Thursday teaser: Scorch Road


An exciting collaboration of two BestSelling authors:
Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman


“You’re the whole cold transport chain, Elizabeth. Don’t take your eyes off that thing until you get it to the CDC in Washington.” Dr. Fellerman stepped away, returning to his side of the big wooden desk. “There are ten vials of the isolated virus in there. And that case will keep it cold for at least three days.” He flopped into his chair and it rolled back a few inches. Dr. Fellerman closed his eyes. “It’s too late for me, but there are still a lot of people to save.”

Elizabeth stepped forward, wanting to hug him or say something to mark this parting. Dr. Fellerman had offered her guidance without pushing, and he’d been a great teacher—one of the rare people she trusted.

He frowned at her approach. “Don’t get too close. You’re not sick now, but you know how contagious this thing is.”

She nodded. “Thank you for everything.”

Dr. Fellerman gave her a weak smile. “Thank you, Elizabeth. And Godspeed.”

Elizabeth left his office and retraced her steps through the lab. As she waited for the elevator, Elizabeth looked down at the cryocase. Inside the insulated screw top, a smaller metal cylinder held the vials of cells. Liquid nitrogen filled the larger container, keeping the isolated virus at the optimum temperature, well below freezing. It had to stay that way or vaccine production would be set back by months.

What if she failed? The thought chilled her to her bones.



Wind drafted up his naked body as JT surveyed the land for the threat he knew was coming, but as usual he saw nothing but waving corn, velvety alfalfa, grazing pigs in their fenced pen, and the wind-ruffled leaves of soybeans and potato fields, picturesque in late summer glory.

JT had a powerful intuition, a sense of coming things. Mama called it the Sight and told him he’d inherited it from his deceased grandmother, rumored to be una strega, a witch.

“You’re a canary in a coal mine,” she had said, pulling him in for a hug after he’d told her to get her car fixed, that there was something wrong with it. The mechanic discovered a broken brake line that might have killed her. “You’ve been given the Sight. Be sure to use it for good, caro Jacobino.”

JT had tried to use that sense, along with an environmental biology degree, for good. But no one ever listened to his warnings, even those backed up by science. He’d got so tired of watching disaster strike again and again, waves on a seashore, that he’d left the EPA for this, his own place, where he could prepare.

Away from other people, JT was able to screen the stress of the Sight out better, but so close to water, he felt it acutely: the tremor of a shadow moving across the land.

A sickness was coming.

His family—five brothers, his mom, and his precious little sister—were all still out there, ignoring his warnings and invitations to the Haven. It hurt like a bruise that would never heal, a bruise that kept him up at night.

JT duckwalked around the metal platform’s edge, pleasure in the day evaporated—he was just hot, tired, and very alone. He arrowed into the pond in a swan dive. At the cool weedy bottom, he paused, his eyes shut. His mysterious sense was buffered, and yet amplified, by the water.

The scorching of the earth was coming here—right to his doorstep—into his fields.

The knowledge chilled JT more than the cold green water at the bottom of the pond. He shot for the sunlight, gasping for breath.

About Scorch Road

A new romantic action adventure series for fans of romance thriller and family romance sagas!

One of six Italian brothers and a sister, JT Luciano is a widowed environmental biologist with a touch of the Sight who is preparing for an apocalyptic event he knows is coming. Holed up at the military survival camp prepared for his family, the Haven, JT is ready for whatever might come… except for one woman.

Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, virologist and Senator’s daughter, is carrying precious cells for a vaccine against the swiftly-evolving, deadly flu that’s sweeping the nation. Her plane crashes in JT’s potato field–and she must convince him to leave the Haven and help her get to Washington, DC.

One by one, the structures of society implode in the face of the flu’s devastation as JT and Elizabeth travel a scorching road cross country.

Can danger bring them together to find one good, true thing in a changing world?

Get it on Amazon.

About the authors

Emily Kimelman is the author of the best selling Sydney Rye Series, which feature a strong female protagonist and her canine best friend, Blue. It is recommended for the 18+ who enjoy some violence, don’t mind dirty language, and are up for a dash of sex. Not to mention an awesome, rollicking good mystery!

Emily can be found:

Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

Toby Neal is the author of the bestselling Lei Crime series featuring Maui police detective Lei Texeira, the Paradise Crime series featuring security specialist Sophie Ang, the Michaels Family Romance series, and the new Scorch Series romantic thrillers with Emily Kimelman.

Visit her:



Monday musings: Looking back on 2016


Photo courtesy of Jannes Pockele (Creative Commons)

By Renée Pawlish

2016 has been a busy year for me. I started the year by publishing the first novel in the Dewey Webb historical mystery series. Dewey Webb first appeared in a Reed Ferguson mystery, Back Story, and I thought it would be fun to develop Dewey into a spin-off series. This year, I published three Dewey mysteries (Web of Deceit, Murder in Fashion, Secrets and Lies). The stories take place in the late 1940s, and it’s been fun to write the stories, but also challenging to make them as historically accurate as possible. I’ve been blessed with a few beta readers who grew up in the Denver area, and they’ve helped me with tips on Denver during that time, and they’ve also corrected some of my mistakes. When I started this series, I didn’t know if it would take off or not, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Readers seem to like Dewey, and I plan to write at least three or four more in the series.

I’ve also continued the Reed Ferguson mystery series, adding two more novels, two novellas, and a short story. The challenge for this series is to keep Reed fresh. I always thought I would stop this series at eight books, but I’m about to release the fifteenth book in the series. With each new novel, I try to come up with a new and interesting premise, and make sure that Reed’s supporting cast is involved in fun ways (my readers love the cast around Reed almost as much as Reed himself). I don’t plot out my stories ahead of time, and it’s refreshing to see what’s in store for all the characters.  

One of the things I challenged myself to do in 2016 was to release a novel every other month, and a short story or novella in the months between those releases. I wasn’t able to do this the entire year, but I came close. It’s not been easy, but when I’m writing a novel, I try to keep to a goal of writing one chapter per day. I don’t ever hit this, and a day here or there gets missed, but overall I am able to write a novel in about six weeks. For me, that’s about as fast as I can write a book and still feel that it’s a quality product. I’d like to keep up this schedule in 2017, but I’ll only do it if I feel like I’m still producing good stories, and if my readers say the stories are good. If not, it’s time to slow down.

Finally, I’ve had my best sales year yet, and I am very pleased with that. Amazon continues to make things challenging for authors, but I’ve still done well. I hope that this growth continues in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks for reading.

Renée Pawlish is the award-winning author of the bestselling Reed Ferguson mystery series, horror bestseller Nephilim Genesis of Evil, The Noah Winters YA Adventure series, middle-grade historical novel This War We’re In, Take Five, a short story collection, and
The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, a nonfiction account of a haunted house investigation.

Visit Renée’s

And follow her on Twitter @reneepawlish.


Thursday Teaser: Vigilante


By Claude Bouchard

Vigilante new 20120121 LR

The Vigilante Series currently stands at twelve thrillers with more to come but, once in a while, it’s not a bad idea to go back to the beginning. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from the debut novel, Vigilante, and urge you to leave a comment for a chance to win the first six installments in one volume!

Johnny B. was seated at a stage-side table at the Sex Cave, finishing his third Glenlivet. He liked coming here after dinner, for an hour or so, before going to do his rounds on the street. The girls looked good and occasionally, he offered one a job with his organization. They never accepted but were always polite in their refusal. After all, they knew who he was. He was Johnny B.

He looked at his Rolex and grunted when he saw the time. It was 8:25, time to go to work. He stood and the waitress automatically appeared. Slipping a folded fifty dollar bill deep into the front of her thong, he gave her bare behind a light, friendly slap.

“See ya later, doll,” he said, grinning. “Keep the change.”

Customers were forbidden to touch the girls; the club had strict rules about that. But he was an exception. He was Johnny B.

He strutted down the long narrow staircase which led to the street, preceded by Chuck, his bodyguard. Onto the sidewalk, he paused for a moment, surveying the surroundings through narrow eyes, evaluating the activity. It was a warm summer evening and a lot of people were out. Business would be good tonight.

Crossing the sidewalk to his car, which was conveniently parked in front of the club’s entrance, he climbed in behind the wheel and started the engine as Chuck squeezed his bulky form into the passenger seat. Half a block down, the traffic light was red, so there were no oncoming cars. Johnny B. revved the engine and pulled out onto the street, spinning his tires in the process as he always did. He liked getting noticed.

He turned right on Union and then left on René-Lévesque as he headed for Old Montreal. A number of his girls worked this sector in the summer, especially around Place St-Jacques, which was crowded with restaurants, bars and a slew of prospective clients. Turning right on Beaver Hall Hill, he headed south towards the river, stopping at the red light at the corner of St-Jacques. With the exception of a car which had just turned onto the street at the top of the hill behind him, his was the only vehicle in circulation. Pedestrian traffic was also non-existent.

He always found it amusing how this area could be so quiet, sandwiched between the active sector he had just left and the lively one he was going to. The light turned green and Johnny B. rapidly accelerated through the empty intersection and then decelerated just as quickly to turn left on LeMoyne. As it slowed, the Mercedes exploded into a huge fireball, sending bits and pieces of plastic, metal, flesh and bone flying through the air.

Two blocks behind the explosion, a black Corvette turned left onto Notre-Dame and headed for the cinema.

About Vigilante

vigilanteboxsetDoesn’t everyone fantasize a bit about vigilante justice? Haven’t you ever read or heard of some despicable act of violence and secretly wished you could have the opportunity to make the predator pay? Welcome to the VIGILANTE Series, a growing collection of suspense best sellers best described as thrillers and mysteries which will have you cheering for the assassin as justice is delivered in a clandestine fashion… But remember, this is fiction so it’s not a crime… Available in kindle and print books…

Get the box set:

About the author


Claude was born in Montreal, Canada, at a very young age, where he still resides with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eye of Krystalle and Midnight, two black females of the feline persuasion. In a former life, he completed his studies at McGill University and worked in various management capacities for a handful of firms over countless years. From there, considering his extensive background in human resources and finance, it was a logical leap in his career path to stay home and write crime thrillers.

Read his full bio on his BestSellingReads Author page. And visit his:

And follow him on Twitter @ceebee308.


Monday Musings: Writing Advice To Blissfully Ignore


by Kathleen Valentine

Never miss a good chance to shut up.” – Will Rogers

lucyFor several years now I have begun my writing day by creating a little graphic that consists of an attractive photo and a quote from a writer that I find interesting. I gather these quotes from the internet and am frequently amused by the really bad advice I encounter in the process. I’ve always loved Somerset Maugham’s quote, “There are three rules for writing a novel, unfortunately no one knows what they are.” The truth is that over the years I’ve found some books of writing advice that have been truly helpful, but just because someone has successfully written a few books that have done well, does not mean they know how to write. Picasso once said that you should learn the rules of your craft so you can break them like an artist and I think that is good advice.

Edgar Allen Poe once wrote that a writer should “include a beautiful woman with raven locks ad porcelain skin, preferably quite young, and let her die tragically of an unknown ailment.” That might have worked for him but it certainly has no useful information for the rest of the writing world. Elmore Leonard said, “Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.” Clearly he was not a fan of Marcel Proust. But even non-Proustian writers can write deliciously thrilling descriptions. One of the scenes that will live in my memory forever is from A.S. Byatt’s Possession. When Roland and Maude go into Christabel’s old bedroom for the first time and find the cradle full of dolls that conceals her love letters, I got a chill down my spine that recurs when I think about that scene.

In addition to that writers are often advised to avoid adjectives and adverbs but anyone who has read writers like Salman Rushdie or Alice Hoffman know how beautifully those words can be used to paint pictures in the reader’s mind. Kurt Vonnegut was not a fan of semicolons. He called them “transvestite hermaphrodites” and claimed all they did was prove that you went to college. Of course, Virgina Woolf, who never went to college was quite fond of them. They worked for her.

Then there are the old canards that many writers accept as true, but are, in fact, not. Probably foremost among these is “write what you know.” It is true that writing out of one’s experience can often create exciting reading, but where in the world would J.K. Rowling have experienced the world she created in her Harry Potter books?

Don’t forget all the advice about creating outlines for stories. To me, this is one of those concepts that may be very true for one writer and a complete disaster for another. Some writers have a gift for “story.” They can sit down and begin to write and watch with fascination while their characters appear and develop, and plots unfold. Their characters can change direction and do crazy, unexpected things and the writer is just along for the ride. Other writers need a road map. One is not a better way to write than the other—what matters is that you know what works for you and write accordingly.

Of all the writing books I own, the one I most often take down to peruse is Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. In it he says, “Work. Don’t think. Relax and work.” It’s hard to add anything to that.

Thanks for reading.


Monday Musings: Wordsmithery with Davy Crockett


by Kathleen Valentine

crockettI have yet to meet a writer who doesn’t have a particular love of words. I have a DOC file on my desktop in which I keep words I want to remember. Yesterday I came across the word “coddiwomple” defined as a verb meaning “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.” I’ve always been fond of lollygagging so coddiwompling will be a welcome addition to my vocabulary.

Every now and then when I am reading I come across a word I am not familiar with. One of the best things about reading on digital readers is that a lot of them have built in dictionaries and some also have encyclopedias. I can be reading along, come across a word or a concept I’m not familiar with, and have the answer in seconds. I was reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch when I encountered the word “plangent” which was new to me. It means “a loud, reverberating, and often melancholy sound.” Since, at the particular time I was writing about two men hearing elk in the woods that word came in very handy.

One time in a writing class, the instructor asked us to list words that we liked and I was impressed by the words people chose. I honestly don’t remember what I picked but I loved some of the choices I heard—troubadour, mellifluous, resplendent, enthrall. I have a special affection for words that sound like their meaning. They are known as onomatopeia words. Some good ones are fairly simple—squawk, plop, fizz, whoosh, squirt. There are longer words that are even more amusing as onomatopeia words like discombobulate and skedaddle.

Recently I wrote a post on my author blog about my fascination with memoirs and autobiographies by distinguished people from the past. I love hearing them describe historical events in their own words, with their own observations. When I read journals and autobiographies by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and compared to those written by Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt, I was struck by how differently they used language. Other than Washington, they graduated from distinguished schools—Jefferson from William and Mary, Grant from West Point, and Roosevelt from Harvard, but the stiff formality of Jefferson’s use of words stands in sharp contrast to Grant’s and Roosevelt’s more conversational style.

Then I discovered a little gem—A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee, written by the one and only Davy Crockett. In it I found some absolute jewels of language. Including these:

  • [On dealing with a school bully] “I scratched his face all to a flitter jig.”
  • [When the teacher sent a note home from school.] “When he read this note, he called me up, and I knew I was in a devil of a hobble, for my father had taken a few horns, and was in good condition to make the fur fly.”
  • [And later.] “I was certain that his anger would hang on to him like a turkle does to a fisherman’s toe.”
  • [On his first crush on a girl.] “For when I thought of saying anything to her, my heart would flutter like a duck in a puddle.”
  • [When that didn’t work out.] “I couldn’t do no longer without a wife; and so I cut out to hunt me one… I would have agreed to fight a whole regiment of wildcats if she would only say she’d have me.”
  • [And, possibly my favorite line in the book.] “I had a great deal better opinion of myself, I found, than other people had of me.”

Davy Crockett had very little education but he certainly had a way with words. He didn’t finish his autobiography on account of getting killed at the Alamo and all that, but I treasure his words and am dying to scratch someone to a flitter jig in a story.

Thanks for reading.


Monday Musings: Let Me Be Graphic


by Kathleen Valentine

OMTquote02As I continue to navigate the torturous path of using social media to improve my book marketing, I am finding that a lot of advice sites talk a lot about using graphics to capture attention. For me this is a good thing because I have a degree in art and worked for 30 years as a graphic artist. You’d think that would mean I’m all set, but such is not the case. I know HOW to create art, I just don’t always know what to create.

I mentioned in a past post about the Daily Inspiration for Writers quotes that I’ve been posting on Facebook for a couple years. I make a new one every day and post it first thing every morning—to my personal page and then I share it to my Author page and my design page (which needs work!) This is easy because author quotes can be found all over the internet and I select pretty backgrounds from free or public domain image sites. A few weeks ago I started posting these images to Twitter, too, scheduling 4 or 5 of them throughout the day. I notice they are getting retweeted a lot and I’ve picked up some new followers.

In a recent Twitter #BookMarketingChat on using Pinterest, I got the idea to also start sharing quotes from my books on an attractive background (above). Those also seem to be retweeted and shared enough for me to consider it worthwhile. I use Photoshop to make my graphics but I realize not everyone can do that.

Two very useful online sites that let you create graphics are Canva and Pablo. Both are free and are easy to use. I registered on each of them in a matter of minutes and watched the tutorials which were very easy to follow. What they provide are catalogs of backgrounds, selections of typefaces, choices of colors, etc. that let even a novice designer make pretty cool graphics that you can then save and post on any social media site. I have read that posts/tweets with attractive graphics are shared/retweeted much more frequently than those without.

Another fabulous resource is Hubspot’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet. This is a great resource because it has compiled all the sizes you will want for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more. That way you won’t create a lovely graphic and then upload and discover it is badly distorted or cropped in a way that chops off parts of your design.

Like most authors, I’d love to be able to just focus on my writing and not spend hours and hours marketing. I know some authors that have done well enough that they now hire assistants to do their social media scheduling but even the most successful authors seem to rely on regular interaction with their friends and followers. These days even those authors who are published by traditional publishers are doing more and more social media. It’s where marketing is done today.

So, play around with Canva or Pablo. Use the dimensions specified on the cheat sheet, and see if you can add some pizzazz to your pages. It’s fun, it’s attention getting, and you might find a new passion.

Thanks for reading.


Why I decided to become an Indie author


Image: Geert Orye/Creative Commons

By Cinta Garcia de la Rosa

The dream of any writer is to be published. Ideally, every writer dreams of signing a wonderful contract with a big publisher, or at least with a publisher big enough as to make us well-known and to make us sell lots of books. As I said, that is ideally. There are lots of writers out there, and there are lots of very good writers out there. All of them deserve a big contract, because their books are amazing. Sadly, not many of them get that desired contract. That’s how the Indie community appeared. Not now, but long time ago.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I started writing when I was very young, and I even won a literary contest when I was eight years old. I wrote a short story about the environment, I made it into the finals, and then I won: I got a collection of classic books and a desk. So my dream has always been to publish a book. Until August 2011 I didn’t know that it was possible to find an audience if you went self-published, but then I saw that lots of writers that I was meeting in Twitter were selling a huge amount of books. Hey! I also wanted to write a book and sell a lot of copies! (Note: I am still waiting to sell a lot of copies, but at least I enjoy what I write).

So Little Nani started to take shape in my head. I wrote a story, I published it in my blog, and people liked it. I felt good, so I wrote a second story, and people liked it even better. I was very happy, so I decided to write a collection of short stories with Little Nani as the main protagonist. Little Nani is a little girl who wants to be a witch. She meets a lot of friends, and she is always messing around with the wrong spells, but she is also sweet and willing to help others. Her adventures are very funny and I thought that my book could be directed to children.

Well, I sent some stories to several publishers. Just three replied to my email. Two of them told me they weren’t interested at the moment in publishing such a book, but the third one said they would be happy to publish my book, since the stories were funny and would easily find an audience. I trusted them. That was my mistake. We authors, sometimes, are too willing to have our books out there, and that makes of us naïve people sometimes. I was naïve, I fell for their flattery, and I got what I deserved for my naivety.

After months of writing my stories, and weeks of waiting for a reply from my supposed “publishers,” I started to worry and I started to think that maybe the “agreement” I had signed was not the best of the ideas. After talking to some friends, we then discover that this supposed publishing agency was a fraud, and they were under investigation. I felt outraged, I felt stupid, and I promised to myself that I would have my book out there for everybody to read it even though no publisher were interested in my stories.

That is how I chose to become an Indie author. Thinking about it now, I should have done it from the very beginning, and I shouldn’t have fallen for the flattery and the suave speech of these deceptive people who only want to take your money and mess up with your dreams. But I guess that everybody learns lessons in this way, in the hard way. After months of suffering, not knowing what was going to happen to my book, suddenly I was in full control, and now I feel absolutely happy about my writing. I don’t care if I just sell one copy, or even if people don’t like it; at least, I have fulfilled my dream of having published books. And it is even more satisfactory, since I self-published them.

What do I want to say with all this rant? Well, if you really want to publish a book, if you really have faith in your writing, go self-published. Don’t wait for a professional publisher telling you that your writing is not worth it. You don’t need them. You just have to believe in yourself. You will be surprised of how much other authors will help you, providing valuable pieces of advice, helping you to promote your book, even reading and reviewing your work. And eventually, maybe one day someone from a big publishing company reads your self-published work, loves it, and offers you a big contract. Who knows? But till that happens, you need to make your work known, and going Indie is the best option. The Indie community of writers is like a big family. A family all over the world. And I love being part of that family.

CintaBlogCinta Garcia de la Rosa has loved the written word since she was five years old and reads at least one hundred books every year. She has a B.A. in English with minors in Literature, Art, and Creative Writing from Oxford. She has published children’s books and contemporary
short stories under her real name, and she also publishes horror stories under the pen name Rosa Storm.

In 2014, The Funny Adventures of Little Nani was a gold medal winner in the Children’s category of the International Readers’ Favorite Book Awards.

Read her full BestSelling Reads bio.

You can also find Cinta:

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Focus Friday: Forgive No More



The third James Blake thriller

By Seb Kirby


Sera Monastery, Lhasa

Everyone knew him here as one of the most devout, one of the few who had risen to the rank of Ajahn. Devout because of the time he spent in meditation and prayer. He was honored they would think of him in this way within the monastery, given he was not Tibetan.

It was the center of his universe, the place he went back to in order to replenish his life, to regenerate his energy and regain what was lost when he went out there, into the wider world.

The last time he’d been out into that world he’d killed fifty men and not a few women without a thought. Because he served a higher goal. And because, when looked at from here, from the center of the universe, the deaths were not important. In the great flow of energy passing through this place and through him as he meditated and chanted, the lives of these people were as nothing. Could be nothing.

Still a slew of naked thoughts ran through his mind and threatened to disrupt the state of truth to which he was all the time aiming in these two hours alone in the monastery cell — why had he been concerned that the little girl would have to die? Why did he have to meet her? Why did she have to speak to him before the killings at Town Lake? He’d checked the lists of those who’d died. The little girl had been spared. But that was not the point. It was the simple fact that her innocence had touched him and he’d been made to care what would happen to her. It would not leave his thoughts. Try as he might to let these ideas go, they hung on, confronting him.

With time and mental effort, his mind focused once more on the flow of energy through him, the flow that gave him the glimpse of the divine.

He turned to face the door as a novice samanera came for instruction.

Strange, he thought, that he was so far away now from the world where they knew him by a different name.

Wolfgang Heller.

About Forgive No More

Dark secrets revealed in a thrilling climax

James Blake and his family can only be safe if the truth about the conspiracy threatening their lives is brought into the full light of day. Follow James in this intriguing thriller as the conspiracy widens and he must return to Italy to confront those seeking to destroy his family. Forces from around the world, from Washington and Tijuana to Munich and London, are ranged against him. As the mystery comes to a resounding climax, he discovers that dark secrets have survived down the centuries and are in the hands of those who threaten all those dear to him.

From international bestselling author Seb Kirby, Forgive No More continues the intriguing story of crime, corruption and conspiracy begun in Take No More and Regret No More. It is a must-read for fans of Harlan Coben, Daniel Silva and all who enjoy a thought provoking and exciting thriller.

Exclusively on Amazon.

About the author

Seb KirbySeb 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’s been an avid reader ever since.

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

Visit his

And follow him on Twitter @Seb_Kirby


Monday Musings: Biting the Bullet and Writing the Truth


by Kathleen Valentine

The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”

Margaret Atwood

530Peonies2As a novelist Margaret Atwood has never shied away from brutal—and sometime prophetic—realities. For that reason, when I read the above quote it hit me hard. Somehow it is difficult for me to imagine her shying away from writing the truth. But the point that she makes is a good one and the more brutal the truth, the more difficult it can often be to write.

In my writing life most of my writing hasn’t required that I do much bullet biting but on the two occasions when it has, it was hard. It was very hard. My novella, The Monday Night Needlework and Murder Guild is mostly a relatively humorous crime story about a group of sixty-something ladies in a small New England town. When a devious sociopath (is that redundant?) begins romancing and then fleecing the ladies of the group, two of them, Cece and Gwen, decide to do something about it.

I had the entire story in mind before I began writing but I knew that at some point both ladies had to reveal situations from their past that had such a powerful impact it made it possible for them to do what they chose to do. It never occurred to me that I’d wind up writing about a deeply personal experience and, even as I was writing it, I couldn’t quite belive what I was doing. For months after it was written I told myself it was too raw, too brutal to make for good story-telling but I finally got up the courage to publish and, lo and behold, the world did not come to an end. What did happen was a handful of emails from women who said, “That’s what happened to me and I couldn’t tell anyone either.”

The second story, The Confession of Genny Franck, which is part of my Marienstadt collection, The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall, tells the story of a much older relative of mine. She told me the story—much as Genny does in the story—in the final months of her life. My heart has always ached that she lived most of her life with her terrible secret and what she did out of love.

Yes, we bleed a little when we write these stories. Our hearts weep and we go through the terror of wondering if the world will hold us in contempt. It won’t—the world needs our truths. Other people need our truths. We need our truths. So we bite the bullet, close our eyes, and let our fingers fly, hoping we’ll have the courage to keep going. And the more we do this, the bolder we become.


Focus Friday: Depraved Heart


By Kathleen Valentine


SHE DREAMED ABOUT HIM AGAIN. EVEN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, Audrey dreamed about Raven more than she could bear. She both loved the dreams when she was lost in them, and hated them when she awoke and remembered, yet again, that they were just dreams. On this night she dreamed they were on the beach below the cliff where the beach roses grew out of every nook and crevice. A narrow strip of sand divided the rocks from the surf, and the day was one of those lovely end-of-summer days when most of the petals had fallen away leaving behind the bright orange hips that the island women gathered to simmer with lemons and green apples for beach rose marmalade. It was late afternoon, with long shadows and that scent of coming cold in the air. They told her mother that they were going to gather rose hips and maybe find a few sea urchins for dinner, but they hadn’t wasted precious time. He was all over her, devouring her even before they reached the beach. In days, he would be going back to school – that fancy school in Boston – and she would be alone for the winter without him. He wouldn’t be there for Christmas, he’d told her. His grandfather was taking him and his sister to London. Damn him, she thought, damn him. It was always something.

She was on top of him, head thrown back, wild with wanting him, the waves exploding against the jetty, and the gulls screeching. Her toes dug hard into the sand and she screamed. He laughed, his head burrowing back in the sand, the incoming tide lapping at their thighs and hips. She screamed again, louder, out of sheer joy. Her scream was answered by another, but it was not his. They both looked up.
Damn damn, damn, she thought, that stupid sister of his. Why couldn’t she leave them alone?

But he pushed her off of himself, leaped up and ran, graceful and sleek as the dancer he was, his sun-bronzed body lustrous in the late afternoon sun.

“Let her go,” she screamed but he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hear her.

“Rachel,” he called, “wait, Rachel!”

“Forget her,” she screamed, and bolted upright, breaking the dream.

Moonlight bathed the sheet that covered her, and she could hear the gulls squawking, and the steady putter of the first fishing boats headed out of the harbor into the morning darkness.

“Damn,” she repeated. “Damn.” And she buried her face in her hands and wept.

She knew she wouldn’t go back to sleep now. Might as well go downstairs and put some coffee on. That woman from the museum would be coming today. She had no idea why.

She wrapped a robe around herself and thought maybe she would sit by the east-facing window until the sun came up. She unhooked the iron latch, pushed the window outward and leaned into the cool air to dry her tears and clear her brain. She both wanted the dreams to stop and to go back to sleep, and find a way to slip into them forever. She didn’t know which she wanted more.Out of the corner of her eye she caught the movement of a small red light below her, off to the seaward side of the house. He was standing on the terrace below, smoking a cigarette in the dark. It was the one bad habit he brought with him from prison. She looked down, sure that he had not seen her. She should have known he’d be standing there smoking – he always was at night. He seemed to never sleep.

Good, she thought. Good that he can’t sleep, the murdering bastard. He’s up to something.

He has no business being here, she thought. The house should have been Raven’s. Hers and Raven’s. But he’d destroyed any hope of that. He wouldn’t get away with it, she thought, not while she had breath in her body he wouldn’t.

She turned back into the room and began her day.

About Depraved Heart

2013 eFestival of Words WINNER: Best Mystery/Suspense Novel and The Harvey Award for Book We Would Most Like to See Made Into A Movie
Growing up in Salem, Massachusetts, art curator Tempest Hobbs was surrounded by metaphysical practitioners but considers her own empathic powers a curse. The feelings that assault her became so terrible that she was confined to a psychiatric hospital. Upon her return home, badly shaken and weak, she discovers a letter from Hathor, the mysterious mansion of the Ravenscroft family.

Located on the island of Hephzibah Regrets just off the coast, Hathor is said to be filled with fabulous art and “fairy retreats” where lavish parties are held. But sixteen years ago, during one of those parties, the distinguished dancer and Ravenscroft heir, Raven Silver, was shot and killed. His sister Rachel’s husband Syd Jupiter, a powerful NFL fullback, was convicted of the depraved heart murder of his brother-in-law and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.

The letter is from Syd Jupiter, now paroled and living at Hathor. Wyatt Ravenscroft is dead and has left his entire estate to Anjelica, Syd and Rachel’s fifteen-year-old daughter. Syd offers Tempest the opportunity to live at Hathor for the summer while cataloging the vast art collection. She welcomes the chance to be away from the constant pressures of life in society.

Tempest is dazzled by the art she finds but is soon aware that there are secrets and lies all around her. Hathor’s housekeeper, Audrey, hates Syd and was once, Tempest discovers, Raven’s lover. Miles Wainwright, a local fisherman and the only witness to the murder, is hiding something, and Anjelica lives in fear that Syd will be sent back to prison. And then there is Syd’s mother, Marie-Isobel, the owner of a Santeria shop in New Orleans’ French Quarter, who joins them for the summer with her candles and cleansing rituals.

In the fishing village on Hephzibah Regrets, the locals gather every night in the Riptide where men drink and talk fishing, women spin and knit, and everyone relishes the rumors about Hathor. They tell stories of Will Silver, the father Raven and Rachel never knew, and of wild Rosalind, their beautiful mother who died in an insane asylum. As the heat of summer intensifies Tempest discovers more about the secrets, deceptions, love affairs, madness, and mysterious deaths of Hathor’s residents. And about Syd Jupiter who is as enigmatic as he is alluring.

You can find Depraved Heart on Amazon.

About Kathleen Valentine

KV-300pxKathleen Valentine was born and grew up in the Allegheny Highlands of Pennsylvania. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in The Arts and worked for over twenty years in the art/marketing departments of high-tech corporations. Since 2003 she has run her own design business, She is the author of “Fry Bacon. Add Onions”, a cookbook/memoir of growing up
Pennsylvania Dutch, as well as 4 novels, several novelettes and short story collections, and knitting instruction books. She has been listed as an Amazon Top 100 Author in Horror. Her novellas, “The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic” and “Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter” were Amazon Top Ten Best Sellers in Horror and Ghost Stories for over 20 weeks.

Her blog at has been read by thousands of readers since its beginning in July 2005. She currently lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, America’s oldest seaport, and is writing every day.

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