Authors, Apply the 80/20 Rule by James M. Jackson – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. James M. Jackson will be awarding the chance to name a character who will appear in FALSE BOTTOM (Seamus McCree #6) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Authors, Apply the 80/20 Rule

In 1906 an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto analyzed the distribution of wealth in Italy and discovered 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth. Fast forward to the 1930s and 40s. Dr. Joseph Juran, an early quality management guru, discovered the broad principle of “the vital few and trivial many.” In the magic of naming conventions, this broad observation, combined with Pareto’s economics work led to this phenomenon being labeled as “Pareto’s Principle.”

Pareto’s work was a single statistic. Juran’s a broad principle. Combined they became the ubiquitous 80/20 rule, which in one general form states that 80% of the results are due to 20% of the actions.

For example, many corporations discover that 80% of their profits are derived from 20% of their customers.

One result of this kind of analysis is frequent buyer programs. Airlines, for example, want to capture business flyers who regularly travel and often pay more for a ticket because they don’t qualify for advanced purchase pricing or multiple day stays. These fliers provide a disproportionate share of airline profits for the same or less cost than the typical family traveler. That’s why airlines heavily promote their frequent flyer programs to retain these profitable customers. The program costs provide relatively large benefits.

How can this concept apply to an independent author?

Let’s look at some statistics from Cabin Fever, the middle of my five books in the Seamus McCree series. It was traditionally published by a small publisher. During the three years of that contract, 85% of the ebooks sold through Amazon (Kindle). Only 15% sold through the combination of Google, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others. The publisher did not promote the title on any of the platforms, so the sales were essentially organic.

When I took back the rights from the publisher, I decided my main task was to grow readership of the series. Given limited time and budget, I doubled down and concentrated my online sales on Amazon. That’s where my buyers were. Selling the electronic version of Cabin Fever exclusively on Amazon meant they would include it in the Kindle Unlimited program (Amazon’s subscription-reading service). My bet was that I would earn more income through Kindle Unlimited than I gave up by eliminating the other venues. As a bonus, it meant I would only have to manage one vendor, one form of the ebook, etc.

After going exclusively with Amazon, I invested in some promotions. In the year and a half since I took over the publishing rights, I have earned as much net after expenses from Amazon sales as I had the first three years with the publisher.

But did Kindle Unlimited replace the 15% of revenue I gave away? Yes, and then some. For every $1.00 I gave up in nonAmazon sales, I made $3.50 from Kindle Unlimited! After seeing the initial results of that experiment, I made all my novels exclusive to Amazon and ratios for the other novels ranged from $2.50 to $4.00.

Here’s another example of applying the 80/20 rule that I learned the hard way: Bookstore signings are generally a waste of time. I read a blog by Joe Konrath that said he no longer went on book tours. And at a local Sisters in Crime meeting, CJ Lyons told me she only does one or two book signings, and those in her home town. I thought to myself – yeah, but they’re already best sellers.

I should have done some analysis instead of going with my gut instinct. Taking Cabin Fever again, I paid a publicist a lot of money to schedule an extensive bookstore tour. Final tally, less than 20% of the paperback books I sold resulted from that tour. The other 80% came from local events I scheduled myself, contingent sales at area bookstores and online. Lesson learned: the extra effort to get those 20% of sales was a poor application of my time (not to mention my money).

The thing most likely to increase overall sales—especially for those who write a series—is a new book. Time spent marketing current books takes away from time writing new books. As an exercise, every author should consider what would happen if she eliminated the least productive 20% of her marketing time and applied that time to writing or editing new material.

Continue to experiment to see what works for you. Remember, fun and enjoyment have intangible benefits. If you really love doing something and would miss it if you didn’t, then keep doing it—but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a good business decision; it’s a life decision, and that’s okay.

If you love the suspense and plot twists of domestic thrillers, this page-turner will be for you. Seamus McCree’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His granddog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body.

His client is to testify in a Chicago money laundering trial. He’s paranoid that with a price on his head, if the police know where he’s staying, the information will leak. Seamus promised his business partner and lover, Abigail Hancock, that he’d keep the witness safe at the McCree family camp located deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s woods.

Abigail is furious at his incompetence and their relationship flounders. Even his often-helpful son, Paddy, must put family safety ahead of helping his father. Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back Abigail. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Dread joined us in the car. Even normally bubbly Megan grew silent.

Loggers had cut a narrow lane through the sixty-foot spruce I had watched come down at the beginning of the Grade, leaving most of the tree in place and towing the cut section to the side. They’d wasted no time on smaller branches littering the road and were opening up a one-lane path. I tiptoed the Outback over the debris and moved through the gap.

At first the downed trees were scattered, although limbs and branches dotted the entire road. But the further north we drove, the worse the damage became until the downed trees were a nearly continuous hazard. Paddy frequently left the car to remove branches with sharp breaks that might puncture a tire. I was regretting we hadn’t taken my old beater truck into town with its multi-ply tires. The Outback carried a donut spare, which wouldn’t last thirty seconds on the gravel roads. We had yet to see any other cars or people.

By the time we passed the five- and six-mile markers without any letup in the damage, tightened metal bands had taken up permanent residence around my chest. I feared for Elliot. I feared for my property. I worried whether I’d get a flat. Whether there would still be a hotel room if I had to send Paddy and Megan to Tall Pines. Megan, on the other hand, had given up her concerns and was in the back seat, singing along with a CD, a cheerful canary amidst the devastation.

About the Author: James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

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Interview: Christopher Bardsley

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Christopher Bardsley who is visiting with us to celebrate today’s print release of Jack Was Here.

Christopher is from Melbourne, Australia, and said that for the most part he loves his city.

“I have only ever attempted to properly run away from it once, and I was not successful,” he told me. “Melbourne probably has all the things a reasonable person could want from a hometown; it’s green, safe, and eminently liveable. It’s predictable, basically, and that’s also the thing about it that can drive me a little mad. Melbourne does not fret through the imagination. It does not have a smell. The places that I really love have a hint of danger to them. But Beirut, Naples and Phnom Penh are cities to have brief, sweaty flings with. Melbourne is a place to come home to.”

Christopher told me that his writing has to be shared with an extremely busy and demanding full-time job – he’s a middle-school teacher and his students make him very happy- proving an essential counterweight to the time he spends in his own head.

“Novels take years to finish, and they can weigh you down a bit,” he explained. “Teaching, conversely, is almost always a pleasure. Finding the balance between the two can be difficult, but I’ve found that I need both in my life. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for punishment, but there’s something gratifying about the full-contact business of educating a roomful of fifteen-year-olds last period on a Friday.”

When it comes to his writing, he likes to wake up, caffeinate himself, and work until midday.

He admitted, “This is rarely possible, though. These days I make time in the evenings, and attack the manuscript for a few hours after dinner. It’s not ideal, but nothing is. Finding time to write is simple. If you want to do it, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. I look at it as a job. If that sounds unromantic, so be it. This is a year-round process, too. There are the occasional days when it is actually impossible to write, but these are few and far between.”

I asked him to us something about Jack Was Here that’s not in the blurb.

“When I was nineteen, I was in the process of enlisting in the Australian armed forces. A few weeks before the medical, I went on a camping road trip with a few friends. While surfing, I ploughed headfirst into a sandbar and crushed three cervical vertebrae in my spine. This injury did not permanently disable me, but it was enough to disqualify me from service. It was obviously catastrophic in the moment, but perhaps this event was not without reason. Hugh Fitzgerald, the protagonist of Jack Was Here, is in many ways the person I might have been if that had not happened to me.”

When it comes to writer’s block, Christopher told me that he’s in agreement with Norman Mailer.

“Most cases of writer’s block can be put down to a simple failure of the ego. Proper writers never run out of ideas. What they do run out of is time, or motivation, or self-belief. A decent streak of stubbornness helps, I think. If you grow accustomed to working without encouragement, then your drive to create will operate on autopilot. We all have our moments of doubt, but I try to not let them grow into anything more than what they are- moments.”

He believes that the most important elements of good writing are story and dialogue.

“I find that language can be overly fetishised by new writers,” he explained. “Powerful prose is completely dependent on the context that it exists in. Great stories can thrive without great language, but great language cannot support itself. Readers need characters and situations that they care about. Anything else that a writer can do is completely dependent on establishing that connection.”

Because of this need for characters, they should always come first, in his estimation.

“You should take care in their making, because once properly complete they are likely to haunt you for the next few years,” he said. “E.L. Doctorow said that writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia, an observation that I have found to be uncomfortably accurate. If you create interesting characters, and give them interesting problems, then the plot should take care of itself.”

“How do you do research for your books?” I asked.

“Travel is a very useful form of investigation, particularly the aimless, wandering variety. Researching fiction is rarely deliberate, and often completely unintentional. Those who spend too much time in my orbit should be warned that they are likely to have their personalities harvested for interesting quirks. To write well, you have to listen well, and part of this is making a habit of surrounding yourself with a variety of people.”

He did admit that writing fiction can be a lonely business.

“There are no excuses in this trade, and an author has nowhere to hide. The success of your work lives and dies on your talent and effort. This is both the best and worst thing about being a writer. It can also be a personally expensive process, and no matter how far you get there is always room for doubt. Uncertainty is in many ways essential to creating decent fiction. Writing a novel can be an exhausting struggle.”

He’s pleased, though, that for the first time in his life he actually has a proper writing space. I asked him to tell us about it.

“I’m currently living in a fairly squalid share-house which, incidentally, is condemned to be demolished at the of the month. Despite this somewhat fraught timeline, I am enjoying my little piece of the world while it lasts. I occupy a creaky, well-ventilated loft, one corner of which is devoted to the many-limbed monster that is my next novel. I’m a messy-desk person, something for which I am completely unapologetic. My finest tool, apart from the laptop, is a cork pin-board covered in a swarm of index cards. This is far superior to my previous system, which relied on post-it notes and proved vulnerable to unexpected gusts of wind.”

When I asked him what authors have most influenced his writing, he told me that it was a very difficult question to answer.

“Inspiration is a strange process, and at its best, both involuntary and invisible. A few authors do spring to mind, though,” he said. “For fiction, Kurt Vonnegut, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cormac McCarthy, Lionel Shriver, Richard Flanagan, and Salman Rushdie. For poetry, Blake, Coleridge, and Byron. For criticism, Harold Bloom. For non-fiction, Orwell and Capote. And of course, being a tweedy English teacher, I am of the firm opinion that the best any writer can hope for is to find new and interesting ways to plagiarise Shakespeare.”

Finally a few fun questions for Christopher.

“Have you ever eaten a crayon?”

“Great question. Most probably. Burnt Sienna seems to strike a chord in my memory. And while we’re on this topic, credit to the good people in the crayon-naming department of the Crayola company for not dumbing down the figurative language. What is Sienna, anyway? A pigment? A person? How, and why, was it or she burnt? A question for the ages.”

“Favorite color?”

“Burnt Sienna. That was a particularly delicious crayon.”

Hugh Fitzgerald is losing control. In the aftermath of a traumatic end to his military career, his life has disintegrated. Hugh is approaching the end of his tether when a desperate plea for help arrives from a most unexpected quarter.

Nineteen-year-old Jack Kerr, halfway through a coming-of-age trip to Thailand, has disappeared. He has left few traces, little information, and absolutely no answers. As the days turn into weeks, his parents grow increasingly frantic.

They approach Hugh with a simple request; do whatever it takes to find their son, and do whatever it takes to bring him home. It sounds easy enough. The money is right. More importantly, it’s something to do – something useful.

But as soon as Hugh touches down in Thailand, the illusion of control begins to slip through his fingers. Jack’s warm trail is easy to find, but it leads somewhere unimaginable. Finally, as he closes in, Hugh is forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures.

About the Author: Born in 1987, Christopher Bardsley was raised in Melbourne, Australia. He undertook his studies at the University of Melbourne, where he received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education. In 2012, Christopher was the recipient of Melbourne University’s Above Water prize for his short story Little Rock. He also received an honourable mention in the 2011 competition for his story Cripple Creek. Christopher has also published poetry and cultural criticism through Farrago magazine.

Christopher spent the beginning of his career teaching history at independent schools in Melbourne. While he is primarily an author of novels, his interests also include modern and ancient history, with a particular focus on interpreting political extremism.

Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

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Least Favorite Questions by Charles Salzberg – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Charles Salzberg who is celebrating the recent release of Second Story Man. Leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of the book.

Least Favorite Questions
Ask any author what their least favorite questions are and most likely two top the list. The first is, “Have I read anything you’ve written?” The real answer: “If you have to ask, probably not” is far too depressing to give, so most likely we’ll say something like, “Well, I’ve got this novel out…” (You may substitute article, poem, shopping list, etc.)

Which leads me to the second least favorite question, “What’s your book about?”

The easiest answer, of course, is the smart-alecky one, “Oh, about three hundred pages,” but that gets stale after a while and it begs the follow-up question. “No, really, what’s it about?”

The real answer is far more complicated. It’s not that we don’t want to tell you what the book is about, it’s rather that we’ve probably spent a year and between 70,000 to 110,000 words telling a story, and to whittle that down to what is commonly known as the “elevator pitch” is practically impossible. At least it is for the author.

And yet we’re expected to come up with an answer that will whet the appetite of the person asking, so they won’t even wait to get to a bookstore to order your book, but will whip out his or her phone and order it right there in front of you.

This predicament is at the top of my mind now, because I’ve just received a questionnaire from my publisher asking me to come up with a couple hundred-word description of my next book for the back cover. And frankly, rather than do that, I’ve decided to write this essay—procrastination is an important part of any writer’s life.

In the past, I’ve come up with an ingenious way of dealing with this. I punted. What I mean is that I’m fortunate enough to have a friend, a fellow author, who for some time made his living writing jacket copy for novels for a major publisher. In a moment that for me is right up there with Eli Whitney coming up with the idea for the cotton gin, I asked said author if, for $100, he’d read my book and come up with that short description of what the book is about. Evidently, he needed the money, or was just being a good friend, because he agreed and I got first-rate book jacket copy.

But that felt a little like cheating, and so I only used him once, figuring instead that I ought to challenge myself and, after all, it was my responsibility.

This brings me to the reason I’m writing this guest blog: I’ve got a new novel coming out that I’d like everyone in the world to read and for that to happen they’ve probably got to a) be aware it’s being published, and b) know what it’s about.

So, here goes (and please, be gentle with me—it may not be my first time, but it never gets any easier).

The name of the novel is Second Story Man, and no, it’s not about an itinerant storyteller who travels the world telling stories over and over again (if it were, I’ve just given the answer to that pesky question). Actually, the title refers to Francis Hoyt, a master burglar and, if you ask Hoyt himself, as well as his many victims, the best damn thief in the world. It’s late spring and Hoyt, arrogant, brilliant, athletic, dangerous and manipulative, is on his way north after wintering in Florida, following the money, so to speak. Waiting for him are two men, Charlie Floyd, a recently retired state of Connecticut investigator, and Manny Perez, a Cuban-American Miami police detective.

The novel is a cat-and-mouse game with Floyd and Perez, who also consider themselves the best at what they do, trying to out-think Hoyt and thereby bring him to justice. At the same time Hoyt, who learns he’s being pursued by these two men, taunts them while he does everything he can to not only elude them but also to humiliate them. The novel is told from all three points-of-view, and as the two lawmen get closer to nailing Hoyt, the stakes keep being raised.

There. I’ve done it. And you’d think I’d be relieved, but I’m not. Why? Because I know my friend could have done a much better job than I just did. But please, even though you don’t know me, cut me some slack. After all, I’m just the author so how could I possibly tell you in a couple hundred words what it took me eighty-thousand words to write?

Francis Hoyt, arrogant, athletic, brilliant, manipulative and ruthless, is a master burglar. He specializes in stealing high-end silver, breaking into homes that seem impenetrable. He’s never been caught in the act, although he has spent some time in prison on a related charge, time he used to hone his craft and make valuable connections. (Hoyt is based on two real-life master burglars: the so-called Dinnertime Bandit, who only stole when his victims were home, and The Silver Thief, who was only interested in high-end silver). Hoyt follows the money. In the winter, he works down south, primarily in southern Florida and Georgia, around the Atlanta area. Summers, he moves back up north, where he plies his trade in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

One day, Charlie Floyd, brilliant, stubborn, an experienced investigator, who has recently retired from his job with the attorney general’s department for the state of Connecticut, receives a phone call from Manny Perez, a Cuban-American Miami police detective. Perez, who’s worked with Floyd previously, wants to enlist the former investigator in his efforts to put an end to Francis Hoyt’s criminal career. Floyd accepts the offer and they team up to bring Hoyt to justice.

Second Story Man, told in alternating chapters, representing Hoyt’s, Floyd’s and Perez’s points-of-view, develops into a cat-and-mouse contest between the two lawmen and this master burglar. As Floyd and Perez get closer to their prey, Hoyt finds out they’re after him and rather than backing down, he taunts them, daring them to bring him in. As the story develops, the stakes get higher and higher, and Hoyt, who is always concerned about proving he’s the best at what he does, even resorts to murder. Eventually, the story climaxes in a confrontation between the three men.

About the Author: Charles Salzberg is a novelist, a journalist, and an acclaimed writing instructor.

His new novel, Devil in the Hole, a gripping work of literary crime fiction based on the notorious John List murders, is on shelves now.

He is the author of the Henry Swann detective series: Swann Dives In; Swann’s Last Song, which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel; and the upcoming Swann’s Lake of Despair.

His non-fiction books include: On A Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place: Baseball’s 10 Worst Teams of the Century; From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, An Oral History of the NBA; and co-author of My Zany Life and Times, by Soupy Sales; Catch Them Being Good; and The Mad Fisherman.

He has been a Visiting Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, the Writer’s Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is a consulting editor at the webzine and co-host, with Jonathan Kravetz, of the reading series, Trumpet Fiction, at KGB in New York City.

His freelance work has appeared in such publications as Esquire, New York Magazine, GQ, Elle, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, The New York Times Arts and Leisure section, The New York Times Book Review, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

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One for the Price of Two by Howard Weiner – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Howard Weiner 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.

Fraternal twins are raised by an ambivalent aunt who provides an unusual childhood experience. One twin leaves home to join the armed forces and is ultimately assigned to a Special Forces unit conducting clandestine operations in North Korea. The death of one his unit members produces an introduction to an organized crime family specializing in murder for hire. The funeral for the family’s son and an interest in their daughter brings new blood and methods to the family business.


Enjoy an Excerpt

Later, she found she couldn’t explain what it was about the passenger who boarded in the midst of the newbies. He was taller than most, but that wasn’t it. His facial features were smooth, rounded with none of the angular bone structures most men had. He wore one of those rugby shirts with the parallel horizontal lines much like the old TV test patterns. His skin was light, very light. Perhaps that was it. Who lived in Las Vegas with milky white skin?

His long sandy hair was tied in the back—a man bun.

The horror that was the boarding process mercifully came to an end. The late hour guaranteed a quick trip to their runway and takeoff. Planes waiting to depart were not stacked up. A long, but quick taxi ride to the take-off area was the only thing between the plane and flight. Quickly, they were airborne, and shortly thereafter, they reached cruising altitude. Drink and snack service began.

The senior flight attendant encouraged economy passengers scattered throughout the plane to move forward. Seating was plentiful, and they wanted to bring this part of the flight service program to an end.

She completed the business class service and turned her attention to staging the extra beverages and ice needed to begin service in the economy section, when one of the other attendants started to complain.

“Didn’t she hear us ask everyone in economy to please move forward?”

“I’m sorry,” she started, “who are you talking about?”

“The tall woman sitting in front of the rear bulkhead.”

“Describe her,” she prompted.

“Tall, milky complexion, soft features, pony-tail, wearing a rugby dress.” She paused, “Can you imagine? Skin like that in the hot desert sun. She must hide under a ton of sun screen and big hats. Poor thing.”

“Did you say a woman?” she asked.

“Yes, a woman.”

The only person who fit that description was a man she saw during boarding.

Wow, she thought. It’s been a long day. Did I mistake a woman for a man?

About the Author:

Howard Weiner is a recent addition to the literary genre of fiction. Writing mysteries, thrillers, crimes—with a touch of romance—an approach described by one reader as “one bubble off.”

Many authors sharing the genre have characters whose fortune is determined by others. They literally have dodged the bullet that otherwise would have killed them. Weiner’s characters make their own fortune—good or bad—and they live with the results.

Weiner’s own experiences are blessed with no small number of noteworthy characters and events. He brings these slightly off-kilter individuals to life, complete with their own stories and dramas. Like the child prodigy in his first novel, “It Is Las Vegas After All”, who comes to the starting edge of adulthood and then loses the approval of his doting parents, the sponsorship of one of America’s great institutions of higher education, and gains the enmity of his girlfriend’s father—an international arms dealer—to become a home-grown terrorist operating on U.S. Soil.

A survivor of rich, nuanced bureaucracies in the public and private sector, Weiner writes about characters whose career choices and decisions are morally questionable. A student of personal behavior in complex circumstances, Weiner brings these often cringe-worthy characters to life. Some are amoral, others immoral in a narrow slice of their lives, yet they otherwise look and act like people we all know from work or even childhood. Like one of the female leads in his novel, “Serendipity Opportunity”, an out-of-the-box thinker who flunks most of life’s basic relationship tests, yet she is someone you never want pursuing you in the cause of justice. There’s a former foreign security official who uses his protected status as a witness for federal prosecutors to provide cover for his own mayhem and murder in Weiner’s third novel, “Bad Money”.

Many of Weiner’s stories are born out of real life events: The mix-up in luggage claim at the airport in, “Bad Money”, the chronic high school slacker in “Serendipity Opportunity” whose one stroke of good fortune creates his opportunity to perpetrate a complex series of frauds, or the brilliant student in “It Is Las Vegas After All” who uses his prodigious talents toward an evil end.

As a former federal official, Weiner can neither confirm nor deny having the highest security clearances in classified security programs. Yet, his knowledge of the dark web, criminal organizations, and security organizations takes stories from the popular press to the next level.

Amazon Author Page | Website
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A Hole in One by Judy Penz Sheluk – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

Hoping to promote the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, co-owners Arabella Carpenter and Emily Garland agree to sponsor a hole in one contest at a charity golf tournament. The publicity turns out to be anything but positive, however, when Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods next to a corpse.

They soon learn that the victim is closely related to Arabella’s ex-husband, who had been acting as the Course Marshal. With means, opportunity, and more than enough motive, he soon becomes the police department’s prime suspect, leaving Arabella and Emily determined to clear his name—even if they’re not entirely convinced of his innocence.

Dogged by incriminating online posts from an anonymous blogger, they track down leads from Emily’s ex-fiancé (and the woman he left Emily for), an Elvis impersonator, and a retired antiques mall vendor with a secret of her own.

All trails lead to a mysterious cult that may have something to do with the murder. Can Arabella and Emily identify the killer before the murderer comes after them?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Arabella Carpenter let the others go first. All three managed to clear the pond with their tee shot and land on the green, but not one was anywhere close to getting a hole in one. Arabella breathed a sigh of relief—since they were sponsoring the contest, their foursome might not be eligible to win, but it still freaked her out to think someone else might. She went through her mental prep, took her swing, and watched as her ball went directly into the woods.

“Hey, you made it over the water,” Hudson said, hopping into his cart. “For someone just starting out, that’s not a bad shot.”

Arabella caught Emily’s look and smiled. He really was a nice guy. “Thanks, Hudson. Whether I can find my ball is an entirely different story. Why don’t I look for it while you guys putt in? I’m sure one of you will be able to make the shot.”

They crossed the pond on a wooden bridge just wide enough for their golf carts, parked on the path next to the hole, and grabbed their putters. Luke, Hudson, and Emily went to the green and began debating which ball to hit. Arabella trundled over to the woods, feeling stupid and hoping like hell it wasn’t infested with poison ivy. The woods were thicker than she’d expected. She walked in a couple of feet, using her putter to push the branches aside.

That’s when she started to scream.

About the Author:

An Amazon international bestselling author, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE and A HOLE IN ONE) and The Marketville Mysteries (SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC). Her short crime fiction appears is included in several collections, including LIVE FREE OR TRI.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews and showcases the works of other authors and blogs about the writing life.

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Chicken Culprit by Vikki Walton – Spotlight and Giveaway

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

Chicken Culprit is only $0.99 at Amazon!

Moving to Colorado seemed like a great way to start over. In Carolan Springs, Anne plans to spend her days living the simpler life.

But when her neighbor is found dead in his compost pile, trouble comes knocking on Anne’s door.

All the evidence points to Anne’s other neighbor, Kandi Jenkins. As the young woman begs Anne for help, Anne finds herself thrust into a world of deceit and secrets.

Who had the most to gain from Ralph’s death? As the suspect list grows, Anne finds her desire for the simple life may have led her to something sinister.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Anne yawned and stretched her hands over her head. She unlocked the kitchen window, taking in a deep breath of crisp Colorado air and sighed loudly. No longer would she have to deal with divorce lawyers or Duke. She could finally live her life as she saw fit.

Anne surveyed her domain. Even though boxes cluttered every available space, it didn’t matter to her. What she cared about was that it was all hers. While the work ahead might seem daunting, the prospect of transforming the old Victorian house didn’t deter Anne.

She poured herself a cup of coffee, both hands cradling the mug, before deciding to drink it out on the back porch. Rays of sunshine had risen about the copse at the back of her property, and its golden warmth welcomed the day. Raising the mug to her mouth, Anne took a much-needed sip of the hot morning brew.

“Stop! Stop!” A woman’s voice carried over from the other yard.

Anne sloshed coffee onto her chambray shirt. “Shoot!” She set her cup down on the railing. The liquid turning cold began seeping onto her skin.

“Stop!” The piercing scream came again.

About the Author: Vikki is a well-liked speaker and knowledgeable instructor on myriad topics such as fundraising, work quilting, creative writing, design, homesteading, travel, and getting what you really want out of life. Her diverse background and passions enables Vikki to speak and write about many subjects. She’s the author of Work Quilting, a top ten book on vocational guidance. She’s also a global house and petsitter, founder and travel blogger at and upcoming book on women’s travel.

If Vikki isn’t off exploring the globe, you’ll find her at her home in Colorado digging in the garden, watching her chicken’s antics, reading a mystery or working on her newest project.

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Moonlight City Drive by Brian Paone – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

11:18 p.m. Subject is checking into the Desert Palms Motel, accompanied by an unknown female.

Snapshot in the parking lot. Man and woman embrace. Betrayal, I see it every day, like my own reflection in the mirror staring back at me. Another case, another bottle of booze, life is no longer a mystery to me …

… Because I’m the private eye, hot on your trail; the top gun for hire. You’ll find me lurking in the shadows, always searching for a clue. I’m the bulletproof detective. I got my eye on you …

What’s a little sin under the covers, what’s a little blood between lovers? What’s a little death to be discovered, cold stiff body under the covers?

I’m digging you a desert grave, underneath the burning sun. You won’t be found by anyone. Vultures circle in the sky, and you, my dear, are the reason why.

… I was always easily influenced.

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Smith twisted the key as hard as he could and heard a popping noise as the locking mechanism finally gave way. He pushed open his office door and entered the dark room. He tossed his keys onto his desk; they slid a short distance before a stack of time-faded papers and case-file folders abruptly stopped them.

Flicking the light switch, the room illuminated with an anemic-brown glow from the single dusty bulb. He took a step toward the coffee percolator on the windowsill, and his toe caught the corner of a tied-up pile of newspapers dating back at least ten years.

Smith exhaled loudly with a frustrated grunt and kneeled beside the newspaper bundle; the air escaping from his lungs carried the stench of day-old consumed alcohol, topped off with more last night that led to closing time this morning. He really hadn’t slept. He napped for a couple hours, then came here. He removed the Swiss Army knife from his pants and cut the twine, freeing the newspapers, watching as they avalanched to the floor.

He used his palm to shuffle and smear the newspapers around his office floor. His gaze quickly scanned his name plastered on all the headlines, praising the ex-deputy-now-turned-private-eye for all the scum he had gotten off the street, as well as locating abducted kids, reuniting long-lost biological parents of orphans, and exposing spouses who may have forgotten their vows. Smith had seen more than he cared to remember while he had been a sheriff’s deputy and could now safely check the box marked Seen It All since becoming a private eye.

About the Author:Brian Paone was born and raised in the Salem, Massachusetts area. Brian has, thus far, published four novels: a memoir about being friends with a drug-addicted rock star, Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts; a macabre cerebral-horror novel, Welcome to Parkview; a time-travel romance novel, Yours Truly, 2095, (which was nominated for a Hugo Award, though it did not make the finalists); and a supernatural, crime-noir detective novel, Moonlight City Drive. Along with his four novels, Brian has published three short stories: “Outside of Heaven,” which is featured in the anthology, A Matter of Words; “The Whaler’s Dues,” which is featured in the anthology, A Journey of Words; and “Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys),” which is featured in the anthology, A Haunting of Words. Brian is also a vocalist and has released seven albums with his four bands: Yellow #1, Drop Kick Jesus, The Grave Machine, and Transpose. He is married to a US Naval Officer, and they have four children. Brian is also a police officer and has been working in law enforcement since 2002. He is a self-proclaimed roller coaster junkie, a New England Patriots fanatic, and his favorite color is burnt orange. For more information on all his books and music, visit his website.


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Why I Write by Dale E. Lehman – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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

Why I Write

I’m probably an odd sort of writer. In school, my strengths ran to math and science more than language arts. My wife refers to me as a “numbers person” and to herself as a “words person.” (Together we make one well-rounded human being!) I like to read, but I don’t read terribly fast and haven’t read as widely as most writers. Writing well enough that people will consent to read my work has been a long, hard struggle, and although I’ve come a long way, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still learning. So why do I bother?

Because I love to tell stories. I’ve been writing stories since I was very young and writing in earnest since junior high school. I suspect a genetic component to this. My father wrote fiction and essays and poetry throughout his life, although I only found out a few years before he died of pancreatic cancer. One of my great uncles wrote a story about my great-great-great-grandfather’s epic migration from south central Ohio to western Ohio in the early 1800’s. (Okay, it doesn’t sound like much, but back then western Ohio was sparsely settled by European interlopers and still home to some of the indigenous peoples of the region.) My father had the manuscript retyped for distribution to family members and added an introduction in which he said, “The Lehmans have always been storytellers.” I don’t doubt it!

Indeed, although I usually think of storytelling in terms of writing, when I changed jobs a few years ago, a colleague I was leaving behind told me, “I’m going to miss your stories.” She wasn’t talking about my writing, but rather about the stories I told in the course of conversation. With some frequency, a discussion will remind me of some incident from my life or a tale I’ve heard from someone else, and I’ll relate it. It wouldn’t surprise me if a substantial percentage of my contributions to conversation are of this kind.

Writers write for all manner of reasons. The eighteenth century English writer Samuel Johnson famously said, “Nobody but a fool ever wrote for anything but money.” Most of us wouldn’t mind making money from writing, but few make very much and most—sorry, sir—write for reasons other than money without being fools. Some write to express their thoughts and beliefs. Some write in the hope of winning converts to a cause. Some write with stars or, yes, dollar signs in their eyes. But me?
I just enjoy telling you stories, and I very much hope that you’ll enjoy the stories I tell. I may be more numbers person than words person, and I may have to struggle more than some other writers to find the right word or phrase or image. But most days I can tell a darn good story.

Won’t you pull up a seat and listen?

The forecast: Record cold. The crimes: Colder still.

A saintly young veterinary technician disappears on Christmas Eve, leaving behind only a broken window and smears of blood on his clinic’s back steps. Two years later, his disappearance remains a mystery. A home in an exclusive area burns to the ground, mirroring fires ignited the previous year by an arsonist who now sits in prison. Is the new fire a copycat, or has the wrong man been convicted? A criminal with a long list of enemies is shot dead, and not even his friends are sorry. While temperatures plummet, cold cases collide with new crimes, and somewhere a killer with blood as icy as the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watches and waits.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Hannah took two pairs of latex gloves from her pocket and handed one pair to Harold. They pulled them on, careful not to rip them, then Harold eased up the short flight of wooden steps leading to the door, his footfalls quieter than a rabbit’s. He gently rotated the knob. Of course it was locked, but it never hurt to check. No sense smashing things if the owner had invited them in. Leaning to the left, he felt around the nearest window, examined it in detail, and gingerly tried to push up the lower sash. Again, no luck. Again, none expected.

Hannah tiptoed up the steps while he worked and stood close behind him. “Hammer,” she whispered, pulling the tool from her coat pocket and handing it to him like a nurse handing a scalpel to a surgeon.

He took the hammer and with a swift stroke smashed the pane, then cleaned the jagged shards from the sash with the head. Falling splinters chattered as they struck the floor inside. Once satisfied the opening was clean, he helped Hannah through the window. She moved so quietly she might have vanished, but in his mind Harold could see her go to the door, disarm the alarm with the code they had been given, and unlock the deadbolt. The door whispered open.

He slipped inside and eased the door shut, then took her face in his hands and kissed her on the forehead. She beamed, a dog basking in her master’s approval.

The very next instant, the job went horribly wrong.

About the Author: Dale E. Lehman is a veteran software developer, amateur astronomer, and bonsai artist in training. He is the author of the Howard County Mysteries series (The Fibonacci Murders, True Death, and Ice on the Bay ). His writing has also appeared in Sky & Telescope and a couple of software development journals. With his wife Kathleen he owns and operates One Voice Press and Serpent Cliff. They have five children, five grandchildren, and two feisty cats.

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Havana Blues by David Pereda – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. David Pereda 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.

The year is 1952 and Ramon Rodriguez’s life as a teenager in fun-loving Havana is filled with typical activities and concerns: girls, education, religion, baseball, parties, and hanging out with friends. The country is enjoying a period of prosperity and happiness–until General Batista stages a coup that topples the government and Ramon’s life is flung into chaos.

In a few short years, the carefree fifties morph into a vicious and repressive dictatorship highlighted by corruption, organized gambling, school closures, student demonstrations, police brutality, and assassinations.

As Ramon experiences the thrills of his first romantic relationship, graduates from school, and struggles to plan for an uncertain future, he is forced to make important decisions that may be dangerous to him, his family, his friends, and his girlfriend – the beautiful Sonia — and could turn deadly.

Enjoy an Excerpt

My room was on fire. Orange tongues licked the crumbling walls and snaked across the burning floor toward my bed. Thick gray smoke choked me. My ears throbbed with an insistent and reverberating sound.

I couldn’t breathe.

I gasped for air. My palms felt sweaty, and my heart thrashed against my rib cage, as if trying to escape my chest. I opened my eyes. For a moment, I was in a bright and silent void – then I heard my parents arguing in the kitchen.

It was a hot and sunny morning. I had been dreaming of hell again, and the alarm clock was ringing.

I shut it off.

Ever since Brother Santiago had given in Religion class a week ago a vivid and realistic description of hell as punishment for masturbation and having sex with prostitutes, I’d had the same dream over and over. Amid much commotion and speculation, Pacheco, the frail student with a perennially runny nose who sat behind me in class, fainted and had to be carted off to the school infirmary, pale and limp like a noodle in won ton soup. Everyone in class knew Pacheco was an assiduous masturbator – he bragged about it to other students often enough – but his blackout generated great speculation
in the school about his frequent visits to brothels. I wondered what kind of nightmares Pacheco was having.

On second thought, I really didn’t want to know. I had enough with my own nightmares of hell.

I stretched lazily in bed. Today was a special day. It was my birthday. I was fifteen years old.

A door slammed somewhere, and once more I was aware of my parents’ angry voices in the kitchen. I likened their arguments to a sort of word symphony, the sound of their voices harmonized so well. My mother’s shrill, piercing sting was a nearly perfect complement to my father’s placating hum.

Though I couldn’t hear them clearly, I guessed what they were arguing about – money. Ever since Papa’s broom-making business started going bad, it seemed money was all they ever talked about.

About the Author:

David Pereda was born in Havana, Cuba. The award-winning author of seven previous novels, he enjoys crafting political thrillers and edgy mainstream novels with unique characters placed in exotic settings. He has traveled to more than thirty countries and speaks four languages. Before devoting his time solely to writing and teaching, David had a successful international consulting career with global giant Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked with the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Qatar, among others.

A member of MENSA, David earned his MBA from Pepperdine University in California. He earned bachelor degrees in English literature and mathematics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He lives in artistic Asheville, North Carolina, with his youngest daughter Sophia, where he teaches mathematics and English at the Asheville-Buncombe Community College. He loves sports and is an accomplished competitor in track and show-jumping equestrian events.

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Deep Sahara by Leslie Croxford – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Leslie will be awarding $10 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.

Dear Reader,

You do not know me. Why, then, should you read my book? Let us start with the one thing you do know: that it is a novel entitled DEEP SAHARA. The Sahara, like the ocean, jungle and sky, is very large. So you will expect to come upon something big among the desert’s distant sands. But it will also be deep. And while this refers to geographical extent and remoteness it also implies emotional depth. You can then anticipate that the big thing will happen not only in that far-off place conjured up by the title but also within an individual’s most intimate being.

As might be imagined then, DEEP SAHARA advances through a man who, living in Rome, wants to recover from a nervous breakdown provoked by the death of his wife. Taking advice from a family friend he retreats to a monastery in the Sahara to prepare a book on desert insects and, more importantly, to find himself.

On arriving at the monastery the man is unable to summon up the Guest Master. It’s late at night and presumably all the monks are sleeping. He has to climb over the monastery wall, into its garden and make his way into the chapel where he will wait until morning.

But there he – and you the Reader – discover something unspeakable. All the monks have been slaughtered. Why? By whom? Can there be any question of this man, coming here so far from home to take stock of himself, remaining in the monastery?

A police chief urgently offers him safe passage. Numb and exhausted, he refuses. It’s an impulse he barely understands at the time. And it confronts him with the emptiness of the monastery, of the Sahara – of himself. He is facing his personal zero point.

Yet, over the following weeks and months, his solitude in that vast nullity is broken by a succession of encounters, all strange but somehow connected to him. Each appears to conceal some kind of secret. Even the insects he has come to study are deformed, embodying an awful, hidden reality.

The man is forced to confront the deepest mysteries of his own past. And through his discovery that the Sahara is providing the depths in which to find himself, the novel makes a reality of what a discerning reader might expect on first picking up DEEP SAHARA.

Recovering from a nervous breakdown preceded by the death of his wife, Klaus Werner takes advice from a family friend and retreats to a monastery in the Algerian Sahara to sketch desert insects for a book. Upon arrival, however, he discovers a fresh crime scene: the monks have all been slaughtered as they went about their daily routine. Violent extremists, active in the area, are suspected. Numb and exhausted, Werner declines a police chief s offer of safe passage.

Despite the shock of the murders, the desert seems to promise solace, a vast nullity against which Werner can take stock of himself and do his work. Yet, over the weeks and months that follow, his solitude is broken by a succession of encounters with travelling hermits, desert warriors, an attractive American paleontologist and others, all strangely connected to him. Each appears to conceal some kind of secret; even the insects he has come to study are mysteriously deformed, embodying an awful, hidden reality … Soon Werner is forced to confront the echoes of one of the darkest moments in modern history, and to come to terms with the deepest reaches of his own past.

Deep Sahara is as suspenseful as it is a subtle exploration of one man’s emotional resurgence, rendered sparingly and with great physical and psychological precision.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Prologue: Memoir

The front door has just closed. I’m finally alone in the apartment, using this morning’s stillness to begin the account I’ve been wanting to write for days. It’s a letter to myself after the battering I’ve received from the media – not to mention the anonymous death threats – for attacking our so-called “pillars of society”.

I need to sift through all that happened out at the end of the world, coming back to me now like some dream. For the Sahara’s a place of mirages you can actually photograph: palm trees, oases, expanses of cool water, silent cities – there, but unreal. Conjuring up the past, I want to reassure myself that all I claimed to have found among those shifting sands, on returning here to Rome, far from being the figment of my imagination critics allege, is actually the case: that the experience of unearthing – of understanding – what I have revealed has made me into a new person.

Silence holds heavy. The blankness of this page is as intimidating as the desert itself. Still, I’ve plunged in, covering the paper like a suspect instructed by the police to write everything down. And though I’m no criminal, I’m scribbling both as a release and for the reader I sense exists, but can’t identify. This I do know: it’s someone with whom the self I’ve achieved – as well as how I’ve done so – strike a chord. He’ll see me as the solitary figure I was, in a monk’s habit like a Bedouin’s burnoose, lost against the pitiless Saharan sky. And he’ll find me faced with coming to myself in that emptiness to which life had finally brought me.

Yet, writing, so much I must recall is painful. I’m concerned that I’ve little more than my memory – that mirage – to rely upon, especially after all this time. Nevertheless, I know I must set out fully everything that took place, to see what was actually so, for my own peace of mind.

That’s why I have set aside the book I keep telling myself I should be working on. I’ve no alternative now but to write and finally establish the full story of what happened in the deep Sahara.

About the Author: Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman’s Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

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