Guest blogger redux: Lisa Black

February 7, 2017

I am delighted to welcome back guest blogger Lisa Black!

WHAT HAPPENED TO NEWSPAPERS?

Nobody reads them any more. Major dailies have been shutting their doors, laying off staff right and left, selling out to the large chains like Gannett and McClatchy. Soon they will disappear for good.

Or so everyone says.

I feel very strongly about newspapers. My most rock-solid, secure childhood memories would be waking for school in the 4th, 5th through 12th grades. My father would make me two pieces of buttered toast and a cup of tea and give me the “Life” sectioindonesian_magazines_jakartan with the movie reviews and the comics, and we would eat in companionable silence until it was time to catch the bus. Reading the paper over breakfast is still my favorite part of the day, a self-indulgent luxury I refuse to give up. I’m lucky that I live in a city (Fort Myers) that still has a decent-sized paper with seven-day home delivery.

Newspapers were a vital form of communication in the days before the internet, cable, television, radio or even telegraph. With the advent of the printing press newspapers began in the 1700s and grew steadily. Most were heavily biased and bore more resemblance to the National Enquirer than the Times. Writing an entire story based on complete supposition was not frowned upon. Businesses paid for favorable portrayals. You think today’s elections are dirty? Check out the John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson election of 1800, in which each candidate had everything from their parentage to their masculinity savaged in print. But newspapers also became forces for advocacy and exposition, a vital part of everyday life.

newspaper-boxesSo what changed? As one character explains to my protagonist, forensic specialist Maggie Gardiner, “Technology, to give the simplest explanation. Television, radio grabbed our audience and readership began to decline. This was the forties, long before the internet and Craigslist decimated what we had left. Reading newspapers is a habit, and it’s a generational habit. Then another whammy came in the sixties and seventies, when the printing process changed. It began to require more skilled labor, more sophisticated machines. Small town, family-owned papers were overwhelmed. The chains came in like carpetbaggers.”

“Chains?”

“Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Tribune, McClatchy. They threw money at the families who were pained but relieved to sell out. By 1977, ten percent of newspaper corporations owned two-thirds of the papers in this country. They invested, updated equipment, eliminated at least fifty percent of production line jobs. Printing, handling tasks were handled by machines instead of men. Profits, not coincidentally, climbed. People say now that the business model for newspapers never did work well, but that’s not true. Papers had always been profitable, but no one expected more than percents in the teens. Suddenly profits were in the twenties and the teens were no longer good enough. Hell, in 2008 Gannett slashed ten percent of its workforce when they were still making eighteen percent! McClatchy slashed a third when they were making twenty-one. Times hadn’t changed, so much as expectations.”newspaper-stack

Another character adds: ““And now here we are, maybe having come full circle. News—news, as an entity, has gone back to being the utterly biased, paid-for-by-sponsor pack of screed it started out as in the 1700s because it can’t turn a profit any other way. It did for nearly a hundred years, but Craigslist and eBay and Twitter have gutted the only thing about a paper that brought in more than it cost–advertising. Everyone keeps saying that it will all sort out and we’ll settle into some balanced system of digital and print media, and, oh, find some way of paying for it. Maybe through advertising, except that’s not panning out because too much of the internet is free. Hugely popular blog or multimedia sites, like the Drudge Report or HuffPost, still largely repeat content they get elsewhere and barely break even money-wise. Or maybe some system of public funding like PBS, libraries, and schools, which is not as much of a conflict of interests as it first appears. Something. Anything. But I’ve been watching and waiting for this ‘settling’ to occur. So far, it ain’t happening.”

And that’s what happened to newspapers.

About the book:

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Unpunished 

A Gardiner and Renner Novel, Book 2

Maggie Gardiner, a forensic expert who studies the dead, and Jack Renner, a homicide cop who stalks the living, form an uneasy partnership to solve a series of murders in this powerful new thriller by the bestselling author of That Darkness.

It begins with the kind of bizarre death that makes headlines—literally. A copy editor at the Cleveland Herald is found hanging above the grinding wheels of the newspaper assembly line, a wide strap wrapped around his throat. Forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner has her suspicions about this apparent suicide inside the tsunami of tensions that is the news industry today—and when the evidence suggests murder, Maggie has no choice but to place her trust in the one person she doesn’t trust at all . . .

Jack Renner is a killer with a conscience, a vigilante with his own code of honor. In the past, Jack has used his skills and connections as a homicide detective to take the law into his own hands, all in the name of justice. He has only one problem: Maggie knows his secret. She insists he enforce the law, not subvert it. But when more newspaper employees are slain, Jack may be the only person who can help Maggie unmask the killer– even if Jack is still checking names off his own private murder list.

About the author:lisa-black-2016

Lisa Black has spent over 20 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 6 languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s List and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series.


Guest Blogger: Neil Plakcy

November 15, 2016

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I am delighted to welcome guest blogger Neil Plakcy!

About Site Filming

With the prevalence of video everywhere online, you’d think that the FBI would be on the bandwagon, taking video footage of every scene they investigate. But when I participated in the FBI’s 10-week Citizen’s Academy, presented by the Miami office, I’ve learned that’s not true.

The Bureau does use videotape in a number of ways — for example, in videos for education and training purposes. In 2015, they produced a film about an emergency response scenario at George Mason University’s Prince William Campus in Virginia. Last year, several agents came to Broward College in South Florida, where I teach, to present a film about a naïve college student recruited by the Chinese government as a spy – based on a real life incident.

The most newsworthy relates to the fatal shooting of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier LaVoy Finicum. The Bureau released the video in order to provide “an honest and unfiltered view of what happened and how it happened,” according to comments made by Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.

Bretzing continues, “The plane is following the vehicles, and the camera sometimes pans from one vehicle to the other, a white truck in front and a Jeep in back. At other times when the vehicles are in a fixed location, the plane is flying in a pattern over that location. Because of that flight pattern, there are portions where trees obscure what is happening.”

I thought it was interesting that the press release included this note: “Pilots use Zulu Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), when they fly. Zulu time is eight hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Therefore, although this footage was taken on January 26, 2016 in Oregon, the date/time stamp on the video shows just after midnight January 27, 2016.”

I can see how small details like that might confuse people or make them believe that the footage had been altered in some way. And how the obscured vision could also cause questions or controversy.

This video covered an ongoing action, however, rather than filming a crime scene, which is an area that I cover in my new book, The Next One Will Kill You. I learned that the Bureau has a policy against taking video footage of crime scenes as part of evidence gathering. Here’s an excerpt from the book that explains why.

“The FBI never takes video footage of a scene,” I said, remembering what I had learned at the academy.

“Why not?”

“You never know what might get into the video that might turn out to be prejudicial to a case down the road,” I said. “Like, an agent joking in the background could show evidence of prejudice.”

“And?”

“Video gives you too much information,” I said. “It makes it hard to focus in on what’s important. Taking still pictures makes you pay attention to what you want in the shot. You have to make conscious decisions about angles and lighting and what to include or leave out.”

“Very good.” We watched as the photographer turned his camera on the crowd that had assembled to watch us work.

I’d heard that it was true that criminals often returned to see first-hand the destruction they had wrought. And whoever rented the warehouse might have come over to see what was going on. So shots of the crowd might prove useful in the future.

I watched as the photographer moved in closer to the bay itself. Another agent, a blonde woman, recorded a paper list of everything that was photographed, including the specifics of each exposure. It was all part of building a case for prosecution.

A third agent had a pad and pencil and was drawing sketches of the property. With a drawing you could remove unnecessary detail that crowded a photo, and the act of drawing helped the eye focus on what was important.

I loved my time at the Citizen’s Academy, even the sessions about job applications and paperwork, because I learned so much. I covered page after page of my notebook with information and it was a real struggle not to throw it all in the first book of my Angus Green series!

To see some FBI videos: https://www.fbi.gov/news/videos
To learn more about the FBI Citizen’s Academy: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/partnerships_and_outreach/community_outreach/citizens_academies

About the Book

The Next One Will Kill You: An Angus Green Novel (Angus Green Series, Book 1)

If Angus Green is going to make it to a second case, he’s needs to survive the first one.

Angus wants more adventure than a boring accounting job, so after graduating with his master’s degree he signs up with the FBI. He’s assigned to the Miami field office, where the caseload includes smugglers, drug runners, and gangs, but he starts out stuck behind a desk, an accountant with a badge and gun.

Struggling to raise money for his little brother’s college tuition, he enters a strip trivia contest at a local bar. But when he’s caught with his pants down by a couple of fellow agents, he worries that his extracurricular activities and his status as the only openly gay agent will crash his career. Instead, to his surprise, he’s added to an anti-terrorism task force and directed to find a missing informant.

It’s his first real case: a desperate chase to catch a gang of criminals with their tentacles in everything from medical fraud to drugs to jewel theft. With every corner in this case―from Fort Lauderdale’s gay bars to the morgue―turning to mayhem, Angus quickly learns that the only way to face a challenge is to assume that he’ll survive this one―it’s the next one that will kill him.

About the Author

neil_plakcy_closeup_2

 

Neil Plakcy has written or edited over three dozen novels and short stories in mystery, romance and erotica. He is an assistant professor of English at Broward College in South Florida, and has been a construction manager, a computer game producer, and a web developer – all experiences he uses in his fiction. His website is www.mahubooks.com.

 

To win your own ebook, please send an email to contest@gmail.com with “NEXT ONE WILL KILL YOU” as the subject.

You must include the email address where you’d like the ebook sent.

All entries must be received by November 30, 2016. Two (2) names 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 ebook will be sent by Diversion Publishing.

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.

11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

The Next One Will Kill You by Neil Plakcy. Diversion Publishing (November 15, 2016). ASIN: B01KUAGZ0I. 207p.


Guest Blogger: Chris Formant

November 9, 2016
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Please welcome my guest blogger, Chris Formant!

One evening, I was walking through my rock memorabilia gallery, with The Doors music in the background, and I stopped to study my latest addition: a two-page article in the Record Mirror from 1964 announcing a hot new band: The Rolling Stones. What struck me the most was how young they were; a fresh-faced Keith Richards, a teenaged Mick Jagger, and Brian Jones, the founder of the Stones. Hanging right next to Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison memorabilia.

Jones, Hendrix and Morrison all died at the age 27 under cloudy circumstances. Urban legends and conspiracy theories have swirled around their deaths for almost 50 years.

An idea got in my head at just that moment that I couldn’t shake and kept haunting me for days. What if they didn’t die by accident? What if they all were murdered?

That is how Bright Midnight got started. A fictional murder mystery that re-imagines the deaths of chris_abbey-road-1-300dpiiconic late 60s and 70s rock stars, not as accidents but as murders.

Creating the original story line was the easy part. More difficult was crafting a sophisticated investigation that would be intriguing to a 21st-century reader.

A former editor of Rolling Stone magazine helped provide unique insight into the personalities of many of the stars. While gaining access to the archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including original editor and reporter files on each rock star, brought the era vividly to life.

Additionally, former FBI and NYPD investigators, helped me understand the forensic processes and modern cold-case investigative techniques that could apply. Lastly, a top neurosurgeon and researcher from Johns Hopkins Medicine helped interpret the autopsies and suggested alternative means by which the stars could have died physically and chemically.

That set the stage for a creative reimagining of the deaths, seen through the lenses of modern forensic practices and with the application of the latest technology. But even the latest technology couldn’t bridge some of the investigative gaps.

So, being a technologist, I imagined new technologies that are not currently in existence or considered highly experimental. The joys of fiction!

One of the technologies I created was a digital fabric analysis via photo analytics, not unlike the technique used when actual clothing fiber is found at the murder scene. In Bright Midnight, this allowed the FBI to identify the fabric type, the manufacturer, and the possible retail outlet and time period.

Another imagined technology was the use of a virtual crime scene simulator that created life-size holographic murder scenes from the original crime scene photos. Extremely graphic, these allowed a unique 3-dimensional recreation of the murder scene that could be simulated and alternative scenarios tested. Both technologies sound like they could be possible in the future, so their application in Bright Midnight seems realistic.

One thing that proved key to creating unique murder delivery vehicles were actually the autopsies themselves, combined with the limited forensic techniques used at that time. That combination allowed me to envision a much wider set of possible murder options and allowed me to engineer possible chemical causes of some of the murders that would leave consistent chemical traces to the original autopsy.

The result of this melding of modern forensic techniques, imagined future technologies, and advanced analytics with old fashioned investigative gut instincts created a unique, fictional rock-and-roll murder mystery that brings the craft of thriller writing to the genre for the first time.

About the Author

chrisformant-2x2CHRIS FORMANT, who got his start in rock and roll in his early “garage band’ days, never dreamed he would one day hold a seat on the Board of Trustees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Today he is still a student of rock and roll and an avid collector of rock memorabilia. As an executive in a leading global company, running a multi-billion-dollar business, Formant is the unlikeliest of authors of a murder mystery. However, the continued unanswered questions surrounding the deaths of our most iconic rock legends led Formant to first speculate and then re-imagine what would happen if cutting-edge technology were applied to these famous cold cases. By conducting exhaustive research into the archives of the Hall of Fame, studying advanced forensics techniques and gaining creative insights from top doctors, FBI investigators and a former editor of Rolling Stone magazine, Formant crafted what is being referred to as the “The DaVinci Code for Rock and Roll Fans.”

11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BRIGHT MIDNIGHT by Chris Formant. HighLine Editions; New edition edition (October 27, 2016). ISBN 978-1941286920. 275p.


Guest Blogger: Katherine Prairie

October 26, 2016
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Please welcome guest blogger Katherine Prairie!

Balance, by Katherine Prairie
www.katherineprairie.com

If you’re like me, there’s something about fall that ignites a rush of energy and new projects. It’s the time of year too, when friends return from summer holidays, organizations restart their meetings and interesting classes are on offer. Of course, all of these added temptations occur during the months when I’m most likely readying a manuscript for my editor, and I’m left wondering how to balance it all.

I try to corral my work into a reasonable number of hours a day, but that can be difficult when it’s so easy to slip into my home office to write. Add in the unpredictable nature of creativity, and you may easily find me writing well before dawn while the rest of the household is asleep! But I remind myself that even though writing is something I enjoy, I have to draw a line somewhere or risk crowding out the rest of my life. Life-work balance … it’s a struggle that I’m sure many of you share!

But the idea of balance has me thinking about other aspects of writing too. At the heart of my Alex Graham mysteries is real science and politics specific to the location in which the story is set, and that means hundreds of hours of research. It’s easy to get caught-up in something intriguing or devote weeks of effort researching a topic that ultimately doesn’t make it into the book. Balance in research means learning when to say no. At some point I have to step away from the journals, libraries and expert resources, and just write the story.

So beyond the absolute essentials needed to start a story, I’ve started to research as I write instead of trying to do everything up-front. It’s a more balanced approach that surprisingly suggested a different organization for my research, one that has made a world of difference. I now link specific research to a section or chapter of my novel, and that makes it easier to incorporate ideas and fact-check as I write.

Balance also means knowing when to say yes, and that applies to my characters and plots. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but my first draft becomes an outline that serves as the framework for subsequent drafts. As I’m writing a second or even a third draft, a character or scene that I hadn’t considered might take shape, or a plot twist or subplot might come to mind. It would be easy to reject these additions and keep to the outline, but I’ve learned to say yes to these creative sparks. Although it can take weeks to weave these new ideas into a near-completed draft, it’s always worth it because the end result is a better story.

I’m not sure I’ll ever achieve true balance in life or in my writing, but learning to say no to the time-wasters and yes to valuable ideas, people and experiences is a step in the right direction!

About the Book:

Explosive violence rocks Canada’s Slocan Valley after the shooting deaths of three teenagers in a bombing attempt at the Keenleyside dam. A joint U.S.-Canada military force locks down the Valley to protect Columbia River dams critical to both countries but martial law incites more violence.

Geologist Alex Graham refuses to let politics stand in her way. She evades military patrols to slip into a restricted zone in her hunt for a silver mine to claim as her own. But her plans are derailed by an intentionally set fire that almost takes her life.

Someone wants her out of the Slocan Valley.

When Alex discovers a gunshot victim in an abandoned mine, she fears she could be next. But she s never been one to wait for trouble to come to her and she tracks a suspicious man seen once too often in the lonely mountains.

All eyes are on the dams, but the true threat lies elsewhere.

katherine-prairieAbout the Author:

With a love of the outdoors and a natural curiosity about the physical environment, geology was a natural fit for Katherine Prairie. Although she started her education as a mining geologist at Lakehead University, Katherine ultimately graduated from the University of Alberta and headed off to Calgary to work in petroleum geology.

She worked primarily on international oil and gas projects as a specialist in geological computer modeling, but her consulting practice included diverse clients such as Saks Fifth Avenue, British Columbia’s Parks and Protected Services and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. During these years, she also completed a M.Sc. in Chemical and Bio-Resource Engineering at the University of British Columbia, her studies focused on water management and environmental issues.

Katherine is an award-winning presenter and an enthusiastic teacher who has taught and designed numerous courses in both the private and public sector. She is the author of The Essential PROC SQL Handbook for SAS Users published by SAS Press in 2005.

She finally stepped away from the petroleum industry after twenty-five years to pursue her love of writing full-time. The result was her first novel, a mystery entitled Thirst. Learn more about Katherine here : www.katherineprairie.com


Guest Author: Patrick Kelly

October 22, 2016
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Patrick Kelly has recently released Hill Country Siren, the third novel in the highly praised financial thriller series featuring Austin sleuth, Joe Robbins. Following is a Q&A with the author.

1. Hill Country Siren is your third Joe Robbins financial thriller. What can you tell us about Joe, and how does this book continue the traditions established by the other novels in the series?

As a freelance CFO, Joe is an analytical thinker. But, at the same time, his modest upbringing and early boxing experience have made him a man of action.

In Hill Country Siren, Joe uses his analytical talents to solve the mystery (as he did in the first two novels), but he doesn’t stop there. He can’t stop there. So long as Joe believes he can make a difference, he must run toward the danger. When Joe uncovers the trail of a serial killer in Hill Country Siren, he decides that he must track the killer down.

Joe’s recklessness is a source of great tension between him and his wife, Rose. In the second novel, Hill Country Rage, with their marriage on the brink of ruin, Rose proclaims, “You run to trouble like a moth to flame, Joey. Like a moth to flame.”

2. In Hill Country Siren, Joe takes on a fraud case for a famous Austin-born country rock singer named Sophie Tyler. What’s special about Sophie, and why is helping her so important to Joe?

The first line in the novel reads, “I fell in love with Sophie Tyler long before she hired me.”

Joe first heard Sophie’s music when he was a teenager in high school, so when he lands the assignment to work for her on the fraud case, he feels as if he’s won the lottery without buying a ticket.

The inspiration for Sophie’s character and the book’s title came from Homer’s ancient tale, the Odyssey. I think we’ve all heard music so beautiful it transforms us. During Sophie’s long career many men found her irresistible, and Joe is no exception.

3. As Joe delves deeper into Sophie’s background, he discovers that there are a number of individuals who might be motivated to steal Sophie’s money. Who are the most compelling suspects, and what clues does Joe use to solve the mystery surrounding Sophie’s case?

Sophie’s talent agent, Halet Blevins, is an aging womanizer with a great sense of style and a history of drug and money problems. Keri Theroux, Sophie’s best friend since high school, has begun to question her lifelong membership to Sophie’s entourage. Halet and Keri are high on Joe’s list of suspects.

But I believe that Johnson Sagebrush—Sophie’s enigmatic manager—is my best bad guy yet because of his name, his mysterious past, and his choice of weapon: Johnson favors a crowbar.

Joe begins his investigation by following the cash. As a freelance CFO, Joe is in a unique position to find loose ends that indicate something is afoul. In Hill Country Siren, he discovers a fraudulent wire transfer, an investment in a fake tech company, and a real estate scam. And as always, Joe must use his analytical mind to solve the mystery and his fighting skills to clean up the mess.

4. Hill Country Siren takes place partly at Sophie’s mansion in Los Angeles and partly at a music festival in Austin, both Sophie and Joe’s hometown. How integral are L.A. and Austin to this particular Joe Robbins mystery, and why did you place the story in these two settings?

I like to use iconic locations in Austin and the Hill Country for key scenes. In Hill Country Greed, a girl commits suicide by hanging herself from the balcony of the Driskill Hotel. In Hill Country Rage, Joe fights a giant in the waters of Lake Travis. And in Hill Country Siren, Joe goes undercover at the Austin City Limits festival. Setting Joe up to guard a celebrity and search for a suspect in the middle of sixty thousand fans made for great tension.

Lots of celebrities live in Los Angeles, so it seemed natural to set part of the action in Beverly Hills. That gave me a setting for a terrific fight scene at Sophie’s mansion. I also had fun contrasting the fabulous weather of L.A. with Austin’s brutal summer heat. And finally, my grown children live in Southern California so, of course, for the sake of research, I had to visit them twice while writing the novel.

5. Joe’s ex-wife, Rose, and his two daughters, Chandler and Callie, play important roles in all of the Joe Robbins mysteries. Can you tell us a little about what’s in store for them in Hill Country Siren?

At the end of Hill Country Rage, it appears that Joe has finally accepted that he and Rose will not be reunited, but early on in Hill Country Siren, we learn that Joe still has feelings for her. As for Rose, she has taken her relationship with Dave Moreton (who she first met in Hill Country Rage) to the next logical step.

Joe wants his daughters to remain his little girls forever, but Chandler, Joe’s twelve year old, is physically and emotionally transitioning from girl to woman. As the oldest daughter, Chandler tries to protect her sister from the fallout of her parents’ split. This realization adds to Joe’s stress as he strives to solve the mystery.

6. Are you working on another Joe Robbins mystery? If so, what can you tell us about it?

I have the next three Joe Robbins novels roughed out in my mind, but it will take some time to reduce those ideas to the page. In one novel, Joe will return to Dallas to investigate a fraud at his old company, Liberty Air. While there, Joe will spend quality time with his father and sister (neither of whom readers have yet met), as well as an old love interest.

In a subsequent novel, Joe’s adolescent daughters will join an organization that he soon suspects of perpetrating a massive fraud. And, of course, there is the ongoing question of whether Joe and Rose will reunite. On this subject readers’ views range from Joe just needs to move on . . . to . . . Joe and Rose forever.

I’d also like to take Joe on vacation. Austin gets hot this time of year. I thought perhaps the Greek island of Santorini would make for a good setting, but I’ll need to research it first.

About the Book

Hill Country Siren

Joe Robbins Financial Thriller Series, Book 3

The financial thriller series endorsed by critics and business executives alike
Joe Robbins is hired by a rock star to investigate a fraud and winds up on the trail of a serial killer

Joe loved Sophie Tyler long before she hired him. She was a hometown hero, a musician who grew up in Austin and made the big time. Joe first heard her music in high school; he’d buy her albums and play them over and over, and dream.

Twenty years later, Sophie has left a trail of lovers behind her; she draws them in like a maelstrom, the outcome pre-ordained. When she hires Joe to investigate a fraud he solves the case in a couple days, but then the perpetrator is brutally murdered, and Joe finds himself pulled into a world of stardom, and enchantment, and the frightening path of a freshly awakened serial killer.

As Joe pursues the killer from Austin to Cabos San Lucas to Beverly Hills, he falls dangerously in love with the Hill Country Siren.

About the Author

patrick-kelly-author-photoPatrick Kelly holds a BA in software engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA in finance from Carnegie Mellon University. He served as Chief Financial Officer for six different companies before beginning his career as an author of the Joe Robbins Financial Thriller series. Kelly resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife and family.

For more information on Patrick Kelly or Hill Country Siren, please visit: https://patrickkellystories.com/ or www.amazon.com

Hill Country Siren by Patrick Kelly.  Chaparral Press LLC (July 15, 2016). ISBN: 978-0991103355. 304p.


Guest Blogger: Mark Edwards

October 13, 2016

I am delighted to welcome novelist Mark Edwards with his list of terrific thrillers!

Best British Psychological Thrillers of the Decade (So Far)

The Girl on the Train, by London-based author Paula Hawkins, was an enormous hit worldwide, with the movie about to hit cinemas. Hawkins is just one of a large number of British psychological thrillers writers who are producing books with as many twists, shocks and OMG moments as our American counterparts. Here are some of the best from recent years.

Elizabeth Haynes – Into the Darkest Corner
In Haynes’ debut novel, which she wrote during NaNoWriMo, a young woman is in hiding after escaping the terrifying clutches of her new boyfriend. Suffering from OCD, she is struggling to go on with her life…and fears she is still very much in danger. An utterly compelling, sexy, complex masterpiece from one of the UK’s best crime writers.

Clare Mackintosh – I Let You Go
A woman flees to rural Wales after a hit and run accident that kills a child. Inspired by a real unsolved case, the first novel by former cop Clare Mackintosh has the most audacious, breathtaking twist in the middle – and then gets even better.

Sabine Durrant – Lie With Me
The quality of the writing in Lie With Me is a cut above most other thrillers. Durrant can craft sentences that make other authors weep with envy – including the ‘hero’ of this tale, a literary has-been who accompanies a group of old friends, and his new lover, on vacation and finds himself caught in a web of deception. Brilliantly atmospheric.

Alex Marwood – The Darkest Secret
Like Durrant, Marwood is a brilliant writer who is skilled at really getting inside the heads of her characters – in this case a group of awful narcissists who collude to hide a terrible secret. Years later, the shockwaves of their decision are still being felt. Superb writing and a killer ending.

Paula Daly – The Mistake I Made
Best described as Indecent Proposal set in England’s picturesque Lake District, this is another book with a flawed heroine, a physiotherapist who makes a bad mistake that comes back to bite her. I love this novel because Paula Daly has such a warm, conversational tone which makes this an effortless, fun read. It’s like listening to the confession of a good friend.

CL Taylor – The Missing
All three of CL Taylor’s psychological thrillers are great but this one just about edges it because it handles a difficult subject – family secrets and a missing teenager – with such imagination and sensitivity. This is also a masterclass in sleight of hand and misdirection. I defy anyone to figure out what happened before it’s revealed.

Emily Barr – The Sleeper
Another book about a girl (or rather, woman) on a train into London – except this was written before Paula Hawkins’ bestseller and is just as good. A woman who lives in the south-west of England takes a sleeper train every Monday morning, lives in London during the week – leaving her husband behind – and comes home Friday evening. Soon she finds herself living a double life in more ways than one – but is unaware that someone is manipulating her. This book is impossible to put down.

Helen Fitzgerald – The Cry 
Fitzgerald is actually Australian – which is where most of this book is set – but she lives in Scotland so I’m making her an honorary Brit for the purposes of this list. What’s the worst scenario you can imagine yourself in? I bet it’s not as bad as the scenario in this searing book: a couple accidentally give their baby a fatal overdose on a plane, then try to cover it up. It’s dark, painful but humorous and hopeful in places too. Another one-sitting read.

the-devils-work-coverMark Edwards – The Devil’s Work 
Can I include one of my own books on this list? Why not. The Devil’s Work is a psychological thriller set in the office from hell. When Sophie returns to work after taking a break to raise her daughter, she is full of hope and excitement. But somebody at work is out to get her – she just has to figure out who, and why, and how it connects to a dark secret from her college days…

About The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

A gripping psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Follow You Home and The Magpies.

It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood. But on her very first day, when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake. A fatal mistake.

What is her ambitious young assistant really up to? And what exactly happened to Sophie’s predecessor? When her husband and daughter are pulled into the nightmare, Sophie is forced to confront the darkest secrets she has carried for years.

As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.

Photo Mark Earthy www.earthyphotography.co.uk This image is protected by Copyright

Photo Mark Earthy
http://www.earthyphotography.co.uk
This image is protected by Copyright

About Mark Edwards

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people. His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK as did his third novel Because She Loves Me (2014). He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss such as Killing Cupid (2011) and The Blissfully Dead (2015).

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. As well as a full-time writer, Mark is a stay at home dad for his three children, his wife and a ginger cat.

Website: www.markedwardsauthor.com

Twitter: @mredwards

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


Guest Blogger: Matthew FitzSimmons

October 10, 2016

poisonfeatherI am delighted to welcome guest blogger Matthew FitzSimmons!

For over a decade, I taught English literature to American twelfth graders. I’ve known people to recoil in horror when I shared what I did for a living. For some, the idea of teaching a classroom of seventeen-year-olds would be akin to the tenth circle of hell. But it was, for me, the best and most important job that I’ve ever had. It reminded me why books mattered to me, and in the end it rekindled a love of writing that I believed had died.

I came to teaching after trying, and failing, to publish a novel in my twenties. I’d given writing a fair go, devoting to it years that felt like wasted time in retrospect. A failure at only twenty-nine, I felt done. Finished. There is something draining about stumbling in so public a fashion, in full view of your friends and family. Burned out, I was certain that I would never write again, and in truth, I didn’t write a word for years.

Instead of writing books, I redirected my energies to teaching them. It turned out I was a good teacher. The kids got me, and I like to think that I got them, too. Most days anyway. At their best, my classrooms were lively, freewheeling spaces. The students energized me, and I loved how often something unexpected happened to make me smile. There was the day that all the boys came to class dressed like me – I didn’t know I had a recognizable style. Or the boy who used video games to analyze Kafka’s The Metamorphosis in an essay (it was brilliant). Or the time a girl argued impassionedly to the entire class that Ernest Hemingway would have been a great rapper, leading to an impromptu homework assignment to write rap lyrics in the voice of a character from The Sun Also Rises. I learned to expect the unexpected – craved it actually.

Which is not to say it was an easy job, or that I ever inspired an entire class to stand on their desks in solidarity. Success in teaching is rarely so cinematic. The truth is that most of my students were not readers by the time they reached me. Although many had been avid readers when they were younger – Harry Potter was a great literary unifier for my students – few read for pleasure anymore and viewed books merely as part of the job of going to school. Each new novel was greeted skeptically, opened by wary high school seniors curious to see what fresh hell I’d inflicted upon them. I saw my job as making the case for books. To make that case, however, I had to think about why I read. I felt passionately enough about reading to teach it, but I’d never given much thought to why. I’d always been a reader and simply left it at that.

To their credit, my students weren’t easy sells. They held their ground, pushed back, and challenged my crusade to make them readers. I like to think I converted a few, but in twelve years I never had a class that all loved the same book. At first it drove me crazy, but eventually I accepted it, eventually I embraced it. Why should they love the same books as me? Wasn’t my job to help them cultivate their own taste in literature? I adopted an expression that I repeated any time a student told me they liked or disliked a particular book: “I don’t care unless you can tell me why.” It was the key to my teaching – they were seventeen, telling me why was in their blood. But to tell me why, they had to read. I won even when I lost.

Somewhere in there, I caught the bug again. I began to write – nothing fully formed, nothing that would ever see the light of day. That dream was dead, I reminded myself. But somewhere along the way, I’d become a much better writer without having done any writing of my own. One day I began to write a book that would become The Short Drop. I realized that in teaching my students, I’d also been teaching myself. Or they’d been teaching me. I matthew-fitzsimmons-hi-res-photolearned at least as much from my students as they learned from me, and I know for certain that I would not now be writing my third novel had it not been for them.

About the Author

Matthew FitzSimmons is the author of the bestselling first novel in the Gibson Vaughn series, The Short Drop. Born in Illinois and raised in London, England, he now lives in Washington, DC, where he taught English literature and theater at a private high school for over a decade.

About the book

POISONFEATHER: Book 2 of 3 in the Gibson Vaughn Series

Gibson Vaughn, hero of the bestselling novel The Short Drop, returns in a smoldering thriller.

When jailed billionaire Charles Merrick hints publicly that he has stashed a fortune in an offshore cache, a school of sharks converges upon his release from federal prison.

Among his swindled victims is Judge Hammond Birk, the man who saved Gibson Vaughn’s life when he was a troubled teenager. Now Gibson intends to repay that debt by recovering Merrick’s victims’ money.

But Gibson isn’t the only one on the trail of the hidden fortune.

The promise of billions has drawn a horde of ruthless treasure hunters, including an edgy ex-con, a female bartender with a mysterious history, a Chinese spy with a passion for fly-fishing, and a veritable army of hardened mercenaries. To stay ahead of the sharks and win justice for his mentor, Gibson will need all his formidable skills. But at the end of the road, he’ll still have to face “Poisonfeather”—a geopolitical secret that just might get Gibson killed…or worse.


Guest Blogger: Lis Wiehl

October 5, 2016

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I am delighted to welcome novelist Lis Wiehl! Being a popular legal analyst for Fox News, Lis needs to get her glam on at a moment’s notice. Here are some of her tips and tricks.

My Favorite Beauty Tips and Tricks:
How to Keep It Together Fast and Cheap
by Lis Wiehl

1. I always carry a stash of self-adhesive fake eyelashes strips. Press them on and presto! your eyes look fabulous and you skip the always treacherous eyeliner. You can get them at any drug store for between $5 and $7.

2. Gather your hair up in a scrunchy and leave it up as long as you can. When you let it down, you’ll have amazing volume. As if you just had a full blow out!

3. The night before you wash your hair, dip the ends in warm coconut oil, and sleep with it on. It’s the best conditioner ever. Your pillowcases may need a little Shout before you throw them in the wash, but it’s worth it. And the smell of the coconut oil can trigger dreams of a tropical paradise.

4. If you don’t get enough sleep (hello!) a slice or two of cucumber over the eyelids for even a few minutes work wonders.

5. My tried-and-true lemon and honey mask once a week. Just mix them together and slather on. This works well when combined with the hair-in-scrunchy tip.

6. A friend has a posture-perfect mantra: “Display the brooch!” It works wonders on those slouchy days we all have. Just pretend you’re wearing a gorgeous brooch you want the whole world to see. Your shoulders will instantly go down and back, your chest will rise, you’ll walk tall and feel great. And it’s free!

7. Joni Mitchell famously sang, “Happiness is the best facelift.” She’s right. Everyone looks radiant when they’re happy. Having a not-happy day? Well in his classic song, Smile, Charlie Chaplin advises us to, “Smile though your heart is aching.” Good advice, Charlie.

8. Tinted moisturizers are a gift from the beauty gods. They can eliminate the need for foundation and cut your prep time down to almost nothing. For around ten bucks, Neutrogena Visibly Even BB Cream is a bargain. It’s also contains a 30 SPF sunblock. That’s what I call a trifecta.

9. Breathe, baby, breathe. Two minutes of sitting quietly and taking deep breaths is a terrific calming and centering exercise that delivers amazing beauty benefits. You’ll look (and feel) rested and relaxed. Try it. It really works.

10. This is going to sound really weird, but it works. Slosh a tablespoon of the aforementioned coconut oil around and between your teeth for 15-20 minutes. Your teeth will look brighter when you’re done. Do it regularly and you’ll be amazed at the difference. P.S. – don’t spit the oil out in the sink or toilet, it can harden and clog the pipes. Use the wastebasket. (I warned you it would sound weird.)

lis-wiehlAuthor Bio:

Lis Wiehl, author of The Candidate: A Newsmaker Novel is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels. She is a Harvard Law School graduate and has served as a federal prosecutor in the state of Washington and as a tenured faculty member at The University of Washington School of Law. She is currently a popular legal analyst and commentator for the Fox News Channel.

For more information visit her Website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

THE CANDIDATE by Lis Wiehl. Thomas Nelson (October 4, 2016). ISBN: 978-0718037680. 352p.


Guest Blogger: Diane Capri

September 21, 2016

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Hunting Jack Reacher Is Deadly Business

Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) famously said that life can only be understood backwards, but we must live it forward. Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011) believed we can only connect the dots of our lives looking backwards; we must simply trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. I say they’re both right, evidenced by my Hunt for Jack Reacher thrillers.

Here’s the convoluted, inside story of how my FBI Special Agents Kim L. Otto and Carlos Gaspar came to be on the Hunt for Jack Reacher, how I write these books, and where it’s all going.

The stage was set almost twenty years ago.

I met Lee Child by chance. Killing Floor, Lee’s first Reacher novel, was published in 1997. My first novel, Due Justice, was published in 1999 (revised and republished in 2012). We were new authors, making the rounds of libraries and conferences and bookstores, introducing ourselves to readers and writers and publishing professionals, building our writing careers.

Before Jack Reacher became the world-wide phenomenon he is today, before the successful Tom Cruise movies, before Lee Child was a household name, before I’d written more than thirty books and become a bestseller many times over myself, and along with hundreds of other people, our separate paths led us to attend one of many Bouchercons, the World Mystery Conventions.

I’m not sure which Bouchercon it was. Maybe Las Vegas. Maybe Milwaukee. Maybe a different one. Maybe you were there? Anyway, here’s how I remember our first meeting. Very mundane. No big music score to clue me in that this could be important and to pay attention to the details because I’d want to share them with you here one day. Nothing like that at all.

Lee is a smoker. I am not. But during Bouchercon and other conferences, the smokers and non-smokers frequently stand outside in the smoking zones, talking about books and life and simply getting to know one another, the way most friendships begin. Lee and I met each other and lots of folks for the first time in similar situations and you probably have, too.

We had quite a few things in common in addition to our interest in writing thrillers. Such as? Well, we’d started publishing crimefiction as a second career around the same time. I’m an American fascinated with British crime fiction; he’s a Brit who loves American style. Lee had obtained a law degree but never practiced law; I was a practicing lawyer, writing and publishing crime fiction when I could find the time.

And so on.

Which is to say that we enjoyed talking shop once or twice a year when we’d see each other in passing, usually in the smoking section, or later at the bar, at a conference.

By the time I read Killing Floor years later, Lee’s star was firmly on the rise. Reacher had grabbed the public interest in a phenomenal way and Lee was becoming more and more popular. I’d written and published four novels at that point and was still practicing law. He was on number five or six or seven, or thereabouts.

During a library event in Jacksonville, Florida, where we were both speaking, we chanced to talk about his first novel and how writing Reacher had changed his life. I had no idea back then that Lee Child and Jack Reacher would someday change the trajectory of my writing, too.

The murky middle.

By late 2004, when International Thriller Writers was being created, Lee and I were both asked to serve and help to build the fledgling organization. He joined the board and I chaired the national events committee for a year before joining the board as a Vice-President.

In 2006, for the first ThrillerFest in Phoenix, we performed a mock trial. I created the trial using Lee’s novel, Persuader, as the source material and played the role of Judge. Jack Reacher was charged with murder. Lee, of course, played Reacher. Thriller writers who were also real-life lawyers and cops played the prosecutor, witness, defense attorney, and bailiff. Our jury members were well-known reviewers and dedicated thriller readers. We all had a blast.

After a hard fought contest, and intense jury deliberations, Reacher was acquitted by jury nullification. Meaning all three juries ignored the overwhelming evidence of premeditated murder to find Reacher not guilty. The deliberations highlighted all the reasons readers love our favorite vigilante hero with a heart.

Looking backwards, maybe my Hunt for Jack Reacher Series was really conceived back then. But I didn’t know about it and neither did Lee. Not for another six years.

That was then.

By 2009, we had both rotated off the ITW board. At a cocktail party in New York during another ThrillerFest, Lee suggested that we write something together. We began to discuss the possibilities and knocked around a few ideas for several months. Eventually, we came up with the bones of the concept for what has become my series.

The concept goes like this. Two powerful men are looking for Reacher. We don’t know why. All we know is that he’s being considered for some sort of special project. Two FBI agents, Otto and Gaspar, working off the books and under the radar, are building a file on Reacher. Before he can be asked to handle the project, they first must find him.

The problem is that while Reacher was in the army, he had a tendency to, well, ignore the rules and take justice into his own hands. Sometimes, with murderous consequences. There’s a lot of evidence in the files from back then that Reacher was dangerous and uncontrollable, prone to fight first and ask questions later.

After Reacher left the army, his name never appears in any file, anywhere, ever again. Witnesses won’t talk about him. There are no photos or other physical evidence to be found. Certainly, none of Reacher’s DNA exists anywhere. In short, for the past fifteen years, Reacher has been a legend to those who knew him and a terrifying ghost to those who, well, Don’t Know Jack.

Agents Otto and Gaspar are tasked with finding out everything they can about what Reacher’s been doing since he left the army. To do that, in each of my novels they are sent to interview two characters from one of Lee Child’s novels. Using skill, wit, guile, coercion, or whatever they have at hand without committing a felony, Agents Otto and Gaspar uncover the truth about Reacher like an archeologist discovers buried treasure. Along the way, Otto and Gaspar get into all kinds of trouble and must fight their way out again. These books are thrillers, after all.

We planned to write the Hunt for Jack Reacher Series together. Child and Capri. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Would have looked great on the bestseller lists. But for a lot of mundane reasons, like scheduling conflicts and publishing contracts, that plan never materialized. Lee encouraged me to write the series myself, with his full support. So, after a lot of thinking, I did.

This is now.

Since 2009, in addition to my other books, I’ve written four novels and three novellas in the Hunt for Jack Reacher series. All have been bestsellers. Don’t Know Jack, Get Back Jack, and Jack in the Green have landed on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists more than once. Jack and Joe was a finalist for the 2016 Thriller Award and won the Silver Award from the Independent Publishers Association. Deep Cover Jack released on September 2, 2016.

Writing the Hunt for Jack Reacher books is a challenge. I’m very aware of Reacher’s iconic stature and I strive to respect him and his fans. At the same time, Agents Otto and Gaspar, unlike fans, don’t have the luxury of assuming the best about Reacher. They’re cops. Cops are skeptical by nature, training, and most of all, experience. Rightfully so.

And let’s face it, Reacher is a dangerous guy. Loyal friend, lethal enemy. Which one is he to Otto and Gaspar? They don’t know Reacher, and Reacher aims to keep it that way until he’s damn good and ready to change things. He’s never killed a cop, not really. But there’s always a first time.

How it works.

My writing process for the Hunt for Jack Reacher books is always the same. I begin by selecting a Lee Child source book. I look for situations in the source book that I can use to spin a new tale. I read the book several times and make notes about characters, settings, plots and other matters I can use for a good Otto and Gaspar story.

I choose two characters from the source book as interview subjects, one man and one woman. The women are trickier to interview than the men because Reacher has slept with most of them. By all accounts, Reacher is a respectful lover and the women are especially loathe to reveal too much. Both male and female interview subjects are protective of Reacher and suspicious of Otto and Gaspar, usually because the source book is riddled with Reacher’s illegal activities and the subjects don’t want those old bodies to surface now.

I build my story around the aftermath of the murder and mayhem Reacher dependably produces in every Lee Child novel. When I get stuck, I have two great resources available to me. The Reacher’s Creatures group knows the Reacher books backward and forward. And, of course, I can ask Lee.

Don’t Know Jack, the first novel in my series, starts in the same place Reacher begins: Margrave, Georgia, and Killing Floor. Otto and Gaspar are sent to Margrave to interview the two main characters, Roscoe and Finlay.

Crime begets crime. Reacher solved some problems in Margrave, but he left a mess behind. Otto and Gaspar handle the rest of the story.

The entire series presents a sort of Rashomon Effect, contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people. In this case, Otto and Gaspar encounter people who like Reacher, and those who don’t, and they see Reacher in competing ways.

In short, creating a Hunt for Jack Reacher book is like taking a huge jigsaw puzzle out of the box for the first time and trying to put it together without benefit of a picture.

What does the future hold?

Perhaps the most common question readers ask me is whether Otto and Gaspar will find Reacher and, if they do, what will happen when that confrontation presents itself. Reminds me of the old joke about dogs who chase cars: What does the dog do if he catches one?

Reacher is bigger and smarter and cleverer than anyone else. And he’s willing to die trying, when most people, including Otto and Gaspar, are not. It’s always a battle between Goliath and Goliath, with Reacher coming out on top. Every time.

Otto is a petite female, a tiny stick of dynamite with a deadly aim. Gaspar is a disabled father of four, soon to be five, with a lot to live for. If they are to win a battle against Reacher, brains — not brawn — must be their weapon.

Lee and I have discussed this. He says in every fight, Reacher will win because Reacher always wins. That is, perhaps, Reacher’s most defining characteristic.

Bet you can guess what I say in response, can’t you? I stick my chin up and look way up there to stare him in the eye. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Lee grins.

What say you?

Deep Cover Jack

The Hunt for Jack Reacher Series, Book 7

“Make some coffee. You’ll read all night.” – Lee Child

FBI Agents Otto and Gaspar pick up where Lee Child’s “Persuader” leaves off in the Hunt for Jack Reacher.
In the thrilling follow-up to the ITW Thriller Award Finalist (“Jack and Joe”), FBI Special Agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar will wait no longer. They head to Houston to find Susan Duffy, one of Jack Reacher’s known associates, determined to get answers. But Duffy’s left town, headed for trouble. Otto and Gaspar are right behind her, and powerful enemies with their backs against the wall will have everything to lose.

ABOUT THE AUTHOdianecapri_redjacket_lrgR

Diane Capri is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling author of numerous series, including the Heir Hunter Series, Hunt for Justice and Hunt for Jack Reacher series and the Jess Kimball Thrillers. A former lawyer, she now divides her time between Florida and Michigan. Capri has been nominated for several awards, including the International Thriller Award, and she won the Silver award for Best Thriller e-Book from the Independent Publishers Association. She is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her website to connect with her: http://DianeCapri.com

 


Guest Blogger: Brenda Novak

May 25, 2016
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Can she ever trust another “bad boy”? 

India Sommers once had the perfect family—until an ex-boyfriend broke in and shot her husband. Not only did that cost her the man she loved, a respected heart surgeon and the father of her child, but she also feels responsible. Charlie died because of the people she hung out with before she had the strength to change her life.

Just after moving to Whiskey Creek with her little girl, Cassia, to start over, she’s learned that her ex-boyfriend’s trial ended in a hung jury. He’s getting out of jail; he could try to find her again. And that’s not all that scares her. She’s extremely attracted to her next-door neighbor, but Rod Amos is the handsome “bad boy” type that’s given her so much trouble in the past. If she got involved with him, her in-laws would sue for custody of Cassia.

India has to keep her distance from Rod—but the more she gets to know him, the more difficult that becomes.

PRAISE FOR THE WHISKEY CREEK SERIES:

“Another Whiskey Creek novel is just what readers need to satisfy their craving for a romance that tugs at the heartstrings.” RT Book Reviews on A Winter Wedding, Top Pick

“This Heart of Mine is a potently emotional, powerfully life-affirming contemporary romance that can be read and enjoyed on its own, but it also serves as an excellent addition to Novak’s popular Whiskey Creek series.”–Booklist, starred review

“Another engrossing addition to Novak’s addictive series.”–Library Journal on This Heart of Mine, starred review

“Novak’s Whiskey Creek novels are a favorite among romance readers because of their small-town charm… Novak never disappoints.” RT Book Reviews on This Heart of Mine, Top Pick

“Once again Novak’s Whiskey Creek springs to life in all its realistic, gritty Gold Country glory as two determined, likable people come to terms with their pasts and give love a chance. This poignant, heartfelt romance puts a refreshing spin on the classic reunion/secret baby theme.”–Library Journal on Come Home to Me

From the Author: Brenda’s Top-10 Romantic Foods

Food can mean many things—calories to keep you alive, the vegetables your kids don’t want to eat, or the fast food burger you grab when you’re short on time. But it can also be something more – a romantic adventure of captivating tastes, smells, and feelings. If you’re looking to turn up the heat in your relationship, here are a few foods that will make you and your partner feel a little weak in the knees:

1. Chocolate
How could we not start here? Smooth and creamy, chocolate is king! Depending on your diet, it may even be a little naughty. It’s also believed by many to be an aphrodisiac, and while science is a little hesitant to agree, I have a hard time arguing to the contrary. 😉 My new love? Dark chocolate with sea salt. Decadent!

2. Steak
Okay, this is where all of you vegetarians cringe (and you’ll definitely want to skip this one), but there’s something carnal and satisfyingly primitive about tearing into a steak. A woman can see her date doing it and have the exciting feeling that he’s going to throw her over his shoulder and take her back to his cave. For a man, there’s really nothing more encouraging than seeing his date eschew the prim salad, roll up her sleeves and go for it. (Or maybe I just want to believe this, since steak is one of my favorites foods! LOL)

3. Whipped cream
Light, delicious, and it goes well on everything: on ice cream, on fruit, on – dare I say – your partner’s body? This versatile treat can turn a regular night into something fun and surprising.

4. Raw oysters
Okay, I’m giving this one on faith for the more adventurous among us, because I can’t pretend I’m speaking from experience. (Presenting me with raw oysters would probably be the quickest way to “kill the mood.” LOL) But…unlike chocolate, whose aphrodisiac status is perhaps a bit more placebo-oriented, oysters actually do contain amino acids that are said to increase sex drive. Since its powers of passion are well-documented, it also sends a clear message about how you plan to end the night.

5. Sushi
There’s a lot of discovery here – what you like, what you don’t, how to finally get those damn chopsticks to work so you don’t look too silly. A sushi date is an odyssey of unique flavors, not to mention that many of the rolls are art on a plate. And a sushi date practically requires that you share with each other. What’s more romantic than that?

6. Strawberries
They’re bursting with flavor, heart-shaped, and you can feed them to each other. These delectable sweet berries are great for bringing out your playful side and helping you slow down and focus on each other. Bonus points if you get them involved with my #1 (chocolate) or #3 (whipped cream) selection.

7. Spaghetti and meatballs
Counterintuitive? Perhaps. You might think you’d never want to order this one on a date because it’s messy to eat, but that’s exactly why you should. If you and your date commit to this sloppy Italian meal, it’ll force you to stop trying to be perfect and get comfortable with each other. There’s just something about a partner who’s willing to get a little dirty, isn’t there? 😉

8. Something spicy
This time I am speaking from experience, because I love nothing more than a lot of flavor. Whether it’s Indian food, Thai food, Mexican food, or just throwing a handful of jalapeños into the dish, sometimes there’s no better way to spice things up than actually spicing things up. (Is it hot in here, or is it just you?)

9. Lobster
Want to make a night special? Add lobster. It’s succulent, it’s indulgent, and what can be better than a meal that comes with a tiny bowl of butter sauce for dipping? When you’re looking to create a night to remember, sometimes it’s worth it to splurge, because the splurge alone says, “You’re important to me.”

10. Fondue
Always a sure bet for a great date. You can go out to do this, or you can do it at home with a small crockpot. It’s interactive and gratifying to just keep dipping. And we’re talking about a huge bowl of creamy cheese. How can anybody not love that? Even better, you can end the night right where we started—with chocolate.

Remember, there’s a little bit of romance wherever you look. It can be a place or a book or even your dinner. So, next time you’re at the grocery store, drop a couple of these items in your cart. You may be glad you did.

BrendaNovak_AuthorPhotoAbout the Author

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak is the author of more than fifty books. A five-time Rita nominee, she has won many awards, including the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Book Buyer’s Best, the Daphne, and the Silver Bullet. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.5 million. For more about Brenda, please visit http://www.brendanovak.com.

To win your own copy, please send an email to contest@gmail.com with “DISCOVERING YOU” as the subject.

You must include your snail mail address in your email.

All entries must be received by May 31, 2016. 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 the publicist.

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.