Jun 262017
 

Bad Blood

by Brian McGilloway

on Tour June 26 – July 31, 2017

Synopsis:

Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway

A young man is found in a riverside park, his head bashed in with a rock. One clue is left behind to uncover his identity—an admission stamp for the local gay club.

DS Lucy Black is called in to investigate. As Lucy delves into the community, tensions begin to rise as the man’s death draws the attention of the local Gay Rights group to a hate-speech Pastor who, days earlier, had advocated the stoning of gay people and who refuses to retract his statement.

Things become further complicated with the emergence of a far-right group targeting immigrants in a local working-class estate. As their attacks escalate, Lucy and her boss, Tom Fleming, must also deal with the building power struggle between an old paramilitary commander and his deputy that threatens to further enflame an already volatile situation.

Hatred and complicity abound in McGilloway’s new Lucy Black thriller. Compelling and current, Bad Blood is an expertly crafted and acutely observed page-turner, delivering the punch that readers of Little Lost Girl have grown to expect.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: June 13th 2017
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0062684558 (ISBN13: 9780062684554)
Series: DS Lucy Black #4
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

The hall was already packed by the time Detective Inspector Tom Fleming arrived. The air was sweet with perfume and talc and, beneath that, from the farmers still wearing their work clothes, the scent of sweat and the smell of the earth.

The congregation were on their feet, being led in the opening hymn by Pastor James Nixon. Fleming smiled apologetically at those he squeezed past to get to a free seat in the third row from the back. The hymn finished, the assembly took their seats just as Fleming reached his, and settled to listen to the words of Pastor Nixon.

‘My brothers and sisters, it is a great honour to be here with you this evening and to see so many of you have taken the time to come and pray with me.’ His voice was strong despite his age, a rich baritone still carrying the inflections of his native Ballymena accent.

‘But it is a time of great challenge for us all. Daily, all good people face an assault on their morality with the rampant homosexual agenda that assails us and belittles everything we hold to be true and dear. Men of conscience are tried for refusing to make a cake celebrating homosexuality or print leaflets and posters furthering that agenda. And on the other side of the border, the Irish Republic has voted to allow homosexuals to marry, as if two women playing house is no different to the consummated union of a man and a woman. As if it is not a perversion which shames us all.

A few voices appended his comment with ‘Amen’.

Nixon raised his hands, acknowledging their support. ‘There are those who would silence me, silence us. They tell us we must accept homosexuals in our town, our shops, allow homosexual bars and public houses to operate on our streets. We must allow sodomites to teach our children and to corrupt our young. We must stay silent while a new Gomorrah is built next to our homes and farms, our shops and schools. They say I am dangerous. They say I preach hatred. They say I should be silent. But I say this: I say that there is no danger in truth. I say that there is no hatred in goodness. And I say that I will not be silent.’

Another chorus of ‘Amens’ greeted his proclamation, accompanied by a smattering of applause which began at the front and rippled its way through the hall.

‘I will not stand idly by as our families are exposed to sin and depravity. I will not countenance the laws of the land being used to protect profane persons, allowing them to indulge their lustful practices, forcing those of us with consciences to humour this lifestyle. It is an abomination. The people who practise it are abominations and, like those before them, they will end in fire and brimstone.’

Fleming glanced around at the others in the congregation. While one or two shifted uncomfortably in their seats, for the most part the listeners sat intently waiting for Nixon to continue.

‘Friends, only last week, I read of an African nation – a heathen nation, a Godless nation – who arrested two men for homosexual acts. One of these men was sixteen. Sixteen! And do you know what they did to the pair of them? They stoned them. They took them out of the town and they threw rocks at them until the pair of them were dead. And do you know what I thought? Shall I tell you?’

An elderly lady in the front row called out ‘Yes’, to the amusement of those around her. Nixon smiled mildly at her, as if indulging her.

‘Stoning was too good for those men. Every rock that struck them was a just reward for their sinfulness, their immorality, their ungodly behaviour. Every drop of their blood that stained the ground was a reminder that they deserved to die. It was the wages of their sin!’

***

Excerpt from Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway. Copyright © 2017 by Brian McGilloway. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he was Head of English. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lucy Black series, all to be published by Witness. Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife and their four children.

Q&A with Brian McGilloway

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Very much. Writing to me is like dreaming awake and in the same way your experiences and concerns bleed into your dreams, so too do they bleed into your writing. More specifically, most of my books are triggered by real world events’ Little Girl lost by a child found wandering in a snow storm and, in Bad Blood, the targeting of Romanian families in Belfast housing estates with slogans which included ‘Romans Out’ daubed on the gable wall of the family home.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Never. I start at the start and work my way through the story and the plot. It should be as much a journey of discovery for me as for the reader. With one book I did have an ending in mind from the start and then worried that id made the villain of the book too obvious as a result and so changed it half way through!

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
I suspect all my characters have facets of me – even the bad ones. That doesn’t mean I share their views of behaviour, but I need to understand them to be able to write them. Devlin and Lucy, my two series characters, certainly have a lot in common with me. Devlin’s voice is pretty much mine, I think, and his concern with family and balancing his responsibilities is mine. Lucy’s stories are set in Prehen where I grew up and many of her memories are my memories.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I’ve started writing in cafes more and more. I have an office at home but as my children have got older, it’s harder to find quiet to work. Ironically, I find the bustle of a cafe helps me concentrate and I know I’ve an hour without interruption to work so I’m less inclined to surf the net or check Facebook!

Tell us why we should read this book.
I guess this book is about the rise of right wing populism and the manner in which hate is enflamed through the words of people who then decry when others take those words and act on them. That’s a pattern which is being replicated in various parts of the world at the moment, not just in Northern Ireland.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
James Lee Burke, John Connolly, Michael Connelly, Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, Steve Cavanagh, Arlene Hunt, Dennis Lehane, Ian Rankin…

What are you reading now?
Here and Gone by Haylen Beck. It’s excellent so far.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I am – it’s a new Devlin book. I’ve only just started it so I can’t really say what it’s about at the moment.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

That’s a tricky one. For Devlin, I think someone like Brian Gleeson would be perfect. For Lucy, I’m not so sure. An actress called Laura Pyper played Lucy in a radio adaptation of one of the short stories and I thought she was excellent.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Going to the cinema!

Favorite meal?
I’ve started making paella for the kids these past few months and have developed a bit of a love for it at the moment.

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Jun 202017
 

Practicing Normal
by Cara Sue Achterberg
on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017

Practicing Normal

Book Details
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 1611882443 (ISBN13: 9781611882445)

Get Your Copy of Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads!

Synopsis:

The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.

The Turners know in their hearts that they’re anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors’ homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger’s who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.

And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett’s secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.

Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That’s what happens when you’re practicing normal.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

Kudos:

“Does facing the truth beat living a lie? In PRACTICING NORMAL, Cara Sue Achterberg has given us a smart story that is both a window and a mirror, about the extraordinary pain ― and the occasional gifts ― of an ordinary life.”
– Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN

“What does it really mean to have a normal life? Achterberg’s stunning new novel explores how a family can fracture just trying to survive, and how what makes us different is also what can make us most divine.”
– Caroline Leavitt, author of CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD and the New York Times bestsellers PICTURES OF YOU and IS THIS TOMORROW

“PRACTICING NORMAL takes a deep dive into the dysfunctional dynamics of a ‘picture perfect family.’ A compelling story about the beautiful humanity in the most ordinary of lives: from first love to a marriage on the downward slide to an unexpected family tragedy. Achterberg handles each thread with tender care and we can’t help but root for every member of the Turner family.”
– Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of THE VANISHING YEAR

Check out my review HERE

Read an excerpt:

Waving to Jenna as she waits at the bus stop, all I can think is, Please let her go to school today and stay in school all day. Jenna is such a smart girl; I don’t understand why she doesn’t apply herself to her studies. She could be anything. A doctor, even. I was a nurse, but Jenna is smarter than me. Of course, that was twenty years ago. Before I married Everett. Before Jenna and JT were born. Before we ever lived in Pine Estates.

I was the one who chose the house. Everett thought it was pretentious, and it was. All the houses on our end of Pine Road were pretentious. But it was the nineties. Everyone was building McMansions and taking out ridiculous loans to pay for them. Everett had just left his job as a police officer for the job at FABSO (Family and Business Security Options).

We needed to start a new life. We celebrated the new job and didn’t talk about the fact that things could have turned out very differently if his captain had chosen to bring charges against him. Instead, he recommended Everett for the job at FABSO and made it clear Everett would be wise to take it.

I remember lying in bed holding Everett the day he turned in his gun and his badge. He was devastated. Being a cop had been Everett’s dream since childhood. “All I’ve ever wanted to be is a cop. If I can’t be a cop, who am I?”

“You’re a father and a husband. That’s so much more,” I told him. He didn’t say anything about it again. He got to work. He made something of FABSO. And he’s tried so hard to be a good dad.

I don’t remember much about my own dad, and whenever I asked my mother she would say, “There’s nothing to remember about that louse except that he was a louse.” When I pressed her later, after I’d grown up, she’d said, “It doesn’t matter now. He didn’t want to be with us enough to stay.”

All that bitterness can’t hide the fact that when my father left, he apparently took my mother’s heart. She’s spent the rest of her life alone. Except for me. And Evelyn. Although, once Evelyn left home, she didn’t come around much. These days she visits Mama on Saturdays, unless she has something more pressing to do, which is most weeks. Mama annoys her. I suppose I do too. We don’t fit into Evelyn’s shiny, perfect life.

When I first met Everett and told Mama about him, she was skeptical. “A cop?”

I told her how he’d wanted to be a cop since he was a little boy, the same way I always wanted to be a nurse. I gushed about how he told me I was beautiful and how he said he’d been certain about us the first time he saw me. Mama said, “Men will say whatever it takes, Kate. When will you realize that?” But I knew she was wrong about Everett.

I met Everett in the ER. I was treating a patient who was high on coke or meth or God knows what. He was lean and riddled with track marks, his strength coming from whatever drug was flooding his body. I didn’t recognize him as one of our regulars—the ones who showed up like clockwork in search of pain meds. This guy was out of his mind and covered in his own blood from where he’d scratched his thin skin. Another nurse helped me attempt to strap him to the gurney with the Velcro holds, but he was out of his mind and reached for the needle I was about to use to sedate him. Everett was nearby at the desk filling out forms and heard me yell. In just moments, he wrestled the junkie to the ground and held him still as I plunged the needle in. When the man finally collapsed, Everett lifted him back onto the gurney and secured him.

When he turned and looked at me with his green eyes, the same eyes Jenna has, I knew I would marry him. I told him that on our second date. He laughed. I’ve always loved his laugh.

When Everett started at FABSO, he made nearly twice the salary he’d made as a cop. I didn’t need to work any longer. It was our chance. I would stay home and take care of our happy family in our beautiful house in Pine Estates. It was our new start. I thought we belonged there.

When I open the door to Mama’s house, she’s already calling for me. She may be losing her mind, but her hearing hasn’t deteriorated one bit.

“You’re late!” she scolds.

“Sorry, JT had a hard time picking out a shirt to wear today.”

“He’s not a baby! I don’t know why you put up with it.”

I smile at her. No sense taking the bait. “You’re right, Mama.”

“You’ve always been so indecisive. I swear if I didn’t tell you what to do next, you’d stand there like a statue.”

“Good thing you’re so good at telling me what to do,” I mutter as I go to prepare her tea.

Mama wasn’t always like this. When Evelyn and I were little, she was our whole world. She baked homemade cakes for our birthdays, and elaborately decorated them with whatever we were currently obsessing over—Tinker Bell, Barbies, guitars, or, for Evelyn, a computer one year, and the scales of justice the year she announced she was going to be a judge when she grew up.

Mama read to us every night. I remember snuggling into the crook of her arm, even when I was too old to be doing it. Evelyn would be on her other side and our hands would meet on Mama’s flat tummy. I loved the stories with a happy ending, but Evelyn demanded that she read “real books.” She wanted mysteries and thrillers instead of the children’s books Mama picked out at the library. So Mama began to read Nancy Drew, but Evelyn went to the adult aisle and picked out John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King. Mama tried to read them to us. She’d come to a part that she felt was too racy for us and she’d hum while she skimmed ahead til she found a more appropriate section before beginning to read again. This drove Evelyn nuts. She’d pout and complain, eventually stomping off. Mama would return the books to the library unread, but it wasn’t long before Evelyn was old enough to have her own library card and checked them out for herself.

In the mornings, Mama would braid our hair, pack our lunches with tiny handwritten notes, and walk us to the bus stop for more years than was appropriate. When Evelyn reached high school, she demanded that Mama stop, but she still followed us with her car and waited to be certain we got on the bus safely.

Now that I’m a mom, I know it couldn’t have been easy raising us alone. As she’s gotten older, she’s gotten difficult. But I put up with her increasing number of quirks because I feel I owe her. Evelyn doesn’t see it that way, but then again Evelyn doesn’t feel she owes anybody anything.

“Here you go.” I hand Mama the bitter Earl Grey tea she likes over-steeped with no sweetener.

“I’ve already missed Phillip,” she says as I help her out the door to the back porch. She spends most mornings there, talking to the birds that frequent her multiple bird feeders.

“Who’s Phillip?” I ask, mostly to make conversation. She loves to talk about the birds.

The look she gives me is just like the one JT gives me when my random “Wow” comes at the wrong time in one of his lengthy soliloquies on his current obsession. “Phillip is the male cardinal who has begun stopping by each morning. He comes over the fence from the southeast. He’s usually here before the chickadees move in and take over the birdbath.”

I look at the crowd of birds fighting over the seed at the feeder. They all look the same to me. “I’ve got to take care of a few things at home after I run JT to school; I’ll be back at lunchtime.”

“Always leaving me!” she complains. “You can’t even spend five minutes with your mother.”

I’d protest, but there’s no point. She sees things the way she needs to see them. Rewriting history is one of her specialties. I’ve been listening to her do it all my life. When Everett and I took the kids to the beach last summer, she said, “Must be nice! I’ve never had a vacation.” Yet, I remember several summers when Mama took Evelyn and me to the same beach we were headed to. Or when I graduated from nursing school, Mama said, “I’ve always said you’d make a fine nurse,” when, in reality, she’d been telling me for years that I could never be a nurse because I was so weak at chemistry. She thought I should have considered something in business—like being a secretary. She’s been spinning her stories of Evelyn’s escapades, my mistakes, and my father’s general louse-likeness for so long, she probably believes them as gospel truth. They are, I suppose, at least to her mind.

I hurry home, hoping JT has finally decided on a shirt for school. We’re going to be late if we have to argue about it.

Excerpt from Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg. Copyright © 2017 by Cara Sue Achterberg. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

Q&A with Cara Sue Achterberg

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Most of my stories grow out of my personal experience, or more specifically, an issue or idea that I’ve been wanting to explore. Occasionally, though current events can draw me in. The idea for my next novel focuses on a current issue. Practicing Normal, though, came from my heart. Perhaps, it grew out of the isolation I’ve always felt in the small rural community where I live. It’s very insular and I’ve often judged others and felt judged by the people who live around me. Practicing Normal explores the question of how well we know each other and pokes holes in our assumptions based on appearances, financial situations, and employment.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I always, always start at the beginning and see where the story takes me. I can’t imagine writing any other way. In fact, if I knew the answer or the ending, I doubt I could enjoy the writing or even find the motivation to write the story in the first place. Every story is a journey of discovery for me. I know that sounds new-agey, but that’s exactly what it is – I learn something about myself, the world, people. Once the story is set in motion, I can’t let go of it and I follow where it takes me. Sometimes that’s scary, especially when the word count creeps up and I don’t see any hint of an ending. Many times I’m surprised by where the story takes me and I marvel at how magical it feels. Practicing Normal spilled out of me quickly like I was watching a movie.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
My characters are absolutely based on people I know, and at the same time they are definitely not based on anyone I know. There’s no way around using what you know to devise characters. Is it done intentionally? At least for me – no. That would be too weird and basing a character on someone I know would take me (and possibly my readers) out of the story. That wouldn’t work.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
It’s very hard to have a writing routine when you have kids living at home, multiple foster dogs, a small farm with horses and chickens, and a distractable personality. But if I have a routine, it’s this: I read and journal early before breakfast. I work on ‘nonfiction’ (blog posts, research, social media, email, website) before lunch, and after lunch I turn to my fiction. I love the afternoons when no one is home and no animal is in need and I can lose myself in a story. The only idiosyncrasies I have about writing are that I need silence to write (no music, no people talking, no TV in the other room) and an enormous cup of tea. I favor black tea in the morning and green tea in the afternoon.

Tell us why we should read this book.
Hmmm….this should be my elevator speech, right? You should read my book because it’s a good story. It will make you think about marriage and family and love and probably make you wonder what your neighbors are up to. But mostly, its characters will touch your heart, helping you to realize that there’s some good (and some bad) in all of us.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love so many authors that it’ll be hard to keep this list short. I’ve always loved John Irving, Joyce Maynard, Wally Lamb, and Anne Lamott, but I laugh outloud at Jonathon Tropper and love the worlds that Barbara Kingsolver creates. Michael Perry and Barbara Brown Taylor are two of the most talented writers I can think of who consistently make me think and wish I wrote better. I’ve recently discovered Kathryn Craft and Christopher Scotten, and can’t wait to read more from them. Sarah Gruen, Elizabeth Brundage, and T. Greenwood make me turn the page happily. I’ll forever love the writing of Connie May Fowler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Katrina Kennison, and Kate Braestrup because they were the voices that helped me begin to find my own. I have a lot of favorites. I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading a fascinating nonfiction book call the The Dog Merchants by Kim Kavin. She’s a journalist digging deep into the world of puppy mills and dog rescue and the big business of dogs. As far as fiction, my choices are many times dictated by my book club who have me currently reading, A Tale of the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, but the book I’m really enjoying right now is Kate Moretti’s Thought I Knew You.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve actually got two in the editing phase, plus my agent is currently shopping a memoir I wrote about my family and our first fifty foster dogs. One of my fiction manuscripts revolves around a mother and daughter in the aftermath of a texting and driving accident, while the other is a bit less dark and follows a quirky young waitress who goes on a honeymoon with a customer whose just been stood up at the alter.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

I hate this question because it exposes how out of touch I am with the current movie scene. I guess I’m a cheapskate because I can’t bring myself to blow a hundred bucks on taking our family to the movies, so we wait for most everything to come out online. Add to that my complete inability to retain the names of movies stars and I’m at a loss. If I could freeze them in time, I’d cast Meg Ryan as Kate (because I love Meg and Kate) and Ellen Page (at the age she was in Juno) as Jenna. Everett is a bit tougher – maybe Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon or Robert Downy Jr, but not because any of them are ‘perfect’ just, once again, because I like them.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love to hang out with dogs – does that count? I also, very occasionally, ride horses. I run or hike most days and love to go wine-tasting at little wineries in Virginia. Any pretty day will find me poking around in my gardens.

Favorite meal?
Easy – steamed shrimp (which I rarely get to eat because my husband is allergic!), Caesar salad (with the dressing on the side), a loaf of crusty wheat bread, olive oil for dipping, and plenty of wine.

Cara Sue Achterberg

Author Bio:

Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller, as was her second, Girls’ Weekend. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for liv- ing a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

CaraWrites.com | Cara Sue Achterberg on Twitter | Cara Sue Achterberg on Facebook

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Cara Sue Achterberg and The Story Plant. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Girls’ Weekend by Cara Sue Achterberg. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2017 and runs through August 3, 2017. Void where prohibited by law.

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Jun 082017
 

Feather Stone

See 1st installment and my review HERE

I was thrilled when Feather Stone accepted my invitation to be June’s Author Of The Month. Her book was phenomenal and will be one of my 2017 Best Reads. So without further adieu, let’s get to know this amazing author.

Welcome!

Writing:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Current events certainly played a role in the creation of Forbidden. Ever since witnessing the destruction of the World Trade Towers on September 11th, 2001, I realized how little I knew of the Middle East and Islam. Immediately, it was obvious how hatred and fear overwhelmed every nation.

In my meditation practice, I prayed that the Light, the Love of God, Allah, would be the guiding source for world governments and people of all faiths. A few months later, a magical event connected me to an elderly woman from Afghanistan. I believe that’s where Forbidden’s roots came to life.

And, yes, because of my years as a paramedic, I was able to describe in detail Forbidden’s graphic scenes of murder and violence. The horrors of gun battles and the resulting wounds are all too familiar. I’ve been transfixed by the death stare of a child killed in a traffic accident. I’ve held the trembling hand of a man who knew he was dying.

Research is critical. Forbidden’s suspense had to feel authentic to every reader. I’ve spent a year reading about Islam, interviewing professionals, and getting hands-on experience.

I’m not alone while writing my novels. Another voice assumes control.

Writers call this source the muse. If my ego tries to take control over the plot and dialogue, the story soon grinds to a halt. The visions become nothing more than disappearing vapor. The characters’ voices are garbled. Experience has taught me to shut up and let the muse tell the story. I obediently go back to the page when I stopped taking dictation and delete pages, sometimes an entire chapter.

Over the years my muse and I have had numerous battles. I always lose. This year I have given ‘it’ a body and a name. Dear readers, meet Bart, short for Bartholomew. Or ‘Croak’ when I’m on the verge of murderous intent. He can be a royal pain when refusing to let me know where the plot is heading.

Ah, you were expecting a handsome dude. Now, how much work would I get done if the muse was a Sam Elliott copy? Oh, that sexy voice.

What was the inspiration for this book?

Perhaps I should tell you about the magical event. While following the media reports about the hunt for those responsible for the attack on the World Trade Towers, I felt sad for both Muslims and non-Muslims. I knew the Middle East people had been fed hateful propaganda about the west, and vice versa. In my heart I knew the farmer in Afghanistan was no different than my dad, a simple man tending to his livestock on our farm, wanting nothing more than to feed and protect his family.

My prayers for peace continued.

While driving home from work several months later on a minus 20C winter evening, I spotted a heavy set woman limping across an intersection. Her bulky clothing appeared to be more like that of our northern communities. Perhaps she is Inuit, I thought. As I drove on, I watched her in my rear view mirror.

A spell had fallen on me. I couldn’t get my mind off of her. As insanity seemed to take over, I pulled out of the flow of traffic and stopped. In the darkness, I couldn’t clearly see her face. She could be violent, maybe escaped from the mental hospital. Every reason for leaving her behind urged me to put my beat up SUV into gear and move on.

I rolled down the passenger window as she came closer. “Get in,” I beckoned in my most pleasant voice. “I’ll give you a ride.” Shock set my mind in turmoil. Are you crazy?

She stopped and turned toward me. Still I couldn’t make out her features buried in heavy clothes and scarves. She peered into my vehicle, hesitant to come too close. Spotting the torn leather below the window, she was about to turn away.

“Oh, my dog did that,” I smiled embarrassed. “Protecting me. You know how they are. I’ll give you a ride. You going far?” I motioned with my hands for her to get into my car. She leaned in closer, I supposed to see if anyone else was with me.

Now, who’s crazier? Her or me! Never in my life have I given a ride to a stranger.

I think it was the cold that convinced her to climb into my vehicle. We did the quick exchange of smiles and polite nods. After a moment of nervousness, ‘what the hell am I doing’ nausea, I pulled back into the traffic.

Within the next ten seconds, I realized the woman didn’t speak a word of English.
Our communication was through our eyes and hand gestures. After five more long blocks, I asked her where was she from. With my hand on my chest, I said,
“Canada. You are …?”

She said smiling, “Afghanistan.”

“Afghanistan?” I frowned as if I hadn’t understood.

With great pride, she repeated, “Afghanistan.”

Silence. I could barely think coherently. How did this woman I was praying for end up in my vehicle? She continued to point to where I was to drive. After another five minutes, we apparently arrived at her destination. When I parked, I offered her my hand and good wishes. I studied into her face.

She could have been my dear grandmother, the one who made me cookies and wiped away my tears. Instead of taking my hand in a goodbye shake, she enveloped in me in her arms and kissed my cheek. A loving spell had been cast, and Forbidden began.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

The short answer is I’ve never started with the conclusion. In fact, the ending is hidden from me until the last quarter of the book. My one goal for the ending is that it must be a happy ending and that all threads of the plot must be resolved. Before I begin to write the story, I start with the deep understanding of all the characters. I know them far beyond what is needed for the plot. Then they tell their story.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I do most of the ‘writing’ when I’m away from the keyboard. Forbidden’s plots were written while Bart and I were stuck in traffic, planting petunias in a pot, walking my shelties along forest trails, or stirring my mushroom soup. When I finally sat down at the computer, the movie in my head would flow for hours without hesitation. Sometimes it was exhausting trying to keep up with the images, sounds, dialogue, each nuance of hand gestures and facial expressions.

If you could co-author a book, who would that writer be?

I doubt there is an author with the required patience to co-author with me. I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until I’m satisfied with the choice of words or phrases. It’s not done until Bart says it’s done. It’s not done until I feel the magic. And, my dear readers, that may take years. Forbidden went through three complete rewrites over a period of four years.

Characters:

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

Some of my beta readers believe the heroine, Eliza MacKay Ramsay, is based on my character. That was not intended. However, given she is a paramedic and is a risk taker. I can see how readers find her and me similar. The hero, Captain Sharif, is largely based on my late husband’s character. Forbidden is dedicated to him. He was my real life hero.

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

You may find this shocking, but I wouldn’t want to see Forbidden made into a movie. It would be changed and perhaps given a negative twist on Islam and Muslims. I attended a lecture given by Diana Gabaldon who talked about the challenges of watching her books turned into movies. She was prepared for the director to modify characters and scenes but didn’t always agree with the outcome.

What’s next:

Are you working on your next novel?

It’s in my head; or, rather, Bart is sending signals of a potential follow-up to Forbidden. Right now, my time is completely occupied with promoting Forbidden. Once I can give one hundred percent to the next novel, you might not hear from me again for a couple of years.

Can you tell us a bit about it? Title?

The working title is Forsaken. In essence, Forsaken will be an intensely dark struggle, alternating with moods of devotion, love and hope. Both hero and heroine (Sharif and MacKay) are thrust into separate paths with no hope to reclaim their passion for each other. Oops, have I said too much. Damn!

When can we look for it? Approximate publication date?

Given my reluctance to plan and plot an outline, I can see doing a draft, then rewrites. Then my beta readers and editor will have time to slash and advise. My first novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild, took ten years (due to taking writing classes at night). Forbidden took four years. Forsaken may be out in two, but please don’t send out the mob if it’s overdue.

Reading:

Tell us why we should read this book.

That’s the million dollar question for which every reader deserves to receive an answer. Forbidden is like none other.

1. Readers hunt for something different. Forbidden is written in the point of view of a devout Muslim, a Middle Eastern cop, Captain Hashim Sharif. Absolutely unique.

2. The setting is the Republic of Islamic Provinces & Territories (RIPT) – my vision of the future of the Middle East. After the end of the current civil war, thirty years from now, I envision most of the Islamic countries joining to form one powerful nation. Sunni and Shia no longer are adversaries. The government is inclusive, democratic and Sharia law has been relaxed. However, deadly conflicts create chaos and a growing body count. The suspense does not end until the last paragraph.

3. Forbidden will enlighten readers on the basics of moderate Islam. I was guided by a generous imam, Mustafa Khattab; and a most wonderful friend who is a pediatrician and a Canadian Muslim. During the writing of the story, Dr. Sahar Albakkal provided valuable advice on the culture of moderate Muslims, Muslim names, Arabic terms, and interpretation of the Koran.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have an eclectic group of favorites: This incomplete list includes Diana Gabaldon, Nicki Elson, Pauline Holyoak,Yolanda Renee, Daniel Silva, Richard Goodship, Phoenix Rainez, and Christine Campbell.

What are you reading now?

66 Metres by Halema Begum – very exciting suspense/thriller.

Fun Questions:

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. My husband often complained that our house was full of various projects in various stages of completion. I’ve won awards for my needlework and received a congratulatory card from my mayor on the beauty of our front yard. I’m most happy while hiking with my two shelties, Sam and Jade. Lately, I’ve been working on becoming a water color artist.

Favorite meal?

Rib dinner at Tony Roma’s. The ribs – so tender. This is the stuff that legends are made of. The finest pork, beef and lamb ribs, richly seasoned with select spices, slow-smoked to mouthwatering perfection. Basted with your choice of one of their signature sauces. Accompanied by a glass of cold beer – HEAVEN! I’d love to meet you for dinner there.

Thank you for stopping by and visiting with us!

Synopsis:

Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone

Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.

The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.

Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.

When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.

CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hit man on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.

What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.

Feather Stone will be back on June 15th….Don’t miss the 3rd installment for Author Of The Month. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway located on the sidebar!

Jun 072017
 

Dream A Little Death

by Susan Kandel

on Tour May 23 – June 23, 2017

Synopsis:

Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel

From critically acclaimed author Susan Kandel comes a charming new mystery featuring Dreama Black and a cast of zany LA-based characters.

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly, with long, silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.

Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.

Meet Dreama Black. A 28 year-old, third-generation groupie trying to figure out who she is after being publicly dumped by the rock god whose mega-hit, “Dreama, Little Dreama” made the name and the girl world-famous. Now Dreama supports herself by running custom-designed, themed tours of her hometown of L.A. When she is hired by a Raymond Chandler-obsessed rap producer to create a “L.A. noir” tour as his present to his soon-to-be bride, Dreama gets pulled into the middle of a possible murder, corrupt cops, and an unforgettable pair of femme fatales.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 23rd 2017
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 0062674994 (ISBN13: 9780062674999)
Series: A Dreama Black Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly bear, with long silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.

Like braving the freeway during rush hour.

Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.

Like racing up to his penthouse in Balenciaga gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.

Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, which is another thing I should know better about. Because if I’ve learned anything at all from my study of film noir (which got me into the whole sordid Miles McCoy mess to begin with), it is to tell the story in the precise order in which it happened.

The trouble started the day before, which was Valentine’s Day, a pagan holiday named after the Roman priest who defied Claudius II by marrying Christian couples. After being hauled off in shackles, the soft-hearted cleric was beaten with clubs, stoned, and when that didn’t finish him off, publicly beheaded. Makes you think.

It had poured rain for eight days running, which isn’t what you sign on for when you live in Los Angeles. But that morning, as I stepped outside for a run, the sun was blinding—so blinding, in fact, that I didn’t see the fragrant valentine my neighbor’s dog, Engelbart, had left on the stoop for me. Not that I minded spending the next twenty minutes cleaning the grooves of my running shoe with a chopstick. It was a beautiful day. The rollerbladers were cruising the Venice boardwalk. The scent of medical marijuana was wafting through the air. Engelbart’s gastrointestinal tract was sound.

An hour later, I hopped into my mint green 1975 Mercedes convertible, and made my way up Lincoln to the freeway. I was headed to Larchmont, an incongruous stretch of Main Street, USA, sandwiched between Hollywood and Koreatown. This was where studio executives’ wives and their private school daughters came for green juice, yoga pants, and the occasional wrench from the general store that had served Hancock Park since the 1930s. It was also where my mother and grandmother ran Cellar Door, known for its chia seed porridge and life-positive service. I helped out whenever my coffers were running low. Which was most of the time.

You are probably frowning right about now. Surely a young woman who owns a classic convertible—as well as Balenciaga gladiators—should not be perennially low on funds. But it’s true.

The car came from my grandmother, who received it as part of her third (fourth?) divorce settlement and gave it to me as a gift when I strong-armed my mother into rehab for the fourth (fifth?) time. The sandals I purchased online in a frenzy of self-loathing shortly after watching my ex-boyfriend the rock god serenading his current girlfriend the supermodel on an otherwise uneventful episode of Ellen. I’d tried to return the sandals, but one of the studs had fallen off, making them damaged goods. Like their owner. Not that I’m hard on myself. It’s just that my career—I take clients on custom-designed, private tours of my hometown of L.A.—wasn’t exactly thriving, which is why I was easy prey for the likes of Miles McCoy. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the good part. The part where I’m driving like the wind and almost don’t notice the flashing lights in my mirror. I knew I should have fixed that taillight.

I pulled over, cut the motor, handed the cop my license and registration. He looked down, then did a double take. “Dreama Black?”

That would be me.

“The Dreama Black?” he continued. “As in ‘Dreama, Little Dreama’?”

Perhaps I should explain.

I am a twenty-eight-year-old, third-generation rock ’n’ roll groupie—or “muse,” as the women in my family like to put it.

My grandmother, a fine-boned blonde who never met a gossamer shawl or Victorian boot she didn’t like, spent the sixties sleeping her way through Laurel Canyon, winding up in a house on Rothdell Trail (a.k.a. “Love Street”) purchased for her by a certain lead singer of a certain iconic band whose name is the plural of the thing that hits you on the way out.

My mother, blessed with thick, dark tresses and a way with mousse, was consort to many of the pseudo-androgynous alpha males of American hair metal, her chief claim to fame an MTV video in which she writhed across the hood of a Porsche wearing a white leotard and black, thigh-high boots. She also bought Axl Rose his first kilt.

As for me, well, I was on my way to freshman orientation when this guy I’d been seeing, who’d played a couple of no-name clubs with some friends from summer camp, intercepted me at LAX, put his lips to my ear, and hummed the opening bars of a new song I’d apparently inspired. Instead of boarding the plane for Berkeley, I boarded the tour bus with Luke Cutt and the other skinny, pimply members of Rocket Science. Four world tours, three hit albums, two Grammys, and one breakup later, “Dreama, Little Dreama”—an emo pop anthem that went gold in seven days and has sold eleven million copies to date—had made me almost famous forever.

“Step out of the car, please.”

The cop removed his sunglasses. Peach fuzz. Straight out of the academy. “So.”

He wanted to get a picture with me.

“I’d love to get a picture with you,” he said.

I smoothed down my cut-offs and striped T-shirt, removed my red Ray-Bans, ran my fingers through my long, straight, freshly balayaged auburn hair. The cop put his arm around me, leaned in close, took a couple of snaps on his phone. Let me guess. He’d had a crush on me since tenth grade, when he saw me in a white tank and no bra on the cover of Rocket Science’s debut C.D., and now he was going to post the pictures on Instagram to show all his buddies.

“Awesome.” He gave me a brotherly punch on the arm. “No way is my wife going to believe this. She’s crazy about Luke Cutt. Hey, is he really dating that Victoria’s Secret Angel? She is smoking hot.”

At least I didn’t get the ticket.

Excerpt from Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. Copyright © 2017 by Susan Kandel. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

An Agatha, Edgar, and SCIBA nominee, Susan Kandel is the author of the nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Cece Caruso series, the most recent of which, Dial H for Hitchcock (Morrow), was named by NPR as one of the five best mysteries of the year. A Los Angeles native, she was trained as an art historian, taught at NYU and UCLA, and spent a decade as an art critic at the Los Angeles Times. When not writing, she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, and loves to explore secret, forgotten, and kitschy L.A. She lives with her husband in West Hollywood.

Q&A with Susan Kandel

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both! I am a voracious reader, and along with fiction, that includes two daily newspapers and an embarrassing number of magazines. So I am quite attuned to things that are going on in the culture — in fashion, music, art, entertainment, etc. — and embed a lot of these passions and interests into my books. In the current series, the protagonist is a third-generation rock and roll groupie, so popular music is definitely an important subtext. I, however, am not a third-generation rock and roll groupie (nor a first or second), so I can’t draw on my personal experience there. But I absolutely did draw on my own life in delineating the mother-daughter relationships that are the foundation of the Dreama Black series as a whole.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
My process in the past has been to start writing when I have the opening scene and the closing scene — in other words, I know how it begins, I know how it ends, but I don’t have the slightest idea about how I’m going to get from A to Z. It seems like a fairly intuitive way to structure an amateur sleuth mystery because what you are essentially doing is following along as the character herself sees where each clue leads her. What I found was that if I tried to plan too much in advance I would inevitably come up against impasses, or have to write myself out of dead ends, or have to make illogical leaps to get to where I needed to go next as per my outline. With this latest novel, DREAM A LITTLE DEATH, I worked somewhat differently. I started with a scene in mind — a film noir-ish burlesque performance that ended in a shocking mock-suicide — and built the entire plot and all of the characters around that!

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
God, yes. It’s risky knowing me — everything and everyone is fair game. In my very first book I based one of the murder victims on my mother-in-law; the LAPD detective boyfriend from Buffalo, N.Y. on my husband; and yes, my sleuth Cece Caruso (at least in parts) on myself. Bad guys are my favorite to write, of course: the villain in one of my books was a dead ringer for my least favorite neighbor (who, thank goodness, does not like to read). In the new Dreama Black series, the protagonist is 28 years old, which is closer to the age of my daughters than myself, so many of Dreama’s observations and experiences (apart from the stumbling on dead bodies part) is stolen from my children & their friends. But I will admit Dreama’s ‘80s-era MTV video vixen mom, Desiree, is my fantasy version of myself.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
My office is my converted garage, so it’s out of the house, which is a plus, because I’m not constantly distracted by the siren call of laundry, dishes, etc. Nonetheless, the battle against distraction — especially since I’ve become active on Twitter — is ongoing and brutal. There is nothing worse than the feeling of having sat at your desk all day and accomplished nothing. So I use something called the “Pomodoro” method, which I learned from my husband, who is an academic. Twenty-five minutes of total concentration — no checking email, Twitter, Daily Mail, answering the phone, wandering aimlessly, playing with the dog, eating, rearranging pens, etc. You just write, and after the twenty-five minutes, you get a five-minute break, and then you do it all over again. I find I have about five of these sessions in me before lunch. Then I take a break for an hour, and after I am well-fed, I do the whole thing all over again. It works! And the day literally flies by.

Tell us why we should read this book.
You should read DREAM A LITTLE DEATH if you like your mysteries on the cheeky side; if you are enamored of rock and roll, Hollywood history, and retro fashion; and if you want your guilty pleasures to be as smart as you are.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Tana French, Lawrence Block, Thomas Perry, Georges Simenon, Elinor Lipman, Patricia Highsmith, Ian McEwan, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ruth Rendell, Thomas Hardy, Mary Higgins Clark, and Carolyn Keene.

What are you reading now?
Currently on my nightstand are: M.C. Beaton’s latest Agatha Raisin mystery, PUSHING UP DAISIES; Dennis Lehane’s new Boston noir, SINCE WE FELL; an academic treatise on Sofia Coppola’s films; a coffee table book about Yves St. Laurent’s “shocking” ‘40s-throwback collection of 1971; and groupie extraordinaire Pamela Des Barres’s new book, LET IT BLEED: HOW TO WRITE A ROCKIN’ MEMOIR.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
So excited about this one! It is the next installment in the Dreama Black series, and in this book, Dreama is organizing a tour of spiritual/holistic L.A. for a group of sexy yoga mommies, and gets into hot (alkalinized) water when someone takes a whack at a former teen star turned New Age guru, and Dreama has to channel her kundalini energy to figure out who it is.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Tippi Hedren as Gram, Melanie Griffith as Desiree Black, and Dakota Johnson as Dreama Black; alternately, Susan Sarandon as Gram, Brooke Shields as Desiree, and Eva Amurri as Dreama.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Reading, watching any of the Housewives on Bravo while paying bills because then I feel less guilty, hiking in Runyon Canyon, Pilates, SHOPPING

Favorite meal?
This is a great question because I love to eat! I think my favorite meal is the meal I had after giving birth to each of my daughters: an egg salad sandwich on rye toast dry, French fries, and a vanilla malt. It’s the ultimate reward for a job well done.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Tour Participants:



Here’s Your Chance to WIN!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Susan Kandel and Harper Collins. There will be 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. The giveaway begins on May 23rd and runs through June 27th 2017

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Jun 062017
 

Genocide

by Pat Krapf

on Tour June 1-30, 2017

Synopsis:

Genocide by Patricia Krapf

Sean Ireland, the first gay presidential candidate in US history, is guaranteed the election—until he’s found dead at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Stunned by her friend’s murder, private investigator Darcy McClain is determined to hunt down Sean’s killer. In shock, she returns home to find someone has broken into her home, assaulted her sister, and stolen Bullet, her giant schnauzer.

After Sean’s death, more grisly murders follow, leading the police to suspect a serial killer, but Darcy isn’t convinced. In the course of her investigation, she’s astounded to discover evidence of a high-level government conspiracy to exterminate gays and lesbians. Is Sean’s murder tied to this conspiracy? Could someone in the government have killed him? Darcy vows to track down her friend’s murderer, save Bullet, and discover the truth.

Krapf weaves a captivating tale that will leave readers wanting more of Darcy McClain’s shrewd investigative adventures as she and her bold canine sidekick, Bullet, navigate the clever plot twists in her thrillers.

Book Details:

Genre: Technothriller
Published by: Thunder Glass Press
Publication Date: June 2017
Number of Pages: 502
ISBN: 978-1-941300-05-3
Series: A Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller, #3 (These are Stand Alone titles)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Patricia Krapf

Patricia “Pat” Krapf is a full-time writer and author of the acclaimed Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series.

She and her husband live in Texas with their giant schnauzer Bullet, who at a hundred pounds has found his way into the plot of his master’s books.

Pat was an active member of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Writers’ Workshop for ten years and is now a member of several professional writing organizations, including Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She frequents Bouchercon and the DFW Writers Conference. Her second book, Gadgets, won the Betty L. Henrichs Award for Best Publishable Mystery.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Q&A Pat Krapf

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both. Robots is a hot topic these days as is genetic engineering. I cover both subjects in Brainwash and Genocide respectively. In Gadgets the plot is centered on lasers. I used to handle the laser product line for a well-known ophthalmic company and I used my knowledge to forge the plot for Gadgets.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I start with a beginning and a general idea of how the book will end. But as the story progresses the ending may be modified or changed as the characters often dictate the ending. As for the gap between the beginning and the end, I let the characters tell the story.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Darcy is my alter ego and a few of my villains may have some characteristics of real life villains I’ve come across during my lifetime.

Your routine when writing?
No less than eight hours a day and normally 10.

Any idiosyncrasies?
I pay attention to everything and am acutely aware of life’s details: people’s reactions, overheard conversations, my surroundings, everything is an opportunity, even dropping off recycled clothes at a recycle bin. Would this be a good place to stash a dead body?

Tell us why we should read this book.
Darcy as super sleuth is a likable heroine with spunk and smarts who doesn’t shy away from a challenge. The technical parts of the story set it apart from an average thriller.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, John le Carré, and Ken Follett.

What are you reading now?
The Looting Machine by Tim Burgis.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes, CLON-X: Darcy and Bullet her giant schnauzer find a trash bag submerged in a stream. Inside are the pulverized remains of renowned geneticist Dr. Catherine Lord, who has been receiving death threats for her research on human cloning.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Jordana Brewster.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Spending time with Bullet, my rescued giant schnauzer, and gardening.

Favorite meal?
Sushi

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Darcy rose at dawn, descended the stairs two at a time, and yanked open the front door, eager to read the headlines of her morning Chronicle. She scooped the newspaper off the walk and chuckled as she saw the faces of her two friends plastered across the front page. Never had she been so absorbed in a presidential election.

Before she headed back indoors, she paused to survey the quiet cul-de-sac with its houses stacked close together, their gray outlines awash in the jaundiced glow of the streetlights. No one stirred in the neighborhood. Too early. Even the local cat who loved to sleep on the front porch was nowhere in sight.

A light breeze kicked up. Dead leaves cartwheeled over mowed lawns, and the cold spray from the neighbor’s automatic sprinklers misted her from head to toe. She dodged a second dousing and ducked into the house, collecting Charlene’s skateboard as she entered the foyer.

Freshly brewed coffee drew her to the kitchen. She poured a cup and slid onto the window seat in the breakfast nook to devour every word of the three-page article. Most of the content she already knew, but she never tired of reading about Governor Sean Ireland and Senator Magdalena “Mags” Cortés. Even though Darcy thought she knew her friends, the past few months had brought one shocking piece of information after another. In all the years Darcy had known Sean—dating back to their college days at Stanford Law School—not once had he ever alluded to running for the presidency. When he became governor of California, he claimed he was more than satisfied with his current role and had no intention of running for any other office. Yet a year ago, he declared his candidacy, and in a bold (and some said premature) move, announced his vice presidential candidate, Senator Mags Cortés. Mags and the Latino community had a long-standing love affair, and pundits predicted she would sweep seventy percent of their vote.

While it came as a surprise Sean aspired to be president, it was no revelation Mags was his vice presidential pick. Separately, the two possessed the talent and power to accomplish anything they set their minds to. Together, The Formidable Two, as they had been dubbed by the press, packed an unbeatable punch. Before the election campaign had even started, their opponents admitted their own victory would not come easily, if at all.

Only one factor bothered the American public: the personal relationship between Sean and Mags. Not everyone was keen on the idea of a presidential candidate and his VP running mate potentially marrying. “Conflict of interest,” the opposition protested publicly and frequently, for most assumed the lifelong friends and reported sweethearts would marry one day. Neither refuted the rumors, so they persisted for years—until last month’s press conference, when both had dropped mind-blowing bombshells.

In a secret ceremony, Mags had married billionaire Gaspar Cruz. At the time of her “bolt from the blue,” as the press called it, she and hubby had been married more than six months. But Mags’s revelation paled in comparison with Sean’s shocker: a public proclamation of his sexuality. The majority of his constituents thought the decision to come out was political suicide, but they were wrong. Instead, he clinched the majority of the gay and lesbian vote and won over those who trended liberal, and because of his exemplary track record as senator and then governor, most conservatives chose to overlook his orientation in favor of his ability to bring about real change in government—a talent already proven at the state level.

The mudroom door opened and shut, cutting into Darcy’s thoughts. Charlene strolled into the kitchen with Bullet. The giant schnauzer frogged out on the tiled floor while her sister washed a handful of herbs picked fresh from their garden. Charlene looked relaxed in floral yoga pants, a pink sweatshirt, and pink flip-flops. She wore her long brown hair swept into a ponytail, and a pink headband kept the loose strands away from her oval face. Today her fingernails and toenails sparkled with pink polish.

Darcy inspected her own fingernails, next her toes. Maybe she should take a cue from Charlene and invest in a manicure and pedicure. Or a trip to the salon for highlights. She glanced at her sister. No, one high-maintenance person in the family was enough.

Charlene lowered her sunglasses and leveled her hazel eyes at Darcy. “You aren’t reading about that campaign again, are you?”

Darcy folded the newspaper. “I am.”

Charlene opened the refrigerator door and began setting items on the countertop in preparation for the brunch she promised to fix while on spring break from Stanford. “I’ve never seen you so absorbed in an election. Sean should hire you as his campaign manager. Do you think he stands a chance? Being gay, that is.”

Often her sister took the opposing view simply to create conflict or to get a rise out of Darcy, but today she refused to bite. “Why not? We’ve had a black president and a Catholic president, so why not a gay president with a Hispanic VP? What I care about is his ability and whether he has the intestinal fortitude and bipartisan support to do the job he pledged to do.”

“He’s certainly made a great governor.”

“Yes, he has. By the way, thanks for fixing brunch . . . on your first day of vacation.”

“Better to do it today or I’ll be off doing a gazillion other things and will forget completely.” She placed her hands on her hips. “Tell me, when do you plan to move into the digital age? As in ditch the newspaper and read it online?”

“Never. I love the smell of newsprint in the morning.”

Metal clanged.

Bullet cocked his head.

Charlene frowned. “Mail? At this hour?”

Light spilled across the entry. An envelope sailed through the mail slot and landed on the tile. In a barking frenzy, Bullet scooted off the floor and limped into the foyer.

Darcy sprang out of her seat and snatched up the letter before Bullet could pounce on it. Baffled by the early delivery, she flung open the front door. “Stay.” Bullet sat. Darcy jogged to the curb and glanced down Mandalay Lane, expecting to see a courier or a departing vehicle of some kind, but the neighborhood of mostly elderly people still slept.

She examined the envelope. Plain white and nothing written on the outside. No courier service had delivered it. She ripped the seal with her fingernail and removed a card along with a check. The note read, “Meet me. 9:00 a.m. Palace of Fine Arts.” No date?

She flipped the check over and whistled low and long. Why would Sean write her a check for 250 grand? A retainer, no less—for the word was scrawled in the memo section. And why hadn’t he rung the bell and stopped in for coffee, or at least for an explanation?

On her way back into the house, she petted Bullet on the head and said, “Good boy,” releasing him from his stay.

The hall clock chimed as she locked the front door. She had better get moving if she planned to be home in time for brunch. And, she was dying to hear why Sean had written her a retainer for a quarter of a million dollars.

“Time to go.” Darcy placed the check and note in the writing desk in the kitchen.

“You haven’t been for your run?”

“Too busy reading the paper. Need anything from the store? Nothing big, of course.”

“Nope,” said Charlene. “I have everything planned, including dessert. Oh, and I gave Bullet his meds for his cut paw.”

“Thanks.” Darcy wiggled into a nylon Windbreaker, grabbed her water bottle off the butcher block, and kissed Bullet between the eyes. He followed her into the mudroom and waited expectantly at the side door that opened onto the driveway. She hated leaving him behind, but the vet had said no running until the cut on his pad healed. She latched the screen door and tested the handle. Lately, Bullet had gotten into the habit of letting himself out of the house. As she walked down the drive, his whines tugged at her heart.

Darcy warmed up with a slow jog as she left Mandalay for Lombard—the most crooked street in the city—and raced up the steep stairs, her knees pumping high, clearing each step with ease.

Leaving Lombard, she sprinted onto Hyde, and ran at a lung-bursting speed toward the fog-shrouded streets of Fisherman’s Wharf. On the harbor, she shot down the waterfront and quickly approached the docks, the slips veiled in white. Although she couldn’t see many of the yachts or sailboats that bobbed in the water, she heard the lap of the surf against their sides and the rasp of metal against wood as they tugged at their moorings.

She peeled away from one pier after another, until the Ferry Building came into view. She reached it and slowed a bit, mindful of the crowds of city workers pouring from the boat terminal, everyone in a hurry to reach their jobs in the downtown districts. She conducted a U-turn, and flew back up the Embarcadero, cutting her normal route short so she wouldn’t miss Sean.

At Pier 23 Charlene crept into Darcy’s mind. Her sister’s friendship with Vicky Lord, a young woman Darcy distrusted, continued to worry her. She had hoped that once Vicky and Charlene no longer roomed together at Stanford, the two would go their separate ways. But no. Vicky had rented a house near campus and had asked Charlene to move in rent-free. In every aspect, Vicky spelled trouble. Dan Gruet, Darcy’s former partner at the FBI, called the tattooed and pierced kid Wild Child.

Darcy’s thoughts skipped from Charlene to Sean’s double shocker. What had prompted him to come out now? “Honesty,” he had said. And what had triggered this sudden decision to run for the highest office in the land? Even more of a mystery, why did he want to hire her and for what, especially at a quarter of a million dollars? She couldn’t think of what service she could be to him.

Her favorite pier came into view. She sidestepped a man power washing the sidewalks and maneuvered around a refrigerator truck parked at the rear of a chowder house. From Pier 39 rose the sharp barks of sea lions. She circled the jetty, sucking in the salty air and pausing briefly to bid a silent good morning to the noisy mammals she had grown so fond of. Life was good. The tension in her neck eased as she again bore down on Fisherman’s Wharf.

Easy, methodical strides propelled her past the shops and restaurants waking to another day. She steered clear of milling tourists, navigated around a group of cyclists, and avoided a collision with a rollerblader preoccupied with texting. Two hours earlier, her normal run time, she would have owned the wharf. Few people appeared before dawn.

Maintaining a steady pace, she sailed along Jefferson until the pavement gave way to the Bay Trail. Flying by the shoreline at a pulse-pounding speed, she navigated around a pedestrian and gained momentum as she set her sights on Fort Mason, gearing up for the trail detour she had been taking ever since the city started their repairs on the retaining wall. She would be glad when they finished. The bypass route led her up a narrow, steep concrete staircase and then connected to an equally narrow walkway before disgorging its occupants onto Upper Fort Mason. Darcy managed the detour without crashing headlong into anyone, or vice versa, and breathed a sigh of relief as she left the park for Marina Boulevard.

Rejuvenated, Darcy increased her tempo as she neared the intersection of Scott and Marina, her feet striking the pavement in a rhythmic thump, thump, thump, the sound suddenly overridden by the louder, heavier slaps of sneakers on pavement. Another runner. She glanced over her shoulder.

Someone barreled into her. She hit the sidewalk. Pain shot through her lower back as her butt landed on concrete. Dazed, she stared at the black man towering over her. Without a word of apology or any attempt to help her, he dashed into the busy boulevard. Horns honked and someone cursed the man.

“Jackass,” Darcy muttered. She scrambled to her feet, retrieved her water bottle, and brushed dirt from her shorts, eager to be on her way. She didn’t want to miss Sean, assuming the note meant today. This was her normal running route, and he knew it since they often ran together, so on any given day she was likely to bump into him anyway.

As Darcy stood across from Lyon Street, waiting for the signal light to change, an orange sun cut through the lifting fog. Ahead loomed the Palace of Fine Arts, its ornate dome glowing copper red under the morning rays. She dropped to a walk, surprised to see the entire area cordoned off with barricades and a phalanx of San Francisco’s finest blocking all avenues into the monument.

Two officers broke from the crowd and said in unison, “Presidio is closed, ma’am.”

“What happened?” she asked, not expecting an answer.

“Come back another time,” the traffic cop said, his hand resting possessively on his holster.

Darcy turned to retrace her steps, hoping to approach the rotunda from a different route. In the distance, sirens shattered the peace. Their shrill whines grew louder as wave after wave of emergency vehicles and squad cars flooded the Presidio, choking off every artery. The invasion continued until the peaceful community swarmed with law enforcement. Front doors opened, and residents gathered on their porches or the sidewalks to gawk at the commotion.

She zipped her Windbreaker to conceal her shoulder rig and snuck between the vehicle-flanked streets to where a crowd had assembled at a police barrier. “What happened?”

“Cops won’t say,” said one of the cyclists milling around the barricade. “All I know is, the streets are crawling with cops.”

“We should’ve stayed at the Golden Gate,” complained another cyclist, her head bent as she examined the toe clips attached to her bicycle pedals.

A jogger stopped in front of the growing crowd of onlookers. “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Not sure,” Darcy answered.

“Must be serious,” he said, panting. “Police are going door-to-door asking if anyone saw anything, and I heard they’ve sealed off all roads within a one-mile radius. Whatever happened must be big.”

An ambulance nosed past them, tailed by a white SUV with San Francisco Medical Examiner on the side. The vehicles parked at the curb just as two vans careened onto the grounds. The letters stenciled on the compartment doors read kxtv.

A young policeman posted at the barricade shouted, “Tell them to get lost!”

A fellow officer who looked like he’d been on the force since the Kennedy administration gave the younger policeman a tired look. “At least keep them at bay.”

Someone called out a hello to Tony Barazza, the chief medical examiner and a friend of Darcy’s. Not wanting to be seen by Barazza at this particular moment, she blended into the crowd and watched him elbow his way through the throng along with Martinez, an investigator from the coroner’s office.

“Geary ordered the area sealed off,” an officer passed the word. “The entire palace area. Understood?”

“Got it,” another officer answered.

Darcy moved to the sidelines, searching for a weak point in the stronghold of blue, but all she saw were reinforcements and medics arriving by the minute. The chaos escalated. She slunk to the rear of the crowd, and crossed the pavement to Palace Drive. The street wrapped the back side of the palace grounds. No one confronted her, so she walked on and had almost reached the other side of the monument when she spotted two uniformed officers patrolling Lyon and Bay and another two loitering on the last stretch of lawn between her and the palace. To avoid suspicion, she met them midway.

“Officers, hi. Maybe you can help me.”

“The grounds are closed,” said the taller of the two. “You have to leave. Now.”

“Sorry, I didn’t know.” She headed back up Palace Drive, mind busy working out her next move. She glanced behind her. The officers were gone, so she walked briskly toward Bay, not at all surprised to see the policeman chatting with fellow officers at a police barricade on Lyon. She slipped among the parked cars and spied on them.

A man wearing a khaki jacket and pants appeared on the sidewalk. He took keys from his pocket and crossed the street to a row of cars. One of the officers at the Lyon roadblock homed in on him.

“Hey, you. Yes, you!” the policeman hollered. “Who gave you permission to enter the area?”

“I didn’t realize I needed permission, Officer . . .?”

“Osborn. Let’s see some identification.”

“Sure.” The man handed over his driver’s license.

Osborn studied the stranger’s face against the photograph on the license. “Jesús Santiago?”

“Yes, sir. Can I go now?”

“Are you in a hurry?” Osborn handed back the license.

“Frankly, yes sir, I am. My client needs ten blowups—enlargements—and they’re due tomorrow.” Santiago unlocked a dilapidated Volkswagen van and leaned into the driver’s side.

“When did you arrive at the palace?”

“Dawn. And I’m not here to tour the palace, but the Presidio.” Santiago sneezed twice. “Allergies.”

“What have you been doing all this time?”

“Shooting birds. With a camera, of course. I’m a professional photographer. My client owns Tweety Bird Feeds, a seed company outside Oakland.”

Osborn grunted. “Open your backpack.”

Stiff from crouching, Darcy shifted her weight from one leg to the other, giving her a better vantage point.

Santiago released the nylon buckle, shrugged off the rucksack, and rested it gently on the ground.

“Unpack it.”

Santiago complied. “Cameras. Lenses. Water.”

“The palace grounds are closed to all traffic, including pedestrians. The officers posted at the Marina barricade will point you to the detour route.”

Santiago shook his head. “Great. Another delay.”

“Good day, sir, and thank you for your cooperation.” Osborn radioed a fellow officer. “Kenton, Osborn. A white Volkswagen van is headed your way. Direct him to the detour. After he leaves, radio me.”

Seconds after Santiago’s van dipped from view, Osborn’s two-way radio squawked. “He’s gone? Good. Thanks, Kenton.” Osborn walked across the lawn and disappeared from view.

Rocking forward, Darcy prepared to stand, but she felt a slight tug followed by a tearing sound. Something had snagged her jacket. She bent down to free her Windbreaker and noticed the license plates on the sports car parked beside her: eql ryts. Sean’s car. He must be somewhere in the Presidio. She placed a hand on the hood to raise herself. The metal was cool to the touch. The car had been here a while.

She swept the area and immediately spotted Detective Walter Ortiz, a cop she knew well from a previous case. He and several other officers lingered at the fringe of the parking lot. The party broke up, and Officer Fillmore, a rookie from the Central Station, began his patrol of the area. She had an idea. Not original, but few were. She pulled out her PI license and advanced on Fillmore, calling out as she approached, “Have you seen Detective Ortiz?”

As she hoped, her assertiveness threw Fillmore, who had been on the force for a month. “Oh, hi, Detective McClain. He’s in the rotunda. Why?”

“He’s expecting me.”

“Really?” Fillmore hesitated. “I’ll show—”

“Thanks, I know the way.”

“Wait.”

Darcy pretended not to hear. She crossed the greenbelt at a fast walk. Out of sight of Fillmore, she veered onto a walkway, dived into the shrubs bordering the lagoon, and ducked under the yellow crime scene tape, one end of which was anchored to a tree trunk, the other tied around a colonnade.

She stole to the nearest wall and kept low for cover. A team of three stationed at the archway milled about. One carried a logbook, his job to sign in and out anyone who entered or exited the monument.

A gentle breeze stirred the scent of freshly mown grass, and muffled voices filtered from the rotunda, the words inaudible. She leaned sideways for a better view, her shoulder against the pillar for leverage. Detective Geary, a bald man pushing fifty, threw out his chest and sucked in his gut as he joined five of his officers and two plainclothes cops huddled at the palace entrance. Barazza and Martinez lingered nearby, talking in low voices. Barazza noticed Geary and headed toward the officer. A short conversation ensued. Geary spewed expletives, slapped Barazza on the back, and rejoined his men for another gab session.

Suddenly, the group exploded in loud argument, and two uniformed officers broke from the tight-knit assembly. The men seemed agitated, pacing and puffing nervously on cigarettes, apparently contemplating something important. Then the loop tightened and the heated debate continued. Curiosity ate at Darcy.

As time passed, gathering clouds blocked the sun, and shadows dulled the silhouettes inside the monument, making it difficult to discern one figure from another, especially from her angle and when most wore blue.

“Hey, get those lights in here.” Geary bellowed his directive.

Officers scurried into the theater. They unpacked tripods equipped with high-wattage spotlights and arranged them in a semicircle. Bright floodlights doused the honey-colored walls in blinding white.

“Okay, everyone out.” Geary’s gruff voice resonated through the dome.

People scattered. Darcy’s pulse quickened. On the ground sprawled a man, his back to her, one arm tucked under his body and his head partially hidden. He wore brown Dockers, loafers, and a white shirt. She craned her neck to catch a closer look, but the angle wouldn’t allow for a clear view. A policewoman stepped forward and covered the body with a blanket. Darcy eased off the concrete ledge to the ground and paused, thinking through the best approach to access the rotunda.

A hand closed on her shoulder. “Seen enough?”

She spun. “Osborn. Hi.”

Osborn leaned sideways, his gaze toward the rotunda. “Hey, Hilton. Come here.”

A short, dark-haired man in his mid-thirties strutted in their direction. Hilton, too, was new to the force, not a rookie but a transfer from LA. He saw Darcy and shook his head. “McClain, how in the hell did you get past the command post? Shit, Geary’s going to blow his top. Sir!” Hilton shouted to his boss. “I need you for a minute.”

“I’m coming,” said Geary. Darcy had tangled with him on many investigations, the outcome never good. He put an unlit cigar between his lips and scratched his silver-and-brown mustache with his thumb. The minute he laid eyes on her, his slow gait increased to a fast shuffle. “You working this job, McClain? No, so scat.” To Hilton, Geary shouted, “Goddamn it. Who’s sleeping on the job? I want names. Do you hear me, Hilton? Names.”

“Yes, sir.”

Geary turned back to Darcy. “Well, what are you doing here, McClain?”

“Out for a jog.”

Geary snickered. “Right.”

“Detective. Sir,” an officer called to Geary.

“Yeah, Beckwith? What is it?”

“Press wants to interview you. They want to know if you can ID the guy.”

“Tell the assholes I’m trying to conduct a murder investigation plus deal with other crap.” He cocked his thumb at Darcy. “Now back to work and find the damn murder weapon.”

“Yes, sir. Sir, what is the murder weapon?” asked Beckwith.

“The hell if I know. Just keep searching.”

A tall, distinguished-looking black man in a tan suit sauntered over to Geary. Darcy liked Detective Ortiz, a man with a conscience, for God knows Geary had none.

“Darcy, hi.” A smile brightened Ortiz’s stern face, and his hand shot out.

She shook it. “Good to see you again.”

Geary muttered something, followed by, “Okay, you two, cut the sweet stuff. We’re here on business.”

Ortiz glanced at his cell phone. “MacDonald says he found something interesting.”

“Oh?” Geary’s dour expression brightened. “Let’s talk over there. Where it’s private.”

After a few moments, Ortiz motioned to Darcy to come over.

Geary cursed. “No reason to involve her whatsoever. None.” Darcy didn’t hear Ortiz’s reply, only Geary’s loud bark. “Okay, okay. So let her identify the victim. Then she leaves.”

Ortiz made eye contact. His sad expression carried a warning: “This won’t be easy.” And his demeanor said she knew the victim. He walked her to where the body lay. A cool breeze rustled the bushes, tousling Darcy’s damp hair. A shiver skidded along her spine, and sweat beaded on her upper lip. It seemed like an eternity until he pulled back the blanket.

“I’m so sorry.” Ortiz touched her shoulder.

Numb, Darcy knelt, one hand on the ground to steady herself, her knees weak and her brain denying what her eyes clearly saw. “How did he die?”

“Don’t answer.” Geary stepped in front of Darcy. “Now stand, McClain.”

“It does no harm to give her a minute.” Ortiz grabbed Geary’s arm and led him away from the body. Begrudgingly, Geary went along.

Darcy stared at her friend, lying lifeless on the cold ground. Disbelief and sadness tore at her heart, and tears stung her eyes. Through blurred vision, she whispered her goodbye. “I’ll miss you, Sean.”

***

Excerpt from Genocide by Pat Krapf. Copyright © 2017 by Pat Krapf. Reproduced with permission from Pat Krapf. All rights reserved.

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