Laura Elvebak – A Matter of Revenge

This week, it’s my pleasure to host author, Laura Elvebak.

Laura studied writing at UCLA, USC, Rice University, and Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. After taking a directing class in Houston, she co-wrote, directed and acted in a one-act play. She optioned three screenplays to a local production company, and co-wrote a script for the 48 Hour Film Project.

She is the author of the Niki Alexander mysteries, Less Dead, Lost Witness and A Matter of Revenge. Niki Alexander is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter. Her standalone, The Flawed Dance, takes place in Philadelphia in the late sixties, about a young woman fleeing from an abusive lover and hides in the demimonde world of go-go bars and mobsters. Laura is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-In-Crime, The International Thriller Writers, and The Final Twist Writers and has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Good Reads, and Amazon Author Central.

How Emotion Can Improve Your Book

One of my favorite TV shows is The Voice. I’ve watched every season since the beginning. I used to get so frustrated when the singer I thought was the most talented didn’t win. After last season, I tried to think of a reason why that particular contestant winner was chosen and not my first choice.

The answer finally came to me. The audience and the voters at home responded to the contestant’s story, not the range and quality of his voice, although that is important. But it is the performer who leaves his audience with goosebumps and tears who wins in the end.

This is true of any creative work whether it be a song, a movie, or a painting. It certainly applies to books. What stories do you remember long after you’ve read them? What made them a classic or a best seller? They had to touch your heart.

The trick now is to discover how to make your books memorable. I always look at the characters. What makes them stand out? He could be courageous in spite of a physical or mental deformity. She could be tenacious despite tremendous obstacles. He could be willing to lose his life to save someone else. We respond to a great love story, or a major sacrifice, or winning despite all odds. But only if we care about the people.

I write the Niki Alexander mysteries. People argue about what is more important, the characters or the plot. It think it’s both, but the scale leans toward the characters. To me, they drive the plot by setting a goal worth risking their life to reach. I want to know why they choose to go down certain roads and what they will do when the road is blocked. What spurs them into action? In other words, what motivates them? You want your readers to care if your protagonist completes his journey. To accomplish this, the author must care.

Through three books in the series, Niki Alexander has become as familiar to me as my alter ego. I know her that well.  However, before I wrote the first words, I needed to know who she was. That doesn’t mean I listed every nuance in voice, walk, what she ate for breakfast, what color were her eyes and hair, etc. These are important to note at some time, so her description doesn’t deviate from book to book, but can be written down in a notebook as necessary.

What I need to know is how they were raised. In a loving home or brought up in foster care? What values do they live by? Are they religious or an atheist? What wounds and secrets formed or changed their lives? What’s the darkest part of them they won’t reveal to anyone? What do they fear the most? What do they think of themselves? What do others think about them?

Some of these characteristics I won’t know at first until they reveal themselves to me by their actions, reactions, and decisions. One thing I do is have my main character write about herself in her own words. I want to be in her skin, to feel what she is feeling, react as she would. If the writer feels the emotion, so will the reader.

I do the same with my antagonists and victims. They had a life. They loved, hated, believed in something so important to them that they fought or died for it. This is the emotional engine that propels the plot.

Here is an excerpt from, A Matter of Revenge:


In the evening haze under a full moon, the pink house in River Oaks, Houston’s wealthiest neighborhood, loomed like a castle among the massive oaks. Bushes shaped like gargoyles lined the stairs leading to the burgundy double doors. Eleven-year-old Jayme Rockland had once seen gargoyles in a scary movie. She was sure the monsters were snarling at her as she inched forward. Better not to look at them. Curtis Ray might read her fear and send her away.

He gave a nervous cough, and then covered it by scowling at the house. She knew him well enough to know he’d rather die than show fear. He told everyone he was thirteen, but she knew better. He’d been only one grade ahead of her, not two, when his folks died and he got sent away. But she let him say whatever. Friends stuck together no matter what.

“This be the right place,” he announced in a low tone.

She glanced at him, catching the slight tremor in his voice. Who was he trying to convince? For the first time since they’d left the streets of Montrose, doubt crept in like the ugly cockroaches in Granny’s house. Her mom once said fear was as contagious as the flu. Now she knew what that meant. What if they were on the wrong street? What if someone waited for them on the other side of the door?

“Why you whispering?” Her voice quivered. “You said nobody would be home.” To hide the itch of fear crawling on her skin, she laughed. Didn’t help. She stared at the house and sucked in air. “You sure he’s gone?”

“He’s supposed to be out of town.” He didn’t sound so sure.

“Yeah, well, you know supposing don’t mean nothing.” She picked up a stone from the ground and tossed it into the grass.

“Owner’s ain’t here,” he said in a firm voice. “Nobody’s here. What’s the matter? You scared?”

“Not.” She imagined the castle’s ghosts peering at her from the windows. “Just saying.”

“Come on, we’re going around back. Hurry.”

She skipped to catch up. “You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“Yeah, now stop asking stupid questions.”

She followed him around the side of the house and through an unlocked iron gate. Her eyes widened when a gigantic pool came into sight. Holy crap! And a tennis court? Their home town could fit in this man’s backyard. She reached into her pocket and took out the cell phone Curtis Ray had given her and pressed the camera app. Pointed, focused and clicked.

He jerked his head toward the sound, yanked her hand down, and snapped her out of her stardust moment. “Not yet,” he whispered.

He led her to a small tool shed by the main house and opened the door. She peered in and recoiled at the darkness, the smell of gasoline and pesticides. Dirt scattered the floor. She imagined creatures, hidden in the corner, waiting to pounce. Rats, maybe. Spiders or snakes, even. She wanted to stay outside, but if he could pretend to be unafraid, so could she.

He took a pen light from his pocket and shined the light around the room. He aimed at a flower pot in the corner. Kneeling next to it, he put his hand inside. He closed his eyes.

What was he doing? She listened for sounds, the scratching of animals or the buzz of insects, but all remained quiet. She turned her attention back to Curtis Ray and watched him pull his hand out of the pot. Empty. He dipped into a second pot next to it. This time he came up with a piece of paper wrapped around a key. He tucked it in his pocket, stood, and turned off the pen light. He motioned to the door and they stepped out under the dwindling light of a darkening blue-gray sky.

He acted like she wasn’t there. She had to quicken her steps to keep up with him. To her surprise, they arrived at the back door. The key fit into the lock and the door opened.

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Marie Lavender – Upon Your Love

It’s the first day of Spring. Time to turn to thoughts of love. ♥♥♥ To mark the occasion, I’m hosting award-winning, multi-genre author, Marie Lavender and her novel, Upon Your Love. So take a deep breath and get ready to be romanced in style.

Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 23 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnP Authors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.

Upon Your Love

The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…

Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?

Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?

Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?

Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined.

But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…

Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?

Here is an excerpt from, Upon Your Love.

Christian scanned the wall and came to rest on a woman whose face was obscured by the way she stood. She was turned slightly away, in conversation with another girl. She had long, dark wavy hair and a nice form. When she turned back towards him, he caught his breath at the stunning figure she posed. Her eyes were a violet color; he could tell because the gas lights in the room caught them like fine gemstones. She was also fairly tall for a woman. Her skin was a fine, light golden shade, which didn’t detract from her beauty at all. Most of her contemporaries avoided direct sunlight. It was clear that her skin tone was natural, perhaps with a hint of being blessed by the sun’s rays. He wondered what sort of woman would place herself in the elements while the other women in her circle managed to elude such avenues.

His gaze continued to travel over her strange perfection. Her décolletage dipped to the tops of her full breasts, hinting at pleasure, and she was dressed in a long gown of pale blue. The shape of the gown gave off the suggestion of ample curves beneath. What kind, he could only guess. He imagined the costume was an heirloom because most women’s fashions these days weren’t so revealing. “Who is that?” he pointed.

            “Mademoiselle Bellamont Hill.”

            “I haven’t seen her before.”

            “It is past her season. She hasn’t been to a function in a couple of years, I believe. Something about a mourning period.”

            “But, isn’t she from around here?”

            “Yes, in a way. Her family travels often. Her father is a captain, and so is her brother. When she is here, she lives with her mother and aunt.”

            “Why hasn’t she married?”

            Pierce shrugged. “It could be any number of reasons. Why? Do you want me to ask her to dance?”

            “No, not her. Perhaps her companion would be interested.” He referred to the blonde woman at Mademoiselle Hill’s side. Christian didn’t allow himself to wonder why he thought the other girl would not suit his friend.

            Pierce agreed, and they both started in that direction. When they approached the ladies, Christian took the first woman’s hand, brushing his lips over it. He observed that her skin was incredibly soft and had a tantalizing sweet scent. He curbed the urge to explore it further.

            She gasped, a flush staining her cheeks. “Monsieur?”

            “Forgive me for the abrupt entrance. I am Christian du Plessis. It is a pleasure to meet you, Mademoiselle.”

            She smiled. “Thank you. I am Adrienne Nicolette Bellamont Hill.” She looked over at her companion. If she noticed the impropriety of not being introduced by a common acquaintance, she did not say. “This is my good friend, Elena Wyndham. She’s visiting from England.”

            Though he’d blinked as she gave her full name, he managed, “Oh? It is so good to have your acquaintance. Ladies, this is my ami, Pierce Laroque.”

            “Hello, Pierce,” both girls chimed and shook his hand alternately.

            Pierce looked flustered as he murmured a greeting.

            “I hope you’ll take good care of my friend here. He is rather shy with women. Perhaps you might make him feel welcome,” he whispered, leaning in close to Elena with a smile.

            She gave him a conspiratorial smile, and then turned to Pierce. “Might you dance with me, Monsieur? I can’t stand here and simply watch this gaiety.”

            Pierce readily agreed and escorted Elena to the dance floor just as the music for another waltz began.

            The woman named Adrienne frowned, looking up at Christian. “What was that? What are you up to?”

            “Just a little matchmaking,” he shrugged.

            “Perhaps your friend wouldn’t be pleased with your interference.”

            Christian took her hand and tucked it in the crook of his arm. “Shall we walk?” At her nod, he led her in a stroll around the edges of the room. As they ambled along, the heavenly scent of blended flowers and honey drifted into his nose. He struggled with the desire to lean closer so that he could breathe more of her in. “I’m sure he would welcome it. Pierce is rather reserved, and not at all used to conversing with women.”

            She nodded. “He asked for your help then.”

            His mouth twisted. Pierce would never have asked; he was far too honorable a man for that, which was why he’d volunteered. “In a manner of speaking, yes.”

            “I suppose I cannot reprimand you for assisting a friend,” she sighed. “For a moment, I simply thought you had ulterior motives.”

            “To pair myself off with you?”

            She lifted a brow. “You can’t blame me for the assumption.”

            “No, I cannot. Don’t take this the wrong way, Mademoiselle Hill. You are very tempting, and I am more drawn to you than I should be. But, my purpose in coming here tonight wasn’t self-serving. It was to help Pierce find a wife.”

            She stumbled a little, and he clasped her arm in time. “A wife? Surely you cannot be serious.”


            “But, Elena wouldn’t… she would never—”

            “No? And why not? Pierce is a good man.”

            “So? What woman would agree to marry a man after one night?”

            “Stranger things have happened, I’m sure.”

Her beautiful, dark brows drew together and even her apparent perplexity appealed to him.

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Marie and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.


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Betty Jean Craige – Dam Witherston

Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome back author, Betty Jean Craige.

Dr. Betty Jean Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art.  She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.

Dam Witherston

The mayor of the north Georgia town of Witherston and one of its prominent attorneys are being blackmailed by a mysterious Donna Dam, who threatens to expose the two men’s shameful activities of forty years ago if they do not take a paternity test and pay a hefty sum of money, and if Mayor Rather does not withdraw his proposal to build a dam, creating a lake on top of a sacred Cherokee burial ground. Blackmail leads to murder, and when Detective Mev Arroyo and her two teenage twins investigate, they discover some dark secrets, putting all their lives in danger…

Excerpt from Dam Witherston (Black Opal Books, 2017) by Betty Jean Craige


Mayor Rich Rather grabbed his cell phone when a beep signaled the arrival of an email.

“Excuse me,” he said to Trevor Bennington, Jr., President of Bennington Financial Services and member of the Witherston Town Council. “I’m expecting an estimate from Appalachian Landscape Contractors.”

He opened his email.

From:  Donna Dam (

To: Rich Rather


Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.

Dear Mayor Rather:

Do you remember what you were doing on the night of November 5-6, 1977? I bet you do.  You will pay for it.

There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $9,900 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret.

Donna Dam

Sent from my iPhone

“Anything wrong, Rich?”

“No, nothing, nothing at all. Thanks, Trevor.” Rich stood up. “But I’m afraid I’ve got other business to attend to. I’m sorry to be cutting our meeting short. So sorry.”

The mayor showed him out of his office and deleted the email.

Grant Griggs sat down for Friday morning coffee with Patrick Davis, President of Witherston Savings and Loan. As was their custom at the Witherston Inn Cafe they’d taken a back table.

“Looks like Rich will give the contract to Appalachian Lakescape Contractors, Grant,” Patrick said. “I lobbied him hard.”

“Thanks, Patrick. I promise that will work out for both of us.”

Grant’s cell phone beeped.

“Do you mind if I check my email, Patrick? I’m expecting a message from Phyllis Graph.”

From:  Donna Dam (

To: Grant Griggs


Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.

Dear Mr. Griggs:

Do you remember what you were doing on the night of November 5-6, 1977? I bet you do.  You will pay for it.

There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $9,900 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret.

Donna Dam

Sent from my iPhone

“Shit,” Grant muttered. “Patrick, I’m sorry to have to leave you, but I’ve got to see a client. I must go now.” He deleted the email and walked out of the restaurant.

Red Wilker was vacuuming the stuffed black bear the taxidermist had just delivered to Wilker’s Gun Shop when he got the email.

From: Donna Dam (

To: Red Wilker


Fri 03/10/2017 9:31 AM.

Dear Mr. Wilker:

Would you like for the people of Witherston to know that you are buying up property in Saloli Valley with inside information about the proposed lake? I bet you wouldn’t.

There is a wooden shed 1/4 mile upstream from Withers Fork on east bank of Saloli Stream. It’s on the Zamora property. Bring $5,000 in cash at 5:00 pm tomorrow. Leave the money in an envelope inside on the table. If you do not show up on time, I will go public with your secret. And you could get jail time.

Donna Dam

Sent from my iPhone

“‘What the duck is this? Look, Grace. Who in creation is Donna Dam?” He handed his cell phone to his wife.

Grace read the email. “Is she referring to your land buy-outs in Saloli Valley?”

“How could she find that out? How could anybody?”

“Rich knows. Grant knows. Phyllis knows. Patrick knows.”

“They all have a stake in the lake. They won’t be talking.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Don’t ask. You don’t need to know.”

Red deleted the email.

Other Witherston Mysteries:

  • Downstream

  • Fairfield’s Auction

Dam Witherston


Fairfield’s Auction

Betty Jean and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment. 

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Sue Owens Wright – The Secret of Bramble Hill

Today it’s my pleasure to host author, Sue Owens Wright.

Sue Owens Wright is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. She is an eleven-time finalist for the Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) to the best writer on the subject of dogs. She has twice won the Maxwell Award and earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her writing. She writes the acclaimed Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, including Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking On Murder and Braced For Murder, which is recommended on the American Kennel Club’s list of Best Dog Books.

Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets. She has been published in numerous magazines, including Dog Fancy, Mystery Scene, AKC GAZETTE, Fido Friendly, The Bark, and Animal Fair. Her work also appears in several anthologies, including PEN Oakland’s “Fightin’ Words,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary notables. Her newest novel is:

The Secret of Bramble Hill

In April 1946, Tessa Field returns to Bramble Hill in the quaint Cornish seaside town of Covington Haven, England, after learning of her aunt Emily Maxwell’s drowning in a boating accident. The moment Tessa sets foot on the grounds of Bramble Hill, long-dormant psychic powers are stirred in her. Through a series of eerie manifestations and unexplained mishaps, she senses an entity in the house is trying to make contact and reveal dark secrets. Tessa narrowly escapes being trampled by a horse ridden by the handsome aristocrat and writer Peter Tremayne, a childhood friend. Upon their unexpected reunion, Tessa is immediately attracted to him, and he to her. Yet, despite their budding romance, she soon becomes distrustful of his true motives. Convinced that her aunt did not die in an accident but was murdered, Tessa investigates and soon becomes entangled in a web of deception, betrayal, and treachery that threatens her very life.

My Review

This story takes place in the 1940s, after the war. Tess is a young expatriate who goes back to England for her aunt’s memorial service and discovers that her aunt’s accidental death has suspicious overtones. In the style of a Gothic romance, there’s the childhood friend who has now grown into a handsome and charming man, ghosts, a pirate’s treasure hidden somewhere in her aunt’s mansion—a house with a long and rumored past. And an untrustworthy new uncle. It’s full of mysticism with a touch of the occult. Because Tess has the gift of “sight” she often finds herself in strange places as if in a dream. This story is told from the third person omniscient point of view, so the reader knows what everyone’s thoughts and intentions are, making it all the more fascinating. I really enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time putting it down. Sit back in a cozy chair with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and get ready to be taken on a mysterious trip to the past.

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Judy Alter – Murder at Peacock Mansion

This week it’s my pleasure to host author, Judy Alter.

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

Murder at Peacock Mansion

Arson, a bad beating, and a recluse who claims someone is trying to kill her all collide in this third Blue Plate Café Mystery with Kate Chambers. Torn between trying to save David Clinkscales, her old boss and new lover, and curiosity about Edith Aldridge’s story of an attempt on her life, Kate has to remind herself she has a café to run. She nurses a morose David, whose spirit has been hurt as badly as his body, and tries to placate Mrs. Aldridge, who was once accused of murdering her husband but acquitted. One by one, Mrs. Aldridge’s stepchildren enter the picture. Is it coincidence that David is Edith Aldridge’s lawyer? Or that she seems to rely heavily on the private investigator David hires? First the peacocks die…and then the people. Everyone is in danger, and no one knows who to suspect.

My Review

I love to read cozy mysteries, and I really enjoyed reading this one. Ms. Alter pulls you into the story with her easy writing style. Her characters are believable. The plot is well thought out. Kate, the protagonist, is likable, even though she often comes across as somewhat of a doormat, because she’s always doing favors for demanding and ungrateful people, including her sister, Donna. But there appears to be some guilt there from the way the author weaves backstory into Kate’s thoughts about Donna. Obviously, unfortunate things had happened to her in a previous novel in this series.

The Blue Plate Cafe is your typical small town eating place and the author’s description of the cafe, the town and Peacock Mansion, puts the reader right into the settings. This is a well-paced, easily read cozy with an interesting plot, several twists and an unexpected ending. There’s even a bonus with some delicious down-home recipes. What more could you ask?


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Judy and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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John Beyer – Operation Scorpion

On this first week of March, I’m hosting author, John Beyer.

John R. Beyer spent nearly ten years in law enforcement in Southern California as a street cop, a training officer and a member of the elite SWAT team. After leaving the force, he continued in public service entering the field of education. During his tenure, he served as classroom teacher, school administrator and district administrator. While in both worlds he earned a Doctorate in School Administration and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

During all those years, he never gave up the passion for writing – both fiction and nonfiction. He has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and the like for decades on a variety of topics. His latest short stories in the past year can be found in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine (2016) and GNU Journal (2017). He is also the author of two highly praised Internationally known novels – Hunted (2013), Soft Target (2014).

His newest thriller Operation Scorpion (2017- Black Opal Books) is sure to be a hit with its intrigue of a rogue military officer secreting nuclear waste near one of America’s most prestigious Army training facilities.

He has had countless interviews for various radio and blog shows – his most recent with CJEvolutions discussing the current world of terrorism in the United States – which his novel Soft Target detailed.

John is on the constant move of stretching fiction to the limits in his writing and his expertise in the world of law enforcement is clearly seen in his writings.

Operation Scorpion

PI Frank Sanders is “blown away” by the woman who strolls into his office one morning. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also rich and willing to pay whatever it takes for him to find her missing father, world-famous geologist Dr. Stephen Jaspers who went rock hunting in the desert and hasn’t been heard from since. A retired Riverside California Police Department detective, Frank is used to searching for people. He takes the case, assuming it’s a simple missing person. But what he uncovers is more than he bargained for, leading him to suspect that he’s about to be blown away–literally, this time–along with everyone else in Southern California.

Black Opal Books -Paperback


John and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a message.


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John Achor – Five-Six Deadly Mix

This week, I’m welcoming author, John Achor to my blog.

The first of John Achor’s three careers spanned twenty years as a U.S. Air Force pilot. He accumulated over 4,000 hours flying planes from Piper Cubs to the military equivalent of the Boeing 707. After the military, he entered the real estate industry. He joined a national real estate franchise as a management consultant working at the regional and national levels. Those positions led him to Phoenix, Arizona, and an affiliation with a major Savings & Loan institution.

In John’s words, “When the Savings and Loan industry melted away like a lump of sugar in hot coffee, I knew it was time to develop a third career.” He became a freelance computer instructor, user-developer, consultant, writer and Community College instructor.

In mid-1999, John moved to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, where he lived in the piney woods with his wife Pat and their two cats, Lexus and Betsy Ross. As you may know from his latest book or web site; these two cats are no longer with them. Big hole in their lives, but both are waiting for us by The Rainbow Bridge. Their latest move was a recent relocation to the Omaha, Nebraska area where John is busy meeting and greeting new writers, readers and writing groups.



The title of this posting suggests there are two schools for thought regarding the use of  outlines for writing ― in my case long fiction mysteries and thrillers. This is another writing subject where the experts disagree. I’ve found many who belong to one camp or the other and suggest they are correct ― meaning the rest of the world is therefore wrong. Back in the day when I was doing consulting work, we defined an expert as anyone with a briefcase who was fifty miles from home.

When speaking to authors, I am willing to share the techniques I use, and some I do not use. I put them forward and always suggest each person select the ones which work for them. I have a big enough ego to think I’m right, and I’ve had enough experience to know what works for me.

So, what’s the answer to the question the title proffers. The answer, for me, is Yes and Yes. The first novel I wrote was a thriller. It popped from my head fully formed ― much as Athena leapt from the head of Zeus, wearing full armor. Always thought that must have been super painful.

My first story came to me with mental details from A to Z ― a beginning, a middle and an end. I began to write (not in one sitting) and didn’t stop until I penned: The End. In those days many agents and publishers wasn’t to see the outline. I could oblige since, after the fact, I went back and created an outline of the story.

The second novel came to me as the germ of an idea. I had a feint idea of a start, but beyond that, it was blank white paper ― a clean uncluttered monitor screen. I began the outline and roughed out the full book chapter by chapter. Having an outline does not mean there is no room for change. Seldom does the full story come out on the computer screen directly from the outline. Yes, I made changes, however the outline was a major contributor to my efforts.

I once read an article stating there was no such thing as writer’s block. I pondered his premise and came to agree with him. This author said what most of us call writer’s block is simply a point where we don’t know where the story should go from the last words we’ve written … I found that was true for me, and used outlining to continue the story line. I usually find that creating an outline for the next few scenes or chapters breaks the log jam.

Again, these work for me. Skip the outline when everything is a go; use that approach when it will assist and speed up the writing flow. As you can see, I’ve used and skipped outlines as needed, and I suggest every author decide what works for them ― and keep the pencil moving (a phrase Natalie Goldberg introduced in “Writing Down the Bones).

Good muse …

Five-Six Deadly Mix

Casey Fremont has a knack for solving mysteries…

She also has a habit of ending up in danger…and this time both may get her killed!

In FIVE-SIX, DEADLY MIX, Casey Fremont lands in the middle of a combined local police/FBI investigation into fraud and theft at a local hospital. Also, Two women have suspiciously fallen to their deaths before Casey reports for work in her undercover role.
Once again, Casey brings her roommates, Effie Tremayne and Aaron Kincaid, along to lend a hand.

As usual, the rest of Casey’s life is in turmoil as well. Love interests shift and change, someone close to Casey falls ill, and she receives a visit from an uncle she’s not seen in years. This all forces Casey to make decisions that affect her while she edges ever closer to the truth of the hospital case, once more putting that life in deadly peril!
FIVE-SIX, DEADLY MIX is the third Casey Fremont Mystery from Author John Achor! Intrigue and Real life drama collide for Casey once again in this exciting volume of deduction and death! From Pro Se Productions.

Five-Six, Deadly Mix by [Achor, John]

Amazon buy link for Five-Six, Deadly Mix:

Amazon buy link for Three-Four, Kill Some More:

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John and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.



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Nancy Boyarsky – The Swap

Today, I’m hosting author, Nancy Boyarsky.

Nancy Boyarsky was born in Oakland, California. After graduating from U.C. Berkeley, her first job was as an assistant editor in a tiny, long-gone publishing company in San Francisco. She has worked as a writer and editor all of her life.

She is married to former Los Angeles Times City Editor Bill Boyarsky and lives in Los Angeles. She still devotes herself to writing, editing, and reading and has added painting to her list of hobbies. She loves the theater, films and travel, especially to the UK, where her first mystery, The Swap, takes place.

The Swap

When Nicole Graves arranges a summer-long swap of her Los Angeles condo for a London couple’s house, she thinks it’s the perfect arrangement. She’s always dreamed of seeing the real London; she’s also hopeful the time away with her husband Brad will be good for their troubled marriage.

But things don’t turn out the way Nicole expects: The Londoners fail to arrive in L.A. and appear to be missing. Then people begin following Nicole and making threats, demanding information she doesn’t have. Soon, Nicole realizes she’s in serious trouble–but she can’t get Brad or the police to believe her.

When the confrontations turn deadly, Nicole must either solve the case or become the next victim.

Here is an excerpt:

Afterward, Nicole blamed herself for not sensing something wrong that very first day, when she stepped across the Lowrys’ threshold into their shabby front hall. But what, really, was there to notice, beyond the fact that the house was less than she’d expected? She was too exhausted from the long flight. If she was worried about anything, it was Brad’s silence, the impenetrable gloom that had enveloped him since they’d left L.A.

 After a day or two, when she began to suspect she was in danger, it was impossible to get anyone to believe her. By the time the car blew up with that poor man inside, she understood this was no random act of terrorism. They were in serious trouble. Yet try as she might, it was impossible to convince Brad that the car bomb had anything to do with them, or the house swap, or the Lowrys, for that matter.

My ✰✰✰✰✰ Review

I enjoyed reading this novel very much. The story grips you from the very first page and doesn’t let go. With each succeeding page, the underlying tension is there in the words and the actions of the characters. The book was hard to put down and had me reading well into the night, with a well-formulated plot and more than a little romantic suspense. I highly recommend it.

Be sure to catch this brief video of, The Swap, on YouTube:

The Swap is available on Amazon:


Nancy’s Website:

Nancy and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.

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Gwen Mayo/Sarah Glenn – Murder on the Mullet Express

This week, I’m hosting authors, Gwen Mayo and Sarah Glenn.


Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn.

Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Gwen has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.

Sarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but she’s great with crosswords. Her most interesting job was working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned that criminals really are dumb.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of.

County Seat

By Gwen Mayo

While researching the first Three Snowbirds mystery, Sarah and I ran across a lot of interesting tidbits of history that weren’t relevant to the story, but gave us a lot of insight into the people who built Citrus County. One of the tidbits that amused me dates back to the founding of the county. It had no place in Murder on the Mullet Express, but I think it shows the character and determination of the people.

In 1887, Florida Governor E. A. Perry signed into law a bill dividing Hernando County into three counties: Citrus to the north, and Pasco to the south. Legislation stipulated that for two years the town of Mannfield would be the temporary county seat of Citrus County, as it sat in the geographical center of the newly created county.

Voters were to decide where the permanent county seat would be located. The county was pretty much equally divided over keeping Mannfield as the county seat or moving it to Inverness. The political fight that ensued while trying to decide the permanent location of the county seat continued for the better part of two years. Several votes were taken without either side winning a majority.

On May 4, 1891, the supporters of Inverness finally won in a very close vote. That might have been the end of the story, but the opposition had no intention of quitting just because they lost by a few votes. Many of the county officials simply refused to move. The fight raged on, including a few fistfights. Mannfield supporters took the case to circuit court and managed to get a court injunction preventing the move.

Word travels fast, and the Inverness backers were determined to claim their hard-won victory. Before the injunction preventing moving the county seat could be served, Inverness supporters staged a midnight raid. Horses and wagons manned by Inverness supporters arrived in Mannfield. Everything that had to do with County government: records, court furniture, and fixtures, were stripped from the old courthouse and moved to the new county seat. Captain W.C. Zimmerman, the County Clerk, was in his office at the time and refused to move. Inverness men picked up his chair with him in it, loaded him in the wagon with his desk, and transported him and his office to the new location!

Inverness is still the county seat, and one of only two incorporated cities in Citrus County. As for what happened to Mannfield, only a few foundations remain. During the Great Depression, the United States Government purchased the property as part of the land conservation effort. Mannfield is now part of Florida’s Withlacoochee State Forest.

Here is an excerpt from Murder on the Mullet Express.

The Ladies Settle Into Their Room at Riverside Lodge

 “I don’t know if buying a house here would be wise,” Teddy said as she hung her dresses in the wardrobe. “It’s not nearly as built up as the brochure suggested.”

“We haven’t seen where they’re building yet. Besides, not everything needs to be built up,” Cornelia replied, unrolling her stockings. “Quiet is its own tonic.”

“This is even more isolated than Fisher’s Mill. Only one store, no library, no sign of any nightlife—”

A shriek from the shared bathroom interrupted Teddy’s litany. The nurses dropped their respective projects and rushed to the door.

When Cornelia opened it, a young woman fell backwards into her arms. The girl screamed, and it was clear that she was the source of the first cry.

Cornelia stood her back on her feet. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s horrible!” she managed.

“That’s hardly helpful,” she snapped, and left her for Teddy to manage. Cornelia stepped into the frame of the bathroom door.

The opposite door was also open. An older woman with salt-and-pepper hair stood there, scanning the room with frightened eyes. The chamber behind her was strewn with clothing and hatboxes.

“Careful,” she said, “there’s a creature in here.”

“Creature? Where is it?”

“In the bath. A reptile or a snake.” The woman shuddered.

“Let me look.” Cornelia slid into the room, eyeing the crevices and corners with suspicion. At any moment, she might need to jump back if it were a poisonous snake.

The first and second corners were empty; a toiletry bag obscured the third. A strong chance of enemy action there. The fourth corner was hidden by the tub. She glanced over the top.

A small lizard blinked up at her. It was probably a gecko. Cornelia leaned on the edge of the sink and reached for the bath towel. She flung it over the creature, bundling the reptile inside.

“Coming through!” she shouted, carrying the wad of fabric into a hallway crowded with curious guests. “Out of the way, or I’ll drop this lizard down someone’s trousers!”

The crowd parted like the Red Sea, and she charged through the exit and onto the grounds. One snap of the towel, and the unwanted guest skittered into the bushes.

“I wouldn’t come back if I were you,” she warned the gecko. “They might make you into a change purse.”

The night manager, a Mr. Hoyt, was busy trying to calm his guests. “I’m very sorry, ma’am. I’ll check the room myself before you go back in.”

“I demand another room! Better yet, another hotel!” The woman with salt-and-pepper hair sounded bold, but her hands trembled.

“Ma’am, you can do what you think best, but I don’t have any open rooms, and I don’t think any other hotels in the area have an empty room, either.”

Cornelia sighed and looked at Teddy, who was trying to hide a smile. “If you’d like, I could check the bathroom regularly for varmints.”

“That would be very kind of you, Mrs.—?”

“Miss. Cornelia Pettijohn.”

“I’m Helen Minyard, and this is my niece, Kathleen Burnell. We’re indebted to you.”

I caught a lizard, not a rattlesnake, Cornelia thought, but merely replied, “It’s a small price to pay for everyone’s peace of mind.”

Later, after everyone had returned to their rooms, Teddy and Cornelia pushed the two single beds together.

“That was so funny,” Teddy said. “All that fuss over a gecko.”

“I remember another girl who made a similar fuss in San Juan. She was quite upset about a gecko.”

“That wasn’t a gecko; that was an anole. He puffed up his sac and made a pass at me, the masher.”

“But you screamed just as loud.”

“And you came to my rescue. I don’t recall dropping into your arms the same way, though.”

“No, you already had me just where you wanted me.”

They both laughed.


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Carl Bookins – The Case of the Stolen Case

This week I’m welcoming back author, Carl Bookins.

Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

You are doing what?

OK. So I’m old, or aging, or however you want to phrase it. But I still have all my faculties. At least most of them. In some form.

So why, at 84, when I should probably go sit by the pool and read a good book, am I trying to establish a small publishing firm? That’s a very good question. I’ll try to answer it in a way that brings up numerous other questions I won’t try to answer.

I write stories, mostly crime fiction novels. You can find them at bookstores and on line under my name. I’ve been writing in one guise or another for about sixty years. My wife is a retired editor and publisher. You can see we’ve been pretty close observers of the writing field and we started when most writers used mechanical typewriters.

Back in the day, a writer wrote, submitted to an editor or agent who found a publisher and the work was eventually published. hard cover, paperback, trade editions, they all came out of professional publishing houses. It was not an inexpensive process.

There was something else, called Vanity Press, in which a writer could pay for the production of his or her book, usually without benefit of any professional editing. Most of those books seemed to fulfill the author’s needs but no one else’s.

Fast forward to the Twenty-first Century and new technology has made it possible to produce relatively inexpensive books in short order. But for them to stay out of the vanity publishing group, they still need rewrites, good book and cover designs, printing and distributing expertise. If you can provide all that, you can be a bone fide publisher. And it all costs money , to be paid for, hopefully, by future sales of the books you produce.

I’ve always believed that the authors ought to have more influence over publishing decisions, so I envision the formation of some kind of co-op to make most of the decisions about publishing books by this house, called Brookins Books, LLC. That’s what I am doing, very slowly and cautiously because all the functions of the publishing house cost money up front.. We’ll see how it goes.

The Case of the Stolen Case

Short private eye Sean NMI Sean grabs his gat and gets on his high horse to battle a roving gang of thieves and murderers. The gang has come to town after an unsolved pharmacy murder and robbery. A mysterious silver-colored case of unknown contents appears and disappears as Sean sorts a tangled web. When the gang targets Sean’s lady love, he mounts his high horse and like a house afire rides to retribution.



Twitter: @carlbrookins

Buy links:

The Case of the Yellow Diamond

The Case of the Stolen Case

Come and enjoy a time of conversation with author Carl Brookins as he talks about translating his sailing adventures to fiction and creating fictional characters that feel like old friends. Brookins is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.


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