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.

Guest Blogger: Rebecca Marks

October 9, 2017

I am delighted to welcome Rebecca Marks to the blog!

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Meet Dana Cohen
by Rebecca Marks

Dana Cohen is the protagonist of my mystery series. Dana is a beautiful, 40-something, redheaded, hard drinking, former NYPD detective who has “retired” after her 22-year stint with the department. Her mother passed away years ago from cancer, but she has now moved back to her childhood home on the North Fork of Long Island to take care of Sam, her aging father who has succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease and lives at the Island Breeze nursing home.

Dana’s ex-husband is Pete Fitzgerald, another NYPD detective she met soon after joining the force. The two married quickly when Dana found out she was pregnant. Both the pregnancy and the marriage were doomed—after Dana’s miscarriage, Pete’s roving eye finally “got to” Dana, and the two separated. But somehow, they never seemed to “pull the trigger” on a divorce, with Pete claiming his Catholic religion wouldn’t allow him to do that. In reality, although they got back together from time to time, with Pete swearing he wouldn’t stray again, it never really worked for them, and now that Dana has moved to Long Island, Pete has stayed in the city and on the job.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Dana cannot seem to resist sticking her nose into getting to the bottom of some terrible crimes that rock the normally peaceful town where she lives. She works with or without the cooperation of local police to solve whatever “unsolvable” crimes happen, despite warnings from the police to mind her own business and let them do their jobs.

As tough as Dana is, though, she also has a soft side that she doesn’t like to admit. When she meets Alex Frasier, her father’s nurse at Island Breeze, the two are instantly attracted to one another. They quickly begin an intense love affair, which seems idyllic until after four residents at Island Breeze are murdered, Dana has reason to suspect Alex of being the perpetrator, and she shares that suspicion with local police. Alex, who is actually completely innocent of any wrongdoing, is so mortally hurt and offended by Dana’s lack of trust, that he says he may never forgive her, and that their relationship is over. But Dana finds out she is pregnant by Alex, whom she still loves deeply, and as she struggles about whether to go through with the pregnancy at the “ripe old age” of 43, she tries desperately to get Alex’s love and trust back. Having been a very heavy drinker during her career and after she moved back to Long Island, the pregnancy forces her to stop drinking, and her sobriety gives her a great deal of insight she never had before.

Dana puts herself out in every way she can imagine, waiting on Alex hand-and-foot, apologizing over and over again, and doing everything else she can think of to win him back. Although he admits he’s never stopped loving her, he is recalcitrant to get back together with her until a mutual friend acts as an intermediary and urges Alex—who is desperate for Dana to go through with the pregnancy—to let Dana know he will be there for their baby no matter what.

After Dana decides to keep the baby, and after a great deal of effort on her part, Alex finally comes around, and the two are reconciled. That gives Dana a great deal of relief, although her father’s declining health is a constant source of sadness. She regrets that her father will never have the opportunity to really know his grandchild. When Alex gets down on one knee and proposes to her, Dana tearfully accepts his proposal and is thankful that she will be with the man of her dreams, and that even at this age, they will be starting a family together.


STONE COLD SOBER by Rebecca Marks (Black Opal Books; September 23rd)

Dana Cohen, a forty-three-year-old, hard-drinking NYPD detective, spent twenty-two years on the force before retiring to Long Island. Now Dana’s best friend, Marilyn, is directing a local musical theater production. Dana’s estranged lover, Alex Frasier, the father of the child she’s carrying, is a Morris dancer in the show, but Dana has no theatrical talent at all. So Marilyn cooks up a way to get the two former lovebirds together, hiring Dana to work security for the production. When Dana discovers a gruesome murder during one of the show’s rehearsals, her “detective gene” overtakes her, and she can’t resist the urge to throw herself into this case. But as she investigates, she uncovers some dark secrets and realizes, too late, how far someone will go to keep them hidden…

About the Author
Rebecca Marks has been writing, playing music, and singing for as long as she can remember. In September, Stone Cold Sober, a Dana Cohen mystery, joins the two other books in that series: On the Rocks and Four Shots Neat. Marks is also the author of About Time and About Face. Visit her website at

Guest Blogger: Rich Zahradnik

October 2, 2017

I am delighted to welcome guest blogger  Rich Zahradnik!

An  Introduction to Coleridge Taylor by Rich Zahradnik

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First his first name: Coleridge Taylor hates it. His father, an alcoholic English professor at City College of New York, chose it in honor of the academic’s favorite poet. If you look up Samuel Taylor Coleridge in a biographic dictionary, it will be listed thus: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Drop the comma and you have Taylor’s name. He’s dropped his first name all together. He doesn’t use it and forbids friends and family to. As you’d expect, I’m a big mystery fan. This last-name-only idea is, in part, homage to Colin Dexter’s Morse, whose first name was not revealed until the character’s death.

As for family, Taylor’s mother is dead before the series begins in 1975 with Last Words, and his brother has been MIA—dead, Taylor is certain—since the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam in 1973. He is closet to his grandfather, who runs the Odysseus Coffee Shop, also known as the Oddity, on Madison Avenue in NYC.

Taylor and I are both journalists. There the similarity ends. He is by far a better reporter than I ever was, with a laser focus on the story he’s after that can sometimes border on obsession. Okay, he crosses the border. A lot. Me, I was too easily distracted by other projects: starting a weekly newspaper (which is not the same as being a reporter driven to get that one single story), running websites, writing novels. In some ways, I probably made Taylor the reporter I thought I should have been. Or, more precisely, I’m pulling from memories of what I believed at the beginning of my career. Because I love what I’m doing now.

By the middle of the seventies, journalism was close to completing the transition from trade to profession—a transition that directly impacts Taylor. He entered the newsroom of the New York Messenger-Telegram in the mid-1950s at the age of seventeen, hired to be a copy boy with a high school degree. Yep, copy boys existed, running typed stories to editors and to the composing room. He worked his way up to reporter and onto the beat he loves, cops. This was the career path in journalism for decades; Taylor was one of the last to follow it. In the seventies, most newspapers were demanding college educations. Kids rushed off to get BAs and even masters degrees, a trend that was further encouraged by Woodward and Bernstein and the attention they received for bringing down President Nixon. These new hires flooding the newsroom make Taylor insecure about what he knows and his own modest Queens upbringing. Still only in his mid-thirties, he believes he’s good at the job, but wonders if the new kids have some special knowledge he doesn’t.

Facts are all-important to Taylor. He will not move a story forward without the facts to support it. He won’t invent—something he was once accused of at great damage to his career. He won’t bend or twist quotes. While he’s not one to sprinkle his speech with historical quotes, there’s one from John Adams he lives by: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” They are stubborn, almost as stubborn as Taylor is in pursuit of them. Because he knows if he gets the facts, he can tell the story of a victim and bring some sort of justice. That’s exactly what he’s trying to do in Lights Out Summer, in which an African-American murder victim is ignored as the press pack chases stories on the Son of Sam serial killer during the spring and summer of 1977.

About the book

Lights Out Summer

A Coleridge Taylor Mystery, Book 4

In March 1977, ballistics link murders going back six months to the same Charter Arms Bulldog .44. A serial killer, Son of Sam, is on the loose. But Coleridge Taylor can’t compete with the armies of reporters fighting New York’s tabloid war–only rewrite what they get.

Constantly on the lookout for victims who need their stories told, he uncovers other killings being ignored because of the media circus. He goes after one, the story of a young Black woman gunned down in her apartment building the same night Son of Sam struck elsewhere in Queens.

The story entangles Taylor with a wealthy Park Avenue family at war with itself. Just as he’s closing in on the killer and his scoop, the July 13-14 blackout sends New York into a 24-hour orgy of looting and destruction. Taylor and his PI girlfriend Samantha Callahan head out into the darkness, where a steamy night of mob violence awaits them.

In the midst of the chaos, a suspect in Taylor’s story goes missing. Desperate, he races to a confrontation that will either break the story–or Taylor.

About the Author

Rich Zahradnik is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Coleridge Taylor Mystery series (Last WordsDrop Dead PunkA Black SailLights Out Summer).

The first two books in the series were shortlisted or won awards in the three major competitions for books from independent publishers. Drop Dead Punk won the gold medal for mystery eBook in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards. It was also named a finalist in the mystery category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Last Words won the bronze medal for mystery/thriller eBook in the 2015 IPPYs and honorable mention for mystery in the 2015 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards.

Zahradnik was a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, Fox Business Network, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter.

Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1960 and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri and son Patrick in Pelham, New York, where he writes fiction and teaches kids around the New York area how to write news stories and publish newspapers.

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Guest Post: Romance Writers of America

September 12, 2017

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Do you believe in second chances?

Romance Writers of America brings together seventeen of today’s hottest authors in an anthology of never-before-published tales that reveal true love always deserves a happy ending.

Follow New York Times best-selling authors J. Kenner and Christina Lauren back to reader-favorite worlds.

New York Times bestseller Alyssa Day sprinkles djinn magic in her humorous paranormal romance, while Rachel Hauck brings the enchantment of the holidays in her New Year’s Eve contemporary love story.

And Liliana Hart delivers thrills and adventure in her characters’ search for the impossible.

With characters who find love through tough situations, in an elegant 1800s ballroom, with an old friend who shows up when least expected, at a tender age when cliques and homework get in the way of relationships, or after a random encounter in an unlikely setting, Second Chances delivers romance to strike every reader’s fancy.

Plus tales from:
Marilyn Brant
Kerri Carpenter
CiCi Coughlin
Cassandra Dean
Tina Ferraro
Renee Luke
Ariella Moon
Brandi Willis Schreiber
Lizzie Shane
Sharon Sobel
Damon Suede
Tara Wyatt

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Guest Blogger: Linnea Hartsuyker

July 31, 2017

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I am delighted to welcome Linnea Hartsuyker to the blog!

Behind The Half-Drowned King
by Linnea Hartsuyker

In D’Aulaires’ Trolls, a nine-headed troll in the Norwegian Mountains steals nine princesses from their father so each of the women can massage one of his itchy, lice-ridden heads, all of which are constantly arguing with one another and keeping the others from sleep. My father, a wonderful storyteller, scowled and scratched his own head when he got to this part, demonstrating why the troll needed these maidens. Eventually, a hero strong enough to lift the troll’s giant sword came along, killed the troll with one blow, rescued the nine princesses, and married the eldest.

Tales of Norse gods and giants formed the imaginative bedrock of my childhood. These were the legends of my ancestors and, growing up in the middle of the woods in upstate New York, it wasn’t hard to picture myself in the deep, dark Norwegian woods where giants lived in caves and battled with heroes. Scandinavian legends explained why my family was so much taller than my friends’, why I loved the cold and the snow, why my mother made pepperkaker cookies at Christmas and decorated the house with straw goats and wooden Dala horses.

The women in these stories were remarkable as well: the giantess Gefjon who turned her sons into oxen and plowed so deeply that she separated Zeeland from the Danish mainland, or Skadi who forced the Aesir gods to give her a husband, but had to choose him by looking only at his legs. There was not much difference between gods, trolls, and giants in this world; a brutal giant father could have a beautiful giant daughter desired by the handsomest gods. In the Norse heaven, warriors battled each other all day and then put their limbs and bodies back together to drink and feast all night.

Living in the country, I learned about the work it would take an ancient Norse family to stay alive through a cold winter. My family skied our frozen forest, and heated our house with stoves that required constant chopping and carrying of firewood. I learned to knit, weave, and sew at a young age, because those were my mother’s hobbies, and she saw virtue in knowing how to do things from scratch, from baking bread to making clothing.

When I was in my teens, one of my relatives decided to trace the Scandinavian side of our family, identified all of our relatives back to Alma, five generations ago in Sweden, and we met many new cousins through our explorations. What intrigued me more than the recent history, though, was the misty recesses of the family tree; Scandinavia’s church records are nearly unbroken back to the coming of Christianity in the 11th century, and beyond that, the sagas record ancestry back to the loins of gods and giants. One branch of my family can be traced to Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway in the 9th century.

Because Harald fathered over twenty sons, most people with any northern European ancestors can trace their lineage back to him. But learning that did not put a damper on my imagination. As an undergraduate, I researched Harald in Cornell’s libraries, reading The Heimskringla, the Saga of Norwegian Kings written by Snorri Sturlusson, when I was supposed to be doing my engineering homework, and learned about the princess Gyda who said that she would only marry Harald if he conquered all of Norway, so he swore he would not cut his hair or shave his beard until he had done so, and fifteen years later, he came back and married her.

When I began trying to write novels and short stories more seriously in my early twenties, I always thought that someday I would write the story of Harald and Gyda—once I had practiced enough, and had enough confidence as a writer. But one night, after bogging down while attempting to write another novel I didn’t care enough about, I decided that if I only wrote one story in my life, it should be this, and I was wasting time working on anything else. In Harald’s story, I found a world in which I could spend years, because, in many ways, I already had.

In reading The Heimskringla again, this time as a writer, I found that Harald’s story is not a particularly compelling narrative for a novelist: Harald is the brightest and the best and he always wins. In Arthurian retellings that King Arthur is often the least interesting character; it’s the people he surrounds himself with, torn between duty and their own desires, who have far more engaging stories. At Harald’s side, I found Ragnvald of Maer, his right-hand man, who makes hard sacrifices for his attachment to Harald. The Heimskringla gives only a bare-bones account of Ragnvald’s involvement Harald’s conquest, leaving plenty of room for invention. And Ragnvald had a sister Svanhild about whom even less was known; together they provide a canvas for a tale of betrayal and hard choices, of families torn apart, and brought back together again.

The dawn of the Scandinavian kingdoms was a fascinating time. Small kingdoms sent out viking raiding parties against one another and all of Northern Europe, terrorizing monasteries, and sacking Paris—twice. Early Norse kings ruled only as far as they could walk or sail in a day. Women had a great deal of agency and independence: they could divorce their husbands, and, as widows, own property and even command armies. But they could not swear oaths or testify at trials unless a man could not be found to stand witness, and were not required to consent to marriages. Without reliable birth control, they were bound to constant childbearing, which often killed them young.

I wondered what about 9th century Norway would make some people long for the security of a king, and others rebel and strike out to found the shockingly democratic country of medieval Iceland. In The Half-Drowned King, Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild embody two sides of that conflict, and much like in fantasy or science fiction, I hope that showing how people navigate these issues in a very different world illuminates something about how we confront them now.

An Indie Next Pick for August 2017

A Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers Pick for Summer 2017

A Buzz Books Pick for 2017


THE HALF-DROWNED KING (Harper; $27.99/$34.99 Can.; Hardcover; ISBN: 9780062563699; on sale August 1, 2017), Linnea Hartsuyker’s assured and compelling debut novel, launches an epic saga drawn from her own Scandinavian lineage. This first installment in a trilogy brings to life the cold and violent ninth century when Norway’s first king, Harald the Fair-Haired, united a warring nation and ascended to the throne. Drawing on extensive research, Hartsuyker crafts a richly-veined work of historical fiction that is propelled by her natural storytelling gifts. “Steeped in legend and myth, Hartsuyker’s debut is a swashbuckling epic of family, love, and betrayal that reimagines the Norse sagas,” says Kirkus Reviews, “While Hartsuyker’s prose is straightforward, the plot is as deliciously complex as Game of Thrones. And, in an era so dominated by the tales of men, it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show. Hold on to your helms and grab your shields—Hartsuyker is just getting started.”

            While THE HALF-DROWNED KING is a work of fiction, it takes its inspiration from classic Norwegian texts. “In the thirteenth century the Icelander Snorri Sturluson, a historian, poet, and politician, would write down theHeimskringla, and many other sagas—roughly the equivalent of someone today writing the story of the founding of the United States with only oral tradition on which to base his narrative,” reports Hartsuyker, who has traced her own direct bloodline back 1200 years to Harald the Fair-Haired. “The Heimskringla almost certainly has gaps and inaccuracies…. In writing The Half-Drowned King, I have used the stories in the Heimskringla as a jumping-off point, and also asked myself what might have been the real events behind the stories that Snorri Sturluson and others passed on and recorded.”

            The story Hartsuyker crafts from this historical raw material is exhilarating. In an age of chaos, a hundred petty rulers are willing to kill over the smallest parcels of land. But, a prophecy has promised the rise of a high king who will unite all of Norway. While sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, Ragnvald Eysteinsson—the son and grandson of kings—is attacked and left for dead by a man he thought an ally. The attempted killing, he will learn was engineered by his own stepfather, Olaf, who wishes to claim Ragnvald’s land and birthright as his own. Rescued by a fisherman and nursed to health by a widow trying to survive on the land of her slaughtered husband, Ragnvald plots his return and his vengeance.

            After the death of their father in battle, Ragnvald has sworn to protect his sister, Svanhild, who, as a woman, has remained behind with their mother and the scheming Olaf. Because of her sex, Svanhild is simply expected to make an advantageous marriage and leave matters of honor to men. Without Ragnvald to protect her, Svanhild could easily be married off to the man of her stepfather’s choosing. But her independent mind and adventurous spirit drive her to take control of her fate. When the chance to leave her stepfather’s cruelty comes at the hand of her brother’s arch rival, Svanhild is forced to make the ultimate choice: family or freedom. Meanwhile, Ragnvald sees opportunity with Harald of Vestfold, the strong young Norse warrior rumored to be the prophesied king. Ragnvald pledges his sword to Harald, a choice that will hold enormous consequence in the years to come.

Critics are raving!

“Making her fiction debut, Hartsuyker, who claims descent from Norway’s first king, writes an absolutely top-notch Viking saga, and readers will eagerly await the next two volumes in this trilogy.”

 Library Journal*Starred Review*

“A terrific historical epic…Posing thoughtful questions about the nature of honor and heroism, and devoting significant attention to women’s lives, the novel takes a fresh approach to the Viking adventure genre…The action scenes will have the blood humming in your veins.”

Booklist*Starred Review*

“Steeped in legend and myth, Hartsuyker’s debut is a swashbuckling epic of family, love, and betrayal that reimagines the Norse sagas….While Hartsuyker’s prose is straightforward, the plot is as deliciously complex as Game of Thrones. And, in an era so dominated by the tales of men, it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show. Hold on to your helms and grab your shields—Hartsuyker is just getting started.”

— Kirkus Reviews 

“The author, who can trace her lineage back to Harald Halfdansson, recreates the half-civilized, half-primitive landscape of his time, where a dragon boat sailing up a fjord struck dread in all who saw it. Befitting its subject matter, the book is replete with exciting battles, duels, and sieges, but the author makes Svanhild’s domestic tribulations equally dramatic. In the end, this novel can stand proudly with Edison Marshall’s The Viking and Frans G. Bengtsson’s The Long Ships as an immersive fictional recreation of a bloody moment in Scandinavian history.”

Publishers Weekly 

“A spellbinding evocation of a long-lost world of magic and blood feuds, populated by characters riddled with doubt and human failing beneath their epic exteriors.” — BookPage

“Suspenseful, intriguing, gripping!… Treachery and astonishment and surprise are always right around the corner…As with all great historical fiction, there are strong similarities to actual events. Good research is very important to a believable historical novel. This book has it. If you enjoy Bernard Cornwell, do not pass this book by. It is well worth the read!”
— New York Journal of Books

“Inspired by the Icelandic sagas, this action-packed first volume in a planned trilogy will transport readers to Viking Norway, where Ragnvald battles his treacherous stepfather in order to claim his true birthright after his father’s death. Meanwhile, Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild seeks a marriage that will give her the freedom she craves despite the era’s restrictive social roles for women. An adventurous summer read, in which vivid historical detail meets a fast-moving plot.”
— Library Journal’s List of Summer Escapes

Game of Thrones will be back on our screens by the time this epic Viking saga comes out, and it’s a safe literary bet for those of us who enjoy a bit of Westeros action. Ragnvald Eysteinsson is betrayed by his avaricious stepfather, and in trying to gain back his rightful inheritance, he pledges his sword to a young warrior plotting to become the king. If you like your heroes noble and your struggles for power bloody, this one’s for you.”
— 24 Best books To Read This Summer from 

“Linnea Hartsuyker brings myth and legend roaring to life in this superbly good page-turning saga of Viking-era Norway. Hartsuyker is fearless as she navigates a harsh, exacting and hair-raising world, with icy fjords and raiding seasons and ancient blood feuds. But the book’s fiercest magic shines in the characters of Ragnvald and Svanhild, as unforgettable a brother and sister duo as I can remember in recent literature. Linnea Hartsuyker is an exciting, original voice in historical fiction, and The Half-Drowned King is nothing short of mesmerizing.”
— Paula McLain, bestselling author of THE PARIS WIFE and CIRCLING THE SUN


Linnea Hartsuyker grew up outside Ithaca, New York, and studied Engineering at Cornell University. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU. She has read extensively of Icelandic sagas, kayaked and skied the fjordland settings for this novel, and has even become proficient in lifting Husafjell stones, as the Vikings did to become stronger. She lives in New York City with her husband.  For more on Linnea and her writing, visit:

A Conversation with Linnea Hartsuyker, author of THE HALF-DROWNED KING

Q.: Your debut novel, THE HALF-DROWNED KING, is set in ninth century Norway. What is your personal connection to the story?

When I was in my late teens, one of my relatives decided to trace our Scandinavian ancestry and identified all of our relatives back to Alma, five generations ago in Sweden. Scandinavian church records are nearly unbroken back to the coming of Christianity in the 11th century, and beyond that, the sagas record ancestry back to the loins of gods and giants. We found that one branch of the family descends from Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway in the 9th century.

I was fascinated by this connection and when I went to college, I researched Harald in Cornell’s libraries, reading The Heimskringla, the Saga of Norwegian Kings written by Snorri Sturlusson, when I was supposed to be doing my engineering homework. I learned about Princess Gyda who proclaimed that she would only marry Harald if he conquered all of Norway, so he swore he would not cut his hair or shave his beard until he had done so, and fifteen years later, he returned and married her.

My mother is a geneticist, and when we found out about our ancestry, she calculated how much genetic material we would share with Harald—some fraction of a single chromosome—and in my later research, I learned that most people with Northern European ancestry are descended from Harald, but it did not dim my enthusiasm.

Q.: What inspired you to write a novel—the first in a trilogy in fact—that focuses on this long-ago period in history?

I grew up on a dirt road in the wilderness of upstate New York, where my family skied our frozen forest, and heated our house with stoves that required constant chopping and carrying of firewood. I learned to knit, weave, and sew at a young age, because those were my mother’s hobbies, and she saw a virtue in knowing how to do things from scratch, from baking bread to making clothing.

My parents both love legend and folk lore, and I grew up with books of women-centric folk tales like Tatterhood and Maid of the North, and also the tales of my Norse ancestors. I loved the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and wanted to live in the 1850s, if not earlier.

When I got serious about writing as more than a hobby, in my late twenties, I was living in New York City, but a part of me always felt more connected to deep, dark woods and ancient legends than to the modern world. I no longer want to live then—I love modern conveniences—but I also love imagining what life was like in Viking-age Norway. A writing teacher once told me that you should write a novel about something you’re obsessed with; because you will spend so long with it, you will need that obsession to pull you through. I have always been obsessed with the borders between history and legend, between myth and reality. In telling the story of Harald, Ragnvald, and Svanhild, I am drawing on and expanding my own foundational myths.

Q.: Who are Ragnvald and Svanhild, and why did you decide to focus the story on them rather than Harald, who became the first king of Norway?

When I did decide to tackle this story, I re-read the Harald portions of The Heimskringla, and found that King Harald’s story is not a particularly compelling narrative for a novelist: Harald is the brightest and the best and he always wins. In Arthurian retellings that King Arthur is often the least interesting character; it’s the people he surrounds himself with, torn between duty and their own desires, who have far more engaging stories.

At Harald’s side, I found Ragnvald of Maer, his right-hand man, who makes hard sacrifices because of his attachment to Harald. The Heimskringla gives only a bare-bones account of Ragnvald’s involvement Harald’s conquest, leaving plenty of room for invention, but what we do know sketches a fascinating, conflicted character. And he had a sister about whom even less was known; together they provide a canvas for a tale of betrayal and hard choices, of families torn apart, and brought back together again.

Q.: How much about Ragnvald and Svanhild is based on fact and how much did you fabricate for dramatic purposes?

I have taken some liberties in order to tell the story I wanted. The primary sources only relate a few important events involving Ragnvald and his children. Nothing of Svanhild is known beyond her name and one of her husbands. I created other aspects of Ragnvald and Svanhild’s backgrounds and personalities to fit these scraps of information—adding a personal dimension to a political conflict. I noticed that Ragnvald names his son Ivar after his grandfather, but none of his sons or grandsons are named for his father Eystein, who was known as Eystein the Noisy—the implication being that he was a boaster. What kind of son would a boaster have? Perhaps a taciturn young man, uncomfortable with praise.

With Ragnvald, I wanted to explore why a highly capable man, older than the king he serves, would do

so much for him, and never rebel even when he had reason to? From there I imagined a young man descended from kings but whose family has fallen in recent generations, whose upbringing has caused him to doubt his abilities and curtail his ambitions, and who would eventually grow into the man known as Ragnvald the Mighty.

Q.: When did Christianity reach Norway? Your characters still pay homage to the gods Ran and Odin. Did Ragnvald and Solvi learn of this new religion from their travels?

The Half-Drowned King begins around 860 or 870 CE. At that point, even Germany and England had only officially been Christian for 150 years. The Vikings were aware of Christianity, but unlike the Frankish Empire and England, their rulers had no political reasons to become Christian. The Half-Drowned King is about the consolidation of power in Norway, at a time when all of the Scandinavian kingdoms transitioning from regional rule to nations with kings.

Vikings believed their gods gave them good harvests and victory in battle, and understood that different people had different gods; they believed in the Christian God and Christ as much as in their own gods, but thought that their gods must be stronger, as long as they won in battle. They would not be interested in throwing over their own gods for a weaker god.

Once they started to lose battles to Christians, Christianity became more attractive. At the same time, in the early 11th century, Scandinavian rulers began to see the value in converting to Christianity so they could make alliances with other Christian kings. The church also provided an educated, literate class of bureaucrats—priests and other church officials—who could help them administer their larger countries.

Q.: It is rare to have a woman as a central character in fiction set in this time period, and yet that is exactly what you have done with the character of Svanhild. Was this a conscious choice, spurred by twenty-first century awareness, or simply the result of her having been an important figure?

Svanhild is only mentioned briefly in The Heimskringla and no other sources, but as Ragnvald’s sister, and a player in the era’s politics, she could be as important as her brother. I wanted to create a character who was plausible for the Viking Age—not a 21st century feminist woman in period clothing—while making her sympathetic to modern readers. The Icelandic sagas are full of women who cause trouble, and spur their reluctant husbands on to vengeance or other actions. Wealthy women, especially widows, could also accrue a great deal of power. I wanted Svanhild to be aware of the influence she can wield, while also feeling trapped by the unique pressures of womanhood in her era.

Women’s stories have always been erased from recorded history, and in fiction, are often shunted into their own genre. In writing this book, I struggled with the fact that we know much more of men’s history and actions. I tried to give my women characters unique personalities and understandable motivations, rather than making them only helpers and maintainers of the men in their lives. I wanted The Half-Drowned King to show the various ways women could wield power: through their sexuality, childrearing and housekeeping, and even occasionally in politics and warfare.

Q.: What did you do to research the novel? Did you spend time in Norway? Do you speak Norwegian?

I researched The Half-Drowned King by reading a great deal of saga literature, criticism, history, and archeology. I’ve traveled to Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Ireland a few times, as well as the Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe Islands where some events in the subsequent novels are set. I visited museums containing Viking artifacts, and have learned some Viking crafts I did not already know, like Nailbinding, a precursor to knitting. In Roskilde, Denmark, I was even able to help row a replica Viking boat for an afternoon.

Q.: You first learned the bones of the historical details that found their way into the novel by reading The Heimskringla, or Saga of the Norwegian Kings. What other sources did you tap?

I read some other Icelandic sagas and Eddic verse, including Egil’s Saga, The Orkneyinga Saga, The Eddas including “The Havamal” which references King Harald and his sons. Another primary source is the Gesta Danorum, written by Saxo Grammaticus, a 12th century chronicler of Danish history, which notes some Norwegian history where it overlaps with the Danish.

I’ve also read a great deal of history, archeology, and anthropology of the Viking Age. Because the Vikings did not use a written language, much of what we know about them comes from archeological research.

Q.: Do you find inspiration in reading other historical fiction series? If so, which ones have influenced you?

I’ve always loved historical fiction and fantasy, because both genres draw their readers into unfamiliar worlds, where the author can explore universal problems in different settings. I read widely in many genres, including literary fiction, but my inspiration for The Half-Drowned King comes from folk tales and myth, as well as the beloved novels of my teens.

As a girl, I loved The Mists of Avalon and The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley, historical fantasy novels that used Arthurian Legends and The Illiad as their sources. I was fascinated by their depiction of cultures that existed Christianity, or as Christianization was just taking place. Evangeline Walton’s Mabinogion Cycle and Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain do a similar thing for Welsh mythology. I also read Sharon Kay Penman’s Welsh trilogy in my teens, and found her world, 12th century British Isles, to be as fantastical and alien as anything invented from whole-cloth.

Some other influential books include: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, a mystery novel set in a medieval monastery, Illusion by Paula Volsky, a novel that recreates the French Revolution in a fantastical setting; and The Lord of the Rings, which is rooted in Norse history and mythology. More recently I have enjoyed the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian and the Hornblower series by C. S. Forrester. The Other Boleyn Girl did a wonderful job exploring an overlooked character in history, and provided some inspiration for me to do the same. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset evokes medieval Sweden in a way that was very inspirational, but also quite different than the age of The Half-Drowned King, since the church has a very strong influence on Kristin.

Q.: What relevance, if any, does a story such as this one have in our own politically turbulent times?

I began researching and writing The Half-Drowned King right after the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, when I was concerned about how many of my fellow citizens were willing to give up their civil liberties for what seemed like more of a feeling of safety than actual safety. One of the main conflicts for leaders in the Viking Age was whether to give up some personal power and freedom in exchange for a king’s protection and the greater power of a centralized government. Everyone in Norway answered this question differently: the founding legend of Iceland is that the elite who did not want to be subject to King Harald fled to there to create their own democratic society.

Historical fiction allows us to see universal human concerns play out in a world very different from our own, and, I think, see them differently, and even more clearly, because of the distance of time. I wrote my first draft of the sequel, The Sea Queen, before the most recent presidential election, but in it, Ragnvald still struggles with the question of what he is willing to put up with in a leader, even if his leader’s actions conflict with his own morality. In the final book of the trilogy, Harald will push him even farther.

With the recent rise of activism in the US, as US citizens reclaim their political power, I’ve been reminded that all governments exist only with the consent of the governed. This was true in Viking-Age Norway, when kings were elected in ting assemblies from among noble candidates, and were killed if they did not use their power well, as today when town halls serve a similar function, though we are far less violent. The question of why we have a government, what we want it to do, what we give up in exchange, and what we do if it betrays our ideals, is evergreen.


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Guest Blogger: Dana King

May 8, 2017

I am delighted to welcome guest blogger Dana King!

Research can be a lot of fun. Should be, actually. Learning something new about a topic you’re interested in is always entertaining. It’s part of what separates us from lower forms of life like fish and birds and cockroaches and science deniers. Research that becomes drudgery is probably an indication you’re either doing it wrong, or the topic doesn’t suit you. Write about something else. Life’s too short. (We’re talking about fiction here. If you’re a technical writer, suck it up. As Hyman Roth said, this is the life you chose.)

I hold a Master’s degree in music, which is only important because it provides context for the story I’m about to tell. I took a course called “Chamber Music Interpretation,” taught by a charming and insightful man named Benjamin Zander. First day of class, Ben sat us down and explained the fact of musical life to us: We had all chosen to devote our lives to music. (Obviously the mileage varied among those listening to Ben’s speech, or you wouldn’t be reading this.) This was, in Ben’s eyes, a wonderful and noble thing, to bring beauty to others. It was also not without cost. We could never again merely listen to music as entertainment. Any music we heard—even a string version of “Poker Face” in an elevator—needed to be actively listened to. What was done well? What didn’t work? How would we do it? Not that we shouldn’t enjoy music—of course we should—but mere enjoyment was no longer enough. I internalized that lesson so well that to this day, thirty-plus years later, I can’t have music around me when I write.

What does this have to do with researching your book? The same rules apply if you want to make it as a writer. Anything you read—anything—has potential to serve your craft. People usually think of this as writing advice. Ways to drop in back story, set a scene, apply dialog tags unobtrusively. It’s also topic research, at least if the source is trusted. You think Michael Connelly knows a little about how police investigations work? Does Joe Wambaugh have a feel for street cops? Changing media, did The Wire nail how drug gangs work and how cops can investigate them? True, The Wire’s techniques are dated now but the principles of investigation and interplay between characters likely hasn’t changed much.

The same is true of daily life. News stories and even non-crime shows and books are full of tidbits you can use. Watch people the next time you grab a sandwich alone or are stuck waiting for a plane or a friend. I’m not saying to make it a compulsion. Just pay attention and be aware of serendipitous opportunities. File them away in your memory or your journal. (William Goldman once said he didn’t keep a notebook with ideas because he’d remember any idea worth writing about. I believe that’s true, to a point. The context in which something sparks a greater idea changes over time. I’ve found it nice to have a journal I can peruse to see if an idea that I liked enough to write down but not enough to follow up on might appeal to me more now.)

(Spoiler alert!) True story: My first Nick Forte detective novel, A Small Sacrifice, is about a crime boss who wants Forte dead. Forte has information that may lead an even bigger crime boss to want the other guy dead. The Big boss tells Forte to go away for a few says, these things have a way of sorting themselves out. In the original, Forte goes away until he gets a phone call to tell him it’s safe to come back.

I worked hard on that ending to make it as credible as I could. Problem was, it was also anticlimactic. The story’s resolution happens off stage. I pondered this for a while until for reasons that are still not clear to me, the end of the movie Three Days of the Condor came to mind. The result was for Forte to come back and arrange to be alone with the guy who wanted to kill him, only to have the hitter hired by said mob boss show up. Forte figures he’s a dead man until the hit man kills the mob boss. Why? The bigger boss hired him to kill the other guy, and the big boss is who the hitter will answer to when this all shakes out. The ending must have worked all right. The book received a Shamus nomination.

Is that plagiarism? Hell, no. It’s paying attention. It’s finding things in the world around you—wherever they are and whatever they are—and finding ways to bend them to your purposes. Don’t limit yourself by believing research consists of looking things up in the hope of finding something useful. Be ready for when something useful finds you.

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A Penns River Crime Novel Series, Book 3

As if things aren’t bad enough in Penns River, development and funding of a new religious-themed mall grinds to a halt when heavily-armed assassins cut down five leaders of the town’s fledgling drug trade while eating lunch in the food court. The television minister behind the mall has associates not normally associated with a ministry, outside drug gangs may be muscling into town, and the local mob boss could have an angle of his own. The cops have this and all the usual local activity to contend with in a story that extends beyond the borders of Penns River.


“Dana King’s Resurrection Mall is a patchwork of desperation from a depressed river town written with genuine style and grit.” ›Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of What You Break

“Another thoughtful, taut, suspense filled novel from one of America’s best new writers, the great Dana King.” ›Adrian McKinty, author of the Sean Duffy trilogies

Resurrection Mall is a brilliant crime novel that deserves to win every award in sight. One of the best of the year.” ›Tim Hallinan, author of the Poke Rafferty, Junior Bender, and Simeon Grist mystery series

“Dana King’s Resurrection Mall draws you in from the beginning, like sipping a fine single malt that opens wonderfully in the glass and you have to keep sipping until the end. King has a skillful grasp on character and dialogue, and that, along with his rock-solid police procedure, makes for a gripping, authentic read. I am a big fan of the Penn River series, and I want more.” ›David Swinson, author of The Second Girl

“Along with Worst Enemies and Grind Joint, Resurrection Mall elevates Dana King’s masterful Penns River crime series into the best hard-nosed police procedural since TV’s The Wire. Fun, gripping and thought-provoking, this third entry firmly plants ace Detective Ben ’Doc’ Dougherty in the ring with heavyweight crime-stoppers Elvis Cole, Alex Cross and Jack Reacher. All of King’s characters burst with no-nonsense, rural Pennsylvania life, but the author dives deepest into the most realistic and engaging crew of municipal cops I’ve encountered since Joseph Wambaugh. Don’t miss it!” ›Jack Getze, author and Fiction Editor for Spinetingler Magazine

“Complex characters, smooth dialogue and a hell of a plot make this one a winner. Rest easy, Ross Macdonald. The torch has been passed.” ›Terrence McCauley, author of Sympathy for the Devil and A Murder of Crows

RESURRECTION MALL by Dana King. Down & Out Books (May 1, 2017). ISBN 978-1943402656. 372p.

About the author

Dana King owns two nominations for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award, for A Small Sacrifice (2013) and again two years later for The Man in the Window. His novel Grind Joint was noted by Woody Haut in the L.A. Review of Books as one of the fifteen best noir reads of 2013. A short story, “Green Gables,” appeared in the anthology Blood, Guts, and Whiskey, edited by Todd Robinson. Other short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, New Mystery Reader, A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, and Powder Burn Flash.

Dana lives in Maryland with The Beloved Spouse.

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