Creating a Natural Character by Norm Harris – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Norm Harris will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

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Your goal is to craft relatable and vivid characters, but let’s exchange “character” for “living people.” Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people, people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”

Creating a profile is a popular technique for developing genuine personas for your story. Sometimes your stories are born out of a person, while others begin with a plot shaping your person. A detailed profile will help shape a narrative and provide a handy reference point for their personality traits, backstory, goals, flaws, and challenges.

If you have done an excellent job trait building, your description of your person will bring him/her/it to life. I have lived with my fictional people for years. I thought I knew my protagonist Faydra pretty well. I recently learned something about her from a reviewer. “From the beginning, I connected with Faydra. She’s a flawed character who kicks butt on all levels, but her insecurities make me love her even more. No one relates to a perfect character.” I had not considered her “flawed” and “insecure.”

Your person will begin with a bundle of ideas and traits developed in your story outline. An example of a particular person or archetype can help narrow your focus. The personas in literature, mythology, and the human experience: are the hero, villain, lover, spirit, queen, and so on.

Our people profiles provide guidelines for their behaviors, emotions, and actions. For example, my Faydra is a lawyer/detective who is naturally curious, restless, and driven to push boundaries. She must be a Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Annalise Keating wrapped in one. You will want to layer characteristics and transform them from one to another as the storyline progresses. Adding an image to represent your character would be a good idea.

Once you’ve defined your person’s personality, you can begin to shape your person and make her an original. Create a bond between your readers, and work towards the desired outcome. Another example, again from a reviewer, “Arid Sea was a very intense and sad read that had me in tears on more than one occasion. I felt bad for Fay after she lost her memory, and some of the things that went on in Arid Sea just broke my heart.”

Create a backstory for your person. What is the journey she has taken up to this point? Her journey will allow you to examine her fears, weaknesses, and motivations. For my Faydra, being the daughter of a U.S. President, cursed her. She is never certain any of her accomplishments are of her own doing or because of her father’s famous influence.

Your person must have a personality that stretches beyond the story itself. She has to be bigger than life. Even somewhat flamboyant. What about her will a reader find attractive about her? Why is she different than anyone they know?

And let’s give her some quirks and faults while we are at it. She comes from an authentic grounding. She can be a bit extraordinary. In my Spider Green Series, Faydra is sometimes overconfident, impatient, and reckless. And she is sweet, intelligent, kind, generous, caring, and funny. These traits can add new dimensions to a hero and make them feel more relatable.

A believable character evolves as your story evolves. Just like real people, they adapt and respond to life’s events.

Consider where your person begins and how she changes along with developments in the story. We see Faydra overcoming obstacles by stepping back to gain a fresh perspective. Or when she decides to develop a friendship with a mob boss or an obnoxious CNN journalist. And in The Girl Who Knew Death, Faydra’s persona wins her the admiration of Azrael, The Angel of Death. Probably a hard thing to do?

Visual references and inspiration can help bring your character to life when writing a novel. It helps to have an image in your mind of how your person appears to you. Does she look like your aunt Jean? Jennifer Lawrence? or your lawyer, Sue Yu?

Do not give your person too much responsibility for the drama in your story. Begin to build your supporting cast who compliment and contrast the traits of your person. The good, the bad, and the ugly. My Faydra is so sweet she would not harm a spider, so I was tasked with creating a man so evil she had to kill him. While at the same time, justify her need to kill him in the reader’s minds as well. Again, to create an over-the-top despicable man was my challenge. Again, here is how a reviewer stated her feelings about this man, “I don’t think Faydra is prepared for Justine. I fear what is to come. He is a PIG…In her words, ’a perverted douchebag’, but I feel he is so much worse than that. Depraved and Dangerous.”

In the end, we have created your natural fictional person. Your friend! Did you have one of those imaginary friends when you were a child? When you start to make-believe with her, it will lead to the backstory and perhaps the story itself. Next, tell your spouse, partner, or real friend about your fictional person as if this is a new friend. Who is she? What does she like/dislike? What does she look like? Have a discussion about your person. What questions develop during your talk about your person? This conversation will help you know your person better and create this person in your mind as if they are real.

Fruit of a Poisonous Tree, Book 1

Navy SEALs, with the help of a former president’s daughter, hijack the Russian Guided Missile Cruiser Moskva to stop a North Korean missile crisis.

Navy JAG lawyer Faydra ‘Spider’ Green is the daughter of former President William Green. His power and influence plagues her every move and she contemplate if her achievements are from her own merits or his. Faydra is both nervous and eager as she undertakes her first homicide investigation —the brutal murder of a Navy SEAL. Faydra discovers the accused man, a Special Ops Marine war hero, may be innocent thanks to her astonishing deductive capabilities. The Navy is using her as a pawn in an intricate cover-up. Will Faydra play along or leak the cover-up?

Seasoned Navy Sea Captain Egan Fletcher struggles to balance his Navy career with raising a son alone after his wife died eight years ago. When the Navy purposefully pairs him with Faydra, the two embark on an adrenaline-laced adventure. The top-secret mission will propel them halfway around the world in an attempt to avert a catastrophic act of biological warfare.

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Puget Sound and the mystique of Asia, Faydra is a paradox: one minute she is pure as the driven snow and the next minute she thrusts herself into harm’s way, ignorant of the consequences. Determined to complete her mission at any cost, she defies logic and throws herself into dangerous situations. Will she succeed where everyone else has failed?

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree is book one in the riveting Spider Green Mystery Thriller series. If you enjoy razor-sharp dialogue, strong-willed characters, suspense, twists, and high-octane action, you’ll want to start reading this fast-paced adventure today.

Arid Sea, Book 2

Faydra “Spider” Green is a spirited Navy lawyer who wants nothing more than to do the right thing and see justice done. After reconciling with her father, former President William Green, Fay is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Alvin Joe, a retired admiral. He has vanished – seemingly into thin air – from his Florida home, along with secret files for a top-secret military weapon. Alongside her bubbly, quick-witted sister and a handsome, affable Sheriff, Fay sets out to track down Joe. But she soon finds herself embroiled in a deeper and far more sinister plot involving an unscrupulous corporation, the mafia, and a truly evil man who has his sights set on destroying her.

Deception Pass, Book 3

Faydra “Spider” Green has had a storied career as a Navy lawyer, all while juggling being the daughter of a former U.S. President. She has successfully navigated complex diplomatic situations, pulse-pounding legal investigations, and dangerous military missions, managing each time to save the day. But now, Fay finds herself faced with a task unlike anything she has ever tackled before: fierce mafioso Roman Justine, the man who had nearly cost Fay her life, has seemingly returned from the dead. Now, Justine, hellbent on revenge, poses a threat to Fay and national security. Fay will have to go to extraordinary lengths to stop him, even tampering with the bounds of time and space.

The Girl Who Knew Death, Book 4

Katrinka Lavrova is a young Russian espionage agent discovered by Russian Navy Captain Lavrov at the age of nineteen. Katrinka worked as both a spy and a sparrow since age thirteen to support her aged parents. Lavrov rescues the woman and becomes her guardian. Captain Lavrov introduces Katrinka to Fay. Fay asks Katrinka to help her steal the top-secret plans from Roman Justine’s office safe. Fay grows fond of Kat and offers her a fresh start in the United States. Katrinka dares to hope for a better life by accepting Fay’s offer.

Navy lawyer and former First Daughter Faydra (Fay) Green is no longer quite so haunted by the dark events of her recent past and is hoping for some well-deserved rest. But her world is once again turned upside down when a shocking secret about her adopted daughter, Katrinka (Kat), is revealed. But before Fay can help Kat make any decisions about her future, Kat is captured and thrown into an Egyptian prison. She manages to escape but must flee to safety across Europe, trying to stay one step ahead of several mysterious pursuers. Soon, Fay and Kat discover they are being chased by more than ordinary forces – Azrael, the Angel of Death, has taken a puzzling interest in their situation and a dangerous demon appears to be stalking Kat’s every move. It will take all of Fay’s strength and ingenuity to meet these and other challenges looming ahead of her, while Kat must ask herself what she truly wants out of life.

Enjoy an Excerpt from FRUIT OF THE POISONOUS TREE

“The killer? But consider this,” Fay said. “Paul was a valuable piece of Navy property. A million-dollar investment. when you stop to consider all of the training those SEALs go through.”

“I see what ya mean, ma’am. It would be expensive to replace him. To kill him would be costly.”

“There would have to be a very compelling reason for someone to want to execute him,” Fay said. “An argument between Paul and Simon is not a compelling reason, given the circumstances. Otherwise, Simon would be in big trouble with whomever he reports to. And yet he doesn’t seem to be.”

“Yet, Sergeant Linn has a Get Out of Jail Free card,” Pearce said.

“Yes. The Navy knows why and how Paul died.”

“Sanctioned?”

“More than likely.”

“But why, ma’am, was Paul killed in such a demonstrative way? I mean, you’d think someone would just tag him and bag him and throw him in the trunk of a car. Takes him to a wreckin’ yard and then turns him and the car into scrap metal. Kind of like they did to Jimmy Hoffa.”

Fay wondered where Pearce came up with some of her facts. She felt tempted to ask but decided it would be better to just let it go for the time being. “I wondered about that too,” she continued. “Unless someone wanted to draw a certain amount of attention to his death. To set an example for others to see.”

“Like leavin’ a trail?”

“Accountants call it an audit trail. Paul was a man who lived his life in the shadows, a ‘shadow warrior,’ Towsley called him. But the way he died placed him center stage and in the spotlight.”

“I see what ya mean.”

“I do know my meeting with Andrew Lawrence the other night at the Pollywog was not an accident,” Fay said. “And I would have never interviewed Wu and De Vinsone unless someone allowed it to happen.”

“Admiral May?”

Fay nodded. “I did some checking on Admiral Brandon May, by the way.”

“And?”

“Nada. There are several Admirals named May. When I tried to access their records, all were classified. And no one was named Brandon May.”

“No surprise.” Pearce pondered for a moment and then said, “Interestin’.”

“Even more interesting, I did locate a V. B. May. A flag assigned to the Pentagon. His present assignment is classified, but his biography says he was, at one time, a Terminator.”

“NCIS!?” Pearce’s eyes widened in surprise. “You gotta be kiddin’!”

About the Author: Norm Harris’ first novel debuted on an Amazon bestseller list in 2002. It was a one-and-done, but now he’s back with a plan to publish a couple of sequels to that first mystery/thriller of days gone by. Except for time spent in military service, he is a second-generation Seattleite (that’s what they call those who dwell in the shadow of Mt. Rainier), with his legal beagle son, K-K, and five giant tropical fish. His upcoming release, Arid Sea, is the third book in what he hopes to be an award-winning Spider Green Mystery Story series.

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Buy Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, Arid Sea, Deception Pass, and The Girl Who Knew Death from Amazon.

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Drama Oz by Joe Cosentino – Q&A

Long and Short Reviews welcomes back Joe Cosentino who is celebrating yesterday’s release of Drama Oz, the 14th Nicky and Noah mystery/comedy/romance novel.

Joe Cosentino, congratulations on the release of the fourteenth novel in your award-winning and popular Nicky and Noah gay cozy comedy mystery series, Drama Oz.

Thank you. I’m proud to be a friend of Dorothy’s.

So many readers love your Nicky and Noah mysteries, Player Piano mysteries, and Jana Lane mysteries. Which are your favorite?

As my parents say about my older sister, “The first is always the most special.” However, I love all of my series. Each have humor, quirky characters, sweet romance, cozy settings, plot twists and turns, and shocking whodunit endings. They all have an element of show business just like me. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are perfect for readers who love gay cozy mysteries with a wallop of humor. Readers of gay fantasy mystery will adore the Player Piano mysteries. People who like a straight female protagonist with a gay male sidekick will adore the Jana Lane mysteries.

Why do you think the Nicky and Noah mystery series has lasted over a decade now?

I haven’t found any other MM comedy mystery romance series set in the world of academia and theatre. Also, nobody else has my warped sense of humor.

Why did you pick The Wizard of Oz and Key West as the show and location for the fourteenth novel?

The Wizard of Oz is my favorite classic movie musical. What many people don’t realize, however, is that the wonderful world of Oz began as a book and later a series of books by L. Frank Baum. Those cherished books are displayed on my bookcase with worn edges from numerous reads over the years. Whenever I felt anxious, depressed, or stressed, I reached for those glorious treasures. And I still do! Like Dorothy, I enter the land of Oz to meet new friends and embark on a wonderful adventure. Key West, Florida is one of my favorite places. If you haven’t been to Key West, it’s a peninsula with white sandy beaches laden with foamy waves tickling jagged rocks under an azure sky dotted with marshmallow clouds. Gorgeous white seagulls and towering lighthouses herald gorgeous pink, violet, and gold sunrises and sunsets. Quant guesthouses, theatres, and restaurants inhabited by people open and affirming to all line the shore. So in my novel, our favorite thespians stage an original musical adaptation of the much-loved classic entitled, Friends of Dorothy, at the Wizard of Oz theme park in Key West.

Tell us about Drama Oz, the 14th Nicky and Noah mystery novel.

A killer is loose in the Wizard of Oz theme park theatre. The young actress cast as Dorothy is quite the diva. The young actors cast as Toto, the Munchkin Leader, and the Winged Monkey Leader fully inhabit their roles and their G-string, chaps, and loincloth respectively. Of course Nicky and his crew use their drama skills, including playing wacky characters in investigative role-plays with the suspects, to catch the killer before the witch’s fireball sends them up in smoke.

It’s great to see our favorite characters back.

Gay and hunky Sherlock Holmes, Nicky Abbondanza, is the wizard onstage and off, doing double duty as show director and playing the Wizard. As Nicky says, “It takes a wiz!” Nicky’s gorgeous and devoted husband, Noah Oliver, is cast as the Scarecrow sitting on a long pole (pun intended). Their teenage son, Taavi, plays the role of the Tinman with a large can of lube, and his best friend, Ty, counters as the Lion with a playful tail. Nicky’s best friends, older couple Martin and Ruben, join the cast playing Aunt Em and Uncle Henry “going down on the farm.” They also double as Glinda who does it good and the Wicked Witch of the wild West.

Who are the new characters/suspects/victims for book fourteen?

Adorable actor Pip Manning plays Toto in the show. His affections waver between handsome Mormon Drew Gateway the stage manager and bodybuilder Detective Rick Boulder. Gymnast with a secret Topper Tucker, who plays the Winged Monkey Leader, has his wings set on stocky Taz Zaman, who plays the Munchkin Leader. A crew of woman technicians and the diva starring as Dorothy have more baggage than an airport.

What makes the Nicky and Noah mystery series so special?

It’s a gay cozy mystery comedy series, meaning the setting is warm and cozy, the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, and there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning (as Nicky would say) “faster than a Republican ex-president ordering a riot at the Capitol.” At the center is the touching relationship between Professor of Play Directing Nicky Abbondanza and Associate Professor of Acting Noah Oliver. We watch them go from courting to marrying to adopting a child, all the while head over heels in love with each other (as we fall in love with them). Reviewers called the series “hysterically funny farce,” “Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys,” and “captivating whodunits.” One reviewer wrote they are the funniest books she’s ever read! Another said I’m “a master storyteller.” Who am I to argue?

How are the novels cozy?

Many of them take place in Vermont, a cozy state with green pastures, white church steeples, glowing lakes, and friendly and accepting people. Fictitious Treemeadow College (named after its gay founders, couple Tree and Meadow) is the perfect setting for a cozy mystery with its white Edwardian buildings, low white stone fences, lake and mountain views, and cherry wood offices with tall leather chairs and fireplaces. This novel in Key West is as cozy as ever at the popular and picturesque vacation site loved by so many.

For anyone unfortunate enough not to have read them, tell us the titles of the novels in the series.

The Nicky and Noah mysteries are Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie, Drama Runway, Drama Christmas, Drama Pan, Drama TV, and now Drama Oz.

Many of your characters are of various ethnicities and sexual identities. Is that deliberate on your part?

Absolutely. We live in a diverse world. A story taking place at a college or in the world of theatre would be unbelievable if everyone were the same.

I’m sure you’ve been told that the books would make a terrific TV series.

Many many times! Rather than Logo showing reruns of Golden Girls around the clock, and Bravo airing so called reality shows, I would love to see them do The Nicky and Noah Mysteries. Come on, TV producers, make your offers! I’ve written a teleplay of the first novel and treatments for the remaining novels!

How would you cast the TV series?

Here’s my wish list: Matt Bomer as Nicky, Neil Patrick Harris as Noah, Rosie O’Donnell and Bruce Willis as Noah’s parents, Valerie Bertinelli and Jay Leno as Nicky’s parents, me as Martin Anderson (nepotism!), Nathan Lane as Martin’s husband Ruben, Wanda Sykes as Martin’s office assistant Shayla, and Luke Macfarlane as Nicky’s brother Tony.

How can your readers get their hands on Drama Oz, and how can they contact you?

The purchase links are below, as are my contact links, including my web site. I love to hear from readers! So do Nicky and Noah. I tell them everything!

Thank you, Joe, for interviewing today.

It was my pleasure. As a past professional actor and current college theatre professor/department chair, I know first-hand the hysterically funny antics, sweet romance, and captivating mystery in the worlds of theatre and academia. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are full of them! I know you’ll laugh, cry, feel romantic, and love delving into this crackling new mystery with more plot twists and turns than a QAnon member hearing real news. I’m more excited than a red state limiting voting rights to share this fourteenth novel in the series with you. So follow the yellow brick road to a girl with a dog who is one hot bitch, a wicked witch who would kill for a new pair of shoes, a sexy Wizard who wants to bang the Scarecrow’s brains out, a Tinman and Lion embarking on a mixed marriage, plenty of monkey business, and murder!

And I love to hear from readers. So drop me a line. I’ll share it with Nicky and Noah!

The Treemeadow College theatre crew stage an original musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, entitled Friends of Dorothy, at a summer theme park in Key West. Quickly cast and crew members melt away like a witch submerged in water. Nicky, as the Wizard on stage and off, must save the show and figure out whodunit. Once again, our favorite thespians will need to use their drama skills to catch the killer before a witch’s fireball sends them up in smoke. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining fourteenth novel in this delightful series. It’s a scorcher! So follow the yellow brick road. The stage lights are coming up in Oz on a girl with a dog who is one hot bitch, a wicked witch who would kill for a new pair of shoes, a sexy Wizard, a Scarecrow sitting on a big pole, a Tinman with a giant can of lube, a Lion with a long tail between his legs, plenty of monkey business, and murder!

Enjoy an Excerpt

A rooster’s crow heralds the start of a new morning on a farm in Kansas. A small elderly woman wearing a housedress matching the gray bun on her head comes out of the farmhouse. At the sight of her overflowing bucket, penned pigs, goats, cows, and horses come to attention for their morning meal. A tall, thin, aging man in black overalls sticks his pitchfork into a pile of hay as gray hair covers his forehead. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry share a, “Good morning.” Lively country western music plays, and they belt out a hand-clapping song, “Goin’ Down on the Farm,” which leads to bump and grind choreography between the couple and the animals. When a horse rubs against her, Aunt Em hollers, “Who do I look like, Catherine the Great?”

“You’re way older than the eighteenth-century Russian empress, my love,” Uncle Henry retorts.

“Stop!” Hello Nicky-and-Noah fans, it’s me, your favorite armchair (or rather play director’s chair) sleuth, Nicky Abbondanza, PhD, which in my case stands for Pretty Hot Detective. I’m not a real detective. I actually solve all of my cases. This one’s number fourteen. But who’s counting? Me! I’ve directed plays, musicals, a runway show, bodybuilding competition, movies, and even a television pilot at Treemeadow College in picturesque Vermont, where I am a Professor of Play Directing in the Theatre Department. However, I’m not in Treemeadow now. Where am I? Here’s the story. My handsome, loyal, and wonderful husband, Noah Oliver, Associate Professor of Acting, and I planned a lavish summer vacation cruising (no pun intended) the Mediterranean with our teenage son, relentless thespian and co-sleuth Taavi Kapule Oliver Abbondanza. Reality and a migraine struck when Noah and I remembered our salaries as college professors. So recalling our free trips to Alaska (for staging a murder mystery dinner show on a cruise) and Hawaii (for directing a luau show), Noah and I discreetly let theatre producers know we might be available for summer stock. In other words, we begged for a job. We turned down offers from Arab and African nations where being gay is a crime punishable by death. We’re funny that way. Instead, we took a (slightly) less risky job in a blue dot in the red state of Florida: the new Wizard of Oz Theme Park in Florida’s Key West. The park features beloved costumed characters chased around the yellow brick road by screaming children wielding the Wicked Witch of the West’s crystal ball, Dorothy’s slippers, and the Tinman’s oil can purchased at exorbitant prices from the Emerald City gift shop. Park activities include Throw a Fireball at the Scarecrow, Drop a House on the Wicked Witch of the East, Burst Glinda’s Bubble, and Munch with a Munchkin. The themed restaurant features Green Witch Warts, Flying Monkey Droppings, and Uncle Henry’s Jellyroll with Aunt Em’s Bread Box. The thrilling ride attractions enable visitors to spin in a tornado and land on a Munchkin, dive into Toto’s basket, and ride in a hot air balloon with a Wizard full of hot air. But I digress. Back to the only thing that really matters—the theatre!

At the center of the park is an enormous enclosed theatre that would make any tax-exempt billionaire televangelist green (pun intended) with envy. So, the park management hired me to direct an original musical production of the much-loved classic based on the original books by L. Frank Baum. The stories where Dorothy’s slippers are chic silver, and her post-adventure comeback line is simply, “I’m so glad to be home again.”

My first decision was to cast the most charismatic and talented actor I know as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz—the wonderful me. At forty-six with the body and maturity of a twenty-one-year-old (both courtesy of the gym at Treemeadow College) and hailing originally from Kansas, I was a perfect fit for the Wizard—unlike my costume. With my olive skin, dark hair, and over six-feet tall status, I admit I looked quite dapper in the Wizard’s three-piece Victorian suit which matched my emerald eyes. My tapered trousers were trim in the waist, hips, and inseam. Hence the big problem—or the big asset depending on the situation. You see, my nearly foot-long penis—unaroused—though Noah’s treasure, has been a costumer’s nightmare. So while our costume designer, Gabriela Boada, and her daughter and assistant, Ava, took out my slack’s inseam (causing it to be an outseam), I wore my contemporary dress slacks.

My thirty-nine-year-old youthful (grr!) husband’s milk-and-honey face turned to scarlet until I cast him as the Scarecrow (and the cast’s acting coach). Actually, Noah, having grown up in a Wisconsin dairy farm, was perfectly cast as Dorothy’s first friend in Oz. Our seventeen-year-old son, Taavi, threatened to put a curse on me from his native Hawaii until I offered him an oilcan and the role of the Tinman, Dorothy’s second cohort in Oz.
My best friend, department chair, and mentor, Martin Anderson, filled out a pink slip (no pun intended) with my name on it until I asked him to write the new musical, which he appropriately titled, Friends of Dorothy. I cast Martin’s husband, Ruben Markinson, in the dual roles of Uncle Henry and the Wicked Witch of the West. This prompted Martin to strap me into his chairlift and use his diaper as a slingshot to lob his C-PAP machine at me until I cast Martin as Aunt ‘Em and Glinda the Good Witch of the North. Their sixteen-year-old son, Ty Wilde Anderson Markinson, strangled me with Martin’s compression stockings until I cowardly gave him the role of the Lion. And we were off to see the Wizard.

So here I sit, front row center at the technical dress rehearsal of our extravaganza as the evening hours drift by like piercing arrows to my brain. Everything is coming together as smoothly as a QAnon member storming the Capitol under orders of a past Republican president.
Martin pointed to the dancer playing the horse. The young man’s bare torso and full brown jockstrap gave “hung like a horse” a new meaning. “That horse is even more hung than you, Nicky. And a whole lot friskier!”

I typed on my electronic tablet, “Why didn’t the twister cart off Aunt Em?”

About the Author: Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite MM Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery novel. He is also the author of the remaining Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie, Drama Runway, Drama Christmas, Drama Pan, Drama TV, Drama Oz; the Player Piano Mysteries: The Player and The Player’s Encore; the Jana Lane Mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll; the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Moving Forward, Stepping Out, New Beginnings, Happy Endings; the In My Heart Anthology: An Infatuation & A Shooting Star; the Tales from Fairyland Anthology: The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland and Holiday Tales from Fairyland; the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories Anthology: A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, The First Noel; and the Found At Last Anthology: Finding Giorgio and Finding Armando. His books have won numerous Book of the Month awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions. As an actor, Joe appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Jason Robards, and Holland Taylor. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Goddard College, Master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, and is currently a happily married college theatre professor/department chair residing in New York State.

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Murderous Interruptions by C.J. Carson – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. C.J. Carson will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The paranormal mystery The Veils of Parallel Times continues with “Murderous Interruptions”. Allie Callahan’s nemesis is a challenging and formidable adversary.

Travel with Allie as she finally accepts and embraces her ancestral gifts to stop her archenemy who would have her destroyed for his own lust of power. Explore the depths of her relationship with this rival in this life and beyond the veil.

Enjoy an Excerpt

I wasn’t traveling long when darkness settled over the woods, and the air became chilled and damp. I was getting nervous that I might not find my way back out of the woods in the dark. I stopped at a brook to give my horse a quick break and a cool drink. As I raked my fingers through his mane, something caught his attention. Nodding his head, he whinnied. When I looked up, I spotted a campfire in the distance. As I walked him in that direction, I found a heavyset elderly woman with long dark braids sitting at, and stoking the fire. Moving in for a closer look, she wore a dress made of brown suede and was wrapped in an animal skin blanket, shielding her from the cold.

I didn’t recognize her, but somehow, she was oddly familiar to me. Without speaking a word, she reached out, beckoning me. I could feel a connection that drew me in as I slid down from my horse and joined her. She opened the blanket and, as I sat down, she held me in her arms to warm me by the fire. I was suddenly in my youth again, swept up in warmth and safety I hadn’t felt for a very long time.

Raising her arm, the woman drew my attention to the flames, and as I stared into the blazing fire, I couldn’t pull my eyes away. It was as if it was speaking to me, its warmth drawing me in.

“This is your truth, my daughter of my daughter’s son. You are at your best and can do your work in this lifetime when you accept that you are one with the earth, fire, water, and elements. Only when you embrace them, can you move toward your true destiny. You are a rare spirit in that you are blessed with many gifts that you are yet to discover and recognize. Yours is not an easy path unless you embrace it. I am always here; you have only to think of me, and I will be in your thoughts to help you, as are all your ancestors.

“Little Bird, you have traveled and lived in many times and dimensions. Think of time as a path that runs horizontally, but many paths are layered, one on top of the other, in a horizontal pattern.

“You have the ability to move through them, not only in time, but from one dimension to another. It was the element of water in the stream that brought you to me. Keep your routes planted firmly into the earth, for that will ground you and keep you balanced. Tonight, I want you to look into the dancing flames and listen to them speak to you. It is past the time for you to begin to understand your truth, my dear. You do not have the luxury of putting it off any longer.”

Gazing into the flames, I saw visions of a young woman riding my white horse. As the horse moved up a hill and into a green meadow, the young girl was now a young woman. As I studied her, she looked nothing like me, but I felt like I was watching my memory unfold. She was riding on a horse with a knight that looked like he was from medieval times. As the horse reached the top of the meadow, I knew the woman in the vision was an image of me, and when the valiant knight turned to me, a chill coursed through my entire body. Although his face was unfamiliar, his deep blue eyes caught me off guard. Those eyes, those beautiful eyes. I would know them anywhere.

About the Author:

CJ Carson was inspired by a great story from a very early age. What brought her to this juncture in life and encouraged her to put pen to paper are the many rich experiences and opportunities of her life’s journey.

While working in the medical field, she explored energy work and became a Polarity Therapist and Reiki Therapist.

Exploring acting brought her into the theatre world both on the stage and behind the scenes.

Painting introduced her to a group of artists that shared her passion for bringing a scene to canvas.

Her love of singing allowed her to travel twice to Europe as a soloist with conductor Sonja Dahlgren Prior, who inspired her to do something, she never dreamed possible.

CJ Carson has always wanted to write. Now she is introducing to the world her second published book, “Murderous Interruptions,” from her trilogy, Veils of Parallel Times.

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A Difficult Lesson For Any Writer To Learn by Ryan Lawrence – Guest Post and Giveaway

This is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ryan Lawrence will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A Difficult Lesson For Any Writer To Learn

As an author, one of the most challenging parts of the writing process is knowing when to stop. What does that mean exactly? Well, when you write your story, you have to understand that there comes a time when the rewrites and the editing process have to reach a final stage of acceptance that the story is complete. While I do not wish to speak for anyone but myself, I think it is safe to say that it is a common thing many writers have to feel like they could do more, write more, edit further, and tighten or tweak that last bit of storyline to make it perfect.

But what is perfection? How do we make something perfect? Is that even attainable? I spent months upon months going over my novel, rewriting and editing back and forth to make sure my sentences were tight, my storylines made sense, and my timeline flowed seamlessly. Of course, the more I went back to my story, the more “opportunities” I saw to adjust and make perfect. It became a rabbit hole I fell into, and I could not see a way out. I had blinded myself to any potential path out of this trap of perfectionism.

I had my novel, Vindictive, professionally edited and Beta tested; even still, I could not trust anyone but myself to tell me my story was ready for publication. The thought that I had only one chance to make a first impression crippled me. What if someone thought my novel was not well-written or thoughtful or exciting or—?! And there is that rabbit hole of self-doubt and perfectionism I was stuck in.

Eventually, my husband had had enough of seeing me on this hamster wheel and intervened. He asked me several poignant questions. Did I write this book for my own sense of creative fulfillment? Did I write this novel because I had a story to tell? Did I write this story for myself and hope it would resonate with like-minded people? Did I do everything I could to make it literarily professional and accessible? Did I understand that it’s okay if not everyone likes it, gets it or appreciates it?

Talking with my husband about my goals helped me clear my head and realize that perfection only exists in the worldview of people who want everyone to like them and, by extension, everything they produce. I soon realized that what I had written was something I had read a hundred times and still enjoyed, was still proud of, and that was enough.

Perfectionism is a trap and an unrealistic expectation for human beings who are, naturally, imperfect creatures. But it is in the attempt to understand that imperfection that makes a writer the creative artist they are. Sometimes you have to get out of your own way to see the truth, and having someone you trust to help you see the path clearer is a gift one should never take for granted.

The best revenge is revenge. Getting it is all that matters.

Jules Cartell has it all: wealth; beauty; a handsome, loving husband; a partnership in her father’s law firm; and the top executive position at one of Canada’s leading corporations, Cartell Worldwide. Aside from her secret, problematic desire for the married owner of the internationally renowned Château Bergé, Jules believes she and her life are pretty perfect. But the discovery of an unforgivable crime perpetrated against her family by her husband, Phillip, years before the two met sets Jules down the path of revenge. There is no option for forgiveness. Phillip has to pay. An eye for an eye.

It is said that when seeking revenge, you should dig two graves. Someone from Jules’s past, someone aggrieved by her actions, seeks vengeance for themselves. This is an enemy without compassion, without morality, without mercy. An enemy who will accept no restitution short of Jules’s death.

In the city of Fairporte, ON, secrets, lies, and betrayal can be found everywhere. As adversaries close in, will Jules get revenge before her past catches up with her? Unexpected allies may be instrumental to her success. They may also be the key to her very survival.

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She cried for Ethan and for the bright-eyed girl she could no longer be. Jules wanted to run away from this place of death. She also wanted to run away from her selfish choice to ensure her survival, her future. Jules wished all of it had never happened. But it did happen, and she would have to live with it for the rest of her life.

“Ethan! No! Ethan!”

Startled, Jules quickly turned and looked in the direction of the shrieking bellow. It was William, tearing down the woods, screaming his brother’s name over and over again.

Having discovered his charges missing from the house, William had reluctantly gone about searching for them outside. Sadly, it was not soon enough to intervene and prevent the devastating incident.

When William finally reached the clearing, he stopped at the edge of the lake and looked out upon the scene of broken ice and still water. With clenched fists, he fell to his knees and screamed in anguish. His brother was dead and gone, swallowed whole by the cold, murky depths.

Angrily turning towards Jules, William showered upon her a rage so pure, so palpable it might as well have been a physical smack across her face. His glare was full of hate. And so were his words.

“Why didn’t you help him, you fucking bitch?! You did nothing! You let him drown!”

Jules stood as immobile as a stone and ate her emotions, swallowing all her sadness, guilt, and self-reproach. She owned the choice she had made. The only one possible. The correct choice. She understood William’s pain, but she was well aware of his vile nature.

Jules had her suspicions of what might diffuse her attacker: using his own words—his ignorance and prejudice—against him. Maybe then he would leave her alone. She had only done what was necessary. All she could do.

And who was he to blame her anyway? Was he there when it happened? No! He had been too busy playing video games to look after them, too busy to save his brother, too busy to have prevented all of this in the first place.

Be mean, Jules silently told herself. Act like a grown-up.

With unwavering resolve, staring William down with cold, hard eyes, Jules scoffed, “What the hell could I have done? I’m just a girl. Right?”

About the Author:
Ryan Lawrence was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario. He is a 2000 graduate of The University of Guelph in English. Ryan has worn many hats professionally, including working over 12 years as a custom art framer. While writing has always been a part of his life, it was only after leaving this profession that Ryan seriously took his education and passion for writing by the horns and began the journey towards Vindictive, his first novel.

Since 2002, Ryan has lived in London, Ontario, with his husband, Todd, together since 1997, their cat Dora, and his massive comic book collection that once fell on Todd. He’s okay.

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Big Shot by Kirsten Weiss – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kirsten Weiss will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Small Town. Big Murder.

The number one secret to my success as a bodyguard? Staying under the radar. But when a wildly public disaster and a dead client blew up my career and reputation, it turned my perfect, solo life upside down.

I thought my tiny hometown of Nowhere would be the ideal out-of-the-way refuge to wait out the media storm.

It wasn’t.

My little brother had moved into a treehouse. The obscure mountain town had decided to attract tourists with the world’s largest collection of big things… Yes, Nowhere now has the world’s largest pizza cutter. And lawn flamingo. And ball of yarn…

And then I stumbled over a dead body.

All the evidence points to my brother being the bad guy. I may have been out of his life for a while—okay, five years—but I know he’s no killer. Can I clear my brother before he becomes Nowhere’s next Big Fatality?

A fast-paced and funny cozy mystery series, buy Big Shot now to take advantage of the special pre-order price of .99 cents.

Murder mystery game included in the back of the book!

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Just to be clear, it wasn’t my fault.

It wasn’t my responsibility either. But when my client slipped me a mickey, there’s a principle involved. Though after falling down a flight of hotel stairs, I wasn’t sure what that principle was anymore.

I staggered to my feet, lost the rest of my dinner in a potted palm, and careened through the door into the hotel lobby.

Guests turned to stare, and why not? My blond hair fountained out of a high, pre-makeup-removal ponytail. Camo pajamas and flip-flops completed my tipsy party-girl look.

I staggered deeper into the chic gray and white lobby. Lights glinted off the chrome chandeliers, and I winced at their dizzying starbursts.

My fists clenched on my phone. Or at least I thought they did. My fingers were a little numb. But I’d expelled most of the drugs, and I was going to catch my wayward client, Toomas Koppel, and surveil him until it hurt. Him. Hurt him.

That wasn’t ego. I was well aware of my many flaws. But I also knew who I was and what I was, and what I was was very, very good at surveillance.

Plus, I was an optimist. Personal protection agents, otherwise known as bodyguards, frequently were. We liked to think we were tough and cynical, since our job was to watch for trouble. But you didn’t get into this business if you didn’t think you and your client would survive it. Maybe that was why I’d been snookered by mine. I still had no idea why he’d drugged me, but I was going to find out.

About the Author:Kirsten Weiss writes laugh-out-loud, page-turning mysteries. Her heroines aren’t perfect, but they’re smart, they struggle, and they succeed. Kirsten writes in a house high on a hill in the Colorado woods and occasionally ventures out for wine and chocolate. Or for a visit to the local pie shop.

Kirsten is best known for her Wits’ End, Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum, and Tea & Tarot cozy mystery books. So if you like funny, action-packed mysteries with complicated heroines, just turn the page…

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Finding the Emotion by Barbara Casey – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Finding the Emotion

Emotional situations in a story often remain with the reader, even long after a book has been read.

The Seraphim’s Song, Book 5 of The F.I.G. Mysteries, takes Dara, Mackenzie, and Jennifer, collectively known as the three FIGs – Females of Intellectual Genius, along with Carolina, their teacher from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women, to a hidden cave on the Yellow Sea in China. It is there that they must find the secret location of where an ancient artifact – a “key” – must be returned in order for the world to be safe. Natural disasters are occurring all over the world, Carolina is ill, all of them are exhausted as they fumble their way through the dark cave. As rocks and boulders fall around them and the cave starts to collapse, they barely escape only to discover that Jennifer is not with them.

*****

They could hear the vibrating hum of B flat minor, the “aum” sound loud and distinct, clear and pure, no longer off key.

And they could hear the terrifying sound of the stone walls crumbing and the ceiling collapsing from within the inner deep dark depths of the cave and moving closer toward them. Thick choking dust filled the air around them making it almost impossible to breathe or see. “Get out!” shouted Dr. Stanwick. “Run! The cave is collapsing!”

Protecting their heads with their backpacks from the falling rocks, blinded by the thick dust and barely able to breathe, the F.I.G.s ran back the way they had come, toward the entrance, stumbling over broken rocks, pulling Carolina, urging her to hurry, trying to keep her from falling, with Dr. Stanwick right behind them. When they approached the opening of the cave and could see the daylight beyond, Carolina glanced back. The last thing she saw was the crevasse in the stone wall slowly close around the artifact as though to once again conceal it and protect it. The cymatic pattern of the god’s eye was now just a pile of rocks.

Startled by the sudden loud rumble and seeing the thick yellow dust spew from the mouth of the cave, Li Lee quickly got out of the car and rushed toward the noise of falling rocks just as Carolina and the F.I.G.s and Dr. Stanwick exited out of the yellow cloud of darkness and into the bright sunshine. From a safe distance, they watched in stunned silence as huge boulders, uprooted shrubs, small trees, and chunks of yellow clay fell from the outcropping and cliffs above, completely sealing the entrance. Any visible evidence that there was a jinzhi de cave or ever had been was gone—destroyed. All that remained was the thick yellow dust slowly rising and dissipating into the air.

“Jennifer!” Dara looked around. “Where’s Jennifer?” Dara yelled, moving toward the cave. “Oh, no! Jennifer!”

With everything happening, they hadn’t noticed that Jennifer wasn’t with them. Running back to the cave’s entrance, horrified, Carolina, Dara, and Mackenzie screamed for Jennifer as they clawed and heaved and pushed at the heavy stones in desperation, trying to move them out of the way, trying to get back into the cave—trying to save the female of intellectual genius. Knowing it was futile, Dr. Stanwick fell to the ground, gasping for breath and overcome with emotion. Li Lee knelt beside him, his heart breaking over the tragic hopelessness of it all, knowing there was absolutely nothing they could do.

*****

Thank you for inviting me to visit with you and for your interest in my books. I wish you and your bloggers all the best. ~Barbara

Many changes have taken place at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women while Carolina and Larry were on their honeymoon in Frascati, Italy, on the Granchelli farm. The newlyweds have been given a larger bungalow; Ms. Alcott, niece of the founder of Wood Rose, and Mrs. Ball, assistant to the headmaster, have moved into a bungalow together; and Jimmy Bob, caretaker and night watchman at Wood Rose has moved from his family home down the road a bit into a small bungalow on the orphanage property with his hound dog Tick, as well as his new cat and her litter of kittens. Most important, thanks to the persuasive powers of Ms. Alcott and Mrs. Ball, the F.I.G.s have been given a forever home at Wood Rose.

Summer is coming to an end and the F.I.G.s will soon return to the universities to complete their special projects. They are starting to feel anxious, and the coping mechanisms they have used their entire lives are starting to work overtime. Dara’s thoughts turn to an unknown language, possibly from another world; Mackenzie focuses on the relationship of math to music; and Jennifer keeps hearing the note of B flat minor and is drawing dark swirls on her canvas board.

Deadly forces and natural disasters are unleashed into the world when Milosh, the evil young man who placed a curse on Carolina when she searched for her mother, steals an ancient artifact—a “key”—from an archaeological site near Puli, China on the Yellow Sea where he is working. This artifact, when paired with a certain note—B flat minor known as the Seraphim’s song—opens a portal that enables man to communicate with the gods.

When the key gets lost in a storm, Carolina comes into possession of it through Jimmy Bob’s dog, Tick, and when she does, she hears Lyuba, her gypsy mother, tell her that time is running out. The F.I.G.s and Carolina must go to the forbidden cave on the Yellow Sea, the place where the early gypsies are believed to have settled before travelling into Europe. For it is there where the key must be returned before all is destroyed.

About the Author:Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014, she became a partner with Strategic Media Books, an independent nonfiction publisher of true crime, where she oversees acquisitions, day-to-day operations, and book production.

Barbara has written over a dozen award-winning books of fiction and nonfiction for both young adults and adults. The awards include the National Association of University Women Literary Award, the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel, the IP Best Book for Regional Fiction, among others. Several of her books have been optioned for major films and television.

Her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in both national and international publications including the North Carolina Christian Advocate Magazine, The New East Magazine, the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer, the Rocky Mount (N.C.) Sunday Telegram, Dog Fancy, ByLine, The Christian Record, Skirt! Magazine, and True Story. A thirty-minute television special which Barbara wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories. Her award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in The Cosmic Unicorn and CrossTime science fiction anthologies. Barbara’s essays and other works appear in The Chrysalis Reader, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, 221 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus Publishers), and A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation).

Barbara is a former director of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida, where she served as guest author and panelist. She has served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. In 2018 Barbara received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. She makes her home on the top of a mountain in northwest Georgia with three cats who adopted her, Homer – a Southern coon cat, Reese – a black cat, and Earl Gray – a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.

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Balancing Life and Writing by Kirstyn Petras – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kirstyn Petras will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Balancing life and writing

If I actually figure out the balance of life and writing, I’ll let you know.

I think people sometimes have these grand, preconceived notions of what a writer’s work looks like. Someone sitting at a desk and making themselves write for hours at a time, some perfect lighting and inspiration flowing. This idea that words always come naturally and if they don’t you’re not as good, not worthy, or doing something wrong.

Everyone has their own process. Whether that is to say to yourself every day from 9-11 AM I will write, or, I will attempt to sneak in a couple of words over my lunch break, or staying up until 3 AM because you got an idea and need to get it down on paper before it disappears.

I don’t know if there is actually a “balance.” I think a big part of writing is figuring out how to write in a way that works for you, your life, your schedule, your needs. Working in a way that allows you to tell the stories you need to tell while not killing yourself because you didn’t write anything this week. That’s not to say make excuses for why something isn’t getting done, but writing should be a joy, not a chore. And if that “balance” is marathon sprints or 100 words a day, it’s whatever works for you. Have goals, by all means, but don’t be too harsh on yourself if a daily word count isn’t met. Words don’t always flow, but be ready to put them down when they do.

Alexander Covington is hunting a traitor: Melody Karsh, a missing girl accused of treason, a Party member who has forsaken her country. But, letters are appearing in mailboxes, being slipped beneath doors, and in the pockets of passersby. “Free Melody” is being spray painted on walls. Her image – cold, shivering, pathetic – has captured the public’s attention and sympathy.

Melody has no idea that her name is being used to start a movement, not until the executions of those demanding her freedom start airing on television.

Derek Lin would feel sympathy, if he didn’t blame Melody for the deaths of those who have disappeared without a trace, caught up in the investigation to find her.

Melody must choose to join the fight or stand aside. Derek will become a leader or break under the pressure. Alexander will decide how many bodies must fall to save his own life.

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“Well, we thank you very much, Detective Covington, for your time and encourage the public to cooperate fully. And now, a word from our sponsors.”

“Clear!” Morgan called, and Covington stood up. He ripped the microphone off his blazer, and, without a word, strode out of the studio. Morgan started screaming the second he was out of earshot.

“Do you want us shut down?! Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!”

“Morgan, what is he going to do?” Denise asked, leaning back. “Look, he didn’t want me to ask a question, and I did anyway. They never actually announce stories like this. I wanted to know why – how far she could have gotten – the fact he didn’t answer doesn’t make that look good, does it?”

Morgan gaped at her, before returning to the mixing booth. Derek followed her and peeked over her shoulder to watch the playback.

There, on the screen, were the pictures of the so-called terrorists. And there was her picture. She’d been at the bar, waiting for Sean, however long ago. He’d seen her picture, the background of Sean’s phone, heard Sean talk about her, mope about her, drink himself stupid over her.

“We have a problem.” He muttered to Morgan.

“What?” Morgan jumped, not having seen him following her. “Why?”

“Because I’m pretty sure that girl’s been gone a hell of a lot longer than you think.”

About the Author: Kirstyn Petras is a fiction writer and commodities reporter but primarily identifies as caffeine in a human suit held together by hair spray and sheer force of will. She currently resides in Texas, though claims home as a combination of New York and Edinburgh. When not writing, she trains contortion and aerial hoop. She has been published in Punk Noir, and is the co-host of Dark Waters, a literary podcast exploring all that is dark, ready, and wonderfully twisted.

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The Group by Kevin R. Doyle – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kevin R. Doyle will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Sure, Ron Green had made a mistake, but it wasn’t one that millions of other guys hadn’t made before him. And maybe he deserved some sort of punishment, like his wife leaving him or his kids hating his guts. But this? Being the main suspect in a single murder was bad enough, but at the same time knowing he was a potential victim of a serial killer was even worse. However, before Green could convince the cops of his innocence, he first had to convince them the serial killer actually existed, and at the moment they weren’t believing a thing he said.

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Hollis fell silent as the ME went about her business although even he could pretty much guess what had happened. With no exit wound, the small caliber bullet had no doubt buried itself somewhere inside the skull, probably after ricocheting around for a while.

“So how many does this make?” she asked without looking up. “Have you all hit the triple digits yet?”

“Actually,” he said, “we passed the hundred mark at the end of last month. I’m not sure what number this one makes.”

“Well,” the ME said as she stood up and stripped off her gloves, “I won’t be able to put anything down officially till I get him on the table, but it’s pretty obvious what happened here.”

“One bullet back of the head,” Hollis said.

“Right. Which gets back to the oddity.”

“How did he end up lying face up?”

“Exactly. Even a .22, in the back of the skull, should have sent him tumbling forward. This looks almost apologetic. Could it have been some sort of a robbery?”

“That’s the nice thing about it, Hollis. My part’s easy. I just have to come up with the means. You guys get to do the whole motive and opportunity thing.”

Hollis grimaced as she walked off.

“Oh by the way.” She turned back to him. “I checked with the office before I left. This makes number one hundred twelve for the year. And only sixteen days to go.”

About the Author: A high-school teacher, former college instructor, and fiction writer, Kevin R. Doyle is the author of numerous short horror stories. He’s also written three crime thrillers, The Group, When You Have to Go There, and And the Devil Walks Away, and one horror novel, The Litter. In the last few years, he’s begun working on the Sam Quinton private eye series, published by Camel Press. The first Quinton book, Squatter’s Rights, was nominated for the 2021 Shamus award for Best First PI Novel. The second book, Heel Turn, was released in March of 2021, while the third in the series, Double Frame, came out in March of 2022.

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Critique Groups by Terry Korth Fischer – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Terry Korth Fischer will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Critique Groups

A good critique is invaluable. While practice may be the best way to improve your writing skills, you don’t know whether you’re doing it right and what you’re doing wrong unless you get feedback. Likewise, the right critique partner or group will help make you a better writer.

I joined my first critique group as an act of self-defense. After writing for years, but only sharing those words with family members, I signed up to attend a writers conference that included three professional critiques. I panicked. What if I wasn’t any good? Family and friends are kind, encouraging but in no way qualified to evaluate my skill. I sought outside help.

My local library had a writing group. I went to my first meeting without taking anything to read. The second time, I read a 500 word piece. I joined a dozen writers, some accomplished, others not so much, but all with a genuine love for writing and a willingness to help each other. They turned into better friends than mentors. I admit it took a while, but what I gained in that critique group was the confidence to stand before my peers and offer a piece of myself without feeling vulnerable.

Over the years, I have belonged to in-person, online exchanges, and Zoom critique groups. Each has its unique benefits. Today, I actively belong to two groups—the first consists of four fiction writers who write in differing genres. We meet twice a month via the internet. We post chapters, read aloud, follow along, and receive verbal feedback. Rather than single bodies of work, we often post bits from various works in progress. The second group consists of three author friends; we also meet online. However, we meet ad hoc, usually when one of us has a finished or near the finished project and desires immediate feedback. I’m afraid Covid-19 has curtailed social critique meetings. And I miss that.

Some things to consider when choosing a critique group to join.

• What are the demographics? Ideally, a good critique group is a mix of skill levels. You can always benefit from the advice of someone with more experience than you, and there will be opportunities for you to help someone with less experience.

• Is the group limited to a specific genre or open to all genres? If you write genre fiction, you may want a group specializing in writing that genre. Each genre has certain conventions that are unfamiliar to those writing in another. On the other hand, good writing is good writing. And the craft of good storytelling is universal. I find exposure to multiple genres a plus—reading in a variety of genres, a bonus.

• How does the group operate? Depending on the group, you may find a heavy workload preparing critiques in return for little feedback of your work, and only every once in a while. You may also find the schedule too frequent for you to keep up. The frequency for both critiques and submissions ranges widely from group to group. I suggest you check out the group before joining.

When I look back at my early writing attempts, I realize “I like it” was never a constructive critique, no matter how well-intentioned my mother’s encouragement was offered. On the other hand, belonging to critique groups has made me a better writer. I benefited from opinions pointing out good and bad elements in my stories. And I also had the opportunity to recognize mistakes made by others, which helped me identify the same errors in my work. I wish I would have sought quality feed-back when my writing journey began.

Do you have a particular writing partner or unique critique group? I’d love to hear about it.

Small-town detective, Rory Naysmith, thought he’d seen it all, but a young woman’s brutal murder is especially hard to stomach. Doubly so, when he recognizes the murder’s MO is identical to that of Tobias Snearl—the killer he put behind bars a decade before. His frustration grows after a series of senseless accidents plague those dearest to him, and a second woman dies—this one too close to home. Searching for answers, Rory races against time, plunging deep into the murder investigations, drawing ever closer to becoming a casualty of the dark, angry deeds himself, until he finds no one is who they pretend to be—and none are beyond evil’s reach.

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In the distance, the railroad bridge stretched from Nebraska over the Missouri River and touched the Iowa shore. Someone had mounded boulders farther down. Perhaps they’d been removed from the grounds and left there for a retaining wall. More likely, they were hidden from view, too heavy to move elsewhere. They were an eyesore, starting at the tree line, topping three feet, and spreading down to the water’s edge. Rory scrambled up the stack, intent on gaining the elevated advantage, the moss-covered boulders felt slippery under the smooth leather soles of his shoes.

When he reached the top, he caught a whiff of cigarette smoke—or was it marijuana?

He pivoted quickly and lost purchase. To break the fall, he instinctively put out his hands, and his foot slid into a crevice between two large stones. His forearms smashed against the hard surface. The force of his body slam moved the boulders which then interlocked around his foot.

From behind, he heard someone run off through the trees. He cursed, pushed up, ignored the complaints from his knees, and hand-walked his upper body back to his feet. With one foot captive, and kneeling over the other, he awkwardly righted himself. Then gave a tug. The vise-grip held tight. His palms felt razor-scraped. He reached for the phone, but it wasn’t there.

It took a moment to spot his lifeline, five feet away and out of reach.

About the Author:Terry Korth Fischer writes mystery and memoir. Her memoir, Omaha to Ogallala, was released in 2019. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies in print and online. Terry is a member of Sisters in Crime, Pennwriters, Inc, and Clear Lake Area Writers. Transplanted from the Midwest, Terry lives in Houston with her husband and their two guard cats. She enjoys a good mystery, heat and humidity, and long summer days.

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The Royal Fifth by James Peyton – Spotlight and Giveaway

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The Royal Fifth: The amount of stolen treasure Conquistadors were supposed to give to the Spanish Crown.

In a world corrupted by its past, what could turn a sensitive artist into a killer?

Young Santa Fe artist, Martín Cortés, is devastated by the deaths of family members and the loss of a huge emerald that once belonged to Hernán Cortés.

Colin Glendaring, a disgraced archeologist with an insatiable passion for pre-Columbian artifacts, is responsible. Martín learns that another family descended from the Spanish Conqueror lives in Oaxaca. Rather than kill Glendaring, he heads south. He discovers an unconventional household that includes Ilhui, a beautiful young woman with a dangerous political agenda.

Martín is stunned when he learns how the family manages to live so well…then alarmed when he discovers that Glendaring is on his way to Oaxaca. Martín and Ilhui are soon accused of murder. On the run, they are betrayed, and Ilhui is kidnapped by a guerilla leader known for recreating grisly Aztec rituals.

With time running out, Martín makes a pact with a ruthless army officer and a crooked federal policeman. Will it be a deal with the devil, or can he do what has to be done to save his new family and love?

Enjoy an Excerpt

EL PASO, PRESENT TIME

Martín Cortés stood on the pedestrian approach to the international bridge that would take him into Mexico. Through the pollution that daily turned the high-desert air of Ciudad Juárez into a toxic haze, he focused on the nearby vehicle traffic. The U.S.-bound lanes were choked with line after line of barely moving cars and trucks. Turning to the southbound lanes, he watched the sparse traffic moving fast and free.

He looked back at the new-old skyline of downtown El Paso and dwelled for a moment on the tragic events of the last few months. He knew what had happened. Why they’d happened still eluded him. The inner voice that brought him to this place told him all would soon be revealed. And then he wondered: Is that destiny or some karmic trickster? He shook his head. Only time would tell.

Turning again, he raised his eyes to the smog-shrouded sprawl beyond the border where his trip would begin. He had no idea where it would end. He took a deep breath, fished in his pocket for the bridge toll, and resumed his southbound journey.

About the Author: Award-winning Author James Peyton infuses his novels with stranger-than-fiction encounters and true-to-life characters based on his extensive travel and research. Realism in his plots and action comes from that background and his experience in martial arts and tactical firearms.
The Royal Fifth is based loosely on historical events surrounding the Conqueror, Hernán Cortés, brought into the present time. It will be followed by a mystery-thriller series featuring federal policeman, Artemas Salcido. Artemas is the illegitimate son of a Mexican governor and his Yaqui servant. Following his mother’s suspicious death, he was sent to be raised by the village priest. He attended Harvard on a scholarship and returned to Mexico vowing to fight corruption—only to receive his real education, where the grade is often life or death.

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