New Release! DARKHAVEN Review and Author Interview


Today, I’m over-the-moon excited to be a part of the DARKHAVEN release party!!! Not only did I read and review (and absolutely LOVE) the book, I managed to score an interview with author A.F.E. Smith! In addition to the interview and review, we’ve also got a scavenger hunt and giveaway. AND, there’s a Facebook party you are invited to join where you can win tons of prizes. So, without further rambling from me, allow me to introduce A.F.E. Smith…


Hi, A.F.E. and welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi, Tricia, and thanks for having me! Hmm, a bit about me … well, I work as an academic editor during the day and a fantasy writer at night. Thus far I haven’t accidentally-on-purpose added a swordfight into a textbook about number theory, but I’m working on it. I’m also the mother of two children, who I refer to online as Small and Tiny, though they’re rapidly outgrowing those names. My favourite food is pasta, my favourite number is five and my favourite Beatle is George. And I’m sometimes a robin.

Please tell us about your new book, Darkhaven.

It’s a fantasy murder mystery. The main characters are a brother and sister, Myrren and Ayla Nightshade, who belong to a ruling family of shapeshifters. Their father is murdered, all the evidence points to Ayla being the culprit, and the book follows both of them as they work from different angles to try and figure out who really did it. Plus there are swords, pistols, lots of action, a bit of romance, a few plot twists here and there …

I just finished reading Darkhaven (check out my review below!) and it is phenomenal. Is there the possibility of a sequel in the future? 

Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, there is a sequel coming next year. Two, in fact. Book 2 is currently with the publisher and Book 3 is being written as we speak. Like Darkhaven, they are standalone stories, but some of the same characters will tie all the books together.

How in the world did you come up with the idea for the book?

It grew from the first scene – though at the time, my vague plot idea was a little different. I had one particular character in mind to be the villain, only it then occurred to me that the story would be much more interesting if that person wasn’t a villain at all. Sorry, I’m being a bit vague here to avoid spoilers (though since you’ve read it, you may be able to guess who I’m talking about!).

Overall, though, I think the core idea for this book was one of plot rather than of concept or setting or character. All those things are linked, but you have to have a seed to start them off – like the grit in the middle of a pearl (she says, blithely comparing her book to a pearl). In this case, the seed was very much a plot seed. The whole story hinges on the identity of the murderer, which I guess is typical for a murder mystery. Even a murder mystery hybrid.

Having said that, I think someone would enjoy the book even if they figured out the identity of the murderer straight away. The plot may have been the seed, but everything I write turns out to be about people more than anything – so it’s the relationships that matter, not the mystery.

I’m in awe of the intricate world you created. Where is Darkhaven and who is in charge?

Darkhaven itself is a tower at the heart of a capital city, Arkannen. The city is made up of seven concentric rings and Darkhaven is at the centre of the innermost. It is ruled by the Nightshade family, who have the hereditary ability to shift shape into certain powerful creatures – Firedrake, Unicorn and so on. Their country, Mirrorvale, is quite small and surrounded by larger neighbours, so one of its main protections is the existence of these fearsome and apparently indestructible creatures. As a result, the overlords of Darkhaven have become very focused on preserving the purity of their bloodline, and this causes problems for Myrren and Ayla in the book.


As overlord, Myrren faces challenges early on. How does his internal conflict affect his approach to dealing with these challenges?

Myrren is a perfectionist and a people-pleaser, which stems from the fact that he was born without the shapeshifter gift of his bloodline. He has spent his entire life since he came of age trying to make up for what his father perceives as a fatal deficiency. So although – being the older child and the only son – he’s been brought up as his father’s heir, he doesn’t have much confidence in that role. And his father’s declared intention to disinherit him in favour of Ayla doesn’t help much.

What that does to him, of course, is leave him in a very unstable position when his father dies unexpectedly. He becomes overlord in name, but not in spirit. And so his battle is as much with himself as it is with any external obstacles he has to face.

Really, I see Myrren as being the perfect example of the devastating effect that parents can have on their children when they try to force them to be something other than who they are.

Ayla is another complicated character. What are her flaws and how do they make things worse for her?

Ayla is impetuous and argumentative, though I’m not sure she’d see those as flaws. She is far more outspoken than her brother; he tends to give in to their father, whereas she will always fight back. But she’s become so used to fighting that she doesn’t always recognise when someone is on her side. Nor is she very good at recognising the times when diplomacy would actually be a better approach. She digs in her heels and refuses to budge, and that stubbornness can exacerbate a situation.

I think she also comes across as judgemental and unfriendly, sometimes, but those flaws aren’t part of her true character. They’re part of the defences she put up after her mother’s death. Over the course of the book she begins to soften a bit and let her better nature creep back through.

Which character was easier to write? Who was the most challenging?

The easiest was probably Tomas Caraway, my failed Helmsman (bodyguard to the royal family) – because if I’m allowed to have a favourite character, he’s probably the one. There’s just something satisfying about writing the kind of personal redemption arc he goes through.

The hardest … Owen Travers, Captain of the Helm, who is in pursuit of Ayla to lock her up for her father’s murder. He does some awful things, but he’s not capital-e Evil. Very few people are. So although I don’t want readers to like him, I do want them to understand him a bit. It was rather like arguing passionately for a position I don’t believe in.

What projects are you currently working on?

The two books that follow Darkhaven come first for now, but I also have various other projects on the go. They include a more epic-style fantasy series, as well as a young adult series set in this world. Of course these other series have had to take a back seat while I focus on the Darkhaven books, but I hope to return to them before too long.

Where can readers go to find out more about Darkhaven?

I have a page about Darkhaven (the book) and a page about Arkannen (the setting) on my website. The latter includes the outline sketch of a map, which might be useful and/or fun if you like that kind of thing. There’s also a page for the Darkhaven blog tour.

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

And finally, if you’re interested in buying a copy of the book for the truly awesome price of $3.99/£1.99, here are a variety of links to choose from:

HarperCollins | Amazon (global link) | Barnes & Noble | Google play | iBooks | Kobo


Book title: DARKHAVEN
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.


My Review: When Ayla escapes captivity, she finds herself in greater danger than she ever imagined possible. She can’t return to Darkhaven – not without facing punishment for a crime she didn’t commit. Myrren, desperate to investigate his father’s murder and clear his sister’s name, finds more questions than answers. Ayla teams up with the person she swore she’d never forgive, while Myrren has to determine who he can and cannot trust as he endeavors to investigate a string of attacks. When the mystery is solved, the implications are shocking and one thing is certain- Ayla’s and Myrren’s lives will never be the same.

Amazing. That’s the only word I can think of to describe this book. From the moment I began reading, I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading the last half of the book in one sitting. Yes, it’s that good! This book has everything – fantasy, sword battles, mythical creatures, shapeshifting, and more. All these elements are blended together perfectly in the world Smith has created. When you add in the cast of well-written, believable, likable (and not-so-likable) characters, you’ve got the perfect combination, at least in my opinion. I’m a sucker for complicated, multifaceted characters, and that’s what I’ve found in this book.

I would recommend this book to just about everyone. There’s so much that sets this book apart and makes it wonderfully unique. You won’t find better world-building and you won’t find better characters. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Want to follow the tour? 
Check out the Tour homepage:

Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

Categories: author interview, authors to watch, book launch, book release, book review, fantasy, interview | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Interview with Barbara G. Tarn

Today’s guest is Barbara G. Tarn, author of numerous novels and a contributor to the fantasy/horror anthology, Strange Portals which is currently free on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

strange portals

Welcome, Barb. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi, my name is Barb, and I’m write-aholic. I’m so prolific that I’m using 3 pen names, although they’re not really necessary at this time… but I’m too lazy to get rid of those 12-15 titles each and put everything under the same name! So, the main pseudonym, Barbara G.Tarn, writes SFF. B.G. Hope writes contemporary stories and some urban fantasy. And Barbara Sangiorgio I keep for the stories set in Italy (at the moment still in Italian, but I plan on translating some soon) – I’m Italian, and I have a bilingual production.

When did you begin writing?

Last century, when I entered my teens. I had just come back to Rome after 8 years abroad in French-speaking countries and hated everything about Italy. So I started making up stuff and writing it down.

Can you tell us about your story (or stories) in the anthology, Strange PortalsWhat inspired you to write it?

I have two stories – Samantha’s Day by B.G. Hope, which shows my witch (responsible for a number of body switches) visiting her “victims” and then meeting the vampires of Amaranthine by Joleene Naylor. I plan to write her meeting with a Desi vampire sometimes this year. The other story, A Bloody Story of Vampires, is the only Barbara G.Tarn’s story that seemed to fit the theme of the anthology and isn’t tied to the rest of the production…. it’s one of my oldest written in English and I wrote it for a friend who had a fanzine (paper and photocopies…) in the late 1990s.

Please tell us about your other published work.

The main pen name has a number of books out, set on the world of Silvery Earth. It’s adult unconventional fantasy QUILTBAG friendly. Check the Silvery Earth page for suggestions on where to begin. The 25+ titles include a graphic novel as well (I’m a hobbyist artist, that’s why you can also find me on DeviantART).

What projects are you currently working on?9f4d8ab0f86d476adfa2983da6fe6a66ebfa0205

The other (shorter) series by Barbara G.Tarn is science fantasy. Star Minds has two books that came out in previous years, the brand new Star Minds Next Generation and I’m currently working on the companion of Next Generation for a March release. So I’m writing science fantasy for the whole of February, then I’ll decide if the Desi (and shirtless) vampire has his story ready to tell or I should go back to Silvery Earth (the New one). The new Silvery Earth is under the name of Barbara G.Tarn. The old Silvery Earth, where Samantha the witch lives (when she’s not wandering into other universes – books, movies, or alien planets), is under the pseudonym of B.G. Hope. But it’s the same person. The name is the same, the world is not.

Star Minds Next Generation is available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Barnes&Noble, Apple, Smashwords, and soon in print.

Do you have a book recommendation to share with us?

Amaranthine series by Joleene Naylor. I was stuck to Ann Rice’s vampires (Interview, Vampire Lestat and Queen of Damned) when I bumped into Jorick – it was love at first sight (but don’t tell Katelina)! And then Verchiel came along… but don’t tell him!

Excellent recommendation. I love the Amaranthine series. What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Just keep writing. Pour out that million words of crap and keep going. If you have the burning desire to tell stories, just do it!


About the author:

Barbara G.Tarn is a writer, sometimes artist, mostly a world-creator and story-teller. She’s been building her world of Silvery Earth for a number of years – stories, comprise shorts, novels and graphic novels. Her novella “The Hooded Man” has received an Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future contest. Used to multiple projects (a graphic novel is always on the side of the prose), she writes, draws, ignores her day job and blogs at:

B.G.Hope writes contemporary fiction, including M/M romance. It’s the pen-name for a very prolific author who likes to tackle different genres. She lives in Rome, Italy, and hates it.

Connect with Barb:






B.G. Hope on Author Central and Smashwords


Categories: author interview, authors to watch, fantasy, Fantasy Anthology, interview, short stories, strange portals | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview with AK Stein

Today’s guest is AK Stein. She’s the author of several books and has a short story published in Strange Portals, which is now available for free on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

strange portals

Welcome, Anna. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure. I am a retired life insurance agent and Bell Telephone operator. I am also a writer of many books since I was in the 3rd grade. I love to write. I have 15 books now published over on Amazon’s Kindle. I write under the name AK Stein in honor of my great grandmother.

I love animals, mostly horses, fish and dogs. When I was in high school, I had 9 aquariums going at the same time. All manner of fresh water fishes. I don’t know how my parents stood all that around the house. Mom would go around and just stare in at the fish. They do say watching fish is very calming. Maybe that’s what she liked.

I also had 3 Quarter horses, full bred. Loved riding them. That breed is the most laid back of them all, in my opinion. I’m pretty much the laid back type and so I got along with them very well.

Dogs, I’ve had most of my adult life. All not purebreds. Loved every one of them.

The rest of my story is in the following answers.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing when I was in the third grade. I went to a Catholic elementary school called St Anne’s in New Castle, IN. The classes were taught by nuns. The nuns had set up a room to be like the public library so they could teach us how to use a library and I became enthralled with all the books. I read everything they had in there. Especially the books that were about animals and science fiction. It was then I began daydreaming about stories of my own. Only at that time I didn’t quite understand I was supposed to pay attention to my teachers while in class. I would stare out the windows, instead, and daydream my stories. Got in trouble for doing that but I did love what I was coming up with. Loved every minute of that.

Can you tell us about your story in the anthology, Strange Portals? What inspired you to write it?

My story in the anthology is called ‘The Hole’. It’s from a dream I had. One of my favorite authors is Mark Twain ( Samuel Clemens) I love his books “Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘Tom Sawyer’. So my manner of writing ‘The Hole’ was inspired by his manner of writing. But that story came from a weird dream I had one night, from which I woke up laughing. I couldn’t help it. And I never did figure out from where that dream came. Weird.

Please tell us about your other published work

I have 15 books published now on Amazon’s Kindle. Most are fantasy romance novels, but I am working on a collection of children’s books called ‘The Zeke Mayhill series’. I write under the name of AK Stein in honor of my great grandmother. My dad’s mom’s mom. I was named after her. I knew her for a short period of my early life before she died. She was a sweet lady. My fantasy romance books are the Full Moon series. It’s about a young lady, not a werewolf, who comes in contact accidentally with werewolves and falls in love with one of them. It’s a series of 6 books but I have now put them all together in one book called ‘The Full Moon Collection,’ also over at Kindle. It’s a rip roaring romance. I had a whole lot of fun writing it.

My anthology story is in a book with another story called ‘The Bull’. They’re 2 scary stories I also titled ‘Two Scary Stories.’  I had fun writing those, too.

The only non fiction book I wrote is titled, ‘Interview With the Ascended Masters.’ I put it together after a series of interviews with a spiritual medium named Calleen Wilder. She has the book on her website  and on Amazon Kindle. It’s a collection of answers to spiritual questions I had written down for years. I had 62 pages of them. Questions like ‘Why are we here’ and ‘Who really built the pyramids?’ I also asked about Mary Magdalene.

The reason I went with her is because my then sister-in-law had a reading done by her when my brother died. My sister-in-law was a nonbeliever in this sort of thing and I was, too, but her friend talked her into it. And the answers Calleen gave her blew away our disbelief. My sister-in-law called me right after her meeting, crying her eyes out while telling me about all the personal things Calleen told her that she shouldn’t have known. Things that were only between my sister-in-law and my brother. And then when I went to see Calleen, she identified the watch I brought as used to belong to my grandmother. It did. My father gave it to me when my grandmother died. Now how could Calleen know that?

Now Calleen will tell you herself that no psychic is 100% right 100% of the time. But some of the things she said would happen have, like England’s Stonehenge. She said a second such structure would be found on the other side of our planet. And one day, several years after we published the book, one woman who had bought it emailed Calleen and told her she saw a documentary on TV that said geologists had dug up another such structure in Figi, which is almost directly on the opposite side from England.

I don’t know very much about psychic abilitites, but Calleen simply blows my doubts away. I guess there are some people who can actually do that.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on 3 books now. One is the 4th book in the Zeke Mayhill series I’m titling ‘Ezekiel Mayhill and the Crystal of Leadership.’ A bunch of crystals will be found in this book, but whether or not they get back to the palace Diamondorn is another matter. This book is going to be packed with action.

Another book is a vampire romance in which our heroine falls in love with the vampire king but she doesn’t know he’s a vampire. And he doesn’t want to tell her for fear she’ll reject him for what he is. But he has to protect her because there is a faction within his kingdom who want to overthrow him. And they will kill her to get that done. This book’s title right now is ‘Moone’.

The 3rd book is about a dragon king ruling the creatures of the under world of Earth. They are all manner of magical beings who are suddenly producing shifter babies. This was planned a long time ago by the ancient Anasazi, but these beings don’t know what their plan was. But the shifter males cannot produce children with the non shifter females and so they are looking toward the humans living above ground. This is where the romance begins. The king is reluctant to do this, but he gets caught up in romance when a young human woman is brought down into his world. The struggle begins. I haven’t titled this book yet.

Do you have a book recommendation to share with us?

I have. Michael R. Hicks wrote 2 series that I absolutely love. One is the ‘In Her Name’ series. The other is the “Harvester’. I’m telling you, Hollywood needs to contact him. Can get these on Amazon’s Kindle.

Another author is Glen Soucy. His ‘Blood Tithe’ series. OMGoodness! Hollywood needs to contact him, too. He is crazy good. Can get his books on Kindle, also.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Oh this is an area I would love to get across to all writers. I have read many wonderful stories, loved the plotline and the characters. HOWEVER. . .those stories had so many typo’s and misspelled words and incorrect grammar and punctuation that they became aggravating. Kept jerking me right out of their stories. No reader wants to experience that. And I feel sure that, if the authors had read over what they had written, they would have found those mistakes and corrected them.

Now I am not saying I am without mistakes, myself. I have made mistakes, one being I misspelled the word ‘lightning.’ I actually thought there for a while it was spelled ‘lightening.’ How dumb was that? I have corrected that, though, and republished those books.

Making mistakes is natural, but you have to read over what you have written so you can catch them. I don’t believe a good many writers today do that. And one thing about it, it could be the reason why so many very good writers don’t make the best seller list more than once., if they do at all. There could easily be so many more favorite authors out there if they would just take the time to give their readers their very best. Their readers deserve that. Rant over.   🙂

That’s great advice. Where can readers go to connect with you on social media or to buy your books?

To find my books over at Amazon Kindle

My websites where you can find my books listed with their buying links:

Magical Writing is where I have my children’s books, which includes the Zeke Mayhill series.

My Facebook page is under Anna K Stein.

My Twitter page is under AuntieHugs.


About AK Stein: 

Personal story.annpic53

Hi, guys.

I began my writing career as a 3rd grader. No kidding. Fell in love with the stories I read and so I started daydreaming. Made my teachers crazy because I much rather stared out the classroom window than listen to them. I mean I was IN LOVE with writing. My grades suffered in elementary school because I hadn’t yet learned to prioritize. But I got that cleared up by high school and so my grades improved. Considerably.

I wrote stories about animals at first. Mostly about horses. And mostly short stories that I was able to complete. I tried writing full length novels when I was still in elementary school but I was never able to finish them. I ran into roadblocks I couldn’t get over. But that was because I hadn’t learned yet how to research. Or that I was even supposed to research. I had always thought stories were things made up completely inside your brain because that was how the stories I read seemed to be. So easy to read. So then I went through a time when I thought I just wasn’t good enough to write stories. At least any that would be published anyway. But I kept writing because I couldn’t get stories out of my head until I wrote them down. And then I was able to breathe. Until the next story idea crept in.

But my writing urge is why I was an English major in high school and in college. I wanted to know exactly how I should write sentences and know exactly what words to use. And how to spell them correctly. Now I’m not saying I retained the knowledge of what each sentence type is called or what each type of word is called, either. What I have done, however, is retain the knowledge of how to write. And when I finished with all that education, I then found myself needing to come up with story ideas.

It wasn’t long when they started coming. And I mean entering my brain like a thunderstorm. Many thunderstorms. I have enough story ideas written down and some even outlined now to last me the rest of my life.

But I need to write them well. So I have been buying books on how to write and even have taken some online courses. You can never stop honing your craft.

So. . .30+ years ago, I wrote some books. Complete novels this time. Finished them, even. But recently I got them out to read again to see what I had and thought ‘There’s no way in this God’s universe am I going to let people read this crap.’ I mean. . .ohmygod!. Great story ideas, but the writing. . .ohmygod! And after all that education, too. So I edited. And edited. And thanked God I now had some decent writing information rolling around in my head to even be able to edit. I mean, my sentences were correct, I did retain that much learning, and my words were spelled correctly, but the writing was so stiff, so egghead, that it would have bored any reader within the first page. Probably the first paragraph. I needed to rewrite them so they wouldn’t be boring. And the result is now the books I have completed, which I have listed on my websites,  And  And more will be coming.

I write in the genres of fantasy and romance. Love those two. So I will be filling up my websites  with all my books. Enjoy.


Categories: author feature, author interview, children's books, Fantasy Anthology, interview, short stories, short story, strange portals | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Terry Compton

Today’s guest is Terry Compton, contributor to the fantasy/horror anthology, Strange Portals. You can read Terry’s short story, A Leprechaun’s Gift, for free on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?The Leprechaun's Gift

I was raised in SW Missouri.  I came to Montana in the Air Force and stuck around for the last forty-eight years.  I spent fourteen of those years in the Air National Guard.  I now own my own business where I make ornamental iron gates and railings.  I also install gate operators.  I like hunting and fishing and in the past drove my own stock car at the local track.  I have a few trophies sitting on my computer desk from that including one I didn’t really want to earn.  It was for the worst crash of the year.  Another driver clipped the back of my car and sent me into the wall.  I wound up upside down sliding down the track with most of the rest of the field coming up on me.  No one hit me but…  My wife of forty-eight years lives with me and a small dog who thinks she’s a short furry people.

When did you begin writing?

I started in 2009.  A friend of mine bought a sail boat down in Texas.  He spent a couple of years fixing it up then decided to sail across the Gulf of Mexico and up the inner-coastal waterway from Florida to close to Washington, DC.  He started writing short descriptions of his journey.  That triggered an idea in my head.  I’d had ideas about a couple of novels but never could get a good outline and character study done.  I sat down in May of 2009 with a beginning of a story and let the characters lead me.  In November, I published that first story.  I have over thirty short stories and novels published now.

strange portalsCan you tell us about your story (or stories) in the anthology, Strange PortalsWhat inspired you to write it?

My story in Strange Portals is about a leprechaun living in Montana.  My granddaughter was going through some rough times with friends.  Her complaints triggered an idea.  It wound up as the Leprechaun’s Gift.  Sometimes true friendship can be worth more than imaginary gold.

Please tell us about your other published work.

I write pretty much what pops in my head.  I have two different western series, two sci-fi series, a fantasy series and a stand-alone romantic mystery.  There’s a couple of thrillers in there and some spoofs of politics and everyday life.

What projects are you currently working on?Wanted Hunter

I’m in the process of editing the third book in my newest series Wanted and writing the fourth book.  The first book Wanted is free for a limited time on kindle, Smashwords and the other major retailers.

Do you have a book recommendation to share with us?

I like Lindsey Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge series.  One I’m enjoying now is MCA Hogarth’s Her Instruments series.  When I stop to think about it, I have a kindle reader full of books I’ve read in the last two years.  I just like to read.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

I think a couple of things I’ve learned from the local writers club.  One of the members speaks once a month on writing topics.  He’s been in the business for thirty plus years, so I think he knows what he’s talking about.  One of the things he said was to visualize your scene before you sit down at your computer.  Think about what the characters are doing, how they’ll be doing it, what it smells like, what the area looks like, in short make a movie of the scene in your head.  Then when you sit down, write the scene.  Don’t make any corrections until you have it all down.  The other good advice he gave was a picture of a dog sitting in a chair in front of the computer.  It said, “Sit!  Stay!”

Where can readers go to connect with you on social media or to buy your books?

My website is:  

My website has links to most of the retailers but here is a few:  Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble

Author Bio:

P7204661Terry Compton has raced stock cars, rode horses across the Scapegoat Wilderness, fished and hunted most of his adult life while trying to pay for these hobbies by working at several different jobs.  He is an Air Force veteran and served in the Air National Guard for several years.  Currently, he is the owner, chief welder and installer for an ornamental iron business.  Terry has made several award winning metal creations and is now turning this creativity to writing.

Terry loves to read.  Some of his favorite authors are Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Andre Norton, Poul Anderson, Robert Heinlein, Louie L’Amour, Zane Grey and Anne McCaffery.  Newly found ‘indie’ authors with e-books he enjoys are Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo, M. R. Mathias, Brian Rathbone, L. J. Sellers, Dana Stabenow and Luke Sky Wachter to name just a few.

Terry currently lives in Montana with his wife and a dog who thinks she is a short furry people.


Categories: action, author interview, fantasy, Fantasy Anthology, interview, short stories, short story, strange portals, thriller, westerns | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Kay Kauffman

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Kay Kauffman. Kay is a talented author and poet, and a contributor to the fantasy/horror anthology Strange Portals which is free on Smashwords, Nook, and Kindle.

strange portals

Welcome, Kay. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Me?  Well, I love flowers.  I love looking at them, I love smelling them, I love photographing them.  I do not, however, love growing them.  When I’m put in charge of plants, they have a tendency to die.  It’s not even a mystery how – either they drown or they die of thirst.  There’s no happy medium.  The only plant I’ve managed to keep alive for any length of time is a philodendron my husband gave me when I returned to work three years ago after the birth of our youngest son, and the only reason it’s still hanging out in the land of the living is because I’m not in charge of watering it.

Also, apparently philodendrons are impossible to kill.  I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about writing and life, but I’m too tired to try and dig it out.  Mom brain: It’s a real thing. 😉

When did you begin writing?

You know, I was actually thinking about this just this morning.  I’d been reading about another author’s writing journey and it got me thinking about my own.  I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  I’ve been at it at least since the second grade, when my mom bought me that super-cool holographic diary from the school book order.  But what prompted me to actually start writing – whether in that totally awesome diary or not – is anybody’s guess.

Can you tell us about your story in the anthology, Strange Portals? What inspired you to write it?

I first wrote “Christmas Spirit” as part of a flash fiction challenge on Authonomy back in 2011.  I wrote a lot of flash fiction that year, and a lot of it was different from what I typically write, which made it a fun little experiment.  I decided to keep it going with this story by combining Christmas with supernatural elements.  I knew I wanted to keep it light, though, so the whole thing was a real challenge – I’d never done anything like it.

When the idea for Strange Portals came along, I thought of “Christmas Spirit” immediately.  I hadn’t looked at it in years, and the anthology it was originally meant for never made it off of Autho, despite plans to release it into the wild.  I thought, “Why not?”  It needed a couple rounds of editing and a bit of polish, but once that was done, I sent it off hoping it would fare well among the vampires, zombies, and witches.

Please tell us about your other published work.

Another of my flash fiction pieces from that year appears in 416, which you can find on Smashwords.  Each story in the book is only 416 words long – writing a complete story in so few words was really hard, but also a heck of a lot of fun.  I also have some stories in A World of Their Own, which will be out later this year.

And I write poetry.  Tuesday Daydreams: A Journal in Verse debuted in 2012 in print and e-formats and is currently on sale for $1.50 at Amazon and Smashwords (just use coupon code FE67Z at checkout) in honor of my birthday, which was yesterday.  Sale ends Monday!

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently in the middle of prepping another poetry book for release.  A follow-up to Tuesday Daydreams, it’s entitled A Song for All Seasons, and I hope to have it ready to go by March.  I’m also in the midst of rewriting my first fantasy novel, The Price of Mercy, which I hope to send back out into the query trenches this year.  It’s the first book in a planned series, and I think I’m even more excited about it now than I was when I “finished” writing it back in 2010.

Yes, I know – I write slow.  I’ve had these books in the works for a decade, so when they finally come out, they’re gonna be awesome. 🙂

Do you have a book recommendation to share with us?

Just one?  But…but I have a whole stack of books I could recommend!  Oh, very well – I’ll recommend Darkhaven by A.F.E. Smith.  It’s not out yet (sigh), but I’ve been awaiting its release for ages and I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on it this summer!

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

I’d have to say make friends in the writing community.  There’s nothing like the company of other writers to help you hold onto your sanity and weather the myriad ups and downs of the publishing business.  Plus, they’re usually good for coffee, chocolate, and inspiration when you can’t sleep in the middle of the night.

That’s excellent advice, Kay. Where can readers go to find you on social media?

You can find me in the all the usual places:

At my blog, where I share random pictures and silly poems; on Facebook, where I share things about cats and books; on Twitter, where I share whatever pops into my head; on Pinterest, where I share delicious recipes and images from my fantasy world; on Instagram, where I share pictures of pretty sunsets; and on Tumblr, where I share all of the above.

Author Bio:wpavi

As a girl, Kay dreamed of being swept off her feet by her one true love.  At the age of 24, it finally happened…and he’s never let her forget it.  A mild-mannered secretary by day and a determined word-wrangler by night, she battles the twin evils of distraction and procrastination in order to write fantastical tales of wuv…twue wuv…with a few bad haiku thrown in for good measure.

She is currently hard at work on the first book in a fantasy trilogy.  Kay resides in the midst of an Iowa corn field with her devoted husband and his mighty red pen; four crazy, cute kids; and an assortment of adorably small, furry animals.


Tuesday Daydreams: A Journal in Verse by Kay Kauffman


Natural poetry at its finest.

Capturing the life and imagination of the author in vivid detail, these poems touch on joy and loss, life’s everyday hassles, and the many faces of Mother Nature.


Amazon (paperback)

Amazon (Kindle)

Amazon UK (paperback)

Amazon UK (Kindle)


Barnes & Noble



Tuesday Daydreams: A Journal in Verse debuted is currently on sale for $1.50 at Amazon and Smashwords (just use coupon code FE67Z at checkout).  Sale ends Monday!

Categories: author interview, authors to watch, fantasy, interview, paranormal, poetry, short stories, strange portals | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Interview with Seumas Gallacher

Today, we’re celebrating the re-release of Seumas Gallacher’s novel, SAVAGE PAYBACK. I first met Seumas on his excellent blog. If you’re not already a follower, I suggest you subscribe. I’m happy to have Seumas here today to answer a few questions. Before we begin the interview, let’s have a look at SAVAGE PAYBACK:

front view SP

A series of coordinated lethal bomb attacks on a dozen jewelry stores in London’s West End drag former SAS officer, Jack Calder and his specialist security firm, International Security Partners, into a deadly mesh of murder and international drug running.

A black ops explosives expert, an ex-colleague turned renegade mercenary with a twisted lust for revenge, emerges from the past to join forces with a powerful and dangerous drug baron from Eastern Europe.

A major cocaine trafficker from South America compounds the threats as competitive turf issues straddle international territories.

Attacks close to home heighten the urgency for Calder and his team to find and deal with each of the three sinister adversaries in a final savage payback.

Available on Amazon:  US  |  UK  |  Canada  |  Australia 


Welcome, Seumas. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Bought my first ever laptop about 6 years ago to start typing the first Jack Calder crime thriller, one finger from each hand, which is still how I work. Just realised one day it was about time to give myself a kick in the butt and get on with writing a novel, any novel, just so I could say I’d done it. Now I can’t see myself not writing, either the novels and/or the blog.

Born Scottish, but travelled internationally in career spanning five decades and three continents. LUVVED every minute of it, and still do.

When did you begin writing?

Apart from the usual teenage scribbling of some poetry and short stories, I never got going until six years ago. I think the wait has lent a lot more depth and life experience to contribute to the credibility of my quill-scraping.

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

SAVAGE PAYBACK is the third in the series of a trio of former SAS commando officers who set up their own specialist security firm. During the protection of their clients interests , they rub up against international crime lords, drug pedlars, people traffickers, money launderers and more nice guys like that. They indulge their black operations skills in dealing with the various villains.

How did you get the idea for the book?

I was a corporate troubleshooter for many years. One of my engagements in the Far East required the constant use of an armoured car and armed body guards. They had been trained by a former SAS officer. That’s where the ideas stemmed from.

If you could recommend just one of your books to my readers, which book would you choose?

How can you ask any literary parent to choose amongst their wee babies? I genuinely like all of them. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

All the main characters have their unique attractions for me, but one minor character appeared in the first novel, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY. He‘s Rico, a South American ‘facilitator’ for stuff  the main guys need in pursuit of the bad guys. He’s funny, but smart, and I hated having to write him out (I didn’t kill him, so he may return at some later stage).

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Learning the basics about pace, balance, and relevance of the content in the narrative. Making the story ‘breathe’ by understanding the difference between passive and active technique.

What is your primary goal as an author?

As a writer, I want to continue to enjoy the buzz I’ve enjoyed since starting this entire trip. As a businessman, on the commercial side, like most authors, I wouldn’t say no to multi-million book sales, and a TV series and a Hollywood script!

What projects are you currently working on?

The fourth Jack Calder story in the series, KILLER CITY, is current Work-in-Progress, but I have ideas fomenting already for the fifth book.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Start right now to develop a strong presence on the social networks, particularly tying your channels in through an Author’s blog, and continue to do that regularly. Write, write, read, write, write. Enjoy it!


About Seumas Gallacher:

profileSeumas Gallacher was born in Clydeside, Govan in Glasgow and spent his formative teens in the idyllic Scottish Hebridean island of Mull. His career as a banker took him from Scotland to London for ten years and thence on a further  twenty-five year global odyssey through Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines in Asia. Along the way he metamorphosed into a corporate troubleshooter and problem solver. He came to the United Arab Emirates for a month in 2004 and has remained in Abu Dhabi ever since.

A late discoverer of the joys of writing, his first two novels, The Violin Man’s Legacy and Vengeance Wears Black have sold more than 70,000 copies. The third in the Jack Calder series, Savage Payback was launched in late 2013.

Seumas has become a strong proponent of the use of the social networking channels to reach and engage with a global readership market in the new age of self-publishing and eBooks. Seumas is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on how to develop productive online relationships. He was voted Blogger of the Year 2013.

Connect with Seumas:

Blog :
Twitter : @seumasgallacher
Facebook :
Email :







Categories: action, author interview, authors to watch, book launch, book release, interview, thriller | Tags: , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Interview with Neil Stenton

Today’s guest is Neil Stenton, author of Saving Carrie. He’s here to speak with us about his new novel, his work in progress, and his advice to new authors. Before we begin the interview, let’s take a look at the cover and blurb for Saving Carrie

saving_carrie_coverWhen James and Carrie Mitchell arrived from England for a holiday in New York City they didn’t expect to be dragged into a world they had no experience of. But they had little choice.

After preventing the murder of a high profile witness in a major crime trial, events quickly spiral out of their control; placing both their lives in danger. With Detective Sam Burcell and the rest of the NYPD High Profile Operations Unit coming under pressure from within their own ranks, and struggling to keep control of the situation and the trial on track, James has to face the supreme test; one with far reaching consequences and which will change his life forever.

Neil Stenton’s debut novel, Saving Carrie, will take you on a thrilling journey with twists and turns at every corner. As events race to a conclusion, the stakes get raised and no one can be trusted, it asks the ultimate question. If it were you, how far would you go to save the life of someone you love?

Welcome, Neil. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m 49 years old, married with 2 cats and I live in Yorkshire. I’m a civil servant and have been for 30 years, but on top of that I’ve also worked in retail and I spent 3 years with the Royal Air Force Reserves where I rose to the heady heights of Corporal.

I enjoy reading (mostly crime fiction – my own genre, but also bios and history – mainly 20th century USA), films and travel.

When did you begin writing?

I guess I’ve always written to some extent. I studied part time whilst working, and gained a degree in social science and social history so there was a lot of essay writing involved there. It was during that time that I had the idea to try my hand at something much larger, a novel. Over the next few years ideas came to mind and I found that they would actually string together and make a believable story. That set me off once my studies had finished and my first novel, Saving Carrie, was born from that.

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

I guess you could call it a fish out of water novel mixed with a plain old police procedural (along the lines of NYPD Blue, CSI, Law and Order). It centres around an English couple on holiday in New York who get caught up in a major crime trial. Things go from bad to worse for them and there seems to be only one way out.

How did you get the idea for the book?

Saving Carrie came about from a ‘what would happen if?’ question which hit me whilst we were on holiday in New York. We watch a lot of American crime TV and I read a lot of crime fiction. With the sights and sounds of the city all around I wondered what would happen if I got caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. How would that work out, what would I do, what would happen etc. Matching that question to the police TV shows lead me to the basics of my story.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

It would have to be the lead detective, Sam Burcell. He’s one of the main characters and most of the viewpoint is from his angle. I based him on Kiefer Sutherland for no other reason than I needed a picture of him in my head, and he was the closest to the vision I had.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Because it’s based in another country I don’t have the ‘on the ground’ knowledge. A lot of research, other than from memory of being there myself on holiday, came from books, maps, leaflets, photographs and good old Google maps! Ideally I’d have preferred to walk the streets where the story is based, if only to make sure I had the flow of traffic heading in the right direction. Someone, somewhere, would spot that I’m sure. I used quite a lot of famous NYC landmarks and again I’d have preferred to go and look again at them, just to get the finer details nailed down. But I eventually realised that I shouldn’t get too worried about the very fine details. It was the narrative that was important, and making it believable.

What is your primary goal as an author?

To make sure that whoever buys my work not only enjoys it, but recommends it to others and then comes back for more. There are a lot of independent authors out there, all fighting to be recognized, I’m just a small fish in a very large pool. I certainly don’t expect it to make me rich – but would love to be proved wrong.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m almost at the end of my first draft of the follow up to Saving Carrie. The new one starts as the first one ends, and whilst it’s not important to read the first beforehand it does set the characters out as it uses the same team of detectives (the NYPD High Profile Operations unit – a ficticious squad I created) but in a new case. I’m hoping to keep interest going by building a series of novels around them.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Don’t think about it, do it. And don’t worry too much about the detail, just get the story out of your head and onto paper, the detail comes later. I think it was Hemingway who said the first draft of anything is usually crap, that’s very true – but at least it’s a first draft and you can work on it from there. The hard part is starting, once you’ve started you’re half way there (well almost).

Where can my readers go to learn more about your work? 

My website is – a work in progress at present but it will be developed shortly to provide more details, a blog and promotion for book two.

Twitter – @neil_sten

Facebook –

Amazon –

Kobo is –

Goodreads –

Where can readers buy Saving Carrie?

It’s available as an ebook for Kindle, Kobo and any tablet that has a suitable app on it. The links can be found on my website or you can go direct to the Amazon or Kobo websites.



Photo0243 - CopyNeil Stenton was born in Sheffield, England, in 1965. He has worked in the retail trade and served three years with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force during the early 1990’s. He’s been a Civil Servant since 1985 where he currently works in communications.

Saving Carrie is his first novel and he’s currently working on his second which he hopes to release in mid 2015. It will also feature the detectives of the NYPD High Profile Operations Unit.

Married to Elaine since 1994 they live in Yorkshire with their two cats.


Categories: action, author feature, author interview, crime novels, interview, police procedural | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Andrew Nelson

Today’s guest is Andrew Nelson, author of three published novels including Perfect Pawn:

Patricia Ann Browning didn’t see the deer standing in the middle of the road until it was too late, not that it would have mattered.

For retired NYPD Detective, James Maguire, the pieces of his life were finally starting to fall into place. He was running his own lucrative private security firm catering to Fortune 500 companies and had just met Melody Anderson, a highly successful business woman from Long Island’s posh enclave of Southampton. Everything, it seemed, was looking up. That was until the morning newscast reported that his former high school flame was missing from a one car accident on a rural country road in upstate New York.

Arriving back in his old hometown Maguire must come to terms, not only with his past, but the fact that no one seems interested in pursuing the investigation into Patricia Browning’s disappearance, including the missing woman’s husband, the local sheriff.

As Maguire struggles to put the clues together in time, he is drawn deeper into a game where people are as expendable as pieces in a chess game and the only goal is to take down the king. A crown Maguire unwittingly wears.

Welcome, Andrew. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well, I’m married to an amazing woman, Nancy, and we have four adult children. I was born and raised in the Queens section of New York City and spent twenty years with the NYPD before retiring in 2005. We moved out west, to Central Illinois, and I enjoyed retired life for a bit, but then I started to get restless. I went back into law enforcement in 2010 and spent two years as the chief of corrections for a local sheriff’s department. In 2012 I re-retired and my wife encouraged me to try my hand at writing. My first book, Perfect Pawn, was released in 2013 and I followed that up in 2014 with the release of the sequel, Queen’s Gambit.

When did you begin writing?

The first time I began writing was when I wrote the original chapter of Perfect Pawn back in 2000. It actually started out as a dare from my wife. Both of us are avid readers. One evening she commented that writing a book must be very hard. Silly me responded that I didn’t believe it was. My reason for this belief was that I’d just spent the last decade writing investigatory reports on criminal investigations. After the first dozen or so you looked for ways to keep the reader’s attention. The thesaurus and I became quick friends. You also have to recall a lot of details from the scene. Writing for me is like watching a movie in my mind. I see the scene play out and then I write it. At the time, she encouraged me to continue writing, but then 9/11 occurred and our lives were thrown into upheaval for a few years.

Can you tell me a little bit about your books?

My debut novel, Perfect Pawn, features a retired NYPD detective, James Maguire, as the protagonist. I grew up reading novels, by authors such as Tom Clancy and Frank Herbert, which had rich character development. In Perfect Pawn, Maguire returns to his childhood home to help search for his missing high school sweetheart, only to find that no one, not even her husband, who is the county sheriff, is interested in finding her. Soon Maguire realizes that her disappearance was just the opening move in a much larger game and that the next target might just be him. Queen’s Gambit takes place a short time later, and brings Maguire back in a new role and facing an even greater threat. In writing the characters I developed a deep affinity for each of them, so the series has been an opportunity for me to expand them and show them in a variety of situations, good and bad.

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

My latest novel, Small Town Secrets, is a departure from my James Maguire series. The books protagonist is Alex Taylor, a former NYPD sergeant, who was forced to resign from the department do to a drinking problem and ends up as the chief of police in a small New Hampshire town. When a woman’s body turns up in the Lake, Taylor begins to think the murder might have been a cover-up for the towns much bigger secret. This book actually started as a short story, which I was going to release in between the Maguire books. When my wife, who is always my first beta reader, read the book she fell in love with the dysfunctional Taylor and asked me to expand the story. So it went from Novella to Novel, and I have just begun work on the sequel.

How do you get your ideas for your books?

One thing that cops have, are stories. Some are funny, most are sad, and others you even keep to yourself. But in the middle of that is a whole host of ideas and characters. A lot of people have asked how much of Maguire is me and I say that he is a composite of myself and others. A lot of the situations, and locations he finds himself in, are based on things that happened in real life. This is true for some of the other characters as well. However, moving forward, the characters will definitely morph into new roles and relationships based on the unfolding storyline.

If you could recommend just one of your books to my readers, which book would you choose?

It would have to be Perfect Pawn, because I think if you miss that one, you miss a lot of the backstory on James and the other characters. As I said earlier, I’m a big proponent of characters with depth. Too often I have read stories where I go, I really like that character and would love to know more, and yet the author lets them languish. Perfect Pawn lets you know the reasons why certain things occur later.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

That’s really tough. I think between Maguire and Taylor I have two great protagonists who bring two completely different personalities to the table. Maguire is the calm, cool and collected professional and Taylor is more the sarcastic, edgy type, struggling to overcome their demons, and operating in what I call that ‘gray’ zone.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Not knowing where I was going (Laugh). When I did the original chapter it was just painting a particular scene. That was easy. When I began to write the actual book I had something like: His love goes missing, he tracks her down, saves her, and they live happily ever after, the end. It was a romantic notion, but let’s just say that it didn’t work out so well. Being a cop, I know firsthand that real life is often very cruel. So I took a step back and thought what if the white knight doesn’t make it in time, or what if the bad guy wins. Then I began to write the story that ultimately made it into print.

What is your primary goal as an author?

First and foremost is to write a story that elicits a strong response from the readers. The last thing I want is a lukewarm reader. You can love a character or hate a character, but I want there to be that emotion. It’s my goal to have you pick-up one of my books and the next time you look its two o’clock in the morning. I want it to be a struggle between reading the book all night and having to get up for work the next day.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well, I just finished the rough version of the 3rd Maguire book and will be going back over it to tweak the story line a bit and add some additional dialog on some secondary character. I’m just started working on the 2nd Taylor novel, which I am very excited about. Changing back and forth between the two different protagonists allows me to clear my mind between books and come back refreshed.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Write! I know that may sound overly simplistic, but so many people have great ideas for stories and yet never put pen to paper. Will everyone love your work? No, but you’ll find your niche if you persevere. I have a copy of a letter that was written to Paul Hewson back in 1979 from an executive at RSO Records. They informed him that the demo tape he sent was ‘not suitable’ for their company. I don’t know what the record executive over at RSO is doing these days, but I certainly know what Hewson, you may know him as Bono from the group U2, is doing.

To learn more about Andrew Nelson and his work, please visit the following links:






Barnes & Noble:

Categories: author interview, authors to watch, interview | Leave a comment

Interview with Michelle Lam

Today, we’re visiting with author, Michelle Lam. She’s here to tell us about her new novel, The Accidental Prophetess.

Q: Welcome, Michelle. Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I’m a book-loving chocoholic English teacher from Canada. Right now I’m a part-time stay-at-home-mom of two little kids, and a part-time English teacher to a rowdy group of 6th graders. I love to travel, and have taught English in Thailand and Indonesia, and am currently living in Vietnam.

When did you begin writing?

I have always loved a good story. I grew up on a strawberry farm and when I was younger, my sister and I used to tell stories to one another to make the time go faster when we were picking berries. I have a folder of first chapters on my computer, but this is my first full-length novel.

Can you tell us about The Accidental Prophetess?

I’d love to! Natalie Richards (27) knows how to make a video go viral. It’s her job, after all. But when she’s fired over her latest video — an ad for dish soap, of all things — she complains. Loudly. In public. It’s not her fault that those words were written down decades earlier. Within minutes she’s abducted, whisked underground, and proclaimed to be a long-lost prophet destined to save the world. The threats against world peace are real. But then again, so is the need to breathe fresh air and have a decent haircut. Not to mention the two deliciously handsome men that seem to have secrets of their own. A cult is a cult, no matter how sexy the head of security might be … right?

How did you get the idea for the book?


I was wondering how prophets discover their gifts. I mean, really, how does it happen? Do they just know that they are prophets? Unless there was some sort of secret society monitoring communications, and that society was looking for a prophet to be their leader…

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

I think Carla is my favourite. She’s not really a main character – she’s Natalie’s roommate. She’s featured a lot, though. I love her because she’s tough and she’s had a hard life, but she is fiercely loyal and funny to boot!

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

I had trouble (still have trouble, actually) turning off my internal editor’s voice. Eventually it’s time to publish your book, but you still think that you could just tweak it one more time …

What is your primary goal as an author?

I want to write books that are light-hearted, funny, and clean.

What projects are you currently working on?

Secrets, secrets! All I can say is that my next novel is going to involve graduate school, a library assistant, and a plot to cause a not-so-natural disaster.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Make friends with other writers. Join a critique group, and learn from the people who have gone before you. I know I’ve learned so much from others who have gone before me.

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Accidental Prophetess:

“I’d been holding my breath for a long time. I know how these things go. Okay, in retrospect, I realize that all of this knowledge has been gleaned from spy novels and CSI shows. But still, knowledge is knowledge. A girl gets abducted. Put in a car. Then there’s a damp rag held over her mouth. She slumps and wakes up in the trunk. Or doesn’t wake up at all. I put that thought quickly out of my mind and pressed my lips firmly together. When the rag came, I would pretend to faint, and then when the car stopped, I’d make a run for it. It was a decent plan, considering the circumstances.

“We haven’t used the chloroform rag since child locks were invented,” said the neckless hulk of a man squashed in on my left. “You can breathe normally.” His partner snorted, but regained his composure quickly.

I let out my breath as nonchalantly as I could and devoted my time instead to memorizing our route. We were rolling through Manhattan behind tinted windows. I needed a Plan B. I dismissed the thought of trying to get help — the windows were too dark for anyone to see inside, and I doubted trying to wrench a door open would work. So I stared intently out the window, committing everything to memory. After several turns I was hopelessly lost. I’ve lived here for two years, but I’ve spent the best part of those two years in front of my computer, setting up media marketing campaigns for my job.

My name is Natalie Richards. I am a marketing executive and I am really good at my job. Too good, actually, because I got fired today right after my latest video — an advertisement for dish soap, of all things — went viral. But I’d known my video would be good. It had just the right amount of sarcasm and pop culture references. Sometimes you just know when things are going to turn out, you know? I had maneuvered my boss to sign an agreement beforehand into giving me a large percentage of the advertising space. He wanted the ad space now that the video was viral, so he fired me. I fully intend to fight him on that one, but first I need to get out of this car.

“I kinda miss the damp old rag,” the man to the left was saying. “Delivering people now is getting boring. I feel like a taxi driver.”

“Taxi drivers don’t usually poke guns into people’s ribs,” I said, before thinking to check my tongue.

“That’s true. But most people don’t try to stun gun me.”

“Really?” I was genuinely surprised. When I had moved here from Rochester at least three people had told me to carry one for protection in the big bad city. “Why not?”

Grab a copy of The Accidental Prophetess:
Find out more about Michelle Lam here:
Categories: authors to watch, interview | Leave a comment

Interview with Liz Stauffer

Today’s guest is Liz Stauffer, author of Thursday Morning Breakfast (And Murder) Club.

Tricia: Welcome, Liz. Can you tell us about yourself?

Liz: After spending 30 years in the corporate world, writing everything from political encyclopedias to technical documentation, I retired a few years ago to travel and write mysteries. Since that time, I’ve visited some 50 countries on four continents, and have written five books –one that will remain forever hidden away in a bottom drawer.

I live most of the year in Hollywood Florida, close to the beach, with my two Lhasa Apsos, Mattie and Jakey, where in addition to writing, I own a vacation rental business. The rest of the year, when I’m not traveling, I live in Pen Mar, Maryland, a small mountain village, not unlike my fictional town of Mount Penn. Since I’m outdoorsy, and love to hike, bike, swim, and play, both locations suit me well.

My two sons, sprinkled around the US, have both played key roles in getting Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club out. Todd, Publisher of the Jackson Free Press, Jackson, MS, and author of some forty computer books, is my literary agent. Brian, a radio program manager and on air celebrity in Wilmington, NC, is my media guru. I have one grandson, Owen, who lives with his mom in Wisconsin.

Tricia: When did you begin writing?

Liz: I’ve been writing every since I can remember. My first job out of graduate school – I have a Masters degree in Political Science from Webster University in St Louis – I wrote political encyclopedias and articles for current affairs monthly magazines for six years before moving into the high tech world of computers. For the next 20 some years, I wrote everything from marketing literature to technical manuals.

It was when I found myself stranded in a South Dakota winter that I wrote my first mystery. Alone in a big house and a new town after taking a job thousands of miles from my friends and family, I found solace in creating puzzles that involved murder. Although this early manuscript is tucked safely away in a drawer somewhere, it was great fun to write. I’ve been writing mysteries ever since. Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club is the first in a series to be published.

Tricia: Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

Liz: When I start to work on a book, I know who gets murdered, who did the murder, and why. Since my characters are so central to my books, I build detailed descriptions of each character and keep the data in a journal. Next I do scene outlines, but only three chapters or so ahead of where I’m writing. I write a book like I play golf. I know where I want to go; I have a toolkit to get there; but, I make lots of adjustments along the way as unexpected surprises and obstacles pop up.

I do my best writing at my front room desk, looking out over the Hagerstown valley in Pen Mar, Maryland, in the spring and summer and early fall. Birds chirp and leaves rustle, but other than that, it’s amazingly quiet and peaceful. It’s cool and crisp, and the smells are as delightful as the scenery. It really is a special place and I’m so lucky to be able to write there. When I not in Pen Mar, I write in my home office in Hollywood, FL.

Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?

Liz: Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club is an American village mystery, with a younger, feistier, Miss Marple-like protagonist, named Lillie Mae Harris as the leader of the club. In some ways I’ve mimicked a traditional British village mystery, but have given it an American flare. The Thursday morning breakfast club, a group of village ladies, has been meeting in Mount Penn, my fictional mountain village on the eastern slope of the Appalachians, in rural Maryland, for many years. News of neighbors and local events, and gossip have been the main topics of discussion at the weekly gatherings. But when murder comes to the village, and one of their own is arrested for the crime, they ban together, despite differences and misgivings, to make things right again. Thursday Morning is a story about friendship, community, and love, written in a traditional who-done-it style.

Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?

Liz: As I mentioned earlier, I have a vacation house in Pen Mar, Maryland, a mountain village not unlike Mount Penn. And, there is a group of ladies who have been having breakfast together on Thursday mornings for many years. That’s the extent of anything real in the book. I did want to introduce a place like Mount Penn (Pen Mar) to the world, since it really is special.

I love close knit communities, and I believe we’re moving away from them in our very busy modern lives. Relationships in cyberspace have replaced relationships down the street. I’m guilty of my own complaint. I, too, love having friends all over the world, and Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter have given me far more pleasure than I ever dreamed they would. But I miss the small town community I grew up in, and the city based community where I raised my two sons.

I wanted to revisit those times, so I created a community where friends and family are of first importance, and technology is still used infrequently. I could do this partly because the area is rural, and in the mountains, and the infrastructure for the technology is still primitive.

Mount Penn is the best of all communities. People still accept and enjoy and love each other, despite their differences. In fact it’s often their differences that make them so lovable. The Thursday morning ladies automatically assume they have most things in common with each other, and they do. I’d like my readers to feel a part of this community when they read my book and maybe, yearn to visit it again, when they finish the last page.

Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Liz: It’s so hard to say. I love all my characters. They seem real and alive in my brain from the very beginning. I’ve known people like them my whole life. Dear, unpretentious, special people who care about their family, friends, neighbors, and community. None of the characters are particularly hard to write, but then none of the characters are particularly complex – at least not on the surface. As I get to know more about them, I realize how wonderfully unique and human they are, how blessed they are in their (albeit fictional) lives, and how deep and complex and rich in spirit they truly are.

My characters have been talking to me for years, so they came to life for me through a natural process. They created their own stories and then used me as the vehicle to get them told. This sounds terribly weird, but is more true than not – and wonderfully fun.

Tricia: Which authors have inspired your writing?

Liz: Agatha Christie has influenced my work, as has Georgette Heyer, authors whose books I have read, many times over, since I was very young. I’ve always loved the way Christie and Heyer use an ensemble of characters in plotting and solving crimes. I have attempted to do a bit of the same in my books.

While Lillie Mae Harris has some of the characteristics of a younger, feistier, more modern Miss Marple, she is also very different from Miss Marple. Her motives are the same, to solve the crime, but her methods are unique to her.

Louise Penny and Jan Karon are contemporary authors who have influenced me greatly. I love their use of quirky, yet lovable characters, and their unerring commitment to community. The British writer, Ann Granger, who writes traditional village mysteries, has also influenced my work.

Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?

Liz: I’m currently writing my third Thursday Morning Breakfast Club mystery. My second one is in the done pile, and hopefully, will be released in or before early 2014. I also have another mystery series that I’d like to publish, but I’m not going to tease you with what its’ about.

My grand epic, not even nicknamed yet, set in 1920s Pen Mar against the advent of the mass produced automobile and the demise of the railroads, is under construction. Henry Ford is a central character. This book, based on a lost history, is going to be so much fun to research and write, and, I hope, equally fun to read.

Tricia: Thanks for stopping by, Liz. It was great talking to you!

About Liz Stauffer:

After some thirty years writing everything from political encyclopedias to software manuals, Liz Stauffer retired from corporate life to write fiction, travel, and play on the beach. Since that time, she has traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world. With her two dogs, Liz lives in Hollywood, Florida, where she owns and manages a vacation rental business.

Connect with Liz at the following links:

Twitter: lizstauffer@lizstauffer
Buy the book on Amazon

Excerpt from Thursday Morning Breakfast (and Murder) Club by Liz Stauffer

“Clare’s dead!”

When she spoke the words, her voice was so low it was barely above a whisper. The sturdy woman with short, curly red hair dropped the handset back into its cradle and began to pace, the phone still ringing on the other end of the line.

Lillie Mae Harris stopped at the front window, taking no notice of the white buds that were just opening on the two Bradford pear trees in her front yard, or the spring flowers peeping through the freshly hoed soil in the close- by flower bed. Her thoughts were of Clare.

She had the best view in Mount Penn from this window. On a winter’s morning she could see for some thirty miles out over the valley with the big blue sky as the backdrop. The night view was even more amazing, offering a shower of dancing lights in the distance competing only with the brightest stars.

It was now early spring and the vista had already begun to shrink even though the trees were just beginning to bud. Once the trees were filled out with big green leaves the view would pull in even more until fall when the colors exploded and the view once again took one’s breath away. But today the scenery did nothing to still Lillie Mae’s pounding heart or quell her shaking hands. She couldn’t stop worrying about Clare. Rushing back to the phone, she scooped it up, and punched in a familiar number.

“Hello.” Alice Portman answered in her sweet Southern drawl, after just one ring. Her Jack Russell terrier, Alfred, barked in the background.

“Clare’s not answering her phone this morning,” Lillie Mae said. “I’m so worried about her, Alice. I’m not sure what to do.”

“Settle down, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, shushing Alfred. “Why are you more concerned today?”

“You were at the water meeting last night,” Lillie Mae said. “You saw how Roger was acting. Yelling and screaming like an idiot. When he’s gotten that riled up in the past, Clare’s been his punching bag.”

“Well, yes,” Alice agreed, deliberately slowing the pace of the conversation. “But, Roger was just being Roger last night, dear. Just showing off. I didn’t see anything unusual in his behavior. Certainly nothing to make you so worried this morning.”

“He was acting worse than usual,” Lillie Mae insisted, still pacing the living room floor. “And I’m sure he drank himself crazy when the meeting was finally over. That’s the real reason I’m worried, Alice. You know how he is when he drinks. What he does to Clare.”

“Roger playacts, you know, when it suits him, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, her voice still soft and cool. “He knows he’s going to make a lot of money hooking people up to the public water in a few short months, but he wants to come across as the good guy to his neighbors, not the money grubbing fool that he is. He’ll use every wile that he has to seduce the community. If the project fails, which it won’t this time, he looks like he’s the man who stopped it. If it passes, he wins big time.”

“You’re probably right, Alice,” Lillie Mae said, calming a bit. “I know Roger is shrewd. If he wasn’t always out there trying to make a deal, he wouldn’t be Roger, I guess.”

“So, stop overreacting, Lillie Mae. What’s brought all this on anyway?”

“I’ve been calling Clare’s house all morning and nobody answers the phone,” Lillie Mae said. “It’s stupid, I know, but I picture Clare lying on her kitchen floor, needing my help. Dead, even.”

A sigh escaped Alice’s lips. “You’re way over dramatizing this morning, Lillie Mae,” she said. “Roger’s not even home. He drove by me in that stupid yellow Hummer of his while Alfred and I were out on our early morning walk.”

“That’s good to hear,” Lillie Mae said. “Stop imagining the worst, Lillie Mae. Clare’s probably out, too. It’s such a warm spring day. Doesn’t she usually go grocery shopping on Wednesday mornings?”

“Maybe,” Lillie Mae conceded. “Or she could be in her garden, I guess.”

“She’ll call you back when she gets to it,” Alice said, a hint of impatience in her voice.

“I doubt if she does.” Lillie Mae’s voice broke. “She rarely calls me anymore. We’ve been such good friends for so many years and I miss her, Alice. I wish I knew what I did wrong.”

“Clare’s changing, Lillie Mae. She’s getting stronger. Give the girl some space.”

“I’ve noticed a change, too,” Lillie Mae said, “since Billy went off to university. She does have more confidence, I’ll give you that.”

“Have you written your article on the water meeting for the Antioch Gazette, yet?” Alice asked. “I thought it was due today.”

“Not yet,” Lillie Mae confessed. “I’ve been too worried about Clare.”

“Maybe being busy will take your mind off things that are not really any of your business,” Alice said.

“I guess you’re right,” Lillie Mae said. “Clare’s a big girl and can take care of herself.”

“I know that well,” Lillie Mae said, then suddenly turned serious again when her thoughts returned to Clare. “I’m walking down to Clare’s to check things out before I start on the article. I need to make certain she’s all right, or I won’t be able to concentrate on my work. Do you want to come along?”

“No, you go on, if it’ll make you feel better,” Alice said. “You can fill me in on the details at dinner this evening.”

* * *

Roger Ballard’s yellow Hummer was not in the driveway when Lillie Mae arrived at Clare’s house a few minutes later, but Clare’s Ford Escort was. That was good news on both fronts.

Lillie Mae walked around to the back of the large white two-story house trimmed with neat green shutters, to see if Clare might be working in the garden as she often was at this time of the day. She paused when she heard Clare’s voice through the open back door. She sounded angry. Or was it scared? Lillie Mae couldn’t tell for sure.

As she approached the back of the house, Lillie Mae could see through the screen door that Clare was on the phone, her back facing the door. Ready to call out a greeting, Lillie Mae stopped when she heard what Clare said next.

“No, don’t come over here. I’m fine.”

A brief pause.

“There is nothing for you to worry about. It was an accident. Really. Roger didn’t touch me. I told you the truth about what happened.”

More silence.

“We have to be careful,” Clare said, her voice quivering. “If anyone finds out what we’ve done, it would be a disaster for both of us. Roger would kill us if he knew or even suspected.”

A stab of guilt pricked Lillie Mae’s conscience. She stepped back around the side of the house and then called out a belated greeting in her loudest voice.

“Clare, are you home? Lillie Mae here.”

“Just a minute Lillie Mae,” Clare called back. “I’ll be right there.”

Lillie Mae could hear rustling in the kitchen and what could have been Clare whispering something and then hanging up the phone. Clare’s big black tomcat was at the door mewing to get out, making it impossible to hear the rest of the muffled conversation.

Clare stood at the door a few seconds later, flushed and anxious. “Thanks for stopping by, Lillie Mae,” she said, brushing a strand of dark-brown hair behind her ear as she pushed the door open with her other hand. The slight smile on her lips was not in her bright blue eyes. “What a beautiful bouquet you have with you.”

“It’s for you.” Lillie Mae stretched the vase out toward her friend.

Clare took the flowers from Lillie Mae, then ushered her into the large country kitchen. “Come in and tell me the news,” Clare said, without much enthusiasm. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“That would be nice,” Lillie Mae said.

Clare busily arranged an impromptu coffee while Lillie Mae took a seat at the table. Watching her friend as she prepared the table, Lillie Mae was struck again at how attractive Clare was despite her years with Roger. A large-boned woman, Clare could easily be a plus-size model with curves in all the right places. Although she must be in her mid-forties by now, Lillie Mae thought she could pass for a younger woman. Only her son Billy, now a freshman at the university, gave her age away.

Clare set the table with raisin-nut muffins, butter and jam, and a plate of strawberries and fresh pineapple, then poured the coffee in the mugs at each of their places. She had set the flowers in the center of the table. Sitting down opposite Lillie Mae, she passed her the plate of fruit. “These are the first strawberries out of my garden. I picked them this morning.”

Lillie Mae took one of the deep red strawberries from the bowl Clare had passed her, and popped it into her mouth. “That’s good,” she said when she had swallowed. “So sweet for an early spring berry.”

“Sweet berries always come after a cold winter.” Clare picked up a berry and tasted it.

It was then that Lillie Mae saw the bruise on her left cheek.

“That bastard,” Lillie Mae said. “What did Roger do to you?”

“Roger didn’t do anything to me, Lillie Mae,” Clare said, her hand flying to her face. “Right!” Lillie Mae exclaimed. “Roger never touches you, does he? In all the years I’ve known you, you haven’t had one bruise or broken bone, thanks to Roger Ballard, have you, Clare?”

Clare looked Lillie Mae squarely in the eyes, and said very slowly, enunciating each word. “Roger did not do this to me, Lillie Mae. It was a stupid accident I did to myself.”

“Right,” Lillie Mae said again, this time muttering under her breath.

Clare blushed. “I’ll tell you what happened if you give me the chance. You’re so judgmental, Lillie Mae. You jump to the worst conclusions with very little information, and you always have to be right. I’m not a needy little girl anymore. I can take care of myself.”

Lillie Mae stared at her friend, shocked by the outburst. “I’m sorry.”

“Do you know what I hate the most, Lillie Mae?” Clare said, ignoring her friend’s apology. “The pity. I can see it in your eyes and I can’t stand it. Why do you think I’ve been avoiding you lately?”

Tears sprang to Lillie Mae’s eyes.

“Clare I didn’t realize—again, I’m sorry,” she said, truly repentant. “Tell me what happened last night, and I promise I’ll believe you.”

Clare looked at her friend for what seemed like a full minute.

“It was so stupid,” she finally said, as if the earlier conversation hadn’t taken place. “I went to bed around ten o’clock and went straight to sleep. It had been a busy day and I was tired. When I woke up around midnight and Roger wasn’t home yet, I got worried. As you know, when Roger stays out late, he usually comes home drunk.”

Clare glanced at Lillie Mae, who was nodding, but didn’t wait for her to say anything. “Most of the time he falls asleep on the sofa in his living room, but, on the rare occasion, he wants to talk to me. All I have to do to avoid him is hide in Billy’s room. Roger never thinks to look for me there. So, last night when I was moving to Billy’s room, I didn’t turn on the lights in case Roger came home just then, and I tripped on an old pair of Roger’s boots that he had left by the landing. I fell and hit my cheek on the wall. That’s what happened, Lillie Mae. As I told you before, Roger didn’t touch me.”

“So it really was an accident.” Lillie Mae said, thinking that indirectly Roger was as responsible for the accident as he would have been had he made the blow himself. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“No, Lillie Mae, there’s nothing I need from you or anybody. I’ve told you it’s not a big deal. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. Please, let’s not talk about it anymore. Okay?”

“Okay,” Lillie Mae said, wondering who else Clare had been trying to convince it wasn’t a big deal that morning.

The phone rang, the shrill noise blasting through the tension in the air. Clare turned pale. She looked over her shoulder at the phone, than back at Lillie Mae. “I’m not going to answer that,” she said with a nervous laugh. “I’ve been getting so many crank phone calls lately.”

Lillie Mae moved her eyes from Clare to the phone, but remained quiet.

The ringing stopped as quickly as it had begun. Clare inhaled deeply and clasped her hands, but Lillie Mae could see they were shaking.

“Let’s go outside, Lillie Mae,” Clare said, jumping to her feet. “It’s way too pretty a morning to be sitting in the house. Besides I want to show you my garden. The onions, carrots, and the spring lettuce I planted last week are already peeking through the soil.” Clare picked up a bowl off the counter. “Let’s pick some strawberries for you to take home.”

Lillie Mae glanced back over her shoulder at the phone as she followed Clare out of the house.

Available on Amazon
Categories: authors to watch, interview | 2 Comments

Blog at