the book, which came to me of its own accord with no pre-planning on my part at all. It simply broke through the complexity of the story like a sapling bursting through earth’s deep crust. I was utterly surprised by it. I love it when my stories surprise me to such a degree.
Jumping into a subject like quadriplegia is a super-sized challenge, Linda. How did you manage it?
I read both of Christopher Reeves books on the topic. I visited libraries and read other books and magazine articles. I listened in on online discussions among people dealing with paralysis. I studied medical reports and journals. I researched the subject matter for several months before I felt competent enough to include it in my novel.
That doesn’t surprise me at all, Linda, based on the fact that you are admired widely for your detective skills in the area of researching and your talent for bringing your findings to your books. You must enjoy that facet of the work.
Conducting research is one of my favorite writing tasks. I almost salivate at the prospect of tackling the investigation required for new subjects that capture me. I have much of Arthur Conan Doyle in me, I think. I wonder if my ancestry would link me to him?! I have recently completed a novel set during World War II, which is based on a true story. I plan to publish it later this year or early next year. World War II is a centerpiece of some of your work too, Uvi, therefore, you know firsthand about the hour upon hour of study required for such a project. I am also about halfway finished with another World War II novel.
Please come back and visit us again when your first World War II novel is released, Linda. Do you have a title for it yet?
It is titled Searching for Solomon. Thank you for the invitation to come back, Uvi, and thank you as well for giving me the opportunity to convey to your readers some tidbits about one of my current novels. Cradle of the Serpent is available in eBook and soft cover at online booksellers such as Barnes & Noble, iBooks, GoogleBooks, BooksAMillion and others.
Today I have the pleasure of introducing a medical thriller author. In his writing, Timothy Browne, MD leans on his experiences as an orthopedic surgeon and medical missionary. He and his family have traveled the world with mission groups such as Mercy Ships and Hope Force International.
Please tell me about your book, Maya Hope.
Dr. Nicklaus Hart is a gifted trauma surgeon searching for meaning in his life. His self-reliant spirit is broken with the death of his missionary best friend, found sacrificed at the base of a Maya Temple. Going to Guatemala to fill the shoes of his friend at the mission hospital, he discovers God’s redemption and peace in the smiles of the children he cares for. But his own life is in danger as he and his team stumble onto a deadly North Korean plot.
Wow, what inspired that story?
I love writing inspirational fiction. Serving in both Guatemala and North Korea, I knew what amazing setting these places would make. Plus, with my years as a medical missionary, some of the people and stories that we encountered are more astonishing than what I could come up with my own imagination. So I use many of these real-life stories (fictionalized, of course) in my writing. In Maya Hope, you’ll meet, Isebella, one of these young patients. So many people around the world go without medical care. Isabella was one of those that was born with clubfeet and never was treated, so her feet kept turning in until she literally walked in on the tops of her feet.
You were able to perform surgery on her feet?
Yes. It took a team of us, but a year later we visited Isabella and her family in the high jungles of Guatemala. She’d hoped for two things: to be able to wear shoes and to go to school with the other children. It was amazing to see her doing both and having recovered so well. We found that when we got there, her three-year-old sister also had clubfeet and we packed her up and took her to the hospital to fix her feet that week.
So you have been a medical missionary?
I am an orthopaedic surgeon and practiced in Montana for five to six years, doing mostly trauma and sports medicine. A good friend of ours asked my wife and me to go to Guatemala on a mission trip, and it changed our lives in a huge way. We basically cried for most of the week as we saw this incredible need for medical care. Because we were there to do basic medical care and not surgery, treatment of one little baby haunted me. A very young mother brought the newborn in, wrapped in many blankets. As I unwrapped this beautiful little Guatemalan baby, it was super healthy except for syndactyly of the hands. The fingers were all stuck together like mitts. There are all kinds of syndactyly, but this particular child had the simplest form…basically webbing between the fingers. It would have been easy to correct surgically, but we had no supplies or a facility to do the surgery. It broke my heart. We came home, sold everything, gathered supplies and went. We have been so blessed to serve in many places around the world.
When you wrote Maya Hope, did you have any idea that North Korea would be front and center in the news? You have actually been to North Korea?
When I started Maya Hope, six years ago, I had no idea how pertinent the book would be today. Yes, I was asked to go to North Korea in 2000 with a mission’s organization that was responding to the news that over two million people had died of starvation. It was a medical team that went, and I must say of all the places I’ve been in the world, North Korea was one of the most fascinating, but challenging. Many of the stories you’ll read in Maya Hope, although fictionalized are true-to-life. When we were picked up from the airport, a young woman in a military uniform got on the bus and “welcomed” us to North Korea. She started with praise for the leaders of the country and then went into all the ways that the DPRK would destroy the fascist American pigs. What a way to start a trip! Because they knew that myself and one of the other physicians were orthopedic surgeons, they took us to the hospital to show the local surgeons performing a hip replacement. The poor patient was laid out on an archaic operating table with an incision that is never used and an ancient style hip replacement that was going to be implanted. Of course, I will never know, but I imagined that the patient came straight from one of the labor camps.
Besides North Korea, what is another one of the hardest places you’ve served?
That’s easy. I was in Haiti three days after the massive earthquake. We ended up at one of the few remaining hospitals in Port-au-Prince and were faced with unbelievable devastation…lines and lines of broken and battered people. Plus, the fact that the hospital had no electricity, no water…nothing. It was truly like the worst of battlefield medicine. This experience is the foundation in writing the second book of the Dr. Hart Series, The Tree of Life.
What else would you like your readers to know about you?
My real claim to fame is that I flunked second grade. I couldn’t or wouldn’t read…so every time I can share about my writing it’s a victory…yes? I’m severely dyslexic. I think my parents were just as surprised when I began writing. In fact, I ran into an old friend the other day that knew how I struggled in English, especially spelling, and he said, “You must use spellcheck a LOT.” I’m currently just finished my fourth novel, Larimer Street—isn’t that God’s restoration!
How can people find out more information on your books or you?
Any final words you’d like to add, Dr. Tim?
I absolutely love to hear from my readers. Writing is super hard, and I am so blessed by the encouragement from people. One of the things that I have realized is life can be tough on all of us. We need to discover where we can find hope. I thank my readers for allowing me to tell His stories…stories of redemption, restoration, provision and of course the greatest of all…love.
Today I have the pleasure of introducing a talented medical suspense author, Edwin Dasso, MD. Ed is an Amazon #1 Best-Selling medical thriller author, writes works of fiction that leverage many of his "stranger than fiction" experiences from years of practice at major medical centers and community hospitals.
Where did the character Jack Bass come from?
Well, honestly, he’s probably my alter ego…except for the compassionate part. I like to think he and I share compassion and empathy for our fellow man. He’s the “take no lip” kind of personality, though, that stands up for what he thinks is right. Especially when it comes to protecting the innocent, downtrodden or vulnerable.
Were you concerned that readers might be put off by a doctor who responds to bad people the way he does?
A little. But I hoped that, once people got to know Jack, understand him, understand how he’s gotten to where he is emotionally that they’d identify with him. I think that’s happening – readers talk about how much they love him and feel bad when he has a hard time. He doesn’t ever look for trouble – it seems to find him. Many have said they’d love to meet a doctor like him.
Jack seems to be uncomfortable w/ forming a relationship w/ Lori – why is that?
I let out hints of that throughout the series about Jack’s relationship hesitancy. Let’s just say his character didn’t have a pleasant childhood. His mother, the most important person of his youth, was killed right in front of him by someone that makes the trauma of that event even worse. As an adult, he’s afraid to let himself feel love for a woman for fear he’ll feel that searing pain of loss again.
Here's pic of Wid doing a pilot script read-thru w/ some actors (that's supposed to be Afghanistan on the background screen).
Here's pic of Wid doing a pilot script read-thru w/ some actors (that's supposed to be Afghanistan on the background screen).
Where does inspiration for your stories come from?
Believe it or not, reality. It can often outdo anything I could dream up! I take a lot of my personal experiences, enhance them and weave them into a tale that I hope is engaging and enjoyable for readers.
He seems like a cat w/ 9 lives - how long will Jack survive his black cloud?
I don’t know. He’s had a lot of close calls already. I tried implying his death once and readers didn’t like it. I had an uproar on my hands! At this point, I guess he’s gotta survive until, hopefully, we can get the TV series we’re pitching in Hollywood on the air. Then, who knows?
For now, let me share this pic of a pilot script read-thru with actors, against the background screen of Afghanistan.
Please share an excerpt with us.
Jack looked down the length of the barrel and quickly noted Lori’s emerald green eye focusing on him over the sights of the pistol. He let out a large, long sigh.
“Jesus Christ, you scared the hell out of me!” They spoke in unison, then stared at each other a couple of seconds before they burst out in laughter. Lori lowered the gun, released the hammer, and replaced the Model 1911 Colt .45 in the holster she wore on her web belt.
“Jesus, Lori! You’re packing heat?” Jack asked.
Lori rolled her eyes.
“Jack, in case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in an active combat zone…and I’m a woman. If anyone gets close enough to touch me, I’m probably pretty much done for.” She patted the pistol. “This is what keeps them from getting that close.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “You know how to use that thing…?”
“Yes, Jack! I’m a girl, but I know how to shoot a pistol. I’ve shot competitively since I was a young teenager, and any time you want to challenge me to a match—”
“Okay, okay, got it. I didn’t mean to insult you.” Jack held up both hands in a placating gesture.
“Where’s your sidearm? You should be wearing it any time you’re away from the main camp.” She put her hands on her hips. “Please don’t tell me you’re one of the ‘Hawkeye Pierce’ types.”
Jack blushed and looked at the ground. “No...I’m not. I grew up around guns, too, but…I’m not a big fan of them.” He looked straight into her eyes. “I may just take you up on that shooting match someday, though.”
He stood poker-faced for several seconds before finally winking at her and flashing a grin. A smile crept onto her face as she shook her head. Jack couldn’t remember noticing the brilliance of her smile on those infrequent occasions he’d seen her smile while working together; she’d always struck him as a very intense person.
“Any time, Jack, any time. But don’t get mad when I beat you.”
“As far as being unarmed, this is my first active theater deployment. I guess I’m just not thinking in those terms yet, but, yeah, you’re right, I should be wearing my Beretta.”
“Yep…but enough said about that.” She raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “So, what brings you out here to the wilderness?”
Before he could answer, she turned and moved back to where she’d previously been seated against a tree.
“Oh, uh…I just needed a little alone time after all the bullshit over the past couple of days.” He paused as he kicked at a stick near his foot. “When I was a kid, I always went for walks in the woods when I needed to get away from…stuff.
Audrey J. Cole
Today I have the pleasure to introduce a talented author who is a registered nurse. Audrey J. Cole writes thrillers set in Seattle. After living in Australia for the last five years, Audrey has moved back to the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and two children.
What inspired you to write The Summer Nanny?
I got the idea for this novella a couple years ago when I was a new mother. I was home alone with my baby one night, and I checked the video feed on her monitor while she was sleeping. At the time, I didn’t know the monitor initially displayed the last image it had shown. So, when I turned on the monitor, the screen showed hands in my baby’s crib. It scared me for a moment until the screen changed to its live feed, and I realized the hands it had shown had been my hands in her crib earlier that evening. After taking a deep breath, I thought That would make a great book!
The Summer Nanny is the third book in your Emerald City Thriller series. Can it also be read as a standalone?
Yes, definitely. The Summer Nanny is an action-packed novella that can be read at any point in the series, or as an introduction to the Emerald City Thrillers. So far, I’ve written all the Emerald City Thrillers so they can be read as standalones or as part of the series. The characters do carry over between books, but each book is its own complete story.
Your Emerald City Thrillers are all set in Seattle, but you were living in Australia when you wrote the first two books in this series. Do those books have any Australian components?
They do. There are some subtle references to Australia in The Recipient, the first book in the series. In the second, Inspired by Murder, the antagonist is an Australian living in Seattle, and I take the story to Australia for part of the book.
Although there are medical themes in some of your books, what attracted you to write in the crime thriller genre as a registered nurse?
I love reading true crime as well as fictional crime and psychological thrillers. I’m a huge fan of Ann Rule, who wrote true crime books that mostly took place in the Seattle area. Although my books are fiction, some of them are inspired by true crime events. I got the idea for The Recipient after reading an article about a death row inmate in Oregon who petitioned to donate his organs after execution. Inspired by Murder is loosely based on the crimes of Robert Durst. I try to take what I loved about Ann Rule’s books and blend those aspects into fictional stories with a Seattle backdrop. As an author, I think it’s important to write what you love.
Thanks, Uvi, for having me onto your blog!
My pleasure Audrey!
The Summer Nanny is available for pre-order and will be released on April 16.
Robert I. Katz
And numerous mystery and science-fiction novels
Today I have the pleasure to present a talented author of medical thrillers and science fiction. Robert I. Katz grew up on Long Island, in a pleasant, suburban town about 30 miles from New York City. He loved to read from a very early age and graduated from Columbia in 1974 with a degree in English. Not encouraged by the job prospects for English majors at the time, he went on to medical school at Northwestern, where in addition to his medical degree, he acquired a life-long love of deep dish pizza. He did a residency in Anesthesiology at Columbia Presbyterian and spent most of his career at Stony Brook, where he ultimately attained the academic rank of Professor and Vice-Chairman for Administration, Department of Anesthesiology.
Please describe your mystery series, Kurtz and Barent Mysteries, for us.
Since I’m a physician, it made sense for me to write a series about a physician. My protagonist, Richard Kurtz, is from a small town in West Virginia. Kurtz is ex-army, six feet, two inches tall, has a black belt in taekwondo and is a surgeon at Easton Medical Center and Staunton College of Medicine in New York City. In the first book of the series, Surgical Risk, a former girlfriend of Kurtz’, an obstetrician, is found strangled in a hospital call room. In the second book, The Anatomy Lesson, a former professor of Kurtz’, with whom he has remained friends, is found dismembered in his office. The book that I’m currently working on, the sixth in the series, is If a Tree Falls. In this book, Kurtz returns home for a month, where he has contracted to provide coverage for a surgical group, one of whose members has recently died. Things become complicated when it becomes apparent that his employer, surgeon Jerry Mandell, is at least borderline senile, and become considerably more complicated when the dead bodies of fifteen young girls are found buried the woods.
Please describe your latest book for us.
My most recently published novel is The Well of Time. It’s the fifth book in a science fiction series, The Chronicles of the Second Interstellar Empire of Mankind. The first two books in the series are about the adventures of Douglas Oliver, a young, ambitious industrialist in the nation of Meridien, on the world, Illyria, whose citizens were genetically engineered to be superior soldiers. They’re smart, physically superior, aggressive, and live for competition. The protagonist of the next three books in the series is Michael Glover, who had been a soldier for the First Interstellar Empire and is revived after two thousand years in cold sleep to become an agent for the Intelligence Services of the Second Interstellar Empire of Mankind.
How do you construct a plot?
Years ago, I was at a science fiction convention, listening to a panel of established writers giving advice to new writers. Connie Willis had a simple answer. She said, “Learn to plot.” Everybody knows what they like when they read a book, but it’s not always obvious why they like it. All successful plots follow some essential rules and share some essential characteristics. If your book has these characteristics, then readers will probably enjoy it. If it doesn’t, then readers will find it tedious or boring. First, you start with a protagonist, for whom the reader can feel sympathy. The protagonist has a problem that he or she must solve. The protagonist’s efforts to solve the problem fail, and often make the problem worse. Finally, when all seems lost, the protagonist solves the problem—or comes to a realization that the problem was not worth solving in the first place. An example would be a man who is pursuing wealth but comes to realize that what he really needs is a career helping others and the love of a good woman. Many books have been written on the essential nature of plot, and there’s a lot more to it (constructing a “sympathetic protagonist” for instance), but this is always where you should start.
Can you tell us about your career?
I graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1979 and completed my residency in Anesthesiology at Columbia-Presbyterian. I spent most of my career at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where I was at various times the Chief of Obstetrical Anesthesia, Chief of Neuro and ENT Anesthesia, Director of Pre-Operative Services, Chairman of the Departmental Finance Committee and Vice-Chairman for Administration. And now, I’m retired. Prior to my career in Medicine, however, I graduated with a degree in English from Columbia.
I’ve always wanted to write. My first novel, Edward Maret: A Novel of the Future, was published in 2001. It got excellent reviews from Science Fiction Chronicle, Scavenger’s Newsletter, InfinityPlus and many others. My second novel, Surgical Risk, the first in the Kurtz and Barent mystery series, was published in 2002 and received excellent reviews from Mystery Review Magazine, Mystery Scene Magazine, Midwest Book Review and many others. Now that I’ve retired from medicine, I have the luxury of pursuing writing full time, and my production has greatly increased. Between 2001 and 2016, I published four novels and two short stories. Since 2016, I’ve published 8 more novels, 2 more short stories and a non-fiction book on investing. For me, being able to write full-time is like a dream come true.
How do you include “theme” in your books?
Somebody once said that theme is “a high-falutin way of describing the protagonist’s problem.” That might be simplistic, but I do think it gets to the essence of what theme is and is supposed to be. The theme of a mystery can be “good versus evil,” or perhaps “chaos and the restoration of order.” Common themes in science fiction include “the nature of mankind,” or “the nature of the universe,” or “the nature of intelligence.” Other common themes might include “love conquers all” or “hatred and love can be closely intertwined” or “to thine own self be true” or “pride goes before a fall.” A book’s theme most always is embodied in the character of the protagonist, particularly the protagonist’s flaws. For instance, a protagonist can be head-strong, or ruthless, or excessively ambitious. All of these characteristics highlight the book’s theme, usually in the form of actions to avoid. Scholars and critics tend to talk a lot about a book’s theme but as a writer, I don’t dwell on it too much. A book with an engrossing plot and an interesting protagonist is going to have a theme that resonates with the reader, and to me, the theme grows organically from the story.
Today I have the pleasure of presenting an author who weaves Celtic myths and legends into the historical backdrop of Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, Linnea Tanner has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts. She actively researches ancient history, myths and legends, and archaeology, and has traveled to sites in the United Kingdom and France which are described in each book. A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.
Provide an overview of Apollo’s Raven, Book 1 in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings.
Apollo’s Raven is a Celtic tale of forbidden love, mythological adventure, and political intrigue in 24 AD Ancient Rome and Britannia where Celtic kings hand-picked by Rome are fighting each other for power. King Amren's former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that foretells Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. The king’s daughter Catrin, a Druidic princess, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf. She must find a way to break the curse, but she is torn between her forbidden love for a Roman noble and her father’s enemy, Marcellus, and loyalty to her people.
What inspired you to write the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series? A particular person? An event?
As a young girl, I was an avid reader of mythology and legends that portrayed females as goddesses, Amazonian warriors, and cunning sorceresses. I’ve always been drawn to the bigger-than-life epic heroes and heroines who steered the fate of humankind. In my travels to London, I was struck by the statue of Boudica and her daughters riding in a chariot near the Thames River. The celebrated warrior queen united the Britons in a revolt against the Romans and almost threw them out of Britannia in 61 AD. After doing more research, I became fascinated with the enigmatic Celts— renowned warriors, Druids, and craftsmen.
What's the most distinctive attributes about the main character, Catrin?
In the beginning of the series, Catrin is a naïve, Druidic princess who demonstrates both vulnerability and unflinching bravery when her love for Marcellus and loyalty to her people are tested. She is guided by a spiritual raven that empowers her with foresight and the ability to change the future, often resulting in unexpected and dire consequences. As the series continues, Catrin will journey on a road of self-discovery and learns new mystical powers that prepares her to be a formidable warrior queen.
Will the ill-repute of Mark Antony and his descendants became a central theme in the series? Will history repeat itself for the star-crossed lovers, Catrin and Marcellus?
Though Marcellus is a fictional character, his father is based on the actual historical figure of Lucius Antonius—the grandson of Mark Antony and the son of Iullus Antonius. Mark Antony’s honors were revoked and his statues destroyed in an act of damnatio memoriae after Augustus defeated him and Cleopatra. Lucius was banished to Gaul for his father’s treasonous affair with Augustus’s daughter, Julia. The stain left by Mark Antony and his descendants will impact the star-crossed lovers, Marcellus and Catrin, who will repeat some of the history of Mark Antony and Cleopatra but with a Celtic twist.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
The biggest challenge in writing the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series is to make sure the characters, plot, and backstory are consistent in each book. Book1: Apollo’s Raven is actually the fourth book I wrote in the series. After I received feedback from agents and other writers on the first three books, I realized there needed to be an earlier book that clearly sets up the complex political situation and draws the reader into the fantastical world of the Celts. When I wrote Apollo’s Raven, the storyline took unexpected, yet exciting new directions which I had to weave back into the original books I had already drafted. Along the way, I’ve changed some of the plot and added characters to enhance the tale. Each book needs to be kept fresh by introducing new characters, themes, and settings. The epic series has expanded beyond what I had first envisioned. It will now be a five-book series. Book 2: Dagger Destiny has been released and Book 3: Amulet’s Rapture is anticipated to be released in Fall of 2019.
Apollo’s Raven Links: