Morgan C. Talbot: A Guest Post

image005image003As part of The Red Adept Double Caching Out Tour, please welcome Morgan C. Talbot, author of the Caching Out Series, our guest today. According to her bio, when she isn’t writing, she “enjoys hiking, camping, and wandering in the woods looking for the trail to the car, but there isn’t enough chocolate on the planet to bribe her into rock climbing.”

“I like to get into the heads of the characters; it lets me bond with them more deeply, and I love character-driven plots.
Suspense is drawn out when
the reader can only see
what one person at a time is doing.”

I didn’t used to know what POV was, or why it was important. When I was a young writer, I used to indulge in as much head hopping as I wanted and thought it was acceptable. Why? Because a lot of the books I read had omniscient POV (which is not the same thing, but I didn’t understand that at the time). Omniscient POV was big when I was a kid and a teen and devoured every book I could get my hot little hands on. I absorbed it along with all the other writing styles I saw. And then I did my best to emulate it.

Thankfully, times have changed, and the preferred POV for books these days is generally third-person or first-person (I’m a third-person girl all the way, but that’s another topic). It wasn’t easy to learn the difference between third-person limited POV, omniscient POV, and head hopping, but writing is my job, and I need to keep up with what’s acceptable in the market. The English language is a living, ever-changing thing (unlike Latin, a dead language), and the way we use it to tell our stories is also constantly evolving, so third-person limited POV it is.

Omniscient POV lets you into everyone’s head, and no one’s head (Narrator Mode), all at the same time. It kind of gives everything away, don’t you think? How can you have a mystery, or any suspense, when you as the reader know whodunit two hundred pages before the protagonist does?

Third-person limited POV traps you in one character per scene, so you’re only privy to their thoughts. Third-person objective doesn’t even let you hear their thoughts, but that’s not as much fun. I like to get into the heads of the characters; it lets me bond with them more deeply, and I love character-driven plots. Suspense is drawn out when the reader can only see what one person at a time is doing. It’s a great POV for thrillers, mysteries, romances, action adventure, and any plot that relies on details being revealed in good time, and characters suffering surprising setbacks at critical junctures.

Head hopping, on the other hand, is when third-person tries to be omniscient and fails. You get a page of Character A’s perspective and thoughts, then a couple paragraphs from Character B (and no one else’s), then back to A, then over to C, followed by D. It’s essentially third-person POV on a paragraph by paragraph basis. If the sections with each character are long, it’s not terrible to read. But in the long run, I find that such hopping makes it harder to get to know any one character very well. I can read half a book like this and realize I haven’t spent more than a minute or two at a time with anyone. I have a series of glimpses, but never a heart to heart. And that makes me sad.

Knowing I’m going to write a book in third-person limited POV helps me plan my scene list. I prefer to alternate scenes or chapters between my two main characters, so I know ahead of time that I need to give each character something interesting to do on a tag-team basis. POV is a subtle framework, but an effective one.

image006Thanks, Morgan! You can read more about Morgan C. Talbot and her cozy mystery series at Red Adept Publishing.

An Excerpt from Heroes & Lovers by Wayne Zurl


 Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold. It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.”

Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas. Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins with a fraud investigation sounded like fun and would get her an exclusive story.

But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.

When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing, he cancels holiday leaves, mobilizes the personnel at Prospect PD, and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.

During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.

After a lucky break and a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produce an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend. But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.


Read an Excerpt

The sixty-degree temperatures of several days earlier had cooled slightly. The cloudless Wedgwood blue skies we‘d been enjoying had turned to a muddy, hazy gray hanging over Prospect. The pollution of Knoxville and Oak Ridge had been blown southeast by the prevailing winter winds.
When we pulled up at the repair shop, it took me less than a minute to spot Elrod sitting in his office reading a magazine. Another young man worked on a pick-up truck in the garage bay and two others sat on folding chairs nearby, drinking soda from cans, talking with him. We sat twenty yards from the open garage door and heard a radio playing. Someone lamented the loss of his girlfriend and contemplated his exodus to San Antone. The song didn‘t sound like one of the icons of country and western to me.
Len Alcock, Bobby John Crockett, and Stan Rose pulled their marked police cars curbside, blocking the driveways after Junior and I drove up to the office door. The two soda drinkers were about to run when Alcock and Crockett put the arm on them. Stanley rousted the mechanic, a guy who looked like he ate pit bulls for breakfast, before he could hide in the supply room off the work area.
Junior followed me into the office. I walked up to a scarred and dented gray metal desk. An open bag of pork rinds lay on top, next to a two-liter bottle of Mello Yello. A half-eaten corn dog hid in a wrinkled wrapper.
“Hi there,” I said. “I‘ll bet you‘re Elrod Swaggerty.”
He was a thin, shady-looking character with short hair and side-burns ending below his earlobes. His dark blue mechanic‘s outfit hadn‘t seen soap in a long time.
Elrod eyed me for a few seconds and then shifted his look to Junior and back again to me. If he didn‘t assume I was a cop, he was more mentally bereft than I anticipated.
“That‘s me.” His voice cracked a little as he tried a nervous smile.
The Elrod Swaggerty?” I started to enjoy myself.
“Uh-huh, whot‘s up?”
I held up a copy of the arrest warrant for him to see. “I know you were hoping Officer Huskey and I came from Publisher‘s Clearing House and we were about to give you a check for a million bucks, but I‘m sorry to disappoint you.”
Junior tried to stifle a laugh, which came out like a combination snicker and snort from a clogged sinus passage. I should have remembered to smack him when we finished, but didn‘t.
Someone in the garage turned off the radio, stopping the Nashville sound.
“Elrod, my friend, you‘re under arrest,” I said.
“Whot fer? I didn‘t do nuthin‘.”
“You just committed a double negative in public. If you didn‘t do nothing, you must have done something. May I take that as an admission of guilt?”
“Do whot?” He was almost gasping.
“Elrod, son, you have the right to remain silent. I suggest you avail yourself of that right before I feel compelled to flatten your head with a brick.”
“Hey now, don‘t go gettin‘ mean an‘ hateful on me, I really didn‘t do nothin’.”
“Pal, you haven‘t seen hateful yet,” I said. “We‘re only having a spirited conversation here. If you see me call in a helicopter or break out a field phone with little alligator clips attached to wires, you may infer I‘m going to get nasty.”
I heard Junior giggling behind me. I should tranquilize him the next time we go on an arrest.
“Let‘s go, guy, on your feet. Time to put the cuffs on,” I said.
“Cuffs? Are you crazy? I said, I ain‘t done nothin‘.”
When he stood, I gave him a push and moved him up against the wall behind his desk. Just to the left, hung a two-foot-tall calendar showing a girl in a bikini, holding a gallon can of anti-freeze, standing next to a shiny black Mustang with the hood raised.
“Assume position one, Elrod. Hands on the wall and walk your feet back some.”
Elrod seemed familiar with the steps to that dance. I took hold of his belt and backed him up even more, and then I used my right foot to spread his legs wider.
“I‘m going to search you now,” I said. “Is there anything in your pockets or on your person that is a weapon or might cut me, stick me, or in any other way piss me off?”
“Do whot?” he croaked again.
“Now listen carefully, Mr. Swaggerty, these are not multiple choice questions, just a simple true or false. Do you have a weapon or something sharp on your body?”
“I got me a folder on my belt—that‘s it, it ain‘t concealed.”
I removed a cheap knock-off of a Buck lock-back knife from a beaten-up leather pouch on his belt and handed it to Junior. I finished patting him down, put cuffs on him, double locked them, and brought him back to the position of attention.
“Whot am I charged with? I got a right ta know!” he crooned.
“Larceny by inveiglement—four times and scheme to defraud.”
“Do whot?”
Obviously, vocabulary hadn‘t been one of Elrod‘s favorite subjects.
When Junior and I walked our prisoner out to the car, I saw John Leckmanski filming the festivities from a discrete distance, far off Elrod‘s property.
I looked toward the garage area and thought Stan and the boys also hit the jackpot. Elrod‘s three minions were in cuffs, too. Stan found the mechanic with a shirt pocket filled by a baggie brimming over with the evil weed. The guy drinking Dr. Pepper was wanted on a Blount County Traffic warrant for failure to pay fines, and the lad with the Mountain Dew was named on a bench warrant from the Rockford Justice Court for failure to appear. The two cops would transport the prisoners. Stan Rose would stay to secure the scene and inventory any cash found in the office.
The time involved in messing with Elrod‘s mind and processing his arrest would take us well beyond the 3:30 deadline for arraign-ments. Swaggerty would spend the night as a guest of Prospect PD and be transported to the county justice center in the morning. I timed the arrest that way for two reasons. I thought of Elrod as a first-class scumbag who needed to remember you don‘t screw around in Prospect. And second: I wanted to give my favorite TV newsgirl time to catch him tomorrow after he made bail and see if she could get an interview during the morning light.
When Rachel and I spoke, I suggested she attend the arraignment. She and John could watch the judge set bail, but because the county deputies and court officers may be less enamored with good-looking female reporters than I am, they wouldn‘t let her get close to the defendant. I thought they should wait in the Justice Center parking lot until Elrod‘s release and follow him back to Prospect, when he‘d undoubtedly go to his shop and check on the status of the working capital he left behind. There he‘d find a copy of the search warrant with an inventory of the confiscated or secured property.
I‘ve lived to regret that suggestion ever since.

HEROES & LOVERS is available in trade paperback and eBook


Barnes & Noble

Interview with Wayne Zurl

Heroes“Most important to me is that my stories sound good. The cadence has to be there; no bumps or hang-ups. Even though I can’t dance very well, I want my writing to have rhythm.”

I’m thrilled to have author Wayne Zurl with us today.

Susan, Thanks for inviting me to your blog to meet your fans and followers and introduce them to Sam Jenkins and a few of his stories.

Then let’s plunge right in. Tell us about your hero, Sam Jenkins.

Sam isn’t your average hero from a 21st century novel. He’s not young nor is he a vampire. My middle-aged Vietnam War vet is a retired detective lieutenant from a large New York police department who takes his wife and dog and moves to the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. After years of almost idle retirement, he gets bitten by the police bug again and finds a job as chief in a small department. He’s opinionated, judgmental, sarcastic, fairly humorous, disgustingly honest, a pretty good criminal investigator, and a better than average cook.

How much of Wayne Zurl is in Sam Jenkins?

I’ve been writing all my life. Generally, I was responsible for professional reports, but after I retired, I found some success writing non-fiction magazine articles. When I decided to try fiction, I went into it with no formal training in creative writing. So, I had to rely on the old author’s maxim of write what you know. And I know police work and my new surroundings in Tennessee. To make my life easy, I decided that if I might do something in a police situation or might say a certain something, so would Sam Jenkins. I have more of a memory than an imagination so, I give Sam actual cases I investigated, supervised, or just knew a lot about to solve. I embellish and fictionalize them and transplant everything to Tennessee. So far it’s worked out pretty well.

Indeed, it has. When did you first discover your talent for telling tall tales?

I think a few defense attorneys did that many years before I had anything published. Some of them said my reports and prosecution worksheets were pure fiction, fantasy even. But everyone knows they’re notorious liars.

I’m curious. How do you begin a book?

I’ve given up trying to figure out what inspires me to write a story. Ideas, based on actual cases, come to me at odd times. I might be doing seventy on an interstate, wake up at three o’clock in the morning, or be mowing part of our five acres on my John Deere when I get an infusion of supposed brilliance. After I get the idea, I simply run with it. Outlining is too much like work. I write while the thoughts are there. At my age, if I don’t get things on paper, I may forget and they’ll be lost forever or until my short term memory resurfaces.

Do you have daily writing goals? Like to write in morning or afternoon?

I like to start any project early in the morning. But because I have to integrate my writing with other necessities of life, that may not be possible. I’ve never set goals like a minimum word count per day. For a guy who lived most of his adult life in a military or para-military occupation, I’m really fairly undisciplined. But I seem to always get the job done. I write as long as the words come, and then go back and polish things. Most important to me is that my stories sound good. The cadence has to be there; no bumps or hang-ups. Even though I can’t dance very well, I want my writing to have rhythm.

SerpentsScoundrelsScrap MetalMurderKnoxvilleVitaminReenactingIn all your books, who is the character besides Sam who surprised you the most?

When I started out, I envisioned Stan Rose as the second most important character—Sam Jenkins’ sidekick and the one he bounced all things off, like Chingachgook to Hawkeye; Hawk to Spenser; Watson to Holmes; Ethel to Lucy. But that just didn’t happen. In the second book, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, I promoted Stanley, made him the nighttime supervisor, and strictly by his lack of proximity to Sam, Stan didn’t get that sidekick status. But who did?

In every novel and novelette, Bettye Lambert emerges as the one most helpful and most faithful professional partner to our hero. And she not only helps, he does plenty of the solving, too. Bettye is one good cop.

Who are the authors who influenced you the most?

I could make a long list of favorite authors, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll choose a few people who give me good reason to hold them in esteem.

Someone gave me a copy of James Lee Burke’s BLACK CHERRY BLUES and started me reading mysteries. I’ll always place Burke on my list of favorites and admit I’ll never be as technically as good as he, because my mind doesn’t work in the directions his does. Burke can describe people, places and events with pure poetry. He can also take you into a character’s head in psychological and philosophical ways that I admire.

Robert B. Parker actually spurred me into writing police fiction. I read the first of his Jesse Stone series, NIGHT PASSAGE, and decided to write my own stories of a former big town detective who becomes a small town chief. From parker, I’ve gotten the urge to tell my stories in the fewest possible words. He did that quite well.

I’ve read every piece of fiction and several of the non-fiction books from Joseph Wambaugh. He’s excellent with police procedurals because he’s an ex-cop. He gets the details right and doesn’t pander to expected formulas. His books aren’t for the action junkie who likes the unrealistic, over-the-top, fantasy police novels some best-selling authors peddle.  Joe writes interesting, compelling, and real police stories.

leprechaun's lamentDo you have a favorite Sam Jenkins book?

I’d have to say A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT. It’s based on the most frustrating and bizarre thing I investigated in twenty years. I wanted it to be my first novel, but because I kept in so much truth, I thought few people would believe the storyline. But it is true—all except the beautiful Irish girl. I invented her because Sam likes to have good-looking women in his stories.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just cracked the surface of a novelette about Chinese/Malaysian organized crime in the south. This is based on what I’ve learned from friends whom owned a Chinese restaurant for twenty-five years. A few other things have sidetracked me from, but I’ll get back to it shortly.

Last week I sent the completed manuscript for a new novel to my publisher. It’s about Sam’s foray into the world of country and western music. I hope the editor likes it.

Here’s my proposed dust jacket summary for PIGEON RIVER BLUES:

Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.

The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.

C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.

The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.

Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate.

During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

Thanks so much for being here, Wayne. I look forward to reading the excerpt tomorrow from HEROES & LOVERS!

Wayne ZurlBiography

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Fifteen (15) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl’s first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and HEROES & LOVERS.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see

You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place. And you can buy his books on Amazon and Smashwords.

Excerpt from Bad Spirits by Dv Berkom

SONY DSCAuthor of the bestselling Kate Jones Thriller series, DV Berkom is no stranger to reading and writing fast-paced, exciting stories. Having grown up on a steady diet of spy novels, James Bond movies and mysteries, her natural inclination is to keep the reader on the edge of their seats and guessing until the last page.

She grew up in the Midwest, received her BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several years and at least a dozen moves later, she now lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her sweetheart Mark, an ex-chef-turned-contractor, and writes whenever she gets a chance.

Bad Spirits

(Excerpt from the Kate Jones Thriller Series, Vol. 1)

Something didn’t feel right.


Dirt floor.

My left side ached, and I could barely swallow. I sat with my eyes closed and tried to recall what happened. The events from the previous night came crashing back into the present, and the fear of discovery threatened to overwhelm me again.

I peeked around the corner of the corrugated steel building. A lone goat munched on some dried grass near a split-rail fence. A few yards away a rooster pecked at the hard, dry earth. An older woman with salt and pepper colored hair and skin like a walnut scattered seed in front of him. She clutched a brown and white serape around her against the early morning chill.

Everything appeared calm, bucolic, even. I leaned back against the metal wall and took stock of my position.

Salazar ruled this little section of Sonora with an iron hand. The woman outside would not help me, for fear of payback. In fact, no one who knew him would be fool enough to assist Salazar’s crazy American woman.

Especially when she took something that belonged to him. Something he valued above all else. And it wasn’t only his pride, although that would be enough to get me killed.

I opened the canvas backpack next to me to make sure the contents were still safe, that I hadn’t somehow lost it all in my mad rush to escape.

The cash was all there. I breathed a sigh of relief. It meant my survival. Without it, I would have nothing with which to bargain for my life, if it came to that. As it was, the stash wouldn’t get me the immediate help I so desperately needed. It wasn’t like I could call a cab in this part of Mexico, even if I had a phone.

If I knew Salazar, he’d already locked down the small airport a few miles away, and was probably trying to bribe aviation officials in Hermosillo, Obregón and even Puerto Peñasco, although each of the towns lay miles from his hacienda.

I needed to get to San Bruno, a small fishing village on the Sea of Cortez. Salazar didn’t have much pull with the ex-pats who lived there. Besides, they’d help a fellow American.

Especially one with a boat load of dinero.

I zipped the backpack closed, stood up, and heaved it over my shoulders. Funny how much money weighed.

I waited until the older woman had stepped inside her weathered home, and then I quietly slipped away down the dirt road, careful not to disturb El Gallo as he strutted past the disinterested goat.

I tucked my blonde hair up under a baseball cap to hide it and hitched a ride west on the back of an ancient Ford pickup. The driver looked me over once and waved me into the truck bed to sit with the alfalfa, probably thinking I was some silly gringa on a tourista’s adventure. I was glad I had grabbed an older jacket from one of Salazar’s bodyguards. All of my clothes were too new, too expensive. I’d be a prime target for bandits. As it was, I was a sitting duck lugging around the cash, paranoid that everyone knew I’d stolen millions of dollars from a notorious drug lord.

What I’d seen last night confirmed my worst fears, and then some. I’d been in denial about Salazar’s true nature, and it hit me like a bullet to the brain. His expression held no remorse, even as he sliced through the man’s throat- a man who, until that moment, had been a loyal soldier in Salazar’s increasingly bizarre attempts to own the Sonoran drug trade. My sense of self preservation skyrocketed, and I took the only way out.

It seemed like the Hand of God had intervened, and I’m not given to religious hyperbole. I’d abandoned the delivery van a few miles from the ranch the night before, and grabbed as much cash as I could stuff in the backpack. The vehicle had been parked in the drive with the keys and money in it. I simply took the initiative.

I made myself comfortable, and had to inhale great gulps of dusty air to counteract the nausea and shaking as I watched the sun rise in the distance, and the road race away from the back of the pickup.


KJ_Box_set1_4smI woke as soon as the pickup stopped. We’d parked next to the imposing white mission of the town of Santa Theresa.

“This is as far as I am going,” the driver said in Spanish. I thanked him and asked where I could get a good breakfast. He pointed down a nearby street and indicated the second restaurant I would come to served the best Huevos Rancheros in town.

I sat in the shade under the palm roof, aviator sunglasses on, a can of Fanta in my hand, as the aged Mexican woman prepared my breakfast. A dark-haired boy, about four years old, played hide and seek with her while she cooked. I’d always loved the casual, family-centered vibe of Mexican restaurants. No hurry, enjoy your meal. It didn’t matter what you looked like, or where you were from, you were there to share in one of life’s greatest gifts: food.

The woman set my plate down in front of me and smiled shyly. The little boy stood next to her and peered over the edge of the table, curious to see how the gringa ate her breakfast. I grinned at him and thanked her, and poured her homemade salsa on my huevos. Then I topped it off with a few jalapeños. The woman walked away and after a moment’s hesitation, the little boy scurried after her, giggling.

I finished my soda and had walked to the counter to pay for my meal when a white SUV with smoked windows drove by, slowing as it passed the restaurant. I moved behind one of the roof supports. The truck looked familiar. The woman behind the counter glanced at me, then shoved the little boy underneath the brick counter with a terse admonition.

The SUV moved past us and turned the corner. Not waiting for the change, I grabbed the backpack and ran out the rear of the restaurant, into the alley.

The white SUV sat idling at one end. The passenger side door opened. I heaved the pack over the fence in front of me and scrambled after it, scattering chickens and dogs as I landed hard on my ass. The sound of squealing tires told me I needed to move, now.

I sprang to my feet, shouldered the pack, and sprinted through the backyard, headed for the door of the cinderblock house. The teenage boy sitting on the couch didn’t have time to react other than to open his mouth in surprise as I burst through the door and plowed through his living room, knocking over chairs and leaping over plastic toys on the floor.

I skidded to a stop when I reached the front door and eased it open, careful to check each end of the dirt street that ran in front of the house. The SUV was nowhere in sight, so I slipped out the door and started to run.

I heard the SUV before I saw it and veered right. I ignored the heavy pack mashing my kidneys as I ran, determined to escape with both my life and every ounce of the money. I caught a glimpse of the kid from the last house out of the corner of my eye, running parallel to me. If he kept it up, there’d be two dead bodies in the street.

“Get back inside!” I yelled. He continued to match my direction and motioned for me to follow him. I couldn’t think of a better plan, so I did. He slipped behind a rusty corrugated building and I tracked right behind him.

The sound of the SUV skidding to a stop on the gravel street followed by angry male voices spilled over me. I ran like I’d never run before, knocking crates over, oblivious to anything not nailed down in front of me, never once losing sight of the boy’s red shirt.

He led me into a rabbit warren of alleyways, jogging first one way, then the other. I was completely disoriented by the time we stopped. I bent over, trying to catch my breath, and let the backpack sag to the ground. He was breathing heavy, too, although not as much.

He held a finger to his lips. I struggled to slow my breathing and listened. A television commercial for a sports drink blared a few doors down. Somewhere a dog barked. There was no sound of Salazar’s men or the SUV. I sighed with relief.

“Who are you?” I asked the kid in Spanish.


I held out my hand. “Manuel, I am so happy to make your acquaintance.” He smiled and shook my hand, nodding.

“Why did you help me?”

Manuel shrugged. “You were in trouble.”

Good enough for me. I inspected the area where we stood. A six foot high concrete wall surrounded us, the space open to the sky. Mismatched plastic chairs surrounded a white plastic table covered with a cheerful flowery table cloth. A metal bird cage hung from a wrought iron stand, with no bird in sight. Two wooden cases of empty Seven-up bottles stood in the corner.

“How do I get out of here?” I asked.

Manuel frowned. Then his face split into a big smile.

“My Uncle Javier can give you a ride in his truck. He will take you wherever you want to go.”

“I have a little money. I can pay him.”

Manuel grinned. “Even better. My uncle will do almost anything for money.”


Bad Spirits_vol 1DV’s Blogs/websites:

Links to DV’s books:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Barnes & Noble:


Serial Date (Leine Basso Thriller #1): A retired assassin. A serial killer with a social agenda. (Available on )
Bad Traffick (Leine Basso Thriller #2): Running out of time, ex-assassin Leine Basso must find twelve-year-old Mara before a ruthless gang of traffickers, or she will be lost forever. (Available on
The Kate Jones Thriller Series (available on, iBookstore):
Bad Spirits
Dead of Winter
Death Rites
Touring for Death
Cruising for Death

Interview with DV Berkom

SONY DSC“Adapting is HUGE in publishing today. Things are changing at warp speed and if you don’t keep up, you’re left in the dust.”

I’m really excited to have DV Berkom, best-selling author with us today. Her books are available on Amazon, BN,, iBookstore (See links below.)

I had trouble deciding what to ask you today, DV, since there’s so much to talk about. You’ve published two Leine Basso  thrillers as well as a slew of Kate Jones thrillers. Like me, you’ve moved around a lot. We’re in the minority—less than 12% of Americans ever move out of the state they were born in. How do you think living in different parts of the world has influenced your writing?

 Hi Susan, and thank you for having me.

Living in several different places has helped me in so many ways—for one thing, I learned how to adapt to change. My family moved A LOT when I was growing up, and it was a challenge, to say the least. When you’re a kid and you have to leave what you know (friends, routine, school, etc.) you learn really fast how to reinvent yourself or life becomes a major sucklet. Apparently, I grew accustomed to adapting to new KJ_Box_set1_4smcircumstances, as I continued to move every 8-10 months once I’d graduated from high school and could make my own choices. Moving actually became a habit, if you can imagine. It wasn’t until I was quite a bit older that I realized I needed to slow down and build a life. Adapting is HUGE in publishing today. Things are changing at warp speed and if you don’t keep up, you’re left in the dust.

I think the biggest plusses to living a nomadic lifestyle would have to be all the experiences, people, and places I’ve encountered. Everything I’ve done and seen, everyone I’ve met, all play an integral part in my writing. The old trope about travel broadening your mind is spot-on.

 I agree totally and besides, I’ve learned a new word—sucklet. But tell us about Kate Jones.

Kate Jones is a really fun character to write. When I first decided to tell her story, I was living in Arizona and wrote what became Touring for Death (the 4th novella in the series). She had a murky past to which I alluded, but didn’t really go into why she was on the run. A couple of completed Kate manuscripts later, a friend of mine suggested I write a prequel, describing the fateful decision she made that started her on her current path, running from her ex—the ruthless leader of a Mexican drug cartel. That became Bad Spirits, and it was published in the fall of 2010 by a boutique e-publishing company. I found I enjoyed taking care of all the facets of self-publishing, so went out on my own in the spring of 2011.

TFDcover2sm SDBookCoverNewSM CFD_CvrsmSometimes you use the first person, sometimes the third person POV. How do you decide which to use or is POV not a conscious decision for you (which leads into, are you a plotter or a pantser … )?

Interesting question, Susan. Which point of view to use comes easily for me. It’s all about the story. Kate has always been first person. I find it much easier to write her stories in that POV. It’s very intimate and I find that often I’m as surprised as the reader how the story turns out, since I try to limit myself to seeing what’s happening from Kate’s viewpoint. For my other series with ex-assassin Leine Basso, I found I wanted to be able to write from other characters’ POV, so started writing in 3rd. I LOVED writing Santiago’s (Leine’s love interest) thoughts, as well as the other characters. As for pantsing versus plotting, I started out as a pantser but then took a great class on plotting, so now use a hybrid style.

Night trafficWhat’s the best piece of advice you were given about writing?

“Pick a horse and ride.” In other words, you gotta write and finish the damn book, not get distracted by all the shiny new ideas floating around in your head.

Do you have a constant theme or an overarching concern?

Strong female characters who can actually help themselves rather than rely on someone else to rescue them, redemption, and second chances.

When did you discover your passion for writing?

I’ve written stuff (short stories, comic books, etc.) since I was 7 years old, but I finished my first full-length novel in 2006 and holy cow, was I hooked!

Can you remember the title of the first book you REALLY loved?

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett. Loved, loved, LOVED that book.

Oh, me, too. What’s your favorite James Bond and why?

Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. In my mind, he is the quintessential James Bond. Rough around the edges, passionate, dangerous, and wow, can he take a beating. Did you see that torture scene with the chair? Yowzers.

Memorable! What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book?

I’m currently working on the 6th book in the Kate Jones Thriller series where she ends up back in Mexico, and not because she’s on vacation. There’s going to be a little showdown with an arch-nemesis. And that’s all I’m going to say J I’m aiming to publish the end of April, fingers crossed. I was originally going to try to have something finished by the end of February, but life had other ideas, so there it is.

If there’s one thing you could change about self publishing, what would it be?

You know, I hear complaints every day from writers about how much work it is to be self-published, but think about it: just a few years ago, writers didn’t have as many options for getting their work out into the marketplace. Now, you can do or die on your own initiative. That’s incredibly cool. And, incredibly hard work. I’ve had one kind of side business or another since I was in my teens, so the hard work doesn’t faze me. It’s exciting to be in the middle of the soup we call self-publishing. The only thing I’d change is to have even more companies like Amazon competing for my work.

Wouldn’t it be heaven? Who are your favorite authors?

The list is long. Hemingway, Dostoyevsky and Twain are classic favorites. For contemporary, I’d have to say Carl Hiaasen, Daniel Silva, Joseph Wambaugh, John Sandford, Philippa Gregory, Lee Child, etc.

Have you ever thought of collaborating with another author?

 I’m always open to new things.

Thanks so much DV! I look forward to reading the excerpt tomorrow from BAD SPIRITS.

SONY DSCBio:  Author of the bestselling Kate Jones Thriller series, DV Berkom is no stranger to reading and writing fast-paced, exciting stories. Having grown up on a steady diet of spy novels, James Bond movies and mysteries, her natural inclination is to keep the reader on the edge of their seats and guessing until the last page.

She grew up in the Midwest, received her BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several years and at least a dozen moves later, she now lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her sweetheart Mark, an ex-chef-turned-contractor, and writes whenever she gets a chance.


DV’s Blogs/websites:

KJ_Box_set1_4smLinks to her books:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Barnes & Noble:


Serial Date (Leine Basso Thriller #1): A retired assassin. A serial killer with a social agenda. (Available on )
Bad Traffick (Leine Basso Thriller #2): Running out of time, ex-assassin Leine Basso must find twelve-year-old Mara before a ruthless gang of traffickers, or she will be lost forever. (Available on
The Kate Jones Thriller Series (available on, iBookstore):
Bad Spirits
Dead of Winter
Death Rites
Touring for Death
Cruising for Death

Mary Fan: The Artificial Absolutes Tour


artificial_absolutes“I always feel a little twinge of sadness when I finish reading a book—I don’t want to leave the characters or their world.”

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Mary Fan as part of  Red Adept’s Artificial Absolutes Tour. She is the author of ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES and I love the post she’s sharing with us, “Different Each Time.”

Different Each Time

Every story is a million stories. The tale we see when we open a book is just a glimpse into the world that lies beyond the pages. In most books, a reader is introduced to a main character and experiences a book’s universe through his or her limited vision, seeing what they see, hearing what they hear.

Even though certain tales seem to have been told before—we’re all familiar with certain plot devices and genre tropes—they still feel like the first time each time. The story at hand is the character’s first foray into a grand and infinite realm of possibilities. Aspects of the plot or universe may be recognizable to the reader, but it’s always fascinating to watch how the character deals with them. How many retellings have there been of fairytales? How many variations are there on the classic whodunit? And yet despite the familiarity, each retelling feels new.

In a way, that’s how we perceive the real world as well. We’re only aware of a very small portion of the immediate things around us. And although we may appear to live the same lives as any other—go to school, go to work, buy the groceries, pay the bills—each commonplace event is unique to ourselves. Similarly, each recognizable retelling is unique to the characters. This Cinderella sees Prince Charming differently than the ones before; this Sherlock Holmes approaches the case in an unusual way. Even reading the same book again seems different each time—one picks up new insights, or, knowing how a situation will turn out, takes a different view on a character’s actions.

As a reader, I often feel as though I care more about how the story’s told than what the story is. I’ve been reading twist-filled thrillers long enough that almost nothing surprises me anymore, but if the characters are surprised, I nonetheless feel their shock and confusion. I also enjoy the chance to catch glimpses of the wider world they occupy—the locations they travel to, the people they meet, the objects they use. Behind each location is a history, and behind each person, a biography. Usually, the details given are just flashes of quick information, tantalizing enough to allow one to sense the greater world surrounding the main events.

As a writer, I made it my duty to know those histories and biographies even though only a few drops from that ocean of back-stories ended up in my novel. While each detail seems insignificant, the butterfly effect they have can impact the main plot.

We humans naturally crave knowledge, and I suppose those glimpses are the reason behind so many sequels and spinoffs. We want to know what the characters will do next, after the villain is in jail and the princess gets her prince. We want to get to know the quirky sidekick a little better. I always feel a little twinge of sadness when I finish reading a book—I don’t want to leave the characters or their world.



Barnes & Noble


Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway of ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES