The Quisling Factor

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A bestselling Friday focus

By J.L. Oakley

As soon as Tommy was out of sight, Haugland jogged up the tree-lined driveway, slowing down where the pines opened up. From there he saw the fruit trees planted below the ruined farmhouse. Haugland cocked his head to listen to any sound, frustrated that he had to rely on the hearing just in his right ear. Nothing.

He surveyed the scene carefully. It would a while before the sun cleared the hills and fjell to the east, so the light was dim, but he could see clearly. He looked at the house and froze. The ancient door to the dairy in the stone foundation was open. He was certain it was locked when he was up here a couple of days ago.

Who was at the farmhouse? Someone pilfering it? Times were hard, but stealing from a neighbor would be a terrible infraction. He watched for any sign of movement around the door and saw none. Caution, however, told him to wait. Tommy would be getting close to the cabin by now. If Haugland didn’t show up, he’d find his way up here.

On Haugland’s right, the field ran alongside the edge of the pine and birch forest until it ran into a jumble of brambles. A narrow path led down to the cabin. He was torn about going up to the dairy or starting down. He decided to go up.

At the door, Haugland listened carefully again. Drawing his pistol, he slowly pushed the door open. It was dark in the cellar. He had come down here once with Anna—was that nineteen months ago? He was with her when she discovered the secret cave hidden in the back of the pantry. That finding had saved Kjell and Helmer while German soldiers searched the house during the razzia. But now, the chill of the cellar stirred in Haugland claustrophobic memories of the basement in Rinnan’s Cloister. Without a flashlight, he could not make out anything other than long-discarded tins and wooden boxes used for butter and cheesemaking next to him. Satisfied that no one was inside, he came out. Shaking off his unease, he turned toward the brambles. Whoever had come up here must have felt safe leaving his bicycle down on the road. Haugland hoped Tommy would approach the cabin with caution.

He listened for any movement above him, but heard nothing. He left the door open as he found it and started down.

The wind had picked up, bringing with it stinging bits of frozen moisture. By the time he reached the brambles, he felt sure they were in for sleet or hail. He took a deep breath and stepped onto the path.

The brown brambles were thick and woody, their thorns catching Haugland’s sweater as he passed through. Holding his pistol high in the air, he pulled back, then when freed, went forward.

The shortcut to the cabin began to descend down toward the pines around the back of the cabin. He stopped and listened. Somewhere ahead, a bird flitted in the underbrush, making sharp chirping sounds, but he couldn’t tell where exactly it called from. The bird continued on, then suddenly stopped. Haugland stood dead still, searching for the reason. Again nothing. My ear is playing tricks on me. He took a step out of the brambles and onto ground covered with pine cones and needles. He heard the click too late. Something cold and metallic touched the side of his head.

“Stay where you are,” a familiar voice said. “Put your hands up and drop your gun.”

Haugland carefully raised his hands. “You don’t want to do this. I’m not alone.”

He heard the man shift on his feet. The gun shook in the man’s hands. Be careful with that. Haugland surmised the man wasn’t sure how to use a firearm which made him dangerous. Haugland didn’t want to die by the pistol going off accidentally.

The Quisling Factor

Treason. Espionage. Revenge.

In the aftermath of WWII, ex-intelligence agent Tore Haugland tries to adjust to life in his newly freed country with the woman he loves. But he still has to testify against a Norwegian traitor—one of the monsters of the German occupation—whom he helped to capture.

When mysterious notes threaten Haugland and his family, he must choose between protecting them or bringing to justice the man who tortured him and destroyed the village that hid him.

Challenged by injuries and recurring nightmares, he will have to rely on his former training and old Resistance friends to rescue his wife from the traitor who will do anything to keep Haugland from testifying.

Get it on Amazon.

J.L. Oakley

has established a reputation for writing outstanding historical fiction set in the mid-19th century to the Second World War.

In 2013, she received the Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award and the Chanticleer Grand Prize for Tree Soldier, a novel set in the Forest Service, a Depression-era program in the Pacific Northwest. In 2017, Janet won the Goethe Grand Prize for The Jøssing Affair, the 2018 Will Rogers Silver Medallion and two WILLA Silver Awards.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @JlOakley.

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Maps and fantasy

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Monday musings on fantasy writing

By Scott Bury

A map is a necessary feature of any fantasy novel.

Tolkien’s map from The Hobbit

Ever since Tolkien and Lewis, and maybe before, every fantasy novel has a map at the beginning or the end of the book.

It’s not necessary, but I find a map often helps. I also think a good map would help with any historical fiction as well as some others, to show the reader the relationships between settings in any story, to give an idea of how close or far apart key locations are. 

The trouble is, with a lot of fantasy novels, the map is childish looking. Totally unsatisfying for anyone who knows the first thing about maps.

It seems that every fantasy writer thinks that Pauline Baynes, the illustrator of the maps in The Hobbit, set the rules of cartography. 

But they’re not as good at drawing maps as Baynes. As a result, their maps are not detailed, nor realistic nor, more importantly, believable.

One good example is the map of the fantasy world in the bestselling Eragon by David Paolini. Obviously inspired by the maps drawn by Tolkien and Baynes, it’s particularly unsatisfying and child-like. It displays a lack of understanding how geography and geology work. 

This is not the only example. All the writers of fantasy seem to think mountains look like individual little cones, sometimes topped with a charming snowy peak. Rivers conveniently go through cities, which always have a hill for a castle with four towers in it. 

Coastlines are remarkably smooth, and borders between kingdoms are regular, rather than the tortuous, twisting and contentious messes you can see in virtually every part of the word, shaped by centuries of warfare and politics. 

Likewise, the societies were always limited and simplistic. There is a good kingdom and an evil kingdom. Their allies are also either good or bad, but less extreme. Tolkien, Lewis, Pratchett, Turtledove and most others follow this trope. George Martin is the one author who comes close to reflecting the complexity of international relations and dynastic politics in his Song of Ice and Fire series. But even that is not as complex, nor as far-reaching as the real ancient world was.

The sophistication of ancient societies

The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, knew about China (which they variously called “Qin” or “Seres.”) Rome traded with India, and with far-off places like Abyssinia and Axum. Roman writers listed far-flung tribes in Scandinavia and what is now Russia, as well as in Africa. Their geography extended far beyond the maps of most fantasy writers. 

Maps and direction

Dissatisfaction with maps was part of the inspiration behind my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. When I began writing it, many years ago, my children were quite young and seemed to like stories about dragons. So we got a few movies and books, but somehow, they all seemed to follow a few well-worn tropes. The dragons were all friendly, or at least amenable to human direction. 

But that’s not what dragons meant to me. A little reading about the mythology involving dragons reveals them to be immensely powerful creatures, as well as very intelligent. While European stories generally depict dragons as antagonistic. Leave them alone on their giant piles of gold and jewels, or they’ll burn down your town and eat you alive, is the moral.

Asian dragons, on the other hand, are often said to have taught humans agriculture and other wisdom. They’re still not friendly, though. Certainly they are not suitable as pets.

Inspiration

All of this inspired me to do something different.

I guess it started with the map. “How can I make a map look more realistic?” I wondered. Eventually, I found the obvious solution: use a real map.

Which then led me to the next decision: set the fantasy story in a real place. And what is more fantastic than the Dark Age?

Current thinking dismisses the concept of the Dark Age of history. There are plenty of records from the time following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In fact, the idea is highly western-European-centric and ignores the splendid civilizations that persisted through the years 476 to 800 CE: the Sassanid Persian Empire, China, Japan, powerful and sophisticated civilizations in India and Africa and the Americas. 

But it’s still a powerful, romantic idea, a great place for stories.

So that’s what led me to set a fantasy series in the Eastern Roman Empire around the turn of the seventh century CE. 

And it has an awesome map, and I’ll use it in my upcoming sequel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

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A new bestseller with a new teaser: Fancy Man Blues

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A Thursday teaser from new member A.J. Llewellyn

Exciting news, readers! Bestselling author A.J. Llewellyn has joined the ranks of your favorite bestselling writers. Without further ado, let’s go to the sample of her newest book.

Stumpy Lake, Virginia Beach, Virginia, February. Midnight. Five Years ago. 

Athen felt ridiculous, in the dead of night, to be waiting to meet a man who’d claimed he could help him with his case. A man who was blind, no less. Athen shifted his feet a little farther apart on the edge of the damp, rock-strewn lakefront. His boots were wet, but the water hadn’t soaked through to his socked feet. Yet. 

He let his flashlight blaze a trail around him. The lake was considered perfect for watercraft, especially kayaks and ca- noes, but not for swimming. Athen had already been warned it was filled with deadly snakes. 

Something terrible had happened here to someone beauti- ful, and he wouldn’t rest until he solved the mystery of Allie Madden’s disappearance. He focused his gaze on a ripple of movement in the water. He didn’t want to get bitten and die before he could find her. 

Her disappearance and apparently brutal murder ached in his gut like an ulcer. 

He took some deep breaths and it only hurt his throat more. How cold is it? Last time I checked it was thirty-two degrees. Much colder now. Athen switched off the flashlight, tucked it into the pocket of his pea coat, and rubbed his gloved hands together. It didn’t help him get any warmer. 

I should have worn something else. This old coat won’t cut it. A fleeting sense of passion scissored through him for his lover, who’d lent it to him. Another worry invaded his thoughts. 

What if the tracker doesn’t show? Was it this cold the night Allie Madden was dragged out here?

He slid his left foot across the sand to his right. Then he drew it back, bringing the right foot toward the left. He shuf- fled this way repeatedly until the heat from his feet traveled up his calves and moved up toward the rest of his body. 

He let out a breath, condensation evaporating from his frigid lips. 

Keep moving, man

He continued sliding his feet back and forth, a trick he’d learned from his days working for the US Marshals. An ac- tress he’d protected from a stalker had taught him this routine from her long days standing on movie sets.

Where is she now? She’d been stalked by an ex-lover and he’d guarded her for two months in Savannah, Georgia. It had been hot and sticky and… Yeah. That’s the ticket. Pretend it’s hot right now. Her won- derful smile came to mind, and her wicked sense of humor. She was the closest thing he’d come to falling for a woman. 

And the nearest thing he knew of perfection.

Athen kept his gaze swiveling across the deserted beach. Where is this guy? Was this a hoax? The skin prickled at the back of his neck. The gift of fear. No. Not a hoax. He detected movement. The old man was close. 

Or somebody was. 

Fancy Man Blues

Can Blackeye solve his craziest case yet?

Athen ‘Blackeye’ Mavromatis, roving lieutenant with the Bev- erly Hills Police Department, is trying to enjoy a rare day off. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen when the mayor hands him a twisty missing person’s case. A Saudi Princess has vanished. Because of royal protocols, Athen must conduct his investigation under the wire. He doesn’t mind doing that, but it soon becomes apparent that the princess, who’s also a wannabe actress, might have been murdered. Her apartment appears to be one big giant crime scene.

But just who is Natasha Al-Khan, AKA Natasha King, and who wants her dead? Though Beverly Hills has the reputation of being crime-free, this is the second murder case he’s tackled in the short time Athen’s been with the department. Not only does he have to solve this one fast, but he and his lover, Grady, are dealing with Athen’s delinquent niece who’s just come out to them. Oh, and somebody very near and dear to them may turn out to be a deranged psychopath…

A.J. Llewellyn

A.J. Llewellyn is the author of over 300 M/M romance novels. She was born in Australia, and lives in Los Angeles. An early obsession with Robinson Crusoe led to a lifelong love affair with islands, particularly Hawaii and Easter Island.

Being marooned once on Wedding Cake Island in Australia cured her of a passion for fishing, but led to a plotline for a novel. A.J.’s friends live in fear because even the smallest details of their lives usually wind up in her stories. A.J. has a desire to paint, draw, juggle, work for the FBI, walk a tightrope with an elephant, be a chess champion, a steeplejack, master chef, and a world-class surfer. She can’t do any of these things so she writes about them instead.

A.J. I started life as a journalist and boxing columnist, and still enjoys interrogating, er, interviewing people to find out what makes them tick.

How to find/friend her:

And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter by emailing ajllewellynnewsletter@gmail.com – each month she gives away a free ebook!

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To create the perfect book

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It’s been said that no artist is ever satisfied with their work. And I think that’s just as true for writers.

I know that, once they’re out there in front readers, there is always something that I wish I had done differently with every one of my books.

For my first published book-length fiction, The Bones of the Earth, there are some things that still bother me about it. Even eight years after its release.

I wish I had included more description of the environmental damage done by civilization, even in the sixth century. For example, both Rome and Constantinople had to import most of their grain from Egypt and the province of Africa; bad farming practices and heavy urbanization had rendered the land around the big cities unable to produce enough food for the urban populations.

I did address this more in the sequel to The Bones of the Earth, the imminent The Children of the Seventh Son.

I also wish I written more about griffins. I put one into Part 1 of the story. I intended it to represent celestial or sky powers, as opposed to the chthonic or earthly gods. However, by the time I got deep into parts 2 and 3, somehow I forgot. Also, there are already a lot of fantastical creatures in it.

A griffin from a medieval tapestry now in Basel, Switzerland. Source: Wikipedia.

Also, I wish I had known more about covers for commercial fiction: would have liked my name to be in larger type.

However, Bones was not my first published fiction. That was a story that looks like it’s for children, Sam, the Strawb Part. It’s about a young boy who loves strawberries so much, that he dresses as a pirate and attaches a skull-and-crossbones flag to his bicycle, then uses it to rob local mothers of strawberries.

I just wish, now, that the tone had been a little less acerbic, and the story a little more suitable for children to enjoy.

The good news

That’s the thing about publishing today: you can change your books after they’re written. Re-publishing an e-book means that even the people who bought or downloaded it before the change will get the new version.

And the paperbacks are print-on-demand. There are no great stacks of books in a warehouse somewhere, so producing new versions will not require wasting the original editions.

Dr. Malcolm’s question

Then there’s the question that Jeff Goldblum’s character asked in Jurassic Park: I can go back and change books and stories that are already in readers’ hands—but should I? Will those people have a different reaction? Will a slight improvement bring more readers to the book?

My first job after university was as a book editor for one of the major publishers. On my first day, I asked my boss, the chief editor, if the goal was to produce the perfect book.

He laughed.

To this day, I have not come across a single book that did not have something wrong with it. Some error, at least a typo.

I know that every time I go through a manuscript I have already edited and re-written, I find something to change. A typo that I missed, a reversed quotation mark, an awkward phrase.

If I make a lot of changes and what I think are improvements, will I just find yet more problems or errors? Worse, will I create more problems?

What if what I think as such a huge, glaring problem is something that readers barely notice?

So should I revise old books, or move on and write new and better ones?

What do you think? Leave an answer in the Comments, below.

Scott Bury

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

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

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Nicoli

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A Thursday teaser from the latest crime romance

By Sydney Landon

Warning: explicit language.

“Good day at the office, honey?” I ask sarcastically as I watch the woman a few feet away unloading what looks like an arsenal. Very few people would guess that the voluptuous blonde staring back at me is in fact the daughter of Ray Gavino, head of the Gavino family. Of course, that’s a rather old-school description because not everyone in the mafia is related by blood. Unlike what the movies would have you believe, most of the successful organizations are more corporate now than gangster. Steal from us and we’re more likely to bankrupt your ass than to pop a cap in it. Unless you really fuck up. Then we’ll do both.

But neither Minka nor I are stupid. We grew up in the life and know well how dangerous it can be. There are strict rules and consequences. Fuck, we’re breaking a big one just by being together.

I should have pointed out at the beginning that I’m Nicoli Moretti, top lieutenant and best friend to the head of the Moretti Family—Marco Moretti. The fact that Marco himself fell in love with, and eventually married, Nina Gavino, stepdaughter to the late, and kinda nuts, Franklin Gavino, surprisingly helped ease the nonfraternization rule.

For you newcomers, I should have pointed out at the beginning that I’m Nicoli Moretti, top lieutenant and best friend to the head of the Moretti Family—Marco Moretti. The fact that Marco himself fell in love with, and eventually married, Nina Gavino, stepdaughter to the late, and kinda fucking nuts, Franklin Gavino, surprisingly helped ease the nonfraternization rule. Although, there are many on both sides who do not like it. We both have trust issues where the other families are concerned. Neither of us takes offense though, as it’s simply the way of things. A smart person is wary of everyone and everything. But when you’re born mafia, it’s a part of your DNA. At a young age, you know the names of your rivals, and you draw a fucking line in the sand between you and them with your crayon.

Sure, business interests cross over at times, but it’s rare we place complete faith in outsiders. Which means a relationship between two such high-ranking rivals is tricky, to say the least. Even Marco, who certainly understands that you can’t always choose who you fall in love with, isn’t thrilled that Minka and I are still together. I think he was hoping we would fuck it out of our system quickly. Yet six months after the big mess of Marco’s mother taking out his father and attempting to kill Nina, we’re still fucking. Hell, we’re pretty much living together. And I have no clue what it means or where it’s going. In truth, I spend far too much time trying to dissect it. I feel like the pussy I’ve accused Marco of being in regard to Nina. Maybe it’s our lot in life to be the chicks in our relationships when they involve Gavino women. I’ll kill any motherfucker who verbalizes that shit.

My thoughts are brought abruptly back to the present when Minka sticks a hand down her black leather pants and pulls out a switchblade. Fuck, I love her—er, lust her. Those “L” words are tricky bastards. I lean back against the sofa and eye her lazily. “See something you like, Nicole?” she asks with the smirk I’ve become so accustomed to. And as insulting as it is, I’ve also accepted her deliberate mispronunciation of my name. Hell, I’ve long since stopped correcting her. Especially since I know she gets off on chapping my ass. And I get off on everything about her.

Nicoli: Pierced, Lucian & Lia, Book 9

What do you do when those closest to you are not who they appear to be? For a man as loyal as Nicoli Moretti it’s the ultimate betrayal. As the top lieutenant and best friend to the head of the Moretti family, he thought he knew everything about the man he considered a brother—but he was so very wrong. Still reeling from that blow, he discovers that not only did the woman he loves know before him, but she also has secrets of her own—ones that could well get her killed.

His thirst for revenge is almost overwhelming—yet so is his love for Minka Gavino. A relationship with someone from another mafia family would be complicated on a good day, but is it even worth fighting for now? Once the trust is gone, can it ever be rebuilt? Or, will he walk away from the only life he’s ever known and the only woman he’s ever loved?

Get it on

Sydney Landon

is the New York Times & USA Today best selling author of:  Weekends Required, Not Planning on You, Fall For Me, Fighting For You, Betting on You, No Denying You, Always Loving You, Pierced and Fractured.  Sydney is currently working on the next book in the Danvers’ Series as well as the Pierced Series.

When she isn’t writing romantic erotica or romance, Sydney enjoys reading, swimming and the beach.

She lives with her family in Greenville, South Carolina.

Get to know more about Sydney:

Her BestSelling Reads author page   |    Website    |    Amazon Author page    |    Barnes & Noble    |    Kobo    |    Google Play    |    iBooks

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Writing means rewriting

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By DelSheree Gladden

Writing and rewriting go hand in hand. Over the years, rewriting takes up less time, for most writers anyway. When first starting out, though, rewriting scenes, characters, or whole books will eat up a big chunk of most writers’ time.

My first serious attempt at writing a novel was at sixteen years old. I wrote the entire first draft of what eventually became Escaping Fate in a half-sized spiral notebook with a variety of ink colors. When I typed it up, it only came out to about 35,000 words. It wasn’t enough to really make a full novel.

At the time, I pretty much gave up on it and worked on other projects. A year or so later, I came across that battered notebook and reconsidered whether or not it was worth continuing to work on.

I started reading back through the story to see if there were changes that could be made to increase the length and flesh out the characters and story a little more. The main story in that first draft focused on Arrabella and her grandfather unraveling the mystery of Arra’s threatening dreams. There were very few side characters or scenes outside of their investigation.

The story needed to be fleshed out, so I started a massive rewrite where I limited the role of the grandfather and brought in a new friend, Tanner, who is also a love interest. Shifting the role of the grandfather allowed me to add new scenes and give Arra more personality through her interactions with Tanner. Tanner was also able to help Arra get to know the town a little better, and mention future characters she would meet in the second book when school started.

Overall, I was really happy with the changes, so I sent it out to agents and publishers.

And it got rejected by everyone.

At that point, my life was really busy with school and family, including a toddler. I put the novel aside for several years. When I dug it back out, I had two toddlers, but I was ready to give it one last shot.

This final look-through resulted in another full rewrite, including changing the point of view from third person to first. I brought the grandfather back into the story a little more, expanded on the dreams and completely redid the ending to make it more satisfying as well as lead into the next book.

When I was finally completely happy with the book, I decided to forgo the process of pitching to agents, and published the book independently. This whole process took ten years, but it was worth the wait and the lessons I learned along the way.

Escaping Fate

Escaping Fate Series, Book 1

Turning sixteen should mean driving, dating, and breaking curfew. It should never mean certain death. Arrabella’s excitement for her upcoming birthday is swallowed up by not only her dismay at being moved to a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere, but by the terror of the dreams that assault her every night. Stalking her dreams, the raven haired beauty warns her, taunts her, as she is paraded toward her death.

Desperate for answers, Arrabella turns to her grandfather, the only one willing to delve into her family’s dark past. Warning her that once she takes the first step, there is no going back, Arrabella’s grandfather begins to unwind their awful heritage. The only joy she finds in the week leading up to her death is meeting Tanner Wheeler, a young man she barely knows but is immediately drawn to.

A story of selfish betrayal reaching back to an age of merciless gods and blood sacrifice, Arrabella’s world is sent into a deadly spiral.

Find it on

DelSheree Gladden

was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read.

Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.

Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.

Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects at

And find her on social media

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