Jun 152017
 

Feather Stone

GUEST POST

FORBIDDEN: CHARACTER AND SETTING DEVELOPMENT

Bart, aka Croak when he’s being a pain.

When the impulse to write a second novel began, I suppressed the images. Pretty dark stuff. I figured that I’d been watching too many murder shows, and overwhelmed by the global terrorism. Then, something weird happened.

On a stormy winter night driving home from work, I met a woman from Afghanistan. Yes, friggin Afghanistan. As if I was in a zombie state, I picked up this total stranger. Never had I done anything so bizarre. Well, maybe, but that’s another story.

When she got settled into my beat up SUV, I tried to make conversation with her. Blank stare. She didn’t understand a word of English. Damn! What have I done? To make a long story short, in the next twenty minutes, my life changed. Over the next month, I became haunted by images of being in the Middle East in the midst of chaos and suffering.

I knew my muse, Bart, was pushing the plot.

“Resistance is futile.” He gave me his wide toothless grin.

“You’re nuts, Bart, if you think I’ll write that novel. How ridiculous. I know nothing of the Middle East or Islam.” I thumped Bart on his little green head.

“Oh crap, you’re going to difficult again.” He massaged his skull. “Madame, he’s waiting.”

“Who’s waiting?”

“Captain Sharif. Big brute of a man but considered a hero by the citizens of the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories.”

I glared at Bart. A mistake. Trapped in Bart’s golden eyes, the mystical dance began. Swirling sapphire clouds descended transforming my surroundings, shifting reality, capturing time.

Several yards away, a man’s shadow emerged.

He stood, a sentinel – solitary, waiting. His fists at his sides, clenched. Moving closer, I noted more details of his uniform. Black, from his cap to the military boots. It was then I noted his death grip on an assault rifle. I swallowed and stepped back. He hadn’t yet acknowledged my presence.

My eyes scanned the direction of his gaze. Only mist. And yet, he prepared for battle. He crouched, a lion ready for the kill. My heart pounded against my ribs. “Who is coming,” I whispered.

“Be quiet,” he growled, a sound escaping from deep in his broad chest. “Damn. They’ve frightened her away.”

Brazenly, I stepped closer. “Who frightened who?”

“The mayor. He’s trying to keep her from coming here.” His shoulder slouched. “Eliza.” He spoke her name as if she held the status of goddess. As he turned back toward the mist, he muttered, “We may be too late.” Pain laced his grief.

Frustration clawed at my need to know what the hell was going on. “Who is ‘we’?”

Finally, the soldier faced me. Still only a vague outline of his features gave any hint of his face. I felt, more than saw, that he could be considered handsome, perhaps in his early thirties, Middle Eastern skin tone, short dark curly hair. Energy surrounded him. No horror would deter him from his mission.

“Who? Me, Sergeant Abdul-Muqtadir, imam Bashir, Captain Khattab, CIA agent Hutchinson.” He stepped forward. “And you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.” He towered over me. “You must write the story. If not, she’s going to get better at trying to killer herself. So far, she’s doing a lousy job. Praise Allah, the most merciful.”

“I’m certain there are authors better able to tell the story. I know nothing of Islam or what it is like to be Muslim. Why me?”

“Because, in many ways, you are much like Eliza. You know her. His voice softened. “You see my dear Ms. Stone, as long as she doesn’t get here, their plans for a most vicious crime is safe. They’ll bury me alive if I reveal their secret. But if she’s here, I’ll have a reason to do …. what is forbidden.

A gut wrenching scream tore through my chest. The sound came from beyond the gloom. It continued to echo as if someone was being tortured within prison walls. Suddenly, the soldier fell to his knees.

“What is that?” I shouted trembling with shock.

“That is Eliza.” He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut as if her pain became his. “Her nightmare is never ending. Her mind gives her no peace. She is going insane.”

A sense of hopelessness descended upon me. Yes, I had to write Forbidden. The woman from Afghanistan and Captain Sharif had shared their secret. Everything is possible through the power of love.

Read an excerpt:

(Eliza, held prisoner in RIPT, attempts to get permission for exercise time in the police compound):

Eliza wore the required black uniform, put on her polished work boots, and pushed her hair up under the black cap. At the bottom of the stairs she listened for sounds of the men. She approached Khizar’s office and sighed with relief to find he had left. Going down a short hallway, Eliza turned right towards the crew quarters’ door. She hesitated, listening for sounds that indicated the mood of the cops.

Belly laughter and smacks against the wall made the door shudder. The men were absorbed in their amusement and might not be interested in challenging her request.

Eliza knocked on the door, careful to sound neither cowardly, nor aggressive. The door was swung open by a constable.
She held her breath. Skilled at hiding her emotions, Eliza looked into the officer’s eyes. The officer relaxed a little. An intimidating smirk grew on his face. Three other men in the room gathered behind him.

The day sergeant, a heavy-set man, came forward and said in a trivializing manner, “The whore is mine. Leave her to me.”

The sergeant sauntered up to her. His eyes lit up like those of a child about to open a birthday gift. He lowered his gaze to her dark boots, and then raised his focus to her mid-section, then to her chest. Finally, he looked at her eyes.

Eliza did not change her expression from that of bland indifference to his suggestive piercing stare. He had called her a whore, but she repressed the impulse to admonish him. She resisted the urge to put her hands on her hips. That would be sexually suggestive and body language might defeat her faster than the wrong choice of words.

“My apologies for the interruption,” she said in Arabic, her voice trembling despite her resolve. “I’m going for a walk.” She swung around toward the exit door.

The officers chuckled as the sergeant stepped forward and blocked her. His face came uncomfortably close to hers. He spoke with a grin, accompanied by the rhythmic flexing and gyrating of his hips.

“Welcome. Come in.” The three men cheered as the sergeant grabbed her shirt and pulled her into the room.

Eliza froze. The four men closed in around her. She gasped as they taunted her, touching her shoulders, her hips. She shuddered as one of the men grabbed her hat and flung it to the side.

“No,” she cried out in Arabic. “Captain Sharif will -.” The sergeant slapped her face hard, sending her spinning against a muscular man. His hand pulled on her long hair and grabbed her belt, trapping her against his body.

Eliza shrieked as the sergeant took her shirt into his fist and in one swift move, ripped it away from her and flung it to the floor. Her white cotton tank top clung to her body like a second skin. The men gawked at the curves of her breasts.

She dug her elbow into the cop’s midsection. His grip on her hair released enough for her to leap for the door. “Let me go!”

More hands clamped onto her body.

“No!” Eliza shouted in Arabic. She reached to grasp someone’s throat. Her legs trembled, barely holding her body upright.

The sergeant gave the belt a firm yank and slipped it out of the belt loops. The men cheered. He pulled on the waist band. It held fast but scraped her skin. She shrieked in pain as she fell to the floor. Eliza screamed as he pinned her to the floor with his knee.

“Quiet,” he growled. A large sweaty hand covered her mouth.

The rest of the men pounced on her, grabbing her arms and legs. Before they got a firm grip on her, she twisted and squirmed enough that someone lost his hold over her mouth. Eliza let out another ear-piercing scream. Her self-defense training evaporated.

“That’s enough,” one said. “Let her go, sergeant. Sharif will hear her and kill us.” Two men let go of their grip on her legs.

“Fuck Sharif. Besides, Captain Khizar has plans to take Sharif’s head,” said the sergeant. “Shut her up!”

Kicking and biting, she escaped their grip, and once more bounded to the door. Just as she flung the door open, a man grabbed her by the hair, and she screamed again. “If Sharif can have her, so can we!”

Strong hands threw her to the floor again. She screamed until her lungs burned. A hand clamped down over her mouth, pushing her lips hard against her teeth. She tasted blood on her tongue. She kicked and twisted. Her muffled cries and tears seemed to excite the men. Their hostility escalated.

“Hold the bitch still,” someone hollered. A hand groped her chest, squeezing her breast. She gasped at the crushing weight of a man on her legs attempting to pull her pants down. The band around her waist ripped. A knife flashed over her mid-section.

In one last effort, Eliza opened her mouth wide. The hand slipped between her teeth. Like a vice, she clamped down on the fingers and bit hard. He hollered a curse and yanked his hand from her teeth. She took a deep breath and screamed till her throat hurt. A rag was shoved into her mouth.

The men paused as the sound of footsteps thundered down the stairs.

The men gasped. Their hands remained clenched onto her as if welded to her skin. The door flung open. It crashed against the wall. Captain Sharif rushed through the doorway, wearing only his boxers. His face twisted in rage as his raised his handgun toward the men. They threw themselves onto the floor and begged for mercy.

Eliza pulled the rag out of her mouth and scrambled on all fours to a far corner. She tried to stand but crumpled to the floor. Panting and crying, she crossed her arms across her chest.

“What are you idiots doing? Get up,” Sharif roared. “Up against the wall before I kill the lot of you swine!”

They scrambled to form a line in front of the captain. Each one got a dose of the disgust on the captain’s face. The men stood rigid, gasping for air. Sweat rolled down their faces. Sharif paced in front of the sergeant and his three men. He glanced back at her.

“Get your shirt on!”

Eliza reached for the torn shirt and put it on. Rage fought for dominance over her shaky legs.

“Get out, MacKay!” Sharif’s deep voice echoed his loathing.

She raced to the exit door, flung it open, and fell down the six steps.

Reeling with shock, she used the exterior wall of the building to guide her away from the front door. She ran, blinded by tears, and staggered around a corner.

The blood-stained compound wall loomed fifty feet in front of her. In an instant, ghostly screams and unrelenting gunfire pulled her back into the horror.

Traces of bullet holes and dark red splatter stains on the walls retold the story in gruesome detail. Eliza slumped against the station’s wall, slid to the ground and squeezed her eyes shut. She clenched her fists as her mind catapulted to the night she arrived four days ago in the captain’s compound.

She huddled against the cement wall. Her body ached. Bruises and scratches were on her arms and legs, golden tangles hung in her face. She clenched her fists and fought back the need to release a scream of anger and frustration.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the captain’s hurried approach. He had dressed in casual clothes, khaki pants and white short-sleeved shirt left untucked, only partially buttoned. Eliza had difficulty reading the man, his eyes hidden behind the dark aviator sunglasses. He stood in front of her and motioned for her to stand.

“Get up,” he said, glancing in her direction.

She braced for a stern reprimand and punishment. Get up and bow to the friggin’ iceman, she thought. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep. I’ve been ordered about, shut up in a small apartment, sneered at, and treated like I’ve got the plague. Then, being treated like a whore this morning? Unforgivable. Damn! She stood.

Her torn shirt fell open, revealing more than the captain, or any decent Muslim man should see. Too damn bad! His gaze appeared in the vicinity of her chest.

Once Sharif was thoroughly tormented, she tied the shirt tails at her midriff, closing off her cleavage.

Sharif turned away. “Come with me,” he ordered and headed toward the arch-ribbed building.
“Come with me, please,” she snapped, remaining steadfast.

He turned and looked at her for a moment. Briefly, she saw a glimmer of a smile. Just a hint of his white teeth and the softening of his face.

The captain stood a good three inches taller than her five foot nine inches. His cropped, curly dark brown hair and stubble style beard defined his strong facial bones. His eyes were obsidian. During the night, when he did not wear the aviator sunglasses, she had discovered the black depths were as soft as velvet.

Author Bio:

On our cattle ranch in Alberta, when an animal was in distress or injured, I was put in charge of nursing it back to health. Never mind that I was just a kid and hated the sight of blood, but I had to muster up the courage to apply home remedies. My survival rate was pretty good. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that I would progress to nursing – humans. After one year into nurses training, I bolted. Bed pans and chronic diseases pushed me in different direction; a career of dealing with drug addicts, murder, suicide, fatalities, and biker gangs. In 1983 I graduated with honors as a paramedic and worked in the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Services.

For the next twenty years, I came face to face with scenes most people would rather not think about. I loved it. Having experienced life in the most deadly and gut wrenching events, and work alongside the police service, I gained the fodder for creating intense novels.

My creative DNA shocked me when I was driven to write a dystopian / paranormal / romance novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild. After taking several writing courses, I presented the manuscript to Omnific Publishing who published it in 2011. Just when I thought I could get my life back, another story took me prisoner – Forbidden. I couldn’t believe there was this kind of story within me and desperate to be told. I resisted. It was futile.

Retired and focused on home life, I’m back to being a mom to four pets and one husband. We travel and taste the excitement of other cultures. In between adventures, I’ve dabbled in water color painting, photography, needle work, gardening – the list goes on. In my next life, I plan to explore the cosmos.

I’ve learned a few things in my seventy years. Thoughts are powerful. Intention is everything. Passion is the key to success.

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

 

Feather will be back on March 22nd….Don’t miss the 4th installment for Author Of The Month

Check out my Review of FORBIDDEN here

See previous posts: June 1st and June 8th

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.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Romance, International Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: December 2016
Number of Pages: 363
ISBN: 0995150907 (ISBN13: 9780995150904)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

An armored truck with a mounted machine gun roared up behind the two police motorcyclists. Something is terribly wrong. She ducked deeper behind the luggage and stared into the darkness. She desperately searched for a rational explanation. A cold knife pierced her core.

After speeding through intersections and red traffic lights, the vehicles came to a sudden halt. Gate hinges squealed in protest. The impulse to leap from the back of the truck fought with her intense need to remain hidden. If it were not for the armed vehicle at the rear, she would have jumped and disappeared into the night. In another moment, the opportunity vanished.

The vehicles lurched forward. Through the flap’s opening, she saw a massive iron gate. High walls extended on either side. The vehicles stopped.

The motorcyclists drove to either side of the truck. The armored vehicle surged forward, nearly crashing into the back of the supply truck (where Eliza is hiding). Eliza scrambled to put more of the luggage between her and the mounted gun. It bore down on her as if it had spied her. She gasped.

Eliza strained to hear a pleasant greeting, an apology for the change of plans, anything that would tell her heart to stop its thundering in her chest.

Someone shouted, “Ikhrog men al Araba,” then in English, “Get out of the bus!”

“Stay together,” Charlie called out. At first the volunteers sounded merely annoyed, but their mood rapidly deteriorated.

“Charlie, there’s a mounted automatic weapon on that truck. Something’s not right here.” The man’s alarm ricocheted through his companions. Quick footsteps reminded Eliza of nervous horses in a corral – wild-eyed, snorting and circling as they searched for an escape.

Charlie attempted to calm his group. “I’m sure this will all make sense. I’ll see why there’s been a change. Who’s in charge here?” he called.

Scattered thoughts fed her fear. The unmistakable sound of large guns being maneuvered sucked the air from Eliza’s lungs. Near the supply truck, she heard the ping, ping of a cell phone, then the trembling voice of a woman crying, “Ralph, pick up the phone. Please. Oh God ….” The woman screamed. With a blast of gunfire, her cries stopped. Bullets pierced the canvas and shattered a suitcase in front of Eliza.

Her body trembled violently. In minutes she would be killed. The luggage offered no protection. Terrified to make any sound, yet frantic to hide, she pressed her backpack to her chest. She gasped as if starved for oxygen. Tears ran down her cheeks as she heard the terrified people and Charlie beg for their lives.
This is only one of my nightmares. I’ll wake up and everything will be fine.

The truck with the mounted machine gun swerved around the supply truck. Deafening sounds of machine gun blasts and screams tore through her chest. She plunged down among the luggage.

A man came into her view as he lunged toward the gate. A police officer ran after him and fired several shots into the man’s back. The American dropped, bloody and lifeless.

Suddenly, an armed man dashed to the rear of the supply truck and saw her. She gasped. Oh my God, he’s going to kill me. I’ve got once chance. Get his gun. Her martial arts training kicked in. She lunged forward. As they grappled, both fell.

Falling on top of him Eliza punched his groin. He cried out in agony. She crab crawled on all fours toward his weapon several feet away. Too late she saw a boot aimed at her head.

She ducked for cover under the supply truck. Too late. The cop stomped on her head, ramming her forehead into the pavement hard. Her momentum pushed her under the truck’s back end.

Dazed, she checked to see if he followed her. He was struggling to free his boot, snared in her scarf. A gun’s muzzle appeared, aimed in her direction. Bullets ripped through her coat’s shoulder. Puffs of down feathers stuck to the sweat and blood on her face.

I’m hit. Get out. Run. Eliza kicked and crawled out from under the truck on the far side of the killers. The deafening gunfire and screams surrounded her. Her mind froze. She pressed her body into the truck’s solid frame.

More bullets smacked the ground near her. More vehicles arrived. Bright headlights blinded her. She turned away to shield her eyes. Desperate, she ran an erratic, aimless course. Silhouettes of shapes, helmets, guns and bloody bodies flashed in front of her. Keep running. Dodge. Find cover. She ran like a wild animal, blind to the teeth that would tear her apart.

When the thunder from the machine gun stopped she glanced back. The man at the machine gun tumbled head first off the truck. His companions continued to fire their weapons, but now toward the gate. More shots came from behind the blinding lights. The men ran toward the front of the supply truck. Riddled with bullets, their bodies twisted and fell.

Silence.

Eliza gazed in bewilderment at the tall form appearing in the light. He raced forward past the open gate, his weapon raised in her direction. More men followed behind him. She ran, searching for cover.

He shouted, “Tawakaf and am, la tatharak Kiff.” Then in English, “Stop where you are. Don’t move! Stop.”

A short burst of gunfire. Bullets struck the ground a few yards in front of her. She skidded to a stop. Breathless, she turned toward the gunman. She could not make out his face below the dark helmet. He wore a police uniform like the killers had – black from head to toe. If not for his vehicle’s headlights, he would have been invisible. He raced toward her, his weapon held steadfast in her direction.

***

Excerpt from Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone. Copyright © 2017 by F. Stone. Reproduced with permission from F. Stone. All rights reserved.

AUTHOR OF THE MONTH ~ GIVEAWAY EXTRAVAGANZA


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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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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

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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Executive Actions

by Gary Grossman

on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017

Synopsis:

Executive Actions

In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke gets an assignment that turns his world upside down. His investigation uncovers a plot so monstrous it can change the course of America’s future and world politics. Roarke discovers that presidency is about to fall into the hands of a hostile foreign power. The power play is so well-conceived that even the U.S. Constitution itself is a tool designed to guarantee the plot’s success. With the election clock ticking, Roarke and Boston attorney Katie Kessler race at breakneck speed to prevent the unthinkable. But they also know that it will take a miracle to stop the takeover from happening.

Praise for the Executive Series:

“Executive Actions is the best political thriller I have read in a long, long time. Right up there with the very best of David Baldacci. [A] masterpiece of suspense; powerfully written and filled with wildly imaginative twists. Get ready to lose yourself in a hell of a story.”
Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author

“Break out the flashlight, and prepare to stay up all night … Once you start reading Executive Actions you won’t be able to put it down.”
Bruce Feirstein, James Bond screenwriter, and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor

“Executive Command mixes terrorists, politics, drug gangs and technology in nonstop action! Gary Grossman creates a … horribly plausible plot to attack the United States. So real it’s scary!”
Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Plan, Cold Choices, Red Dragon Rising

“Moving at break-neck speed, Executive Command is nothing short of sensational … Executive Command is not just a great book, it’s a riveting experience.”
W.G. Griffiths, award-winning, bestselling author of Methuselah’s Pillar, Malchus

“Executive Command ramps up the excitement … A truly bravura performance from a master of the political thriller!”
Dwight Jon Zimmerman, New York Times bestselling co-author of Lincoln’s Last Days, Uncommon Valor

“Intricate, taut, and completely mesmerizing. Grossman expertly blends together globe-spanning locations, well-researched technology, finely crafted narrative, and intriguing characters to create a virtuoso tale. Highly recommended.”
Dale Brown, New York Times bestselling author

“Executive Treason is more chilling than science fiction … You’ll never listen to talk radio again without a shiver going down your spine.”
Gary Goldman, Executive Producer, Minority Report; Screenwriter, Navy SEALs & Total Recall

Book Details:

Genre: Political Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Diversion Books
Publication Date: Jan 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 556
ISBN: 1626811059 (ISBN13: 9781626811058)
Series: Executive #1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

EXECUTIVE ACTIONS
by Gary Grossman

CHAPTER 1
Washington, D.C. Sunday 22 June

“Topic one. Theodore Wilson Lodge. Presidential material?” bellowed the host at the top of his Sunday morning television show. He directed his question to the political pundit to his left. “Victor Monihan, syndicated columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, is Teddy ready, yes or no?”

“Yes,” Monihan shot back. You had to speak up quickly on the lively program. There was no air between questions and answers. “If the cameras could vote, he’d be a shoo-in.”

“But they don’t. So again, will it be Mr. Lodge goes to Washington?” quizzed the host of the revamped McLaughlin Group. The reference to the Frank Capra movie was lost on most of the audience. Even AMC and Turner Classics weren’t running very many black and white movies anymore.

“Absolutely.” Monihan didn’t take a breath between thoughts. The host hated dead air. Pause and you’re dead. Someone else will jump in. “He’s totally informed, he’s had great committee assignments and he can do the job. Congressman Lodge comes off as a highly capable leader. Trustworthy. The all-American boy grown up. And he positively looks like a president should look … presidential.”

“So a tan and a good build gets you to the White House?” the host argued.

“It means I don’t have to worry about him taking my job.” The overweight columnist laughed, which made his belly spread his shirt to a point just shy of popping the buttons. The joke was good, but he lost his platform with it.

“Roger Deutsch, freelance writer for Vanity Fair, right now Lodge is trailing Governor Lamden. Can Teddy make it up?”

“No. With only two days before the New York primary, there’s no way Lodge can do it. He doesn’t have the votes. And there’s not enough time to get them. Henry Lamden will be addressing the Democratic Party at the August convention in Denver. But even when he gets the nomination, he’ll have a hard time against Taylor.”

The discussion expanded to include the other members of the panel. They talked about Montana Governor Henry Lamden’s qualities. About President Morgan Taylor’s rigid persona. About the voters’ appetite. And back again to the possibilities. “Is there any way Lodge can do what fellow Vermont favorite son Calvin Coolidge did: go all the way to the White House?” the venerable host rhetorically asked. The panel knew this was not the time to reply. Turning to the camera the host said, “Not according to my watch.”

This was the throw to the video package from the campaign trail.

Teddy Lodge smiled as he sat on the edge of his hotel bed to get closer to the TV set. He was half-packed. The rest would wait until the videotape report concluded. Lodge pressed the volume louder on his remote.

“It’s on,” he called to his wife, Jenny.

“Be right out,” she answered from the bathroom. Lodge tightened the knot on the hand-painted tie he’d been given the day before. The gift, from a home crafter in Albany, would go into his collection and eventually into his Presidential Library. But first he’d wear it for the cameras. She’d see it and tell everyone she knew. More votes.

Mrs. Lodge leaned over her husband and hugged him as he watched himself on TV. “You look great, sweetheart.” He agreed. The footage was perfect: Lodge in the thick of an adoring Manhattan crowd, the wind playing with his wavy brown hair, his Armani suit jacket draped over his arm. He came off relaxed and in charge; less like a politician than an everyday guy. An everyday guy who saw himself as President of the United States. And at 6’2” he stood above most of the crowd.

Lodge knew the unusual statistical edge his height provided. Historically, the taller of the two major presidential candidates almost always wins the election. And he was considerably taller than President Morgan Taylor.

The host obviously wasn’t a supporter. But the coverage counted. He hit the bullet points of Lodge’s career.

“Teddy’s been fast-tracking since college. He graduated Yale Law School and has a graduate degree in Physics at Stanford. The man speaks three languages. He worked on various government contracts until he decided to return to his country home in Burlington, Vermont, and run for State Assembly. Two years later, so long Burlington, hello Washington. Mr. Lodge went to Capitol Hill as a young, energetic first-term congressman. He distinguished himself in international politics and now serves as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He’s as close to a rocket scientist as they come in Washington. He heads the House Committee on Energy and understands the complexities of the issues. But is he going to the White House?” the moderator asked in his feature videotape. “New Yorkers will decide Tuesday.”

And with that set up came the obligatory sound bite. It couldn’t have been better if Teddy Lodge had picked it himself. It was declarative and persuasive. The producer of the video package must have been in his camp.

“Tomorrow the world will be different. More dangerous. More hateful. Different times need different leaders. Make no mistake, there are no more safe harbors or promised lands. Unless … unless we make better choices today than yesterday. Better friends tomorrow than today.”

As he watched, Lodge remembered the clincher was yet to come. Things like that just didn’t get cut. He was right.

“So come with me and discover a new America. Come with me and discover a new world.”

Thunderous applause followed; applause from the audience at a Madison Square Garden rally.

Eighteen seconds total screen time. Unbelievable on McLaughlin. But Lodge was not an easy edit. He’d learned to break the sound bite barrier by constantly modulating his voice for impact, issuing phrases in related couplets and triplets, and punching them with an almost religious zeal.

Like everything else in his life, he worked hard at communicating effectively. He punctuated every word with a moderately-affected New England accent. Whether or not they agreed with his politics, columnists called him the best orator in years. Increasing numbers of them bestowed almost Kennedy like reverence. And through the camera lens, baby boomers saw an old friend while younger voters found a new voice.

The video story ended and the host brought the debate back to his panel. “Peter Weisel, Washington Bureau Chief of The Chicago Tribune, What sayest thou? Can Teddy un-lodge Lamden?”

“Unlikely.” Weisel, a young, black reporter, was the outspoken liberal of the panel and a realist. “But he’ll help the ticket. He’s a strong Number Two. A junior pairing with Governor Lamden can work. The flip side of Kennedy-Johnson. Let the Democrats make him VP. Besides, his good looks won’t go away in four or eight years. TV will still like him.”

Theodore Wilson Lodge, 46 years old and strikingly handsome, definitely could pull in the camera lens. He had the same effect on women and they held far more votes in America than men. The fact was not lost on the show’s only female contributor of the week. “Debra Redding of The Boston Globe, is Lodge your man?”

Without missing a beat she volunteered, “There are only two problems that I see. One, I’m married. The other – so is he.”

What a wonderful way to start the morning, the congressman said to himself.

***

Excerpt from Executive Actions by Gary Grossman. Copyright © 2017 by Gary Grossman. Reproduced with permission from Gary Grossman. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Gary Grossman

Gary Grossman is a multiple Emmy Award-winning network television producer, a print and television journalist, and novelist. He has produced more than 10,000 television shows for 40 broadcast and cable networks including primetime specials, reality and competition series, and live event telecasts.

Grossman has worked for NBC, written for the Boston Globe, Boston Herald American, and the New York Times. He is the author of four bestselling international award-winning thrillers available in print, eBooks, and Audible editions: EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, EXECUTIVE TREASON, EXECUTIVE COMMAND and OLD EARTH. (Diversion Books, NYC) and two acclaimed non-fiction books covering pop culture and television history – SUPERMAN: SERIAL TO CEREAL and SATURDAY MORNING TV.

Grossman taught journalism, film and television at Emerson College, Boston University, and USC and has guest lectured at colleges and universities around the United States. He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at Emerson College in Boston and he serves on the Boston University Metropolitan College Advisory Board. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association and The Military Writers Society of America.

Q&A with Gary Grossman

It’s a true pleasure to appear on CMash Reads. Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions about EXECUTIVE ACTIONS with a sprinkling of my often non-linear stream of consciousness thoughts.

Here goes:

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

The question is really fundamental to writing EXECUTIVE ACTIONS and my other international political thrillers. I draw from both personal experiences and actual events.

Answering in reverse, I’ve always been a news junkie. I grew up in a political home in upstate New York. The morning started with the local news on the radio and the Today Show on TV. The daily newspaper was delivered by 4 pm and helped shape dinner-time discussions. I listened to shortwave stations from around the world and realized our duck-and-cover exercises would never protect us from a true Russian threat. Listening and reading to the news ultimately directed me to work in news, in radio, television, and to produce documentary films.

Putting that together in novel form was a natural next step. EXECUTIVE ACTIONS is a contemporary story with a plot that extends deep into the Cold War. However, the core of the story comes from my personal experience in New York on September 11, 2001.

Having been in Manhattan on that sad and horrible day made me think about the amount of time it took terrorists to plan the attack and how long the plot had incubated since the previous attack on the World Trade Center Towers. As a writer, a journalist, and reporter, I asked myself what kind of plot might be so devious, it could take decades to come to fruition. Through some initial research, I learned about actual secret Soviet cities where Russians spies had been trained to pass as Americans. The Andropov Institute. Viewers of “The Americans” TV series are certainly familiar with the dramatic territory. But my approach was to create a scheme with a huge political payoff that required immense patience, planning and money. The goal was to secure the American presidency itself.

Experience and current events. I guess they are the magic sauce in EXECUTIVE ACTIONS.

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

As with any documentary TV show I’ve produced or news story I’ve written, I like to have a sense of the end. If it’s in sight, I know where I’m going. I also structure an outline; sometimes tight and detailed; other times not so. Either way, once the characters start taking shape, they move the story into better areas than I originally envisioned. They become real on the page and literally surprise me while I’m writing.

When I look back at my original notes and compare them to the final manuscript, I have to stop and thank the book characters for saving me. Invariably, in the moment, they come up with much more exciting plot twists, and sometimes an end that I hadn’t even considered.

I know it sounds weird, but it honestly happened in EXECUTIVE ACTIONS. The main character, Scott Roarke, and his nemesis, a Jackal-like assassin took me to an action-packed conclusion I hadn’t envisioned. And that’s just the ending! It happened all through the book.

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

My father was the Supervising Investigator for New York State Civil Service and my mother worked in the state Assembly and Senate and ran political campaigns. So while they’re not actually characters in EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, I certainly drew on the experiences they shared with me and my observations of their careers. Those memories helped make each of the principal characters more real, whether they were Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke, President Morgan Taylor, FBI agents, CIA operatives, and perhaps most importantly, attorney Katie Kessler, a very strong woman character who, now that you mention it, had great qualities I saw in my mother.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I’ve got a routine I try to follow. Three pages a day. They may not be great pages, but they’re pages. And after a month, there are 90 of them. After two months 180 and onto about 360 after four months. Rewriting will take just as long and that’s where I really see what works and what doesn’t.

I suppose I could write more each day, but I also produce television shows, teach graduate college courses in TV and film, and watch far too much news.

It’s interesting that you ask about idiosyncrasies. Here I am working on my Dell desktop computer now. But when I write books, I do it on my laptop, not in my home office. The reason is simple. I find it too easy to get distracted by my email or what I think will be a quick Google search when I sit at my desk. So, I usually write my first draft in the living room.

I can access email and the Internet on my laptop, but it takes me extra steps. (And accordingly, it discourages me from doing so.) So I really do get more writing done. For rewriting, I will come back to my home office.

Also, I’ll often write with movie soundtracks on in the background. I choose scores hat reflects the mood of the scene I’m writing.

Tell us why we should read this book.

I believe EXECUTIVE ACTIONS is an evergreen thriller, able to be reborn every political cycle with impact that relates to breaking news. The plot is steeped in history, but the threats are ever-present. The dangers come from an external plot that constantly feels all too real and internal pressures that face every presidency. The characters feel like real people. Hero or villain, they have their reasons for what they do, the skills they bring to the job, and the dark places they hide.

EXECUTIVE ACTIONS is a read for Republicans or Democrats. Conservatives or Liberals. Americans and International readers. Young and old. Men and women.

To that point, one reader recently complimented me on having a strong woman character who is so essential to the plot. Attorney Katie Kessler. The reader liked the way Katie was drawn into the plot, Katie’s influence on Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke, how she helped him and how he listened to her.

The reader noted that many thriller authors eventually end up killing their lead women characters. “Please don’t do that to Katie,” she said. “If you have to, in your next books, you can send her on a long vacation or put her in a coma. But please don’t kill Katie!”

Spoiler alert: I agreed. And when you read EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, I think you’ll see why I love her, too.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Reading Tom Clancy years ago made me feel I could write in the genre. But I didn’t know I could until I started. However, my first favorite authors and my introduction to the political thriller world were Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. Their novel “Seven Days in May” remains one of the most powerful reads I’ve ever experienced.

I also love Dale Brown’s techno-thrillers. He always delivers.

I like Patrick Robinson’s submarine thrillers. And of course, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille, Brad Meltzer, KJ Howe, John Lescroat, Lisa Gardner and so many of the wonderful writers and members of ITW, The International Thriller Writers Association, of which I’m a proud member. The late Vince Flynn and Michael Palmer were also so influential to me.

What are you reading now?

I’m going forward and backwards. Forward in my queue is the second book by horror author DG Wood, “Light and Darkly,” along with KJ Howe’s thriller, “The Freedom Broker.” Going backwards, I think it’s time again to read Sinclair Lewis 1935 prophetic novel, “It Can’t Happen Here.” But with some cross country flights coming up I’m sure I’ll be into Dale Brown’s latest.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I am. Two. One hopefully will come out later this year. It’s titled RED HOTEL, and it’s a collaboration with former Marriott International President Ed Fuller. It’s a terrific thriller based, in part, on Ed’s hotel and anti-terrorism experience around the world. (Real life experiences in the moment!) We’re hoping RED HOTEL will lead to a whole series of thrillers. It’s exciting, fast-paced, and, we think, impossible to put down.

I’m also writing another sequel to EXECUTIVE ACTIONS. It’ll be the forth book in the series. No title yet, but as we say in journalism, “Watch this space,” and in TV, “Stay Tuned!” The thriller picks up with Scott and Katie and a brand new villain and dangerously real threat to the country. I just got the shivers thinking about it. I’ll be finished with it by late summer.

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

Let me start by asking who you’d like to see as Scott, Katie, President Taylor and the assassin? Let me know at gary@garygrossman.com. But here’s my thinking, at least today. I really like Channing Tatum, Chris Pine, and Scott Eastwood in the lead. I think “Bosch” star Titus Welliver would make the perfect Morgan Taylor. As for Katie Kessler? Brie Larson, Kirsten Stewart, Nina Dobrev, or Emma Watson? They’re all great!

Let’s hope a studio wants to go for it. I’m trying!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I love taking long walks along the ocean and gazing out into the sunset. Whoops. That’s not me. I was channeling someone else for a moment. But I do love traveling (which I don’t do enough), trying new LA restaurants (which I do too much), re-watching “Burn Notice” (love the series, the characters and the acting), and spending time with my kids, now adults (which means we can hit cool bars together and talk without most of the daddy/kid baggage). I also have to get back to bicycling, but Los Angeles streets aren’t the best for that.

Favorite meal?

Depends. Sometimes it’s as simple as a Pink’s Hot Dog on North La Brea Avenue in LA. But at home, my wife is a great cook (and a restaurant reviewer) so she always tries lots of new dishes. As far as standards go, she makes a great, always perfect salmon with a simple mustard glaze. (There’s some leftover in the refrigerator now!) I also love lobster. I mean I really love lobster. Really. And the Dunkin Donut coffee cake muffin (loaded with too many calories) is scrumptious. However, I wouldn’t recommend having one while reading EXECUTIVE ACTIONS. Too many crumbs on your book or your reader!

Thanks again for letting me have some fun with your questions. It’s great to be in touch with readers and I hope I hear from you via email at gary@garygrossman.com or Twitter: @garygrossman1. And when you’re through with EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, move right in EXECUTIVE TREASON and EXECUTIVE COMMAND, all from Diversion Books. (Shameless plug, but thanks)

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