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Character Interview: Marcus Taylor from Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s psychological thriller, SUBMERGED

character interviews logoWe’re thrilled to have here today Marcus Taylor from Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s new psychological thriller, SUBMERGED.  Marcus is a 42-year-old 911 dispatcher living in Edson, Alberta, Canada

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Marcus.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I think Cheryl did a good job of not only telling my story but digging into my psyche. It wasn’t easy for me to relive such intense grief and despair, and it’s still difficult for me to tell people that I’m a recovering addict. I struggle with my demons every day. But now I have something—someone—to fight for. One day at a time, they say.

Submerged_FrontDo you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

Cheryl could have made me more macho, maybe tougher. At times I might have come across as a bit wimpy. But it hasn’t been easy. I’ve suffered so much loss—my brother Paul, my son Ryan and my wife Jane. And during the time my story was being told, I was in a dark place. So I think Cheryl colored me just right.

What do you believe is your strongest trait? 

I’m loyal to a fault. To my family, my friends and my job.

Worse trait? 

I don’t always listen to authority figures. Especially if I think they’re wrong. Or if they’re being an idiot.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Gerard Butler! Hands down, he could play my role perfectly. He’s rugged but handsome. He has intensity that’s perfect for action movies and can pull of the “hero” role well. And women love him.

Do you have a love interest in the book? 

Yes. Her name is Rebecca Kingston. Funny thing, I think I started falling in love with her the minute I heard her voice on the phone.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

When I left the center to try to find Rebecca and her kids, I wasn’t sure what would happen—or what I’d find.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why? 

I wouldn’t want to be “Titanic.” Okay, his name’s really Pete Shipley. He’s my boss at the 911 center and probably the most unlikeable person in my story. Plus he’s an ass.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away? 

If I give away the ending, Cheryl will kill me off in another novel, so I’ll just say that the ending is…satisfying.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if she decided to write another book with you in it?

I’d tell her to whip my butt into shape, give me a six-pack and tell me to shave more often. On a serious note, I’d really like it if Cheryl didn’t kill off anyone close to me. I’ve lost enough.

Thank you for this interview, Marcus. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Don’t tell Cheryl but I’ve heard rumors that she may be plotting another book that has tie-ins to both CHILDREN OF THE FOG and SUBMERGED, though it’ll be a standalone like my book, not a series.


From Cheryl Kaye Tardif, the international bestselling author that brought you CHILDREN OF THE FOG, comes a terrifying psychological thriller that will leave you breathless… 


Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl.”

—Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds 

Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate… 

After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn’t the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.

Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger’s calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.

*SUBMERGED has a unique tie-in to Tardif`s international bestseller, CHILDREN OF THE FOG.

More Reviews:

“From the first page, you know you are in the hands of a seasoned and expert storyteller who is going to keep you up at night turning the pages. Tardif knows her stuff. There’s a reason she sells like wildfire—her words burn up the pages. A wonderful, scary, heart-pumping writer.” —M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of Seduction

“Tardif once again delivers a suspenseful supernatural masterpiece.” —Scott Nicholson, international bestselling author of The Home 

“From the first page, Cheryl Kaye Tardif takes you hostage with Submerged—a compelling tale of anguish and redemption.” —Rick Mofina, bestselling author of Into the Dark 

“Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s latest novel SUBMERGED will leave you as haunted as its characters.” —Joshua Corin, bestselling author of Before Cain Strikes

Submerged will leave you breathless—an edge of your seat, supernatural thrill ride.” —Jeff Bennington, bestselling author of Twisted Vengeance 

Get SUBMERGED today. 

Learn more about Cheryl Kaye Tardif at http://www.cherylktardif.com and follow her on Twitter. 

Enter Cheryl’s March Giveaway – 60 Prizes! http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com




Character Interview: Charlotte Dashiell from Chris Karslen’s romantic thriller, Byzantine Gold

character interviews logoWe’re thrilled to have here today Charlotte Dashiell from Chris Karlsen’s new romantic thriller, Byzantine Gold.  Charlotte is a 30 and a nautical archaeologist living in Istanbul, Turkey.

It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Charlotte.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

I think I was fairly portrayed. This was a very turbulent time for me. With the threat to Atakan’s life, my visa status up in the air, Atakan’s ex-girlfriend showing up asking all kinds of questions, then discovering my dive partner is a terrorist, and to top matters, Atakan’s mother making an excellent case for my leaving, I was grateful for the recovery project. It kept me focused on the wreck and from falling apart emotionally.

I am a little embarrassed about suggesting the Ipecac for Saska. I’d like the readers to know that is not something I’d normally do but the first thing I could come up with fast in that situation.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

I think she did a good job with my personality even including my bad tendency to being secretive when I shouldn’t be.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

My intellect, I’m a quick thinker in bad situations and logical.

Worse trait?

As I mentioned, I’m too secretive at times and it always comes back to bite me in the butt—so to speak. 

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Photo credit: Tyler Parker

Photo credit: Tyler Parker

I’d love Stana Katic to play me. I think she’s drop dead gorgeous and I love the fact that her character in Castle is smart and has good sense of humor. For Atakan, I see Oded Fehr. I’ve liked him since I first saw him in The Mummy. He’s handsome in a very masculine way, which I find attractive. 

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Yes, Atakan Vadim. He’s an agent with the Turkish Ministry of Culture, an archaeologist, like me. He’s one of the most honorable and ethical men I know, in addition to being handsome.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

When Maksym Tischenko, who tried to kill Atakan once before, was spotted in Kusadasi, which isn’t that far by boat from Cyprus, where we were. At that point, Atakan and the Ministry figured he’d head to Cyprus and come after Atakan again. I worried knowing there was no way we’d discover where exactly he’d hide. He could sit on a boat any number of places off shore.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

I wouldn’t want to be Rana. She filled her head with girlish romantic notions about Tischenko. She couldn’t have fallen for a worse man.

byzantine goldHow do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I’m happy with it. Everything happened so fast and I’m glad I was able to participate.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

I’d love for Chris to include Atakan and I in the next book, but I’d like my brother Nick to be one of the heroes as I’d also like to see Iskender in one of those roles too.

Thank you for this interview, Charlotte.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Oh, I believe so.


chris karslenChris Karslen is a  retired police detective. She spent twenty-five years in the law enforcement with two different agencies. The daughter of a history professor and a voracious reader, she grew up with a love for history and books. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and Northern Africa satisfying her passion for seeing the places she read about. A Chicago native, Chris has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and now resides with her husband, and five rescue dogs in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more about Chris and her work on her website and blog.

Listen to an audio interview with the author on At Random LIVE.

Watch the trailer of Byzantine Gold on YouTube.

Purchase the book on Amazon.

Read a Chapter: Cry of Eagles by Stefan Vucak

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at Beyond the Books! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring Cry of Eagles by Stefan Vucak.  Enjoy!

Cry of EaglesIran’s nuclear capability represents a clear national threat to Israel. Although concerned, the United States and Europe are reluctant to increase sanctions. Frustrated that nothing is being done, Mossad decides to force the United States into action. A black ops team sabotages a refinery complex in Galveston and plants evidence that incriminates Iran, confident that an enraged America will retaliate. Congress and the public urge the U.S. president to bomb Iran, but the administration lacks direct evidence. With carriers positioned in the Gulf ready to strike, the world waits to see if the Middle East will explode into open conflict. With tension mounting, the FBI uncovers a shocking truth. It wasn’t Iran at all, but Israel! A government falls and America forces Israel to confront the Palestinian problem.


Chapter One

Tel Aviv

Present Day

“In defiance of recently imposed UN trade sanctions, President Hamadee Al Zerkhani announced yesterday that Iran would not bow to illegal international pressure to cease what he termed is Iran’s peaceful development of nuclear power, designed to promote an alternative energy source for his people. When asked why three weeks ago, another three hundred gas centrifuges were commissioned, technology not required for civilian-grade reactors, President Zerkhani stated that Iran wished to ensure an energy supply that would guarantee his country’s independence and continued economic development. The fact that Iran already enjoys significant reserves of gas and oil seems to have escaped him. The president added that any interference with his country’s legitimate exploitation of nuclear technology would incur the gravest consequences for the United States and Western economies in general.

“The weather forecast for Tel Aviv today -”

Namir Bethan casually stabbed one of the preset radio channel buttons and the car filled with the haunting strands of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. He relished the second movement, its subtle complexity and nuances, easily overlooked in the seemingly simple melody. The density and texture of the composition filled his soul with contentment and satisfaction. The piece was one of his favorites. Noting the turnoff, he slowed and eased the black BMW into Harav Kook Street. Nondescript office buildings lined the street, some modern, showing their reflective black or copper windows, glittering bright in early morning sunshine. Others were more conservative, built out of traditional white and yellow sandstone. A relatively new suburb of Tel Aviv, Herzliya dared to experiment with alternative architectural styles.

Tall trees lined the broad sidewalk, casting dark shadows along the street. Early starters, briefcases and bags in tow, hurried along, sometimes turning to walk into one of the buildings. Mildly curious, he wondered what their day would be like; a distraction while his brain did the driving on automatic. A sparrow made a startled dash across the street, vanishing among the thick foliage of a tree.

As the car whispered down Shival Hekochavim Street, he could see the familiar loom of an eighteen-story building, the sidewalk protected by a three-meter stone wall. Namir brought the car to a stop in the double driveway, climbed out and slid his black passkey into the security pad slot. Closed-circuit cameras mounted on each side of the wall stared down at him with intimidating curiosity. The heavy steel gate slid back without a rattle. He gave an involuntary glance up the sheer facade of the gray building, now outlined against the rising sun. With spring in the air, the days were getting warmer and his thigh didn’t bother him as much. This early in the morning, the air was still crisp. He climbed into his car, slammed the door shut and drove through the courtyard.

“Welcome to the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations,” he muttered with wry amusement as he slowly made his way toward the underground parking entrance. Not openly advertised, those who wanted to know where Mossad was headquartered could find out easily enough. The dashboard clock read 7:30, and had read that for a while now, he noted ruefully. Since his wife’s death two years ago to a brain tumor, undetected until far too late to do anything about it, his comfortable two-bedroom Tel Aviv apartment held nothing to keep him there. Fatalistic, the loss and guilt had still hit him hard. He should have spent more time with her, valuing what he had. But as with such things, perspective came when one was powerless to undo what years of neglect had wrought. He made up for it now by burying himself in work. At least his country’s needs were not being neglected – a poor consolation nonetheless. It did nothing to fill the lonely echoes of his empty apartment.

Unconsciously, he swept his eyes over an array of cars already parked in the lot, low-grade officers not entitled to an underground parking spot. He slipped his key into the security portal and waited as the heavy doors rolled up. Still not fully open, he drove into the dark maw. The underground parking lot had four levels, but his executive position allowed him a spot on the ground level. He parked the car, switched off the headlights, stepped out and leaned back in to pick up a slim brown calf-leather briefcase from the passenger seat. The parking and brake lights flashed when he automatically set the security lock. Given where he worked the action caused him to smile. Pocketing the keys, he slowly walked toward the foyer entrance. He dragged out a biometric badge from his coat pocket and pressed it against the door sensor. Satisfied, his electronic master unlocked the door with a heavy click. Inside the spacious, cool foyer the security guard, sitting behind a curved reception station, looked up and nodded sternly.

“Morning, sir,” he said with formal dignity.

“Shalom, Jaron,” Namir replied heavily as he did each morning, walking slowly toward the middle of three entrance portals, his footsteps echoing against the marble floor. He passed the badge over the sensor. The red-lit panel turned green and gave a sharp beep. He walked through, stopped before the polished steel of the left elevator that ran through the building’s core and pressed the dark access triangle. It turned soft amber. A few seconds later came a blunt chime and the double doors opened. There wasn’t much of a demand this time of day. It took a moment for the elevator to surge to the seventeenth floor – his department. Light gray carpet muffled his footsteps as he made his way between glass-fronted offices, most of them with their privacy curtains drawn. He could not hear anyone else on the floor.

When he hobbled to the left corner office, he passed his badge against the lock and the latch gave a little click. He opened the door and closed it softly behind him. Heavy beige carpet covered the rectangular room floor. A wide, brown executive desk stood tucked against the far corner; bare, except for a standard keyboard, optical mouse, an 18” rectangular LCD screen and a multi-function phone terminal. A round glass coffee table filled the empty space in the center, surrounded by four soft easy chairs. A floor-to-ceiling bookshelf occupied one wall, cluttered with bound volumes and paperbacks, magazines and various periodicals. The windowpanes were standard double-glass, designed to defeat vibration and laser voice intercept devices.

Namir placed the briefcase on the desk and sat down. He clicked open the two side latches, lifted out a slim blue folder, closed the briefcase and stood it against the desk drawers. He toggled the mouse and the screen lit up with the Mossad logo and motto. The desk did not mount a processor or workstation. His connection, like everyone else’s, was provided through a secure shielded cable to high-speed servers on the fourth floor. The other equipment in the room was a color printer and a document shredder that ripped up to twenty-four pages at a time into three- millimeter square flakes.

The airconditioning sighed softly from two grilles mounted in the false ceiling.

A sharp rap on the door interrupted the thick silence. It opened and he looked up. Holding a steaming mug of coffee, two sugars, a young woman, dressed in a severe gray business jacket and pants, dark hair cut short, strode in and placed the mug next to the closed folder.

“Shalom, Mr. Bethan,” she said primly and gave him a tight-lipped smile.

“Thanks, Mira,” he growled and reached for the cup. He gave an appreciative sniff and took a tentative sip. Black, hot and sweet, the way he liked it. His doctor had told him to cut down on his sugar intake, but damn it, there were limits.

“Anything I should know?” he demanded, eyeing her over the rim of his cup.

She frowned and her pleasantly round face clouded. Pencil-thin black eyebrows added to her severe expression, highlighting her large brown eyes. A hint of red lipstick gloss softened her otherwise stern poise.

“Nothing that demands your immediate attention, sir. Unless you consider Iran’s latest bout of histrionics an issue,” she allowed with a trace of wry amusement and waited, knowing full well her boss was spending time in idle conversation. He knew everything of importance that went on round the world without having to be reminded. But it was a ritual they played out every morning and she didn’t mind.

“I do, but that’s an ongoing headache.” Namir passed a gnarled hand through his receding shock of gray hair refusing to stay combed.

“Yes, sir.” She frowned and bit her lip. “I cannot understand why the United States doesn’t do something. And the UN is just as lame, fulminating and impotent. Somebody should bomb them!”

“I’ll suggest it to Director Doron Kameer, but it’s complicated,” he mused, largely agreeing with her. When the great powers did eventually reach an acceptable consensus, the original intent was so watered down the final UN resolution held little meaning or potency. He took another sip, placed the mug down with a soft tap and spent a moment studying his ruthless-looking assistant.

Recruited from Shin Beth, Israel’s internal security and counter-espionage sister service – inter-service poaching was rife, even though strictly frowned upon, but nevertheless a lively industry – the one-time Army captain’s feminine exterior masked a hard no-nonsense professional. At twenty-eight and one of his star case officers, she filled a vital function being his personal assistant. In his view, secretaries were a luxury and potential security risks. Namir indulged in neither. Capable, disciplined and dedicated, he intended to continue mentoring her, provided he himself lasted the distance. In his game it only took one unguarded step and his brother colleagues, jackals more likely, would be baying and snapping at his heels. Then again, he had a job to do and Mossad didn’t operate like the UN. To advance, she needed to round off her experience by working in other departments. He would hate to lose her.

Looking through her, thinking about things, he made up his mind and squared his shoulders, but was unable to suppress a flutter of unease in his stomach. The action he contemplated would be way over authorized limits. Sometimes though, such things were necessary. He wondered whether history would agree with him.

“When Matan Irian comes in, ask him to see me, will you?” he requested in dismissal.

“Of course, sir.”

As the door closed behind her, leaving a whiff of lavender in her wake, Namir cracked his knuckles, reached for the keyboard, logged in and tapped out his search parameters with quick, efficient strokes. A number of messages waited to be opened in his In Mail box, but he ignored them. The server immediately retrieved and displayed the document. It had no classification attached to it, Namir’s logon already providing the necessary access levels.

Sitting back, sipping his coffee, he quickly scanned the salient points outlined in the paper. He knew them off by heart, but the task helped him to think and reflect on what he contemplated. Written more than four years ago when Iran’s uranium enrichment program was already well advanced – it never would have, had vital gas centrifuge designs not been provided by Pakistan between 1987 and 1991 by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, to be precise – the document outlined a remarkably prophetic dissertation. In his opinion, Israel should have acted as soon as Iran’s fledgling enrichment program was unearthed. However, the then Mossad Director, Ephraim Halevy, was foremost a politician and wary of adverse repercussions should an operation to disrupt Iran’s march toward a nuclear capability somehow backfire. Not that Namir could exactly blame the Director, but he missed the old days, like in 1981 when Israel bombed Osirak, sending Iraq’s nuclear ambitions into the Stone Age.

A wry smile of grim satisfaction lit his face at other successes as he recalled the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, founder of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, by two of his agents right in front of the Diplomat Hotel in Sliema, Malta. The scum deserved to die. But the single wet ops which gave him the most satisfaction was having Izz El-Deen Sobhi Sheikh Khalil, head of Hamas, blown sky high, car and all, in 2004 while the guerilla fighter was in Damascus.

He understood and appreciated that type of direct action. Today, murky diplomacy and conforming to delicate international sensibilities were the norm, while Hamas terrorists targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s citizens on buses and restaurants. Still, it was not as though Israel had not given them cause, he contemplated equitably. He would never say so aloud, but in his opinion the notorious wall building program, an attempt to fence off the occupied territories and stem the flow of suicide bombers, had been an asinine political decision, compounded by another equally asinine decision to exploit the moment and annex additional Palestinian land. The effort had failed abysmally and only served to harden international condemnation. It did nothing to placate illegal settlements, and tactically, did little to stop the bombings. Then again, how else could the Palestinians respond? Without a standing army to field in battle, terrorism remained the only weapon left to them. The old adage about a terrorist being a freedom fighter had a rather apt ring. Israel itself had used similar tactics against the British occupation after the Second World War. History was replete with lessons of failure, to the unheeding care of those who strove to repeat the mistakes.

Sometimes everything seemed so futile.

If he had his way, he would eliminate the politicians. That would solve everybody’s problems. Prime Minister Sharron Ibrahim had the capacity and will to act, but his Kadima Party coalition was hamstrung into inaction. Not that Labour or the minor parties such as Gil and Shas were any better. And Ibrahim’s often imperious and forceful attitude hadn’t helped to push through unpalatable policies. To hold power, successive governments had sacrificed their ability to formulate and execute initiatives by catering to extremist and radical single-issue coalition partners. Lately, Israel had changed governments like he changed socks, an ominous symptom of fragmented ideologies and loss of vision. In the long run, that led to internal disintegration. But knowing what to do and having the will to do it, whatever the cost in personal careers, are the hallmarks of good government everywhere. In his view, Israel seemed doomed to pursue a fatalistic course of internal appeasement, incapable of realizing that placating the ultra-orthodox elements in its ranks simply to hold onto power left no one room to reach a workable settlement. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s point of view, the Palestinian National Authority with its hostile Hamas government fared even worse. Sometimes a lot could be said for the value of a dictatorial regime.

Personally, he echoed Shimon Peres’ sentiments that Israel has no real option of turning to the political sphere in order to obtain a compromise that would constitute a genuine breakthrough – no compromise could ever satisfy the Arabs.’ The inevitable consequence of that policy was the reinforcement of a concept that there could never be a political option on which Israel could base its security, which had given rise to a general psyche of interventionism by the Israeli Defense Force establishment in the political decision-making process. Since the military were perceived as the sole instrument capable of defending the country, any criticism or curtailment of its power was interpreted as a direct threat to national security. Namir admitted that lack of public debate on the automatic application of force as the sole mechanism to solve his country’s problems had managed to derail every peace initiative to date, even if Israel’s own religious extremists were willing to entertain the initiative – which they hadn’t. Growing militancy between Fatah and Hamas, and disintegration of the Palestinian National Authority might encourage the military to take matters into their own hands. That, of course, was but a single step from fascism, the worst of all possible outcomes.

Well, he might not be in a position to solve all his country’s problems, but staring at the screen, he had no qualms about jump-starting the process. Viewing the proposal, it had all the classic elements of a military deception: a specific objective, playing to the enemy’s preconceived assumptions, a clear method selection and simple execution. The exploitation component was missing, but in this case hardly relevant. The tricky bit was that Kameer also had access to the proposal and could conceivably connect the dots, a bridge to be crossed later. He pressed the print icon and the printer immediately began to hum as it spat out the report. He picked up the still warm pages, tapped them together against the desk and reached into his drawer for a stapler.

He was still reading when the phone went off.


“Mr. Irian to see you, sir,” Mira announced.

“Send him in.” Namir placed the report on the desk, face down, as his tall visitor walked in, military bearing clear despite the tastefully cut dark gray suit, and closed the door behind him. It was nothing specific that marked his visitor, more a collection of small subtleties: clear penetrating eyes, aura of complete confidence, economical body movements, and that something that said ‘command presence’.

“Ah, Matan, take a seat,” he said warmly.

“Thanks.” Matan nodded, glanced at the coffee table and settled himself into the nearest chair, his legs stretched out before him.

Namir folded his hands and leaned forward. “How is Sarah these days? Still beautiful as ever?”

“And I’m still very much in love with her,” Matan declared, his voice crisp and determined.

“How about that! And Admina?”

“Growing up too fast.”

Namir chuckled. “She is going to break some hearts along the way.”

“As long as some slick city kid doesn’t break her heart.”

“She’s lucky to have you and Sarah looking out for her.”

“That’s a matter of opinion. Sometimes I just don’t understand her.”

“The same way she feels about you, I’m sure.”

“I don’t doubt it. Anyway, why don’t you come around some evening and straighten her out. She’d listen to you.”

Namir lifted his hands and laughed. “No thanks! I’m happy to leave that problem to you. I’ve had my time. But talking of problems, any further developments in tracking down that Hamas cell?”

Two weeks ago a twelve-year-old Gaza girl had walked into a Tel Aviv restaurant near Old Jaffa and blown herself up, taking eleven patrons and bystanders with her, and eighteen others injured, some seriously. Recovered from the debris were nails, nuts and roller bearings – a vicious combination to make a statement. The incident had caused an outcry and much breast-beating by everybody. The Collections Department suspected a single Hamas cell of orchestrating the attack, having carried out a similar atrocity a week earlier. That time, it was a fourteen-year-old boy. To brainwash children…

Matan stared at the Special Operations Division Director and wondered why the sudden concern. It was not something that could be solved overnight, if at all, like incidents of indiscriminate roadside shooting, spraying cars and two cabs with AK-47 fire. Namir’s leg had to be acting up again, he thought comfortably, although he wasn’t showing it. The old codger looked fit and would probably outlast everybody. As far as Matan knew, the Director was only fifty-eight, but the thick gray hair, hard chiseled features, prominent nose and dark complexion, made him appear older. Except for the eyes, deep green and lively. Despite the apparent external decrepitude,the eyes revealed an indomitable spirit, one that ruled his department with a rod of iron. Special Ops had not always followed the strict interpretation of its charter, earning a degree of enmity along the way not only from its sister departments, but from the Knesset as well. However, it did get things done, most of the time. In his book, that made up for everything else. Politicians did not need to know what their intelligence organs were up to – until it failed them. Namir made sure his department did not fail. Matan liked that kind of thinking.

From what he knew, the Metsada chief had always been involved with intelligence, taking over the Special Operations Division in 2002 after a stint in the Political Action and Liaison Department. A former Mirage pilot, Namir was a rising star in the Air Force Intelligence before being recruited by Mossad into the Collections Department. His organizational and administrative abilities, coupled with a flair for the innovative, ensured he gravitated through Mossad’s operational sections as quickly as possible. Running Metsada seemed to have given him a home. But he worried about the chief, especially after the sudden death of his wife. Work was the only thing that seemed to matter to him these days.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing some of those holier-than-thou Hamas leadership strapping on a bomb themselves for the cause,” Matan muttered sourly and Namir grinned.

“You and me both. Maybe we should send them a memo. How about that!”

“Something to think about. Anyway, the Research Department has given us a couple of leads, but we’re not moving fast anywhere.”

“The Director is looking closely at this one, Matan.”

“Kameer?” Matan looked incredulous. “He’s got nothing better to do than be bothered by a suicide bombing incident?”

The corner of Namir’s mouth twitched in sympathy. “I wouldn’t be too critical. The Prime Minister is giving him a hard time and we must do our duty as we see it,” he deadpanned. “Sharron Ibrahim’s niece was injured in that blast.”

“It’s an internal security matter,” Matan protested. “Shabak are handling it.”

“Apparently not well enough. That’s why we are involved. Just keep an eye on things, will you?”

Namir regarded his senior case officer with deliberate scrutiny and no small measure of fondness. A reserve colonel, having enlisted in the Army for officer training following the death of his mother and two sisters in 1979, forty-two, wife and a daughter, Matan had proven himself to be an exceptional analyst. Recruited from the Army into the Political Action and Liaison Department, it did not take long for the hierarchy to spot a rising talent. Less than a year later, working for the Research Department, Matan had produced a number of analyses and action proposals deemed controversial even by Mossad’s progressive standards. Namir had one of them on his desk now. Two years later, with his help, Matan wound up in Metsada, the Special Operations Division; Mossad’s action arm dealing with assassinations, sabotage and covert paramilitary projects. The dirty tricks department, he reflected with satisfaction and a measure of pride. As a case officer and stage manager, Matan had no equal. His operations to date were planned and executed with faultless precision and total deniability. No loose ends, simply painstaking attention to minutiae and detail. And right now, for his scheme to work, Namir desperately needed that skill.

Despite the years, Matan carried himself with confident ease, his lips pressed permanently into a thin line. Some still called it arrogance, but in reality, it was a reflection of his capabilities, exaggerated perhaps by his officer training and automatic authority. Colonels always acted like they were one rung below God. Hair still black, Namir noted, marred by a hint of white at the temples. Long face, dark complexion, square jaw, Matan could easily have passed for an Arab and spoke Farsi without an accent. The dark mahogany eyes, sunk deep into the skull, were bright with amusement. They were also eyes of a man who had suffered much and managed to survive and thrive. Namir knew that Matan yearned to be out in the field, but he was far too valuable to risk losing on some gutter-crawling ops, being groomed for a deputy’s position in the Collections Department. That had rankled at first, but in the end, Matan had accepted the inevitable exigency of the service. This should be especially sweet, Namir thought – bittersweet perhaps.

“Be that as it may,” he allowed, “but I didn’t call you in to talk about the Hamas or Shabak’s incompetence. I want to broach the possibility of a bang and burn black ops. You would be the team cutout and action officer.”

Matan sat up and the small hairs on the back of his neck bristled with anticipation. A bang and burn usually involved demolition and sabotage, invariably in foreign territory. That meant dangerous territory. The two years spent with Metsada had been, in the main, soul-fulfilling experiences, but with little personal excitement. Namir had allowed him two opportunities to conduct a field mission, one in Lebanon and one in Jordan. Both went well and eliminated their targets cleanly – Syrian agents who were providing Hezbollah with advanced tactical training. The operations left him physically taxed and he knew his field ops days were numbered. He’d had a taste and it was enough, content now to be a planner and organizer, the invisible man who pulled the strings. What had changed that Namir would now want him out there?

“Sounds, ah, like a challenge,” he ventured cautiously, looking for traps.

Namir chuckled. He couldn’t help it. The dangled bait was sniffed, but Matan was too good an operative to snap at the obvious.

“You’ll enjoy this one. It’s something you dreamed up yourself.”

“I’ve put up lots of screwy proposals,” Matan muttered acidly, “which you and the Director never tire of telling me.” Only one person was spoken to or referred in the third person – Doron Kameer, head of Mossad.

“Someone has to restrain your youthful enthusiasm,” Namir said dryly, then cleared his throat. “Seriously, though. This time, there will be no restraints, no half measures. On this one we’re playing for broke.”

“Okay, my curiosity is aroused.” They had known each other long enough to be on first-name basis. Besides, Matan had sufficient seniority not to be overawed by silly bureaucratic protocol.

“What I have in mind might save us from a confrontation with Iran.”

“What will save us is to simply bomb the place,” Matan said evenly, perfectly serious. “Waiting for the UN or the U.S. to hammer out an acceptable solution is an exercise in futility and you know it. A surgical strike will set them squawking, but it would also eliminate the threat.”

“Not a novel idea and something your military colleagues would love to do. Politically though, it isn’t an option. However, we could get someone else to do the job for us and wear the heat. How about that!”

Matan sat back in shock and his eyes darted to the overturned papers on Namir’s desk. He couldn’t be considering…

“You want to bring the United States into direct conflict with Iran? That’s crazy!”

– Excerpted from Cry of Eagles. All rights reserved.

Character Interview: Frank Campello from Brandt Dodson’s ‘The Sons of Jude’

We’re thrilled to have here today Frank Campello from Brandt Dodson’s new book, The Sons of Jude. Frank is a homicide detective with the Chicago Police Department City in Chicago, Illinois.

It is a pleasure to have Frank with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Frank.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to B7C8YX Chiffon Scarf on white backgroundset anything straight with your readers?

Gee, I don’t know. Good question. I’ve been a cop for over twenty years. Being portrayed fairly has never been a problem. As you may have guessed, most people have issues with the police in one form or another. Christy Lee, the reporter I have conflicts with in this story, is a prime example. That woman just rubbed me the wrong way whether she was going up one side or down the other.

To answer your question, I think Brandt Dodson did a fine job in portraying me, blemishes and all. I’m a cop. I’m not a choirboy. I do what I have to do to bring the bad guys to justice.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

Would I like to have been portrayed like Andy Taylor? Sure. Who wouldn’t? But the kind of cop that Andy Griffith portrayed isn’t reality. I think Dodson did a good job. The conflict I had with Andy Polanski is legitimate and written the way it occurred. Polanski betrayed cops. He betrayed fellow cops. Anyone who does that is a traitor and deserves whatever comes his way. Sure. I messed with Andy a bit. We all did. But he had it coming. He’s a turncoat and can’t be trusted. That doesn’t mean I’m proud of everything I did. I’m not. But a thing is what it is. Dodson captured the story the way it happened.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Loyalty. That’s something Polanski doesn’t understand. As you know from reading The Sons of Jude, rioting is tearing the city apart. When you’re out there in the streets, trying to protect the property and citizenry of Chicago from a mindless mob, you need to know that the guy behind you has your back. Polanski isn’t that guy. None of us liked him. Can you blame us?

Worse trait?

Maybe my loyalty. I’m not saying I don’t have faults. I do. And sometimes my loyalty to my brothers in blue can cause me to put on blinders. I know not all cops are honest. But most are. So when there are a few that aren’t, well … I tend to overlook them.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Relax. I’m no actor. I’m a cop, through and through. You’ll never catch me wearing makeup in front of a camera.

Who would I like to portray me? I’d like to say Brad Pitt, but I’m no pretty boy. I’m Italian, six feet, solidly built, with black hair and a dark complexion. If I had to pick an actor to play me in a movie it’d probably be Adrian Paul, best known for the title role in the television series Highlander.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

I’m seeing Christy Lee, now, the reporter I mentioned earlier. She’s a free spirit and prone to carry a grudge against the police. She’s also a bit too outspoken. You know what I’m talking about? She’s usually wrong, but never in doubt. We’re total opposites. But you know what? It works for us. Like most romantic relationships, though, ours did not start on the best of terms. To say there was conflict would be an understatement. We weren’t oil and water: we were oil and matches.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

When Polanski was arrested shortly after I came under attack. That was not a good time. If I had to give you odds as to our survival I would have placed them at 80-20 in favor of the other side. I had a lot of sleepless nights for a while.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

I would not want to be Polanski. We razzed that guy endlessly and there was talk that he might not live to go home after his shift. There were some guys in the district who had a strong dislike for him. That’s not good when the guys you work with carry guns.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Dodson did a good job in capturing the stress of being a cop. He comes from a long line of police officers going back to the 1930s and was employed with the Indianapolis office of the FBI. I knew he’d be fair in the way he told our story, and it’s evident in the way he concluded it.

Is the ending satisfying? Sure. Complete? Sure. But is the door left open to the type of daily grind a cop faces? Absolutely! We all know that an arrest today doesn’t change the landscape for tomorrow and that’s where Saint Jude comes in. He’s the patron saint of lost causes and police officers. Specifically, he’s the patron saint of the Chicago PD. That makes us The Sons of Jude.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

I’d tell him don’t. Just leave me alone. There are a lot of other cops at The Castle (that’s what we call the building that houses the 28th district) and he can tell their story. But I also know he won’t. There is little doubt that I will re-appear time and time again throughout the series. I may not always be in a major role, but the odds are pretty good I’ll be in there somewhere.

Thank you for this interview, Frank.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

No doubt. Brandt Dodson is already drafting Chicago Knights and you can be certain I’ll pop up.


Brandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which he would later choose as the setting for his Colton Parker Mystery series. Although he Brandt Dodsondiscovered in grade school that he wanted to be a writer, it would be another twenty-one years before he would put pen to paper.“I knew in fifth grade that I wanted to be a writer. Our teacher had given each of us a photograph which we were to use as inspiration for a short story. The particular photo I was given was of several young men playing handball in New York City. I don’t remember all of the particulars of the story now, but I do remember the thrill that writing it gave me.”

Later, while in college, one of Brandt’s professors would echo that teacher’s comment.

“But life intervened and I found myself working at a variety of jobs. I worked in the toy department of a local department store and fried chicken for a local fast food outlet. Over the course of the next several years I finished my college degree and worked for the Indianapolis office of the FBI, and served for eight years as a Naval Officer in the United States Naval Reserve. I also obtained my doctorate in Podiatric Medicine, and after completion of my surgical residency, opened my own practice. But I never forgot my first love. I wanted to write.”

During his early years in practice, Brandt began reading the work of Dean Koontz.

“I discovered Dean’s book, The Bad Place, and was completely blown away by his craftsmanship. I read something like 13 or 14 of his back list over the following two weeks. It wasn’t long after that I began to write and submit in earnest.”

Still, it would be another twelve years before Brandt was able to secure the publishing contract he so desperately desired.

“I began by writing the type of fiction that I enjoyed; I wrote edgy crime thrillers that were laced with liberal amounts of suspense. Over the years, I’ve begun to write increasingly more complex work by using broader canvases and themes.

Since securing his first contract, Brandt has continued to pen the type of stories that inspired him to write when he was a boy, and that have entertained his legions of readers.

“I love to write, and as long as others love to read, I plan on being around for a long time to come.”

Brandt Dodson’s latest book is the crime thriller The Sons of Jude.

Visit Brandt Dodson’s website at www.brandtdodson.com.

Visit Brandt Dodson at Twitter: http://twitter.com/BrandtDodson

Like Brandt Dodson on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/brandt.dodson

Become a friend with Brandt Dodson at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2597.Brandt_Dodson

Pick up your copy of The Sons of Jude at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sons-Jude-Series/dp/0857212052

Please copy and paste a book excerpt here.http://www.amazon.com/The-Sons-Jude-Series/dp/0857212052#reader_0857212052


About the Book:

When Chicago detectives Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are assigned to investigate the murder of Trina Martinez it seems like an ordinary homicide. An unfortunate young girl in the wrong place at the wrong time has been brutally murdered. But their investigation is halted by a wall of silence, a wall erected by powerful interests that will render their inquiry a lost cause.

Then they enlist the support of reporter Christy Lee – and come under immediate fire. Polanski is arrested. Campello threatened. Christy is attacked.

It’s the case that every cop gets. The one that changes his life. The one where justice is elusive and the hunter becomes the hunted.

Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are The Sons of Jude.

Book Trailer Link:


A Chat with Gabriel Valjan, author of Wasp’s Nest

My guest today is Gabriel Valjan, author of the Roma series, published by Winter Goose Publishing. The first book,Roma, Underground, came out earlier this year. The sequel, Wasp’s Nest, was just released this week. The third installment is scheduled for August 2013.

Valjan attended the University of Southern California for his undergraduate education and completed graduate school in England at the University of Leeds. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize. Valjan’s short stories continue to appear in print and online literary journals. He recently won ZOUCH Magazine’s inaugural Lit Bits Contest. He lives in New England.

Find the author on the web: Website/blog / Winter Goose Publishing Author’s page / Pinterest for Wasp’s Nest

Wasp’s Nest is available on Amazon Paperback / Barnes & Noble Paperback / Kindle / Nook

Read my review of Wasp’s Nest on The Dark Phantom Review.

Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?

Like most things in my life the road was not always obvious or straight. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. As a child I read voraciously, so I was quite awed, quite intimidated, by the great talents on the bookshelves at my local library. I began with a lot of self-doubt about my ability to sustain an idea, create multidimensional characters, and capture the tics of dialogue. I knew what I enjoyed in literature, understood to some degree how it all worked. I was convinced (still am) that nobody could teach the idea that starts a short story, a novel, or a poem. When I had set aside the initial excuses and insecurities, I discovered that I was having fun and I had stories within me.

What was your inspiration for Wasp’s Nest?

After I wrote the first in the series, Roma, Underground, I knew that I had created my cast of characters. Two things happened then: one, I wanted to see how each of my characters would grow and evolve, interact with each other, the world around them, and bond emotionally; and two, I wanted to take my own sense of ‘what if’ thinking and create situations and see how my characters would negotiate them. I believe what makes my characters interesting is that they each of them has their own ‘issues,’ as we all do in life, but mixed in it all is a cultural collision of American and European. In Wasp’s Nest, the ‘what if’ has to do with cancer research and technology. What if someone had a way of detecting cancer at the level of DNA and prevent cancer from occurring without chemotherapy, radiation, and disfiguring surgeries? Since the majority of us will die either from heart disease or some form of cancer, there is that ‘what if.’ And then there is the ‘what if’ in Wasp’s Nest of the threat a potential cure poses to those industries that profit from chronic illness. I don’t suggest that ‘what if’ is a pure either/or. Dance with the angel of a cure, but don’t forget that the Devil was also once an angel.

For those readers who haven’t read this or the first book yet, what is the blurb of the series as a whole and how many instalments are you planning?

I haven’t committed to an exact number, but I had planned six novels. The overall arc of the series is watching friends learn how to love and trust each other, learn how to move within a morally compromised world. The main character Alabaster (or Bianca if you prefer her alias) is difficult to know, extremely intelligent, and dichotomous at times in her thinking. She sees things others do not, yet she struggles with intimacy and trusting another person. Dante, her boyfriend, is a nice guy, a little too patient with her at times. Farrugia is a stoical investigator with an edge to him. His peer Gennaro is a widower who has never forgiven himself for causing his wife’s death. Alessandro has brains but picks the wrong women. Then there is Silvio, the ambitious and humorous interpreter. In Wasp’s Nest, readers will be introduced to Diego Clemente, a garrulous, very Boston character. Throughout the Roma Series I try to infuse authentic Italian culture and food.

In this novel, you dive into the controversial world of biotechnology, genetics, and pharmaceutical companies. Is the theory about wasps, the methyl toolkit, and their connection to cancer in your story a real thing?

The Nasonia wasp is real. There are three species indigenous to the U.S. and a fourth was indeed discovered in Brewertown, New York. In the novel I mentioned Mendelian genetics, which should return readers to basic biology. I try to keep it simple. I address the reason why this wasp was selected and why the fruit fly is an imperfect model. The reader will discover that the Nasonia wasp is no pleasant creature, but what I said about its genetics is true; it is easy to study, easy to manipulate, but the ‘what if’ is that current research in Nasonia is devoted to the development of pesticides. The concept of the methyl toolkit is real. The ‘what if’ I propose is pointed at oncology. I don’t think that it is misleading to say that we all have the potential for cancer. Women with a familial predisposition to cancer, for example, can be tested for the BRCA1 and HER2 genes for ovarian and breast cancers, respectively. A while back, the actress Christina Applegate tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, which was unexpressed, but she opted for a double mastectomy as a pre-emptive strike. This is an example where technology exists and the ethical debates begin. While some sophisticated ideas do exist in Wasp’s Nest, I tried to not make them inaccessible. I believe readers are intelligent and seek intellectual engagement while they enjoy a story.

How much research did the book required?

I always do a great amount of research, but I hope that what I decide to include is articulate and not beyond the grasp of the reader, or so implausible that it is science fiction. I research technology online and in technical libraries. While I don’t have a Ph.D, I’ve retained a working vocabulary from my scientific education. With the methyl toolkit I did speak with an immunologist and instructor who researches cancer and teaches at the graduate level. While I was remiss in thanking him in the Acknowledgements I had him in mind when I introduce readers to Portuguese food in Wasp’s Nest.  I should also mention that another form of research necessary to the Roma Series is cultural in nature. Two of my friends act as my editors. Dean proofreads all my work; and Claudio does the ‘cultural editing.’ Both men are far more knowledgeable in Italian than I. Claudio is a native speaker, a linguist, a journalist and a professional translator, with northern and southern Italian culture in his veins. While I can read Italian with respectable facility, only the native speaker can give you the authentic phrases and turns of phrase. This ‘cultural editing’ was crucial to the third novel, out in August 2013, since it deals with a volatile part of recent Italian history, with an unfortunate American connection.

I love the title, which of course suits the story well because it works on two levels. Did you come up with it right away or did you have to brainstorm?

I knew the title from the start. I had wanted to create a story in Boston. The title does work on many levels. It alludes to the insect, the Bostonian stereotype of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and the colloquial expression of getting into a mess, although I think the proper phrase has to do with a ‘hornet’s nest.’ One of the particular joys with Wasp’s Nestwas working with Winter Goose in designing the cover art. I should point out that the wasp on the cover is not a Nasoniacritter, but a yellow jacket wasp.

How long did it take you to write the novel and did you plot in advance?

I wrote Wasp’s Nest in four to six weeks, BUT I spent longer editing and shaping it before I submitted it to Winter Goose, where it underwent more editing with James Logan. Fellow Winter Goose authors Jessica Kristie and Sherry Foley provided me with invaluable feedback and suggestions before James touched the manuscript. Jessica is a poet so her contribution around imagery was helpful. Sherry is the author of two Winter Goose thrillers: A Captive Heart andSwitched in Death. She taught me other “suspense tricks.” I can’t emphasize how helpful they were for both Wasp’s Nest and for me as a writer. In terms of plotting, I knew where I was going with this novel. It did feel at times like “seat of your pants” writing, but I advocate getting the story down on paper and then editing afterwards.

What made you decide to make your main character a woman? Has this been challenging? If yes, in what way?

The genesis for the Alabaster character came from a dare. I was talking to a work colleague whom I’ve known for over ten years. Margaret knew that I was writing short stories at the time so she suggested that I try my hand at writing a female character.  The result was a short story entitled “Alabaster.” Yes, it is challenging to write out of gender and I would add that it is also difficult to write from a child’s perspective. I have a deep respect for children’s authors since they have to modulate story and vocabulary to their audience. I don’t think writing from a female point of view is insurmountable. Research can get you the answers. The skill is in transforming the knowledge into believable action and dialogue.

In Book I, it was Rome. Now, it is Boston. In both novels your locations are fleshed out in vivid detail. How important is a sense of location in a story?

In the Roma series I try to make the location a character. We can take our environments for granted. Wasp’s Nest takes place in Boston, the third, fourth, and fifth novels take place in Milan, Naples, and Boston. Cities change all the time: think of Whitman’s Manhattan and New Jersey, T.S. Eliot’s London, and Baudelaire’s Paris. The modern metropolis provides a remarkable backdrop to our individual and social conflicts and pleasures.

How do you keep up with what’s out there in terms of spy gadget technology?

I hope readers don’t think that they are getting Jane Bond. John le Carré Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy proved that spy-craft is a slow game of chess. As I mentioned earlier, I read a lot so I read the geek articles whenever I find them, rummage in the libraries when an idea takes root, but in terms of gadgetry I think I use a remarkable device called the ‘intelligent brain,’ and it happens to belong to a woman.

As it’s the case with book I, there’s a lot of marvellous food description in Wasp’s Nest

Starving is not an option in Italy. How could you not love the food and the attitude of La Dolce Vita?

If you could narrow down the three main elements of a good spy story, what would they be?

Ambiguity. Misdirection. Movement. A story has to move; the pages have to turn. Ambiguity in character and motivation is true to life. Human beings are not selfless creatures; that is why I think altruism is a virtue. One of the joys of a good mystery is watching intelligent people being intelligent.  This is damned difficult to write, since your protagonist has to be smart enough to spot something that neither the other characters nor your readers can see, even though it’s right in front of them.

You also write poetry and short stories, having published many in literary journals. What do you find more enjoyable: working in a poem, a short story or a novel?

Each has its appeal. Poetry is a house with all the necessary language; and by its nature, not often natural language. The short story is an airplane with a short runway and flight is imminent or the plane crashes. The novel is an endurance race, where there are miles to go, numerous paths to take, but you have only so much water and food: use them wisely. For me poetry is intimate and personal. While I enjoy the short-fiction format, I have noticed that what was once acceptable – twenty to fifty pages is now impractical, with most stories clocking in at 5,000 words. Flash or micro fiction is challenging. Is it a story or a vignette? I’ve only had one flash-fiction piece published; it was a 111-word story that I did for a contest for ZOUCH Magazine.

Congratulations on winning first prize in ZOUCH Magazine’s Lit Bit contest. Can you tell us about it?

I was searching for the “calls for submission” web pages and I saw page after page of requests for flash fiction. I felt dismayed but then I thought: What can I tell in a short, SHORT piece? I wrote one sentence that told a hero’s journey. The brevity of the form drew upon my experience in writing poetry.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m almost done writing the fifth book in the Roma Series. I’m trying to find a publisher for a three-volume noir series that I have written. It has two main characters, an American and a British woman, who are part of the American intelligence community. The novel starts in Vienna and continues in McCarthy-era Los Angeles and New York, highlighting the time, the mores, and the dark rivalry between the CIA and FBI.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Write because you love to write. No matter how great you think the writing is, please have someone edit it for you. Respect your reader and try to understand that not everyone will like you, that criticism, while an opinion, is an opportunity for improvement. If you find a writer that you like then write a balanced review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Last but not least – thank you for reading.

This interview originally appeared in Blogcritics

A Conversation with Thriller/Crime Author Brandt Dodson

Brandt DodsonBrandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which he would later choose as the setting for his Colton Parker Mystery series. Although he discovered in grade school that he wanted to be a writer, it would be another twenty-one years before he would put pen to paper.“I knew in fifth grade that I wanted to be a writer. Our teacher had given each of us a photograph which we were to use as inspiration for a short story. The particular photo I was given was of several young men playing handball in New York City. I don’t remember all of the particulars of the story now, but I do remember the thrill that writing it gave me.”

Later, while in college, one of Brandt’s professors would echo that teacher’s comment.

“But life intervened and I found myself working at a variety of jobs. I worked in the toy department of a local department store and fried chicken for a local fast food outlet. Over the course of the next several years I finished my college degree and worked for the Indianapolis office of the FBI, and served for eight years as a Naval Officer in the United States Naval Reserve. I also obtained my doctorate in Podiatric Medicine, and after completion of my surgical residency, opened my own practice. But I never forgot my first love. I wanted to write.”

During his early years in practice, Brandt began reading the work of Dean Koontz.

“I discovered Dean’s book, The Bad Place, and was completely blown away by his craftsmanship. I read something like 13 or 14 of his back list over the following two weeks. It wasn’t long after that I began to write and submit in earnest.”

Still, it would be another twelve years before Brandt was able to secure the publishing contract he so desperately desired.

“I began by writing the type of fiction that I enjoyed; I wrote edgy crime thrillers that were laced with liberal amounts of suspense. Over the years, I’ve begun to write increasingly more complex work by using broader canvases and themes.

Since securing his first contract, Brandt has continued to pen the type of stories that inspired him to write when he was a boy, and that have entertained his legions of readers.

“I love to write, and as long as others love to read, I plan on being around for a long time to come.”

Brandt Dodson’s latest book is the crime thriller The Sons of Jude.

Visit Brandt Dodson’s website at www.brandtdodson.com.

B7C8YX Chiffon Scarf on white backgroundQ: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Brandt.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

The Sons of Jude is my seventh novel. However, it’s the eighth book I’ve written. That book, which was actually my first, will never see the light of day nor should it. Some things are best left unsaid and I said them all in that first one.

I’ve published some short stories, too, but I prefer the long form. Novel writing gives me a chance to day-dream and cook the story ’till it’s done.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

For a long time after beginning an earnest effort toward publication, I focused on short stories. I figured at the time that they were easier; that they were shorter, less complex and would help me establish writing and publishing credentials. Nothing could be farther from the truth. At least in my case.

When I began to focus on the long story form, my fiction began to pick up steam. Not so much in the sense that publishers were beating a path to my door, but that I was making headway as a writer; my craft was developing along the lines it should have. When I felt I was ready, I began to write the second book of my career. That novel, Original Sin, literally poured out of me in a week. I wrote the entire book longhand. It was a first-person suspense story, something I’ve since learned can be quite challenging. At the time, though, I didn’t know enough to know what I didn’t know.

But it worked.

When it came time to submit – and remember, this was 2004 – self-publishing was still in relative infancy with a lot of stigma attached to it that is not the case today – I felt the only realistic option I had was to seek out a traditional publisher. After completing Original Sin, I attended a writer’s conference the following week where I met with an editor from a small press publisher. He liked the book and that meeting eventually led to a three-book contract. I had a 12 year odyssey learning how to write, but when I got published, it happened rather quickly.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

After submitting Original Sin my editor asked for another novel so that he could show the committee that I wasn’t a one-book writer. I wrote the second novel in four weeks and he liked it better than the first. He told me to sit tight. It was almost a year to the day after he first saw Original Sin that the contract offer came. As I’ve mentioned, it was a three-book contract, but I already had two of them written. They brought the books out, as a series, spacing those four months apart over the course of a year.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I was attending the same writer’s conference a year later when I heard about the contract offer. The conference was held on a college campus in June so some of the attendees could stay in the dorms. It was a few minutes after ten p.m. and I was heading back to the dorm when my wife called to say she had just opened our email. She read the message to me. I can still hear the excitement in her voice. I was excited too, but unfortunately, there was no one to tell. Most of the attendees were either already in their rooms – if they stayed on campus – or had returned to their hotels. I drove around town aimlessly for the better part of an hour, eventually stopping at a McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. As low wattage as it is, this is still the way I celebrate each new contract.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

The very first thing I did was to develop a website. My son, who’s far more computer savvy than his old man, built it for me. He kept it in tune with the noir tone of my novels, complete with gun shots, squealing tires and explosions. It was rather animated to say the least.

Shortly after that, I began seeking interview opportunities on the web and even did some local radio and TV. I was all over the place.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

My knowledge of the business – and make no mistake, this is a business. – has grown exponentially. I make it my business to know my business.

But I’ve also grown as a writer. I’m reading more deeply and widely than I ever had before, and I am more willing to attempt new techniques when writing. I read everything on the craft that I can find, including books on: character, point-of-view, plotting and grammar.

When I read, I read the novels that are written by the leaders of the genre. And I read for knowledge too. I read biographies, science, and history … nearly anything that can later become grist for the mill.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

This industry is populated by some great people. That surprised me because I have often worked in areas where that was not the case.

But there is a certain fickleness to publishing too. One person at one house may say that such-and-such a novel will never sell and that quickly becomes the dictate for every other house. When someone writes that novel anyway, and then self-publishes to critical acclaim and huge sales, everyone seems stunned.

I’ve also been a bit taken aback by book stores and their seemingly never ending laissez faire approach to selling books. I’ve had stores in which I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my previous novels, refuse to stock more than a single copy of my next book until it could be proven it would sell.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Getting to do the very thing you love to do and have been doing for years without pay or acknowledgment. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day than making up stories. Now that I get acknowledged for it and someone(s) is actually reading them, all the better. It’s a great life.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A dream is a goal without a deadline.

Don’t quit. Nearly every author I’ve met has succeeded only after years of learning the craft. If you give up, it will most likely be just before the threshold of your success. And what a loss that would be for you and your readers.

Book Review: Wasp’s Nest by Gabriel Valjan

In this the second installment of his Roma series, author Gabriel Valjan takes secret government analyst Alabaster Black from Rome to Boston to investigate Nasonia Pharmaceutical and its CEO, Cyril Sargent for Rendition, the covert government agency she works for.

Nasonia uses advanced molecular biology and genetic sequencing technology to target human diseases. Sargent, who’s demonstrated lack of transparency in his dealings and unorthodox strategies in the past and who’s named his new controversial venture after a group of wasps, claims that his company is in no way perverting the natural order of things or doing anything unethical. He also claims that his research with wasps might lead to developing a methyl toolkit to use against cancer.

Thus, it is up to Alabaster to figure out what’s really going on and, because of her unnatural pattern recognition ability, she she soon gets hired by Sargent.

While this is going on, Alabaster is still being haunted by her last adventure in Rome in the form of a Bulgarian hit man set on killing her after a price has been put on her head. Old friends and a love interest from book I join in, adding further tension to the story as they uncover a twisted conspiracy.

I really enjoyed reading Wasp’s Nest. In fact, I liked this book better than the first one. Somehow, I was able to feel closer to Alabaster: she’s smart, bold and fearless yet has a soft side that is at times humorous. But mainly, I think it was the whole idea about DNA and wasps that did it for me. The information was fascinating. As Valjan did with Rome in his first book, Boston is fleshed out in vivid detail in this one, to the point where the setting becomes almost like a character. Also, as in the first book, the author goes into detail bringing Italian food to life–to the point where the reader has no other option but to love it. In short, an interesting, entertaining read. Recommended.

Read my interview with the author.

Purchase links:
Amazon Paperback
Barnes & Noble Paperback
Kindle / Nook

This review originally appeared in Blogcritics.

Character Interview: Samuel Roberts from Scott A. Lerner, Paranormal Suspense Thriller, Cocaine Zombies

We’re thrilled to have here today Samuel Roberts from Scott A. Lerner’s new paranormal suspense thriller, Cocaine Zombies.

Sam is in his thirties and is an attorney living in Urbana, Illinois.

It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Mr. Roberts. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

Let’s face it; the story is pretty incredible. If I didn’t live it I wouldn’t believe it. Yet, the world is bigger than we pretend it is. It offers us both wonderful nightmarish things. I feel I was fairly portrayed most of the time. Although, I wasn’t really as scared as the author makes me out to be. I also never cried during Finding Nemo. Wait! Never mind, the author never said that.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

He could have made me profound and handsome. It would have been a lie but it would probable increase my chances of getting a date. Don’t tell Susan I said that. Could we erase that bit?

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I do what I need to do even if I am afraid.

Worst trait?

Sometimes I am afraid.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

That’s tough. Johnny Depp would be good. Daniel Craig, too. Either would work.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Her name is Susan. We have been friends for a long time. It practically took a club to the head to realize we were more than that.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

Finding a severed head on the shelf above your crisper bin has a way of changing one’s perspective. Although, “nervous” may not the right word. Perhaps scared to death would be better. I kind of assumed things would not turn out well at that point.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Thomas Traver. I would like to avoid being gutted and beheaded. I am not fond of severe pain. I prefer to avoid pain, period. I don’t even like to go to the dentist.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Tremendous. Let’s just say there is a sequel coming out called Ruler of Demons. I am in the sequel, which means that the ending turned out better than I deserved. Yet, as in all things, the world is not safe. The world may never be safe but at least it is still around.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if he decided to write another book with you in it?

I may sound like a psychic but he already did. Although, I have not read it yet. I would suggest he make me better looking, smarter and richer. I know he won’t, though. He feels my character should reflect a real person and not some Hollywood version of what a hero should be. If a movie is made I bet he would reject the whole Johnny Depp or Daniel Craig thing.

Thank you for this interview, Sam.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

As I mentioned earlier in the interview Ruler of Demons should be coming out soon. I often wonder if I am cursed. I eat my vegetables and I am kind to animals. Why is everyone trying to kill me? Sorry I don’t mean to complain. I would like to thank you for this interview. After all everyone interviews the author. All he does is sit on his rear end typing while I actually put my butt on the line. Who knows, maybe we could all get together and talk about Ruler of Demons—if I survive it.

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Cocaine Zombies is his first published novel. Coming soon, the sequel: Ruler of Demons.

You can find Scott online at scottlerner.camelpress.com.

Samuel Roberts, a small-town lawyer in Urbana, Illinois, is contacted by a prospective client accused of selling cocaine. Nothing Sam hasn’t handled before. Or is it? Thomas is accompanied by a mysterious and exotic beauty named Chloe. Who is she, why is she paying for Thomas’s defense, and why is the accused so antsy around her?

Soon after Sam takes on the case he is plagued by terrible nightmares. Only, in these nightmares, when he dreams of death, people die. Realizing that he is out of his depth, Sam enlists the help of his friend, Bob Sizemore. Bob is oddly insightful about the supernatural and deeply suspicious of big business and the government. Sam and Bob soon discover that a major German pharmaceutical company has been using human guinea pigs to test a highly addictive and dangerous derivative of cocaine first developed in Nazi Germany. Combined with ancient herbs provided by a Voodoo priest, the substance has become increasingly addictive and dangerous.

After Thomas’s head shows up in Sam’s refrigerator, suspicion naturally falls on him. Now he has no choice but to face the forces of evil head on. But how do a small-town lawyer and a computer geek defeat an enemy with the power to enslave mankind?


Guest Blogger Joanne Elder: The Steep Climb to the Top: A Debut Author’s Story

The Steep Climb to the Top: A Debut Author’s Story

By Joanne Elder

Four years ago, my over-active imagination tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “You should write a book.” A crazy thought, perhaps, but is it any crazier than daydreaming about thrilling, sci-fi adventures? I had always been a sci-fi fan, but a writer of science fiction? I pondered this notion acknowledging that I had a great deal of technical writing experience under my belt from years working as an engineer. But, to make the leap to fiction? I dismissed any uncertainties and sat down at my computer, knowing that when I start something, I like to take it the max. Now, with two science fiction books published, I thought it’s time I tell my story.

For months, I dedicated myself to writing Spectra. I became consumed with the plot, and the background research. All the while, I felt certain that upon completion of the manuscript, I’d get a literary agent to represent me and land a contract with one of the big publishing houses. After all, how many people could possibly dedicate themselves to a project of this magnitude and see it through to fruition? Well apparently thousands.

My cocky attitude was quickly humbled as I queried agents and larger publishers. Letters of rejection filled my inbox, but they didn’t crush my spirit. I turned my sights to the smaller presses and very quickly signed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing.

One year later not only did I hold a printed copy of Spectra in my hands, I had a second contract for its sequel, Entity. My overzealous attitude reignited. Launching my debut novel was akin to starting up a business and I believed success would come with the proper investment of both time and money. I did a press release, a book trailer, and threw myself into the social networking scene with a website, Facebook page and Twitter. I started blogging on my website and as a guest on others. I actively participated in forums, and Facebook and LinkedIn groups. I attended conferences. I even advertised with key science fiction magazines and websites. I watched my sales statistics each step of the way and, at no point, found any positive correlation between books sold and my efforts.

Next step, I hired a publicist. I will give a word of warning to any author considering this promotional avenue…shop carefully. They can lure you in with their promises and provide few results. That was my experience with the first publicist I used, which I will refrain from naming here. Their efforts, although well intentioned, lead to nothing more than a few reviews from mediocre review sites. Once again, no increase in sales. Bad fortune can make us smarter and I’m now working with a publicist I’m very pleased with. Will sales go up…time will tell.

Of all my efforts to promote Spectra, there is only one success story, which I inadvertently fell into. I submitted the novel to RT Book Reviews Magazine for review and they gave it their rating of TOP PICK, which they give to few books. For the month it appeared in their magazine, sales soared. Perhaps there is one lesson to be learned here. Good, reputable reviews sell books.

So how do authors get their name out there? What’s the right promotional recipe for success? I had hoped that with my experience I’d have these answers by now. The writing world is a changing place with ebooks and online sales dominating the marketplace. This has increased the selection of books for the discriminating reader, yet many still gravitate to the big name “Cadillac” authors. Readers often don’t realize that the latest novel penned by their favorite author may have actually been written by a ghost writer. Book clubs often stack their shelves with the latest media hits boasting vampires or things that are best kept behind closed doors. Are these books literary works of art? I think not, but they sell. I try to take things to the max and I’d like to think I’m not there yet with Spectra. Beyond perseverance, if the key to an author’s success is out there, I’ll find it. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep writing for no better reason than that I love it.


Joanne Elder is a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Engineering Science at the University of Western Ontario. During her professional career, she spent several years in the aeronautical and nuclear industries, published numerous technical papers in the field of Metallurgical Engineering and presented at international conferences. She now resides in King City, Ontario with her two teen-aged children and husband. Spectra, Elder’s debut novel, and the sequel, Entity, were published by MuseItUp Publishing.

You can visit Joanne Elder’s website at www.sciencefictionthrillers.com.

Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | MuseItUp Publishing

Guest Post & Review: The Inspiration for The Moroni Deception (and no, it wasn’t about torpedoing Mitt Romney), by Jack L. Brody

ImageRecently it seems I’ve been asked, or more accurately, been accused, of writing The Moroni Deception as an attempt to disparage Gov. Romney and hurt his Presidential chances almost as many times as I’ve been asked what inspired me to write the novel.

The first question I have to say makes about as much sense to me as asking Dan Brown if his first two Langdon novels were personal attacks on the Pope.  While some conspiracy-minded readers might want to draw the conclusion (although more often than not it seems to be from people who have not actually read the book) through Mr. Romney’s association with the LDS church, the beliefs and roots of which are explored in The Moroni Deception, that the novel is a personal attack, I would again remind them that I started writing the novel over five years ago.

The idea, as I’ve mentioned previously, was first sparked after reading Jon Krakauer’s Under The Banner of Heaven.  From his book I got a condensed education with regards to the founding and history of the LDS Church–although I would point out that most of the modern day stuff his book dealt with had to do with the FLDS, one of the polygamous offshoots of the Mormon family tree (and which I make a fairly clear distinction between the two branches in my book).

After I saw how much potential there was for weaving in some of the more interesting elements as part of a novel, I did over a full year of additional research.  I will admit that the novel did in fact start out as something completely different.  While still a thriller, the story had to do with an FBI agent conducting a personal investigation into the murder of his fiancee who had grown up as a member of one of the polygamous Mormon offshoots.  Somewhere along the line it morphed into what it mostly is now and the protagonist became an investigative journalist.  This was around the same time Mitt Romney was running against John McCain about 5 years ago and when I came across the “White Horse Prophecy” that I got the idea for the Brockston Ratchford character.

Those things coming together then seemed to start the percolation of a different story headed into an entirely new direction.  The fact that Mr. Romney won the GOP nomination five years later, right around the time I was finally finishing the book, was just dumb luck.  It did, however, seem like the perfect time to release it with all the interest there has been in the Mormon religion over the last several years in our popular culture, rather than waiting another couple of years to try to go the more traditional publishing route, and at a time when there might be far less interest.  So finally, to those who want to go on maintaining that “Brockston Ratchford” is just a veiled reference to Mitt Romney, I would point out that in the novel, Ratchford is described as a charismatic, fiery conservative–three descriptions I have never heard made describing Gov. Romney.


Review of The Moroni Deception:

Jack L. Brody’s The Moroni Deception is an exciting page-turner in the tradition of The DaVinci Code, one that will be relished by fans of suspense thrillers.

The presidential election is just around the corner and it looks as though charismatic Republican candidate and Utah senator Brockston Ratchford is going to win. The fact that his wife has been brutally murdered and his daughter kidnapped has only gained him public sympathy.

However, his wife isn’t the only one whose throat has been cut from ear to ear and whose forehead has been marked with strange symbols. A retired history professor by the name of Martin Koplanski has suffered the same fate, and the fact that he’s the author of a book that apparently doesn’t sit well with the powers that be in the Mormon Church doesn’t look like a coincidence.

New York Times journalist Chenault begins working on the story. With the help of Rachel Potter, a fledgling reporter for the The Salt Lake Tribune, he sets out to investigate the murders. Soon, a dark grim history begins to emerge, one of ancient artifacts, secret societies, and a mysterious prophecy that points to none other than Senator Ratchford.

Who, in fact, is The Prophet? Who is meant to be The Great Restorer? As the clock ticks and the presidential election approaches, the bodies pile up.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. The Moroni Deception is a hell of a ride. The pace is quick, the characters compelling, the stakes high. I really liked Chenault. He’s smart and sympathetic and has a good heart. I especially like that he’s not one of those tortured journalist heroes with a bitter past and prone to drinking. That was refreshing. The ending is surprising and satisfying.

The Moroni Deception is a controversial novel in the same way as The DaVinci Code is. So if you enjoy thrillers with religious and historical undertones, you’ll get a kick out of this one.

Visit the website at  http://www.themoronideception.com/
Purchase from Amazon.

Review by Mayra Calvani


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