Thursday, May 28, 2015

Write What You Know

by Carrie Stuart Parks

I’ve often heard this advice, and just as often heard the opposite. Fortunately for me, my career provided the perfect subject for my books: forensic art. Unlike the fancy holograms and computer generated bells and whistles on television, forensic art is about visual communication using something as simple as a pencil and piece of paper. Working as a forensic artist since 1981 gave me a host of plot ideas based on actual cases. As a forensic artist, I could reconstruct skulls, prepare
courtroom exhibits, draw composites of unknown suspects, age progress missing children, capture courtroom drama, sketch crime scenes, illustrate unknown remains, clarify video surveillance images and a host of other skills. Step aside, Bones! Choosing a career for my protagonist was a no-brainer.

Choosing a location came next. As a resident of Cataldo, Idaho, once saluted in the Corn Patch of the television show Hee Haw, I knew far more about my neighboring moose and wolves than big city life. I decided I’d slide one step away to Montana and create a fictional town called Copper Creek, based on Hamilton, Montana. . . and I did work on a triple homicide there once . . .

Now that I had a protagonist and a location, I needed details of this life. Gwen Marcey (Gwen coming from a name my husband, Rick, liked, and Marcey from his mom’s maiden name,) needed a dog. Of course. But not just any dog. No Golden Retriever, Collie, or German Shepherd. The dog HAD to be a Great Pyrenees. Remember the write what you know? My family raised this breed since 1959 and I’m currently the president of the national club.

I wanted to write from a Christian world view. No cussing or sex. Just tight tension and action. I knew it wouldn’t be a cozy, or sweet or light because of my job, but I also knew it took a bit more work to show the gritty side of forensic art without resorting to bad language and gratuitous violence and sex.

Now came the hard part: actually writing. Keeping tension high; showing, not telling; hooks at the end of the chapters; weaving in backstory or leaving it out; constructing layers within the story. That learning curve took ten years of hard work. I had a NYT bestselling author as a mentor, a harsh critique group, and attended numerous writing conferences taking copious notes. I signed up for on-line classes and read every book on the topic.

In that ten-year journey, I gathered rejections, worked full time, battled stage II breast cancer, and took care of my dying mother.

I was not, WAS NOT going to quit. Rejections meant more revisions. Cancer? I’d use it in the book.
I’m sharing all this with you, m’friends, because we all have that writing journey, that yellow brick road with witches and flying monkeys. But we also have our big hearted tin man, bright scarecrow, and brave lion to help us.

Oh, and yes, it all paid off. A three book deal at auction with HarperCollins Christian taking the highest bid. And finaling in two mystery/suspense competitions.

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning fine artist and internationally known forensic artist. Along with her husband, Rick, she travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

In 1857, a wagon train in Utah was assaulted by a group of militant Mormons calling themselves the Avenging Angels. One hundred and forty people were murdered, including unarmed men, women, and children. The Mountain Meadows Massacre remains controversial to this day–but the truth may be written on the skulls of the victims. In the shadow of the Mormon church, a 19th-century conspiracy is about to be shattered by a 21st-century forensic artist.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Me and New York Jack

by Stu Strumwasser

In the mid-eighties I was studying creative writing at Cornell and I was lambasted by one of my professors for having the audacity to write a story about a kid in Vietnam. I had apparently violated one of the cardinal rules of writing: “Write what you know” (I think that one is 72 dash B). The rule is valid of course, but I also know this: there is no fiction without imagination—or risk—and I’d rather fall off the edge of the world than never leave port. So perhaps, like so many things in life, what is necessary is balance.

My new novel, THE ORGAN BROKER, will be released on May 5, 2015. Somehow the fact that someone else—a legitimate publisher—deemed it good enough to print and share with others feels redemptive. In March of 2008 I had the idea for a unique, epistolary format within which to write this story. At the time, there were over 90,000 Americans on waiting lists for organs. I was trying not to attempt another novel which might never be published, when I decided that I needed to research the subject—not in an effort to somehow become a scientific expert but, rather, to simply become able to write about it in an informed and believable way—to eventually know something, so I could then write about it. I wanted to know something new. Something fantastic and gritty and provocative.

I began by interviewing organ transplant recipients, one after another, and networking my way to academic experts on bioethics and journalists who have covered the black market. The first stage of my research culminated at a lunch in Los Angeles with a transplant tourism director who shocked me both with the details of his career, and the incredible openness and candor with which he shared them. I left California with a bit of knowledge. I wrote the manuscript, re-wrote it, got a new agent, sold the book, edited, promoted… and now, two weeks prior to publication, it is about seven years since I began.

A lot’s changed for me during that time, and I’ve learned that a lot more has changed for those in renal failure. The waiting list for organs has ballooned, during just these last seven years, by around thirty-five percent, to over 124,000 names. Approximately eighty percent of them need kidneys and the average wait now exceeds seven years. Around twenty-one people will die today because an organ wasn’t donated in time.

In the acknowledgments of my book the first sentence reads: “It took me several years to write this book, but several decades to truly become a writer.” It did, after all. Perhaps it took that long to learn something that mattered. Please go to and register to be a donor.

Stu Strumwasser studied creative writing at Cornell University and went on to pursue dual careers on Wall Street and as a musician. In 2006 Stu left Wall Street and founded Snow Beverages to make natural soda. A passionate entrepreneur, Stu then co-founded Tengrade in 2011. is the social rating tool for the internet, mobile devices and social networks, providing users with “Real Ratings” from their friends and people like them, on anything. Stu was born in Queens, raised in Lynbrook, and now resides in Brooklyn, New York with his two school-age, identical twin sons. The Organ Broker is his first published novel. You can contact Stu at

Every day twenty-one Americans die while waiting for an organ transplant. A small portion take “transplant tourism” trips to third-world countries where they buy life-saving replacement body parts from organ brokers like New York Jack. This book is the incredible story of how he meets the son he never knew he had and then finds himself caught between a $2 million commission and his desire to avoid participating in a string of murders. He races to South Africa and Brazil, staying just a step ahead of his adversary and the FBI, while he searches for one small act of redemption. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015


by Don Helin

During my time in the army, I wrote a gazillion Subject to position papers, but unless you're trying to gain a decision from your boss, you don't want to read it.

When I left the army, I attended a travel writing symposium sponsored by The Washington Post that started me on my writing career. I enjoy traveling and figured, “Heck why not get paid for it?” After
four years working as a travel writer, I decided to try writing fiction.

I still remember the day four years later when I got “The Call.” My wife thought I was nuts dancing around the kitchen when the acquisitions editor at Medallion Press said, “We want you.”

This leads me to the first of my two most important thoughts.


As soon as I signed my contract for Thy Kingdom Come, I became inundated with marketing plans; edits from the copy editor, the content editor, and the executive editor; then providing the graphic designer background material for a cover. In the summer of 2009, I signed a contract with Medallion Press for my second novel in the Sam Thorpe series as a mass market paperback and an ebook. I was doing book signing and making presentations. Life was good.

The following spring, Medallion informed me they no longer would be publishing mass market paperback books. Publishing is a business, and they only wanted to publish my second novel as an e-book, not an e-book and paperback like the first one. In the 2010 market, I didn't know how an author could develop a following with only an e-book.


Once I decided to cancel the e-book only contract, I developed a new series. On one Thrillerfest panel, I met an author who later introduced me to his publisher. She liked my novel, Devil's Den, and here I am writing another series. Contacts matter. Community matters.

I belong to a number of writers associations. The key to success is to volunteer at conferences. Conferences will help you make contacts, grow as a writer, and stay current on the myriad of changes in the publishing industry.

At book signings, don't hide behind a desk. Get out and meet people. You are your brand. If people know you, they may try your book and hopefully become fans. Build your community.

I see success stories every day. I'm convinced these successes are facilitated not only by hard work and a thick skin when you get rejected, but by learning two important secrets: (1) Writing is an art, but publishing is a business, and (2) It's not only about selling books, but building a community.

Good luck to each of you. An author can make life-long friends during their debut author year. I did and you will too.

I'd be glad to discuss my experiences with any of you.

Don Helin hails from Minneapolis. After his graduation from the University of Minnesota, he entered the military and served at a number of stateside posts, as well as in Vietnam and Germany. Using his experience from the military, including eight years in the Pentagon, Don published his first thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, in 2009. His second, Devil's Den, has been selected as a finalist in the Indie Book Awards. His most recent thriller, Secret Assault, was published this fall. Don is an active member of International Thriller Writers, Military Writers Society of America, Pennwriters, and is a mentor with Mystery Writers of America. He makes his home in central Pennsylvania where he is hard at work on his next Zack Kelly thriller, Dark Angel. Please visit Don at his website, friend him on Facebook, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

The June evening had been perfect—the speeches are over, the last dance is underway, and the president's national security advisor, General Aaron Hightower, is leaving his retirement party when he is gunned down by a Vietnamese assassin. Colonel Zack Kelly spots the killer and gives chase, but the shooter is hit by a truck and killed. Zack and his partner, Lieutenant Colonel Rene Garcia, determine that Hightower is the sixth army leader attacked in the past four months. They investigate the chilling possibility that the shootings are part of a plot against the government. Is a serial killer on the loose? Are other lives at stake? Cabinet members? Is the president himself at risk? Things are not as they seem, however. After two more military retirees are murdered, Zack's world is rocked by an event so traumatic, the hunt for the killers turns deadly personal.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

May Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in May and that means new releases.

Please take a look and let’s celebrate these debut authors' success!

John A Connell - Ruins of War  (Berkley/Penguin) May 5, 2015

“A thrilling hunt…gripping and gruesome.” —James Becker, bestselling author of The Lost Testament 

In the winter of 1945, seven months after the Nazi defeat, Munich is in ruins. Mason Collins—former Chicago police detective, U.S. soldier, and prisoner-of-war—is now Chief Warrant Officer of the American Zone of Occupation. It’s his job to enforce the law in a place where order has been obliterated. And his job just became much more dangerous. 

A killer is stalking the devastated city—one who has knowledge of human anatomy, enacts mysterious rituals with his prey, and seems to pick victims at random. Relying on his wit and instincts, Mason must venture into dangerous places that put his own life at risk: from interrogation rooms with unrepentant Nazi war criminals to penetrating the U.S. Army’s own black market.

But what Mason doesn’t know is that the killer he’s chasing is stalking him as well…

Stu Strumwasser - The Organ Broker: A Novel (Arcade/Skyhorse Publishing) May 2015

Every day twenty Americans die while waiting for an organ transplant. A small portion take “transplant tourism” trips to third-world countries where they buy life-saving replacement body parts from organ brokers like New York Jack. 

This book is the incredible story of how he meets the son he never knew he had and then finds himself caught between a $2 million commission and his desire to avoid participating in a string of murders. He races to South Africa and Brazil, staying just a step ahead of his adversary and the FBI, while he searches for one small act of redemption.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How To Make The Most Of Your Cover Reveal

by Graeme Shimmin

If you’re a writer with a novel coming out, then you are probably wondering how to build awareness and excitement about it.

One of your main pre-publication publicity opportunities is the ‘cover reveal’ – where you show your most enthusiastic followers what the novel is going to look like.

In this article I’ll share a few ideas about how I made the most of the cover reveal, and how to avoid it being a failure.

What’s the point of a cover reveal?

Like all your marketing efforts, the point of revealing the cover is to build awareness of it. A second positive effect is if you manage to convert some of that interest into pre-orders.

The cover reveal for my own novel A Kill in the Morning was successful - gaining hundreds of retweets and Facebook shares and resulting in pre-orders.

How not to do it

Some authors just take the cover image supplied by their publisher (or designed themselves) and plonk it on Facebook with a note saying 'here's my cover'.

That's not very inspiring.

The fine line between under and over exposure

Given the amount of times I’ve written about A Kill in the Morning, I’m still amazed how many people say to me, ‘Oh have you written a book?’

It just shows how much of marketing is about repetition.

You need to remind people and remind them again and again, until eventually it sinks in. That means you have to keep coming up with new things to say.


I revealed the cover about a month before A Kill in the Morning came out, which seemed about right, the novel was already available for pre-orders on Amazon, so people who were interested based on the cover could place an order. Still, I'm not sure the timing of the cover reveal is as critical as revealing it with some panache.


As part of this strategy of reminding people multiple times, instead of just revealing the cover I produced some teasers first.

First, one based on the tag line for the novel:

Second: two based on elements of the cover. One of which was this aircraft:

After three teasers, I thought it was time for the big reveal.

Behind the Scenes

Again, in order to make my reveal more interesting, I came up with a different angle.

People like to see inside the process, so I wrote an article about my book cover design process and included some of the concept art and trial cover sketches.

For example, here's the "mood board":

I also explained the cover design process and how an author can go through the process - whether they have a publisher and artist involved or are doing it themselves.

Because the post contains useful advice it gets steady hits on my website and continues to create awareness. To me that's better than just "revealing the cover".

You can see the article here: Book Cover Design: How to Make a Book Cover

Publicising your cover

Of course the main places are Facebook and Twitter, but there are lots of other possibilities. I got thousands of hits from StumbleUpon too and genre websites and Goodreads are also good. It might even be possible to publicise your cover reveal in local newspapers.

Action points
  • Think of as many angles as possible to keep promoting your book without boring your audience.
  • Decide when you will do your cover reveal.
  • Design some teasers.
  • Think of an angle for your cover reveal.
  • Make a list of places you can publicise your cover.
Graeme Shimmin was born in Manchester, and studied Physics at Durham University. His successful consultancy career enabled him to retire at 35 to an island off Donegal and start writing. He has since returned to Manchester and completed an MA in Creative Writing. The inspiration for A Kill in the Morning - his prizewinning first novel - came from Robert Harris' alternate history novel, Fatherland, and a his love of classic spy fiction. To find out more, and read his spy-themed short stories and book and movie reviews, visit

The year is 1955 and something is very wrong with the world. It is fourteen years since Churchill died and the Second World War ended. In occupied Europe, Britain fights a cold war against a nuclear-armed Nazi Germany. In Berlin the Gestapo is on the trail of a beautiful young resistance fighter, and the head of the SS is plotting to dispose of an ailing Adolf Hitler and restart the war against Britain and her empire. Meanwhile, in a secret bunker hidden deep beneath the German countryside, scientists are experimenting with a force far beyond their understanding. Into this arena steps a nameless British assassin, on the run from a sinister cabal within his own government, and planning a private war against the Nazis. And now the fate of the world rests on a single kill in the morning…You can read the opening of the published novel here: The first two chapters of A Kill in the Morning here

Thursday, April 23, 2015

People Say I'm a Dreamer . . .

By Allen Eskens

As I approached the launch of my debut novel, The Life We Bury, I attended book signings and events for other authors, paying close attention to what they did and said, hoping to emulate them in my own presentations. After attending a number of these events, I began to think that my path to becoming a novelist was a bit different than most. 
I’d hear authors talk about how they were terrific readers at an early age or how they wrote their first story in third grade and knew that writing would be their life’s calling. I had neither of those experiences in my past. 
So, I went in search of the source of my authorial spirit, and after a great deal of exploration, I finally found the point where my life as a storyteller began. I found this archaeological gem written in the margins of my first grade report card. My teacher, Sister Ronald Marie, wrote “Allen dreams when there is work to be done.” (Ah, the birth of a writer).
As it turns out, some version of that comment made its way onto most of my report cards and into many of my parent-teacher conferences. “Allen daydreams too much.” “Allen can’t seem to pay attention in class.” “In Language Arts, Allen is completely out of it.” (Mrs. Lee, my eighth grade teacher.)
If a teacher made the mistake of letting me sit near a window, I would look outside and my eye would catch on some shiny object and I’d be gone. I’d be blazing trails through the woods, or fighting Nazis at Bastogne, or crossing swords with a classmate who committed some offense to earn my imaginary wrath. My daydreaming became so rampant that teachers would assign me a seat far from the window, even in classes where no one else had an assigned seat. 
I concede that my lack of attention was a valid source of consternation for my teachers, but what they didn’t understand (nor I for that matter) was that I was writing stories. I was developing protagonists and antagonists. I was inserting secondary characters like foils and mentors. I was creating plot arcs as complete as anything I watched on television.
Despite my utter lack of attention in class, I inched my way through school, barely passing from one grade to the next. It wasn’t until high school that things began to change. I got involved in theater and discovered that I could funnel my imagination into creative outlets. Suddenly, my daydreaming had purpose. 
When I was a junior, I wrote a short story for a class where I simply wrote down one of my daydreams. My teacher asked me if I ever thought about writing to get published. That comment became the seed that would eventually grow into my passion for writing.
And now I am a novelist, and I finally get paid to do what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little boy…daydream.
Allen Eskens grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri, and migrated north to go to college, graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism.  He then went on to law school and eventually settled in Mankato, Minnesota to practice law. As the years passed, his itch to write became overwhelming and—after a mere twenty years of studying creative writing—he wrote his debut novel, The Life We Bury. Visit Allen at

The Life We Bury tells the story of Joe Talbert, a junior at the University of Minnesota who receives a class assignment to interview someone who has lived an interesting life and write their story. At a nursing home he meets Carl Iverson, a man dying of cancer who has been medically paroled after spending thirty years in prison for the murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. Carl agrees to tell Joe his story and through their meetings Joe is pulled into the darkness of a thirty-year-old murder. But The Life We Bury is also the story of how Joe ran away from home to go to college, leaving behind a mother who is bi-polar and a brother who is autistic. Joe is torn by the guilt of going to college and abandoning his brother. Throughout the novel, Joe has to intercede to protect his brother and is conflicted every time he has to once again leave his brother behind. The power of that guilt weighs heavily upon Joe and will demand a resolution of its own.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Journey That Started My Journey

by SJI Holliday

When I was maybe ten or eleven years old, I found a big box of books in my mum’s bedroom. It was mostly full of James Herberts and Shaun Hutsons, and some of the covers were downright terrifying. Some kids might’ve run screaming from the room, but not me.

I started to read them.

Fast forward a few years, and it was Stephen King who held my attention, before I made a sideways move into crime and thrillers… Jonathan Kellerman, Bret Easton Ellis, Thomas Harris… the list goes on. You get the picture.

After school, I went to university to study microbiology. I kept reading… more than ever. I got a job as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry and it was all going well. But there was an itch. I knew I wanted to write – I just didn’t know how or when I was going to manage it.

In July 2005, there were terrorist attacks in London. My sisters were on a train down from Edinburgh to meet me, and they got turned away on the fringes of the city. I was stunned. Scared. Realised that life was too short. So I decided to take a break from work to travel the world. I spent the rest of the year planning it, and then off I went (with my fiancé in tow).

In 2006, I found myself on the Trans-Siberian Railway, travelling between Beijing and Moscow. I’d picked up Stephen King’s On Writing somewhere along the way. I had a notebook and a pen. I started to write.

So it began.

Between then and now, I’ve written hundreds of flash fictions and short stories, mostly in crime and horror. In 2013, after lots of false starts, I finally managed to finish my first novel. I met my agent at a writing festival, and some time later, he signed me up based on 10,000 words. I couldn’t believe it. Still can’t.

Black Wood was released on 19th March. I had launches in big name bookstores in London and Edinburgh, where I was interviewed by two bestselling authors – Martyn Waites and Craig Robertson.

People are contacting me, saying how much they loved my book. They want me to write another one… I’m doing it. I’m doing it as fast as I can. Yet still, it doesn’t feel real. I’m a published author now. I have to keep pinching myself. Some day, I hope a kid will find some of my books in a box in their mum’s bedroom. I hope I can inspire – because if I can do this, while juggling a tough job and everything else that life can throw, then so can anyone.

Here’s my advice to anyone who wants to write. If you want to write, just write. Read a lot, write a lot. Network on social media; go to events. Tell yourself that you’re an author. Because one day, it might just come true.

SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. She works as a Pharmaceutical Statistician, and as a life-long bookworm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist. She has several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies and was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize. After travelling the world, she has now settled in London with her husband. Her debut novel, Black Wood, was inspired by a disturbing incident from her childhood. You can find out more at or follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday.

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo's story. Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo's visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Outward Appearances, Illusions, and Innermost Secrets

By Michael H. Rubin

Television, radio, social media, and newspapers are filled with stories about cultural disputes, religious intolerance, and the resulting injuries and deaths. Determining an individual’s religion, however, is not always easy, especially if he or she does not wear obvious religious garb, such as a turban for a Sikh, a burka for a Muslim woman, or a kippah for a Jew. Absent such telltale signs, religion can be a deeply held belief not immediately apparent by outward appearances. On the other hand, we tend to think that we can tell someone’s “race” by his or her facial features and skin color. But determining the “race” of others can be as difficult as determining their religion. Before the Civil War, for example, discrimination against individuals who were as little as 1/64 “black” was legal in Louisiana. In other words, anyone who had a single great, great, great black grandparent was considered to be a Negro in the eyes of the law and could be enslaved, even if their skin color and countenance appeared to be “white.”

At their heart, thrillers are about uncovering truth which, like race and religious belief, is often difficult to discern. Readers gravitate to books that draw them in, allowing them to discover the truth alongside (or even ahead of), the protagonist and to distinguish between illusion and reality without having to explicitly be told.

Charles Dickens in “David Copperfield” and Mark Twain in “Huck Finn” wrote so cleverly that their readers understand things that the narrators of their novels sometimes do not. Long before David Copperfield discovers how shallow Steerforth is, the reader knows it. Huck Finn’s initial uncertainty about the moral right but the “legal wrong” of concealing Jim allows readers to grasp how and why moral justice should triumph.

I’ve been inspired by the ability of great authors such as Dickens and Twain who fashion their stories in ways that allow readers to divine aspects of the truth more quickly than do their characters. From reading Dickens and Twain, as well as the works of other authors of both great literature and great thrillers, four valuable writing techniques have become apparent to me:

     FAIR CLUES: Clues to the plot or to a character’s motives should be given fairly. Authors of memorable novels allow astute readers to comprehend their clues’ growing importance as the story develops. Clues are not so deeply disguised that they can only be uncovered by an almost magical divination on the part of the protagonist or so very obvious that there is no mystery at all.

     PLOT AND CHARACTERS IN EQUAL PORTIONS. Characters should not be lightly sketched stereotypes. They should have depth, and “unpeeling their layers” should not impede the development of the storyline but rather should enable the characters to both react to events and attempt to interpret them.

     PLAUSIBILITY AND CONTINUITY. Once the characters have been established, they should act in ways that are fully believable, even if the reader may not immediately understand their motives or their responses to unfolding events.

     A UNIFIED WORLD. Environments should be so real that readers have a combined sense of gratification and loss at the conclusion of the book: gratification because the story has reached a satisfying denouement, and loss because the readers have become so immersed in the world the writer has created that they hate to leave it.

I kept these four techniques in mind when I wrote The Cottoncrest Curse. They can serve as a guide for all authors who want to create memorable thrillers with intriguing but fully believable characters whose outward appearances conceal inner secrets. By employing the four techniques cited above, novelists are more likely to craft characters who operate in a fully realized world and create stories that readers will find hard to put down.

Michael H. Rubin has been a professional jazz pianist in the New Orleans French Quarter, a radio and television host, a nationally-known speaker who has given over 400 multimedia presentations around the country, and not only is one of the managing members of a law firm whose offices stretch from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to East Coast, but also is a law professor whose many publications have been cited as authoritative by state and federal courts. His debut novel, The Cottoncrest Curse, is a multi-generational thriller dealing with suicides, murders, religion, and race, tempered with a dose of humor. Published by the award-winning LSU Press, it has been praised by Publishers Weekly as a “gripping debut,” and the Chicago CBA Record proclaims that “the writing is masterful.” Visit Michael at Follow him on Facebook at Michael H. Rubin, Author.

Locals think that the Cottoncrest Plantation is cursed because of the mysterious suicides that continue to claim the lives of generations of its owners, the most gruesome of which occurred two decades after the Civil War, when an elderly Colonel viciously slit the throat of his beautiful young wife and fatally shot himself. But was this a suicide, or was it a double homicide? Suspicion falls on an itinerant peddler with deep secrets to conceal. The deaths ignite feuds that burn a path from the cotton fields to the courthouse steps, from moss-draped Louisiana bayous to 19th century New Orleans’ bordellos, from the Civil War era to the Civil Rights era and into the present, as several generations desperately seek to unravel the mystery of and the truth behind The Cottoncrest Curse.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Debut Releases

It's the first Thursday in April and that means new releases.

Please take a look and let’s celebrate these debut authors' success!

T.J. Turner - Lincoln's Bodyguard (Oceanview Publishing) April 7, 2015

In Lincoln’s Bodyguard, an alternative version of American history, President Lincoln is saved from assassination. Though he prophesied his own death—the only way he believed the South would truly surrender—Lincoln never accounted for the heroics of his bodyguard, Joseph Foster. A biracial mix of white and Miami Indian, Joseph makes an enemy of the South by killing John Wilkes Booth and preventing the death of the president. His wife is murdered and his daughter kidnapped, sending Joseph on a revenge-fueled rampage to recover his daughter. When his search fails, he disappears as the nation falls into a simmering insurgency instead of an end to the War. Years later, Joseph is still running from his past when he receives a letter from Lincoln pleading for help.  The President has a secret mission. Pursued from the outset, Joseph turns to the only person who might help, the woman he abandoned years earlier.  If he can win Molly over, he might just fulfill the President’s urgent request, find his daughter, and maybe even hasten the end of the War.

Gwendolyn Womack - The Memory Painter (Picador) April 28, 2015

What if there was a drug that could help you remember your past lives? What if the lives you remembered could lead you to your one true love? What if you learned that, for thousands of years, a deadly enemy had conspired to keep the two of you apart?

Two lovers who have traveled across time. A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research. A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery.

“ In The Memory Painter, Gwendolyn Womack delivers a multi-layered debut novel like no other: passing through the veils of time and brimming with history, mystery, science, intrigue, and passion.” —KATHERINE NEVILLE, New York Times and No. 1 internationally bestselling author

And as a special treat - here's the Book Trailer 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Craziest Story I Ever Heard

by Steve Cavanagh

On Saint Patrick’s Day 2011 I lost my mother to cancer. If you’d told me that day that exactly four years later I’d have written a novel, gotten an agent, had multiple auctions for the publishing rights and just seen my first book hit the shelves – I’d have said you were crazy.
And I’d be right. That is crazy.

In 2011 I wasn’t writing. In fact I hadn’t written anything for about fifteen years. In my late teens I wrote a couple of screenplays, didn’t get them sold, and gave up writing around the age of 20. At 35 I was fairly rusty. I hadn’t written anything in the intervening period and I’d no plan to return to that life. I was a lawyer with a decent salary, a young family and I worked pretty long hours in a law firm just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland.

But something happened. My mother was the person who gave me my first crime novel – Silence Of The Lambs. I was hooked ever since. She gave me the love of reading and she encouraged me to write. Her passing felt wrong, like we were robbed. Something inside of me said that some good had to come out of this; that somehow I had to try and fix things. What could I do? At that time I had a new baby, and in hindsight I’m pretty sure I was depressed.

In September 2011 I decided I was going to have another shot at writing. A novel, this time. I was going to write the kind of novel that my mother would’ve enjoyed reading. This was one more roll of the dice – for her. I started writing at night. I’d begin around 10:30 and write until my head hit the keyboard. It felt desperate. But I enjoyed it – because I was escaping into a fictional world that I could control. When I was writing I wasn’t thinking about my own problems.

Around nine months later I had a book. Now I wanted to see it on a shelf. So I set about looking for an agent. Like everyone, I got rejections. A lot of them. So I kept revising the book, and submitting. In April 2013 I got an email from a respected agent telling me that the book would never be published. That was on a Monday night and I’ll never forget how terrible that felt – like I’d failed my mother. On the Wednesday of the same week I got offers of representation from some of the biggest and best agents in the UK.

September 2013 my first novel was sold in a four-publisher auction to Orion Books – who publishes some of my heroes like Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben and Ian Rankin.

The Defence was published in the UK on 12th March 2015 and I visited my mother’s grave. I told her that I’d done it. The pain was still there.

But I knew she was there too.

Steve Cavanagh was born and raised in Belfast and is a practicing lawyer. He holds a certificate in Advanced Advocacy and lectures on various legal subjects (but really he just likes to tell jokes). He is married with two young children. The Defence , has been chosen as one of Amazon's great debuts for 2015, as part of their Amazon Rising Stars programme. In 2015 Steve received the ACES award for Literature from the Northern Ireland Arts Council. Steve writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring series character Eddie Flynn. The Defence is his first novel. Find out more at or follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav.

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren't that different. It's been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn't have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie's back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial - and win - if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his 'client' and ensure Amy's safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.