Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Susanne Burke! If you’re a fan of gritty suspense, you’re going to love her writing! Learn more about her via the link at the bottom of the page.


suzanne-burke


“Shielded”

By

Suzanne Burke.

I welcome the shield provided by darkness. Those sweet moments when I allow myself to sit in the velvet depth of silence and dwell only on what is to come.

For the past only exists to remind me of the challenges I failed to meet. The things I thought myself powerless to change. I know better now.

I have no room for failure here as I sit wrapped in the warm blanket of my darkness-inspired illusion of safety.

The soft glow of the clock now heralds your arrival. I feel my pulse jump in anticipation.

I check the window … again. No vehicle yet slows to a stop on the rain-drenched streets so many floors below.

I feel the twitch of the nerve in my jaw and suck in the air in an effort to still it.

I remind myself once more that external factors are likely responsible for your late arrival. I know you too well to ever believe that you would be late by choice. You are eternally predictable. That comforts me somewhat.

My neck muscles clench and I stand, stretching my arms and softly willing them to relax.

The clock rolls through another hour, and my calmness begins to falter.

I check through everything that I have prepared in anticipation of our meeting.

Grunting with approval at my readiness, I check the window one more time, and I gift myself a smile as your vehicle draws up and parks on the opposite side of the now quiet street.

The excitement begins to make itself felt and I shiver.

You will arrive soon, and all the waiting will end.

I lick my dry lips and take a deeply satisfied breath.

I hear the sound of the ping the lift makes as it stops on this floor. I hear your key turn in the lock.

I wait as you fumble for the light switch and flick it on. You swear in displeasure as the room remains dark. Now you search for your iPhone and seek out the torch app. The room in your immediate vicinity is caught within the boundary of its fractured light.

I smile.

My surprise still awaits your discovery.

You feel your way slowly along the wall and take a faltering stumbled step into the kitchen. The light switch disappoints you once more.

The language that follows that discovery explodes in the air. I hear you open the refrigerator to confirm to yourself that this lack of light has permeated the entire apartment. You shrug out of your coat and drop it to the floor, uncaring of the dirt and clutter it now lay amongst.

You find the bottle of scotch and slam cupboard doors seeking a glass. There are none. They lay in a disordered mess of unwashed utensils still awaiting attention on the food scrap cluttered kitchen bench.

I hear you curse as you stagger. The booze you’ve been consuming for hours rattles your movements and makes them disjointed.

You sit heavily in the easy chair uncaring of the scattered and dirty clothing that cushions your weight.

You unscrew the lid of the scotch bottle and take several satisfying gulps.

The anticipation makes me quiver now.

I have waited so long for this.

The cigarette lighter grants you a drag of the nicotine that is but one thing on your list of addictions.

The clock ticks over again and moves time relentlessly forward.

The bathroom awaits your imminent arrival and you curse again at your now shaking hands as you seek out your ever-present stash of heroin. You scream in rage and frustration when you finally acknowledge that there is none to be found.

I hear you slamming the walls with your now white-knuckled fists.

I reach across and flick off the power override switch. I illuminate the apartment.

It takes brief seconds for you to lurch back into view.

“Melody? Why the fuck didn’t you tell me you were here? What the hell! When did you get back?”

“I discharged myself from the hospital.”

“Oh. Good. This place is a mess. It needs cleaning.”

“Yes, Charles. Yes, it does.”

I watch you nod your head, pleased at my response.

You check your wallet, quickly counting the bills waiting inside. You confirm your decision, “I  need to go out. Fix me something to eat. I won’t be long.”

“Why do you need to go out again? It’s raining.”

I watch you glare at me for daring to question you. “I need a fix. I’m heading to see Freddy.”

“There’s no need. I stopped by and saw him on the way home. I wanted to give you a surprise.”

You smile for the first time. “Well, now. That’s fine. That’s good.”

“Do you want me to get it?”

You now wear your frustrated look. “Fuck yes. Of course. Hurry up.”

“Sorry. It’s a little hard to walk with my ribs strapped.”

“You’re always sorry. You’re pathetic!”

I access the bedroom and return with his fix, and watch as he draws it up and applies the tourniquet to his upper left arm.

“You broke my jaw again, and two ribs this time.”

You glare at me as I dare to disturb your concentration, “You shouldn’t aggravate me like you do. You know you asked for it.”

The smack hits you, and I watch as your pupils dilate. The sickly smile that you now wear is most unattractive.

I wait.

You look suddenly startled. I watch the confusion on your face turn to fear … and then a moment of understanding colors your now bulging eyes. “Fuck! Fuck, Melody! What did you d…………….”

I wait.

You make a gargled choking noise as you begin to foam at the mouth.

I wait for five minutes and then check for a heartbeat … I smile … there is none.

I need to be certain that reviving you is not possible. Fifteen minutes should do it.

I punch in a number on my iPhone.

“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“Oh, God … help me, please! Please! I’ve just found my husband. He’s not breathing. Please … I think he’s overdosed.”

The kind operator took my address, “Okay. Stay calm. I have paramedics on the way.”

“Hurry! Hurry, please, please hurry.”

I turn off the lights and sit within darkness’s velvet cloak. My iPhone torch casts a spotlight on your rapidly cooling body.

I smile.

The rigid look of fear on your now strictured face brings me comfort. “Did you like my little surprise, Charles?”

I hear the sirens approaching.

I laugh in delight as the heady rush of adrenaline-fuelled relief floods my system.

The dawn light is just filtering through the balcony windows. Soon now I’ll have no need to seek the comfort of darkness.

I wait now. I have finally regained control.

#


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Suzanne Burke’s RWISA Author Page


 How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!


 

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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Blog Tour Banners

Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is John Howell! John is a master of suspense thrillers that keep you turning the pages. I’m sure you’ll get the idea from the sample below. Check him out at the link at the bottom of the page!


john-howell


Trouble

by John W. Howell ©2018

I know its morning, but I don’t want to open my eyes. I am starting to remember what went on last night and I don’t even want to imagine who might be sleeping next to me. Not that I think there is anyone there since I’m pretty sure I came home alone. I didn’t want to go back alone, and god knows I tried hard to prevent sleeping by myself. I do remember coming on to the beautiful woman in the bar. Wait a minute. I remember it because it was so early in the evening, I didn’t have a lot to drink then. I know I drink too much and lately, I have been having a hard time getting the events of the previous night together. Okay, so before I open my eyes, I will give a thought to what I believe the evening turned out to be.

First, I met David at the bar, and we had a drink. I ordered gin on the rocks and David had bourbon. So far so good. David and I were discussing something about workout shoes, then he left for the bathroom. The woman came in and asked if I would mind buying her a drink. She had some story about losing her purse and being pretty much stranded. I remember asking her if she had someone she could call. I think she told me, no, but I’m not sure. Anyway, we had a couple more drinks, and sometime in there, David came back. I introduced the woman to David. I think her name was Chloe or Carolyn. By this time, I am starting to feel pretty good. I ask her if she would like to stay over and I remember her telling me she was not that kind of girl. We had some more drinks and then decided to go to dinner. I asked the woman if she would like to join us and she was pretty definite about the decline. I chalked it up to my usual déclassé, and David and I left.

Now from there, it is a little fuzzy. I remember ordering dinner and a couple more drinks. I really don’t remember finishing the meal or leaving the place. This lack of memory is foretelling me that from experience the outcome will not be good. I’m sure David and I went out after dinner as we always do and so there are some blank places where mayhem could have occurred. I am now sweating quite hard, and it isn’t the heat either. The room must be fifty degrees if it is one. The sweat is as a result of the sinking, bottom of stomach pit nervousness coming from the fact I have no idea what I did after we left the restaurant. My head is also beginning to ache as a warning to my body the caffeine level in my system is getting dangerously low. I am afraid I have no alternative, but to get up and face whatever needs facing so I can get some coffee. I know I will also need some painkiller as well. I will try aspirin and know from previous headaches I will need to wash it down with about three fingers of vodka. No ice just the ice-cold vodka from the freezer in a glass with no ceremony. Get it into the system fast so the memory will come back, and these infernal shakes will slow down for the moment.

I steel myself and get ready to get out of the bed. I will need to move my body slowly, so I don’t cause a situation that inevitably leads to nausea and the arrival of the dreaded throw up that doesn’t have the decency to come when I’m numb and in the bag. I know my body would prefer if I did, in fact, throw up, but my mind still considers throwing up the sign of someone who can’t hold their liquor. God knows I can hold mine even if I can’t remember a damn thing about the night before. Now is the time to open the eyes and have a look around. I do the left one first since I think I am closer to the left side of the bed and I’m sure no one is there. When I open my eye, I can almost hear the tearing of the lids as they try to separate. Another joy of falling asleep drunk; the eyes feel glued shut. I look with my left eye and see nothing but the bedroom window looking reddish and covered in the gauzy curtains one of my past loves put up there. The red glow must be the bloodshot view my iris gets looking out of my eyeball.

I open the right and almost scream out loud. My worst nightmare has come true and is lying next to me. That beautiful Chloe or Caroline is sound asleep, and now I have to wonder why I didn’t feel the heat of her body before I opened my eyes. Immediately the old Coyote ugly joke comes to mind about chewing off an arm to get away, but this woman is not ugly and not on my arm. I begin to hyperventilate since no good can come from not remembering how this lovely creature ended up in my bed. I can see she doesn’t seem to have a shirt on either. I am not about to probe to understand about the pants and must try to get to my medications before I actually throw up right here in the bed. I roll to the left and swing my legs over the edge of the bed and sit up as gracefully as I can. I see I am completely naked and instead of feeling free, I believe I feel more like someone who has a clamp around the midsection. I rise off the bed very slowly.

“Morning darling,” she says.

“Uh good morning,” I say. “Would you like some coffee?”

“Ummm that sounds so good right now.”

“I’ll be right back. Don’t go away.”

“Oh, don’t worry I won’t.”

Son of a bitch. What the hell have I done now? I can feel my gag reflex starting to go into automatic drive, so I rush to the kitchen and open the freezer. The vodka is right there, and I am not even going to wait for the glass. I take three big swallows and hold my breath. My stomach gives a lurch like I just dropped an explosive down the hatch but retains the liquid in place. “God thank you,” I say out loud. It Looks like I can go to the coffee machine and brew some strong stuff. At times like these, I am so thankful I quit smoking. As bad as I feel, had I consumed a couple of packs of smokes, I would have wanted to kill myself about now. I hold on to the counter as the coffee begins its cycle.

“How do you feel?”

I wheel around and almost lose my precious vodka which is just starting to worm its way into my brain. “I feel like shit.”

“I am not surprised. When I ran into you again, you were pretty wasted.”

“Whoa, I sure was. Where is David?

“You and David got into a fight.”

“A fight? What were we fighting about?”

“You wanted to take me home, and David didn’t want you to do so.”

“So, where is he?”

“I really don’t know. We left him on the street.”

“What? Left him on the street? Why the hell did we do that?”

“As I said you were pretty wasted.”

“Yeah but leaving him passed out on the street.”

“Oh, he wasn’t passed out.”

“What was he?”

“You shot him. I believe David is dead.”

“Shot him? How is that possible. I don’t own a gun.”

“That didn’t stop you from finding one.”

“Finding one? Where did I find a gun?”

“I loaned you mine.”

“And I shot David with it?”

“Yup. Right in the back as he tried to walk away.”

“Oh my God. What on Earth made me do that? He’s my best friend.”

Was. I wouldn’t say it was an Earthly persuasion. I do believe my work is done here.”

“Your work?  What do you mean?”

“Hear those sirens. They are coming for you. I called them. I would get some clothes on if I were you. Oh, and a piece of advice.”

“Advice?”

“Yeah. Think twice before you decide to mess with the devil. See you on the other side.”


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

John Howell’s RWISA Author Page


 How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!


 

Today’s Writing Tip

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Don’t shock your readers with something that hasn’t been alluded to in some way. It actually builds more suspense to hint at it, making them wonder what’s going to happen.  Providing threats, whether real or imagined, gives the reader more to worry about and anticipate trouble for your hero or heroine, which keeps them turning the pages.

“Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour” — Day 24

RWISA TOUR (1)

One Nice Fall Day

by Bruce A. Borders

©2017 Bruce A. Borders & Borders Publishing

Not having a good Monday at work, I decided to cut my day short and head home. Home, my sanctuary. As a single guy, I often retreat to my sanctuary when things become intolerable, such as today.

Pulling into the drive, I noticed the yard and house really needed attention. I kept the lawn mowed, but the knee-high weeds were another matter. The house too had long been neglected. The loose siding and trim boards couldn’t be ignored much longer.

BRUCE BORDERS

Bruce A. Borders

“Maybe next weekend,” I mused.

But then, I’d said that last week too. I’d only gotten as far as hauling out a garden rake and a tree trimmer before reconsidering and putting them back. Or, maybe I hadn’t put them away, I thought, seeing my rake in the yard.

Taking a minute to replace the rake in the tool shed, I wandered inside, intent on taking it easy for the rest of the afternoon. And I did. The next couple of hours were spent napping. Then, feeling slightly more energetic, I thought I’d give the yard work another try. And that’s when I found the body.

A male, early twenties, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, lay face down in the weeds, not ten feet from where I’d walked earlier. Good citizen that I am, I immediately called 911. Within minutes, my yard was swarming with cops and other emergency personnel.

After examining the body, one of the detectives walked over. “You discovered the body?”

I nodded, as another officer joined us.

“Tell me what led to your discovery.”

I related the gist of my activities of the day, such as they were.

Then began a series of inane questions. “You live alone here? Why’d you leave work early? What took you so long to call 911?”

“You’re acting like this guy was murdered or something.”

“We’re just trying to figure out the timeline and what happened,” one said.

“And to what extent you were involved,” his partner added.

I guess I’ve seen too many TV dramas because the first thing I said was, “So, do I need a lawyer?”

The cop shrugged. “Depends. Is there a reason you may need a lawyer?”

“I don’t know,” I stammered. “Don’t think so. Just don’t want to be blamed for this murder.”

“No one’s blaming you—yet.” The officer paused, whether for dramatic effect or to weigh his words, I wasn’t sure. “Should we be looking at you as a suspect?”

“Of course not.”

The detectives eyed me a moment. “We’ll be in touch,” one said as they turned away.

They’ll be in touch? What’s that supposed to mean? They’d said I wasn’t a suspect; was that just to keep me off-guard until they’d had time to gather enough evidence to build a case?

I shook my head. I must be crazy. There was no evidence. There was no case. I hadn’t done anything except find the body. I certainly hadn’t killed him.

But, they didn’t know that. And here I was acting all weird. Even I had to admit my strange behavior and ramblings appeared suspicious. The police likely thought so too.

And that’s how I ended up seeing a criminal defense attorney for a crime I hadn’t committed.

“Sounds like you’re a bit paranoid,” said the attorney after I’d filled him in.

“Paranoid, huh?” I said, somewhat sheepishly.

He smiled. “A little.”

I couldn’t think of an intelligent response, so I just sat there.

“Tell you what,” he said, breaking my uncomfortable abeyance. “I’ll keep my notes and if you’re arrested, call me.”

“Thanks. Hope I don’t need to.”

“If you didn’t commit the murder, they can’t exactly find any evidence. Although…”

I frowned. “Although what?”

They could always charge you with manslaughter if anything you’ve done, intentionally or unintentionally, contributed to the man’s death.”

“Right. I didn’t even know he was there until I found the body.”

“It’s most likely nothing to worry about. But you never know.”

As I stood to leave, he added, “If you are arrested, don’t say anything until I’m present. You’ve already given your statement. That’s all you’re obligated to do.”

Nodding, I left.

Just talking to the lawyer had helped. The anxiety I’d felt earlier was gone. Feeling better about my prospects, I drove home and was utterly shocked to find two police cars in my driveway, the officers knocking at my door.

As I parked, they came toward me. “Mr. Powell?”

“That’s me.”

“Can we come in and talk?”

I hesitated. The attorney had said to say nothing if I were arrested. He hadn’t mentioned anything about not being arrested. “Depends,” I finally managed. “Am I under arrest?”

“No,” the officer said. “We just want to clarify a few things with you.”

I repeated what the lawyer had told me. “I’ve already given my statement. That’s all I’m obligated to do.”

“You’re not interested in helping solve this murder?”

I certainly was interested in solving the murder, but something told me that “helping” might have an entirely different meaning to them. “I’ve already given my statement,” I said again.

The officers looked perturbed. “Well,” one said, reaching for his handcuffs. “You leave us no choice then. Mr. Powell, you are under arrest in connection with the murder of Vincent Dalhart.”

As the cop handcuffed me, I focused on what he’d said. I wasn’t being arrested for the murder but in connection with the murder. I wasn’t sure what that meant if anything. I hoped it meant they didn’t actually think I’d killed the man.

The next two days were a blur of numerous meetings with the detectives and my attorney. Through these conversations, I finally learned what had happened.

Vincent Dalhart had been stabbed to death. There were four puncture wounds, evenly spaced. Two had pierced a vital organ. The time of death was uncertain although, the medical examiner estimated it to be five hours before I, the only suspect, had stumbled onto the body.

Meanwhile, the police had executed a search warrant for my property, finding my rake, which they believed to be the murder weapon. Lab testing confirmed that blood present on the tines was that of the victim. Murder in the first degree was the charge.

To his credit, my lawyer seemed undaunted by the discovery. I told him about seeing the rake and putting it away. He seemed satisfied. “But the police will want to know how you didn’t notice any blood on the rake.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “Not sure how I missed that.”

He shrugged. “Easy enough explanation. The blood was only on the tines—probably not a large amount. By the time you picked it up, the blood had likely dried. It would’ve been very difficult to see unless you were specifically looking for it.”

Unfortunately, the police were specifically looking for it, having determined a garden rake to be the likely murder weapon. And as my lawyer had predicted they weren’t exactly sold on my account of the events. Instead, they believed I’d used the rake to murder the man breaking into my house.

With no other options, we prepared to go to trial. My attorney seemed to like my chances. I wasn’t so confident. Here I was, a guy who’d never even been in a fight, charged with murder. It all felt so overwhelming.

Then, the next day, things took a surprising turn.

The guard came to escort me to the briefing room where my attorney waited.

“Good news,” he greeted me. “All charges have been dropped. You’ll be released within the hour.”

I was stunned. “That’s great, but… why? How?” With the direction things had been going, I found it hard to imagine the police had suddenly decided I was innocent.

“Turns out your neighbor saw the whole thing from across the street. Mr. Dalhart arrived at your house on foot, poked around; checking doors and windows, then went to the shed and retrieved the rake. Standing on your porch railing, he attempted to use the rake to pull himself up to an open second-story window. The window ledge gave way, and Mr. Dalhart fell to the ground, impaling himself on the rake.”

“But the rake was a good ten feet from the body.”

The attorney nodded. “Apparently, the would-be thief lived long enough to remove the rake and fling it away.”

I was frowning. “My neighbor watched all this and didn’t even try to help? Or, report it? Not that I care, really. The thief got what he deserved. But how does someone just watch all that and not do anything?”

The lawyer shrugged. “People are strange. Maybe he didn’t want to be involved. Who knows? He’s been arrested and faces legal troubles over his lack of humanity.”

“I would hope so.”

“Just be glad he eventually came forward.”

“I am.” I fell silent then.

The attorney noticed my gaze. “What is it?”

I smiled wryly. “Was just thinking… That window ledge has been loose for quite a while, banging in the wind. Been meaning to fix it for months, just hadn’t gotten around to it.”

Eyeing me a moment, the lawyer said, “You might want to keep that information to yourself.”

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH RWISAWRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Bruce A. Border’s RWISA Author Page

Interview with Kirsten Streicher, Kick-ass Heroine of “The Blight”

theblightMeet Kirsten Streicher, kick-ass heroine of The Blight, another nail-biter, suspense thriller by John Reinhard Dizon. First, a little about Kirsten and her story:

Kirsten Streicher is an Iraq War veteran assigned to the Supercop Unit in St. Louis. The elite unit has been successful in combating the Blight, a plague of poverty-driven crime that is overwhelming the city. Only a genocidal sociopath has declared his own war against the Blight and is conducting a campaign to eradicate the undesirable elements within the community. The death of one of her partners and the suspension of another portend the breakup of the team. Kirsten is forced to deal with a major change in her career path once the man called X is brought to justice. She is also involved in a romance with a UMKC professor, Kurt Franz. He takes her to a new reality amidst the protests of Brad, who is still hunting the killer despite his suspension. Brad reveals his love for her and places her in the middle of a love triangle. Making matters worse is evidence indicating that X is focusing on Kirsten, which makes her a potential target.

MF: Welcome, Kirsten. It’s a pleasure to have you here today.

KS: I’d just like to thank the interviewer for being so patient in allowing me to put my thoughts together. This has been a harrowing and traumatic time in my life. I’m finally able to articulate my feelings and my reflections, and I hope they might inspire young people out there trying to make the world a better place.

MF: I understand. The aftermath of such a time is often the most difficult, and you’ve had several such experiences in your life. Looking back to those that made you who you are, did any particular experience you had while serving in the Middle East have a life-defining effect?

KS: It had to be in Afghanistan when we took out that insurgent Taliban unit in preventing an ambush of American soldiers. We found out they were just high school kids who had been brainwashed into fighting for someone else’s cause. During the Blight, I saw the same thing in the teens who were recruited by drug gangs to advance the ulterior motives of others. Kids are so idealistic and easily influenced. Society has a tremendous obligation to raise our children in a moral and principled world.

30990375 - base of st. louis arch with silhouette of two people and lightning

MF: That is so true. Kids are always going to reflect their environment and how they’re raised. When parents fail, often law enforcement is forced to fill the gap. As such, what do you find the most satisfying part of being a cop?

KS: The chance to make a difference in society and defend the oppressed and underprivileged. It was the same thing we tried to do in the Middle East. We tried to do it here but we never dreamed we’d be dealing with the same kind of evil. At least we had the battle experience, and I hope that other veterans will be able to use their skills and knowledge to change things here at home.

MF: It’s so sad that our veterans come home to that, but it’s true they can definitely make a difference here as well. Nothing is simple these days. Do you see crime in terms of black and white or are there shades of grey?

KS: That is such a hard question. Good is good and evil is evil, that’s your black and white. Only the effect it has on others is where your shades of grey come in. It’s so hard to deal with victims of crime, especially in gang-controlled neighborhoods where they live. The Blight nearly immersed the city of St. Louis in the darkness. It was a miracle that we were able to help its citizens find their way back to the light.

MF: Yes, it truly was. And it certainly wasn’t easy. If you were “Queen of the World” for a day, what would you change?

KS: I would eradicate drug trafficking by any means necessary. It is what empowers drug gangs, poisons its victims and destroys communities. Cut off the supply, put dealers away for good and do everything possible to rehabilitate dependents. It is the singlemost terrible problem the people of the world are dealing with.

MF: I couldn’t agree more. What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?

KS: Waking up Christmas morning to find goodbye letters from the two most important people in my life. It created a void in my heart, in my existence, that I may never refill. I can’t even remember a happy time. I think readers of my story will fully understand why.

MF: I hope with time that some level of happiness and satisfaction will come your way as you recognize how many lives you have changed in a positive way. They say what doesn’t kill us outright only makes us stronger. In that context, what did you learn from your experience with “The Blight”?

KS: Well, let me take back that last statement. Seeing the people of St. Louis unite to keep the murderers from destroying Christmas was the most wonderful thing I ever saw. Black and white, rich and poor, Christian and Muslim, it didn’t matter who they were. We all became neighbors, we shared and shared alike. The citizens of our city decided they had enough of the Blight and made it go away. Americans have that in common, we stand together in times of trouble. It makes me so proud to be an American and a Missourian. I hope my story helps other people feel that way.

MF: Thank you so much for being with us today, Kirsten. The world needs more people like you in this crazy world we’re living in. I wish you all the best and that you’ll be blessed for all the good you’ve done.

Be sure to pick up a copy of The Blight so you can put Kirsten’s comments and insights into context. You can grab your copy from Amazon here.

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eric1513/123RF Stock Photo

“Fantasy Patch”–Another 5-star Nail-biter from Stephen Geez

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Wow! What a ride! I’m still trying to catch my breath since finishing this fast-moving suspense thriller. In fact, sometimes it moved so fast, I felt left behind in the dust. The immediacy of the story is beyond gripping, told in first person/present tense through the eyes of protagonist, Danté Roenik. So “present”, in fact, you don’t even know his name for several pages. Kind of like meeting an interesting, good-looking, charismatic guy at a party who’s telling a good story. You really don’t care what his name is, you just want to be part of the excitement along with the other enchanted guests. This served as a very clever and effective writing tactic outside the mainstream, for which the author once again definitely earned my admiration.

This is the third Stephen Geez book I’ve read and this man must have multiple personalities because each tome’s style, at least the ones I’ve read so far, stands out as unique. Some authors can write in multiple genres with ease, yet the style is largely the same. I don’t think I’d be able to tell these were written by the same person, though they did share outstanding characterizations and vivid setting descriptions, plenty of suspense, lively dialog, and complex plots as well as strong writing, edited to perfection. No ruts or boring formula writing here! A random sprinkling of clever creative word plays are scattered throughout the narrative as well, which are not only entertaining but further characterize Danté’s artistic temperament. For example, “beeping blippers and blipping beepers” or “purse snatchers and snatch pursuers” or “fact takers and tacit fakers”, all of which add color and humor.

Poor Danté. An artist at heart, all he wants to do is draw, yet he’s sucked into a web of intrigue through his position as creative director at a public relations firm. He’s a nice guy, perhaps too nice, who adores the lively, old lady next door, Mrs. Moeroff, as well as the love of her life, another neighbor, Hank Barnahay. His attorney girlfriend, Cyn, is focused on an ambitious fast-track to partnership in her law firm, which is her top priority, much to Danté’s dismay. And that’s just his personal life. His professional life is what makes your head spin. The author places you firmly in Danté’s shoes in a busy, competitive, fast-paced, head-spinning and often risky environment, ripe with industry jargon. If you’ve ever wanted to work in PR, then this story is required reading for its excellent description of what’s involved, from the actual technical processes, to sales tactics, and competitors as trustworthy as piranha. By the time you finish this story, you feel as if you could put experience at Dellman/Roenik on your resume. I kid you not.

Of course any such firm is loaded with employees doing a variety of tasks, the boatload of characters adding to and authenticating the hectic pace. And then times it by two, by the way, because our hero changes employers, the original now his rather unfriendly competition. In fact, there were so many characters, I would have welcomed a dramatis personae to keep them all straight. They come at you fast, so unless you have a steel-trap memory, which I don’t, you might want to keep notes. Trust me, it would be worth it, because things get more complicated with every page.

The good news is that their names were not only unusual, but differed dramatically, reminding me at times of alphabet soup. Yet they were well-chosen and unique, which helped keep them straight versus unimaginative authors who call one character Bob and another Rob. Their physical descriptions were helpful as well, making them easy to envision, their personalities distinct and never lacking.  There’s no doubt this story would make an outstanding movie, or better yet, TV mini-series.

The story quickly evolves into a murder mystery, so the huge cast also serves as a collective red herring with regard to the identity of the guilty party. But actually, it’s not that simple, it’s Big Pharma and its cohorts covering their tracks with regard to lethal side effects of Parzilac, combined with rather vicious competition tactics as competitor, M-Slovak, prepares to release a potential competitor, the Fantasy Patch. Corporate espionage is in full swing as is appropriate security, courtesy of Flynn Durbett, a carryover character from “Invigilator.” I love it when characters live on!

If you’re looking for high-octane entertainment with surprises at every turn, grab a copy today and plan to stay up late reading. Same goes if you’re naturally suspicious of Big Pharma or are annoyed by those TV drug ads (which are illegal is most of the world besides the USA) where the side effects narrative takes 90% of the allotted time. Breathtaking action, nail-biting suspense, crisp dialog, and edge-of-your-seat narrative suck you in, all the way to the last page. Don’t miss it.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Review of “Faithless Elector” by James McCrone

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Don’t let the enigmatic title and somewhat bland cover of this political thriller fool you. While the subject sounded interesting and very apropos for the times, which is why I decided to read it, I had no idea it would suck me in like it did. I could hardly put it down and even stayed up late, missing a new episode of one of my favorite shows, “Blindspot,” to finish it. Believe me, that takes something pretty gripping.

There were so many things I loved about this book. First of all, I learned more about the Electoral College and the process the U.S. has for electing its president. Many years ago I remember a political science class in college where the professor stated that we should have a national primary, get rid of the electoral college process and go with a strict popular vote to elect the president, which made sense to me. That was back in the 80s and clearly nothing has changed. The complexity of this process leaves too many loopholes for corruption, as this intense story points out.

In this day of computers it simply wouldn’t be that difficult to assure the integrity of elections which is obviously not happening. I could go off on a complete rant about that, but this is a book review, for heaven sake. So I won’t. But I enjoy learning something from a book, especially when it’s packaged in a fast-moving, gripping story where you can’t read fast enough to find out what will happen next. There were parts where I wouldn’t have dared take my blood pressure. Yes, it was that intense.

The characters in this book were strong and believable. The main character, Duncan Calder, is a political science professor. He’s charming, intelligent and undoubtedly handsome, but not someone who is accustomed to being plunged into a world of intrigue and murder. It was very credible, the way he adapted, using his intelligence and survival instincts. All of the characters were also vivid and believable, particularly Imogen Trager, a former grad-student of his who is now working for the FBI. The history these two have is believable and handled in a very convincing way. They were very human and nothing felt contrived.

The descriptions and imagery were fantastic. The author described the various settings using prose that read like literary ambrosia. Yet, he knew when to cut to the chase, literally, and make the story and plot move at a breathless pace. It reminded me so much of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels that I loved, books I gave up like an addiction back in the days when I had a day job because they would force me to stay up into the wee hours of the night finishing them. Like those best sellers, the sense of danger of this thriller is palpable. There were a few brilliantly funny lines that had me laughing out loud and a touch of romance, masterfully intertwined within this incredible. I not only look forward to the next book, given not all the mystery was resolved in this one, but will probably read this one again. That, also, is something I rarely do. If I could give this book 10 stars I would. Don’t miss it.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Review of Elle Klass’ “Baby Girl 6: Return to the Bay”

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Cleo’s saga continues in another suspense-filled episode. If you’re a Cleo fan like I am, you won’t be disappointed in this latest segment of her ongoing story. This one picks up where Baby Girl 5: Caribbean Heat drops you off with a nail-biting cliffhanger. Cleo, her best friend, Kacy, and La Tige have been ambushed and left in dire straits in a warehouse. Upon surviving this ordeal, the set out to figure out who the culprit is and his possible motive. More of Cleo’s family secrets are revealed in the fast-moving sequel. As always, the characters are convincing and endearing and by the time you make it this far in this enjoyable series, they’re like your own family. Cleo’s story just gets better and better.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Review of “His Revenge” by John W. Howell

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This fast-moving, well-written and nicely edited thriller keeps you turning the pages as you wonder how hero, John Cannon, is going to get out of his current dilemma. In the first book in this trilogy (My GRL), Cannon foiled a sophisticated group of terrorist’s insidious plan. Needless to say, they’re out for revenge and manage to capture him after which they force him to be part of another devious plot aimed at destroying the economic viability of the west. The suspense is well-sustained, dialog gripping, and characters convincing. The action level was breathtaking. Having not read “My GRL” it was nonetheless relatively easy to follow what had transpired previously. Descriptions of Cannon’s recovery from injuries sustained in the previous book were extremely well done.

However, there were various gaps typical of a serial where the author doesn’t remind a previous reader (or enlighten a new one) with regard to details such as what the characters look like. For example, while it was implied in this volume that the terrorists were of the Middle Eastern variety, their names were not indicative of that heritage. Rather, they had names that suggested European or even American origin. There was also no physical description with regard to their appearance, so they were a faceless enigma. This left me scratching my head throughout the story, wondering “Who exactly are these people?”

I can definitely understand this tendency myself since I’ve written a serial. In the author’s mind it’s one, continuous story and easy to forget to include details that seem redundant, yet they’re essential. I’ve covered some of the things I’ve learned in previous blogs for serial writers such as this one and its follow-up. I’m sure my readers can find similar oversights in my books, so I mention this in all humility.

The motivation for their heinous acts was touched on, but not demonstrated in their personal behavior. While I would expect lethal passion resulting from intense anger, hatred, and a visceral need for revenge, the antagonists behaved more like corporate executives out to annihilate a competitor to keep their stockholders satisfied. They were definitely cold-hearted, but the expected fury at Cannon’s previous actions didn’t come through.

Maybe this was covered in the first book, but evoking the emotional drive behind their acts could have added considerable intensity and additional suspense. If the bad guys were true terrorists, you’d expect that pissing them off further would result in chopping Cannon’s (or a loved one’s) head off on YouTube, but that type of potential didn’t come through. Emotional connection is what really grabs a reader. They need to love the hero and hate the antagonist, or at least fear him/her. This is what makes a story real and comprises a gripping tale.

I hate to get on the soapbox again, but I find it helpful to to assess a book during the content editing process using the acronym IDEAS where I stands for Imagery; D stands for Dialog; E stands for Emotion; A stands for Action and S stands for Suspense. Depending on the genre, a certain balance is required of these elements. Action and dialog often come easily for thriller writers, so going back to include the others is often required. Of course you don’t want to slow the story down, so it needs to be done with finesse, not long, drawn-out descriptions that cause the reader’s eyes to glaze over.

While in this story the terrorists used the fate of loved ones to drive their captives’ cooperation, it seemed that the good guys may have gotten around it a bit too easily, if these terrorists were as smart or well-connected as implied. Especially if the antagonists had as much clout and the ability to infiltrate so many organizations to effect Cannon’s capture, which was not explained, either. Including such things increases a story’s credibility.

Perhaps this was covered in the first book, which would make it required reading to fully appreciate this one. The author has an excellent writing style with a talent for developing a fast moving story with convincing dialog and viable characters. By filling in some of these gaps, kicking up the emotional drive a notch, and a bit more imagery, Howell could easily approach the level of Tom Clancy or John Grisham. I see tremendous potential in his writing that could go from great to outstanding with a bit more attention to detail, though many readers may not care and simply enjoy the fast action. I, personally, like to know the how and wherefore, which is what can drive a great story up a notch to the best seller list.

Review of “Stealing Time” by K.J. Waters

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I have three fairly basic criteria that will earn a book an instant 5-star review: It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, and it keeps me up past my bedtime. As you have probably guessed, “Stealing Time” definitely hit the mark.

I also have tremendous respect for an author who takes nine years to bring a book to completion. Now, of course, this is really bad news if you have to wait that long for the next episode, which hopefully won’t be the case! But IMHO, there’s a certain richness that a novel achieves with time versus those that are kicked out in a few weeks. No offense to those who do so, of course, I’m probably just jealous, because I’m another one who takes a while to finish up a book. Sometimes much longer than nine years, but that’s another story. What I’m getting at is the quality of the characters, imagery and plot details show when a book, like a fine wine, has aged a bit, giving the author time to rethink, embellish and perfect their story. Yeah. Like a fine wine.

As a time travel story, this one is outstanding. The mechanism that transfers the heroine, Ronnie, back in time is in the realm of science fiction, i.e., credible, but not belabored. Thus, this is not true science fiction fodder, but more in the realm for those who love historical fiction since the majority of the story takes place in 18th Century England with some flashbacks (or would it be flashforwards?) to Florida enduring Hurricane Charley, back in 2004, which precipitated the transfer.

The research for this period of time was incredible. The reader is truly transferred back in time to a world so different than ours it feels like another planet. If you don’t think the world has made any progress in the past two hundred fifty years, you definitely need to read this book. While today’s world definitely has its problems and fundamental human nature doesn’t change, it’s incredible to get a glimpse of what England was like back in 1752. Wow. I, for one, am reminded how lucky I am to be living in this century. There are plenty of undercover lessons here, too, with regard to superstitious and unreasonable beliefs that drive a culture, in this case the ridiculous view of what qualified a woman as a witch and how she was subsequently tried and treated. Chilling and horrifying are the first words that come to mind.

The imagery and action was absolutely breathtaking, especially the last fourth of the book, at which point I just sucked it up regardless of the late hour and finished. Since this is the first book in a trilogy, I knew everything wouldn’t be solved, but it did provide a satisfying ending, though there were certainly plenty of unanswered questions to drive the reader’s hunger for the next volume. I highly recommend this well-written story to anyone who loves a thriller, historical fiction or romanticizes the past. Believe me when I say we have come much farther than you may think.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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