The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

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A Memorial Day teaser

By M.L. Doyle

As we near Memorial Day, escape into the three-book Master Sergeant Harper military mystery series beginning with The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.

“Everyone seems to think highly of you,” he said, a smile playing on his lips. “Very professional, they say. A great leader. Good soldier. Articulate. I haven’t been able to find anyone to say anything negative so far.”

 Articulate. In my experience, people only applied that word like a compliment when used to describe African-Americans. We were to feel ultimately complimented because we could speak coherently. It felt more like an insult than anything he’d said so far. I felt my anger flare. I managed to check the angry words, but refused to keep quiet about it.

“Articulate? I wouldn’t be much of an Army spokesperson if I couldn’t talk, Chief.”

Ramsey colored slightly, pressing his lips together. He glanced at Santos then forged on.

“Unfortunately, people didn’t seem to have the same opinion of your soldier, Specialist Delray,” he said.

Since he wasn’t asking a question, I kept my mouth shut.

“What did you think of her, Harper?”

Now that was a question. Problem was, I didn’t want to answer it. I sat up straighter, blew out a breath.

“Come on, Sergeant,” Ramsey said. “She was your soldier. What kind of person was she?”

“To be honest, Chief, I feel as if I failed her.”

His eyebrows went up. “Go on.”

I fidgeted. It was hard for me to admit it. She was undisciplined. She’d been working for me for months and she still couldn’t write a decent feature story or take a publishable picture. I’d worked with her, tried to edit her stories and give her tips and tricks. None of it sunk in. After a while, it became too time consuming to give her the training she needed. She exhausted me. I’d avoided giving her assignments that were important, knowing they were beyond her capacity.  

“She was young, sir. She needed … constant leadership. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to give her the attention she deserved.”

“Constant leadership.”

“Yes, sir.”

He started pacing again, but let the silence stretch uncomfortably. The plastic tent flooring muffled his steps. A slow stab of guilt cut through my gut, the longer the silence stretched. Specialist Virginia Delray had gotten on my last nerve, but her lack of skill as a journalist was my fault. I’d given up on her.

I curled my hands into fists on my knees and squeezed. Ramsey saw my tension. He settled himself on the chair across from me, leaning his elbows on his knees. He invaded my space. I knew his blue-eyed gaze could see my guilt. Instinctively, I wanted to move my chair back. His close proximity was obviously meant to make me feel uncomfortable. It worked.

 “Constant leadership, and you didn’t give that to her?” He practically whispered my words back at me, the low voice meant to calm. I felt myself deflate, and slumped back into my chair.

“No, sir,” I said, and found myself whispering back. “I didn’t give that to her.”

“So you failed her, you say?”

“Yes, sir.”

He smelled like manly scented soap. His gaze wandered over my face as he sat only inches away. Clicks from Santos’s keyboard were the only sounds in the room, the whole table vibrating each time he slammed his thumb down on the space bar.

“You feel guilty about that,” he said. He put a comforting hand over my clenched fist, speaking in that quiet, intimate voice.

His frosty gaze could see everything, I thought, as if I’d scrawled my feelings across my forehead. His thoughts glared back at me just as clearly. Sympathy and accusation. His belief that I murdered Delray appeared there in the line of his eyebrows and the way he touched me. His manipulative sympathy disgusted me and pissed me off. I moved my hand away from his and sat up straighter.

“For not training her, Mr. Ramsey,” I said, no longer whispering. “For losing patience with her. For not making her a better soldier. That’s what I feel guilty about.”

He stared at me for a long moment, that icy glare back again. He pressed his lips together and breathed heavily through his nose, then stood up and walked toward the desk. He kept his back to me for several seconds, his hands on his hips. Finally, he turned around.

“Okay, let’s see what you know,” he said, and launched into an endless stream of questions. 

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

“… A great voice can be found in The Peacekeeper’s Photograph.” Writer’s Digest

“I love a good mystery/suspense/thriller, and this book had all three elements. I read it from cover to cover within a matter of hours! At 306 pages long, I struggled to put this book down!” Lynn Worton

“By the time I finished the book I had formed a bond with Harper and Fogg, and Doyle had provide enough details of Army life to make me feel like an invisible character in the story.” Amazon Customer

Master Sergeant Lauren Harper, an African-American career soldier, always has her eye on the mission, especially when on a deployment to a war-torn country like Bosnia. While Harper is dedicated to her mission, she’s not a super combat operative trained to kill people with her bare hands. She is a smart, but human military professional caught in an impossible situation.

When Specialist Virginia Delray, a soldier under Harper’s authority, is murdered, military investigators need a speedy resolution. Delray is Harper’s roommate and the young southern girl’s incompetence had sparked Harper’s temper more than once for everyone to witness. For the investigators, the shortest route to closing the case could lead directly to Harper.

When investigators find evidence of an attraction between Harper and her commanding officer, Colonel Neil McCallen—an attraction the married man returns but has never acted on—covering up an illicit affair becomes the motive the investigators searched for.

Harper’s freedom hinges on the answer to one question: If she didn’t kill Delray, who did?

With help from British Special Operations soldier, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg, Harper learns Delray’s murder is only one piece in a much larger conspiracy. The details come into focus, first on life at a remote NATO base, then on misery in the aftermath of war, and finally on the brutal truth.

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph is the winner of the Lyra Award for Best Mystery (2013), The Rebecca Reads Choice Awards for best ebook (2013), and recognized in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) for 2014.

Learn more about the Master Sergeant Harper mystery series on Amazon.

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

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When a book idea strikes

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Monday musings on new ideas for books

By M.L. Doyle

It never fails. I usually get hit with the good idea stick when I’m at my desk … at my day job.

Like most indie authors, I don’t make millions writing books (don’t I wish), so I have to earn a living doing something not as fun or as cool or as fulfilling as writing books. Ah well.

That said, it’s at the job where I actually earn a living that I get ideas for the job that isn’t responsible for putting food on the table. I’ve never asked, but I’m guessing my real employer wouldn’t be too happy with me dashing off a chapter or two while I’m supposed to be doing what I get paid to do.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Between having the first two books in my Desert Goddess series made into audio books, I’m sketching out ideas for book three. I’d been rolling a bunch of ideas around but hadn’t really landed on anything that was worthy of a jumping-off point. Until, off course, I got to work.

It felt as if, as soon as I booted up my computer, opened Outlook and started scanning through the piles of emails that would govern my day, that Hester, Gilgamesh, Sarah, Reuben, Quincy, Rashid and everyone else in my made-up world, demanded my attention. The opening scene unfolded. The emotion and atmosphere made themselves real. I could hear Hester in my head and the new character that will make his debut in this book, finally became a solid, fleshed-out human. For the first time, I could see his thoughts, could feel his fatigue, his hunger and confusion. He finally took shape and I knew exactly how I would make him work.

I grabbed a post-it pad, scribbled a quick tease of the ideas, and stuck them in a notebook. Throughout the morning, between meetings, phone calls, discussions with colleagues, I kept scribbling ideas and setting them aside for later. By the end of the day, I had a decent stack.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

At home, I spent some time sticking the post-its to the wall, moved them around, tried to build a bit of a timeline. There is still a lot of work to do plot-wise, but I’m finding the sticky note method works for me.

Once I sat down to write, I flew through the words that tied all of those ideas together. Chapters one and two were done in a flash.

Writing and my day job, for obvious reasons, have to be separate, but I’ve yet to figure out how to tell my brain to stop firing when I get to the office. I’m not even going to try.

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.co

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The Sapper’s Plot

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This week’s Thursday teaser is from Book 2 of the Master Sergeant Harper series

By M.L. Doyle

I was afraid of him. It was irrational, I knew. He hadn’t threatened me. In fact, he’d tried to be funny, charming even. Still, his voice, his accent drenched me in memories that left my insides feeling liquid. Dropic was just a guy trying to do his job and had nothing to do with the brutal nightmares I carried with me after my time in his war-torn country. He didn’t resemble the men who had attacked me, the men who had brutalized me, held me prisoner and almost enslaved me.

He didn’t resemble the man I had killed.

My rational mind knew all these things, but it didn’t matter. Upon meeting him, his voice, his accent had stirred up memories still too vivid, too raw to ignore. It didn’t help that he smoked the same damn cigarettes they had smoked. The smell of the unfiltered Camels, the sight of the red package in his hands was enough to make me tremble. God, I hated the smell of those things.

The exhaustion I felt now, the exhaustion that seemed to have settled in my bones so deep I sometimes felt like I could curl up and sleep for weeks, stemmed mostly from the fact that, almost nightly, I’d jerk awake at three a.m. with the smell of horse, hay and those damn cigarettes in my nostrils, the nightmares so vivid I relived the experience over and over again.

None of that was Dropic’s fault, but every time I heard his accent, every time I smelled the cigarette smoke that seemed to cling to him like a second skin, I couldn’t help but blame him for it. Why the hell did he have to be Bosnian?

I moved to the back of the truck where Dropic hiked his battery utility belt around his waist and snapped the fastener in place. I steeled myself for the confrontation, freezing my liquid insides to hard ice.

“That is an American soldier. You will not shoot video of his body.” I said.

The steady and commanding sound of my voice surprised me and stoked my confidence. When he ignored me, some of that confidence leaked out. He continued to gather his bulky equipment. He attached a small light to the top of the camera and plugged the attaching wires in place. His glance flicked to me for a moment, then he reached into his bag and grabbed a handheld microphone. I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to still my shakes. He wasn’t going to make this easy. At a murder scene like this, I thought it unlikely that any soldier would be willing to talk to him, but evidently he intended to try to get them to talk. A dark smirk played at the corner of his mouth as he hefted the gear from the truck. I stopped him with a hand on his arm and felt his considerable muscles tense. His smirk became a glare. He looked eager and ready to argue his point.

“You can’t stop me,” he said.

“Yes, I can.”

“What happened to freedom of the press?”

“This isn’t America.”

He opened his mouth to say something, then stopped, realizing what I said was true. After a moment, he shook his head as if to brush an insect away and tried to step around me. I stepped in front of him, putting my hand in the middle of his chest.

“Shooting video of dead American soldiers is not permitted. Ever.”

“You can’t cover this up,” Dropic said in frustration. “This is news.”

“It won’t be in a week.”

About The Sapper’s Plot

The last thing Master Sergeant Lauren Harper needs is another difficult mission. Her ordeal in Bosnia left her traumatized and worn out. But a soldier doesn’t get to say no to official orders.

At least this time she’s embarking on a humanitarian mission. What could go wrong?
Turns out, just about everything.

Harper travels with a group of Combat Engineers, also known as Sappers, to the tropical jungles of a Honduran village, only to find a gruesome murder. Cut off from the main base because of the hostile weather, Harper and a man she hoped she’d never see again, CW4 Fletcher Mayes, are forced to take charge of the investigation. Lurking in the shadows are sketchy-looking locals, insolent Sappers and an aggressive TV news team looking for a steamy scandal.

In the midst of it all, the arrival of Sergeant Major Harry Fogg provides some much-needed solace but also muddles her concentration.

Harper begins to think danger will find her wherever she goes, even in the deepest jungles of Honduras. At times, she feels her slightest movement will send her tumbling over a cliff—and heights are about the only thing Harper fears.

Get it on Amazon.

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

M.L. Doyle

calls on her years of serving as an Army Reservist to write about women in combat boots. She co-authored the memoirs of two brave soldiers to ensure their stories keep their proper place in history. Her work with Spec. (Ret) Shoshana Johnson, an African-American POW of the Iraq War, was finalist in the NAACP Image Award. She also co-authored with Brig. Gen (Ret.) Julia Cleckley the story of her rise through Army ranks from humble beginnings and despite great personal tragedy.

Mary has written the three-book Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, and Limited Partnerships, a four-novella erotic romance series. Her latest release, The Bonding Blade, is the second book in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series.

Mary’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The War Horse, The Wrath-Bearing Tree, The Goodman project and O-Dark Thirty.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

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Missing belt: The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

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Thursday teaser from the military mystery

By M.L. Doyle

“Can you take a look in here and see if there’s anything missing? Anything that might be wrong with the room?”

My breath caught in my throat. I did not want to go in there to see her and those hot pink toenails. I did not want to smell that smell again.

Ramsey, standing in the door of the trailer, saw my hesitation.

“We need your help, Sergeant Harper. Just a quick look.”

He held his hand out, like he wanted to help me up the stairs. I took the steps slowly, ignoring his hand, and stepped into the trailer. With Ramsey, Santos, Jenkins and the photographer in there, the crowded trailer could barely accommodate me. I stood in the doorway and looked around them.

“Everything looks the same as when I left this morning,” I said.

“What time was that?” Ramsey asked.

The foul odor reeked stronger now. My shallow breaths weren’t helping. I covered my mouth and nose with my hand and swayed, feeling dizzy. Santos steadied me, then handed me a small jar of mentholated rub.

“Under your nostrils,” he said.

My hands shook as I took the jar. The pungent ointment made my nostrils burn but presented enough of an olfactory distraction to cover up the odor partially. I wondered if I’d ever be able to eat again. They all watched me, sympathetic looks in their eyes, except for Ramsey. His blue eyes were icicle cool. I shivered.

“I left around zero six hundred to take a shower. When I came back from the shower, Delray wasn’t here. I’d assumed she went to shower herself,” I said. “I dressed, grabbed my gear and went to meet the EOD team. Everything seems the same as I left it. Even my towel there,” I added weakly.

The dry towel, draped over a hanger, hung from a nail next to my cot. Right next to that nail, sat another nail where my reflector belt should have been. My reflector belt wasn’t there. I clenched my fists, trying to stop the sudden trembling. I switched my gaze to the other side of the trailer, to the nail near Delray’s cot, where she hung her reflector belt to keep it handy for early morning PT. Her belt hung there, light glinting off the reflective material.

The door of the trailer gaped open. The air conditioner cycled full blast, but the frigid air wasn’t what had me feeling wobbly. My reflector belt wasn’t where it should be, but I knew exactly where to find it. Around Delray’s neck.

“Oh God,” I mumbled.

“Are you all right?” Ramsey asked, those frosty blue eyes not missing a thing.

“I, my, ah, reflector belt,” I said, hating how frightened I sounded. “It’s gone.”

Ramsey took a step toward my cot, pushing himself past the photographer.

“Where do you keep it?”

“On that nail there,” I said, pointing. I dropped my arm quickly to cover my shaking, then wrapped my arms around my chest. I wanted to tell someone to turn the air conditioner off, but couldn’t force the words out between my clenched jaw.

Ramsey looked at the empty nail, then over at Delray’s reflector strap. He motioned for the photographer to take pictures. The click and whir of the flash unit sounded loud in the trailer. 

“Okay,” Ramsey said. “Anything else?”

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph

A Master Sergeant Lauren Harper Mystery

The NATO mission in Bosnia is to broker peace between warring factions and help restore a devastated county. It’s a mission the world is watching.

But when Master Sergeant Lauren Harper makes a gruesome discovery, she has a new mission. Saving herself.

Harper, a career soldier, is innocent of the crime she is accused of, but she’s guilty of a lot of other things, like inappropriate feelings for her commanding officer, Colonel Neil McCallen and failing to lead a soldier who needed her help.

To get out of the mess she’s in, Harper must employ all of her wits and the help of an unexpected friend from across the pond, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg.

Her mistakes land Harper in the worst trouble she’s ever faced. She is forced to choose. Save herself and risk the lives of others, or stay, and face a life of degradation and slavery.

Get it from:

M.L. Doyle

M.L. Doyle, military mystery, erotica and urban fantasy

aimed to prove her brother wrong when she joined the Army on his dare. Almost two decades later, she not only confirmed that she could, contrary to his warning, make it through basic training, her combat boots took her to the butt-end of nowhere and back countless times and she lived to tell about it … or write about it as it turned out.

A native Minnesotan, Mary lives in Baltimore where her evil cats force her to feed and care for them including cleaning up their poo. To escape from her torture, Mary loves to hear from readers. Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

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Bestseller joins BestSelling Reads: Meet M.L. Doyle

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Bestselling and award-winning author M.L. Doyle has joined the ranks of BestSelling Reads.

Mary Doyle is the author of two memoirs, three mystery novels, a four-novella erotic romance series, and the first of a series of urban fantasy novels. Her first novel, The Peacekeeper’s Photograph, won the Carey McCray Memorial Literary Award for best unpublished novel from the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. It has since been published and received consistent five-star reviews.

“When I published my first book in 2010, I thought writing was a solitary thing. It’s still up to me alone to put words on the page, but I’ve learned that working within a writing community means you can find the support you need when you need it,” she says. “I know and have worked with many of the authors in BestSelling Reads already and I am honored to be invited to join such a talented group.”

Mary Doyle’s first book was as the co-author of  I’m Still Standing: From Captive Soldier to free citizen—my journey home (2010, Touchstone) which chronicles the story of Spec. (Ret.) Shoshana Johnson, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured during an ambush and held prisoner in the early days of the Iraq War. The book was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award in the literary category for best Autobiography/biography, a year in which the category included books about Nelson Mandela, Jay Z and Ray Charles.

Mary has also co-authored another military memoir. A Promise Fulfilled, My life as a Wife and Mother, Soldier and General Officer tells the compelling story of Brigadier General (retired) Julia Cleckley, the first African-American female general of the line in the U.S. Army National Guard. The book chronicles Cleckley’s journey from joining the Women’s Army Corps, to a position of power wearing the star of a military general. The story details her journey to success while facing the most devastating losses a woman can endure: the loss of a husband and of a child.

Originally from Minnesota, Mary Doyle served almost two decades in the Army Reserve. She was stationed in Germany, Korea and the U.S., and her career took her from Central America, the Middle East, and across western and eastern Europe.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast communications from Metropolitan State University and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma.

The Peacekeeper’s Photograph was planned as the first in a trilogy that now includes The Sapper’s Plot and The General’s Ambition, both featuring Master Sergeant Lauren Harper. But experience has shown that Mary isn’t done with writing about Master Sergeant Harper and her British companion, Sergeant Major Harry Fogg. Mary has written companion short stories, The Ceremony and Canceled Plans. She is planning a fourth and perhaps a fifth book in the series.

Mary’s adult romance series is called Limited Partnerships. It comprises Part I – Charlie, Part II – Luke, Part III – Wolf and Part IV – Derek, are available as individual ebooks format and as the Limited Partnerships Omnibus in ebook and paperback.

Her current project is a second novel in her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series that began with The Bonding Spell (2015). “I’ve been working on The Bonding Blade for a couple of years and I can’t wait to release it to the world,” she says. “It’s the second book in the Desert Goddess series aand I think it moves the story in a whole new direction. Ever since I released The Bonding Spell, my readers have been clamoring for the next book. I’m so happy to be closer to delivering it and can now promise that I’ll announce a release date by very soon.”

Mary loves to hear from readers. Find out more about her and her books on her BestSelling Reads Author page; check her out on Facebook.com/mldoyleauthor, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor.

You can read excerpts of all of her work on her website, www.mldoyleauthor.com.

 

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