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.

Breakfast

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.

Ingredients
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

Instructions
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.

Lunch

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.

Ingredients
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

Instructions
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?

Oven
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.

Grill
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.

Dinner

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.

Ingredients
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

Instructions
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.


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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.

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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!


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Kingsbane

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 claire-legrand.com 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.


THE ACCIDENTAL BEAUTY QUEEN by Teri Wilson

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.

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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 TeriWilson.net or on Twitter @TeriWilsonAuthr.


To win a copy of The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson, please send an email to contest@gmail.com 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!

WHAT IS QUALITATIVE EASING AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

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.

www.lisa-black.com@LisaBlackAuthor


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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorHannahFielding/

 


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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NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE by Neil S. Plakcy

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.

ABOUT THE BOOK

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 RebeccaMarksAuthor.com.

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.

For more information, go to richzahradnik.com.