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5 Questions with John Ford Clayton, Author of ‘Manipulated’

The Dark Phantom Review

John Ford Clayton lives in Harriman, Tennessee with his wife Kara, and canine companions Lucy, Ginger and Clyde. He has two grown sons, Ben and Eli, and a daughter-in-law, Christina. He earned a BS in Finance from Murray State University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He is active in his East Tennessee John Ford Clayton Photocommunity having served on the local boards of the Boys and Girls Club and a federal credit union, on church leadership and creative teams, and on a parks and recreation advisory committee. When he’s not writing he works as a project management consultant supporting Federal project teams. John is a huge fan of Disney parks and University of Kentucky basketball. Visit his website at www.johnfordclayton.com.
Find out more about Manipulated.

Q: What’s inside the mind of a political thriller author?

A: In our hyper-polarized 2018 political climate, where any discussion of politics…

View original post 491 more words

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Character Interview: Samuel from ‘Secret Agent Angel’

We’re thrilled to have here today Samuel, an angel, from Ray Sutherland’s new inspirational suspense novel Secret Agent Angel. Samuel is an angel who comes to earth disguised as a human.

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

Thank you so for this interview, Samuel.  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?

front cover finalSince I’m the narrator, I have no complaint. I would like to point out how different it is to be here on the earth instead of in my natural home in Heaven. That’s one of the most interesting and fun parts of coming to earth disguised as a regular human.

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

In narrating the book I tried hard to let my personality show. That’s one element of angels that’s the same on earth and on the other side. So the book shows my personality quite well, I think.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Persistence, or dedication, which might be a better label. That’s built into me. Sometimes I have to change plans in the middle of a job  and now and then I even have to admit failure. But perseverance in the work I’m sent to do isn’t a choice I make. It’s a compulsion.

Worse trait?

I’m a junk food junkie. When I’m here on earth, I enjoy taking advantage of the physical process of gaining energy and mass which is to say eating. I have a sweet tooth when I’m in human form and I love all kinds of food.

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!)?

I have a very different appearance every time I come over to the earth so there’s no one actor to portray me in all of my jobs. In the stories in Secret Agent Angel, I’m here in the non-descript appearance of everyman so any character actor could do the job quite well. Ben Foster would be a good choice. Or Jakob Oftebro, the Norwegian actor. Possibly one of the Wahlbergs.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

I’m not made for romantic relationships. Our relationships with each other are of a very different sort, so while I have a strong interest in romance, my role is to enjoy watching humans who are in love. Seeing young people fall in love is wonderful.  Old people, too.

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

When I come over in human form, I’m normally limited to human senses and knowledge-mostly. So usually I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out any more than do the people I’m with. As a result, I’m always nervous about the outcome. My being there doesn’t ensure that everything turns out right and sometimes it doesn’t. That makes things more interesting.

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 think that Frankie the young criminal was the saddest part of the story. He had talent, skill, and opportunity, but he wasted it all on criminal pursuits. To have such opportunities and to do nothing with them is very sad.

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

The ending is uplifting and optimistic but with just a small undercurrent of pathos. It’s a mostly happy conclusion-with, of course, enough loose ends for a sequel.

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

If Professor Sutherland does a sequel, I hope he will continue to let me speak in my own voice. Narrating this story was a lot of fun.

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

We angels are always around and working, even when you can’t see us. There are a lot more stories that could be told. I’ll be here, one way or another.

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Ray Sutherland is a Kentucky native who grew up on a farm outside of Bowling Green. He served in the Army, spent two years in Germany, received his B.A. in religion from Western Kentucky University, and his PhD in the Bible from Vanderbilt University.  Ray has served of Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke for over thirty years, pastored a small church for nine years, and is retired from the Army Reserve. He and his wife Regina live in North Carolina. They have two sons and four grandchildren. Visit him at www.raysutherland.com. Find out more about his book on Amazon.

Spotlight and Filling in the Blanks with Linda Lo Scuro, Author of ‘The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter’

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Genre: Mystery/Women’s Fiction

Author: Linda Lo Scuro

Publisher:   Sparkling Books

https://www.sparklingbooks.com/

Purchase link:

https://www.sparklingbooks.com/the_sicilian_womans_daughter.html

Follow the author:

Twitter /  Facebook

About The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter

When the novel opens, Maria, the novel’s protagonist is living a charmed and comfortable life with her husband, banker Humphrey and children, in London.   The daughter of Sicilian immigrants, Maria turned her back on her origins during her teens to fully embrace the English way of life.

Despite her troubled and humble childhood, Maria, through her intelligence, beauty and sheer determination, triumphantly works her way up to join the upper middle-class of British society.  But when a minor incident awakens feelings of revenge in her, Maria is forced to confront–and examine—her past.

As she delves deeper into her mother’s family history, a murky past unravels—and Maria is swept up in a deadly and dangerous mire of vendetta.  Will Maria’s carefully-constructed, seemingly-idyllic life unravel?  Expect the unexpected in this outstanding new mystery….

The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter is a brilliantly-plotted, exceedingly well-told tale.  Novelist Linda Lo Scuro delivers a confident and captivating tale brimming with tantalizing twists, turns, and surprise, a to-die-for plot, and realistic, multi-dimensional characters.  Thoughtful and thought-provoking, rich and riveting, The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter is destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

Filling in the Blanks with the Author…

The best part of writing is being engrossed in the story.

The most challenging part of writing is finding the time to do it.

My absolute favorite part of the writing process is being engrossed in the story, seeing how the characters develop and what they do.

My absolute least favorite part of the writing process isediting.

I seem to come up with the best writing ideas when ….the ideas come at different times, even when it’s inconvenient so I have to rush off and write them down.

If I ever get “stuck” when I am writing, I get through it bydoing some editing.

Pride and Prejudice is the book that changed my life.

Pride and Prejudice is the book I wish I had written.

Life is better with a book.

Honolulu Heat, by Rosemary and Larry Mild

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Honolulu Heat, Between the Mountains and the Great Sea

By Rosemary and Larry Mild

(ISBN 978-0-9905472-3-5, Trade Paper and e-Book, 298 pages, $14.95)

Websitehttp://magicile.com/

Find out more on Amazon

Honolulu Heat, Between the Mountains and the Great Sea—the long-awaited sequel to Cry Ohana—brings back the same Hawaii families that readers so warmly embraced. They confront fierce torments, take on exotic challenges, and find new loves.

Leilani and Alex Wong anguish over son Noah, an idealistic teenager who teeters on both sides of the law. He meets Nina Portfia, his dream girl, and they unwittingly share horrific secrets. Facing a murder charge, Noah flees and finds himself immersed in a bloody feud between a Chinatown protection racketeer and a crimeland don who, ironically, is Nina’s father.

Violence targets innocent real estate agents, a Porsche Boxster Spyder, a stolen locket, a petty thief, and an odd pair on a freighter to Southeast Asia. Two mob leaders and the police are pursuing Noah. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, only the boy can unlock his own freedom and bring peace to his family—and Honolulu’s Chinatown.

Chapter 1

Wind and Water

MAN AND NATURE coexist in a not-so-delicate balance, each pushing, and more often punishing, the other. Beautiful, brilliant, respectful in one moment. Violent, vengeful, destructive in the next. The forces engage and recede. A victor emerges in the ongoing skirmish and then relinquishes the laurels——so true on the tiny Garden Isle of Kauai in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The moment is 11:34 a.m. on the eleventh of September 1992, a Friday.

Alex Wong, an accountant in his early thirties, entered a few more numbers on the keyboard in his home office. But he couldn’t focus on his client’s quarterly fiscal report. His usual pragmatic head just wasn’t in it today. The radio lulled him with Hawaiian slack-key guitar melodies. He leaned back in his swivel chair. Ah, the joy of working in T-shirt and shorts. Gazing out the picture window opposite his desk, he drank in nature at her most seductive. The ocean lay peaceful with nary a whitecap in sight. The sun glared brazenly. Malia, in her baby bikini, sat under a striped umbrella next to Noah, a neighbor’s son. With shovels and pails, the two-year-olds wallowed joyously in the glistening sand. Leilani, in a broad sun hat, sat in a beach chair, dividing her watchful eye between the toddlers and the half-finished seascape on her canvas. The oils were drying quickly in the late-morning heat.

Alex breathed deeply. It doesn’t get any better than this.

At 11:40 a.m., the guitar music stopped in mid-chord. A female voice announced: ‘‘This is a hurricane alert from the National Weather Service. Hurricane Iniki is currently 160 miles south and

80 miles east of Honolulu with winds up to 135 miles per hour. On its present northwesterly track, it is now likely that the main force of the storm will miss the island of Oahu and the islands of Kauai and Niihau. However, the storm’s path is unpredictable. You are advised to secure whatever you can outdoors, then stay indoors, away from outside walls, and particularly, away from windows and glass doors. The storm center is moving at 100 miles per hour. Its track is constantly shifting and could swing north at any time—–onto a collision course with Kauai. Be aware, this Category Four storm is still gathering strength. Stay tuned for further updates.’’

Alex stopped listening. He shut down the computer and placed the monitor face-down on the floor. Sliding bare feet into his size-thirteen sneakers, he hurried out of the house, striding fast to the beach.

Halting squarely in front of his wife, he announced: ‘‘Lani! We need to get the children inside. Now! I just heard on the radio that Hurricane Iniki may be headed our way. We need to get everything inside or else tied down.’’

Leilani, a tawny-skinned Hawaiian with lush dark hair, didn’t even look up. ‘‘Not to worry, Alex.’’ She applied a brush stroke of cobalt green. ‘‘Right after breakfast the TV said the storm was going to pass between Molokai and Oahu and we might just see a little rain.’’

‘‘All that’s changed now,’’ Alex said. ‘‘The hurricane’s eye is moving fast. It could be only a matter of hours before it hits here.’’ ‘‘Alex, the sky is clear blue. Look! Oh, maybe a few more

clouds over that way. So what? I have to finish this. I’m entering it in a juried show next week.’’

‘‘Lani, why are you being so stubborn? Can’t we at least take Noah home?’’

‘‘There’s nobody home. I told Ilima I’d watch him for the day. They went to a house-warming party up in Princeville.’’ She dabbed a bit of silver-gray over a whitecap.

A rare wave of anger crossed Alex’s unshaven face. ‘‘Damn it, Lani, your painting can wait.’’

Scooping up the toddlers, one in each arm, he carried them squirming into the house. He set them down on Malia’s throw rug on the mauka, mountain, side of her bedroom and drew the Hello Kitty drapes shut. Dragging her twin-size mattress onto the floor, he hefted the two children onto it. They gave him a puzzled look, then decided they must be playing a game, and bounced up and down on the soft mattress.

Leilani was about to mix fresh colors, but paused to reflect. It’s not like Alex to be so short-tempered. As if in response, the incoming clouds began to smother the beach with darkness, night descending in midday. She felt a sudden chill. Sharp gusts whipped up the sand, stinging her ample bare thighs. She gathered up her painting paraphernalia and hurried into the house.

When she appeared in the bedroom doorway, Alex looked up, his face grim. ‘‘It’s about time. Give me a hand with the dresser.’’ He stuck a large folded soji screen in front of the window, and the two of them pushed the dresser in front to hold the screen tight against the drapes. Lani gently laid Malia’s matching Hello Kitty comforter over the children; they had already tired of the jumping game and fallen asleep.

During the next hour, Leilani and Alex silently set to work. They crisscrossed masking tape on all the windows; filled empty milk jugs with water; stacked towels and blankets; brought out flashlights plus candles; and laid everything on the floor along one wall of Malia’s room. It was the safest room in the house, with only one window on an outside wall and that was now covered.

Out on the lanai, the steel sofa glider was too heavy to move. They flopped down on it to rest, both of them breathing hard, as much from tension as the physical effort of rushing around to secure things.

Leilani grabbed her husband’s upper arm. ‘‘Look how fast the clouds are moving. They’re coming straight at us.’’

They left the sliding door behind them open to hear the radio——just in time for a new report. ‘‘We interrupt this program… Attention! This is the latest update on Hurricane Iniki. The hurricane’s eye is headed directly toward the south shore of the island of Kauai at 120 miles per hour. Winds have increased to 145 miles per hour with pulsing gusts to 175.’’

The time was 12:42 p.m. Leilani shuddered. ‘‘The humidity is so heavy you could choke on it.’’

Alex eyed the two coconut palms out back and the Cook Island pine at the side of the house. ‘‘There isn’t a leaf or frond stirring out there, and it’s so darn quiet. Not good, eerie even. The calm before the storm.’’

The words barely out of his mouth, a furious gust bowed the two palms inland in deep deference to Laamaomao, the Hawaiian god of the winds. At 12:55 the humidity yielded to a brief drizzle, then a drenching downpour, sending the couple indoors. First checking on the children, who were still asleep, they watched the storm from the center of the living room. Alex drew a protective arm around his wife’s waist. The rain angled at their home from the south. Sand particles peppered the sliding glass doors with a plinking, piling up at floor level as though demanding to tunnel into the Wongs’ domain.

Alex dared not utter his one optimistic thought, as though saying it aloud might jinx them. They had chosen this sturdy little house soon after their wedding four years ago. The outer walls were cement block covered in stucco; the roof was solidly covered in blue ceramic tiles. Yeah, we just might weather this storm, he thought. Or not.

The wind roared and screeched and bellowed. They heard unfamiliar objects strike the house in a clatter of thuds, clinks, and clanks. Although sunset wasn’t due for almost six hours, darkness followed the storm’s intensity, enveloping them. They retreated to Malia’s bedroom. The toddlers slept on, indifferent. Holding hands, the parents leaned against each other as they sat on the box spring of Malia’s bed. Leilani had spread two blankets across the box springs to make the bed more comfortable.

The picture window in the office gave up first. They heard it implode. Flying shards resounded against the common wall between Malia’s room and the office. Plasterboard was no match for

the angry wind. The wall bowed ever so slightly, then a small crack appeared. Like a malicious living thing, the crack spread vertically a few inches, threatening, but somehow containing itself.

The bay window in the living room surrendered next, unleashing the cyclonic forces, toppling lamps and ripping Leilani’s framed paintings from their picture hooks. Shelves displaying her hand-built ceramics trembled. Glazed pots in glowing colors, comical dogs, cats, and geckos turned into missiles, hurtled against the remaining walls and windows——until there were no windows and no art works left to be destroyed.

Alex and Leilani knew from the clatter in the kitchen, beyond the opposite wall, that the winds had attacked from yet another direction——sounds of cabinet doors slamming open against their frames. Thumps and thuds as the wind became a giant sweeping hand across the countertops, littering the floor.

They heard an elongated groan ending in a loud thump outside. Leilani screamed as she sensed it was the massive ironwood tree next to their driveway crashing down——hoping it wasn’t crunching her new Toyota Corolla. It was 2:05 p.m. The blunt force of the storm was upon them.

Another ten minutes passed and the electricity failed. Alex lit one of the candles and heated its opposite end with the match, so it would stick to the bottom of a water glass. This he set atop the dresser and sank back down on the bed next to his wife. He took her hand in his and squeezed it whenever he sensed her quivering responses to what they were hearing. An ear-splitting crash resounded at the opposite end of the house, followed by the clatter of loosened roof tiles falling onto the cement driveway for several seconds afterward. She began to shake. Even the candlelight shivered, creating eerie dancing shadows in the room.

‘‘The avocado tree must have fallen on the master bedroom side of the house,’’ he calmly offered, so as not to upset Leilani.

‘‘Mommy, mommy!’’ The wailing, frantic cry jolted them. Noah thrashed about on the mattress in the middle of the floor. ‘‘I want my mommy!’’ he screamed.

‘‘Maybe the crashing tree woke him,’’ said Leilani.

Alex picked Noah up, cradling him. ‘‘You’ll see Mommy soon,’’ he said in a soothing voice. But the little boy refused to be comforted. His chubby body heaved and struggled as he sobbed. Alex steadfastly kept rocking, until Noah, exhausted from his own protests, nuzzled silently against Alex’s chest.

Leilani’s watch said 3:50 when Malia awoke with a whine and toddled over to her mother, arms raised, to be picked up. Leilani pulled her in and held her close, not able to speak for fear her own anxiety would be contagious and frighten her baby girl.

Minutes later the ruckus and howling winds outside the house ceased, and all they could hear was the persistent beat of the rain. Then, surprisingly, even that disappeared. It was as though nature had flipped a switch and turned the storm off.

Is the storm over or are we merely stalled in the hurricane’s eye? Alex wondered. He had to venture a peek outside and see what was going on. He set Noah down on the mattress and handed him a stuffed teddy bear; the boy seemed content enough, at least for the moment. Selecting the one Maglite from the group of flashlights, he looked across at his wife.

‘‘All quiet. It must be the eye of the storm.’’ He cautiously opened the bedroom door and peeked out into the living room, strewn with sand and debris. He stepped out, closing the door behind him.

‘‘Be careful and don’t go too far from us,’’ Leilani called out to him.

Switching on the Maglite, Alex stepped into what had been their lovingly arranged and organized living room. The irony of it. Weak sunshine illuminated what now looked like a city dump, covered with wet sand and puddles of water. Pieces of Leilani’s artwork amassed and embedded against the inland wall; the two upholstered wing chairs on their sides; the TV set smashed on its belly; end tables overturned with legs broken. Huge shards of bay window glass stuck or lay everywhere.

Glancing through the void where the sliding doors should have been, Alex saw sunlight overhead, but black clouds still blanketed the sky elsewhere. The lanai no longer had its wood-slatted roof. The air was soundless with the exception of water dripping everywhere. They had certainly entered the eye of the storm. Feeling his way to the kitchen, his sneakers immediately met up with the storm’s clutter. He pushed all the cabinet doors shut, but not before noting that boxes and cans of food inside somehow had stayed in place; and luckily, their wooden table had remained upright. From the kitchen he crossed the living room to inspect the master bedroom. Their tall, full avocado tree had indeed fallen onto the roof of that room, denting and slightly caving the roof in, but not destroying it.

The hesitant patch of sunlight now surrendered to a shroud of blackness like a moonless nightfall. A distant whine pierced the heavy air once more and grew louder. Palm trees hunched in defeat, their fronds pointing stiffly in unison. Smaller objects were flying again.

Leilani, making sure the toddlers were still asleep, anxiously opened the bedroom door and stepped out. Her brain stubbornly refused to accept the destruction in the living room. A returning Alex wrapped his arm around her shoulders in empty reassurance. He shuffled Leilani back into Malia’s room, shutting the door behind them. Just as they slumped down beside each other on the box spring, her dark eyes filled with tears. He gave her an extra squeeze.

Alex somehow knew this terrible storm wasn’t finished.

Just then, Noah rolled onto his side and moaned. Husband and wife looked at each other, sharing the same feeling of alarm. Where are Noah’s parents? Are they safe? Did the hurricane hit Princeville?

Alex knew it might be days before the electricity was restored. He stood and walked to check if the door was securely closed. When he turned around Leilani was standing and crying.

‘‘Why now?’’ she sobbed, her hands in motion. ‘‘Why, when everything was going our way? Must we always live in fear?

What have we done to anger the gods so much?’’

Alex acknowledged that there were no rational replies to such questions——and he certainly didn’t have to answer to the Hawaiian gods. His wife’s repeated reference to these gods was a cultural, traditional obsession stemming from her grandmother, Tutu Eme, and not religious in nature. But he felt obligated to give comfort anyway. He wrapped his arms around her and drew her close once more. Alex Wong, the son of a Japanese mother and Chinese father, was neither superstitious nor religious.

The storm howled and battered away, but there was yet another noise, a repeated and distinctive one.

‘‘Listen, Alex! Someone’s pounding on our front door,’’ said Leilani, slipping out of his embrace and putting her ear to the wall.

‘‘I’ll take a look. Push the door shut after me.’’ He pulled the door ajar and bent almost backward to stay upright against the whirling wind. He labored through the living room, kicking away obstacles that had once made their house a home. He was able to hear an urgent voice through the missing stained-glass window that Leilani had created near the top of their door.

‘‘Please, Alex. Let us in, for God’s sake. We’ve lost our whole roof and need shelter. We’re soaking wet.’’

Alex recognized his neighbor from across the road. ‘‘Just a minute, Jesse, while I get this open.’’ It took all his strength pulling and Jesse pushing to get the front door open. Ellie Duran slipped through first, carrying their swaddled four-month-old infant. As soon as Jesse followed her inside, they allowed the door to slam shut again.

‘‘Wait! Be careful! The power’s out,’’ Alex warned. He switched on his Maglite, concentrating the beam on the debriscovered floor toward Malia’s room. Hunching forward into the wind, he followed them and called to Leilani, ‘‘It’s me and the Durans. They’re going to stay with us.’’

Once everyone was inside, Leilani handed them towels and took the baby from Ellie so the family could dry off. Frightened by the darkness, too confused to babble, Malia and Noah sat wideeyed on the mattress and watched the grownups.

‘‘You folks have one of the only houses in sight with a roof overhead,’’ Jesse said. His voice trembled. ‘‘What a disaster outside.’’ He described the impassable roads strewn with downed trees, abandoned cars, and beach sand piled up in little dunes. ‘‘The Kaleos’ house next door was hit bad, but looks like it survived——sort of.’’

‘‘What about our cars?’’ asked Leilani. ‘‘Did you see what happened?’’

‘‘Sorry Lani, your Corolla is a total loss, but the Cherokee appears to be intact.’’

Alex braved a foray across the living room to the master bedroom to bring back dry clothes——pants, T-shirts, and underwear——for the Durans, with hand towels to turn into diapers.

The howling slowly dissipated. The drenching, driving rains eased, then ceased altogether. It was 7:30 p.m. The storm had finally passed over them. Ellie stayed with the children while the others ventured out to inspect the rest of the house. In the kitchen, Alex worked in the beam of his Maglite.

He found a broom and dustpan and swept up the smashed glass coffeepot and other debris. Next, he lifted the dented toaster-oven and small microwave oven back up to the counter.

The master bedroom had a hole in that corner of the roof where the tree had fallen, but the tree still covered much of the opening. In fact, their king-sized mattress had stayed dry, and much of the bedroom furniture was still intact. But there was no guarantee that the roof wouldn’t cave in entirely from the tree’s sheer weight. Nothing in the living room or dining room appeared salvageable.

‘‘I’ve got a small portable gasoline generator,’’ said Jesse, ‘‘and some heavy-duty tarps in what’s left of my tool shed. Maybe we can at least salvage the food in both our fridges and have a little electricity left over for some light. The tarps can cover some of the holes here. Problem is, they’re probably under a mess of debris right now. Are you willing to tackle this with me?’’

‘‘Let’s go!’’ said Alex.’’ He actually felt buoyed up with the relief of having something useful to do.

The two men had to slog through muddy ponds and climb over tree limbs and house parts just to get to Jesse’s property. There was no sign of the Durans’ roof. The men skirted the three remaining house walls still standing. They found the roof of the tool shed wedged between two trees, with the shed’s corrugated steel walls collapsed inward. Using a pole as a lever, they managed to slide the steel walls out of the way. They found the tarps first and searched for the portable generator next. At last they exposed its red metal exterior.

The generator was too heavy to lift. Even in its carriage it couldn’t be moved; the carriage wheels were too small to be of any use without bogging down in the mud. Jesse made a sled out of a flat piece of steel and some heavy cord. With huge effort and a lot of muscle, they slid the generator onto the makeshift sled and got the rig moving. Jesse was able to retrieve an axe and a saw from the tool shed he’d uncovered earlier. They made quick work of a tree branch that barred their way. The two men dragged the sled across the road to the window outside the Wong kitchen.

Jesse removed the gas cap and discovered the tank empty. No surprise. Alex came to the rescue. He kept a siphon in the trunk of his Jeep Cherokee, along with a gas can. When they were ready to start the generator, Leilani tossed the end of an extension cord out the kitchen window. Alex turned the key. The engine choked. He tried the starter cord. After a dozen hopeless pulls, he surrendered the job to stronger Jesse. Five pulls later, the generator engine took hold. Jesse adjusted the choke and throttle until it ran smoothly. Alex plugged in the extension chord and immediately Leilani yelled out, ‘‘The fridge is running. We’ve got lights! Let’s see if we can rustle up some food.’’

The men did a high five, and Jesse said, ‘‘Let’s cover the hole in your master bedroom roof next, pal, then I’ll be ready to call it quits for the night.’’ Hacking away at two large roots, the avocado tree soon slipped away from the roof and fell to the ground.

Using a tree branch, they poled up and draped one of the tarps over a corner of the bedroom roof. Standing on the front window sill, Alex stapled the tarp to a sloping beam and repeated the stapling from the window on the side of the house.

The families huddled up to the kitchen table, children on laps, Ellie nursing the baby. At 9 p.m. they devoured left-over chicken with rice and wilted, warmish salad.

But Leilani was merely keeping up a brave front. She’d already made up her mind. No matter how much repairing and rebuilding they could do to their dear little house, it would never be enough. She wasn’t going to live each day in anguished suspense, fearing another hurricane. She knew that every time high winds or heavy rain assaulted their vulnerable island, she would feel a sense of doom——that maybe next time they wouldn’t be so lucky. She hadn’t graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley to spend her life under a cloud of anxiety——from weather they couldn’t control or vengeful gods they couldn’t appease.

She’d wait a few days to break that news to Alex. For sure, they would go back to Oahu. Of course, they’d wait for little Noah’s parents. Leilani’s eyes welled up with fresh tears. He was still whimpering for his mommy.

Character Interview: Deputy Mattie Cobb from Margaret Mizushima’s mystery ‘Burning Ridge’

We’re thrilled to have here today Deputy Mattie Cobb from Margaret Mizushima’s new mystery, Burning Ridge.  Mattie is a 30-year-old K-9 Officer living in Timber Creek, Colorado.

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

Thank you so for this interview, Mattie.  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?

Burning Ridge coverFirst, thanks for having me here today, although I don’t usually like to be in the spotlight. As for how I was portrayed in the book, I’d like to say that I wish I hadn’t broken down and cried when I did. But I endured a tough loss and some terrible times, so I won’t apologize. I’ll just suck it up and move on. Get back to work—that’s what I do best to get over the bad things life hands to me.

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

She did an okay job. I just wish she wouldn’t get inside my head like that. I’m a reserved person, some call me a loner, and I don’t like to share my emotions with others. I have a couple of close friends I’ve developed, but my best friend by far is my K-9 partner. He’s about the only one I trust.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I’m strong and fit, and I can keep up with Robo. I make a pretty good K-9 handler and trainer.

Worse trait?

Hmm… I guess you could say that I relate better to my dog than to other humans. But I’m working on it.

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!)?

Jessica Alba. She’s a bit older than me, but I’m half Hispanic, so we share a similar look. Except that she’s beautiful. Don’t tell anyone, but I feel that way when Cole looks at me a certain way. He seems to think I look decent enough.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

I do. His name is Cole Walker and he’s Robo’s veterinarian. Cole was divorced about a year ago when his wife deserted him and their two daughters. By the way, I love his kids. He’s been on a fast track to learn how to be a single parent while taking care of his busy practice. We share a love for animals and justice, and sometimes he helps me solve crimes that affect our community.

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

About the time a sadistic killer darted me with an animal sedative to knock me out so that he could take me from my backyard. That was enough to put me off my game.

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?

This killer I just mentioned. He’s a truly evil guy. I try to look for the good side in people, even though I’m often exposed to the dregs of humanity in my work, but this guy has no saving grace whatsoever.

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

I learned some valuable lessons about family in this book, and by the end, I realized that family isn’t just about blood relationships. It was a painful way to learn it, but I guess I needed it taught that way.

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

Oh, she will. She’s obsessed with me. I’d tell her not to go quite so rough next time. I might be stubborn, but it doesn’t take that much to get my attention!

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

Burning Ridge is the fourth Timber Creek K-9 mystery, and it will come out September 11, 2018. Watch for Robo and me in the next book after that, scheduled to release in early fall, 2019.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Find out more on Amazon

Character Interview: Claire Clairmont from Marty Ambrose’s new historical mystery, ‘Claire’s Last Secret’

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We’re thrilled to have here today Claire Clairmont from Marty Ambrose’s new historical mystery, Claire’s Last Secret.  Claire is a “woman of letters” living in nineteenth-century Florence, Italy.

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

Claire Last Secret CoverThank you so for this interview, Claire.  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 am beyond happy that I have finally been able to tell my side of the “haunted summer” in 1816 when Mary, Shelley, and I lived in Geneva, sharing the company of Lord Byron.  So much has been written about the great Romantic poets and how Mary conceived her novel, Frankenstein, but no one has ever really focused on my character and how that summer impacted me.  Byron was the great passion of my life at the time, and I later gave birth to our daughter, Allegra, who supposedly died as a child.  But I never believed it.  I outlived all of them and, in my later years living in Florence, I was finally able to delve into this unsolved mystery and tell the world about it.

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

I like how Claire’s Last Secret caught the many sides of my personality by showing two eras of my life:  my juvenescence in Geneva and my mature years in Florence.  During my long life, I evolved from an impulsive, passionate young girl, often caught up in my own fantasies, to a much wiser woman “of a certain age.”  I may not have always loved wisely, but I was true to my own heart.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

My strongest trait is my ability to survive.  I had to live by my own wits for most of my life, yet I always tried to rebound quickly from even the most difficult of circumstances.  I had a child on my own, traveled the world, and always believed that a woman could have the same freedom as a man.  I embraced life wholeheartedly—the good and the bad, even when my choices didn’t always produce the effects for which I hoped.   I lived life on my own terms.

Worse trait?

Impulsiveness.

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!)?

If my story became a film, I would like the British actress, Lily James, to play my character during the 1816 summer in Geneva when I was seventeen; she reminds me of myself as a young woman.   Jane Seymour would be a perfect actress to play me in my later years.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

I had the great fortune and misfortune of loving Lord Byron—the British poet who figures prominently in my story.

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

When I left Geneva at the end of the summer of 1816, I knew that my affair with Byron was over.  I was devastated but, at least, I had our daughter for a short time.  Later, in Florence, I eventually (and unexpectedly) had a chance to right this wrong from my past.

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 my stepsister, Mary.  When her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, died, she was left a widow with a young son—and very few resources.  Her later life in England always seemed to be lived in his shadow, though she achieved her own fame from her novel, Frankenstein.  I loved her dearly, but I never wanted to be her.

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

I think the ending will surprise many readers.  It leads into the next book where I’m on a quest through Italy—with more surprises coming!

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

Well . . . I happen to know the author is writing another book with me as the protagonist!  I would like her to show how my character becomes more daring and braver as I begin to solve the mysteries from the past:  I take on new adventures that I never dreamed would happen.

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

Absolutely!

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About the Author:

Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College or creating her own fiction.  Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels for Avalon Books, Kensington Books, Thomas & Mercer—and, now, Severn House.

Two years ago, Marty had the opportunity to apply for a grant that took her to Geneva and Florence to research a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets:  historical fiction.  Her new book, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth—the “almost famous” member of the group.  The novel spans two eras played out against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Italy and is the first of a trilogy.

Marty lives on an island in Southwest Florida with her husband, former news-anchor, Jim McLaughlin.  They are planning a three-week trip to Italy this fall to attend a book festival and research the second book, A Shadowed Fate.  Luckily, Jim is fluent in Italian and shares her love of history and literature.  Their German shepherd, Mango, has to stay home.

Website:  www.martyambrose.com

About the Book:

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the ‘haunted summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley circle, is living out her final years in genteel poverty, but the appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece/companion, Paula.

But Rossetti’s presence in Florence heralds a cycle of events that links the summer of 1816 – when Claire conceived an ill-fated child with George Gordon, Lord Byron, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and when four tempestuous lives came together – to a tragic death. As Claire begins to unravel the truth, she must go back to that summer of passion to discover the identity of her old enemy.

Learn more on Amazon

Character Interview: “The Murderer” from Verlin Darrow’s PI mystery, ‘Blood and Wisdom’

We’re thrilled to have here today “The Murderer” from Verlin Darrow’s new PI mystery, Blood and Wisdom.  “The Murderer” (he won’t provide his actual name) is a 50-ish cypher living in Santa Cruz, California.

It is a pleasure to have “The Murderer” with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Mr. Murderer.  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?

-Are you kidding me? Fairly portrayed? Not a chance. That son of a bitch so-called author made no effort whatsoever to tell my side of the goddamn story. So what if a few losers end up dead? I had my reasons and they were damned good ones. What did the Bible say? Judge not, or you’ll get judged. Something like that, anyway.

BloodandWisdom_w12516_750Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

-Colorizing? What’s that? Use regular language, for Christ’s sake. I’m not a writer. I’m a goddamn character, aren’t I? But here’s how I’d change things. Gimme a scene where I talk to a victim or two and explain why they have to go. It would touch the reader and I’m sure it would make sense to most anyone with any sense. I need to be a more sympathetic character. Murderers are people too. It’s the human condition to have flaws, isn’t it?

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

-I’m brilliant. Way above the curve in the intelligence department. It was pure luck that yahoo detective figured things out. That’s another thing I’d change. The luck factor wasn’t clear at all in Darrow’s version.

Worse trait?

-That’s a hard one. Sometimes I’m a picky eater.

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!)?

-Brando. Definitely Brando. Before he started eating like a pig and got so fat.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

-You bet. And she’s way more woman than you could handle, buddy.

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

Well, I got worried when Gatlin came snooping around the cabin in Big Sur, and I wasn’t thrilled when that cop got arrested, but I gotta be honest, I didn’t see it coming. I mean, I knew it wasn’t a slam dunk, but I never thought the deal wouldn’t work out for me.

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?

(Laughs). Victim # 1. I like having my head on my shoulders.

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

What do you think? You think I want to rot in prison? What’s wrong with you?

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

Make me the protagonist. I am SO much more interesting than that detective and his drippy girlfriend. And I’ve got a lot of ideas about how to beat the system. Playing by the rules is for losers, and I think most intelligent readers know that.

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

I doubt it. I don’t think anybody’s gonna see me for a very long time.

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Version 2

Verlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Verlin is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Verlin ran a punch press in a sheetmetal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

http://www.verlindarrow.com/

About the book:

When Private Investigator Karl Gatlin takes on Aria Piper’s case, it was no more than a threat—phone calls warning Aria to either “stop doing Satan’s work” or meet an untimely demise.  But a few hours later, a headless John Doe bobs up in the wishing well at Aria’s New Age spiritual center near Santa Cruz.  Aria had ideas about who could be harassing her, but the appearance of a dismembered body makes for a real game changer.  And what Karl Gatlin initially thought was a fairly innocuous case turns out to be anything but.

Dispatching former rugby superstar and Maori friend John Ratu to protect Aria, Karl and his hacker assistant Matt are free to investigate a ruthless pastor, a money launderer on the run, some sketchy members of Aria’s flock, and warring drug gangs.  With his dog Larry as a wingman, Karl uncovers a broad swath of corruption, identity theft, blackmail, and more murders. But nothing is as it seems, and as the investigation heats up, Karl is framed, chased, and forced to dive into the freezing water of the Monterey Bay to escape a sniper.

Against the backdrop of a ticking clock, Karl races to find answers. But more murders only mean more questions—and Karl is  forced to make an impossible choice when it turns out Aria’s secret may be the most harrowing of all…

AMAZON

 

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