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Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Ben. Tell us about your latest book.

Shadow Dance Murders: Detective Carson Chandler draws the short straw — the assignment to untangle a series of murders at the Antebellum Community Theater, in Charlotte, NC. As he pulls back the curtain the spotlight reveals the unglamorous inner workings and politics of the Theater. The large pool of suspects includes: actors, directors, staff, Board members, and shady real estate developers that are willing to do whatever to grab the choice Theater property.

As Chandler works to solve the case, his life is increasingly complicated by two intriguing, yet polar-opposite women. Ben Furman_Book Cover_ (2)One is a successful Broadway actress he’s loved since childhood, or at least that is what he believes. But this belief is challenged by an incident that occurs in the scorching sands of Pakistan. He saves a mysterious female Mossad agent, who is seriously wounded in a terrorist ambush. He cares for her wound, and immediately her comrades whisk her away to a secret location. He’s left with only her first name. His military tour is cut short by a sniper’s bullet. He returns home following months of rehabilitation and struggles daily with the physical and mental effects of battle. He tries, but can’t erase the striking Israeli woman from his mind, and then when he least expects it, she reaches out.

The Shadow Dance Murders has a unique “hook” that to the best of my knowledge has not been encountered before by homicide detectives. There is a secondary hook at the ending that establishes the groundwork for a sequel.

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

Several key characters move forward with Chandler in much broader international thriller.

General O’Malley, Chandler’s control, says, “Your wealth gives you unique credentials that allow you to infiltrate the world of power brokers that make kings and bring down governments. These days, friends turn foes faster than a short order cook flips pancakes. As an insider you can sniff out problem areas and identify hostile alliances that can’t be done by electronic means or satellites.

“If a corporation has changing attitudes that are favorable to our enemies, especially the Russians and Chinese, we have to know. We’ve ear-marked large US companies that are doing business with terrorist organizations, supplying them with embargoed goods, and laundering their blood-soaked money. Identify the key players, and then……”

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I write early, around six a.m., which includes the entire process of researching, editing, and head-scratching about the dumb stuff I wrote the day before that I thought was so brilliant. I close shop before noon or earlier if my brain goes numb. But, not being at the keyboard doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about the twists-and-turns of the story, so at six the next day I’m at it again.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

Most often I’m in control, but I do listen to the characters. If they show me something I think will add to the story, okay, if not I tell them to get back in line.

Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

Elmore Leonard: He wrote small, tight stories that ordinary people could understand, and chose to stay away from world-ending, apocalyptic, international thrillers. He was malleable, and successfully moved from writing westerns in his early years, such as 3:10 to Yuma, to a crime writer that had his work adapted to movies and television series, like Justified.

David Baldacci: The years he spend practicing law in Washington, DC gave him a first-hand look at the power brokers and political maneuvering that occurs with the inside the “beltway” crowd. He used this knowledge to write Absolute Power, and his body of work has an authentic feel because of his background. Plus, he’s used his fame and money to do considerable charitable work for multiple sclerosis and formed a foundation to combat illiteracy.

Robert Ludlum: I got hooked on his break-neck paced spy thrillers such as The Scarlatti Inheritance, and The Bourne Identity and its sequels. He was one of the first writers to use former CIA agents to supply his books with authentic background information and procedures. And because of his experience as an actor and producer, he brought a theatrical flair to his writing.

Promotion is a big – and usually the most hated – part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

Over the years I’ve run through the promotion gauntlet to include radio and television interviews, signings at book stores, talking at book clubs, blogs, and employing professionals (literary agents — there really are such things) to sing my praises to book buyers.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing off-and-on for thirty years, and seriously for the past eight.

If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

Harper Lee.

Describe your writing process once you sit down to write – or the preliminaries.

I back-read recent work to pull me back into the story to verify the tone and atmosphere are correct, and then I check my outline to make sure I’m moving the story forward rather than meandering about. With the first key stroke I’m back in the zone.

Where do you get your ideas?

I rely a great deal on my life experiences, and when I find something of interest I try to come up with a different twist or angle that will help weave an interesting tale.

 Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

I grew up in a house of readers. Even though my parents didn’t mandate that I read, it seemed the easy, natural thing for me to do. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a task master. She read everything in sight, expected the same of me, so I got in lock-step with her and eventually came to cherish our time together discussing books, etc.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I have. Electronic publishing continues gaining traction and “respectability.” The cost-savings of “on demand” publishing and digitized e-books are substantial, which is important in this day of tight pocket books. The big expense of warehousing books, delivering them to the bricks-and-mortar houses, and then bearing the expense of unsold inventory that’s circled back, has been eliminated. Kids are growing up in an instant everything world that they access through I-phones and I-pads. They’re not inclined to spend time browsing bookstore aisles when they can access millions of titles online. Overall, electronic publishing allows a broader spectrum of writers to participate in the business, and provides readers with an excellent, inexpensive variety of material from which to choose.




Mr. Furman retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the North Carolina field division. His investigative and managerial expertise was directed against domestic and international terrorism and organized crime.

Currently he is the CEO of the Rexus Corporation, a background screening company and private investigative company headquartered in Charlotte, NC.


colbymarshall-headshot1 (2)Confession right up front: I am a reader of paper books.

Don’t get me wrong…if you love e-readers because they help you read more often/easier/in a way that ensures no one on your subway commute can see the cover of your self-help book about how to overcome your intense fear of Slinkies, then have at it.  I just know that for me, printed books are my preference.  Maybe this is because I write my own books on the computer, so electronic books often automatically become “work” in my mind no matter the author or topic.  Maybe it’s because I resist change (I do.  I’m pretty much the only person under the age of thirty who still has an AOL e-mail address, and I will cling to my Blackberry until the day someone tries to steal it so fast and violently that they rip my whole hand off with it.).  But while those things might be true, I think the most likely reason I lean towards printed books is because they happen to be less dangerous.

Let me explain.

Books are not safe in my house.  If I was a book, I would be terrified to live here.  Why, you ask?  Because the mortality rate of books in my home is extremely high, and none of the causes of early demise for literature around here are particularly painless.  Methods of torture for books include being ripped apart by a toddler (who may or may not have inherited my penchant for thrillers, but that’s another post for another time), becoming the hairball-catcher for one of the not-so-naked cats (Yes, there is one naked one), and being buried under a pile of other, heavier books when our makeshift book shelves buckle and send our extensive collection raining to the floor.

But as bad as those fates may be, the worst of them—and the one that accounts for the highest percentage of book deaths in this house—is the very reason I steer clear of the e-reader: the bathtub drop.

I can’t count the number of books we’ve laid to rest due to a dip in the bath bubbles.  I’m a tub-reader (Definition: Person who reads in the bathtub, not a person who reads bathtubs).  I’m a perpetual workaholic, so the only time I let myself “off” long enough to squeeze in a respectable chunk of a book for fun is when I can rationalize it by pairing it with general human hygiene (sounds psychologically healthy, huh?).  This habit benefits my favorite authors immensely; any time a copy meets its watery doom, I shell out several dollars for two more—one to pick up reading where I left off, and another as a backup for when, inevitably, the first of the two new copies makes a splash all its own.  I’m pretty sure Katrina Kittle owes a substantial percentage of her sales of The Kindness of Strangers to my serious bathtub addiction.

ColorBlindCV1 (2)Which brings me back to why I’m still quite solidly in the books in print on paper camp and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.  If I were to let my e-readers take “swims” as often as my paper books, I’d likely need another job to support my book habit. But this time, I wouldn’t be paying the author a second time for another copy of their book I loved so much—I’d be paying a big company for a new e-reader.  So, the idea of simply replacing the damaged merchandise is not only pricier in this situation, but it doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities as much, either.  After all, who would you be happier to give a few extra dollars to on a given day?  An author whose work has informed, helped, or entertained you, or to a stockholder whose name you don’t even know but who happens to hold a few shares of that e-reader company and has so many dollars in various stock statements that he won’t even notice when the investment you shelled out shows up in his statement numbers, because that amount you spent, while significant to you, didn’t even make a blip on his radar?

Besides…while I don’t think you can be electrocuted by making your e-reader your accidental rubber ducky, I’m just not keen on adding anything into water that contains me that happens to carry a charge of any kind.  If by some off-chance it so much as gave me a little zap, I’d probably need to buy a dozen self-help books about how to overcome extreme fear of bathtub shocks.  And given that I’d be too traumatized to ever buy another e-reader, everyone would be able to see those books’ covers on my subway commute.

 Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby Marshall has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer and occasionally indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and a charming array of cats.

About COLOR BLIND: There is something unusual about Dr. Jenna Ramey’s brain, a rare perceptual quirk that punctuates her experiences with flashes of color. They are hard to explain: red can mean anger, or love, or strength. But she can use these spontaneous mental associations, understand and interpret them enough to help her read people and situations in ways others cannot. As an FBI forensic psychiatrist, she used it to profile and catch criminals. Years ago, she used it to save her own family from her charming, sociopathic mother.   Now, the FBI has detained a mass murderer and called for Jenna’s help. Upon interrogation she learns that, behind bars or not, he holds the power to harm more innocents—and is obsessed with gaining power over Jenna herself. He has a partner still on the loose. And Jenna’s unique mind, with its strange and subtle perceptions, may be all that can prevent a terrifying reality…

Color Blind is Now Available:

On Amazon:

On Barnes and Noble:

And other places books are sold!

To learn more about Colby and her books, check out her website at





Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, L.A. Tell us about your latest book, STRIKE PRICE.

When several people involved in bidding for an oil refinery are murdered, the situation becomes far more than a billion-dollar business deal.

A self-made woman in the oil industry, Lynn Dayton fights to save lives as escalating attacks reveal a hired assassin’s plan to disrupt oil trade, wreck world economies, and draw another global power into dangerous confrontation with the United States.

Are the killers rogue civil servants challenging the Cherokees’ financial independence, Sansei operatives again wreaking violence, or sinister investors swapping the bidding war for a real one?

Lynn Dayton and Cherokee tribal executive Jesse Drum must learn to trust each other so they can find and stop the killers. Can sobering up really be LA Starksfatal? How have so many of the deaths been made to appear accidental? Who’s creating weapons with modern poisons and ancient Cherokee arts?

Okay, I’m hooked. Being of Cherokee heritage, I’m really intrigued with this story. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

In fiction, I read thriller/mystery authors like Vince Flynn—my thoughts go to his family upon his recent death—as well as Dan Brown, Taylor Stevens, Alex Berenson, Jamie Freveletti, Joseph Finder, Linda Fairstein, Daniel Silva, Tana French, Michael Connelly, and John Grisham.

I also like to read international authors and those who give a strong sense of place like Tom Rob Smith, Martin Cruz Smith, Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger, Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, everything by Herta Müller and Ferdinand von Schirach, George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. I recently finished Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, a book first published in 1928 that is not about a house at all but about a year spent observing nature where the ocean meets the land on Cape Cod. The liveliness of what could have been tedious nature writing was instructive.

Very sad news about Vince Flynn. I love his work. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

I am repeating a truth I’ve heard from other writers—promotion starts with writing the best book you can. Getting good reviews for a well-written book is never assured, but from both my business and reader backgrounds, third-party endorsements are more persuasive to readers than simple self promotion.

Extending this thought, while it’s a do-it-yourself world, it’s helpful to realize that publicists are better-equipped than authors to reach out in certain ways. If an author can afford a publicist, even on a limited scale, it makes the author’s own efforts more time-efficient.

When I give a short talk at a signing, I vary the selections I read depending on the audience’s interests. Promotion is about selling the book, yes, but at the most basic level that comes from connecting with readers, inviting them into the world one has created.

Great answer. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Of course I enjoy it when people tell me they’ve read and liked my books. As writers, we all hope to communicate well and are pleased when told we have done so.

One of my favorite times as a writer is when my muse and my internal editor have a congenial meeting (no scotch or hallucinogens involved): I read something I’ve written arising from who-knows-where, and think, “That’s good.”

I do love that feeling! Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

lastarks.strikepriceI find inspiration in experience, in conversation, in news, in overheard phrases that are especially colorful. I meet occasionally with two fellow writers who kindly provide critique and feedback (a quick plug for Gary Vineyard’s The Grave on Peckerwood Hill and Richard Holcroft’s Patriot’s Blood.)

I get inspiration from travel—anything that jars routine is valuable.

I read for fun, but I try not to mimic the style of what I’m reading.

I also get inspiration from considering all five senses—it’s too easy to over-rely on the sense of sight.

I have attended International Thriller Writer’s summer conference, Thrillerfest—which in fact starts next week—when I can afford it, though not this year. Thrillerfest features terrific panels for authors at all stages.

And finally, to be frank, deadlines are definitely underrated as a source of inspiration.

Five senses – I’ve had to teach myself to tap into this when writing. And deadlines – best inspiration I’ve found yet since I’ve become a procrastinator. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “Write what you know”?

Riffing on Elmore Leonard, I would say that “write what you know” is good advice, if what you know isn’t boring. The first draft of my first book was hypertechnical for any reader who didn’t happen to be a refinery engineer: the very definition of a limited market. So the first draft required a lot of reworking.

What I know is the warp and woof of certain situations, but others—forensics, some action sequences–require research. Overlaying all is the importance of plot and of character interactions, the meat that leads to emotional involvement for readers.

I have found through writing a love for research. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

I categorize my books as thrillers with strong mystery subplots. In many mysteries, a death or deaths has happened, and the quest of the protagonist is to discover the killer. In both modern thrillers and mysteries, as in my books, the protagonist is also at personal risk.

In thrillers, we know the villains and the quest of the protagonist is to stop their deadly schemes, which are usually global in scope, with hundreds or even millions of lives at risk. Moreover, in thrillers, there is an escalation, and usually one or many chases. INFERNO by Dan Brown is a current example of a thriller that can be characterized as one long, fascinating chase scene.

In my books, the reader knows one of the villains but not all of them; thus, she knows some of the scheme but not all of it. The threat is international, and it escalates in each chapter.

Beside “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?

I grew up in the energy business and worked in engineering and finance for well-known oil companies. I continue to consult, speak, and teach on the lastarks.13dayssubjects of energy economics and investing via my company, Starks Energy Economics (SEE). In addition to articles on the SEE website, I have been published a few times on the investor website Seeking Alpha.

Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?

This book is dedicated to the memory of my younger sister, who died from a virulent, difficult-to-detect form of metastatic breast cancer. I stopped writing for about two years to spend time with her. After her death, it was difficult to resume writing. I pushed through completion precisely because I’d promised myself this was her book.

In the first book in the series, 13 DAYS: THE PYTHAGORAS CONSPIRACY, there was one character my sister felt deserved a different fate. I took that into account when I wrote STRIKE PRICE.

So sorry about your sister but what a wonderful tribute to her. Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

Yes, and they still are.

An area in which I’ve made a big time commitment the last few years has been as board treasurer of the Friends of the Dallas Library, a fund-raising and advocacy group that supports the 29 branches of the Dallas Public Library. This involvement stems directly from my affection for the summer reading programs at my hometown library when I was growing up.

My love of books began with childhood trips to the library with my mother and siblings. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

Yes, and I am about to buy an improved model. However, I was glad when Lisa Smith at L&L Dreamspell decided to publish STRIKE PRICE in electronic and print editions.

I understand business models and so appreciate that e-publishing radically lowers physical operating costs once—and this is a big once—e-readers are manufactured and sold: no warehouses, no shipping, no retail except a website. E-publishing reduces the immediate book costs to readers and reduces the barriers to entry for authors, making hundreds of thousands more books available. And e-readers are portable, although there is a prediction they may lose market share to more-portable-and-useful smart phones and tablets.

At the same time, because it is an enormous market and there is less differentiation, e-publishing imposes additional search-and-sort time costs on readers and exponentially increases author and publisher effort to stand apart from the crowd. In addition, sometimes using an e-reader can feel like just more time staring at a screen, e.g. work.

As an engineer I like print books as physical objects—their design, color, heft. I appreciate the thought and cost of a print book’s exterior and interior design. When I talk to a group at a signing, it is easier to sign and sell print editions. And, in the case of STRIKE PRICE, the publisher was able to use the authentic Cherokee syllabary font in the print edition that was impractical in e-reader formats.

Overall, e-publishing benefits readers and authors because it expands the diversity and channels of distribution.

Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I am subject to writer’s block when I don’t have a deadline and when, as now, the next book’s outline is still amorphous. So it helps to create intermediate deadlines to pull myself along.

Like other authors who crave research and information, I find the Internet a huge distraction, so I look for places to write where there is no ready Wi-Fi. In fact, I have a separate laptop, and office, specifically to limit online access and to escape my barking dog.

I tend to suffer from writer’s block for the very same reason and agree about the distraction of the internet. Thanks for joining us today, LA! For more information about LA and her books:

Buy links:

Strike Price:

13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy:

Obsolete by CT FrenchI have been a fan of Christy Tillery French’s books for many years now and with each book she brings something new to the table. In the past it’s been suspense, thrillers, mysteries, and even romantic comedy. I’ve enjoyed them all but with her newest, Obsolete, she tops them all. Obsolete, a futuristic, dystopian nail-biter, is a cross between Stephen King’s The Stand and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. It is Ms. French’s best yet and one I’m sure I’ll read over and over again (I’ve already read it three times!), just as I have the aforementioned novels.

After a Blue Pox pandemic nearly wipes out the human race, including 18-year-old Madison’s family, she goes looking for other people. She soon finds a horse walking down the middle of the interstate, names him Boomer, and takes him along as she continues her search. In time, she finds Katherine, a former anthropologist. The two team up and eventually arrive at a small college campus in East Tennessee where a group of women are living.

Katherine becomes the leader of the group and Callie, a former prison guard is made head of security. Callie hates men and before long convinces Katherine that the community would be better off with only women. They decide to imprison any men, or “others” as they call them, and use them for slave labor. The younger men will not only be forced to work, they will also be used in their procreation plan; mating young women of childbearing age with the men in order to increase the population of the community.

Madison doesn’t agree with their plans but can’t bring herself to question the woman who saved her life. She loves Katherine and considers her family, and she doesn’t want to go against her, but she’s reluctant to accept Katherine’s and Callie’s plans for the all-women community they’ve named Androk. And she especially doesn’t want to be a part of their procreation plan, until Sarah, heavily pregnant, and Seth arrive.

Seth, of course, is taken into custody while Sarah is taken to the infirmary to await the imminent birth of her child. When the baby, a boy, is born, Katherine and Callie threaten to take him away. Maddie and a nurse convince Katherine that the baby needs to stay with Sarah since her breast milk give him the nutrients he needs to fight off the blue pox. Maddie and Sarah both know it’s only a temporary retrieve and Sarah asks Maddie to help her and Seth escape.

Maddie agrees and she tells Katherine she’ll be a part of the procreation plan as long as she can pick the man she’s to mate with. She chooses Seth. Katherine agrees and Maddie and Seth spend their time together plotting an escape plan for him, Sarah, and the baby. The escape is successful and thanks to the help of some other women in the commune, Maddie’s part in the plan isn’t discovered.

Soon after, Jonah enters the camp and is taken into custody. Maddie sees him and is immediately drawn to him so when Katherine insists that she once again participate in the procreation plan, Maddie agrees with the same condition as before.

This time she chooses Jonah…and the rest, you might say, is yet to be written history. Well, actually, Ms. French has already written it but I don’t want to include any spoilers in this review so I’ll leave it to you to find out for yourself what happens.

Ms. French has an adept hand at writing characters the reader will become emotionally attached to. They are believable, likable, except of course, when they’re not—another thing she excels at is creepy villains!—and with her realistic dialogue, the reader often feels as if they could join right in the conversation happening on the page. Ms. French deftly interweaves several sub-plots which keep the reader turning the pages, and as always, her secondary characters, especially Micah in this book, are the absolute best and relatable enough that you feel as if they’re personal friends by the end of the book. Villain, heroine, hero, Ms. French creates characters who never fail to draw some sort of response from her readers.

The real story in Obsolete is, of course, the survival of the human race, with Maddie and Jonah’s romance playing out in the background. Will the human race survive and will men and women be able to exist in peace or will they turn on each other, therefore, almost guaranteeing the extinction of the species? Can Maddie and Jonah get past what he sees as her betrayal? Will they realize before it’s too late that there’s another of Katherine’s security women who wants them dead?

In Obsolete, CT French (aka Christy Tillery French) gives us a thrilling—or should I say chilling?—glimpse into a dystopian future where women—some of them, anyway—are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore! This is one for my keeper shelf—er, my keeper file on my Kindle, it’s not available in print yet but I hope it soon will be!—and it comes highly recommended. If you liked The Hunger Games or The Stand, give Obsolete a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Review by Betty Dravis, Amazon Vine/Top Reviewer

“Nobnobody has to knowody Has to Know” blazes through your mind with an original kind of perversity. I can’t believe how good Frank Nappi is, whether he’s writing about military veterans, an autistic baseball player and his caring coach (as in previous award-winning books, see endnote below) or about illicit feelings of love and lust between a teacher and his student…as in this shocking, gripping book.

According to Amazon’s book description: “‘Nobody Has to Know,’ Frank Nappi’s dark and daring new thriller, tells the story of Cameron Baldridge, a popular high school teacher whose relationship with one of his students leads him down an unfortunate and self-destructive path. Stalked through text-messages, Baldridge fights for his life against a terrifying extortion plot and the forces that threaten to expose him. Nobody Has to Know is a sobering look into a world of secrets, lies and shocking revelations, and will leave the reader wondering many things, including whether or not you can ever really know the person you love.”

Why is Baldridge attracted to the young girl in the first place, especially when he has such a good, normal life: nice job, lovely fiancée, the whole works? What problems does she share with him? What happens to interrupt their budding attraction/addiction to each other? After a tragedy, how does someone find out about his frightening predicament?

How does his fiancée react when she learns “another person’s” version of the truth? And most important, does this unfortunate teacher ever get his life back?

Nappi answers those questions and more as he transports his readers through an intricate web of lies, deceit and betrayal (first by Baldridge; later, directed at him). Although it’s hard for most people to sympathize with a man with such “lustful” desires–no matter how altruistic they seem to him at the time–Nappi weaves his story in such a way that Baldridge is, indeed, a very sympathetic character…a victim of circumstances beyond his control.

In fact, I generally view vice and foils with scorn, profound dismay and tragic sympathy, but my feelings for Baldridge are such that I view the actions of his extortionist (and others who may be helping) to be far more reprehensible than what he has contemplated… My heart goes out to him.

But you will have to read for yourself and form your own opinion.

Even though this is Frank Nappi’s first thriller, he pulled it off to perfection! He made his characters come alive in the high drama of real life. In my opinion, Nappi always hits his mark; I’ve never begun a Nappi book and been able to put it down. As always, he paints his characters in such a fashion that I feel like I know them. Just as in real life, I care for some and hate others, depending on their deeds. In this book, the only one I really cared for was this teacher; even though he was not always a paragon of virtue, he was human and tried to do the right thing.

And Nappi’s pacing is spot on; I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough…er, perhaps with so many people using e-readers, I should say “couldn’t scroll fast enough.” 🙂

Be forewarned: After a series of hair-raising twists and turns (that not even the most cunning reader will guess), the ending left me gasping for breath. I’m still panting as I think back on it (an unforgettable kind of book).

Frank NappiEndnote: I have been a huge fan of author Frank Nappi since I read his debut novel, the award-winning “Echoes from the Infantry: A Novel” in 2005. At that time I predicted he would be a huge star in the literary world. And my faith in his great potential was rewarded; since then he has gone on to write “The Legend of Mickey Tussler: A Novel” which was released as a film last September and is now a DVD. Movie title is “A Mile in His Shoes,” starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Next, Nappi penned “Sophomore Campaign: A Mickey Tussler Novel,” the exciting sequel which is also slated for film.

Dare I say, “I told you so?” I dare! And now I say: “Frank Nappi will soon be a household name!” You know, like James Patterson, Stephen King, Dean Koontz…and the list goes on. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer man; Nappi is a very popular school teacher in real life; happily married with two teen sons.

The Dames are pleased to shine the spotlight on multi-genre author Alana Lorens today. Welcome, Alana! Tell us about your latest book.

The first book in the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer series, romantic suspense novel CONVICTION OF THE HEART, features attorney Suzanne Taylor, who raised her children as a single mother at the same time she built a successful legal practice. She’s managed to keep herself untangled from romance for many years, putting her kids and their financial security first.

But the case of a city councilman’s battered wife brings her complications in the form of police lieutenant Nick Sansone, whose interest in her comes right when she needs a little help from outside sources. The councilman strikes out at Suzanne, Nick, and eventually, anyone he can think of who might make Suzanne back off. Will they be able to stave off the danger long enough for their love to blossom?

See the book trailer for this here:

The second is SECOND CHANCES. This women’s fiction story begins the day attorney Inessa Regan receives a pink slip after ten years of faithful service. She’s been a mid-level associate her whole career, partners telling her what to do, providing her with an office and everything she needs. Thrown out into the legal world on her own, she doesn’t know how she’ll survive.

Her neighbor brings her first client, Kurt Lowdon, a young Iraq veteran with cancer, who’s looking just to have a will made. Inessa struggles to give Kurt what he needs, and he helps make it easy for her. Once his immediate needs are met, he takes her under his wing and brings her more clients as well as a place to open an office to see them. Things begin to fall together for her, including a very special friendship with Kurt that becomes something more.

But his past military service, and the friends he’s made there, begin to cause problems for them both, as well as issues his drug-addicted sister delivers to his doorstep. He still hasn’t kicked his cancer, either, and Inessa wonders if falling in love with him is a blessing or a curse.

Here’s the book trailer for SECOND CHANCES:

I love that you have YouTube videos for your books. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while now but so far, I haven’t got up the nerve to tackle it yet. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I’m very happy to report that I’ve just signed a contract for the third book in the series, entitled VOODOO DREAMS. This story is about a Pittsburgh lawyer wanting to get away from it all after a big trial goes bad, so she grabs a flight to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Who does she find staying at her bed and breakfast but a lawyer from the firm that beat her? While she wants nothing to do with him, gradually the two of them are drawn into a mystery that takes them through the city cemeteries and even into the Louisiana swamps for a voodoo ritual. Very exciting stuff. J

Oooh, the big easy, voodoo rituals, mysterious cemeteries, and love. Sounds like a winner to me! Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

So who wants to hear a constant bombardment of “Buy my book!” No one. Even if you add “please,” it still gets pretty tedious, right? Instead, I have my blogs/websites and partner up with other authors to exchange posts, so that I can be introduced to whole new audiences. I think this way we can begin a two-way conversation, not just a one-way demand.

I also participate in community events, where I can meet local readers. For example, on Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, one of my favorite shoe stores had a big event, and I joined in with my book about a girl who finds a glass slipper on the sidewalk, THE ELF QUEEN. We had a contest to try on the slipper I had, and whoever fit the shoe was entered in a drawing to win a prize package. It was a lot of fun.

Very original and yes, it sounds like a lot of fun. How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first novel when I was 14, a terrible old Gothic time-travel about a governess and the young lord of the mansion set in England (where I’d never been, of course). Considering it now, it was dreadful. But it was the beginning. Now, some forty years, thirty manuscripts and eighteen book contracts later, I’m able to look at it and laugh.

While I read a lot of gothic romance in my youth, I also read science fiction and fantasy. I think that’s reflected in what I write now, with the women’s fiction/romance under Alana Lorens and the sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural under Lyndi Alexander. The Novelspot site actually did a seven-piece series on my history as a writer that covers all the drama, divorces, writer’s block and children with autism. The BEHIND THE SCENES series begins here with A Dead Rabbit and the Letter.

Thanks for including the link! Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I’ve got to say my husband is probably the catalyst that has really made my writing life come together. He’s not a writer, but he’s a reader, a voracious one. We met playing sci-fi role-playing games on the Internet (that’s a whole other story!), and his imagination really helped spark mine back into serious work. He is great to bounce ideas off for workability, and his skill set really compliments mine, so we can figure out how to create almost any scene.

Sounds like a match made in heaven! What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Knowing where I am on page one and knowing where I want to be by the last page and then step by step, filling in that gap in a way that’s interesting and well-done.

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

In this particular series, it’s been pretty valuable! My work as a lawyer certainly informs my storytelling. On the other hand, I also write space opera, though I’ve never been on a spaceship or off the planet. So I think a thorough knowledge of the working human (and often those who are less functional) can benefit an author’s work. After all, world-building can only take you so far—it’s the people who catch reader’s imagination.

I agree, the characters can definitely make or break a book. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

I’m really all over the map, but much more genre fiction rather than literary. I have my non-fiction book 101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce, that came out over a decade ago, but then in 2010, I really concentrated on fiction. The urban fantasy series, The Clan Elves of the Bitterroot, is set in the mountains of Montana. I have romantic suspense with bordellos and Mexican drug lords, contemporary romance with broken hearts and rock stars, a Firefly-like series set in deep space about a rebel space captain thrown out of his universe who must rebuild his crew to survive, and this summer a supernatural mystery with psychic vampires. Instead of trying to squish all my writing into one category, I write the stories and characters and situations that come to me.

All over the map, indeed, but I think it’s safe to say you never get bored as an author that way. Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?

I’m a family law attorney, handling divorce, custody, adoption and juvenile dependency matters. It’s a very emotional area, and certainly helps generate a lot of passions that I can transform into writing work.

I’m also mother to several children on the autism spectrum, so with therapies and testing and team meetings and IEPs and all, it feels like a second or third job a lot of the time.

You’re a very busy woman! Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?

I have a couple of critique groups through the Pennwriters’ organization, and these people have been really instrumental in helping improve my work. Pennwriters has several groups meeting in the northwestern Pennsylvania area, almost one every day, kind of like Writers’ Anonymous. But this is a great advantage, because each writer can find the group that fits his or her needs. I’ve been a member of one group since about 2005, and the six or eight people have all progressed to a very polished level of work. We bring our eight to ten pages and read aloud, then get back our copies with comments and suggestions. I have recently joined a second group that is a little less polished but has more published romance writers in it, and so I get a better perspective for my romance works. Their process is pretty much the same. Both groups are very positive; while there’s no ban on criticism, it’s understood that we can ask for what we need. I always want people to be tough but true in their commentary—there’s no reason to tear people’s work up just for the sake of doing it.

 Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I often get blocked in what they call the “sagging middle.” I’ve got the story launched, and I know where the characters are going but it just…can’t…seem…to…get…there. When that happens, I usually start picking scenes from the outline, it doesn’t matter if they’re in order, and writing them, to get momentum up again. After all, no one says you have to write the story from the first to last page, right? Once you get restarted forward, it’s so much easier to fill in the gaps.

 I’m well acquainted with the “sagging middle” syndrome—it gets me every time. Any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?

I absolutely devoured SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder, which is actually a screenwriting book, but definitely applies to any kind of fiction as well. You’ve got to make readers connect with your characters in any format, and this book helps show you how.

I’m also a big fan of writing teacher Margie Lawson, from Colorado. I’ve taken several of her online classes and then had the privilege to take one of her intensive master courses at her home in Golden. Her work is amazing, and she really taught me how to open up my character’s emotions in new ways.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Alana. I enjoyed getting to know you through your thoughtful answers!

To learn more about Alana Lorens, Lyndi Alexander, and their books, go to: –website/blog –other website/blog

Alana Lorens on Facebook–

Conviction of the Heart buylink

Second Chances buylink

Chapter 1

Warm, sticky fluid seeped into her clothing, saturating her upper chest. With a repulsed shudder, Rowan closed her eyes and willed herself to calm down, her breathing to return to normal. The man’s weight crushed her, creating the panicky sensation she could not get enough air into her lungs. But she didn’t have the energy to shove him away. Finally, she could stand it no more. She wormed her hands beneath his shoulders and pushed up. His large body moved slightly, then settled back over her, feeling heavier than before. She expelled a frustrated breath. If she didn’t get this guy off, he would surely suffocate her.

“Zeus,” Rowan croaked. She listened for a response, but couldn’t hear anything over the loud ringing in her ears. Perfect. If she didn’t pass out from lack of oxygen, she would probably stroke out. She gathered as much air into her lungs as she could but was only able to produce a weak, “Zeus.”  Although she needed his help, she was thankful she had put him in the back yard. He would be dead by now if she hadn’t. She craned her neck and could see a muddy snout pushing against the screen door in the kitchen.  He’d been digging underneath the shed again. That explained why he hadn’t heard all the commotion going on inside. “Come here, boy.”

The Weimaraner nudged the screen door open and bounded into the living room. He stopped short when he saw the man, baring his teeth in a fierce growl.

“Help me, Zeus.”

Zeus moved close and sniffed the side of Rowan’s face. As his nose tracked toward the man, Rowan pushed up with her arms, showing the dog what she wanted. “Pull him off, Zeus.” Zeus snagged the man’s jacket sleeve and tugged. The body barely budged. He dug his claws into the floor and pulled back. “Good boy,” she said, when the heavy torso shifted. She twisted her upper body as she jostled against the man and inhaled deeply after Zeus dragged him off her chest. It felt good to be able to breathe normally. She pushed the corpse off her lower abdomen and legs, then sat for a moment, eyes closed, body shaking.

Zeus positioned himself between Rowan and the man, and nudged her shoulder with his nose. She hugged the dog, saying into his fur, “You’re a good boy.”  Zeus solemnly licked her face.

Rowan scooted away from the body and lunged to her feet. The man lay on his stomach, his face turned to one side. A knife, pooled in blood, protruded from the back of his neck. She and the dog stared down at one open eye, looking blankly at nothing. She forced her gaze away and willed her mind to focus on the problem at hand, not what had just occurred.

Rowan hurried to the front windows and peeled back the edge of the curtain, searching for anyone who might be waiting for the man on the floor. The only thing out of order was a large, gold-colored Cadillac in front of her drive, its golden rims gleaming in the sun. She swore to herself. The damn vehicle blocked her in; she wouldn’t be able to take her car. She glanced back at the dead man and decided the glitzy Caddy probably belonged to him; those pretentious rims matched the bright suit he wore. She closed the curtain and crossed over to the other side, tugged the heavy cloth away from the window, and studied the street. No one appeared to be inside the vehicle or lurking about, something she found disconcerting. The guy on the floor looked the sort to have a driver, and in her experience, these people always traveled in pairs.

After Rowan locked the front door, she rushed to her bedroom closet, where she worked a couple of loose floor planks free. She withdrew her emergency backpack and took a moment to check inside, make sure her fake ID was there along with enough money to get her to another location.

She grabbed the dog’s leash and clipped it on. “Come on, Zeus. We’ve got to get out of here.”  At the door, she turned around and looked at the dead man. Tears welled in her eyes but she blinked them away. She had just killed her would-be killer.

She walked back to the man, pulled her foot back, and kicked him in the side. “You shit.”


Half a block away, Garrett Somersby slumped in his car, playing word games in his head. Damn, he hated stakeouts. A lot of time to do nothing but think, which put him in danger of some serious introspection. Something he didn’t want to engage in at this point in his life, afraid he’d find out how lonely he really was. He had been trailing Twinkle Toes Tommy — named this because the guy supposedly liked to dance, although Garrett suspected it was because he might be gay. He sure looked like a dandy, always dressed in flashy suits with a yellow carnation in his buttonhole. Garrett knew where he’d like to stuff that carnation.

Twinkle Toes was aide to Roland Metzner, the biggest kingpin in their part of the state, and sooner or later Twinkie was going to do something stupid, get caught, and turn over for them. At least that was what the Sarge thought. Sure.

Garrett clicked the ignition to battery and powered his window down. Cool air tinted with lilac flowed into the vehicle. He closed his eyes and breathed in. Spring was probably the best season in East Tennessee, with dogwoods, redbuds and Bradford pears blooming, the town filled with colorful tulips and daffodils and a plethora of other flora he couldn’t name. Well, no. It had to be fall, when the Tennessee Volunteers took to the field most every week and the mountains sported a vibrant collage of dying leaves. On the other hand, early spring brought March madness and the Lady Vols. Winter wasn’t bad either, with skiing or snowboarding in Gatlinburg only an hour’s drive away. And summer hailed boating season on any one of the seven lakes surrounding Knoxville or the Tennessee River winding its way through the center of town. Hell, when you really got down to it, Knoxville was the place to be no matter what season.

Garrett glanced toward the small, white rancher Tommy had gone into. The dwelling sat among a row of houses, each identical to the other. From this vantage point, they seemed to blend into one long, monochromatic line in an area that had seen its day at least a quarter of a century earlier. Lilac bushes sprinkled throughout the small yards added a bit of color to a scene that looked as if it had rested in a photo album a little too long.

Garrett powered his other window down to create a cross-breeze. The scent of lilac increased, reminding him of the perfume his grandmother wore. A woman weaving her way down the sidewalk drew his gaze. Dressed in a short skirt, with stiletto heels, her black hair hung limp and lifeless. A hooker, no doubt about that. Her eyes told the story as they searched the street, hungry for a john who would give her enough for her next fix.

Was this a romantic liaison he was sitting out? Twinkie usually grazed in greener pastures than this dump. But that was just Garrett’s luck. A fat slob like Twinkle Toes had girlfriends in every corner of the city, and here Garrett sat, no woman in his life for so long he couldn’t remember the last time he had been with one. Well, no wonder. He spent more time on the streets than in his own home.

He stretched his long legs, his body craving activity. He’d rather do just about anything than wait for the fat man to get laid. Movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention and Garrett focused on the house. Someone had opened the storm door from inside, the glass catching a sunbeam and bouncing a bright light straight into Garrett’s eyes. He tilted his head out the window for a better view and watched a woman dash onto the small front porch, a large dog on a leash beside her. Damn, he’d never seen a dog so big in his life. Big mother, that one, with a weird bluish hue to his coat, floppy ears, and odd eyes that belonged in a horror movie. The woman hesitated when she drew near Twinkie’s large Cadillac, which blocked her short driveway. Garrett’s eyes traveled her long, shapely legs to her short denim skirt, and upward, then froze. A large, red blotch covered her upper chest. Was that blood? He hurried out of his SUV.

“Are you all right? Do you need help?” he said as he ran toward her.

She drew up when he stepped in front of her. Her eyes held a frightened cast as they focused on his face. “Yes. No. I mean, yes, please.” She glanced past him, at the open door of his SUV. “Is that your car?”

He nodded toward his dark-green Suburban. “Yes, it is. Do you need me to take you to the hospital?”

“I need to go now.”

He cupped her elbow in his hand and guided her to his vehicle, the dog trailing behind.

At the car, she drew back. “Do you have the keys?”

“They’re in the SUV.  Get in and I’ll take you to the nearest emergency room.”

She glanced inside the SUV, then turned back to him.  “I’m going to have to take your car.”


“I’m sorry but I need to use your car.”

Was the woman addled, had she been hit in the head, lost too much blood? “It’s okay. Wherever you need to go, I can take you.”

She stepped away from him. “That won’t do. I need your car, and I don’t need you getting in my way.”

Garrett hesitated, his hand reaching for the front passenger door. “What the hell? You’re not taking my SUV.”

In a quiet voice, she said, “Zeus.”

Next thing Garrett knew, he was on the ground. The dog straddled him, his muzzle at Garrett’s throat, growling softly. The animal’s four paws penned Garrett’s arms against his side. How in the world did the dog know to do that?

“Good boy, Zeus,” she cooed to the dog, then addressed Garrett. “Is the registration in the car?”

“Call your dog off, lady,” Garrett grunted.

“In a minute. Where’s the registration?”

Garrett stared into the dog’s amber eyes, which he thought more resembled a demon’s than a canine’s. “Shit. In the glove box.”

“Okay, good. I’ll mail the keys to you in the next day or two along with the location of your SUV.”

Where had everyone gone? A few minutes ago, the street hadn’t been crowded but cars had passed Garrett as he sat in his SUV, people walked by on the sidewalk. Now everyone had disappeared. It was as if they were in a sealed chamber, this little scenario playing out between the woman, Garrett, and the dog. When Garrett shifted in order to glance around, the dog deepened his growl and pressed his nose against his neck. Shit. If he could only get his arms free, he might have a chance with this four-legged gorilla.

Garrett tucked his chin into his neck as much as he was able, in case the dog got the bright idea to tear out his throat. “Dammit to hell. Get this mutt off!”

The woman’s face came into view, hovering just over the dog’s shoulder. She gave him an apologetic look. “Listen, I’m sorry I have to do this, but I need to get out of here and you’re not cooperating very well.”

“Cooperating? You’re stealing my car!” Wanting nothing more than to be up off the ground and away from those sharp teeth, Garrett took a moment to calm down. He forced his voice to a level tone. “Wherever you need to go, I’ll take you.”

“Believe me, that would not be good for you. Okay, I’m going to call off the dog, but if you get up before we leave, I’m going to sic him on you again and this time he won’t just threaten you. You understand?”

Garrett remained silent, rage blowing through his blood like steam through a furnace.

“Say you understand.”

“I understand,” he said between gritted teeth.


The dog lifted his head and looked at her.

“Come, boy.”

After giving Garrett a final growl, Zeus loped toward the car.

Garrett sat up, debating whether to go after her, but that damn dog looked like he could do some damage.

She opened the passenger side door and gestured for the dog to get inside. “I’m really sorry. I wouldn’t do this unless I had to.”

As he got to his feet, Garrett reached behind and pulled his gun free. “Sorry it has to come to this, but you’re not going anywhere.”

The dog was in midair before Garrett could swing his arm up. He clamped his jaw around Garrett’s hand, forcing his arm down. With a sharp hiss, Garrett dropped the gun. Zeus eased his mouth open so that it locked around Garrett’s wrist. But those teeth looked sharp enough to punch right through if he decided to.

The woman shook her head as she gave him a look. “Are you crazy?”  She walked over and picked up the gun. Backing up, her eyes on Garrett, she kept it pointed at him. “You misbehave one more time, you’re going to miss that hand. Zeus has a big appetite. He doesn’t mind fresh meat.”

Garrett debated punching the dog in the snout, but the way his luck was going, he’d probably lose his hand. “That’s only if he gets me first.”

“Do we have an understanding?” she said, enunciating each word.

“Okay. I got you. Just get him away from me.”

“Release.” The dog whined as if he had plans for what was in his mouth. “Now.”

With what seemed like a good bit of reluctance, Zeus let go of Garrett’s wrist. He ran his tongue around his lips and over his nose before returning to the car and jumping onto the front passenger seat.

Garrett watched her close the door behind the dog and cross in front of the vehicle. “Just tell me one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Is that your blood?”

She shook her head. “I just killed a man. His body’s inside.” She hopped into the vehicle, keyed the ignition, and drove off.

“Well, shit,” Garrett said as she drove away.

Buy links:



Christy’s Amazon page:

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Richard. Let’s start with the basics. How long have you been writing and where do you get your ideas?

Since 1994.  I commuted by train for years. I read newspapers in the morning and mystery/suspense novels on the trip home. When I read a newspaper story about a father who refused to take his child home from the hospital because the newborn was diagnosed with a brain impairment, it struck a nerve.  I asked myself, “What if the baby was misdiagnosed?”

With that question as a plot line, I began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus, my first book, The Nurse Wore Black, was born.  (This book has been rewritten and re-titled Secrets Can Be Deadly and is part of my Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy with my detective David Nance.)

Diamonds are for Stealing, the second book in the Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy also came from a newspaper article about a robbery at a jewelry store where the owner pulled a gun and accidentally killed his wife while firing at the robber.  I asked myself, “Accident or planned murder?”

Murder on the Links, the third book in this trilogy came from stories about stock market fraud and the mobsters that perpetrated the fraud.

What interesting concepts, Richard. I really like the one for Diamonds are for Stealing. Who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I had read the entire Bret Halliday, Mike Shayne mystery series during my commutes. He wrote fast moving short chapters, brisk snappy dialogue and just enough setting to put you in the scene.  I liked that style and emulated it in my books.  I even used that style in my historical fiction novel, Silk Legacy, in contrast to many historical fiction novels that can have long chapters and tedious stretches of dialogue.

That’s the type of writing I like to read – fast-moving and not overly narrated or dialogued. What is your strongest area in the creative process?

I find creating characters in conflict to be my strongest asset.  Wondering how the characters resolve their conflicts keeps the reader turning the pages.

For example, in a murder mystery solving the crime is obviously the prime impetus of the novel.  But does the detective have to be a mind numb robot gathering and dissecting clues?  To me he needs to be real which is what I made David Nance in my Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy.

I think I succeeded because one reviewer wrote, “What really grabbed me, though, was watching the hero deal with his issues, eventually with a measure of success, while his girlfriend dealt with …him …and her issues involving him.”

In Silk Legacy the conflicts are between brother vs brother and husband vs wife.

In Beyond Guilty the conflict is introspective. The character is responsible for her sister’s death and tries to overcome her quilt.

In Keiretsu, my latest novel, the major conflict is between father vs son.

I agree. Conflict is imperative to the plot. Tell us about your latest book.

As usual, Keiretsu is “ripped from the headlines.”  Over the past few years many articles have been written about China’s growing military might and how China is increasingly antagonizing its Asian neighbors.  Lately, one of China’s more vigorous confrontations is with Japan.

Historically, in the 750 years of hostilities between China and Japan, China has never successfully attacked Japan while Japan has defiled China with the Rape of Nanking for which Japan has never apologized.

In reading the articles I again formulated questions, a few of which are:

Will China, when it feels it is militarily strong enough eventually exact its revenge on Japan?

Will Japan continue to put its defense in the hands of the U.S. even though Japan is well aware China is developing “carrier killing cruise missiles” and a huge army that could counter U.S. forces?

Considering Nagasaki, Hiroshima and now the Fukushima nuclear plant melt-down will Japan’s government build nuclear weapons? Will the people protest? Are the people in a state of denial about China’s threat?

What will the U.S. do when they discover Japan is building nuclear weapons?

And the biggest question of all, was there a novel in these newspaper stories?

I formed a plot: While the United States is focused on diffusing Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear weapons’ programs, the ultra-nationalist CEOs of Japan’s eight largest Keiretsus (conglomerates) form a cabal to use some of the shuttered nuclear power plants to secretly enrich uranium to bomb grade and develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent to China and a clandestine PAC (political action committee) within the U.S. to donate heavily to congressmen and senators to thwart the expected U.S. cease and desist demands.

But what could I do to make this read like a novel rather than a treatise on Japan/China relations?

The answer had to be in the characters.  Novels are really about characters―characters in CONFLICT.  These are the characters I developed:

The Japanese Nagoyas

Toshio Nagoya―ANTAGONIST. Ultra-nationalist CEO of Japan’s largest keiretsu; chairman of the Cabal.  He needs his cousin, John, to fulfill his plot but he questions his cousin’s loyalty because, although his cousin is 100% Japanese, John was not born in the land of the “true gods.”

Michiko Nagoya―Toshio’s wife stuck in a loveless marriage.

Ogato Nagoya―Toshio’s and Michiko’s son; his primary goal is to garner praise from his father; works in America as liaison between Toshio and John; obsessed with Gingi from the first day he saw her.

The American Nagoyas

John Nagoya―Second generation Japanese American; Toshio’s cousin; he seeks revenge against his country because at the age of nine he watched a mob beat his parents to death after their release from the internment camps; a lawyer, he aligns with Toshio and forms the PAC.  Never accepted his son-in-law.

Yoshi Nagoya―John’s wife.  Loves everything American.

 Gingi Nagoya Morrison―John and Yoshi’s daughter; married to Danny Morrison; despises Ogato.

 Roger Nagoya―John and Yoshi’s son.  With John away on business for long periods of time, Yoshi raised Roger and Gingi with every advantage wealthy American parents could give their children. Roger is the PROTAGONIST in conflict with his father.

The Morrisons

Senator Ted Morrison―Powerful Senator; avid fighter against foreign companies donating money to America’s politicians and PACs.

Sandy Morrison―Ted’s wealthy, socialite wife; enamored by her husband’s powerful position in the Senate; never accepted Gingi as her daughter-in-law.

Danny Morrison―Ted and Sandy’s son born with a “silver spoon in his mouth”; not fond of working; likes to race sailboats and stock cars; married to Gingi Nagoya.

Douglas Welfield―Sandy Morrison’s brother; state party chairman; does a lot of business with the Japanese auto manufacturers; grudgingly supports Ted; but not enamored with his brother-in-law’s political policies toward foreign countries.

Imagine the conflicts: Conspiracy, lust, infidelity, treachery, betrayal and murder.

Sounds intriguing and very realistic, especially considering today’s unstable world. Promotion is big―and usually the most hated―part of being a writer.  Can you share a little bit about how you promote

For an author published by an independent publisher, getting reviews from mass market reviewers is extremely difficult although I keep trying.  Since Keiretus is unique in that the plot has yet to be discovered by the best-selling authors, I have sent advance review copies to a few major reviewers with a letter explaining how current the plot is, and that the book is not self published, but I’ll still be surprised if one of them does review it.

Thus I continue to promote my books through interviews on blogs such as yours.  Also, there are many interactive sites on the internet where you can join the discussions.  Like all advertising, repetition is the key.  Keep your name in front of readers by participating in those discussions.  Sooner or later people will say, let me try one of his books.  This brings me to the next question:

Very good answer. I agree with what you say. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Getting positive reviews from readers.  Reviews from readers who recommend my books to other readers is the best form of flattery.  For example here are some comments posted on Amazon for my last two books:

Silk Legacy, my historical fiction novel.  “Magnificent Characters” “Remarkable Storytelling” “A Tribulation of Yesteryear” “Vivid Enticing Characters” “An Absorbing Page Turner of a Novel” “Realistic Dialogue” “The fictional family is made up of flesh-and-blood characters. They laugh, love, argue, fight, and have adulterous affairs.”

Beyond Guilty, a suspense novel. “Twisting Action” “Thought Provoking” “A Fast paced Thriller” “Sympathetic Engaging Character” “Authentic Dialogue” “Complex Characters” “Spirited Prose” “A Real Winner” “A Damn Good Story” “Don’t go in expecting stereotypes because you won’t find them.”

Well, you can’t ask for better reviews than that, IMO. What’s your attitude toward the standard advice: write what you know?

I don’t believe “write what you know” is all that important.  With the proper research you can write about any subject.  For example, I was born in Paterson, NJ, the center of America’s silk industry in the early twentieth century.  My family moved away when I was eleven.

When I read an article in the paper about an historian giving a lecture on the silk industry and a tour of Paterson’s historic silk district I was curious and went to the event.  As I listened, Silk Legacy formed in my mind.  I took a lot of notes, but not enough to truly understand the era.  So I did research on line and by going back to Paterson and reading old newspaper stories.  I picked out the events I wanted to use in my story and created the characters and the book.

In Beyond Guilty I had read about nano-medicine and thought it might be interesting to incorporate in the book.  Again I researched it and even e-mailed an expert.  The expert was very gracious and ended up writing an essay at the end of the book on the advancements in nano-medicine.

In my mystery novels, I did kind of write what I knew.  They are set at the north Jersey Shore where I live.  Still I had to research the details behind the motives for the murders.  For example in my mystery, Murder Goes Round and Round, I decided to make an antique carousel the motive for the murder, but I knew nothing about antique carousels so I researched them.

Thus writing what you know is not as important a creating the characters to fit your plot, and I repeat, CHARACTERS IN CONFLICT.

Having recently spent over 3 years researching a book with my sister, I am in complete agreement with your answer. I really like that we can now realistically write about subjects we’re not initially familiar with. Are you in a critique group? If so how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?

I am in a critique group.  We meet once a month and submit part of our current work.  We write out our critiques and discuss them at the next meeting.  The most important aspects you can find in a critique group is one where you will get honest feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting.  But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as gospel.  Remember, it’s your story.  Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit.

My group has six writers.  If one person criticizes something then of course I consider it, but I may or may not take it as valid.  But if three or four in the group say the same thing about a segment then I take it under serious consideration.

I’ve always said critique groups are as strong as their most negative member and it’s important to pick one that fits you. Describe your writing process once you sit down to write―or the preliminaries.

First: I form the plot along with the ending of the story.  In the mysteries it’s naturally “who-done-it.”  In the historical fiction novel it’s the resolution between the characters.  And in the suspense novels it’s how to the protagonist gets out of peril.

Second: I create my characters―their looks, quirks, and their experiences in life that affect their personalities and the way they react to events. (See Keiretsu above)

Third: I create a very rough outline as to how the story will progress from beginning to end.  Note I said very rough as this changes as the story evolves.

Fourth: I try to create a captivating opening chapter such as finding the body in the mysteries, putting the protagonist in jeopardy in the suspense novel and creating the conflict in the historical fiction.

Finally: I write from my opening chapter to the conclusion of the story.  I strive to take the reader on a journey that is never a straight line, but more like the line of a gyrating stock market.  I place red herrings in my mysteries, adventure and jeopardy in my suspense novels and many setbacks in my historical fiction novel.  However, one thing remains constant―there is always CONFLICT.  The most important aspect of a novel is the conflict between the characters.  Without conflict there is no story.

Thanks, Richard, for such an interesting interview. More info about Richard and his books follow:

Richard Brawer writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time sailing, growing roses and researching New Jersey history.  He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.

You can read the book jackets, excerpts, reviews and more about Richard at:

His back list, Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy, Silk Legacy, and Murder Goes Round and Round are sold through Kindle or any e-reader that can access Amazon e-books.

Beyond Guilty is available wherever books are sold whether in print or e-book.

Keiretsu, coming out the end of November, 2012 will also be available wherever books are sold whether in print or e-book.

If you are interested in the print versions of Beyond Guilty and Keiretsu, you can order them on line from sites like  However, as with most books published by independent publishers, bookstores will not stock these books, but they can order them for you.

A word from Richard about electronic publishing

Although I do not own an e-reader, I find e-readers to be the most important invention in publishing since the printing press.  Before e-books the only books we could read were the ones the big publishers “chose” for us to read.  Those books were selected by the publisher based on the publisher’s idea of what the greatest number of readers would like, in other words sales.

I wrote my first books with that same thought in mind.  Now with the ability to publish myself as an e-book, not only can I publish my back list, I can write what I like.  If I can’t find an interested publisher, so be it.  My book will still be available to those who like my subject.

Currently Richard is working on The Bishop Committee set in 2004.  With the demise of the Cold War Congress guts the defense budget to fund special interest causes. Obsessed with the idea that a weak military threatens the existence of their country, The Bishop Committee, a Vietnam era military-industrial cabal is resurrected to sell U.S. made weapons to Chechen terrorists.

The cabal’s mission is to make the Russians believe the United States is backing the Chechen uprising and then Russia will start the Cold war again.

Jason Sorren, head council for Rathborn United Industries, uncovers chilling evidence that will expose the conspirators and is relentlessly pursued to retrieve it.  When his traditionalist Quaker girlfriend is drawn into the carnage, her insular life is thrown into turmoil.

Jason’s quest to expose the conspirators and rescue his girlfriend from despair make The Bishop Committee an emotionally-charged

Author Polly Iyer and Maddie bordered–Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I’m editing GODDESS OF THE MOON, the sequel to MIND GAMES, a Diana Racine Psychic Suspense. This series takes place in New Orleans. A baby has been kidnapped, and Diana’s lover, Lieutenant Ernie Lucier, brings her into the case to see if she has any vibes about who took the baby. There’s a lot of mythology in this one, so it was fun to do the research.

–When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

Definitely the characters. They come first, fully formed and dressed, then the plot. I know who they are when I start a book. I know where I want to go. I don’t know what they’ll do to get me there. I create what I hope will be an interesting character, then ask myself what this character most fears. I’m drawn to psychology, so I love writing damaged characters. I don’t know what that says about me, but in books I find them more interesting—to read and to write.

–Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

Different ones for different reasons. I love Dennis Lehane because he’s such a good writer. His stories are dark and his endings aren’t always happy, but he crafts such a good story that I’m hooked from the beginning. I like Karin Slaughter’s totally original Will Trent character, so I’ll read all the books with him in it. James Lee Burke offers a writing lesson with each book. He’s one of the only writers who can put you in the scene due to his vivid literary description. That’s rare. Michael Connelly and Daniel Silva are two more writers I admire. There are lots more, but those are some of my favorites.

–Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

There’s a fine line between promoting yourself and your book and overkill to the point that you turn people off. I hope I don’t do the latter. I have an author page on Facebook and use it to announce free days or a good review, but I don’t do it often. I have a regular page where I post other things that interest me or things that are going on in my life. I don’t do that to excess either. I do tweet but mostly retweet other author’s announcements. There’s where you have to be careful you’re not overdoing it. Some writers have turned me off with their robo-tweets because there’s no interaction. They never retweet, so after a while I ignore them. It really is a give and take on Twitter. Most writers are very generous.

–What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Not having to get dressed every day. Okay, a bit of humor. Kind of. Seriously, I love being able to fantasize. When I was younger, I thought of an acting career. This is the next best thing. I can be all my characters and write their dialogue. That’s the most fun of all.

–Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Inspiration usually comes with an idea for a character and goes from there. In my case a blind psychologist and a deaf cop, a man who spent 15 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, a high-class call girl who wants to leave the life, until she’s forced to go back to work or go to prison, a psychic who is the target of a serial killer who is psychic. Once I get those characters, I run with the story.

Murder Deja Vu by Polly Iyer–What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?

One or more of my characters usually cross some ethical line. What does that mean? Things aren’t always black or white. What tempts a usually law-abiding person to do something s/he would never do unless the situation forces her/him to do it? I like obstacles. I have had readers say something about a character I never thought of. It is eye-opening, but I chalk it up to the fact that not everyone will see things the way I see them. Or don’t see them, as the case may be.

–What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

I like to write what I don’t know, although what I know sneaks in there. I’ve learned a lot by writing outside my personal box. I do think if an author has a specific specialty or career and can use that in his/her books, all the better. That makes the story more realistic. I owned a store once, and one of my books has a character who owns a store like I had. But that’s the only time I really used my life specifically in a story.

–How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction?

I write genre fiction. Mystery and romantic suspense, mainly. MIND GAMES is a thriller. I’d like to think all my books are page-turners. That’s what writers want readers to do. Turn the pages because they can’t wait to see what happens.

–Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

Since I’m published on Kindle, I bought a Kindle. I should say my son bought it for me. I love it. Not only have I downloaded some terrific books, I can put mine on there and read them before I publish. It’s much easier to catch mistakes on the “small screen.”

–Are you in a critique or writing group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?

I have two wonderful critique partners. Both offer different points of view and have different strengths. I value them and don’t know what I’d do without them. With one, we exchange 20 pages every two weeks by email. We’ve never missed in over three years. The other reads the book and edits it when I’m finished. She’s amazing and has forgotten more about writing than I’ll ever know.

–Any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?

I have a stack of writing books. Chris Roerden’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery is a book that should be on every writer’s shelf. On Writing by Stephen King and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman are both dog-eared.

Visit her here

The Dames are pleased to turn the spotlight on author Tony Piazza today. Tony, as you will soon find out, is not just your everyday average mystery writer, but one who has captured the wonderful writing style of some of the best authors of the last century.

Welcome, Tony. Tell us about your latest release, Anything Short of Murder.

It is an old fashion detective thriller set in the Hollywood of the 1930’s. In creating it I drew on the writing styles of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, so you might say that is it a pastiche of sorts. It has all the elements of a classic detective novel from that era- the hardboiled, wise-cracking, world weary detective; the damsel in distress who may, or may not be as innocent as she seems; more red-herrings than could be contained in a barrel; and a mystery that will keep you guessing to the very end.  

An old-fashioned detective thriller, indeed, and I think you did a fabulous job with it. What made you decide to write it in the style of the pulp detective thrillers of the 1930’s and 40’s?

Two reasons, the first being that it was originally being written as a short serialized story for the Turner Classic Movie Fan site. I was composing it for a specific audience, namely classic movie fans that enjoy film noir. It was the success on that site, and the encouragement of all its fans that convinced me to expand it into a book and get it published. Second, I enjoy a good mystery. I’ve read most of the famous authors that the genre has produced over the years, and miss some of the classic detective stories that modern authors have jettisoned in favor of police procedurals. CSI stories are interesting, and definitely play an important part in mystery literature, but personally I enjoy the independent detectives, like Marlowe, or amateur investigators like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot in the books that I read.       

Ah, TCM—about the only channel I watch on TV anymore. I’m an avid fan of the old black and white movies and while reading Anything Short of Murder it was very easy for me to picture Humphrey Bogart playing the lead in a movie made from the book. How did you come up with the idea for the character of Tom Logan?

Tom Logan was formed with Bogart in mind, and perhaps a little of William Powell. As I mentioned earlier, the story was being fashioned for an audience of discerning classic movie lovers. That was helpful in developing the character because you knew that you had to get it “dead on”, or you would hear from the fans. I was encouraged by their response because Bogart was the general consensus. Additionally, as with other authors- although some will deny it- there is also a little of him in me. The sense of humor and to a lesser extent the world weariness is something we both have in common.

Bogart and Powell are two of my favorite actors from that time period. Can you share little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

 I have a second novel, The Curse of the Crimson Dragon which will be published March of 2012. It is not a sequel to Anything Short of Murder, although due to numerous requests I am working on that now. Crimson Dragon is a stand-alone novel, an adventure set on Hawaii during 1944. Initially the plot will seem familiar, but don’t let that fool you, as with Anything Short of Murder there will be twists and turns that no one will see coming. It is also loaded with action, romance, nostalgia, and intrigue- all of which plays out in a lush, tropical backdrop during the tumultuous war years. I was real happy with the results of the final manuscript, and am very excited about making it available to the public. It was certainly fun writing it- real escapism- and I’m sure that that will be passed on to the readers.

Glad to hear you’re working on a sequel since I enjoyed Anything Short of Murder so much. I’ll be sure to watch for the release of The Curse of the Crimson Dragon. Sounds like a lot of fun and I love that time period. How long have you been writing?

I would like to say since I was ten years old. That’s when I first attempted writing, but re-writes with a typewriter and carbon paper takes a patience I wasn’t blessed with. I had assignments in school, and creative writing, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that I discovered how easy writing has become thanks entirely to the computer. So I’d say that I started writing in earnest about two years ago.

Oh, I remember typewriters and carbon paper and shudder to think about attempting to write a novel without the convenience of my laptop. I just don’t think I could do it. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Imagination; I was an only child growing up, and had to keep myself amused. I created stories to pass the hours, and in some cases serialized ones that I would tell myself every night before going to sleep. As I got older, I shared some of these stories with friends and organized plays around them. Imagination was also the driving force when I started reading more regularly at age eight. Fueled on by authors such as Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and later Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming, I couldn’t help but fall in love with books, and that resulted in an urge to become a storyteller.

I grew up in a family of 5 kids and I can remember wishing I was an only child—but I have to say with the wisdom of age, I’m glad I didn’t get that wish!  Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should or could be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

I’ve already mentioned them in your previous question, but now that I have become a member of two writer’s organizations- Sisters in Crime and SLO NightWriters- I am being introduced to a number of new authors, people like Sue McGinty and Dianne Emley and their mystery series. Aside from being great individuals, their mysteries are engaging. Regarding, why do these writers appeal to me? Their books provide escapism, with puzzles that challenge the mind, and an ample serving of good old fashion heroics. A part of me still is a dreamer and believes in a happy ending, although my pessimistic side also acknowledges the realities of life.

In other words, you read for pleasure, and judging from your book, I’d say you write for the same reason. What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you have any habits or established routines that work best?

I usually set a goal of nothing less than 2,500 words. That is the minimum I set for a chapter. Once I get started I pound away until I complete that objective. I usually strive for a chapter a day, but once in awhile it may take two. I am a fast writer once I get into it, however I do have a day job, and that takes precedence when it comes to working on my novel. My first novel took nine months from conception to publication- somewhat of a record. The Curse of the Crimson Dragon has taken over a year, but it is a bigger novel.

2,500 words, that’s impressive and a goal I wish I could accomplish. I have days when I write much more than that but I also have days—too many of them lately—when I don’t come anywhere near a fraction of that. And after the book is written, then comes the hard part, at least for me, promoting. Can you tell us a little bit about how you promote your work?  Any tips for other authors?

My simple answer would be by any means possible. I use Twitter, Facebook, place ads, do interviews such as this, as well as print and radio. I also have done book signings and lectures at independent bookstores, and have a blog site where I write stories about the motion picture and television stars that I had worked with when I was in the industry. Still, it is never enough. Competition is hard, and even though you have a great story, it only sells if someone knows about it. For the release of my next book I am considering hiring a publicist. As far as tips- if you believe in your product…sell…sell…sell.

Competition is hard and with the recent trends in publishing, it’s getting harder every day. Still, like you say, the best thing to do is to believe in your work and sell…sell…sell. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

All my friends at the two writing groups give me a boost when my batteries start running a little low, however, with the risk of sounding a little maudlin I would have to say my parents, especially my mother. It was her persistence that set me on the right course. When I was in second grade the teacher noticed that I wasn’t paying attention to our reading sessions. I seemed distracted, and she communicated that to my mother. My mother asked if she could borrow some books over the summer, and spent each day with me reading. She always felt bad that she hadn’t graduated from high school, and impressed upon me the importance of learning, and especially reading. I became a good student after that, and an avid reader. She passed away nine years ago, but I think she would be very pleased to see that her hard work and concern had paid off, and her son is a published author.

As a retired teacher, I have to say “yay” for your mother. How great that she took an interest in what was going on with you in school and went on to contribute to your love of reading. And yes, I’m sure she’s very proud of her “published author” son.

In your bio on your website, you say you’ve had a “long and varied professional career,” everything from acting to biologist to stunt man. And now you’re a published author. Of all the jobs you’ve had which of them would you prefer if you had to choose only one?

That is a difficult question, because just a like a diamond, each is a facet which makes up the whole of my life’s experience. Each one of those I have drawn upon to help build or reinforce another. A writer needs to be knowledgeable about what he or she is writing. That involves either research, or better yet actual experience. Because my background has been so diverse, I can write about science, or what goes on behind the scenes in a movie studio, or how to detail an action sequence with confidence because I have been there and done that. And besides that aspect, we all strive to utilize to the fullest whatever gifts we have. It is our legacy. I like to think that whatever I have done, whether it was the findings I made in research which may have benefited a sick individual, or the stories that I write that helps readers escape the troubles of the world- all have equal value- that is why I  could not  pick just one.

Good answer and a very well thought out one, too. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Again, it comes down to legacy. Life is short, and memories are fleeting, if Jules Verne or H.G.Wells never picked up a pen, who would remember them? But, more importantly, some measure success by the money they make, but for me the satisfaction isn’t financial, but whether those that read my books truly enjoy them. My objective is to tell a good story, and the payback is to hear that my efforts were not in vain- that it really provided the readers with what I had attempted- entertainment and escapism.  When I receive a comment as such, or a good review, it is worth infinitely more to me than anything money can buy.

I agree wholeheartedly, it’s not the money that makes me want to write, it’s the feedback I get from readers. Knowing that my words give someone even a few seconds of entertainment is much more important.

Thanks so much for joining us, Tony. It’s been a real pleasure!

To find out more about Tony and his work, please visit:

Book Site:


Author’s Site on Amazon:

Facebook Fan Page:



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