Thursday teaser: In Sheep’s Clothing

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Sydney Rye #9

By Emily Kimelman

The ninth Sydney Rye adventure launched on September 27. And for those of you who have inexplicably resisted the urge to buy it, here is a taste.

Chapter One

Sydney Rye

Exquisite, slippery red pulsed, the color shifting with each wave of pain. Metal dug around in my side. I couldn’t move to stop it. Couldn’t even beg. And I would have.

My mind didn’t form sentences or thoughts, only witnessed the color and experienced the pain.

Then Blue, his whimper close, his tongue on my cheek.

A breeze, the scent of wet stone joining the colors of pain.

Lightning cracked through the color. Voices in the distance…no not voices, bells.

The rocking motion lulled me back to sleep.

I waited in a sea of blue, slipping up and down waves, the sky above me swirling with storm clouds.

Lightning struck, and everything went white.

About In Sheep’s Clothing

Sydney Rye is missing.

All that’s left of her is a depression in the dirt and a pool of blood.

Robert Maxim is ruthless, powerful, and determined to find her.

April Madden is a preacher’s wife, and Sydney’s mother. She’s willing to risk everything…her sobriety, her marriage, even her faith, to hunt for her daughter.

But they can’t find Sydney Rye if she doesn’t want to be found.

ISIS has a new enemy, a ghost haunting their territory, infecting their flock with radical ideals. They will do anything to capture her. Their reign depends on this new prophet’s destruction.

Graffiti of a woman’s silhouette, set in a snarling wolf’s profile, appears in ISIS-controlled territory convincing Robert Maxim that Sydney Rye is alive. When women in the area begin attacking their abusers, he suspects Sydney is responsible. But Robert can’t believe she is involved after rumors claim a prophet, a weapon of God, has risen to free women from oppression.

April Madden hears the devil whispering to her; just one little cocktail to dull the pain. Instead of picking up a glass, she throws herself into a quest; track down her missing daughter, her only surviving child, and make amends. Traveling into the Islamic State is fraught with danger and thick with obstacles. April doesn’t have her daughter’s combat training or Blue, Sydney’s loyal, giant dog. But she does have her instincts, tenacity and the voice that whispers; your daughter is alive, don’t give up.

Get In Sheep’s Clothing today because you love powerful women, gritty mysteries, and heroic dogs. Join the hunt for Sydney Rye!

Get it on

About the author

Emily Kimelman not only writes adventure, she lives it every day. Embodying the true meaning of wanderlust, she’s written her Sydney Rye mysteries from all over the world. From the jungles of Costa Rica to the mountains of Spain, she finds inspiration for her stories in her own life.

While living under communist rule in the former Soviet Union, the KGB sprinkled her with “spy dust,” a radioactive concoction that made her glow and left a trail they could follow. She was two. She was destined for amazing things after that, and she continues to find adventure to inspire characters like the badass Sydney Rye. 

Download the first Sydney Rye Thriller, Unleashed, for FREE on all major ebook platforms and join the adventure!

Emily can be found:

BestSelling Reads Author page   |   Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

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Thursday teaser: See You in Saigon

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This week’s excerpt is from Vigilante, book 10

By Claude Bouchard

Claude Bouchard

Hoang was down the ladder and into the boat before it had fully reached the dock and was calling his superior before his two men had boarded.

“General, Hoang here.” he said once connected. “It is as we suspected. The man I met introduced himself as Scorpion of the Devil’s Delight. I have no doubt he is responsible for Cao’s death. I am certain Cao’s organization has been well infiltrated over several months and is now fully in their control. Their plan is to substantially increase poppy farming and opiate production for export…

“No, we don’t know his identity yet but my men took several photos of him while we were talking and they will follow him back to wherever he goes. He is likely American or Canadian rather than European, based on his accent. With the photos, his street name and his association with the Devil’s Delight, we should know exactly who he is soon enough… Yes, I will forward them to you immediately, General.”

He cut the connection and scrolled through the dozen photos his men had taken during their two passes on the motorbike and subsequently emailed to him. Though Scorpion wore sunglasses, several photos showed his facial features well enough to make him identifiable.

Satisfied, he sent the photos on to the General then settled back for the remainder of the short boat ride. They were now in the channel between Dragon Island and Unicorn Island, already halfway to My Tho. As he gazed about, he noticed the boat’s skipper answering his mobile and almost immediately terminating the call. Then, to the surprise of Hoang and his two men, the skipper climbed onto the edge of the boat and dived, fully clothed, into the Mekong River.

“What is going on?” Hoang managed to shout before their craft exploded into a fiery ball, sending bits of wood, plastic, metal, bone and flesh flying high into the air.

About See You in Saigon

Doesn’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 books and print.

An excerpt from Book 10 of the VIGILANTE Series

We hop you liked this excerpt from the book that rose to #2 KINDLE BEST SELLER in VIGILANTE JUSTICE!

Seventeen years earlier, Dennis ‘Scorpion’ Roy of the Devil’s Delight was assassinated by the infamous serial killer known as the Vigilante. Shortly after, the notorious biker gang allegedly went defunct though rumours among law enforcement officials suggested the organization continued to operate and thrive in stealth mode. When the Devil’s Delight’s sustained existence is confirmed, the Discreet Activities team is shocked to learn the gang’s leader is none other than Scorpion, alive and well and currently in Vietnam on business. Asked to assist in the dismantling of the Devil’s Delight, the DA team heads Vietnam to hunt down Scorpion, the only criminal who managed to survive the Vigilante

About the author

USA Today bestselling author Claude Bouchard was born in Montreal, Canada, at a very young age, where he still resides with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eyes of two black females of the feline persuasion.

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.

His first novel, Vigilante, was published in 2009.  Since then, besides writing Asylum, a stand-alone, the Vigilante Series has grown to thirteen thrilling installments with his latest release, Make It Happen.

Claude has also penned Something’s Cooking, a faux-erotica parody and cookbook under the pseudonyms Réal E. Hotte and Dasha Sugah, as well as Nasty in Nice, his contribution to Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World. His books have topped the chart in the Vigilante Justice category on Amazon and some 600,000 copies have been distributed to date.

Claude’s other interests include reading, playing guitar, painting, cooking, traveling and trying to stay in reasonable shape.

Visit his:

And follow him on Twitter @ceebee308.

 

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Monday musings: Is it 1984 all over again?

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This post originally appeared on Caleb Pirtle III’s and Linda Pirtle’s blog, Here Comes a Mystery, on September 13, 2017.

George Orwell with the cover image of the book 1984

George Orwell with the cover image of the book that made him memorable and famous.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

So the government is spying on you. I read that somewhere.

So the government is stealing your emails. Read that, too.

So the government is keeping tabs on your phone calls. It’s in the news.

Sounds Osrwellian. That’s what the news reporters say.

Big Brother is watching.

Maybe George Orwell was right, they whisper.

1984 tops bestseller lists in January, 2017. LA Times.

Did anyone ever have any doubts? Maybe this is 1984.  Maybe it just came three decades later than anyone expected.

Readers of great literature, teachers of great literature, and critics of great literature have believed for years that George Orwell, back during the 1940s, glimpsed the future, discovered a dystopian world, realized that Totalitarianism was the most foreboding consequence facing humanity, and spread his fears on a piece of paper.

He described his work as “a Utopia written in the form of a novel.” It would be one of the most significant books produced in the twentieth century. It would be translated into sixty-five languages. It would sell millions of copies.

It was the book that killed George Orwell.

Orwell was obsessed with the conspiracy of a totalitarian government rising up from the ashes of World War II to rule England, rule the world, rule his life. Part of the inspiration for 1984, he once said, came from a meeting that Allied leaders had in Tehran in 1944.

There was Stalin.

And Churchill.

And Roosevelt.

He feared they were consciously plotting to divide the world, then fight to determine who would control it all.

George Orwell was a sad little man. But he was a brilliant writer.

He lived in a bleak world. He had endured the bombing of London. He had survived a world war. A troubled ife in the wartime ruins of the city created a constant mood of random terror and a constant fear that the next bomb would be looking for him.

Bomb damage in North London, June 1944; AIR 14/3701 National Archive

His flat had been wrecked. His was a threadbare existence. He had a wife and a child. His wife died under anesthesia during a routine operation while Orwell was on assignment with a magazine. Her death haunted him and grieved him, and he would never quite recover.

Most of all, Orwell was afraid of the future that his imagination envisioned. He heard the demons in his head. His health was bad. The winter of 1946-47, was one of the coldest ever, and he found that post-war Britain to be even darker, more dreadful, and more foreboding than wartime Britain.  He grew even more morose, a man who, his agent said, thrived on self-inflicted adversity.

George Orwell retired to a wild and isolated landscape in Scotland to begin writing a novel that had tempted and taunted him for years. As he once pointed out, “Every serious work I have written since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was written directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and democratic socialism.

Now his story would be told on a grand scale.

He hated the process.

Orwell wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom he can neither resist or understand. For all one knows, that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s personality.”

Then he wrote the words that became known as the famous Orwellian coda: “Good prose is like a window pane.”

He sat down and wrote the first line of the novel: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Through the window pain, he could see the bleak landscape of 1984.

His world in Scotland was simple. And primitive. Cold. In the midst of a bitter winter, he had no electricity, and Orwell lived by chain-smoking black shag tobacco in roll-up cigarettes.

He coughed all the time.

He was spitting blood.

He looked cadaverous.

Just before Christmas of 1947, Orwell collapsed with “inflammation of the lungs.” The diagnosis frightened him even more. He was suffering from tuberculosis, and there was no cure for TB. But he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t recuperate. He had a novel to finish.

As he wrote his publisher: “I have got so used to writing in bed that I think I prefer it, though, of course, it’s awkward to type there. I am just struggling with the last stages of this bloody book about the possible state of affairs if the atomic war isn’t conclusive.”

The struggle ended in December of 1948 with the publication of 1984. He thought about calling the novel The Last Man in Europe. His publisher decided on 1984.  He thought it was more commercial, and he was right. He called it “among the most terrifying books I have read.” He was right again.

By January of 1950, George Orwell was dead.

The ordeal had taken its toll.

Orwell would never have to face the world he was afraid to face. He gave his life for a book that gave the world such ominous words as Big Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, and doublethink.

And now, as Orwell had predicted and maybe even envisioned, we live in an uncomfortable world filled with conspiracy rumors about Big Brother, thoughtcrimes, newspeak, and doublethink.

It may be new to us, but we all remember who created the world long before, some say, it came to exist.  Within twenty-four hours after the story broke on the alleged NSA’s spying scandal, the sales for George Orwell’s 1984 had surged seven thousand percent.

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the DeadConspiracy of LiesNight 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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Is it 1984 all over again?

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This post originally appeared on Caleb Pirtle III’s and Linda Pirtle’s blog, Here Comes a Mystery, on September 13, 2017.

George Orwell with the cover image of the book 1984

George Orwell with the cover image of the book that made him memorable and famous.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

So the government is spying on you. I read that somewhere.

So the government is stealing your emails. Read that, too.

So the government is keeping tabs on your phone calls. It’s in the news.

Sounds Osrwellian. That’s what the news reporters say.

Big Brother is watching.

Maybe George Orwell was right, they whisper.

1984 tops bestseller lists in January, 2017. LA Times.

Did anyone ever have any doubts? Maybe this is 1984.  Maybe it just came three decades later than anyone expected.

Readers of great literature, teachers of great literature, and critics of great literature have believed for years that George Orwell, back during the 1940s, glimpsed the future, discovered a dystopian world, realized that Totalitarianism was the most foreboding consequence facing humanity, and spread his fears on a piece of paper.

He described his work as “a Utopia written in the form of a novel.” It would be one of the most significant books produced in the twentieth century. It would be translated into sixty-five languages. It would sell millions of copies.

It was the book that killed George Orwell.

Orwell was obsessed with the conspiracy of a totalitarian government rising up from the ashes of World War II to rule England, rule the world, rule his life. Part of the inspiration for 1984, he once said, came from a meeting that Allied leaders had in Tehran in 1944.

There was Stalin.

And Churchill.

And Roosevelt.

He feared they were consciously plotting to divide the world, then fight to determine who would control it all.

George Orwell was a sad little man. But he was a brilliant writer.

He lived in a bleak world. He had endured the bombing of London. He had survived a world war. A troubled ife in the wartime ruins of the city created a constant mood of random terror and a constant fear that the next bomb would be looking for him.

Bomb damage in North London, June 1944; AIR 14/3701 National Archive

His flat had been wrecked. His was a threadbare existence. He had a wife and a child. His wife died under anesthesia during a routine operation while Orwell was on assignment with a magazine. Her death haunted him and grieved him, and he would never quite recover.

Most of all, Orwell was afraid of the future that his imagination envisioned. He heard the demons in his head. His health was bad. The winter of 1946-47, was one of the coldest ever, and he found that post-war Britain to be even darker, more dreadful, and more foreboding than wartime Britain.  He grew even more morose, a man who, his agent said, thrived on self-inflicted adversity.

George Orwell retired to a wild and isolated landscape in Scotland to begin writing a novel that had tempted and taunted him for years. As he once pointed out, “Every serious work I have written since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was written directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and democratic socialism.

Now his story would be told on a grand scale.

He hated the process.

Orwell wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom he can neither resist or understand. For all one knows, that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s personality.”

Then he wrote the words that became known as the famous Orwellian coda: “Good prose is like a window pane.”

He sat down and wrote the first line of the novel: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Through the window pain, he could see the bleak landscape of 1984.

His world in Scotland was simple. And primitive. Cold. In the midst of a bitter winter, he had no electricity, and Orwell lived by chain-smoking black shag tobacco in roll-up cigarettes.

He coughed all the time.

He was spitting blood.

He looked cadaverous.

Just before Christmas of 1947, Orwell collapsed with “inflammation of the lungs.” The diagnosis frightened him even more. He was suffering from tuberculosis, and there was no cure for TB. But he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t recuperate. He had a novel to finish.

As he wrote his publisher: “I have got so used to writing in bed that I think I prefer it, though, of course, it’s awkward to type there. I am just struggling with the last stages of this bloody book about the possible state of affairs if the atomic war isn’t conclusive.”

The struggle ended in December of 1948 with the publication of 1984. He thought about calling the novel The Last Man in Europe. His publisher decided on 1984.  He thought it was more commercial, and he was right. He called it “among the most terrifying books I have read.” He was right again.

By January of 1950, George Orwell was dead.

The ordeal had taken its toll.

Orwell would never have to face the world he was afraid to face. He gave his life for a book that gave the world such ominous words as Big Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, and doublethink.

And now, as Orwell had predicted and maybe even envisioned, we live in an uncomfortable world filled with conspiracy rumors about Big Brother, thoughtcrimes, newspeak, and doublethink.

It may be new to us, but we all remember who created the world long before, some say, it came to exist.  Within twenty-four hours after the story broke on the alleged NSA’s spying scandal, the sales for George Orwell’s 1984 had surged seven thousand percent.

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the DeadConspiracy of LiesNight 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: 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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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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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:

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Monday musings: When characters surprise the writers

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Photo by Helen Haden / Flickr. Creative Commons.

Writing is a surprising art form, often for the writers themselves. Often, characters seem to come up with their own dialog, or make decisions that the writer had not planned on.

For example, Mother Tiana, a character I created late in my first novel, surprised me toward the end of The Bones of the Earth by defying the main villain with a statement about people being under spells or enchantment: “Your mind cannot be dominated unless you consent to it.”

Huh.

Other BestSelling Reads authors have had similar experiences. Here is their virtual conversation.

How have the characters you created surprised you over the years?

Raine Thomas: Even though I create detailed character sketches before I write a book, my characters love to surprise me. My character Skye, in the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy, for example, revealed that she could teleport in the midst of me writing her book, Foretold. That completely took me by surprise, and it took the book in a wonderful new direction!

Claude Bouchard: Of the various characters in my Vigilante Series, the one who has surprised me the most is Leslie Robb, who first appeared in book five, 6 Hours 42 Minutes. Leslie, a bright, attractive, redhead of the lesbian persuasion, was an accountant employed at a bank where a heist took place. As was the case with other bank employees, hers was supposed to be a passive role, limited to that particular story.

However, Leslie turned out to have much more drive than I originally believed and pushed to the forefront to become a central character.

DelSheree Gladden: I get to know my characters as I write their story, and I’ve had many times were what I originally planned simply did not work, because my beginning idea of who is character is turns out not to be who they are at all. When writing the Date Shark Series, in book one I had a side character that was flirty, arrogant, and bit of a player. As soon as I started the second book in the series, with Guy Saint-Laurent as the main character, my entire concept of him changed. When he meets Charlotte, the connection he feels with her brings up difficult memories, reasons behind his blasé attitude about relationships and self-centered viewpoints. Those surface qualities became just that, a façade rather than his true character. What I intended to be a light and funny story turned into a deeper exploration of the hurt and pain that shapes a person.

Raine Thomas: An example of something not going as planned pertains to the end of my book, Shift (Firstborn Trilogy #2). As I neared the book’s conclusion, I realized that I had to leave a big part of the storyline as a cliffhanger leading into book three. I actually hate cliffhanger endings and couldn’t believe the characters were leading me down that path, but that’s just what they did!

Over a series of books, has the personal growth of a character surprised you in any way?

Raine Thomas: I believe (and have been told by my readers) that my writing has developed over the course of the various series I’ve written. As I’ve grown more confident in my storytelling and gotten to know my audience, my writing has tightened up and developed right along with me. While this may not be surprising to other writers, it has been a surprising, positive outcome that even applies to my life outside of writing fiction.

Claude Bouchard: By the end of 6 Hours 42 Minutes, not only had Leslie firmly made her place, she had also guaranteed herself substantial spots in future works. Since, Leslie has been a solid member of the team in each of books six to thirteen. I never saw it coming.

DelSheree Gladden: Writing Guy’s character in Shark Out Of Water (the second book in the series) taught me how important it is not to force a character into a particular box. Their story will be so much better if they’re allowed to tell it themselves.

Have your characters taught you anything?

Raine Thomas: My characters have taught me that the stories are theirs, not mine. I like to plot my novels, but every time I have, the characters have taken the story in their own direction. They’ve also inspired me, as they’re all strong and remarkable in their own ways.

Scott Bury: Many writers refer to their books as their “babies,” but it seems that the characters are the children—we create them, but then they develop minds of their own and continue to surprise, exasperate and delight us.

Claude Bouchard is based in Montreal, Canada. Two of his Vigilante novels were included in the pair of blockbuster 9 Killer Thriller anthologies, the second of which made the USA Today Bestsellers list in March 2014.

Raine Thomas is the award-winning author of bestselling young adult and new adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

DelSheree Gladden lives in New Mexico. The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology.

Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre—his books include historical fantasy, children’s stories, paranormal romance, thrillers, mysteries and memoir.

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Thursday teaser: Place of Skulls

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By Caleb Pirtle III

AMBROSE LINCOLN watched the ragged edges of night paint the streets below and waited for the dead man to step from the shadows. They were never together, he and the dead man.

They were seldom apart.

They had never spoken.

Their eyes had not yet met.

Death was the only thing they had in common.

Often Lincoln had wondered which of them had really survived and which was destined to roam the earth in search of an empty grave.

The air around him was always thick with the acrid smell of gun smoke when the dead man was near. It burned his throat. His chest hurt. He screamed the first time he saw the man whose chest had been torn away with a hollow point slug from a 9mm handgun, his 9mm handgun. The screaming was no longer necessary.

The past held its secrets in a tightly closed fist, and only on rare occasions did the fingers of another time, another place, loosen their grasp long enough to provide faint glimpses of what was, what might have been, and what did or did not happen on the landscape of a man’s faith or his memory.

On those rare occasions, his beliefs could be shaken, even shattered, and his hopes dimmed or perhaps darkened forever. Only these words echoed from a distant past: he was wounded for our transgressions. And he had no idea who had said them or what they meant or why only those six words had slipped past the ebony wall that separated time between then and now.

Ambrose Lincoln often thought a man was the most content when he was left in the dark, past and present. He might still fear the shadows. He just had no idea what secrets lay enclosed and mostly forgotten within them.

A man was better off, he reasoned, when he didn’t know. Knowledge could condemn him, convict him, and maybe even kill him. He was wounded for our transgressions. He thought he heard a woman’s voice speaking them. But she was so far away, whoever she was, wherever she had been.

Lincoln stood alone in his small, cluttered hotel room with a stranger who had no past, at least not one worth remembering, and a future just as dark and oblique. The stranger was a man he knew well and hardly at all.

The stranger was himself.

Lincoln’s memory programmed everything he saw and heard. Nothing escaped him.

Graveyards were full of men who ignored or overlooked the things, no matter how insignificant, that could get them killed.

Yet his memory had blown a circuit five years earlier, the night he awoke in a churchyard outside the battle-scarred, charcoal ruins of a crumbling little town in Poland – Ratibor he thought it was. He possessed no wallet, no papers, no passport, no name, no memory, no past. All of his yesterdays had become as vacant as the churchyard, his mind as pitch black as the night around him.

Lincoln had closed his eyes and felt himself falling beyond the crevice of sanity and into the black abyss of a deep sleep. He wondered if the grave would be as dark, if he would ever wake up again and why his frostbitten feet hurt worse than his chest.

When morning at last jarred him awake, he lay on a pile of blankets that served as a prison hospital bed and stared for a long time into a cracked mirror that hung crookedly on a green wall across the bare, sterile room.

The confused face of an unfamiliar, broken man with dark, sullen and hollow eyes stared back at him.
It was, he thought, an ugly face, unshaven and scarred, obviously belonging to some pitiful bastard who had been cast into the drunken innards of hades to cut cards with the devil himself. What troubled him most, however, then as now, was the stranger’s face had been his own.

Lincoln closed his eyes and tried to squeeze the blur that was Poland out of his mind. But the biting cold of the snow, the pain that threatened to rupture his lungs with each ragged breath, the smell of gunpowder, the stench of death all lay upon his psyche, as visible to him as the scar on his face.

The scars did not heal.

About Place of Skulls

A man with no known past and no name has been dispatched to the deserts, ghost towns, and underbelly of drug-infested Mexico to uncover a secret that could forever change the scope and teachings of Christianity.

A DEA agent has written that he possesses the unmistakable and undeniable proof that Christ did indeed return to earth again and walk the land of the Aztecs almost fifteen hundred years after his crucifixion on the cross. But has the agent found a relic? An artifact? A long lost manuscript of the written Word? No one knows, and the agent dies before he can smuggle the secret out of an empty grave.

Ambrose Lincoln can’t dig past the charred fragments of his memory, but he must unravel the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the white-skinned, blue-eyed, god figure whose sixteenth century ministry, death, resurrection, and mystical promise to return someday to gather up his people closely parallels the Biblical story of the man called Christ. Is Quetzalcoatl merely a myth, or was he Christ Himself?

Lincoln’s quest to find the answers, he becomes involved in a rogue CIA plot to invade Mexico and wage an unholy war on drugs, financed by operatives working for Hitler’s Germany. He finds himself pursued by the same mysterious assassin who struck down the DEA agent.

Does the artifact actually exist? Who possesses it now? Lincoln battles an unseen and unknown enemy in an effort to survive long enough to discover the truth. If he doesn’t, he knows that death awaits him on the desert sands of a land held sacred for centuries by the mysterious and holy ones.

Place of Skulls is the fourth noir thriller in the Ambrose Lincoln series, which also includes:

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

 

Prior to Place of Skulls, Pirtle’s most recent novel is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

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 has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

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.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle

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Monday musings: Writing style

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I think the first time I noticed a writing style, an author’s distinctive voice, was in Grade 5 when I read “Riddles in the Dark,” where Bilbo foils Gollum in The Hobbit. Since then, I’ve always valued an enjoyable writing style, sometimes more than the story.

I can still remember another story from my elementary school days: Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn.” On foggy nights, a lighthouses’ foghorn draws a dinosaur like creature out of the depths of the ocean, whose voice sounded like a foghorn, too. I can remember the emotional impact on me of Bradbury’s beautiful prose describing the sound of the creature’s call, the loneliness and unrequited love it felt when it realized the tall, deep-voiced lighthouse was not another like itself.

Later, I discovered Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, a novel that one of my teachers remarked no 15-year-old should read. Its frankly sexual content was a bit much for a teenager, but I savored the eloquent descriptions that set every sense on fire.

As a teenager, I got into science fiction and fantasy, but found the styles of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were not as appealing, anymore. I liked a lot of the work of Philip K. Dick, although I found the quality and the style uneven.

I found Larry Niven’s style in his Known Space series was an almost perfect combination of description, action and interesting characters. His Gil the ARM series was the first example I found to combine science-fiction and detective stories, and that led me to Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammet and Ross MacDonald.

What do I mean by style?

For me, style involves mechanics like sentence structure and length and the variation in that; pacing of action and speech; and word choice. But it also grows out of the author’s choice of point of view and how detailed and lengthy their description is.

As a teenager I reveled in rich descriptions. Since then my tastes have, I like to flatter myself, become more balanced. I value complex, interesting and believable characters, people who are vulnerable and flawed and not always admirable.

But most of all, I like a good story, something that takes me somewhere.

In terms of more modern writers, I like the way George RR Martin combines evocative description, dozens of captivating characters and, most of all, many interweaving stories, each of which is compelling on its own.

Toby Neal is another writer who excels by creating characters you can connect with, and putting them in a story you cannot put down. She’s also expert in describing the setting—although she has a huge advantage, living in Hawaii. I also have to mention something that I find Neal does better than any other contemporary writer in English that I have found: she writes a socially and ethnically diverse cast of characters that accurately reflects the world we live in today.

Gae-Lynn Woods’ Cass Elliot series brings a large range of subtly-drawn characters into a story so dark, I couldn’t stop reading it.

Samreen Ahsan has created a unique style by blending Islamic mythology with contemporary romance, wrapped up in lush descriptions.

Dawn Torrens’ characters, Amelia and her family, as well as her stories, are drawn from the author’s own experiences.

The late Kathleen Valentine was an original writer. One of the more unusual aspects of her style was to write romantic stories about people older than their midlives—most romance is about young people.

I’m now reading Caleb Pirtle III’s Place of Skulls, where magnificently compelling and flawed characters in a detailed, horrifying setting drive three interwoven stories. I can only put it down when forced to.

Elise Stokes, Alan McDermott, Renée Pawlish, Emily Kimelman, DelSheree Gladden, Claude Bouchard, Raine Thomas, Frederick Brooke, Seb Kirby—in fact, all the writers in this group share that ability to create unforgettable and believable characters and put them into situations where you just have to find out what happens next.

The evolution of taste

Like everything else, my taste in literature has evolved over the years. I don’t read as much science fiction or fantasy as I used to, although I still enjoy a good mystery.

But one thing hasn’t changed: I love a writer who can use original prose to bring me into the story along with, or inside, characters that fascinate me.

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How have your tastes in writing changed over time? What do you find most important in a writer’s style? Leave a comment below.

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