My Publishing Journey by Judy Penz Sheluk – Guest Post and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Judy Penz Sheluk will be awarding $25 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.

My Publishing Journey
by Judy Penz Sheluk

I began writing The Hanged Man’s Noose on Christmas Eve, 2011. That may seem like an odd day to start a first novel, but I’m a freelance writer/editor in my day jobs (yes, jobs with an “s”) and for the first time in ages, I found myself with ten days off and no real plans beyond the usual Christmas dinners. By the end of that “vacation,” I was hooked, and for the next several months I wrote every single day. Sometimes it was only for a half hour, sometimes a few hours, but I was on a mission.

In June 2012, I met with an agent at the Bloody Words Mystery Writing Conference in Toronto. She loved my premise: a greedy real estate developer comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store on the town’s historic Main Street. She asked me to send her the full manuscript when I finished the novel. I didn’t realize, at the time, that most agents won’t even listen to a pitch unless a book is ready for submission, and certainly never from a beginning writer. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss!

I told my husband, family and friends. Drank champagne. Celebrated. Danced in my pj’s. The fact that I was still on the first draft of my very first novel seemed like such a minor point. Surely I’d have the book finished within a few months. Visions of advances danced through my head.

Spurred on by the agent’s enthusiasm, I completed the first draft by September. Reread and revised it in October and November. Polished it up in December and sent it to two friends to read in January 2013. Got their feedback in February, made another round of minor revisions, and voila! I was ready to submit.

I drafted up a decent query letter, reminded the agent of our meeting and waited. Six weeks went by without so much as a word. Was it too soon to follow up? I had no idea what the protocol was, but since I hadn’t received an acknowledgment to my first email submission, I decided to send another email. This turned out to be wise; she hadn’t, in fact, received the first email. On the plus side, she did remember me, and encouraged me to resubmit the entire novel, along with a bio, synopsis and marketing plan.

The bio wasn’t difficult. I had a professional bio as a freelance writer and editor. The synopsis was almost as difficult as writing the book. For those of you unfamiliar with a synopsis, it’s a one to two page document that tells the entire story, from start to finish, including the ending. That’s right: you are expected to boil 70,000 words down to less than 1,000 (and some agents/publishers want no more than 500 words). As for the marketing plan, I didn’t even have a website yet, let alone a Twitter account, Facebook page or Pinterest profile. I wrote that I was working on all four. Then I took a website course and got started.

I’d like to tell you that this dream agent wrote back with an offer of representation, but the reality is after four months of waiting, I received this email:

“Thank you so much for your patience while I reviewed this project! After much debate and multiple reads, we’re ultimately going to pass. I think that your voice is superb, and the premise is very strong, I just didn’t fall entirely in love with the characters. Please know that this was not an easy decision, and I genuinely wish you the very best with it.”

Did the rejection sting? Of course it did. The first cut really IS the deepest, if only because it marks the first loss of innocence. So I did what anyone would do. I cried. Shamefacedly confessed my failure to my family and friends. Brooded and ate junk food. Read about famous authors and their experience with rejection before they were published. Their stories gave me hope.

After a couple of weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I went back over my manuscript and started the revision process all over again, this time with an eye to making my characters “more lovable,” or at least more memorable. Then I hired a developmental editor—something I should have done in the first place—and dissected chapter by chapter, adding here, cutting there. The end result was a much stronger book. Unfortunately, we only get one chance with an agent or publisher, unless of course, they encourage you to resubmit. My dream agent hadn’t done that, but because of her encouragement, I completed my first novel, sent it out in the world to be read, and learned from rejection. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Here’s what I learned from this experience (and you can too):

• Don’t submit your story before it’s truly ready. Most beginning writers get impatient (and I was no exception). Remember this: you get one chance at an agent or publisher. There are no “do-overs.”

• Once your story is polished to perfection: Don’t query just one agent or publisher, regardless of how enthusiastic they may seem about your project. Writing is subjective and reputable agents are paid ONLY upon the sale of your books. Unknown writers are not on the top of their client wish list.

• Start building your Social Media platform early and methodically. The days of agents and/or publishers doing all (or even most) of the marketing are over. Slow and steady wins this race.

• Learn how to write a decent synopsis. Take a course. Study examples online. Try not to be daunted by the process.

• Believe in your story. Rejection is part of every writer’s life. Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, was rejected 60 times before getting a publishing contract. Learn from it, and move on.

MediaKit_BookCover_TheHangedMansNooseSmall-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in a tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme—before the murderer strikes again.

Enjoy an excerpt:

The faint scent of vanilla filled Emily’s nostrils. “Pure vanilla extract, the real stuff, not the imitation kind,” a man’s voice called from the back of the store. “Stir one tablespoon into a gallon of paint and you get rid of that new paint smell. I add it to every gallon I sell.” He came out into the open, held out his hand, and smiled. “Emily Garland, I presume.”

The main thing Emily noticed about Johnny Porter, beyond the fact he was roughly her age and drop-dead movie star gorgeous, were his eyes. Eyes so dark brown they looked black. Miner’s eyes, her old pals at boarding school would have called them, the kind of eyes that could dig their way into the depth of your soul. Emily made an effort to collect herself. Acting like an infatuated high school student was not the way to start off her new life in Lount’s Landing.

“And you must be Johnny Porter.” Emily shook his hand, noticing his grip was firm but gentle. Thought his hand lingered a moment longer than necessary. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Johnny said, although Emily got the distinct feeling he was assessing her. She wondered if she made the grade.

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_TheHangedMansNooseJudy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery was released in July 2015 through Barking Rain Press. Her short crime fiction appears in The Whole She-Bang 2, World Enough and Crime, and Flash and Bang. In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy is the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal and the Editor for Home BUILDER Magazine. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find Judy on her website where she blogs about the writing life and interviews other authors.

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Dog Collar Knockoff by Adrienne Giordano – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Adrienne Giordano to celebrate the release of Dog Collar Knockoff, the second book in her Lucie Rizzo series tomorrow. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win one of two $25.00 gift cards or a swag pack.

2_8 adrienne Dog Collar KnockoffCatering to the pampered paws set took Lucie Rizzo from unemployed to entrepreneur. With her dog walking/chic pet accessory business on the verge of success, Lucie’s ready to make a name for herself. One not tarnished by her dad’s mobster rep.

When an art deal she brokered between clients turns suspicious, it’s up to Lucie to sniff out the truth. She might not know the difference between Monet and Manet, but Rizzos are no strangers to jail time—and Lucie refuses to be someone’s prison bitch.

Unless that someone is a tall, blond and Irish cop. Detective Tim O’Brien certainly knows how to get Lucie hot under the rhinestone collar. And with her on-again-off-again relationship with Frankie Falcone currently off, O’Brien isn’t shy about making her feel wanted, mafia ties and all. Even joining her crack—or crackpot—team on the trail of two paintings with equally shady origins.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Lucie paused in front of the Lutzs’ garage while the door made its ascent. The heat from the tiny cobblestone driveway scorched right through the bottom of her sneakers, and she rocked back on her heels. For what this brownstone cost, the driveway should have come with air-conditioning. After all, Chicago in August? The humidity alone could suffocate her.

Once the door silently halted, Lucie pointed toward the interior door. “Stay alert, Lauren. This is where it gets tricky.”

The newest part-time member of Lucie’s dog walking team studied the door and waited for instructions. Lauren seemed like a nice kid. Well, at twenty, she wasn’t really a kid. Lucie was only six years older. Still, Lauren was new to Coco Barknell and needed to understand the intricacies of working with the dogs.

Particularly this dog.

“The door,” Lucie said, “is your friend. Otis is the deadly combination of a jumper and a runner.”
Lauren scrunched her face. “What?”

“When you open the door, you have to do a body block so he doesn’t squeeze through. He’s an eighty-five pound Olde English bulldog. If you’re not careful, you will either A) wind up flat on your butt with Otis on top of you or B) be chasing him around the neighborhood. I’ve done both and it’s not fun. Plus, it’ll destroy your schedule.”

And with the number of clients Coco Barknell serviced in a day, the schedule was the Bible. As happy as Lucie was about the growth of her dog walking and upscale-dog accessory business, she hated turning the dogs over to others. Of course, she’d done a thorough background check on Lauren, but these animals were almost her babies and she couldn’t trust just anyone with them.

Lucie stepped to the door and planted her feet, weight on her heels. “Are you ready?”


Lauren smiled and maybe that smile had a bit of lady-you’re-a-fruitcake in it, but the first time Otis did one of his Underdog leaps, she would learn.

Lucie opened the door and the howling began. “Hi, boy,” she said, her voice firm and level, no excitement that would cause a doggie mindmelt. “I’m coming in.”

Slowly, she inched the door open and slid through with Lauren bringing up the rear. Otis did his normal jumping and Lucie steadied herself for the onslaught. “Off!”

Finally, he sat, but he tracked Lauren with his eyes. Then—here we go—unable to withstand the pressure of a new person in his space, he leaped, his long tongue flying in search of a cheek to lick.


But Lucie would never be Cesar Milan when it came to making Otis understand who the alpha was. That was Joey’s specialty. It helped that he was six-foot-four and weighed somewhere in the vicinity of two-thirty.

“Sit, Otis,” Lauren said, her voice calm, yet assertive in a truly enviable way.

Otis sat.

Dressed in micro shorts, a tank top, and sneakers, Lauren epitomized the wholesome, yet sexy college co-ed. Her heart-shaped face and long blond hair only added to the morphing of girl-next-door and sexy vixen. If Lucie wasn’t careful, the girl might drive Coco Barknell’s male clients insane.

But the risk was worth it. So far she’d been a responsible employee who showed up on time, ready to work.

Lucie led her through the kitchen to the utility closet, strategically placed in a nook between the kitchen and the adjoining dining room. Otis’s leash and various other dog supplies—poop bags, treats, shampoo—were all stored there and it made Lucie’s life a whole lot simpler. Too bad all her clients weren’t this organized.

“Whoa. Is this an Arturo Gomez?”

About the Author: 2_8 adrienne Giordano Author PhotoUSA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction.

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Handling Negative Criticism by Ellis Morning – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ellis Morning will be awarding a $20 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.

Handling Negative Criticism

Would-be authors must master their approach to negative criticism well before their first book is published. In fact, if they haven’t learned this skill by the time their work is first reviewed by an editor or beta reader, they stand to lose out on a lot of valuable advice that can elevate their manuscript.

Once criticism is received from any source, you must first determine whether it’s constructive. Non-constructive criticism puts someone or something down, sometimes in a hurtful way, without offering any suggestions on improvement. A simple “This book sucks” is the sort of criticism you can safely disregard, because there’s nothing actionable within it. The commenter offers nothing to justify their opinion, and may have written the comment out of spite.

But what about something more like, “In Chapter 3, the pacing was too slow to hold my attention?” Now this is more the sort of criticism you can do something about. It may still feel like a punch to the gut. It may make you biting mad. But there’s something here that’s potentially valuable to your writing. So here’s how you handle it:

1. Walk away for a few days. That’s right—if you’re angry, step away from the keyboard! Don’t fire off any righteous replies. If you must get something off your chest, do it in a plain text file or a notebook, something that you can’t send to someone and regret later.

Focus your attention and energy on other things. It’s OK to grumble once in a while, but don’t obsess. Wait until all the hurting defensive instincts calm down.

Feeling better? Good! Now it’s time for step 2.

2. Return to the criticism with a less sensitive, more receptive eye. When you’re calm, you’ll be able to determine if there really is merit to the criticism. Look into it as carefully as you can. If you’re not sure about it, ask the opinion of a neutral third party.

3. Take to heart the criticisms and improvements that make sense to you. Whether it’s in a current rewrite or future work, make whatever changes are needed, then give yourself a pat on the back. Slow, conscious improvement like this is the only way to become a better writer!

4. Place more weight on criticism received from several sources. You can’t please everybody. Some things might not need changing just because one person complains about them. However, if you see a common theme throughout reviews or your editor’s feedback, that’s something you want to take more seriously.

If you like my advice, I’ve written more about receiving great feedback on your writing here.

Have you had any memorable, informative experiences with dealing out and/or receiving feedback? I’d love to here about it.

MediaKit_BookCover_BloodsForceWhere superstition is law, there is no order!

Dame Jessamine is a knight errant with a spaceship for a steed, a pupil of ancient science and technology who quests on behalf of the downtrodden. She’s accustomed to forging her own path through the galaxy—until she’s hijacked at sword-point and sent to investigate Nidaros, a remote barony known for bursts of rebellion.

In Nidaros, Jessamine finds a populace short on food and patience, innocents detained for torture, and a court trapped in a web of delusion. The Baron considers her a distraction. The magicians, convinced of a “curse,” dismiss her pleas for rational action. Even as Jessamine forges an alliance with the soldiers, an unknown foe seeks to frame her as an agitator.

Stuck amid murderous intrigue and cut off from her mentors, Jessamine must figure out how to save Nidaros from starvation. But the only people who understand the true “curse” have been accused of witchcraft—and if Jessamine’s not careful with her ancient knowledge, she’ll join them in the dungeon!

Blood’s Force is Book 1 of the Sword and Starship series of science fiction/fantasy adventure.

Enjoy an excerpt:

The uneven fence lacked the care and planning of a permanent fixture. It also lacked a gate. At the point where cobblestone met fence, a proclamation had been nailed up on the boards, stalwart against the wind threatening to carry it elsewhere. Flanking the parchment were two iron amulets of circular serpents gagging on their own tails, warning enough for those who couldn’t read. Weathering had warped the parchment and smeared the issuing party’s seal, but the message remained legible:

By the Will of the UNSEEN,
by Decree of OUR LORD AND SOVEREIGN Albion Hadwin Catherwood VII (LMHR)
and by the Might of his Magic Adepts is the Settlement once known as Gules hereby
for Failure to protect Assets sacred to OUR LORD and his Dominion.
Gules is cast from the Domain of Catherwood, furnished back unto Nature,
Her Denizens confined herein without Wish or Aid.
An any should trespass, shall the Trespasser share the Curse.
An any should render Succor to the Wretched within, shall the Renderer share the Curse.
Such is the Will of the UNSEEN, the Powers holding Dominion over all Dominions.

“Hell,” I muttered, for once regretting my gift of literacy. I felt like I’d just read the account of a madman who’d cut off his own hand to teach the rest of his body a lesson. My ribcage tightened, but not with the primitive fear of evil forces. Drea and my other mentors had freed me from belief in curses, Unseen, and other powerless superstitions. My heart ached for the people trapped beyond the fence, who almost certainly hadn’t done anything to deserve being so cruelly severed from the rest of the galaxy.

Damned magic adepts. They were the same everywhere I went. There seemed no limit to the evil they could justify as “the Will of the Unseen.”

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_BloodsForceEllis has always loved staging adventures in her head before going to sleep each night. When she was twelve, she started putting these adventures on paper.

For the next twenty years, she wrote with varying degrees of seriousness, but always as a hobby. In that time, she fell in love with Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut, the original Star Trek series, and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Science fiction became her favorite domain to work in, but she also enjoyed reading fantasy, horror, Western, and detective stories, and incorporating their elements into her work. One of her favorite things to do was make people laugh.

Ellis denied being a writer for decades. But then she sold articles to The Daily WTF, and a short story to Analog Science Fiction and Fact. After quitting her full-time job to finish her first novel, it was time to own up to writing as her calling. She’s currently an editor at The Daily WTF, and having the time of her life penning novels and short stories.

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Blind Chess by Cristelle Comby – Q&A and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Cristelle Comby will be awarding all four books of the series, signed by the author (International Giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Never give up. You’re the only one who can kill your dreams.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Not really. I spend a lot of time working on the outline, before I start to write. That solves the blank page problem. It’s important to know where you’re going with a story. The more detailed the outline, the better.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I cannot, for the life of me, write out of order. I know a lot of writers who have zero problem with jumping about the story like mad-rabbits, but I can’t. I need to start the draft with the first word and work my way forward, one chapter at the time. When I edit, I also work in a very linear way.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Four and they’re all part of the Neve & Egan series. My favourite is the last one, Blind Chess. It was the most difficult to write, but I’m very proud of myself to have done it. It was quite the challenge to have your blind main character on his own to fight crime. Especially because it’s a first person POV story. It was a struggle not to be able to rely on visual description to move the story forward.

If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed to have five modern conveniences with you, what would they be?
Computer with sun-powered batteries, satellite phone that allows computer to connect to the internet, Swiss army knife (one of the big ones, with everything on it), water purifier device, a couple of miles of rope.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
Walked about the London Tube with my eyes closed. I needed to know how it feels like to be a blind person who has to navigate in such a crowd. It felt like I was a little fish, in a bank of fish who are all swimming in the same direction. I tried to follow the current without tripping over myself. It was a really strange, surreal experience.

Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.
A guy in Australia contacted me once to ask for an autographed book so he could gift it to his sister, who’s a fan, for her birthday. I was gobsmacked to find out I have fans on the other side of the globe. We worked out the logistics and I shipped him the book; it got there just in time. His sister sent me a thank you email a few days later.

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?
I would love to be able to teleport. Wake up, get dressed and pouf! you’re at work. No more getting stuck in traffic.

If you could keep a mythical/ paranormal creature as a pet, what would you have?
The goose that laid the golden eggs.

What is something that you absolutely can’t live without? (Other than family members)
Internet connection. There’s always something I want to look up, or need to download, or I’ve got to check my emails.

MediaKit_BookCover_BlindChessIt is supposed to be Neve and Egan. Two partners, a team. What happens when a member of this team of Private Investigators is shot, prognosis unknown?

As Alexandra Neve lays comatose and defenceless, Ashford Egan must take on their enemy alone, and find the cagiest criminal Scotland Yard has seen in decades. Determined to succeed, Egan will stop at nothing. He’ll hit on married women, plant bugs, hire hitmen. And he’ll do it all blind, which makes things ten times as difficult.

Double-crossed by friends, convinced there is corruption in those sworn to uphold the law, Egan is forced to form unlikely alliances as he moves forward in a game that requires skills, nerves of steel, and a willingness to play against all odds.

Enjoy an excerpt:

A gentle wind is blowing, but it is too cold for the leaves to carry any scent. Seconds tick away, as I wait.

A few minutes before the half hour, I hear the whining of the Lantesks’ garage door and soon after the rumble of a car engine coming to life. Mrs Lantesk is on time to go to work.

Ten feet long the old woman had said of the gravel lane. It isn’t much and I count the seconds after I first hear the crunching of gravel under the car’s tyres. On three, I take a large step forward, bracing myself for the impact I know is coming.

An instant later, the front of Mrs Lantesk’s car hits me on my right side and I fly to the ground, instantly losing all sense of direction. Up is down, down is left and I am only certain of one thing.

I hurt.

Turns out, no matter how ready you are for it, no matter how much planning is involved, or how carefully you give in to the motion and roll to the floor to absorb as much of the momentum as possible… getting hit by a moving vehicle hurts.

The car comes to an abrupt halt an instant later, tyres screeching against the gravel. The engine dies and I hear the car door open. It is followed by a steady stream of feminine and high-pitched, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’

Monica Lantesk must be wearing heels for I hear her feet tapping the pavement as she hurries towards where I lie sprawled.

‘Are you all right?’ she asks in between another chortle of oh-my-Gods.

I am, for the most part. I’m not seeing stars or anything and I take quick stock of the situation. Nothing seems broken; my glasses are missing, but I still have my cane in hand. I push myself up on one elbow and make a show of moving the cane about in what I hope is a dazed and confused manner. There is another wave of oh-my-Gods, as the woman realises I am blind and she starts to pat me awkwardly on the shoulder.

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_BlindChessCristelle Comby was born and raised in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, in Greater Geneva, where she still resides.

Thanks to her insatiable thirst for American and British action films and television dramas, her English is fluent.

She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting.

Blind Chess is her fourth new-adult novel in the Neve & Egan series.

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Jump Cut by Libby Fischer Hellmann – Cover Reveal and Giveaway

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This post is part of a book blast to reveal the cover for Libby Fischer Hellmann”s newest release Jump Cut. Libby will be awarding a $50 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.


Hired to produce a candyfloss profile of Chicago-based aviation giant, Delcroft, Ellie is dismayed when company VP Charlotte Hollander, the architect of a new anti-drone system for Delcroft, trashes the production and cancels the project. Ellie believes Hollander was spooked by shots of a specific man in the video footage. But when Ellie arranges to meet the man to find out why, he’s killed by a subway train.In the confusion, she finds a seemingly abandoned pack of cigarettes with a flash drive inside that belonged to the now dead man.

Ellie has the drive’s contents decrypted, but before long she discovers she’s under surveillance and thrown into the middle of a situation filled with drones, hacking, and Chinese spies that put her life and those she loves in mortal danger.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Before my gangstah-rap neighbor emptied his AK-47 into his buddy, the most exciting thing to happen in our village was the opening of a new grocery store. The store hired a pianist who played Beatles tunes, no doubt to persuade shoppers to part with their money more easily. My neighbor, rapper King Bling, was helping his fans part with their money too, but the shooting ended all that. Once he made bail, he moved and hasn’t been heard from since.

And so it goes in my little corner of the North Shore, about twenty miles from downtown Chicago. There are benefits. The King, as he’s known to his disciples, gave our cops something to do besides ticket speeders. And the new grocery store gave me the chance to buy prepared dinners so I could dispense with cooking.

Both of which come in handy when I’m producing a video, as was the case now. We didn’t finish the shoot until seven. I raced up the expressway toward home, dropped into the store, and was eyeballing a turkey pot roast—the only one left—when my cell trilled. I fished it out of my bag.

“Mom, where did you get the shoes?” I heard chatter and giggles in the background.

“What shoes, Rachel?”

“The ones you gave Jackie.” My daughter, Rachel, had successfully, if unbelievably, graduated from college and lived in an apartment in Wrigleyville. Jackie was her roommate. “Everybody thinks they’re awesome.”

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_JumpCutLibby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Twelve novels and twenty short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. *

With the addition of Jump Cut in 2016, her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Her latest release, The Incidental Spy, is a historical novella set during the early years of the Manhattan Project at the U of Chicago. Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection.

* She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony, twice for Foreword Magazines Book of the Year, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne and has won the Lovey multiple times.

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Author of Compulsively Readable Thrillers

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Drama Muscle by Joe Cosentino – Q&A and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Joe Cosentino, author of the Nicky and Noah mystery series. Post a comment about cozy mysteries. The one that tickles our whodunit bone the most will receive the code for a gift audiobook of DRAMA QUEEN (performed by Michael Gilboe and published by Lethe Press), the first Nicky and Noah mystery from the author Joe Cosentino.

What are your favorite TV shows?

I love watching reruns of Murder She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and The Hardy Boys. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when a reviewer called Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery, “hysterically funny farce, Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys.” Another reviewer said it was “a captivating whodunit with a surprise ending,” One reviewer said it was the funniest book of the year! Who am I to argue?

What is your favorite meal?

I wrote it into Drama Muscle, the second Nicky and Noah mystery. There’s a really funny scene where Noah tries to impress his meat and potato type parents from Wisconsin with his fine culinary skills and it backfires on him. Thankfully Nicky saves the day. The dinner is a blue cheese and pear tart with a fig and olive tapenade, avgolemono soup, pumpkin parsnip ravioli, roasted asparagus in a beet avocado reduction, chicken scarpariello, seven mushroom brown rice risotto, and flambéed vanilla-poached peer crepes with cinnamon.

If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?

I have written five series. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are farcical whodunits taking place at an Edwardian style New England college. In Drama Queen, college theatre professors were dropping like stage curtains and amateur sleuths/college theatre professors Nicky and Noah had to use their theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. When the ebook reached eighteen on the Amazon bestsellers list in its category and the paperback and audiobook (with all twenty-four roles played by Michael Gilboe) sold like tickets to Les Mis after the Tony Awards, it was time for another Nicky and Noah mystery. So in the current release, Drama Muscle, Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out who is murdering musclemen in the Bodybuilding Department. In the novel Nicky is directing bodybuilding students in Treemeadow College’s annual Bodybuilding competition on campus. Bodybuilding students and faculty drop faster than barbells until Nicky figures out the identity of the murderer, as well as Noah’s secret revolving around Van Granite, one of the bodybuilding professors. Noah’s hysterically funny parents visit from Wisconsin and are drawn into the action, and Nicky and Noah reach a milestone by the end of the novel. The third book (Drama Cruise not yet published) takes us on a cruise to Alaska for sights of glaciers and whales while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship. You guessed it, cast members drop overboard like anchors, and Nicky and Noah have to figure out whodunit. In each book Nicky and Noah’s relationship grows stronger. Readers fall in love with them as they fall in love with each other.

My other mystery series is the Jana Lane mysteries. I created a heroine who was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press), Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. She also embarks on a romance with the devilishly handsome son of her old producer, Rocco Cavoto. In Porcelain Doll (The Wild Rose Press releasing in March), Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous co-star, Jason Apollo. In Satin Doll (not yet released from The Wild Rose Press), Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. She also embarks on a romance with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. In China Doll (not yet released from The Wild Rose Press), Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by her gorgeous co-star Peter Stevens, and faced with murder on stage and off. Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s agent and best friend are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.

My two In Your Heart novellas, An Infatuation and A Shooting Star, did so well as e-books that Dreamspinner Press is releasing them together as a paperback this March.

Also, my fairytale stories, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland, will be released as an e-book by Dreamspinner Press on January 27.

Finally, Nine Star Press is publishing my two novels that take place at a gay summer resort on the Jersey Shore: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward.

I know, my friends tell me I write faster than they can read!

Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?

I learned from the best! I’ve read every Agatha Christie novel and play many times. She is a genius at outlining when and where to give the reader what information. I love the inversion in her books, where she uses sleight of hand to lay out all the information, but not in a straight forward manner. The reader becomes the sleuth to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I try to include plot twists and turns, hidden clues, and surprising yet justified endings in my mysteries. As in an Armistead Maupin novel, the characters in my novels are wacky, surprising, and endearing.

How did you come up for the title of this book?

Since Nicky and Noah are theatre professors directing the bodybuilding competition on campus, Drama Muscle seemed like the perfect title for book two in the series. I have always been fascinated with bodybuilders. The concept of eating protein every two hours, lifting weights for three hours a day, shaving every body part, spray tanning, and posing in tiny gold trunks is amazing to me. What dedication! Since I work out every day (yet see very little results!) and am enamored of the real bodybuilders who are so big they don’t even need to iron their shirts, Drama Muscle holds a special place in my heart. I hope your readers will pick it up and enjoy!

I love hearing from readers, they can contact me via my website.

1_5 DramaMusclecoverIt could be lights out for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodybuilders popping up on campus, Nicky, and his favorite colleague/life partner Noah Oliver, must use their drama skills to figure out who is taking down pumped up musclemen in the Physical Education building before it is curtain down for Nicky and Noah. Complicating matters is a visit from Noah’s parents from Wisconsin, and Nicky’s suspicion that Noah may be hiding more than a cut, smooth body. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining second novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and weights up!

Enjoy an excerpt:

Noah opened his mouth to say something, but Rodney Towers interrupted. “Professor, I was thinking about what Professor Abbondanza mentioned.”
Noah sighed. “Which of the numerous things said by Professor Abbondanza are you referring to, Rodney?”
“The thing about Zeus and Ganymede getting it on.” Rodney looked as if someone had held his nose and poured vinegar into his mouth.
Noah tried to speak again, and Maria Ruiz (our Athena) interrupted. “Homophobe anyone?” Maria stood nose to nose with Rodney. “What’s wrong with you, Rodney?” She pointed to the twins at the other end of the line. “Tim and Kim are playing Hercules and Adonis. Everyone knows they were a couple. You don’t hear them complaining.”
“Um now that you like mention it, Kim would rather, you know, play another part,” said Tim.
“Um so would Tim,” added Kim.
Posed with their hands on their hips, the twins looked like an advertisement for The King and I in double vision.
Let me explain. Kim and Tim Sim (Try saying that three times fast), as identical twins, can read each other’s minds. I could never read my brother’s mind when we were kids. That’s why I had to read his diary, listen in on his phone conversations, and bug his book bag.
The muscles on Rodney’s massive back curled as if snarling. “Let me make myself clear, Maria. I’m not happy playing Zeus, because I don’t want any part of an unnatural lifestyle.”
Maria shot him dagger eyes. “And pumping iron three hours a day and spray-painting our bodies is natural?”
“Maria knows all about being natural. Don’t you, Maria?” said compact Jonathan Toner (Achilles) with a smirk on his pimply face.
“Shut up, Jonathan,” replied Maria as if swatting a pesky fly.
Rodney said to his workout partner, “Maria, don’t rag on me because I believe in the Bible.”
“Then you better get to work in the fields, ’cause you’re a slave, honey,” Maria answered with a wave of her muscular arm and snap of her strong fingers.
“Kiss my muscular black ass.”
“Kiss my muscular Latina ass.”
Noah said, like a referee at an A.D.D. Little League game, “Okay, let’s talk about your character, Maria. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, courage, and justice. As you think about your poses—”
“Try to incorporate those feelings into your performance,” I said.
“Right,” Noah added with narrowed eyes in my direction.
I mimed buttoning my lips and rested my back against the wall.
Noah continued, “And Jonathan, Achilles was shot in the heel, the only weak part of his body.”
“Hence the term ‘Achilles heel,’” I added, then placed my hand over my big mouth.
Jonathan flexed his small, high-peaked biceps. “There’s no part of me that’s weak.”

“Except your brain,” said Maria.

Waving his stubby finger under her square jaw, Jonathan said, “Careful, Maria. You don’t want to piss me off.”

Like a substitute teacher on the last day of school, Noah tried to keep control. Noticing Mack Heath (Ganymede) standing quietly, Noah said, “Let’s talk about Mack’s character.”

Middle weight, fair, perfectly proportioned, and amazingly cut, Mack said, “Didn’t Ganymede represent youth and beauty?”

“Correct!” I said then covered my mouth with both hands.

Jillian Flowers (our Aphrodite), a raving blonde beauty, gazed at Mack with lust in her violet eyes. “You um totally are like Ganymede, Mack.”

Mack’s cheeks grew flushed. “Thanks.”

“For what?” Jillian asked.

“You just said I’m like Ganymede.”

Jillian said, “Um isn’t that like who you are, you know, playing?”

Poor Jillian. Last year, while working out, a barbell accidentally fell on Jillian’s head, leaving her with poor short-term memory.

“Let’s talk about your character, Jillian,” said Noah, clearly hoping to get things back on track. “Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty—”

“And love,” I added, then hid my face underneath my blazer.

Jillian batted her long lashes at Mack, then rested her strong hand on his mountainous shoulder. “Did um Aphrodite and Ganymede ever like, you know, hook up?”

“No, they didn’t, Jillian.” Mack slid his shoulder out of her clutches.

“Who didn’t what?” asked Jillian in confusion.

“Aphrodite and Ganymede were never a couple,” Mack explained, then walked away.

Jillian responded, “Who said they were?”

“Tim is like getting, you know, bored,” said Kim.

“Kim um wants to like get back to, you know, rehearsing,” added Tim.

Having lost his patience, Jonathan walked past each of his classmates with a smirk on his pockmarked face, like a carnival sharpshooter wiping out a row of rubber duckies. “Jillian, Mack isn’t into you. Mack isn’t into anybody, except Mack. Tim and Kim, you don’t need this competition. Stay home and wait for Daddy Big Bucks Sim to kick the chop suey. Maria, you don’t want to tick me off, and you know why. Rodney, join the twentieth century.”

About the Author: 1_5 B&N3Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Nine Star Press), Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press) and Porcelain Doll (Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), Satin Doll and China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press), and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (Nine Star Press).

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Laura S. Wharton on Character Creation – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Laura Wharton will be awarding a copy of In Julia’s Garden (U.S.) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Laura S. Wharton on Character Creation
Characters can make or break a story. That’s why it’s crucial for writers to develop believable, fallible, realistic characters for readers to love—or hate. In the case of my newest mystery, In Julia’s Garden, I created Lily McGuire, my leading lady, as a snarky middle-aged professional with a serious chip on her shoulder. She has her faults (not too trusting of men, misanthropic, oh, and did I mention snarky?), but she has strengths, too. She cares deeply about what she does, and as the story progresses, she realizes that it’s okay to be ask someone—a man, no less—for help. She sees that staying closed off to others is keeping her stagnant both in her job and life. And Lily learns to let go (at least a little bit) of the bitterness she justifiably feels toward her ex-husband so she can make room for the good in her life…and possibly a new love interest.

On the flip side of the character coin is Ignatious Pell, the bad boy of my first novel, The Pirate’s Bastard. Ignatious Pell was the first mate of the pirate Stede Bonnet. He knows Stede’s secrets. Long after Stede is captured and eventually killed in Charleston, Pell seeks out Stede’s bastard son and threatens him with blackmail based on his dead pirate father’s secrets. Readers often write me to tell me they loved him—or rather, loved to hate him best of all because he is so cunning. He’s also compassionate, and has his failings that make him real.

One of the most important aspects of character development is deciding how the characters will grow over the course or the story. Some of the growth I can plan for through outlining plots. Other times, the characters take over and “become” who they are supposed to be. I’ve had male characters become females, and they are stronger that way. Who knows how Lily will grow over the life of this new Lily McGuire series? Not me! (At least not yet.)

LauraWharton.inddLily McGuire has her plants and her work as a landscape architect. What she doesn’t have (a man to date or an adventure to have) is just fine with her, thank you very much. Yet her world turns as chaotic as the grand old mansion’s garden she is restoring when a stranger presents her with the gardening journal of a 1940s socialite-gone-missing. Snarky and somewhat misanthropic, Lily must search its pages for clues to the young beauty’s disappearance and a potentially deadly mystery, despite the warning that she should tread carefully: the journal was the cause of Lily’s best friend’s death.

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Why did you use the word, ‘kill’?”

“Huh?” Jack leaned forward and put his arms on my desk.

“You said you didn’t think there was anything in here worth killing for. Macy wasn’t killed, Jack. She died of a heart attack, according to Dr. Tesh. Mr. Evans used the word, ‘die’…you are the only one who used the word, ‘kill.’ Why?”

“Didn’t you know? Julia Norton vanished. Her disappearance was never solved, and she was presumed dead. I got curious and perhaps a little nervous for you when I thought you might have something that could have led to Julia’s disappearance and possibly to Macy’s death. As I said, though, I didn’t find anything mysterious or titillating in there.” Jack pushed himself out of the chair and walked to the door.

“Jack, how do you know Julia Norton went missing?”

“I researched it online,” he responded, pointing at my computer. “It’s all there: archived newspaper stories and a page or two from a magazine featuring a socialite’s column about her. That’s what I was doing this morning. I was researching. Seems Julia was a popular young lady. Very popular. She came from a good family whose fortunes dwindled during the Great Depression. When the war began, her family did what it could for the war effort, and her father was rewarded handsomely by the city of Columbia for his ability to put people back to work making parts for airplanes. As the war came to a close, the family’s finances stabilized, but Julia went into a tailspin over something. One article said she began turning down invitations to big parties after the boys came home. Another reported that rumors about a secret marriage made her go into hiding. Anyway, there wasn’t anything about that in the journal. Just notes about parties when she was young, plants she liked…stuff like that was in the pages that I did manage to get through. Like I said, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the whole thing.” Jack stood up and slung his backpack over his shoulder. “I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, Lily. Anyway, I’ve got your back, just in case.”

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_InJuliasGardenReferred to as the American P.D. James, Laura S. Wharton is the author of sea adventure/suspense/mystery novels for adults and mysteries for children. Award-winning adult titles include Deceived: A Sam McClellan Tale, The Pirate’s Bastard, and Leaving Lukens. Wharton also is the author of four mysteries for children, including the popular award-winning Mystery at the Lake House series, and others. Most of her books involve adventure, fun, a little history, and sailboats. (She is a recovering sailor who could backslide at any moment!)


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Winter Blogfest: Have You Been Naughty Or Nice? by Jo A. Hiestand

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a Taylor & Graham/McLaren mysteries ceramic mug.

Have You Been Naughty Or Nice?
by Jo A. Hiestand

Christmas Eve and Santa Claus are indelibly linked for many of us. We love the jolly old man. But do you know Santa–or St Nicholas, as he’s known in European countries–had a helper?

Many of these companions are rooted in the Middle Ages when the tension between Good and Evil was powerful and held a strong fascination.

These sometimes devil-like figures were created to be very frightening, perhaps to keep children in line, but most probably to remind us of the eternal fate in store for the poorly behaved.

krampus pulling hairOne companion is Krampus. A frightening devil-like figure of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and southern Germany, he’s dressed in fur, has horns that look very goat-like, and has a long, red tongue. He usually holds chains or switches, which, presumably, he will use on naughty children. As he roams the streets he hurls the chains at children who find themselves in his path. A basket usually sits in the crook of his arm. Naughty children are dropped into the basket and taken away to some terrifying doom.

Knecht Ruprecht is St Nicholas’ most common attendant in Germany. His name means Farmhand Rupert, or Servant Rupert, implying he was a farmhand who became St. Nicholas’ servant, or was an infant reared by Nicholas. He’s clothed in a long, brown hooded robe of fur or straw. His face is sooty from going down chimneys. Variously, he carries a pack of presents or a sack of ashes. He gives the gifts to the good children and beats the bad children with the sack of ashes. He also carries switches, which he either uses on the disobedient children or leaves for their parents to use. Occasionally he has his own companions: fairies or dark-faced-men made up as old women. In many versions of this character he carries a bell, which warns of his menacing arrival.

Pelznickel, meaning “Nicholas in Furs,” is a variant of Ruprecht, residing in the Northwest area of Germany. His attire is dark or shaggy clothing (furs or animal skins) or a long, pale robe and a tall, peaked “witch” hat. He carries away bad children–either to his home in the Black Forest or to be tossed into the river!

Schmultzli, a Swiss companion, is all brown–clothing, hair and beard–and his face is darkened with lard and soot. He carries a switch and a sack. Naughty children are beaten with the switch and then toted off in the sack, where he eats them in the woods!

Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter, helps Nicholas in the Netherlands, Belgium and Flanders. He’s dark skinned and wears a Renaissance outfit of colorful pantaloons, feathered flat cap and ruffles. This traditional look’s based on a lone illustration from an 1850 book. Zwarte Piet originated as an enslaved devil who was forced into his captor’s service. The 19th century saw his mutation into St. Nicholas’ companion who resembled a Moor. A mischievous rather than mean-spirited character, Zwarte Piet brings gifts and candy to good children, but punishes bad children by cramming them into his sack and taking them to Spain (of all places!).

In France, Pere Fouettard accompanies St. Nicholas on his rounds and spanks naughty children. He’s dressed in a long, brown, fur trimmed hooded robe. Sometimes a long rope tethers him to a donkey.

Housécker is St. Nicholas’ companion in Luxembourg. He’s the wicked butcher of the legend (He lured three boys into his shop, murdered them, cut them up, and stuffed them into a barrel. Seven years later St. Nicholas arrives and brings them back to life). Now he’s forever doomed to attend St. Nicolas. Housécker translates roughly as “Mr. Bogeyman,” “spanking,” or “switches.”

These are a few of St Nicholas’ helpers. He has many more, in other countries. I’ve mentioned some in my mystery novel Sainted Murder, but this gives you an idea of the wealth of customs and legends surrounding this man.

Customs and holidays are the backbone of many societies. It’s through the yearly repetition of songs, actions or eating certain foods that we form a relationship with past generations. It gives us a sense of place, so I applaud St. Nick and his companions. Ho, ho, ho…

sainted%20murder%20cover%20copy“A murder mystery in the classic vein set in England’s snowy Peak District. Laced with folklore and legend, and with a cast of suspicious villagers, this is a story to enjoy on a long winter’s night. Very atmospheric; the first scene was stunning!” – Ann Cleeves, author of the Inspector Jimmy Perez/Shetland Island Mysteries series

About the Author: Jo Hiestand discovered the joys of Things British on a month-long trip to England during her college years. Since then, she has been back nearly a dozen times, and lived there during her professional folksinging stint. This intimate knowledge of England forms the backbone of her two series. Set in Derbyshire, England, the Taylor & Graham series employs British customs as the backbone of each book’s plot. The McLaren Cases features ex-police detective Michael McLaren, who now works on his own to investigate cold cases. Jo is a member of Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America.

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My Top Five Books of All Time by Peter James – Guest Blog

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Peter James, whose newest book in his Roy Grace series, You Are Dead, was recently released.

My Top 5 Books of all time
Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

Quite simply, this is the book that made me want to be a crime writer. Set in my home town, where I set my Roy Grace series of crime novels, Brighton Rock is a wonderfully gripping dark book about the criminal underbelly of Brighton, about religious faith and about human nature. And it has one of the darkest and most poignant endings to a novel I have ever read. My dream is to, one day, write a novel that comes even remotely close to being as good as this book.

Get Shorty – Elmore Leonard
They say he is the man and you just have to read him to understand why. Characters, characters, characters. Elmore Leonard’s characters are just so vivid, so engaging, you don’t even need plot. You could have a group of his characters reading the phone directory for three hundred pages and you’d still be gripped. And this is the favourite of his novels.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
I started reading Sherlock Holmes as a teenager, and instantly wanted to be writer of detective novels. Another thing I admired about Conan Doyle was his lifelong interest in the paranormal – something I share. This book exquisitely combines the detective story with the supernatural – or so you think… Without ever resorting to any deus-ex-machina stunts pulled on the reader, and a brilliant twist at the end.

Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut Jnr

I read first read this book when I was 23, and it changed both my perception of the world, and my perception of the boundaries of the novelist. Paradoxically this insane, insanely funny novel is the default book I return to whenever I feel the world – or my world – has gone mad!

Silence Of The Lambs – Thomas Harris

In 1988 Harris wrote a true game-changer. In the power of his writing, his extraordinary characterisations, the introduction of profiling, the tension and sense of authenticity dripping from every page but above all the game he really changed was this: Up until now we had had good versus evil. Now by pitting the monstrous but intensely charismatic Hannibal Lecter against Buffalo Bill, we had for perhaps the first time in crime fiction, bad versus evil. It was a stroke of genius by the author and I don’t believe anyone, since Greene, ignored the rule book so elegantly or effectively. This book became the one to beat by almost every crime writer in the world, and now, over a quarter of a century later, I don’t think it has yet been beaten.

YouAreDeadYou Are Dead (Minotaur Books; October 6, 2015; $26.99) is the eleventh thrilling crime novel in Peter James’s Roy Grace series.

The last words Jamie Ball hears from his fiancée, Logan Somerville, are in a terrified cell phone call. She has just driven into the underground car park beneath the block of apartments where they live in Brighton. Then she screams and the phone goes dead. The police are on the scene within minutes, but Logan has vanished, leaving behind her neatly parked car and cell phone.

That same afternoon, workmen digging up a park in another part of the city unearth the remains of a woman in her early twenties…who has been dead for thirty years.

At first these two events seem totally unconnected to Roy Grace and his team. But then another young woman in Brighton goes missing—and yet another body from the past surfaces. Meanwhile, an eminent London psychiatrist meets with a man who claims to know information about Logan. And Roy Grace has the chilling realization that this information holds the key to both the past and present crimes. Does Brighton have its first serial killer in over eighty years?

About the Author:10_6 Peter-James-author-photo-2Peter James is the #1 international bestselling author of the Roy Grace thriller series. Before writing full time, James lived in the U.S. for a number of years, producing films including The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes. A TV adaptation of the Roy Grace series is currently in development, with James overseeing all aspects, including scriptwriting.

James’s novella ‘The Perfect Murder’, started its world stage premiere in 2014, and his first Roy Grace novel Dead Simple has now been adapted for stage, and will tour the UK in 2015. In 1994, in addition to conventional print publishing, James’s novel Host was published on two floppy discs and is now in the Science Museum as the world’s first electronic novel.

Famed for his in-depth research, in 2009 James was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Brighton in recognition of his services to literature and the community, and in 2013 he was awarded an Outstanding Public Service Award by Sussex Police with whom he rides along regularly. He has also been out many times with the NYPD and the LAPD in the US and with many other police forces around the world, as well as doing extensive research with offenders in prisons and psychiatric institutions. He has served as two-times Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and is a board member of the US International Thriller Writers.

He has won numerous literary awards, including the publicly voted ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards People’s Bestseller Dagger in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize for Perfect People in 2012. James’s novels have been translated into thirty-six languages and three have been turned into films.

All of his novels reflect a deep interest in the world of the police, with whom he does in–depth research and has unprecedented access, as well as science, medicine and the paranormal. A speed junkie, who in his teens was selected to train for the British Olympic Ski Team, he holds an international motor racing license and switches off from work by racing his classic 1965 BMW. James divides his time between his homes in Notting Hill in London and near Brighton in Sussex.

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Saving Sophie by Ronald Balson – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short welcomes Ronald Balson whose latest book, Saving Sophie, was released in September. Leave a comment or ask the author a question for a chance to win a copy of the book.


Thanks for the invitation to post on your exciting site and to share some personal insights into Saving Sophie, the second offering in the Liam and Catherine Series (the third, Karolina’s Twins, is due out next fall). As you may know, in Saving Sophie, Jack Sommers, a recently widowed attorney with a six-year-old daughter, is in the midst of trying to put their lives back together when his father-in-law files a guardianship petition to take the child away. Jack had met his wife, Alina, a beautiful Palestinian concert pianist, while on assignment for the Foreign Service in the Middle East. Love knows no borders, they fall in love and decide to defy Alina’s stern prohibitions. They run off, get married and move to Chicago where Sophie was born.

The court denies the father-in-law’s petition, but in a Sunday visitation, he kidnaps Sophie and whisks her back to his fortified compound in Hebron, deep in the Israeli West Bank. Despite all of Jack’s efforts with governmental agencies, Sophie is unreachable. In desperation, Jack disappears along with $88 million of his client’s money, presumably to ransom Sophie’s return. Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart are hired to locate Jack and recover the money. That’s as much as I can tell you without giving away the plot.

The idea for Saving Sophie first came to me twenty years ago when I was working on a commercial transaction in my law practice. One company was acquiring another for $300 million and, typical of such transactions, all the funds were being exchanged through bank wire transfers – this one to pay off a bank loan, that one to pay off the equipment, another to pay the shareholders. The attorneys supplied the written wire transfer instructions – where the money was to be sent, the account numbers, the routing numbers, and the account names. It occurred to me back then, if you could get the timing just right, and if you had the cooperation of both attorneys, and if both of you were willing to disappear forever, wouldn’t it have been possible to divert $100 million dollars to some secret Caribbean account?

So with that devious idea, I started to pen a novel and I worked on it for quite a while. But I wasn’t happy with it. It didn’t really have much fabric beyond the embezzlement. It lacked a love story. It lacked any social meaning. So after 200 pages, I threw it away. I didn’t write any fiction until some years later when I wrote Once We Were Brothers. I liked my characters Liam and Catherine, so when I went to write a sequel, I returned to my original embezzlement idea. Only this time the focus of the story would be a father’s love for his daughter and a daughter’s unshakeable faith in her father. The theft of the money would be the reason to get Liam and Catherine involved.

I chose the violent city of Hebron as the setting for the story. Clearly, it would have been impossible for Jack to walk into the most dangerous city in the world and walk out with his daughter. My trips to Hebron convinced me of that! Add some bad guys, a hideout in Hawaii, Jack’s warm relationship with Alina’s best friend and a beautiful spy, and I had the pieces for Saving Sophie. As in Once We Were Brothers, the subject matter required extensive research and Saving Sophie took almost three years to write. It is my hope that you will enjoy the historical and regional background to the story as much as the plot.


Jack Sommers was just an unassuming accountant from Chicago—until his wife passed away, his young daughter was kidnapped, and he became the main suspect in an $88 million embezzlement case. Suddenly Jack is on the run, hoping to avoid detection long enough to rescue his daughter, Sophie.

Now Catherine Lockhart and her partner, Liam Taggart, must join forces once again, this time working with mysterious CIA operative to launch a secret mission that aims not only to recue Sophie but also thwart a major terrorist attack in Hebron. But will the ever-escalating violence of the Palestine-Israel region put their entire team at risk and end in catastrophe? Or can they overcome the odds and save countless lives—including their own?

About the Author: saving sophie authorRONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator, and a writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

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