Armed with a healer’s skill and a witch’s art, Elisha hurries to warn the Holy Roman Emperor and discover how to stop the mancers’ plans. A one-eyed priest, a seductive traitor, a stern rabbi, a merchant of bones—how can he tell friend from foe when he no longer recognizes himself? Every blow Elisha strikes draws him toward the wrong side of the battle. When the enemy retaliates in blood, he fights to keep his humanity lest he be consumed by the spreading darkness and become. . .Elisha Mancer
The Big Thrill recently had the opportunity to discuss ELISHA MANCER with author E. C. Ambrose:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
ELISHA MANCER combines historical research with a fast-paced thriller approach—and an approach to magic that exploits the beliefs and fears of the Middle Ages.
It starts with the unthinkable. A school under siege. A shooter in the classroom. A nightmare scenario that has become all too common in today’s United States. But this time, former Delta Captain Jake Mahegan is there when it happens, face to face with a merciless gunman rigged as a suicide bomber. Without warning, the school is attacked from the outside as well—and all hell breaks loose.
When the smoke clears, Mahegan is left with a long list of unanswered questions—and a deeply personal mission. Racing against the clock, his search will take him from the tech-fueled think-tanks of a North Carolina factory to the top-secret nerve centers of embedded Iranian agents. It’s all part of a bigger, darker conspiracy that’s taking domestic terrorism to a whole new level. And it’s up to Mahegan to stop what could be the most devastating attack in U.S. history.
By Dawn Ius
After taking his exams for the New Jersey Bar back in 1929, Harry I. Heller set off on a hitchhiking cross-country adventure, journaling his escapades in a notebook that was published posthumously a few years ago by his daughter, bestselling cozy mystery and romance author, Nancy J. Cohen.
Thumbs Up was not only a thoughtful way for Cohen to help her father’s publishing dream come true, but also a tribute to what she says is his excellent writing. Cohen honors her father again with excerpts from another of his travel stories, which are peppered throughout the thirteenth book in her Bad Hair Day mystery series, FACIALS CAN BE FATAL.
“I always try to look for a historical angle for each of the books because I think that adds a lot of depth,” she says. “In this case, the journal was real—I pulled bits from my father’s 1935 trip to Florida with friends.”
Of course, the book also includes all of Cohen’s usual suspects—salon owner and amateur sleuth Marla Vail, her police detective husband Dalton, a full cast of characters with murderous means and motive, and enough twists and turns to earn you a well-deserved spot at the spa. (Though, Cohen suggests avoiding “body treatments that have nothing to do with herbal scrubs and hot rock massages…”)
Sarah Appleton has been kidnapped from her university campus in Cambridge, England. When she escapes, killing her abductor, she sets in motion a chain of events that has repercussions all across the world. Sarah and her father, Martin Appleton, flee the Russian mafia, from whom Martin stole twenty million dollars in bearer bonds, leaving authorities to unravel the threat of a terrorist plot using biological weapons of mass destruction stolen from a Russian lab and sold to Middle Eastern extremists. As the authorities scramble to unravel the scant clues left by people who make few mistakes, terrorists gear up for an attack that will leave millions of innocent people dead and the governments of several Middle Eastern nations in chaos.
Paul Howard recently discussed his thriller, DISCIPLES OF DEATH, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope any reader ofDISCIPLES OF DEATH will finish it and conclude that it was a page-turning novel that was exciting and entertaining from the beginning to the end.
Life is good for Catholic schoolteacher Terrence Muldoon. He owns his own house in Astoria, New York, and a one-year-old Volvo, both paid for. His only dependent is a rescued greyhound, and his avocation as a club fighter, under the ring name of Seamus Muldoon, provides all the excitement he needs.
Then all that changes when his jockey girlfriend is killed during a race at Belmont. Unable to save her, Terry is driven to find out who wanted her dead, and why. Or was she just collateral damage? He teams up with a NYPD detective friend in a quest for answers that takes him to Myrtle Beach, the rural environs of South Carolina, into the world of Queens gangsters, down to the Brooklyn waterfront, and out to Fire Island. As if his mission isn’t fraught with enough danger, he’s training all the while for a bout with a man being touted as the next Ali. ESPN gives Terry only a “puncher’s chance.” But even if Terry survives the match, the investigation is winding up for a knockout punch as well, with Terry facing the toughest fight of his life…
Author Paul A. Barra recently spent some time with the Big Thrill staff discussing his novel, ASTORIA NIGHTS:
They say “write what you know.” Philip Donlay takes this a bit further. “Write what you’re passionate about.” He’s been flying since he was 16, jets since he turned 20. Google tells us that if he started today at the age of 20, he’d be one of the youngest jet pilots in the world. But he started years ago and spent the ensuing time piloting almost anything with a jet engine—big-to-small—around the world.
When Donlay writes about flying, be it a jet, fixed or rotary wing plane, he knows what he’s doing. And if he describes a place like the frozen Canadian lake near Manitoba—featured in SECONDS TO MIDNIGHT—which is less than five hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle, he has likely been there, smelled the air and caught fish in the lake.
Better still, Donlay has, as this reporter’s old boss used to say, “Gotta nose for da story.”
SECONDS TO MIDNIGHT could have been inspired by the headlines in January’s news. And that’s where our conversation started.
“Did you know that scientists who control the Doomsday Clock just moved the countdown to potential global catastrophe 30 seconds closer to midnight?” Donlay asked.
Caleb Crowe is back as a professor of archaeology with psychic abilities. A cross between Indiana Jones and the X-Files, THE TESLA OBJECTIVE pulls directly from actual secret government experiments and historical facts in a perfect blend of action and suspense.
With some conspiracy theories being more than just theory, David Sakmyster takes us on a wild ride. He explores some of the greatest mysteries in history. From cover-ups to secret societies, it becomes hard to tell which events are fiction and which seem too strange to be true.
The TESLA OBJECTIVE is the fourth book in the Morpheus Initiative Series. It revolves around psychic archaeologists, which I didn’t know could be a thing. Are they archaeologists who became psychic or is this a niche field?
Psychic archaeology is a real thing, although obviously very rare (and disputable, I’m sure), but back when I was researching the first book, The Pharos Objective, I came across the term in relation to work being done as part of a scientific team exploring various mysteries in Egypt. The key to that team was that they were using “remote viewers” with claimed psychic powers to visualize the precise location, for example, of Cleopatra’s sunken palace.
Jame DiBiasio is an American journalist and author who moved to Hong Kong twenty years ago and has remained in Asia ever since.
His second novel, BLOODY PARADISE, is set in Thailand’s island of Koh Samui, a vacation paradise. His first novel, Gaijin Cowgirl, was located in Japan, and his non-fiction book, The Story of Angkor, focused on the famous monuments and temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia.
We interviewed him by email from his home in Hong Kong in January.
Why this setting for BLOODY PARADISE?
Because Koh Samui is fantastic. It’s a beautiful island. Thai food is delicious. You can rent holiday homes cheaply. Thai culture is welcoming, but also different to what many foreigners are used to. Writers devote a lot of creative energy toward imagining their settings, so why not pick a setting I enjoy? That way it’ll be fun for readers who want to come with me.
I have never lived in Thailand, but visit it regularly.
A tried and true adage is to write what you know. The difficult part is taking what you know and making it interesting reading for an audience. This is well executed by Lynn Chandler Willis in her latest novel, TELL ME NO LIES, the debut Ava Logan Mystery.
The heroine of TELL ME NO LIES, Ava Logan, is the publisher of the newspaper for the small town of Jackson Creek, North Carolina set in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Like her character, Willis has lived her entire life in North Carolina and owned a small-town weekly newspaper. Both Ava and Willis have two children, are single mothers, and have dogs named Finn.
TELL ME NO LIES finds Ava in the middle of covering the local election, just weeks before Election Day. Then the simple act of dropping off her friend’s toddler after a night of babysitting changes everything. Her friend is dead, and Ava wants to know why. Juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past, Ava’s digging for the truth puts her and those she loves in danger. It is imperative the killer is found before either Ava or someone she loves ends up dead.
Ava Logan stands as her own person. She brings a backstory that is “tragically realistic” according to the author with “enough struggles to help shape her character without defining it.” Willis wanted to make sure that Ava was not “broken” and sees Ava as “that magical combination of strength and vulnerability. She’s not perfect. She’s many things, but she is not broken and she’ll be the first to tell you that!”
By George Ebey
Author Cynthia Kuhn’s latest book, THE ART OF VANISHING, brings us the next installment in her Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries series.
When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. The English department is thrown into chaos by the news, as Damon is supposed to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week. The chancellor makes it clear that he expects Lila to locate the writer and set events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan: strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous incidents threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. After her beloved mother, who happens to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Kuhn to learn more about this thrilling new story.
When feline shifter Dreya Clark is escorted from police interrogation by two secret agents, she thinks she’s dodged a bullet. That sexy detective Braden Hayes caught her stealing red-handed. When she finds out what she has to do to stay out of jail, suddenly she’s missing the hot cop with the piercing gaze. She’s being recruited for her shifter abilities by the Department of Covert Operations.
WILL DANGER RIP THEM APART?
Braden has been chasing the smart-mouthed cat burglar for years. But when Dreya’s taken away, he knows their game of cat and mouse has turned deadly-serious. There’s no way he’ll let her go off alone. Fur flies and temperatures flare as Braden realizes Dreya is much more than she appears. Thrown together on a dangerous covert mission, this unlikely pair will have to rely on each other to make it out alive.
Paige Tyler sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, HER TRUE MATCH:
The dead widow not only leaves behind a million-dollar inheritance, but also a bitter accusation: From beyond the grave, she claims that one of her children killed her husband.
Tom Winter, the laconic head of security of her Swiss private bank, tracks down the children in the Azores, Manchester and Nuremberg, and finds himself entangled in a horrifying net of abuse, exploitation, and revenge.
Author Peter Beck discussed his latest novel, KORROSION, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A sleepless night, breathless hours of entertainment, an intercontinental flight gone by fast, being engrossed in the corrosive effects of abuse, exploitation and revenge, be it on the victims or on the witnesses.
A Nuba warrior is one of the key characters in KORROSION. He travels from his native village in Sudan to Europe, sacrificing a lot. Maybe the memory of Obado’s journey gives some insight into what’s going on with migration.
In BEFORE SUNRISE, a short, dark novel, we meet Will Fortin of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, on patrol in southern Alberta. It’s a lonely region where the sky meets the land on even terms, where the landscape exaggerates or diminishes your place in the world. If you’re lucky, trouble would never find you there. If you weren’t, this was your battleground.
It is here where Fortin experiences the worst any cop can face, the taking of innocent lives when he accidentally shoots two children while responding to a call at a farm involving a gun. His life destroyed, his guilt unbearable, Fortin, a good man, struggles as a haunted soul, aching to redeem himself.
Years after the shooting, Fortin is assigned to escort a murderer to trial in Seattle, Washington. When their plane crashes in the unforgiving Rocky Mountains, Fortin is presented with his last chance at redemption.
Coming in at about the same length as The Old Man and the Sea, BEFORE SUNRISE, is a powerful, heart-wrenching story of love, heartbreak, courage and enduring human spirit.
Author Rick Mofina recently discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
Sebastian Snow is the owner of Snow’s Antique Emporium. With an encyclopaedic knowledge of the 1800s, Sebastian and his Emporium seem to be a magnet for murderous mysteries. After The Mystery of Nevermore, Sebastian is now happily dating lead homicide detective, Calvin Winter, but when a brick is thrown through the Emporium window, Sebastian finds himself swept up in a series of grisly murders.
Author C. S. Poe tells me about her latest novel THE MYSTERY OF CURIOSITIES, the second instalment of the Snow and Winter series, as well as about her inspiration for the story and what drives her to write gay mysteries.
THE MYSTERY OF THE CURIOSITIES is Book 2 of the Snow & Winter series. Where is Sebastian Snow after the events of The Mystery of Nevermore?
Sebastian Snow is in a much healthier place after Nevermore—physically, mentally, and emotionally. He came out of an intense murder mystery relatively unscathed, and he and lead homicide detective, Calvin Winter, are happily dating. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s become prone to trouble, Sebastian may have gotten through Valentine’s Day without having to put his sleuthing hat back on.
When an invasion splits Brad Stone’s family apart he finds himself fighting for his life as he searches for his family. His wife, Youngmi, is captured and exploited by Alaska’s new Communist warlord. His sons narrowly avoid massacre and retreat into the icy wilderness with a troop of Boy Scouts. Brad, a former Marine, finds himself thrust to the front as the warrior they call “Ice Hammer”, and thanks to a drone image of a vicious combat encounter, Brad finds himself listed as the most wanted man in Alaska.
Brad, Youngmi, and their sons Ben and Ian must find their way through the horrors of war. They may not live to see victory, but they will not live as slaves. They have already learned a brutal truth:
The age of peace has ended. The age of the Ice Hammer has begun.
Author Basil Sands spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, ICE HAMMER: INVASION.
Housewife assassin Donna Stone must be more than just ready for her close-up if she’s to stop a terrorist cell intent on exposing the United States’ vulnerability to an attack on American soil. The only intel provided to Donna, Jack, and their mission team at Acme Industries is that it will take place during a live broadcast of a reality TV show. And wouldn’t you know it: each of the other housewife contestants has dirty little secrets that make them and their husbands very probable Persons of Interest. So, who is the terrorist who wants to hold these celebrity housewives hostage—and worse yet, kill them off in front of their adoring fans?
Author Josie Brown recently took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her 14th book in the Housewife Assassin series with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Those who take on the profession of covert ops have real lives, and complex personal dilemmas. Despite this, they are driven by a true sense of mission.
Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
Author Adrian McKinty recently took some time away from writing to discuss his latest thriller, POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY with The Big Thrill:
Katie Taylor is the perfect student. She’s bright and funny, she has a boyfriend who adores her and there are only a few months left of school before she can swap Banktoun for the bright lights of London. Life gets even better when she has an unexpected win on a scratch card. But then Katie’s luck runs out.
Her tragic death instead becomes the latest in a series of dark mysteries blighting the small town. The new school counsellor Polly McAllister, who has recently returned to Banktoun to make amends in her own personal life, is thrown in at the deep end as the pupils and staff come to terms with Katie’s death. And it’s not long before she uncovers a multitude of murky secrets. Did Katie have enemies? Is her boyfriend really so squeaky clean? And who is her brother’s mysterious friend?
With Banktoun’s insular community inflamed by gossip and a baying mob stirring itself into a frenzy on social media, DS Davie Gray and DC Louise Jennings must work out who really murdered Katie before someone takes matters into their own hands…
The Big Thrill recently discussed THE DAMSELFLY with author S. J. I. Holliday:
Two poor Kenyan men visiting the U.S. are found dead, one in jail, one on the street. Both used forged UN documents to enter the country. Valentin Vermeulen’s superiors have no interest in the plight of undocumented immigrants, but they want him to stop the fraud. The clues take Vermeulen from New York City to Newark, where he riles a woman known as “The Broker,” then to Vienna.
Earle Jackson, a small-time hustler and the last person to speak with one of the dead Kenyans, has taken the man’s passport and money. He also finds a note listing an address in Newark, where his efforts to cash in on the situation go awry. Fleeing for his life, Jackson flies to Nairobi using the dead man’s passport.
Vermeulen and Jackson have chanced upon a criminal network more extensive and vicious than either could have imagined. To survive, Vermeulen must do more than sever a few links. He must find the mastermind at the top.
Author Michael Niemann recently discussed his latest thriller, ILLICIT TRADE, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
First, I hope readers will enjoy the book. Fiction is all about entertainment. I hope I succeeded there. Second, readers will visit different parts of the world. Hopefully, they’ll learn something new about those places. Third, the nature of the crime is unfortunately very real. I hope that readers gain an awareness of these machinations world wide.
Rookie cop Laura Mori catches her first investigation when the fiery crash of a sports car lights up the night sky. The fire burns the body beyond recognition, but the police are able to identify the car as that of Kent Jameson, celebrity author and benefactor of Sunrise Lake. And Jameson fears that the unidentified body is his seventeen-year-old daughter Lucy, who stormed out of the house that night after an argument.
When lab reports reveal that the body was not Lucy, but a teen runaway named Kyra whose disappearance has been linked with other missing persons—more than half a dozen “lost girls” who disappeared while living on the streets of Portland—the investigation takes a drastic turn. How did Kyra come to land at the Jameson estate in rural Oregon, and what was she doing driving their car? And who cut the brake lines on the vehicle?
Just when Laura is making progress in the case, she comes across a suspicious lane in the forest that uncovers new evidence that will once again alter the course of the investigation and rock Sunrise Lake to its core. R. J. Noonan’s electrifying mystery will resonate with fans of Lisa Gardner and Lisa Jackson.
Author R. J. Noonan took some time to discuss her thriller, WHERE THE LOST GIRLS GO, with The Big Thrill:
As the single mom of an energetic toddler and an investigator working for the medical examiner’s office in small-town Sorenson, Wisconsin, Mattie is used to her life being a juggling act. But now that she’s moved in with Detective Steve Hurley and his teenaged daughter Emily, and has started planning their wedding, her home life is looking more like a three-ring circus. And with her boss and friend, Izzy, suddenly having a health crisis, she could not be more grateful for the newest staff member in the ME’s office, Hal Dawson.
All too quickly her gratitude turns to shock when a floating body found trapped against a dam turns out to be Hal, but the cause of death isn’t drowning—his throat’s been slashed. Hal was supposed to be fishing on his day off with his girlfriend. And when their empty boat is found in a nearby lake, the whereabouts of the woman becomes an even more urgent question.
To find out what really happened to her coworker, Mattie may need to rock the boat. But a killer is just as determined to keep the truth from ever surfacing, even if that means making Mattie the next one to go under.
Annelise Ryan recently discussed her novel with The Big Thrill:
When ex-teen star Maizie Albright returns to her Southern hometown of Black Pine, Georgia, she hoped to rid herself of Hollywood tabloid and reality show hell for a new career as a private investigator. Instead, Hollyweird follows her home. Maizie’s costar is crushing, but now for her gumshoe boss. Her stage-monster mother still demands screen time. Her latest rival wants her kicked off the set, preferably back to a California prison.
By entangling herself in a missing person’s case, she must reprise her most famous role. The job will demand a performance of a lifetime. But this time, the stakes are real and may prove deadly.
Author Larissa Reinhart recently took some time to sit down with The Big Thrill and discuss her new novel:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
15 MINUTES introduces the Maize Albright Star Detective series. The heroine, Maizie Albright, is an ex-teen and reality star who’s trying a career makeover as a detective. Unfortunately, her sleuthing background comes from starring in the TV show Julia Pinkerton, Teen Detective. Maizie has a big learning curve and her chosen mentor, Wyatt Nash of Nash Security Solutions, is not a willing teacher.
Sangster doesn’t seem to be able to escape his past as a hit man, no matter how hard he tries. And now it’s his friend, Father Patrick, dragging him back into the life. When the head of a faded Mafia Family in Philadelphia sends the top hit man in the business, Frankie Trigger, to New Orleans to kill Patrick, the priest goes to the only person he can think of for help … Sangster.
Can the former #1 hit man overcome the present #1 hit man and save his friend, while continuing to hold on to his newfound soul?
The Big Thrill recently had the opportunity to interview Robert J. Randisi about his latest novel, ENVY THE DEAD:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope that beyond simply enjoying the story they may come away with some thoughts about their own souls.
In a sealed chamber, deep in the heart of Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of caves and passages sprawling beneath Edinburgh, the victim has undergone a macabre ritual of purification.
Inspector Tony McLean knew the dead man, and can’t shake off the suspicion that there is far more to this case than meets the eye. The baffling lack of forensics at the crime scene seems impossible. But it is not the only thing about this case that McLean will find beyond belief.
Teamed with the most unlikely and unwelcome of allies, he must track down a killer driven by the darkest compulsions, who will answer only to a higher power . . .
Author James Oswald recently took some time to discuss his latest novel, PRAYER FOR THE DEAD, with The Big Thrill:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
I would hope that it widens the idea of what is possible in the genre. All my books suggest at other-worldly forces at play, without specifically acknowledging them. PRAYER FOR THE DEAD examines belief and the extremes people will go to in justifying theirs.
The first book in the RISING SUN triptych, a science fiction historical thriller. An unearthly / mysterious / sinister and beautiful time traveler crosses paths and clashes with an American secret agent in the days before the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. A tale of intrigue, romance, deception, and betrayal. An epic journey revealing great secrets both international and intimate. The RISING SUN trilogy is three complete novels, almost three hundred thousand words, and took thirty-five years to complete. The RISING SUN trilogy might have an R-rating. Sexual situations and sexual language abound. Readers should be aware that most characters have a casual adult attitude to sex and therefore the depiction of their myriad odd practices can be troublesome & problematic for some.
James Cabot recently took some time to discuss Shadows and Echoes with the Big Thrill:
By Dan Levy
Admittedly, novellas are an unfamiliar storytelling platform for me. Positioned somewhere between the plot-driven short story and character-driven novel, novellas can run between 20,000 and 40,000 words (depending on your preferred literary resource). What seems to be common among sources researched for this story is the definition of novella: A work of fiction that is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.
Armed with that deep insight, I jumped at the chance to talk to Nathan Walpow. His latest collection of three novellas, THE LOGAN TRIAD is scheduled for release in March. When asked why he favored the novella form, Walpow explained, “What I have found is that with novellas, the time commitment is not proportional to the length of the work. I can kick out a novella in about two weeks once I get started on it.”
For Walpow, the commitment to the novella runs deeper than mere efficiency, “If you’re built to write one kind of thing, and you try another, you may be successful if you’re that rare kind of writer. Otherwise, you’re better off writing what you can do well.”
Though published and promoted like a full-length novel, THE LOGAN TRIAD is a compilation of three novellas:
- Logan’s Young Guns—Readers meet Logan and watch as a talented brood of sidekicks form around the chance meeting of a woman in an emergency room, and the mystery that unfolds around the hunt for the man who put her there. The novella is written in a third-person narrative style.
- Logan Shoots First—Told in first person, the second novella takes readers inside Logan’s head and into a mystery that explores the world of human trafficking and forced-prostitution.
- They Got Logan—Walpow returns to a third-person narrative, as a woman from Logan’s past reappears asking for his help in solving her mother’s murder.
By Karen Harper
I was excited to be able to interview Debra Webb for her new novel NO DARKER PLACE. We both write suspense for Mira Books, and I am impressed with her own backstory which is one of courage and tenacity. “Never give up” shouts from her heroine’s lives—and her own.
This month, she took time out of her schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about her new release, winning awards, the pros and cons of writing series characters, and her sage advice for aspiring scribes.
Please tell us what NO DARKER PLACE is about.
Detective Bobbie Gentry has one objective: to stop the serial killer who robbed her of her husband, her child, and her life. Nick Shade understands Bobbie’s pain—and her desire for vengeance. He’s on a mission of his own, and the murderer known as the Storyteller is next on his list. Nick knows that the best way to find his target is to stick close to Bobbie. But as she becomes more and more reckless in her attempts to lure the Storyteller out of hiding, he has to make a choice: will he protect her from herself even if it means passing up the chance to take out one more monster? As for Bobbie, she’s forced to decide just how much she can trust this stranger who knows so much about her. And both of them are about to learn whether or not two broken people can save each other.
Like many authors, if Merry Jones goes too long without writing, she becomes agitated and irritable. That creative energy needs an outlet, and for Jones, writing is the only way to release it. She writes across the spectrum, from light humor to serious nonfiction to edge-of-your-seat crime novels.
Her Zoe Hayes mystery series, which includes The Nanny Murders, The River Killings, and The Deadly Neighbors, is popular with fans, but her latest novel, CHILD’S PLAY introduces a new protagonist. Elle Harrison is a second-grade teacher still mourning the death of her husband when a series of murders is linked to a former student recently released from juvenile detention after serving time for killing his abusive father.
As a former special education teacher, I was intrigued from page one. The story is engaging and the language evocative, but beyond that, it spoke to that part of me that every teacher knows—the guilty awareness that, no matter how hard we try, there will be students we fail. That’s powerful stuff.
Please join me in welcoming Merry Jones to The Big Thrill.
By E.M. Powell
I’m sure we’ve all come across the ‘Why I Write’ statements. They come in as many forms and in as wide a variety as there are writers. Yet few can beat Kat Martin’s “I write simply to entertain” in its succinctness—and its modesty. Martin has written more than sixty-five novels, with sixteen million copies of her books in print in more than twenty countries. She’s a regular on the prestigious New York Times bestseller list, with her most recent releases, the romantic suspense BOSS Inc novels Into the Fury and Into the Whirlwind both taking top ten spots. By anyone’s reckoning, that’s a heck of a lot of people entertained. Those legions of readers are about to be joined by more with the release of Martin’s third BOSS Inc. title, INTO THE FIRESTORM.
For those who don’t know, BOSS stands for Brodie Operations Security Services, an operation headed up by ex-cop Ethan Brodie. INTO THE FIRESTORM has Ethan’s bounty hunter brother as its hero. Luke Brodie is chasing international criminal, Rudy Vance and $600,000 fee he’ll collect if he brings in Vance. Trouble is, there’s another bounty hunter in pursuit of the despicable Vance, too. And this one is a young female who’s new to the job: Emma Cassidy, less than five feet tall and with the most intensely personal reasons for wanting to get Vance. As this is a Kat Martin novel, the sexual tension between Luke and Emma is there from the start. Add the gritty realism of the world of the bounty hunter that Martin brings to life so well, and you have another high-octane, page-turning read.
Real life has provided some help for Martin’s fiction. She says she based elements of the courageous, likeable Emma on a very well respected bail enforcement agent in Texas. She also had a trusted advisor. “A close friend of mine, Bob Burton, was at one time the #1 Bounty Hunter in the US. I modelled Emma’s mentor, Booth Childers, after my friend. He was also a bodyguard. Bob was enormously helpful in providing info for several of my books.”
Elizabeth Goddard began writing novels when she retired from a career in software sales to home school her children. Fast forward to last month, when her 25th romance, UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR, hit the shelves.
The book follows Special Agent Grayson Wilde who is undercover at a tiger sanctuary, where he believes the owner is involved in a wildlife trafficking ring—until she is almost killed. Now, the two of them must work together not only to save a generation old tiger oasis, but to survive.
Goddard’s previous works have garnered conspicuous success, including bestseller status and literary awards. Her romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies was a 2011 Carol Award winner. She’s a double finalist in the 2016 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense for her books Buried and Backfire in the Mountain Cove series, and a 2016 Carol Award finalist for Submerged.
In this interview for The Big Thrill, Goddard talks more about her new release, and what fans of her work can look forward to next.
Your new novel, UNDERCOVER PROTECTOR, is set on a tiger sanctuary. This isn’t a setting one runs across every day, even in fiction-writing circles. How did you come up with that?
I run across a lot of different settings in the stories I read and that makes it hard to come up with something original. I’ve trained myself to constantly be aware of my surroundings and things that interest me or I’m passionate about, and I put those ideas into a file for when I’m ready to start a new proposal or story. When I lived in Oregon there was a big cat sanctuary we visited and I always wanted to write about them—they’re magnificent creatures. When I came up with my wildlife special agent hero, I knew that was the perfect time to include the tigers.
In the not-so-distant future, an explosion on the moon generates a world-crippling electromagnetic pulse. Tensions between the US and China mount to an all-time high, as the two countries begin a renewed space race to discover what tore a huge gash into the moon’s surface. Renegade archeologist Dr. Elias Zell and his protégé, Alan Donovan, join NASA astronauts and train for the trip that could finally answer the question of whether we are alone in the universe. International conspiracy and intrigue force cooperation between the superpowers to give the mission any shot at success. For Donovan, completing the mission will give him closure with his father, a disgraced former astronaut from the Apollo program, as well allowing him to be first on an earth-shattering discovery that will change mankind forever. This fast-paced read will keep readers engaged to the final twist and turns as the conspiracy unfolds. Mari and Brown’s first SF collaboration is a good pick for those new to the genre as well as more seasoned readers.
Authors Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown recently spent some with The Big Thrill discussing their novel, OCEAN OF STORMS:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Christopher Mari: The fact that people have in the past and can in the future work together to successfully complete ambitious projects. We did it before—in abolishing slavery, in World War II, in curing polio, during the Civil Rights movement, landing on the Moon. And I genuinely believe we can do great things again if we set clear goals and apply ourselves.
Jeremy K. Brown: I second what Chris said and would add that the book is a reminder that we are all in this together. From coming together to return humans to the Moon to facing the future together with hope, optimism and a better plan for humanity, the book illustrates that we are all united and this little ball of mud and rock is all we’ve got. So we’d better make our stand here and make it count.
Award winning criminologist R. Barri Flowers is a bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. This month he makes all his fans happy with the release of two new books: a true crime volume called SERIAL KILLERS AND PROSTITUTES, and a cozy mystery — MURDERED IN THE GOURMET KITCHEN.
In MURDERED IN THE GOURMET KITCHEN, Riley Reed is the suspect in a murder because the victim was beaten to death with Riley’s casserole dish. Protagonist Riley Reed is a single, spunky and humorous interior designer who somehow finds herself in the middle of murder investigations.
“Riley would be a hit at a cocktail party,” Flowers says, “as she is the type of person one gravitates toward for her affable nature, perkiness, and willingness to engage on a seemingly endless variety of topics. Riley is definitely a heroine in the true sense of the word, as she is more than willing to step out on a limb to catch a killer.”
Of course, Riley doesn’t see herself as a heroine, just a proud citizen of Cozy Pines, Oregon, who does her best to help others any way she can — including the police when they fall short in the pursuit of a culprit.”
Lono Waiwaiole is the author of the successful Wiley series. Set in his adopted city of Portland, each book has been inspired by an actual event: the murder of a stripper launched Wiley’s Lament, the murder of an upper-class executive by a pimp became Wiley’s Shuffle, the murder of a Portland blues musician turned into Wiley’s Refrain, and the biggest drug bust in the history of the Big Island of Hawai`i was spun into Dark Paradise. But when it came to his latest instalment, the prequel LEON’S LEGACY, Waiwaiole draws on his personal experience as a teacher and coach to pay tribute to another tragic Portland crime.
LEON’S LEGACY addresses what must have happened to Wiley and Leon after their high-school collaboration to put them in their respective places twenty years later. Waiwaiole talks to me about his characters, the inspiration behind the series, and the places that motivate him.
LEON’S LEGACY is the prequel to your award-winning Wiley series. When writing the series did you always intend to go back in time?
The fact that the two protagonists met as hoopers during high school is referred to in all three books, so I guess it was natural to wonder what that meeting was like. At the same time, I started wondering if it would be possible to introduce the series to younger readers by putting the characters in high school.
How have Leon and Wiley developed from LEON’S LEGACY to the later entries in the Wiley series?
Wiley came first, and the idea for his character was sparked from a story in the Portland newspaper. The report said the nude body of a young woman was found in the dumpster behind a strip club during the night. I immediately saw her as somebody’s daughter, probably because I was the father of a young woman myself at the time. I began to wonder what kinds of things must have happened to put her in a strip club dumpster, and what it would be like to be her father and to get this kind of news.
UNPUNISHED is New York Times bestselling author Lisa Black’s second novel in the popular Gardiner and Renner series. In this latest installment, forensic expert Maggie Gardiner investigates an apparent suicide in the newspaper industry. When evidence suggests foul play, Maggie must join forces with vigilante killer and homicide detective Jack Renner in order to catch a murderer. In anticipation of the release of UNPUNISHED, The Big Thrill sat down with Lisa to talk about her latest novel, her background in forensics, and her advice about the craft of storytelling.
What can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
This book is really about Maggie coming to terms with what she has done, with what Jack has done, and how she is to move forward in this new reality.
Please tell us a little about Maggie. What events from Maggie’s past have helped make her the woman—and forensic investigator—she is today?
Maggie is a well-rounded and “normal” person, comfortable in her own skin, but a bit of a loner. She lost both her parents while in college but is close to her ever-traveling musician brother. She had a brief, unhappy marriage to a homicide detective but they are on amicable terms, so it seems that all is well. Without the distractions of a personal life she has indulged her workaholic tendencies until her job is everything.
Born in Boston, Susan Alice Bickford grew up in Central New York, then moved to Silicon Valley to live a high-tech life. Not the background one might expect from a novelist, but then, Susan Bickford is full of surprises.
Her debut novel, A SHORT TIME TO DIE, is rooted in a rural community and, unlike many suspense novels, it centers on the perspective of the victim looking out, rather than that of an outsider looking in. The story starts strong, with a young woman fighting for her life against an opponent who should have been her protector. It’s one of the most intense openings I’ve read in quite a while, and the rest of the book didn’t disappoint.
Asked how she managed to pull off such a powerful beginning, Susan says, “I wanted to grab the reader by the throat right away with the initial confrontation and built up layers of action around it. The final touch was to make the physical setting vivid on every page.”
She writes almost every day, usually in the evening, and warms up with “some mental pencil sharpening to get the juices flowing.” Sometimes that means critiquing a short story or outlining her scene points. Waiting for inspiration, though, is not on the menu. She says, “When my mind is full of junk, I set the timer and do free writing without stopping. This pops the nonsense off the stack and good ideas start bubbling up.”
WHO WILL WRITE THE BOOK OF LOVE?
When scholarly Miss Ivy Wareham receives word that she’s one of four young ladies who have inherited Lady Celeste Beauchamp’s estate with a magnificent private library, she packs her trunks straightaway. Unfortunately, Lady Celeste’s nephew, the rakish Quill Beauchamp, Marquess of Kerr, is determined to interrupt her studies one way or another…
Bequeathing Beauchamp House to four bluestockings―no matter how lovely they are to look at―is a travesty, and Quill simply won’t have it. But Lady Celeste’s death is not quite as straightforward as it first seemed…and if Quill hopes to solve the mystery behind her demise, he’ll need Ivy’s help. Along the way, he is surprised to learn that bookish Ivy stirs a passion and longing that he has never known. This rogue believes he’s finally met his match―but can Quill convince clever, skeptical Ivy that his love is no fiction?
Author Manda Collins recently discussed her novel, READY SET ROGUE, with The Big Thrill:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
I think this story has a place in both the tradition of the Agatha Christie English Village murder mystery, as well as in the vein of historical romantic suspense such as that of Amanda Quick and Stephanie Laurens. Because I cut my reading teeth on both mysteries and romances, my favorite novels combine the two and the very best have a bantering couple working together to solve a murder. I hope READY SET ROGUE compares favorably to other books in this vein.
Cara Brookins’ memoir has three sentences alone on a front page. They read: “Our task was both extreme and simple. My family needed sanctuary. So we built it.” And build it they did.
The family needed to escape domestic violence. They required a new place to live. Cara had to keep her four children safe. Give them peace. During a Thanksgiving holiday they retreated to a cabin in the woods. While there, they entertained themselves by building a model house of twigs held together with sewing thread. By the time the weekend was over they began to think they could build a real house. One that was theirs. A safe haven in which to heal.
RISE, HOW A HOUSE BUILT A FAMILY is the story of that build and the strength they found along the way.
How did you come to write this book?
When we were building I never had any intention of writing about it. We were embarrassed to be in the financial and emotional state we were in so we told very few people what we were doing. My coworkers didn’t even know that I was building the house myself and my kids didn’t tell most of their friends. Domestic violence isolates women and children. Most victims have been pulled away from family and friends and are very much alone in the world.
After we finished the house, people who heard about the project always told me I had to write about it. A top agent with William Morris called me after one of his authors (who I met at a conference) told him the story. He had a tough job selling me on the idea though. I really didn’t want to write about my biggest mistakes and worst fears. They were tough memories to revisit and I’ve never been one to dwell on the past. At that time we were still afraid, too. We weren’t sure what would happen if my ex read the story.
Winter Austin has translated her ability to verbally spin a vivid and detailed story into writing deadly romantic thrillers. SINS OF THE FATHER spotlights newly pinned deputy Jolie Murdoch, whose first big job as a McIntire County deputy is to locate a missing girl. What Jolie doesn’t expect is to stumble upon a corpse—the girl’s father—with a prime suspect hanging around the crime scene. But why would local bartender Xavier Hartmann go off the deep end and bludgeon a man to death? A former Marine, barely coping with a traumatic brain injury, Xavier has no memory of what happened at the crime scene.
Will Jolie do her sworn duty or buck the status quo to give her and Xavier’s newfound passion a chance?
SINS OF THE FATHER is the third book in the McIntire County series. What can you tell The Big Thrill readers about the series and how your characters have evolved?
I started the series out with one book, not knowing for certain if it would become a series. When secondary characters came onto the page, sort of creating their own stories in the process, it was a foregone conclusion to continue. PTSD in its many forms seems to be the driving factor behind the books, but it’s mostly the murder plots and how the characters react to them. And as in SINS OF THE FATHER, how the villain has a personal connection to the main character.
At their core, the books in the McIntire County series are romances. I’m not an “insta-love” kind of writer. The relationship with Jolie Murdoch and Xavier Hartmann in this book was slower yet, because they barely know each other, and well, Xavier’s being looked at as a suspect. A huge conflict of interest there for Deputy Murdoch.
Award-winning author Brett Battles is at it again. With several series under his belt, Battles is giving fans a spin-off from his highly successful Jonathan Quinn series with THE EXCOMS.
In THE EXCOMS we are reintroduced to Ananke, who debuted as an assassin in The Buried, and those who become her team: Rosario the obtainer, Dylan the courier, Liesel the bodyguard, and Ricky, the pain-in-the-ass/hunter. The five find themselves “saved” by a mysterious organization called the Committee. The Committee needs their help and expertise in solving a problem. In return, the Committee promises to reverse their excommunication from the secret world they inhabit.
Of course, nothing good ever comes without strings attached.
According to Battles, “THE EXCOMS brings together a set of fun, diverse characters who together are much greater—and better—than they are as individuals.” He goes on to say, “I loved how the relationships between the five (well, six, if you count Shinji) developed as I wrote the story.”
Battles knew that if he ever did a spin-off from his Quinn series, it would feature Ananke. “I knew she was someone special from the moment she made her initial appearance.” He wasn’t sure where the scene was going, but he knew he needed someone to carry out a quiet assassination. Ananke grew from that. “She took over the page. She’s smart, talented, and not above making a few bad decisions, Ricky being one.
“I started thinking she’d be great in her own series, but then had an idea to bring together a team, and then thought I would make her the leader of the team. So basically THE EXCOMS grew organically.”
As for Ananke’s unusual name, Battles said he wanted his assassin to have a “cool name.” So he “did a little research and discovered one of the ancient Greek gods was a woman named Ananke, who, in a nutshell, was the dictator of fate and circumstance. That sounded perfect for an assassin to me.
By Rick Reed
Hector Acosta was born in Mexico City and moved to the United States. He spent time in El Paso and Dallas before moving with his understanding wife and dog to New York. His time living on the border left an impression on him, and much of his writing revolves around that area and its people. In his free time he enjoys watching wrestling and satisfying a crippling Lego addiction.
Hector Acosta is a spinner of tales that will take your breath. His short stories have appeared in Weird Noir, Thuglit, and in three volumes of Shotgun Honey Anthologies.
HARDWAY is the story of fifteen-year old Spencer who loves professional wrestling. He and his brother Billy start their own wrestling promotion operation in their Dallas apartment complex. Soon after a rival promotion outfit run by Eddie Tornado opens in a nearby apartment complex. Eddie is an unhinged teenager with a connection to Billy’s girlfriend, and an axe to grind. The feud between teenagers heats up and Spencer finds the world of professional wrestling is more real and dangerous than depicted on television.
What was your first experience with being a published writer? How did that experience influence your future writing?
It happened during my first year of college while taking an English class. One of the first assignments was to write a personal essay about an unusually strong memory. I wrote about the time my dad took my brother and I across the U.S border into Mexico to see a lucha show. Lucha is the Spanish word for fight. Lucha libre shows are underground wrestling entertainment events.
I thought my first essay was decent, and the teacher apparently thought so too, because a few days after I submitted it, she took me aside and asked me if it could be reprinted in the college newspaper. She was the editor.