Chapters – X

C10We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.”

Uh-huh. Really? Well, before I get into my main topic, may I dip a toe into the social/political arena? Some people wonder why Americans won’t easily accommodate Spanish speaking people when the majority of Americans speak English. The above quote shows the absurdity of some people but makes a point – if we’re to speak Spanish to accommodate Spanish speaking people, then should we expect the majority of foreigners to speak English when we’re in their country? If I was going to take a job in Germany, I darn sure would take a bunch of German classes to be able to communicate.

Anyway, please, please do not think that I am putting down Spanish speaking people and I want to move away from the political/social/immigration issue. When I saw the ‘complaint’ quoted above, I immediately thought of some of my former coworkers who were Mexican. I found it difficult to converse with them because they knew minimal English, but that didn’t mean I didn’t like them or that they were not excellent workers. They were constantly getting Employee of the Quarter awards and for 2013 the main laundry guy received Employee of the Year.

I took my required Spanish classes in high school and didn’t go any further. I know some Spanish words but not enough to have a coherent conversation. I took a semester of German and sort of wished I could have delved deeper because I did enjoy it.

A friend took his Spanish classes in high school, then went on to take more in college, and subsequently became a Spanish teacher…in Juneau. Why he wanted to teach Spanish to Eskimos is beyond me. (Kidding! I’m kidding. Don’t write nasty replies and emails. I love the guy and he’s doing what he wants and is darn good at what he does. If he wants to live in the frigid north, that’s his business. And don’t be telling me lies about how mild Juneau winters are. I’ve seen the pictures.)

The reason I bring up this topic is to say that because I live in America and have had the opportunity for foreign travel come up once. I’m interested in foreigners. If you were born and spent a fair amount of your life in another country, I want to get to know you. I had the pleasure of meeting a Brit in college (very cool guy, by the way), an Indonesian (his plans were to graduate Wesleyan, then go onto Iowa University, then go home to Jakarta. I hope you made it, dude.), a Swede (a foreign exchange students), a student from China (ditto), a woman from Taiwan (who, at one time, completely misunderstood what I was trying to ask her. Whew, talk about embarrassing.), a German, and throughout my years as a desk clerk, I’ve met Hollanders (is that the correct terminology?), Australians (love that accent), Canadians (no accent, they were not from French Canada.), Indians (Asian), Egyptian (excellent computer guy), Africans (not sure from which African country, and yes, I know Egypt is part of Africa.), and many more.

I have enjoyed hours and hours speaking with them about their life and their country. I may never be able to visit, so to talk to someone willing to share information is so wonderful. I ask everything from weather to employment to cultural interests. When Yahoo still had their games with the chatting capability, I discovered people from all over the world. I conversed with a guy from Scotland. I mentioned to him that of all the accents in the world, I thought that when women spoke in a British or Irish or Scottish accent, that was the sexiest thing. I could listen to that for hours. Following a close second is a Southern accent. Georgia/Mississippi, etc.

Exchanging words with someone over a computer chat box is okay but it’s the face to face time I enjoy. Shouldn’t that be part of life, meeting new people, sharing thoughts, ideas, information. Not just in a business setting, but over coffee or a couple beers (okay, give me a Dr Pepper and YOU drink the mocha espresso latte frappi-machiato with skim milk and extra whipped cream concoction).

Just talk to me about your country because I want to know.

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How To Succeed in…Book Tours

secrets-of-successful-virtual-book-tour-banner-851-x-315Another week, another blog idea, another knock on the door. When I open it, I receive a real surprise.

“Ms. Rhoads,” I say. “I expected another author for a guest blog.”

“Well,” she says, “here I am.”

I should explain that Roxanne Rhoads has been sending a lot of those persistent authors to my doorstep on occasion to  take over my coveted blog for a guest post. She also schedules my appointments with some authors for interviews.

“Uh, hey, I want to apologize for last week. Blizzard. Camp.”

“No problem,” she says.

“Uh, come in. What can I do for you?”

“I’m here for this week’s blog.”

And with that she does what every other author does: nudges me away from my computer and takes control.

So that’s where they learn it.

Excerpt Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours by Roxanne Rhoads

The world of publishing is continuously evolving thanks to technology and the Internet. It is now easier than ever to publish a book. But with the growing number of new books being released every day it is also harder than ever to get your book noticed in the crowd.

If your line of thinking includes- “If I publish it, people will buy it,” think again.

Indie publishing requires a dedication to self-promotion. Gone are the days an author hermits them self away to write, then hands the book to the publisher who does all the leg work for promotion. Even NYT Bestselling authors and those with contracts through the big publishers still have to do a certain amount of self-promotion.

There are many ways to promote: social media, advertising on popular websites and blogs, print advertising in trade magazines, attending reader oriented conventions and events…but one of the best ways to get your book out there and build name recognition as an author is through a virtual book tour.

In this Quick Tips for Authors Guide, you will learn why a virtual book tour can be an author’s most effective marketing tool.

coverSecrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours

Quick Tips for Authors Guide

Roxanne Rhoads

Book Description:

Are you considering a virtual book tour?

Not sure where to start or exactly what an online tour will entail?

Roxanne Rhoads, book publicist and owner of Bewitching Book Tours, shares her virtual tour expertise in this Quick Tips for Authors Guide.

Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours will guide you in utilizing the best marketing tool available- a virtual book tour, which can create online exposure for your book, jumpstart your book sales, help build your author brand, and expand your network.

rhoadsIn this guide you’ll learn:

  • what you should do before a tour
  • the components of a great author website
  • the best social media outlets for authors to utilize
  • tips for building your author brand
  • how to write great guest blogs
  • what to expect from an online book tour
  • the secrets of successful book tours
  • how to schedule your own virtual book tour

And you’ll receive in-depth details about what to do during a virtual book tour to guarantee success.

What Readers Are Saying About Secrets of Successful Book Tours

As a book blogger, I am often surprised by the number of new authors I meet that do not really promote their books. There are a lot of inexpensive and free ways for them to do so. Roxanne Rhoads does an excellent job of laying these ideas out. The book is well-organized and easy to follow. She points out author mistakes and faux pas. She speaks from her past experiences. I have a background in marketing. Roxanne Rhoads has a strong understanding of marketing and does a great job of explaining her suggestions and ideas. I highly suggest this book to all authors. There are many great ideas in this book that can help brand you as an author as well as get your books noticed. There are so many books out there. It is absolutely necessary for an author to promote themselves.” ~ Diane Lynch, Book Blogger

Jam-packed with useful tips that had be scrambling for my calendar. And the conciseness is frankly another selling point for a busy authorpreneur. Who has time to wade through a bunch of fluff? Not me. And Roxanne doesn’t waste our time with that — she gets straight to the business of book tours. Want to run your own tour? No problem. The book provides advice on DIY’ers as well. From lists of blog ideas to the legal in’s and out’s of using images, Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours has something for novices and old hands like myself. And I believe her branding advice was spot on.” ~ Kirsten Weiss, Author

This is a must have for any author planning to do a virtual book tour. Most of us wouldn’t even think of half this stuff. Roxanne’s advice is golden.” ~ Serena Synn, Author

This book is packed with information on how to not only promote your book but also promote yourself as an author.” ~ Bonnie Amazon Review

I have been doing blog tours with Roxanne for quite some time now and I can say her organization and skills are without a doubt top notch. If I ever actually get around to writing my novel I can assure you that I will use this as a guide. She covers everything from building your brand to what to expect on a blog tour.

Her knowledge is well shared and I think every author that wants to build their brand should read this guy. Simply put this is a must read for any author that wants to exposure that can come with a blog tour. ~Jen Brooks The Cubicle Escapee

In this era of self-publishing, an author needs to do as much as they can to get themselves noticed. Enter the virtual book tour, a tour of blogs on the Internet – as opposed to visiting book stores – with the aim of increasing an author’s online presence and ultimately increasing book sales. Roxanne Rhoads guides you through the dos and don’ts of virtual book tours, with great advice on providing fresh material for each tour stop. She covers both tours run by established tour companies and tours you plan yourself, and she includes a list of sites where you can find book bloggers to contact. She also gives you some great advice about setting up your online and social media presence, as well as social media mistakes to avoid.

Roxanne Rhoads is the guru behind Bewitching Book Tours, the first book tour company I ever signed up with. If you’re interested in a well-organized blog tour, be sure to check out Bewitching Book Tours. As Roxanne states, “Publication is only the beginning of the process … promotion is the road to success.”

An excellent quick guide for all authors. ~ Lynda Dickson – Books Direct

Recommended reading for anyone considering a blog tour. There is information here that I didn’t know and have never come across before. If you want to do-it-yourself, there is a section to help with that as well. How to write a good guest blog, do’s and don’ts, even copyright information. It changed the way I think about blog tours and I will be doing things differently the next time around. ~ kmontemayor Amazon Review

This little gem was borne out of Ms. Rhoads’ experiences and speaks for itself. It is a must-have reference for authors old and new. ~ AoBibliophile

Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours is fantastic compilation of tips, tricks, and learning tools for ensuring your book tour is to your liking. The guide is filled with do’s and don’ts as you navigate your tour whether it’s your first or your 10th. Learn what a book tour is all about, how to market your author brand, write guest posts, and much, much more. Highly recommended for authors and bloggers, alike. ~Amber Marr Saph’s Book Blog

About the Author:

Roxanne Rhoads has been working in the world of online book promotion since 2005. She has worked as a freelance writer, author, book reviewer, book blogger, editor, self-publisher and book publicist. She has a unique advantage of knowing how multiple sides of book publishing and promotion operate.

Roxanne understands how book bloggers work and what they want to make their jobs easier while also understanding that authors need promotion to be streamlined, easy, and less time consuming.

Roxanne shares some of her knowledge in Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours.

Author Website:

Bewitching Website:


Author Page:


Twitter @RoxanneRhoads

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healthOnce again, I present some student essays on one of our monthly themes. This time around we discuss health.

Stella –

I think that being healthy means you need to exercise and eat good fruits and veggies before you eat chocolate for dessert. I like to eat corn, tomatoes, berries, apples, strawberries, oranges, and mangoes. I eat them as part of every meal

I like to exercise every day by riding my bike, running around, go swimming at the pool. I play every day and exercise with my mommy and daddy at home.

I do not currently practice karate at home, but want to try practicing more to get better at pivots because they are hard for me.

I like practicing every week at practice.

Amber –

Eating vegetables and fruits. Doing my karate class. Brushing my teeth. Going out for a walk. Playing at the park. Going on vacation. Having a pet to play with and going to the pool. Reading books. Jumping on the trampoline.

Saleena –

Exercises. Swimming. Eating the right food. Taking a shower every day. Brushing your teeth. Taking a vacation. Have a pet around. Doing karate class. Fruits and vegetables.

Madison –

Why do we exercise? Health. Good health is important. If you don’t have good health, you could get sick easily.

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Hard Act

winterblizzardSo, I’m rush in on a Sunday afternoon because I had neglected to put up anything on Friday. Sitting on the steps is a man who gives me a peeved look.

“I’ve been waiting here all weekend,” he says. “Where have you been?”

“Uh, driving in a blizzard to attend a Black Belt Camp. Was I expecting you?”

“Well,” he says. “Not really, but I wanted to get something up on your blog on Friday.”

“I do apologize,” I said. “Would you like to come in-”

Of course he would.

And again, I apologize to Mr. Glover for not being here on Friday for him to be a guest.


hard-act-banner-851-x-315Hello! This is Glover Wright hailing from that small island just 14 miles off the coast of France, called Jersey – one of the British Channel Islands . . . and it’s a beauty. It’s where the famous Jersey cows come from, where the USA’s “New Jersey” got its name and which, during WW2, was occupied by Nazi Germany who left the massive indestructible concrete bunkers of their “Atlantic Wall as their legacy. Jersey is also, these days, an international offshore banking centre – so you get the glass-sided high-rise towers along with the green beauty of the island with its granite cliffs, secluded bays and stretches of golden sand beaches with surfing waves. I love it. It’s where – after years of travelling wherever my former music career took me –I settled permanently to write the thrillers which have taken over my life. My new book, the latest of nine, is finally done, dusted and out, published, first, there in the USA on Feb 21st 2017 by Fiery Seas Publishing and simultaneously as an EBook, worldwide.

I say “finally” as it has been some journey completing ‘HARD ACT’. At one point I thought I was done with it but, after switching representation from London to New York’s dynamic ‘super-agent’ Linda Langton, I heeded Linda’s sound advice and, literally, went back to the beginning and started over – the hardest thing I have done in my entire writing career. But the extra effort was well worth it. What Linda had picked up on – which I had been blind to for almost two years – was that the strongest character was actually never seen! He existed in the shadows, unnamed, creating havoc across the world: a rogue CIA agent, switching sides, serving two masters – both US and Israeli Intelligence – while working only for himself with the sole aim of winning, by any means including murder, the secret of where the bounty the US president had paid for the capture or death of Osama bin Laden was hidden. A dangerous man obsessed, not just by the money but also with the clever, successful Geneva-based fund manager, mistress of the Saudi Prince and terror-funding banker whom both sides wanted alive or, if necessary, dead: an exquisitely beautiful woman named Serena Lashari who could unlock the vault to $25,000,000 dollars.

I named my rogue CIA agent Ben Markstein and as soon as I had done that he stepped from the shadows and owned the story from page one to the final denouement. “Hero” he definitely is not! But if you read HARD ACT I guarantee you’ll never forget him. And to think I never even gave him a name? Enjoy the book – I certainly did, writing it!

coverHard Act

Glover Wright

Genre: Thriller

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing

Book Description:

Only the CIA knows the truth, and all it would take for the president’s legacy to be tarnished forever is for one agent involved to turn rogue and reveal everything . . .

In 2011, American Seal Team Six killed Osama bin Laden in an ultra-secret CIA operation hailed as the outgoing US president’s crowning achievement. Pakistan’s chief investigator into US Operation Neptune Spear concluded Bin Laden was betrayed by Al Qaeda itself, fooling the CIA and gaining the US president’s bounty on their ailing leader’s head: $25,000,000, which may have given birth to deadly ISIS.

Loner, Agent Ben Markstein, betrayed and primed for retribution by his obsession with the Pakistani beauty at the dark heart of HARD ACT, an unsanctioned covert black operation planned by former US Senator Wendell Strachan to save the president and regain the $25,000,000 held in a Liechtenstein bank account by Saudi Prince Faisal bin Sharif, CEO of a billion-dollar Islamic charity trust and secret terrorist money-launderer.

Markstein learns that Serena Lashari, the beautiful, clever, successful Geneva-based fund-manager is Prince Faisal’s lover and has the account codes. He acts ruthlessly, manipulating Wendell Strachan and the black operation to win Serena and the money for himself.

Against a background of political conspiracy and escalating violence across Europe, culminating in potential catastrophe at a nuclear-armed U.S.A.F air-base in England, Ben Markstein plays HARD ACT’s ruthless game to win – even at the cost of the lives of all who stand in his way.

Book Trailer:

wrightAbout the Author:

Glover Wright has a background in entertainment. He was lead-guitarist in the 1960’s for American Rock Legends Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent on their British tours, recorded as Buddy Britten & the Regents, was with the Beatles in their early Hamburg days and, through his friendship with John Lennon, became composer and producer with The Beatles Apple Music. After the Beatles split, he signed with Mercury records USA, had success as Simon Raverne and toured widely entertaining US troops, an experience he remembers with pride.

With writing in mind, he broke from music in the 1970’s and spent time with contract soldiers and British SAS units in Oman, resulting in his debut novel The Torch, which was accepted immediately by Putnam USA and published worldwide including many translations. During his extended period in the Middle East he met many figures later to shape world events, including Libya’s Moammar al-Gaddafi and in Beirut’s celebrity-haunt nightclub Le Cave de Roy was invited ­– after being recognized and asked to perform a song on stage – to join the table hosted by a wealthy young Saudi Arab named Osama Bin Laden.

Glover Wright has had eight novels published to date and lives now in Jersey, British Channel Islands. He still performs musically at charity fund-raisers for servicemen and women wounded in action and is proud to do so.

HARD ACT is his most hard-hitting and timely thriller to date. World best-selling writer Jack Higgins describes it as: “The most ingenious thriller I have read this year.”


5 ebook copies

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Women In Fiction

fictional-femalesThis morning, I’m trying to decide what to blog about, when what happens? You know what happens. I receive a knock of the door. Who’s outside? You know who. Another pesky author after the coveted keyboard.

“I want to write about women in fiction,” she says. “I know you may not understand, but I think women’s roles and attitude and character have changed throughout the years.”

“Ma’am, have you read my book? Female protagonist? Kicks butt in martial arts?”

“Hmm,” she says. “Might be interesting. Anyway, would you mind?”

Well, you know the answer to that.

the-guardian-banner-851-x-315What you read as a teenager is probably not what you read as an adult. When did this change and what have you noticed in your reading list that is different?

Although I was mostly into horror books as a teenager, I rarely read that genre anymore. Don’t get me wrong I still like a good scare, it’s just that no one has elevated past the initial bumps in the night which enamored me as a teen. The Shining, Carrie, Ghost Story, Watchers, Phantoms—these books were eye opening thrills for someone on the cusp of adulthood. Romance wasn’t really my thing; a few Danielle Steel books here and there mixed in with some Catherine Coulter were tossed into my TBR list. However, my problem with the genre at the time was mostly the women were damsels in distress. Since my mind doesn’t work that way, I stuck with the creatures under the bed.

Around college a shift happened where suspense became my main focus—dominant women who had to hunt down the killer before the maniac turned the tables and hunted them. These books were fun to read, and my feminism card was never called into question. Unfortunately, the backdrop was always dim. Wallowing around in the darkness of suspense took a toll on my imagination, which forced me to find lighter fare. I stumbled upon Nora Roberts, Jennifer Cruise, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. These masters of romance don’t do victims. Instead, they do fierce women in screwed up situations. I can deal with that more so than the chick who needs to be saved. A lot of historicals use this device, since real history wasn’t so hip to women’s lib it was just easier to put the heroine in the hands of a strong buck of a man.

As of late my reading list has taken another shift—kick ass witches, werewolf shifters, and a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like who doubles as a detective. I must need a good laugh because all these books are light and fun and not one damsel in distress. Don’t get me wrong, if any of my horror peeps put out a new book I’ll be the first in line. If Beverly Jenkins decides to give me a feisty heroine in an era that didn’t have working plumbing I’m there. My reading list is ever-changing and I am open to almost anything. The one thing I know for sure is I will never give up on a quick thinking women.

coverThe Guardian

Las Vegas Tales

Book 1

Amber Malloy


Genre: Action Adventure, Suspense, Guilty Pleasures, Interracial, MultiCultural

Book Description:

Jack Stone has inherited his family’s casino. The only problem? The mob wants it more than he does. If he doesn’t play his cards right, he’ll end up dead.

When his high school sweetheart drops back into his life, Jack’s got an even tougher decision — should he trust the beauty with his life and heart — again? This time he’s hoping the odds are in his favor.

Excerpt: Copyright ©2017 Amber Malloy

This e-book file contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language which some may find offensive and which is not appropriate for a young audience. Changeling Press E-Books are for sale to adults, only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.

The last remains of the Vegas nightlife surrounded his bar, where the showgirls from the Bellagio ignored last call. Jack Stone cleaned off the glasses with a smile. He had no choice; this town was a world of its own. Only in Las Vegas would a baby shower at the witching hour be acceptable. The star act of the Night Review was not blessing a new life with just any old nightclub but one where old Hollywood had once clamored to get in.

“To Mindy, for getting out of the dance race before she got tossed out on her pregnant ass!” The pack of Amazons cheered at their captain’s toast.

“Last ones, lovelies,” Jack called out. “It’s time to go.”

“Aw, come on, Jack, one more?” they whined practically in unison.

“Sorry, girls, the big boss would have my head if he knew I kept us open this late.”

“We could only make it over after the show.” The tallest of the tribe reached across the dark bar to touch his shoulder. “I’m sure you can pull a few strings.”

Jack kept his smile firmly in place, without allowing them to know he was immune to their charm. “Last one,” he repeated with a wink to soften the blow.

“Okay, you win.” Still sparkly from her performance earlier, the replacement showgirl took her Peppermint Schnapps down like a pro. “What do you say to dinner tomorrow night after last curtain?”

Since his return to Vegas three years ago, this was the same song and dance he went through nightly. He was hip deep in friends with benefit offers. At first he indulged in the available pool of beauties, a distraction from his true mission. It would have been easy to keep going, but the sexy woman who had just stepped into Pauline’s consumed his mind and heart.

Lena Mercier walked upstream of the thin dancers. Toned with curves in all the right places, she was an artistic statue painted in the vibrant hue of milk chocolate.

“Thanks for the drinks!” The showgirls headed out of the bar doors in a peal of giggles.

“You’ve got something of mine, Jack,” Lena said in a subtle tone that stopped the mindless chatter in his head. The Lululemon leggings cupped her perfect ass. It was her usual travel uniform. She must have just gotten off a plane. A fancy tank top and light leather jacket topped off her outfit. Her sleek black hair fell in a swoop in front of her right eye — a sophisticated cut that showcased her elegant neck. Jack noted how perfect she looked. Except for the fact she had left town two weeks ago, and he had no idea where she had gone. It still aggravated him.

He wiped down the deep wood and concentrated on the high polish, instead of the sexy woman in front of him. “Just put your lips together and blow.”

She gave him a cheeky smile before she put her fingers to her mouth and ripped a high-C whistle. In a matter of moments, the heavy panting of excitement filled the damn near empty bar. A squat, furry toad ran at full tilt in her direction. Lena’s Frenchie, Harry, hopped on the chair, then the table before he took full flight through the air. Lena caught the little fucker in the crook of her arm.

Since he never tired of that circus trick, Jack chuckled. “Nightcap?” Happy to see his neighbor had made it back home, he tried not to compete for her attention with the dog.

“Sorry, Jack, I’m beat.”

“You want to talk about it? After all, bartenders are great listeners.” He nudged to get her to open up about her work. Once high school sweethearts, they’d spent more than a decade apart, and then one day she was back. Since he didn’t believe in coincidence, he had his suspicions why Lena had suddenly showed up in his life.

“If only that were true.” Lena smiled before she headed toward the door.

“We’re not good listeners?” He wished she would stay and keep him company.

“No,” she turned around, stopping short of disappearing into the cool night, “the part where you’re just the bartender.”

About the Author:

Amber Malloy dreamed of being a double agent but couldn’t pass the psyche evaluation. Crushed by despair that she couldn’t legally shoot things, Amber pursued her second career choice as pastry chef. When she’s not writing or whipping up a mean Snickers Cheesecake, she occasionally spies on her sommelier. Amber is convinced he’s faking his French accent.

Amber loves to talk to her readers and can be found at



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More student essays on Excellence:

Madison –

Try your best at whatever you do. Be the best you can be. It takes time and practice to be your best. Practice your hardest to be your best.

Ethan –

Doing above average. For example is 10 was ok, but there was 20 possible, then 20 would be excellent. Or, if the average reading level was 24, but there were 30 levels, if you were on level 30, that would be exhibiting excellence.

Stella –

Excellence is when you do something great. It takes practice because the first time is not always the best time. You need to keep trying.

I am having trouble doing pivots on my kicks, but I keep trying to get them right.

I am learning to read and sometimes words are hard and I have to keep practicing to get them. I makes me feel good and happy when I finally get things.

I know I will continue to grow and learn new skills as long as I keep doing my best, trying my hardest and having fun. I think that is excellence.

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Around The Globe With Jo Kessel

mountainsWhere does this week’s featured author want to go for our interview? Hawaiii? Bahamas? No. She wants to be transported from wintry cold London to a wintry cold mountain retreat. Oh sure, we’re surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the sky is blue and the sun is bearing down…but it’s still winter.

I suppose the only thing that save this is we each have a glass of merlot.

On with the interview…(seriously, someplace warmer next time.)



  1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city? I’d be horribly egotistical if I truly believed I was the most fascinating person in London (where I live), but I do like to think I add something to this world I live in, with a touch of wit, a mega-watt smile (unless I’m struggling with a plotline) and an ability to write stories which people can lose themselves in and which might touch them in some way.
  1. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I qualified as an attorney straight out of college, which for some reason is something I never tell anyone about. I think it’s because I feel very un-attorney-ish and never actually worked as a lawyer. Not even for one day. I gave it all up because it felt wrong.

  1. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?

I loved writing since I can remember (even essays at school) and my ‘day job’ is as a freelance journalist for national newspapers in the UK. I just always loved creating stories and whilst being a rock star might have been fun, I don’t think the audience would have thought much of my singing voice!

  1. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

I’d love to have dinner with Jane Austen (am I allowed to talk about someone who’s no longer with us?!) because she’s my all-time favorite author who was way ahead of her time. Her stories were so modern and sharp and poignant in their romance and I’d love to pick her brains and see how the heck she managed to pull it off. It might be fun if E.L James was at the table too (what would Jane have made of Christian Grey?) and maybe Douglas Kennedy and Sebastian Faulks too, for a male perspective.

  1. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

My books are easy-to-read page turners which are so feel-good and consuming that you’ll forget to be annoyed about the irritating four-hour layover. And on top of being all those things, A Call to Heaven will have you thinking about what you’re reading too. It’s a ‘what if’ book. What if this really could be our reality? If we really could connect with our lost loved ones in Heaven. Imagine that!

  1. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

I’m a very organic writer and tend to go with the flow. If I’m consumed by a story then it can spill out very quickly. For example the first draft of A Call to Heaven was written in six weeks and I loved every second of that time. Of course, that was very much a first draft and then I got a professional Editor on board and made several rounds of changes to make the plot tighter and more compelling. My characters are all a product of my imagination, but sometimes I might research certain things they do. The heroine’s main love interest in A Call to Heaven is a doctor called Daniel and there are several scenes told from Daniel’s point of view set in his hospital. I’ve a friend who’s a doctor and I picked his brains to make sure that Daniel (who’s a heart surgeon) comes across as a credible doctor.

  1. I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

I think organization is the key to writing a book, as well as tenacity. So many people might start writing a novel, but very few of them actually finish it because it’s not that easy to do. But if you keep at it, have a loose plotline in your head and set aside a couple of hours a day, then bit by bit it can (if you want it to) get done.

  1. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

My philosophy is that you only live once, so you might as well try to enjoy it.

  1. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

My eleven-year-old daughter picked up a proof paperback copy of A Call to Heaven (despite not being old enough to read it – yikes!) and couldn’t get her nose out of it. She was completely transfixed and read it cover to cover in 24 hours and then said: “You’ve got to start writing a sequel now. I need more!”

Whilst the book is written as a standalone, a sequel is feasible and I’ve been thinking about it ever since my daughter made her demand.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

(see below)

coverA Call to Heaven

Jo Kessel

Genre: contemporary romance with a paranormal twist

Publisher: J.K Publishing

Date of Publication: January 27, 2017

ISBN-13: 978-1540490049 /

ISBN-10: 1540490041


Number of pages: 260 paperback /

320 kindle book

Word Count: 68k

Cover Artist: Ivan Cakic

Book Description:

“Everybody’s loved, everybody’s lost.

Grief strips you raw and makes you feel as if you’re sleepwalking through life, like the pain will never go away.

I’m Amy Tristan. I’m no different than anyone else. I’ve loved, I’ve lost and it sucks. I’ve got a five-year old son and an abusive husband. My mother died six months ago and I miss her like crazy.

I’m the biggest skeptic when it comes to other-worldly stuff, so when I’m told that I can pick up the phone and call my mum in Heaven, I should disbelieve it, right? Wrong. I pick up that phone, because there’s nothing I want more than to hear her voice trickle into the receiver.

And you know what? It works. I get to speak to my mother. It’s a miracle. If only it could stay this way, with those calls just for me, but someone up on high wants me to choose three other people to make a call to Heaven too. Who should I pick? How can I trust them to keep the phone secret? Making the choice is agonizing – if I get it wrong, my calls will stop. I wish I hadn’t told Daniel anything. He’s this hot doctor that I’ve come to know. But doctors are scientists, and scientists are bigger skeptics than even me. He didn’t believe in the phone. He thought I should be admitted to a sanatorium. Telling him was either the best decision of my life, or the worst. I’ll let you decide…”

Book Trailer:


Everyone’s looking at me. I’ve got the yellow telephone in my hands and I’m not sure what to do with it. I take a seat at the end of the table and lay the phone down in front of me. Beth is to my left, Ben is to my right. Daniel is opposite me. I look from one to the other and feel color flood my cheeks. My gaze finishes on Daniel and stays there for a beat. He nods, his eyes encouraging me. I return the nod, take a deep breath and count down from three to one in my head.

I’ve got to tell you all something.” My voice comes out as a thin squeak, but actually I’m surprised I manage to articulate at all. I’m hot, so hot. I lift the hair off the back of my neck, flapping it around to try to cool my sticky, clammy skin. I can’t breathe, I need air. I unlock the patio doors, flinging them wide open. The inside of my mouth feels rough as sandpaper. I’m desperate for a tall glass of water packed with ice-cubes but, when I turn to see six eyes staring at me, I dare not leave to fetch one. I feel like an exhibit in a museum and in some ways I wish I were. I could hide behind a Perspex box next to the yellow telephone with panel blurb doing the explaining for me. I could be part of a new exhibition entitled ‘Incredible Discoveries’. I would share the same hall as the dinosaurs and anything else which took aeons for people to believe existed. I draw a deep breath and continue.

You’re probably going to think I’m mad, but I’m going to tell you anyway.”

A breeze blows through the open patio doors.

What I wanted to tell you is this.” My voice is soft as a whisper. I sense all their bodies leaning closer towards mine, straining to hear. “I’ve recently started talking to my mother.”

There, I’ve said it.

I feel a great sense of relief, both that I’ve said it and that I no longer have to keep this to myself. Beth relaxes in her chair with a sigh, leans across and takes my hand, patting it. She’s got wavy brown hair and a kind, open face. She tilts her head sympathetically.

Oh honey, you must have tried out that clairvoyant you mentioned. Please tell us all about it.”

I should have seen that one coming.

No, you don’t get it.” I lift up the yellow phone, as if to demonstrate how to use such a contraption. In one hand I take the receiver, in the other the plug. “I don’t speak to her through a medium. I speak to her on this telephone. I plug it into a socket in my bathroom and I’m allowed to call heaven.”

There, I’ve said it now.

Nobody moves.

Not a muscle.

Their mouths all open, Daniel’s is the widest. I don’t think any of them even realize they’re doing it. As feared, they are looking at me like I’m certifiably insane.

I can see you all think I’m mad.” I actually manage to pull a small smile. Now that I’ve started, I feel much calmer. “And, if I were in your position, I would think I’m crazy too. But one night my mother came to me in a dream and told me I could use this phone to call her in heaven and, bizarre though it must sound, it turns out she was right. That’s why I stopped coming to Grief Support Group every week. I wasn’t grieving so much because my mother had come back into my life.”

The three pairs of eyes grow wider and wider, as if I’m slowly sprouting four serpent heads. I replace the receiver back into its cradle and drop the plug, holding out my hands in submission.

You can believe me or not. It doesn’t matter. But the reason I’ve gathered you all here is because I’ve been asked to choose three other people to call to heaven.”

I sound like a fairy godmother or the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. I do not sound normal. I pause. The effect is dramatic although it’s not intended to be.

And I’ve picked you guys.”

I look at them one by one.

Beth, I know how much it might mean to you to be able to speak to your daughter and know that she is safe.”

Beth nods. Her gaze turns glassy.

Ben, I’d do anything to be able to give you a chance to speak to your brother again.”

Ben nods, his mouth still formed in a perfect ‘O’.

Daniel is the hardest one for me to look at. He’s not nodding anymore and his eyes are no longer urging me to continue. Instead he’s shaking his head, a slow, subtle movement, but I catch it all the same. His full lips have now formed a thin line. He’s the only one who looks like he still thinks I’m certifiably insane. Hell, he’s a doctor; perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Part of me wonders whether I should abort this whole escapade and pretend it was all a joke. I’d do anything to not have Daniel stare at me in this way. He looks ready to call the local sanatorium and send them round with a straitjacket. But I can’t abort and I must continue. What happens next is up to him.

And Daniel, I thought that maybe you might like to speak to Katie.”

He opens his mouth as if he’s about to say something, but clamps it shut again without speaking. Nobody else says anything either. They all shift in their seats, pretending to take sips of coffee and look around the room. Perhaps they’re checking out the photos on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, trying to work out if I look like a madwoman in any of them. I pick up the knife. Now I probably do look mad or, at the very least, dangerous.

Right, who’s for some more pie?”

authorAbout the Author:

Jo lives in London with her husband, three children and Jerald the cat. In addition to being a novelist she works as a TV and print journalist (Sunday Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express.) If she could change one thing about her life it would be to introduce the thirty hour day, because twenty-four hours just isn’t long enough to squeeze it all in! Many a late night has been spent with a glass of red wine (preferably French) at her desk trying to keep her eyes open long enough to write these stories which keep demanding to be written. If only her cat didn’t constantly jump onto the keyboard as she writes, this book might have been finished months earlier. She loves yoga, skiing, travelling and English custard – though not necessarily in that order.







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Guest Author: Ann Gimpel

edge-of-night-banner-851-x-315January is rolling along and the new year means more author interviews, spotlights, and guest posts. Remember, if you would like to be featured, please contact me here or at my email.

Thanks so much for inviting me back to your blog, Stephen! It’s always such a pleasure to be here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about series books lately, maybe because I was reading one about the same time I was working on the fourth book of my GenTech Rebellion series, with book five sketched out and ready to go. The series will definitely end there, though. Five books is pushing it for a bunch of reasons I’ll delve into below.

Somewhere about the time I was slogging through one of Robert Jordan’s endless series books, I promised myself that if I ruled the universe, I’d make a law forbidding more than four books in a series. I loved the Wheel of Time series up through, maybe, book four. Possibly book five. It’s been a long time since I read them, and I can’t exactly remember. The problem all authors run up against is there’s only so much they can do in a make-believe world. Eventually, the same things have to happen again, and the characters and world grow stale.

A book I was reading recently happened to be number seven in a series that shall remain nameless. Book five was decent, book six held an interesting premise, but book seven was a disaster on many fronts. For one thing, the alpha hero took a swan dive off his pedestal, leaving me with a true WTF moment. He’s going to be content sinking into obscurity and leaving everything me (and every other reader in the world) thought he cared about? To say I was upset is putting it mildly.

From an author’s perspective, series books have other problems. For me, the main one is balancing backstory with the new story unfolding in the current book. Different authors have different strategies. One book I read recently simply did a huge info dump that took up the first two chapters, and then moved on. While it got the job done, it wasn’t very satisfying to be on the receiving end. I’d have liked it better if I hadn’t read the first book, but hey, you can’t please everyone.

Balancing enough backstory so a new reader isn’t lost with enough new material that old readers aren’t bored is an art. While I’ve grown better at it, my answer is still to limit my series books to a reasonable number. The vast majority of my series stop at three books. One has four, but one of those was a prequel. The GenTech Rebellion series has the dubious honor of being my one and only series with five books.

How about all of you. When you read series books, how do you feel about later books in the series? How do you prefer backstory woven in? Inquiring minds want to know.

coverEdge of Night

A Collection of Short Stories

Ann Gimpel

Dream Shadow Press

60K words

Release Date: 12/16

Genre: Paranormal and Horror with a splash of romance and scifi

Book Description:

Here’s a roadmap to Edge of Night. Welcome to an eclectic collection of nine short stories.

You’ve done time at the edge of night. Nail-biting, stomach-churning time filled with hissing snarls, menacing growls, the whoosh of unnatural wings, and the flash of hellfire. Time that lasts forever, but is over within seconds because time becomes unpredictable in places like that. You don’t want to stay, but it’s too fascinating—in a grisly, macabre, toe-curling kind of way—to turn your back on.

You recognize it, though. The place just at the threshold of darkness where it’s not quite safe anymore. Evil broke its bounds at the edge of night, or maybe it always ran free and we’ve been deluding ourselves all along.

Join me for nine supernatural tales. Monsters, demons, gods—fallen and otherwise—ghosts, aliens. A touch of science fiction. More than a splash of romance. From magical lands to a chilling glance into the past, Edge of Night has something to tempt everyone. Everyone who craves danger, that is. It takes guts to read the stuff woven into nightmares.

It’s a tough job, but you’re up to it.

Welcome to my world. A world where magic holds court and the dude next door just might be a demon. Or a shifter. Or an alien.

gimpelAbout the Author:

Ann Gimpel is a USA Today bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients. Now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 45 books to date, with several more planned for 2017 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren, and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Find Ann At:

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Adult Truth #24 or ???? Part 2

24The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in Hockey in 1874 ; the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.”

Several years ago I wrote a blog concerning certain imponderable questions. I listened to a couple audio books which asked and tried to answer some of these questions. For instance, why doesn’t the water in water towers freeze into one big iceberg in the winter? Answer – a combination of three things of which I’ve forgotten.

Anyway, this humorous truth about the state of men’s minds set me to thinking about other questions nobody has been able to answer or if there is an answer, it would be an interesting anecdote to put into a story.

  1. How do they know snowflakes are all different?
  2. Who decided that even numbered major highways run east/west and the odd numbered run north/south?
  3. Who designed the zip codes and how did the assignations to each city come about?
  4. Why is the standard paper size 8.5x11and not 8×10?
  5. Who decided the width of the railways? (Actually, there is an interesting piece I’ve seen floating around the emails that does sort of answer this question and I would like to know if it has any veracity.)
  6. Why do clocks run clockwise, but race cars race counterclockwise?
  7. Why are there 18 holes in a golf game and not 20?
  8. Who came up with the unoriginal name for the fly? So many other things fly, why name that particular pest the fly?
  9. What is the point of Daylight Savings Time in today’s world?
  10. Why is it pronounced Celtics with a hard C but the team is called the Boston Celtics?

Okay, I’m not going to think too much harder about this, but these questions are interesting. Do any of my readers have questions that bother and niggle?

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Adult Truth #23

00piece_of_time_by_irondoomdesignEven under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey – but I’d bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.”

Coming down to near the end of these truths, I find myself hard-pressed to link them to aspects of writing. For this one, I settled on time.

Time: I’ve mentioned time problems in stories in other posts but I wanted to discuss my three Mallory Petersen action mysteries. Now, you’re saying, “But Steve, you only have two Petersen mysteries published.” True, but at the time of this writing, I’ve completed the first draft of the third.

In Beta, I had a time problem with putting in enough action to fill each day. The story starts on Sunday night and lasts just over a week. Each day I had to make sure something relevant occurred. I didn’t want wasted time. Also, I had to make sure that what all did occur lasted for the entire day. For instance, the story has Mallory traveling to the Quad Cities to search for a missing girl. On her first full day she visits several businesses. For research, I drove the route she took and stopped at the places along the way to talk to people at the businesses I wanted to use. At the first I met an uncaring receptionist who probably threw my card away when I left. At another I met a flighty secretary who didn’t understand the purpose of my visit. (Both ended up in the story.) However, after all my driving, and even allowing time for the visits, Mallory’s quest ended around noon. I needed it to last most of the day. To solve the problem, I added scenes where she could use her taekwondo skills, meet some oddballs, and her actions resulted in long conversations with the police. Put in slow traffic and I ate up time.

In Alpha, the time problem presented itself in the days before the climactic scene. Again, the main thrust of the story lasts about a week but there was a period of two days where Mallory was stuck in a homicide investigator’s house trying to avoid the bad guys. Not much action there and I rushed through the hours. This happened over a weekend. I knew, though, I had to get her out of the house come Monday morning. She had responsibilities other than the police operation to attend to. Actually, this story, because I had an outline when I started the rewrite, didn’t have too many time problems, but I still paid attention to the down times.

In the third book, Delta, I had a huge time problem. Without giving away too much of the plot, Mallory is kidnapped and held for a week. When she is rescued, she spends another ten days in isolation. As I mentioned, the first draft is completed but when I start the rewrites I will devote concentrated attention on these two weeks. I want to make sure there is activity, without letting repetition sink the book into doldrums. I have a couple options and more research into the situation through which Mallory suffers may solve the problem and, I’m hoping, give me a spark of creativity to strengthen the scenes.

For the fourth book, Gamma, I want to have the story occur within one day. So I will have to focus even more minutely at time. Matthew Reilly writes books that cover one day, three days at most but he puts so much nail biting action you think you’ve spent a month with the main character. I love his books.

Time is tricky and writers must be aware of the pitfalls. I mentioned in another post about a book featuring a serial killer. The author didn’t keep track of time and this was one of the major problems in the book. In one scene, he left a character staring out a window. The scene changed and when it returned to the previous character, she was still at the window. There wasn’t a sense that the intervening scene was happening at the same time as the previous. In other places, a day would last a long time. Yet, farther on, days would pass with nothing happening when, logically, there should be. This, along with other problems made for a mess of a story.

Writers can slow down time or lengthen it. This is especially true in action scenes. Falling off a cliff can seemingly last a long time, but gunshots and bullets flying may be quick. Don’t forget dialogue can also be used to slow or speed up time.

Writers also have to let the readers know when time has passed. I’ve read several murder mysteries where weeks and months go by until the next crime. This is okay, as long as the writers shows and explains it. In the above poorly written book, I never comprehended the passage of time. I became lost. (Actually, I was lost way before time became an issue. I wish I could detail the myriad, tragic, and humorous other problems this book had because it would make for a multiple part blog on how NOT to write a book. However, because this book may someday get rewritten and published one, I won’t damage the author’s perseverance by delving too deep.)

Be aware of time, not only the time of day or night, but the passing seconds, minutes, and hours. I certainly did, especially on the long graveyard shifts I used to work.

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