Guest Blogger: Paul D. Marks

June 3, 2020


I am delighted to welcome Paul D. Marks to the blog!

From the publisher:

Bobby Saxon lives in a world that isn’t quite ready for him. He’s the only white musician in an otherwise all-black swing band at the famous Club Alabam in Los Angeles during World War II–and that isn’t the only unique thing about him…

And if that isn’t enough to deal with, in order to get a permanent gig with the band, Bobby must first solve a murder that one of the band members is falsely accused of in that racially prejudiced society.

Character is Conflict

by Paul D. Marks

The engine of fiction is conflict. Without it you have no story—or at best you have a boring story. Even Disney movies have it. Conflict can be internal or external. It can literally be a physical obstacle that stands in the way of the character: a mountain, a storm, an earthquake, or even a society that disapproves of that character. Or it can be a psychological obstacle, a fear, a belief, a weakness that the hero needs to overcome or conquer. Often it’s another person standing in the way of the character getting what they want. Or a combination of all of them. It’s what makes us root for the character. We want to see them overcome those obstacles.

The question then becomes what will the character do in order to achieve their goals? How far will they go? What will they sacrifice?

In The Blues Don’t Care, my mystery-thriller set on the Los Angeles home front during World War II, Bobby Saxon is a young man with two major goals in life. One of them is to get a gig with the house band at the famous Club Alabam on Central Avenue, but in order to do so he must first solve the murder one of the band members is accused of. And, if he gets the gig he’ll be the only white member in the band.

As much as anything, Bobby wants to play with the band at the Alabam. What is he willing to do to achieve that goal? He also has to deal with being the only white member of the band as well trying to solve the murder.  So, will Bobby become a detective of sorts, putting his life on the line to try to solve the crime? Will he do it because it’s the right thing to do or simply because he wants the gig? What’s he willing to sacrifice to be in the band and to be the man he wants to be? Or will he find that it’s all just too damn hard and give up? And these aren’t the only conflicts that life throws Bobby’s way.

In a mystery or thriller there’s the basic conflict of trying to solve the crime and the obstacles in the way of achieving that. And there are the conflicts within the character that stand in the way of achieving those goals. But there’s also the bigger picture of the story, the zeitgeist of the times and how that plays into the story and on the character. I often set my stories in the midst of real events such as World War II in this case. I like to explore how my characters react to both larger real world events happening around them and to the more direct and personal conflicts that confront them. I like to challenge them, and in the case of Bobby I wanted to test him by putting up roadblocks that would show what he’s made of.

I’ve always been drawn to characters who are outsiders, people who don’t fit into society or who are dinosaurs that have outlived their time. These are characters that are at odds with the world around them, that don’t fit into society. They struggle to get by in the world they live in. They often go against the stereotypes of how they’re supposed to be. So, they have conflict in achieving their goals, but also in terms of fitting into society. Internal conflicts and external conflicts. Sometimes they’re people who are ahead of their time and are rebelling against the norms of society. Others are trying to get by and hide who they really are in order to survive within the narrow confines of a particular society.

Bobby is an outsider on several levels. He’s a white musician trying to get a gig with a black band. But he doesn’t fit into the mainstream either. He doesn’t do what society expects of him. At a time when most men his age are enlisting in the military, he isn’t…and for a very good reason. By putting Bobby in the middle of several conflicts, I’m able to reveal who Bobby is and what makes him tick. And then hope that, even if the reader isn’t like Bobby, they can identify with him on a human level.

Having multiple levels and layers of conflict makes the story more exciting. And by taking on those conflicts we learn more about the character—what they are willing to do, how far they will go, what they will sacrifice. Characters are the choices they make and conflict and how they react to it helps define the character.

Paul D Marks is the Shamus Award-Winning author of “The Blues Don’t Care,” partially set at the Club Alabam and Dunbar Hotel in L.A. during World War II.


Guest Blogger: Paul Levine

April 20, 2020


I am delighted to welcome Paul Levine to the blog! He comes bearing gifts: a chapter from his latest Jake Lassiter novel, Cheater’s Game!

From the publisher:


Rich parents will pay anything to get their kids into college…
For a price, Kip Lassiter can get the perfect score on any test…
And Kip’s heartbroken Uncle Jake must defend an unwinnable case.

Kip has been working with millionaire Max Ringle in a shady scheme to help rich, spoiled kids gain admission to elite universities. Ringle, the mastermind of the fraud, cops a plea and shifts the blame to Kip.

Dr. Melissa Gold, Lassiter’s fiancée, tries to keep the ailing lawyer strong enough for a grueling trial, even as his symptoms of brain damage grow worse. As a fiery showdown with Ringle brings the courtroom to a fever pitch, Lassiter risks everything – including his own life – to fight for his nephew’s freedom.

“CHEATER’S GAME is a top-notch tale from Paul Levine, and his Lassiter is my kind of lawyer!” – Michael Connelly, author of “The Lincoln Lawyer”

NOTE: All the Lassiter novels are stand-alones that may be enjoyed in any order.

In “Cheater’s Game,” Miami lawyer Jake Lassiter tackles the true-to-life college admissions scandal. The drama begins when the car his nephew Kip is driving plunges into an Everglades canal. Kip has been tutoring high school students prepping for their S.A.T. exams. But visiting Kip in the hospital leaves Lassiter with more questions than answers.


Launching the Child Like a Sailboat

“Good morning,” he lied.

That’s what popped into my head midway into our colloquy. I have cross-examined professional perjurers for twenty-five years. Kip reminded me of a witness I once questioned, a guy who fabricated every answer, even to the polite request, “Please state your name for the record.”

It started well enough. Kip grinned and said, “Fire away.”

“What were you doing in the Glades?”

“Collecting money Jimmy Tiger owed me for tutoring his dumb ass. He was staying at his family’s fishing cabin.”

“Who’s Jimmy Tiger?”

Kip pushed a button on a remote, and the hospital bed groaned and propped him upright. “Jimmy was a year behind me at Tuttle.”

Meaning Biscayne-Tuttle. Kip’s fancy-pants private high school that sits regally on the shoreline of Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove. Mediocre football program, but the sailing and chess teams, top-notch.

Kip continued, “Jimmy used to come over to the house. Don’t you remember?”

I shook my head. The name neither rang a bell nor set off alarms. “How much did he owe you?”

Silence. I could have run the 40-yard dash while he decided what to say, and I was never fast. Surely he knew the amount, so why the delay?

“Eight hundred bucks,” he said, finally.

“I guess that explains the $987 in your wallet.”

Another pause. “I guess.”

Kip might be able to get a perfect score on the SAT, but he was a real dunce at prevarication.

“Why didn’t Jimmy send you a check?” I asked. “Or . . . what’s that system you use?”

“PayPal.” He shrugged. “Jimmy likes cash.”

“So do a lot of my clients. I send them birthday cards every year. Raiford, Avon Park, Dade Correctional.”

“Chill, Jake. This isn’t illegal.”

I chilled by finishing the icy Blizzard shake. The nurse returned and left a menu for Kip. He was hungry, and I wasn’t, probably because I had just inhaled a zillion calories.

When she was gone, I shifted gears. “What’s with your trips to Grand Cayman?”

Instead of answering, Kip took the oxygen clips out of his nose. “I gotta pee.”

Maybe he did or maybe he just wanted to concoct an answer. He swung his feet out from under the sheets, and I grabbed his skinny left arm.

“I don’t need help, Jake. Just push the cart for me, will you?”

I didn’t protest that he was wobbly. If he stumbled, I could catch him with one paw. I pushed the cart that held his IV bag and opened the door to the restroom.

“I go to Cayman for business,” Kip said, once inside.

I heard a tinkling. At least he wasn’t lying about that.

“Dr. Ringle has a vacation house on the beach,” Kip continued. “It’s where we have our marketing meetings.”

“Hold on. Who’s Dr. Ringle?”

“Max Ringle. He’s got a Ph.D. You remember Shari Ringle, right?”

“Another student at Tuttle?” I ventured.

“Boarding school at Saint Andrew’s in Boca Raton.” Kip walked unsteadily back into the room, and we retraced our steps. After he slid under the sheets, he continued, “The Ringles live in California, but they have houses in Palm Beach and Grand Cayman. I tutored Shari for the SAT, and now she’s at U.S.C.”

“Go Trojans. Is she your girlfriend?”

“I wish. Anyhow, that’s how I met her dad, who’s really brilliant. He runs Quest Educational Development. You know the Latin abbreviation, right? Q.E.D.”

“No, but I’m sure you do.”

Quod erat demonstrandum. ‘Thus, it has been demonstrated.’ Mathematicians use it to signify the accuracy of their proofs.”

“So it’s a math tutoring company?”

Kip gave me a pitying look that teachers reserve for their dimmest students. “You’re being too literal. Philosophers use Q.E.D. with their propositions. You could even end a closing argument with it.”

“Speak Latin? My jurors have trouble with bus schedules.”

“Q.E.D. helps wealthy families get their kids into elite universities,” Kip went on. “Résumé enhancement, SAT and ACT prep, even psychologists to help with test anxiety.”

“’Résumé enhancement’ leaves an unsavory taste. Sounds like hired hands putting a spit shine on the shoddy work of rich dullards.”

“Max says we’re just showing students in their best possible light.”

“When you cut through the marketing bullshit, aren’t rich parents just paving the road for their kids to get into fancy colleges? Meanwhile, poor parents scrape by, hoping for loans and scholarships.”

“How’s that different from a rich defendant hiring a top lawyer and posting bail while a poor guy stays in jail and gets the public defender?”

“Point taken.” Kip had been a star on the Biscayne-Tuttle debate team and seldom lost an argument with anyone, including me.

“Somehow,” I said, “I thought higher education should be a meritocracy, even when so much of society is not.”

“Wake up, Jake! Survival of the fittest. Capitalism at work. And it does work. Max pays me very well, as my Tesla ought to prove.”

“I’ve never heard you talk about money and material things like this, Kip. It’s so . . .”



He regarded me quizzically. “We’ve talked about Q.E.D. before. Don’t you remember?”


“I worked for Max Ringle as a freelancer before I went to Philly, then I started full-time when I came home.”

“Went to Philly.” “Came home.” Sounds so much better than getting his ass kicked out of college.

“My business cards say ‘Senior Vice President, Standardized Testing.’”

“Impressive. Let’s do lunch. Have your girl call my girl.”

He rolled his eyes. “When I got back to Miami, do you remember my saying how I was upgrading my clients and making a lot more cheddar?”

“Can’t say that I do.”

“Max Ringle was the first guy to call me. He said I could make a ton of money with him and I didn’t need a college degree. Bill Gates dropped out of college. So did Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.”

“Don’t forget Jeffrey Epstein and Ted Bundy.”

“I knew you’d say something like that.”

“I’m just surprised that your boss peddles such bullshit. And, frankly, this is all news to me.”

He paused long enough to measure his words. The P.A. speakers informed us that Dr. Kornspan’s presence was requested in the maternity ward.

“I’m worried about you, Jake.”

“Right back at you.”

“I bet you wish you’d never played football.”

“No, but I wish I hadn’t blocked that punt with my face mask.” That was true, given my grade-three concussion to go along with two minutes of unconsciousness. True, too, that organized football has become organized brain damage.

“You met Jimmy Tiger at the house a couple years ago,” Kip said. “Okay, so maybe you forgot him. But I told you about working with Max Ringle. Do you remember my asking your opinion about the Tesla before I bought it?”

I pointed a finger at him, as if aiming a dagger. “I’d remember the Tesla if we’d talked about it, and I don’t.”

“You better take some memory tests the next time you’re at the concussion center.”

“I don’t have drain bamage,” I said, repeating an old joke between the two of us.

Sure, I’ve been forgetful. So are lots of people my age. In conversations, the name of an actor or a movie or an old teammate slips away. I used to watch Jeopardy with Kip when he was a little kid. The game show places a premium not just on knowledge, but on how quickly you can retrieve that knowledge. Back in the day, my brain synapses fired at Usain Bolt speed. Now, the answer—What is Liechtenstein?—may come to me next Tuesday.

I can’t say whether my memory lapses are the result of brain disease or the ailment we call life. Either way, I’m not as sharp. Still, there are some things I’m sure I would remember, and I had the distinct impression that Kip was gaming me.

“What about those trips to Grand Cayman?” I asked. “Did you tell me about them?”

“I’m a grown man. I don’t need you to baby-sit me.”

Grown man sounded so discordant.

I looked him dead on. “Did you get your probation officer’s permission to leave the country?”

“In the practice of law, do you ever break the rules?”

“Only the little ones.”

“When you were in private practice, you’d get guilty people off, but you’re lecturing me about my legal responsibilities.”

“I didn’t get anybody off, Kip. I just forced the state to prove its case.”

He laughed. “What a rationalization. And I mean the psychological defense mechanism of making excuses. Not the mathematical process of removing the square root from the denominator of a fraction.”

“You win, Kip. You’re the smartest guy in the room, and likely the smartest guy in any penitentiary.”

“Relax, the probation department loves me. I made restitution ahead of schedule.”

“A hundred thirty thousand? How?”

“I got an advance from Max.”

“So, you owe your boss. Is he charging you vig?”

Kip laughed and buried his face in both hands. “Vig?” he said with utter delight. “You’ve been representing lowlifes too long, Jake. I’m practically Max’s partner. We’re businessmen.”

This businessman still seemed like a naive waif to me.

“Sometimes, Kippers,” I said, “you exhaust me.”

We were both quiet a moment. If the battle had been with bare knuckles instead of words, this is where we would be stuffing cotton up our bloody noses. I listened to the squeak of rubber soles on the tile floor outside the room. On the P.A. system, a Dr. Emery was required in the ICU. Outside the window, the sun was shining, and a breeze ruffled the fronds on a trio of queen palms.

“I’m worried about you, Kip. Or did I already say that? ’Cause I’m such a senile old bastard, maybe I forgot.”

“I’m good, Jake. Really.”

We had come to an impasse. He’d kept secrets from me, and I’d called him on it. He felt I was invading his personhood, and there was no way to convince him my good intentions outweighed his need for autonomy. So I gave up . . . for now.

I told Kip to call me whenever he was ready to be discharged. I’d pick him up. He said he would, and I didn’t know whether to believe that, either.

You raise your child the best you can. You send the child into the world, like launching a toy sailboat in a pond. Except the world is not a placid pond. More often, it is a raging sea, and life a perfect storm of the unexpected crashing head-on into the unbearable. There is no way to prepare the child for such a world because your own personal crises, traumas, and failures are just that, your own. Your child, as you will belatedly learn, is not you.



Guest Blogger: Michael Niemann

June 20, 2019

I am delighted to welcome Michael Niemann to the blog with his especially delicious post!

Turkish Recipes

Valentin Vermeulen likes to eat. Since his job takes him all over the world, he has many opportunities to sample local cuisines. In No Right Way, he visits southern Turkey to make sure that the United Nations funds allocated for refugee aid are spent properly and for the intended purposes. Despite pressing, deadlines he gets to sample several meals that are uniquely Turkish.


Vermeulen wakes up in his hotel in Kilis after a long drive the night before. He’s hungry. Fortunately, Turks tend to prefer a rich breakfast and Menemen is a splendid example of that. It’s usually cooked in a cast iron pan, but a non-stick pan will do just fine.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion diced (white or yellow, optional)
1 cup chopped peppers (use Aleppo or Urfa Biber if you can find them, or use red bell peppers)
1 teaspoon spicy chili flakes, Aleppo is preferred, but regular chili flakes are okay
3 cloves garlic minced
1.5 cups diced tomatoes
5 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pan to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion, peppers and chili flakes and cook them down about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper and stir them up. Cook them down until the tomatoes soften and lose some of their juices. Don’t let the pan dry out. About 10 minutes or so.

Beat the eggs in a bowl very lightly, then pour them into the pan. Tilt the pan a bit to let the egg mixture drip into the many nooks and crannies of your sauce. Do not mix it through. (One alternative is to crack the eggs directly into the pan and let them cook.)

Cook them a couple minutes, or until the eggs are starting to set. Remove from heat and let the eggs finish cooking in the warm sauce, a few minutes more. If you prefer your eggs more set, just cook them longer as desired.

Sprinkle with fresh herbs, crumbly feta cheese and spicy chili flakes. Serve with warmed bread or tortillas.


When Vermeulen realizes that eleven-year-old Tariq is spying on him, he also sees that the boy is hungry. So he takes him to lunch to find out who sent him. Lunch is at a Döner restaurant near his hotel. It requires a vertical spit with twenty pounds of marinated meat rotating in front of gas burners. I venture that most households aren’t set up to do that. But Döner has become favorite street food in Germany and many other places where Turks emigrated for work. So here’s one of the many variations.

2 1/2 to 3 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (around 9)
1 cup Plain Yogurt (you can use Sour Cream)
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Cumin powder
2 tsp Coriander powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Pepper
2-3 garlic cloves minced
2 1/2 TBL Tomato Paste
2 tsp. Olive Oil for drizzling

Wash and trim some of the extra fat off of the Chicken Thighs, pat dry.
In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt and all the seasonings, lemon juice, salt and pepper and garlic. Mix well.

Marinate the chicken in the yoghurt marinade for eight hours in the refrigerator (a freezer bag works well). Then roll each one up into a semi-tight roll, and put it on a skewer. Depending on the size of your skewers, add one or two more. Now it’s decision time: oven or grill?

Preheat oven to 450 F, put the skewers on a pan lined with aluminum foil and roast for 30 minutes, turn and roast 15 more.

Preheat grill. If using charcoal move the coals to one side and put the skewers on the other side. If using a gas grill set to the proper temperature for chicken. Grill for 15 minutes, turn, 15 minutes, turn, 10 minutes

To serve:
Slice the chicken meat parallel to the skewer. If you roasted it in the oven, add pan drippings. Put on a warmed pita with roasted onions and/or peppers, Tzasiki, shredded cabbage or hummus.


Towards the middle of the novel, Vermeulen has dinner at a restaurant that involved eggplants. Karnıyarık isn’t quite what he ate, but it’s close enough.

6 slender Eggplant
Olive Oil
1/2 lb Ground Beef or Lamb
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Tomato, one diced, the other sliced
2 lg bell Green Pepper, one chopped, the other one sliced in six slices
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 tsp Mint (dried flakes)
1/4 tsp Cumin
2 heaping soup spoons Tomato Paste

Peel alternating stripes of the eggplant and split them in half lengthwise. Liberally coat a baking pan with olive oil and place eggplant halves on top & brush with olive oil. Bake at 375°F until tender (about 30 mins or more). You may also fry the eggplant in a frying pan on all sides.

In a frying pan sauté onions & peppers in a bit of olive oil. Add meat and cook until brown. Add diced tomatoes, spices & 1 heaping spoon of Tomato Paste and cook until well mixed and tender.

After removing the Eggplant from the oven, use a fork to gently carve and press the middle so that you can fill it. Gently spoon the Meat filling onto the Eggplant until it is nice & rounded. Put a sliced of green paper on the meat and top it with a tomato slice

In a separate bowl mix remaining tomato paste with Water to thin it into a nice sauce. Pour on top of stuffed Eggplant. Return tray to oven and bake until sauce begins to bubble (about 30 mins). Allow to bubble for 5 mins then it is ready to serve.

Click to purchase

The fall of 2015. It s been four years since the civil war in Syria started and over a year since ISIS took over major parts of the country. The refugee stream into Turkey has swelled to unprecedented numbers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is scrambling to offer services and shelter to the multitudes. The Turkish government is doing what it can. Money from the rest of the world and European governments is flowing in to help alleviate the crisis. Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are using UN funds to do the on-the-ground work to house and feed refugees.

Valentin Vermeulen’s job is to make sure that all those funds are spent for their intended purposes. As he digs into his task, he learns that some refugees have not received any aid at all. Figuring out why that is quickly lands him in trouble with organize crime.
NO RIGHT WAY by Michael Niemann. Coffeetown Pr (June 11, 2019). ISBN: 978-1941890592. 240p.


Guest Blogger: Claire Legrand

May 18, 2019

I am so excited to welcome the fiercely feminist fantasy author, Claire Legrand, to the blog!

The Music That Inspired the Empirium Trilogy

by Claire Legrand

I’ve told this story before—how I came up with the idea for the Empirium Trilogy when I was eighteen and a recent high school graduate. How, while listening to Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I daydreamed the character of Rielle Dardenne. How I worked on the trilogy for fourteen years before the first book, Furyborn, was published.

What I haven’t talked about quite as frequently is the specific music that took me beyond that first moment of inspiration. The apocalyptic choral bombast of “The End of All Things”—the music that accompanies the climactic scene in Return of the King—ushered in the character of Rielle. But what about the days after that, once the heady rush of initial inspiration had passed, when I actually had to sit down and figure out how to write this thing?

In middle school, high school, and the first two years of college, I studied music with determination and fervor. My goal was to become a professional orchestral musician, and my instrument was the trumpet. But even before my official study of music, which took my love of instrumental music to the next level, I was obsessed with film scores.

I remember obsessively listening to Danny Elfman’s score for Black Beauty when I was in elementary school, and using it to daydream up all kinds of weird and often dark stories—always infused with magic and always centering around some kind of love story. A girl and her horse. A princess and her knight. Two best friends on the adventure of a lifetime. If music has been my greatest source of inspiration in terms of the Empirium Trilogy, then I can trace that inspiration all the way back to Black Beauty, and the hours I spent listening to it on repeat as a child. (Thanks, Danny.)

Another important piece of music in the process of writing the Empirium Trilogy was Fantasia On a Theme By Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a haunting, bittersweet work for string orchestra that I listened to on repeat while writing the original prologue of Furyborn. I can still remember the nervy, giddy feeling that came over me as I sat down to write that opening chapter. I had been planning the trilogy for a few years by that point, and I remember feeling like the moment I began writing this story for real would be pivotal, and that I would remember it forever. I was right. (Side note: The Furyborn prologue has stayed virtually the same over the years.)

Originally, the world of the Empirium Trilogy was our own. Rielle existed in a forgotten/concealed past, and Eliana lived in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic version of the southern United States. You can see a nod to this original concept in the name of Orline, Eliana’s home city. In the first version of the story, she lived in New Orleans. I spent a lot of time writing her opening pages in my university library, tucked away in various quiet corners. Hans Zimmer’s score for The Da Vinci Code was—and still is—a huge part of the musical soundscape of the book, and one particular track, “L’esprit Dès Gabriel,” helped me establish the look and feel of that post-apocalyptic New Orleans, which remains very much the same, even now that it’s Orline.

Last but certainly not least (though I could honestly keep going through my extensive original playlist for several thousand more words), is John Powell’s score for X-Men: The Last Stand. Seeing this movie in the theater was my introduction to the character of Jean Grey/Phoenix, and since I had at the time already started developing the character of Rielle, I was fascinated by this powerful, incredibly dangerous character, who was similar to Rielle in many ways. Say what you will about the movie itself, but Powell’s score is truly deserving of the overused “epic” descriptor. The three-track sequence “Entering the House,” “Dark Phoenix Tragedy,” and “Farewell to X” imprinted on me in a big way. The all-female chorus, the sense of mystery and encroaching doom, and the feeling of rage—it’s basically Rielle in musical form.

These are only a few of the musical pieces that inspired me in the early days of writing the Empirium Trilogy. For more music like this, check out my book playlists on Spotify!

Click to purchase eBook


Empirium, Book 2

In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller Furyborn, two queens, separated by a thousand years, connected by secrets and lies, must continue their fight amid deadly plots and unthinkable betrayals that will test their strength—and their hearts.

Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.

Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.

About the Author


Claire Legrand

Claire Legrand is the New York Times-bestselling author of FURYBORN, the first book in the Empirium Trilogy, as well as the YA horror novel SAWKILL GIRLS and the Edgar Award finalist SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS. Her other novels include THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, WINTERSPELL, and FOXHEART. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction. She lives in New Jersey, where she works as a librarian. Visit her at and on Twitter @clairelegrand.

Guest Blogger: Alexander McCall Smith

May 9, 2019

Alexander McCall Smith visits Nepal with The Gurkha Welfare Trust

Bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith CBE visited Nepal this Spring to see at first-hand the vital work of international charity The Gurkha Welfare Trust.

The author, who is best known as the creator of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, visited Nepal to find out about the charity’s work with Gurkha veterans and their families across the country.

During his visit Professor McCall Smith saw how the Salisbury-based charity ensures that Gurkha veterans, their widows and their wider communities are able to live with dignity in Nepal. This is done through the provision of financial, medical and community aid, which is often complicated by the beautiful but challenging landscape.

Highlights of the visit included meeting a 105-year-old Gurkha veteran whose retirement was made much more comfortable thanks to the charity. And another of 92 years, whose house had been rebuilt by The Gurkha Welfare Trust following an earthquake that devastated the county in 2015.

McCall Smith has had a special interest in the charity for a number of years.

You can read more about the visit in the author’s own words below.

From Nepal, by Alexander McCall Smith:

The desire to visit Nepal can occur at any stage in life. For some, reading at the age of eight about the conquest of Everest is enough to trigger the ambition. There’s the mountain, clean and white against the sky; there’s the line of Sherpas – what an evocative word! – toiling across the fields of snow; and there are Hillary and Tenzing on the summit, begoggled, triumphant. And at that age one does not give much thought to poor brave Mallory, frozen down below, where he fell, his body not to be recovered for three-quarters of a century.

Of course, there are other reasons for deeply-embedded hankerings to visit Nepal. There are the temples, pictures of which used to be in the Children’s Encyclopedia that some of us devoured when young; there is the name of the capital – Kathmandu – one of the great romantic place-names of the world, along with Rio de Janeiro, Dar-es-Salaam, and Constantinople; and then there are the Gurkhas, those stocky Himalayan volunteers who pop up in military histories, striking fear and trembling in their adversaries.

I have just returned from my longed-for trip to Nepal. My immediate reason for going was a connection I had established with The Gurkha Welfare Trust, a well-regarded charity that looks after Gurkhas and their families, including many veterans of the various conflicts that Britain has been involved in since 1939. The Trust had offered to show me what they did if I were ever to find myself in Nepal, and that was encouragement enough. Four hectic days at the Jaipur Literary Festival in Rajasthan might justify a few days in the mountains. More than justify, I thought, and bought tickets to Kathmandu from Delhi.

And then I was there. One further hop – on the wonderfully-named Yeti Airlines – took us to Pokhara, a major centre of The Gurkha Welfare Trust activity. Once in Pokhara we booked into Tiger Mountain Lodge, owned and run by a gregarious and charming Englishman, Marcus Cotton. Marcus was bitten by the Nepal bug in his twenties and has never looked back. He returns to North Devon for a couple of months every year, but the other ten months are spent on top of his Himalayan mountain, helping others to enjoy the view of the Annapurna Range.

The Gurkha Welfare Trust proved to be splendid hosts. A gleaming white Land Cruiser with a Union Jack on the front arrived at the lodge to take me, and my small party (of four, not a small party, in the sense of a small friend) down to their headquarters in the middle of Pokhara town. And there were the Gurkhas – a splendid body of men in immaculate blazers and highly-polished shoes, with the unmistakeable bearing of former soldiers.

We saw their clinic, where ex-Gurkhas and their wives – and widows – are looked after for life. We saw the nearby retirement home, built around a spotless courtyard; lunch was being served in the dining hall and generous helpings were being ladled onto the plates of the octogenarians and nonagenarians. On one of the doors, the room of a ninety-two year old ex-Gurkha, I saw his photograph proudly displayed, in uniform, with his military number. His face, like the faces of all the residents, was etched with the character that comes from the leading of a hard life at high altitude.

Later, in a side-street in the town, I was taken to the home of a Gurkha veteran aged one hundred and five. In Nepal it is difficult for people to be absolutely sure about how old anybody is, as records are not always reliable. This estimate, however, was made on the basis of age at enlistment, and so it was probably correct within a year or so.

We met in the courtyard of his son’s house. He walked quite well for a man of one hundred and five, supported by a walking frame bought for him by The Gurkha Welfare Trust. He sat down, and I sat down opposite him, our interpreter at his side.

He told me his story. After signing up, he had been sent to India, and from there to Iraq. Then he went on to Egypt, where he fought in the Western Desert. I asked him whether he had been under the command of Montgomery, and he said no, it was Mr Churchill who was in charge. Then he was taken to Italy, with the invasion, and he fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino. He said: “I lost many friends. Many of us did not come back.”

Our next visit was in the hills, where we went to see a veteran of a mere ninety-two. His house had been destroyed by the earthquake that devastated Nepal a few years ago, but had been rebuilt for him from scratch by the Trust. It was strong, I was told, and would withstand the next quake, which everybody says is bound to come.

At the end of our conversation, this elderly Gurkha stood up and saluted. He stood firm and dignified, for a moment a symbol of what these men stand for, which is loyalty. Once they give their word, then they mean it, and they have meant it for generations. That, I thought, is what makes our obligation to them so significant.

We went away in silence, each moved, in our different ways, by what we had seen. We looked up at the Himalayas, just a few miles away, at Annapurna IV, and the cloud that made a white line below it.

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The Department of Sensitive Crimes

A Detective Varg Novel

In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmö, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division.

These are their stories.

The first case: the small matter of a man stabbed in the back of the knee. Who would perpetrate such a crime and why? Next: a young woman’s imaginary boyfriend goes missing. But how on earth do you search for someone who doesn’t exist? And in the final investigation: eerie secrets that are revealed under a full moon may not seem so supernatural in the light of day. No case is too unusual, too complicated, or too, well insignificant for this squad to solve.

The team: Ulf “the Wolf” Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengsdotter, who’s in love with Varg’s car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing more than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.

With the help of a rather verbose local police officer, this crack team gets to the bottom of cases other detectives can’t or won’t bother to handle. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a true master.

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and best-loved authors. For many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the UK and abroad before turning his hand to writing fiction. He has written and contributed to more than 100 books including specialist academic titles, short story collections, and a number of immensely popular children’s books. But it wasn’t until the publication of the highly successful The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series that Alexander became a household name. That series has now sold over twenty million copies in the English language alone, and since the books took off, he has devoted his time to writing.

His various series of books have been translated into forty-six languages and become bestsellers throughout the world.

Guest Blogger: Tally Adams

March 20, 2019

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I am excited to introduce new author Tally Adams to the blog! If you love romantic suspense and paranormal titles, read on!

I learned at a young age my imaginary friends weren’t like everyone else’s. Mine didn’t go away as I got older, for example, and they were always running around in the back of my mind in ‘what if’ scenarios. In my preteens, I learned to channel them into words and gave them delightful tales to get them out of my head for a while. By the time I was 11, I’d begun to enter adult writing competitions and managed to win a few. Stories of adventure and overcoming all odds held my attention, and I started reading about heroes in mythology. (How can a person ever go wrong with Hercules?) Before long, I couldn’t get enough! I spent the next few years reading everything I could find on mythology from all over the world.

Then, sometime in my teen years, I discovered Johanna Lindsey and her Fabio-laden book covers. For a while, mythology was all but forgotten as I disappeared into romance. It didn’t take long to realize different writers had very different takes on what makes a good romance. Some of them had the classic wilting-flower heroine, while others portrayed women who were adventurous and daring. Eventually, I found Laurell Hamilton and realized both of my passions could exist in a single story. From there, Shadow Pact was off and running.

I would soon learn, however, that finding a publisher who was willing to tackle a new no-name writer was far more challenging than writing. Since my imaginary friends were already stirring and the next book was coming together in my head, I decided to self-publish Shadow Pact and move on in the series.

Before I knew it, Amazon wasn’t able to keep up with the orders and I found myself needing to produce faster than the print-on-demand model could offer. After a little thought (okay, a lot of thought), I decided to find a small print press in Dallas and have a number of copies made. Brown Books came up on my search for phone numbers and I called them to place an order for distribution. I explained what I needed and why and was told by the receptionist there was someone I needed to talk to. That’s when Tom Reale (President of Brown Books) got on the phone. I rattled off my situation and asked for a price on a print run. He started to laugh and said, “I’m not a print press. I’m a publisher, and I want to see this book.” The next thing I knew, Brown Books had taken me under their wing and Shadow Pact was released nationally, reaching far more readers than I’d ever dared to hope. Now, with the backing of a terrific team, Shadow Pact is gaining in popularity and starting to carve a place for the rest of the Immortal Romance Series. For anyone who loves adventure, a dab of magic and a dose of romance, check out Shadow Pact!

Shadow Pact (Immortal Romance)

On a quest to find her missing sister Amber, Emily finds herself in the middle of an age-old conflict between vampires and werewolves.  When she runs into trouble, Emily is rescued by an anomaly of the supernatural realm: the handsome vampire-werewolf hybrid, William. Now caught between two worlds, they must navigate the vampire and werewolf courts to try and save Amber, themselves, and whatever peace that remains between the feuding species.

With countless dangers at every turn a twisted vampire queen, a bloodthirsty Coven, and a power-hungry werewolf king who will stop at nothing to dominate the magical world Emily’s courage will be tested. She must become a part of a world she never knew existed to thwart plans of uprooting the reality she holds dear.


About the Author


Tally Adams

Tally Adams lives in Texas with her husband and four children (and one big, fat English bulldog). She’s been writing all her life, realizing at a young age the characters just swirl around maddeningly in her head if she doesn’t put them on paper. She began participating in adult writing competitions before she even hit her teens. Years later, she worked as a nurse and continued to write. Finally, she decided to move forward into the world of publication and share her imaginary friends with the world.


December 4, 2018

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Well, happy birthday to me! I love when my birthday falls on a Tuesday because then I feel like all the good books published that day are my gifts, and this one made a terrific present. (Feel free to call me silly but that is truly how I feel.) And a bonus: it can be your present, too! You can win a copy of this book, read on for all the details. Plus find out the inspiration for this book from Teri Wilson herself!

Charlotte Gorman is a grade school librarian and an identical twin. Her twin sister, Ginny, is a beauty queen like their deceased mother was. Ginny invites Charlotte to hang out at the swanky Orlando resort where the Miss American Treasure pageant is being held, but shortly after she arrives, Ginny has a terrible allergic reaction that would preclude her from competing – unless her twin will take her place.

For identical twins, these women are as different as night and day; Charlotte is the stereotypical dowdy librarian while Ginny is a glamazon. Nevertheless, Charlotte acquiesces in the name of sisterhood, meets and falls for one of the judges, and almost brings the pageant down.

This is a charming story with a lot of laughs and a warm, heartfelt ending. Reid (Royally Wed) also writes Hallmark Channel movies so do not be surprised if this book ends up there, obvious comparisons to The Parent Trap and Miss Congeniality notwithstanding. This is fast paced chick-lit that is sure to appeal to fans of Meg Cabot, Stephanie Evanovich, and Rainbow Rowell.

©Library Journal, 2018.

12/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ACCIDENTAL BEAUTY QUEEN by Teri Wilson. Gallery Books (December 4, 2018). ISBN 978-1501197604. 304p.



From Teri Wilson:

I first got the idea for The Accidental Beauty Queen last summer when I served as a judge at the national Miss United States pageant, which is the pageant featured in Miss Congeniality. It’s an actual thing! Who knew?

I’d never participated in a pageant in any way before, although I always watched them on television when I was a little girl. The directors of Miss United States are big Hallmark Channel fans, and several of my books have been made into Hallmark movies so they reached out and asked if I would be interested in being their “celebrity” judge. My answer was an immediate yes…so long as they let me try on the crown. (I mean, come on. How could I not?)

I knew before I even got there that I’d end up wanting to write something set at a pageant, so I was on the lookout for inspiration. During the judges’ interviews, I met a contestant who told me she was an identical twin. When I asked if her twin sister was there to support her, she said, “Yes, she’s right out in the hallway. But if you saw us together side-by-side you’d never know we’re identical twins. She’s a real tomboy.” That was all the inspiration I needed.

I like to describe the book as Miss Congeniality meets Parent Trap. I had more fun writing it than any other project I’ve worked on. But it’s more than a pageant book or even a romance. It’s really about two sisters rediscovering their connection after a lifetime of pulling away from each other. And of course it’s about inner beauty with a big dose of women’s empowerment. I can’t wait for readers to get their hands on it!

About the Author:

Teri Wilson is the author/creator of the Hallmark Channel Original Movies Unleashing Mr. Darcy, Marrying Mr. Darcy, and The Art of Us, as well as a fourth Hallmark movie currently in development. Teri is a double finalist in the prestigious 2018 RWA RITA awards for her novels The Princess Problem and Royally Wed. Teri also writes an offbeat fashion column for the royal blog What Would Kate Do and is a frequent guest contributor for its sister site, Meghan’s Mirror. She’s been a contributor for both HelloGiggles and Teen Vogue, covering books, pop culture, beauty, and everything royal. In 2017, she served as a national judge for the Miss United States pageant in Orlando, Florida, and has since judged in the Miss America system. She has a major weakness for cute animals, pretty dresses, Audrey Hepburn films, and good books. Visit her at or on Twitter @TeriWilsonAuthr.

To win a copy of The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson, please send an email to with “BEAUTY QUEEN” as the subject.

You must include your U.S. street address in your email.

All entries must be received by December 31, 2018. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. Your book will be sent by SIMON & SCHUSTER|GALLERY BOOKS.

One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.

Guest Blogger: Lisa Black is Back!

February 2, 2018

I’m always happy when Lisa has a new book out and she wants to pay a visit here. This one is especially timely. I always learn something fascinating and hope you do, too!


If you are like or have a spouse like mine, addicted to the 24-hour news channels, you may have heard more than you cared to about ‘qualitative easing’ as a response to the past decade’s financial crisis. The plan of the Federal Reserve was to first, buy ‘troubled assets’ from banks and financial firms. This took these bad investments off their books and raised their credit scores, as it were, so that they were more able to buy and sell as normal and get the economy moving again. If the economy is an engine, credit is the gas. Second, the Fed bought Treasury securities with the same goal.

Critics read this as the Fed printing money, wagonloads of it, and as we all know from countless Batman and WWII thriller plots, that would cause runaway inflation and plummet the value of a dollar. This is something like what Japan did after their 1991 crisis, and it didn’t work out so well for them.

But the Fed made these purchases by creating reserves, not by printing more cash. This is a very difficult concept to grasp and I can’t quite get it myself, but it means they create an account in the name of the bank for the purchased items. Therefore the securities go from being a liability of the bank’s to an asset held in reserve. These are eventually resold (at a profit, don’t ask me how—this profit goes to the Fed and, as all their profit is, turned over to the Treasury to reduce the national deficit). These events are more like loans than purchases, and they do not affect the amount of cash in circulation at any point in the process, and therefore cannot affect inflation or deflation. (The surest proof that the Fed was not ‘just printing money’ is that the inflation rate stayed at 1.4%. Which is actually not good—zero inflation is not the goal as that means that the economy has stagnated. An inflation rate of between two and four percent is considered ideal.)

Did this ‘fix’ the problem? Partially. The economy started growing again in 2009, only a year and a half after the crash, but the job market did not. Unemployment stayed high, and then the European market crashed. So QE#1 ended in March 2010, but QE#2 began. (Which does not, to my eternal disappointment, refer to a cruise ship.) In the #2 round the Fed decided not to replace the Fannie and Freddie Mac mortgage backed securities, which was a good way to passively tighten up money over time, but kept purchasing the Treasury securities. Again, this avoided messing with the money supply and the inflation or deflation that might result, but gas and food were still high, credit was tight, and unemployment off the charts.

For QE#3, September 2013 to October 2014, the Fed returned to buying Fannie and Freddie securities as well as Treasury ones. Many of these policies were open-ended so some activities continued until QE4 began in June 2017. QE#4 was meant to be the most passive approach to date, simply letting the securities mature instead of replacing them, eventually condensing the national balance sheet. The unemployment rate is well below 5%, inflation hovering around 2%.

Okay, so, why do you care? First of all, inflation and unemployment rates affect everyone. Second, it’s important to see that how the 24-hour news channels characterize events is dependent on what agenda they’re pushing, and a little information can help us take that agenda with a much-needed grain of salt.

But were these QEs and securities and reserve-creating the best thing to do? Who knows? Econ students will be debating these strategies and responses for decades to come. Some might try to make the argument that these responses aggravated an already bad situation. Most will argue that, as bad as things got, they would have been much worse if the government had simply gone the austerity route (like Europe) or done nothing at all. The 2008 crisis created uncharted territory, so there will never be a way to know for sure.

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A Gardiner and Renner Novel (Book 3)

Bestselling author Lisa Black takes readers on a nailbiting journey to the dark side of justice as forensic expert Maggie Gardiner discovers troubling new details about her colleague Jack Renner, a homicide detective with a brutal approach to law and order . . .

The scene of the crime is lavish but gruesome. In a luxurious mansion on the outskirts of Cleveland, a woman’s body lies gutted in a pool of blood on the marble floor. The victim is Joanna Moorehouse, founder of Sterling Financial. The killer could be any one of her associates.

Maggie knows that to crack the case, she and Jack will have to infiltrate the cutthroat world of high-stakes finance. But the offices of Sterling Financial seethe with potential suspects, every employee hellbent on making a killing. When another officer uncovers disturbing evidence in a series of unrelated murders, the investigation takes a surprising detour.

Only Maggie recognizes the blood-soaked handiwork of a killer who has committed the most heinous of crimes—and will continue killing until he is stopped. Burdened with unbearable secrets, Maggie must make an agonizing choice, while her conscience keeps telling her: she’s next.

PERISH by Lisa Black. Kensington (January 30, 2018). ISBN 978-1496713544. 320 p.

About the Author

Lisa Black has spent over twenty years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into six languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s list and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series.

Guest Blogger: Hannah Fielding

January 21, 2018

I am delighted to welcome guest blogger  Hannah Fielding!

Choosing Greece as the setting for my new novel

So far, my fiction has taken readers to Kenya (Burning Embers), to Venice and Tuscany, Italy (The Echoes of Love), and to Andalucía, Spain (Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy). In each of these novels, the setting is essential to the mood and the themes; it’s not just a backdrop that could be substituted for some other place, but an integral part of the story. So it is with my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears, set in the Greek islands.

Greece has been on my ‘must write’ list for many years, because it is one of my favourite corners of the globe. I first fell in love with Greece through meeting Greek people. I grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, at a time when it was a very cosmopolitan place, and many of my parents’ friends and my school friends were Greek. They were wonderfully warm and loyal people.

Of course, during my childhood I also became intrigued with Greece through the many stories of this land I was told – legends full of wit and wisdom, with a god or goddess for everything, from love to war to wine-making. I was so enthralled that my father gave me a book, a compilation of the best stories. I remember it as well-thumbed, with a cracking spine, and falling open on certain stories I loved: Persephone and Hades, King Midas and the golden touch, Theseus and the Minotaur – although the Minotaur illustration would frighten me. My governess read this book over and over to me, as did my parents, and I lived the stories in my imagination.

Then, in my early twenties it was time to spread my wings, and I travelled across Europe and spent time on the Greek mainland and the islands. I explored the Acropolis of Athens; I ate mezedes in little cafes; I went to festivals that were a whirl of dance and song. I met many Greek people, and was taken by their joie de vivre, their hospitality, their sentimentality.

I was so enchanted by Greece, and swept away by the romance of it all, that when I married my husband I not only had a Greek designer make my wedding dress but I honeymooned on the island of Santorini, where, like Oriel and Damian in my novel, I saw the most spectacular sunsets.

In the years since, I continued to visit the Greek islands, and to read the stories of Greek mythology, which really are more dramatic and romantic and complicated than any soap opera! Eventually, I had a head full of legends and of beautiful sights and experiences from Greece, and it was the most natural thing in the world to put pen to paper.

Aphrodite’s Tears, then, is the book I just had to write set in Greece, steeped with the history and traditions of this beautiful and fascinating country. I hope readers will enjoy visiting Greece through my story, and will fall in love with it as I did.


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Aphrodite’s Tears   by Hannah Fielding

In ancient Greece, one of the twelve labours of Heracles was to bring back a golden apple from the Garden of Hesperides. To archaeologist Oriel Anderson, joining a team of Greek divers on the island of Helios seems like the golden apple of her dreams. Yet the dream becomes a nightmare when she meets the devilish owner of the island, Damian Lekkas. In shocked recognition, she is flooded with the memory of a romantic night in a stranger’s arms, six summers ago. A very different man stands before her now, and Oriel senses that the sardonic Greek autocrat is hell-bent on playing a cat and mouse game with her. As they cross swords and passions mount, Oriel is aware that malevolent eyes watch her from the shadows. Dark rumours are whispered about the Lekkas family. What dangers lie in Helios, a bewitching land where ancient rituals are still enacted to appease the gods, young men risk their lives in the treacherous depths of the Ionian Sea, and the volatile earth can erupt at any moment? Will Oriel find the hidden treasures she seeks? Or will Damian’s tragic past catch up with them, threatening to engulf them both?

Aphrodite’s Tears by Hannah Fielding. London Wall Publishing (January 25, 2018) ASIN: B076LPC1HP. 624p.

NOTE: The Kindle version will be available on Jan. 25; the print version not until April, 2018!

Aphrodite’s Tears is out in paperback on 25th January for £7.99.

About the author

Hannah Fielding was born and grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, the granddaughter of Esther Fanous, a revolutionary feminist and writer in Egypt during the early 1900s. Upon graduating with a BA in French literature from Alexandria University, she travelled extensively throughout Europe and lived in Switzerland, France and England. After marrying her English husband, she settled in Kent and subsequently had little time for writing while bringing up two children, and running her own business renovating rundown cottages.Hannah now divides her time between her homes in Kent and the South of France. She has written five previous novels, beginning with Burning Embers.

Hannah’s books have won various awards, including Best Romance for Indiscretion at the USA Best Book Awards. She has also won Gold Medal for romance at the Independent Publisher Book Awards (The Echoes of Love), and Gold and Silver Medals for romance at the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards (Indiscretion and Masquerade).

Twitter: @fieldinghannah



Guest Blogger: Neil Plakcy returns!

October 25, 2017

I am so happy to welcome back author Neil Plakcy!

The Dark Web

Many years ago, at the dawn of the Internet, I picked up a book called Teach Yourself HTML in Seven Days, and I proceeded to do just that. Since then, I’ve been fascinated with internet programming – and hacking. The protagonist of my golden retriever mysteries is a somewhat reformed hacker, and it’s great fun for me to figure out how he can use those skills in his amateur sleuthing.

In my Angus Green thrillers, I’ve taken a different approach. Angus is a newly minted FBI Special Agent with a degree in accounting—a background common to many agents today, who need significant financial skills to track today’s sophisticated criminals. But Angus doesn’t have much experience with the dark side of the Internet, so I’m able to use his actions to teach my readers a bit about online villains.

An analogy that’s often used compares the Internet to an iceberg. Only about ten percent of all networked material is accessible through search engines and web crawlers. Techies call that the surface web.

Material like your bank account information, your email folders, corporate intranets and so on—anything that you need a password to access – is called the deep web. These don’t show up in a search engine, and you wouldn’t want them to. But there’s another part of that submerged iceberg, called the dark web. And that’s where criminals lurk, selling your information, trafficking in drugs, sharing pornographic videos.

When you make any request online – to visit a website or send an email– the internet uses a series of routers to complete your request. ISPs or government agencies can track the stops you make along the way, tracing you back to the unique web address assigned to the computer you’re using. But if you want to cover your tracks and dive into the dark web, all you need is an internet connection and a piece of software called the Tor Hidden Service Protocol.

Using Tor, your surfing requests stay within the network so you maintain anonymity. You don’t know where the server is you’re accessing, and they don’t know where you are. It’s perfect for political activists in repressive regimes, and for people who want to share and/or sell illegal materials – like drugs or kiddie porn.

The dark web is getting more visible these days, as investigators break into sites like Silk Road, an online black market and the first modern darknet market, best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs. Recently a France-based administrator of the site made the mistake of coming to the United States to participate in a beard-growing contest, and he was promptly arrested.

Angus is gradually building his arsenal of online skills. He’ll never be a true techie—the FBI has plenty of those. But I see him as an eager young Special Agent determined to bring a measure of justice to the world, and willing to learn everything he needs to know to carry out that mission.

You can enter to win this book and many others, all signed by the author!

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The sharp and suspenseful new sequel to The Next One Will Kill You, perfect for fans of Joseph Hansen, Richard Stevenson, Randy Wayne White, and James W. Hall.

With less than a year of experience and only one big case behind him, FBI Special Agent Angus Green has joined the rarefied group of agents who have been wounded in the line of duty. Assigned to a desk job while he recovers, Angus wonders if he’s chosen the right career. He’s been following his late father’s dream for a life of adventure and travel―and instead encountered danger, pain, and heartbreak.

But when Angus discovers that gay teens are being sexually abused by a pornographer in the same neighborhood where he lives, he shoves aside his lingering doubts about his job and accepts his new assignment. The case takes him from Fort Lauderdale’s seamy underbelly to boisterous beachfront bars where big-fish Russian émigrés launder illegal cash. Angus is back in full effect, but with great power comes great responsibility, and he’ll soon find his stake in saving these trafficked teens is more personal than he could have anticipated. Every case leaves a lasting scar―some are just more difficult to see. In the end, Angus will learn the truth of a saying he learned as a boy―there is a price to pay for every decision we make. Nobody rides for free.