Thursday, July 19, 2018



Professional organizer Maggie McDonald manages to balance a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s finally found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for a rapid evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover the body of her best friend Tess Olmos’s athletic husband—whose untimely death was anything but accidental. And as Tess agonizes over the whereabouts of her spouse’s drop-dead gorgeous running mate, she becomes the prime suspect in what's shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts through clues in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. But when her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?

Book Details:

Title: Disorderly Conduct

Author’s name: Mary Feliz

Genre: Mystery

Series: Maggie McDonald Mysteries, book 4

Publisher: Kensington Lyrical (July 10, 2018)

Print length: 233 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours


Things you love about where you live: I live next to the Pacific Ocean on Monterey Bay and share my backyard with hundreds of species of birds and whales, seals, sea lions, sea otters, and many other oceanic creatures.
Things that make you want to move: We live in a tiny condo with zero storage. And by the end of the summer, we’re ready for the summer people to go home.

Things you never want to run out of: Patience, love.
Things you wish you’d never bought: Fancy china

Words that describe you: Nature lover, dog and cat lover, gardener, bird watcher.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: Plump. Overscheduled.

People you consider as heroes: Annie Jump-Cannon and her fellow under-sung female astronomers, Martin Luther King Jr., The Parkland School Teens, those who stand up for the little guy, even when they’re scared or tired or have other things to do.
People with a big L on their foreheads: Those who are self-righteous or convinced that they have all the answers.

Last best thing you ate: A ripe Watsonville strawberry, warm from the field.

Last thing you regret eating: A cookie that looked pretty but wasn’t worth the calories or carbs.

Things you’d walk a mile for: A latte.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: Pomposity. Overly sweet scented candles.

Things you always put in your books: Dogs, humor, irony, and one or two characters who’ve are suffering personally from aspects of a complex social issue.

Things you never put in your books: Torture. Sex. Overt violence.

Things to say to an author: I love your books. Your books remind me of Louise Penny.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “I read your book…”.  “Oh, I bought your book last year, but I haven’t read it yet. I don’t know why.” “I’m not much of a reader…

Favorite places you’ve been: Almost any beach in the off-season.
Places you never want to go to again: Almost anywhere with long lines, crowds, and heat. If they’ve got all three, I probably won’t go, no matter what the draw.

Favorite genre: I’m a promiscuous reader and read in many genres, but mystery is my favorite.

Books you would ban: Anything with torture or violence against women or animals.


Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She's worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character's stead, but Maggie's skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.

Connect with Mary:
Website  |  Blog Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Tuesday, July 17, 2018



The past is never past. Sometimes it repeats itself. And sometimes it comes back to pay a visit. Blu Carraway, flush with cash and back in business, never had it so good. Or so he thought.The reality is his love life is in shambles, his business partner is spending too much time with women half his age and not enough time on the job, and someone close goes missing. Blu’s business partner goes off the rails, his friends show their true colors, and he realizes that getting closure sometimes means walking away from everything. With a case from the past gone wrong twice, a loved one in trouble, and an unanswered marriage proposal, it’s a bad time to be in it for Blu Carraway Investigations.

Book Details:

Title: Bad Time to Be In It

Author: David Burnsworth

Genre: Mystery

Series: Blu Carraway Mysteries, book 2

Publisher: Henery Press (July 10, 2018)

Page count: 254

On tour with: Partners in Crime Book Tours


David, where did you grow up?
I’ve lived in the south since I was nine so I’ll say Atlanta, Georgia.  I loved the big city life and set one of my books (Big City Heat, Henery Press 2017) there. My wife and I reside in South Carolina, which I’ve called home since 2000. It’s the longest I’ve lived in any state. As a side note, our state flag is my favorite!

What do you love about where you live?

Where my wife and I live in South Carolina, we are close to two major cities and three hours from the ocean.  The cost of living is reasonable, unemployment is low, and it isn’t insanely crowded. Plus it’s the south. There’s so much grand history and ugly baggage here to keep me busy writing books for a long time.

If you had an extra $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?

A used Porsche 911 in about 500 weeks. It’s my dream car and sooner or later I’m going to have one. I don’t care if I’m fulfilling the cliché of mid-life-crisis with it or not.

What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
I didn’t study hard enough in college. On the flip side, I didn’t give up which I thought about doing several times. At some point, I realized that graduating was the best thing I could do, so I gritted my teeth, straightened up, and made it through. It turned out to be one of the best things I’d done.

What’s one thing that you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?
Life is short. Planning to do something “some day” never really happens. For me, it took my wife basically saying it was “time to write your book now.” If she hadn’t, I might still be thinking about doing it instead of authoring five novels and working on a sixth.

What’s one thing you wish your younger writer self knew?
I should have started writing seriously thirty years ago. Looking back, I suppose I wasn’t ready. It takes quite a bit of toughness, if I can call it that, to put something out there. I didn’t have it then. Some days I don’t have it now. Some people are great. Some are not. In the end, I’m glad I keep going.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
I’m a degreed engineer, and I have worked in manufacturing for twenty years. I feel it is important for America to continue to make things and get better at it so it is a vocation for me as well as my livelihood. Engineering is all about problem solving. That helps me with my writing. What doesn’t help is being structured. I am a “seat-of-the-pants” writer as opposed to an outliner. The problem solving comes in when I have about two-thirds of a book not necessarily in any kind of sequence and need to put it all together.

How did you meet your spouse?
Our German teacher set us up. No joke. We were living two hundred miles apart at the time.

Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?
Depending on the day, I’d say I’ve been both.

What would your main character say about you?
Blu says, “He mostly gets it right, but sometimes I have to spell things out for him.”

Sometimes it feels exactly like I’m telling Blu’s story, but since I’m not him, it takes a while to figure out why he’s doing what he’s doing. Since I don’t outline, Blu has carte blanche in the story. It’s the “why” that throws me for a loop. Sooner or later, he shows me what he’s up to. But, damn if the man isn’t frustrating when he takes his own bloody time about it.

Who are your favorite authors?
John Sanford, Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?
I have to be able to get into the book within one page. Some readers struggle through an entire book. I don’t have the time and figure if I’m not getting it, it’s not for me. It’s not that the book is bad, it’s that I’m not the right reader for it.

Do you have a routine for writing?
I just completed the first draft of the manuscript for my next book. My routine was to write 1000 words a day. I wrote 75,000 words in eighty days, and it was the most stress-free writing I’ve done in a while.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I’ve trained myself to write anywhere, but I prefer my home office. It’s on the first floor, and my desk faces the window that overlooks my front lawn. We live on a cul-de-sac so there isn’t a lot of traffic.

What would your dream office look like?
It would be similar to my current one except it would overlook a wildlife refuge or a body of water. Or both.

What are you working on now?
I’m in the middle of the second draft of my next Blu Carraway book. It should be out in the spring of 2019, and I’m really enjoying the story.


Chapter One

Belize City, Belize, August, mid-Monday

Paco squinted as he stared out over the courtyard, the afternoon sun a brilliant blaze. Sounds of local women selling vegetables, cheap pottery, and trinkets to tourists filled the air. The clinking of dishware. Some of the vendors were lucky enough to have an umbrella or canopy to shield them from the burning heat. Most weren’t.
The pavement baked Paco’s feet through his cowboy boots.
He lifted his straw hat, one with an orange band he’d bought from a local Mennonite child, and wiped his brow. The air tasted of salt, dust, and tamalito grease.
His two partners, a Belizean Creole called Lin and a Jamaican named Peter, were already in position. Lin nodded at him from the other side of the square. Paco checked on Peter and found him fifty meters due east scoping out the three young women they’d come for.
Well, really it was just one of them they wanted. The other two women were going to be a bonus. The contract was to grab the woman with the family name of Kincaid, make a phone call when they had her at their hideout, and then do whatever they wanted with the other two. And eliminate any resistance.
The stupid chicas had only one guard with them. Some tall, middle-aged Bufon Paco guessed was half-Cuban, half-gringo, who wore sunglasses and dressed in light-colored fatigues and military style boots. He looked fit but was most likely nothing but an easy target. In the three days Peter, Lin, and Paco had tracked the women, the man with the sunglasses always kept watch from behind.
The past two nights Paco had dreamt of shooting the man through those sunglasses.
Using the sleeve of his shirt, Paco wiped his forehead one more time and then replaced his hat. He watched Peter wait until the women and the man passed and then fell in behind them.
God, the women were beautiful. Suntanned white girls in their early twenties. Perfect teeth. Curled, long hair. Linen blouses, short shorts, and sandals. After he shot their protector, his dreams ended with tying each of them to a bed, the fear in their eyes giving him immense pleasure.
And today was the day his dream would come true.
Paco watched the group pass through a crowd of old people in bright clothes unloading from a tour bus.
Except Peter didn’t emerge behind them when the women came through the other side of the gray-haired mass.
Neither did the sunglass-wearing guard.
Paco smiled and thought, good, Peter took him out already.
He nodded at Lin who gave him a thumbs-up.
The women perused another row of vendors.
He and Lin followed, coming from opposite ends.
The women were just ahead. Paco caught sight of their toned caderas and thanked his god again for tight American shorts. He picked up his pace as he threaded through the crowd.
After about forty meters, something didn’t seem right any more. He should have caught up to them by now. And Lin should have joined him.
Paco stopped, checked his phone. No messages.
Looking around, he thought he spotted the women turn down an alley.
Where were Peter and Lin?
It didn’t matter.
He had to get the woman now. Especially with the guard out of the picture.
Paco knew he could handle her by himself, even if the other two females had to die to make things easier. He sprinted after them, cut down the alley, and found himself alone with nothing but a dead end. The only noise he heard was the market from which he’d come.
An abandoned car on blocks with its hood open mocked him. Dust kicked up from his boots as he skidded to a stop. Paco turned around. No one had followed him.
He turned back and looked straight down the barrel of a revolver.
His eyes would not—could not—keep from staring at the black hole in front of him that brought death. Where in the hell did this come from? There had been no sound.
A man’s voice said, “Esto es donde dar la vuelta y a pie.” (This is where you turn around and walk away.)
Thinking fast, Paco said, “Que buscaba para mi hija.” (I was looking for my daughter.)
The thumb of the hand holding the revolver cocked the hammer back.
Anyone else would have soiled his pants at this. But Paco knew the man had made a very big mistake. Other peoples’ mistakes, and Paco’s awareness of them, were how he had survived this long. The cocked pistol an arm’s reach from his face had caught him off guard. If it had been five feet away, the perfect distance for control,he would have had a problem.
But this close—
Paco swung an arm at the hand with the pistol and ducked the other way, all in one motion just like he’d done before.
Except another gun fired.
Paco felt an inferno of heat and lead tear through his leg. He screamed and crashed to the ground.
A large, military boot kicked him in the face. It jolted his focus off the pain in his leg for a second and onto the sunglasses of the man from his dreams. Paco spotted a second pistol in the man’s other hand. He hadn’t seen the second gun because he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the first. The man had outsmarted him.
The man smiled down at him and said, in Spanish, “Who hired you?”
The pain flooded back. Paco seethed out a “Piss off.”
The man with the sunglasses put his large boot on Paco’s injured leg and stepped down hard.
Paco had never felt pain so great in his thirty-three years on this earth. He tried to scream, but nothing came out. He swam in a horizon of white noise.
The pressure on his leg let up. The boot kicked him in the ribs, ripping his concentration away from his leg once more, long enough for him to breathe.
“Your two friends won’t be joining us. Tell me who hired you. Do it now. I won’t ask again.” Paco’s mind recovered enough from the pain to formulate a last desperate plan. He slipped a hand behind his back and pulled out a derringer.
Before he could aim it, the man standing over him blasted his hand from two feet away. And Paco felt a different twinge of pain that almost matched the firestorm in his leg. He lifted his hand to where he could look at it. Two of his fingers were missing.
Then he saw nothing.

Chapter Two
Charleston County, South Carolina, August, mid-Monday

Mick Crome sat on a stool at the inside bar of the Pirate’s Cove on the Isle of Palms. He finished off a second pint while staring at all the liquor bottles lined up on the shelves in front of him. They had a habit of staring back. Maureen, his sometimes girlfriend and bartender a hundred miles north up in Myrtle Beach, was pissed off at him. He couldn’t chill and watch her tight rear end as she poured drinks tonight. Maybe not tomorrow night, either.
The current bartender serving the beers, a friend named Brack Pelton, wasn’t exactly his type. At six feet and with a perpetual suntanned complexion, Brack looked like he should be tending bar in the Bahamas, not owning two watering holes in the South Carolina lowcountry.
Pelton asked, “You want another one, Mick?”
Even inside the place, the smell of the Atlantic Ocean directly behind him cleaned out his sinuses. The song streaming on the bar’s sound system, “Paradise City” by Guns and Roses, was a real classic.
Crome nodded, hooked a boot heel on the bottom rung of his stool, and pulled a vape pen out of the breast pocket of his weathered leather vest.
He couldn’t figure out what exactly he’d done wrong with Maureen but was sure it might have something to do with the two women he traded vodka shots with the night before. Mainly because neither of them was Maureen. Maureen hadn’t taken too kindly to him cancelling their date so he could follow a lead only to end up getting drunk and crashing at another woman’s pad. She didn’t believe him when he’d tried to explain that nothing had happened. The lead was legit, but even he knew he should have just gotten the information over the phone.
What did people say in times like this? C’est la vie?
Pelton set a fresh pint of draft down in front of Crome. “Haven’t seen you or Blu around in a while. How’s it going?”
The kid, Pelton, meant well. If Crome hadn’t taken a liking to him, and if he hadn’t watched a video of the kid, empty handed, take on an armed giant of a man and win, he might have picked a fight with him just for fun. But the kid had saved his best friend’s daughter and was an unofficial partner in the private investigation firm Crome co-owned. Unofficial because just about everything Crome did was unofficial. The official side was handled by his main partner, Blu Carraway.
Crome said, “Blu’s on a security job. In Belize, the lucky bastard. Should be back in a day or two.”
A voice from behind him said, “Hi, Crome.”
It was female and familiar. Damn.
Anyone else would have been a welcome change to his wandering thoughts, a defense mechanism he used to avoid thinking about Maureen.
Hell, Maureen in her most pissed-off state would have been a welcome companion compared to—
The female voice interrupted his thought. “Aren’t you going to invite me to sit down?”
Crome saw the smirk form on his own face reflected in the mirror behind the bar. He also saw the strawberry-blond curls, red lipstick, and tight dress of his newest problem. “It’s a free country.”
Harmony Childs pulled out the stool next to him and sat. “That bad-ass biker routine won’t work on me, Sugar. You’ve seen me in my underwear.”
Twenty years his junior, nuttier than a pecan tree, driven, and drop-dead gorgeous, Harmony was the very cliché of Kryptonite for him. She was also one of the two women he’d traded shots with last night.
It was true; he had seen her in her underwear. But not out of her underwear, thank God, or he and Maureen wouldn’t have lasted this long.
Harmony said, “Don’t tell me you’ve still got a hangover. I’d hate to think you couldn’t hang with us, given your propensity for bars and liquor.”
She really was beautiful. And she’d matched him shot for shot, unless the bartender was feeding her and her friend water instead of Citron. But that couldn’t be because he’d watched all their shot glasses get refilled from the same bottle.
“Not on your life, Dolly,” he said.
Pelton came over, grinned at the young woman, and said, “What’ll it be, Ms. Harmony?”
If Pelton’s wife caught him doing anything more than casual flirting, she’d string him up by his testicles. Especially if it was with Harmony. Or her cohort, Tess Ray. Which reminded Crome, when there was one, the other wasn’t far behind.
Tess pulled out the stool on the other side of Crome and sat. “Sorry I’m late. There was another double homicide in North Charleston.”
Shorter than Harmony, with shoulder length blonde hair that fell in layers, Tess wore dark-rimmed glasses, a business dress with no sleeves, and medium heels.
She’d been the second woman from the night before. Two women to one man, a bottle of vodka, and all he had to show for it was a nasty headache, a stiff back from the couch he’d crashed on alone, and a pissed off girlfriend. Must be his lucky day.
Crome opened his mouth to say “howdy” but got cut off before he could start.
“It would be nice if your partner was around,” Harmony said.
“You guys make good copy. Maybe you all could give us something besides gang violence to report on.”
Harmony and Tess were eager-beaver news correspondents who’d recently gone independent.
Tess asked, “So when is Blu due back in town? Soon, right?”
Every damn woman who’d ever laid eyes on Blu Carraway fell in love with the bastard.
Again, Crome opened his mouth to speak, and again got interrupted. This time by the other local lady killer, Pelton’s dog, Shelby.
At the sight of the chow-collie mix, Harmony and Tess both slid off their stools and swarmed the mutt. The damned canine seemed to be eating it all up, dancing around between them, his wagging tail high in the air.
The song ended, and in the lull before the next one began, Crome checked his iPhone, the one that felt like an old-fashioned pair of handcuffs restraining him from freedom. The one that came with the business of running a private investigation firm. The one that his partner had made him take.
He’d missed a call.
The number wasn’t familiar, but whoever had called left a voicemail. He listened.
It sounded like Maureen. “Mick? I’m in trouble. Please help—”
A man’s voice cut her off. “Listen Crome, it’s payback time. You took from me so I’m taking from you. I’ll be in touch.”
His phone showed a text message. He tapped to open it up and stared at a picture of a scared Maureen with a gun to her head.
Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” started playing, blowing a hole through the world.

Excerpt from Bad Time To Be In It by David Burnsworth.  Copyright © 2018 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.


David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. Bad Time To Be In It (July 2018, Henery Press) will be his sixth. Having lived on Charleston’s Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.

Connect with David:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iTunes  |  Kobo

Saturday, July 14, 2018



An Imajin Qwickies® Mystery/Crime Novella

Big mysteries often come in small packages . . .

When curmudgeonly private detective Betty Grape visits a young friend, who is housesitting in a remote village in England for Christmas vacation, something seems out of place. Her friend, Catia, is visibly nervous. Is she worried about the young men in the decrepit caravan in next door’s back garden? Or is Catia involved in the disappearance of the homeowner’s invalid wife?

As an American, Betty discovers the locals are full of friendly gossip but taciturn about solid facts. Though they are determined to keep Betty from butting in on their territory, she blunders through the social morass of narrow-minded foreigners and their broad Dorset accents. Can she unravel the tight knots of this mystery? Will she find the perpetrator under thickly thatched rooves or behind floral chintz curtains?

Book Details

Title: Tied Up With Strings

Author: Madeline McEwen

Genre: Cozy mystery

Series: A Serebral Seniors Mystery, book 1

Publisher: Imajin Qwickies, An imprint of Imajin Books (December 11, 2017)

Print Length: 85 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours


Against her will, Betty Grape, a widow, resides at the Serebral Senior retirement home, where her presence is tolerated by the other residents. However, Alzheimer’s is gradually stealing her dear friend, Arlene Spate.

Despite her curmudgeonly exterior, Betty has a soft spot for waifs and strays, including Pete Palmer, her sleuthing partner, and his ward, an autistic young man. Together, all three tackle major crimes against manners and minor misdemeanors against humanity.


Betty, how did you first meet Madeline?

In the yard, or “garden,” as she insists on calling that wasteland at the back of her house.

Want to dish about her?
This is an excellent question and goes to the heart of the issue. My writer wouldn’t understand this question because she is a Brit and I am an American. She claims to be a citizen, but I think you have to understand the language thoroughly, and she, obviously, doesn’t.

Why do you think that your life has ended up being in a book?
Because the woman [writer] is a busybody. She spends far too much time interfering in other people’s lives. She should use that imagination for something more productive.

If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?
Ditch the romance.

What would you do i
f you had a free day?
Learn to pilot a hot air balloon, preferably solo.

Tell us about your best friend.

Basically, we’re opposites. She’s a beauty with a tender heart. Her friendship makes me a better person. I can’t contemplate living here without her, even though she drives me batty.

What’s the best trait Madeline has given you? What’s the worst?
She forces me to be patient and kind, when I am neither. My worst trait is impulsivity—I just have to jump in.

What aspect of Madeline’s writing style do you like best?
Her humor—but she’s an acquired taste.

If your story were a movie, who would play you?
Ideally, Dame Maggie Smith because of her wit, although she’s another darned Brit. Possibly, Dame Helen Mirren, but she’s too good looking, although she’s better at accents. Overall, I think I’d have to choose Meryl Steep because she was fantastic in Florence Foster Jenkins.

If you could be “adopted” by another writer, who would you choose?
M.C. Beaton, Colin Cotterill or Sue Townsend, basically anyone but her, and far funnier.

Will you encourage Madeline to write a sequel?
I have. She has a few lined up, but with the summer vacation around the corner, productivity will take a hit.


Madeline McEwen is an ex-pat from the UK, bi-focaled and technically challenged. She and her significant other manage their four offspring, one major and three minors, two autistic, two neurotypical, plus a time-share with Alzheimer's. In her free time, she walks the canines and chases the felines with her nose in a book and her fingers on a keyboard.

Connect with Madeline:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble 

Friday, July 13, 2018



Have you ever stopped to think about whether your favorite author uses a pen name? Since the early 19th century, authors of all different genres used pen names for various reasons. While some, like George Eliot and Dr. Seuss, are more well-known, there are dozens of authors that have rather subtle pen names. You most likely wouldn’t even recognize their real names if you heard them!

Centuries back, authors adopted pen names, not for fun, but more out of necessity. Pseudonyms were used for various reasons. The most common reason was for female authors. Many iconic female authors wrote under male pen names to give their work a chance to thrive in a rather male-dominated industry. Such was the case for The Brontë sisters and George Eliot, whose real name is Mary Ann Evans. We still see this in contemporary cases, where Joanne Rowling often writes under Robert Galbraith or more famously uses her initials “J.K.” Aside from sexism, there are countless other reasons as to why authors adopted nom de plumes.

Some simply wanted to remain anonymous, others wanted the ability and ease to switch between genres without being pigeonholed, many wanted to distinguish themselves separate from their family surnames, and some, like O. Henry, were hiding from the law.

The infographic to the left shows some of the most influential authors of our times and their accompanying pen names. You might be surprised to see who made the list! I wasn’t aware a couple of these authors even wrote under pen names. Did you know George Orwell’s real name was Eric Blair? He adopted his pen name to avoid embarrassing his family during times of poverty. How about Clive Hamilton? He adopted various pen names to better distinguish characters and to be able to hop between poems and genres of books without confusion. Check it out and see if you’re surprised by any on the list.

While adopting a pen name might have been a necessity in the past, in present times, it’s become more of a lighthearted decision for authors. Many don’t use pseudonyms, but others choose to in order to keep their writing and everyday life separate. If you’re a writer, or you’ve been thinking about adopting a pen name for any other industry, it’s difficult to figure out where to start! Some of us don’t have names that lend way to using initials well.

Invaluable created this fun pen name generator to help! It populates unique names based on genre and gender. You can also choose to type in your first or last name and it will create a pen name around them. Gather inspiration from the infographic, and give the pen name generator a try! I’d love to hear which names you decided upon, so let me know in the comments.

Have fun!


Recently called "one of the fastest growing e-commerce sites in the art world" by Blouin ArtInfo, Invaluable is the world's leading online marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles. Auction houses, galleries and dealers use Invaluable to deepen relationships with millions of clients around the world, connecting people with the things they love.


Emma Welsh does community outreach and is a writer at, the world’s leading online marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles. You can see more of her and her colleagues’ work at

Thursday, July 12, 2018



Why on earth would anyone call a book Travels with my Poobag?

It’s quite simple really. I had years of tummy troubles that forced me to use a temporary colostomy bag, but I never let it stop my adventures.

I didn’t discover the joys of traveling until I hit 40, after the traumatic separation from my husband. I suffered from anxiety and depression, and had to undergo many surgeries, but I soon learned that the one thing that always picked me up was foreign travel.

I like to think that I’ve kept my wicked sense of humour even after the deaths of my mother and husband, and it’s just as well, because the oddest things seem to keep happening to me; whether it’s being abducted by two men and a camel, getting lost up a remote mountain, finding myself left behind in a foreign bus station, or simply my constant clumsiness and bad luck getting me into some sort of local trouble.

If this book has a message, then it’s that, no matter who you are, if you want to do something badly enough, then just go for it and carry on regardless.

Book Details:

Title: Travels With My Poobag: Memoirs Of An Unlikely Explorer

Author: Margaret McMillan

Genre: Real Life/Humour/Non-fiction

Publisher: The Famous Seamus (June 8, 2018)


Margaret, what’s the story behind the title of your book?
It is about my struggles in life with chronic bowel problems (hence the Poobag, my term for colostomy), anxiety, depression, relationship problems and life in general. I wanted a fresh start so I became a locum biomedical scientist and worked away from home traveling around the country to various locations. This gave me the travel bug and inspired me to become a sole traveler overseas. Mishaps and humour has also been an integral part of my life and is full of laugh out loud moments and some unbelievable ones. I’m sure many people can identify the issues in their own lives. It is also to encourage others to embrace life whatever the circumstances.

Is this book a standalone?
This is a stand-alone book, but I am working on a book about growing up in Glasgow with anxiety in the 70’s, the trials, tribulations and humour then. My family was notorious for mishaps on holiday even back then.

Where’s home for you?
The outskirts of Glasgow is my base, can feel at home anywhere when on my travels.

Where did you grow up?

What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
That’s hard, there has been so many, but I would say a flapper dress that I knew I would never wear and wouldn’t fit into anyway.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Not to prepare too far ahead as things always change or you are lead on a different direction. I suppose what I’m saying is to take one day at a time.

What do you love about where you live?

The scenery and quiet. We overlook the Campsie fells and farmland, but are still very close to the city.

Have you been in any natural disasters?
I was sprayed from head to foot on a country road by the muck spreader.

I would definitely say that counts! What is the most daring thing you've done?
Switched off the power to a cooker that was ablaze in a neighbour’s kitchen.

What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
Again, many to choose from. Got into a car with two strange men when on holiday in Turkey. Amputated my finger in work accident.

Yikes! What’s one thing that you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?
Life isn’t over when you don’t do as well in your exams as you hoped.

What makes you bored?
Being with people who don’t have anything interesting to talk about.

What is your most embarrassing moment?
There are simply too many of these to list, but I would say my colostomy bag leaking on a flight to Tenerife and being covered in poo.

Double yikes! What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
Probably wouldn’t as it is the past that has shaped who I am.

What makes you nervous?
Flying, meetings, crowds.

What makes you happy?
Traveling, eating, listening to music and photography.

What makes you scared?
Confrontations and aggressive people.

What makes you excited?
Exploring new places.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
Not now. Worked as a biomedical scientist but took early retirement owing to ill health.

Who are you?
Like everyone else I am many people and have many traits, some good, some not so good.

How did you meet your spouse?
I met my husband at work. We started off as good friends and had a laugh together it just blossomed from there.

If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?
If you include living things it would be my two African Grey parrots, otherwise it
would be my computer as it has all my music, photos and writing on it. My life in a nutshell.

Is your book based on real events?

Yes, it’s about my life.

Who are your favorite authors?
J.K Rowling, Jane Austen. Rick Wakeman as he recounts laugh-out-loud stories. I love humorous autobiographies. 

What book are you currently reading and in what format?
I’m reading one of Graham Norton’s books in paperback. I don’t like e-books I prefer a book that is tangible.

Do you have a routine for writing?
No, just when I feel in the right frame of mind and get peace and quiet.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I always write in bed, can’t concentrate or get comfortable anywhere else.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
Making someone laugh and raising their spirits.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
The eulogy for my husband’s funeral. It was even harder to read it without breaking down.

What would your dream office look like?
It would be tidy and organized, the complete opposite to what I am.

What are you working on now?
Promoting my book.


Margaret McMillan was born and raised in Glasgow where she first trained as a pharmacy technician and then as a biomedical scientist, studying part time at Glasgow Caledonian University whilst working in one of the city’s major hospitals, where she met her husband.

Life was anything but easy, as he suffered from bipolar disorder and often ran on a very short fuse. The fact that Margaret had suffered from anxiety and depression from an early age and was painfully shy did not help matters. Sadly, after almost ten years of marriage, she simply couldn’t take anymore and left him for the sake of her sanity. Her mental and physical health were in a terrible state and, not to put too fine a point on it, she was suicidal.

After intensive therapy from various sources, Margaret left her job of sixteen years and made the previously unthinkable transition into becoming a locum and traveling around the U.K. and Ireland taking on contract work. This gave her a sense of freedom and confidence that she had never enjoyed before and opened up the world (literally!) of foreign travel to her.

Travel has become a huge part of Margaret’s life and she’s always off on adventures, although her continued ill health means that she always seems to be either coming down with or recovering from some malady or other (not that she lets it stop her). She’s extremely accident prone and clumsy which doesn’t help matters, but she has a wicked sense of humour that gets her through the hard times and is a great tool for life in general.

Margaret’s writing started as a form of therapy. She has always loved a good story (something she inherited from her mum), and found that writing about her mishaps and experiences helped a great deal, as well as being rather entertaining.

Taking early retirement gave her the opportunity to concentrate on her little adventures and indeed, on writing about them. Life still throws a fair amount of challenges and stress her way, but you just have to deal with it and get on with things, don’t you?

Music is another passion of hers, especially music from the seventies. She is a strange hybrid of disco diva and rock chick!

She also loves photography, especially when she’s on her travels, and she takes several thousand photographs on every trip, doing her best to capture and immortalise the architecture, landscapes, seascapes and natural wonders of the places she visits.

Margaret currently lives just outside Glasgow with her brother James and two African Grey parrots.

Connect with Margaret:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  

Buy the book:

Tuesday, July 10, 2018



Autumn leaves aren’t the only things falling in the historic Virginia village of Taylorsford—so are some cherished memories, and a few bodies.

October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it’s leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts. Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library. But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own pallet knife. A search of the artist’s studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff’s chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she’s recruited to aid the investigation. It doesn’t seem to be an easy task, but when the state’s art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy’s deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband’s name.

That’s when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind. Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder.

Book Details:

Title: Shelved Under Murder

Author: Victoria Gilbert

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Series: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery, book 2

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (July 10, 2018)

Print length: 300 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours


Richard Muir is a thirty-five-year-old contemporary dancer who’s also a choreographer and a dance instructor at a university located not far from Taylorsford. He inherited his 1920s farmhouse from his late great-uncle, Paul Dassin and has renovated it to include a small dance studio where he can work-out and rehearse at home. He lives next door to the series protagonist, Amy Webber, and her aunt, Lydia Talbot, and is close to Lydia, as well as being in love with Amy. Richard is intelligent, good looking and charming, and also a truly nice guy. He cares deeply for those he loves and is willing to risk his own safety and well-being to help others when needed. He has a good sense of humor and likes to tease – sometimes a little bit too much, in Amy’s opinion.


Richard, how did you first meet Victoria?
I first met Victoria Gilbert when she wrote me into book one in the series – A Murder For The Books. We actually met in the very first chapter, when she introduced me to her protagonist, library director Amy Webber. Of course, then Victoria had us stumble over a dead body at the end of that first chapter, so I’d say both meetings were fairly dramatic.

Why do you think that your life has ended up being in a book?
I’m not entirely sure. I think it was just my good luck to move into a house next door to Amy and her Aunt Lydia. Amy and I became friends, and then more, so I guess my author decided she’d better keep me around – or Amy might decide to “disappear” on her!

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I can’t, because that would be a spoiler. Of course, it involves Amy – as do all my favorite scenes!

What do you like to do when someone’s not reading about you?
Well, I’m a dancer, so I am usually rehearsing, performing, or doing Pilates or other exercises. I’m also often busy creating new pieces of choreography. I’m currently choreographing a suite of dances based on fairy tales that the dancers in my university studio will be performing for area schools on an upcoming tour.

If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?
I wish my author had made me a little taller. She says I’m “average height,” and I am, but I’ve always wanted to be taller.

Do have any secret aspirations that Victoria doesn’t know about?
I would love to be a filmmaker. I’ve done some work with dance and film, but only as a performer or choreographer. I’d like to experiment with working behind the camera.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities, what would you do?
I used to say, “dance, of course.” But now, while I still love dancing for its own sake, I like spending my free time with Amy. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, as long as we’re doing it together. 

What's the worst thing that's happened in your life? 

The worst thing? I guess when my best friend and dance partner, Karla, disappeared from my life right after we graduated from college. I would give anything to see her again, but I haven’t been able to find her.

What I learned from that experience is to always treasure the good relationships that you have. I never take those I love for granted because I know how quickly they can disappear from my life.

What are you most afraid of?
A career-ending injury. I love to dance – not just publicly but also in my own private studio. To me, dancing is like breathing. I’d be devastated If I were injured and could no longer dance. 

How do you feel about your life right now?

I’m pretty happy with my life right now. I have a full-time job teaching dance at Clarion University, which is an easy commute from Taylorsford. I get to live in my late great-uncle’s 1920s farmhouse, which I inherited and renovated to suit my lifestyle – and which happens to be next door to the house owned by Lydia Talbot. Since I’m in love with Lydia’s niece, Amy, I enjoy that proximity!

I guess if I could change anything it would be my relationship with my parents. My father has never approved of my dance career and my mother tends to support all of his prejudices. But I feel I have found a new family with Amy, Lydia and some other friends in Taylorsford, so I’m happy about that.

If your story were a movie, who would play you?
Not sure, but they would need to be able to dance! Or, at least, look and move like a dancer. As long as they can do that, and act, I’m fine with whoever the casting director picks to portray me.

What makes you stand out from any other characters in your genre?
I’m not a policeman, detective, sheriff, private eye, or deputy – the professions of most of what you’d call the “love interests” in cozy mysteries. I think the fact that I’m a dancer and choreographer brings a different element to the story, and I hope it also lets the readers know that one’s profession doesn’t determine personality, sexual preference, or any of that stuff.

Will you encourage Victoria to write a sequel?
I already have, and she has complied. It’s book three in the series and is called Past Due For Murder. It will be published in February 2019. I really love this one because it allows me to do something I’ve been wanting to do since the first book and . . .  Well, you’ll have to wait and see what that is! 


Raised in a historic small town in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Victoria turned her early obsession with books into a dual career as an author and librarian. She has worked as a reference librarian and library director for public, museum, and academic libraries.

An avid reader who appreciates good writing in all genres, Victoria has been known to read seven books in as many days. When not writing or reading, she likes to watch films, listen to music, garden, or travel. Victoria is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Victoria is represented by Frances Black of Literary Counsel, New York, New York.

Connect with Victoria:
Website and blog
  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |   IndieBound

Sunday, July 8, 2018



The buoyant mood at Bistro Rousseau deflates when Chef Camille’s sister, Renee, turns up dead in the chef’s kitchen, and Mimi Rousseau must tease the real killer out of a mélange of menacing characters.

Crush Week in Nouvelle Vie is a madhouse—in a good way. Tourists pour into town for the pressing of the Napa Valley’s world-renowned grapes and all the town’s businesses get a nice lift, including Bistro and Maison Rousseau. Mimi is raising the ante this year with a Sweet Treats Festival, a wonderland of croissants, cakes, tarts, and soufflés crafted with expert care by the area’s top talents.

Chef Camille’s sister Renee is managing the festival with a cast-iron fist, upsetting everyone, including her sister. Which is bad for Camille when Renee turns up dead in the chef’s kitchen. Mimi is still building her business, so her first course of action is to whip up answers and catch the unsavory perpetrator before Camille takes a dusting and gets burned.

Book Details:

Title: A Soufflé of Suspicion

Author: Daryl Wood Gerber

Genre: Cozy mystery

Series: A French Bistro Mystery, book 2

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (July 10, 2018)

Print length: 296 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours


This is one of the simplest dishes I know how to make and is packed with flavor. It’s a bit messy because of the pork and oil, but it’s so worth it. By the way, I adore white pepper. It makes the dish just a tad spicier than if you use regular pepper.

Cote de porc

(Serves 6)
6 (6-ounce) pork chops (about ½ inch thick) (*you may use bone-in chops)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 cup diced shallots
2/3 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2/3 cup white wine (I used Trader Joe’s)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup thinly sliced cornichons
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Sprinkle the pork chops with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon white pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops. Cover! This mixture will spit. Cook 8 minutes, turning after 4 minutes, until the chops are golden brown. Remove pork from the pan and set on a plate; keep warm by covering with foil.

Meanwhile, add 1 more teaspoon of oil and shallots to the pan. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the broth and wine, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Bring the onions to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced (about 8 minutes). Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon white pepper, and Dijon mustard. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the cornichons.

Arrange the pork on individual plates. Pour the sauce over the pork, distributing the cornichons evenly. Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.


Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber is best known for her nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries and Cheese Shop Mysteries, which she pens as Avery Aames. She will soon debut the new French Bistro Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense: Days of Secrets and Girl on the Run. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in Murder, She Wrote. She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Connect with Daryl:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  BookBub

Friday, July 6, 2018



Death and Taxes follows Mark Douglas, an ex-Marine turned IRS agent, who, along with auditing the weird and the profane, also spearheads weekend raids with his locked-and-loaded gang of government-sanctioned revenuers, merrily gathering back taxes in the form of cash, money order, or more often than not, the debtor's most prized possessions. Things turn ugly when Mark's much-loved boss and dear friend Lila is tortured and killed over what she finds in a routine set of 1040 forms. Enlisting his IRS pals - Harry Salt, a 30-year vet with a quantum physical ability to drink more than humanly possible; Wooly Bob, who's egg-bald on top with shaved eyebrows to match; Miguel, an inexperienced newbie with a company-issued bullhorn and a penchant for getting kicked in the jumblies - Mark hunts down the eunuch hit man Juju Klondike and the deadly Mongolian mob that hired him as only an angry IRS agent can. There will be no refunds for any of them when April 15th comes around. There will only be Death and Taxes.

Book Details:

Title: Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent

Author: Mark Zaslove

Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Publisher: Aperient Press (June 12, 2018)

Page count: 228


A few of your favorite things: Astrophotography, scuba diving, fishing, my kid.
Things you need to throw out: The various bottles of Russian vodka in the freezer

Things you need in order to write: A keyboard.
Things that hamper your writing: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor noise, nor phone calls can stop me

Things you love about writing: It’s pattern-solving versus gestalt, so it uses both parts of my tiny brain.
Things you hate about writing: Payments: everyone thinks writers don’t need to be paid on time, like we don’t eat or something.

Hardest thing about being a writer: Finding how to write truthfully.

Easiest thing about being a writer: Everything else is simple

Things you love about where you live: Born and bred in SoCal . . . the sun, the beach, the ocean breeze.
Things that make you want to move:
Kona, Hawaii calls to me.

Things you never want to run out of: Patience and electricity.
Things you wish you’d never bought: Too many to list, but the 5-string neck-thru Warwick bass I got in Iceland; now I want another one

Words that describe you: Epigrammatic, physical, idiosyncratic.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: Gullible, hopeful, spendy.

Favorite foods: Anything except . . .
Things that make you want to throw up:  . . . Brussels sprouts

Favorite music:
Anything from old R&B to Punk, Blues to Gospel.
Music that make your ears bleed: Swedish Death Metal (although Kaamos and Dismember have their moments).

Favorite beverage: Soda water with lemon juice in it
Something that gives you a pickle face: Anything super-sweet.

Favorite smell: Channel No5
Something that makes you hold your nose: Passing by the stockyards on I-5 near Coalinga, California.

Something you’re really good at: Pattern solving.

Something you’re really bad at: French

Something you wish you could do: Speak French.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: Professional Magic.

Something you like to do: Read.
Something you wish you’d never done: Too many to count.

People you consider as heroes: My father, truly good-hearted people.
People with a big L on their foreheads: People who won’t correct their ignorance or misconceptions – I consider that a sin.

Last best thing you ate: Sashimi at a restaurant in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Last thing you regret eating: An ice tea that was supposed to be unsweetened but wasn’t.

Things you’d walk a mile for: A good book, a good friend, exercise.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: Hypocrites.

Things you always put in your books: Strong funny characters.

Things you never put in your books: Stupid main characters – another sin.

Things to say to an author: I really liked your book.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I really didn’t like your book.

Favorite places you’ve been: Iceland, Barcelona, the Bay Area, Kona, Hawaii
Places you never want to go to again: Coalinga, California.

Favorite books: All of them, but as I get older I get stupider, so I stick with thrillers/suspense, fantasy/scifi and then a good literary book every-so-often.

Books you would ban: Celebrity-written children’s books.

People you’d like to invite to dinner: Warren Buffet (I’ve talked with him before and he’s a hoot), Chrissie Hynde, Persi Diaconis, Ice Cube, Jane Goodall, Lynn Margulis, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Margot Benacerraf.
People you’d cancel dinner on: Any Kardashian or their relations or anyone they’ve ever slept with or supported them.

Favorite things to do: Read, be at the beach, astrophotography, hangin’ with my son.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: PR, raves, PR, hobnobbing with nobs, PR, and . . . PR.

Things that make you happy: My son, a good single malt scotch, grocery shopping and stocking up the cabinets, reading
Things that drive you crazy: Filling out forms; doesn’t matter, I’ll find a way to make a mistake on the first try.


Who is this Mark Zaslove fellow and why did he write this book?

Seriously, one can’t be too careful in researching authors in this age of false pretenses and fake appellations. So here goes…a long-standing writer/director/producer, Mark is a live-action and animation entertainment industry veteran, working in both movies and television. He’s done time – scratch that – created content for all the major studios, including Disney, Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing/producing, Mark also won the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies – go figure). He also writes short fiction and right after college (where he studied astrophysics), he served as senior editor on various magazines including a couple for the notorious LFP, Inc.—Google it—but from there he went to “Winnie the Pooh,” so his karma is still cool.

Finally, one day, he got fed up with the rigorous structure of scriptwriting and everyone giving him notes and decided: “WTH! Time to stretch my legs, step on the gas and write a novel for the sheer fun of it!” And voila, almost before you could say “Death and Taxes,” the book was done. What’s more, it’s just the first in a series of fast-paced thrillers following the escapades of IRS agent Mark Douglas and his band of merry revenuers as they bring justice to those in great need of same, while collecting your Federal dollars along the way. Hey, for both Marks, it’s a living.

Connect with Mark:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, July 4, 2018



When a rogue CIA consultant goes AWOL from his Middle Eastern post in response to his brother’s plea for help, he arrives just in time to witness his brother’s murder. For years, Jonathan Hunter and his brother Kevin Mallory had not spoken―until Kevin’s final words, “… Khalifah … Not Them … Maya.”

Pursuing his brother’s killer, Hunter stumbles into a nest of horrifying terrorist activity by Middle Eastern refugees, which sparks a backlash across America. In the shadows, Hunter’s mentor, the omnipotent Oscar LaRue, is playing a dangerous game with Russian Intelligence. Neither Hunter nor LaRue realizes that a new threat―the Iranian threat―has entered the game. Stakes rise as two shadowy players are one step ahead of Hunter and LaRue―Khalifah, a terrorist mastermind, and Caine, a nomadic assassin who dances with the highest bidder.

As attacks escalate and the country drifts toward another Middle East conflict, innocent refugees become trapped between the terrorists and the terrorized. Prejudice, hate, and fear vent everywhere. Is this who we’ve become? Before the country explodes, Hunter must find Khalifah, learn the next terror target, and pray he’s in time to stop further annihilation.

Book Details:

Title: The Consultant

Author’s name: Tj O’Connor

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing (May 15, 2018)

Page count: 432

On tour with: Partners in Crime Book Tours


A few of your favorite things: Harley Davidson, Labrador Retrievers, Jack Daniels.
Things you need to throw out: Taxes, politicians, and constantly-whining-Facebook people.

Things you need in order to write: Time. Sleep. Time.
Things that hamper your writing: Time. Sleep. Time. 

Things you love about writing: I love storytelling and my characters. I love meeting the fans and readers and talking books. I love everything about it.
Things you hate about writing: Overwriting my stories and having to kill characters and subplots. It’s painful. Utterly painful.

Easiest thing about being a writer: Sitting down and writing. I have never struggled to just sit and work on my book. 

Hardest thing about being a writer:
Having to work for a living when I’d rather be writing.

Things you love about where you live: It’s a small, historic town. I love everything about it!
Things that make you want to move: The urban sprawl from Washington DC over 90 miles away creeping toward us!

Things you never want to run out of: Time. Labrador Retrievers. Money.
Things you wish you’d never bought: A few dozen car cell phone stands that don’t last or work. Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. 

Favorite foods: Steak, seafood, land food. Anything I love to cook like Greek Food, Italian Food, Asian Food … food.
Things that make you want to throw up:  Liver and onions. Politicians. Politicians who eat liver and onions. Facebook people who constantly rant about politicians.

Favorite beverage: Iced tea. Bourbon. Too many varieties of wine!

Something that gives you a pickle face: Liver and onions. Politicians. Politicians who eat liver and onions. Facebook people who constantly rant about politicians.

Favorite smell: Late nights after a thunderstorm. 

Something that makes you hold your nose: Politicians.

Something you’re really good at: Being a smartass. (For proof, read above.)

Something you’re really bad at: Home fix-its. I start many projects. The local handymen make a bundle off me fixing them. 

Something you wish you could do:  Home fix-it projects.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: Any home fix-it project. Even if I know how to do it, I’ll screw it up and make it worse.

Something you like to do: Cruise on my Harley.  Listen to Swing music.

Something you wish you’d never done: First marriage.

People you consider as heroes: Wally F. – My mentor. Former OSS Operative and Former Deputy Director of the CIA. James Grady - Author and muckraker.

People with a big L on their foreheads: Politicians who lie. Politicians who say they don’t lie. Politicians who speak. 

Things you’d walk a mile for: A gas station when I ignore my Harley warning lights.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: Facebook people who constantly rant about politics.

Things you always put in your books: Humor and real people.

Things you never put in your books: Superhero characters.

Things to say to an author: I gave you a 10-star rating on Amazon!

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I have you ten, one-star ratings on Facebook.

Favorite places you’ve been: Greece, Turkey, all over the Med.
Places you never want to go to again: Divorce court.

Favorite genre: Thrillers—anything James Grady, Christopher Reich, or Nelson DeMille.
Books you would ban: None. That is a sick thought. Ban people, not books.

People you’d like to invite to dinner: James Grady, Christopher Reich, or Nelson DeMille.

People you’d cancel dinner on: Politicians, car repair guys who cheat me.

Things that make you happy: Harleys, good food and drink, my kids and grandkids, my Labs!

Things that drive you crazy: See above: Politicians, Facebook crazies, tax season.

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: The End.
A lie you wish you’d told: My first, "I Do."

Best thing you’ve ever done: Have my kids. Become an OSI agent. Publish my books.

Biggest mistake: Some people I’ve trusted. Speaking my mind too often. Answering some of these questions too honestly.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: Some “can’t talk about it” adventures as an anti-terrorism agent and military OSI Agent. Loved all the moments of them!
Something you chickened out from doing: Ah … can’t think of anything. Oh, wait, repairing my own back deck. My wife wanted the rest of my house to remain standing.



Day 1: May 15, 2130 Hours, Daylight Saving Time

East Bank of the Shenandoah River, Clarke County, Virginia

The gunshots took me by surprise and, without luck, might have killed me. The first shot splayed a spiderweb across my windshield before it whistled past my head, peppering glass needles into my face. The second smashed my driver’s-side mirror. An amateur might have panic-braked and skidded to a stop—a fatal mistake. The shooter hesitated, anticipating that decision, and readied for my failure. Training. Muscle memory. Response.
I gunned the engine, wrenched the car to the left to put more steel between me and the shooter, and sped forward, looking for cover. My headlights exploded and flashed dark. Bullets breached the windshield. The rearview mirror and rear window were gone. Had I not flinched, one shot would have found my right eye but shredded my headrest instead.
I careened to a stop at the bottom of the boat launch— vulnerable. The shooter was ahead in the darkness, likely maneuvering for another shot. A closer shot. The kill shot. He’d be closing the distance and finding a new advantage.
Luck had its limits, so I dove from the car and rolled to cover behind it. I fought to control the adrenaline and bridle my thoughts.
Easy, Hunter, steady. Listen—watch—survive.
I stayed low and crept along the side of the car, looking for better cover. Spring rain made the darkness murky and dense. The Shenandoah River was to my left some fifty feet. A blind guess. Overhead, two dark spans of the Route 7 bridge blocked what little light there was but provided some cover from the rain. The six substructure supports in front of me might afford me cover. They also afforded the shooter cover. He was hidden and waiting. Still, Kevin Mallory was nowhere to be seen. Under normal conditions—and normal is relative with me—I might have judged the shots’ origins. Driving headlong into an ambush on terrain I’d long ago forgotten, in darkness and rain, I was all but defeated.
Easy, Hunter, easy. Count your breaths. One, two, three.
Out there, somewhere, someone wanted me dead.
Worse. I was unarmed and alone.
Jesus. Where was Kevin?
The boat launch was just a small gravel lot tucked beneath the expanse of the Route 7 Bridge across the Shenandoah. At night it should have been empty. It was nearing ten p.m. and I hadn’t expected to find anyone but Kevin. Yet, while we’d been estranged for years, under bad circumstances, I doubted he was hunting me.
Although, I do tend to bring out the worst in people.
Ahead, perhaps seventy-five feet, a dark four-door SUV faced an old pickup. The vehicles were nose to nose like two dogs sniffing each other.
No movement. No sound.
One, two, three. I ran to the nearest bridge support, stopped, listened, and bolted to the rear of the SUV.
Silence. Safety. But something else—a dangerous odor. The pungent scent of gasoline. A lot of gasoline.
I got down on one knee and looked around. The dome light was on and the driver’s door was ajar. Something lay on the ground near the left front fender. A large, bulky something that washed an angry tide of flashbacks over me.
I’d seen silhouettes like that before.
A body.
Bodies look the same in any country, under any dark sky. It didn’t matter if it were the rocky Afghan terrain or along a quiet country river. Their lifeless, empty shells were all hopeless. All forsaken. All discards of violence. The silhouette three yards away was no different. Except this wasn’t Afghanistan or Iraq. It was home.
I made ready.
No muzzle flash. No assassin’s bullet. I crept to the SUV’s rear tire, crouched low, and slithered to the front fender.
The body was a man. He lay three feet in front of the fender and precariously vulnerable beneath the spell of the SUV’s dome light. He was tall and bulky. Not fat, but strong and muscled.
No. No. God, no!
After fifteen years of silence and thousands of miles, I knew the body—the man. His hair had grayed and his face was creased with age and strain. The years had been hard on him. Years he was here while I was forever there. Always elsewhere. He’d built a life from our loss while I’d escaped—run away. He once warned me that my life’s choice would leave me as I found him now, alone and dead. The irony churned bile inside me.
Kevin Mallory.
“Kevin,” I blurted without thinking. “Kevin, it’s me. It’s Jon.”
My mouth was a desert and the familiar brew of adrenaline and danger coursed through me. In one quick move, I leaped from the SUV’s shadow, grabbed his shoulders, and tried to drag him back to safety.
No sooner had I reached him when a figure charged from the darkness toward us. His arm leveled—one, two, three shots on the run—all hitting earth nearby. I threw myself over Kevin. Another shot sent stone fragments into my cheeks and neck. The figure reached the rear of the pickup, tossed something in the bed, fired another wild shot, and retreated at a dead run.
Lightning. A brilliant flash of light, a violent percussion, then a whoosh of fire erupted from the pickup. The flames belched up and over the side panels. They spat light and heat. The truck swelled into an inferno.
The heat singed my face. I gripped Kevin’s shoulders and dragged him the remaining feet behind the SUV. He was limp and heavy. The raging fire bathed us in light, and I finally saw him clearly. His eyes were dull and vacant. His face pale—a death mask. If life was inside, it was hidden well.
The truck was engulfed in flames, and the heat was tremendous. It reached us and felt oddly comforting amidst the spring dampness and dark.
“Kevin, hold on. Hold on.” I looked for an escape.
I saw the next shot before I heard it—a flash of light where none should be—uphill near River Road. Seasoned instincts threw me atop Kevin again. Glass crackled overhead and rained down. I grabbed for the familiar weight behind my back, but my fingers closed on nothing.
I hastily searched him. No weapon. All I found was an empty holster where his handgun should have been. Where was it? In a desperate move, I rolled off and snaked forward beneath the truck’s firelight and groped around where he’d been. It took several long, vulnerable seconds. I dared not breathe or even look for the shooter, fearing I’d see the shot that would end me. Finally, my fingers closed on a wet, gritty semiautomatic.
As I retreated to the SUV, something moved in the darkness. I pivoted and fired two rapid shots, spacing them three feet apart.
Response. A shot dug into the gravel inches away to my left.
Rule one of mortal combat—incoming fire has the right of way.
Retreat. The flash was a hundred feet away. The shooter had withdrawn and angled south down River Road.
Should I take him? Could I?
One, two, three. Reason, Hunter, reason.
The shooter had fired at least fifteen rounds. Fourteen at me and at least one into Kevin. Had Kevin returned fire? How many rounds did his semiautomatic have left? I was on turf all but forgotten, armed with a handgun that was perhaps near-empty. The shooter must have a high-capacity magazine with plenty of ammo to cut me to pieces. He’d already proven willing and capable of killing. He knew my location. I knew nothing.
Revenge would wait.
I sat back against the SUV’s tire and pulled Kevin close, keeping one arm around him and the other holding the handgun ready. The truck fire raged but was easing. The gasoline that had been splashed over it was consumed and only the paint and rubber were burning.
Soon, though, the fire might breach the gas tank.
I pulled Kevin close and braced myself.
“Kevin, wake up. It’s me—Jon. I’m here.”
“Jon?” His eyes fluttered and half-opened. “I . . . so sorry . . . Khalifah . . . he’s . . . find G. Find G . . .” He gasped for breath. “Khalifah . . . G . . . Baltimore . . . it’s not them. Khalifah . . . so sorry . . .”
“Sorry for what? Who’s Khalifah? Did he shoot you?”
“Tomorrow . . . not them. G . . . Khalifah is . . .” His body went limp.
I shook him easily. “Kevin, I don’t understand. Tell me again.”
“Find G . . .” His eyes fluttered again, and he clutched my arm with limp, sleepy fingers. “Find . . . Hunter . . .”
“Tell me who did this.”
“G . . . Jon . . . tell no one. Maya . . . Maya . . . Maya in Baltimore . . .” He fumbled with something from his pants pocket. He gasped for breath and pressed that something into my hand. “So sorry . . .”
I opened my hand. He’d given me a small, ripped piece of heavy folded paper with handwriting scrawled on it. I couldn’t make out the writing and stuffed it into my pocket. “Kevin, what are you saying? Hold on. Dammit, hold on.”
“Go . . . please . . . not them . . . it’s not . . .” He tried to breathe but mustered only a raspy gag.
His body shuddered. A long, shallow sigh.
No. No. No . . .
My fingers found warm, sticky ooze soaking his shirt. The rain had slowed to a faint mist and, except for the river’s passing and the grumble of fire, there was only silence. Then, somewhere along the highway miles in the distance, sirens wailed.
“Hold on, Kevin. They’re coming. My God, hold on.”
I checked his pulse and wounds. Both were draining away life.
I pressed my hands into the ooze but couldn’t force its retreat. For a few seconds, I was fourteen again. The dull sickness invaded me as my parents were lowered side by side into the earth. The ache started in my gut and swelled until I spat bile and rage.
It was happening again.
The man who raised me—the man I’d abandoned—slipped away. The emptiness and loss attacked. I had to fight or it would destroy me again. This time, there was nowhere to run.
I closed my eyes and willed the anger in, commanding it to take hold and fill me.
I remember, Kevin. I made you a promise. I’m late, but I’m here.
He was limp, and I clutched him. A rush of words filled me that I’d wanted to say for so many years. But before I could speak just one, my brother was gone.


Excerpt from The Consultant by Tj O'Connor.  Copyright © 2018 by Tj O'Connor. Reproduced with permission from Tj O'Connor. All rights reserved.




Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Labrador companions in Virginia where they raised five children.

Dying to Know, Tj’s first published novel, won the 2015 Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY) for mysteries and was a Finalist for both a 2015 Silver Falchion Award and the 2014 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Mystery Book of the Year.

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