Matthew Arkin: In the Country of the Blind

In the Country of the BlindPlease welcome distinguished actor, teacher, and author Matthew Arkin, here to tell us about his highly-acclaimed novel, In the Country of the Blind.

“A dead body is a lousy way to end a first date.”

So begins In the Country of the Blind, a modern noir tale that takes readers into the world of former attorney-turned building superintendent Zach Brandis. When Zach abandoned his promising legal career, it confused everyone, including himself. Now, with no apparent purpose in life, he has time enough on his hands to get into some very hot water.

When Zach takes Cynthia Hull to dinner, murder and a confrontation with the cops are the last things on his mind. But when he walks her home, he finds himself face to face with New York’s finest, who are investigating the suspicious death of the actress’s roommate and friend, Alex Penworth. Maybe it’s because Cynthia is beautiful and vulnerable, or maybe it’s just because the cops rub him the wrong way, but Zach steps in to shield her from their persistent questions. In the days following, Zach finds himself increasingly tied up in knots over the case, and what starts as simple curiosity may end up putting the former attorney in grave danger.

Captivated by the puzzle of Alex’s death, Zach begins to play with the pieces. When Cynthia’s apartment is ransacked shortly the murder, it becomes clear that Alex was hiding something, something of value to someone. Looking into Alex’s mysterious activities in the weeks before his death, more questions begin to emerge: Why was Alex fired from his bartending job? Why is a beautiful undercover narc hanging around the bar where Alex worked, and trying to keep Zach away? Why do the cops seem uninterested in the inconsistencies in Alex’s autopsy report? As Zach puts the pieces in place, a picture of the victim begins to emerge: Alex, another lost soul, plagued by his past and the demons of the cult he escaped — a man who, like Zach, abandoned a promising career to struggle as a going-nowhere actor/bartender. Driven by his feeling of kinship with the victim, can Zach discover what ultimately led to Alex’s death, and still get himself out of harm’s way before it’s too late?

A dark and witty tale in the vein of John Sandford and Lawrence Block, In the Country of the Blind is a true page-turner, suspenseful from beginning to end. This character-driven thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats, compelled, like Zach, to uncover the secrets behind the gruesome murder.


Did your own life experiences figure into the plot of In the Country of the Blind? 

The seeds for this story came from several significant events in my own life. My experiences as a refugee from a controlling and dangerous cult figure heavily in the backstory of the victim. The period in my life when I had quit the practice of law in order to pursue acting again, and was struggling to make ends meet as a bartender are also reflected in the story. The victim’s separation from his family for a period is something that I struggled with myself for a time, and Zach struggles with it as well. It was in part trying to find a frame for those struggles, which all coincided, that inspired this story. It’s also part of what fuels Zach’s identification with the victim and drives his somewhat obsessive quest for the truth.

One of my moms, author Barbara Dana, (I use “mom” for both my biological mother who raised me until I was seven, and my step-mother who raised me after that), always told me “write what you know,” and that’s what I’ve done in this story. Part of the fun of writing fiction is that you get to jump into the combination playground/mad scientist laboratory in your head and run wild with your own past, mixing in your own imaginings and desired “what ifs” to make things turn out the way you’d like. In a way that is similar to my work as an actor, I get to explore alternative lives, but in writing, I have much more control over where those lives go.

Many people are dying to sit down and write a book, but it’s a daunting task. Tell us about the genesis of In the Country of the Blind and how you got it off the ground. 

In 1990, shortly after I quit the practice of law, a good friend introduced me to the work of Lawrence Block, and I started burning my way through his books. Then, in 1995, I was heading out on the national tour of a Neil Simon play, and wondering what I was going to be doing with my free days as we travelled the country, doing the show only at night. My then wife had been encouraging me to try my hand at tackling the genre I loved, but like you say, it’s daunting, and there can be a lot of voices in your head saying “You’ll never get this done. It won’t be any good.” But I remembered that my mom had written her first novel while on the first national tour of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. At the same time, I had found Lawrence Block’s Spider, Spin Me a Web. So with free time, desire, a history of obsession with the form, I began. There have been hitches and restarts along the way, but it’s been a terrific journey.

I chose to write a detective series in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre because those books have been my passion since I was kid. To me, they allow for the most interesting exploration of the concept of justice. There is an inherent conflict between the individual, with his or her inner voice, and society at large, with its laws and social mores, and it’s fascinating to investigate how that conflict plays out in the execution of justice. That question started to interest me at age eleven, when I read To Kill a Mockingbird. My fascination with it continued through college, when I wrote my thesis on that book, together with The Ox Bow Incident and The Virginian, and it persists to this day. Now I’m using my own past as a lawyer, my quitting because I was disillusioned, my experiences as a victim of cult abuse, mixed in with many other events and themes, to explore that topic even further.

Do you have anything in common with your protagonist, Zach Brandis? 

There are a lot of obvious similarities between me and Zach. We were both born in New York City. Zach lived there his entire life, and I lived in and around the city for most of my mine. I’m in Los Angeles now, but I dream of returning, and still think I should be able to vote in the mayoral election, because I’m still a New Yorker. Zach and I both went to Fordham Law School, both practiced law for a time before becoming disillusioned and moving on. But while I had a passion that I returned to, Zach was lost and, at the beginning of In the Country of the Blind, he’s trying to find his way. Zach and I are both passionate about beer. We both brew our own when time allows, and we both enjoy cooking as a way to relax, or finding new, out of the way restaurants. We also both have a somewhat complicated relationship with our own spirituality, including our Judaism, and a discomfort with orthodoxy in all its forms.

Zach also comes up on the losing side of most physical confrontations. I’m glad this pattern has never been tested in my own life, but if I suspect if it were, the same would be true for me.

Why did you decide to self-publish? 

Initially I was following the traditional route to publication. I was signed with a prestigious agent in New York, who had made very clear statements to me about her love for certain themes and energies in the book. After a small number of houses had passed on the manuscript, one terrific house expressed serious interest, and wanted to see the pitch for the second book, which my agent also loved, because it takes Zach even further down the dark road that he begins in Blind. The publisher was disturbed by the dark themes, however, and wanted everything about the book lightened. My agent responded by saying to me, “Get to work.”

While I had already done some serious rewriting and revision, I had a big problem with gutting the heart and soul of the novel, and a bigger problem with my agents willingness to ask me to do that in order to make the sale, particularly when we were so early in the revision process. It seemed to me that we would do better to stick with what excited me as a writer, and what attracted her to my material in the first place. So we had a parting of the ways.

Shortly thereafter, a very good friend of mine who has worked in publishing for over 30 years suggested that I self-publish. Following his advice, I started researching the process, and learned a lot about how the publishing world has been turned upside down in the past several years. It has gone through the same kind of revolution that has occurred in other fields, such as music, film and television. Digital changed everything in the arts, and no one knows how everything is going to shake out, how the new markets are going to stabilize, if they ever do.

Many people said to me, with a lot of judgment, “Do you have any idea how many people actually make any real money in self-publishing?” My response is, “Do you have any idea how many people make any real money in traditional publishing?” These days, even if you are published by a major imprint, unless you’re one of the authors that they are really going to get behind, you’re going to have to do all of your publicity and marketing yourself. If you get into the chain bookstores, your book is going to sitting spine out on the shelves. It’s not going to be cover out, or sitting on a display table unless the publisher is willing to pay for that space, and that money might be coming out of your advance. Unless the publisher has already anointed you as an author that they are going to make into a success, you’ll do all the work yourself, for a much smaller royalty than you get when you self-publish. And you’ll give up a lot of control.

Some people say that the old model still has a place. That we need the agents and publishers as gatekeeper, ensuring the quality of the finished product, separating the wheat from the chaff. I don’t think that’s true. How many of the great books struggled and struggled to find a house? How many of them had no one that believed in them until after they were a success? Agents and publishers look backwards, at what succeeded last week, last month, last year, and try to echo it, recapture it. Artists, by their nature, look forward, listening to their own inner voices. I have a good story to tell, and I tell it well. I know there is a market for that, and I know that I’ll reach it.

Who are the authors that have influenced or inspired you? 

I have always been a fan of the detective series, whether the more traditional PI or cop, like Lucas Davenport, Spenser, and Archie Goodwin, or the non-traditional tarnished knight, such as Travis McGee or Jack Reacher, and from that list, you can probably surmise the authors who are my heroes in the genre. I’ve been making a study of the work of those authors, and others, such as Sue Grafton and Greg Rucka, my entire life. Although I’m sure that readers familiar with them will recognize their influences, I think that they have blended in a unique way in my own work.

Do you have another project in the works? 

With the release of In the Country of the Blind, I’m hard at work on the next Zach Brandis novel. The working title is Cherchez la Perp, but I’m not sure if I’m going to stay with that. At the end of Blind, Zach is in a pretty complicated personal space. He knows more about who he is, which is good, but he’s also become acquainted with some of his own darkness. That’s a good thing, in the long run, but it can also be a pretty scary and lonely place for a while. I guess you could say that if the only way out is through, he’s entered that tunnel that takes you through, and he doesn’t yet see the light at the other end. In the next book, that tunnel is going to get even darker as he continues to discover more about who he is at his core.



Three nights later, on Thursday, I had a late dinner with Leo. We went to a delicious, small, inexpensive Japanese place. It was right next door to a delicious, large, expensive Japanese place. The expensive place was always packed. The inexpensive place was always empty. Leo and I could never figure out why, or how it stayed in business. We speculated that the same people owned both and that somehow the losses from one helped with the taxes from the other. During dinner we drank Asahi, which is good as long as it’s ice cold. It was. I told Leo about the Penworths. After dinner we drank tea and Leo reminisced about his former student. Sometime after eleven o’clock we said goodnight and I grabbed the R train uptown.

The subway that night was strangely deserted, with only lone travelers preoccupied with books and magazines or simply staring at the floor. Times Square Station was close to empty. Two transit cops stood silently at the top of the stairs as I transferred to the uptown 1 train. They could have been statues, and didn’t glance at me or the other passersby as we moved through their field of vision. A lone flautist echoing from the far end of the downtown platform only increased my sense of isolation as I waited. After five minutes a local train arrived and I took it, needing to keep moving, not wanting to wait for the express. At Seventy-Second Street I got off and escaped up into the night air. Broadway, too, was uncharacteristically deserted, except for Gray’s Papaya on the corner to my right, teeming with life as always, models mingling with bums mixing with business men, eating the incomparable hotdogs twenty-four hours a day. I resisted the urge to run across the street and grab one, feel the snap of the skin on my teeth. The aroma of beef and fat was a siren song even on a full stomach. I cut north across Seventy-Second through Verdi Square and up the west side of Amsterdam.

At Seventy-Fifth I paused in front of Tempo, where Alex had tended bar until he was fired. I peered through one of the plate-glass windows. There was activity inside. Whatever was slowing down the rest of the city had no effect here, and I wondered what the allure was. I knew it was trendy, but I had never been in. The idea of trolling in bars for what passes as romance has never appealed to me. I find loneliness more bearable if I’m actually alone, rather than alone in the midst of a crowd of other lonely people.

Sometimes I’ll watch a movie with the sound turned off. It’s something I learned from Leo, an assignment he gives to his acting classes. He says you can judge the acting much better that way. Without the distractions of dialogue, music and foley, it’s easier to see the seamless work of the true artist, the false technique of the hack. Looking inside at the crowded bar was like working that exercise. I saw patrons engaged in animated conversation. Music was playing, and my fingertips could feel, faintly, the bass line through the plate glass. Some people were moving to the beat. Inside, I would hear the tinkling of silverware on plates, the clinking of glass on glass. But without the distraction of all of the noise, I could see loneliness on the faces, desperation in the eyes, the falseness of the smiles.

A limousine pulled to the curb behind me. The driver hopped out and ran around to open the rear curbside door. Two men in their early thirties emerged dressed in well-cut Italian suits, laughing lewdly, helping their dates out, two beautiful women in their early twenties, model thin, not dressed for the cold weather. Still laughing, they headed into Tempo. On a whim, I caught the door before it shut and followed them. There was the attractive hostess, wearing a short dress and ready smile. As the men requested a table, I caught her eye and inclined my head to the right, towards the barroom, questioning her with my eyebrows. She nodded almost imperceptibly before she turned the high beams of her graciousness back on the party of four. I squeezed past and headed for the bar, which took up the two back walls of the room that opened up to the right of the hostess station. It was crowded, and all of the stools at the three or four tall freestanding tables were taken. I managed to nab a lone seat at the bar near the end. The bartender approached. He was in his early thirties and had a ruddy face that looked like it leaned more toward easy embarrassment than quick anger.

“What can I get you?” he asked as he set a napkin down in front of me. It had the Tempo logo on it, a stylized martini glass/clock with two toothpick-speared olives forming the hands. They had Palate Wrecker from the Green Flash Brewing Company, so I ordered a pint. The best beers in the country, some of the best in the world, are coming from San Diego County right now, and I do love my hops. I turned on my stool to look past the hostess station to the large split-level dining room beyond. The lower level looked completely full. The upper level was only partially visible through archways in the wall, but I could see the wait staff from the shoulders up as they took orders and served drinks, so it must have been fairly full as well. Brisk business for a Monday night. The crowd was mostly mid thirties to late forties, dressed either very well or with the kind of studied casualness that can be very expensive. They ate, talked and laughed with forced gusto, as if they had been ordered to enjoy. I spotted a couple of minor celebrities at two of the tables in the main dining room, and a very famous film star standing beside a table of six. He finished a story, everyone laughed appropriately, and he strode back to his table in the more private dining area.

My beer arrived. I took a swallow and surveyed the barroom. This crowd was more frantic, more bent on reaching a good time, with more ground to cover to get there. A movement caught my eye, the turn of a head a little too quick, a woman talking to two men, her back to me. I took another sip of my beer and watched. From the looks on their faces, these guys were smitten. A burst of laughter erupted from the party to her left and somebody jostled her, forcing her to turn, giving me a glimpse of profile. She was stunning, and looked familiar, but I couldn’t figure out from where. Odd that I couldn’t place a woman that beautiful. I’m usually pretty good at remembering the truly important things. Then she glanced my way. Our eyes locked for a just a moment, and she quickly returned her attention to the two men. I stood, threw some bills on the bar and picked up my beer. As I threaded my way through the crowd, she glanced at me again and her eyes lit up.

“There you are!” she cried. She said something to the men and edged quickly my way. I still couldn’t place her. When she reached me, she stood on tiptoe, grabbed my face with both hands and pulled me in for a full, hard kiss with a delicious mouth. She squeezed the back of my neck hard as she whispered in my ear.

“Don’t say a fucking word.” She spun on her heel, pulling me behind her by the hand. We passed her companions and she let loose a peal of laughter.

“Sorry, fellas, but I haven’t seen this guy for ages, and we’ve got some catching up to do. I’ll see you around,” she said, and we were out the door. She still had hold of my hand, and I stopped to protest, but she grabbed my face for another hard kiss. It is unwise to object when kissed by a beautiful woman dressed to the nines, even if you don’t have any idea who the hell she is, so I began to reciprocate. She broke it off and spun me around, my back to the restaurant.

“Not here,” she said as she waved over my shoulder to the guys. She put her arm around my waist and pulled me quickly down the street. I followed, or rather, let her drag me to the corner, where she hauled me a few steps down Seventy-Sixth and pushed me into a dark alleyway where the only light was cast by a single bulb above an apartment building’s service entrance at the far end. She was backlit by a street lamp near the entrance to the alley and I couldn’t see her face.

“What the fuck were you doing in there?”
“Excuse me?” I said.
She stepped towards me. “I asked you what the fuck you were doing in there.” “Uh . . . having a drink?”
“Don’t get smart with me.” She straight-armed me farther into the alley. “If you’re

dicking around with this, you’re in big trouble.”
I was starting to be less amused. It’s one thing to be kissed and manhandled by a

beautiful, sexy stranger, and another to be threatened by her.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“Don’t fuck with me,” she said, shoving me again. The tone of voice and her language

completely belied the refined image projected by the woman I had seen in the bar. “Excuse me,” I said, “but who the fuck are you?”
“Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck are you talking about?”

She took another step forward. I wasn’t exactly afraid of her, but if I stood my ground and she pushed me again, I might have to give her a good one back. I didn’t want to do that, she was so small, so I took a quick step back. My foot landed on a piece of pipe, it skittered out from under me, and I went down as quickly as if I’d hit a patch of ice. I tried to arch my back to keep myself upright, and the first thing to hit the pavement was my head. I heard the crack, felt the dull penetrating vibration of the impact, and a sharp searing pain. A twin star revolved in the night sky, and two women loomed over me, speaking words I couldn’t understand, could barely hear. The twin star slowly resolved itself into the single bulb above the service entrance, and then one of the women was gone. I could hear the remaining one more clearly, speaking from the end of a long corrugated steel tunnel.

“Zach, are you all right?” “ngh.”
“Does your neck hurt?” “ngh.”

“Dammit. Just lie still for a minute.” She put a hand on my chest. “That must have knocked the wind out of you.”


She kneeled over me, looking into my eyes. She raised one hand and blocked the light from the bulb, putting one of my eyes into shadow, then moved her hand and repeated this motion a few times with that eye, and then again with the other.

“Does your neck hurt?” “ngh-ngh.”
“Can you sit up?” “ngh-hah.”

“Okay, let’s try it, nice and easy.” She put one hand behind my head at the base of my skull and wrapped her other arm around me to support me from behind my shoulders. Her face was next to mine and I could smell her perfume, dark and spicy, as she pulled me up into a sitting position on the pavement. She sat back on her heels and held my neck, kneading, probing gently with her fingers. The light finally caught her face, and it hit me: the police station, before my meeting with Cynthia and the two homicide dicks.

She pulled her hand away from my neck and held it up in front of her. It was covered with blood.

“Shit,” she said.
“Is that mine?”
“It would appear so. It looks like you hit the remains of a beer bottle when you went

down. Goddammit. Now I’ve gotta fill out a shitload of reports.”
“Yeah. Not to mention dealing with IAB and a brutality investigation.”
“You’re kidding, right? That might be tough to pull off. I’ve got witnesses who saw us

smooching our way out of that restaurant and up the street.”
“Well, if there’s more smooching to look forward to, I might be persuaded to drop the charges.”

“Shut the fuck up,” she said. “Turn around. I wanna see how bad it is.”
I complied.
“Sally, right?” I asked as she probed the back of my head to get a good look. “Yeah. Good memory.”
“So, Sally. What do we do now?”
“We get you to the hospital for some stitches.”

“And then?” I asked, turning back to her.

She was digging in her shoulder bag. She pulled out some paper napkins and handed them to me. “And then you go home and forget this ever happened.”

matthew_arkinABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Arkin is a critically acclaimed actor, an acting teacher, and a recovering attorney. He attributes his skill for crafting dialogue and creating characters to his more than forty-five years of experience on stage, television, and film, and to reading approximately one suspense thriller per week since he was a young child.

Following the advice of one of his moms, author Barbara Dana, to “write what you know,” Arkin has created Zach Brandis and the novel In the Country of the Blind. Like Zach, Arkin gave up a career as a lawyer. Like Zach, he was born and raised, went to law school and spent most of his life in and around New York City. His love affair with the city, his life as a former attorney, and his experiences as a victim of cult abuse allow him to approach Zach’s story with poignant, candid depth and realism.

In the Country of the Blind is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

More information on Matthew and his career is available at

Guest Post, Jerome Dumont: So You Want to Translate Your Novel

I am thrilled to welcome author Jerome Dumont who tells us about the joys of translation.

Dangerous Games_600So you want to translate your novel

Even if it has never been so easy to spread anything worldwide, when it comes to self-publishing, most fellow indie authors stick to their domestic market. However, growing one’s readership is always interesting and a translation of your book may be a good way to help achieving this goal.

Before jumping in the process of a translation, you may ask yourself several questions:

Will my book interest a foreign audience?

I write thrillers and so far I have six books of my Rossetti & MacLane series live in the French market. The series has met some success and sells well in France (however the figures are way smaller than the English market).

The plots are either centered around actuality (Dangerous Games is about misuse of smartphone data collection, just think about geolocalization or users’ address books collected without consent in 2012), medically assisted procreation or ageless histories such as vanishing persons, mobsters or chasing a serial killer.

Obviously, the Dangerous Games plot could be of interest for English readers. Good point.

Now what about your characters?

Will Gabriel Rossetti, the French lawyer specialized in divorces be of interest? Will Amanda MacLane, successful Montreal startup CEO, having the world play her social games spark anything to readers? What about Robert Martinez, typical French with inheritance and manners from French-Algerian ‘pied noir’ or Angel, the old school Corsican gangster? Will the audience like them?

I strongly believe that readers are often looking for diversity, especially people who read indie authors. Avid readers don’t want to read the same book over and over again, do they?

No deal breaker here, however, you will have to find the right translator for the job.

Looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right

I’ve been living in Canada for eight years now, and I work in French as much as English, read in both languages and even achieved a small book’s translation (some kind of self-help book which doesn’t require the same skills as translating a novel).

I had no doubt that I couldn’t justice my book by doing it myself. So I needed to find the right translator. This is where things get a little picky. It’s common knowledge that you need a translator whose mother tongue is the target language.

I must admit I was lucky. Asking over my social networks, especially my Canadian English friends, I soon got a list of several translators. I got in touch with some of them and my main requirement was somebody who knew well the South of France typical people and manners. Lucky me! Robyn Jaquays was the one as she lived for ten years there.

She offered me a free sample and to say the least, I was impressed to re-discover my story in English! She got the main pictures, she saw the characters and could definitely relate to figures she must have met in real life. She got the mood, the rhythm: a perfect fit!

We’re living ‘only’ 300 kilometers away (which is almost a cake walk in Canada…) so I had the chance to meet her and to talk about my characters, my books. I got to know more about her French experience and I strongly recommend to arrange a meeting with your translator if you get the chance. I do love social networking, however, getting to know someone in real life is definitely irreplaceable!

We did work exchanging and reviewing back and forth, chapter after chapter. There’s an obvious point there: you have to be heavily involved in the process, as the author of course and as the first reader too. Thus, if you have absolutely no knowledge of the language you want to translate to, you won’t be able to do your part. In this case, you’ll need to trust even more your translator or find a first reader near you to comment and give you his/her opinion.

I thought Robyn may have difficulties with some tech related parts of the book, well, she hadn’t. Some specificities of French legal procedures did, although it was some slight details.

It took time. More than I was expected. Nevertheless she was the one I wanted for my translation so I took patience. The result is worthy. Definitely.

But… Wait? Even if I highly trust her, launching my book immediately after the final draft could be suicidal. Impatience is indie author’s best enemy, isn’t it?

The book had to be reviewed, proofread. As I said before, I couldn’t handle the translation and let’s be honest, neither a professional proofreading process. Of course I read a lot in English, but does that make me qualified to proofread my book. It’s not an excess of humility to admit that the answer is a no.

There I was, in the market for a proofreader.

Proofreader Needed

I do have a set of beta-readers for my French books and proficiency in French (although I’ve learned the hard way that it was far from perfect!). I definitely needed a professional proofreader.

Problem was: I knew no one at the moment. Thanks to Twitter and a wise use of hashtags, I found several results. Did my homework and consulted their website.

Reading blog posts from Julia Gibbs and testimonies about her work impressed me. I got in touch with her, she quickly and professionally replied, so we were in business.

As she lives in the UK, the question of US or UK English had to be addressed. US English seemed the best choice. She was ahead of her schedule and sent me the final draft two weeks before the deadline. Launch had never been so close, but… Wait?

What about my cover?

A tailor made professional cover

We all know that ‘you don’t judge a book by its cover’ (really ?), however it’s also commonsense that an image is worth a thousand words and that ‘you never have a second chance to make a first impression’.

Lots of big French publishers use pretty monacal covers: name of the book, author, publisher and that’s pretty much it!

As an indie author launching his first books in need to appeal French readers, I had a simple work on my covers (also, as it’s a series, they’re based on a similar template).

I knew from the beginning that it just couldn’t fit for English market, full of detailed and highly worked on covers. Thus I chose to have my cover done by They did a beautiful job and I couldn’t recommend them enough. Right on time for the first proposals, two day edit. Their work is really worth the price.


Being an indie author cannot be improvised, even less when it comes to translation. Getting things done require to be helped by professionals.

Translating a book requires time and money. I was lucky enough to self-fund the process and I must admit that I didn’t think in ROI terms. More than a financial operation, translating my book is an opportunity to reach different readers, different cultures and meet lots of new people, as the indie author’s and readers community is quite supportive.

However, I’m aware that I’m diving in a huge sea after swimming in a lake. Shall you consider translating an English book to another language, let’s say French, be aware that the market is way smaller there.

Whatever happens, translating my work gave me a huge amount of pleasure, the opportunity to meet and work with wonderful people, that’s already worth the journey!

About the Author

I practiced law for nearly fifteen years in various countries such as Belgium (where I lived for 10 years), my native south of France and Quebec, where I’ve been living for more than eight years.

With the objective of confirming the adage, “the law opens many doors, provided you use one to leave” I made my escape from the legal world in 2008 into that of multimedia, namely the production of video games and mobile applications.

I had the pleasure to participate in the creation of a dozen games and to immerse myself in a crazy and creative environment where I could trade-in my suit for a pair of jeans!

I’ve been exposed to a mixture of cultures, influences and a variety of experiences that have all served, in turn, to satisfy and stimulate my curiosity.

My sense of humour and innate refusal to take myself too seriously also play a big role in how I see life: an attitude I credit to my grandmother, who instilled in me the love of a good turn of phrase and a play on words.

It was ultimately the accumulation of my life’s experience, both professionally and personally, that prompted me to get into novel writing….

However, although the desire was there, the inspiration was not – at least not at first.

Then, one special morning, the characters I’d had in mind for a while began to come to life and the Rossetti & MacLane novels were born!

Under the banner of technology, humour and suspense, we are privy to witness the birth of a new bond between two characters who could very well never have met and yet manage form a very dynamic duo.

 Dangerous Games 3D_600About the Book

Dangerous Games: A Rossetti & MacLane Novel

What starts out as an ordinary divorce procedure ultimately takes lawyer Gabriel Rossetti and his client Amanda Deschamps on a thrilling adventure into the world of on-line gaming and personal data piracy.

From Nice to Montreal, at an accelerating pace set by an ever changing landscape of new technology, Gabriel and Amanda are drawn into a whirlwind of unexpected twists and turns that leave them – and the reader – breathless.

Relying on Gabriel’s valuable contacts and Amanda’s computer know-how, the duo has to unravel a dangerous web to save Amanda’s start-up video game company from falling victim to malicious players who have illegally stolen personal data from millions of on-line gamers.

See the universe of technology and video games in a light you never thought possible!

You’ll never look at your smartphone the same way again…

Dangerous Games: A Rossetti & MacLane Novel is available on Amazon.

Follow me on Twitter : @jdumont06

Jerome DumontAbout the Author

I practiced law for nearly fifteen years in various countries such as Belgium (where I lived for 10 years), my native south of France and Quebec, where I’ve been living for more than eight years. With the objective of confirming the adage, “the law opens many doors, provided you use one to leave” I made my escape from the legal world in 2008 into that of multimedia, namely the production of video games and mobile applications.

I had the pleasure to participate in the creation of a dozen games and to immerse myself in a crazy and creative environment where I could trade-in my suit for a pair of jeans!

I’ve been exposed to a mixture of cultures, influences and a variety of experiences that have all served, in turn, to satisfy and stimulate my curiosity.

My sense of humour and innate refusal to take myself too seriously also play a big role in how I see life: an attitude I credit to my grandmother, who instilled in me the love of a good turn of phrase and a play on words. It was ultimately the accumulation of my life’s experience, both professionally and personally, that prompted me to get into novel writing….

However, although the desire was there, the inspiration was not – at least not at first. Then, one special morning, the characters I’d had in mind for a while began to come to life and the Rossetti & MacLane novels were born! Under the banner of technology, humour and suspense, we are privy to witness the birth of a new bond between two characters who could very well never have met and yet manage form a very dynamic duo.

Guest Author: D.W. Carver

NightmaresAndOtherTherapy_200x300_dpi72I am most happy to welcome D.W. Carver again, here to tell us about his thriller, Nightmares and Other Therapy, available on Amazon.

Blurb: Michael couldn’t understand the nightmares that made him violent on waking, mostly because he didn’t have the courage to think his problem through. Eventually, pressured into entering a mental hospital by his employers he thought that here he would find answers and a way to a better life. He was never more wrong.

Excerpt from Nightmares and Other Therapy

Chapter One

Friday March 4th 1960

Philip stepped back from the urinal as the groaning started.

He turned round fast. Only one of the stall doors was closed and he took a cautious step towards it. The noise came again but more

animal than human. The sound ran cold lines down his spine and he wanted to run but the pain in that cry held him there, and then it changed.

He asked, “Hello?”

The noise stopped.

Philip moved closer to the door. He could hear what sounded like snuffling, as if some large creature had its nose to the other side of this pitted wood.

He said, “Don’t mess about.”

The snuffling stopped and a human voice began to cry, one he recognized. Philip looked into the stall to his left, saw he could easily climb over the partition if he stood on the porcelain bowl then the paper holder but he had always wanted to kick a door in and there was never going to be a better opportunity. He stepped back, raised his right leg and slammed the sole of his shoe into the panel beside the slip-lock.

* * * *

Present day

Whenever Michael Porter needed to make purchases at a pharmacy, he looked for that brown bottle with the red and green label: his life changing cold remedy. He knew it to be a waste of time, they hadn’t made the brand in years and it never was popular but that didn’t stop him.

Finding a new one didn’t become important until three years after the event it represented in his mind. By then the original had disappeared although he did ask about it once when Smithson and Company let him into the building again. It wasn’t the easiest request he had ever made, knowing at least two security guards would be following him every inch of the way as he searched. Despite that, it felt worth the effort: rummaging among his dumped belongings in the storage cupboard, things so familiar he wanted to vomit, just to make sure his catalyst was beyond finding.

For many years he had used keepsakes as a memory aid: old toys, his first school cap, a sixpenny piece with a hole in it. Although he knew that he would need to buy in high voltage support to forget the weeks around his stay in Hadenley Hall, gripping that bottle or its twin always felt as if it might encourage those memories to be stronger or more accurate somehow. His eldest grandson, catching him one day, eyes closed in his favorite chair with a broken lead soldier held in both hands, had demanded a reason and Michael gave it. Later, the boy showed him a survey from the Internet, maintaining that his grandfather’s collection proved that he had serial killer tendencies. Michael acknowledged his interest with a crocodile smile and reminded him he had to sleep eventually.

Once the boy’s comment, even with a grin behind it, would have eaten away at him, ruined days or weeks but not anymore. If his grandson had known enough to ask, Michael could probably have given him the month, certainly the year, when thoughts of that kind ceased to be a problem.

They enjoyed their last dominance over his mind in the shag end of winter, nineteen-sixty: Dirty snow on the ground and a semi-permanent fog hanging round his family home in Upney, the lowest lying part of the borough. Not the best way to see his town as it clung, dull and crumbling, to the eastern borders of London, but the region had peaked fourteen hundred years earlier when Barking was the accepted capital of southern England and just surviving still, Michael thought, had to be worth something. Not that it mattered to him a great deal. He rarely looked further than his own self-obsessed thoughts in those days. Then, he still needed reasons and particular villains outside himself to blame for the disaster his life had become and in service of that near obsession, at the age of twenty, he considered two things pivotal.

The first happened at age five on a warm spring day or so his memory insisted. He couldn’t remember the exact events that lead to his torture, but it would certainly have been fuelled by the continuing problem with his father about being a “mummy’s boy”. It probably involved not wanting to get his hands dirty or close to worms in the garden, or refusing to go down to the allotment with his grandfather, or maybe to a football match. Any of these were guaranteed to produce anger and contempt in his father. Whatever the cause, his uncles were around at the time and their wives and girlfriends were not.

The new conscription laws had caught all of them in nineteen thirty-eight. They spent the following seven years in various armed services and had come out hard and unforgiving. Not much different to the way they went in according to Michael’s grandmother, just more casual about it. His father, saved from war service by working in a reserved occupation, was the worst of them although Michael didn’t know it then. They all admired “manliness”, which seemed to him at a later time to involve working long hours, smoking forty cigarettes a day, farting a lot and keeping their wives short of money and affection. At five, he was only aware of the cigarettes and farting. He had no idea these men felt uneasy with emotion or kindness and when he did grow old enough to be aware of this, still didn’t understand their reasons although it gave him the opportunity to despise them comfortably. Of this day, whatever the primer, he had one permanent, vivid memory: his father sitting in the big almost-leather armchair, unfiltered Players cigarette smouldering between brown fingers and laughing while his brothers squatted around Michael and destroyed his life, explaining in quiet voices what would happen to him at age eighteen just a few years ahead.

He never forgot the big faces and the smell of beer and tobacco or those words. The army would soon rip him from his home. The army hated mummy’s boys and would make a man of him. The army was going to take away everything that represented safety and send him back, years and years later, a real man like them. Michael had laughed from horror, and this was misunderstood and set their taunting up a notch. From the time they let him run away in tears, looking for comfort that he didn’t find, he started a countdown to age eighteen and didn’t experience another safe day in his childhood, or so he always told himself.

The second moment, with his other villain, occurred two or three years later. This time, a late summer afternoon edging towards sunset, he lay on his bed, shorts and underpants round his ankles, masturbating hard. There were vague memories about the badness of his “thing” at that time, shouted into him by his mother, but the need had become urgent and Michael succumbed. He didn’t hear the bedroom door open.

The first hint of trouble was his mother’s blotchy and furious face looming over him. She called him a “filthy little turd” and “another dirty fucker in the making” then snatched up his wooden hairbrush from the dressing table, flipped him over on to his stomach and started to thrash his buttocks. It went on and on with Michael begging her to stop and getting his knuckles skinned as he tried to protect his bare flesh. She gave up when he urinated on the eiderdown.

They never spoke about it afterwards as he had never spoken to his father about the conscription torture. At times of deep self-pity or especial whimsy as a teenager, he liked to dig deep into these episodes, pretend he looked forward to being free of his parents at eighteen but it never worked. Occasionally he chose to believe this meant he loved them deeply. At other times his always hovering fear of being unprotected while in their company showed that as a lie, but he could never face reality: their indifference to him.

A few months after the beating, Michael began to suffer from violent nightmares that found him, two or three times a week, screaming on the bedroom floor in a fight with his covers. A punch in the stomach that he couldn’t remember afterwards, stopped his mother coming in to calm him. A cut lip and a bloody nose four days later, again leaving no memory, brought the same result with his father. After that, left alone with his terrors, night became as frightening as day and the days were bad enough.

Scared and on guard, he staggered through his school years, including two in the sixth form and somewhere during that time sexual fears joined the other problems. Whenever he was “full”– the way Michael thought of his sexual needs as a teenager–and tried to relieve himself, huge anxiety scampered in as if it had been waiting for the invitation and killed his arousal. That wilting frightened him badly, opening his mind to fears about being different and he started to monitor his thoughts for signs of madness. Inevitably he found them.

photo (1)About The Author
D.W. Carver worked for several years as a community mental health counsellor in East London, England and much of his writing comes from those years, helping obsessional people and those suffering from anxiety disorders.

Excerpts from reviews of Nightmares and Other Therapy

“For starters I really enjoyed how this book was written. The tone and pace of the book made it all the more enjoyable…….Although this isn’t necessarily a happy book, I’d still recommend it. It’s well written and is very thought provoking….. The characters are a lot of fun….It was unique and the major plot point that separates this novel from the others on the shelf. The split persona between Michael and his imaginary friend is extremely well-done…..It was well written, with believable and realistic characters…..Fast paced thriller/chiller that kept me up late into the night. Very original story line…..Those who like a good thriller will enjoy Nightmares and Other Therapy.

Guest Author: Mark Victor Young

RISK cover FINAL_600I am thrilled to welcome author Mark Victor Young. Just in time for spooks on stoops, he’s here to tell us about his latest mystery, Risk.

They’re the most unlikely detectives…
Martin is a 38-year-old virgin marked for greatness by the insurance gods. In his professional life, he is paid to assess risk, but in his personal life he plays it safe. Experience has shown him that lonely is better than brokenhearted.

George is a wannabe architect with white man’s dreadlocks. He risks his neck on the streets of Toronto every day as a bike courier, but his job is unchallenging and he chooses apathy over the risk of failure at what he really wants to do.

When George tags along with Martin to investigate the scene of his latest claim, they stumble upon a burglary in process. Now they are being hunted by an unknown adversary who will stop at nothing to get what he’s after, forcing Martin and George into a dangerous game of cat and mouse in which they must risk everything.

IFAbout Mark Victor Young
Husband, father, writer. Happily married since 1992 and a father since 2003, Mark has been a writer for as long as he can remember. He was born in Toronto and grew up in London, Canada. He was the first winner of the Lillian Kroll Prize for Creative Writing at Western University, where he also completed a degree in English Literature. The manuscript for Risk was a semi-finalist in the Chapters Robertson Davies First Novel Contest. Mark has published novels, poetry, short fiction, feature articles, comic strips and book reviews in various media.

He lives in London with his wife and daughter, those to whom all his work and play is dedicated.

Connect with Mark –

Risk is available on AmazonKoboGoogle, and Smashwords.

Book page –

This past summer, “Risk” was featured on the main page of as of July 25th, and it reached the Top Ten for Mystery/Thriller which was very exciting. It has since garnered almost 50,000 reads.

Guest Author: John Spencer Yantiss

MBBFrontCoverKindleFinal_600I am delighted to welcome author John Spencer Yantiss who gives us a wonderful glimpse into his debut novel, Murder by Bequest.

On a frigid Friday afternoon in February, Eleanor Harkness shows up at the door of the “granite palace,” Sherrod Colsne’s New York townhouse.  Her unexpected yet incredibly timely appearance not only knocks Colsne’s normally unflappable assistant, Monty Weston, off stride, but takes both of them down a winding path of romance, past and present, and decades-old, bitter hatred.  Though only four days actually elapse in the telling, Murder by Bequest is a story spanning over twenty-five years, three continents, and two primary cultures, and surrounding America’s foremost family of wealth, and social and political position.  Bertrand Wellman Harkness, IV, director of the Harkness Foundation, and statesman serving three presidents, not quite two weeks before the “blizzard of 2006,” is brutally murdered, and grotesquely, sexually mutilated after the fact.

What follows is another murder, and another attempted, seemingly the inexorable assault of a bête noire.  Only Colsne’s genius is able to run the culprit to ground, but not before a final tragedy is enacted.  Deep-seated and long-nursed malice, from an emotionally dark woman, and another quite distant quarter, produced the terrible killing spree, bringing almost total dissolution to the Bertrand Wellman Harkness, IV family.

Murder by Bequest is available on Amazon.

An Excerpt from Murder by Bequest: Chapter 10

The doorbell rang.  Actually, we didn’t hear the doorbell itself.  As I noted earlier in this account, all the rooms in the granite palace are soundproofed, really soundproofed, not the quasi sort one finds in rooms or structures for which the claim is usually made.  What we heard was the doorbell sound, transmitted by a spiffy little, specially-made, mike-and-speaker system, installed just for that purpose, very faint and non-intrusive, but nonetheless audible; it transmits exactly what one hears in the entrance hall, only much more softly.  Colsne had the set of real chimes specially crafted, and set at a pitch that can be detected in all but the most raucous of exchanges.  In the months following, Colsne and I have discussed and argued whether or not there was any preceding noise, flash of light, shadow passing across the window, sign of any kind, that would account for the general reaction.  I say that there must have been something that escaped the normal register of our senses.  Colsne says that there was categorically no physical phenomenon, audible or visible, in the nanosecond just prior to and, or after the sound of the bell.

I have demanded that, if right, he explain why everyone, the William Harknesses, the Lighteners, I, and even he, froze, following the ding-dong of the doorbell; he cannot, at least to my satisfaction.  He says that there are psychic forces, seething and foaming, just under the surface of conscious and sensory reality, that bombard our minds with information and messages of all kinds, but which most of us are incapable of cognitively discerning.  He says that, once in a great while, he somehow manages to apprehend a flicker of movement on the edge of that realm, and that that is the true source of his genius; that those brief little moments, when he is granted a glimpse of, or otherwise able to access, “the vapours of Olympus,” give him the motivation to concentrate all of his temporal wits when and where he wishes.  He dismisses the incident with a vehement “Phawh!” and a brief, and peculiarly harsh, self-censuring exposition on why he should have caught the sign.

What followed was anything but non-intrusive.  Even with ninety-percent noise-reduction windows from Whyst, Inc., I knew what I heard: eight bursts from what sounded all too much like either a 9 mm automatic, or a .223 cal. assault rifle.  Either I was in some kind of dimensional warp, or each salvo was distinctly three shots.  That meant one of three things:  1) there were two shooters; 2) one gunman had a weapon in each hand; or 3) he was strong enough to hold and shoot a fully loaded 25- or 32-round magazine weapon, which could weigh as much as seven or more pounds, depending on the make and model.  These eithers and ors all came in slow-motion.  I am not at all proud of my performance during the firestorm, or in the sixty-plus seconds that followed.  I have heard enough gunfire, from all kinds of weapons—handguns, rifles, shotguns, and much more—that recognition doesn’t require prolonged thought.  However, at least in my memory, East 75th Street, more particularly our block, had never before been used as a shooting gallery.

Many people, with less familiarity, often mistake the misfiring of an internal combustion engine for a gunshot.  Though there have been several backfires in the neighborhood during my time at the granite palace, I know the difference all too well.  Bottom line, even though trained to expect the unexpected, I was not ready.  My only consolation was itself clearly a negative, for Colsne too was caught off guard.  A full four seconds elapsed while I sat, not like a lump on a log, but more like a field mouse, happily and intently chewing a favorite seed, suddenly hearing the well-known noise of an intruder, and frozen, just long enough for the owl to strike.  When my reflexes belatedly kicked in, I fairly catapulted out of my chair and to the hall door.  Before I had taken two running strides, I had my own semi-auto S&W .40 out and ready to return fire.  How he did it, I have not the slightest—considering the positioning and placement of our desks, he had eight feet more than I to cover—but Colsne was there and had the door open almost a half-second before me, his Colt .44 magnum Anaconda in his right hand.  He held the door wide for me, urged me on through, and over my shoulder I heard his voice, the crack of a bullwhip, command our guests.

No one leave this room.  Mr. Lightener, I charge you to see to it.”

I could clearly picture his face, black with stern foreboding, fire in his eyes.  As he raced to join me, four more distinct sounds came at us: the faintest of female groans, the sound of a large-block V8 revving, tires madly spinning on snow and ice, and the thud-crunch of metal on metal.  In the midst of the hubbub, we were met by Rivers tearing up from the basement—yes, he can still “tear”—also weapon in hand, a SIG P210.  Though we had been unable to hear it from the office, the savagery of the assault was immediately visible, as much of the inner door and walls of the vestibule, being glass, were shattered, and lying in every imaginable size shard on the tile floor of the hall.  The outer door, along with the window panels on either side, had to also have been fairly severely shot up in order for the inner destruction to have happened.  My hearing had been thoroughly wrong in assessing the weapon or weapons used; no 9 mm was capable of what confronted us.  It was the work of something on the order of the new .50 Beowulf by Alexander Arms, over 3.5 mm larger than what had been used on Bertrand Wellman IV and his son.  If that was what had done it, we were being confronted by a foe with not just incredible marksmanship, but strength as well.  The Beowulf was rated at 8.5 lbs. base weight, and though that does not, in and of itself, constitute a great heft, when coupled with all of the other forces involved in shooting a high-powered rifle, it takes muscle to fire it accurately.  If it was the same short and slight figure that Colsne had seen at the Chevalier, then we were dealing with a real athlete.

JSYHeadshotSuitBigSmileAbout the Author
John Spencer Yantiss was born in Louisville, KY to parents of Anglo-Scotch-Irish, and Lithuanian descent.  A musician and singer, he started piano lessons at age 5, and began writing poems and songs 8 years old.  While still in high school he began playing guitar professionally.  Over the years he shared the stage with such notable Southern Rock figures as Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley, and an evening of coffee and conversation with “Uncle Miltie,” well into the 1990s, internationally famous comedian and showman, Milton Berle.

His love of writing poems and lyrics continued on over the years, branched out into fiction, beginning with not a few attempts at fantasy, in a style not unlike Tolkien and Lewis.  In 1993 he began writing classic detective mysteries, based on the character Sherrod Reynard Colsne, in the transatlantic and cumulative tradition of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe.  Murder by Bequest, his inaugural effort, first appeared in publication in 2012 through and on, as a Kindle e-book, and soon thereafter in paperback via Amazon’s CreateSpace vehicle.

There are several more in what is a growing casebook, with Code Name: Erelim, a nightmare novella threatening intelligence and national security agencies around the globe; The Weerwolf Problem (Dutch spelling) and The Golden Dart , both short stories filled with subtile horror and the grotesque, in Kindle and paperback, the latter two being in a combined volume under the collection name of Macabre2.  Coming are Sa Kainitan, based in The Philippines, and The Seiðr Affair, a bone chiller about a doomsday computer weapon.  Yantiss has also returned to classic, mythological fantasy, and Rylie Rabet Goes on an Adventure— A Tale of Magic and Thaumaturgy Amongst the Wee Forest Folk is forthcoming in late 2014 or early 2015.

Guest Author Steven F. Freeman

HAVOC_600Please welcome author Steven F. Freeman who exults in the publication of Havoc. And well he should: his books engage, compel, destroy humdrum, and I highly recommend them. Take a gander at the cover.

Here’s the synopsis.
When Cryptologist Alton Blackwell takes his girlfriend, FBI Agent Mallory Wilson, on a surprise trip to Italy, the couple expects the vacation of a lifetime, but their pleasure is short-lived. Intent on selling Vidulum Inc.’s proprietary technology to the highest bidder, a rogue employee of the high-tech company arranges a clandestine meeting at one of Rome’s most famous tourist attractions. Rather than collecting a huge payday, however, the company turncoat encounters a lethal surprise. When Alton and Mallory rush to assist the dying scientist, they find themselves pulled into the subsequent murder investigation.

Foreign and domestic agents, corporate spies, intellectual-property thieves, and shadowy underworld figures race to acquire the technical files stored on the dead employee’s missing cellphone and reap the billions of dollars and technological superiority now at stake.

Despite their efforts to leave the tragedy behind and continue their vacation, Alton and Mallory soon learn their own lives are in danger. They are left with no choice but to join forces with the Roman police in an effort to crack the case. While diving into the investigation, the discovery of another man in Mallory’s past disrupts Alton’s plan to move his relationship with her to a new level. As they encounter unexpected twists at a breakneck pace, Alton and Mallory must summon all their intellectual powers to reveal the truth behind the Vidulum employee’s death and track down the missing technological plans before a life-threatening end game can be set in motion.

Where to buy Havoc:

Barnes & Noble


Steve FreemanAbout the Author
Author Steve Freeman is former member of the US Army’s Signal Corps, a twenty-six year employee of a large American technology company, and an avid traveler who has visited five continents. The novels of The Blackwell Files draw from his firsthand knowledge of military service, the tech industry, and the diverse cultures of our world.

He currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and daughter.

Odd Facts about the Author

* Donated a kidney in November 2010

* Ran three marathons

* Enjoys Charles Dickens and Jane Austen

Steve’s Website

Guest Post: Holly Bush, Red, White & Screwed

Red, White, and Screwed eBook Cover Extra Large

I’m delighted to welcome author, Holly Bush. In the past, I’ve been privileged to read and review her historical romance novels. In this post, she gives us a glimpse into her latest, an intriguing new women’s fiction novel, Red, White & Screwed.

Thanks so much for having me on your site today, Susan! I’m happy to meet some of your ardent followers and share my new women’s fiction title with them, Red, White & Screwed, available as an ebook and in paperback.

Divorcee Glenda Nelson poured herself a cup of coffee, sat down at her kitchen table, and opened up the morning paper. That’s when she found out her hand-picked Congressional candidate was caught climbing out of the window of the Sleepytown Motel. With her job as a political strategist on the line, she has to put together a damage control plan, and do it fast.

After a multi-year hiatus, Glenda’s love life is finally on the rebound when she meets handsome Christopher Goodwich, a successful artist with oodles of old money. But what will Chris think after witnessing one of her meltdowns? Will his fame and fortune only serve to magnify Glenda’s ineptitude?

And sometimes she just can’t stop wondering why she stayed so long with her philandering ex-husband, or how her sister’s marriage has been so apparently picture-perfect. While uncovering the secrets behind a political scandal, Glenda finds love, and makes the long trek back to happy.

Holly_600About the Author
Holly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie, in Victorian England and recently released her first Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.

You can buy her books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Thanks, Holly. Here’s an excerpt from Red, White & Screwed 

Chapter One

Nearly three hundred years after the first hardy German settlers arrived in my county, many things had not changed. My ten-mile trip to Lancaster City had taken forty minutes trailing an Amish buggy.

“Glenda! Where have you been?” my boss, Melvin Smith, shouted from the steps of the county courthouse.

“I got behind a buggy,” I said as I jumped curb stones and dodged opened car doors on my way across the parking lot to where Melvin waited for me.

“We don’t want to be late to see what our seventy-five thousand dollars bought us,” he said as he yanked open the ornate, wooden door.

Melvin and I worked for the Lancaster County Democratic Committee, and it was a stick in his craw that Deidre Dumas, the Republican Chairwoman, had strong-armed more donations than he to fund a mural to hang in our courthouse.

“Are you still pissed the Republican Committee raised more money? You’ve got to get over this, Melvin.” We hurried past the buffet table, weaving through the county big shots and up a rickety set of steps to take our place on the dais for the unveiling.

Deidre air-kissed Melvin, and Bill Frome, county Republican strategist and the yin to my yang, gave me a tight-lipped smile and shook my hand as he looked at his watch. Photographers from the local newspaper were taking pictures, and Melvin leaned close to me.

“They’re cutting us out of these photos, Glenda. You mark my words,” he whispered.

“They’re not cutting us out of the photos.” I took a quick peek down the line of smiling suits and black dresses. I could barely see past Deidre’s cemented bouffant, puffed up and combed away from her face ending with an artfully rigid curl just above her shoulder. She had acquired the style in the mid-sixties, copying either Jackie Onassis or George Mitchell’s wife, and rode it all the way into the new millennium.

“Who’s the guy?” I asked Melvin.

“Which guy?”

“The oddball.”

“I’m black,” Melvin replied. “I’m as odd as they get in Lancaster County.”

The cameras kept flashing as I smiled and talked through my teeth. “You’re not odd because you’re an African American, Melvin. In this county, we’re both odd because we’re Democrats. And, anyway, I’m talking about the guy in the middle of the line in the jeans and blazer.”

The flashes stopped abruptly, and the Chairman of the County Commissioners, Alan Snavely, walked up to the microphone. He proceeded to extol the generosity of county residents in giving their hard-earned dollars to fund the mural project for the courthouse. He gestured repeatedly to the black-draped wall behind us, introduced the oddball as the mural artist, and then wrapped it up with some hard facts.

“The Lancaster County Democratic Committee raised seventy-four thousand, eight-hundred and ninety dollars . . .”

“That’s seventy-five even, Alan,” Melvin interrupted. “We had a last minute contribution.”

All heads turned Melvin’s way, including mine.

“Seventy-five even, Melvin?” Alan repeated.

“As of this morning.”

“OK then, it’s seventy-five even from the Democrats.” Snavely took a pen from his breast pocket to jot down the adjustment to his notes. “And the Lancaster County Republican Committee raised a whopping one-hundred thousand dollars.” The crowd clapped politely, and Alan continued, “And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Our artist, Christopher Goodwich, was commissioned nearly a year ago and has come here from his home state of Ohio for tonight’s unveiling. He has won multiple accolades for his work, and the Goodwich Family Foundation is well-known among philanthropists. Mr. Goodwich, would you do the honors?”

Christopher Goodwich moved from his place in line, yanked a gold pull rope, and the black curtain fell away. I looked up at the thirty-foot mural of a Lancaster County Revolutionary War battle as did everyone else. To my amazement this typically chattering crowd fell silent other than a smattering of appreciative oohs and aahs.

The painting was stunningly beautiful. I could see the hope and fear on the faces of the soldiers and practically hear the roar of the cannons and smell the smoke. Alan grabbed the microphone again and began discussing the mural as if he had the foggiest understanding of artwork. But it made me curious about the artist, and I took a second look at Christopher Goodwich.

He was a handsome man. Casually masculine with green eyes and a smile that made me think about George Clooney in a tuxedo. Get those hormones under control, I thought. At forty-six with a rather ugly divorce under my belt and two teenage children, I needed a man like the President needed another Cabinet nominee in tax trouble.