Where Ideas Come From by Dana King – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Dana King will award a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Where Ideas Come From

It’s kind of a running joke with writers that one form or another of “Where do ideas come from?” is their least favorite question. I saw the late Robert B. Parker tell this story many years ago:

Parker and Elmore Leonard both had books come out the same week. Both were booked onto the same early morning local talk show. In the Green Room before going on, one of them commented (I forget which) that he hoped he wasn’t asked where he gets his ideas; the other agreed.

They went on camera and the first thing the perky hostess did was ask Leonard where he gets his ideas.

“Utica,” he said, straight-faced. “There’s a little shop off the main drag. We all get our ideas there.

Unfazed – or inattentive, take your pick – the interviewer turned to Parker. “What about you, Mr. Parker?”

“Same place.”

It’s a funny story if only for the rap on morning TV hosts. I can also see why writers with the footprints of Leonard or Parker would tire of that question, as for most writers it’s the simplest thing in the world.

Well, I don’t have footprints anywhere near that big and I’m not tired of talking about it, as I have things to say some readers have found interesting in the past.

Think of the imagination as a muscle and, like any other muscle, the more it is exercised the more useful it becomes. Writers use their imaginations all day, every day, in a manner and at a level most readers never have to fuss with. So ideas eventually come easier to us.

But where do they come from? The truth is, anywhere. I have generated story ideas from these sources:
• Current events
• True crime stories
• Social media
• Court cases
• Fiction (TV/movies/books) where I think the story might have been better had it gone in a different direction. (Changing the names and circumstances. I’m endorsing creativity here, not plagiarism.)
• Fiction (TV/movies/books) that could serve as backstory for something I’d like to write. (Same plagiarism warning applies.)
• Song lyrics, especially country songs. (Case in point: I have a story in the upcoming edition of Dark Yonder magazine based on the song “Bartender Blues” sung by George Jones.)
• Discussions/arguments
• Walks
• Showers
• (Breaking news: As I was working on this post, it occurred to me the current “Shohei Ohtani’s translator has a serious gambling problem” story could have legs for me.)

The point is, ideas are everywhere; we’re practically tripping over them. I come up with a few good ones a week, and I am far from the most creative person I know. Coming up with the idea is the easy part. The hard work lies in making two decisions:

1. Is this something I want to dedicate a year of my life to? You don’t want to get six months down the road and realize you’re sick to death of this idea and have no stomach for finishing it. Don’t kid yourself. Authors fall out of love with ideas all the time.

2. Is this an idea that lends itself to my skill set? I write hard-boiled crime fiction, so I am not likely to do well with a time-travel romance, or even a mystery where a cat solves the crime. Nothing wrong with those kinds of stories; they’re just not in my wheelhouse. I discard quite a few ideas every year because, while I like the premise, as I noodle it out I realize someone else could write that story better.

I was at a conference several years ago and heard the following story. I’d tell you who the writers were but there had been some drinking done and who I thought it was said it wasn’t him, so I’m leaving names out altogether. The story holds up without them.

Anyway, two well-known authors who are good friends were having dinner. Author A gets to talking about an idea he has. Author B loves it, wishes he’d thought of it, good luck with the book.

A few months go by. They’re at dinner again and Author B asks how the book is coming. A says, “It’s not. The more I get into it, the more I realize it’s not for me.”

B asks if it’s okay if he gives it a shot. A gives his blessing, B rips through the book without difficulty, and it does well for him.

Here’s the thing: legally, B did not have to ask permission. You cannot copyright an idea, only what you do with it. For those of you old enough to remember the Twentieth Century, the classic TV show The Sopranos premiered January 10, 1999. On March 5, 55 days later, the movie Analyze This came out. Both are stories about mob bosses who see psychiatrist. I suppose the end results could be more different, but not much and still be based on the same idea.

Ideas are crucial; there can be no fiction without them. What’s more important is execution. What experienced writers have going for them that newbies do not is a better-developed ability to figure out quickly which of the multitude of ideas clamoring for attention they want to live with, and which suits them best. As with most things, experience is the best way to avoid a bad decision and, as we all know, experience most often comes from bad decisions.

I never said it was easy.

Nick Forte has lost his detective agency and makes ends meet doing background checks and other paperwork. He pays for everything else through jobs he takes for cash and without any written contract. What starts out as a simple investigation into a traffic accident exposes Forte to people who have truly lost everything and have no viable hope of reclaiming their lives. That doesn’t sit well with Forte, leading him and his friend Goose Satterwhite to take action that ends more violently than anyone expected.

“The return of Chicago private detective Nick Forte, the tough protagonist of two Shamus Award nominated novels, is well worth the wait. Nick’s latest escapade Off The Books—the first in nearly six years—will surely earn additional praise for the acclaimed series.”
-J.L .Abramo, Shamus Award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Chan.

“Nick Forte reminds me of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser: a PI with a finely tuned sense of justice who doesn’t take anyone’s s***. Any fan of hardboiled detective fiction is in for a helluva ride.”
–Chris Rhatigan, former publisher of All Due Respect Books

Enjoy an Excerpt

I told Jason Worthington I’d find his daughter in a week. I surfed the internet and searched flophouses, cathouses, bar rooms, pool rooms, jails, hospitals, morgues, and SRO hotels. Found her in a pay-by-the-hour motel at 10:48 p.m. two days after her father and I spoke.

Worthington would have preferred me to find her alive.

Cindy’s body was warm, the spike still in her arm. She looked as if she’d fallen asleep waiting and didn’t hold my tardiness against me.

I did what any real-life professional investigator would do, and what no fictional private eye would even consider.

I called the police.

The cops kept me at the scene half the night, at the station until dawn. They asked the same questions both places and got the same answers.

“Why were you there?”

“Her father asked me to find her.”

“Why was the father looking for her?”

“My guess would be to keep what happened from happening. You’ll have to ask him yourself to be sure.”

The usual bullshit.

I called Worthington on my way out of the police station. Told him I had news but would prefer to deliver it in person. I didn’t suppose I needed to tell him anything after that, but it wouldn’t hurt to allow him time to prepare before I scarred the rest of his life.

He answered the door already dressed for work. Navy suit, white shirt with French cuffs, gold links. His tie was blue with small designs, maybe horses, gathered in a perfect four-square knot. Red suspenders. A suit coat hung from the newel post behind him. His forehead gleamed beneath a silvery hairline. His teeth were as white and straight as a Klan meeting.

About the Author:Off the Books is Dana King’s sixth Nick Forte private investigator novel. Two of the earlier books (A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window) received Shamus Award nominations from the Private Eye Writers of America. Dana also writes the Penns River series of police procedurals set in a small Western Pennsylvania town, as well as one standalone novel, Wild Bill, which is not a Western. His short fiction appears in numerous anthologies and web sites. He is a frequent panelist at conferences and reads at Noirs at Bars from New York to North Carolina.

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Background/inspiration of the book by Mark Towse – Guest Post and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $25 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Background/inspiration of the book

To get straight into this, it’s me on the pages of this book: the same upbringing, the same claustrophobic and uncomfortable environment, all dictated by my iron-fisted mother. If I left crumbs on the counter or a cup next to the sink without washing it, my life would not be worth living. And God forbid if someone parked outside our house or started playing loud music. In those cases, the day, possibly week, would be ruined. My mother even uttered the words, “When will the chaos end?” at one point, thus the multiple references in the story. Nobody would believe how bad it was. My teachers often asked my parents if everything was okay at home. “Oh yes,” my mother would sing like butter wouldn’t melt. My dad was just a shell, much like the character in Chasing The Dragon.

So there you go, that’s really the inspiration for the Simon Dooley character.

Writing this, as you might imagine, was at once painful and cathartic. It brought back a lot of rough memories and a cocktail of emotions encompassing anger, disappointment, alienation, and loneliness. I was never allowed friends around, regardless of the number of times I spent at their houses. This invited further alienation, making me feel even more alone.

When things got really bad, I imagined myself as a superhero—pure escapism but a portal into a different world where I wasn’t meek and vulnerable. That’s where Reformo comes into the equation.

That said, it was vital that our wannabe hero was flawed throughout each chapter. I didn’t want him to become two-dimensional just because he wore the cape. I’ve seen that too many times in the movies.

Initially, the harder her tries, the harder he fails. Being more than a little naïve, he assumes people will get behind him and his message of bringing hope back to town. But people have given up hope, fearing to tread outside when the sun goes down. I think those initial interactions Reformo has with the residents are the most hilarious exchanges in the book. He’s just trying his best, but the pushback and the general reception he receives… priceless.

Life is imperfect, and so are we.

This is a traumatized man-child just doing his best. One thing is for sure: people are falling in love with Reformo.

A town on its knees, dread’s bony fingers wrapping around its throat and squeezing, death rattles soon to follow.

Drugs, filth, and a lack of human decency are starving it of hope.

Introducing Simon Dooley, our trauma-driven wannabe superhero, the relentless voice of his dead mother pleading with him to “end the chaos.” Dressed in a leotard and armed only with a dozen dog poop bags, Simon’s plight will find him falling in love and going head to head with the seediest characters walking the streets.

The town needed a hero… it got Reformo.

Enjoy an Excerpt

It’s happening. It’s finally happening.

I strip off in front of the full-length mirror, part self-admiration for my new frame and part sorrow for the shy and squeamish young boy who first walked the corridors of the youth detention centre.

Okay, not The Rectifier. What then? Captain Justice has been done, you muppet! The Shadow? Nope. Been done, too. The Silhouette? Too jazzy. Unable to wait any longer, the hairs bristling on the back of my neck, I carefully lift the costume from the bed and slip my arms through.

Oh, yes!

It’s as though electricity runs through my veins. I feel alive, reborn. I feel—

“I’m a superhero.”

About the Author:Mark Towse is an English horror writer living in Australia. He would sell his soul to the devil or anyone buying if it meant he could write full-time. Alas, he left it very late to begin this journey, penning his first story since primary school at the ripe old age of forty-five. Since then, he’s been published in over two hundred journals and anthologies, had his work made into full theatrical productions for shows such as The No Sleep Podcast and Tales to Terrify, and has penned fourteen novellas, including Nana, Gone to the Dogs, 3:33, and Crows. Chasing The Dragon is his debut novel.

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Alex by Dianne Hartsock – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will award a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Alex is twenty and confused. He always is. The world presses on him with its horrors and pain, with scintillating auras that bewilder his eyes and drive the migraines deeper. He hears the cries of the children, sees the brutal images of tortured victims. He feels out of control and his mind slips…

Severely abused as a child, he is left with horrible scars on his body and even worse scars within his mind. Even though it puts him in danger, he’s compelled to help those who call to him. He’s driven, motivated by his visions to rescue them and hopefully uncover the killer. When he can, he helps the police; yet some detectives suspect he’s involved. Often, Alex finds himself alone and afraid in a world he doesn’t always understand.

Enjoy an Exclusive Excerpt


He jumped, spinning toward the voice. “Kyle.”

He had to look away. The young man’s white hair was loose, the blue tips catching the sunlight. The color was irresistible and drew Alex’s gaze back to it. As they walked, he stared at the fluttering strands in bewildered fascination.

Kyle was aware of his fixation and gave a secretive smile. “Here we are.”

They had walked some distance and Alex stopped abruptly, perplexed by the neighborhood he found himself in. They’d passed the college dorms and were on a street with rental homes for students. “What?”

“My house. Didn’t you say you’d look over my sketches?” Kyle searched his face. “Did you forget?” The gold flecks in his eyes unsettled Alex even more. He shook his head, unable to think. Kyle was all brilliant light and color, and Alex, in his exhaustion, was overcome by the visual stimuli. “I should go home,” he mumbled.

Kyle took his arm. “Come in just for a minute.”

Alex stumbled inside. A vague uneasiness fluttered in his stomach, but the thought of returning home was suddenly unbearable. He didn’t want to be alone with his fear. And though the horrible images had stopped flashing in his head, he was terrified he’d lose his mind if the images returned, and there was no one around to help him.

Kyle pushed him down on the couch and pressed a glass of wine into his hands. Distraught, Alex watched as he lit a few candles in the room, then drew a bulging portfolio from a cabinet. Alex settled back on the couch with a slight sigh of relief. Kyle hadn’t lied to him after all.

Kyle pulled a chair closer and opened the folder on his lap. He looked up. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” Alex leaned forward for a better look. There was definite talent in the sure strokes and firm lines Kyle used in his landscapes. Just then Alex noticed the long fingers holding the paper, and a sudden awareness of the young man flooded through him. He drew back, confused by the unexpected desire leaping to life in him; he wanted those fingers on his skin. He pulled in a desperate breath, fearing the attraction was a warning his body misinterpreted. What was going on? He wanted to run away, but Kyle glanced up, captivating him. He’d always thought Kyle’s eyes were beautiful.

“Kyle,” he began, then his voice trailed off as the silver and blue of Kyle’s aura swirled around both of them. He followed it with his eyes to where it danced across the ceiling, losing the thread of his thoughts in the dazzling imagery.

He cried out when Kyle suddenly dropped the folder and grabbed his arms. The glass fell from his numb fingers and shattered on the hardwood floor. Alex watched, stunned, unable to move, as Kyle pulled a roll of gray tape from under the couch and bound his wrists.

Kyle leaned closer. “Hush. It’ll be fun.”

About the Author Dianne grew up in one of the older homes in the middle of Los Angeles, a place of hardwood floors and secret closets and back staircases. A house where ghosts lurk in the basement and the faces in the paintings watch you walk up the front stairs. Rooms where you keep the closet doors closed tight at night. It’s where her love of the mysterious and wonderful came from. Dianne is the author of m/m romance, paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind.

She now lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. Dianne says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee in her hands, which kindles her imagination.

Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

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Hide and Be by Gary L. Stuart – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a print copy of Hide and Be and its immediate sequel, My Brother, Myself to a randomly drawn winner. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Twin brothers Arthur and Martin suffered horrible abuse as children, forcing them to survive by seamlessly assuming each other’s identities. Living each other’s lives provides protection from the trauma of their past. But when tragedy strikes, one of the brothers plummets into a dissociative crisis that leads him down a murderous path.

As the body count rises, two cases end up in the courtroom, where judges, lawyers, and psychiatrists try to piece together which twin is the suspect and which is the victim. Everyone in the courtroom strives to bring the victims to justice–but how can justice be served when no one is sure who the defendant truly is?

Enjoy an Excerpt

United States Magistrate Judge Eli Hightower’s entrance into the courtroom had instantly hushed the small group of lawyers huddled near the podium. A plain but hardly simple man, he always walked to his bench without the usual pomp attached to the comings and goings of judges. As he climbed the single step up to the clerk’s platform and then the second step up onto the judge’s bench, everyone in the room could hear him wheeze. At two-hundred and fifty-five pounds, Judge Hightower was a force to reckon with, both physically and intellectually. His long-standing battle with cigars accounted for the wheeze, and his fondness for Snickers bars and A&W Root Beer mocked his daily promise to lose weight.

“Take your seats, please,” he said in a voice that softened the scowl on his face. “I thought, with sixteen years under my belt, or should I say under my robe, I’d heard it all. But the docket calendar says we’re here to conduct an identity hearing. Whose identity is at question here? And better yet, why is there nothing in my bench book that lends the slightest clue as to what an identity hearing is? My clerk tells me that this is a joint request by the government and the defendant.

“Your Honor, we are here because we are not in agreement about the identity of the defendant. If I might, Judge, maybe I could summarize the situation. I represent the government in its case against Martin Cheshire on the arson murder of his brother, Arthur Cheshire. Martin Cheshire was initially arrested by the FBI in Portland, Maine, seven weeks ago on an embezzlement charge. His statement in that case led the FBI to open a second investigation. The defendant denied he was Martin Cheshire. He told them he was Arthur Cheshire, Martin’s twin brother. But Arthur Cheshire died, as we contend, in an arson fire in Mexico, fifty-six miles from here eight weeks ago. The FBI believes that Martin Cheshire killed his brother, Arthur, to cover up the embezzlement in Maine. But before we can proceed with an indictment, Mr. Kemper and I agreed that the confusion and doubt about exactly who the defendant is warrants this court’s intervention. We’ve discussed it in chambers with Chief Judge Sharp, to whom this case is assigned. He sent us to you. We need this court to order a psychiatric evaluation to establish the actual identity of the defendant. That’s why we agreed with the defense that the first person you should hear from in this case is Dr. Lisbeth Socorro.”

About the Author I am a retiring lawyer, a working author, and a preserving blogger. I was a full-time trial lawyer for thirty-two years in a large Phoenix firm. I was a part-time law professor for the last twenty-nine years. As of summer, 2023, I am writing, publishing, and blogging full time. My first book was a textbook published by the Arizona State Bar Association. My first novel was published by the University of New Mexico Press. I’ve written ten novels and eight nonfiction titles as of July 2023.

From the day I entered law school, I’ve been reading cases, statutory law and writing about legal conundrums and flaws in our criminal and civil justice systems. I’ve always read novels, nonfiction, and historical fiction by great authors who were never corrupted by the staid habits of trial lawyers. I write long-form, interspersed with the occasional blog, op-ed, or essay. One of the unexpected benefits of reading the law is learning how to write about it. Somewhere along the trajectory from a baby lawyer to a senior one, I became intoxicated with blending nonfiction with fiction in books, rather than legal documents. After spending thirty years in courtrooms trying cases, I started writing about them. That led to writing novels while borrowing from famous historical settings and lesser-known characters. My courtroom days were chock full of ideas, notions, and hopes about ultimately becoming an author. I organized and memorized critical information for judges, juries, and clients. Now I use that experience to write vivid fiction and immersive nonfiction. I moved away from trial practice to teaching law students how to use creative writing techniques to tell their client’s stories, in short form.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” The same could be said of my transition from trying cases to writing crime fiction. I’ve been holding my breath for twenty years waiting for galley proofs and book reviews. Anais Nin spoke for all of us when she said, “We write to taste life twice.”

My first novel, The Gallup 14, won a coveted starred review from Publishers Weekly. I won a Spur Award from Western Writers of America in 2004 for my first nonfiction book (“Miranda, The Story of America’s Right to Remain Silent”). I won the 2010 Arizona Book of the Year Award, The Glyph Award, and a Southwest Publishing Top Twenty award in 2010, for “Innocent Until Interrogated—The Story of the Buddhist Temple Massacre.” My third nonfiction title (“Anatomy of a Confession—The Debra Milke Case”) was highly acclaimed. My nonfiction title “CALL HIM MAC—Ernest W. McFarland—The Arizona Years” was widely and favorably reviewed. My latest nonfiction crime book, “Nobody Did Anything Wrong But Me, was published by Twelve Tables Press, one of America’s most distinguished publisher of law books about important legal issues. No New York Times bestsellers, yet.

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Thoughts about the Book by Dean L. Hovey – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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

Thoughts about My Book

I made a research trip to the Black Hills and visited the sites where “Western Justice” is set. Seeing the Vore Buffalo Jump and visiting with the non-profit chairwoman was exciting and interesting. Our visit to the Aladdin General Store was fun and funny. The two women working there were overflowing with information and suggestions.

If you’ve never heard of me, you should check out the reviews of my books on Amazon and Goodreads. My books have good reviews. The Doug and Jill Fletcher characters are engaging and fun. I spend a lot of time researching the technical and geographic details, adding texture to the plots.

As for a muse, Jill Fletcher speaks to me, often dragging me out of bed at ungodly hours of the morning, insisting that I record the upcoming events. My wife often finds me at the computer, with a cup of coffee, when she gets up. Her usual question is, “How long have you been up?” I often answer, “About twenty pages.”

As for criticism, I know that people have different interests, tastes, and tolerance for violence and profanity. The criticism I hear most often is, “Bad guys don’t use proper English.” Another is, “Why do you end the romantic scenes with the closing of the bedroom door?” I write in complete sentences, and yes, even my bad guys use proper English. As for the end of romantic scenes, I’ve decided not to invent the new genre of “Mystery Erotica”. I prefer to let my readers imagine what happens after the door closes, rather than writing salacious sexual scenes.

When human remains are found at the Vore Buffalo Jump, the short-staffed local sheriff’s department requests assistance from Park Service Investigators Doug and Jill Fletcher.

ATV tracks lead the investigators to the victim’s boots and a hunting blind constructed on the edge of the Black Hills National Forest. With more questions than answers the Fletchers find themselves pulled into the community dynamics of tiny Aladdin (population 15) where the café and general store are the hub of information for the county.

The surprising identification of the victim only opens more questions about him, and his connection to the location of his murder. When the Fletchers follow up on the few leads provided by John Doe’s identification, they unwittingly open a can of worms.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Drawing a sharp breath, she reached into her back pocket for her cell phone. Punching 911 into the keypad, she waited two rings before the dispatcher answered. “Crook County emergency services. How can I assist you?”

Having not considered what she was going to say when the phone was answered, Peggy stated what came to her mind. “I’m looking at a dead body. Could you send someone over to fetch it?”

“Is the body human?”

Peggy cocked her head to examine details that became clearer as he eyes adjusted to the shadows behind the building. “It appears so.”

“You can’t tell?” The dispatcher asked.

“It’s complicated. It’s kind of tangled in some brush partway up a hill.”

“Do you need an ambulance?”

“No, this soul is well past the ambulance stage.”

“Where are you, ma’am?”

“I’m standing behind the Vore Buffalo Jump Museum building.”

“Where exactly is that?”

“It’s along the interstate, between the Beulah and Aladdin exits.”

“I’ll dispatch a deputy to your location. The nearest officer is in Hulett, so it might take him the better part of a half hour to get there, if he’s through with lunch.”

“There’s no rush. Whoever this is, isn’t going anywhere.”

About the Author:Dean Hovey is a Minnesota-based author with three mystery series. He lives with his wife south of Duluth.

Dean’s award-winning* Pine County series follows sheriff’s deputies Floyd Swenson and Pam Ryan through this police procedural series.

Dean’s Whistling Pines books are humorous cozy mysteries centered on the residents of the Whistling Pines senior residence. The protagonist is Peter Rogers, the Whistling Pines recreation director.

In Dean’s latest series his protagonist, a retired Minnesota policeman, is drafted into service as a National Park Service Investigator after a murder at a National Monument.

* “Family Trees: A Pine County Mystery” won the 2018 NEMBA award for best fiction.

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My Take on Critique Groups by Curtis Maynard – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly drawn winner will receive a $25 Amazon/BN GC. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

My take on Critique groups

I am in several groups on social media and have long learned that if you have a hundred people in a group, You can ask them for an opinion and you will get at least thirty differing opinions. I basically just group all the opinions together and try to go with the most popular ones. This actually happened recently when I asked for opinions on the cover of my latest novel. I ended up with a similar cover that most liked.

Critique is a good thing to a point. You have to balance out all the differing opinions and find a medium that works best for you. In my cover for example, All of the opinions, and all of the debate, a 5 minute modification made nearly the whole group happy. I wonder if I had started with that cover, if the same situation would have happened but reverse.

In the end I realize that most people love to critique even if it’s a minor thing. I try my best to listen and be open for ideas to improve. Sometimes you can make the majority happy and sometimes you can’t. In the end you have to be happy with the end result yourself.

When the Riggs family in Mobile, Alabama, faced the mysterious death of their adoptive daughter Shantel Thompson, they never imagined her ghost would linger for decades…

In Curtis Maynard’s heart-stopping paranormal thriller, ‘The Ghost of Shantel Thompson,’ a new family, fifty years later, grapples with a haunting legacy where the line between life and death is hauntingly thin.

Just as they begin to settle into their new life, their own young daughter is gripped by chilling visions of Shantel. It’s not just fleeting shadows—she’s entangled in a vengeful spirit’s relentless quest for justice, a quest that spans generations.

As whispers from the grave reveal long-hidden secrets, this new family faces a terrifying truth: some ghosts refuse to be silenced. Now, they must confront the mystery of Shantel’s death before her ghostly agenda consumes them all.

Dare to uncover the truth? ‘The Ghost of Shantel Thompson’ awaits to send shivers down your spine

Enjoy an Excerpt

Hours drifted away as they immersed themselves in the accounts of the murder day, meticulously examining interviews with the neighbors. It was during this exhaustive search that Sarah stumbled upon an article that sent a shiver down her spine. Her face turned pale, and she repeated the word “no” in disbelief.

Concern etched on his features, Damian inquired, “Honey, what’s wrong?” His worry grew as he witnessed his wife’s deteriorating condition.

Handing him the article, Sarah whispered, “Read it. It’s about the little girl who was murdered. She was adopted, just like Alicia. And look at the name. Shantel.”

Damian’s trembling hands held the article as he absorbed its contents. Shantel had been ten years old, the exact age their daughter had been when they had adopted her and moved to this very town. The uncanny similarities between the two girls sent a chill down his spine.

“D-Damian?” Sarah attempted to regain her husband’s attention, her voice quivering. “Damian?”

“I’m sorry,” he replied, placing the article down. “It’s just… It hits too close to home. I mean, what are the odds that we would move into the very house where she was killed?”

“And the name, Damian. Shantel. How could Alicia possibly know about her? We never disclosed the fact that a murder had occurred in our home,” Sarah lamented.

“Do you think she found out from someone else?” Damian posed the question, searching for answers.

“Who, Damian? She hardly leaves the house, except to go to school. Yet somehow, she learned about Shantel. Unless… never mind,” Sarah dismissed a fleeting thought, her anxiety evident. “I’m letting my imagination run wild again. I’ve watched one too many horror movies,” she chuckled nervously, masking her unease.

About the Author: Curtis Maynard is an independent filmmaker, screenwriter, and author passionate about suspenseful storytelling. Enthralled by the paranormal, his mysteries and thrillers feature everything from hauntings and visions to cryptic messages from beyond the grave. Curtis currently resides with his wife and son in Alabama, a setting rich with inspiration for his novels and short films. He hopes his stories will leave you spellbound, disquieted, and suspicious of the slightest shuddering shadow.

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Winter Blogfest: Susie Black

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an electronic format copy of Death by Sample Size.

Why Jews Eat Chinese Food on Christmas by Susie Black

​​What makes the holiday eason most special are the traditions we create and share; and in that way, make them uniquely our own. Even those of us who do not celebrate Christmas have still found ways to participate in the joy of the season. For us Jews, eating Chinese food on Christmas day has become an international tradition that started in New York in the 1930s. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Jews looking for a special way to celebrate a day off on December 25th in afriendly place with a welcoming atmosphere featuring exotic food they didn’t normally eat were hard-pressed to find any restaurants open except those whose proprietors did not celebrate Christmas either. In most neighborhoods, Chinese restaurants were the only ones open on Christmas day. And so, as many things in life come to be, out of necessity or by process of elimination, a delightful tradition was born.

My maternal grandparents were married on December 25th and every year celebrated their anniversary by following this tradition. They in turn, passed it down to my mother who continued it when she married and had children, and passed it down to us. I cannot recall any Jew I knew who did not go out for Chinese food on Christmas day.

Chinese food was the first foreign food I was introduced to as a small child. I spent the early years of my childhood in Linden, New Jersey a bedroom community southwest of Manhattan. One particularly cold and snowy Christmas day my father was under the weather, so rather than go out to eat in a Chinese restaurant like we normally would, my mother brought in takeout Chinese food instead. We ate Chinese food often throughout the year, and my mother frequented a neighborhood Chinese take-out. We got to know the owner, a kind and generous older Chinese man who always paid me special attention. That evening, I accompanied my mother to pick up dinner. When it was our turn to order, I told the owner I didn’t want to eat his food any longer because he put worms in it. He wasn’t offended, but he asked me to show him the worms. I pointed to some translucent squiggly-looking worms in the chow mein he was about to put into a container as part of our order. He asked my mother if I could come back to the kitchen with him. She said yes. We went into the kitchen and he sat me on a stool next to him in the preparation area. Heshowed me how he cut the onions and how he cooked them. When they were done, he explained they were not worms, but the same thin onion strips he just cut that when cooked, only looked like worms to me(I was about 5 years old). When I was still not completely convinced, he gave me one to taste, and then I was sold. He and I were BFF’s after that…I always got extra fortune cookies and almond cookies.

Since this holiday tradition was such an important part of my life, I was interested to learn more. If you are the curious sort like me, click the link and read a more in-depth history of the love affair we Jews have with Chinese food. https://blog.judaicawebstore.com/why-jews-eat-chinese-food-on-christmas/

The good news is you don’t have to be Jewish to eat Chinese food on Christmas….but it helps.

However you celebrate the holiday, may your traditions bring you and yours the joy that comes with the sense of belonging that binds us humans together.


Recent college graduate Holly Schlivnik dreams of being a writer, but fate has other plans. A family crisis throws her into an improbable situation and her life will never be the same. Determined to make her own luck when things don’t happen the way she plans, the irrepressible young woman takes a sledge hammer to the glass ceiling and shatters it to smithereens. The wise-cracking, irreverent transplanted Californian takes you on a raucous, rollicking rollercoaster ride of her hysterical adventures as a ladies’ apparel sales rep traveling in the deep South as she ends up finding herself along the way.


Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

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Winter Blogfest: Wendy Kendall

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of the book Kat Out of the Bag, OR another of the author’s books if the winner would prefer another book instead.

Xmas Legend of Turkey Purses by Wendy Kendall

There was an ancient town of Myra, now called Demre, located in the country of Turkey. From this town there comes an ancient Christmas legend of The Three Purses –

A noble man had lost his fortune. He could no longer afford food and clothing for his family of three daughters. His daughters were of an age to marry, but the father could not afford their dowries. The family grew desperate. 

Saint Nicholas, the bishop of Myra heard about the plight of this family and decided to rescue them. He did not want to approach the nobleman and offer him help, as he knew that such an approach would be politely turned down. He made up his mind to help anonymously and secretly.

One night St. Nicholas visited the house and threw a silken purse filled with gold on the eldest daughter’s bed. The next morning when she found it, the family was overjoyed and bought some food and clothes for themselves. The eldest daughter could now marry. 

A second night, St. Nicholas threw another silken purse of gold on the bed of the second daughter. The family was delighted, and she also married. 

The nobleman wanted to track down their secret patron. He hid beneath window, the third night and waited. When St. Nicholas came to throw the third silken purse of gold, the nobleman leaped out and thanked him for his kindness. St. Nicholas requested the nobleman not reveal his good deeds to anyone. He told him it was his duty to help the needy.

As this story evolved it was told that St. Nicholas passed silken purses of gold through the kitchen chimney which landed in the stockings of the daughters. The stockings were kept under the chimney for drying.

St. Nicholas, came to be known as Santa Claus. St. Nicholas/Santa is a generous person, known for his charity and benevolence.

What bag are you wishing for this holiday season?

Here are four contemporary Turkey’s purse designers – 

Güneş Mutlu founded handbag brand Mehry Mu in 2009. Mehry Mu was created from Mutlu’s love of fabrics. Eastern design is very much part of the brand’s aesthetic, and influences from colorful Istanbul and Morocco.

Sisters Beste and Merve Manastır founded Manu Atelier in 2014 to promote handicrafts and pay tribute to their father, who is a renowned leather goods craftsman.

Sanayi 313 launched in 2015. The label offers a ready-to-wear line designed by Serena Uziyel; every piece is handmade by skilled artisans, in processes that can take around 100 hours. Uziyel previously worked for luxury brands including Alberta Ferretti before teaming up with interior architect Enis Karavil, who set up Sanayi 313 in Istanbul.

Meb Rure founded Mlouye in 2015 in Turkey and has excellent quality and design at its heart. The Lantern bag was inspired by a classic lampshade and is made of smooth, sturdy Italian leather. The label’s sculptural bags are connected to Rure’s background in industrial design.

Pursuing a Killer

Her must-have creations made Katherine Watson the purse designer for fashionistas, influencers and celebrities on both coasts. Tiring of fame, she’s giving back to her Washington State hometown by launching the Purse-onality Museum, a one-of-a-kind collection of historical purses. But at its glittering gala opening, Kat’s best friend and town mayor, Brenda, is found strangled by a Chanel-style purse chain. And with investigating officer Jason Holmes and his K-9 Hobbs uncovering a stack of circumstantial evidence against hapless Historical Society employee Michael, Kat is determined to cut to the truth.

As Kat clashes with likely suspects, she also finds plenty of murderous motives from which to pick and choose. Faced with bitter political and personal rivalries, decidedly unfashionable secrets and an exclusive selection of lies, she’ll have to stop a cunning killer before they knock off another innocent victim.


The result of Wendy Kendall’s passion for purses, mystery and romance is the intriguing In Purse-Suit Mysteries published by The Wild Rose Press. Kat Out of the Bag introduces Katherine Watson purse designer/sleuth, also published by Harlequin at Harper Collins, available February 20, 2024. As Katherine moves from designer bags to body bags, she’s uncovering clues to a murder. The prequel, Purse-Stachio Makes A Splash delves into a chilling cold case. Finalist for Best Romantic Suspense at Killer Nashville, Snow Kiss Cookies To Die For creates a tangle of mystery and love, raising suspicions about a teacher’s romantic new sweetheart. A summer romance read that will keep you on the edge of your beach towel, Cherry Shakes In The Park blends danger, divas, and frothy delights. And ribbons of love run through the holiday season romance, Heart of Christmas Cookies and Dreams. Wendy enjoys investigating the Pacific Northwest life, and she leaves a trail of her own clues as a blogger, YouTube podcaster, speaker, and syndicated columnist.

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The Jig is Up by M.K. Scott – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. M K Scott 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.

I looked forward to sipping tea and exploring Mark’s ancestral roots in Ireland, but oh, what a twist of fate!

My life as owner of The Painted Lady Inn hardly prepared me for this. With my detective husband by my side, we embark on a journey filled with mayhem, murder, and mischief.

As I savor every bite of Irish stew and soak in the breathtaking scenery, little do I know that our vacation will turn into a whirlwind of sleuthing.

Who could have imagined the secrets hidden behind Mark’s family tree? And what dark secrets lurk in this picturesque village, threatening to shatter the tranquility?

The jig is up, and it’s up to us to untangle the web of intrigue.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The rain-slicked windows made it hard to see the fast-approaching landscape—but not impossible. The blue splash of the Atlantic hugged the coastline while roadways and houses grew visible as Monopoly-sized squares when the plane eased into its final approach. The acrid scent of burned coffee filled the coach cabin resulting in Donna Tollhouse Taber, a compact blonde on the other side of fifty with eyes that missed little, wrinkling her nose. “Someone needs to tend to that coffee pot. It might as well be me.”

Her husband, Mark, a small-town detective whose crow’s feet could morph from charming to threatening depending if you were a citizen or a lawbreaker, grasped her arm. “Leave it. We’re landing. Didn’t you hear the announcement?”

“Yes,” Donna grudgingly admitted, twisting in her seat as if to find the offending coffee pot. “It’s just having a sensitive nose makes me notice burned coffee more than most. It could be the flight attendants are too busy making sure everyone is ready for landing rather than attending to the coffee pot.”

Knowing his wife’s antics, Mark shook his head, resulting in a lock of his salt-and-pepper hair catching on his bushy, graying eyebrows. “You’d be the one they’d be urging to stay seated and belted. We’re on vacation. Relax. You’re not back at the Painted Lady Inn serving guests. Before that, you slaved away in a post-operation ward for almost three decades. Have you ever truly relaxed?”

The question rendered her speechless for a few seconds—a rare state, indeed. While Type A personalities were known to be driven and focused, Donna considered herself an A-, goal-oriented, but open to side adventures, especially mysteries. “There was that cruise. Remember? It was going to be so romantic. You missed the boat,” she teased, then grimaced as she continued. “Then that rich guy died under mysterious circumstances.” Her shoulders went up in a shrug. “I guess I can’t count that one as relaxing.”

Her eyes rolled upward and to the right as the plane tires kissed the tarmac, jostling the passengers. “Wait! There was our honeymoon. We went to Arkansas to get away from the stress of your job. Some place quiet we’d both agreed, then we stumbled over that murdered crystal mine owner.”

“Well,” Mark exhaled audibly. “This trip will be different. No murder. No dead bodies. I read up on Ireland, it’s an incredibly safe place. No bears, wolves, coyotes, or even snakes. The website listed feral cats as their worst predator.”

About the Author

M. K. Scott is the Morgan and Scott cozy mystery writing team of The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries, The Talking Dog Detective Agency, The Way Over the Hill Gang, Cupid’s Catering Company, and The Tenacious Librarian series. Morgan pens the tales, while Scott serves as first editor and webmaster. Daughter Sarah handles the social media and Jane the Lab supervises digging in the garden.

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Welcome to the Writing World by Mike Nemeth – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Mike Nemeth will be awarding a $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.

Welcome to the Writing World

Writing isn’t a vocation you can choose like deciding to be a lawyer or a doctor. People who “try” writing to see if they like it generally fail. Writing is a vocation that will choose you, if you are compelled to put your thoughts on paper, if you can’t help but imagine emotional or exciting scenes in a story, if you must communicate your ideas to people you don’t even know.
If writing is a compulsion and you’ve been chosen by the vocation, you have entered a world in which you are naked and everyone else is wearing clothes. Through your writing people will learn your deepest thoughts, your closely-guarded secrets, and all the information necessary to form opinions of you, your craft, your style, and your entertainment value. When art is released to the public, it becomes fair game for relatives, friends, agents, publishers, critics, reviewers, social media trolls, and readers to criticize (or praise). Get ready, because to write is to be judged.

As a result, well-meaning people advise writers to grow thick skin and/or stay true to their craft and vision and ignore criticism. The urge to embrace positive input and ignore negative feedback is powerful but it leads to Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If we don’t listen to criticism, our craft will neither improve nor evolve.

My advice to a new writer is to accept all feedback as potentially instructive but to analyze the criticism carefully to find the useful nuggets.

Friends and relatives are prone to be nice so probe them for deeper reasons for their praise. Why did they like your book?

Agents and publishers occasionally include provide insights beyond “It’s not right for me” or “Keep trying.” When they do, take heed. If they don’t provide anything useful in their rejections, claim them as a badge of courage. Agents and publishers aren’t infallible, and they usually have reasons for a rejection other than the quality of your writing or the quality of your story. Legend has it that Stephen King pegged rejection slips on a nail in his wall and when the nail could no longer support the weight of all the rejections, he replaced the nail with a railroad spike.

Professional reviewers are most likely to provide valuable advice about your craft, your style, and storytelling expertise. Believe them and adopt their advice when compatible with your style and genre.

Social media trolls can safely be ignored unless they have something nice to say about your work. In that case simply thank them and hope their post goes viral.

The last group, readers with verified purchase reviews, provide the input to which I am most sensitive. These people were attracted to my work—the good news—and took the time to provide a reaction after reading some or all of the story—the possibly good news and possibly bad news. If an audience for your thoughts and ideas is your goal, these are the people to whom you should listen. You may find that they “just didn’t get it” and that’s on you as the communicator. On the other hand, they may have liked facets of your work that you can leverage in future works.

The bottom line is, don’t be afraid of criticism, use it to improve your craft. But do as much input-gathering before publishing as possible. Once published, the input can only be used in the next book. So, a final word of advice is to surround yourself with the members of a prepublication critique group, an excellent developmental editor who can furnish advice on content and continuity, and trusted beta readers. The work you do after finishing the manuscript but before publishing it will save the anguish of negative criticism after publication.

Framed by cops and chased by crooks, a white ex-con and a rebellious black woman become fugitives. They didn’t plan to fall in love.
After serving time for a crime he didn’t commit, Parker and his wife, Paula, hide from an old enemy in an Atlanta suburb. Their fresh start is disrupted when his new boss demands his involvement in a fraudulent scheme that will replace thousands of white collar American workers with artificial intelligence and offshore labor. Parker unfortunately suspects his secret and elusive birth father is mixed up in the fraud. Then a body is pulled from the Chattahoochee River and Parker believes Paula has murdered his enemy, but the police think Parker did it. He and his brilliant colleague, Sabrina, a woman who can trace her roots to Virginia slaves, steal the “smoking gun” that will expose the fraud and go on the run, pursued by cops and crooks. After a violent showdown in a frightening New Orleans cemetery, they connect the dots between a murder, fraud, and a man from his mother’s past. Parker’s loyalties are torn, but he must choose.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The terror Parker felt was what an antelope feels when it is about to be eaten alive by a pride of hungry lions. He took shallow breaths through his nose to mask the sound of his breathing as he listened to the blood coursing through his carotid artery—whoosh, whoosh. Where the hell is my backup?

In the crepuscular light, Parker saw her then. She emerged from her hiding place in the boathouse and assumed the shooter’s stance she’d been taught at the gun range. She gave the hunter no warning, just fired her compact Beretta once, and the man crumpled onto the Cool Crete surface with a thud and a rush of expelled air. That hadn’t been the plan. She was only supposed to balance the threat Parker suspected Meredith had posed. She wasn’t supposed to shoot anyone. It’s so easy to get these things wrong.

A scan of the house’s back windows revealed no sign of Meredith. Parker put a finger to his lips—don’t talk—and motioned for the woman to hurry into the shadows. The wounded man moaned softly, and Parker’s quick check confirmed that he was semi-conscious and neither moving nor watching. Parker took the woman’s pistol and shoved her toward the neighbor’s property. The snowbirds who owned the place were away enjoying the mild Canadian summer during the Florida off-season.

“Run,” he whispered.

She loped into the darkness. He counted to twenty—one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi—then he dialed 9-1-1.

About the Author:Mike Nemeth, a Vietnam veteran and former high-tech executive, writes love stories tucked inside murder mysteries highlighting America’s social issues. THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Southern Fiction and the Frank Yerby Prize at the Augusta Literary Festival. The novel inspired singer/songwriter Mark Currey to compose the song Who I am. PARKER’S CHOICE won a Firebird Award for thrillers and American Fiction Awards for Diverse and Multicultural Mystery/Suspense, and for Romantic Mystery/Suspense. Other credits include The New York Times, Georgia Magazine, Augusta Magazine, Southern Writers’ Magazine, and Deep South Magazine. In 2018, I was named Atlanta’s Best Local Author by Creative Loafing magazine. Mike lives in Villa Rica with his wife, Angie, and their rescue dog, Scout.

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