Category: Partners In Crime Tours

FEATHER STONE ~ Author Of The Month (Interview & Giveaway)

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!

Guest Author: D. MICHAEL POPPE showcase, interview & giveaway

Match Play

by D Michael Poppe

on Tour Nov 10th – Dec 12th, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published by: Wido Publishing

Publication Date: November 11, 2014

Number of Pages: 310

ISBN: 9781937178611

Purchase Links:

 

Synopsis:

Golf, Madness, and Murder Collide

FBI Agent Lou Schein is assigned to investigate a grisly murder in Los Angeles, one echoing a similar case in Phoenix, Arizona. Agent Schein, a golf enthusiast, notices a strange coincidence: both crimes occur while the LPGA tournament is being held in the respective cities.

After the fourth murder, it’s clear they are after a serial killer obsessed with the golf game of match play. He is scoring the individual murders as one hole of the match on the current tournament course.

The killer leaves a series of taunts and clues which the FBI must decipher to learn where he will strike next. It is a game that becomes an obsession for both the killer and Agent Lou Schein, one determined to win the match and the other to stop him before he strikes again.

 

Read an excerpt:

He hears the dog barking. She is trying to quiet the dog as she approaches the door. David feels his hand tighten around the grip of the three iron. Her face expresses surprise and dismay when his Fourth Hole opens the door while pushing the little dog back with her right foot.

“Yes?” She says as she opens the door. He assumes the screen door that separates them is locked.

“David?” She gasps. “You’re soaking wet!”

“Hello, Dorothy. I didn’t expect it to be raining like this. I want to return your three iron, had you noticed it was missing? I must have dropped it into my bag by mistake the day we were practicing.” He holds it up so she can see it.

He watches her reach for the latch on the screen door.

“Actually, I haven’t noticed!” she says as she pushes the door open. “I haven’t been back to the course since the day we met.” She is motioning him into the foyer. “Aren’t you freezing? Get back Daisy!” Dorothy again pushes the dog with her foot.

David brushes water from his jacket and steps inside.

“How did you ever find me?” She asks, smiling. “Let me get you a towel. Just a second.” She scurries down the hall with Daisy at her heels.

“That isn’t necessary, Dorothy, I just wanted to return your club.”

Dorothy Duncan, hands him a towel and a moment later, the Fourth Hole is lying on the

 

Author Bio:

I was born in the Midwest on a dairy farm outside a small town. I had a love of art from a young age; drew and wrote stories about the farm. My upbringing was conservative and religious and it took a long time to overcome it. I served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war and was honorably discharged in 1971. I then attended the University of Calfornia and received a degree in Studio Art in 1976. I painted for many years and have paintings in many private collections primarily on the West Coast of the US. I retired and finally had some time for writing; Match Play is my first novel and it will be released later this year or in early 2014. I live in the South Western United States with my wife Ann of twelve years.

Catch Up:

Q&A with D. Michael Poppe

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

Both.  Match Play takes place during one season of the Lady’s Professional Golf Tour and the murders occur simultaneously with their scheduled tournaments. The locations are current and the crimes are a derivative of each event but the motivation is personal to the killer. I believe I have heard; ‘every great book is biographical in some way’ if that is not true then I am saying it. Certain parts of Match Play, particularly the dreams are variations of my own. Some of the occurrences are also very similar to my own experience. I believe I get very close to the serial killer/murderer’s psyche and experience and frankly some people, after reading the novel, have expressed to me that they are surprised I wasn’t a serial murderer.

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

When I think of an idea for a short story or novel the general outline is in my head. However, when I start writing, developing the characters and the ideas, rewriting and editing, I reach a point in the process where I can only say; ‘the story takes over and actually writes itself’. At that point I essentially just write down the narrative, the words, but the story may go in a direction that I never expected. In general I believe it is better because of it.  I think if you overwork an idea you will smother it, and then there is no way to resuscitate it.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I generally write in the morning and start by proofreading what I have written the previous day. It refreshes my memory and establishes the continuity I need to continue. I think my process is pretty standard.

Is writing your full time job?

I am 66 years old and retired from a career as an artist/painter. I have always had an interest in writing and now do a lot of it. My health is not the best so I am limited to some degree as to what I can do and when. I am currently working on several literary projects and that uses most of my free time.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I tend to read rather eclectic subjects and authors. I like fiction by Burke, Connelly, Lehane, Grisham, Slaughter, and Patterson. I also like to read philosophy, psychology, cosmology, and theoretical physics when it is in layman’s terms; like Stephen Hawking.

What are you reading now?

TOUCHING A NERVE by Churchland and RELIGION WITHOUT GOD by Dworkin. I highly recommend them both.

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

Yes.  The working title is THE REPRISAL and it is another novel where an individual is committing serial murders. He is conflicted because he is a moral and ethical man, both rational and reasonable, but he must find a way to remedy his guilt and the knowledge that he is a killer.

Fun Questions:

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

Michael Cera or an older Zac Efron; as the killer.

Manuscript/Notes: Hand written or keyboard?

I type my manuscript on a laptop, and print my notes by hand.

Favorite Leisure activity/hobby?

Drawing; and studying the piano when I am able.

Favorite Meal?

Shrimp Scampi and Linguine with White Clam Sauce, both prepared only by my wife Ann.

Tour Participants:


Act Now & You Could Win Match Play by D Michael Poppe:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to D Michael Poppe and Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for generously offering this book to me.

If you’d like to join in on an upcoming tour just stop by their sites and sign up today!

 

Guest Author DAVID WAGNER showcase, interview & giveaway

Death in the Dolomites: A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery

by David Wagner

on Tour November 1-30, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Poisoned Pen Press

Publication Date: September 9 2014

Number of Pages: 236

ISBN: 9781464202704

Series: 2nd Rick Montoya Italian Mysteries; Stand Alone Novel

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

Rick Montoya is looking forward to a break from his translation business in Rome—a week of skiing in the Italian Alps with old college buddy Flavio. But Rick’s success helping the Italian police with a murder in Tuscany sends the Campiglio cops his way. An American banker working in Milano is missing. The man’s sister, an attractive and spoiled divorcée, has no idea where he could be, nor do the locals who saw him on his way to the slopes. With the discovery of a body, Rick and Inspector Albani widen their list of suspects. Picturesque resort Campiglio harbors old rivalries, citizens on the make, and a cutthroat political campaign. Why would these local issues, any of them, connect to the missing banker? The investigation doesn’t keep Rick and Flavio from enjoying perfect ski conditions in the Dolomites and glorious after-ski wines and bowls of fresh pasta. As for women—Rick has to wonder if the banker’s sister is just hitting him up for information. The action heats up, testing laid-back Rick whose uncle, a Roman cop, keeps urging him to make the police his career. As in Cold Tuscan Stone, Death in the Dolomites immerses us in the sights, smells and tastes of Italy, this time in a picture-perfect Alpine town with a surprising negative side.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

It had snowed most of the day, but a new and stronger system had begun blowing over the mountain from the north, diving into the valley. Snow was always welcome in a ski town, especially the clumped flakes that now cast ever-larger shadows on the ground under the streetlamps. The cement of the sidewalk and the parking lot, barely visible an hour before, was now covered. Bad news for Campiglio’s street crews but not for the skiers who had left Milan the previous afternoon to climb into the Dolomites, skis snapped to racks on the roofs of their cars.

They had been rewarded with an excellent day of skiing, and with this snow, tomorrow would be even better. If it kept up through the night, the base could last for weeks. The local merchants were likely standing outside their shops right now, letting the flakes fall on their grinning faces.

At this moment the man’s interest was not in tourists, but in the stained canvas duffel at his feet. He pulled his wool cap down over his ears and adjusted a small backpack before looking once more around the large lot. It was deserted save for a few cars of the remaining employees at the far side. His eyes moved to the bulky building and the thick cables that ran out of one side toward the mountain. On its top, the last weak rays of late afternoon sun, long gone from the valley below, outlined the station at the high end of the cable line.

It was time.

With a grunt he wrapped the strap of the duffel around his gloved hand and began to drag it toward the building. His burden slid easily through the accumulating snow and occasional patches of ice, like an injured skier on a ski-patrol sled. The last few meters would be inside on the loading platform, but the snow sticking to the bag would help it slide. This would be even easier than he’d planned. Halfway he stopped to catch his breath, pulling up his jacket sleeve to check his watch. Perfect,he thought. There would be one more run of the gondola before its cables stopped for the night, and he would be on it.

On the mountain the cleaning crew was finishing its duties. Given the number of skiers who had passed through the snack bar on their way to the piste during the day, the workload was heavy. The floor was now clean of slush and mud, and four black garbage bags, almost as tall as the women who handled them,had been loaded into the waiting gondola. It would be the same story the next night, especially with the snow now falling. One of the workers—a woman who had been doing the late afternoon shift for more years than she would admit—put down her mop, walked to the window, and peered out at the falling snow. She shook her head and returned to her job. A few moments later the crew stood in a silent clump near the door while the supervisor made a final check of the room. The woman closest to the door slid it open, letting in a light gust of wind and snow. The others, now in parkas and wool coats, instinctively pulled them around their necks in anticipation of the cold. The supervisor
finally nodded and the group began to file onto the platform to the waiting gondola, snow already covering its roof and the windows on one side. When they were all inside, the supervisor closed the latch on the door and took a silent head count before picking up the black phone hanging near the door.

“Guido, siamo pronti,” she said.

Below, the man in the control room hung up his phone while keeping his eyes on the last sentences of a story in Gazzetta dello Sport. Guido knew it was not going to be a good year for his team, and again wondered why last season’s star player had been sold. To make it worse, the bastard would now play for their biggest rival. He folded the paper in disgust and pulled the long wooden lever, never glancing at the platform below. The huge dynamo came slowly to life and the cable above the long window shuddered and began to move.

The man was crouched on the floor of the gondola, well below its ski-scratched windows, when it swung slowly and lurched upward. Neither he nor the sack were visible from above, even if Guido had taken his eyes off the newspaper and looked down from his seat in the control room. As the huge metal box was dragged from the dim light of the lower station into the darkness, the man inside it heard the snow slapping softly against the glass windows above his head. He slowly got to his feet and looked down at the base station, now fading quickly as the cable picked up speed. In a few minutes its lights would be hard to distinguish from those of the other buildings at the northern edge of Campiglio.

The route was a steep shot straight to the top of the mountain, suspended over a forest of tall pines. The only breaks in the thick covering of trees were the clearings around the pylons or a few spots where the stone core of the mountain had pushed itself through the dirt. The ski trails, in contrast, returned to Campiglio over a tamer terrain. They took their time to work through the softer hills of the mountain’s other side, carrying skiers to a choice of bases along the east side of town.

He walked to the other end of the gondola cabin and looked upward. In the swirling wind and snow he could not make out his gondola’s twin, but he knew it was rushing toward him and would be passing soon. He dragged the duffel toward the door and checked to see that the latch had not slipped closed. It had not. According to his calculations the best time would be after passing the second pylon, and just at that moment the cable carrying his gondola slipped over the first one. He flexed his knees as the floor bounced slowly while continuing its climb.Suddenly the other gondola appeared out of the storm and the man dropped to his knees to get out of sight. Through the howling wind he heard a laugh from one of the workers as the two gondolas passed each other. Seconds later the only sound was once more the hum of the cable and the increasing patter of the snow. He reached over and slowly slid the door open with his right hand. As the snow swirled inside he sat back on the floor, the sack between him and the opening.

When the next pylon passed he waited until the swinging stopped and firmly pushed the sack out the door with both feet.

As he got up to slide the door closed he heard the crack of a tree branch and then the soft thump as the sack hit the snow below. The sound meant that it had sunk in, and with the new snow it would be well covered. Once the door was closed he slipped the latch into place. Safety first.

A few minutes later the other gondola bumped slowly into its berth at the edge of the town, where it would stay until it took the morning crew up on the first run of the day. The workers pushed out, waving at Guido in the control room while they pulled the plastic garbage bags behind them. Guido nodded to the group leader but kept his eyes on the young body of one of the newer members of the crew. When they had all shuffled through the door below him, he switched off the motors and gathered his belongings—the newspaper and a thermos. He was always sure to straighten up so the morning shift would have no complaints. He turned out the lights and locked the door behind him. As he walked down the stairs to the streets he wondered what his wife would be serving for dinner. She had not made lasagna in a while, perhaps this was the night. After pulling on a wide-brimmed hat, Guido buttoned his leather coat and walked into the storm.

High above, the man stepped out of the gondola and slid the door shut. On the platform the footprints of the cleaning crew were already covered, as his own would be in a matter of minutes. He turned and looked down at the valley, its lights blending together through the prisms of the falling flakes.

After a moment of reflection he adjusted his backpack and walked on the deck that ran along the outside of the building. Its tables and chairs had been stacked and pushed against the windows under the overhanging eaves, but the protection was not enough. The morning work crew would need their shovels. Two steps led from the deck down to where the wide trail began, a relatively benign incline for the skiers to start their runs, but still often littered with fallen beginners. He could barely make out the trail, but it didn’t really matter, he could get down the mountain blindfolded.

He cleared away a patch of snow at the edge of the deck with his foot and put down his backpack before stepping off and walking around to the far side of building to a small storage shed. After bending over, he used his gloved hands to scrape away the snow under the shed’s door, revealing a small opening from which he pulled a pair of dark skis and poles. Even though the falling snow would do the job for him, he carefully brushed the snow back with his foot before hoisting the equipment over his shoulder and returning to where he had left the backpack. From it he took out a pair of ski boots whose dark plastic matched the skis. After the usual grunts he had the ski boots on his feet and the snow boots secured in the pack. He also had a pair of ski goggles over his cap. It took him only a few seconds to snap into the skis and strap the poles around his wrists. It was snowing even more heavily now. The clear yellow plastic brightened the view slightly as he pulled the goggles down over his eyes and squeezed the rubber grips of the poles. He straightened up, pulling back the sleeve of his parka to check his watch again in the little light that was left in the day. Yes, the ski patrol would already be at the bottom after their final run to catch any stragglers. He pushed off slowly and began to work his way left and right through the fresh powder, his boots always touching as he flexed his knees for each turn. The flakes swirled around his bare cheeks, but he did not feel the cold. He knew that by the time he reached the valley, his racks, as well as everything else on the mountain, would be shrouded in snow.

 

Author Bio:

David P. Wagner is the author of Cold Tuscan Stone, the first Rick Montoya Italian Mystery. While serving in the diplomatic service he spent nine years in Italy where he learned to love things Italian, many of which appear in his writing. He and his wife live in New Mexico.

Writing and Reading:
-Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
I draw from personal experience in that I set the story in a place I’ve been in Italy and write mysteries around it. Current events? Strangely, after my first book was sent to press, I read a story in the NY Times about Italian authorities arresting traffickers of Etruscan burial urns, which was exactly the plot of the book. So you could say that current events draw on my fiction.

-Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I have to know the outcome before I start writing, so I outline the whole thing and work from there. That way I know what clues or red herrings to salt in along the way. Mystery writers who just start writing without knowing where it’s going must be geniuses, I can’t do it that way.

-Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
To say that I’m not a morning person would be a gross understatement. I write late afternoon and evening, taking a break to watch Jeopardy!. After an hour or so of writing I have to take a break. So I have a snack or do the NY Times crossword that comes on line here at 8:00 PM.

-Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
My full time job is retirement. So I play golf or enjoy myself (since those two are not always the same) when not writing.

-Who are some of your favorite authors?
I never miss the latest Andrea Camilleri book, I hope he stays healthy and doesn’t leave us like Michael Dibdin, the best writer of mysteries set in Italy. When in doubt I always go back to a P.D. James or Ruth Rendell. I also like caper books, like the Elvis Cole and Junior Bender series. Funny is good.

-What are you reading now?
The Cinderella Killer by Simon Brett. His books are funny murder mysteries with great dialogue. He always throws in some new British word or expression that I have to look up, and that’s good.

-Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
The third book in the series is taking Rick Montoya to the town of Bassano del Grappa, in the hills above Venice, a lovely little town. Lots of twists and turns, danger, and surprises. I’ve also brought back a character from the first book who did not appear in the second.

Fun questions:
-Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Rick Montoya, my multilingual protagonist with dual citizenship, would not be easy to cast. But there’s an Italian actor named Raoul Bova, who was the love interest in Under the Tuscan Sun, who could work. But a younger Raoul.

-Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
Outline, list of characters, and manuscript on the laptop, but I am constantly scribbling notes throughout the day when I think of something, and keep a pen and pad at bedside since I often get ideas when reading. And some of my best flashes on how to deal with the scene I’m working on come in the middle of a golf round. So I write it down on the score card.
-Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Like so many other unfortunates, I’ve got a love/hate relationship with golf. When it’s going well, it’s fantastic, but when it isn’t it stinks. Kind of like life.

-Favorite meal?
My wife is a wonderful cook, having taken various courses when we lived in Italy to add to an already innate skill in the kitchen, so it’s hard to pick one dish. But her flour gnocchi with creamy gorgonzola sauce is right up there.

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Guest Author & Giveaway – Charles Salzberg

WELCOME Charles Salzberg

Charles Salzberg

Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, New York magazine, Elle, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times, GQ and other periodicals. He is the author of over 20 non-fiction books and several novels, including Swann’s Last Song, which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel, and the sequel, Swann Dives In. He also has taught been a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, the Writer’s Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member.

Connect with Author:

http://www.charlessalzberg.com/ https://twitter.com/CharlesSalzberg

How Did You Get Started

Guest Post from Charles Salzberg

The other day I was at lunch with fellow writer and good friend—that’s how we freelance writers fill our days: lunches with each other. We got to talking about writing and, while we awaited our iced teas—not all writers drink their lunch, you see—she asked me, “how is it you got into crime writing?”
A good question because the answer is that it was purely accidental.
I love crime as much as the next guy. There’s not a crime show on TV or a crime movie I don’t see, whether it be The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Goodfellas or my latest, A Walk Among the Tombstones. My favorite show as a kid was Naked City, which was based on the movie of the same name. I’ve now rediscovered them as reruns and believe me, they still hold up. Each story focuses on the human aspects of crime, while the crime itself is often incidental to the story. As the end narration, which still sends chills up my spine, announces, “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”
Which brings me back to why I write crime novels and to the kind of crime novels I write.
With several unpublished novels languishing in my file cabinet, I decided perhaps I was doing something wrong. Here I was a well-read English major whose heroes were Nabokov, Bellow, Roth, Mailer and Malamud, and although I was receiving plenty of praise for my writing, I couldn’t sell a damn thing. Maybe, I thought, it was because I was too focused on character not plot. Maybe if I wrote something very tightly plotted I’d have better luck.
Nothing is more tightly and intricately plotted than a detective novel, so that’s what I decided to write.
As a teenager I loved mystery and detective novels and used to haunt a downtown second-hand bookstore picking them up for a buck or two. But I hadn’t read any since then and I decided if I were serious about writing one, I ought to re-introduce myself to the genre. So, I devoured as many crime novels as I could. Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Nero Wolfe, Agatha Christie, even the so-called pulp writers like James M. Cain and Jim Thompson.
What I found was that most of them were pretty much cut from the same cloth. There was the crime then the detective was called in to solve the crime, usually a murder. He or she followed the clues and inevitably those clues led to the perpetrator. It seemed pretty simple, a formula I could follow fairly easily. I started to write one, but after a few chapters it just didn’t sit right with me. Frankly, I was getting a little bored writing to a pre-designed script and entering myself into a neat almost religious world, where following the clues inevitably led to the solution of the crime. It’s pretty simple: There is chaos and then there is order. The world is put back into its proper place by the detective. But what, I thought, if the world wasn’t so neat? What if all the clues didn’t actually lead to the perpetrator? What if the crime was totally random?
It wasn’t long before the non-conformist in me won out and I wound up writing what a friend called an “existential mystery” where the detective follows all the clues then finds that none of them had anything to do with the actual crime, that in fact the crime was totally random.
The result was Swann’s Last Song, with Henry Swann being a down and out skiptracer and it was meant to be a stand alone because at the end Swann, who is a rational man who believes in a rational world, is so disillusioned he leaves the profession.
I was happy with what I’d written but it seemed no one else was because no one would publish it with that ending. And so it languished in my desk for two decades until I finally unearthed it, sent it to an editor who said he’d publish it if I changed the ending. I was twenty years smarter, so I did, but I still kept the title, still having no intention of writing another one.
Much to my surprise the novel was nominated for a Shamus Award. I lost, but that spiked my competitive side and I vowed to keep writing them until I either won something or ran out of catchy titles.
Now the third in the series, Swann’s Lake of Despair, is just about to be released and I’m almost finished with a fourth. But in each of them I try to bend the genre a little bit. In Swann Dives In, you’re not sure what the crime is until the halfway point of the novel and by the end of it you’re not even sure a crime has been committed. And in Swann’s Lake of Despair, Swann tackles three separate cases, none of which concerns a murder. Why? Because I’m much more interested in how and why people act the way they do. I’m more attracted to the petty crimes we commit each day, betrayal, theft, fraud, lies we tell others and ourselves to get us through the day.
Those are the real crimes, the crimes all of us can relate to.

ABOUT Swann’s Lake of Despair

When rare photos, a scandalous diary, and a beautiful woman all go missing at once, the stage is set for three challenging cases for Henry Swann. It begins with an offer to partner up with his slovenly, unreliable frenemy, Goldblatt. The disbarred lawyer-turned-“facilitator” would provide the leads and muscle, while Swann would do all the fancy footwork. A lost diary by a free-loving Jazz Age flapper is worth enough to someone that Swann takes a beat down on an abandoned boardwalk. Pilfered photos of Marilyn Monroe propel him deep into the past of an alcoholic shutterbug, his wife; and he’s hired to search for a lonely writer’s runaway girlfriend. The cases converge and collide in a finale that lifts the curtain on crucial, deadly facts of life for everyone including Swann himself.

BOOK DETAILS:

Number of Pages: 284
Genre: Detective
Publisher: Five Star
Publication Date: October 22, 2014
ISBN-10: 143282936X
ISBN-13: 9781432829360

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DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

 

Guest Author DENNIS PALUMBO showcase & giveaway

Phantom Limb

by Dennis Palumbo

on Tour at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours October 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: 09/09/2014
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781464202568
Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

Psychologist and Pittsburgh Police Department consultant Daniel Rinaldi has a new patient. Lisa Harland, a local girl, once made a splash in Playboy and the dubious side of Hollywood before bottoming out. Back home, down and out again, she married one of the city’s richest and most ruthless tycoons. Lisa’s challenge to Danny is that she intends to commit suicide by 7:00 PM. His therapist skills may buy some time—but, exiting, she’s kidnapped right outside his office.

Summoned to the Harland estate, Danny is forced, through a bizarre sequence of events, to be the bag man on the ransom delivery. This draws him into a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a brilliant, lethal adversary. Complicating things is the unhappy Harland family, whose members have dark secrets of their own along with suspect loyalties, as well as one of Danny’s other patients, a volatile vet whose life may, like Lisa’s, be at risk. What is really at stake here?

Phantom Limb, fourth in the acclaimed series of Daniel Rinaldi thrillers, will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Read an excerpt:

The last time I saw Lisa Campbell, she was naked.

That was almost thirty years ago, when I was in junior high and she was the latest Hot Young Thing, smiling invitingly out at me—and thousands of other lonely guys—from the pages of Playboy Magazine. Barely nineteen,sprawled seductively across rumpled satin sheets. Every horny adolescent’s fantasy. Perfect breasts, perfect ass, perfect teeth.

Now, as she stood in my office waiting room, cashmere sweater folded neatly over her arm, I had to admit that the years since had taken their toll. Her face—though still comely, fineboned—was lined, leather-tanned. Framed by thick chestnut brown hair, lightly streaked with silver. Strained, weary eyes burned behind fashionable wire-rimmed glasses.

She’d been standing at the waiting room’s single window when I came out to greet her. Her still-shapely body turned away from me, she stared out at the cool light of early spring. Five floors up from Forbes Avenue, the view included the University of Pittsburgh’s urban campus—its gabled buildings, chain stores and local hangouts—as well as the new green shoots on the venerable maples and oaks lining the sidewalks. Plus the familiar cacophony of car horns, downshifting semis, and shouting students crossing against the streetlight, hurrying to make their last classes of the afternoon.

At first, Lisa didn’t seem to register me. Then, as if reluctant to pull herself from the sights and sounds beyond the window, she turned to face me.

I felt her shrewd, guarded gaze as we shook hands. Her undisguised appraisal of my looks, my clothes, my apparent social status. I returned the favor, taking in her designer-label blouse, slacks, and heels, her five-hundred-dollar haircut, the expensive diamond bracelet and matching wedding ring.

“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Harland,” I said. “I’m Daniel Rinaldi.”

“Obviously.” Her lips tightened. “And don’t use my goddamn married name. Nobody else does. I’ll always be Lisa Campbell.”

I nodded stiffly, then led her into my office.

I knew her story, of course. At least the public version. Most people here in Pittsburgh and environs did, too. Especially in her hometown of Waterson, about a hundred miles east of the city. Her career journey, from small-town beauty contestant to Playboy Playmate to sexy film actress, had been a long, well publicized one. Accompanied by the shrill carping of Waterson’s outraged local press, excommunication from her church, and the painful yet predictable estrangement from her pious, deeply conservative family.

It didn’t help that, once she’d moved to Hollywood, her acting career consisted mostly of roles in low-budget horror films, in which she was frequently naked, and invariably tortured and killed. She also developed a reputation as a reliably freaky party animal, clubbing every night with the rich and trendy, showing up late and disoriented for work, sleeping with the usual mix of celebrities and Eurotrash.

Until her very public second divorce, a protracted and ugly drug scandal, and a series of embarrassing box office flops pushed her out of the glare of the tabloid spotlight and—seemingly overnight—into the purgatory of semi-obscurity.

At least, that was how her story was told in a two-part feature the Post-Gazette ran on Lisa when, almost a decade ago, she abruptly returned to her hometown. “With her tail between her legs,” as one self-satisfied neighbor had put it…

Author Bio:

Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT is a writer and licensed psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in creative issues.

The first Rinaldi mystery, Mirror Image, was published in 2010. Palumbo is also the author of Writing From the Inside Out (John Wiley), as well as a collection of mystery short stories,From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press).

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, Palumbo’s credits include the feature film My Favorite Year, for which he was nominated for a WGA Award for Best Screenplay. He was also a staff writer for the ABC-TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, and has written numerous series episodes and pilots.

His first novel, City Wars (Bantam Books) is currently in development as a feature film, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere. He provides articles and reviews for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Lancet, and many others.

His column, “The Writer’s Life,” appeared monthly for six years in Written By, the magazine of the Writers Guild of America. He’s also done commentary for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and blogs regularly for The Huffington Post.

Dennis conducts workshops throughout the country. Recent appearances include the Family Therapy Network Annual Symposium, the Association for Humanistic Psychology, Cal State Northridge, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, PEN West, the Writers Guild Foundation, the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Screenwriting Expo, USC, the Romance Writers of America, the Nieman Foundation, the Directors Guild, and UCLA.

His work helping writers has been profiled in The New York Times, Premiere Magazine, Fade In, Angeleno, GQ, The Los Angeles Times and other publications, as well as on NPR and CNN.

A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Pepperdine University, he serves on the faculty of UCLA Extension, where he was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

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Guest Author BERNADETTE PAJER showcase, interview, giveaway

The Edison Effect

by Bernadette Pajer

on Tour at Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours October 1-31, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Poisoned Pen Press

Publication Date: 09/09/2014

Number of Pages: 254

ISBN: 9781464202506

Series: 4th Professor Bradshaw Mystery | each is a Stand Alone novel

Purchase Links:

 

Synopsis:

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison is a ruthless businessman,intent on advancing General Electric and beating all rivals like Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse. Edison has agents in place in Seattle but he’s come himself in pursuit of a mysterious invention lost in 1901 in Elliott Bay. When Edison asks for information, few refuse. But not University of Washington Professor Benjamin Bradshaw who’s earned a reputation as a private investigator where science—electricity—is concerned. Bradshaw hopes that the lost device, one conceived in anger by an anarchist and harnessed for murder, will elude Edison’s hired divers.

Then one December morning in 1903, the Bon Marché’s Department Store electrician is found dead in the Men’s Wear Window clutching a festoon of Edison’s new holiday lights. Bradshaw believes Edison has set a dangerous game in motion. Motives multiply as the dead man’s secrets surface alongside rivalries at the Bon Marché. Bradshaw, his sleuthing partner Henry Pratt, and the Seattle PD’s Detective O’Brien pursue leads, but none spark Bradshaw’s intuition. His heart is not in the investigation but in a courtship that will force him to defy his Catholic faith or lose his beloved, Missouri. Then a crossroads in the case forces him to face his personal fears and his first professional failure. Whatever the outcomes, his life is about to change….

 

Read an excerpt:

September, 1903

“Bradshaw, it’s Thomas Edison! He’s here!”

Of all the interruptions, this one was so unexpected that Professor Benjamin Bradshaw wondered if he’d not yet fully recovered from his concussion.

It was a warm summer afternoon on the campus of the University of Washington. A box kite danced below billowy white clouds drifting in the blue sky, and a touch of color in the elm saplings hinted at the approach of fall.

Bradshaw stood on the lawn between Lewis and Clark Halls, arms outstretched to Missouri Fremont as she abandoned Colin Ingersoll and his kite. She approached Bradshaw with a smile that took his breath away. This was a moment he’d resisted for two years. A moment he wasn’t sure was wise. The differences between him and Missouri might be insurmountable, and yet,there he was. His heart thundered. He doubted he’d ever been happier—or more frightened—in his entire life.

Little more than a week had passed since he’d been left for dead in a rotting cellar during an investigation of gruesome murders. He’d thought himself fully recovered, other than a dull ache in his shoulder where the weight of a cast iron frying pan had struck, until the shout about Thomas Edison pierced his overwhelmed emotions. For a terrifying second, he thought he might still be back in that cellar, hallucinating.

Certainly, such romantic moments were rare for him. As Missouri approached, he knew he would never forget this moment,the way her dark amber eyes gleamed with joy and affection, the way the golden highlights shimmered in her short mahogany hair. She moved in her summery gown with the grace of a queen and the bounce of a child.

Their fingertips had not yet touched when the shout carried to him again, its urgency penetrating his cocoon of fearful happiness.

“Bradshaw! It’s Edison!”

As he continued to gaze into Missouri’s eyes, he was aware that Colin Ingersoll had turned toward the shout. Colin, a lanky and likable engineering student, was Missouri’s would-be suitor,and he was no doubt confused by Missouri’s abandoning his side to welcome Bradshaw so warmly.

“Hurry!” Assistant Professor Hill came running toward them from the direction of the Administration Building, shouting,“It’s Thomas Edison! Here to see you!”

Missouri’s eyes flickered with delight. She asked, “Is it the Thomas Edison, do you suppose? The Wizard of Menlo Park?”

Bradshaw smiled. “He has been known to attempt to steal the great moments of other men’s lives.”

“Are you and I in the midst of a great moment?”

“Only if you consider me confiding my feelings for you a great moment.”

She gave a little gasp.

And then Hill was upon them, panting and grinning and tipping his hat to Missouri. He grabbed Bradshaw’s arm and pulled. “Come on!”

 

Author Bio:

Here’s what on her Amazon page: “Bernadette Pajer is the author of the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries, fast-paced whodunits in the Golden-Age tradition. The books in the series have earned the Seal of Approval for Science from the Washington Academy of Sciences (established 1898.) She’s a graduate of the University of Washington and a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Northwest Science Writers, and the Seattle7Writers.org. Research is Pajer’s favorite activity, and she happily delves into Seattle’s past and the early days of electrical invention as she plots Professor Bradshaw’s investigations. Pajer lives in the Seattle area with her husband and son.”

Titles include A SPARK OF DEATH, FATAL INDUCTION, CAPACITY FOR MURDER, and THE EDISON EFFECT.

Q&A with Bernadette Pajer

Writing and Reading: 

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

While nothing in my Professor Bradshaw series was taken directly from my personal experiences or current events, the emotional threads of the stories are extrapolated from all I’ve lived and felt,  and there are themes that reflect today’s issues. In A SPARK OF DEATH, for instance, the anarchists of that time are much like terrorists today, vulnerable young men going to extreme and lethal measures in pursuit of their goals.

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

I always know where I’m going when I begin, but I leave room for discovery in the writing process and will change course if the story will benefit.  Mysteries have complex structures, with details layered in such a way that, not only are the sleuth’s deductions learned, the reader is invited to make guesses and participate in the unfolding of the crime. This requires me to know in advance the details of what, how, and why the crime was committed so that the reader and sleuth can be provided with clues.

 -Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?

Most of the words land on the page during the hours my son is at school or otherwise happily occupied. But I think about writing all the time. I plot and scheme and imagine scenes while cleaning house, driving, pretty much whenever my brain isn’t required to focus on something else.

 -Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Ruth Rendell, Dick Francis, Elizabeth George. I enjoy rereading old favorites from authors like Maeve Binchy and Rosamund Pilcher and the classics. My choice often depends on my mood or what I’m currently writing myself. To find a new title to dive into, I know I can’t go wrong by choosing one of the more than sixty authors who are fellow members of the Seattle7Writers.org, and of course my own publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, releases several excellent mysteries month. Oh, so many books, so little time!

-What are you reading now?

I’m listening to a Ruth Rendell (with Chief Inspector Wexford) audio book, and rereading John Grisham’s THE FIRM to study the pacing.

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

I’m beginning to do research for the fifth Professor Bradshaw novel which will jump to 1907 when the grounds of the University of Washington were being prepared for the 1909 AYP (Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.) This was a massive world’s fair in Seattle and the preparations disrupted university life for two years. I’m also working on a contemporary thriller (thus the study of Grisham’s pacing), which is new for me. Thrillers are constructed differently than mysteries, and it will be a fun challenge for me to structure the plot so as to escalate the tension. This is done in mysteries, too, but in thrillers it’s accomplished with more action and with the evil villain’s identity usually known from the beginning.

Fun questions:

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

I get asked this a lot, and you know, I really have no actors in mind for any of the characters. Yet, although he looks nothing like my Professor, I would be happy if Benedict Cumberbatch played Bradshaw. He’s such a brilliant, versatile actor, I’m sure he could bring my Professor to life.

-Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?

Keyboard. I occasionally jot notes, but those become messy and I end up typing them into my files. I currently use Scrivener, a program that helps organize research materials, plot, characters, and keeps them at your fingertips while writing.

-Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

Besides reading, you mean? I love cozy evenings at home with my husband and son, watching a good movie (these days the movie has Marvel characters or Transformers).

  -Favorite meal?

Any meal I don’t have to plan, prepare, or clean up after.

Catch Up:

* Bernadette Pajer photo credit Alex Rae Photography

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Guest Author AUSTIN WILLIAMS showcase & giveaway

Misdirection
The Rusty Diamond Trilogy

by Austin Williams

on Tour at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours October 17 – November 21, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Published by: Diversion Books

Publication Date: June 24, 2014

Number of Pages: 266

Series: 1st in The Rusty Diamond Trilogy

ISBN: 9781626813557

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

A street magician needs more than sleight-of- hand to survive getting embroiled in a murder case in this blistering novel of suspense, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and George Pelecanos.

After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty “The Raven” Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord’s brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.

As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he’s been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he’s been desperately trying to escape.

Austin Williams creates an unforgettable protagonist in Rusty, a flawed but relatable master of illusion in very real danger. As the suspense builds to an explosively orchestrated climax, Williams paints a riveting portrait of both a city—and a man—on the edge.

Read an excerpt:

The bloodstain was shaped like Florida. Rusty didn’t know much about geography, probably couldn’t point out more than a handful of states on a map. But he knew what Florida looked like, even though he’d never been there. And the mass of drying blood stretching across the hardwood floor, coming to a rounded tip a few inches from his leather boots (this tip just slightly darker than the wide stream comprising most of the stain) was a dead ringer for the Sunshine State.

He knew it was a strange thing to consider, given the circumstances. Hardly an appropriate mental response to such an intensely disturbing situation. He wasn’t in shock, exactly, but he had no idea what to do with himself. There was nothing he could do until the police arrived. Which should be any minute now. In fact, he was starting to wonder what the hell was taking so long.

Rusty wasn’t sure of how much confidence to place in the Ocean City Police Department. When it came to traffic stops and busts for disorderly conduct, open containers, public nudity and the like, the OCPD was surely qualified.

But murder? That had to fall well outside the parameters of what the local law was accustomed to handling on a regular basis. Or so Rusty mused, mainly to occupy his mind and not keep checking his wristwatch every ten seconds.

Rusty stared at the bloodstain’s surface congealing in the reflection of an overhead lamp. About two feet in width at the center, it grew wider near its source. That source was the throat of a frail silver-haired woman who lay crumpled on the floor. The upper half of her body reached into the living room while her legs protruded onto the dull yellow linoleum of the kitchen. One orthopedic shoe lay on its side next to the stove, the other still on her left foot.

Two more minutes and I’m calling 911 again, he told himself.

This house in which he was currently the sole occupant—not counting its recently deceased owner—wasn’t technically located in OC proper but in a remote enclave called Ocean Pines, separated from the main town by eight miles of salty bay water. A quiet upscale community, Rusty had a fairly complete knowledge of its character, having spent the first eighteen years of his life here and moving back ten months ago.

Next Thursday would be his thirty-sixth birthday. He had little awareness of that fact, and less interest in it.

For all Rusty knew, this was the first murder to darken the Pines’ suburban pastoral facade since the town was incorporated in 1958. And it definitely was murder, of that he had no doubt. No one could conceivably take their own life in such a manner, and certainly not a frail seventy-eight-year-old spinster.

The opening in Ms. Garrett’s throat was not long, maybe three inches at most. It looked like more of a gouge than a slash. There was no knife or sharp implement anywhere in the room, and Rusty didn’t dare step over the body to take a look in the kitchen.

The skin around the gash didn’t appear to have been torn with a blade, but hacked away by a cruder implement.

Fingernails? Teeth?

Rusty shuddered as he pondered the options, and forced himself to stop thinking about it.

The hum of a car’s engine and pebbles crunching underneath a set of tires claimed his attention. He walked to the front door, pulling aside a sash by the adjacent window to look outside into the hazy afternoon light.

Finally.

An Ocean City Police Department patrol unit sat in the driveway, engine idling. Rusty saw the door swing open, and a powerfully built officer stepped out. He grimaced. The cop didn’t appear to be much older than a high schooler. Probably fresh out of the Academy with plenty to prove behind the badge.

Why didn’t they send a detective, Rusty wondered, unlatching the door and opening it slowly so as not to make a surprise appearance on the front porch. Well, it was possible the OCPD’s homicide unit didn’t keep more than one ranking detective on any given shift. They probably didn’t need more than that.

The young patrol cop was taking purposeful strides toward the house, fleshy face set tight as he spoke into a shoulder mic, confirming with a dispatcher his arrival at the location. His eyes widened just slightly before narrowing as he made a quick appraisal of Rusty Diamond.

“You’re the one who made the call?”

Rusty nodded.

“She’s in there,” he said, stepping aside to let the patrol officer enter the house.

The cop had not taken two full steps into the living room when he stopped abruptly, one hand falling onto the service revolver holstered on his right hip.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Yeah,” Rusty said. “That was pretty much my reaction.”

For a moment they stood there, two tall male shapes looming over a plump female form in a spattered floral dress.

“Found her just like this?”

“That’s right. I didn’t touch anything.”

“How long?”

“Can’t be much more than fifteen minutes. I called right away.”

“You know her?”

“Her name’s Thelma Garrett. She’s my landlord.”

The sound of that didn’t sit right with Rusty; it was too removed and devoid of any kind of feeling. He almost added something like, ‘She was kind to me’, but figured that was bound to come out wrong.

The cop finally looked up from the old woman’s body, seeming to peel his eyes away by an act of will.

“You live here?”

“No. She owns … owned a second house not far from here, on Echo Run. I’ve been renting it.”

Those words brought on a sudden rush of memory. Rusty could see with total clarity in his mind’s eye the day he first met Ms. Garrett. Just over ten months ago, on a frigid January morning. The meeting didn’t happen here but at the rental house he’d occupied ever since.

At the time Rusty was so disoriented at finding himself back in Ocean Pines after such a prolonged absence that he had some difficulty maintaining a conversation with the chatty spinster. He agreed to her proposed rental fee, which seemed low for a three-bedroom furnished property overlooking Isle of Wight Bay. Location alone must have made the house a highly desirable piece of real estate, and he couldn’t figure why she was willing to rent it out for such a reasonable sum.

Speaking in the kindly, crinkly voice he’d come to associate with her in all moods, Ms. Garrett replied she had no use for the property or a large boost in income. Once shared with her husband and the scene of many festive gatherings, it was too big for her current needs. And too lonely. Living as a childless widow in a modest two-bedroom tract house on nearby Heron Lane was much more comfortable.

Thelma (she’d insisted Rusty use her first name) didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to sell the larger house in a lackluster market, and was glad to simply know it would be occupied after many dormant years. It depressed her to think of the house where she and her family had shared so many good occasions sitting dark and forlorn all this time. Rusty signed the lease, feeling halfway guilty for paying so little.

“How’d you happen to find her?” the patrol officer said, yanking Rusty back from his reverie.

A slight whiff of something Rusty didn’t like crept into the cop’s voice. A taunt, almost, most likely the by-product of youth and rattled nerves. He scanned the badge pinned to the kid’s chest.

“Tell you what, Officer Neely. Why don’t we go through the whole thing when a detective gets here. Someone’s on the way, right?”

“I’m the one you need to talk to now.”

“Officer, trust me. I’m going to give my full cooperation. Whoever did this needs to …”

He stopped. The cop was looking at him with a new kind of scrutiny. Now that the initial shock of seeing the dead woman was fading, he seemed to take a full view of Rusty for the first time. The expression on his face didn’t make much of an effort to hide a sense of disgust.

Rusty suddenly wished he’d kept his leather jacket on, but the living room had become stifling as he stood here waiting for the cavalry to arrive. The jacket lay draped on a sofa and he was wearing a black tank top, leaving his shoulders and arms open to easy view. Perusal would be more accurate, given the snaking tracks of words and symbols tattooed across much of his upper torso, coiling around the back of his neck and splitting into two vines that reached down both arms almost to the wrists.

“Latin, for the most part,” he said with a self-deprecating shrug. “Just for looks, really. I don’t know what half of it means myself.”

Officer Neely’s posture tensed visibly. His fingers once again found a place to rest on his gun.

“Turn around slowly, and show me your hands.”

Rusty tried to pretend he’d misheard.

“Sorry, what?”

“Come on, do it.”

“You’re going to cuff me? I’m the one who called this in, remember?”

“Just turn around. We’ll keep you nice and snug till backup gets here.”

“Look, I’m as freaked out as you are. But I didn’t do anything to this poor woman.”

“You’re resisting? I said let’s see those hands.”

He unsnapped the button on top of his holster. It seemed like a good moment to do something.

“For the last time, turn around!”

Rusty knew he could disarm this uniformed frat boy in just about 2.7 seconds. The task wouldn’t present much of a challenge. He could easily divert Neely’s eyeline with a lateral, non-aggressive movement of his left arm.
Momentarily distracted, the cop would never see the fingers of Rusty’s right hand extracting a one-inch smoke pellet from a customized hidden pocket in his jeans. Pinched at the proper angle, the pellet would explode in a blinding flash followed by a plume of gray smoke. Utterly harmless but highly effective for misdirection.

The span of time Officer Neely would need to recover from his surprise would offer Rusty ample opportunity to relieve him of the gun. Using his fingertips, he’d grab the wrist and isolate pressure points causing Neely’s hand to open involuntarily. From there, Rusty would simply reposition his body at a 45-degree angle and use his left hand to retrieve a sterling set of monogrammed handcuffs tucked in a different hidden pocket. One more second would be sufficient to cuff the young patrolman to a column of the bannister directly behind him.

They were only trick cuffs, but Officer Neely didn’t know that. And unless he could perform with great precision, the sequence of twisting wrist movements needed to unlatch them, the knowledge wouldn’t do him any good.
So, yes, the maneuver would surely come off. Just as successfully as it had in a thousand performances, even if those all occurred some time ago and Rusty’s reflexes were no longer quite what they used to be.

But what would any of that accomplish other than to greatly amplify a sense of suspicion for his role in a brutal murder he had absolutely nothing to do with? Plus bring on a raft of other charges for failing to comply with orders, impeding police business, assault, et cetera. Obviously it was a bad play all around, however tempting.

So Rusty slowly turned 180 degrees and lowered his hands. Audibly relieved, Officer Neely stepped forward and bound them with a pair of un-monogrammed OCPD handcuffs. They closed around his wrists more tightly then necessary, pinching hard on the skin.

Hearing the cuffs snap shut, Rusty glanced up and was startled by his reflection in a mirror above the sofa. He’d deliberately removed all mirrors from his own residence the day he moved in, and hadn’t gotten a good look at his face in many months.

Given his appearance today, he could hardly fault this overeager junior lawman for wanting to lock him in restraints. For a guy who’d once placed such a premium on maintaining a well-cultivated exterior, it was shocking to see just how unkempt he was. Had he really let himself go that much in the past year? Evidently, if the mirror was to be believed.

His long black hair, once treated daily by a personal stylist, was now a ratty mane. The two-pointed devil’s goatee, formerly a key visual hallmark of his stagecraft, looked no more than an uneven graying scrub. And all that ink: pentagrams, death’s head skulls and weird incantations etched up and down his sinewy arms.

Hell, anyone with a working pair of eyes would find Rusty Diamond a more than credible murder suspect.

Author Bio:

The new thriller by Austin Williams, Misdirection, is now available from Diversion Books. It is the first novel of The Rusty Diamond Trilogy.

Williams is the author of the acclaimed suspense novels Crimson Orgy and The Platinum Loop. He is the co-author (with Erik Quisling) of Straight Whisky: A Living History of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Sunset Strip.

He lives in Los Angeles.

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Look!! A New Caitlin Strong Novel from Jon Land!

WELCOME Jon Land

Jon Land

Hailed as “the greatest thriller writer alive today” by Bookviews and called “a creative genius” by Romantic Times, Jon Land is the author of 36 books, twenty-one of which have been national bestsellers, Jon is published in over fifty countries and six different languages, including German and Japanese. There are currently almost 7 million copies of his books in print. RT Book Reviews honored him with a special achievement award for being a Pioneer in Genre Fiction.

Jon’s latest series features female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong who debuted in STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE (May ’09, Forge Books). The Associated Press wrote “The book is a page-turner, the pace blistering, the characters well-drawn and the action hot. Caitlin Strong is a female version of John McClane from Die Hard.” That was followed by STRONG JUSTICE (June ’10, Forge) which Publisher’s Weekly lauded with a starred review calling it, “Intense and skillfully plotted.” The San Jose Mercury News added that, “I’ve always wondered why there isn’t an estrogen driven, sometimes skirt wearing female competitor to James Bond, Jack Reacher, Mike Hammer, Spenser … Well ladies and gentlemen, now there is and her name is Caitlin Strong.” STRONG JUSTICE was named a Top Thriller of the Year by Library Journal and was named runner-up for Best Novel of the Year by the New England Book Festival. The third Caitlin Strong novel, STRONG AT THE BREAK (June ’11, Forge) was called “the best book I’ve read this year” by the San Jose Mercury News. “A terrific plot, vivid characters, suspense, a fast pace, all the ingredients of a great thriller,” adds Strand Magazine which included the book on their Best Books of the Year list as did Library Journal which named it, again, as a Top Thriller of Year. The next book in the series, STRONG VENGEANCE (July ’12, Forge) garnered the highest praise in series so far, including from the Huffington Post which proclaimed it, “a rare combination of meticulous research and good old-fashioned shoot-em-up action.” STRONG RAIN FALLING (August ’13, Forge) Caitlin’s latest adventure, won the 2013 USA Best Books Award and 2014 International Book Award in the Mystery/Suspense category. STRONG DARKNESS, the next in the series, will be published in September of 2014.

Meanwhile, BETRAYAL (January ’12, Forge), Jon’s first nonfiction effort that reached as high as #5 on the Boston Globe bestseller list, was optioned by Fox as a vehicle for Denis Leery, and named Best True Crime Book of the Year by Suspense Magazine as well as winning the 2013 International Book Award for Best True Crime. Most recently, Jon has resurrected his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken in THE TENTH CIRCLE (December ’13, Open Road Media) and PANDORA’S TEMPLE (November ’12, Open Road Media) which was nominated for a 2013 Thriller Award in the Best E-Book Original category and won the 2013 International Book Award for Best Adventure Thriller.

No stranger to the world of the film, Jon’s first film, a teen caper-comedy called DIRTY DEEDS, was released theatrically in the summer of 2005 and in DVD in January of 2006. Among numerous others, his current film projects include CHALK (Handpicked Films and Millennium) and STRANDED (Milk & Media Productions).

Jon graduated Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude. He continues his association with Brown as alumni advisor to the Greek System, and vice-president of the Brown Football Association. He bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research, as well as a twenty-year career in the martial arts. He is an associate member of the United States Special Forces, has volunteered frequently in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing and chairs the Marketing Committee of International Thriller Writers. He lives in Providence, RI and can be found on the web at:

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NICE GUYS FINISH FIRST

Guest Post from Jon Land

I am not your personal customer service hotline. Do not ask me the order of my series or when the book is coming out in your particular country or how to make your ____ing Kindle turn on. Google it. It will take you less time and turn up a much more reliable answer.

That, my friends, is a message from author Chelsea Cain to her, er, fans posted on Facebook on September 3 at 1:23am. Last time I checked, we authors kind of depend on such fans for our very livelihoods, and the response to Cain’s comments were both scathing and caustic. Which made me realize that in our industry, among thriller writers anyway, Cain is way, way the exception, not the rule. Far from it.

I was talking to my publisher, Tom Doherty, founder of Tor/Forge, the other day. Tom also publishes the iconic George R.R. Martin, arguably the best-known writer in America today, thanks to his GAME OF THRONES series. Tom mentioned he’s bringing out three books of George’s later this year, two of which are anthologies that George edited in addition to contributing stories to. The reason?

“He wanted to help out some friends of his who aren’t as successful as he is,” Tom told me and added that one of George’s contributions is an original GAME OF THRONES novella.

Think about that for a moment. The most successful writer on the planet right now wanted to do something just to help his fellow writer friends, and here’s the thing: George isn’t alone. The mission statement of International Thriller Writers ITW, an organization for which I served on the board and am currently chair of the marketing committee, was founded based on the principle of the haves helping the not-yet-haves. Successful writers stretching a hand out to writers in search of that same success. Like Doug Preston, Lee Child, Steve Berry, Sandra Brown, James Rollins—some of the biggest in the business not named George R.R. Martin.

It’s not like other creative mediums share the same proclivity. You don’t see Brad Pitt offering to help struggling young actors or Maroon 5 mentoring some garage band. No, this inclination of giving back and paying it forward seems unique to writers not named Chelsea Cain. I learned this first-hand back in 2007 when I was in the process of publishing my first thriller in three years after a pointless foray concentrating on screenplays. I’d just joined ITW and was desperate for author quotes, also known as blurbs, to help reestablish myself in the marketplace and rebuild my brand. I asked eleven New York Times bestselling authors for those crucial endorsements and all of them said yes. Every single one.

Okay, so why? What makes writers, including among the most successful, so generous and giving of their time and energy?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and my first thought boils down to a sense of community. Unlike actors or musicians, we spend an inordinate part of our lives alone, creating stories in a box of our own making. Writing isn’t a team sport; it’s relentlessly solitary and insular. We have to be very comfortable with our own company in order to pull it off. But that doesn’t mean we have to live like hermits which explains why so many of us thriller writers flocked to ITW upon its founding. Living and working in a box is a fine, but it also makes us long for the kind of camaraderie our profession seems to intrinsically reject. So the opportunity to band together to help others climb the elusive rungs of the publishing ladder is something we thrive on, not just tolerate.

That’s not all. Successful writers seem a truly unique bunch in the sense that we all remember, all too clearly, what it was like not to be successful. We all started in the same place pretty much and with the publication with each book, and the awards or bestseller list appearances if we’re lucky, comes the memory of what it was like the first time and the realization of how lucky we are to be succeeding, even thriving, in a business that seems to defy that. chaos

Another reason for this proclivity, I think, is the very nature and dynamics of publishing itself. It’s truly a tumultuous world where the rules keep changing so fast, nobody can really keep up. And the truth is we can learn a lot sometimes from the gorilla marketing tactics of authors who’ve been forced to go it alone after receiving the cold shoulder from the industry. Sure, they want in through the front door, but in the meantime many of them have found ways to make their mark by publishing independently on Amazon and the like. So in that respect we can gain something from them as well.

And that’s the point. Helping other writers flesh out their ideas and turn their Word files into published books makes us better writers too. If you can help someone fix their work, it only stands to reason that you’ll learn something about your own. In that respect, mentoring helps us fine-tune those crazy places in our minds from where the magic comes. Like stretching before a workout, getting loose and limber so you feel better and more comfortable about what you’re doing. We’re in the idea business, after all. Working with others to refine theirs helps us better refine ours.

Upholding the principles on which it was founded, International Thriller Writers now boasts a mentoring program, a remarkable Debut Author’s Program, and we have a board position dedicated to author development and education. In other words, we practice what we preach in large part because the process becomes self-perpetuating. Authors who’ve made their mark thanks in some part to ITW are going to give to others just as somebody gave to them. Nobody makes them; they do it because they want to.

Oh, and by the way, since I joined ITW and rebuilt my career on the shoulders of Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, who you can meet in STRONG DARKNESS, I’ve probably been asked to blurb, endorse, maybe a hundred books. And I’ve never turned a single request down. These authors deserve my time and attention because other authors gave both to me when I needed them the most. What goes around come around, my friends (and Chelsea Cain), a good thing in this case because, sometimes, nice guys do finish first.

ABOUT Strong Darkness

1883: Texas Ranger William Ray Strong teams up with Judge Roy Bean to track down the Old West’s first serial killer who’s stitching a trail of death along the railroad lines slicing their way through Texas.

The Present: Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself pursuing an-other serial killer whose methods are eerily similar to the one pursued by her great-grandfather almost a century-and-a-half before. But that’s just the beginning of the problems confronting Caitlin in her biggest and most dangerous adventure yet, starting off when the son of her reformed outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters is nearly beaten to death while at college.

The trail of that attack at Brown University leads all the way back to Texas and a Chinese high-tech company recently awarded the contract to build the nation’s Fifth Generation wireless network. Li Zhen, a rare self-made man in China and the company’s founder, counts that as the greatest achievement of his career. But it’s an achievement that hides the true motivations behind a rise fueled by events dating back to the time of Caitlin’s great-grandfather. Because the same era that spawned a serial killer who has impossibly resurfaced today also hides the secrets behind Li’s thirst for nothing less than China’s total domination of the United States.

His fiendishly clever plan is backed by all-powerful elements of the Chinese underworld that will stop at nothing to insure its success. Up against an army at Li’s disposal, Caitlin and Cort Wesley blaze a violent trail across country and continent in search of secrets hidden in the past, but it’s a secret from the present that holds the means to stop their adversary’s plot in its tracks, even as a climactic battle dawns with nothing less than the fate of the U.S. at stake. Because there’s a darkness coming, and only Caitlin Strong can find the light before it’s too late.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge
Publication Date: Sept 30, 2014
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-0765335111

Purchase Links:

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

San Antonio, Texas

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

Caitlin Strong listened to the chant repeated over and over again by the Beacon of Light Church members who’d decided to picket a young soldier’s funeral here in San Antonio in pointless protest. The words were harder to make out across the street beyond the thousand-foot buffer the protestors were required to keep, but clear enough to disturb the parents of an army hero who just wanted to bury their son in peace.

“What are you going to do about this, Ranger?” Bud Chauncey, the young man’s father, asked her.

“I’ve requested that they vacate the premises, sir,” Caitlin told the man. “My orders are to do no more than that as long as they keep their distance. It’s the law.”

Chauncey, who owned several car dealerships in the area, turned toward the Beacon of Light Church members gathered on a patch of fresh land up a slight rise across the road Mission Burial Park had purchased in order to expand. His eyes looked bloodshot and weary, his face held in an angry glare that captured the frustration over being able to do no more about their presence here than he could for the son he was about to lay to rest. He stretched a hand through stringy gray hair to smooth it back down, but the breeze quickly blew it out of place again. Chauncey always looked so strong, vital and happy on his television commercials, leaving Caitlin to wonder if this was even the same man. His neck was thin and marred by discolored patches of skin that looked to have come from radiation treatments. His hands were thin and knobby and she noticed them trembling once he moved them from his pockets. She caught a glimpse of tobacco stains on the tips of his fingers and nails and thought of those radiation treatments again.

“Thousand feet away?” Chauncey questioned.

“Legislature passed a law restricting protests to that distance to funerals held in the state.”

Chauncey gazed back at the mourners gathered by his son’s gravesite waiting for the service to begin. He and Caitlin stood off to the side of the building funeral cortege at Mission Burial Park, the cemetery located on the San Antonio River where her father and grandfather were buried in clear view of the historic Espada Mission.

“Why don’t you explain that to my boy, Ranger?”

It sounded more like a plea than a question, a grieving father looking for a way to reconcile his son’s death in the face of picketing strangers paying him the ultimate disrespect. Blaming gays and their lifestyle for the landmine that had taken a young man’s life when he threw himself on two other soldiers to save them.

“The world might be full of shit,” Chauncey resumed with his gaze fixed across the road, electricity seeming to radiate out of his pores with the sweat to the point where Caitlin figured she’d get a shock if she stretched a hand out to comfort him. “But that doesn’t mean we ever get used to stepping in it.”

“I’ll be right back, sir,” she told Bud Chauncey and headed toward the street.

 

CHAPTER 2

San Antonio, Texas

It seemed like too nice a day to bury somebody as gifted as Bud Chauncey’s son Junior. An All-District athlete in three sports, Homecoming King and senior class president who’d joined the army’s ROTC program. He went to Afghanistan already a hero and came back in a box after his platoon was hit by a Taliban ambush while on patrol. It was bad enough when good boys died for no good reason Caitlin could see. It was even worse when it happened while a war was winding down and most back home had stopped paying attention.

Caitlin was thinking of Dylan Torres, the eighteen-year-old son of the man she considered, well, her boy friend, as she walked toward the road and grassy field across it in the process of being dug out to make room for Mission Burial Park’s expansion. Bud Chauncey’s son Junior had been barely a year older when he died and she couldn’t help picturing Dylan patrolling a desert wasteland with M-16 held in the ready position before him. Still a boy, no matter how much he’d been through or how many monsters with whom he’d come into contact. Currently in Providence, Rhode Island where he was in the midst of his freshman football season for Brown University.

Caitlin had read that Junior Chauncey had been accepted for admission at the University of Texas at Austin where he hoped to do the same. Dylan had a junior varsity game next weekend, if she remembered correctly. Junior would never don helmet and pads again.

That thought pushed a spring into her step as she strode across the road now crammed with cars, both parked along the side and inching along in search of a space. The funeral was being delayed to account for that, giving Bud Chauncey more time to suffer and the Beacon of Light Church more time to make their presence known. Alerted to their coming, television crews from five local stations and at least two national ones she could see had arrived first, their cameras covering all that was transpiring on both sides of the road.

Crossing the street, Caitlin thought she felt a blast of heat flushed by a furnace slam into her. It seemed to radiate off the protesters turning the air hot and prickly as they continued to chant. The sky was cloudless, the heat building in the fall day under a sun more like summer’s from the burn Caitlin felt on her cheeks.

Caitlin recognized the leader, William Bryant Tripp, from his wet-down hair, skin flushed red and handlebar mustache, and angled herself straight for him across the edge of the field that gave way to a drainage trench the width of a massive John Deere wheel loader’s shovel. The trench created a natural barricade between the Beacon of Light Church members and what might as well have been the rest of the world, while the big Deere sat idle between towering mounds of earth set further back in the field.
“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

“Mr. Tripp,” she called to the leader over the chants. He’d stepped out of the procession at her approach, smirking and twirling the ends of his mustache.

“It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded.

Caitlin nodded, trying to look respectful. “There’s people grieving a tragic death across the way, Reverend, and I’d ask you again as a man and a Christian to vacate the premises so they might do so in peace. You’ve made your point already and I believe you should leave things at that.”

The smirk remained. “Peace is what this church is all about, Ranger, a peace that can only be achieved if those who debauch and deface the values of good honest people like us repent and are called out for their sins.”

“Gays had nothing to do with putting that brave boy in a coffin, sir. That was the work of a bunch of cowardly religious fanatics like the ones serving you here today.”

The smirk slipped from Tripp’s expression, replaced by a look that brushed Caitlin off and sized her up at the same time. “We’re breaking no laws here. So I’m going to ask you to leave us in peace.”

Caitlin felt her muscles tightening, her mouth going dry. “You have every right to be here and I’m here to protect your rights to peaceful assembly as well as the rights of the Chauncey family to bury their son without a sideshow. The problem is that presents a contradiction it’s my duty to resolve. And the best way to do that is to ask you and your people to simply leave in a timely fashion.”

Tripp shifted his shoulders. He seemed to relish the threat Caitlin’s words presented. “And if we choose not to?”

“You’ve made your point for the cameras already, sir. There’s nothing more for you to prove. So do the holy thing by packing up your pickets and heading on.” Caitlin gazed toward the protestors thrusting their signs into the air in perfect rhythm with their chanting. “Use the time to paint over those signs, so you’re ready to terrorize the next family that loses a son in battle, Mr. Tripp.”

Tripp measured her words, running his tongue around the inside of his mouth. It made a sound like crushing a grape underfoot. Caitlin could feel the sun’s heat between them now, serving as an invisible barrier neither wanted to breach.

“It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded again.

“I believe that title needs to be earned,” Caitlin told him, feeling her words start to race ahead of her thoughts.
Tripp stiffened. “This church has been serving Him and His word since the very founding of this great nation, Ranger. Even here in the great state of Texas itself.”

“Those other military funerals you’ve been picketing from Lubbock to Amarillo don’t count toward that, sir.”

“I was speaking of our missionary work back in the times of the frontier; the railroads and the oil booms. How this church tried to convert the Chinese heathen hordes to Christianity.”

“Heathen hordes?”

“It was a fool’s errand,” Tripp said, bitterness turning his expression even more hateful. “The Chinese made for an unholy, hateful people not deserving of our Lord’s good graces.”

“But you believe you are, thanks to hurting those good folks across the way, is that right? Problem is you’re not serving God, sir, you’re serving yourself. And I’m giving you a chance to square things the easy way instead of the hard.”

Tripp sneered at her. “Such threats didn’t work in Lubbock or Amarillo and they won’t work here either.”

“I wasn’t the one who made them in those cities, Mr. Tripp. You’d be well advised to listen this time.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

The chanting had picked up in cadence, seeming to reach a crescendo as the funeral goers squeezed themselves around Junior Chauncey’s gravesite across the road so the ceremony could begin. Caitlin watched the members of the Beacon of Light Church thrusting their picket signs into the air as if they were trying to make rain, the image of their feet teetering on the edge of recently dug drainage trench holding in her mind.

“I guess I’ll have to think of something,” she told Tripp and started away.

 

CHAPTER 3

San Antonio, Texas

Caitlin looped around the perimeter of the protesters, her presence likely forgotten by the time she reached the John Deere wheel loader parked between matching piles of excavated earth. She recognized it as a 644K hybrid model boasting twenty tons of power that could probably level a skyscraper. Caitlin had learned to drive earlier, more brutish versions while helping to rebuild a Mexican family’s home after they’d been burned out by drunken kids for a pot deal gone wrong. Trouble was the drug dealer who’d screwed the kids actually lived across the street. Caitlin’s father had arrested the boys two days later. Considering them dangerous criminals, Jim Strong made them strip to their underwear and left them to roast in the sun while he waited for back-up to assist him in a cavity search. Jim had organized the rebuilding effort, financed ultimately by the restitution paid by the accused boys’ parents to keep them out of jail. Caitlin’s father had brokered that deal as well.

The hybrid engine of the 644K sounded a hundred times quieter than the roar coughed by the older version and handled as easy as a subcompact, when Caitlin started it forward.

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

She couldn’t hear the chanting anymore, imagining it in her mind with each thrust of the picket signs into the air. It was loud enough to keep the protestors from detecting her approach, even when she lowered the shovel into position and let its teeth dig maybe a foot down into the ground.

Caitlin plowed the growing pile of dirt forward as if it were snow after a rare Texas blizzard. The back row of the protesters turned just as the wall of gathered earth crested over the shovel. Caitlin imagined the panic widen their eyes, heard screams and shouts as they tried desperately to warn the others what was coming.

Too late.

The massive power of the John Deere pushed the earthen wall straight into the center of the pack fronted by William Bryant Tripp himself, driving the mass forward without even a sputter. The last thing Caitlin glimpsed were picket signs closer to the front stubbornly clinging to the air before those holding them were gobbled up and shoved forward.

Down into the drainage trench.

Caitlin pictured Reverend Tripp toppling in first, imagined the trench as a mass grave or, better yet, the week’s deposit zone in the local landfill. Because that’s where the members of the Beacon of Light Church belonged in her mind, dumped in along with the other stench-riddled trash.

Some of the protesters managed to peel off to the side to escape the John Deere’s force and wrath, and Caitlin didn’t brake the big machine until the earthen wall she was dragging stopped on the edge of the trench. Portions of it sifted downward, forestalling the efforts of Tripp and his minions to climb out. So she gave the Deere just a little more gas to trap them a bit longer.

Caitlin cut off the engine at that point. Her gaze drifted across the street to the funeral ceremony for Junior Chauncey where to a man and woman everyone had turned around to face the other side of the road. They saw the members of the Beacon of Light Church visible only as hands desperately clawing for purchase to pull themselves from the trench into which Caitlin had forced them. She hopped down out of the cab and walked around the wall of dirt and grass the John Deere had helped her lay.

Then, to a man and woman led by Bud Chauncey himself, the funeral goers started to clap their hands, applauding her. It got louder and louder, reaching a crescendo just as the television cameras began rotating feverishly between both sides of the road and reporters rushed toward Caitlin with microphones in hand.

She leaped across the trench, brushing the microphones and cameras aside, the sun hot against her flesh.

“You’re going to pay for this, Caitlin Strong!” she heard Tripp scream at her, as he finally managed to hoist himself from the ditch. “The Lord does not forget!”

“Neither do I, sir,” Caitlin said calmly, regarding the dirt clinging to him no amount of shaking or brushing could remove. It turned his ash gray hair a dark brown, making him look as if he was wearing a vegetable garden atop his head. “And you’d be wise to remember that.”