Sunday, November 28, 2021




In Life and Work, You Can’t Fake It to Make It.

The Authenticity Code is a WSJ, Amazon and USA Today Bestselling book that combines the best of a page-turner parable and a practical tool business book to deliver encouragement and proven tools for cracking the code to becoming a more authentic professional or leader. When you become more authentic, you do what you came here to do and be who you came here to be. You communicate more effectively, and the success you desire in your life and career becomes achievable.

Dr. Sharon teaches in a fun, engaging, and honest parable style, and at the end of each chapter, you apply her proven practical tools to your own life and career.

The effectiveness of these tools is proven from the over 20 years that Dr. Sharon’s company, Inside-Out Learning, has been teaching them to their Fortune 500, mid-, and small-size business clients. Results across thousands of clients include getting promoted, landing a dream job, significantly increasing sales and revenue, developing confidence and loyalty, greatly enhancing professional, leadership, and communication skills, and improving your personal life. The promotion rate for individuals is 50-80% within a year of completing one of Inside Out Learning’s 3- to 5-day programs. Now you have the opportunity to achieve these exceptional results in an easy-to-read book format.

The Authenticity Code tells the story of a fictional corporate vice president choosing a sales director from two talented protégés. After they present their cases, he realizes that neither of them is impressive enough to qualify. Instead of giving up, the leader sets out to teach his candidates what they need to know via The Authenticity CodeTM Program. Like the candidates in the book, you, the reader, will learn to look within yourself and decide who you truly are and what you really want from life and work—and how to go about getting it.

Now Dr. Sharon encourages you to enjoy the parable, apply the tools, develop your own authentic brand statement, and achieve the success you desire.

Book Details 
The Authenticity Code: The art and science of success and why you can’t fake it to make it

Author: Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman
Genre: business

Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing Group (October 18, 2021)

Print length: 178 pages


A few of your favorite things: my cat, dog, iPhone, essential oil dispenser.
My cat who I rescued from Hawaii, and jumped through hoops to get him back to our home on the mainland. He is the sweetest cat and would have been put into a shelter and put down had we not rescued him. My dog who is a Shitsu Yorkie and has such a personality – likes to eat and go on 4+ mile walks. My fitbit – I try my best to get 10,000 steps a day, and love longer hikes on the weekend. I feel lost when I forget my fitbit. And yes I do love my essential oil dispenser and breathing lavender to help keep my mind calm and clear.
Things you need to throw out: old shoes and clothes that I have not worn in years, and pens that no longer have ink that are on my desk and scattered throughout the house, old papers all over my office. 

Things you need in order to write: being alone, hike/walk, favorite music, essential oil dispenser with lavender in it, essential oil candle burning.  
Things that hamper your writing: noise of any kind besides my favorite music, lack of physical activity prior to writing, long to do list, and being in an argument with someone I care about.

Things you love about writing: creativity, downloading my thoughts and typing as fast as I can, I love not knowing what I will write and just starting to type on the keyboard and see what comes.  

Things you hate about writing: editing, formatting.

Things you love about where you live: the views of the mountains, the peace and quiet, the guest house which I call “my house” where I can have alone time, how many great places to walk and hike around the house. There is a hiking trail at the end of our driveway. The weather is normally sunny and you can walk and hike all year round. 

Things that make you want to move: the housing market right now as I know we could make a great profit on the house if we sold right now.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee, Italian DOCG Red Wine, and dark chocolate.

Things you wish you’d never bought: the ugly sweater that just came in the mail and looked so much better when I saw it online.

Favorite foods: spicy ethnic food like Indian and Thai – the spicier the better.

Things that make you want to throw up: cow tongue and chicken hearts.

Favorite song: Prince: “Purple Rain.”

Music that make your ears bleed: anything heavy metal.

Favorite beverage: Italian red wine.

Something that gives you a pickle face: raw sauerkraut.

Favorite smell: it is a toss-up between soy/coconut-based vanilla candle and lavender.

Something that makes you hold your nose: dog poop.

Something you’re really good at: designing transformative workshops and professional and leadership development training programs. 

Something you’re really bad at: cooking.

Last best thing you ate: steamed artichoke with an amazing spicy yogurt dipping sauce.
Last thing you regret eating: edible chocolate chip cookie dough from Costco. I saw 60 calories per serving, but ate about 30 servings in one sitting.

Things you’d walk a mile for: my husband, son, family, and pets.

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: pigeons, rats and bats.

Things you always put in your books: post it notes and folds on the pages. 

Things you never put in your books: book marks.

Things that make you happy: being with my son and husband, hiking, being with friends and family and belly laughing, seeing my son succeed, seeing a smile on my son and husband’s face, Completing a writing or business goal, winning business.
Things that drive you crazy: seeing a lot of clutter especially in the main living area of our home; wanting to remodel but having no idea where to start and not having the decorating gene; my son or husband being upset; not excelling at a goal. 

Proudest moment: holding my son for the first time. I never felt such love.

Most embarrassing moment: not realizing I was on video tape and putting my finger up my nose (yes this really happened in a business meeting). 

Best thing you’ve ever done: having my son and publishing The Authenticity Code. Seeing it reach 10+ Amazon #1 bestselling lists and the WSJ and USA Today. bestselling lists was a complete feeling of pride! I had worked so hard for 3 years, and I am so happy that the book is reaching thousands of readers around the world.  
Biggest mistake: trying to work with someone who I thought would be my best friend for life. I tried to help her out during a difficult time, but she would never see it that way. Unfortunately, we don’t speak anymore.

The last thing you did for the first time: hiked up a steep mountain with very loose rocks on my hands and knees praying to God that I would survive. When I reached the top of the mountain and looked down, I could not believe the 400 foot drop off.  

Something you’ll never do again: hiking a steep mountain with very loose rocks on my hands and knees. 


Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman is the Founder and CEO of Inside Out Learning, Inc. (IOL), an award‐winning global leadership, team and organization development consulting business. In addition to running IOL, With a doctorate in Leadership Development from Columbia University, and a Masters from Cornell University, Dr. Sharon is a global executive and presentation skills coach, leadership and organization development consultant, speaker, writer, educator, wife and mom. She has designed and delivered over 3,000 innovative programs, including many women’s development and executive presence and presentation skills programs. Dr. Sharon has worked with tens of thousands of CEOs, executives, educators, professionals, and entrepreneurs worldwide. She has been an Adjunct Faculty Member at Columbia University and the Center for Creative Leadership, and has been featured in publications such as Authority Magazine, The New York Times, and several radio, television and podcast programs.  

Connect with Dr. Sharon:

Website  |  Facebook Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, November 24, 2021




When wildlife biologist Alex Lowe is found dead inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it looks on the surface like a suicide. But Tsula Walker, Special Agent with the National Park Service's Investigative Services Branch, isn't so sure.  
Tsula's investigation will lead her deep into the park and face-to-face with a group of lethal men on a mission to reclaim a historic homestead. The encounter will irretrievably alter the lives of all involved and leave Tsula fighting for survival--not only from those who would do her harm, but from a looming winter storm that could prove just as deadly.  
A finely crafted literary thriller, Twentymile delivers a propulsive story of long-held grievances, new hopes, and the contentious history of the land at its heart.

Book Details:

Title: Twentymile

Author: C. Matthew Smith

Genre: mystery/thriller

 Publisher: Latah Books, (November 19, 2021)

Print length: 320 pages



A few of your favorite things: time spent with my wife, Cindy, and my son, Everett. Being in the woods. Traveling to new places. And, of course, good stories.
Things you need to throw out: honestly, I’m pretty good at not holding onto things that aren’t essential. I have no compunction against shedding stuff. Every now and then I think about jettisoning social media, but my name’s not Cormac McCarthy, so I can’t just yet.

Things you need in order to write: quiet, time, and my laptop. Writing requires all of my concentration, and I don’t easily slip in and out of that mode.
Things that hamper your writing: any noise, any interruption—so, unfortunately, the rest of life.

Things you love about writing: so many things. Writing well requires you to place yourself in someone else’s (often many other people’s) shoes. It’s an exercise in empathy—which, let’s be honest, the world could use more of. I’m also obsessive about my writing at a line-by-line level. So, for example, when a particular combination of words conjures exactly the right image, or a series of sentences glide into each other and make their own compelling rhythm, or I make a concise connection between ideas that had not occurred to me previously but feels right, I get excited.
Things you hate about writing: honest writers will admit to nagging doubts about their own works. What is colloquially referred to as “impostor syndrome” is a real thing and can strike without warning. In addition, I’m a slow writer. If I get a solid 200 to 400 words in, I call that a good day. So there are long stretches where I’m chipping away at a manuscript, not at all certain where it’s headed or if it’ll turn out well in the end, if the time taken away from family and friends is going to be worth it. It’s like wandering through the desert, one footstep at a time, not certain if you’re even moving in the right direction.

Things you love about where you live: Georgia is a lovely state with real geographic diversity—rugged (if modest) mountains, expansive swamp, and lovely coastline. You get all four seasons, yet the winters aren’t out to kill you.
Things that make you want to move: have you seen western Montana? Or Costa Rica? Or Norway? They’re pretty great.

Words that describe you: contemplative and a little nerdy.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: I blame my day job (attorney), but I can be argumentative and stubborn.  

Favorite foods: I love a good Indian curry or Persian stew. Also, just about any dish from the Tuscan region of Italy.
Things that make you want to throw up: chocolate (yes), raisins, and cold soups.

Favorite music: Wu-Tang Clan, classic country, and blues-inflected rock like The Black Keys.
Music that make your ears bleed: modern pop-country. I won’t name names, but they know who they are.

Favorite beverage: coffee. I drink it constantly.

Something that gives you a pickle face: Kombucha, though I still occasionally drink it.

Favorite smell: there’s a crisp smell in the morning air when summer finally yields to autumn. It doesn’t last long. It’s the smell of leaf change, good fishing, and college football. It’s pretty great.

Something that makes you hold your nose: overly aggressive cologne or perfume.

People you consider as heroes: so many could fall in this category, but I think the overwhelming characteristic of them all is a desire to leave the world a better place for others than they entered it. Since I live in Georgia, I’ll mention Jimmy Carter. Say what you will about his presidency, but he has put his time on Earth to noble use.

People with a big L on their foreheads: those who behave as though we’re not all in this thing together.

Things to say to an author: frankly, any comment that discusses what aspect of the author’s story you connected with is greatly appreciated. It’s why we do this.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “I wish I had the time to just make some stuff up.” 

Favorite places you’ve been: the Great Smoky Mountains, where Twentymile is set, have a part of my heart. Same with Montepulciano, Italy and northwestern Montana.

Places you never want to go to again: metropolitan areas who don’t prioritize public greenspace. All steel and asphalt and no place to escape it.

Favorite things to do: hiking, fly fishing, traveling to new places with my family, cooking.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: shopping of any sort except for groceries. I loathe shopping.

Things that make you happy: my wife and son's laughs. The quiet at the top of a mountain where all you hear is the wind. Waiting out the rain under a tin roof.

Things that drive you crazy: Atlanta traffic. People who lack the ability to roll with even the basic punches of life.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: I used to backcountry camp solo for days on end in some pretty wild places. Great for solitude, but I wouldn’t probably recommend it to my son.

Something you chickened out from doing: I hate heights. I’ve not chickened out from doing much for that reason, but I can tell you I didn’t spend a lot of time at the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. Get up, get a photo, and get down. 




May 10

The same moment the hiker comes upon them, rounding the bend in the trail, Harlan knows the man will die.

He takes no pleasure in the thought. So far as Harlan is aware, he has never met the man and has no quarrel with him. This stranger is simply an unexpected contingency. A loose thread that, once noticed, requires snipping. 

Harlan knows, too, it’s his own fault. He shouldn’t have stopped. He should have pressed the group forward, off the trail and into the concealing drapery of the forest. That, after all, is the plan they’ve followed each time: Keep moving. Disappear.

But the first sliver of morning light had crested the ridge and caught Harlan’s eye just so, and without even thinking, he’d paused to watch it filter through the high trees. Giddy with promise, he’d imagined he saw their new future dawning in that distance as well, tethered to the rising sun. Cardinals he couldn’t yet spot were waking to greet the day, and a breeze picked up overhead, soughing through shadowy crowns of birch and oak. He’d turned and watched the silhouettes of his companions taking shape. His sons, Otto and Joseph, standing within arm’s length. The man they all call Junior lingering just behind them.

The stranger’s headlamp sliced through this reverie, bright and sudden as an oncoming train, freezing Harlan where he stood. In all the times they’ve previously made this journey—always departing this trail at this spot, and always at this early hour—they’ve never encountered another person. Given last night’s thunderstorm and the threat of more to come, Harlan wasn’t planning on company this morning, either.

He clamps his lips tight and flicks his eyes toward his sons—be still, be quiet. Junior clears his throat softly.

“Mornin’,” the stranger says when he’s close.

The accent is local—born, like Harlan’s own, of the surrounding North Carolina mountains—and his tone carries a hint of polite confusion. The beam of his headlamp darts from man to man, as though uncertain of who or what most merits its attention, before settling finally on Junior’s pack.

The backpack is a hand-stitched canvas behemoth many times the size of those sold by local outfitters and online retailers. Harlan designed the mammoth vessel himself to accommodate the many necessities of life in the wilderness. Dry goods. Seeds for planting. Tools for construction and farming. Long guns and ammunition. It’s functional but unsightly, like the bulbous shell of some strange insect. Harlan and his sons carry similar packs, each man bearing as much weight as he can manage. But it’s likely the rifle barrel peeking out of Junior’s that has now caught the stranger’s interest.

Harlan can tell he’s an experienced hiker, familiar with the national park where they now stand. Few people know of this trail. Fewer still would attempt it at this hour. Each of his thick-knuckled hands holds a trekking pole, and he moves with a sure and graceful gait even in the relative dark. He will recognize—probably is just now in the process of recognizing—that something is not right with the four of them. Something he may be tempted to report. Something he might recall later if asked.

Harlan nods at the man but says nothing. He removes his pack and kneels as though to re-tie his laces.

The hiker, receiving no reply, fills the silence. “How’re y’all do—”

When Harlan stands again, he works quickly, covering the stranger’s mouth with his free hand and thrusting his blade just below the sternum. A whimper escapes through his clamped fingers but dies quickly. The body arches, then goes limp. One arm reaches out toward him but only brushes his shoulder and falls away. Junior approaches from behind and lowers the man onto his back.

Even the birds are silent.

Joseph steps to his father’s side and offers him a cloth. Harlan smiles. His youngest son is a carbon copy of himself at eighteen. The wordless, intent glares. The muscles tensed and explosive, like coiled springs straining at a latch. Joseph eyes the man on the ground as though daring him to rise and fight.

Harlan removes the stranger’s headlamp and shines the beam in the man’s face. A buzz-cut of silver hair blanches in this wash of light. His pupils, wide as coins, do not react. Blood paints his lips and pools on the mud beneath him, smelling of copper.

“I’m sorry, friend,” Harlan says, though he doubts the man can hear him. “It’s just, you weren’t supposed to be here.” He yanks the knife free from the man’s distended belly and cleans it with the cloth.

From behind him comes Otto’s fretful voice. “Jesus, Pop.”

Harlan’s eldest more resembles the men on his late wife’s side. Long-limbed and dour. Quiet and amenable, but anxious. When Harlan turns, Otto is pacing along a tight stretch of the trail with his hands clamped to the sides of his head. His natural state.

“Shut up and help me,” Harlan says. “Both of you.”

He instructs his sons to carry the man two hundred paces into the woods and deposit him behind a wide tree. Far enough away, Harlan hopes, that the body will not be seen or smelled from the trail any time soon. “Wear your gloves,” he tells them, re-sheathing the knife at his hip. “And don’t let him drag.”

As Otto and Joseph bear the man away, Harlan pockets the lamp and turns to Junior.

“I know, I know,” he says, shaking his head. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what?”

Harlan sweeps his boot back and forth along the muddy trail to smooth over the odd bunching of footprints and to cover the scrim of blood with earth. He’s surprised to find his stomach has gone sour. “No witnesses,” he says. “That’s how it has to be.”

“People go missing,” Junior says, “and other people come looking.”

“By the time they do, we’ll be long gone.”

Junior shrugs and points. “Dibs on his walking sticks.”

Harlan stops sweeping. “What?”

“Sometimes my knees hurt.”

“Fine,” Harlan says. “But let’s get this straight. Dibs is not how we’re going to operate when we get there.”

Junior blinks and looks at him. “Dibs is how everything operates.”

Minutes later, Otto and Joseph return from their task, their chests heaving and their faces slick. Otto gives his younger brother a wary look, then approaches Harlan alone. When he speaks, he keeps his voice low.


“Was he still breathing when you left him?”

Otto trains his eyes on his own feet, a drop of sweat dangling from the tip of his nose.

“Was he?”

Otto shakes his head. He hesitates for a moment longer, then asks, “Maybe we should go, Pop? Before someone else comes along?”

Harlan pats his son’s hunched neck. “You’re right, of course.”

The four grunt and sway as they re-shoulder their packs. Wooden edges and sharp points dig into Harlan’s back and buttocks through the canvas, and the straps strain against his burning shoulders. But he welcomes this discomfort for what it means. This, at last, is their final trip.

This time, they’re leaving for good.

They fan out along the edge of the trail, the ground sopping under their boots. Droplets rain down, shaken free from the canopy by a gust of wind, and Harlan turns his face up to feel the cool prickle on his skin. Then he nods to his companions, wipes the water from his eyes, and steps into the rustling thicket.

The others follow after him, marching as quickly as their burdens allow.

Melting into the trees and the undergrowth.





October 26

By the time the two vehicles she’s expecting appear at the far end of the service road, Tsula is already glazed with a slurry of sweat and south Florida sand so fine it should really be called dust. She hasn’t exerted herself in the slightest—she parked, got out of her vehicle, waited for the others to arrive—but already she longs for a shower. She wipes her brow with an equally damp forearm. It accomplishes little.

“Christ almighty.”

Tsula grew up in the Qualla Boundary—the eighty square miles of western North Carolina held by the federal government in trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians—and had returned to her childhood home two years ago after a prolonged absence. This time of year in the Qualla, the mornings are chilly and the days temperate, autumn having officially shooed summer out of the mountains. In northern Wyoming, where she’d spent nearly two decades of her adult life, it takes until mid-morning in late October for the frost to fully melt. Tsula understands those rhythms—putting on layers and shedding them, freezing and thawing. The natural balance of it. But only miles from where she stands, in this same ceaseless heat, lies the Miami-Dade County sprawl. It baffles her. Who but reptiles could live in this swelter?

Tsula raises her binoculars. A generic government-issued SUV, much like her own, leads the way. An Everglades National Park law enforcement cruiser follows close behind.

She looks down at her watch: 11:45 a.m.

Tsula flaps the front of her vented fishing shirt to move air against her skin. The material is thin, breathable, and light tan, but islets of brown have formed where the shirt clings to perspiration on her shoulders and chest. She removes her baseball cap, fans her face, and lifts her ponytail off her neck. In this sun, her black hair absorbs the heat like the hood of a car, and she would not at all be surprised to find it has burned her skin. For a moment, she wishes it would go ahead and gray. Surely that would be more comfortable.

The vehicles pull to a stop next to her, and two men exit. Fish and Wildlife Commission Investigator Matt Healey approaches first. He is fifty-something, with the tanned and craggy face of someone who has spent decades outside. Tsula shakes his hand and smiles.

“Special Agent,” he says, scratching at his beard with his free hand.

The other man is younger—in his late twenties, Tsula figures—and dressed in the standard green-and-gray uniform of a law enforcement park ranger. He moves with a bounding and confident carriage and thrusts out his hand. “Special Agent, I’m Ranger Tim Stubbs. Welcome to Everglades. I was asked to join y’all today, but I’m afraid they didn’t give me much other info. Can someone tell me what I’m in for?”

“Poachers,” Healey answers. “You’re here to help us nab some.”

“We investigate poaching every year,” Stubbs says, nodding toward Tsula. “Never get the involvement of the FBI.”

“ISB,” she corrects him. “Investigative Services Branch? I’m with the Park Service.”

“Never heard of it,” Stubbs says.

“I get that a lot.”

Whether he knows it or not, Stubbs has a point. The ISB rarely, if ever, involves itself in poaching cases. Most large parks like Everglades have their own law enforcement rangers capable of looking into those of the garden variety. Federal and state fish and wildlife agencies can augment their efforts where necessary. At just over thirty Special Agents nationwide, and with eighty-five million acres of national park land under their jurisdiction from Hawaii to the U.S. Virgin Islands, this little-known division of the Park Service is too thinly staffed to look into such matters when there are suspicious deaths, missing persons, and sexual assaults to investigate.

But this case is different.

“It’s not just what they’re taking,” Healy says. “It’s how much they’re taking. Thousands of green and loggerhead turtle eggs, gone. Whole nests cleaned out at different points along Cape Sable all summer long. Always at night so cameras don’t capture them clearly, always different locations. They’re a moving target.”

“We’ve been concerned for a while now that they may be getting some assistance spotting the nests from inside the park,” Tsula adds. “So, we’re keeping it pretty close to the vest. That’s why no one filled you in before now. We don’t want to risk any tip-offs.”

“What would anyone want with that many eggs?”

“Black market,” Healey says.

“You’re kidding.”

Healey shakes his head. “Sea turtle eggs go down to Central America where they’re eaten as an aphrodisiac. Fetch three to five bucks apiece for the guy stateside who collects them. Bear paws and gallbladders go over to Asia. All kinds of other weird shit I won’t mention. And, of course, there are the live exotics coming into the country. Billions of dollars a year in illegal animal trade going all over the world. One of the biggest criminal industries besides drugs, weapons, and human trafficking. This many eggs missing—it’s like bricks of weed or cocaine in a wheel well. This isn’t some guy adding to his reptile collection or teenagers stealing eggs on a dare. This is commerce.”

Tsula recognizes the speech. It’s how Healey had hooked her, and how she in turn argued her boss into sanctioning her involvement. “Sure, most poaching is small-potatoes,” he told her months ago. He’d invited her for a drink that turned out to be a pitch instead. “Hicks shooting a deer off-season on government land and similar nonsense. This isn’t that. You catch the right guys, and they tell you who they’re selling to, maybe you can follow the trail. Can you imagine taking down an international protected species enterprise? Talk about putting the ISB on the map.”

“So maybe that’s what’s in it for me,” Tsula said, peeling at the label on her bottle. “Why are you so fired up?”

He straightened himself on his stool and drew his shoulders back. “These species are having a hard enough time as it is. Throw sustained poaching on top, it’s going to be devastating. I want it stopped. Not just the low-level guys, either. We put a few of them in jail, there will always be more of them to take their place. I want the head lopped off.”

Tsula had felt a thrill at Healey’s blunt passion and the prospect of an operation with international criminal implications. Certainly, it would be a welcome break from the child molestation and homicide cases that ate up her days and her soul, bit by bit. It took three conversations with the ISB Atlantic Region’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge, but eventually he agreed.

“This better be worth it,” he told her finally. “Bring some people in, get them to tell us who they’re working for. We may have to let the FBI in after that, but you will have tipped the first domino.”

Their investigation had consumed hundreds of man-hours across three agencies but yielded little concrete progress for the first several months. Then a couple weeks ago, Healey received a call from the Broward County State Attorney’s office. A pet store owner under arrest for a third cocaine possession charge was offering up information on turtle egg poachers targeting Everglades in a bid for a favorable plea deal. Two men had recently approached the store owner, who went by the nickname Bucky, about purchasing a small cache of eggs they still had on hand. It was toward the end of the season, and the recent yields were much smaller than their mid-summer hauls. Since many of the eggs they’d gathered were approaching time to hatch, the buyers with whom the two men primarily did business were no longer interested. The two men were looking for a legally flexible pet store owner who might want to sell hatchlings out the back door of his shop.

Tsula decided to use Bucky as bait. At her direction, he would offer to purchase the remaining eggs but refuse to conduct the sale at his store. The strip mall along the highway, he would explain, was too heavily trafficked for questionable transactions. But he knew a quiet place in the pine rocklands near the eastern border of the park where he liked to snort up and make plans for his business. They could meet there.

“Do I really have to say the part about snorting up?” Bucky had asked her, scratching his fingernails nervously on the interrogation room table. “I really don’t want that on tape. My parents are still alive.”

“You think they don’t know already?” Tsula said. “You don’t like my plan, good luck with your charges and your public defender here. How much time do you figure a third offense gets you?”

At his lawyer’s urging, Bucky finally agreed. The plan was set in motion, with the operation to take place today.

“So how are we looking?” Healey asks.

“Bucky’s on his way,” Tsula says. “I met with him earlier for a final run-through, got him mic’d up. We’re going to move the vehicles behind the thicket over there and wait. I’ve scouted it out. We’ll be concealed from the road. The purchase will take place about 12:30. As soon as Bucky has the eggs, we make our move.”

“I’ll secure the eggs,” Healy says. “You guys reel in some assholes.”

Tsula looks at Stubbs. His jaw is clenched, his eyes suddenly electric. “I’ll ride with you when it’s time, if that’s alright,” she says. “Keep it simple.”

They move their vehicles behind the wall of climbing fern and ladies’ tresses. Tsula exits her SUV, takes a concealed vantage point behind the brush, and raises her binoculars. To her left, a breeze has picked up and is swaying the distant sawgrass. A golden eagle circles effortlessly on a thermal, its attention trained on something below. Directly beyond the thicket where she stands, a large expanse of grass spreads out for a quarter mile before giving way to a dense stand of pine trees. To her right, that same open field stretches perhaps two miles, bordered by the service road on which Healy and Stubbs had just come in. All is silent but the soft hum of the breeze.

Bucky’s rust-colored compact bounces up the road around 12:15 and disappears as it passes on the opposite side the thicket. Minutes later, a mud-flecked pickup on oversized tires proceeds the same direction up the road, dragging a dust plume like a thundercloud behind it.

Tsula turns, nods to Healey, and climbs quietly into Stubbs’s cruiser. She inserts her earpiece and settles into the seat. Stubbs looks over at her expectantly, his hand hovering over the ignition.

Tsula shakes her head. “Not yet.”


Excerpt from Twentymile by C. Matthew Smith.  Copyright 2021 by C. Matthew Smith. Reproduced with permission from C. Matthew Smith. All rights reserved.



C. Matthew Smith is an attorney and writer whose short stories have appeared in and are forthcoming from numerous outlets, including Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly, Close to the Bone, and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir Vol. 3 (Down & Out Books). He’s a member of Sisters in Crime and the Atlanta Writers Club.
When he isn’t writing and paying the bills, Matt enjoys fly fishing, hiking, and backcountry camping. He holds a degree in English from Davidson College and a law degree from the University of Georgia. He lives near Atlanta with his wife, son, and father-in-law.

Connect with the author:
Website  |  Blog  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:


Friday, November 12, 2021



What is your worst fear to be a follower or a leader? For most people it is easy to be a follower, but it takes special courage, character, and confidence to become an extraordinary leader, especially one to Lead Millions!

Imagine waking up and having a million followers! Would thoughts of your inadequacies ruin your success? Would fear stop you in your tracks? This magnetic book reveals raw, authentic transparent leadership that may catch you off guard, but the expertise of the author will cause the Leader inside of you to be awakened and transformed.

This captivating and thought-provoking leadership literary work is not your typical self-help book. This manuscript will bring healing, freedom, encouragement, enlightenment, and success in practical ways. Whether you are in ministry, the corporate sector, medical arena, or an industrial environment, Made to Lead Millions will evoke the Leader in YOU!

Book Details

Title: Made to Lead Millions

Author: Krystal Henry

Genre: leadership

Publisher: Publishing Consulting Services, Jabez Books Writers’ Agency (September 21, 2021)
Print length: 228 pages


A few of your favorite things: sweet tea and hot tea favorite flavors are peach ginger, earl grey, and peppermint.                                                                                                                          
Things you need to throw out: papers, purses, and old cosmetic jewelry.

Things you need in order to write: phone, computer, God, and time.

Things that hamper your writing: distractions: phone, family, and work.

Things you never want to run out of: money.
Things you wish you’d never bought: shoes that hurt my feet.

Words that describe you: tall, powerful, well spoken, funny, anointed.

Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: stereotypical mad black female.

Favorite foods: crab boil, steak, lemon pepper wings, lobster, shrimp, and Nothing But Bundt Cake snickerdoodle flavor.

Things that make you want to throw up: sushi, Vienna Sausages, and sardines.

Favorite beverage: Arnold Palmer.

Something that gives you a pickle face: pickler juice.

Favorite smell: Stargazer Lilies.

Something that makes you hold your nose: stinky feet.

Last best thing you ate: The Keg restaurant – steak & lobster.

Last thing you regret eating: duck nachos.

Things you’d walk a mile for: to lose weight.

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: rats, snakes, or bugs.

Favorite places you’ve been: Las Vegas and Miami.

Places you never want to go to again: New Orleans.

Things that make you happy: making TikToks with my husband.

Things that drive you crazy: rude people.

Proudest moment: when I had my son after doctors said I was infertile and should have had a hysterectomy!

Most embarrassing moment: falling down the stairs at work.

Best thing you’ve ever done: accepting Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.
Biggest mistake: marrying my first husband.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: run from my stalker who had a gun pointed at me.

Something you chickened out from doing: ride the giant roller coaster at Six Flags.


The gift of inspiration is harnessed best by individuals displaying a strong propensity for helping others transform their own lives. Gifted with this virtue in nonpareil measure; is the compassionate professional, Krystal Henry. Krystal is an author, success coach, cleric, accountant, CEO and founder of, a multi-dimensional coaching hub, offering solutions, strategy, and inspiration, to a diverse clientele. She is often known for an innate ability in leading others "from what if, to what is." Having overcome life-changing battles with covid, cancer, infertility, and much more; Krystal proves herself an unfeigned survivalist, equipped in changing lives, for the better. She is member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated; a graduate of Paul Quinn College with a BS in Accounting.

Krystal Henry combines a passionate career in coaching, community involvement, and creative vocations. She is a Tony Gaskin’s Certified Life Coach, with more than two decades of experience in inspirational teaching, speaking, and workshop facilitation. As a philanthropic voice in both local and global communities, Krystal is the leading lady of Power of the Gospel Ministries, alongside her husband Rev. Redd. Together they inspire the masses, on the trailblazing “Power Lift Podcast.” As an effervescent creative, and Amazon Best Selling author of the inspirational manuscripts: The Elements of You and Made to Lead Millions. She has also co-authored in, Letters to the First Lady: Devotional for Pastor’s Wives & Women Married to Ministry Leaders, Volume One, Jump Start Your Mind and The Success Chronicles: Volume One; all organic expositions of an authentic passion for people. Krystal has appeared on Late Night with Sherida Lovelace, the Red Room with Shay Samuels, and The LeKeisha Mosley shows. She has been featured in ShoutOut Atlanta, The Wealthy Coach, and Head & Soul magazines. Her effervescent “voice frames your success” as one of the Co-Founders of on Clubhouse. Krystal is an asset to her local communal body, and a loving member of her family and friendship circles. Krystal Henry. Leader. Organizer. Philanthropist.

Connect with Krystal:

Website  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  

Buy the book:


Thursday, November 4, 2021



Acapulco’s first female police detective dives into an ocean of secrets, lies, and murder when she investigates her own lieutenant’s death.

In this explosive start to the award-winning Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco, Emilia beat the odds to become the resort city's first female police detective. But she lives in a pressure cooker where trust is in short supply.

Her fellow detectives are scheming to push her out. Her lieutenant is a shady character playing both sides of the law. The police department is riddled with corruption and drug cartel influence.

When her lieutenant is murdered, Emilia is assigned to lead the investigation. Soon the man’s sordid sex life, money laundering, and involvement in a kidnapping double-cross combine to create an ugly mess no one wants exposed. The high profile murder case could wreck Emilia’s career.

When Emilia's worst enemy in the squadroom emerges as the prime suspect, keeping her job might be the least of her worries.

"A thrilling series" -- National Public Radio

“Consistently exciting” -- Kirkus Reviews

"A wonderful crime mystery" --

2020 Poison Cup award, Outstanding Series -- CrimeMasters of America

Author Carmen Amato uses her own counterdrug and espionage experiences from a 30-year career in national intelligence to craft intrigue-filled crime fiction. She keeps you guessing until the very end!

Amato is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

Readers who love international mystery series crime fighters including Armand Gamache, Harry Hole, Guido Brunetti, and the Department Q series will also love Detective Emilia Cruz’s complex plots, pulse-pounding suspense, and exotic location.

Perfect for lovers of detective fiction by Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo, and Peter May, as well as Don Winslow’s Mexican cartel and border thrillers.

Book Details:

Title: Cliff Diver

Author: Carmen Amato

Genre: mystery, police procedural

Series: Detective Emilia Cruz
, book 1
Publisher: Laurel & Croton (January 27, 2013)

Print length: 302 pages


A few of your favorite things: German Shepherd dogs, my Andoid phone, Furla handbags from Italy.
Things you need to throw out: a closet full of clothing that’s out of style or doesn’t fit. But I’m keeping the Furlas.

Things you need in order to write: sticky notes, hardback notebooks, Pilot Precise pens, peace and quiet. Also coffee.
Things that hamper your writing: dogs arguing over toys under my desk.

Things you never want to run out of: toilet paper, printer ink, dog food, the joy of creating complicated plots.
Things you wish you’d never bought: a giant teal velvet sofa that looked great two houses ago, but which now looks like a faded whale.

Things you always put in your books: unexpected complications. I love complexity.

Things you never put in your books: people being mean to dogs.

Things to say to an author: I loved all 10 of your books and read your Mystery Ahead newsletter the minute it hits my inbox every other Sunday.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: I haven’t read your book but I’m going to give it a 1-star review.

Favorite places you’ve been: Acapulco, London, Rome, Venice, Athens, Oslo, Mexico City, Key West, Fiji.

Places you never want to go to again: any highway during a blizzard. I’m from Upstate New York. Enough said.

People you’d like to invite to dinner (living): Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. Seriously, our three dogs could use some of his magic.

People you’d cancel dinner on: anyone who wants me to contribute to their election campaign.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: during my thirty years as an intelligence officer with the CIA I did a few things that qualify as daring, but I can’t talk about it :(

Something you chickened out from doing: as a newly minted scuba diver, I was stuck for a week in the Solomon Islands in the middle of the Pacific—right on Guadalcanal. I had all my scuba gear, but the dive shop there felt sketchy. I could have seen the wrecks of WWII planes and ships on the bottom of the Pacific.


The two newcomers surveyed the squadroom. One of them looked vaguely familiar, as if he’d been in the newspaper lately. He was in his late thirties, with longish dark hair slicked back from a high forehead and the sort of angular cheekbones that spoke of a strong indio heritage. He wore a black leather blazer over a black tee shirt and cuffed pants. There was a slight bulge under the left arm.

Emilia stopped typing. The man exuded power.

The other man was bigger and blockier, with a square chin and a nose that had been broken too many times. He was also well dressed in expensive casual clothing.

“I’m looking for a Detective Cruz,” the black-clad man announced.

Emilia felt all eyes shift to her. But before she could say anything Silvio crossed the room. “Detective Franco Silvio,” he said to the man in black.

“I know who you are,” the man replied. “I’m here to talk to Cruz.”

Emilia slowly stood up.

“In the office.” The man jerked his chin at Emilia and then he and his cohort pushed past Silvio and headed into el teniente’s office.

Silvio swung over to Emilia. “What the fuck’s this?” he hissed.

“I don’t know,” she flashed back. Rico came to stand next to her and Silvio gave him a what-the-fuck-do-you-think-you’re-doing look but Rico stood his ground.

The three of them went into the office. The man in black sat in el teniente’s chair and jiggled the locked desk drawers. “Shut the door,” he said without looking up.

Silvio complied and the man came out from behind the desk.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked Emilia.

Emilia gave her head a tight shake. With five people in the room it felt crowded and Emilia felt that cold spurt of wariness she always did when she was the only woman in a crowd of unfriendly men. “I’m sorry, señor.”

“I’m Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guerrero,” he announced. “This is my deputy, Miguel Villahermosa.” The other man didn’t acknowledge the introduction but it was clear Obregon had not expected him to do so. “We’re here to make sure that the investigation into Fausto Inocente’s death is handled properly.”

Rico bristled, as if he was offended that the union would butt in. Emilia waited for him to say something stupid but Silvio shot him a murderous glare and Rico kept his mouth shut.

“We’re barely two hours into the investigation,” Silvio said, obviously making an effort to keep his temper. It had been less than 40 minutes since the call to the chief of police. “It came in as a routine dispatch call. Cruz and Portillo were given the assignment, made the discovery, locked down the scene, and notified the next of kin.”

“So let’s hear it,” Obregon said and flapped a hand.

Silvio nodded at Rico.

“We got a report of a drifting boat,” Rico began. “It was off the beach at the Palacio Réal hotel--.”

“No,” Obregon interrupted. He folded his arms. “Cruz.”

Emilia stole a look at Rico. His face was like thunder. She swallowed hard. “As my partner said, the call was to investigate a drifting boat off the beach at the Palacio Réal. The hotel chef and manager saw it from the beach early this morning, thought there were bloodstains on the side. We met Water Patrol at the hotel and they towed in the boat.” She took another breath and tried to sound as professional as possible. “Lt. Inocente was in the bottom of the boat, with his head encased in a plastic bag. It was pulled tight and knotted around his neck. When the crime scene technician opened the bag it appeared that the back of his head was caved in. We’ll know more when the coroner examines the body.”

Obregon nodded. “Any other injuries?” he asked her.

She shook her head. “No bullet holes in the hull of the boat, no evidence of a struggle. Blood on the deck under the body, likely from the head wound. Blood had also soaked through his shirt and there was some on the upper edge of the boat hull. Technicians took samples but they’ll probably all come back as his.”

“Anything else?”

“The boat is his. His wife gave us the registration papers.” Emilia paused, discomfited by Obregon’s stare. The tension in the room was palpable. She glanced at Rico and plowed on. “They live in the same area as the hotel. The wife wasn’t much help regarding his whereabouts last night. The last person who could pinpoint his whereabouts last night was their maid. Said he got a phone call late in the evening and went out. Took the boat keys but nothing else.”

“Wife didn’t see him?”

“She had gone out to a charity event,” Emilia said. “Of course, we’ll be checking to verify her story.”

Obregon tipped the chair back. A thin silver chain showed inside the loose neck of the tee. His skin was smooth and his jaw was tightly defined. He looked like someone who worked out a lot. And liked showing off the results.

“So, Cruz, tell me how you’re going to proceed,” he said, as if Rico and Silvio weren’t even in the crowded office.

“We’ll set up a hotline and get detectives out talking to everyone at his apartment building and the hotel to see if we can piece together his last hour. He was apparently close to his brother. We’ll talk to him as well. Look at his phone records to see if we can find out who the late night caller was. Coroner’s report. Forensics on his laptop. See if we get any prints off the boat.”

Obregon nodded and straightened the chair. Even that simple movement belied grace and power and focused intent. “This is how the investigation is going to go.” He pointed at Emilia. “You’re appointed acting lieutenant. Do whatever you want with these clowns”--he snapped his fingers at Silvio and Rico--“and the other cases you’ve got but I want you to personally head the Inocente investigation.”

Both Silvio and Rico froze as if they couldn’t believe what they’d just heard.

“Chief Salazar has already been notified. You’ll report directly to my office every few days until this thing is over.” Obregon indicated Villahermosa who’d remained by the door during the entire conversation, like a large, menacing statue. Obregon’s deputy was even bigger than Silvio, with legs the size of tree trunks. Another former boxer, no doubt. “Villahermosa will be on call to assist as well.”

The tension in the room was now tinged with menace. Emilia struggled to keep breathing normally.

“Cruz is a junior detective.” Silvio’s voice was tight. “She doesn’t have the experience or the seniority to be acting lieutenant.”

“Cruz has my full support,” Obregon said.

“With respect,” Silvio said. “We understand that. But she’s not the senior detective here.”

“Nobody’s asking for your fucking opinion,” Obregon blazed. His eyes drilled into Silvio. “Cruz is in charge as of now. Thanks for coming.”

Villahermosa pulled open the door and jerked his chin at Silvio and Rico. They both walked out.

Emilia stood rooted to the spot as her mind jumped around. Why had he chosen her? Did the union have the authority to put her in this position?

Obregon motioned to Villahermosa and the man left the office, too. And then it was just Obregon and Emilia. He walked round the desk again and rifled through a few of the papers on the desktop.

“The mayor has a press conference tomorrow and she’ll want to say something about the Inocente investigation,” Obregon said as he looked through the papers. “Be nice if you could have this all wrapped up by then.”

Emilia felt as if she’d been gutted. She forced a single word out around the tightness in her throat and the dryness in her mouth. “Sure.”

She must have sounded sassier than she felt because he looked up and laughed. “At any rate, we’ll meet beforehand to review what you’re going to tell her. Let’s say tomorrow 4:00 pm.”

He glanced at his watch, an expensive-looking silver job with three knobs on the side. “That gives you more than 24 hours to come up with something significant.”

Emilia licked her lips. “I won’t even have the phone records by then.”

“You’ll have something for the press conference,” Obregon said nastily. “Some nice sound bite about the diligence of the Acapulco police and how they’re sad but determined.”

“You want me to say this to the mayor?”

“Inocente was as dirty as they come.” Obregon turned his attention back to the overflowing inbox. “You’re going to turn up a lot of bad things. When you do, you tell me or Villahermosa. Not the other detectives and not the chief of police. You don’t arrest anybody, you don’t get yourself shot, you don’t do anything. I’ll take care of that part.”

Emilia’s heart hammered like a warning bell in her chest. “I think Silvio should be in charge of this investigation. He’s the senior detective.”

“If you find that the wife popped him,” Obregon went on. “And you know it beyond a shadow of a doubt, go ahead and arrest her. Otherwise come to me first. Nobody else.”

“Did you hear what I said?” Emilia said.

“I’m trying to clean up the police in this state,” Obregon said as he plucked a folder out of the box. As he flipped it open his hands knotted with veins, as if he had a lot of practice clenching and unclenching his fists. “I’m sick of the corruption and men like Inocente making deals with the cartels. People like him protect their empires, feed it with drugs and private armies. When you find out who killed Inocente we can probably roll up whatever cartel he was in bed with.”

“Why me?” Emilia asked. She was talking to his bent head as if he couldn’t be bothered to look her in the eye. The warning bell was deafening and Emilia knew she had to get herself out of this situation. Silvio should have this job. Or Loyola. They’d know how to deal with Obregon as well as how to conduct a major murder investigation. “You heard what Silvio said. Almost all the detectives out there are senior to me. There will be a lot of resistance. From all the other detectives. Enough to keep the investigation from going forward.”

“You’ll handle it.” Obregon read something else out of the inbox.

“You don’t understand.” Emilia slammed her hand down on the desktop to get his attention.

“Good,” he said, finally looking up from whatever he’d been reading. “You’ve got a fire in the belly. You get those detectives talking to everybody in that fucking hotel. Everybody who lived near him. Whoever even heard of Fausto Inocente. And if the boys don’t do what you say, shoot one of them. The rest will fall in line.”

He was serious.

“I don’t know who you think I am, señor,” Emilia gulped. “But I’ve only been a detective for two years. Mostly I’ve handled the crap cases. You need a seasoned investigator on this one. Get one of the other detectives to be acting lieutenant.”

“You’ve made quite a mark in two years, whether you know it or not,” Obregon said. “Recovering the Morelos de Gama child was a big deal.”

“The media made it out to be more than it was,” Emilia parried. “The case was handled in Ixtapa, not here.”

“We’ve been watching you.” He tossed the file onto the desk and regarded her. “Our girl detective. You’re a hungry one. You want to get someplace.”

“I’m sorry,” Emilia said. “Not this.”

“You’re the only woman here.” Obregon’s glance was searing.

“This is because I’m a woman?”

“Yes. Everybody knows women are less corrupt.” Obregon came around the side of the desk and Emilia resisted the urge to shrink away from him. “You do this or you won’t even be able to be hired on as the lowliest transito cop in any police force in this state.”

He leaned down and put his face close to hers. “You know he was corrupt. Up to his neck in shit. Well, I’m the person putting an end to it in the state of Guerrero, and you don’t get to choose sides.”

Emilia didn’t move. It was hard to breathe. He smelled like leather and cigarettes and an unexpected whiff of spicy cologne.

“I’ll be calling you on this office phone so you’d better move in today.” Obregon stepped back and ran an appraising eye down Emilia’s body. “And look good tomorrow. You want the mayor to take you seriously.”

“I’m junior around here,” Emilia said stubbornly. “You want a fast result, you get Silvio.”

“Maybe I wasn’t clear enough for you, Cruz.” Obregon’s voice was flat. “If the union puts you and your mother out on the street you won’t work as a whore in this town much less as a transito. So you show up and be nice to the mayor and tell her something clever for her little television press conference. How you’re working night and day to solve this terrible crime and keep Acapulco safe for the tourists.”

They stared at each other for a long moment.

You and your mother struck home for Emilia, as no doubt it was intended to.

“I want doors on the stalls in the detectives’ bathroom,” Emilia heard herself say. “And a copier that works. And paper for it. And ink.”

The corner of Obregon’s mouth twitched. “Anything else?”

“I’ll let you know,” she said tightly.

Obregon handed Emilia a card. There were two cell phone numbers printed on it. “You only use these numbers to get in touch with me,” he said.

Before she could respond he pulled open the door and shouted “Attention.”

Emilia followed Obregon as far as the doorway. The detectives were all there, as was Villahermosa. Obregon strode to the center of the squadroom, commanding everyone’s attention.

“Most of you know me. I am Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guerrero.” He revolved slowly and most of the detectives stood a little straighter as his eye rested on them for a moment, creating the same malice-tinged tension he’d first brought into the squadroom. “As you know, Lt. Inocente was found dead this morning. His death will be investigated as a homicide by this unit until his murderer is found and dealt with.”

There was a low sound of shuffling feet. Somebody coughed.

Obregon jerked his chin in the direction of Lt. Inocente’s office where Emilia leaned awkwardly against the doorjamb. “Detective Emilia Cruz will be acting lieutenant for the duration and in charge of the investigation into Lt. Inocente’s death.”

Eyes swiveled to Emilia. Rico was openly shocked as he sat on the end of his desk. Silvio’s face was like granite. He was the only one who kept his gaze on Obregon.

Emilia didn’t acknowledge the stares. She kept her eyes on the ancient copier.

Several of the detectives shifted uncomfortably in the silence. “One of our own has died,” Obregon said. “And we will conduct a thorough investigation, find whoever did this, and punish them according to the full measure of Mexican law.”

He nodded at Emilia. “See you tomorrow, Cruz. Four o’clock.” His eyes revealed nothing. “Good luck.”

Obregon and Villahermosa walked out. As soon as the door shut behind them the squadroom erupted into a bedlam of shouting.


Excerpt from Cliff Diver by Carmen Amato. Copyright 2021 by Carmen Amato. Reproduced with permission from Carmen Amato. All rights reserved.



The Detective Emilia Cruz series:
Cliff Diver
Hat Dance
Diablo Nights
King Peso
Pacific Reaper

43 Missing
Russian Mojito
Narco Noir


Following a thirty-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency, Carmen Amato writes mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco, confronting Mexico’s cartels, corruption and social inequalities. The series recently won the Poison Cup award for Outstanding Series from Crime Masters of America in 2019 and 2020, the Silver Falchion Award for Best Short Story/Collection of 2019, and was optioned for television.

Originally from upstate New York, Carmen’s experiences in Mexico and Central America launched her fiction career. Carmen is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

Connect with Carmen:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook 

Buy the book: