Thursday teaser: Sugar for Sugar — an excerpt

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Excerpt from Seb Kirby

This week’s excerpt comes from Seb Kirby’s latest novel.

A sound from somewhere far off, getting closer all the time.

I open my eyes. The phone is ringing.

I pick it up and look at the image on the screen.

The bearded man again, the one with the name Colin Tempest next to his photo. Someone I must know. I have to answer.

I take the call.

A male voice. “Issy, I’ve been trying to reach you but you haven’t been answering.”

I can’t concentrate on what he’s saying. I say the only thing that comes to me. “Who are you?”

“Don’t be foolish, Issy. It’s Colin. We need to talk.”

It’s a voice I’ve heard before.

“I can’t talk now.”

He’s insistent. “I can come over. Where are you?”

I look around the room. It doesn’t look familiar. I say the only thing I can. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever been in this place before.”

There’s a new note of concern in his voice. “I’ll find a way to help you, to make amends if you just tell me where you are.”

Make amends? So he’s done something to me. He thinks the reason I’m not talking to him is because of that.

“Tell me what you did to me.”

“I’m sorry, Issy. I’m really sorry but he left me no choice. You were the only one I could turn to, the only one who might have convinced him to change his mind.”

“What happened to Mike?”

“You know what happened to him, Issy. He died. A heart attack. You must know that. Why are you trying to pretend that none of this has happened?”

Mike is dead. I must have known that.

Is this the reason for these feelings of guilt I can’t control?

“I’m not pretending.”

He pauses for longer than he should. “The police have been here. What if they start interviewing everyone? It won’t be long before they get round to you and me. Whatever else is said, I need you to promise you won’t reveal our secret. You know it would ruin me and my family.”

I don’t know any secret. Why would he think I did?

“If anyone asks it’s not going to be a problem for me to tell them I don’t know.”

“Thank you, Issy. I knew I could depend on you.”

I stare again at the profile picture of the bearded man.

He wants me to trust him again but I know I can’t.

His voice breaks into my thoughts once more. “Look, Issy. I’ve got to go. Something urgent. Thanks for your help. Thanks for being so understanding. Thanks for everything.”

He closes the line.

I know that what’s been said won’t last long in my mind. I make a note on the phone.

Mike is dead.

Why do I feel so guilty?

Colin behaves like he owes me.

What is Sugar for Sugar?

Did you like this excerpt? Leave a comment.

Issy Cunningham has made a new life for herself but that’s all about to come crashing down. If only she could recall what happened that Valentine’s Eve, she would be able to tell the police what really took place.

But those memories won’t come because there’s too much in the past that troubles her.

How can she set the record straight when her past won’t let her be?

What a great book. It hooked me immediately and I did not want to put it down.—J L Edwards

This book kept me guessing … books are always best when you don’t see things coming!—Dawn

A super read. One of the things I really like about books by Seb Kirby is the obvious attention to detail that he has in his writing, it is quite outstanding.—Susan Hampson, Books From Dusk ‘Til Dawn

If you liked this excerpt, get the whole book from Amazon.

About the author

Seb Kirby was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He is author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More, and the science-fiction thriller, Double Bind.

Visit his

And follow him on Twitter @Seb_Kirby

 

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Writing a book is like running a (half) marathon

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This post originally appeared on Author DelSheree Gladden’s blog.

Last month, my husband and I just ran our second half marathon.

How is writing a book like running a half marathon?

The first few miles of a half marathon are awesome. Your adrenaline is pumping, you’re excited to get the race going, and 13 miles doesn’t sound that bad now that you’ve actually got your sneakers on the course. You’ll definitely beat your personal best, by at least half an hour.

When you first start writing a new idea, it’s exciting and you think feel like you’ll be able to write straight to the end because it’s that amazing! You can sit for hours on end scribbling down witty dialogue and captivating scenes. 300 pages? That’s nothing, right?

The fun and adrenaline starts to taper off somewhere around mile 6 or page 50.

When it comes to running, your adrenaline is pushing you to churn out a faster pace than you’ve ever run before. You’re pretty sure you can try out for the Olympics in a few years. Everything feels amazing. Until it doesn’t.

World and character building has been a rush, and setting up all those clever little hints has convinced you that there won’t be a single reader in the world who will guess the ending. It’s the best opening of a book you’ve ever written or read. Until your creativity takes a nose dive.

That’s when you hit a wall…creatively or physically.

The physical wall you hit halfway through your half marathon is aggravating and painful. Your knees start to ache. Your hip feels like it has no cartilage left. Every step is torture and you’re regretting ever signing up for this stupid race. There’s no way you can finish. Every time a car passes by you hope they’ll stop and give you a ride to the finish line. But no one stops, so you Just Keep Running.

One moment you’re writing like a crazy person…then all the words dry up. Each one feels like you have to drag it to the surface by force. You’re pretty sure you now have carpal tunnel from the frantic writing. Where has it left you? You’ve set up fabulous characters and a storyline no reader will be able to put down, but keeping up the same momentum seems impossible when you move from doling out exciting tidbits to carrying on a consistently engaging story where you don’t lapse into pointless dialogue or never ending description of a walk through the park sounds impossible. But you Just Have To Keep Writing even though you’re now  positive the whole book sucks and you never should have started writing it.

Then something changes again.

When you see mile marker 11 come into view and you realize you’re almost done, the tears aren’t easy to hold back. Pain, joy, madness…it’s hard to tell. You’re too dehydrated to cry, though, so you hobble onward with renewed energy. As much pain as you’re in, you’re almost there! You can make it.

With writing, the middle section that felt like torture to write and wanted to throw across the room while crying about how terrible it was…everything suddenly comes together. That chapter where your characters endlessly walked through the park went from being a Tolkienesque history of the trees to a pivotal conversation that helped them solve the mystery for fix their relationship. You know how the story ends now!

Crossing the finish line, writing the end, both feel incredible…but neither one is really the end because you know you’re going to be sore for a week or have a long list of rewrites to work on, BUT it’s a huge milestone to hit and it was totally worth it regardless of the messy shape your body or manuscript is in.

After our race, we got a breakfast burrito and a beer, which I’ll be honest, sounded like a horrible idea at ten in the morning after running 13 miles (the race was hosted by a brewery), but both were actually much appreciated because I was starving and in pain and food and alcohol proved to be exactly what I needed.

Finishing a manuscript is also something to be proud of regardless of the fact that it might have choppy scenes and stilted dialogue and a handful of hints you forgot to ever bring back into the plot. You started a book. You finished it. How many people have wanted to write a book and gave up after a few chapters? A lot.

After running a half marathon, I take a good couple weeks (or maybe a month) off from running. It’s time for yoga, core work, maybe a little biking. My body needs to recover, and honestly so does my motivation.

As soon as you type out THE END, take a good long break from your manuscript, too. Don’t even look at it. Think about it, if you want, consider those problem areas and forgotten clues, but leave the book alone for as long as you can stand it. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to write sometimes. Give yourself a break so you can come back for the editing round with fresh eyes and some excitement.

Whether you’re running or writing, don’t give up when it gets painful or hard. You’ll learn a lot from your mistakes and be better for it in the end. It took me ten years to publish my first book and a year and a half or running 5 days a week to survive a half marathon. The journey to do something awesome sometimes sucks, a lot, but it’s worth it in the end.

Cheers!

 

About the author

USA Today Bestselling Young Adult and Romance Author DelSheree Gladden loves books—reading them and writing them.

The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology. Local folk lore is strongly rooted in her writing, particularly ideas of prophecy, destiny, and talents born from natural abilities.

DelSheree lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist.

Visit:

And follow her on Twitter @Delsheree.

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Thursday teaser: Trojan

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By Alan McDermott

At 3 a.m. precisely, Wahid gave the signal for his men to make their move.

The chemical-weapons storage facility, a huge, one-storey building surrounded by a ten-foot wall made of reinforced concrete, was situated near a village on the outskirts of Homs.

Wahid’s men had been making their way towards the compound for the last four hours, crawling slowly on their bellies while covered with sand-coloured sheets. He had traced their painstaking progress, moving inches at a time to preserve the advantage of a surprise attack. A Syrian military unit was based less than three miles away, giving them minutes to carry out their mission before reinforcements arrived.

Wahid had been sweeping the walls of the compound for hours with his night-vision glasses, but there were no signs of CCTV cameras and no-one had stuck their heads up.

Still, he wasn’t taking any chances.

Seven of his soldiers were now ten feet from the wall, and he watched from 600 yards away as they prepared rappelling ropes with rubber-coated hooks on the end. The first man swung his towards the top of the wall and Wahid saw it come tumbling back down. The man tried again, and this time the hook caught. Three of his people were already halfway up the wall, and he’d heard nothing from inside the facility to suggest they’d been compromised.

He watched as the men disappeared over the wall, then ordered his reserve to move up. His own driver was the first to crank his engine and gun the truck towards the gates. In the darkness, Wahid could see flashes of light dancing off the top of the wall.

By the time he reached the gate, it was already open, with two of his men standing guard. The bodies of four Syrian soldiers lay on the ground. Wahid walked over to one of the dead and removed a plastic card from a chain on the corpse’s waist, then jogged to the glass double doors and swiped it. A click signified that they had entry, and he stepped aside as his men poured into the building.

Gunfire erupted as Wahid’s soldiers pushed forward, then subsided as he entered the building. Three more guards lay dead, leaving another three to contend with. He jogged down the hallway to the junction and looked both ways. The right was clear, and he ordered two men to cover it. To the left, his people were already working to open the door he’d ordered them to look for. He ran to join them just as it burst inwards.

Wahid let the soldiers check the room for guards, then walked inside and looked at the bank of large refrigerated cabinets. Third from the left on the top shelf, he’d been told, and when he looked at the labels, he confirmed that the intelligence his master had paid for was accurate. The cabinet door was locked, so he used the grip of his pistol to shatter the glass and carefully lifted the tray of phials off the shelf. He placed it on a workbench and extracted a leather case from inside his combat jacket.

He’d been instructed to take five phials, no fewer. He stole a look at his watch and saw that it had been two minutes since the first gunshots. The army would have been alerted by now: he had to get his men out of here.

With the small bag now full of glass tubes, Wahid told his men to follow him, and he ran back out into the night.

‘They’re coming,’ his driver told him as he jumped into the passenger seat of the truck. Wahid snatched up the NVGs and saw the army convoy in the distance. He stuck his head out of the window and shouted to his lieutenant. ‘I must get this safely to Karim. You know what to do.’

Without waiting for a response, Wahid told the driver to floor it, and he left the scene trailing a cloud of dust in his wake.

His men would fight until he was well clear of the area, and many of them would die before sunrise. Whatever he was carrying in his small bag, he hoped it was worth the price they would pay tonight.

About Trojan

When MI5 learns that a horrifying new weapon is in enemy hands, agent Andrew Harvey is called in to track it down before it reaches British soil.

The clock is ticking. Andrew and his girlfriend, Sarah, also a secret service operative, have only one lead: a beautiful refugee, desperate not to lose her son. But is she desperate enough to betray everything she believes in? And will she do it in time to help them prevent a terrifying attack?

As Andrew and Sarah race to unravel a convoluted web of subterfuge and exploitation, they discover there is more at stake than even they knew. And somewhere, at the heart of it, lurks a faceless enemy, who is prepared to use everything—and everyone—at his disposal.

About the author

Alan McDermott lives in the south of England,  and is married with beautiful twin daughters. He recently gave up his job of creating critical applications for the NHS to write action thrillers full time.

His debut novel, Gray Justice, was very well received and earned him bestseller status. The next two books in the series — Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption — were enough to attract the attention of a major publisher, and he has since added Gray RetributionGray Vengeance and Gray Salvation to the list.  Alan’s seventh title, Trojan, released in 2017, is a spinoff featuring MI5 agent Andrew Harvey.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page     |     Amazon Author Page     |    Facebook     |    Twitter

|  Website and blog  |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Thursday teaser: The Wife Line

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By Scott Bury

“Drink more wine,” a woman in a white micro-dress said to the nervous blond. “Try to relax.” She also spoke Czech, and had short red hair. Irina was glad she had not opted to dye her own hair. She touched the glass of wine in her hand to her lips, barely tasting it. Thin and sour. She tried to remember the last time she had eaten. Pavel was generous with pills and bad wine, but not so much with food. 

“Pavel said this would be a high-class party. We’re supposed to meet men who could be our husbands,” said the blond. 

Little fool, Irina thought. She took another tiny sip of wine. Stay sober tonight, she reminded herself. “I don’t think these men will be interested in wives,” she said in Ukrainian.  

“The husband option ended last week,” said the redhead, in Czech. “You had one month to become a mail-order bride. Tonight, men are going to select from us to be mistresses.” 

The blond girl’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open. “You had better smarten up and catch one of the men who are coming here tonight,” the redhead continued. “Because if you don’t, the next step is porn.” 

Irina stepped between them. “Stop it,” she said, voice flat. “You’re upsetting her more.” 

“Do you think lying will help her?” the redhead retorted in flawless Ukrainian. “It’s time she faced reality.”

Pavel came in then, short but powerful looking. His hair had been cut to stubble over his scalp, making him look even more dangerous than before. He carried two open bottles of his awful wine and started refilling glasses. “Speak English, ladies!” he boomed. “You are in England now.” He stopped in front of the redhead and refilled her glass. “Why are you not drinking? This is a party,” he said to Irina.” He turned to fill the blond’s glass. She was on the edge of tears. “If you cry I will break your arm.”

The blond girl impressed Irina by sniffling only once, turning her mouth into something like a smile and then drinking half her wine without coughing. Pavel turned to the redhead. “Make trouble again and I will kill you.” 

He left the room and as the door swung shut, Irina heard him booming a greeting. His guests had begun to arrive. 

The blond stepped closer to Irina. “Is she right?” she said in English.  

Irina stepped back and drank her own wine, suppressing a shudder. She wished Pavel had given her some pills instead. “It’s time to grow up, sweetie. Smile and be nice, and maybe you’ll get a man who isn’t too bad.”  

Pavel threw the door open again and shouted “Come in, ladies!” 

Twenty thin, beautiful young women in cheap but revealing party dresses filed from the hallway into the party room filled with middle-aged, fat and bald men in expensive suits. Every one of them had a drink in his hand. They cheered and ogled the women. At each corner of the room was one of Pavel’s men: young, muscular and grim, wearing cheap suits that did a poor job of concealing their guns.

Irina went in last. When she reached the doorway, she heard a low voice beside her say, in American-accented English, “Don’t you want to get out of this?” 

She turned, shocked. The door to the front room closed and in front of her stood a tall young man. There was no way he was one of Pavel’s “gentlemen”—he was far too young, and he wore tattered, cheap blue jeans and a t-shirt with a picture of a cat on it. His blond hair hung past his shoulders as if he had not brushed it in a week and yellow stubble softened his hard jawline. 

She just looked for a few moments, wondering where he had come from. “Where else would I go?” 

“Back home,” said the blond man.

Irina snorted through her nose. “Back to what? Lousy job, good-for-nothing boyfriend, drunk parents, little apartment? Besides, Pavel would find me and kill me.”

“Not if all of you get out of here.” He looked at the door. “We don’t have much time. You’re the smartest one here. When the fire starts, get the girls out. Hide. There are empty buildings used by squatters two blocks west of here.” He pressed a piece of paper into her hand. “Memorize this phone number. It’s a government agency that helps trafficked women. Tell them Van sent you. Be ready to leave in five minutes.”

“What will happen in five minutes?”

“The security alarms will go off and all the doors will unlock because of a gas leak and fire.” 

“How will that happen?”

“I’ll make it happen.”

The door swung open again. “There you are!” Pavel shouted in Russian. She turned toward the mysterious blond man, but where he had stood was only empty space.

About The Wife Line

Human traffickers are selling young women from eastern Europe as sex slaves and killing them when they become inconvenient. Sydney Rye’s job is only to protect her client, until a mysterious, aggravating and irresistible young crusader pulls her and Blue on a far more dangerous path: taking down the whole slaving ring.

If you like Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye series featuring a strong female character, her canine best friend, Blue, tons of action and a dash of sex, you won’t be able to put The Wife Line down.

Start following Sydney, Blue and Van across the seamiest part of Europe right now.

About the author

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has written in the Lei Crime (Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying, Echoes), Jet (Jet: Stealth) and Sydney Rye (The Wife Line, The Three-Way) Kindle Worlds.

His latest work is the Eastern Front trilogy: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.

Get to know Scott from his:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

 

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In praise of the cliché

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Source: Commons Wikimedia

Writers are always teaching me, whether they know it or not. I’ve been editing and beta-reading manuscripts for a number of people this summer, and their words make me re-evaluate some ideas I held firmly for some time. And I keep coming to the same dilemma: at what point does trimming text and adhering to the current stylistic conventions begin to trample legitimate expressions of writing style?

Every writer has heard of Elmore’ Leonard’s “Ten Rules for Good Writing.” You can Google them easily enough.

Elmore Leonard

And it seems to me that the “rules” thrown around by those who claim to be publishing professionals and insiders are often contradictory. For instance, real professional authors don’t use adverbs much, if at all. I once heard an author in a radio interview claim proudly (there’s another adverb, damnit!) that he only had three or four adverbs in his whole book.

Then there’s the dilemma over dialog. “Never use a word other than ‘said’ to describe dialog,” advised Mr. Leonard. Also, never modify “said” with an adverb.

Meanwhile, I read some time ago that a large number of grade-school teachers across the US encouraged their pupils never to use “said” in their compositions. They could use “exclaimed,” “asked,” “replied,” “retorted” or anything else that made sense, but not “said.”

In providing a beta-read for a good friend’s new manuscript, I couldn’t bring myself to follow either rule. Now, there were times that I thought “said” was the right word, and I suggested that to my best-selling friend. But sometimes, as a writer, you want to describe how someone spoke. So you need either a stronger verb—which breaks Mr. Leonard’s Rule #3, or you need to describe with an adverb, which breaks rule number 4, or longer description, which breaks rule number 9 (“Don’t go into great detail describing places and things”).

Probably Leonard’s most famous rule is “Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘all hell broke loose.’” Usually, it’s good advice. If something happens suddenly, then you can usually find a stronger verb to describe it.

He came in suddenly. He burst into the room. And you never need to write “it burst suddenly.” A burst is a sudden thing.

But sometimes, “suddenly” is the right word. Here’s an example from my first book, The Bones of the Earth:

[Photius’] staff was glowing white, and [Javor] suddenly understood it had been the source of the white flashes.

I suppose I could have written it differently, but this phrase most efficiently conveys the meaning to the reader—that the character understood a cause-and-effect relationship in an instant, after a period when he did not. I could have written “the glowing stick made him realize in an instant….” But that would have taken more words.

Rules of writing, shmules of writing

Image: Flickr Creative Commons

In my own writing, I try to avoid clichés (like the plague, right). For a new client, I explained that removing or replacing clichés was part of my standard level of service, and she stopped me immediately (damn, another adverb). Clichés are part of her style. They’re part of the way she speaks and she wants her little expressions in her written work, too.

That made me think about clichés, and alter my opinion. Really, they’re a form of jargon. Words can have more than one meaning, and any phrase, sentence or longer writing works on several levels. It conveys the literal message, as well as memories and associations. That’s how advertising works—by associating a word, a message or an image, or a combination of them, with positive feelings. “Buy this stuff and you’ll be happy.”

We can think of clichés as our modern social jargon. Jargon does more than convey a specific meaning within a narrow group: it identifies the speaker or writer as someone in the know, part of the club. Current slang and clichés serve the same purpose. They tell the audience that the user is up to date, part of the in crowd. Using last year’s slang is also dangerous—it tells the audience you’re out of date.

In fact, using a cliché well may be the most efficient way to achieve your communications goal: to get a particular reaction from your audience.

And the way people use quotation marks in writing, or air quotes when the say a well-used phrase, is akin to a bibliographic entry. Quotation marks essentially mean that the words they contain are not the writer’s original work, but someone else’s. The writer or speaker who uses them is giving credit, or at least, admitting they’re using another person’s expression.

Maybe there is room in the professional, credible publishing world for description, for using clichés and words other than “said.” If we all follow the same style conventions, isn’t all writing going to seem the same? Isn’t diversity what we want?

Have I blown my credibility out of the water by daring to support that pariah of the writing world, the cliché? By arguing against Elmore Leonard?

“That’s just the way I roll,” I thought suddenly.

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New book: The Man Who Talks to Strangers

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By Caleb Pirtle III

Caleb Pirtle III has traveled down many back roads and dead end streets during his writing career as newspaperman, magazine editor, and author. He collects people. More accurately, he collects their stories. Some call him a writer. He calls himself a thief. He says, “I steal their stories, write, and publish them.”

He has written a memoir of sorts about many of those whose paths he crossed – from the down and out to national celebrities, from country music stars to death row inmates, from hit men and lawyers to farmers who struck it rich when the oil fields broke the Great Depression that gripped East Texas.

You will find a mesmerizing collection of the famous, the notorious, the unknown. Pirtle’s stories will make you laugh and cry and feel good about mankind. Some are hard edged. Some prick and warm the heart. He says, “What happens is never as important as the people who make it happen,” and those in his memoir are not easy to forget. As one reviewer said, “His writing reads like short stories of literary fiction. They’re not quite like anything you’ve read before.”

Pirtle believes his whole life has hinged on one simple fact. He’s the man who talks to strangers wherever he happens to find them.

Get The Man Who Talks to Strangers on Amazon.

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the DeadConspiracy of Lies, Night Side of Dark and Place of Skulls.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Get to know Caleb at his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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Thursday teaser: Wired Dark

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Book 4 in the Paradise Crime series launches today!

By Toby Neal

 

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang walked through the velvet-dark night, patrolling a beachfront property in Wailea on Maui. She found comfort in the familiar weight of her Glock on one hip as her hand rested on it, but she kept her arms loose, ready for action, as she scanned the area. Rocker Shank Miller’s estate was as protected as Sophie and her Security Solutions partner, Jake Dunn, could make it—but something had set off one of the property’s perimeter motion detectors, and it was Sophie’s turn to check out the disturbance.

The hammered pewter gleam of moonlight reflected off a great swath of beach and rendered Miller’s manicured lawn in shades of gray, casting ornamental plantings into black shadow. Natural stone pavers, set into the grass, made an easy route around the clustered ferns, flowering trees, and birds of paradise that ringed the grounds.

Jake had wanted to cut all the plantings way back to improve visibility and monitoring, but Miller had refused. “I didn’t spend ten million on this getaway spot so I could hide out inside a cement bunker with no view,” the rock star had said. “I come here to relax. Growing green stuff helps me relax, and so does my view. Do the best you can with those challenges, but I won’t lose either.”

Her partner never did anything by half measures, and he took Shank Miller’s safety more seriously than the man did himself. Jake had supervised the installation of a Plexiglas wall to preserve that view, a bulletproof, impenetrable and almost invisible barrier on Sophie’s left.

Sophie headed toward the corner closest to the beach where the alarm had sounded. Motion detectors, buried and almost invisible in the plantings, created frequent disturbances for their team, and Sophie was still getting used to being part of that team.

Jake took up a lot of personal space. Sometimes he made it hard for her to breathe, and it was that need for space that had driven Sophie to ask for a guest room inside the main house so that they weren’t both occupying the small cottage that had become the team’s security headquarters. The computer monitoring station had been moved from the main house out there too, and Jake stayed out there with their two backup operatives, Jesse Kanaka and Ronnie Fellowes.

Sophie reached the corner of the grounds where the alarm had gone off. Jake had wanted to put in lights that responded to the motion detectors, but Shank had put his boot-clad foot down again. “I can’t have this place lit up like a stadium every time a gecko runs across the freakin’ fence.”

That meant that the corner Sophie approached, hidden on the beach side by a clump of native bushes, was inky-dark. Sophie pulled out a powerful flashlight and shone it over the area. Illumination played over the smooth grass and shadowy foliage.

Nothing. Probably just a gecko, one of those ubiquitous Hawaiian lizards that hunted insects at night.

Sophie was moving on when the beam caught a flash of color. She turned and lit up the item.

Lying beneath a cluster of bird of paradise were a plastic bride and groom, the toys rubber-banded together, wrapped in each other’s arms.

Sophie scanned for movement along the bushes of the public beach for any sign of who might have thrown the dolls into the compound, but the area was deserted.

Nothing to see but the gleam of the moon on the ocean, nothing to hear but the sound of the surf and the rustle of a gentle night wind in the palm trees overhead.

Sophie reached into her pocket and removed a small plastic bag. She used it to pick up the figures, shining the light over a Barbie and Ken doll. The Barbie was dressed in a wedding gown, her long blonde hair braided, a veil over her face. The groom’s molded plastic hair had been colored over with Sharpie, and squiggles of black ink trailed down inside the doll’s tuxedo, representing Shank Miller’s long dark locks—and the male doll’s right hand, Miller’s guitar hand, had been sawed off.

About Wired Dark

Paradise Crime, Book 4

Paradise can’t contain a thirst for revenge.

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang returns to Maui, working alongside dynamic partner Jake Dunn to solve a series of bizarre and escalating threats against a rocker with a beach mansion. But soon, catching a crazed stalker becomes the least of Sophie’s problems: a deadly enemy is hell-bent to take her down along with anyone she cares about. Sophie’s very identity is tested as she grapples with issues of conscience and survival in a struggle that takes her to the edge of heartbreak, and beyond.

About the author

Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last fifteen years.

Toby is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Visit her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Thursday teaser: The Complete Mailing List Toolkit

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By Barb Drozdowich

Welcome to The Complete Mailing List Toolkit part of an ongoing series of author “how-to” books, which is designed to help you navigate the technical issues of self-publishing. This box set specifically focuses on how to create optimized reader newsletters, how to grow your mailing list, how to ensure your newsletter arrives in inboxes and how to master email marketing services such as MailChimp.

I will use the word “communication” a lot in this box set. I feel to be successfully engaged with your audience, you must communicate with them, not simply bombard them with email and social media posts. Whereas many experts focus on simply gaining subscribers, I argue that this is too narrow of a focus.

Why this book?

Two reasons:

  1. This book is well researched and pulls information from many different schools of thought, and
  2. I take a holistic view of communicating with readers.

Initially, my intention with this box set was to collect information from a wide variety of sources and condense it into a neat and easy-to-understand package for you. However, as I was researching, my opinion changed. I found that much of the information available online and in various webinars seemed to miss the boat in terms of accuracy, while others just seemed fixated on adding people to a mailing list like hoarders would add one more item to a collection. They weren’t looking at their readers as individuals, nor were they treating them as such.

I wanted to create something more “bigpicture-ish” (is that a word?)—that looks at all aspects and all facets,of communicating with readers using newsletters. Hence the box set. For authors who just want to attack one part of this puzzle, the books are available individually, but my wish is that they are all read together.

I come from a background of technical training and while I’m certainly comfortable with technology. I tend to be holistic in my view. I want to break subjects down into manageable sections, and I don’t want to skip topics because they are difficult to explain. I feel that I haven’t done my job unless I can explain complicated things and make them relevant to you. I’m holistic in terms of looking at one subject within a larger context.

In terms of communicating with readers, I don’t focus on only one part of the puzzle in this box set. I want you to understand why I suggest using shorter subject lines for a newsletter. I want you to understand why entertaining readers, is as important as communicating with them. I want you to understand why it is necessary to use an Email Marketing System right from the get go to communicate with readers. I want you to understand how to work within the laws that govern your actions when you communicate with readers. I want to explain why the technical aspects that many overlook are really important to success in your endeavors.

Most importantly, I want you to understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all methods of communication. The way you communicate with a teenager isn’t the way you would communicate with a senior. The material that fans of romance are interested in is not likely to be the same as fans of horror. I want you to learn what your audience wants, not take the advice of an expert without thinking about it and without testing it out. I want you to learn to talk WITH your audience, not AT your audience. I want you to see your readers as more than a wallet.

Seems like I have a huge objective! We are going to break the subject of communicating with readers down into four books. In the first book we are going to address the topic of gathering the names of interested readers. We’re going to view it as something other than hoarding.

Next we’ll learn to use MailChimp really well. There are many Email Marketing Services, but MailChimp is the most popular with folks just starting out. If you have already chosen a different service, note that the lessons in this section are transferable to other services.

In the third book we’re going to talk about making sure that our newsletters actually end up in the inbox of our readers. This book will be fairly technical, but you’ll have a good understanding of why best practices are what they are.

Finally, in the last book, we’re going to talk about how to create really great content that is appropriate for our readers. We’ll bring in some science, some psychology, and some good old-fashioned marketing to help you form a plan for going forward.

I guess it is too soon to say that I’ve really enjoyed writing these books … but I hope that you appreciate my efforts and learn to be better communicators with your readers!

About The Complete Mailing List Toolkit

Is a broken mailing list holding back your author career? Discover how to transform your marketing and attract dedicated readers.

Does emailing your subscribers feel like shouting into the void? Are you struggling to come up with newsletter ideas that resonate with readers? Author consultant Barb Drozdowich has spent decades teaching writers how to navigate the technological pitfalls of publishing. Now, she’s here to help you master your mailing list.

The Complete Mailing List Toolkit provides a holistic approach to reader engagement through the power of direct communication. This bundle of four essential books provides strategies for list building and step-by-step guidelines for creating content that turns readers into lifelong fans. Through a series of easy-to-follow explanations, you’ll finally discover how to optimize your use of MailChimp and revolutionize your author platform.

In The Complete Mailing List Toolkit, you’ll discover:

  • How to create attractive newsletters your readers will eagerly anticipate
  • How to troubleshoot deliverability issues so you can reach more readers
  • How to understand and measure open and click rates to gauge your success
  • How to tailor your message to meet the needs of your unique audience
  • Why quality engagement matters more than subscriber quantity, and much, much more!

The Complete Mailing List Toolkit is your how-to guide for mastering email outreach and connecting with more fans. If you like practical solutions, down-to-earth explanations, and empowering guidance from an industry expert, then you’ll love Barb Drozdowich’s career-changing box set.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

Social Media and WordPress Consultant Barb Drozdowich has taught in colleges, universities and in the banking industry. More recently, she brings her 15+ years of teaching experience and a deep love of books to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She delights in taking technical subjects and making them understandable by the average person. She owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, where she talks about Romance novels.

She is the author of 15 books, over 45 YouTube videos and an online WordPress course, all focused on helping authors and bloggers. Barb lives in the mountains of British Columbia with her family.

She can be found on her

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Monday musings: When characters surprise authors, part 2

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Gae-Lynn Woods continues the discussion about how characters in books sometimes seem to take over the direction of the story. 

It’s funny for me when authors talk about creating their characters, because only a few of mine are created by me; the rest simply appear when I need them. Most of the time I have no idea where they come from, but without fail, when I need a bad guy (or a good guy), one shows up with just the right attitudes and behaviors. Perhaps because I don’t plan most of my characters, they’re always surprising me by what I learn about them.

For example, one of the relatively minor characters in The Devil of Light, Ernie Munk, started off as just a regular police officer type, and I really didn’t expect much from him. In my second novel, Avangers of Blood, I found out that he physically lost his young daughter when he released her hand for only a moment in the middle of a crowded beach. That bit of his story, along with the depth of his grief and guilt and how they drive him, completely surprised me.

Surprises in a series

The character whose personal growth has surprised me most is Maxine Leverman. She turned up out of the blue in the middle of Avengers of Blood as Cass Elliot’s best friend through school. She’s flighty and moody and impetuous—the exact opposite of my main character, Cass—and I thought she might show up occasionally through the series as a minor character. Instead, I finished Avengers of Blood and ended up having to write a book featuring Maxine, just to get her to leave me alone!

Maxine grows a lot in A Case of Sour Grapes, learning to temper her impulsiveness (a little bit) and realizing that she might not know as much as she thinks she does. I really like her and hope she’ll grow into her own series.

Characters teach their author

The fact that my characters do show up when I need them and act of their own accord in ways that drive the story forward has given me confidence in the fact that I don’t (and in fact can’t) outline. It’s always worried me that I am so incapable of outlining, but I’m learning to trust that I’m writing stories that want to be told, set in a world inhabited by characters who actively want to participate. It’s a fabulous experience.

About Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Get to know Gae-Lynn better:

BestSelling Reads author page  |   Amazon Author page  |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Thursday teaser: A Second Chance with Death

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A short story

By Eden Baylee

The notion that a person might make a pact with Satan is not unheard of. It’s done in exchange for things such as eternal youth, wealth, or power. And the price? Selling one’s soul, of course.

Is this scary? Not to me. Personally, I’d never bargain with the devil. I go after what I want in this life guided by my own moral compass, not by fear of where my soul will end up in the afterlife.

I’m a pragmatist and an optimist. I’m not afraid to die, nor am I all that concerned with how I die, with one exception, that is, and that’s what brings me to the topic at hand—my conversations with death.

I’ve envisioned my own funeral hundreds of times. My body lying in an open casket—friends and family strolling by to pay their final respects, talking to one another in hushed tones, with  comments that go something like this:

Everything was going her way. What a shame.

I know, what a horrible thing to happen to such a vibrant woman. She was so happy too, actually looks like she still has a smile on her face.

Yeah, but I’d hate to die like that.

Yup, and that’s what brings me to my story about my little chats with Death himself. Yes, Death to me, is male. And as men don’t scare me, death doesn’t scare me either, that is, apart from the exception I alluded to earlier.

I know I have to die sometime, and that with each day, I move closer and closer to my grave, and yet, I fight it. I keep going, I keep being, I keep staving off the inevitable for as long as I can. I know Death will overcome me eventually, but it’s not like I think about him all the time. I’m the optimistic pragmatist, remember?

So why is it then , why is it that when I steal some intimate time, some time to engage in a private act that is so naturally human, why then is Death constantly lurking in the shadows, watching me, snickering, anticipating his nasty turn with me?  If this sounds cryptic, I apologize, perhaps it’s better if I show you what I mean.

Follow me to my bedroom, and you’ll see that he’s already there waiting for me.

I masturbate on a regular basis, so you might say, I have personal chats with Death on a  regular basis too. Unlike what most people think, Death is not cold. He’s hot, very, very hot. I feel his presence in the room as I undress. He lies next to me on the bed, and his heat immediately spreads to my body.

I tell him I’m not afraid of him, and he scoffs. I touch myself in the way that I know turns him on. I feel his face nearby as I shamelessly fondle my breasts, squeezing my nipples till they jut out and practically poke him in the eye.

About “A Second Chance with Death”

This story is included in Eden Baylee’s collection, Hot Flash. 

Flash fiction is defined as short written pieces. Twenty stories and poems with an erotic bent make up this collection.

The themes of love, lust, adultery, and regret are told in different voices, sometimes with an irreverent sense of humor.

Some pieces will touch you, others will seep into your subconscious. Don’t be surprised if you flinch from the heat.

WARNING: Contains two non-erotic entries. Pun intended.

About author Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to write and is now a full-time author of multiple genres.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often! She loves talking to readers! Connect to her via all her networks.

her BestSelling Reads author page   |     Amazon Author page    |    website   |    Facebook   |   LinkedIn   |    goodreads

And follow her on Twitter @edenbaylee.

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