Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview, writing inspiration

Welcome W C Furney to Creekside Cafe

Welcome Bill Furney to my Virtual Cafe

Bio: William Charles Furney(

A former soldier, journalist, and communication professional, William Charles Furney has tapped into a lifetime of experiences and adventures to craft riveting novels such as Black Hearts White Bones, a love, hate, revenge story about the two infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Aphrodite’s Whisper, an epic love story reminiscent of Legends of the Fall; and now…Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.

Now retired from public service, William is a full-time writer and novelist.

Sherri: Welcome to my virtual café, Bill. You have had an interesting life so far, from a tank commander to reporter to a Public Health Communicator, and now a novelist. I won’t ask you about the latest health issue, I know it can be a pretty divisive discussion and we’re not in that business now. As writers, we hope to bring people together through our stories. What is it about a story that can reach a person when all the facts cannot?

Bill: Wow! That’s a three-beer conversation. We could spend hours kicking that idea around and still leave many rocks unturned. (How’s that for mixing metaphors?) My stab at a short answer is this; facts can be blunt objects with which people hit each other over the head. The facts themselves may be impersonal, but the feelings, attitudes and beliefs of the person wielding them are usually very apparent. While it may be fun hitting people over the head with facts, doing so isn’t conducive to changing opinions. In truth, it makes people resistant to them.

Well-written stories can introduce facts and ideas slowly. They can be attached to sympathetic characters with whom readers can identify and care about. If done correctly and unobtrusively, the actual “facts” in question can be debated, dissected and a defended without ever having stated what the “facts” are. George Orwell was a master at this.

Sherri: As you know prepping for this interview, I stalked your website and social media looking for just the right questions to ask but we don’t have that kind of time. Unfortunately, I have thirty-four authors to promote before our Author Event, but I’d love to buy you a drink and pick your brain.

Bill: NOW we’re talking!

Sherri: But for now, let’s just hit the highlights.

On your website, you mentioned four writers as the fab four, who in your opinion are the masters of the craft. I agree with the first two, King and Flynn. Even though I’m not a horror/thriller fan, there is much we can learn from authors who are not in our genre. For me, my King-ism is to have a little something that shocks the reader. It has to fit the story, but maybe not the genre. In Chrome Pink, my first novel, I have a scene my romance writer friends said made them throw-up in their mouths. They thought I should take it out. I didn’t because it had a reaction. What do you feel these authors have done to influence your writing?

Bill: I think the answer to this question is covered somewhat in the Fab Four author profiles featured on my webpage. Each author offers a different influence. So, here, let me address them as a group. What is the common denominator that, in my mind, sets them apart?  Well, you touched on it. In a word…mastery. “Mastery” is a term that’s not used very often these days. Webster defines it as:

2a : possession or display of great skill or technique
  b : skill or knowledge that makes one master of a subject

I became familiar with the concept during my youth when I was first introduced to Hemingway and later when I was heavy into martial arts. To be brief, being in the presence of a master or being exposed to a master’s work is a – if you have the humility to recognize your shortcomings and inadequacies – very humbling experience. It’s a moment of truth, self-realization and gut-checking. As people with egos, it’s hard to look at your own work in comparison and admit…I suck at this. But, if you were raised right and were gifted with a never-quit attitude, it is life-changing. The four authors I’ve featured – Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Cheri Priest, and Mary Beth Keane – are masters in four very disparate types of writing. You don’t have to be a fan of their genres to recognize their greatness. I have been writing for more than forty years now, and compared to the mastery of these four writers I still feel like Grasshopper kneeling at the feet of Master Po.   

Sherri: I laughed when I read why you wanted to meet Gillian Flynn. “Because she has so much talent I want to be nearby when some of it spills out.  Also, because I’m the type of guy who jumps out of airplanes, rides motorcycles, and runs around the room holding scissors – I love danger.” Does your writing reflect your love of danger?

Bill: Interesting question. My line about loving danger was meant to help illustrate Flynn’s penchant for writing really dark psychological stories. I don’t think I love danger any more than the next Type A personality. But I do love adventure, which can sometimes put you in dangerous situations. My writing borrows heavily from life and death situations and brushes with mortality I’ve experienced. When I write about cannons firing in Black Hearts White Bones, I know how to describe it because I’ve lived it. I know what it feels like to hold a sword in your hand and face an opponent who is equally armed. Like some of the scenes in Aphrodite’s Whisper, I know what it’s like when an aircraft goes into freefall, and you don’t know if you will live or die. And like in both of those novels, I know what the sound of a bullet whizzing by your head actually sounds like.

Sherri: Writing is an adventure all its own, but publishing can be quite daunting. What do you wish you’d known before beginning this journey? What advice would you offer newbies getting ready to publish their first book?

Bill: God bless you, Sherri. You just introduced another three-beer conversation. Perhaps you should start a variation of the Algonquin Roundtable so we can entertain these fascinating questions at length…over adult beverages.

The answer to the first part of your question is…I wish I had understood what a crap shoot traditional publishing is. There are SO many variables and there is nothing on the novice writer’s side…unless you know somebody. Even then, you still need talent. Well, most of the time. I’ve seen some really awful stuff published over the years and I’ll never understand why such tripe gets published while other great stories don’t. One thing I’ve learned as an independent is that there are many wonderful writers out there who weren’t traditionally published. A lot of them will be at the Farmers Market authors event you are promoting.


Which leads to the second part of your question. First, read Stephen King’s A Memoir of the Craft of Writing. Skip the memoir part if you don’t care about King, but his essays on HOW to write are invaluable. There are other such books out there, but none I know of were authored by a writer as successful as King. So…

I would also suggest starting small. Try to write short stories for traditional and web-based magazines and forums. Hone your skills and create a following. This will help whether you break into traditional publishing or independent publishing. I didn’t do this. I wish I had.

Third, learn marketing and social media. These days, even traditional publishers expect authors to drive marketing. I despise this aspect of modern-day publishing, but that’s the environment we now live in. Remember, the best thing about independent publishing is that anybody can do it. And the worst thing about independent publishing is that anybody can do it. It leads to writers actually giving their books away in the hope of some day being able to sell books to loyal followers. Nobody should ask me for advice on how to do this. I suck at it. But there are many resources available, both legit and parasitical…if you know what I mean. Caveat emptor. One good place to start is Reedsy’s How to Market a Book.    

Sherri: Your stories are all in different genres, is there anything that links the stories? Do they have a similar theme or premise?

Bill: You’re the first person to ask me this question. Thank you. The answer may surprise you. The common thread between all my novels is love. Now, it’s not always evident who loves who or who loves what, but my characters and stories are driven by humanity’s most enduring emotion…love. I invite everyone to read my novels and try to identify how I’ve woven the concept of ever-lasting love into my characters and which ones, but you’ll have to buy me a beer to find out if you’re right.

Sherri: Aphrodite’s Whisper you mentioned took twenty years to come to fruition. Why such a long time? Was it based on a true story? You mention in your blog that it is similar to Cold Mountain and Legends of the Fall, these stories straddle the fence between genre fiction and literary. They focus on the character’ journey. Are all of your stories a deep dive into the character?

Bill: Well, it took five years to write Aphrodite’s Whisper because I was working and raising two boys at the time. Also, I spent about three hours conducting research for every hour or writing. And the writing was done late at night after putting the boys to bed and on weekends and holidays. I spent the next 15 years alternating between submitting to literary agents and conducting re-writes. I re-wrote the novel at least three times and I was able to connect with two agents. But we could never quite get it over the hump and picked up by a publisher. By the time I finished Black Hearts White Bones – another five-year endeavor – the evolution of independent publishing had reached the point where it made sense to skip the traditional route – especially given my age – and self-publish. After Black Hearts was published, I spent the next year re-writing AW yet again and finally published it.

Was it based on a true story? Yes and no. I actually have an Author’s Notes section at the end of AW where I discuss which aspects of the story are history and which are fiction. Unlike BHWB, the main characters in AW, are totally fictional. BHWB is based on two very real female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

And yes, all my stories are, in my opinion, character driven. Despite the abundance of adventure, suspense, and mystery, the main characters in my novels reign supreme. Even Ivy Moon. Hell, especially Ivy Moon. I’d like to believe this is part of what makes my stories unique and enjoyable. The characters are three dimensional and relatable. And the stories are never exactly what the readers expect based on the genres they fall in. In short, they are unpredictable.

Sherri: As a fellow historical fiction author, I understand the work that goes into writing an accurate portrayal of both era and character. I was a bit intimidated to tackle my recent novel, The Americans are Coming and have been working on it for several years, doing research and taking classes that would help make it a better story. While all fiction requires a little research, we don’t always use everything we learn. What is the most important thing to get right when writing a historical? What is the line in the sand for you as a reader, as well as a writer?

Bill: Love, love, love this question! As with Aphrodite’s Whisper, I conducted about three hours of research for every hour spent writing Black Hearts White Bones. The amazing part is – which may scare the hell out of any budding historical fiction writers out there – I didn’t use but five or ten percent of the information in the actual stories. Dumping a bunch of mundane historical facts on readers heads is not the way to write historical fiction. Such information must be woven into the narrative in a way that the reader won’t stumble over it. As you allude to, it’s a fine line. And I think the key to finding that line is to be an avid reader. If you become adept at recognizing when the line is crossed in a book you are reading, you should be able to apply that awareness to your writing.

But aspiring historical fiction writers don’t despair! All that time conducting research isn’t wasted. While you may not use most of the knowledge you gain learning about the history of swords or the use and crafting of rush candles, all of that information will give you a better sense of time and place in which your characters exist. THIS is the difference between a good story and great writing…in my humble opinion.

Sherri: Your story, Casey and the Bear mirrors an incident in my own writing. Casey is my sister-in-law’s great-nephew. At the time he went missing, I was writing a similar scene in my third novel, Titanium Blue. I felt so guilty for writing that scene even though I’d planned it months before Casey went missing. My sis, who is one of my Beta readers was aware of it and helped me through the guilt. Like you, I believe animals, whether wild or domestic, often come to the rescue of those in need. I heard about your story shortly after Casey’s rescue, it’s nice to put a name to the story and to read it for myself. I’d love to include it in this interview with links to your website.

Bill: That is truly flattering. Yes, by all means, it was meant to be shared. Casey’s story is amazing, and I hope I did him justice. We will probably never know if he was actually befriended by a bear, but the boy he was when the incident happened believed it, and that’s good enough for me.

Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Bill Furney, come out to the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th for our Author Event.

If a girl cries of loneliness and there’s no one alive to hear…can she still survive?

I just released, Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.

Readers who love post-apocalypse stories will appreciate the unique perspective author W.C. Furney brings to the genre. Taking place almost entirely in Craven County, Ivy Moon – Last Girl on Earth is a Young Adult, post-apocalyptic tale of a girl’s survival and self-discovery. The story begins when the young teen who suffers a head injury emerges from a sailboat that ran aground during a hurricane. The trauma of discovering she is amnesic is soon dwarfed by the realization she is totally alone. Gradually, her expectation that people will return to the community they evacuated is replaced with the startling truth that everyone is gone. Vanished from the face of the earth. Hindered by a selective memory that affords only brief glimpses of her past, Ivy and her new friend Tonka – a West Highland White Terrier –  set off on a quest to find other people. She soon discovers that surviving a post-apocalyptic world isn’t what the adventure books and movies make it out to be.


Before agreeing to perform the audio version of Ivy Moon, voice over actress Shey Greyson (Rose Walker in Audible’s production of The Sandman) read the manuscript to determine whether she connected with the main character and the story. Her response?

 “Connect with it? I’m obsessed with it!”

A former soldier, journalist, and communication professional, William Charles Furney has tapped into a lifetime of experiences and adventures to craft riveting novels such as Black Hearts White Bones, a love, hate, revenge story about the two infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read; Aphrodite’s Whisper, an epic love story reminiscent of Legends of the Fall; and now…Ivy Moon Last Girl on Earth.

After graduating high school in Virginia Beach, Va, William served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander and later attended college at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Armed with degrees in public relations and advertising he honed his skills by becoming a reporter and columnist with a small newspaper in eastern North Carolina. Afterward, he became a director of public relations for private industry and the director of communication for several government agencies. He established two public affairs offices where none previously existed; one for the State Health Director’s Office and the other in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response – the state agency created in 2001 to oversee preparedness efforts associated with biological attacks and pandemic outbreaks. He became one of the first five people in the country to become a Certified Communicator in Public Health. 

As a public health communication expert, he coordinated or participated in the media/public information responses to health crises involving AIDS, anthrax, SARS, E-coli, Pfiesteria, Brucelosis, Legionnaires’ disease, SIDS, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Small Pox, West Nile Virus and numerous hurricanes. He also collaborated with the CDC Office of Communication on several health issues and was a certified trainer of their Emergency Risk Communication Program. He was a member and president of the National Public Health Information Coalition – twice.

Now retired from public service, William is a full-time writer and novelist.

Buy links:

Social media links


Instagram: BillFurney

Twitter: @wcfurney


Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview

Welcome Sarah Maury Swan to Creekside Cafe

BIO: Sarah Maury Swan is the author of three novels, the last two of which she is selling at the upcoming Authors’ Sunday. She is pleased the say she has written stories for the Next Chapter Literary Magazine since its inception in January 2020. At the moment, she is working on a chapter book entitled SPACE JUNK, a young adult novel entitled BAD HAIR DAY, her first ever grown-up’s cozy mystery entitled SERENDIPITY’S CONUNDRUM, and a short story entitled FAIRY’S TOOTHBRUSHES. She lives in Fairfield Harbour with her handsome devil and their cat.

Welcome Sarah Maury Swan to Creekside Café, she might look like a sweet little old lady but she’s a dynamo. She is hosting 34 other authors, myself included at an Authors’ Event at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th. Sarah, it is so good to have you at my virtual café.

Sarah: Aw shucks, Sherri. You’re definitely a dynamo yourself considering how you took over the reins of Pamlico Writers so seamlessly. And thanks for the delicious cup of herbal tea; the virtual scones were perfect.

Sherri: Well chai tea is one of my favorites. I think you are amazing. You didn’t grow up with computers like today’s kids but you’re fearless about trying new things. Congratulations on your website and blog.

Sarah: That’s because you’re not close enough to hear how much and how often I yell at my computer.



Sherri: I’ve yelled at mine a few times too. I’m very grateful for grandchildren who fix whatever problem I’ve created. How did you and the handsome devil end up in eastern North Carolina?

Sarah: We had a lovely horse farm up in Maryland, but we had to put down three horses, 2 dogs and a cat in the 22 years we were there. The three horses were in the last 5 years we were there. Dale was ready to retire from the consulting business he’d started 30 years earlier, but we both knew he’d never quit if we stayed in Maryland. We had friends who had moved to New Bern, which made the area even more enticing. We’ve loved it ever since we moved here in December of 2010. Of course, not having to deal with blizzards also made this area more inviting.

Sherri: You’re very active in the local writing community, just like organizing this event. What groups do you belong and what else do you do?

Sarah: I belong to the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, HTTPS://; North Carolina Writers Network, HTTPS://; Carteret Writers, which I was the president from 2012 to 2014, HTTPS://; HTTPS://, and locally, I belong to 3 critiques groups: Seascribes, where I work on my Young Adult and Middle Grade novels, plus short stories, etc; Kitchen on Trent critique group where I concentrate on short stories and my first ever “grown-ups” novel; and Bogue Group, which is my children’s’ books/stories critique group. Because of COVID, I’ve become fairly proficient on running the groups via Zoom. When I’m not writing, I try to do “retired persons” kinds of stuff like going out to lunch and having my weekly manicure. I read a lot and play some computer games, and I ride my tricycle which I named Gertrude. By the way, Veronica Krug, who is also going to be at the Authors’ Sunday event, is a member of Seascribes as well.

Sherri: Oh, my word, you’re as busy as I am.

On your blog you mentioned you review books for the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (, what is the CLCD and how did you get involved in this?  

Sarah: CLCD was founded early in this century to review children’s books for various publishing houses and sending the reviews to libraries and schools. I started reviewing for the company in 2006. At the beginning the books had to be traditionally published, but nowadays self-published/indie books are being considered. I got a 5-star review through the organization for my novel Earthquakes. I did a happy dance then. It’s a very good way to learn what is accepted by publishers and what book buyers are looking for.

Sherri: You’re a horsewoman, is that correct? You mention on your blog that you and the handsome devil had a small horse farm in Maryland. Was your book Emily’s Ride to Courage inspired by true events?

Sarah: I wrote Emily’s Ride to Courage because we had to put a 9-year-old horse down. That’s very young and he was a sweet horse. Putting any animals down is sad, but horses are big and don’t necessarily go down easily. So, I’m in the house grieving and Grandpa’s voice pipes up in my saying, “Won’t have me no white-hoofed horse. White hooves is weak.” I said to him: “I don’t write for grown-ups, Grandpa,” and made-up Emily. The horse had to be a blood bay because the handsome devil always wanted a bay and we never had one.

Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you start writing and when did you first decide to publish?

Sarah: I come from a long line of writers/readers and started telling stories when I was not even a teenager. My career jobs all had to do with writing one way or another, but I didn’t actively try to get published until I was in my late 60s. My first successes were with magazine like Country, Country Extra and also their cookbooks, and the “Fun For Kids” magazines.

Sherri: Are you self-published or traditionally published?  

Sarah: I eventually went the self-publishing route because I’m too old to wait around for traditional publishing to publish my books. Emily’s Ride to Courage was the first novel I finished but the second one I published. I sent to Dutton first because I had friendship with one of publishers there. He liked it so well he sent up through all the editors there and they sent it to the marketers who said, “Good book, but we already have a horse book series in the works.” Now if you’re going to get a rejection, that’s not a bad way to get one, so I sent it to Peachtree in Atlanta. The editor there said, “I like the story line and I like your writing, but I’m not connecting with Emily.” I rewrote it in first person and again it went all the way up to the marketers who rejected it because they already had a horse book in the works. Sigh. But at least I knew I had a good story on my hand. Then I wrote the book I published first, Terror’s Identity, which is, at the moment, only available as an e-book through Amazon. Then I published Emily and now I’ve published Earthquakes.

Sherri: I was reading the information for your first novel, Terror’s Identity, it sounds like an interesting read. I had hoped to get a print copy when we meet for our Authors’ Sunday, but I’ll have to settle for eBook. Tell us how you came up with this idea for this book, your research and any other details you’d like to share.

Sarah: Terror came to me after 9-11 when people were being so nasty to any Muslim they come across. So, I wrote the story to make the point that not all Muslims are terrorists. I was very lucky to a have Secret Service agent living behind us and he was quite helpful in learning the way they run things. I wanted the main character to have a lot changes in his life, so I started him in Lake Forest, Illinois, because it’s quite ritzy, and then sent him to Dundalk, Maryland, which most decidedly not ritzy.

Terror’s Identity, Sixteen-year old Aidan Knox’s life turns upside down when he, his sister and his mother enter a witness protection program and begin a dangerous new life because of his father’s work investigating a terrorist organization operating in the U.S. How will he remember the details of his new life with a new name and a made-up past? And will he be able to settle into a new school and all that entails? Whom can he trust, and can he keep his mother and sister safe?

Published January 2016 and is for sale as an e-book through Amazon Books

Sherri: It takes a lot to be a published author these days, especially having to wear all of the hats from writer, editor, formatter, publisher, marketer, and promoter. What is your key to keeping your sanity in this business?

Sarah:  What? Me sane? I’m glad I have a lot of computer savvy friends who are willing to enlighten me. I also use publishing houses like Sable, Amazon and Jera because they will do a final edit for me. Of those, I liked Sable and Jera. Amazon is quite fond of squeezing as many nickels and dimes out of you as they possibly can. Sable doesn’t have the marketing arm that the last publisher I used has. Jera has connection with IngramSparks/LightningSource which has a page in national/international publishing magazines.

Sherri: I have to ask, what is the weirdest pet you’ve ever owned. We had ferrets and they were unique and stinky, but they had funny personalities. We had a dog we nick-named Houndini because he wouldn’t stay in a pen or on a lead. He got out of his collar, a harness, and even escaped from the local pound when he was picked up for not having his collar.

Sarah: A quirky animal we had was my dressage horse that I had trained from the time he was 4 months old. But he was lots of fun to ride and ended up his life as a therapeutic riding horse. You should have a photo of him there. I took our Tennessee Walking Horse, Rippy, to a clinic one time because I didn’t know much about the breed and what to do with it. Everybody fell in love with him. Turns out you can do just about anything you want to with them, especially jumping. Our dogs were always characters and loving, including our last dog who was a spectacular bird hunting German Shorthaired Pointer named Jake. Now we have a calico cat named Pandie because she was born in August of 2020. Guess why she’s named Pandie.

Sherri: I love World War 2 stories. Your story, Earthquakes sounds like a thriller. Do you like scary stories? Have you ever been in an earthquake?

Sarah: I hate earthquakes. They scare the livin’ bejeezus out of me, but I do like scary stories. I wrote this one in part because it has elements of my mother’s life and my life because I was born in May of 1941. My mother graduated from M.I.T in 1934 with a degree in Physical Chemistry, and then married my father whom she had met through her brother Bill at West Point. After Daddy was shipped to the Philippines the day after I was born, we moved from Ft. Lewis, Washington, to Los Angeles, California. When war broke out my mother went to work for Lockheed and became their first female Tool & Dye designer. She became a “Rosie the Riveter” and was used in all kinds of roles to promote the “War Effort.” After the war she was fired for no other reason than she was a woman taking a man’s job. She was told the men would need to support their families and she should go back to being a housewife. Her question was, “I’m a widow with four children to raise. Who’s going to support us?” Fortunately, she had friends in the Washington, DC area who were instrumental in getting the Cancer Chemotherapy project started at the National Institutes of Health. So, off the Maryland we went. That’s the state I consider my home state.


It’s hard enough dealing with the effects of World War II sending his father and grandfather to the Pacific theater, but now seventeen-year-old Jonathon Thomas has to deal with real and imaginary earthquakes. To make matters worse his school principal has warned him and his schoolmates of potential spies in the neighborhood. How’s he supposed to recognize a spy? And why are his neighbors being murdered? And why are people sneaking into his house to search for something? The only comfort Jonathon finds is when he talks with his girlfriend, Jennifer Murphy. What’s he going to do when he’s banned from leaving his home? Will his recurring nightmare of being swallowed up when an earthquake splits the ground open under his feet turn into reality?

Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with Sarah Maury Swan join us at the New Bern Famers Market, Sunday, November 20th 1-4 pm for Authors’ Sunday with 35 local authors.;


Emily’s Ride to Courage


The Rosie the Riveter photo is in Earthquakes and is a photo of my mother doing a Rosie the Riveter event.  The photo of me riding my horse is for Emily’s Ride to Courage.

Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity, Emily’s Ride to Courage, and Earthquakes

Posted in inspiration, writing inspiration, Writing tips

Fight Scenes from My Writer Friends

My friends have sent examples of fight scenes from their books. See the variety of fights and how they set them up. As you read them, I realize that they are out of context but see how they set them up, the emotions, the choreography of the fight. Study the scenes. When you read a book you love in the genre you want to write, see what works, what you’d do different. When you are editing your work, edit for pacing, for details and description, for emotion and for the payoff. What do you want this scene to do? Remember, even a fight scene must do something. It has to move the story along. Tell us something about the character, be a turning point or a black moment. It needs to fulfill a need in the reader as well as the character.

Red Shoes by Donna Steele

Chapter Twenty-Seven

“Nikki? You okay?” The door hadn’t been locked. Micah knew she was growing more comfortable every day, but that was still not like her. He didn’t mind her caution. Now that he knew about Adrian, Micah knew she had every reason for it. (foreshadowing)

Something didn’t feel right. She had said she’d call him when she was through with her errands, but she hadn’t. And she hadn’t answered when he called her. That’s why he had shown up early. (Increasing anxiety)

What? Had he heard something? He headed for the kitchen and spotted her. What the . . . was that blood on her lip? And her eyes, one was swollen shut and bruises were beginning to show on her face and neck. (initial reaction/confusion)

Shit! He rushed toward her. It didn’t look as though she was restrained, but she sat unmoving on one of the kitchen chairs. Her hands were clamped around the seat at her sides. “Nikki?”

She didn’t speak, though she watched him. Tears filled her eyes, but none fell.

“Nikki, talk to me.”

She didn’t move, but her eyes shifted to behind him and fear filled them. It was all the warning he got. He shifted as the fireplace poker came down with what would have been deadly force had it hit his head. He felt and heard his collarbone break and his right arm went dead.

Adrian had found her. They were both in trouble. Micah’s right side might not be much use but he pivoted. What choice did he have? He rammed himself into the man with his left shoulder, knocking him to the floor. (action and reaction) *note how the author took into account his wound.

God that hurt.

Adrian wasn’t that big. Micah had visualized him much larger, but that had been from Nikki’s descriptions. He wasn’t as tall and not nearly as muscular as Micah. This was a man used to buying the strength he needed.

Micah kicked the poker farther away. “Get out of here, Nikki! Call 911!”

She didn’t move. He’d seen no ropes, no cuffs. He looked back at her, what had he missed? Adrian kicked out. Micah had an instant to thank God he hit the back of Micah’s knee instead of the front or side, but he still went down.

What the hell was he doing underestimating this man? Adrian had brutalized his wife for years, other women before that. The asshole couldn’t be a complete wuss.

“Nikki, move!”

“Victoria.” Adrian hissed at him. He seemed afraid to come too close. “Her name is Victoria and she belongs to me.”

“She belongs to herself.” Micah made it back to his feet, though he knew he wasn’t really in fighting shape right now. Hell, he’d practically gone down without a fight. The element of surprise worked well for Adrian. Micah’s leg was hurt, not as badly as his arm, but he needed to make this quick. Why was she still sitting there? Her knuckles were white where she gripped the chair.

“You’ll pay for touching her. She will too, but you first.”

Micah watched in horror as the smaller man aimed a police taser at him. No! Where had he gotten a weapon like that? They weren’t legal. Shit, he was thinking like a lawyer. He needed more time, but it didn’t exist. He charged Adrian hoping his size would intimidate the man. Adrian did fall back a step, but then he discharged the weapon. 

Twin lightning bolts struck Micah’s chest and abdomen and he dropped into the blackness. (Donna used and economy of description to keep the pacing tight, the anxiety up and convey the sense of urgency but still managed to let the reader SEE what was happening. We experienced it right along with the character.)


Nooo! She didn’t scream, she couldn’t. It wasn’t allowed. Adrian was going to kill her. She’d accepted that hadn’t she? He’d never even be charged. No one knew who she was except Micah.

Not Micah!

Micah loved her. He didn’t deserve this. She hadn’t been able to move and Adrian had killed him. So let him kill her, but she wasn’t going down without a fight. Micah had thought she was strong. (finding strength and courage even when all seems lost.)

Adrian wasn’t even worried about her. He had ordered her to sit in the chair and now he turned his back on her, to ensure that Micah was dead. Darkness threatened to cover her mind. Micah.

She released the chair, working blood back into her fingers. She was startled at how easy it was to do something for Micah. Adrian hadn’t noticed. He was confident in his power over her. That was a mistake, she had grown while out from under his rule.

Her hand closed over the forgotten fireplace poker and she lifted it.

Adrian pulled the twin stickers from Micah’s body and she saw his smile. God, had he always looked that evil? How blind had she been?

Some sound caused Adrian to start to turn toward her. What had Micah told her, clench up on the bat, swing with your whole body and visualize the ball going out of the park. Now. She swung the poker like that bat; her grip tight as Micah had shown her and she hit Adrian’s back solid and hard. She heard something crack and the air whooshed out of Adrian. His look of astonishment would have been funny in some other time or place. She saw and heard his head hit the brick fireplace as he seemed to sail across the room. (previous set-up, Micah taught her to swing a baseball bat.)

That couldn’t have been her strength. It was Micah’s, he was still helping her. Adrian lay still on the hearth as she raced to Micah’s side. Tears were now streaming down her face. Then Micah groaned. Alive? Micah was alive?

God, she needed help. She ran to the front door and threw it open. Then she screamed. It was loud and long and it felt so good, so powerful.

More than one door flew open around her. “Call 911!” Neighbors came running, some with phones in their hands. She saw Mr. Gregory from two doors down running her way with a baseball bat. Friends. She had friends!

Sheriff Haas arrived before the ambulance by less than a minute. “Miss Nikki? What’s going on? I got a dozen calls.”

“Micah’s hurt. Adrian tried to kill him.”

“Looks like he tried to kill you too. Who’s Adrian?”

She pointed toward the man face down on her floor. Micah had been covered with the afghan from her couch, Adrian was untouched. She didn’t even know or care if he was breathing.

“That the man Micah said you were scared of?” She nodded. “Had good reason to be.” He stepped aside as the EMTs entered.

“Micah’s first. Please make sure he’s okay.” Nikki said to the red-headed woman.

“We need to check them both.”

“The man over there is under arrest, Sara.” Sheriff Haas said.

She nodded and motioned for her partner to check him out as she knelt by Micah. “What happened?” Sara looked up at the sheriff, but it was Nikki that answered.

“Adrian hit Micah with the fireplace poker, I think his collar bone is broken and he kicked him in the knee, then he tasered him with that.” She pointed to the taser half under the couch where it had fallen when she’d struck Adrian.

Sheriff Haas knelt down and picked up the taser with a rubber glove. “Shit, this thing’s lethal. Sara?”

“His vitals are good, Sheriff. We need to transport, get some X-rays, but I think he’s gonna be fine. Barry?”

“This one’s out cold. Probably at least a concussion and his left lung is collapsed, broken ribs.”

Nikki’s eyes widened. “I broke his ribs?” (surprised by her own strength/underdog)

“Looks like you needed to. We’ll get it all sorted out. You need to be looked at too, you know. There’s a cut over your eye probably needs a couple of stitches. Let Sara look after you. I’ll handle this.”

“This guy’s the worse off,” Barry said, drawing attention back to Adrian.

“I’ll get them to dispatch another unit.” Sara was already on the radio. Sheriff Haas motioned for one of his deputies who’d just walked in to guard Adrian, though it was unnecessary at this point.

Nikki sat on the floor beside Micah, holding his hand and feeling safe.

Learning Trust by Donna Steele

They separated after Suzanne gave her arm a squeeze. Becca put her out of her mind for now. She had one priority and that was to get to Mitch. In a fair fight she might be able to take Wannamaker, but she had no intention of fighting fair. (preparing to fight)

She carefully crept up to the first house and looked in the nearest window. It was dark inside, and she could discern no movement. Her hand tightened on the poker in her right hand. He wouldn’t expect her to come after him. That was to her advantage.

Wait a minute, she was an idiot— it was back. She pressed her fingers against the windowsill, not relinquishing her hold on the weapon. Nothing, they weren’t here.

She crouched down and moved in the shadow of the house. Full darkness wasn’t far off, but her eyes were accustomed to the available light for now. She moved to the next house, for the first time wishing they were closer together like in the city. Beauty be damned right now.

Becca didn’t need to touch the window as she got closer to the second house. Mitch was in there. She had no doubt; he was injured, but alive.

Trying desperately for silence, she moved slowly to the door. Wannamaker had to be inside too, right? She couldn’t feel him, and thank goodness for that from one aspect. She tightened her grip on the poker and moved around the corner.

Too late she felt the presence, something slimy, filthy the same as at the tire tracks. Then she felt the blow to her arm, knocking the poker free as she heard the bone snap. The second blow knocked her to her back and then the insane eyes of the man she was tracking were above her. (notice the choreography, it’s not a step by step but still intense.)

“You felt him, didn’t you? That didn’t occur to me, but I guess there are a lot of things about being a physic I’m going to have to learn after I take what I need from you. I really would like a long conversation before then. I promise to be quick about it, so you won’t be in that much pain, but there are things you’re going to have to tell me first. Oh this is just wonderful. You came to me.”

The lunatic was talking to her. Wanting her help before transferring her powers? He sounded giddy as a little girl, as though he wanted to clap his hands in glee.

He kicked the poker away. “Now I’m going to help you to your feet, Rebekkah. This is over except for the final conveying of the power. You should know I’ve never talked to one of my experiments this way before, but then you’re almost as special in your own way as I am. Oh, I am just delighted to have this chance to talk first.”

Lord, he was going to clap. Becca stared up at him in disgusted wonder.

“Come now. We’ll be more comfortable inside. I don’t want to drug you, not and dampen any of that special brain, but I will have to bind you. A mere broken arm might not keep you from running away. Of course, there is the promise that I will kill your gas jockey if you try anything.” (are you feeling the menace)

She allowed him to take hold of her right shoulder, to help her sit up. It freed her left hand, trapped beneath her, and still holding the grilling fork.

He had no time to dodge. The look in his eye at the first blow was not of pain or fear, but shock and then outrage that she would do something like that. The second and third stabs brought the pain and the blood that was now trickling down his shirt caused the fear. The fourth blow was the one. Her aim grew better when he shoved himself away from her and began dabbing at the growing stains. Between the ribs, she put her full weight behind it and skewered his heart. (just when you thought all was lost…)

She felt it, the electricity of his body’s system short-circuiting and the expression of astonishment on his face almost made her laugh. He sank slowly to the ground and she thought of yanking the fork out once more, to use it again if he so much as twitched. It wasn’t necessary, she knew he was dead.

She stepped back and leaned against the house, suddenly wobbly. Her arm hurt now that the adrenaline was gone. Deep trembles were taking its place. (the after is just as important as what happens before, how did this fight affect the character?)

No, she didn’t have time for that. Mitch!

She forced herself into a run and burst through the front door, causing it to slam into the wall behind. “Mitch!”

There was no answer, but she was still moving. She flipped on every light. Suzanne would see that and come as fast as she could, with help. There, on the floor of the eating area, beside the blessed maple table, Mitch lay unconscious on the floor. His head was bleeding and he was still bound to the chair.

“I’m here, Mitch. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry you got caught up in this,” she babbled as she tried to release him with her one good hand. That’s when she realized, somewhere in the back of her mind, that she had left the fork sticking out of Wannamaker’s shriveled little heart.

Where was a phone? She staggered to her feet and spotted it on the kitchen wall. She dropped it the length of the cord and hit 911 then yanked it back up to her ear.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“I need an ambulance and the sheriff. I don’t know the address but it’s on Lakeside.”

“I have it. Stay on the line, please.” How could the woman sound so calm? “Ma’am, we have vehicles already on the way to Lakeside.  You should be hearing them—”

“I do. Thank you!” She hurried to the door and waved them into the driveway.

Donna Steele

New Secrets – A Conall Clan book coming January 2021!

Suspense thriller Random Road by Thomas Kies

Lance jerked up quickly. I could see his face in the mirror, covered in a crimson cloud of rage. “That miserable son of a bitch kept one of the swords? That night on the dock, our dock, he told us he didn’t want to have anything to do with either one of us. He said we were meth-heads, that our brains were fried. He kicked us to the curb like we were garbage. He said we, we, were incompetent and stupid. And we were like brothers, Jimmy and me, like fucking brothers.”

I looked over at Drew again. His misery was absolute. He’d heard it. Jimmy and Lance were like brothers. Not Lance and Drew.

“Drew?” I quietly asked.

When he looked at me, there were tears trailing down his cheeks.

“Was it you who called the police and told them about the bodies in the Chadwick house?”

“I couldn’t stand knowing that they were all dead, that she was dead, and lying on the floor, just up the road from here.”

Lance’s left hand strengthened its grip on my shoulder and his right hand pressed the knife blade against my neck. “Now the only question that’s left, Miss Chase, is what are we going to do with you? You’re kind of a loose end.”

I could feel the cold steel of the knife against my carotid artery. These guys butchered six people. One more certainly wasn’t going to make any difference.

I worked hard to find a voice through my escalating terror. “If the police are talking to Jimmy, you know it won’t take long for him to give you up. The cops are probably on their way here now.” (notice the strong word choices)

“Maybe,” Lance mused, “but once they get here, it’s not going to help us if you’re here telling them our story.”

I was willing to try anything. “Take off now. Get a head start. Take my cell phone, disable my car. When the cops get here, I won’t say anything. They’ll already have Jimmy’s testimony. They won’t need mine.”

Lance was grinning in the mirror, looking at himself, admiring his own reflection. “Yeah, the reporter won’t say anything,” he repeated sarcastically. “I can make sure of that. We’re going to take a boat ride, Miss Chase.”

I involuntarily glanced at the dock where the powerboat was tied.

“Drew, come here, get around back, get her by the neck.”

The boy got up and moved fast, behind me. The steel blade of the knife vanished, replaced by the crook of Drew’s thick, muscular arm, pressed hard against my windpipe.

Lance stood in front of me, looking me up and down. “You’re pretty, Miss Chase. I think we’ll have some fun with you before you go for a swim.”

No. Gotta be a way out.

Lance turned and led the way, still holding the butcher knife.

Rain falling, we followed. I tried to walk, but my legs didn’t work right. Drew half-carried me by the neck across the yard to the dock.

Weapon, I need a weapon. (plan, emotion)

I tried kicking my feet against the ground.

Not working.

I pulled at his arm.

Too strong.

We moved up the dock, got to where the boat was tied off. Lance hopped across onto the deck and turned. “Can you get her across okay, Drew?”

“I got her.”

He put his other arm around my waist and carried me onto the boat.

I tried kicking him. All I got was air. (attempted maneuver, not everything has to work, sometimes it’s more believable when it doesn’t.)

Lance ordered. “Get her below and into the master stateroom. Use one of the lines and tie her up if you have to. I’ll cast off.” Then he stared right at me and held up the knife. “It won’t take long to get those wet clothes off.”

Drew dragged, walked, carried me down the steps down to the lounge. The engines growled to life.

I glanced around. Teak walls, padded benches, TV on the counter, small stove, refrigerator.

Weapon, I need a goddamned weapon. (anxious/emotion, planning)

Drew carried me through the galley. The table was littered with paper plates, a pizza box, empty beer bottles, a pack of cards. (atmosphere/description)

The doorway ahead of us led to the bed inside the stateroom. Too big for the tiny room.

Desperate, I flailed out.

My hand found the neck of a beer bottle, smashed it down on the counter, rammed the jagged edge hard into Drew’s forearm. Hit bone.

Blood splattered my face.

Drew shouted, “Fuck!”

His grip tightened. I couldn’t breathe.

I stabbed the ragged glass into his arm, over and over. Every time, feeling it, hearing it hit bone.

He roared and let go.

I turned. Drew was between me and the steps up to the deck.

The vessel’s twin engines growled and we started to move.

Gotta get past Drew.

His head was down, inspecting blood draining out of his torn arm, dripping onto the deck.

Gotta get past Drew.

Panic-stricken, I leaped forward, screaming, slashing at his face. He held up his hands and I ripped the broken bottle into the palms of his hands. (choreography of fight/escape)

He grunted, twisted, and fell against the table, dropping onto a bench.


I dashed up the steps onto the deck and, without looking, hurled myself over the transom of the boat, throwing myself into the air, falling into the cold, bubbling wake of the twin engines.

Underwater, swimming.

When I surfaced, I saw we hadn’t gotten far from shore. A hundred feet from the dock.

Behind me, the boat was still moving away from me, nearly invisible now behind the gray curtain of rain. (descriptive but evokes emotion too)

That’s good.

I kicked off my shoes and swam for the dock.

The noise from the twin engines suddenly changed. I stole a look behind me again. Lance had throttled down. The boat was turning. Coming back for me.

I swam harder, adrenaline firing through my veins, swimming for my life.

Too slow.

The engines got louder, closer. Lance was accelerating. (As a reader, what are you feeling? What do you want your readers to feel?)

I reached out for the ladder of the dock and hoisted myself up, my heart pumping like a hammer against my chest, my lungs on fire, straining for oxygen. Running in bare feet down the dock.

I saw the boat drawing up to the dock. Drew stood on deck with a towel around his arm. His chest and shirt were covered in blood. Lance was tying off the lines.

Legs pumping, feet splashing, I sprinted across the yard, past the pool, up to the steps to the house, slid open the glass door to the kitchen.

The maid stood at the counter, mixing something in a bowl with a spoon. She stared at me with wide eyes.

Where was my phone? Where were my keys? In my bag, next to the table by the pool.

I turned and looked through the glass door. Lance and Drew trotted across the yard.

“What’s going on here?”

I whirled. Becky Elroy stood in the kitchen doorway.

“Call 911,” I screamed.

“What are you doing here?” She shouted back, mystified at seeing me standing there, soaked and muddy.

“Call 911.” My voice howled with desperation.

Suddenly the boys slid the glass door open, They were in the kitchen.

Becky, seeing the blood-soaked towel on her son’s arm and blood dripping from the palms of his hands, shrieked, “What’s happening?”

The boys glowered hard at me.

Where do I run?

“There’s a break-in at 32 Smuggler’s Road,” shouted the maid into her cell phone. “On Connor’s Landing. Yes, I’ll stay on the phone.”

Drew glared at me with unbridled hatred. Then he turned and mumbled at Lance. “Jesus Christ, what are we going to do?”

Lance narrowed his eyes, sizing me up. Then he glanced at his mother, at her horrified expression. “Let’s go, Drew.”

The two of them turned and marched out the open door, disappearing into the rain. Moments later, I heard the purr and then roar of a sports car as it accelerated down the driveway.

Suddenly my legs had no strength in them. I needed to sit down. But first I had to get my cell phone.

I looked at the two women. The maid still had her phone pressed to her ear, holding a meat cleaver with the other hand, watching me cautiously. Becky Elroy’s gaze moved from the blood spatters on her kitchen floor to my face.

“You’re the contractor’s wife,” she hissed.

“Close enough.”

Holding my hands out in front of me, I was amazed at how badly they were shaking. I found enough strength to walk to the doorway, still open, and down the steps and into the cold rain.

I staggered to the table under the awning by the pool house where Drew had left his laptop. Exhausted, I dropped into a metal chair. Water dripped from my hair and down my face.

What was I trying to do? Get a story? Get a confession so Mike Dillon wouldn’t have to make a deal with Jimmy Fitzgerald? Show how smart I was?

I’ve done some incredibly stupid things in my life, but most of them were fueled by too much alcohol.

This morning I was stone cold sober.

What about those two boys? They had every advantage, money, privilege, a good family. What went wrong? Drugs? A feeling of invulnerability? Pressure from their father? Undue influence from a bad seed like Jimmy Fitzgerald? A seductive teacher?

There was no good reason for those six people to be dead. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I needed to call Mike Dillon. I reached down into my bag for my cell phone.

My hands were shaking so badly that it took three tries before I could punch the number onto the screen.

When he answered, I made an effort to calm my voice down so I wouldn’t sound hysterical. “Mike, it’s Drew and Lance Elroy.”


“It’s Drew and Lance Elroy. They’re the killers.”

“We know, Jimmy Fitzgerald told us. We just got the warrants. We’re on our way out there now to arrest them.”

“They just took off.” The words tumbled out much too quickly. “They’re driving a gray Nissan 370Z convertible.”

“Where are you?”

(Did you feel her intensity? Her fear?)

Nancy Lee Badger from contemporary romance  With Every Kiss the 2nd book in my Opportunity Falls series. It is set outside a New Hampshire bar between my heroine, a local, and my hero, Mitch:

Karl blocked Abby’s way and said, “Can’t get this image out of my head. I drove by the Trumbull’s campground on my way to town the other day. Guess what I saw?”

Abby’s eyes widened at the lust-filled look he gave her. She stepped back, but Karl grabbed her wrist.

“The sun streamed in through my windshield and I had to blink. Then I did a double take. Perched atop a ladder were legs peeking from a pair of cut-offs. I swear I nearly drove into a ditch.”

“And your point is?”

“This woman’s sexy pony tail and long legs teased me. I had to turn my attention back to watch the road, but I think she was you.”

“Maybe.” Abby tried to slip her wrist free and head for her car, but he held tight and wouldn’t let go. Karl leaned in closer. (this doesn’t seem too bad at first but it rapidly escalates)

“I want to feel those legs wrapped—”

“Not another word.” She shoved him and shook free of his grip, but Karl snatched her around the waist. He pulled her into the shadows between two pickup trucks. Surrounded by his much larger body, she struggled.

When she opened her mouth to scream, Karl smothered her cry with his lips. Tasting stale beer and peanuts, the odor of smoke and sweat choked her. Alarm coursed through her. His arms crushed her in an intimate embrace, squeezing the very air from her lungs. A large hand cupped a breast, then pinched her nipple. Squirming, she lashed out with a well-placed knee jerk. (Nancy uses the character’s senses to add another layer to the scene)

Karl grunted, then loosened his grip. She took advantage of her hard-earned freedom and sucked in air.

“Let me go!” When he gripped her tighter, she bit him on the wrist.

“Bitch!” Karl pushed her to the ground.

Abby grunted when she hit the hard pavement. She rolled onto her back, then stared up at his fearsome features.

“That hurt,” he spat.

“Not compared to this.” A low growl rippled through the darkness. (A new combatant.)

Too stunned to stand, she rolled up onto her knees. A blur pushed past her, and the loud grunt of two bodies slamming together made her watch in stunned silence as they rolled between the trucks.

Pushing to her feet, she bolted toward the bright lights near the tavern door. Breathless, Abby pointed toward the flailing bodies. Several men ran toward the fight. Lynette appeared at her elbow.

“What happened to you? Your shirt is torn and your jeans are covered in dirt.”

Brushing dirt from her jeans as best she could, she pulled the ripped shirt together. The minor damage must have happened when she hit the ground. “Karl got a bit too friendly.”

“Karl has a lot of nerve. So, who’s he fighting?”

“My hero.”


“Ouch. Careful.” Mitch cursed under his breath. Lynette tsked and pushed his hand away, then plopped a wet cloth on his left eye. He sat on a wooden bench on the tavern’s outside deck. The stitches on the back of his head itched, and his right shoulder ached.

Karl sat on the other side of the deck wiping blood from the corner of his mouth. He glared at Mitch, then spat blood on the ground. Mitch’s one good eye followed Abby as she paced nearby.

“Two words. Butt out,” Abby said.

When he realized she directed her comment his way, Mitch stared up at her. “Why are you chastising me? I saved your butt.”

“Who said I needed your help?” She crossed her arms and tapped a foot.

 He cursed, again, stood, and threw the bloodied rag in the trash. “Forgive me, but I thought you needed help. When I see a person I care about shoved to the ground by someone much larger, I react.”

“I’ll press charges,” Karl said.

Mitch turned on him and stepped closer. “Go ahead. Sue me, but I hope your lawyer is better than me.”

Nancy Lee Badger

2020 Book Releases:

The Earl’s Treasure

Love, Hamish

Heaven-sent Flame 

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Copyright © 2021 by Tiffany Christina Lewis.

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Sacramento, CA 95825

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

Anna stood, turned to reach for the light switch, and collided with a strong body. As the assailant gripped her neck, she screamed. She dropped her weapon and grabbed the hands, trying to pry them away. Here, panic erased knowledge. Knowing how to break a choke hold was one of the first things they taught in the physical part of her self-defense class.

Like lightning, Xandar bolted into the room, barking and nipping at her attacker. This gave her relief from the choking as he turned his attention to removing the dog from his leg. Reacting quickly, she grabbed the bat and swung for the head. The impact vibrated her hands and forearms but she kept her grip.

Her attacker went down, Xandar still on top of him. Anna’s instincts returned to her. She shouted for the dog.

“Xandar, come.”

The two of them bolted for the front door. Anna fumbled with the locks, using one hand, checking over her shoulder for the assailant again and again. Xandar, still barking wildly, ran back and forth between the front door and the bedroom. Finally, Anna got the door open. She and Xandar escaped through the small front yard. Once again Anna’s feet were burning the pavement. She was fleeing, again. She was a victim, again.

When she arrived on the next block, bat clasped in hand, she slowed to a stop. She took a breath and an unsettling thought crept into her mind.

She needed to go back.

How long could she run? How long would she be trapped in her home? Her fortress even failed to keep her safe. She needed to do something. She didn’t have her cell phone, and what good would it do to call the police when her attacker might be gone before they got there? Again, he would be on the run and she would be unsafe.

Again, and again. (the repetition brings emotion/intensity to the situation)

Anna turned. Her condo stood as if nothing nefarious happened there moments ago. The front door hung ajar as she’d left it. The lights were out. All was quiet. Taking a deep breath, she ran back home.

She crept in and headed back to her bedroom, the bat held high above her head in a perfect batter’s stance. Everything was as she left it and, once she entered her bedroom, she saw the man lying in a heap on the floor. She flipped on the light.

Her eyes went to the back of his head and her mouth dropped open. She felt sure he’d been blond, but now she saw the brown locks. She placed her bat on the bed and knelt next to the body. Grunting and struggling, she planted her hands on the assailant and pushed until he lay on his back. The smooth, round baby face was not familiar to her. She pondered for a moment.

How could I have been so wrong about his appearance?

She leaned over and, using two fingers, opened his eyes. Blueish-green. Anna sighed with relief, then snapped to attention. She flipped him back over, and stood. Her eyes danced around the room until she spotted the alarm clock. She ran over and yanked the cord from the wall, then returned to the body.

He started to move.

Anna dropped to her knees and reached in to tie his hands together. Her hands were shaking and sweaty. It felt like only seconds elapsed when he started trying to remove his hands from her grip. Anna shrieked and hopped on his back. This only seemed to enliven him. He yanked and pulled against his restraints while Anna tried to tighten the slippery length of cord. One of his hands came loose and he snatched the other away from her grip. He lifted in a perfect plank and Anna rode on his back like an elevator.

“Get the fuck off me,” he growled.

Anna dove for her bat but fell face down onto the bed and he mounted her in a flash. Reaching around, he strangled her with one muscular arm. Again, Anna clawed at his arm instead of attempting to break the hold, but this time she remembered her training. To his surprise, Anna swung her elbow back and the pointy joint met his eye. He tried to keep his grip, but the pain of her strikes overwhelmed him. Although he released her neck, he tried to keep her pinned with his body.

Anna rolled away from him and landed on the floor. She crawled toward the nightstand. He grabbed her foot but she kicked back, dislodging his grip. Anna reached up, grabbed her bedside lamp, and swung it blindly.

The terra-cotta cracked over his head, like an egg for an omelet, and he hit the ground. This time Anna wasted no time tying the wrists and ankles of the strong and agile young man using the cord from her lamp and alarm clock. She kept her eyes on him while she called Officer Davis.

“I got the son of a bitch, or at least I think I do . . . ”

(Did you note the choreography? The word choices?)

From suspense novel Red Steel by S L Hollister

Phil watched from his computer as the two men pulled onto the side road. The low-light cameras he’d placed out by the river earlier were able to pick up some illumination from the lights surrounding the old bar. The bikers’ hangout wasn’t visible from the road, but the lights could be seen through the thinning winter foliage. With the added help from the streetlights across the river at the marina, Phil was able to see Elliot and Malcolm clearly. They parked their cars and stepped out between the headlights like something from an old movie. The glare camouflaged the men, hiding their faces in silhouette, but he’d already captured their images.

The full moon played peek-a-boo with the clouds, casting the scene into that of a horror movie. Phil thought the imagery was fitting. Two monsters meeting at midnight. He gave a wan smile. They’d chosen this place believing he’d not be able to do surveillance. They didn’t know how good he was at spying. When your life depended on information, you learned to hone your skills. He positioned his directional mics towards the men hoping to glean some of their conversation. Listening in through the headphones, he put the computer on record. It wouldn’t be perfect, but he should be able to filter out quite a bit of background noise using the computer’s program.

“What’s this all about?” Malcolm demanded.

“Don’t play games with me brother-in-law, what the hell did you do with my money?” Elliot demanded.

“I’ve not done anything with YOUR money.”

“My off-shore account has been hacked. I have received alerts that the transactions were generated from your accounts.”

Malcolm frowned. “But I’d have to know your codes, what bank, hell, I’d have to know what country.” He shook his head. “I don’t know any of that information.”

“No, but Phil would. Did you put my son up to it?” Elliot demanded.

“Phil is my son, damn it. I’m the one who rescued him from that crazy bitch.”

Elliot snorted. “You rescued him so you could use him. You don’t think I know about you and your boys.” Elliot poked Malcolm in the chest. “You look down your nose at me but I’ve seen what you’ve done too, brother dear.”

Phil waited until Elliot was poking Malcolm before deploying his drone. He’d only have a few minutes to drop his bombs and get everything put away before someone called 9-1-1. If his luck held, he’d rid the town of two of its monsters tonight.

Choosing the smaller of the two drones for stealth, he worried when the wind picked up. The men were still arguing but they wouldn’t stay out in the swamp for long. The drone took flight, hovering too low to the ground as it fought against the wind. Giving up on plan A, he decided he had no choice, he had to use the heavier drone. Another glance at the computer showed the men were still talking but it looked like they were ready to take their leave. Phil cursed silently and hurriedly changed the payload over to the bigger drone.

Flying the drone out over the water in the hope of masking his location. He brought it back to shore heading straight towards Malcolm and Elliot. Just as he feared, Elliot looked up, he’d heard the drone coming.

“Drone!” Cursing, the man hurried to get into his car, pushing Malcolm down in his haste to get away.

Using the camera on the drone, Phil brought the target into view and dropped the white phosphorus grenade. Elliot swerved and it explode on the ground beside him. It wasn’t a direct hit, but Phil could see his pants burning. The second bomb was more successful, it splattered across Elliot’s hip as he dove for cover inside the car. Phil could hear his dear old dad cursing as he tried to get the fire out. The fun thing about white phosphorus was even after being dunked in water, as soon as it has air, it’ll start burning all over again. Two more bombs left. Malcolm was already in his car. He spun tires as he turned around. He hit Elliot’s car knocking it back into the river. He didn’t stop to help him out of the car, he just kept driving. The dirt road was full of potholes and curves. Malcolm would not be able to go but so fast in his luxury sedan. Phil followed him with the drone but was only able to hit the trunk of the car. Unable to hit his target, he cursed his failure. Hearing Elliot coming out of the river screaming, Phil decided it was time to pack up and leave.

He drove at a sedate pace out of the dirt road. It wouldn’t do to draw too much attention to himself. His plan had failed, he needed to come up with something quick or Elliot would find a way to retaliate. Phil gripped the steering wheel. If only he’d been able to kill Elliot, he didn’t worry as much about Malcolm. Malcolm was a coward.

The explosion shattered the stillness. “What the fuck?” Phil didn’t dare stop. He needed to get as far away from this as he could before he was trapped on the narrow dirt road.

  1. How does location affect your plan?
  2. How does the weather affect your plan?
  3. People don’t always behave the way you expect, what does your character do when things go wrong?
Posted in my books, promo

Mystery Thrillers NEW Releases

Bookfunnel Promo

Roxy didn’t come home to fall in love. She came to betray her family. It’s the only way to save her friends.

Jorge’s first taste of freedom is Roxanne’s laughter. Discovering she is in danger he has no choice but risk it all to save her.

Will her betrayal doom them all?

Roxy is the bad sister, the one voted most likely to steal your boyfriend. Not to be confused with her smart sister or her ambitious sister…

She’s a lying, self-centered diva, she didn’t come for a family reunion or to fall in love, she came to betray her family…

It’s not like she could ask anyone for help. They wouldn’t believe her anyway. If she was going to save them, she would have to do this on her own. Would they ever forgive her? What did it matter, she probably wouldn’t live to see it anyway?

Posted in audio books, Book Review, Uncategorized

Elite Seductress Spy

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews, Narrated by Jeremy Bobb

Dominika Egorova must fight for her independence and salvation against the iron fist of the Russian bureaucracy when her dreams of being a ballerina are thwarted and she finds herself at the mercy of her uncle’s machinations.

Forced to become a Sparrow, one of the elite seductress spies, Dominika is sent to discover a mole. Pitted against the American Nathaniel Nash she becomes enamored of his kindness and honesty. Determined to live her life on her own terms, Dominika battles treachery on all sides. Only after learning to love and trust does she discover the freedom to make her own path.

This was an intense spy thriller with layers of emotion and character development. If you like action, political thrillers, and fantastic characters in a well-developed plot, you will love this story. It has it all.     I will be looking for more books by this author.   

Posted in backstory, my books, promo

Strong Female Characters

I’m part of a promo starting Tuesday, July 28th and going through August 30th with Bookfunnel, Female Main Characters, Thriller Stories.

Chrome Pink, my first novel in the Leeward Files Series is the book I’m promoting.

Rae Lynne is one of the strongest characters I’ve ever written. After being raped and ostracized during high school, Rae Lynne turned to drugs, alcohol and cutting to help her with the pain. With the help of her friends and her grandfather, she learned to focus her anger and fear on her art. Piercing and tattooing took the place of cutting, and eventually her desire for control helped her relinquish the drugs. Unfortunately the battle of the booze took her a little longer to conquer.

People often think an addict is someone who doesn’t care but too often they are people who care too much. Rae Lynne’s natural empathy battles her years of abuse. Her kindness is proof of the strength of her character. Because of her friendships with Dana and Jenna, and the support of her grandfather and brother, she finds the courage to face her demons. But it is her own determination that helps her succeed in her battle against alcoholism as she learns to love and trust herself.

We cannot love others until we first learn to love ourselves. Sometimes the greatest demons we face are those inside our own heads. I love this character because she represents hope. She overcame one problem after another. She survived and even learned to thrive simply by not giving up. She faced weakness but she fought through it.

Posted in audio books, Book Review

Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes

Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter, Read by Kathleen Early (Chirp)

I liked and hated this book. It felt unfinished at the end but then again, it made me think and isn’t that what a good book does?

This thriller brings us into the life of a sweet and beautiful young college girl, Julia Carroll, who struggles to find her voice amid the male-dominated world of journalism. She has an idea for a story based on a missing student and a missing homeless woman, both, like her, were young and beautiful.

Julia is afraid but the fear is unnamed and a bit unreasonable. She worries she might be the next victim but has no reason, really to believe it, other than she is young and beautiful, just like the others.

Posted in audio books, Book Review

The Target Audiobook Review

The Target

By David Baldacci, Narrated by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy

David Baldacci knows how to ramp up the intensity and excitement. I have been a fan for years, enjoying many of Baldacci’s action thrillers. His characters Robie and Reel have great depth and dimension. I love the way he weaves their personal life in with the job thus adding more emotion to the already intense situation.

Reel, on their boss’ $hit list doesn’t want to take Robie down with her. Robie, as her friend and possibly more, is willing to walk through fire for Reel. His loyalty, and hers will be put to the test.

A new mission, an old nemesis, and Robie and Reel aren’t sure who to trust, other than themselves. Old enemies resurface to derail Reel’s well-laid plans for her life. Meanwhile, another assassin who has trained her whole life to kill, is being sent to get rid of Robie and Reel.

This story is three stories in one. It’s fabulous how David is able to blend them together and tie them all up in a bow at the end. If I wasn’t a fan before, this story would make me one.

The narrators, Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy do a fabulous job of realizing the voices of these characters.

This is an edge of your seat, unputdownable book. I want to read it and listen to it again, it’s that good.

If you like high-stakes drama, political thrillers, assassins, international espionage, home-grown terrorists, emotion-packed danger, and kick-ass characters then read or listen to this book. It needs to be a movie!

Posted in Book Review


By Jayne Ann Krentz, narrated by Amanda Leigh Cobb

Jayne Ann Krentz is the first author that made me fall in love with contemporary romance. Her slightly paranormal character-traits, strong heroines and the combination of romance with intrigue, makes her romantic-suspense novels a thrilling read.

When meditation expert, Winter Meadows first takes on Jack Lancaster for a client, she was just trying to pay the bills. She never expected to fall in love with him or get tangled up in his obsession of hunting a dead man.

Jack Lancaster is an FBI consultant with the ability to find patterns and details through lucid dreaming. When his dreams threaten to overwhelm his reality, he seeks out Winter Meadows and her meditation techniques. In a short time, Jack comes to rely on Winter. She understands him in a way no one else, not even his family can.

Quinton Zane knows he must first get rid of Jack Lancaster before he can fully realize his goals. When he underestimates Winter and thinks to use her to destroy Jack, he makes a huge mistake. Together, Winter and Jack are Untouchable.

Jayne Ann Krentz weaves the fabric of a story with character, plot and a glittering strand of what-if. She makes the reader believe in possibilities and leaves us entertained and ready for more. One of my favorite authors and Untouchable is another reason why.